Skirmish

From Unpredictable Hue, 2019.

Skirmish

Exactly on schedule four cars emerge into view
speed up the on-ramp. I parallel them
here on the highway all of us racing toward
the point of the V that is the merge.
According to highway etiquette
I should get over into the left lane
but there is a solid line of traffic already occupying it
so let’s see who blinks first
in this very ordinary fight to the death
I speak in metaphor but certainly it could happen.
I decide. Magnanimity will be my word for today
a term more noble than self-preservation
but the latter is truly the more appropriate.
I fall back. I let the first car the leader of my rivals
merge in but I tailgate close and hard to show
I made the choice. I decide what I will permit.
It is enough and all that the situation requires by custom.
Traffic speeds on and others behind me
will decide the merge fates of the newcomers
and if it happens in my rearview mirror, well,
it’s not happening to me.
The maneuvers are over almost before they begin.
Joined in one flow we move
the next highway on-ramp entrance
two miles down the road
where we will test ourselves again.
I change the radio station and think of lunch.

9/6/18
9/12/18

Fishing

From Unpredictable Hue, published in 2019.

Fishing

I sit
in a chair. I fish.
The rush of sibilances
across the room while
I strain to grasp them
squeeze them into hard clear shapes
I can hold on to
but they evade me
slipping through my hearing
again and again. The frustration
of fishing and the fish glimpsed
through the water
not caught and
instead laughing at me
while darting away through
the weeds growing up from the mud
those sibilances promising such a meal
and giving up so little.

I sit across the room
and I cast my line.
Again.

9/20/18

Please Avoid a Cataclysmic Geyser Uprush

From Unpredictable Hue, published in 2019.

Please Avoid a Cataclysmic Geyser Uprush

i.
Blue polo shirt/khaki pants
walks across the asphalt parking lot
White oxford cloth shirt/gray tie
leaves his suit coat out in the car
Sheath dress in an asymmetric block print
casts a quizzical glance at the bottled water
Brown striped button-down shirt
leans over a salad as if to pin it down
Jeans jacket and black jersey pants
squeezes mustard on a too-full sandwich
Long-sleeved black shirt and tote handbag
unscrews the fizzy water in the green bottle and sighs.

ii.
It’s busy in the grocery store.
Concrete floor. Concrete walls.
Very air-conditioned. Very clean.
Music that we like to listen to. Snap of paper bags.
Somewhere far away
glass makes contact with the floor.
We hear the object hit. We hear the shatter
We hear the whole and its breaking apart.
We envision the spray of shards
the spread of liquid. We feel
the moment of small shock expanding
the suspension of shopping activity.
We hear the
short silence the oh no
We feel embarrassed.
We are relieved to be able to look away
We are glad that if someone has to admit guilt
and stand in a glass-strewn puddle
it will not be us. We look away
Sheath dress. Oxford cloth shirt. Jeans jacket.
All of us. We look away.

9/26/18
10/1/18

Canapé

From the collection published in 2019, Unpredicatble Hue.

Canapé

We were talking about
Spiders and their webs and
how they serve finger food and
and about being around someone
who ate the fly
raw. Imagine being friends
with finger-food fly eaters
Of the problems that people are just not aware of
this is one of them

9/26/18

Observe the Social Niceties and See It Pay Off

From Unpredictable Hue, 2019.

Observe the Social Niceties and See It Pay Off

After they asked I had to think it over for a while but
by the next day
I’d made up my mind. It was trouble, big fat trouble,
though lucrative, sure, but the story
appealed to me mostly because
it just tickled my fancy.
Since I had gotten myself invited to dinner
you bet I’d go, meet more new friends, explore
possibilities. I gave serious consideration
to my outfit and a proper hostess gift
and timed myself to arrive socially late.
I walked out of the library
with an almost-new copy of the latest bestseller and
the plain wool coat I wore every day
taking the bus (no license plate on a car to trace)
knocked on the door. No voice could be heard
inside the house but that barking dog
kind of put me off. I don’t know what length of time
is enough to wait at an unanswered door but I could
make the case it’s supposed to be

less time than it takes
to look in the front window
see your hosts
lying on the carpet
not napping
and realize
arriving after the other guests
was a good thing
after all.

8/23/18

Country Club Lunch in the Summer

From Clean Canvas, the collection published in 2018.

Country Club Lunch in the Summer

The lardy bloat
the ooze of blab
the egos that billow
in the small-talk heat
Here good sense wilts
or escapes
Either way
the slippery air full of laughter
no one really means
brittle red fingernails that tap
the white-painted metal
patio tabletop
The fringed umbrella
shades every single word
while the cubes melt
in glasses of iced tea

3/1/18
3/7/18

Driving a Flashy Car Does Not Help You

From the collection published in 2017, Redirection.

Driving a Flashy Car Does Not Help You

The nouveau-in-towners
picked up and flung into things
social things
by some force intent on disruption.
The established
Order
naturally
resists the intrusion of the non-conforming
with merciless insistence on expulsion
and efficient timely
eradication.
The in-crowd
knows its members
never blinks an eye
at throwing back the gatecrashers
Enjoys it
in fact. Nouveau people:
start your own club
it will be second-rate
but in name only
and you’re guaranteed to
throw much better parties
just out of spite
if nothing else.

9/21/17

In the Dark Interior

From the collection Redirection, published in 2017.

In the Dark Interior

Without much warning
but sufficient
if you were paying a little attention
the argument
picked up some steam
whispers in the dark
can get
intense
two people interested
the rest of us
trying to get some sleep
or pretending to
the signs being
it could go on all night
Stuck on a long-haul bus ride
you get used to these things.

9/28/17

Inundation

Inundation

The professor. The students.
The closed door of the lecture room.
The droning single voice
a stream of contained sound
until
the clock reaches its limit and

with the flung-open door
a dam-burst of speech
intensified
spilling out the break
rushing over and through
the fleeing
the survivors on the run.
In the aftermath
the professor emerges
trickles down the hall
the slam of the door into the stairwell
the final punctuation mark. Silence.

The next class
begins in ten minutes.

11/14/16

PSU Library 7-28-15 #1 small

Penn State library at Abington.

 

Not in the Lobby, Please

From Generous With the Details, 2017.

Not in the Lobby, Please

What a wretched little snake
and what abysmal behavior
but it was exhilarating to watch
all the same. For the next five minutes
indignation ran high. Then
thirty minutes of
I liked him. I was sorry for him.
Now I’ll never feel the same about him.
What he should do is
resign.
repeated in a loop until
a previously-scheduled sales meeting
cut it off. Immersed in gung-ho enthusiasm
and a review of high-pressure tactics
interest moved on
the commotion suppressed by
a deluge of adrenaline and
high class hors d’oeuvres
Altogether such a satisfying day.

11/18/16

ATC man wearing a tie 9-17 small

Artist trading card, 2017.