Wednesday, May 29, 2019


My poor dentist:
She’s perfectly lovely,
professional, competent,
positive, not prone to scolding.
I’d invite her to barbecues
if I were the kind of person
who hosted barbecues.
Still, I go to incredible lengths
to avoid seeing her.
It’s not her fault,
just childhood memories
of endless cavities to be filled
and the body-horror
of orthodontics.
Metal scraping my cheeks,
the ache of teeth
being forced into a straight line.
I schedule my appointments
months in advance,
but when the actual day looms near,
I reschedule,
safe in the knowledge that
my teeth will be thoroughly cleaned
sometime in the future.
But not just now.

We all know that person
who hasn’t been to the dentist
in like ten years
but has perfect teeth anyway.
That’s not me.
Twice a year,
I eventually recline
in the beige leather chair
and wish I had made flossing
a higher priority
when my teeth are scraped
with a sharp metal harpoon.
I know my gums are bleeding;
they cry for help.
I may have cracked an old filling
unconsciously clenching my jaws.
“Do you still have that special
rinse we gave you?”
Yes, yes, I do.
I remember to use it at least
once or twice a month.
I try to crack jokes
with the hygienist’s fingers
and tools and mirrors
in my mouth stretched wide,
but I still feel like a child
in the chair,
a child who has not made you angry,
just disappointed you.

Westbound I-90

I wanted to say,
in a calm voice,
“That car is just about
to cut you off.”
Instead, what came out was
as I squeezed shut my eyes
and every muscle in my body
tensed up,
preparing for the deafening sound
of crushing and twisting metal
and a disorienting spin
and landing on our side
or the roof
as flames and smoke
filled the passenger compartment.
You hit the brakes
and swerved a little
while managing simultaneously
to angrily honk the horn.
You then looked at me
with annoyance,
which I realized
when I finally reopened my eyes.
You said I was being

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Femme Fatale

Joel remembered the first time
he saw her face:
artfully tousled, shoulder-length
blonde hair,
golden skin revealing
days spent at the beach
or beside a hotel pool,
eyes hidden behind large sunglasses,
cotton candy pink lips embracing a cigarette,
beauty mark above her upper lip
on the right side.
She was wearing a t-shirt
from a concert she was certainly too young
to have attended.
As for the rest, he could only guess.
She was sitting in her car then,
driver’s side window rolled down,
a Serge Gainsbourg song
floating towards Joel
as he gaped at her.
She turned her head,
noticed him.
Then the light turned green,
and she drove away
with a half smile.
Joel decided to follow her,
something he would never dream
of doing on a normal day,
except he had just been fired
and had a whiskey neat at the bar
three doors down from his office
and then another.
And when she pulled into the parking lot
of the high-end steakhouse,
she asked, when he arrived,
“What took you so long?
If you’re a stalker, you’re pretty damn slow.
I figured you could buy me dinner.
I’m not really dressed for this place,
but they’ll let us sit at the bar.”
Stunned, Joel silently followed.
“I’m not a serial killer,”
he said by way of introduction
after their drinks had been served.
She lowered her sunglasses
and replied,
“That makes one of us.”

The Captain's Last March

The Captain was a source of curiosity
to us kids in the Alpha-Six housing blocks.
He lived on the sixth floor, in Pod 62.
We didn’t even know his name,
just that he was The Captain,
and our parents said
we needed to leave him alone.
So we stared at him, mouths agape,
when he walked down the corridor
with his groceries,
and never spoke to him.
He was in his sixties, then,
with a paunch and silver hair.
The only way you would know
he had been in the Forces
was his erect posture
coupled with a slight limp.
We avoided eye contact with him,
but if we did meet his glance,
we saw an empty sadness there.

“What’s he even doing in a housing block?”
Ula whispered.
Forces men lived in actual houses
and had their groceries delivered to them
and waved at us benevolently in parades.
“I bet he was a dishonorable,” Indo said.
“He’s old enough to have been
 in the Nebular Wars.
Maybe he deserted.  Or something worse.”
“What would be worse than deserting?”
his brother Jerren asked.
Jerren dreamed of joining the Forces,
But no one of our class would advance past
the private ranks,
otherwise known as Blaster Fodder.
“A captain wouldn’t desert,”
I interjected knowingly,
even though I knew nothing of the Forces.

Our parents appeared to have no interest
in this type of speculation.
“For the last time,” my mother cried
in exasperation,
“just leave it alone!
It’s no business of yours.
I don’t want to hear that you’ve
been bothering him.”
“Maybe we should invite him
for our Colonies Day dinner,”
my little sister suggested.
“I’m sure he has his own family,”
my mother replied,
then quickly changed the subject.

One day,
two men in suits came
to the Captain’s door.
He didn’t seem surprised to see them.
He said to them,
“Just a minute,”
and turned off his television.
He followed them,
down the corridor,
witnessed only by us kids
peeking around the corner.
He caught Jerren’s eye,
and Jerren stoutly saluted him.
He nodded almost imperceptibly in return.
He fixed his posture a little
and walked with his head higher then
and disappeared into the elevator.
He never came back to our housing block.

We did see the Captain’s face
on the news one evening.
“War Criminal and Traitor”
were the words under his picture.
“What did he do?” I asked my father.
“Never you mind!” he gruffly replied,
changing the channel.
Then he sighed.
It wasn’t like him to be cross.
“People in the Forces…” he began,
then paused.
“It’s hard for us to understand
what they go through.
Also, you can’t always believe everything
you see on these news reports.
But it’s best for people like us
to just stay out of it.
He’ll have a trial,
and they’ll figure out if he’s guilty
or innocent.”

A few weeks later,
we saw our landlord
open his apartment
and some men
moving the Captain’s possessions out.
Jerren saw the corner of a Forces flag
sticking out of one of the boxes.
“Can I have that?” he boldly asked
our landlord.
“Get out of here, you little rat!”
the landlord cried,
with a smack to the back
of Jerren’s head.
Luckily for Jerren,
the box containing the flag
wound up next to the dumpster,
so he was able to retrieve it
and solemnly folded it into a triangle,
quietly singing the Forces anthem
to himself, even though he didn’t know
all the words.
Many worlds, but one nation
all for the good of the Corporation!
We are the colonies’ defenders
The Forces will never surrender!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019


It’s a long story:
how I wound up
stranded on some nameless island
in the middle of the Pacific
hundreds of miles away
from any other living human
and definitely no wifi.
Entertainment was pretty scant,
especially at night.
All I could do was lie on my back
on the rocky shoreline
and stare at the glowing universe
above me.
In Brooklyn, I never saw so many stars 
or the glowing fingers of the Milky Way
or darting meteors streaking
across the blackness
for just a second
before being extinguished like a candle.
I wasn’t good at identifying constellations
when I was young.
It’s definitely harder
when you can only see half the stars.
The diagonal belt of Orion
was the only one
that made a lasting impression.
So while I was stuck on this island,
I made up my own constellations,
giving birth to a new zodiac.
There was the leprous armadillo,
the oversized spoon,
the gullible mailman,
the lost backpack,
the reduced sodium spaghetti sauce,
the neighborly snake,
the seditious hipster,
the befuddled opossum,
the fair-trade diamond,
the deadly sandwich,
the morose goose.
It’s another long story:
but I was finally rescued
during the season
of the impractical designer handbag.
Back in Brooklyn,
my old friends in the sky
are now mostly invisible,
but lying in the park here with you,
I point out the very faint tip
of a diseased armadillo’s banded tail.