On the Tilt-A-Whirl, Revisited

He leaned against the rusted old orange tilt-a-whirl,
plucking tickets from tikes leaping like yapping dogs,
his cig’ offering a glimpse of the future fight
between gravity, hot pink skin, and salty sweat.

His left boot heel wedged into the rusted steel step
as he hunched his shoulders and girded all his strength,
thrusting the controller down with happy menace,
his smile just another deep crease on his face.

The children’s gay whoops and high delights marked the time,
as the brassy calliope trumpeted magic,
the bright eyes and ruddy cheeks swirled and twirled
for the commander of this jaunty, junky world.

The riders’ screams threw a bolt up from the steel plates,
into the ramshackle, shaking control panel,
through his greedy clutch, past his heart pulsing,
down to the crumpled nine dollars in his pocket.

He lifted the controller, like a jealous lover;
the barker behind him seduced his old riders;
he took a long drag on his stumpy cigarette,
ready to play god again for new believers.

On the Tilt-A-Whirl

He leaned against the rusted orange tilt-a-whirl,
plucking tickets from tikes leaping ’bout like yapping dogs,
his cigarette offering a glimpse of the future fight
between gravity, hot pink skin, and sweat.

His left boot heel wedged into the rusted steel step
as he rocketed the lever down with a hand chop
and a kick of his right boot to the sorry controls,
his smile just another deep crease on his face.

The children’s whoops and delights marked the time,
with the brassy calliope coughing in sync with him,
as the bright eyes and ruddy cheeks swirled and twirled
in front of the commander of this jaunty, junky world.

The riders’ screams powered the bolt from the steel plates
to the rivets and seams, up the sorry controls, and
through the red-knobbed control stick into his hand,
right along to the forty-two dollars in his dirty pocket.

Then he brought the power lever back, like a jealous lover,
as the grimy barker behind him seduced his old riders,
and he took a long drag on the cigarette still in his mouth,
ready to play god for another two minutes ten seconds, again.



On Buying Flowers and Smiling

I glimpsed her once, down the street.
She was buying flowers and smiling,
while I fumbled with my shoe laces
and decided her beauty beguiling.

Her hair was auburn and combed neat
but not too neat, not too much,
and it flowed over her soft skin
like a clear distant stream and such.

And she didn’t seem surprised with me,
or when I greeted with “hello there,”
but her gaze didn’t land on my stupid face
and she didn’t seem much to care.

I rooted around with my stupid mouth, and
asked her if she could recommend a flower,
and then she smiled the smile of a woman
now aware she was facing a terrible coward.

She pointed to the roses and looked at me,
it was a moment, eye to eye, for just us,
before she said to me, “With these pretty ones,
my husband makes such an awful fuss.”

On A 27 Word Cancer

What would the old white men and such make
of a second promise that became twisted about
with oceans of blood pooled in its wake?

How can it be, other than a 27 word cancer,
snuffing out love and beauty and life,
with nothing in return but empty answers.

And we are not weak to wonder and wish
that we had the strength to stand and proclaim
that 20 little precious bodies did not deserve this.

Maybe we deserve the darkness and no more,
if we lack the wisdom and courage to see
we needn’t be strangled by old words written before.

When all it touches does nothing but shatter,
when your families, faith, and freedom crumble,
words on a parchment page don’t really matter.

On Derelict Dreams

I stand against the tide’s advance, akimbo,
and I raise my arms, commanding the water
back into the clouds, a heavy rain drop
dropping scores of fish like derelict dreams.

Silver gray fish drop and flop among the detritus,
plop among the yellowed flipper and soda pop can,
they gasp and gape among the old boat ruins,
wriggling life among those things long dead.

I lower my arms and let the flying sea fall back,
back down to the seaweed and the sandbars,
back over the boats and beer bottles bygone,
interring again in a single, solemn rite by the shore.

And I walk away, my magic spent and wrenched,
the sea lapping at me like a metronome, and I dream
about wriggling life again among those things
cast away at the bottom of my soul.

On Mortgages and Sex

I wondered, as a child, where they all were,
my parents’ friends absent from our home.
Why did they not have friends like me,
why were they instead all oddly alone?

And now I sit and count the grand old days,
where this and that happened, and some more,
but I’m visited by pregnant silences often now,
no one knocking on my willing front door.

I hear from them, still, yes, at times —
jobs, kids, trips, all manner of fun.
Everyone spiraling away into darkness,
calling that phase over and done.

And we gather our grief, our youthful losses,
exchanging them for mortgages and sex,
becoming the quiet adults we all saw,
and wondering what life will bring to us next.

On Chasing Whales

My husband and I read alone and together at night,
separated by feet and worlds, and by the fire light.

We do not speak but tell a quiet tale in glances,
with cups sipped in our respective bookish trances.

My captain’s ship has sunk, a whale torn asunder,
while husband reads of a great economic blunder.

And I can pause and consider our literary dance,
or how we fell in love, oh just by so much chance.

Maybe one day I can write of that love, chapter and line,
with tales of his patience, laugh, and similar kind.

But for now I’ll keep reading my heavy epic tale,
wondering if the captain, without love, must chase the whale.

On the Hunters of Our Happiness

Behind the nods and the smiles,
just underneath the winks and hellos,
swim the hunters of our happiness —
the defects in our soul.

And we sit in our easy chairs, and sip
our glasses of tea with a sweaty lip,
letting the sun hit our face,
while our shame buzzes our ear a bit.

Then our jowls shake out of sync,
dragging our eyelids down and pink,
and for a moment the sun we lose,
leaving only ourselves to abuse.

On a Funeral Procession

Strobing lights shining in front,
the parade of cars lumbered past,
of old ladies wearing bright flowers
and black dresses of a certain caste.

To the syncopation of my blinker,
I waited and watched, listening,
struck dumb to the dark sight
of death’s recent christening.

As the painful parade went on,
sad faces drooped and dropped longer;
I sat and waited at my turn,
and my resentment grew stronger.

From those stopped and staring patiently,
what did the ashen faces want,
as their bald wheels moseyed down
on their morning mourning jaunt?

Our choral respect for the dead
quickly passed, forgotten, buried,
in my heart a rising passion
and a pain in my swiveled head.

Impotently looking for a break,
I sat and waited some more,
to cut home with my groceries
and get on with the daily chores.

The last long sedan passed, waving flags,
and I whipped around the corner, gunning gas,
snarling at my torturous wait,
driving in zigs and zags fast.

I bundled up my hurt little man
and tucked him at last neatly away,
knowing how awful and ugly he is,
until I need him again another day.

On Peter J. McDonald

Peter J. McDonald sat on the bench and stared,
stared at the birds and the park and the bus,
all the people walking by and by,
not really making a fuss.

Peter J. McDonald took out his pack on his lap,
fished out a sandwich and took a bite,
chewing in time with a squirrel,
and it felt pretty right.

Peter J. McDonald took a sip and then stopped,
pausing to think about his last marriage,
pausing to wonder what went wrong,
but of her he could only disparage.

Peter J. McDonald kept on eating on the bench,
watching two little girls play Twister,
and he finished his lunch and decided
he’d never again marry his sister.