Changing states

October 14, 2014

There are times when
I'm in the car barreling down the parkway,
and the music coming through on the radio is really clicking,
the sun is up, the sky is blue.
It's a grand performance,
everything seems all right.

Today I had those good vibes going,
until the thought of driving to work tomorrow
crept through the shadows backstage,
slipped around the curtain,
and stood still, center stage.
I changed the station on the radio,
shooed him away,
and I felt okay again.

I kept my attention on the road for a while,
but something reminded me of my last breakup
and I started to feel down.
The bad feeling, that old villain,
made his way back up and began singing
his own defiant aria.
I flipped through the radio presets and eventually
plugged in my iPod.
It started with an old Zeppelin song --
a good one --
and I let it play.

Soon I started to wonder if anyone could
ever love me.
The old marauder commandeered the orchestra pit
and was directing the whole band in a tune
I knew too well,
one that gave me an ugly feeling in my gut.
I skipped to the next song.
"You're being dramatic," I told myself,
"you're not unlovable."
"I guess so.  Yeah, I'm not a bad guy."

Then I began to wonder how in the world
I might even find someone who might even like me
in a new town
with few friends
(and all of them in relationships; 
they've lost touch with my plight).
By now the rest of the cast had broken character
and dropped the act.
The orchestra was braying caustic noise,
rockin' and rollin'
and jazzin'
and cocaine-in';
the audience was churning in a full-fledged frenzy,
howling and doing a devil's dance;
the floor lights never came on,
the crew had fled the scene,
and the ushers had given up entirely by
this point
in keeping any semblance of order.

I turned the car's sound system
off
and pressed the pedal
a little closer to the floor.

Exit 52

May 26, 2014

For months now
Everyone in Pittsburgh has been obsessed
with the bald eagles.

The eagles chose to nest along one of the rivers
and then some organization put up a
camera, so people could
--and they do--
watch the eagles 24/7.

My grandma,
who just recently got a new computer
(because her last was too ancient
to load YouTube videos),
updates me every time I see her
on what the bald eagles are up to
Then when
inevitably
some stranger at the book store
tells me about what the bald eagles are up to,
my fake conversation
is that much more convincing.

I never cared much about the bald eagles.

---

L and I were on a road trip
to Ithaca, New York,
made possible by generous work holidays
for Memorial Day.

We talked about the bald eagles
and how everyone seemed to care
except us

The car broke down on the highway
and we were just barely able to pull over
on a long straight exit ramp.
Steam poured out from under the hood,
and burning coolant made a sweet smell
not dissimilar to artificial maple syrup.

We waited on the shoulder of the exit ramp
in the early summer sun
without so much as a radio (because
the car, also, wouldn't start),
for a tow truck that would take us back home
while we make awkward conversation
with the truck driver
on the bench seat in the cab of his truck.

While my knee was crammed up against
the gear shift (which required constant use),
he told us about his love for the job
and about his family's health problems
and about his 7-year-old granddaughter
who was a psychic
and could talk to dead people
and the church thinks she's talking to angels.
But he doesn't believe in any of that stuff.

We waited on the shoulder of the exit ramp
from 9:00 am till 12:30 pm.

We were two hours out of Pittsburgh,

in a town called Bald Eagle, PA.

I woke from a nightmare

April 27, 2014

I'd been trapped in a creepy old house,
a giant, run-down mansion,
one that must have belonged to an oil tycoon

or maybe a New England old-money family,
who had their own custodial staff to
tend to the sprawling grounds,
and who wound up founding a well-respected university.

I was with my family.
We were trying to make our way
through the musty bedrooms
with stained carpeting and
bed sheets half done-up;

through long, labyrinthine hallways,
past broken staircases
and the cracked, graying tiles
of an empty indoor pool
with the view through enormous mildewed windows
of the dilapidated tennis courts.

We need to stick together, but
we keep peeling off,
one by one,
like in the movies.


I woke from the nightmare
and, because a nightmare is no way to
start a day,
I said to myself
"Don't let that get to you.
You're gonna have a good day."
It was morning and I rolled over in my bed.
There was a spot on the sheets
right by my head,
maybe a crumb, so
I looked closer--

A stink bug had crawled up next to me at night
and died.

April 11, 2014


Your brilliant ideas,
your streams of consciousness,
the epiphanies that change your life,
are important
and essential

to you.

For everyone else,
for your girlfriend
and for the guys you hang with,
you're just rambling.

So keep it short
or don't let on
anything at all.

Want to engage in conversation?
Want to share ideas?
Don't.
Nobody cares to talk about anything.
They want the quiet intellectual.
It's enough for them to just 
believe
you're a smart guy
(whether you are or not).

So,
disappointing as it is,
just shut up.
Trust me.

February 28, 2014

A guy in the bar stool next to mine
enlightens his companion to the
importance
of our country's
energy independence,
using its own oil;

and the to the virtues of
nobly exploring new resource ventures
like shale fracking;

and to the scientific truth that all (if
any) variation in global temperature
is due merely to Earth's
natural,
unavoidable
cycles

I was giddy to join the conversation
--in fact, I almost did
a couple times--
But I didn't.
I didn't join the conversation,
and I bet that guy is out there somewhere,
still thinking he's not a
total moron.

Norb

January 15, 2014

My mother's uncle
rode an exercise bike
every day
He took the stairs
And he read books

He died
too soon
And I'm worried
my mother,
putting 2 and
2 together,
will never exercise
again
My mom took me to
the doctor's office
when I was young,
whatever age you are
when you're seeing a 
pediatrician

The walls in the lobby were
red and yellow and off-white
and the air smelled
like band-aids
and in the corner there was a
red Fisher-Price car
that I guess you could sit in
if you wanted
but the waiting room was
too small
to drive it around
There were old
Highlights magazines
whose puzzles were already
solved and then
ripped to pieces
And that is where I'd wait
hours
until the fat little doctor
with the big voice
had time in his
doctor schedule
to assure my mother I was
in fact
still alive

At the end, the lady
at the front desk
would watch me walk toward her
down the hallway
and she'd offer me
a long pretzel stick
and smile
as though I had done a good job
not crying
as though she was so damn generous

Of course it was an attempt to
have kids associate getting a check-up
with
getting a treat
but now
pretzel sticks
just remind me of
the doctor's office
where I couldn't even fill out
a stupid
word search.

Hey kid

October 2, 2013

A baby passes
   in the little seat in
   the shopping cart
   and stares at me
His mother is half-
   frantically searching
   for something in
   the depths of her purse while
   his older sisters are
   running orbits around
   the two of them and
   there are announcements
   going on from the PA and
   another wild kid is making
   noise with the electronic
   knick-knack
   impulse fodder
and I look at the baby
   as I stand there with
   nothing to do
and he looks at me as
   he sits there with nothing
   to do
and I make my eyes real big
and he grins

Sorry, Miss Cleo

August 28, 2013

A pair of black high heels,
pumps I guess,
approached me as I was
kneeling,
shelving books
They were attractive shoes
Neat, feminine, direct
They moved intentionally,
with resolve

They were just about the most
perfect shoes I can recall

Attached to the shoes was
a pair of legs that
were OK
and attached to those
was a person

"You have any Tarot cards?"

Now it's hard to tell, sometimes,
when someone asks for Tarot cards,
whether they're serious or not
Maybe they just got a kick out of
those bogus late-night infomercials

"Yeah, right over here.  In metaphysics."

"Metaphysics?  Hmmm.  OK, good, I see them."

Maybe they're a little curious, or
a little lost,
and are just looking for
something
to give a little direction
or simply for something
to be new...

"Do you have any that haven't been opened?
Anything sealed?"

"Nah, loooks like these are all used.  Look to be
in good shape though."

"Oh it's not the
condition
I'm worried about, if you catch my drift."

"Sorry?"

"Sometimes someone
will stick a 
curse
onto the cards,
and I don't want to have to 
deal with all of that."

...or maybe they're already
knee-deep in
crazy.

"Sorry, doesn't look like it.  Check Barnes & Noble."

I returned to book-shelving,
then watched those
high heels
clack-clack-clack out the door,

stuck with their own curse,

dealing with all of that.
 
 

my bunkmate

July 9, 2013

6:00am
woke up
had to pee
and go to work
stepped onto floor
FLAP FLAP FLAP!
FLAP FLAP FLAP FLAP!

what the
what the hell–
WHAT THE HELL

FLAP FLAP FLAP
FLAP FLAP FLAP!

Looked at the window
Was mostly closed
Some idiot bird managed to
swoop onto the sill
between the glass and the screen
Must have thought it was a safe place
to sleep

It was still for a moment
terrified
just woken up

I looked at it for a minute
then put my hand against the screen
and shooed the robin away
Time to get up, bird
No one cares if you’re
ready

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