Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Night Karate

I'm walking you girls back
From the train station in the dark
When you both stoop, to snap at dandelions
Shimmying out of a crack in the pavement
And I’m immediately transported back to our walks
When you were young

At the time
It was a welcome indulgence to know
You were old enough to walk
But still insistent we take the stroller
So I could cart you like twin, gliding empresses
Upon your royal sedan

Inevitably, at your command
We would halt
To select from nature's open curio cabinet
Stocked by, as you both had called her, “Mother Garden”
Which I refused to correct

I gave you treats
To keep your mouths content
With something sweet and constantly melting
Upon your happy red tongues
Sometimes, a lollipop
Which, minutes later
Would resurface, wordlessly
Dual, empty flagpoles of no special allegiance

Your eyes continued to dance
Over the slowly advancing corridor of foliage
Hungry to spy the next prize
The next addition to our growing cache
Of Nature’s exotica
Which we never, ever kept

You were showing me the world again
A different world than the one I knew
A world where a marbled orange stripe
Through an otherwise plain pebble
Was a magical and miraculous gift

You both shout now
And I’m startled back into the present
You are excited by how distinct and long your shadows are
In the harsh beacon light of a gas station’s signage

There’s a pealing joy in your screams
As you both karate-chop at my shadow
And with the same motion
Empty your hands
To let the dandelion heads fall

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hot Air Balloon

I haven't seen many since
But I did today, driving home
It drifted across the Baltic blue
Like a comically large, rainbow-colored mote
In some giant's eye

For years
I've tried to forget
Tried to stop wondering
But as it likes, the world insists
In the first gentle bump of an elevator
Or the flirty lightness in my stomach
As I drive over a swell of road

I tell myself
I miss you less
Than that hot air balloon ride we never took
The day you dropped me, from us
Easy, like ballast
Now I'm forced to imagine
The grand balloon's deflated, nylon envelope
Folded and cold in some dark shed
Unused, like my dream’s own overstock

That summer, lying in my bed
And burning with hurt and anger
I resolved to save all my money
And buy a balloon of my own
One I could take out at will
To fly out over your house
And fire the flame as I pass
The frustrated snort and glare of an angry god
Casting an orange, hateful glow
Over your house
A super-imposed hellfire
To burn it down, with you inside

But then
I also imagine the stoked burner
How it would bathe my skin in heat
As your lips had once done
And I remember the hot rush of our breath
That together, made me buoyant
How beneath you, I had floated along, seemingly forever
Gliding low and smooth and effortless
Barely off the ground
Just one remove from reality, but enough
To make it abstract, and bearable
Me, you, and the unchanging blue above
And that ever gentle, sideways lift
Of real, longtime love

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Hoffman Box: Trying to Get Boston to Download Upload

I won't lie that I had high hopes for the day. Who wouldn't? I was driving into Boston, setting my sights on over a dozen bookshops, all within a two mile radius, and ten pounds of my first novel in my backpack. I had print outs of a local article I had been featured in, print outs of my Amazon reviews, and business cards. I was ready.

I hop in the car, and--oops. No gas. I'm dimly sensitive to early, bad luck omens for my day ahead. But this is no problem. I pull into a station and fill-up my tank, and a receive a bonus ego stroke. A fellow pumper crossed over the island. "Hey man, that must be fun to drive." He pointed at my Challenger. I laughed. "Oh, you don't even know." But in truth, a snow storm was due that same night, and muscle cars perform like Bambi on ice in the snow.

On my drive into town, I worked through my pitch, imagining myself pulling out, with a flourish "Upload" and its vibrant green and yellow cover, smooth as a snake oil salesman. I reassured myself. Even if I botched my first encounter, no big deal. I could recalibrate, if necessary, and improve my sales craft as the day progressed. I'd simply march on to the next store and perform that much better. Unbeknownst to me, my new hiking boots had entirely different plans for me.

Whistling, I pulled into a parking garage in the center of Boston's Financial district ($10 for a full day, not bad), set my Google navigator to pedestrian mode, and set off. Here I go!

By the way, not only is Boston chock full of bookstores, but also churches. With each church I passed, I wondered if I might take a knee inside and beg for divine providence.

My first stop was a very well known bookshop in Boston, a block away from Boston Common (OKAY, this was NOT my first stop--this is an outright lie, which I'll cop to later).

As I opened the door, I tried to turn a blind eye to the words that seemed to drift toward me from the painted window panes: "antique", "rare", "oldest". Damn it. Maybe not the best fit for a just published techno-thriller. I was out the door again in three short minutes, the awkward exchange akin to asking for a Big Mac at Burger King. Okay, strike one, but several to go.

I considered more seriously looping back to the nearest church, but I marched on. I consulted again my mapped out route, ignoring a disconcerting rawness in my heels, and a vague suspicion I shouldn't have worn new, untested shoes on my walking tour of Boston. Although--maybe this wasn't a bad thing. There was a certain religiosity there... A physical penance for my poor planning.

Already limping a bit now, I wasn't able to find the second bookshop. The bookstore was on my map, but in reality, it just wasn't there at all. I was reminded of a Twilight Zone episode I had seen where a couple accidentally wakes up minutes earlier than fate had planned. They go outside and literally witness reality being assembled before their eyes by little gnomes. No gnomes came for me.

The next shop was closed--on a Saturday?! As I worked my way between locations, I am barraged by a strategically placed cast of professional vagrants and college students, each begging for money, but for altogether different causes.

I quite liked the next bookstore, set below street level, an old world set of steps ushering me into the quiet shop. And score one for me, the owner of the shop was actually on site. He patiently listened to my pitch from his folding chair, mountains of books and magazines surrounding him. With the same patience, he explained that I had just walked into a bookstore solely devoted to lesbian, gay, and bisexual literature. I looked around. Yes. This seemed to be true. That would explain the ten foot tall rainbow colored store sign out front.

"But..." he said, "There seems enough of a mystery in this book that people would like it."

My first consignment.

I was now two hours in, and having minimal success. I began to feel like an outsider, marching in and bothering an otherwise sleepy, contented, antiquated Boston with my shrill and bright new book. I was hungry too. And what the hell was going on in my shoes? I dropped my bags and sat on a stoop to re-lace my boots that continued to bite into my heels with needle sharp teeth.

After a quick bite (a magically delicious and restorative slice of buffalo chicken pizza), I was back outside looking for my next challenge. My pronounced limp seemed to work in my favor now. The vagrants stutter stepped as they approached me now, studying my grimace, seeming to think twice about my capacity for charity. That, or they recognized some kind of beggarly kinship with me at this point. Hell, my hand was out just as much as theirs was. Wow, this was hard. I marveled at how difficult it was to get the word out, to broadcast myself. So it was at this point that I remembered a software testing apparatus named the "Hoffman Box", which is an enclosure used to test how software behaves when deprived of its ability to connect to the outside world. Hmmm. Yes. Sounds distinctly familiar.

I then made my way to South Station (a coliseum-like transportation center) and limped around it twice looking for the next bookstore I could see on my map, but again, not in reality. I had a revelation. I should start CALLING these stores first. I called, and it turned out the store I was looking for was located INSIDE South Station. Neither the bookstore manager nor the owner was present, but the employees I spoke to were very encouraging and I left them with all the information I could. Thousands of people passed the bookshop daily. Of all the shops, I hope hear back from this one.

The next two shops were outliers to my neat little 2 mile radius, so I decided to call them instead. And I'm glad I did. Both said their book purchasers weren't in, but shared with me their contact information. I had a sinking feeling I could have done 90% what I would accomplish today from home.

Time to remove the Hoffman Box, I thought. I stopped marching along my own delirious Freedom Trail, got out my cell phone, and called the next five stops in rapid succession. No solid deals from any of them, but I received all the information I need on each store's book purchaser.

For the entire day, I had been slogging around my laptop bag, along with the backpack, hopeful to find a place to write at the end of the day, when I finally tired of my trip. I found a spot in a local cafe, and scored the writer's trifecta: a seat next to a power outlet, an end table, and a twenty ounce latte. I took my mind off hocking my first book and spent three hours editing and updating the draft of my next novel, "dirt", and was heartened and encouraged all the more for it. Finally, real progress.

With my day complete, I headed home. I had tried. I certainly tried. Back in town, I stopped in at a local pub. Superstitiously, I wanted to close the loop, and make the circle complete. Because, you see, here's my confession: my first stop wasn't actually to a bookstore, but to a pub, for a beer, an on-deck circle of sorts where I could steel my nerves, surrounded by memorabilia of the city I was about to invade. So to a pub did I return, closer to home, and as luck would have it, I met who I had been looking for all day: a bookstore owner, with a store one town over. Seems I didn't have to venture so far after all.

As I turned in to bed, I decided to take a look at what had been bothering me all day.

Luckily, most of my follow-up bookstore legwork with eight other stores will be virtual.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

On a Pale Pegasus

Our priest urged the rhythm method
My wife and I opted for something
more like jazz, strong but flexible
And for that produced with
the embarrassing terror of
accidental combustion,
a daughter

And so my love for our daughter
was a confused wall of marble,
heated and pressured
and densely streaked with lack of intention
I pictured her
held up against this calcium carbonate love
The near ivory reflected her well
Her cheeks as dual suns
Her nose a shier, pug star
But somewhere across the eyes
and near the gentle collapse of her throat
there streaked ashy stratum fissures
obscure and fatal

As with all of her birthdays
(precious stones collecting in our hearts)
She shared her last
with a despised and diseased twin
A child also of accident
This twin who pulled her down
making our daughter move
and breathe in ocean wet sand
fighting a shadow with ambition,
twice the weight of her body
that worked its malicious hands with thousands
of mucus shiny serpents as fingers
into her chest and lungs

In the first minutes of morning, every morning,
the coughing would seize her
Those hissing hands would squeeze her passages
writhing with renewed jealousy
and it was then
my daughter began

In between short, muffled kitten hacks,
the scrape of movement upon our ceiling, her floor,
jolted through the lightning rod of me
(my love became that way, maniacally receptive
to all energies she could display, I drank them in)
and released into the basement and foundation below
Beside me, my wife slept vigorously withdrawn
her snore a steady trot
while our daughter moved mountains of her white,
golden-knobbed furniture in the dark

After I first heard her nocturnal movements,
ragged hoof beats and snorts
I ripped up her uncooperative carpet
the very next day
and laid bare her hardwood floor
So then, when she thought I was asleep, she impossibly pushed, with an adrenaline panic for life, LARGE, FILLED BUREAUS, HOPE CHESTS, A HUTCH DISPLAYING HER RIGID RHYMES, A TWIN BED, HER STICKER-COVERED DESK, RE-HUNG HER HECTIC, TENSE CRAYON DRAWINGS, REARRANGED COUNTLESS PORCELAIN PEGASI (never still for long, a silent stampede of noble, rearing equines, front legs staggered in the effort of ascent, hoofs she painted red for prettiness, a silenced message curled in the frozen haste of their sprung wings), RAINBOW LAMPS, END TABLES, ALL HER SLUMBERING GALLERY OF STUFFED ANIMALS
around into new order
as if her life were the board games we played
her furniture the game pieces
Either we had started without her
or the deck wasn't shuffled right
and she insisted, with each grunt and push
of her enervated limbs,
we needed to start over

I didn't tell my wife
that the scrape-shock descending
through my shameful heart
became less
My wife didn't notice
the furniture was no longer drastically changed
Nothing large and encouraging
mistakenly blocked our daughter's door
Her room was frighteningly negotiable
There was perhaps the empty wicker hamper moved
or that green bean bag chair that wheezed tiny balls of Styrofoam
as I struck it with my fists
was in another, nearby corner

My wife didn't know,
when I started making our daughter's bed,
how I would hold up her bedclothes
to the morning light of the window
and measure our daughter's life and disease
slain into a salty aura of sour sweat
that described her outer form,
like a fully eclipsed sun,
upon her sheets.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Next novel progress...

I'm so excited to be done with the my first draft of "dirt". It's around 80 k or so, will do one more pass of touch-ups, and take in some beta reader feedback, and then be ready to submit!

Monday, January 7, 2013


As if only upon the remembrance of fuel
my car rolls into the gas station
like the first beast of burden
to finally think for itself
and stops

I pump high-octane as a plea
and beg it, stroking its rusted quarter panel
for at least three more zeroes
or four more bald tires
coaxing it with premium liquid chocolates
and some little verse

when suddenly I see, pasted upon the pump
a statement refusing third-party checks
and scribbled to the side, I read
that Crystal loves Bobby (signified by a plus and needing no equal)
in faded blue ink

But Bobby is now crossed out
Crystal’s made the effort to come back
not for the penny less a gallon
but to tell Bobby
her tank is full
and she pumps her own gas

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


(from a small plastic box at the check-out aisle)

Even the size nine feet at the end of the day come out
of the size six shoes
The large square peg stops attempting
the small round hole
After mere hours, our heads emerge from
the straining birth canal
Diamonds are finally mined from eons
as claustrophobic coal
Luckily, the pressed butterfly falls out
while looking up the word "hegira" from Webster's
And always, mercifully, there will be another
infinitesimal pause between tick and tock
The pea has days off between nights
beneath the princess
But without mercy, more pained than a New Yorker
pinned under the Statue of Liberty's stiletto heel,
is the lonely, trapped,
Mexican Jumping