Line of Traffic

Line of Traffic

I steer my suburban big-size car with a free hand
moving down the four-lane divided limited
access highway
full of cars just full of cars
me in the thick of it
the feeling
I’m the one
somehow keeping the whole thing going along
I falter
brake lights come on
I set a pace
we all do fine

I’ve been a licensed driver
longer than many of these other people around me
have been living
forty years ago
when I was learning to drive
navigating narrow blacktops
trying to stay out of the ditches
either side of the road with the weeds
growing person-high
watching me terrified behind the wheel.

I stamp on the gas
push my way into the exit lane
crossing traffic coming out of the turnpike entrance
shout at the guy who has the nerve to honk at me
in the endless looping pattern
of traffic and driving
brake and accelerate
accelerate and brake
in with the crowd running down the highway


Should I Have Seen It Coming?

Should I Have Seen It Coming?

In this charming noir fairy tale
she’s a real clothes-horse
a blonde in a mink coat
flitting around like a firefly
with an expensive purse full of the usual odds and ends
my colleague and

my enemy.
All business today
the firefly
shot me dead in my office.
Sometimes things get too real.


Little Vines 1/4/21

New Little Vines. Here is this week’s array.

work fast work very fast,
blink back those tears

I scream bloody murder is it a shark a jellyfish?
these slimy oceanic tentacles reaching out for me? No.
Drat this seaweed wrapping itself around my legs.

I still cherish the memory of our relationship –
a precious unbelievable seventeen seconds
I spent in fatuous admiration –
then she stepped off the elevator.

the rhythm leaks
the low notes are soggy
she’s singing with a bad cold again

just hurry and don’t ask questions
The guru guides the dramatized truth
You chase after it. That’s how it works.

a teenager at 6:15 AM –
twelve identical versions of sullen
lined up in front of me

Pet him, sure, but there is always some danger
that the polite lion will forget his manners
at the sight of your plump juicy arms.

the stolen figurine
fainted from the stress of the abduction
fell to the floor and went to pieces

I don’t want him to worry
but as that piranha accelerates toward him…
well, at least he can stop fretting over retirement now

your arm.
the numbness expands.
the cat sleeps on in blissful peace.
you don’t move. he’s so cranky when his nap is disturbed.

my chair –
a nosedive into it –
and quick as a wink the cat is curled up and fast asleep.

The penciled-in answers to the puzzle
in this odd book you picked up at the nonsense bookshop
Is it me, or have they suddenly begun making sense?

a great big belly laugh:
the only comeback
I have for everything you say these days

an ancestor
untidies your memories of her
when you discover her hidden diaries. Whoo boy.

The troubled woman tastes the theological pie
teetering on top of the plate of advice –
the pastor steeples his fingers and yawns

when an accountant screams red ink
the blood of your dying business on his hands
the efficient garotte of bankruptcy waits outside

How can its garish colors soothe the reddened eyes?
How can the blowsy rose in the funeral wreath
mediate the strident hatefulness of chance?

Class Notebook

Class Notebook

The notebook.
For my class.
Three times a week I added to it
pages of scrawled-out facts figures
diagrams and arrows pointing
Seventy pages of class time
three or four ink pens called into hard use
running up and down the pages
crinkly and stained
where they once were smooth
and fit against each other
as if one block of paper.

here is the page with formulas
that must be remembered.
This page here
it is a dead end
no further exploration was made
of this information.

The landscape of this notebook
so familiar I know each page by feel.
I know where the hidden gold is
The few words that will make a difference
in the exam. In what I know.
I cannot do without the notebook.

The class finishes its run. The notebook
is no longer relevant. Still
I cannot let it go. Too important. Stored in a box
its pages relaxing and compressing in disuse
retirement among others of its kind
because I save all my notebooks.

I move on to other notebooks
but always with the option
to consult you
you, again
for what your pages contain
and for the chance to run my finger
over this line or that page
one more time.


Snow Fall Morning

Snow Fall Morning

A dull sky
so deep
it is flat.
Sky and snowflakes
infinite layers of gray and snow
arrive one after another

on the ground
endless reams of weightless paper stacking up
in unending rows of columns rising
constructing the form from what was just the idea
seconds ago


Little Vines 12/31/20

New Little Vines. Here is this week’s array.

I’ve only got a few this week. We’ve been “on vacation” here and though we are at home, well, it’s a different routine when you are on vacation, no matter where you did or didn’t go!

See you next week. In 2021! Happy New Year!

divorce is when love says goodbye
the carriage returns to pumpkin form
the glass slipper splinters on your foot

the guilt
of a closet full of out-of-fashion clothes
with their tags still on

my first name is Flail
my last name is Bail
I’m a terrible friend. Never depend on me.

here we are ten years later
and yet it’s always those seventeen seconds
that we return to again and again

nine minutes left and it’s that last bit of sugar
now limping into the finish line
that will make this cake great
if it can stave off a challenge from the burned bottom

do you know where my boyfriend is?
because from that angle in the funhouse mirror
it looks like he’s kissing you. Oh, surely it’s just the mirror.

the case of dirt and tar and grime and gravel dust vs.
the offended bar of soap
asked to deal with them once again

the damage. the numbness.
the breaking down and the putting back.
and now your tooth is as good as new

So Long Ago and So Intensely Remembered

From the collection Use All Your Eyes to See, published 2020.

So Long Ago and So Intensely Remembered

Squeeze and relax my toes
dig them further into the cool corrugated sand
my feet that waver in the pale green surf
at the border of this endless underwater plain

scatters of seaweed and salt
drifts of broken pink and white seashells
advance and retreat with the waves

sun rays refract
in a glint and flash of fish
tiny in their silver skins
who turn and twist in the shallows
brushing my ankles
with soft confiding touches


Brown Sedan

Brown Sedan

Low-slung and a little too responsive to the road
the tan-gold-brown (I can’t pin down the color) vehicle
manufactured circa 1978
swayed through downtown and points east
this January, at the age of forty years,
driven by a man
who didn’t care to remove the snow headdress
the car was wearing
and proudly, I might say.
I wondered if the car’s heater still worked
in the idle moment before the light changed
the car pulling out ahead of me in line
starting off well but settling into a kind of drifting waver
marked by an oscillation between our lane and the other one
a nonconformity that had to bother the cars trying to drive there
it sure was getting to me, too. Every possible accident avoided
by what chance I don’t know
we arrived at the next light and the next
the old car easing up to the stop
in a masterful and thoroughly aggravating way. I fought the urge
to nudge it along to the stop
tap its heavy chrome rear end
with my well-engineered
up to modern standards
front bumper. I could see what a lot of latitude
the old car allowed the driver
the man unconcerned about some things
lane delineations and their relationship to
the amount of play in the steering wheel
and giving a lot of thought to others
such as adjusting his hat and
squirming into a more comfortable seat position
before the car started up from each stop.

The light changed. I hissed
in impatience. The car of vague color
and driver
took off hard and fell back in the space of a block
drifting lane to lane
carefree in its snow bonnet
bad shocks
insouciant attitude
living long and prospering.


Whole Lot of Infrigidation

Whole Lot of Infrigidation

Oh we chat
waiting in line for our bagel breakfast
in the warm shop
with snug seats and clean tables and a fireplace
gas of course but still
it puts out a good strong stream of
winter-fighting heat
it flickers in a cozy way
so that we feel just great
waiting for our bagel breakfast
while the high snow clouds gather in the sky
and water mains break all over town