MAP STORE

The bride walks down the aisle
trailing a veil of tears
rolling in the dust
of too many centuries,
encrusting the virgin.

Albert Einstein
purchases a map of Taos.

Bookkeeper hunches
over ledger sheets
tallying night winds across
the frozen pond, log
wedged in the ice.

Douglas Macarthur
purchases a map of Hue.

Monitors blare news
from other worlds, flickering
across cups of half empty
coffee and cigarette butts
and muscatel dreams.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
purchase a map of Sarajevo.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

ROBBIE

He left and we never saw the departure coming. We knew he would leave sooner or later, but not now. We had planned on his visit. We knew he meant he was coming. We knew he might just show up. He traveled on snap decisions. It might be here, it might be Paris or Italy. But there was always the long slow coffee hour with tales of his life as we listened intently. Now he is gone, and as we drink our coffee we tell tales of him and mourn his death.

NOT YET

The man walked into the old diner
looking not at all happy,
dressed in what looked like
a white robe he found in some alley.

He ordered coffee and glanced
around, as if seeking one
familiar face, finding many
that looked like that

of his father, like him,
for that matter, and he knew
from this quick glance that
they were not yet ready,

not even close really, but he
had tried to tell Him that,
not that He listened, so the man
left some change on the table

walked out into the night,
and prepared to return home,
certain this visit, like the others
would never be deemed

a second coming.

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

AN AWAKENING

Take one part
Grand Marnier, one
Frangelico, a short cup
of coffee, whipped cream
only if you wish,
curl on the sofa
with your life’s
greatest love
and your first
real, truly your
first Christmas Eve
makes you wonder
why you waited
so long.

First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)

PAYMENT IN FULL

On this day I will give the cat a bath.
this involves an elaborate ceremony,
as befits an almost unique occasion.

I awaken at the usual hour, perform
my usual bathroom ritual, to the mirth
of the cat who curls up on the dirty
laundry in the basket in the closet.

I dice the pear, slice the banana,
pluck and carefully rinse the grapes,
then slather on the plain Greek yogurt,
and a large tablespoon of granola.

I carefully peanut butter one and a half
slices of multigrain toast, each with a dollop
of No Sugar Added strawberry jam
and make my cortado, on the foamy side.

It is time, now, for the main event,
and I fill the tub with warm water, pick up
the cat, and soon bandage my bloody arms.

MINDFUL(L)

The Buddha said that any task you do
if done mindfully is a sort of meditation.
We assume he said it, we’ve been told
he did, but no one I know was anywhere
near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith.
When it comes to things like chopping
large quantities of onions, or roasting
coffee beans I totally get it, it does
seem like meditation, and deep at that.
Walking the dog makes the list, and
perhaps convincing the cat to do anything
she didn’t think of by out waiting her.
I can even accept washing the car
or the dishes, but washing the dog
is only so on rare occasions and only
if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it.
But even Buddha would have to concede
that no matter how totally mindful
you are, driving anywhere in either
Broward or Miami-Dade counties is
as far from meditative as opting
to commit sepuku with a butter knife.

WIEN

We were walking around Vienna, Wien,
the river cruise boat arriving early,
dropped off into the city center, told
we had precisely two hours to wander,
or we’d make our own way back,
and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.

We wandered, following instructions,
looking in vain for a café where we
could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps
a pastry for which the city was famous,
even though we swore off deserts, but
before noon it could be still breakfast
and well within our supposed rules.

After several wrong turns we ended up
the Schauflergasse, still searching when
we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves
and stepped quickly from the path
of the regal white stallions, as they
proudly pranced by back to their stables.

We asked the rider in the last rank where
we might find a café and pastry,
and he shouted back at us, “After
seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.

We did find a café shortly after
and sharing an order of powidltascherl
and sipping our melange, we begged
to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.

WINDOW VIEW

He knew she had a special
meaning for him the first time
he saw her, from his usual seat
by the window in the diner, waiting
for his bagel and cream cheese,

and she at the table along
the window of the Starbucks across
the street, which might as well
have been an ocean, so unlikely
was either to make a crossing.

By the third time she had noticed
him, and offered a polite wave,
which he gladly returned, each
assuming it was an act of civility,
each, at least he, hoping it could be more.

He thought, briefly, about dashing
across the street and meeting her,
but he was no fan of coffee, less
by far of what Starbucks served,
and their bagels, well enough said.

So they went on with waves and nods,
until the day he looked and she
wasn’t there, and he knew she had
moved on without him, left him behind
or found a place with good coffee.

Publsihed in Mehfil, #8 August 2020
https://medium.com/mehfil/two-poems-2f60ad081ee7

LATTE

At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.