Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Seven P.M. Thursday,
Italian Bistro, three ladies
and too much Chianti.
They act like old tigress's
who've found a zebra foal
and can't decide between
mothering it or eating it.
From the back of the cab one says
to me will I give a free ride if she flashes me,
lifts her blouse
in all her shrunken drooping glory.
I'm sorry, Ma'am, that won't even cover the tip.
She laughs so hard her teeth fall out.
As she leaves the cab, her claws
drag softly across the back of my neck.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy new year. Champagne, party flavors, kisses with plenty o' tongue.
Be happy, healthy, have fun.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The season

Armand, another eggnog here, heavy on the rum.
For the ones who are alone tonight,I will remember you.
To those put away, put down, put up, I remember.
Those of you on the road, far from home, I will remember.
Those with family scattered far and wide, I remember.
You in the shelters, the wards, the cells, I remember you, too.
Those at sea, in the air, in harms way, I remember.
To those lost in their own inner wilderness's I will remember.
You who are pursued by old familiar demons, I remember.
And to you, whoever you are, who are right where you want to be,
remember all of us.

Armand, a round for the house on me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

...and the music of the stars
still stream though the lit night
a Capella, like a kid on a corner
snapping, popping, sizzling
from a secret but free energy,
a bone and blood pulsar,
a righteous Borealis

and I ain't too old to miss
magic when it happens.
The clouds clear out,
the moon is a bright grin.
I know babies dance when they're born.
I know molecules dance, and atoms,
and mountains in slow stone time dance.

Life is bright, time is forever.
Dance like our bodies are gods.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Something escaped from the closet today.

Snapshot: picture Mel Brooks,
Yoda, and Ebenezer Scrooge
rolled into one old man.
One time a man took me from the street
and gave me home, gave me warm, gave me light.
But a souvenir from ’Nam
ate his family, his little boy, a little girl
their loving mother.
Today at the V.A. I saw this gnarled troll
waiting for his medications
eyes all predatory, same Portuguese nose,
old stale menace his mouth.
Some things are best left buried,
better left put away, out of sight
and out of mind, locked in a cage.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday night and the wine is almost gone.
Sound of buses on the street below my window,
people going somewhere, returning from somewhere,
staring at their faces reflected in the dirty bus window,
making lists, forming speeches, framing apologies.
All the things that make us human;
communication, regret, envy,
are the things that keep us apart.
I send my thoughts out and ask
for nothing but acknowledgement,
an admission of inclusion,
a need to know I belong.
But I am a poet.
What was I thinking.
The voices of the night are mine.
I stare into the eye of the moon
and read omens there.
The darkness is mine,
has always been…
I gave up the light for understanding.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

poem from work


Kid gets in my cab,
headphones on,
thousand-yard stare,
saliva-coated chin.
Four people walk him
to the cab door and leave.
My eye never leaves the mirror.
He sits and rocks a little,
hums softly.
I think he is his own universe.
There are strange stars
in his sky.
He revolves around himself
silent and stately.
I am nothing here.
Maybe a small moon
casting inconsequential light.

In my family when a son killed his first buck
he was given a shot of deer blood to honor the animal’s spirit.
I drank mine at sixteen.
Since then every Autumn I would gather
gun and ammo, camo and blaze orange,
knife, tag and flask of whiskey.
This year I am fifty two years old on my
thirty sixth hunt, and yesterday I sat in a blind
and got lost in the wind and the leaves,
the sound of the branches and shouts of blue jays.
Lost and elevated by that beauty…
Movement in the draw below me…
Slowly, nose first, wary eyed,
a buck emerged.
Modest six points, ears tattered
and nose scarred, deep bull chest
brown, black and grizzled grey.
An old warrior, sire to many a fine fawn, I’d bet.
Now, I’ve shot a buck or two in my time,
I am no twitchy fingered youth shooting at shadows.
He was in my sights, dead to right, mine.
I could pull the trigger.
I didn’t. Coughing softly,
I granted him his life.
He tensed, raised his tail, bounded away,
and I was glad to see him go.
Later, when I saw the old king gutted and tied to a trailer
I wept, broke down my gun, and will hunt no more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Walking the Fox

I don’t enjoy walking the river when it is this intense.
The rush and roil make my head light as foam
and turns my feet sodden and heavy.
I loose my thoughts.
I start thinking river questions.
Questions I haven’t asked in generations.

Where am I going?
And when I get there, where will I go then?
Are there other rivers like me?
If there are, do they find like I do
that every bend is new and familiar
all at once, that each old tree I see
I have never seen before
and have known for centuries?
Do they watch with the same eye,
one at once the length and width of my course
but small as every drop of water?

I, also, wonder where I am going.
I ponder the absence of any final destination.
I puzzle at why when I look,
the river wears my face.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dusk, on a shore, one loon cries

I know this place in my heart
that I take energy from
Deep purple sky still black lake
a loon cry unanswered not repeated

My friends say this is a lonely place
full of sadness and melancholy
I have to agree
but this is where I live

If I could change anything
it would be this
There would be a small campfire
and maybe another loon

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I am tired of being a cripple,
can I get an Amen.
I don’t care if the moon landings fixed,
look where it took us.
Wine, cheap or not,
both end up piss.
Sure time slips away,
it brings us along for the ride.
I am a poet fueled by wine
and some real good pills.
The poets that I know,
that I really truly know,
ain’t all that far away.
We are grey but bright,
at ease with our words,
willing to let some things pass
because we’ve all been there.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I heard a song today about leaving
and a friend read a poem about the road
where the wind insistently repeats
gusts of approval to the grey clouds.
It’s 50 * but it looks like snow.
The leaves are still green and
refuse to submit, so the wind
claims the dead branches,
the birds nests, and the rummage sale signs.
It isn’t even noon
I’m ready for bed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Black holes never cry.
A stone was a rock
when it was young.
Arrows of love from
the Gods of war, away!
Away! Away to the space
between mine eyes and
save me from
lisping Shakespeares.
I was joking with my friend the other day
‘bout smoking stale tea, how tea was a name
for pot ‘way back, beatniks drinking wine and smoking’ tea.
Giving Bourbon as a cure for cowlick, whining,
or to counteract a sugar buzz; this is okay.
But joke about smoking’ a little Gange, some Buddha,
or Humboldt County homegrown and Holy Shit!
Smack me upside the head with a fry pan!
Didn’t matter her and I burned one together.
Ain’t my fault her father called and ruined her buzz.
I guess respectability will do that to ya.
And me, old reprobate, part hippy and part biker,
part stoned seer/prophet/poet
still willing to let my freak flag fly.
Starting to write poetry wasn’t
the best idea I’ve ever had.
It all seemed so innocent.
A limerick or two, a lousy ballad,
love poems so bad they hurt.
That is all it was ever meant to be.
I would have been happy with that.
Then the poetry turned into songs,
each one filled with its own music.
The words became Shamans, holding
mysteries, and the answers to mysteries.
Suddenly, it seems, I am become a midwife
trying at the least to not drop a poem on its head,
at most hold it up to the sun and announce
“ Here is another.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

Passing the torch

I want to tell my nephews that
some little part of our blood
comes from the Ojibwa, or Chippewa.
Not enough blood to put you on a tribal roll,
or get you out of an ass-whooping,
but now you know.
They were fisherman, and rice harvesters,
trappers and hunters.
Their warriors were feared and respected.
we are corn-fed, fair skinned, right talkin’
sons of western Europe.
But part of us has been here much longer.
It may not be important to you now,
but some day you will notice how
you always end up back here.
It’s the blood.
It speaks, and
we must listen.

A Pinot Noir, and some tid bits.


Her face
risen above me,
the moon through the shutters
just touches the left side of her face.
She is not smiling.
Her eyes are like a cat’s,
but soft, and silver.
I think
My God,
that I should be here.
The moon just touches her face,
and still, I am jealous.
a few really short ones 
In my Pear tree
a bird I’ve never seen.
His song…
I don’t know if it’s sad or not.
A young Maple
blushing red…
embarrassed, no doubt,
to be losing her dress.

The older Maples
can’t wait to throw
their leaves like scarves
and dance naked in
new snow.

Hey Armand,
a shot and a Bud short.
And stop saying "God bless ya"
every time I mention Haiku.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Sorry, friends and neighbors,
but the road called and I had to answer.
After all, it is summer,
and you know how those roads are,
how the ditch mist is rich in clover scent.
And how the rumble of dual pipes
bounced off buildings and cornfields
sounds identical.
The people at the end of this particular road
shared their table with me,
and we laughed, and I returned home.
Armand, ya old fuck,
a bottle of your finest grape juice,
and a shot for the song of the road.
Damn it is fine to be back.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

When you step out your door

...you never know where the road will take you."

Bilbo Baggins, Bag- end, Shire.

I'm dusting off my walking stick.
I packed light because I don't know what I'll need.
I have poems, paper and pen.
Pictures of my small furry friends.
My father's pocket knife.
Mothers coin purse.
A bear claw, hawk feather,
and a Bic lighter.
This is all metaphor, of course.
For true, I'll leave with my pain
and hope to return with my life.

Weep not for me, chick pea.
I'm like a tree in the wind.
Thou art beautiful, oh my love.
Yea, you too Armand.
No, I ain't gonna kiss ya.
But I will see you soon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Make no mistake,
say the noises in the night…
the only answer to dying
is living like you mean it.
And when you die,
try to make it personal.
This suicide by cop,
this gun in the mouth crap,
the dramatic pose in the front yard…
there is no bravery here, no bravura,
no guts, no glory.
Darkness has harsh words for those
who will not crawl into it and expire
in grace and silence and solitude.
Once you’re gone any need for attention
passes on to the ones left alive.
Make your life the spectacle,
says the night,
not your passing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mail Call

Got a picture of Jesus
in the mail today.
8 x 11 inch paper facsimile
of a prayer rug with
Jesus in His blondeness,
His California surfin’ dude beard.
I thought,
if You looked like this back then,
they would have killed You
in the cow shed when You were born.
But hey,
it makes us white folk feel better
about worshipping someone
from the Middle East.
Wouldn’t look good for Gods Son
to look like the fanatics we see every night
on the High Definition Televisions.
Turbaned, robed, angry.
Speaking against the soldiers of a foreign ruler,
wielding hate as a weapon of mass salvation.
Strange what you get in the mail nowadays.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

July 8

On this day in 1976 I stood
on a rolling deck
on the starboard watch,
and saw Mt. Fuji's peak,
high above the clouds.

In '85 I huddled between two soda machines
alongside a gas station and watched a thunder storm
stampede across the Bad Lands.

In 96 my dad and I came upon
the Silver City Co-Op
on the continental divide
and talked our wounds away.

In 1981 I was sick behind a dumpster in
Baton Rouge, swatting rats off my legs,
trying to remember my name.

Tijuana, 77, Rosario.
Olah! She didn't need hands
to pull a cork!

92. Quit smoking.

I could go on and on.
What matters most, though,
is July 8, 2009.
Today was a good day.
That's enough to make it special.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Long ago, nights like this,
my poison was a shot of Jack Daniels, (which I HATED)
beer, (since replaced by wine)
and repeat.
Ten times or so.

I was young.
I was reckless.
I thought I was having fun.

I remember a poster
that used to hang in Tonnies
down in Menekaunee.
Old Popeye-looking dude
at a bar with a beer in front of him.
The caption was,
"We gets too soon olt,
"and too late schmart.
"Better we should haf another."
Bless you, old man.
And bless you too, Armand.
How 'bout one more for the road...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

From the Juke Box


My skin is sweet like chocolate
My voice is Barry White
I sleep the day away cause
I am up all night

Give me a ring
I'm your booty call
I'll give you lovin',babe
I can do it all.

I got slow moving hands
warm and strong
I'll lift you up
love you all night long


You'll be my little kitty
I'll be your scratching post
Tell me pretty baby
Who you love the most


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cabby poem

Kid gets in my cab,
headphones on,
thousand-yard stare,
saliva-coated chin.
Four people walk him
to the cab door and leave.
My eye never leaves the mirror.
He sits and rocks a little,
hums softly.
I think he is his own universe.
There are strange stars
in his sky.
He revolves around himself
silent and stately.
I am nothing here.
Maybe a small moon
casting inconsequential light.

Monday, June 22, 2009

city boy


City boy finds himself in the country
finds himself lost in the silence of the corn
in the far misty horizon
in good land rolling away forever

Seeking roots
or a home
or a place
where he can rest

The wide open here scares him
who has loved cityscapes
and cloud-scraping buildings
and the babble of the towers of men

Seeking space
a place to roost
a house of healing
a place to hide

In dreams his soul departs
rides ribbons of power lines
into the restless city
joins in the dance of night

Spirals upward
seeking light
needing love
finding none

His soul trolleys back
along ribbons spanning fields
into the arms of Corn Woman
finding there all he has ever sought

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friends and poetry

Here are two lovely women with their boots round my shoulders. At left is Sharon, right is Ellen.
They caught my reading of Red Boots at the Harmony Cafe in Appleton June 15. It was a blast.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Throwing Open A Life

It was early when I left
left the door open
left the raincoat on the hook
umbrella in the corner
I left in the rain
hands in my pockets
whistling a Led Zeppelen tune
about leaving in the summer time
leaving when the summer comes a'rolling
I heard the road call like it used to
I heard it calling me back home

Home is a heart out there
that is leaving right now
purse on the sofa
keys on a hook
an open face
whistling her favorite leaving tune
rolling towards me like summer thunder

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Too nice to spend in a bar.
Catch me by the river. I got a six pack,
bag of chips, and some new poems.
P.S., bring a bottle opener.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fame and fortune

Let me buy a round.
Ring the bell.
My friends and dear strangers,
a toast to me and my book.
Damn if today ain't a great day to be alive.
Ralph, Sharon, Ellen, Gary...
next one's on me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Don't get me to talkin'

The only interesting thing about me anymore
are my stories.
Things I did.
Where I was.
Who I’ve met.
Better than being a grumpy old fart
gumming his daily bread
with a bitter face.
It is true I don’t walk very far anymore.
Doesn’t mean I ain’t been down roads.
I’ve been from here to there and back.
I have more miles than most.
If you were my age, I’d wager
though we’ve seen the same sunsets
I can name more of mine.
I’ve been in that beautiful place
where loneliness and awe
happen in equal measure.
I’ve met some people once
who I love to this day.
I’ve dodged fists, cue sticks,
bottles and bricks but never the law.
Okay. Maybe twice.
I have tasted rain so sweet.
I’ve drank things from
corn whiskey to Sauternes,
every thing in between.
I have slept in awful places.
I treated my body like
an amusement park and
my mind like a party.
I traded my heart for
bad pennies and sour grapes.
I’ve treated some hearts the same.
Don’t get me to talking…
I got all night.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How was your day?

How many days in our lives can we say
“ This is exactly where I want to be.”?
Maybe you are in a park reading
Jim Harrison poems sipping a Pepsi
and munching on a fresh pasty.
Or sitting across a table from your best friend,
talking on into early morning.
How about, just drinking a good wine
and waiting for a poem to come.
I think the secret to a full life is
claiming such times as our own,
sharing them as we see fit,
keeping them to ourselves
knowing how rare they are.
I had such a day today.
I wish you many for yourself.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

To my brothers and sisters in the military,
here or moved on, thank you.
You put yourself in Harms way
or supported those who did.
So, for putting ourselves
through the strangeness of boot camp,
endured the training, the classes,
the humiliation, and finally the bonding,
Then the schools and first postings,
the travel and the rules, always the rules.
And we did it for our families,
for our Country, and for ourselves.
Whatever your battle, engagement,
police action, cruise or flyover;
You lived through it, or not.
Either way, you are heroes.
So, to us Sailors, Anchors away!
To the grunts, and the new Army! Forward!
To you jarheads, Harrroooo!
You fly boys, (and girls),
do, what ever in the hell you do.

i don't know what I believe,
I'll be home on Christmas Eve.
One! Two!
Three! Four!

I tip my beer to us all.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bug Man

In Tangletown
when the Bugman walks by
in his suit with his greasy hair,
it makes you want to grab your wallet,
clutch your purse, pick up your child.
He smiles like life is a carlot and we are all beaters
with prices slashed, sacrificed, a real steal.
He will sell you a bridge, part of the moon,
Nevada oceanfront shoreline property.
When he talks all you can hear is the jingle of change,
the suck of air from money leaving your pocket.
The Bugman is a Company Man,
The Banker,
the Dream Pusher with $$ eyes that gleam in the dark.
He is a fat little boy in a candy store,
all greed and hunger,
and we are all day suckers.
The sweetness of life all depends
on if you're the stick or the lick.
Bitter are the days
in Tangletown.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In Tangletown
Pegen O'Malley
cruises Friday night streets
in blue satin hot pants and orange tanktop
that reads "Poker in the front, Liquor in the rear."
She is looking for her next Boyfriend.
She flips off cops, sneers at housewives,
blows kisses to good-looking men.
Her high heels are lethal, not really legal,
but they do set her ass to swaying.
Her green fishnet stockings
throw multi-colored sparks
and her magenta lipstick
reflects the neon of the night.
Guys check their balls absently,
making sure they are still there.
She radiates lust and hunger.
To her, all men are treats,
" I'll take that one, and that one, and that one."
For Pegen O'Malley life is a candy store,
and her sweets walk the streets
in Tangletown.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Taxi cab incident

The day I almost started
a war with the city of Toronto
Toronto, Canada.
She was stunning.
Short black hair, finely turned profile,
looking smart in board room black.
I asked where to, she told me.
I noticed an accent, asked where was she from.
Canada I asked.
Yes. Canada.
I thought you might be from somewhere else.
The conversation went downhill from there.
I thought I had an International Incident.
Maybe I should warn somebody.
She didn’t even tip me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

a fave

We start to burn
as we are born.

The barn boards
exhale wheat breath.

We are born knowing
all we need to get by.

The lake, half in shadow,
is a coffin or cave.

Living is an art but
Dying is a saxophone.

The horses in the dark field
will be us in their next life.

The gate in the fence swings open.
We are on the road we were meant for.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Pull up a stool. What’ll ya have?
Ya like the blues? Chicago, Jump, Texas, Delta?
Blind Faith on the juke, can’t find their way home.
Ever been lost?
I asked Armand to turn off the news.
Bad news and trouble every where ya look.
People going postal,
business swiping us blind.
War, x3.
Pirates, Hollywood princesses,
celebrity Presidential family.
It’s a good thing I drink
or I’d sure start now.
Clapton told me to ride the river.
Wish it were that easy, hey?
Listen to this…
“Hard times in the Land of Plenty.
Some got it all and the rest ain’t got any.”
Omar and the Howlers pegged it there didn’t they.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Do crows make fun of
the way WE walk?

How come when you need a dime
all you can find is a nickel?

If love is an ailment and leaving a mystery,
where do we hide our hearts?

If grey is green in the sunlight
what color is the flight of a blue jay?

And, speaking of sunlight,
where can I get a prescription for it?

The answers to the Question of living, Pablo,
what can they be other than the wind in the cattails?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Li Po, maybe

The other night at Polly’s
the cool September air added
a gold taste to the beer and the Rhine.
This short elderly cat walked in,
done up in white silk shirt and dark blue silk suit,
gold-rimmed glasses, head shaved and sunburned,
shoes worn and dusty with old leaves.
Polly, ready for damn near anything most of the time,
dusted off an old bottle of plum wine.
The polite old gent bowed like his neck was broken,
pulled out a fountain pen, scribbled something on a napkin.
He and Polly toasted each other, he finished the bottle,
bowed again and left.
Polly clutched the paper to her lovely breasts.
“Show us, Polly.” we ask.
“Show us what the old man wrote
that raises such passion in you.”

At the roadhouse some plum wine,
a beautiful girl.
Polly, leaf; both say last call.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


My Yahoo!


How to walk the line between
utter cosmic radiance
and the same old same old day;
Step out of your life a moment.
Be dangerous.
Get your heart beating strong.
Say no instead of yes.
Repeat it, with hand gestures.
Take no shit,
no stupidity.
Say what you’ve always wanted to say.
It doesn’t take much to be a hero.
It is in all of us,
that desire to be a cause.
It can define us.
There is no difference
between my life and your life.
We are part of a dream,
and God is soon to wake up.
I got that road adrenaline
rumbling through my blood.
It used to be my buzz of choice.
I’d be thrown up a notch.
See in six directions,
hear in seven ways,
Knew what you’d do
before you thought of it.
Notice the silhouette
of a hawk in a tree
from a quarter-mile.
I could hear the thoughts
of the men who
graded and laid this blacktop.
The truck, the load, me.
The road signs, the wind.
The vanishing point far ahead.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thought for the day

My Yahoo!
In Tangletown
a young woman leaves the clinic
she works at and walks downtown
where the taverns are lined up to fall like dominoes.
She is looking for someone. A guy.
A man with a good and kind heart.
Where others troll for flesh to see them through the night,
Lucy Greene only wants some love.
She shows her honesty and
it is mistaken for The Angle,The Pitch, The Line.
She can't see that she walks around with Doormat
written on her face, or Hurt Me pinned to her sleeve.
She gets nailed every time.
It is a terrible thing
to watch a heart grow to stone.
The streets are littered
with the likes of Lucy Greene
every night
in Tangletown.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunrise Blues

My Yahoo!

I got the blues in the midnight hour.
(with a nod to Guy Davis)
And there ain’t no cure for it.
The music on the radio is heartless.
How can it be so happy when I am like this?
I need something so lowdown and fucking dirty
it hurts my teeth, it feels like a kick to the nuts,
it feels like brass knuckles to the mouth.
Girl, I don’t know where you are.
In this whole wide city you wander somewhere,
I can hear your footsteps echo, I can see the light
of store fronts reflect off your face, I can smell your cigarette.
I got the man left home blues. I got the woman
chasing tail on Main Street blues.
The children are in bed, the dog’s put out,
the sun is creeping up, where are you girl?
I look out the window,
I keep the door unlocked.
I wait for the Taxi to pull up.
Wait for you to step out lip smeared, puffy,
red eyed, throw the cabbie a wad of bills,
weave the walk to the porch.
I’m waiting for you to see my bags packed,
waiting for you to see me leave.
I’ll leave you to wonder the empty nights,
to wander the dark silent rooms,
to keep vigil at the window,
I’ll leave you these sunrise blues.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Juke box

My Yahoo!

F 17,
A 32,
On a bad night, D 6.
Marshall Tucker Band,
“Can’t you see?”
“What this woman, she been doin’ to me.”
It is all “Hey hey, what can I do”
all “Good Lovin’ Gone bad.”
It is being on the receiving end of
“I Got A Spell On You”.
25 cents a song,
5 for a dollar.
Fingers know which buttons to push.
The body dances its own healing.
Remembers how to be alone.
One hand on the wall above the machine,
other tucked in pant pocket,
gazing into the guts of the juke box,
paying due what’s come due.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hard Road Cafe Pt. 3

11:30 AM

Jesse Parker, college junior, spells Pete at the stove
for an hour or so. As Pete fills him in, Jackie changes the board on the sidewalk to the noon menu.
Pete grabs a lunch he had packed earlier, walks down the street,
turns toward the river, towards the little park there on its shore. He sits on top of the picnic table, his feet on the seat,
his chin in his hands, and he thinks.

12:00 PM

Four or five factory and mill whistles blow, a discordant
announcement that morning is over.
Barges and tugs ply the river, a few old men on the shore are fishing. Gulls squawk and fight over pickings from the trash barrel. Peters lunch is untouched, his chin is still in his hands, he is lost in thought.
Stella dying in a barrage of gunfire.
4 in the afternoon walking the block to her door.
Young men, boys, really, defending their desperation,
pissed, armed, given to acting before thinking.
Him holding his 'Stell, watching her die.
looking into the empty stare of sunglasses
speeding by. He, left behind, left alone.
Church was too political to help him.
The widowers support group he found at the outreach center
was no help. Even his brief stint with booze did not help.
The only things that helped was his Cafe. Work. Friends.
Then, the other day while listening to the radio,
he heard about plans to march on the capital. One million black men.
It was being called a chance to reclaim male pride,
re-establish male friendship, to guide the youngsters.
To take back our neighborhoods from the criminals.
To get respect for, and from the women.
The march promised so many things.
Farrakhan would be there, and Jackson.
Those were the reasons he should go, thought Peter.
But the bus ride would be two days to get to D.C.,
a day there, two days back. Who would tend the cafe?
Do the shopping, the prep, cooking?
Peter looked at his watch, threw his uneaten lunch
to the gulls, headed back to his cafe.

1:15 PM

Jesse says Long lunch today, boss? I thought I was finally going to get a chance to do Dinner.
When you're thirty, says Peter. He peeks through the serving window, sees Elmer and Stan Lieber playing chess at the end booth, with their latte and Officially Non-Existent silver flask.
Near as Peter could tell, those two have been playing the same position for ten years. Come to think of it, he doesn't recall
ever seeing one of those gentlemen even move a piece.
He low-whistles to Helga, asks her if she has ever seen them move a chess piece. Nope, she says, been playing the same game for ten years, and walks away to serve coffee to a man at the end of the counter.
This man catches Peters eye. Has a pretty heavy jacket on for such a nice day. Reads the paper, has a small pile of ones on the countertop, remains of a ham and cheese sandwich in front of him. Looks out the door a lot, and even in air conditioning he sweats, makes his face shine like motor oil.
Peter does not recognize him. Jackie hands Peter an order,
looks at him, at the young man, back to Peter, turns away.
As she reaches past Helga to put the coffee pot on the warmer
Jackie casually and expertly whispers to her.
Then Jackie walks to the man, tears the top sheet off of her pad, lays it on the counter in front of him, asks Will there be anything else, sir? He looks out the door, back to her, says No. Looks at Helga at the end of the counter,
back to her , says That's it for me. Keep the change.
He gets up, holding his coat closed with one hand, and walks out of the front door, turns left, is out of sight.

1:30 PM

Jackie and Helga exchange a relieved glance. Officer Tam Brady walks out of the ladies room, buckling her Sam Brown, holding a newspaper under her arm, service cap on askew. Peter sees the young man come back into view, coat open, a very big gun in one hand, the door handle in the other. He sees the officer, she looks up and sees him. Peters hand is on the phone. The man runs off, the officer chases him, calling for back-up on her portable.

2:00 PM

The crowd has dispersed, the police are done taking statements.
Helga and Jackie are calm again. Officer Tam tells Peter that after a short chase, the young man turned and fired on her. She returned fire. He went down, was in St. Matt’s hospital in critical condition.

3:00 PM

The ladies are gone, the place is cleaned, and Peter hangs the CLOSED sign in the glass door. As he walks to the kitchen he hears someone try the door. He turns, hollers sorry, I'm closed
for the day.

6:00 PM

Peter stands before a wired glass window, and the glare from the corridor lights makes it hard to see inside the dim room.
Lights from some machines, a small table lamp, an indistinct shape under a white sheet. A dark face, plastic mask, a snarl of tubes and hoses. Peters forehead is against the warm glass.
He sees his Stella. Car barreling down the street, six kids.
Stella dead on a Sunday, her murderer
gone, Stella gone, all of it gone.
Peter says to the dark face on the other side of the glass
not so bad now are you. Peter wishes his tears would go away.
Stella asks him from the shine of the window,
“What are you going to do, Pete?”
He looks at his hands, sighs,
asks, “What can I do?”
The boy on the bed asks nothing,
is witness to no pain,
drifting between the boundaries
of known and unknown worlds.
Peter watches as nurses attend him.
They never saw him with a gun,
never saw the look of angry fear on his face,
or the terror he must have felt
being shot by a cop,
when he discovered he was not bullet-proof.
To the nurses he is a child in need of their care.
Not a thug, not a hood, not an armed robber.
As the day passes Peter watches.
He doesn’t know the boys name.
Stella whispers, “It doesn’t matter.”

Hard Road Cafe Pt.2

My Yahoo!

8:30 AM
The ladies sit at the two end counter stools, drinking coffee.
Peter leans on one bat winged door, and while they talk
he keeps an eye on the stove. A good morning.
Paddy Tolliver looked real tired, are his kids still sick? And is Chris Raybo looking pregnant?
Good Lord, but that girl gets more ass than a toilet seat.
Peter looks at the clock above the cash register, tells the ladies to prepare for round two.
9:00 AM
Helga works the stove for this crowd, that lets Peter be with the merchants that crowd his place.
Next block over is Market Square, with its shops and stores and stalls.
This hour before they open their places is when they exchange the news of the day.
The tax proposal from the city council, interest rates from the Fed., Johns old lady taking off with the computer repair kid.
Peter walks around with his cup and a fresh pot of coffee,
stops at each table and booth, sits and chats a spell.
These are his friends and peers, and every one who knows him
can see how he enjoys this time.

10:00 AM

A tropically-colored miniature cyclone blows through the door,
a swirl of skirts and scarves and necklaces.
Kiloman Sanjaurro; skin the shade of dark sweet chocolate,
voice smooth as sugarcane rum, tongue like a long machete.
Peter unconsciously checks his balls, makes sure he still has 'em.
He knows that for the next hour or so he is subordinate to Jackie and Helma, at least in HER eyes.
He confines himself to the kitchen, where he can do no wrong. He mutters while he cooks.
Jackie pokes her head in the pass-through window, puts on her Kiloman face and her Kiloman voice and says,
Tell dat goudlookin mon back deer I wan caffee, I wan salaud, I wan tousand Island dressin.
Jackie winks and ducks an airborne oven mitt. As she withdraws she barely hears, goodlookin my ass!
I wan this , I wan that, I know what she needs!
But Peter thinks, my, my, Kiloman sure looks fine this morning.

10:30 AM

Jackie asks Kiloman if she has any new poems she would share.
( Peter perks an ear. He loves her poetry.)
Sure, she says. Dis one I ben workin on.
She claps her hands in a complicated pattern.

“There a burning at the crossroad
devil standin there
young boy blow a blues harp
want to make a deal
Sign his name in red blood
He got blood to spare
devil he be laughin
soul for him ta steal
Mama at the whore house
workin off the back rent
Gramma in the cellar
workin up a mojo
Uncle at the roadhouse
pay already spent
Sister got her bag packed
time for her to go
Rollie play the gitar
lookin for some pussy
Bonnie wearin high heel
walkin down on Main street
Preacher got religion
blessin pretty Macy
Redneck cruisin downtown
lookin for some sweet meat
There a burnin at the crossroad
lightin up the sky
Hard wind come a blowin
fannin high the flame
devil stand there laughin
someone gonna die
Young boy he be runnin
cryin Jesus' name
Mama in the kitchen
prayin to the good Lord
Sister ride the Greyhound
leavin home for good
Uncle got his head bust
with a two-by-four board
Rollie got the clap now
like we knew he would
Gramma makin voodoo
for ta cast her spell
Preacher beg forgiveness
for lustin in the night
Hound set up a howlin
in the pit of hell
Sky is burnin blood red
no salvation tonight
There a burnin at the crossroad”

With a mock flourish and a deep bow Kiloman sits down.
Peter doesn't know to laugh or cry.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Something I've been working on.

"It's a hard road to be walkin down
bare feet on stone ground
It's a long ride across fifty states
taking the dust that God made
Sowing seeds on a mine field
Making the best of a bad deal..."

"Big Road Blue"
Dave Sharp

The Hard Road Cafe
Michael Koehler

5:30 AM
Doodles Maguire rolls out of his cardboard box,
relieves himself at the pee tree, and stepping over
Rollie the bugman stiffly walks up the park path to
Eleventh Ave and shuffles north, peers into trash cans,
alleys, gutters.
At Monroe street he turns into the alley, knocks on a
pale blue steel door.
An arm the exact shade of oiled mahogany answers the knock,
small paper bag gripped in the large fist.
Doodles takes the bag, puts it inside one of his coats,
says "Thanks, Petey." Deep, scratchy voice answers
"Later, Doodles."

5:45 AM
Peter Boudreaux shuts the door, walks the short narrow
hall to the kitchen. Two huge urns of coffee drench the air
with sharp Jamaican aromas, and the six burner gas range
kicks out a welcome heat. He walks through the cluttered
room, pauses to turn on an old plastic radio, and as he exits the batwing doors next to the sink Patty Labelle puts a spring in his step. He does a dip and turn and a bit of soft shoe as he heads to the front door to unlock it, flips the "Closed" sign with one neat twist. With the same grace
he uses the edge of his hand to rake a line of switches
to the ON position, and the overheads blink and hum, then
steady as the sun light up three booths, six tables
and the eight stools lined along the counter.
As Peter walks back to the kitchen the polish and shine
pleases him. Old, worn and well-used, yet every visible surface glowed, and the glow went all the way through. Peter believed a person should treat his dreams as the most precious jewels, and he lived what he believed.

"Petey!", a voice from the back door. " Where ya want the eggs?"
He grins and answers " If they was up your ass you wouldn’t
have ta ask, hey?" . The delivery man returns," If they was up my ass, would'a been more fun than I had last night."
Peter tells him, "In the reefer, Nick, same place as always."
Nick: "Got some blueberries." Peter: "Couple’ a quarts, ok?"
Nick: "How 'bout some chops?" Peter: "Beef or pork?" "Pork"
"Na" Nick:" Potatoes?" Peter: "Hunnerd. Got some chickens?"
" Plucked 'em myself. How many?" Peter: " Twenty friers.
And help yourself to some coffee."
"Thanks. See ya later Petey." "Bye, Nick."

6:15 AM
Jackie and Helga work the breakfast counter,
the heavy laughter of coffee mugs and plates,
banter between customer and waitress a song that
fills Peters heart as he stands over the range scattering
shredded potatoes, turning bacon and eggs, buttering toast.
When he hears his name he pokes his head through the serving window, returns the wish for a great day or trades good-natured
jibes. His face shines like obsidian, the pace of his work is in four-four time, and the poetry of his life is not lost on him. Fifty years is a long time to chase a dream, he thinks,
and by the standards of most, a small, simple dream at that.
A little diner with a down home menu, two experienced and loyal
women to work the public side of the kitchen, and a love of meeting new people and hearing stories.
Peter looks at the clock above the sink, knows in a few minutes
the first shifts at the local mills will start to trickle in,
throws ten pounds of bacon on the stove, takes a precious moment to sip his coffee, and thanks the Lord for a good life.

7:00 AM
Fourteen men and six women surge through the door, head to favorite seats. Their talk is fast and salty, peppered with
laughter. No cholesterol counters or fat watchers
here; bacon and eggs, buttered toast and hash browns, lots of strong black coffee. Peter thinks there can be no better way to start a 10 hour work day. They eat, give good tips,
leave like a mob.

8:00 AM
The graveyard shift from the foundry across the street shuffles in, dirty and tired, no useless talk. Eleven bodies that need energy just to make it home. Helga pushes the soup and whole grain bread. Jackie does a Fonzie kick to the side of the jukebox
and Charlie Pride sings of how hard work can really be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In Tangletown
she sits in her car
outside the bar
in the dark part of the parking lot.
The faint glow from the end of a joint
is all that reveals her.It flares and dies
like far distant suns.It takes awhile for her
to get out of the Camaro,to walk a slow weave to the taverns' side door.
She enters an air of sound;jungle drums, moaning guitar, subterranean bass.
The song passes over her like familiar hands,touching raw inner places.
Her lover waits on the dance floor.In the center of the crowd she gives herself to him.
Gives everything she has... promises everything else.
The pot roars through her blood like a thunderstorm.The music rides her like lightening.
She moves as if calling forth rain.
Where others would write or drink,
fuck or walk,hit or cry, leave or die
to get away from what kills the soul,
it is the dance that keeps Tess
in Tangletown.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

In Tangletown
at the Brokedown Blue Saloon
Amy Lowell sits at the end of the bar.
Her husband dances with a big-titted girl,
doing a two-step best left in the bedroom
.His hands are places they oughtn't be,
and Amy burns in the places they should be.
What Amy wants she can't say.
What she needs she can't face.
She knows brandy better than she knows her pain,
and she knows pain like a preacher knows Gospel.
So Amy prays to her spirits and they answer with sleep.
In the morning he will wake up beside her.
But for now it is Saturday night
and hearts get broke sure as
the sun comes up come morning.
It is better than sleeping alone, especially
in Tangletown.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What I want.

I want poems I can open like a can of beer
but shut by themselves like a bank vault door.
Poems with old chairs in them,
and washed-out white pine boards.
Poems with foot prints through them,
dog-eared lines, and faded phone numbers
printed in pencil.
Poems that can take the edge out of
the night voices, isolate and silence the “You Fraud” s,
the “You Loser” s; poems that take me to a garden
where all the flowers are closed for the night,
merely awaiting dawn; a garden where
footstep echoes mutter in the faint breeze.
I want poems that name every man who needs to save himself
by being alone; we’re connected with “Do Not Disturb” signs,
graffiti like “Just Kiddin’”, “Attack Poem On Premises”,
“Thanks for last night” smeared on in red lipstick.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Buck for the juke box

Doors open to the passing world, spring sidles into the place, warm and bright, half blinding me.
Janis singing about how high the cotton is, what the catfish are doing. A woman in tight blue jeans and white blouse fills the doorway for a second, she's gone but the image lingers for just a little bit. A breeze clears the stale smoke, riffles the hair Armand still has left on his head.
C'mon. I'll buy ya a cold one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I read a poem to a guy sitting next to me. He was just some Joe, John Deere hat, jeans, work shirt. I said, "Listen to this," and read him Li Young-Lees "The Gift".
His eyes wandered till I got half way in, and then tears rolled down his face.
"I had a seven year old boy once." When I finished he paid my tab and walked away without a word. How elegant a thank you can there be?
In a red neck bar on the wrong side of the tracks a connection was made.
Leave me the fuck alone. No, come back. I have another poem.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I thought I would put up a new poem here, but 5 times now when I tried to paste it, I was booted off my home page. To hell wit it. Today was too fine a day to waste on work,
so I grabbed the tackle box, a pole, and a bottle of wine, which I drank while the Pole went fishing. Like I said, too fine a day. Heres to ya.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


An ode to Blaunfrankisch

You were bad when you were young.
We put you back with the celery
as you sat your voice was sung.
We forgot you for a year my dear,
The back of the fridge was your prison.
One day we sprung you free to breathe.
From your neck your cork was flung.
In the light of day once more
expectations were low I'm afraid
but we were too drunk to drive to the store
so before any more plans were made
we drank you dry to the bone then and there
and we found your true light had begun to shine
bright as our noses by then
apples and legs were brought to mind

You try doing better after two bottles of wine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Johhny Winter on the juke, words in my head

Highway 41
(after Bob Dylan)

I asked old man Ole
listen to me please,
I got ten cans of beer
and a pound of cheese,
I need to get a party out of this,
Ole said hold on there slick
I don’t think it can be done.
If I were you I’d get my ass
out to Highway 41

Jenny said to me one day
I want you to off my ex,
I’ll give you two hundred bucks
and some so-so sex,
just get the fucker off my back.
I said we can skip the nasty,
where can I find this son.
She said I cant say for sure,
somewhere off Highway 41

A Packer player asked his coach
to score him a lid of weed.
Coach came to me to get
him just what he need.
This ain’t no performance enhancing drug.
If ya want to beat the Bears
ya need to have some fun.
Take two of these and head south
down Highway 41

Mattress Mary had twenty bucks
and some clap that would not quit.
Could I get her some of that stuff
to get rid of this funky shit.
I said babe I ain’t no M.D.
I’d like to sit around and chat
But I really got to run.
You got to stop selling your ass
out on Highway 41

Monday, April 13, 2009

I saw Jack Kerouac last night in Armands place.
He was doing shooters and shots,
toking on some pot.
He looked pretty good considering
he’s been dead how long?
A little thin, real pale,
worn away and crumbled,
like old blacktop.
He sat on the stool by the window,
doobie in one hand,
the other painting scenes
of long roads and lonesome women,
angry men in subterranean rooms
talking stuff that no longer matters.
I ain’t too sure it’s him,
he could be one of those drunk fucks
always talking to themselves in the dark.
Oh, he talked all right,
so soft no one heard but me.
He argued with Ginsberg and Snyder,
seduced some black woman named Yolanda.
His voice was hard and edgy and demanding,
not at all what I’d expect from a dead man.
It faded in and out like tires going over
road grooves, clacked every other heart beat,
strong and insistent, tireless and hopeless,
but soft, like a heartbeat heard through
a woman’s breast late at night after loving.
When Polly woke me up for last call I was alone.
Ahh, Jack, wherever you have gotten yourself to, be well.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Not All Who Wander Want To Be Found

Sorry, J.R.R.
I wanted a space all for my self. So I picked my favorite dive in Tangle Town,
put a grand down on a bar tab, picked out a stool sturdy enough to hold my fat ass,
put it near the john and the juke box. Armand, slide me a stein of suds.
I've got some serious drinking, er, thinking to do.
If ya want to find me, here is where I'll be.
Till my tab runs dry.