Proust is my Co-Pilot #26


Clothes pins clip the scruff of your neck shut, two loose flaps, pinched tightly, your skin itches, breathing becomes an exercise                       (in tolerance)                                   urging you to propel                                     yourself

into traffic, just to see what happens next.          Cars stop.     Horns beep.     Your feet find the curb.

How is it that your legs keep this motion? Left, right, left.

Tramping sidewalks, chafe of thigh across thigh. Left, right, left.

You are blank; dulled nearly a week.       Empty as the wind, but this your persistent movement, fluidity of hip, a rhythm, a rhythm, left, right, left. Walking is your only constant.                                                                                                                    Left, right, left.

That, and your embarrassment for the poet, who says he writes because he has to, because it’s like breathing for him. But you have always felt

ill-at-ease, in the presence of fools.

You find the bridge where you left it, spanning with spiders and dancing a river, iron limbs welded with web, a gummy lacework, caught in your fingers.

Fat spiders scatter

in                                                                                                                                            several


At once.

Silly as the poet: belching his every thought.

The park is a wasteland, littered with homelessness; a muggy apathy of flesh and flies. A shoeless man, sitting atop a picnic table, red baseball cap, soiled dress shirt, sings softly to himself.

“Froggie went a courtin’, and he did ride, uh-huh, uh-huh

Froggie went a courtin’, and he did ride.

With a sword and a pistol by his side, uh-huh…”

The grass slips its long, wet fingers, greenly into your Mary Jane’s.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Left, right, left.




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Proust is my Co-Pilot #44

A sting of conscience, it is a week of scheduling death. The vines are to be poisoned Tuesday morning; the cat is to be gassed Friday afternoon. I am full of questions, needling better reasons than human nature provides, yet, reasoning seems a shallow endeavor, when one is charting calendars, marking time and place, reconciling oneself to the role of killer.                       I have had,

always,                      this fondness for strays and weeds.

It is seemingly, unjust, to destroy something so willing to bloom a fresh purple each morning, inching and twisting its way through the links of a rusting fence, around the neck of a leaning shovel, creeping across drought dried dust, despite the disdain heaped upon it, perhaps that is why it wraps its skinny arms around every beloved plant, circling them from earth up, and back again, one precious seedling at a time, strangling the teacher’s favorite, the mother’s pet.

And the pet, is anything but, silky haired and pristine white, hiding in cupboards and under bed frames, mewing spit of voice, half hostility, half docility; yes, the cat solicits death. With a gluttonous disdain for life, the beast does as she pleases, forgoing solace in lieu of animosity, one has to admire her tenacity, her solidity.

Yet, a weed is a weed, whether vine or cat, choices are given, a wilted leaf beneath a pinked nose, one can only tell her,

“Misery is a misery.”


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Proust is my Co-Pilot, #17

A brain spins in a stagnant room, sick with sweat. The city curls itself into a fat ball, nauseous on its own concrete. At the butcher’s booth, in the back of the market, an Amish man sells moldy cheese, thick yellow bricks, turned sideways to hide green fur, he smiles rotten teeth at me, lowering his price.         The smell of warm produce catches in my throat, sticks there drily, itching, scratching breath, my fingers in bins, of tomatoes, over ripened, rubber skinned apples, soft bleeding berries.

The air crawls on my skin, an infestation of flies, raising the scars
of memory, a monotony of course, thinned out by age.

The sidewalk is a hypocrite; A Pharisee of insincerity. I’ve little excuse for my animosity, no basis for my judgment, except that I have become slovenly, unclean of mind, full of bad intention.

An old lady taps my ankle, with her cane, as we stand at the corner of third and Verbeke streets. Cars drag themselves lazily past us, bumpers slicing humidity. I am a hunchback, stooped under the weight of my groceries, anxiously peering about for shadow. She taps my ankle again.       I twist to face her, but she is staring straight ahead, speaking through clenched teeth,

“A purpose. That is what you need. Walk with a purpose, child, walk with a purpose. The bastards won’t touch you, if you walk with a purpose. And lose the big bags, it just attracts attention…”

She steps from the curb. I stop myself, just in time, before giving her a push.


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Sunday Breakfast in North Philadelphia

My friend Carter pops the yolks
of his sunny side up eggs with a fork
and announces that someday
he would like to retire from optometry
and open a Curiosity Shop.

And just like that, the day seems
dangerous. As if we need to be careful,
lest it get away from us, or us from it.

“What sort of things does one sell in a Curiosity Shop?”

I ask, while scratching a mound of butter
from my wheat toast.

“You sell the unusual.”

I picture him growing into a fat-
thumbed, inquisitive sort, built
like a bundle of twigs, a wicker
knick knack of a man. A yellowed
Socrates, perched behind a scarred
counter, with fingerprints on his eyeglasses.

My mind makes me nervous.

The ladies restroom is an echo, a fine
place for some hysterics. The walls are
written in French, with an awful accent.
At the mirror, I brush my hair
in lengthy, slow strokes,
christen myself Banshee, and let out
a low wail, before returning

to the breakfast table.

Carter is eyeing up my toast, I offer him
a slice and he shoves it into what is left
of his runny eggs. I salt my home fries
and tell him that he will have to live
someplace warm, someplace with a
tourist season. People don’t often
buy curiosities

in their own hometowns.

I fancy his shop as small with little natural
light, on a side street, maybe below a
cheap apartment or two.
He’ll be an old man by then, pettish
and in need of a bath, wearing
the humidity tight, as a shrunken
wool sweater. He’ll be thick-necked

and mean.

I’ll visit each winter. We’ll drink
bitter tea from chipped mugs and
watch the dust build up around us.

I sprout nostalgia like a skin rash.

The parking lot steals our voices
in its wind and grabs at our jackets,
laughing in our faces. Clouds drop
beneath a dim sky, as the day becomes
an ugly stranger. The city
is a suffocation. Even my shoes,

feel too tight.


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This night we drove for hours, into the empty countryside, eating cherry pie
and drinking coffee, from a gas station. You steered us out of civilization,
away from the lights of any town, into a dark corner of the world, that neither of us had known existed. We turned off the radio, opened all of the windows, and let the night consume us, with darkness and sound. The sort you can only find, after dusk on a Pennsylvania mountaintop, in January.

Your old truck bumped up dirt roads, I spilled coffee on my coat, you cried. Softly at first, then thicker, heavier than your breath. You’ve always been a beautiful crier. I felt we had taken this journey before, and we had. Though it was a different night, a different road, a different car.

But, it was us, without a destination, I am certain of that, though we were younger that night, I provided the crying, over what I no longer can recall, but the night was as black any I have ever seen it, and you were driving us to nowhere, cigarette hanging out the window, hair ponytailed, and wearing that blank stare of yours.

Much like tonight, we spoke rapidly, as if the words would abandon us, if we didn’t get them all out, we were new then, or fairly so, just a year or two into this life we have built in darkened cars, this marriage of secrets, this loping and intersecting conversation, where we loot each other’s minds for the answers we do not know we need, nor want, for that matter.

Wending the course of this moment, along abandoned roads, abandoned lives, that we no longer take ownership of, as if we have lost track of time, if not each other.
With only a thirty year conversation to guide us.



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The House of Franks

for Michaella


My friend, Michaella, and I are standing in an alley, in Midtown, Harrisburg,
staring up at the second floor windows, of a house partially hidden behind shrubbery, brown and dead in these final throes of winter.

“That’s the house of Frank’s,” she whispers, breathlessly, to me.
“The upstairs window. Look! There’s a Frank!”

And there, pressed to a glass windowpane, is the face of a pure white cat.
I smile, for the first time in days, possibly months, and laugh, “It is a Frank!”

We left the real Frank, an hour earlier, asleep on her dining room table, spread on his back, a large puff of white fur, the bluest eyes, and sneaky as hell, if pressed we will swear up and down that he talks to the dogs. And he isn’t nice about it, either. The word instigator, comes to mind. We are convinced he once belonged to this house, to these other Franks, before she found him on our street, dirty and injured, just a year ago.

My friend, Michaella, and I are standing in an alley, where Penn Street
meets Sassafras Street, “That’s the house of Franks!” she hisses excitedly to me.

We count, one, two, three Franks, each in a different window, ghostlike faces
interchangeable. Michaella and I stand close together, unwilling to pull
ourselves away, from the question at hand. Asking in hushed voices,
“How many Franks do you think they have in there?”

It’s the end of March, barely springtime, we’ve been coming here for months, for nearly a year. The dogs know the way, tugging at their leashes, around corners, along alleyways, that deliver us, each time, to this squat house, this litter strewn courtyard, where we pause, to count the Franks. A ritual, of sorts, the two of us, standing close together,
in this skinny alley, counting cats, pointing to windows.

My friend, Michaella, and I are standing in an alley, where winter meets spring, thick scarves wound about our necks, feet still stuck in winter boots, with the sun in our eyes,
“They have at least five Franks,” she tells me matter-of-factly, “I’ve seen them.”

I move closer to her, wanting to re-direct her attention to the bushes just in front of us, the dogs are aware of what I have just noticed, a pure white cat, standing a foot or so away, very still, hoping to go unnoticed. “Mike,” I say out loud, though barely, my arm raised, one finger pointing to the ground before me”Look!”

The cat moves, so suddenly, as her gaze shifts into reality, he inches to the left, and back, to the right, and back again, the dogs, strain at their leashes, each pulling in a different direction, as if to corner him, and capture this prize together. We struggle against them, attempt to haul them in, next to us, while talking to the poor cat, that seems hell bent on not making our acquaintance, and especially confused that between our cooing and purring, we keep calling him Frank.

My friend, Michaella, and I, are standing on the corner, the street is empty, and full of wind, “A Frank!” she murmurs and I feel her freeze next to me.

I have always been drawn to secrets, rituals formed out of the ordinary, between two people, a simple conversation, with a vocabulary that means nothing out of context, outside of a story, that cannot be explained, not entirely. How does one make sense of a bond, based on something so fleeting as counting cats in a set of windows, in an overlooked alley, that few have ever noticed?

How does one explain a house of Franks?  Or what it is that keeps bringing us back here, to this dingy house, on this desolate corner?

My friend, Michaella, and I are standing in an alley, in the middle of the street, scanning the bushes for a white cat, that was standing there just a moment ago, she sighs and says,” let’s go open a bottle of wine.”

And we make our way, reluctantly, away from the house of Franks, along the alley, toward her house, the dogs pull ahead of us, leases stretched, anxious for their after walk treats and the warmth of her sofa, we discuss, bringing a cat carrier on our future walks, and decide a carpet bag, would be a less conspicuous place to stash our furry treasures, if we get so lucky again, as to smuggle someone home with us, as we have done in the past.

Micahella looks over at me, as we cross Verbeke street, and says, ” the dogs make for great companions, but cats…”

“…cats are easier to steal.” I answer her. She smiles, and we laugh, the March winds, dancing around us, as we make our way down the empty alley way.





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I heard the news today, oh boy…

And you told me everything is going to be just fine, to give a MAN a chance,
without jumping to judgment, so very early in the game, but
this game started generations ago, and has been brewing ever since,
brewing in our ranks, rumbling and chugging a path, around this game board,
time and time again, yet somehow we never passed Go!
and never collected our gender equality,
much less $200.

And if you asked me how I feel today, I would answer this: smug.

Smug because, I am frighteningly aware for the first time, just how far
you have come, have fallen, have given up what you claim to be your
moral compass. Yes, my republican, conservative, christian comrades,
you have relinquished so much more than you are capable of realizing,
this dreary, wet winter morning. You have celebrated and defended
that which I have listened to you speak against for my entire 43 years on this earth.
Your smugness, is now mine to wield, mine to toss back in your face,
at every turn, and every argument you make. You have made yourselves clear,
you are NOT the party of family values. And I thank you, for that admission.
I thank you, for giving up on your visions of moral superiority.
We will ALL be better for it…

You see, I have listened to you all of these years,
listened closely, with my ear to your religious ground,
I grew up in your ranks,  went to your churches,
studied your beliefs, and read your bible. I sat at the knee
of your rigid viewpoint and tried to understand. I gave you
the benefit of every doubt, that while I could disagree
with you, I could not disagree with your convictions, your
faith, your commitment to your religious code. These strong values,
you held so high above the head of anyone that you perceived
as falling from that grace, that you held so dear.

And now, here we are, January 2017, and it is YOU that have fallen
from that pedestal you so happily built, from that grace
you so ruthlessly defended, from that upper tier of morality.

You following me?
Please, I beg of you, for the love of your god, just admit it.

Admit it, own it, take pride in it. We are all get it wrong, at some point
in life, and it doesn’t make us bad people, it just makes us, well, wrong.
And there is no shame in that, there is no shame in being wrong,
as long as you admit.
Otherwise, you are a hypocrite.
Stop! before you freak out and your blood pressure goes up,
before you start screaming sound bites and campaign slogans.
My intention is not to shame you, or belittle you, we are, each of us
guilty of this at one time or another. Today, is just your day.

Here, is the standard definition of the word hypocrite, as listed
in the Oxford dictionary:

hypocrite (noun)
1. a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

2. a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

I have heard a lot of talk, straight from your mouths, about the decline
of family values and morals, in this fair country of ours, I have heard it
at a near constant buzz, throughout my lifetime, sometimes it buzzes louder,
than other times, granted, but it has always been there. Buzz, buzz, buzzing away.

For the past year, I have heard you lament about transgender folks, and the danger
you feel they pose to your children and yourself, by sharing a public bathroom.

I have heard you lament on the loss of innocence your children will endure,
from seeing two homosexual people hold hands or kiss in public.

I have heard you lament about a lack of decency in our society, most often
linked to the lack of modesty you feel women have shown in their attire.

Yet, you just proudly, and I might say rather loudly, elevated a man into
the highest position our country offers, that once made the following statement
in regards to women:

“Grab ’em by the pussy.”

I will repeat it for you.
“Grab ’em by the pussy.”

And before, you make the utterly ridiculous argument, that I know is brewing
in your head, that this was taken out of context, I ask you this?

What the fuck possible context could this statement be acceptable in?
What conversation could possibly be underway that would rule this acceptable,
in your definition of morals and family values?
What would your Jesus, your God, your Holy Ghost say if confronted
with such a crude statement?

I know you want to defend, feel the need to cite other examples, of other men,
behaving in a way that you find morally unacceptable, it is part of human nature,
this need to fight back, but, I wish you could see, I am not fighting, nor am I attacking,
I am, honestly, at a loss, because I just do not understand. I cannot fathom
any of this, I feel like I am wandering through a hazy fog, that never lifts.

I know, you feel this is too simple, and that I am omitting so much from these past few years, that you feel you based your decisions on so much more than this one statement,
that you saw past it, and persevered regardless, because you felt it was your best option,
I have no wish to argue your choice, nor your right to make a choice, I only question
your silence on this statement, and for some of you, your defense. I stood by, speechless,
as you chose to not address something so morally low, and offensive as:

“Grab ’em by the pussy.”

You, morally superior, christian conservatives, have thrown me for a loop.
It’s like being on a roller coaster that never pulls back into the docking station,
instead, it just goes and goes, spinning upside down and spiraling into itself, making
me giddy and nauseous, at the same time. As much as I admit, that I wanted you to fall
from that moral pedestal, now that the day has finally arrived, all I feel is sick.

This is why: as I grew up in your ranks, I took a few things from your teachings,
through my years in your christian based schools, from my countless sunday mornings
sitting in your pews, to my teenage years that marked my heaviest church involvement,
with your  youth groups and work retreats, I had thought that I had gleaned, at the very least, a few basic, yet important principles. A certain goodness, a sense of the right
and, yes, the wrong way in which to carry myself through this world.

Honestly, I always felt a little intimidated by you. You seemed so steadfast
in your convictions, in your sense of decency, your sense of propriety.

It seemed my beliefs, my code of conduct, was always just a bit shy of the
rapture that was your belief. You seemed so content. So calm and collected.
So utterly certain, of everything you preached. So morally sound.

So, I thank you, my christian friends, for finally revealing your faults, your hypocrisy,
your lack of conviction, because it sure makes it a lot easier to exist alongside of you.

Not to mention, a hell of a lot easier to accept you, and someday, perhaps,
even like you.
So, go ahead, celebrate today. I am celebrating as well, I am celebrating
the final nail in the coffin of the idea that you, and you alone are the gatekeepers
of all that is morally right in this world, that you are somehow the protectors
of these elusive family values that you feel are so in need of preservation
in our modern day society.

I, eagerly, look forward to future discussions, on how to handle the issues
that our great country faces, without having to navigate the trappings
of your religious beliefs. Because, as of today, those trappings,
have no relevance. They are inconsequential, and you have only yourselves,
to blame. And we are better this way.

We are equal in our amorality.

And I will make you a deal. I will promise to get past my smugness at your fall
from moral grace, if you agree to admit to your lack of moral conviction.

Admit it, own it,
and change your dogma.

We will all be better, for it…

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