If Only I Was Born In Cuba

I mourn my own hands. These hands

that made love, made art, wiped the snot of  my son and daughter. 

That have roofed a house,  and driven down highway 41.

I have psoriatic arthritis.   With theses arms and legs

I have no insurance.

 

 

I carry a white elephant of symptoms

but I am more concerned  for the collection of polar

bears my family greets.

I am  a father, and a better one than they

will ever be. As the provider, I’m a welder at a factory.

The news is bleak and old suffering

turns her rattling eye on me.

It is a time to pray, but I have no faith.

So I desperately pray to a god I think

long has stopped living. 

 

 

There are pills that are too expensive

for me to buy, that only slow down

the process if luck stops by.

If  psoriatic arthritis cripples

me, there will be no one to wipe  family’s tears.

No one to draw them near or pay the bills.

 

God may I be strong, may I stand, despite

the pain and fear, may I be hard, and carry

this. O this is the meaning of catch twenty-two.

I wish this prayer came from my imagination

instead of  the ache of my body and frustration.  

My hands are already starting to cramp

up and I feel the warm tingling

in my joints. I will hide the pain until I can no longer

 The pain is already almost unbearable. 

 

 

I live in U.S.A and here, there is no hope for

poor and sick,  for middle class and sick. 

O if only I was born in Cuba, or Canada or France

or the UK, or anywhere where medicine was given

based on need, and not dollars.   Not dollars  

-Don’t tell me this is the result of  inner poverty.

The Sax

I woke with mankind pressed against
blood. the pain. the ache. I searched up, into
the sunrise. the oranges of morning stretched and fell.
Granddaughter danced in the new Monday. I surged on.
“Let us go then,” I said and we walked to school.
Up on the hill I heard a sweet jazz slow.
A middle age man played his sax as the autumn wind blew
the children lined like they always do, and
the leaves played a percussion shadow show
The children smiled. The parents left a little less rushed
The sax played high, then low.
My Granddaughter and someone else’s tapped
their toes, swayed their bodies to morning in October

I’ve seen wars and depressions, houses fall and rise, in this
old miners town, I seen drunks and hobos, kids on skateboards
and mothers running late. I’ve seen church walls crumble and
jobs move south. but I’ve never. in all my walks
seen a man at an elementary school playing sweet jazz nice and slow.

As I skimmed to my apartment, a thought came to me.
pain establishes earth, bows the crust, and feeds the war of eternity.

The blood will bloat and the wind will break
branches to toss on the ground
again and again but the world,
has seen a man in black jacket
on Monday morning playing songs
for children waiting for school to begin.

I walked on and a melody washed my back.
I thanked the man, the children, the turning leaves.
Sang out, “I’ll suck some of the pain. so you
can taste the seizures. May today bring you pleasures.”
my feet tapped the sidewalk, the leaves scuffed the arms of this city
and war, war wasn’t so important.

Another Way To Savor

I am in a marriage that is nothing
like childhood fights about maple syrups.
Mother said the kids like the pineapple, strawberry,
and butterscotch. Father said they don’t need ‘em.
Resentment filled the breakfast table along
side the crepes and chunk fruit, coffee and sugar,
uncorrected essays and yawns, hammer
and car keys. The marriage I’m in is not

an early childhood of packing items,
father standing with gun. Those were not marriages
My marriage is a hardwood floor bowed from
the hodgepodge of a king size bed and a
blanket, a rattling round table with two
chipped cups, a spent teapot of green and a
silent slice of lemon. Not a hungry
thing under the bed. In my marriage I
pretend I am rich, and put butter on everything.

2007

I Understand That Life Has Been Hard

I understand that life has been hard
on you. It seems that every choice
you have made has been the wrong one
And for that I am writing you into a poem
that will take years to finish.

You may not be the success that you
wanted. The yacht and the large
house on the bay belong to other men.
The sweet ride with gps and the bouncing bass
has side stepped you.
The perfect wife has become the ex.

The unity left reality before the day
to day things could balance into
a fiftieth anniversary surrounded by
grandkids and lifetime friends. speaking
of friends, so many are cosmic
dust, and long-term relationships,
jobs and different zip codes.
most of your interactions
are spent with the kids,
the guys at the factory, in irrational arguments.
I am surprised at your resiliency and your laughter.

You have the heart of a 500
year old pine in copper harbor

the kids, the way you
take of your daughter, the little details
of brushing, and camping, are hard
for most but you, you make it seem easy.
The son that you did not father,
but are fathering alone,
because the mother is bipolar,
and the real father in prison,
You were not so lucky
to have a father as conscious and caring.
Your father
was a wandering vagabond.
he spent more time with long legs than
you, would lie and steal,
bullshit his way just for a sniff of adventure.
your mother
with her faith and need to be
the bread winner had little time
to devote to you.
but look at you.
Not all of your choices have been bad ones.
You have done
right despite the leftovers of neglect,
I have never heard you
blame, or accuse anyone but yourself.
Damn it, you have done well.
Give yourself a little credit,
have some teriyaki chicken.

2007

The Whole Process

The Whole Process

The whole process is a mess. It shames them
into spendthrift days alone with pretty
papers and dictionaries. They’ll never
change the world with it. They know that. O
How many times they have been told. O how
futile. How destined to live in poverty
with the monster under the pillow
of their restful dreams. O they know.

You don’t have to tell them. Nobody eats it
but them. They have heard it’s a dead fart. Yes
-the successful others told them to write
greeting cards or to become a Spanish teacher
or go back to school for nursing. They were asked
how they would make a living and they always said
they didn’t know but were alive. And that’s
the problem. They are happy in short spells

when the world shuts up and allows them the freedom
to speak. Some have taken up telltale
strips of ribbon to convince people they stopped.
That they are looking for a job, “Really, yes,
some good leads, any day now” they say.
But they are collections of little white
infractions of selfish behavior. They can’t halt and need help.
Even when they are at the beach, with their child

by their side, racing the august wind and four
foot waves, and seagull floats on lake
superior and lover reads in the shade,
there is nowhere they’d rather be. Still
they are writing poems on mental scarps of paper.
It’s their mother’s fault. She raised them wrong.
When they wrote a poem she would say, “That’s nice,
how lovely, keep at it.” They trusted her-

that there was a place for them in craved stones.
They didn’t know that Shakespeare was dead or
Dickenson mad, or Emerson a liar.
They were a poor mother’s kid and nobody
told them poor kids don’t grow up to write poetry
but instead go to work for rich people
cleaning their dirt, or join the army.
They should have guessed by their mother’s laborious

man hands. The way she’d say they were lucky.
She never had nothing, just one skirt and one
blouse she wore everyday. That they should be
thankful for their four pants and five shirts.
Their grandmother’s slender legs, and knobby
knuckles, egg on her face, always talkin’
how her own mother worked so hard, never
yelled, and how on Christmas they would get an

orange and a new cup should have flashed some
critical thought on their lack of a lot but they just felt
lucky to have a toy to hold in their soft hands.
Their grandfather drove milk-trucks in snow and grow
corn in the afternoon hours. Enlisted
in world war two and had an alcoholic
step-father beat him who his mother never left.
That kind patience should have made them question

art. They thought their brothers studied numbers
and picked rocks for candy bars and the love
of hard work, not survival. They were no
president’s son and no ivy league daughter
setting up herself for the duties of marrying power.
They should have tried to snag a lover of wealth.
But they were stupid. Pretended love was all they needed.
Blame their father and his irresponsibility.

His desire to wander, his love of a good
story and the way his voice changed when he
talked with strangers, adjusting to their slang and infliction.
Blame their Father’s father, a door to door
preacher man, who used words to save the souls
of poor and told knock-knock jokes to them on
walks to the store. They should have cursed
the supporters and the morals of the hard work

Amerikan dream. Should have told them “I
am a slave to the dollar, don’t deceive me.”
Now it’s too late. It became the only
thing they could do and still sleep at night.
To make matters worst, they thought what they
were doing was holy. Now they are
sorry they didn’t study chemistry
with a bigger calculator or worked at an

automobile factory. Or cleaned white
houses on the hill or cut down trees in
the back forty. Or laid concrete for the new
wal-mart, or taught kindergartners not to
eat paper. Could have been a secretary
for a butt doctor or captain of the last
fishing boat on the great lakes. A sales clerk
at a department store jolly at a lipstick

counter, or a librarian dusting classics
while mouthing the words of Wolf.
Could have been a mechanic at an oil change spot
A painter with a brush and a loud radio,
a dancer in a strip-joint where old lonely
men stare at pear shaped butts or horse slaughter
after the races are won and over. But
they decided at seven that they

would be a writer. Now they are poor.
The cycle of poverty and poetry
hangs on human linage like the extra
fat kisses on their ribs. They have turned to sin.
Tell the kids that poetry kills infants,
damns young idealist to hell and makes lunatics
out of the gifted. That advertising

would be better. Tell them to become a
cop or janitor or any other
uphill occupation always needed
and supported. Like you said, “nobody pays
a poet.” Celts have died out, and poesy is a dead
start. A little poem will get them nowhere.
A longer one will make enemies. They
can’t be what you want. So don’t blame them.

Just read their poems. Nobody told
them what they would sacrifice for coupling
sound and silence into clean water.
Frozen, and expended, they twisted fires on
pages, spouted fountains and memory
into stanzas. First loves and oak trees into
war protest endings. Baked tears and shame
into heroes songs and birds into spaceships.

Honey into fingertips and books into blank
explosions of Sunday afternoons. As lovers
they spooned soup and gruel. Gave jars of hope
to anyone with ears to hear and made houses
for the isolated. Surrounded by hugs and hands
they made their lives into imaginary
bars on windows. On tours with notebooks
they rattled until their raspy voices cut the right

pitch on coffee tables and tabloids they mastered
strangers’ faces and mother’s death they turned
into a rose bush growing in a made up
childhood backyard. Before the letters could be
sent they pressed them in Zen cookbooks, and saucy
flower suppers. They made beds out of old
poetasters who they believed were free
and poor with nothing to lose, like themselves

they thought as they crushed their egos into egg
sandwiches and grilled cheese weekends.
They made wine out of cobwebs and urine.
Always working to change the world for the next line.
Damning themselves when they were weak and tired.
O how they tried, and thought they’d win
a sailboat and a piece of Amerika.
Never realized they would die

to light a wick on the heads of their children.
How their children would follow them in their slow
destruction. Wouldn’t have pressed their soles into
bread and jam or spent their weekends writing
scones and chocolate cakes into elegies.
They would have went to work in the factory
if they had known the dandelions
they planted into leather chairs would be

plucked and burnt. If they could have tasted
the bitterness of old age and weak stomachs
they wouldn’t have forced down hot-peppers or ginger
tea fingered by doubt and despair. If they
really thought what they were doing wouldn’t make a difference
they would have kept it to themselves
like they had wanted all along. To sing
in the rain and not in shelter of the shops.

O someone should have told them when they were
young. Poetry isn’t an option, although it’s fun.

2007

Paranoia Schizophrenia or A Song

On his left forearm there is a cross,
a spaceship, and an infinity symbol.

He scars with a rusty putty knife, tells
his little girl, “I cut myself for God.”

His arm is buttered popcorn.

She looks down at her hands, blonde
bangs in eyes, says, “I don’t cut myself.”

Her father has robots in his backpack.
She has an empty lunch bag and the leftover wire.

Her voice is gonna have to be enough and break
the insanity of her father’s inflictions.

Earth is hard. She will have to step soft to
kill father’s lies and stand plucked in song

A Poem For Theo at Dead River

theo talks about city land
i fade in and out the conversation

i’m thinking poetry
slight, dirty hand
touch wet
waft. tare.
sand
he says it sucks, and
people hate poetry

they like pornos better
i say
he laughs, and asks if i know
why
i tell him yeah, soft and shaken

its written for poets
it doesn’t appeal to the
common person
jinx i think

i drink some more coffee

its lost to the professors
and the not haves
i say.

theo can recite w.c.w
but he doesn’t know
jack shit about poetry

he thinks it should rhyme
have even meter.

that was fun he said

he doesn’t think words
are
sounds, pictures,
hues, lovers
he doesn’t hear language breathe
nor taste the salt of
the inadequate symbols
expressed in hopes to
preach the gospel
to the lost disciples
trying support the revolution

tryin to support the evolution
he told me that he would make statues,
paintings. all sorts of shit
and he loves coffee
so he is lucky

i tell him i am building a
life

he sees ignorance
ego
youth

poverty
hope

so thats why i am here.

in the window.

i am trying to prove to theo that
poetry is a live
in his ribs, and bones
that behind his lips,
in the roots of his teeth
in his hair particles

he only sees a man

i laugh.

he asks me if i am good
i tell him i am best
compared to who?
i don’t think he believes me
i don’t think i believe me
if i keep saying it maybe
i will feel the pressure
and a light will come on
like puberty

theo says he used to like
taking pictures of
naked young women

now i like a middle aged
naked-woman
he says

i smile. i think of kate
and short comments
grey hair, soft skin
all poets are lunatics
laughing
i told her she is
right
you can’t deny truth
like that

but i don’t care
do you

she must have spent some time
with young poet before
must have begged
her acceptance
praise, and clap
clap, clap

don’t clap

think.

or maybe
she gets
sick of their
endless expansion
scribbling on napkins
and shower curtains

their constant search
for truth
enlightenment
its exhausting
to see a dog chase

and never leave his front
yard

the shadow of his house
always blocking

i try to act like i
don’t think i am
better because i love
poetry
and if i had a dead river
i would let
the poets come
and crazy up the place

there would be drums
and guitars
clanking spoons
and we would have to call
the place ‘river.
alive river?

too much?

there’s others
they come and go

you can see desire
in their hands.

the way they are bent, slightly
shaking around the coffee cup

dry, and worn smooth

i asked theo to show me
how to roast beans
he would rather tell me
how to do it, but once he starts
talking, you can tell he is a man
who knows more about coffee
than i know about poetry
what he does, hardly nobody cares
we say stuff like this is the best coffee
in town.
but its meaningless
because me and theo know
not everyone wants the best
but i do
and theo is thinking about it

so i sit in his window
i would rather
listen to him ramble on about coffee
some more
i could really learn something
so i go have beer and
try to forget his doubt
.
i like beer

i get drunk after one

so what
the wind picks up, i look back at
the lake just to make sure she’s still
there
and blue
and i have to walk there
and put my feet in
and make sure she’s still
cold.
clap. clap
good job lake

for one second i
feel like i am special
i feel united
and at peace
i feel strong
and in control
even if it is forgotten after
my coffee cup is broken
for a moment i made history
as a poem in the window

trying to teach theo
he’s poetry