Tuesday, July 17, 2018

dark night of vengeance, part 4: falling leaves

phil still existed
and the universe insisted
that he get up every day
with his role to play

he had no excuse
his head was in the noose
but something impelled him
to his destiny, however dim

phil went down to the street
despite the fact that his brain was beat
another day of desperation beckoned
then something happened on which he had not reckoned

for the second time in 24 hours
a stranger felt empowered
to approach phil without prelude
or asking if he was in the mood

for direct interrogation
as to his existence and station
in this mysterious world of flux and flow
in which things come and go

the newcomer had eyes dark and bright
in a face quite wrinkled and white
that stirred a faint recollection
in part of phil’s brain - the section

triggering primal fear -
my friend, it would appear
the stranger began with confidence
that by fate you have been sent

to close a book that has been open too long
to bring an end to a sad song
to bid a weary traveler drop his pack
to tell the prodigal he can come back

to end a farce playing to an empty house
to bid the panther make friends with the mouse
to make a long story short, forthwith
phil - you see before you bill smith!

the insanity of youth has cooled
by that nasty bitch emily brown we were both fooled
by even demons of lust we were ruled
let us no longer be their tools

phil could not believe what he heard
inside his brain a strange motor purred
was he a ship that had never sailed?
he gaped as bill resumed his tale

i ran into whitey black last night
he had seen you with his own sight
when his words a message to my brain did send
i knew my quest had come to an end

they say revenge is best served cold
but even better left to shrivel and mold
we have only one race to run
beneath a single fading sun

why waste our lives in silly contests
when time is a river that never rests
and the sky is an empty page
that never records our joy, despair or rage

with these and similar remarks
bill regaled phil - a few sparks
landed on phil’s befuddled brain
but he would never be the same again

come, said bill, let me buy you a drink
let us nor care what anyone thinks
whether our so-called honor was lost or won
how is that the business of anyone?

phil followed bill in a daze
no bystanders were amazed
or made of them any mention
their reconciliation attracted no attention

bill and phil became great buds
and sat on park benches watching the floods
of embattled humans roll on by
as leaves and raindrops fell from the sky

in passing, we should mention
that in another dimension
emily brown in time’s web was caught
but never gave bill or phil a thought

i hope you found this poem uplifting
but now my brain is drifting
down a river on a cloudy day
i have nothing more to say

Friday, July 13, 2018


i used to be wild, i used to be free
i loved everybody, and they loved me
i was the king of the road and the queen of the may
and woke up with a song in my heart every day

i had a message of love in my heart
and took to the highway the message to impart
friendly strangers in volkswagen bugs
gave me rides and i gave them hugs

it was time to turn the page
and greet the dawn of a new age
war and hatred belonged to the past
the new kingdom of love was built to last

life was one long celebration
of the gathering of the tribes and nations
one night in the throes of ecstasy
i passed out on the shore of a shimmering sea

how long i slept i do not know
but i woke up covered with snow
the night was dark and covered with clouds
i sat up and cried aloud

where have all my comrades gone
where is the rainbow, where the dawn
what is this ice that covers my bones
where is anybody - am i alone?

i forced myself to get to my feet
rain fell on me and then sleet
i had no hat upon my head
and wondered if i was not dead

then i saw a light in the distance
and summoning some persistence
and a desperate flicker of hope
through the darkness i did grope

to make a long story short
i ended up in court
charged with murder in the first degree
oh what, i thought, will become of me

i saw and heard the judge from afar
as he cried, o prisoner at the bar
what have you to say in exculpation
of your exercise in widespread desolation

will you show a sliver of repentance
before i pronounce sentence?
but i had no reply
except to hang my head and cry

poor boy you’ve got to die
poor boy you’ve got to die
dawn lights up the jailhouse
and rain falls from the sky

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

dark night of vengeance, part 3: the smiling stranger

phil tried to pull himself together
and asked if it mattered whether
at this point if he lived or died
he was almost at the end of his ride

how much worse off had he been
than other children of sin
who had dreamed and loved and lost
and on the scrap heap been tossed

phil sucked in his gut
if bill found him, so what?
all bill could could do was kill him
and his existence was already dim

o so easy to say!
but one more, one more day!
one more day without a prayer -
but on your skin the living air

phil stopped and looked around
silence was all he found
the dark streets neither friendly nor cold
had heard every story ever told

his panic was suddenly gone
it was almost dawn
he had run through the streets for hours
ignored by all cosmic powers

on the corner was a little cafe
with a sign - open all night and day
phil went in and took a seat
he was suddenly totally beat

he ordered a cup of joe
as the world around him spun slow
and a slice of blueberry pie
which tasted a little dry

phil had totally given up
staring into his coffee cup
with a dull eternal shame
when someone called his name

who could it be ?
he was lost but he was free
though his guilt had been substantially accrued
he could enjoy it in solitude

phil turned and saw a face
in which there was no trace
of anything but good cheer
brought on by oceans of whiskey and beer

aren’t you phil, phil jones? asked the bum
who used to play steel drums
in a vacant lot behind kaiser park
at night, when it got dark?

that is not i, said phil
smiling with a desperate will
my name is neither phil nor jones
and i walk the earth alone

the bum responded with a shrug
peace descended on his scarlet mug
his response to phil was muffled
as away into the night he shuffled

phil was in a state of shock
he felt like a pool in which a rock
had been dropped from a great height
as ripples expanded in the light

of an exploding full moon
phil’s brain played a screaming tune
who was that stranger so affable
with his implications so terrible?

phil had been recognized
he thought he had been so wise
drifting faceless beneath the tide
had he ever been able to hide?

time goes by, phil told himself
everything gets dust on a shelf
the bitterest memories
finally blow away in the breeze

was bill still alive?
and if he was did he thrive?
had he forgotten emily brown?
was he the mayor of his town?

phil asked himself these things
he knew the night would bring
dark and twisted dreams
unlit by moonlight beams

Monday, July 9, 2018

true story

everybody has a story to tell
everybody has something to sell
a story has a beginning and an end
that does not mean you are my best friend

i was mistreated as a child
and so i started to run wild
and took up with a bad crowd
but then i heard a voice from a cloud

saying, ————, you are unique
a fate-appointed freak
you are not like others
you have no sisters or brothers

of the universe you are the center
it is your kingdom they must enter
if you decide that they can live
that is in your power to give

this message gave me hope
that i was not just some mope
that people were right to despise
and to fame would never rise

i proceeded down the street
with a new bounce in my feet
but suddenly i was not alone
a gentleman with a microphone

said, i don’t want a nickel or a dime
but just a moment of your time
if you could spare a few words
for the members of the human herd

now that you are the ruler of the world
with your teeth so white and your hair so curled
will you allow humanity to flourish
or do you in your heart still nourish

an implacable hatred of the miserable race
that has punched you in the face
and knocked you down
and on your face put a permanent frown

or will you find it in your heart
to give the planet a new start -
as the man with the microphone continued to blather
a crowd around me began to gather

and then the people in the crowd
started to chant my name aloud
and all their faces began to blend
into a road that had no end

and i was walking down thew road
toward a sun beginning to explode
and then awoke to my true story -
a rat in a laboratory

professor smith smiled down at me
little fellow, i’m glad to see
you looking bright this happy morn
are you not glad that you were born?

disappearing act

“did you find the guy?”

“yeah, i found him.” maury plopped himself down in his favorite chair as the big guy glared at him.

“then were is he?” the big guy asked.

“he didn’t want to come. he wants you to come to him. he says he’ll talk to you, though.”

“well, isn’t that nice of him. you didn’t try to persuade him to come see me?”

maury shrugged. “i could have. i made a command decision, in the field. it just did not seem worth it. i think you should go see this guy. it won’t kill you. you should get out more, anyway.”

“you think?” the big guy glared at maury, then laughed. “all right, see him where? some bar? where did you find him?”

in a dunkin donuts. on third avenue. that’s where he hangs out.”

“this guy hangs out in a dunkin donuts? i would have expected someplace a little more … mysterious, you know? or out of the way.”

“it’s where a lot of people hang out these days. america runs on dunkin. by the way, there was one thing he wanted me to tell you.”

“and what was that?”

“he said there were plenty of guys who could do what you wanted. “

“yes, well he was the guy i was told about.”

“so, do you want to go see him?’

the big guy sighed. “sure, why not?” he got up and grabbed his hat and put it on. “let’s go see this magic man.”


the magician was still sitting where maury had left him, in a corner of the dunkin donuts, beside a window where he could watch the world go by. an ordinary looking little guy, not getting any younger. he wasn’t wearing a cape or a top hat or anything to show he was a magician. a small empty styrofoam cup sat on the table in front of him.

the big guy sat across from the magician at the little square table, and maury grabbed a chair and sat down between them, facing the window and the street.

“this is the gentleman i was telling you about, “ maury said. “the one interested in your services.”

the magician just nodded.

“you understand what i want?,” the big guy tried to look the magician in the eye.

“i think so. you want to make somebody disappear. “

“exactly. totally disappear. i don’t want any body, i don’t want any blood or guts or evidence, or screaming or shouting, i just want this guy to disappear into thin air. can you do that?”

“easily. and you could go over to joe’s joke shop on thirty-seventh street and find a dozen guys who could do it, too.”

“you don’t say so.”

“i do say so.” the magician looked down into his empty styrofoam cup.

“then if it is so easy who don’t you ever hear about it being done?” the big guy asked.

“because there is a problem - a possible complication.”

“ah. a possible complication. and what might that be?”

“there is no guarantee you won’t make the whole universe disappear. you might not, but you might - the whole universe and everything and everybody in it. me, you, the pope, the king of spain, everybody.”

the big guy nodded. “i can see where some people might not want to take that chance.”

“but what about you? “ the magician asked. “are you willing take the chance?’

“listen,” the big guy answered, “i have wanting to get this guy for forty years. he did me dirty, like no man was ever done dirty before. thinking about him has been eating away at me every day for forty years, like a cosmic green cancer, like a mountain of red ants whose ravenous hunger can never be appeased. yes, i’m willing to take the chance.”

the magician nodded. “does this person have a name, you got a picture or something…?”

“i got this.” the big guy handed the magician a small photo, a black and white polaroid at least thirty years old.

the picture had been taken at a beach, and showed an ordinary looking man in a bathing suit with a little smile, an ordinary looking woman in a bathing suit with a big smile, an ordinary looking little boy in a bathing suit with no smile, and a dog.

“you need anything more?” the big guy asked.

“no, this is all i need.” the magician put the photo down on the table.

“so, you’ll do it.”

“yeah, i’ll do it. i just want one thing.”

“and what is that?”

“a frozen strawberry banana smoothie.”

“coming right up!” the big guy nodded to maury. “get the man what he wanted.”

“which was?”

a frozen strawberry banana smoothie, ” the magician repeated.

maury got up and headed for the counter.

“so how soon can you do this?” the big guy asked the magician.

“as soon as i finish my smoothie. but i want to make sure i get every last drop.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

ars poetica

take a piece of paper
write some words upon it
look at what you have written -
it’s a poem, doggone it!

mary had a little lamb
johnny had a panther
alice did the crossword puzzle
but didn’t know all the answers

it rained on billy’s birthday
mary didn’t go to his party
henry wanted to drink champagne
bur settled for ale most hearty

the world is filled with humans
and also cats and dogs
some folks climb up mountains
others fall into bogs

that is all the wisdom
i have for you today
meet me on the sabbath morn
and we will kneel and pray

Monday, June 25, 2018

a trip to chicago

i decided to take a trip to chicago.

actually, i had no place to go, but i had to go somewhere, so i decided to look up my old friend harry in chicago. harry had let me sleep on his couch or on his floor on many occasions in the past.

i found harry’s apartment - number 68. the door to the apartment 68 was very narrow and heavy looking. the whole apartment building had a heavy, old-fashioned look about it.

i knocked on the door. nobody answered right away, and i knocked a little louder.

finally a man opened the door. i didn’t recognize him. for a second i thought it might be harry, so changed since i last saw him that i did not recognize him, but then i saw that it was not.

is harry jones here? i asked.

yes, come on in, the man said, he did not seem surprised by my appearance, or interested in me.

i followed him down a very narrow hallway. the hallway opened into a surprisingly wide room.

the room was cluttered with chairs and couches, mostly cheap looking old-fashioned leather couches, and the chairs and couches were about two thirds filled with people.

not people who looked like members of the ruling class. but not out-and-out bums either. and they weren’t talking much, just staring into space like they were waiting for somebody.

the man who had let me in disappeared into a little side room. i could hear voices. harry? what was harry up to here, i wondered.

i remembered that harry had passed the bar, but never actually practiced law. maybe he was practicing law now? the place did not look exactly like a law office.

i sat down in a little red leather armchair. before i put my bag down, i checked it to make sure everything i owned was still in it. everything was there - some socks and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste and such, and the two books i always carried with me - think and grow rich, by napoleon hill, and the collected poems of edgar guest.

i looked up and saw a very old woman seated across from me on one of the couches. she was leaning forward on a cane and seemed to be looking at me through impenetrably thick glasses.

do you know harry? i asked her.

of course, she answered, don’t you?

i’ve known him for a long time, i said.

harry is a wonderful person, the old woman said.

yes, he is, i agreed.

he does so much for the community.

i am sure he does, i said. it sounds like harry has a good thing going here, i thought. he must be practicing law, or maybe he is a - what do you call it - community organizer or something. surely he can put me up for a while, at least let me sleep on one of these couches.

an old black man sat down on the couch beside the old woman. i tried to think of something to say to him. the only thing i knew about chicago was that the cubs were on the north side and the white sox were on the south side. or was it the other way around?

and were the “north side” and the “south side” actually the two halves of the whole city or were they just the names of neighborhoods, like “south philly” or “south boston”?

how about those cubs?, i asked the old man.

how about them? he replied.

what does the ticket to a game cost these days? i asked him. the cheapest seat?

you can get in for thirty dollars.

wow, i said, that is cheap. i noticed that the room was filling up all around me - most of the chairs and couches now looked filled.

the man who had let me in came out of the little room. harry will see you now, he said to somebody.

and he will see me, too, i thought. it will be like old times. everything is going to be all right.

i woke up. i had fallen asleep on a bench in the park.

it took me a few seconds to remember who i was, and where i was.

harry had been dead for years.

and i had not spoken to him or looked him up for thirty years before that.