Elegy


Last week I lost a molar

To an almond

Nesting sneakily in a chocolate bar

But like hard times

It left a void

But not a scar


In New York or L.A. it would hit retinas like a slap

"Why doesn't she have that fixed?"

"And while you're at it

A little nip and tuck, sweetie", they'd say

But beauty's a temperamental muse, I've discovered

And middle age just a dull surprise


And how did the young men in this town

Miss the memo about older women?

With whom do they explore 

The incertitudes they hide

Behind their ursine beards?

Though I've no appetite left for conquest

I still ponder what stirs them to covet


A starry-eyed Wisconsin girl in a chain store sundress

Worshipping at the shrine of her smartphone

Striding swiftly by, not seeing the phalanx

Of medical buildings that line the campus drive

Her swirling hemline taints sunburnt thighs

With the residue of sweatshop squalor


Or a frosty goth princess with a drugstore rinse

and a chipped black manicure

That sets off a slender white finger

Which is poised to deliver 

A bruise-colored dollop

To her pillowy labret-ed mouth


Because I don't care for geezers

With extravagant eyebrows

As long as your thumb

And unquestioned entitlement thick as tar

To hell with your tenure

I won't be your nurse


This Midwestern town with its starlight and sunsets

And maple-lined streets dead quiet after ten

Except for the army of cottontails who

Under the nacreous moonlight ravage the lovely gardens

While the neighbors sleep soundly

In their quaint victorians


Yes, now I see - I live in a solar system and in the mornings

Eat buttered toast outdoors in the company of honeybees

And drink malty beer in hipster bars

When all I want is a proper martini

Served by a silver-haired Italian American gent

In an oak-paneled joint in Midtown


And no, you can't have my location

I'm still set to East Coast time

Because I crave an hourly reminder

Of that long ago, never to return place

That I pathetically cling to

In an implacable fog of resentment


New York City's a ghost who refuses to leave 

A fine white powder still coats my skin

Of asbestos mixed with the ashes

Of the bones and viscera of the dead thousands

The filth and the noise are here too

And the fire-


The burning fire of tender souls 

And of love that left the detritus

Of unrelenting regret like the aftertaste of sour milk

And the wounds on my back

A tally of false friends 

Who wielded jagged knives


The morning-after shame

Of unbridled behavior among polite company

Strutting sultry-hot sidewalks

In four and a half inch stilettos

After one too many cocktails at the Four Seasons


Or the Oak Bar, or the Carlyle

But Bobby's gone now 

And so are the wretched porn palaces on 42nd Street

Etched in grainy black and white on my brain 

Because that's how I remember them

In the colorless night


*Originally published in The Commonline Journal, March, 2016

Mother


At the lavender light she retires to her room

Furnished with thrift and mementos

Murmuring a susurrus narrative

In time with the others

Lurking, waiting...

Anchored to the floor with leaden-soled slippers

Lest she drift through the rose-scented walls


A blood-red sun sets over Erie

Where the skeletons of steel mills now share the shore

With wind turbines and a half-finished bike path

One day soon we'll pedal all the way to Toledo

Across the road

The houses glow pink in the ripened dusk

And televisions flicker blue-hot flames

Comforting the half-dead in threadbare chairs

Awaiting release from indifference

While the dog next door

Starved and anxious

Howls along with the gales off the lake

That rattle the windows like

Waves against a sea wall

In every room clocks tick time in unison

With pulsating blood and nerves


A golden angel appears to her

Puts her on hold for a moment

And patches her through to St. Francis

Who informs her that the cats are happy in paradise

But I knew it already because we all saw

That robin dredged in a sugaring of snow

Perched fearless as we approached

And the pretty blue feather quivering in the dunes 

On the way to Alamosa


The carpenter ants she equates with the plague

I wonder if they hear her radio

Through the drywall like I do

Or crawl through her drawers

Where my gifts to her have been stored:

A silk scarf bought on a flight home from Paris

The amethyst ring I wrought decades ago

Both saved for an occasion that never arrived

A boomerang hovering on the cusp of a rebound

A self-referential bequest


Church bells trigger a fog of memory

Of a smoldering thurible in a long-ago mass

Swung about by a phalanx of mitred holy men

Smiting the gaping sins of the world

Over at St. Christopher's on the boulevard

I've wasted so much time on bullshit since then

Tainted water wrung from a filthy rag


Lawn sign platitudes won't save us now

Nor hopeful word chalked on the drive

Washed away like dust by overnight rains and 

As futile as yesterday's party balloons 

Drifting across the primordial grass

Dwindling over time

Like daylight in winter


*Originally published in Gyroscope Review, Fall/Winter, 2021

Yellow House


At the end of the road

Stands the yellow house

Consumed by flames

Turning blue sky to smoke


A rain drowns the smoldering ash

And in the calm of evening

The moon rises through the clouds

wearing the limonite flare of mars like a crown


I've left the shoes I couldn't fill

Outside on the lawn

To be swallowed up by mud and leaves 

And interminable nights

There, in that place

The fevered flower will bloom anew

Come spring


*Originally published in Making Waves: A West Michigan Review

Hear me read it here: https://ludingtonwriters.org/mwwm/making-waves


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