REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrash as you will
the barb only tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.


First appeared in Chaminade Literary Review Vols. 16-17 (1995)

THE VILLAGES

You are driving through the Florida
that once was, that is off the coast,
and out of Orlando, the Florida
of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations
and the more than occasional double wide.
Suddenly, you are in a Disney version
of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages
where cars have been supplanted by an endless
stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile
is a permanent fixture of most every face.
In the community, as you walk into
the town center, a town square imagined
by Rodeo Drive, each night at five
a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic
lawn chairs laid out in neat array
soon to fill with those who so well remember
when the songs to be played, and they, were young.

FALLS

The water pours endlessly, relentlessly
over the lip, cascading into the gorge
the mist rising, engulfing the rim of the falls,
swallowing whole the small island,
that will be eaten by the river over the next centuries.
We sit in the comfort of our room, watching
as if this was a movie, the water
in a slow-motion counterpoint to the mist.
None of the tour boats circle the gorge,
for in Niagara, even the goddess of tourism
must begrudgingly give herself over to winter.

OH, THE PLACES

“Every book is a picture book,”
she says, with that certain wisdom
the that comes from being seven,
even though eight is far off on the horizon.
“The difference with some,” she claims,
“is that someone already drew all the lines
and colored in the pictures.”
She likes the books, she concludes,
where she gets to draw the pictures
in her mind, change them freely
and choose whatever colors she likes
at any given moment, and the next time
she reads the book, they can all be different.

NEVER BOATS

“Trains are present,” she said,” and somewhat
the buses, but airplanes are mostly absent.”
I understand what she meant, and didn’t need her
to cover hands over her ears to cement the point.
On a train, most sit back, some with ear buds
but many simply stare out the window at towns
and villages and fields flowing by, willing
to share bits of their lives, real or imagined.
On a train there is only truth, and what is said
is real, if only within the confines of the car.
On a plane the people hide inside headphones,
bend their headrests around their ears, as if to demark
some personal space inside which the person
in the adjacent seat dare not enter, even with words.
“Trains,” she said, “are as much about the journey
as the destination, while planes are an abyss
between the points of departure and arrival, crossed with
the fear you could fall into the pit of another’s life
and never again emerge.” I agree with her
as we pull into a station and she rises to disembark.

GOING BANANAS

She examines each banana
looking at it from all sides,
looking down its shaft
as though sighting a rifle.
Each banana, in turn, she gently
places back on the pile.
My patience grows thin,
but I smile and ask her
if I might approach the bin,
grab a small bunch of bananas,
be done with my shopping.
I see five with skins
are a uniform yellow, no
dark spots to be seen.
She frowns a bit and I say,
“Did you want these?”
“Oh no,” she says, “I don’t
want those — like most
the curvature is all wrong.”