Someone Wicked This Way Comes (A Halloween Innuendo Love Poem)

I want to grab your stem , carve you like a pumpkin

Scoop the fleshy seeds out of your pulpy core

Roast them in my oven for a late-night snack.

I want to sculpt your grin like a jack-o’-lantern,

Using a flick of the wrist, a flip of the whim

Shape your lips into the mouth of my choice.

I want to create the cast of your eyes

As wicked and decadent,

Abandon you totally to a haunt of despair.

I want to hold my breath in baseless superstition,

As I lodge my pagan fire in the hollow of your shell.

And I want to trick your treats

Under this absent midnight moon.

This eve belongs to lost souls and sinners.

Confession and contrition are too holy for us now.

Copyright 2013

(For the Ninja of Japanese Beetles)


The letters are lacy, vintage, bound well along the ends with sturdy strong sounds.


She drapes the word like a shawl around her shoulders, finding comfort in its earthy warm color and unexpected worn softness.

Curling her body into a tight little ball, she slips easily within the concentric “o’s” of “mother” and “grandmother,” a place of unnoticed power and unlimited pride.

She whispers the baby’s new name as if it were magic, unraveling each pronounced sound, stringing them together to form a first memory.

And later tonight, under the watchful guidance of a perfect full moon, she will weave this name next to her own, using the delicate tender threads to create a new circle.

(For Lisa, world’s happiest grandmother)

Copyright 2013

Some Assembly Required

What do you give a poet on her birthday?

A box of rare heirloom adjectives?

Balloons filled with helium and saucy alliteration?

Maybe a matched brace of rhyming nouns for the coffee table?

The elusive consummate title refuses to stay on the cake.

And the silver bracelet of meter and metaphor would bend my budget.


None of these are fitting gifts to offer a poet.

So here is a piñata, shaped like a stanza, chock full of random words and left- over grammar.

And because you’re a poet and today is your birthday,

You’ll know what to do.

(For Ginny in my Wednesday Writer’s Group, a very fine poet indeed)

Copyright 2013

Genghis Khan At The Typewriter

Genghis Khan sits down at the typewriter, a portable Underwood.

His tortured soul desperately tries to conjure up a Mongolian metaphor for love.

It is a task of barbaric proportions.

Mongol is, as yet, an unwritten language birthed from bone and mayhem.

The sounds are raw and feral.

No font can cage their nature.

But the Great Khan, Universal Ruler, senses a sonnet steeped in The Steppes coursing somewhere under his leather-laced armor.

Certain tribal concubines have indicated this to be his heart.

They have placed their tiny bird-like hands over his iron chest and summoned forth strange visions.

A heart!

As if the Great Khan, master of Central Asia, scourge of China, has need for a heart.

Empires are carved out of destruction, death.

A heart!

A heart would be a liability, a stigma of weakness.

And yet?

Genghis feels an unknown creature course through his veins and stop to drink at the place where the concubines held their tender young palms.

His coarsened skin tremors at the memory.

And so, Genghis Khan, Emperor of Oceans, sits at the typewriter, a portable Underwood, hands bloodied with conquest, body still suited for war.

He sheaths his emotions in strands of silk and sends them forth like arrows of unspoken words in search of prey.

These weapons are of a language that cannot break, complicated, strong.

And once embedded in the heart, the tender teasing of the twisted silk opens words into poetry and the wound seems insignificant.

Copyright 2013

(For Bryan, who loves history, even when it’s invented)


To go to Chicago.
Which words for the South Side, if not in a nightmare, at midnight when frost coagulates on the bar’s last brew, when the “L” screams wickedly through the backyards of Hades like Satan unwanted at a baptism, chanting a novena of sacrilege over an unsuspecting newborn soul.
To leave in tentative measure for South Chicago, midday or midnight, the sky is as painful as the psyche, in September or March, the seasons are redundant.

But only if that polarized portion of the city exists, if it dares blanket the soft powdery skin of the delicate Loop, slipping it the ex-lover’s kiss before taking off for a night on the town, filling its own veins with the opiate of jazz, shocking its former lovers with voodoo moves and mouth music blues.
To pack and set off, to leave only the smoldering scent of sulfur and ash, to vanish like smoke curls off a stolen cigarette.

And buildings, abandoned buildings, cages drawn down across facades like the intimidating masks of muggers, and below, under the short circuit of epileptic neon lights, rats create choreography on a stage of urban blight.
But the politicians rise, you remember, so straight, as straight as opened pimp rolls, college degrees speaking in calligraphy, and my desire, which wasn’t born yet, only gang tag graffiti and the scent of brute force, and indecent promises of grants and renewal.  The lies of home.

There was always too much of the South Side, no one could comprehend its neighborhoods, decipher the accents of tongues scorched by the motherland, left at liberty’s door, neglected orphans who came for candy and stayed for drinks, all stranded on islands with names like Goose and Stoney, not islands at all, but ghost ships transporting live cargo.

At night, the pathetic percussion of the deadbolts of innocents bids bittersweet adieu to the safety of the sun, the artificial light of television bathing supplicants in benevolent amends, tenement confessionals awash in fresh whispers of sin and howls of contrition.
So unlike the cathedral of darkened city streets, the few functional streetlights beckoning sinners to worship.
Those without souls roam in search, cars blasting hymns of anger and obscenity, the scent of power and fear hovering like fallen angels.
Sirens squeal and the blackened air vibrates in a meteor shower of intimidating intensity, aggressive young men in turf wars of frenzy.

There is so much of the South Side that repeats and shatters into infinite fractals.

My family couldn’t have known yet that I’d resurrect them, they lived so guardedly, so full of life yet caged, servants of the blast furnace, pockets full of coins, lungs full of disease, the smell of whiskey coating the breath that diminished daily.
Life was balanced on the edge of a knife, intense, immediate, ready to cut to the quick or sever the cord.

Gwendolyn Brooks came as a visiting seraphim, offering wings and the comfort of balm in an ointment of words.
One of my friends kept writing a poem entitled “Believe” but it never went beyond the title.  I wished I had kept it.

There was too much of the South Side, it intimidated the soul of the city, bullied its way beyond unspoken boundaries, knocked on the unanswered door of staid City Hall.
It burst murals onto crumbling underpasses, overflowed gang tags on neglected “L” platforms open to the wind, morphed into the elements of fire, storm, and snow, challenged lightning, danced in heat, grew bolder, returned home, wrote its own bible, and developed a new religion born of personal fire and illegal brimstone.
There was no savior. There was only the saved.

But progress came, dressed in green scrubs of opportunity, pulling out its scalpel, cutting along unbroken skin, through muscle and bone.
Surgeons from skyscrapers pulled away layers, searching for cancer, finding disease, offering hospice in too-late tones of desperation.

And broken buildings tumbled silently, pushed over by gentrification, falling soundlessly in the jungle.  There was no one left to listen.  And all the while the cathedral of the streets trembled and cast out its sinners, their muffled pleas for penance washed over by the soundtracks of progress.
People bade farewell without goodbyes, no tears, such dry mouths, I won’t see you anymore, so much of the same awaits you,.  Why must every city have a South Side, and now in a hurry, just pack always, each day, and go expectantly, go in faith that is so rarely its own reward.  Go to the South Side, swung low on sweet chariots, going forth to carry away home, pushing past raggedy redemption sung in glad-rag gospel hallelujah.

(Parallel poem to “To Go To Lvov,” by Adam Zagajewski)

Copyright 2013


The dead Elvis stands in front of the entree table of the All Night China Buffet.  He is dressed in the iconic white sequined jumpsuit, the ends of his cape slightly soiled with soy sauce, the enormous silver belt buckle ready to burst.

Being deceased, he cannot see himself in a mirror.

The dead have no style or sense of time.

The hostess at the All Night China Buffet screams a monosyllabic sing-song announcing the presence of the dead king.

The staff is accustomed to this and pays no attention whatsoever.

Elvis temporarily forgets where he is and starts to rock back and forth in his heeled leather boots, singing “Hunka, hunka, burnin’ love” into a teaspoon.

The wait staff are again indifferent as they have witnessed these antics on previous nights.

They bring out more General TSO’s chicken as a distraction.  It works.  It always does.  The dead Elvis loves his spicy chicken, loves it tender, loves it sweet (and sour).

And when he has had enough, he pushes the plate across the table and removes his extraordinarily large sunglasses.  As he places the shades across the crest of the epic black pompadour, the wait staff gasp at the glory.  They will attempt to emulate the effect to no avail.

The influence of the dead king surpasses all time.  In his world it is always now or never.

Elvis reaches for the token fortune cookie, consistent in its content:

Your lucky numbers are:  4, 14, 28, and 31.

Your Chinese word is:  picture Chinese characters – “platinum”

The dead Elvis flips the slip of paper over as he crunches on the last bits of tasteless cookie.  The reverse side reads:

“You’ve always been a friend of mine”   (in bed)

He rises to the majesty of his full sequined height, bows respectfully to the staff of the All Night China Buffet and pivots on the words:  “Thank you.  Thank you very much.”

And so departs the legend as the “Open” sign in the window of the All Night China Buffet flickers quickly and then shorts out.


We both knew this day would come, when I would be forced to testify, to confess our conspiracy and reveal the naked body of evidence in all its seductive sedition.

I have aided and abetted you as a willing accomplice for so long now that there is no more felony left in my soul.

Yet I will not perjure myself with words dredged deep out of the mouth of another.

Nor wil I bear false witness in a hostile second skin.

Rather, I will enter the kangaroo court lip-synching mercy, stuffing innocence into pockets of new testifying pants.

(Dedicated to Stuie, who never had to wear those pants.)


“Here,” she says and drops her heart into my open palms.

Blood drips between my fingers and the pulsating rhythm of ventricles radiates up my arms, jumpstarting my own heart into synch.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” I ask in a panic.

“You’ll figure it out.”