under my thumb

the poem that almost ate
my brain
began as a flashing
cursor on my laptop computer
at 8 pm one night,
long after the
Government office
where I used to work,
in Washington, DC closed
for the day, and a poem

…one that I had thought about
for at least ten hours
took residence under,
my left thumb

THAT

worthless left thumb

THAT

good for shit left thumb
the thumb that has no
meaning for a right-handed
senior technical writer
the thumb that sits on
its lazy laurels all day
while the other 8 fingers
and 1 thumb (the right one) do
all of the work

that left thumb couldn’t even hitch
a ride out of Shawnee Mission,
Kansas in 1977, when sister
told you that you’d worn out your welcome

(yeah, Rightie did all the,

serious
highway 169 work didn’t it …but
you got you a ride anyway, with those Mormons

headed for Topeka)

left thumb thinks
it’s entitled to special
treatment
because it’s connected to your left hand
damned appendage hasn’t done a decent
day’s work in its life.

b.s. I call it
let a finger do a fingers worth of work
like everyone else
call in your markers
pay a finger for a finger
forget the hand
anything less is —
…hand-socialisim

just

make sure that you,
open the hood
jot it down carefully, then
add poetic antifreeze
before you
pull out that poem
that is eating your brain

after that
let
the chips fall where they may
and
when it’s done
nobody cares whether
your left thumb had
a hand
in it or not

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the Florida panther

there is a panther lurking
around the shed behind
my house
I saw him last night
his

hungry…killer eyes
glowing in the
Everglades night
like twin lightning fires

in the sawgrass

I hadn’t spotted one since
’08, but there he was
a big, two hundred pound male

…a panther lurking,
waiting for his chance
to move with utmost
grace toward unsuspecting prey
he wants to
…take his name off of the
Endangered Species list
…so he can say to hell with
the environmentalists
and the tinhorn developers
and their lapdog politicians…
AND
when they are gone
& their carcasses picked to the bone
he’ll call everyone he knows
in North Jersey
and in Brooklyn and in Staten Island
and in Philadelphia
and in Grosse Pointe
and he’ll even call
his cousin Rachel,
that poor lost soul who
hangs her palm frond hat in
Panama City and he’ll
announce that
Panther Valley South is alive
and well — and open for business
and he’ll
charge them just two and a half a grand
on their Visa card
for the down payment
SO
don’t dismiss the experience
lightly
…don’t wait for the 18-hole course
to open sometime in the
spring (someday)
…well maybe, wait for it
but don’t plan for it…

you thought that fucking panther
was endangered
didn’t you…
but he lives

JUST

don’t bother to look for him
among the gators
and the snakes –
get out your binos and look for him just before sunset
that’s when he feeds

…look fast and you’ll spot him,
coming out of the grey, twilight mist,
steaking up I75 North, then
pausing momentarily
at the Alligator Alley
toll plaza, before pointing
his leased BMW west
into the
setting sun
toward
Naples

smoking a cigarette on Exchange Pl., 1993

Often
you remember
last times
more than
you remember first
times

you remember the last
Cigarette that
you smoked…ever
it was 1993
in July…
the day after
the loneliest poet in the world
died,
you read about it in the Post
but you
put it out of your head
for a couple of hours
then
you went outside
on 10:30 break
and you walked down Exchange
and
finally
without any remorse
at all, you walked up to
the first guy you saw
lighting up
and asked him
“hey pal, could you spare a smoke?”

he was a big guy,
he had on a paisley tie
choked up
tight against his neck
hypertension written
in stalactites across
his red cheeks

“what’s it worth to ya”
he says
Bellowing it out like a
gasbag Texas oil guy
in a Vegas whorehouse

he shakes a pack at you

…Chesterfield Kings

…you hesitate…

“Are these cancer sticks
too much for you son?”
he raises an eyebrow
his face
looks a little more red
than before…

and you tell him

“not at all”
and you say that
you are
well acquainted
with the risks
of
smoking

The 4th of July

a couple of years ago
I spotted the 4th of July sitting
on the beach
talking to Memorial Day
both of them,
about fifty yards south
of the Pompano pier
The 4th looking worse for the
light of day
his feet propped up on a cooler
packed with Ice House beer

looking bleary at ten am…

he’d had a long night
and
… I’m thinking he’s looking
a little thick in the thighs
long in the tooth
the years are taking
a toll

…but Memorial D., after all these decades
…he’s still
trim as a race track dog
he’s
sipping an orange soda

…he’s sober as a hanging judge
sober as a Baptist deacon on Sunday morning

Have you been to The Wall lately?
Memorial D. asks The 4th,
4th shakes his head and says he ought to get there
Sometime before end of summer
but he says he’s been busy
with the
Big Holiday
he reminds Memorial D. – there are
ribs and chicken wings
to slather on the grill
and he says that he has
a couple of
surplus
M-80s to toss into his neighbor’s pool
later on — after the sun goes down
“they’re simulated artillery you know
those M-80s
so it’s almost a Military Maneuver
you gotta love pyrotechnics”
The 4th coughs,
lights a smoke

How about you? he asks Memorial D.
You get to The Wall much these days?

I’m all over that place, says Memorial D.
I’ve read every name…I know them all

Every one?

Yeah, every one.
I know them all in Aisne-Marne too

and in Meuse-Argonne

and Ardennes, Belgium

and in Oise-Aisne

and in Manila

and in Gettysburg

and Mexico City

and dozens of others

The 4th pauses
shifts in his beach chair
squints into the late morning sun
(…he has a glass eye
and sometimes it turns inward
and
it wobbles in its
socket when he’s had a few – left to right
right to left)

…you get around don’t you? he says
to Memorial D.

Memorial D. answers slowly
Cautiously
because
it’s the 4th of July