June 4, 2013

For a while
I thought about growing a beard

Never did

until recently
because the Pens are in the playoffs
and that’s the perfect excuse
and I might as well do it now
while I have a job that
doesn’t care how I look

It grows OK
looks alright
I get compliments from some people
like the girl who cuts my hair
and from old women
(one told me it was cute)
and one time from an old guy
who I see every few weeks at the book store
and I’ve always had this suspicion he’s
got a crush on me
He told me to keep it short,
right where it is,
and not let it get too long

Anyone I’ve met in the past month
has only known me with a beard

I’ve been listening to Iron &
Wine and Ray Lamontagne and
they look good in their beards
and I look in the mirror and
I look decent in my beard too

but it’s getting itchy
and the hairs from my upper lip are
hanging over and I feel them sometimes
and they dip into the beer as it runs past
and this girl says she likes it but
I think it’s got to feel weird
kissing lip hairs that are too long

so I’m thinking of shaving


Twist your eyeballs

May 30, 2013

When something’s new
it’s a foreign object
an alien invention
you admire for its
parts, its
craft, its

A table is a board
cut from the flanks of a tree,
propped up on four rods
also from the meat of a tree
All of this so you don’t have to
eat on or
pick things up from
the floor
Really a brilliant invention

But we name things and then they
become their names
and we forget the parts entirely
and we can’t see them anymore

I think it’s funny.

Some people pay a lot of money
for a guitar
which really is just a few wires
stretched out real tight
and fixed onto a box
The wires are suitable for plucking, and
you can even cause them to make
different sounds by
pressing your finger against them
at different spots
and that’s interesting,
who thought of that?
but we called it GUITAR and now
it’s a blob in my hands
an out-of-focus photograph
and my brain says GUITAR
and I am expected to make
beautiful music somehow because
that’s what GUITAR
is for

Scratching on this notebook right now,
scratching graphite (which is what,
a rock?) against
mushed-up and flattened-out wood chips
There are so few limits and
you can essentially create
any shape you can possibly imagine
But we called it WRITING
and we laid out a
particular set of shapes and
combinations of the shapes
and we memorize the shapes
and we’re made to practice the shapes
until the shapes are in our muscles
and we put straight lines on the wood mush
and you recite the shapes
along the tracks
and you are WRITING
with an out-of-focus blob that is PENCIL
and an out-of-focus blob that is PAPER

and something is supposed to come out

but it doesn’t, not most of the time
because everything is out of focus

You need to twist your eyeballs around a little bit
twist them in your brain until
it sees a little differently
a little more closely

because the fun lies in
weaving through the parts
Seeing them work,
watching the miracle happen

because you’ve got to
break everything down to
and start fresh

because truth
is in
what you take
for granted

God, in sepia tones

May 7, 2013

Dani, who at one point considered herself a novice cell-phone photographer, posted (another) Instagram masterpiece.

Picture a one-dollar bill. The back of it. Under the ONE, someone at some point had scrawled a message in purple marker. Being hand-written, the message was barely distinguishable. The thickness of the marker further muddled legibility.

At first glance, it appeared to read “God is in Change”. Someone had taken the time to contemplate the phrase and then write it on a bill for strangers to see…so what does it mean? Some sort of money joke? God is in the small things? The spare change? The loose coins you miss between the big bills? The pieces you throw away because they just weigh you down?

The ambiguity of the writing nagged at my curiosity. With another inspection, it may have said “God is in Charge”. I rolled that possibility around in my mind. Another monetary satire, perhaps? Forget the bills, forget the future? Live now? God is in the spontaneity? The untouchable, the unreachable, the impulse buy?

Dani had laid the dollar flat over another small stack of bills, which were folded. She arranged them neatly on her nicest-looking table top and chose just the perfect image filter, after snapping the photo on her iPhone in the bright pink case with the plastic jewel sticker she had placed very carefully over the center button. She likely captured several shots, each one reproducing electronically the sound of a camera shutter.

Night Cap

May 2, 2013

The day is ending
Work is over
Dinner is eaten and
cleaned up
and now
I’m alone in my bedroom
with the door closed

It’s a ritual.
Everyone out there
in their bedrooms
reading trashy novels
In their living rooms
by the light of the television
In their basements
with jazz on, drinking that night cap

We’ve all got our ways of
doing it
But we’re all
doing it
Waiting for another day
Hoping sleep will come
Hoping tomorrow
won’t be
too bad

eating habits

April 30, 2013

I eat 3 slices if pizza.
Every time,
as far back as I can remember
And for always hereafter
I eat 3 slices.

I’m eating 3 slices now;
so far I’m through 2
My belly is full
But I eat 3 slices of pizza

I eat 3 slices of pizza
And I have one to go

My mom has, on several occasions (presumably during rare moments of particular adoration), proudly recounted one of her personal victories in parenting. Judging by how I turned out, I’m not sure she has too many of those, so this story is sort of big for both of us. “Your first public hissy-fit”, she calls it.

She and my dad had brought me along to Giant Eagle on a grocery shopping trip.* And no, this isn’t the horror story that every adult has tucked away deep in some fold of their memory, in which their parents lost them in the supermarket. Although that did happen. I won’t go into it.

*For the sake of clarity, any southerners can pretend we’re in Piggly Wiggly.

I was apparently being one horrible 2-year-old son-of-a-bitch, suddenly breaking down and screaming for no reason, as 2-year-old sons-of-bitches are apt to do. I guess I was really putting it on this time: tears, stomping, laying on the laminate floor so as to form a hysterical, embarrassing road block with no regard for hygiene, etc. Like I said, horrible. “Oh, you were going out of your mind!”

Now, my mom faced a serious decision here. Does she just give me what I want (whatever it was) and continue shopping? Does she yell at me in the middle of the store? Does she hit me, showing her son and every shopper nearby just who the boss is?

“Nope.” Her back straightens as the anecdote reaches its climax. “I picked you up, told your dad to finish shopping, and took you straight home. I put you in your room and left you there until you stopped being ridiculous.”

Bold move, mom. And the outcome? With a sly smile, she declares:

“You never once threw a tantrum in public again.”

Now that’s parenting.


Today I watched a kid throw the hissy-fit of his life in a check-out line. His mom, alone, was charged with corralling three children while attempting to pay for the coloring books she was probably planning on using to quiet them down so she could enjoy the smutty novel she’d also placed on the counter. But coloring wasn’t enough. Jeffrey wanted more.

[I don’t think Jeffrey was the kid’s name. In fact, I don’t recall the mother using his name at all in the whole ordeal, which in hindsight seems odd. But that’s some familial psychology I’m really not fit even to ponder. But he definitely seemed like a Jeffrey.]

“You’re telling me I can’t have a game? MOM! I CAN’T HAVE A GAME?!”

He wanted a Nintendo DS. Not a ball attached to a cup with a string. Not Connect Four. A Nintendo DS.

“Are you KIDDING ME?”

He had actually learned some very impressive phrasing in his short life, and his inflection and general way of speaking were probably better than average at that age.

“So you’re saying NO GAME?!”

She kept handing him whatever kick-knacks were sitting by the register in an effort to satisfy or at least distract him. No dice.


She gave him a tiny LED flashlight made to look like a fun-sized Mr. Goodbar. “Here honey. Here. This is for you.”


Exchanging wide-eyed looks with the other people in line, I wondered what kind of life Jeffrey would end up leading. If this is the sort of parenting he receives every day, how is this kid being conditioned to react to the boundless trials of the world? What if Jeffrey ends up being a real ass hole?

And is that what parenting is? A never-ending series of moments in which you need to decide, on the fly, what actions to take in order to ensure your offspring don’t turn into ass holes?


Are there bad parents in the wild, in the animal kingdom? It always seems like it’s entirely instinctual. Animals just know how to raise their kids, because they don’t have, you know, books.

But really, out of all the species in the whole world making babies because that’s the only thing they know how to do, there have to be some individuals out there who just don’t have any idea what the hell they’re doing. They just vomit chewed-up worms into their kid’s mouth every time it chirps at them, and then never kick them out of the nest. There’s got to be a momma bear who, instead of teaching her cub to forage scenic babbling brooks and interstate camp sites, just catches bunch of salmon for him while he lays on the shore playing with himself.

There’s a pride of lions somewhere that gets quietly irked because little Simba never contributes to the hunt. His well-intentioned mommy Sarabi had always given him a little extra from her portion of the antelope carcass; and now, a teenager pushing adulthood, he’s come to expect still-warm flesh delivered to him after each kill. He just shoves himself right in the mix and bites anyone in his way. The other lionesses share knowing, annoyed glances and later complain about “Simba, the spoiled brat”.

But they never confront his mom about it. No way. You don’t just tell someone they’re raising their kids the wrong way. Because then somehow you’re the ass hole whose parents never taught you not to be rude.

Apostle’s Creed

March 31, 2013

Jesus eggs

1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
5. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again.
6. He ascended into heaven and everybody put champagne in their orange juice and got a little drunk at like 11am.


March 20, 2013

Bad guys

February 27, 2013

There aren't villains
 No one is out there
    planning your demise
    or your unhappiness
 Especially if you don't think you've
    done anything wrong

There aren't villains
    whose purpose on Earth is
    to do evil for the sake of evil

Mischief, maybe
    or exploiting a system for their own gain
But even then
    you won't hear them owning their

There aren't villains
    because everyone is just doing
    what they do
       (or what they think they should)
    to live the way they want
       (or the way they think they want)

But people love to feel insulted
 People love to blame
    and bemoan
    and preach the injustices
       they believe
       have been inflicted upon them for
       no good reason at all
 People love feeling helpless
    Love feeling that their fates are
    out of their hands
  (and maybe they are)

But trust me
 There's no conspiracy against you

There aren't villains
 But victims--
            there are plenty of those.

Katy Perry Fist

A big thank you to
miss Katy Perry
for all that you do

for being a cash cow
we can rely on for a good
few seasons

for being the face
of our industry
our business
because God knows
we don’t need the world seeing
mugs, what with them being
gray and ominous
and everything

(Take a peek and you’ll see
we’re a sea of gray faces
an amoeba
with fronds and grabbers
that stick out the sides,
each with its own job

some are open hands
they wait, palms up,
to be given gifts.

some just take them.

some hands are outfitted with ballpoint pens.
some with iPads.

and there are a few hands,
a special few,
whose job it is to play with dolls
Miss Perry.
Perfect Barbies that everyone loves.

sometimes you’ll be a good Christian little lady
sometimes you’ll play the electric guitar
sometimes you’ll be really sweet
sometimes you’ll be sad or soulful
and sometimes, Miss Perry,
you will act a slut.

You have been compensated graciously.
There’s more where that came from.

[I’m aware I sound like a real dick by now,
but really
How many Grammys does Katy Perry have?
Like three?

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