Published on: 12/13/2012
Call her Betty.
She wore pastel suits with matching pumps,
her rice paper skin scented with lilac water.
She always had a spare tissue in her purse,
a kind word for everyone she met,
and a penny for the child who picked up her hat
when that silly wind tried to blow it away.
She told us we were wonderful when we were ordinary,
treated everyone like sons and daughters.
She could bake a cherry pie, repair a zipper,
stop a run in her nylons with a dab of clear nail polish.
She never balanced a checkbook and scarcely drove
until her husband passed, when she picked these things up too;
afterwards, she taxied women who didn't have cars
to doctors, interviews, and their children's school.
When she departed, she left the echo of encouraging words,
along with the hint of lilac water.
Published on: 12/12/2012
Idea of Cuba
line of empties on the south window
Cuba on my mind
squint through amber bottle lenses
sense a half-dreamt soul beach
if I could go to a lighter place
take off for one lousy week
I'd smash those bottles against the wall
my dad made a life of breaking bottles
and other things
his reflection in the glass
pot can't obliterate
cigarettes are almost worse
AA just pisses me off
somebody tried to stick sobriety on the wall
maybe it was me
no prayer as serene as a fifth of Smirnoff's
I pray to "nobody home"
but those empties keep on winking
somebody has to make me stop
until my Cuba comes
Published on: 12/11/2012
Lying in tender afternoon sunshine
we used to look at each other's hands—
never got tired of tracing the lines.
I still feel your calluses,
built up over years of pressing
and prying at sharp electronic parts.
I've forgotten the stories you told me
about capacitors, microchips and motherboards,
but my nerves hold the memory
of gently bearing down on thickened skin,
of running a finger down the flow
of bicycle grease in your cuticle.
You were fascinated by the garden dirt
ground deep under my fingerprints,
and I told you stories about my scars—
this one left over from a weekend of weatherstripping,
that one from a rogue microfiche machine.
I always did love your hands,
and the strong arms that connected them to your heart.
Now my fingers are left to bear their own bicycle grease,
traces in black along the rivers and terraces
of weather and workworn hands.
Almost as if I'd buried them in your ashes,
and could never, never wash you away.
Published on: 12/6/2010
Field of Broken Glass
In our life together,
all the cancers have been figurative
until now --
bad choices, bad ideas, bad luck --
shards we could toss
into Old Man Time,
and his soothing rush
would smooth bright edges.
Now cornered, we face
this field of broken glass,
where no river
will ready our feet for the abrasions.
frozen by a word.