the aquarium is shoved off
to the side of the dinette.
Except for the water, it is
empty; small bubbles cling to the
plastic walls, sparkling under
the fluorescent lighting.
A spare pair of reading
glasses is shoved up
against the glass, as if
straining to see the fish
that should be there by now.
a black man
stood at the podium
looking out at a sea of faces;
the ones to his left never
smiled, never clapped,
never stood; so many white
faces and white hair.
they did not even respond
to the black man’s dazzling
white smile directed their
I miss talking with you,
yes, you, the one with the
soft brown hair, five pairs
of reading glasses, you who
sits on a chair with shorter legs
so your feet touch the ground;
you can kind of look like
a grown up, with your stiletto
heels that really don’t fit
who you are at all.
I miss making fun of you,
our laughter drifting out
into the hallway; I like that
you laugh at yourself.
Just look at the wall in
your office to know how I
feel about you.
he always took her to the station,
parking illegally in the bank parking lot
so he could unload her suitcases
and walk her down the sidewalk
towards the bus, ask her if she had
her ticket, her ID, some money
and hold back his tears as he
watched her get on the bus
and select the same seat she always
picked, on the other side of the
aisle, about half way down.
then he always walked to the
end of the pull-through driveway
so when the bus emerged from the
station, he could wave good-bye,
barely able to see her wave back
through the tinted windows.
he watched the bus disappear down
the road, walked back to his car
and drove home to the empty house.
Saying good-bye never got
any easier, no matter how much
she re-appeared recently,
her backpack much reduced
in volume, her double chin
slightly reduced in volume,
the pants a little looser.
she re-appeared at the dinette
seeking her usual spa
treatment of backrubs,
neckrubs, warm corn bags
and chocolate soufflé.
He stepped onto the cable spanning
the World Trade Towers, knowing
his life might be coming to an
he hesitated for just the tiniest
moment, then continued, each
step becoming more joyful, more
confident; he started
dancing on the wire.
he saw a growing crowd of
upstretched faces, their arms
reaching up towards him,
police cars careened to a stop,
he lay down on the wire
and relaxed, breathing
the full experience of
life and love into
Up again, the police now
waiting at both ends of
the cable, he strutted
from south tower to north
and back again,
He stepped off the cable
into police custody,
smiling; he had the
best time of his
rejoice, my friends, for the
ceaseless histrionics about the proposal
have finally ended, the proposal
having been sent off to
the NASA bureaucracy, chattering along
the razor thin lines of electrons
or optical photons
which cross our great nation.
rejoice, my friends, for I can now
have coffee with you, chatting through
the hours about boys and other
such important things.
I always wondered about her nose.
From the delicate bridge between her
deep-set, shadowed eyes, it gracefully
broadens; a river would
flow so smoothly onto
the planes of her freckled cheeks
without so much as a ripple
until mid-way down towards
her delicate nostrils, the smooth line
of her nose is broken by remnants
of a craggy peak pushed forth
from its base just as mountain peaks
emerge from the softness of the
desert, vigorously thrust skyward
as tectonic plates crash against
each other in a violent
At Two Hands Paperie, she perused
the pens and inks, deciding the budget
did not allow for new pens, but
new ink was a possibility.
The clerk handed her a card,
each line a different color,
each color labeled, a panoply
of names; blue sky, magenta gold,
iron ore, delirious purple and
poussiere de lune, a dusky purple
she had purchased before.
Poussiere de lune, Moon dust,
what she thinks of day and night
in her laboratory, at the computer,
at night, she dreams of Moon dust,
the color of an ink cartridge.
no matter that the walls of her city
have fallen to ruins, that her home
now lies as a pile of rubble in the street;
she has places to go in her clean white
dress, her mother pulling her along
side as they head to Church, to pray
for salvation for the dead, for food
and water for the living.
he was bored, curls falling over
his forehead, open books, a pen
disconnected from the pen cap
off to the side, he gazes out the window
at the beach, the waves, the blue sky,
how come boredom in nirvana,
how come when there’s no soul,
no one’s home, an emptiness
roils inside him until he picks up
the guitar and the chords gradually
envelop him and his mind stops
crashing against the walls of boredom,
the hours pass by until darkness is
all round him and he falls into the
deep dreamless sleep of contentment.
they were in the coffee shop; first
her arms and legs were crossed
as she faced him, then only lifting her
coffee to obscure her angry
face behind a cloud of steam.
In spite of her distance,
he leaned forward towards
her, said something and smiled,
exposing a large gap between his two
front teeth, then leaned back,still
smiling and winked.
Temporarily nonplussed, she put
her coffee down, and slowly
uncrossed her legs and relaxed
back into her chair.
The power of a smile demonstrated
she woke up at her usual working girl time;
the sun is still well below the horizon at 6 30
and she stretches like a cat under her warm covers
but doesn’t get up.
she rolls over and goes back to sleep for
another hour, or was it two, only then
rising to answer birthday phone calls, have
a coffee, read the paper, get back in bed
with that novel that has progressed in 7 paragraph
increments in the last six months.
Another seven paragraphs, her book shading
the sunshine, she drifts off to sleep.
she wakes up hungry, stretches like a cat under
her warm covers, shakes some wrinkles from her
pajamas and faces the day with a smile.
today, she's no working girl;
just a happy birthday girl.
the alarm went off at 5 10,
not in an insistent way, just enough
volume to stir the conscious mind,
soft enough to be ignored, to
continue that dream that in which
we were so engrossed,
to allow us to sleep on past 5 20,
5 30, 6 00 or even into the coming
night with the stars reeling overhead
and the moon singing sweet
the book cover is yellowed
after years in the bookcase, in
briefcases, on windowsills,
slightly peeling tape securing
the Dewey decimal number
914.4C describing Travel,
in France, the pages bent at
the corners, slightly soiled from
hundreds of eager fingers, some
moistened to better grip the pages,
which capture their next
adventure in the smell, the
knowledge of this old soiled
library book, which reveals stories
a new book, in its inexperience,
could never tell.
that one had a plastic band
that one was pink
that one had big numbers
that one was too small
that one was ugly
that one was just right.
that night he fell asleep,
his wrist turned towards his face,
admiring his new watch.
they got to their seats early
since the film he wanted to see
was sold out; the only film
left was a chick flick.
the three previews were a good
indicator of what was to come
she wondered if he would make
it through to the end of the film
or she would find him at Laudisio
sucking down a few beers
while he waited for her to come
out after the movie.
somehow he made it only by
sighing regularly throughout
and rolling his eyes in agony.
at the end, the men all stumbled
out with relieved looks on their
faces, their dates looking happy
having gotten their romantic fix
for the weekend.
As if a scale could lie, after
all the cake, pie, cookies,
champagne, wine, chocolate;
the cooking, the eating while
cooking, the eating,
the fresh bread, the parties.
Even if the scale could lie,
the waistband of our pants
could not, stretched to their limits,
each thread groaning as a gridiron
on a bridge groans under the weight
of each passing truck before finally
breaking in two, releasing the hapless
into the rushing river below.
she reached adolescence;
dying her hair purple, getting
tattoos, rebelling against authority
cutting the apron strings, walking
away with a bounce in her step;
frequently looking back to
make sure her mother was
still watching her and had
not gone inside to attend
to her own life.
we all wonder where to go
in our party dresses, boots that
are made for walking, our
gleaming jackets, even when
our hats are on and we’re heading
out the door, to the destination
where there is less ice on the
sidewalk or we like their
margaritas or bean dip. tonight
the ice looks slippery in that direction
in the New Year, ripe with the
possibility of falling on our heads,
or slipping and sliding to a new
future, with our new boots
and fancy jackets, we take
the first steps with trepidation.
she had something to write
about, but no words could
be spoken without falling into a
silence, as dust quietly settles onto
a windowsill, slowly building
up until the housekeeper notices
on her way out, and pauses a moment
to scrub the grime away.
I’ve started rummaging in the basement
for the various pieces and parts of
an old aquarium, and my birthday
is coming up, too.
Shall I name him Angela, Frank
or Norman, or will another name
come to me in the dark velvet of
night, as it did last night,
then so promptly forgotten.
I’ll recognize him when I see him,
the one, who will greet me every
morning with a flick of her
tail, his mouth opening and closing
in anticipation of his breakfast,
my new fish.