Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love Forever

He only sneezed when he smoked. She waved her hands at the air. She winced. She opened windows. She thickened her tongue. She grabbed her throat. She feigned vomiting

He went on with it. On with smoking. On with loving her. He watched her cross the room and try to open the window. She grunted when it stuck.

She jammed her forearm under the window and grunted. Not about to ask him. She pushed it up a third. It stuck. She pulled back the curtains on the other window. She looked into the parking lot at the side of the apartment house. A man in a brown suit rummaged through the trunk of a brown Altima. She adjusted her red-framed glasses.

"Is the chicken organic?"

"It's organic," he said flatly, his eyes staring into the cigarette smoke rising around him. "You don't need organic, but if you think you need organic."

"Do you want me to have a hysterectomy?"

He flicked some ashes in the empty milk carton on the kitchen table. "No, I don't want you to have a hysterectomy."

He picked up the coffee cup. The cup had a crack that ran just under the handle and off into a blue flower. Would it break with the heat? If it broke with the heat and splashed down the front of him, would he have an excuse to move out?

"I don't want you to get sick," he said. "I don't care if we don't have children."

She eyed him warily. "You say that. You always say that, but you always ask me. Every month you want to know. And you don't seem glad when it comes."

It was due any second now. This time, yes. A twitch. A rush. He smoked. He felt her backing away, her face turning sour, just hating the smoke.

He heard her zipper. He looked up from his cigarette. Her lips were wet. He heard her pants button pop. Then the zipper. Sheer panic rose in his stomach and shivered through his chest. He wanted to run. He loved her so deeply. He was afraid she'd leave the room. Do it, he said to himself. She must have felt it. Yes, he knew, that she knew.

She zipped up and went to the refrigerator. "Do you want some organic chicken?"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Plumbers Delight?

It all sounds so rational, the bailout, the slight increase in interest rates, borrowing to meet payroll, mortgage, recession, then a man with a bomb in his pants gets on a plane.

Does this smell like another Code Red? Is 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.”


Monday, January 4, 2010

You Know Him

Desks full of unfinished paperwork
Tired eyes, hair cut weeks over due
Gabardine slacks or jeans
Professors, department heads, teachers
Of poetry and prose who
Know all about romance with tenure
Modernism, language, commas
The Beowulf of their dreams, Plath,
August Wilson, the Lenore Prize

He was like that
A pleasant sort who used to box
Before the college got him
Tenure wore him down
Political correctness whipped him
Numbness collared his heart
Bills for the spendthrift wife
Who chain-smokes and forgets to say thank you
Ate his soul

I entertained him with stories
He wanted to know about the egg exercise
I used in class and the penguins
What about the penguins?
What Delmore Schwartz said in the Orange Café?
What was that thing about William Carlos?
The Wheelbarrow? And I went along.
Made a few bucks but I wasn’t going to get on the shelf
I knew that, although he said he’d help

He took me on temporary full time
Something I understand quite well
And I was good, very good he said
He hired me again for one last semester
And I gave the job one more shot

Until the day he stepped in my
Temporary office and sat hands
Clasped in mild sweat
Elbows on knees
And told me how he’d been to that
San Francisco Beatnik bar I told him about
He’d seen my picture with the Wild Bunch
Even had a beer and by the way
Although he didn’t say by the way.
He said, you didn’t make the full time cut
He sort of smiled, then we talked
About nothing in particular for awhile.

That’s the way it is
When life gets tangled in myth
That isn’t yours and the third eye
Lives in its own shadow.
Can’t cut to the chase.
These tired guys just rummage the desks.
Play the newest toy and the old
Text slips in with faces that blend.
Faces that smile behind lives
They don’t dare live
And fear they have no name for.
People who don’t quite
Fit the story they teach
To begin with.

I sat in the empty room
Thinking about black timeless nights
The lonely road from Albuquerque to Kingman
Sitting on the motel porch
With the owner and his wife
Drinking coffee and how
They drove me across the California line
To save me fatigue and grief.
I thought about the day I stepped out of the car
Just southeast of Winnemucca and gazed across the barren land
With a touch of humility and wonder and said
To no one, My God people walked to get here.

Late that night I stood outside the casino in Wells
Staring up to the highway and rock
Where the great trucks groaned by
And the steel night rolled on.
One of those nights when you step out of time
Relax, and know the awe of just being.
While the little old lady inside
Punched quarters in the machine
Sipped on her greyhound and puffed
Those non-filtered cigarettes.

As for him, you know him.
He dove back to his desk
His papers and his toys.