Midnight at the planetarium

Is that Jupiter out there smiling down on us?

Knowing we’ll be here for a few scant years

at best. A saintly old man in a cardigan

passes by, smelling of whiskey and pipe

tobacco and you whisper he looks like

Einstein—with that head of hair – and then Venus

comes into play, and tiny whispers

circulate thru the Milky Way,

so, you touch my arm, and I can smell

sweet Sagittarius in your hair, and a touch

 of the Aurora Borealis is reflecting from your

rosy cheeks. We are all travelers says Einstein,

and he takes off his spectacles and tells us

Tolstoy was a Virgo, and we consult the sky map.

 You are radiant and I am consumed in stodgy details:

Show me the rings of Saturn if you dare, I say.

But you name the moons

 of Jupiter instead: Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto.

I’m still computing distance; your breath

is like the first sip of summer wine

and we sit on a precipice high

over the New Mexico mountains and we say to each other

that one day I will be going north,

and you will be going south.

We ignore the clock and turn our

attention to the rim of the galaxy and deep

deep space and the chasm between us.

My sleepless night

At 2:47 AM,
the bed shakes
and I wake.
My body is cold.
The sheets are tired.

I tell her there has
been an earthquake
and the Cumbre Vieja
volcano has just dropped
179 million tons
of rock into the Atlantic.

She says:
“it is not an earthquake —
there are no earthquakes in
Florida – at least not in
the middle of winter – it’s
not earthquake season”
But I look out the
upstairs window,
east, toward
the ocean.

The wall of water, I say
could be up to 110 feet
tall,  –  maybe more.

Go back to sleep she says,
there’s no earthquake,
and there are no water walls.
And don’t mention the
Cumbre Vieja again —

But I can’t sleep so I go to the
kitchen to make tea.

I sit on a stool by the
bar watching TV while a
weather girl in a
lavender dress
explains that
the day ahead
will be just like
the last – 82 degrees,
no rain,
tsunami risk is low.

I watch until
I weary of her cheer,

and then
I switch to a 24 Hr. news channel
where a grave but
engaging, field reporter is
broadcasting live from
a war-torn foreign country
and I am
cold again

Star gazing – Miami Beach

I looked at the stars
last night and I saw Saiph
winking at me – like she does –
– the little nymph…only 730 Light
years southeast of South Beach…
Oh you shouldn’t have – you
waif…you should have waited
until I could join you out there
in the Universe…we could have
waltzed among the stars,
we could have gone to the
ends of the earth together,
or maybe to the end of the heavens,
poking fun at the light years
jesting of time and space,
putting them both in their place.
We could have prodded
old Orion to pick up the pace.
We could have instructed Neptune
to take it out back and get it out
of his system and we could
have asked the Universe
if the great God is listening.
Time is fleeting… it’s between you
and me now.
No need to inform the others.
Lie back upon your Jimmy Buffett
inspired beach blanket, my Love.
Wait for the moon to rise over
the horizon.

Writers’ rules

Do you write every day?

she asked me.

They say you have to

write every day to be

any good.

Sometimes I write every

day, sometimes I don’t,

I said.

One time I wrote for

a week straight. But I

was drunk then and

none of it made sense.

Then I wrote for a month straight:

I wrote all about my day

I wrote down what time I got up

I wrote about what I ate

I wrote about what I drank

I wrote about the weather

I wrote a letter to myself

I wrote a list of my ten favorite poems

I wrote down what time I went to bed…

…and what I dreamed about…

Did you dream about me? she asked.

Reflections on traffic

traffic sucks – it’s woven into

the fabric of American life

like caraway seed bagels

and yacht rock. Chanel perfume &

the Doobie Brothers. All taken

for granted and running in the

background. The

streets will soon be taken over

by self-piloting tractor trailers.

And urban hipsters on

robotic hoverboards

will vie for cramped automated

space in inflated tiny houses.

Put me in my container

now. Sail me out past the

Continental shelf and sink me

alongside the surplus WW II

jeeps, & 45 automatic pistols, no bone

to pick or soul to sell.

The last exit ramp is blocked by a

wildfire, and there  is no way we will make it back

to Kansas City tonight.

At the VA: 1968

At the VA: 1968

Live each day like it’s your last,
and someday you will be right.
Says Granddad – a man in his
77th year…I was entering my 12th.
After that:
A Doctor enters the day room
of the VA  hospital,

Doc crushes his
cigarette in the ashtray  near the
door. It’s a clove cigarette doc says.
Piss poor excuse for a smoke.
Chesterfields are a smoke.

Who’s the young man says doc.

My grandson – he says.
Granddad looks pale.
I say:
I hope we can go home soon and
hunt rattlesnakes in the timber behind the house.
Someday grandpa says.

I want to plant corn in the spring he tells me.
So do I, I tell him.

Knee high by the fourth of July.
he tells me.

Corn planting knowledge will serve me
well in years to come.

A hotel clerk in Colorado insulted your
grandmother on our honeymoon in
1920 he tells me.

Poor guy didn’t know grandpa.

Doc leaves and
darkness gathers.
We talk about
the War (again)
the Big One.

We talk about the Navy.
When you get old enough,
join the Navy, he advises.
Never join
the Army.
Too much marching in the Army.
A guy is free on the ocean even if  he doesn’t
know it.
I say I will never join
the Army. Ever.

Granddad is dying.
Prostrate is shot
In five more days
he’ll go on
planting corn
and sailing

Plane reading

In a couple of weeks,  my wife and I are going to Las Vegas. We have been there a number of times, and we hadn’t planned to visit Sin City this year, but circumstances intervened, so here we go.

Due to the pandemic, our trip to Vegas will be the first time I have been on an airplane since February of 2020. Before I continue, let me say, I enjoy flying. I always have. Some of my fondest memories are of flying across the United States – seeing the flatlands of the plains merge into the Rocky Mountains — flying over the Grand Canyon at night — seeing the tips of the World Trade Center twin towers peeking out of the clouds over an overcast, Manhattan morning. Chicago at sunrise is particularly impressive when viewed on approach into O’Hare. I recall flying down the west coast of Florida on an August evening in 2005, watching the sinister clouds of Hurricane Katrina moving toward New Orleans.

One thing that I enjoy about air travel is that I get to read for pleasure, something my daily grind job doesn’t allow me to do. I like to spend my travel hours reading something that I would not normally read in my day to day life.

Our upcoming vacation involves several hours on an airplane, and after that, I am going to have some time to lounge beside a pool (if I don’t disintegrate in the desert heat). So what should I read? I have a list of books that I want to read before I die, and I have written about some of them here.

One book that has been on my ‘to read’ list for a number of years is “Jackson Pollack: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith”. This Pulitzer Prize Winning, New York Times best seller has been on my reading list since the 90s, so I finally ordered a copy last week.

When It arrived, I knew that I would not be taking this door-stop on vacation. At 934 pages, and just about as many pounds, this book has been consigned to the “shelf of the unread” in my office bookcase. I’ll read it someday, but not soon.

In its place, I have decided to read the following on my summer vacation:

  • The Garden of Eden; by Ernest Hemingway. This is Papa’s last book, published posthumously in 1986. Hemingway started this novel in 1946 and worked on it until his death in 1961. He gives me great hope for completing some of my older work. He wrote about 800 pages on this novel. When the book was published, only 70,000 words of the original work remained of Hemingway’s original 48 chapters and over 200,000 words.
  • The Mango Opera; by Tom Corcoran, long time photographer of Jimmy Buffett and co-lyricist of Buffett’s song, “Cuban Crime of Passion”. This download has been languishing on my Kindle for far too long. My advice: If you want to write a novel set in the Florida Keys, you need to read Tom Corcoran. He catches the Key West vibe better than anyone I know.

So that’s it for me. When I am through with those it will be time to catch the red eye home to the East Coast. What are you reading on vacation this year? In my opinion, keep it light. No books about the insurrection…not yet. Save those for the fire next winter. Go to the beach. Read something you have been putting off. Take a hike. Read on a plane…


A tale of two souls

I looked through
the glass once, and I noticed
your soul moving quietly
wonderfully, methodically
from room to room
occasionally pausing to
move some small pieces
of furniture, to try on
new clothes, to adjust
‘Cupid with Butterfly’
above the headboard,
to return Kant to the
bookshelf, and
to position the blinds for
late afternoon sun,

and you have
caught me too, an Old Soul
with creaky bones and
hardened liver, moving
cautiously down the steps
to the basement, groping
in the dark, hoping to find
the light switch, hoping the
bulb still has life, hoping
the floor isn’t damp and
the electrical panel has
survived the storm.

Happy National Clerihew Day

It’s July 10th everyone, and if you aren’t celebrating already, you should be. For those of you who might not know a clerihew from a sonnet, a clerihew is a style of poetry developed by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875 – March 30, 1956).  Clerihews are four-line poems that are for the most part humorous and/or whimsical. Clerihews always begin with a person’s name on the first line. The person might be real, or fictitious.  As an example, I will post Bentley’s first clerihew here:

Sir Humphry Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered Sodium.

To be a true clerihew, a poem must conform to the following rules:

  • In must begin with a person’s name
  • It must contain rhyming couplets of AA/BB
  • The content must describe the person noted in the first line
  • It must be funny. Serious clerihews are strictly forbidden

I close with another wonderful clerihew from Bentley:

What I like about Clive
Is that he is no longer alive.
There is a great deal to be said
For being dead.

Enjoy the celebrations my friends.

Last night in Key West

put it back in the blender.

pack the Keys disease, &
haul in the bikini, Patricia.
The games are over. No
more days playing nights
no more sand seeking shovels.

Philly awaits, shit can
Margaritaville, print the
boarding passes and order
a cappuccino,

the Old Order
Amish knew what they were
doing. Stay close to home
and ride in a buggy.

Fun is relative. 3 hours
in the air is all it takes.
You could write a song
you could discover a myth
remake cocktail napkins
fortune will find you
sobriety will find you.

The old man finds you whether you’re
looking for him or not.
You’ll give up the Ghost
before Big Torch Key goes down.
You’ll be buying the condo
in Vail before Islamorada is
under water.
You’ve a decade to party.