THE LOBBY BAR AT MIDNIGHT

Ann Arbor a certain diffidence
Butte born of three rum Collins
Carmel the Gucci show windows
Duluth darkened, foreboding
Erie escalator rattle
Fairbanks a sound coffin
Grapevine grand piano
Hilo the restaurant empty
Ithaca seeking diners
Jacksonville by the exit signs
Kalamazoo conventioneers drool
Lincoln and slobber
Memphis over the ankh necklace
Natchez girl cross legged
Oakland engulfed in smoke
Providence the ficus droops
Rehoboth in the shade of the bar
Salem laughter turning
Toledo into controlled sobs
Urbana highball glass slips
Vidalia off the table edge
Wausau and falls
Xenia dropping slowly
Yuma through the night
Zanesville into sleep.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO HEAR

We sit around the small tables
glad to be out of the sun
whose midday glare seems
to blind the drivers slowly
approaching the Jetty Park lot.

A family chatters, the children
laughing at nothing, at everything,
and nearby a dog lays out
dreaming of a good walk
and dinner, hoping for scraps.

We can hear the water
of the inlet, the waves breaking
onto the beach, visuals left
to our imaginations, but we
are satisfied with that, and
the fact that our tacos here
are far more reasonable with the
“without the view” discount.

CHARMING

You said it was a lucky charm,
but I know my cereals and it
clearly wasn’t that, nor was it
a faked foot of some leporidae
sylvilagus, even you would never
be that cruel, you are a vegan
after all, even your shoes are
some unholy man-made material.

And I don’t believe in luck,
I’ve never had it, good or bad
although I do admit I look forward
to Friday the Thirteenths for
things always seem to go well
when they occur for some reason.

REFLECTIONS

An elk stands at the edge
of a placid mountain lake
and sees only the clouds
of an approaching winter.
A black bear leans over
the mirrored surface of the lake
and sees only the fish
that will soon be his repast.
The young man draped
in saffron robes looks
calmly into the water and sees
a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors.
I look carefully into the water
looking for an answer to a question
always lurking out of reach
and see only my ever thinning hair.

FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn
2000.

GOOD DAY (GOODNIGHT)

Every morning we are able, we go out
on the lanai and have our fruit bowls
then our cappuccinos with toast
from her homemade sourdough
whole wheat bread, and watch
countless birds fly out
of the wetland that abuts our yard.
The cat is always awaiting
our arrival, usually sleeping
on one of our oak rockers.
She will look up at us, yawn
and when we nod, amble over
to her “cat condo” where she knows
her morning treats will appear.
She will announce her thanks
and slide back to the rocker
for her morning nap, knowing
she can watch the birds
arrive later when she
is far more rested for she
reminds us that cats are nocturnal.

DINNER PARTY

Technology has effectively
destroyed the intimate
dinner parties that once
were the core of a social life.

You fretted over whether
the souffle would collapse,
if the wine was chilled
to the right temperature,
if the entree was back timed
sufficiently to allow time
for the hors d’oeuvres
and if the guests would
arrive at the scheduled time.

Now it is a fear that Grubhub
or Doordash will be late,
that you must remember
to hide the packaging from
the heat and serve appetizers
and if it will be nice enough
to eat outside, or if you will
need to check vaccination cards.

FRUITED PLAINS

As I was cutting up our breakfast
fruit this morning, the name Lynette
“Squeaky” Fromme came to mind.

I would have thought it would be
Cesar Chavez, given half the fruit
was from California, and I had no thought
of Gerald Ford or any Republican President,
never before at least one full cup of coffee
and generally not even then, but there she was.

There was no reason for it, nothing squeaked,
I hadn’t seen the new movie loosely
about Charles Manson, and I couldn’t
picture her face, which is just as well,
but there her name was and I have spent
the better part of the day musing on why,
in what is already an upside-down world,
a world where we have as much to fear
from our leaders as our enemies, and
it is ever harder to tell which is who,
yet she came to mind, and I have to conclude,
before the whole day is wasted in the effort,
that it had something to do with mangoes.

First Published in Barzakh, A Literary Magazine, Winter 2022
https://www.barzakhmag.net/winter-2022

SUBSTITUTE

Language is becoming a poor substitute
although I have no word for what it is
that it is a poor substitute for at present.

I grabbed an organic banana
from the refrigerator this morning
and paused to wonder if there are
inorganic bananas somewhere.

My New York Times, as usual, offered
All The News That Is Fit To Print
but I really want to see the news
that is not fit to print, that’s the good stuff.

At least my yogurt was made, it claims,
from all natural ingredients, for that
did have me worried, I don’t wan to ingest
ingredients that are unnatural.

But my whole wheat bread came
with a stern warning as the lawyers
no doubt demanded, that it
shcockingly enough contained wheat.

AS INSTRUCTED

As I was leaving the surgical center
they handed me the sheet
with my post-procedure instructions,
a sign of faith perhaps, that I
was sufficiently out of the sedation
to know what I was given.

I tucked them in my pocket, anxious
to get home, to get coffee
and the food I’d been denied
since midnight the night before
just in case something went wrong
and they had to put me fully under.

I did get relief from my pain
but I tossed and turned in bed
my sleep coming in fits and starts,
for no apparent reason, and when
I read the instructions this morning
I checked off the side effect insomnia
and gave a half check to irritability.