Saturday, January 29, 2011

Want Is The Soul Of Love.

How do we know
when to give up?

How do we know
when to finally
let go?

Of all that was,
and all that should be
but isn't?

How do we know?

it is a birthday passed
without the breath of a word.

it is
a Halloween,
a Thanksgiving,
a Christmas,
and a New Years,
spent without?

The black out
and cut-off,
should be the tip of the hat;
but I want more.
I want,
a funeral of great pomp and circumstance;
to bury this love.
I want sad trumpets
and a twenty-one gun salute;
before I can finally take
this love I carry
and put it in the ground.

I want a perfectly appointed,
uniformed soul
to hand me the neatly folded flag
of our "nation of two",
and look me in the eye
and then away.
I want someone to acknowledge,
and agree
that I have suffered a great loss;
through no fault of my own.
I want resolution.

I want to turn back clocks,
and walk backwards
through the hills and hollers,
of the family homestead,
until I somehow
find my way back into waiting arms.
I want to wake
in the blackest of the blue,
of the earliest morn,
and feel the breath upon my shoulder.
I want to reach over,
after waking from this nightmare,
and touch;
feel the alabaster cool
of familiar skin,
beneath my numb and broken hands.
I want.

I have never needed.
Needing is for the weak,
of heart and soul.
Wanting is so much more.
is the soul of love.

And now,
I find myself
spinning out here
on the edge,
of this beautifully complicated machine,

I am at a loss.
"Need" is an emotion
I am not accustomed to.
It is a silly word
used by silly people
without a sense or purpose and self.
And here I am,

And here's the salt,
rubbed deep,
with steel wool,
into the wound;
It was all nothing really, wasn't it?
Because if it actually mattered,
why would I be out here,
lamenting the loss of you?

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Reluctant Nation of One.

We are not meant
to be solitary creatures.
I have discovered this recently.

I became the subject,
of a cruel experiment,
in isolation and exile.
The experiment was set in motion
by someone that I had loved,
and carried out
by me.

I had my life pulled out from under me
and was forced
to start all over again.
It was a rebirth of sorts,
this time,
I was now an abandoned and frail infant
suffering from a weak heart
that would confine me
to the incubator of my new home.

Years ago
a study was done
of infants abandoned
and raised as orphans.
These children,
these tiny new machines,
snuggled deep
into donated stuffed animals;
and spooned each other,
found and held tiny hands,
if placed together in cribs.
They would coo in unison
when something felt good.
They would cry in unison
when something felt bad.
There was a inert need
to share
even the most rudimentary
emotion and thought.
It was discovered
that the human machine
is not meant to be alone.

And I have now discovered this as well.
I have spent the last four months
in solitary confinement.
I have a lovely cell
on the water,
with a glorious view.
I have fallen into
a routine of existing
but I am not living.
I rise each day,
return home,
and then repeat.
A friend of mine
from across the pond
asked me when the experiment had begun,
"How are you?"
And I replied,
"I am living without purpose,
and purposely living without."

I have no one to coo with
when I feel good.
I have no one to cry with
when I feel sad.
The soft hands
that used to bring me such comfort
are now the ghosts of graceful birds
that fly just out of my reach
in dreams.
The body
that used to allow me inside,
and create the union of souls
is gone.
And in it's absence
I find that I am no longer complete
or capable
of being human.

Twelve years
as a "nation of two"
have been removed from my life
by the rough hands
of an uncaring, union paid butcher.
I wonder
if she feels the same ache
and loss?
I wonder
if she laments the dissolve,
and the dissolution,
of our "nation of two",
as I do?

I wonder,
because this is all I have left.
and of course memories,
and regret.
Inside a .50 caliber ammunition case
hidden at the back of my closet,
is a tiny black box
that holds an engagement ring,
taken back.
The ring,
such a small precious thing;
now resembles a rusty bulldozer
or a fallen oak.
It is far to heavy
for me to lift
and dispose of
by myself.

We are not meant
to be solitary creatures.
I have discovered this recently.
And this discovery
gives me little comfort.
It is just another painful reminder
of my life shared
that is now lost;
and my new nation of one.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The nuclear winter
has set in
on the Fort.

toxic snow,
falls heavy
with a purpose.
I am now beginning
to grasp
all that has been taken from me,
in the time it takes
familiar lips
to coldly say,
"I am not in love with you anymore."

The blast
and cloud
has passed.
The white heat
and earth reverberation
has subsided.
There is the crater full of memories
and words,
and the scorched circle of earth
that surrounds,
to remind me
of all that was lost.

So we move away
from what was once the center.
And we convince ourselves
from the impact
will keep us safe.
We mistakenly believe
moving out and away
from the circle of devastation
will let us move on.

Then there is the uneasy and false calm.
A period of reclamation
and reflection.
You venture back outside
and check the wind.
You look to the sky
and wonder if it really is over?
You begin the rebuild.

And then
the nuclear winter comes.

The long term fallout
and after effects,
of the simple obliteration,
rain down from a grey
and muddled heaven,
that no longer seems to care
whether you have survived the worst
or not.

A fresh blanket of snow falls
while thunder cracks and whips;
and nerves of lightning
climb from the icy waters
back up into the sky.
Memories pile deep
along side the new roads home.
Promises and words
flood streams
and wash out bridges.
is what you have lost.
is all you seek.
And even this isn't enough
to bring peace.

You were warned
that this was coming.
You were warned
that this would take time.
You gathered supplies
and ammunition.
You thought
you were prepared.
And you thought
the worst was over.
You thought that distance
from the impact
would keep you safe.

But there is no refuge
from the grey blanket
that now envelopes your world.
You are still
the center of the blast,
and a storm
with the half-life
of weapons grade plutonium
is bearing down.

And now,
you are wishing
that you had been
with the initial white heat and chaos;
erased with the words
that seared the heart
and splintered the soul.

But you are not so lucky.

The nuclear winter has set in;
and it's cruelty is unforgiving.
Skin is peeled back from brittle bone.
Loose teeth are pried from jaws,
and fashioned into crude pick axes
whose purpose
is to crack open the thick skull;
so that you might dig your hands
down deep into the viscera of your brain,
and find where all this memory and ache is stored.
If you are skilled enough to find it,
and remove it
without causing further damage;
you will wrap this memory and ache
in a blanket of rough cotton.

Behind the shed,
out back by the waters edge,
with bare raw hands,
you will scrape back the snow
from this undeserved nuclear winter,
smash through the frozen surface
and bury
all that was,
in the soft dusty loam

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Things Bound For Nowhere...

I have spent the last week
by the cold wind
that blows through the open steel doors
of diesel blackened loading docks;
piled high
with drums wrapped in taut plastic
and crates held together
by sea rusted nails.

And I cannot
get the soot,
and taste of travel,
off my hands
and tongue.

All these large parcels
bound to oak pallets,
awaiting the lift,
and arrival.

Heavy things
with a purpose.

I would like to place the weight
I carry,
on an oak pallet
and send it off
across the sea,
to a place where it might be cared for and wanted.
I would like to suffocate it
in tight plastic
and impale it
with rusty sea nails,
and send it on it's way.

I would like to watch
as my heavy load
is effortlessly raised
by a propane fueled forklift
and stowed at the very far dark end
of a shipping container,
bound for nowhere
that I will ever be
and have to think about again.

Imagine the surprise
when many miles away
across this silly blue marble,
a well traveled crate
is split open and apart,
by blued steel pry bars
and cheap hammers;
and inside
of an industrial fuel pump,
my broken heart is found
buried in a soft bed of saw dust and regret?

But I am not so fortunate
to free myself
from this load.
I pack up this broken heart
along with the tools of my trade
and prepare to take them home.

But in the temporary lull
between the shift change,
I stand on the loading dock.
I examine my diesel, soot stained hands.
I rub them together
hoping to feel something.
But there is nothing.
The black soot gloves I wear
have insulated me
from the cold wind that blows,
through my broken heart
and the opened
steel doors.

seems to be moving
towards something,
except me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inertia and Immobility.

the fear set in.

I could feel it creeping up on me,
It had been following me around
for more than a week.

I tried to convince myself
that if I just kept moving
I could out run it.
But I knew better.

My grandmother,
before her faculties finally failed her,
used to take brisk walks around the neighborhood.
She was 82
and the ritual occurred daily.

My mother and I would watch her
thru the windows,
as she made her rounds.
We kept watch
to make sure
she would be coming back round again.

One Sunday,
my grandmother was moving
with a particularly hastened pace.
My mother commented to me,
"The old gal's moving awfully fast today Michael.
Where do you think she's running to?"

And I replied.
"She's not running to anything.
She is running away.
My guess is, she knows
that she is being chased by her own mortality;
and she is hoping to buy some more time
and keep ahead of the inevitable.
I am pretty certain
that I just saw the Angel of Death
in a smart pair of Nikes
jogging behind her
trying to catch up."

My mother looked out the window,
up and down the street,
waiting for my grandmother to make her next pass.
And she whispered,
to her tear stained reflection in the window,
"Let's hope he never catches her."
And less than three months later,
he did.

And the fear
finally caught up with me
this Sunday.
It slowly,
rose up and thru the cold steel of my spine,
as I stood on my front porch,
watching the sunrise,
drinking a coffee,
smoking a cigarette.
I froze.

I stood there
on my front porch
Long enough
to notice that the sun was no longer rising.
Long enough for my coffee
to grow cold.
Long enough for my cigarette
to burn out between my fingers.

My body
had become full of lead shot
and molasses.
Even if I had wanted,
to get out and ahead
of the specter
that was coming for me,
I couldn't.

Unlike my grandmother,
I had given up on running
and took a new approach.
I thought if I just stood still,
long enough, it might miss me,
or pass me by.
I was wrong.

On Sunday.
The fear finally set in.
It quietly came up behind me
and said tag, you are it.

You are alone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Damaged Goods.

I am damaged goods.
I am dented cans
sold at a discount.
I am meat,
two days shy
of it's expiration date.
I am one ply tissues,
and wilted flowers.

I am the shattered remnants
of a drivers side window,
somewhere on Patterson Park.
The brittle shards
and geometric jagged remains,
lost beneath carpets
and under seats;
forgotten until felt
and remembered,
under bare feet on their way to the ocean.

I am tiny machinery
delicately blown apart,
with  the breath of the words,
"Love lost."
And it would take the skill
and acumen
of a Swiss watchmaker
to reproduce and replace
all the tiny bits of me
that have been lost and taken away.

I am a puzzle.
And good souls
keep taking away the last and best pieces.
Their intentions may be good,
but I am tired of looking behind armoires
and in the backs of drawers,
hoping to find my completeness.

I am not not meant to be complete?

I am best broken?

to be me,
is to give up all the little pieces?
And accept
the holes and voids
of my picture.

Some of my finest work
has been eulogies
for friends and loved ones
Some of my finest work
has been homes
that I will never feel the joy of living in.

being me,
is never being me?
But being everything
to everyone?

I am fixing the broken walking cane
of my neighbor,
the war hero.
He is 93.
He brought me his cane to me
because he knew
I was just the man
to put it right again.

And I will.
I have already
formulated a plan,
and amassed the materials,
to get him back up on his feet
and walking again.

But, what of me?

I stand out on the rocky edge,
of the silky black night ice flow,
just beyond my back door;
and I listen to the never ending
hum and whir,
ebb and flow,
of the complete machinery
out beyond my reach.
And I dream,
that I might be.


My machine is broken.
I am damaged goods.
And I am okay with this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Geometry of Grief and Coffee.

My parents divorced when I was thirteen.
It came just a few months after my grandfather died.
My mother allowed my sister and I to stay with my father.
She agreed that we were going thru enough upheaval
with the new situation;
and didn't need to change schools and friends.
So my sister and I lived with my father.

Our house was half-empty.
But not because my mother took anything.
It just wasn't the same.

My father,
my sister, and me,
became a troika of zombies.
We fell into a routine,
and went about our daily lives
without passion or purpose.
We were oxen
tethered to each other,
and yoked to a Dutch Colonial.
Some days
you could hear the house
groan and strain
as we toiled to tear it from it's foundations;
and drag it to a place
that wasn't burdened by the weight of memories,
of things that were lost
and never to be again.
It was the summer of sad.

My sister retreated to the riding stable.
She rode around and around, in a circle
the entire summer.
She found peace
on a living carousel,
lacking lights, the pastel paints, and a calliope.
Around and around she went.

I went off into the woods.
A loaded twenty-two over my shoulder,
a book in my back pocket.
I chose to get as far away from people as possible.
I cut across farms and fields,
traversed streams;
forging a path to nowhere,
and no one.

My sister was a circle.
I was a straight line.

And my father
was left at home.
We left him,
even though we had chosen to stay with him.
He spent the summer
sleeping on the sofa
in the den.

My sister was a circle.
I was a straight line
My father was a dot.

This is how I remember that summer.
And I may have it all wrong.
But this is how it seemed
to me.

But looking back,
I have discovered something
about my father's summer of sleep;
his summer of being a dot.
He slept,
to keep the grief of loss at bay.
He slept on the sofa,
because he could no longer sleep
in the bed he had shared with my mother.
He slept at odd times,
like a restless old man,
he couldn't sleep.

This explains the smell of coffee
that made it's way up the thirteen stairs,
down the hall, and thru my bedroom door,
at the darkest hour of the night.
The bittersweet smell
of the coffee
would wake me;
and I would wonder
why my father wasn't sleeping?

But I never went down and asked him.
I was a straight line moving further away
from point A to point B.
My sister was a circle
that couldn't be interrupted.
And my father wrestled with his grief.
He was a dot without connection.
Not part of the line, or the circle.
Just a dot,
consumed by grief
and a need to understand
just what was happening.

After so many selfish years,
I understand him,
and that summer now.

Loss and grief,
and all it's selfish
and bothersome trappings;
are real things.
Loss and grief
creates a daughter who becomes a circle.
A son who becomes a straight line
moving away from point A to point B.
And a father relegated to being just a dot.

I understand this,
because I am now the dot.
My sister has branched out into figure eights,
and my father and I share coffee.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Am Cold.

I am always cold,
these new days.
I am chilled
to the core of my being.
My spine
feels like a rod of frozen steel,
and the nerves branching out
might as well be icicles.

I live
in exile,
in a place
where the cold of winter,
is amplified by the winds
that swell off the water like waves.
The wind howls and curses those of us,
who have chosen this penninsula for home.
The wind tears through windows,
and under crawl spaces,
and reminds us that we are just visitors here.

In time,
the wind and the water
will reclaim this small patch of earth.
It has happened before
when the hurricaine
washed this place away,
swept it clean.
And it will happen again.

I cannot shake this cold.
It only takes a few short hours
for the pier to become iced in
and the shore a jagged visage
of shattered glass.
I watch the white caps on the water,
diffuse into and add to,
the icy edge that grows before my eyes.
It is hard for me to believe
that while I am just twenty miles from my old home in the city,
I am now living on the edge of the world.

And the cold inside me
cannot be shaken or shrugged off.
It reminds me
of the warmth I once shared;
the warmth that was taken from me.
The cold is now a part of my soul.
It reminds me
that I am home.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beautiful Things Broken.

My hands were once
beautiful things.

They looked strong.
My hand shake was firm.
But my hands were soft,
beautiful things.

They were the hands,
when run down a woman's bare back,
elicited the response,
"Ah", or "Umm"
My hands were soft,
beautiful things.

A famous friend,
over cheap red wine and smokes,
once spent an evening examining my hands.
She placed her hands against mine.
She compared size,
she compared shape,
she wove her fingers in and over them.
"I love these hands,
protect them."
And then she placed them
delicately against her face,
until the heat rising off of my hands
warmed her soul.
I am certain,
she swooned.

My hands now,
are beaten and broken things.
The index finger
of my right hand
is broken at the knuckle.
It has been this way for three months.
Just when it is almost healed,
It breaks again
under the strain of my labor.

My hands,
over the past ten years
have been shattered,

My hands,
if run down a woman's back
elicit the response,
"Oh" or, "Mmmm", and sometimes, "Ouch!"
Jagged callouses
carve tiny lines
and plow nerves like earth.

My hands are no longer soft.
But they are strong,
powerful, imperfect things.
Hard work
has given them character;
A road map of scars
and thick, tough skin.

And it is all because I build things.
Building comes at a cost.
My hands have suffered.
They were once beautiful things.
But damn the beauty.
These hands have brought me peace.
At the end of each day,
there is something tangible,
that I can lay these broken hands upon;
and feel,
beneath the callouses and scars.
These hands have created and built.
And I am okay with this.

My famous friend
might hate these hands today.
But I know better.
She would love their touch even more.
these hands
have history,
a road map of callouses
and scars.

These hands have a story,
to finally back their strength.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mouth Full of Bees.

I am living in silence now.
I have gone days
without hearing the sound of my own voice.
I am in a vocal exile.

I counted recently,
how many times I speak
during the course of an average day.
There were so few utterances
that I imagine,
if words were tangible,
like pebbles,
my words spoken wouldn't fill the hand of a small child.

When I was nine,
I lost the power of speech for two whole weeks.
I was hiking thru the woods with friends.
We trekked with purpose,
in a linear and orderly fashion,
thru the oak and pine behind my parents house.
The line stopped.
The boy at the front yelled, "Bees!"
The boy at the back yelled, "What?"
And I looked down to discover that I was standing on the bees.
And before I had a chance to move
they were upon me.
I quietly watched as they made their way up my body
with speed and purpose.
In an instant I was wearing a burning, teeming, suit of angry insects.
The searing white hot light in my head told me to run.
So I did.
But the pain slowed me down,
and I covered the last few yards home
staggering like a drunk old man leaving the VFW.
My father was working in the garden,
when I finally ambled up.
It took almost an hour to get all the bees off of me.
When the garden hose failed to liberate me from my suit of bees,
my father, joined now by my mother,
used their bare hands to scrape bees from my body.
When this too failed,
my father and my mother
resorted to slapping and killing the bees as they clung,
to my nine year old frame.
And I stood on the concrete patio,
never uttering a word,
as bees stung me
and my parents hit me to make the bees stop.

When the fury had almost subsided,
my mother said this to my father,
"Dear God Mike, they're packed in his ears!"
She started to dig into my ears to get the bees out.
And it was at this moment that my father looked into my eyes
with a love I had never seen from him before this day;
he grabbed my jaw roughly in his hand,
and pried my mouth open.

And bees
both alive and chewed dead,
poured out.

And I didn't speak for two complete weeks.
I knew I could, after the first few days,
but words spoken aloud
had become bees in my mouth.

And I am now living in this silence again.
I go days without hearing the sound of my own voice.
I am in vocal exile.
Words spoken aloud,
have again become bees in my mouth.
And what good are spoken words,
if I am the only one listening?

Monday, January 3, 2011

One Chair.

I have one chair.
It was never meant to be used
as a chair.
It was an art project of my fathers.
It is an object of quiet simple beauty.
I have carried this chair around with me for years.
Until recently,
I have never used it as a chair.
The chair wasn't
a chair,
it was art.
And I wouldn't think of planting my ass on a Monet.

So what happens when a chair,
which was never meant to be a chair,
is forced to put aside it's haughty nature
and self importance,
and become just a chair out of need and necessity?

It has been three months
since I have put the chair to use;
it is my only place to sit in my new surroundings.
She got the house, and most of it's contents.
I left with a bed,
my clothes,
and the art.
And the chair, which was once part of the art collection,
is now just a chair.
The art is hung in the new place,
But the chair is now a chair.
I have forced it to be something it is not.
And it is showing it's wear and disapproval of it's new situation.
Much like me.

I took the chair outside,
for a trip down memory lane.
It became art again,
posed against the backdrop
of a fading sky,
on a broken down pier.

I think I will spend the rest of the week
planting my ass
on my father's Monet.
This weekend I will find another just a chair somewhere,
and let the one chair
become art again.

Just because change
has been forced upon me,
doesn't mean that I have to force change upon art.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Give Me Hope...

            I am five years old.  I am rising and falling on the metal rhythm of the swing-set; beneath the giant screen of the Rockville Drive-in.  Above me, distorted images of dancing popcorn boxes and hot-dogs, melt into the falling blue and orange of a late summer’s night.  And George Harrison is crackling through hand grenades attached to Fury wagon windows, “Give me love; give me hope”.
            My mother is just a few steps away.  She is comforting my twin sister.  They sit together on one end of a see-saw.  No up or down; they are planted firmly in the dusty blue gravel of the playground of my dreams.  And I rise and fall. 
            My sister cries because she cannot find peace amongst the headlights and the false humanity that looms above her.  She is scared to be so close to the spotlight.  She is afraid of just how big this life before her really is.  My mother cradles her in her arms, and together they try to make it all go away.  But it won’t.  And I rise and fall.
            “Help me cope with this heavy load.”
            On the up-swing I keep my head back.  I don’t want to see the station wagon that brought me here.  I want to soar up into the screen and spend my days with H.R. Puffinstuff.  I want to never touch the ground again.  With my head back, on the down swing, I can feel my hair brushing against the gravel, against the earth that won’t let me go.  Gravity, and a purpose, is pulling me back to the place I wish so desperately to fly away from.  I let my hand go free from the chain that promises freedom, and allow it to graze the brittle, jagged surface of a life laid out before me.  On the next down swing, I use my weight to plow my hand deep into the gravel.  I take a handful with me back up into the light from above, and let it sift its way back home through my little-boy fingers.  The blue-grey dust on my hand glows beneath the coming attractions.  I release both hands and clap them together at the apex of my arc.  And like a magician, who has somehow managed to make the dove disappear, there is a small cloud to distract the audience from the truth that this is all smoke and mirrors.  And I rise and fall.
            “Give me life, keep me free from birth.”
            I never want to touch down.  I want to just swing here forever.  I want George Harrison to keep singing through the grenades.  I want the headlights to keep turning on and off, in a Morse code that only I know and understand.  I want the smell of gasoline and cigarettes to fill my lungs and lift me onto the screen.  I want the chains that bind me, the chains that I hold tightly in my five-year old hands, the chains that through science and will, rise me above; I want these chains broken, and I want to fly.  I want to be released.  Yet I rise and I fall.
            My mother lifts my sister onto her shoulders; and together, as one, they approach and watch me soar.  They are grounded, to this place and each other; and I rise and fall before them.  And I realize that I will never be one of them.  I am alone and at flight.  I may swoop down amongst them at the bottom of my journey, but there will always be the rise at both ends of my swing that will keep me from them.  I am a body that has discovered motion, and I cannot rest. 
            “Won’t you please, oh won’t you?”
            It is time.  The music has stopped and the screen above me has gone dark; the main attraction is about to begin.  It is time to make our way back to the Fury wagon that has brought us here.  My sister rides above, on my mothers shoulders.  I hold my mother’s hand as we find our way through the maze of sheet metal and rusty chrome.  And I am on the down-swing.  I am small and tethered once again.  But in the distance I can see my father sitting on a plaid blanket, on the hood of his Fury.  He smiles as we come closer.  He has the look of a man who has accomplished something.  My mother and my sister climb inside the wagon.  They will fall softly asleep in each others arms before the feature begins. 
            My father looks down on me.  He sets out his hand and pulls me up onto the vast, still warm hood.  Together, we will watch Charlie inherit the chocolate factory; and I will fall asleep before John Wayne defeats the Viet Cong.  Like a sailor, who is touching dry land after so many weeks at sea, I will rise and fall during my slumber.
            It is only when I am being carried from the Fury, up the stairs into my home; that I will be bound to this earth once again.  But I will dream this night of soaring.

            I am forty-four now.  And I am still rising and falling.  The Fury has long since gone, and the drive-in has been closed for many years.  But I still seek out swing-sets at dusk.  My urge to rise above, my need to be un-tethered; has not been lost after the passing of such great time.