Wednesday, May 27, 2020


The quadrillionaire,
so rich
he actually bought the Moon,
launched into space
to survey his purchase.
When he arrived,
he found it was a lonely,
grey, dark, empty rock,
devoid of air and life
and gravity,
but still, he thought,
it was worth the price,
paid in full to the United Nations,
despite worldwide protest
and angry posts on social media.
He bounced around a bit
on the dusty surface
and planted a flag
with his corporation’s logo
in what he thought was a prominent spot.
He watched the Earth rise,
gigantic and blue, in front of him 
and shed a tear.
Then he was bored and ready to go home,
but there was a mechanical problem
with his space shuttle.
His pilot frowned
at wires and computer chips
and hunks of gleaming metal.
They needed a replacement part,
but due to bureaucracy and budget constraints,
it would take a couple of years to arrive.
The quadrillionaire and his pilot
were well stocked in food and supplies
but didn’t have much in common.
He was still making money, at least,
the quadrillionaire, that is.
Because he had the Moon trademarked and copyrighted,
and there was a fee to gaze at it with your lover,
photograph it hanging low and large and orange
over a majestic rock formation in the desert, 
describe it in your poem,
teach its phases to bored schoolchildren,
and allow it to influence your tides.
On a clear night, you could try to view 
the stranded quadrillionaire
with your backyard telescope.
But most people said it wasn’t worth
the monthly subscription.


Midnight blue,
melting to black,
a dark warm red,
a starless galaxy.
Dreamless sleep, disturbed.
I rise to stop the shrill, unceasing blare,
then stumble like a toddler,
my fall stopped by the mattress.
A low growl,
then an explosion of white sparks,
sharp pain on my cheekbone,
Turn on the lights,
feel the pink welt blossoming
on my cheek.
Below me, still lying on the bed,
a contrite hound.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Summer of Barry

I live in a subdivision
called Dunbar Lakes.
Our streets were given nautical names,
like Regatta and Seaside,
but we are not near any major bodies of water.
There’s just a small retention pond
in the center of the subdivision,
next to the clubhouse and the tennis courts.
Last summer they discovered
a sea monster
living at the bottom
of the retention pond.
I don’t know how it got there,
or how my subdivision could sustain
an enormous beast
in this small body of water.
I came up with the name “Barry,”
for DunBAR Lakes,
and it quickly caught on,
but I never got any of the credit.

Barry was estimated to be
about thirty feet long,
and maybe a few hundred pounds.
He had an iridescent serpentine body
with grey fins,
including a large dorsal fin on his back.
He had the head of a Chinese dragon,
or so said my neighbor, Marla,
who claimed he tried to attack her
when she was walking her little white dog, Fritz,
but to be honest,
that dog is a real shit,
and I think Marla is drunk half the time.

Once the city confirmed
the existence of this creature,
our housing association
called for an immediate meeting,
which had to be held in a conference room
at the township library
because people were too afraid to gather
in the clubhouse next to the pond.
Every day a large crowd would gather
to watch the creature
as it raised his head periodically for air,
to see his dorsal fin skimming through
the surface of the water,
to observe him trying to take a bite
out of an unsuspecting Canada goose.
My neighbor, Ted Park, who is a board member,
told me that all these budding naturalists
were blocking people’s driveways with their cars,
and there were a ton of complaints,
which is why the daytime parking regulations changed
yet again.

Each morning would be small clusters of men,
the ones wearing camouflage pants
and bright orange hats,
sitting by the side of the pond with heavy fishing rods,
hot coffee in a thermos
with maybe a little booze added,
who thought they’d be able to hook the beast.
“That’s nonsense,” boomed Reggie Davison,
“you need a hand grenade to take that thing out.”
He implied he had a box of hand grenades
in his basement,
“but the goddamn governor
would never let me use them.
Don’t come crying to me
when that thing eats someone’s kid!”
Others in the neighborhood
were more conservation-minded,
like Luma Santiago,
who found the creature
“breathtaking, stunning, a miracle!”
and who stood angrily in front of the fishermen,
arms outstretched,
threatening to snap their rods.
Jim Hulce was an amateur photographer
and would regularly duck under
the yellow police tape
to try to take the closest possible photographs,
but could only produce blurry images,
like a Monet painting of the beast in the rain.

A team of marine biology experts
was assembled to document, identify,
trap, and rehome Barry,
and Animal Planet was there
to air a live television special
as the beast was caught
and carried by helicopter
to its new freshwater home.
As always,
when a television show
promises to show something extraordinary live,
it was a total disappointment.
The beast had vanished overnight,
as suddenly as it had appeared.
Nothing left in the pond
but some large carp,
turtles, herons, egrets, seagulls, muskrats,
and those damned Canada geese.
Had Barry been abducted by aliens?
Had he slipped through the same interdimensional wormhole
he had used to enter our lake?
Did he grow some legs and walk away
to another nearby suburb?
No one could explain his very existence
or his abrupt disappearance,
and all Animal Planet had to air
was interviews with baffled experts
and my stupid neighbors.

The Perfect Song

A band you never heard of
once accidentally wrote
the most objectively beautiful
piece of music
humans are capable of hearing.
With Todd on drums
and Mark on bass
and Joel on lead guitar
and Lisa on vocals,
playing in the garage
owned by Todd’s parents,
for just a couple of moments
they achieved perfect
chords, pitch, melody, and harmony.
They had never heard
anything like it before
and were so shocked
that they suddenly stopped,
each person staring open-mouthed
at each other,
tears shining in their eyes.
Joel wiped the back of his hand
across his nose,
surprised to find a streak
of bright red blood.

“Let’s do that again!” Mark cried.
“Wait,” Todd held up a hand.
He wanted to go into the house
to see if his mother had heard,
his mother who thought Todd
was wasting his time with music
and would never be as successful
as his brother Phil, the law student.
If his mother could just hear
the song they played,
she’d finally appreciate his talent,
finally accept him as he was.
He rushed into the kitchen
and found her lying on the floor,
clear fluid trickling
out of her left ear.
Her eyes were wide with fear,
but she had a smile
of ecstasy on her face.

Lisa, who was also a lifeguard at the Y,
performed CPR and restarted
Todd’s mother’s heart.
After she was rushed to the hospital,
the best doctors could guess
was that she had had some sort of stroke.
With intensive physical therapy,
she learned to walk and speak again,
but personality-wise,
she was never quite the same.
She was much happier, yes,
but she was convinced she was
sixteen years old again
with all her life and every possibility
in front of her.

A few months later,
after the immediate crisis had passed,
Mark, Joel, and Lisa
gently asked Todd if he wanted to play again,
if he wanted to play that song again.
“No,” Todd replied.
“It’s too dangerous.
We can never play that song again.”
They disbanded as a musical group
and, not having much else in common,
didn’t see each other much after that,
except perhaps on Thursday nights
when Vinny’s had 50-cent wing nights.
Todd sold his drum kit
and became an accountant.
He could easily fund his mother’s
continued rehabilitation,
but she once asked him,
“Don’t you find that job kind of boring?
I guess I just wouldn’t want to waste my life
doing something that dull all the time.”
And anyway that’s why you’ve never heard
of that band.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

I Could Use a Vacation

I step out on my balcony,
mug of tea in my hand,
shield my eyes against the bright sky
of a perfect rosy morning.
I stare out at the silvery sheen of the gulf
in the distance,
a chaos of seagulls circling, diving, screaming
above the beach.
Already they are gathering,
sunburned dads and kids with arm floaties,
women on beach towels taking pictures
of their tanned legs and pedicured toes in the sand,
assholes on jetskis,
a scrawny teenage boy learning to waterski
and failing.
But I want to go into town today,
wander through the aisles of every
cheap souvenir shop,
past the plastic shot glasses
and airbrushed t-shirts.
I want to browse small art galleries
with kitschy beach-themed pieces
at shocking prices.
I want to spend hours in the only bookshop
and record store for miles
and get a slice of pepperoni pizza
at that one little place,
the one with the burned out sign,
and later get peach ice cream
in a waffle cone from the stand at the pier.


I was awakened one night
from a sound sleep
and dreams I have since forgotten
by a humming noise in my bedroom.
A low humming noise
and a bright green light
shining out from the bottom of my closet door.
Something in my bedroom closet
was shining bright green,
bright green and humming as well.
And I was half-asleep still,
so I wasn’t afraid.
I wasn’t afraid, just curious, confused.
Mostly confused.
So I got up out of my bed,
stood up and walked around some piles of laundry,
a bit unsteadily, still drowsy,
walked over to my closet and opened the door.
And what I saw there,
what I saw in my bedroom closet,
I didn’t know what I was looking at.
It was a machine of some kind,
made of a dull silver metal,
floating in the air,
just above my shoe rack,
just floating there with that humming sound,
a bright green light in the center of it,
and it had silver tentacle arms
that curled in the air,
poised to strike,
like angry snakes.
And I didn’t know what this thing was,
or where it came from,
or how it improbably appeared in my bedroom closet,
but I felt this strong urge,
this absolute need,
this desperate desire
to touch it.
And I reached out a shaking hand,
reached out my trembling hand
to this machine,
this little machine that seemed angry somehow,
a compulsion I could not understand or control,
and I touched it.
I lightly grazed the light green light at its center.
Then it vanished.
I felt very sick then,
a wave of nausea washed over me,
and something inside me felt like it exploded.
Before my eyes,
little white pinpricks of light appeared,
and I sank to the floor.
The room was spinning for a moment,
before everything faded to black.
I woke up several hours later
on the floor in front of my bedroom closet.
I felt fine
but had an intense craving for pancakes.

May 6, 2020

We’ve got sinks full of dishes,
and no one is wearing pants,
and the kids and the parents forgot how to do long division,
and the dog just ate a stolen peanut butter sandwich,
and the TV is always on,
and it’s always saying,
in these uncertain times,
we’re all in it together.

End of a Debilitating Crush

I knew it was over
when I got home, realizing
I hadn’t noticed
you weren’t there.