Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jackie's Poem

I was going to stop by the porch
That’s a dream and you know it
If you are still around
But they tell me you are not
No one even knows who
You are, though the family name
Is faded paint at the Rug and Cider Mill
I still feel your thin neck
I see your long legs in jeans
But I’m sure the pony tail is gone
We stood in shadows and I’m not clear
What we were doing then
It was more heat and wish
The next day I got the flu
And never saw you again

Fall arrives breast up red and yellow
And I’m not looking for what wasn’t
Might have been in the orchard
Or the porch, or whose dream is who’s
You are gone, the house is gone
The moon, oh I see it
Your blue eyes, your small face
Your chin close to mine
Somewhere in the mix of things I see
A silence of sorts, a wish
Running off toward spring
Where the boys and girls are new
See how they dance oh
See them leap and sing

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Excerpt from House in the Attic

In Troy I learned about take, have and give and what a train can do. Train came easy because Aunt Jane walked me up to the end of Glen Avenue one night after a freight train hit a car at the crossing. The tracks shone sharp and steely in the spinning fire truck lights. Flashlights probed the twisted metal blown all over the crossing. Shadows of men moved in and out of the lights picking up pieces of flesh and putting them in bushel baskets. I smelled death. Not the stench of rotting death I'd smell years later. No, this was a dark, but not unpleasant odor that felt like an extra layer of air hovering just out of reach.

Have was giving my softball to a kid for a nickel thinking it was take and he wouldn't give it back.

Troy was the Flying Red Horse and where we got our eyes tested. Freihofer's Bread and Borden's Milk were delivered by horse and wagon. I went to Troy to hear about the Yankees instead of the Red Sox and to see how Uncle Mark umped semi-pro baseball. I went to hear Cousin Jay say Cohoes and Waterveliet like it was somewhere. It sure smelled like somewhere. I wanted to cross the Green Island Bridge. Was it green? Where was the island? I wanted to hear about Uncle Mark making big guns at the Waterveliet Arsenal and I wanted to grip the little white plastic counter with the tiny black numbers he used to record strikes and balls. And I wanted to be someplace where I didn't have to be afraid. I always felt safe at Aunt Jane's.

I know its BINGO at St. Pat's for Aunt Jane. I smell the church basement on Sundays. I smell scalloped potatoes and ham, macaroni and cheese. I hear three phones ringing in Cousin Jay's basement on Saturday, Sunday and Monday during football season. Bet the spread. I know the round-shouldered man, the snappy-eyed kid, the physics professor with the raspy voice and the Lucky Strikes in his shirt pocket that won't go to the doctor, the mechanic with the red rag hanging out of his coveralls pocket, the lady upstairs with the jangly earrings, the cop with the dead brown eye. Kids blat in their cup o noodles; the checks have stopped. Bet the over and under. The scrubbed-faced clerk in Jimmy's Variety at 6th and Glen smells like Clinique and candy bars. Bet a game, a race, bet three, four, five times the rent. Park the car out front.

No work has stripped Troy of heart and bone. The shirt factories and brickyards have gone to seed. The Waterveliet Arsenal used to make the big guns for World War II. Now it makes a few missiles, and what with the Gulf War maybe a few more. General Electric in Schenectady has been laying off and rehiring for years. As John Dos Passos said, "Steinmetz was the greatest piece of apparatus General Electric ever had until he wore out and died." RPI looms high above the Hudson; it's crumbling facade of brick and column, marks the fall of Troy behind the Police Station. Russell Sage College is co-ed now and a bagel shop across the street caters to properly improper students, septegenarian running shoes and a plethora of tweed. La Salle and Hudson Valley Junior College are a long time coming a short way and Emma Willard School stands stiff in her bones. Boarded up buildings sweep the edge of the river with the Troy Judo Club and KoKoro Karate hacked into the cracks. The old Wusterfield Candy Company hangs in at Congress and River Streets, a few hopeful antique shops have quaintly tucked themselves in, and up toward Fulton Street they've bricked the sidewalks and stick in some Please-Come-Back streetlamps.

Troy is pizza, grinders and submarines, blank counters; tired cooks in front of ovens, onions and extra cheese please. A half-frozen alley cat sniffs a bent trashcan. You can smell the cold grease from the bottom of a car on his fur. Small clusters of calf-length coats and down vests hover at bus stops. The Troy Pork Store has held court at Fourth and Perry beyond anyone's memory and up a block and around the corner, the price of a Troy Famous little hot dog, as long as your thumb has gone up a nickel. They're soft and dyed red and they are hot, oh yes.

All over February, uncertainty hangs in the dank air; all day, all night SCUD missiles tear into mad television sets full of star shells and sand.

At 6th and Congress, a skinny man, say twenty years old had spilled laundry all the way down the stoop. Now he stuffed the half-empty laundry basket in the back seat of his 74 Plymouth. He sat in the car that wouldn't start slamming his fists on the steering wheel. The smell of sour washcloths and dirty snow filled the air and his bleached blond wife, skinnier than the man, skinnier than a Time Out, stood on the stoop dangling a lit cigarette in one hand and holding a four year old girl in a yellow parka by the wrist with the other. She glared stone-eyed at the stream of laundry falling down in front of her. While we sat at the light, the little girl began crying and her green left mitten fell off. An old man straddled the curb and the street. His eyes were closed. I heard a radiator banging in the hallway behind the wife. The light changed.

Take turn right on Second Avenue to a strip of brownstones with names carved in brass by the doorways. It's a nice quiet street with white curtains and old venetian blinds on tall windows, with promises of Lavolier shades and Fax machines in every bathroom. Yellow ribbons flickered on dark tree trunks. Fallen leaves complimented hopeful pragmatism of sweet smelling, strident, optimistic men and woman on the way to meetings or lunch at the Clam Bar Broadway. Half a dozen blue points please, a glass of cabernet, expresso, and chocolat mousse please. Gentrification planned, honed, revised, touted for bonds, reworked, revoked, rescinded, re-ordered, re-voted, re-thought, re-framed, re-written, removed, re-invented. Great sets of teeth surrounded corned beef sandwiches and perfumed hair wafted carefully in the afternoon breeze turning icy cold.

Men and women sip coffee at Mc Donald's at 4th and Fulton. They smoke endless cigarettes and get rattled by the possibility of swarming kids who haven't even gotten out of school yet. They go up to the Post Office for checks, checks, checks, or poke through the Mall for something different when they get tired of sitting. A gray string of men peruse the tote boards at OTB arguing ten pounds on a $2500 allowance race. Buy Lotto, read the Morning Line. Next door, the cab dispatcher sits by his desk in the window sorting through little yellow slips. From time to time he strokes his smoky beard and lifts his weary eyelids to the radio mike in front of him, leans in to bark an order to Kenny up in the Berg, or glances at his straw-haired phone taker cranking down addresses on her yellow slips. Bowling balls echo ten pound salutes up by the Holiday Inn. Uncle Sam still points a finger at young men with basketballs, Ipods and lamb chop dreams.

The bus leaves for Bennington, Burlington, Boston. The bus goes to New York, Atlantic City, Waterveliet, Albany, Cohoes, Menands, Saratoga, Lake George, Glens Falls, Montreal.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Plumber's Delight?

It all sounds so rational, the bailout, the slight increase in interest rates, borrowing to meet the payroll, mortgage relief and a 783 drop in the Dow.

Does this smell like another Code Red two weeks before election with a hint of Terrorist, Terrorist, Terrorist, in this country, so numb it flushes itself on war, high risk finance and speculation, while the middle class buys suction on a credit card.

Is this Democracy on a hamstring with the butt end facing the dark side of the moon?

Did “In God We Trust” pull the plug and sell the toilet paper to Dubai along with the Chrysler Building?

Can we expect our children to thrive, not just survive in a glimmer beyond, “Say Cheese Please” and “Hi. I’m me?”

Do we honor America when we run elections like carnival sideshows complete with TV Freak Talkers while we’re frisked at the airports, spied on at the malls, the phones, and watched in restrooms just in case we pass normally?

Are we the final goof in the release valve, a country where Noah poses as Fannie Mae and Dracula stirs the pot?

What planet eats itself and sells the bones? What country stares at the corpse they become without hindsight or an odor of total outrage?

Did the apple of our eye rot in the blinking, bonking, zippo games we invented to divert? Did we simply climb in the Hummer and drive off only to find we got stuck in the exhaust?

Who has the key to Paradise? Is it on the dresser? The couch? On Mars? Maybe it’s in the salad bowl? Maybe in a vested pocket?

A recent story in the news reads, “Woman pleads guilty to defrauding the banks.”


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Security Measures to be Revised

A $100 permit and microchip implant for iguana identification? Too many iguanas? Iguanas grow to be 6 feet long? May live 20 years? Terrorist iguanas?

Never mind iguanas. Forget it. Just take off your shoes and don’t bring too much shampoo or shaving lotion to the airport. Is your pen poison? Are you a little weird in the lips, oddly dressed, say a suit and tie? Well, stand by. No micro chips yet, but we hired a few thousand donkeys at the airports to search our “iguana” for weapons of mass eruption, fondling our parts and bags, dipping into the nothing they so dearly love. Heaven help your orange for lunch. Have a pretzel, a plastic glass of coke. No iguanas on the plane. We double fine iguanas and no gum.

A seemingly innocent man in blue suit, black shoes and unmatched white socks attempted to leave his spearmint gum on the wall just outside the security gate at the Albuquerque Airport. Cameras caught his disguised calmness and his thumb pressing the gum into white paint. He was taken into custody and sent to Guantanamo.

Another passenger, Mrs. Emilia Gorman switched flights after her flight was canceled in Detroit. She was taken into custody because the print sheet of her boarding pass had two flight numbers. A housewife from Grafton, New York was ordered held without bail for transporting an illegal substance, but released after authorities revealed the container held her husband's ashes, which she intended to toss, as per her husband's instructions, to the sea lions in Northern California.

Hints of retraining security at airports are in the wind. A more hyperactive machine is in the offing. The new device is said to detect penis movement and other unmentionable activity that flags irregular and dangerous behavior.

Cockroach detection is an issue. Instant microchipping for large palmetto bugs with detonation devices applied up to fifteen miles are a serious threat. A Washington news correspondent was quickly censored for suggesting cockroaches are bank products and that some eat parts of Iraq and New Orleans. He asserted that some cockroaches are asked to run for office.

Micro chipping cockroaches will come before the Senate for a vote in the near future. Iguana Rights Activists have requested a hearing at the Washington Monument.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

America Loses a Few Teeth

According to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Rachel Fernandez, a pot bellied pig and “full fledged member” of the Fernandez-Fleites family of Miramar Florida, who died after dental surgery, “lay under her favorite pink Princess blanket…a sweet smile on her lips, is the first swine in the cemetery.”

So who cares about a $400,000 orgy at AIG, or a governmental takeover of the banks? This isn’t Venezuela. This is America, a one big hoorah with a cruise to the ATM and beyond. What spiritual revelation when a woman in Edgewater, Florida gets knocked out by a leaping dolphin. Why isn’t the dolphin a friend? He’s on TV. You can swim with dolphins (for a little cash) but as with other wild creatures, don’t feed them.

Unfortunately, the amphibians hulking the governmental shores these days prompt financial cartoons parlayed in flotsam and jetsam while Congress stands at the edge of the aquarium voting for Ahab to harpoon the game.

One can wiggle, froth and blow off simple love, the little pig that died at 15 months in a human dress and sweet embrace. It does bear faith in earlier pleasures like the pet rock, a wig on the bald, the spirit of America. More so, the pig belies the ease, the mask we have become, not a hurtful creature at birth, our friend, this metaphor is like the talking M and M, the sweet bears selling toilet paper to the tune of the Halleluiah Chorus with a wild hug for more.

No surprise when the “dolphins” turn up at the party, the back door of your local broker, bank or get off course and knock the bottom out of the boat that is you, all in the name of democracy freedom and terror. These gorgeous creature’s radar to spins irregularly these days. But, we can’t stop tinkering with the wiring.

One has to feel sorry for the pig, or maybe the “family” who put the pig in the dental chair for a mere $2000 with little chance of return. The truth is, Rachel Fernandez is not the first swine buried in a cemetery.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Excerpt from Dream in a Market Place

Somewhere between the short end of dreary and that pink sunset store is the answer. I live here but I don’t know where. The city is a cloud of centuries, a washer and dryer amid sea shells and parrots, the brown hills in the distance and now smoke far off and in my mind, or is it, a thunder, a rumble. A plane taking off? A building demolition? Guns? A subway?

I’m not driving. I’m walking. I have to stop. The show’s over. They wanted me out. I’m out. I’m sick if them anyway and now I’m here on the ground and my feet are on this street and I stop to feel the dust between my soles and the cracked concrete and sweat between my socks and my skin and I slow down on this empty street that funnels to a street of glass and sleek metal running both sides. I see no one on this street.

The Directory in the center of the wide block offers the usual shoes, candles, drugs, birth control, headaches, veterinary services, small pets and large, weight loss, lingerie, leather, Danish furniture, a new one I haven’t seen. Prison for a Day. I’ll check that out. International phone cards. Yes. Yes. Oh, there is a red phone tacked to the directory. Oh and a name. WILDERNESS Mall. Not a tree in the place. How quaint.

A nearby window boasts a yellow golf cart with a mannequin driving. He wears a black checked hat and matching pants, white shoes and a yellow short sleeved shirt. His mannequin brown eyes stare at the wall. His wooden brown hair flares beneath the golf cap. His gold clubs lie in the cart behind him. On the back wall I see distant greens, a flag that reads 7. The sign on the window says, NO DAY SALE. The glass door says, CLOSED.

I didn’t realize until this moment that when you are fired from a very important position such as mine; when you life has been programmed to the needs, the paradise of want and must and men and stink and sidelong glances and midnights in red hued bars and red-eye flights and dinner way from home and bank accounts, the clicks of leather heels on marble steps, fresh shirt in the morning, croissants with your cappucino wa wa, that once the party is over and you are shown the door, the echo that was you soon dissipates in the streets I am walking, where I am the only a walker on the No DAY Sale.

At the end of WILDERNESS MALL the forest green metal chairs and tables funnel to a belt that seemed hung in space. I hold the rail, but there is no down, no up, no side. No clouds in the sky. No sky. Te belt makes no sound. It is a dust yellow as are the rails. It moves slowly as if inviting me, but there is nothing anywhere; not a smell, not a sound, no object or frame of reference other than the forward movement, or is it, of the belt. I can not see an end and if I look back, no beginning. Perhaps I have died?

Is this the way to heaven? If so I am disappointed. I’m not up for angels, although I could use a little quiet. I grew up in Western Massachusetts and I needed hills; I’d lived in California where the landscape is bigger and wider than time, where the Pacific I saw from our beach filled me with such awe that I could not imagine a godless world. Where sunset and my shadow in sunset were one and the murderous nights of my discontent dwindled in the small fish bones and shells that lay dry and scattered in sand, in the relentless afternoon wind that was me.

I half expect a clearing, a stop, perhaps a voice, or man with a ledger and a beard, or a women with blue eyes smiling in her lipstick and robe beckoning, but the belt runs into everything, into nothing, into lights of no light and I feel my brain thin out, a form of pastel drifts in, then out, a pink, a green slice, a glitter turned flat, a ride beyond Wilderness Mall.

I count my breaths, one two, three, four...inhale and exhale. I lose count and begin again. Once I get to ten, but six and seven seem the lost moment, six and seven in the soul, the numbers between promise, action and infinity, and then back to one. I hear my breath as a whisper. I feel a thunder, a beating, a smooth running din. I know it is the sound of my blood.

Absurd. Twelve years of my life shot. I walk into work one day, my portfolio wide as Guatemala in 1952, a deal on copper in pocket, that with another mine closing down I pulled off without the usual coup and assassination, with clear, long-term goals in place, I had made the agreement that would keep everyone happy (for a few weeks anyway, before greed and avarice gained footing), wherein all the ducks had lined up, all three monkey’s saw what they saw. Howard Craff called me in the office, a gray walled affair with a view of ground zero, where at that moment a strange mist continued to rise. Without a word, he shook his head and I knew what I knew. I would walk with six million dollars, but I would walk NOW.

I didn’t clean out my desk, I didn’t call my wife. She had left months ago. My kids were just the right side of high school. The elevator down was a mixture of froth, rage and thank you. Now I ride to seamless uncertainty. I feel grateful, if not slightly apprehensive that resolution for my history lies ahead and more so, that I can find a place to amend my life, to become one with it, rather than the object of it. I know full there will be snags in this journey. I’m on my way to NEW.

Suddenly the dust-color fades and I am in the church in black choir robe with white tunic in the front row in front of the organ to the left of the aisle to the alter. I am singing “Bringing in the Sheep”. My eyes are fixed on Sally the soprano soloist directly across from me in the second aisle.

Short Sally wears red curly hair. Her ears are tiny, her mouth full. She sings with her eyes half closed. Her voice is slightly deeper, yet higher than the rest. I am nine years old. The hymnal is still a bit heavy. The organ’s music fills the room. The Lord is all around me and I am filled with mysticism, trance, heather and fresh flowers cut for the day and moreso, right now I am filled with enormous lust for Sally the Soprano. I want to leap at her, touch her, although I’m not sure where to touch or her or why. I am strangely attracted to her throat.

I remember my second cousin Louie stood in the backyard with me while I dug a hole to China. He told me that to have a baby, a man and a woman had to do IT. but then I didn’t connect the horse to the wagon. I wanted the soprano, but I didn’t know how.

Much more to the point, I feel outside the game. Getting fired for what seems like a regular, run of the mill (at least at this height of the game) seems incongruous, if not downright full of crap. How I’d ever got that far inside the system to make such decisions is a miracle. I guess I wanted the soprano’s throat and I had to find other ways to get it, only in this case, we had six other countries with their necks wrapped around the corporate penis.

The deal was not unusual. We were opening a micro-chip outlet in a tiny village just outside of Macedonia. We bounced the contract off three other countries, two in Africa and one in for chrissakes, Belgium. Belgium won. The Africans were not happy. This was one counteract that because of the so-called “priority” was not to be totally entrusted to price, but on the flip side, we knew there would be repercussions. We need the African’s for two other projects and we had to keep them somewhat at each other’s throats to complete the deal and we had to do it while ensuring our support for two coups and a democracy that was not ever going to work. And we had to not short change them if that was possible. Our boy on Pennsylvania Avenue couldn’t sell fly swatters to a pig at noon and his wife had just discovered his affair with the Secretary of Labor’s secretary, in this case, a male, not great news in the globalization process, but nonetheless, a prickly (no pun intended) pear to be buried with late Fall and early snow.

You might ask what this has to do with me? Well over the years I accumulated wealth beyond all of Sally the Soprano’s dreams and my memory of her is stuck in the time frame of nine, thus I picture her still standing, eyes had closed, cherubic mouth mouthing, “Bringing in the Sheep” and I have shared the necks of other beautiful and exquisite creatures with far less innocence, and in many cases utter depravity, but of late, my lust for money, and by now money is not the issue; it is power and as I gazed out the window the day of my firing when my illustrious CEO canned me with silence, I realized power was the only reason I had to go on. It no longer held meaning. As Ferdinand Celine said, “Debauchery is not walking into a whorehouse; it’s not walking out.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today the Refrigerators Hum

The price of milk matches the price at the pump. New ice cubes clunk in all the freezers. Yesterday a man got out of prison after serving three years for throwing his black worker in a lion cage to be eaten. A startling parody. A rise in measles, radiation for spinach, keeps the E-coli at bay, no need to worry about poop in the fields or the kitchens. Bucks to be made, a little zipper for the tummy, a few Rads for the soul. Plastic ducks from China dance in the ponds from San Francisco to Bennington.

Sirens wail, the limos drive candidates to froth and crowd management to the latest condo, the fervent backyard B B Qs, the fallow rooms, deer heads nailed to old wood, their glass eyes witness from coonskin cap to tipping one for Jesus. The band thumps in time to clanking tanks rolling the sands, the hills, along the rivers from Georgia, Palestine, Darfur and Pakistan, the latter, a perpetual shrug, cash passed under the table, fists around the oil pipes from Venezuela to Afghanistan.

Who will be the Vice of Whom? The obvious napkin and fork, the plate on the table in the house of discontent. the cluttered week soon to scatter and subside, the clap trap-the unwizardry of zigzag politics fading in quiz shows, crime repeats and soft porn until dawn. Then Saturday and the roads, the parking lots, the giant warehouses stuffed with must-have 10 pound packs of chicken wings, wide screen TVs, Martha Stewart bedding specials, millions of chemically ripened tomatoes, Georgia peaches from New Jersey, entire mountains of cell phone possibilities, eight pound Gorgonzolas, one a day Cialus for a daily crack at the prize, all on tap for a simple swipe of the card.

Whatever you want to be owned by. Slip on the Bible of your dreams, get real, the organ will play and for a few short minutes, perhaps America can fake attentiveness between the wafer and the wine, the signs, the blessings, perhaps a sacred universe, a digression to quieter times, of ruthless crucifixions, promises of renewal, awakening, sitting in the pews, restless.

Today fades in newsworthy bombs, the theft of America’s wallet, change chanted again and again with the working, unemployed Americans, reaching for something, somewhere beyond the weekend off, or the howling, drooling, speculating, electrically magnified news, wheedling, and gnawing at the remotes, the hearts, the very strings of the sweet harp we thought we heard in the clouds.