2019 #4-When we die

I watched a lizard

Go after a single french fry that had fallen off my plate

In an empty outdoor cafe in Ghana

I wished him good luck as he latched on

And darted away with his prize.

Just before that

We had toured the shops

Where craftsmen create fantasy coffins,

These impossibly intricate, almost absurd caskets,

At least to my sullen and mediocre ideas of death.

Lions, crabs, racing cars, trees, shoes, airplanes,

Colors and shapes bursting out at you

Knowing no bounds; death ends limitations

Celebrating a life and taking it forward

To what comes after.

When that lizard dies

Would his coffin be that potato?

A favored tree limb or patch of ground?

Or that meaty insect that got away?

And what will he be

In his next life?

2019 #3-Heard around here

Babies cry

In the apartments around mine

But I’ve never seen them

Only their voices define their existence.

I should mind more

Because they are loud

And they start so early

Bundles of high-pitched mastery

Infants on vocalization crack

Who keep baker’s hours.

I wish I understood them

I wish I could be them

So I could cry and cry and cry

Until someone lifted me up

And held me close

And told me everything would be ok.

2019 #2-The Bear

The small brown bear is, as on most days

Left lying flat and haphazardly on the bed

Inanimate and not even propped up straight

To get a good look out the window

He is old, and worn

The pads on his feet all but gone

Someone promises to repair them but never does

And probably never will

But once the house is quiet

And he is left alone

He comes to life, gets up

And dusts himself off

Because at some point the night before

He had ended up on the floor

Stretches his arms out

Perhaps even exercises

Then—oh then he takes flight

And around and around the world he speeds

Supersonic and unstoppable

Fighting crime and protecting us all

He is a superhero

A bear without equal

A bear beyond compare

As the legend goes

They rally and cheer and chant

And praise his bravery

No one tosses him onto a chair

When the bed has to be made

Or stuffs him in a suitcase

A hero smashed head first into darkness

Until he is released

Only to be thrown on unknown beds and floors

My bear lives this secret life

Far from me and my ability to see

The illusion right in front of me

I come home, and hug him

And hope he saved the world today.

2019 #1–Existence





I don’t know who I was

Or who I am

Having laid waste to everything

Until right now

By doing nothing at all.

So here I am, a blank page

Like this was a blank page

Before even it came alive

Struggling to say I am your words.

So I am-this empty page

No preface and no conclusion

Unless–I am courageous enough

To put the life less taken to paper

And then turn that page.

If I am only a reflection of my past

Comfortably well-read but never lived

If that is who I am

I choose the pen

As my sword

To lay waste to the regret.

I am who I will be.

#12 Sad Woman Walking

I am the sad woman walking towards you

Eyes on the ground, so you can’t see me

But you know

You know by my heavy steps

The extreme muscular labors that push me forward

Through the vacuum between us

That if I looked up

And looked directly at you

You could see the turmoil

Set in just under my eyelids

You know by the bags I carry

That pull me down

Packed with the contingencies for all possible disasters

To stave off the self-criticism to come

Too much, not enough, late, wrong

A rap sheet of epic failures

My spine bends in resignation to these faults

The bags would break my fall if I stumbled

It’s easier to carry the weight

But you also know

When we finally do pass each other

Our eyes making a simultaneous threat assessment

Giving each other the all clear

And you are talking to your friend on the phone

Or laughing with the group you are with

That I wish I were you

Living that life on a high shelf

I can’t reach

Because I’m too short, or because

It’s simply not meant for me.

#11 Ode to John Wayne

My dad wanted an Irish wake when he died

A real one he said

The kind where the friends and family get drunk

Tell stories and laugh

And perhaps cause a fight or two

Fisticuffs for the deceased

Something John Wayne would have done in The Quiet Man

No tears, no regrets, no false sympathies

No parades of mourners lining up for one last look

At the body

Only camaraderie, bravado, and a little bit of excess

His way of dying with dignity

But when my dad did die, after his body broke down

And the signs he ignored for so long

Came around with a balance due

We failed him

He laid in an open casket, and we all took our turns

His face immaculate, his hair coiffed

His body so carefully staged for the auction to come

“Beautifully preserved recently deceased male, who wants to open the bidding?”

And the mourners came

They came with carefully measured solemnity

They got their cheap thrill

They hugged, they cried

All in defiance of my dad’s order

He must have been pissed off

Ready, like Wayne’s character Sean Thornton

To start the fight when a fight was necessary

But not today, Dad, not today

I spoke, I can’t recall what I said exactly

But I mentioned that he loved John Wayne movies

The swagger, the no bullshit persona

Which made a few people laugh

Because they knew it was true

That’s who my dad wanted to be

The soul of an Irishman

Living in his Ecuadorian and Mexican body

He will always be that to me.

#10 Conundrum

I can’t relax

I am twenty-four hours a day of jittery

A short, walking, double shot of espresso

Feet to the pavement, in constant motion

Walk, walk, walk, walk

Down new and familiar streets

Mapping and remapping this city in my head

Cartography for my solitude

This is my quiet

Because stopping, taking a breather

Is cowardice, defeat, and

Would allow my brain to pause just long enough

To let the spastic ruminations, what ifs

Worst-case scenarios, and internal disaster planning

Stake their place.

Too many thoughts, too many worries

Not enough space to put them all

No way to keep them down

Hold them back

Block their escape

If I stop moving

Walking is my rock, thoughts are my paper

And yet

While rock holds down paper, paper covers rock.

#9 Outsider

You belong outside

My multi and long-legged adversaries

Not in my house, not

As happened once, hovering quite delicately on the ceiling

Right above my bed

And waiting, I think deliberately

Until I had barely opened my eyes

To fall straight down on top of me

Or your friends, dangling seemingly without effort underneath a free standing tub

So that while I bathed I was never quite sure

If they would join me

I know you are (for the most part) harmless

I have been told of the good you do in the world

How you eat other insects

And keep the natural order of things chugging along

I can live with that

Just do it out of my sight.

#8 “Blazing off nervous tension, having a breakdown”-Ted Hughes, The Badlands

If you could see inside me you might glimpse the fire blazing

Smoke confined to the inside, carrying the flames off

To the four corners of my psyche, producing a nervous

But persistent quiver that breaks the tension

Of keeping the sadness at bay, of having

To hold it all in, suffocating my voice with a

Hard hand at my mind’s wheel, steering directly into the breakdown.