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Writing Poems

I've been carrying this line in my head for days

while I'm driving
it'll jump out in front of the car
& I'll feel the verb
squishing under the tires
in the rearview mirror
I'll see it
conjugated in the middle of the road

I'll be gutting a fish
& her gills
arranged in quatrains
will flare with a slant rhyme
& her tail
will try to keep a rhythm on the cutting board
while eggs
pour from her gut like an opera

when I take the garbage out
an opossum
shows me
his mouth foll of teeth like a sonnet
then scurries away with his tail
whippint behind him
with a poetic licence

I sit down to write the line I've been carrying
& it isn't a first line
it's something
that comes later
somewhere in the middle
so i build a poem around it
I hold the line upside down in my hand like a lizard
I rub its belly & let it dream

but before I set it down
to see
which direction it'll go
I clip its long curling toenails
so that
I'll be able to feed them to the titled
or arrange them
as if I'd written the first line
in cursive.

Bar Hopping on a Bike

I live where the factories & strip joints are
where the warehouses & storage units
divide the Silver Dollar Club & Jiggles

the bike path makes a beeline to the university
at the halfway point are the dead presidents
Jefferson Street
downtown is a grid of one-ways
the ones that start with a "P" like Pear & Patterson head south
the "H"s like High & Hillyard head north
the numbers go east to west
it dosen't matter on a bike though

I ride to the Vets' Club
Doc's Pad
Rennie's Landing
John Henry's & Max's

I drink at eleven
at noon
at work
& after work

I drink with guys named Brando & Bart
chicks named CICi & Lana
I drink with Carlie my boss's miserable wife
& her sister-in-law Lisa
I drink with Chad
& Matt
& Rick
& Jonny
I drink with James

& Eric
& Carson
& Tony

we drink long islands & white russians
freddies & greyhounds
slings & screws
all kinds
slow ones fuzzy ones
comfortable ones
& ones up agasint the wall

they come blended
on the rocks
on fire
neat with beer backs or water backs
they come in high-balls
parfaits & tumblers

every night the drinks
the names
the faces & places change
but the feeling stays the same

that high-flying stuck feeling
like playing airplane
& being hoisted up by your stomach
your arms out
just waiting to be let down


when we were kids
we called them lady fingers
they were red or blue or black
with white daisies on them

sometimes the fuses burned quick
& they’d go off
like a horse kicking your hand

your ears would ring
& your own voice
sounded like someone else
talking through a tin can

your hand would go numb
like there were fingers missing
then slowly
the feeling would needle back in
& throb
like you were holding your own heart

& that’s the way it is with loveliness sometimes
that’ll show up
with daisies in their eyes
then they’ll be gone
like a firecracker with a quick fuse

leaving you
with your own damn heart
in your own damn hand


he can't stop looking at the pictures they took at the fair
four snapshots
from a photo booth
black & white ones

all he can do is think about her
& drink as much as possible

she drives him home from the bar
in his own pickup truck
cuz he's
too lovesick
& too drunk to drive
a '72 GMC three-quarter-ton camper special
a huge brown & cream colored 4x4

she loves driving that truck
scootches up to the steering wheel
& working the pedals with her toes like a ballerina

she takes him up to his apartment
& kisses him
holds on to him like a boxer
& kisses his eyelids
whispering in each ear between kisses

they hold on to each other
throughout the night
rolling over each other
like otters
& then
like cobras
& then like a single horse
tethered in a thunderstorm

lightning strikes
they collapse
into two red hot catfish gasping for air
the room ruptures
into a flock of birds
shuffling out the window

she moves in like a jellyfish
& when morning comes
she climbs out of bed like a pearl
borrows a long-sleeved shirt
& goes to the kitchen in her underwear
to make pancakes

fluffy ones
from scratch
in his tiny little kitchen
in a cheap little fry pan
she's turning them
with a melted spatula
& he still can't tell if she loves him

The Necktie

this is my father
in 1967
walking back to my grandfather's '65 Galazy
with Galuzo
Leonard Giaccoalone
& my father's little brother Uncle Dave

an all-girls Catholic school
on the rich side of San Jose
won't let these boys into the mixer
cuz they don't have neckties

the woman my father will marry
is at this dance

with her
are her best friends Kathy
Mimi Mitchell
J. Lazzerini
& Linda McClure

make-up was out
straight hair & flat shoes were in

with eyes like Neptunes
my mother
a honey-yellow-colored miniskirt
gossiped around the punch bowl
dunking lemon wheels
listening to the five-piece band
The Doors
The Who
The Stones

in seven years
she'll wear a wedding dress
sewn from a parachute

they'll raise three kids
live in Oregon
& celebrate their 20th anniversary in Fiji

all my father needs is necktie

the boys walk back to the parking lot
pop the trunk of the car
and rummage though the paint brushes
the rags
the rollers
the empty five-gallon buckets of paint
then thumb through
the binders of wallpaper samples

I wonder how long it took
for my mother & her friends
to notice
the tacky ties
how velvety they were
the domestic patterns
& textures
the masking tape

I wonder how long it took for them to realize
how stiff they were
that the colors
sizzling down their necks
rivaled their adolescent blaze
that same flush
that detonated the stripes on the girls' blouses
the tinge
that set fire
to the opaque punch
wetting the ladies' lips

I imagine my grandfather
pulling up to work in his Galaxy
on Monday morning
flipping through the wallpaper binders
with clients
stumbling across the echoes
from a weekend
he couldn't quite explain