Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hats Off To Larry

Hats off to Larry,
He broke your heart,
Just like you broke mine when you
Said we must part.
He told you lies, now it's
Your turn to CRY CRY CRY-Y
Now that Larry said goodbye to you.
(Music and Lyrics by Del Shannon)

The ocean
Deep water
I am in
Way over
My head
I am floating
On a huge
Truck tire
Inner tube
Up and down
In a total
I do not
Know how to
I am six years old
And Larry
Has pulled me out
To the middle
Of nowhere
He is grinning
From ear to ear
Larry thinks
He is my father
He thinks
I am his son
We play our parts
We play our roles
Like actors
Like fakers
Like clowns
In the circus
Larry is trying
To make me
In his own image
He wants me
To be a man
He wants to
Toughen me up
So that I won’t be
A cry baby
A sissy boy
A mama’s boy
All the things
That I really was
So I was crying
Like a cry baby
Like a sissy boy
Like a mama’s boy
And Larry was
Laughing at me
Taunting me
Making fun of me
Mimicking me
“What’s a matta
Little sissy boy?
You afraid of
The water?
Is that it
Little cry baby?
Sissy boy
Is afraid of
The water?”
I’m screaming
At the top
Of my lungs
I’m yelling
For my mother
Who is no where
As usual
Who even knows
Where she is?
I sure never knew
Mom came and went
Like the wind
She was a ghost
A shadow
Even when
She was home
I was never
Really sure
If she was there
Sitting by herself
Lost in her
Own thoughts
Pining for
The good
Old days
When my
Father was still alive
And she did not
Have all of
The responsibilities
All of the cares
And no resources
With which
To combat
The vicissitudes
Of life
That hounded
Her ever foot step
But those days
Were long gone
My father was dead
And he was not coming back
He could not help
Or me
Or anyone
He was dead
And the dead
Stay dead
And they
Do not
Come back
To help
The people
That they
Have left
The many
Fairy tales
That people
Like to tell
To comfort
And to shield
From so many
Bitter truths
But who can
Blame them?

It is tough enough
To have to live
Through the whole
Of one's life
Without a
To cry on
So there I was
For my mother
To come and
Save me

But I knew that
She would not come
I knew that she
Wasn’t there
She was never there!
Whenever I really needed
Her help
She was never there!

But I didn’t blame
Her for that
What I blamed her for
What I really did
Blame her for
Was for everything else!
I blamed her
For everything
That had ever
Gone wrong
In our lives
I blamed her for
Every Goddamned thing!

It was no wonder
That we had begun
To resent each other
It was no wonder
That she so often
Left me
To fend for myself
Unless I was with
My sister
Or with Larry
As I was today
Being dragged out
To the middle
Of the ocean
Clinging for
Dear life
To an inflated
Truck tire
Inner tube
Wondering if
I was going
To drown
Wondering if
I would ever
Make it back
To shore
Wondering if
Would even
If I was gone
Or if I was
Or if I was
Or if I was
Still alive

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Down In North Miami Beach

Hangin' in the Treme
Watchin' people sashay
Past my steps
By my porch
In front of my door

Church bells are ringin'
Choirs are singing
While the preachers groan
And the sisters moan
In a blessed tone

Down in the treme
Just me and my baby
We're all going crazy
While jamming and having fun
(Words and music by John Boutte)

Me and my family
Living like
In a North Miami Beach
Roach motel
Euphemistically named
Lindenwood Gardens

I am five years old
And did not
Know shit
From shinola
(And still don’t
If you really
Want to know
But I digress)

We actually
Did have
A real house
To live in
Once upon
A time
To the best
Of my recollection
In Brooklyn
In Seagate
For a little while
At least
Life was

I do sort of
One beautiful
Fall day
In particular
It was Halloween
And all the kids
Were dressed up
In costumes
Banging on doors
Trick or treat!
Trick or treat!

I was dressed
As a pirate
In a costume
That was all
Aluminum foil
And cardboard
And the obligatory
Eye patch
I must have
Cut quite a
Dashing figure
And then
You could say
Jackie Robinson
It was all over

For reasons
I never was
Able to fathom
For reasons
That were never
Fully explained
My whole family
My whole universe
Uprooted themselves
And moved
Stock and
All the way
Down south
To Florida
To North Miami Beach
In 1952

At the time
My so-called family
My whole universe
Consisted of
My older sister Yetta
My other older sister Flora
Her husband Larry
And their
Two daughters
Who were
My two nieces
One younger
One older

And we all soon
Found ourselves
Living like gypsies
In a roach motel
In North Miami Beach

By the time
I turned six
I could not
Any other life
And if I did
It just seemed
To be
Like a

Philadelphia, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Water Water Everywhere

I often get
Especially angry
Whenever I read or hear
That the fresh water
Drinking supply
Of mother earth
Is being threatened
By pollution or
Some terrorist attack
Or by whatever new
Threat our
So called civilization
May conjure up
Without fresh water
To drink
We are all dead
Water is the universal
Solvent of life
Our own bodies
Are ninety percent

Did you know that
Nearly 1 billion people
Do not have
Safe water to drink?
Did you know that
A child dies
Every 15 seconds
From a lack
Of clean water
To drink?

1 in 4 children
Who die before age 5
Die of water
Related disease
Children in Africa
Must often walk
Miles every day
To collect
Dirty water
To drink
This can and must

Please take
The time to discover
The Water Project
Sponsored by Bill Gates
Together we can
And must
Make a difference

Think about this
The next time
You pour yourself
A nice cool
Cold glass
Of pure
To drink

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wedding And Funeral Families

Some families
Go gaga
For weddings
Other families
Only get
The death
Of a
Family member

On the whole
The older
I get
I seem to prefer
The funerals more

In my family
Are cheerful
We say good bye
To whoever
Just died
Beloved or not
Then we
All go home
And have
Sponge cake
And wine
To celebrate
The passing
Of the
Then perhaps
We all go
Out to dinner
For a really
Good meal
Paid for
As likely
As not
With the deceased
Own money
As the surviving heirs
The inheritance money
That they really
Didn’t expect
To get

On the other hand
Are far more
Depressing affairs
The statistics
Are against
The couples
Right out of the gate
With 50% of marriages
Ending in divorce
Within the first
Ten years of marriage
Of course
No one
Wants to bring
Up this bit
Of information
Happy couple
Tries to get
The wedding
As fast
As possible
So that they
Can go on a
And finally
Be able to
Get away from all
The hoopla
And finally
Be able
To get on
With their every day
And who can
Blame them
After all it is
Hard enough
Trying to get
Through this
Life of toil
And trouble
As a single person
So from an economic
Perhaps two
Really can live as
Cheaply as one
But I rather
Doubt it

As a single
Divorced man
I feel
Married couples
I never know
Quite what
To say
So I tend
To avoid them
As much as is

After all
Time is precious
And single people
Are so much
More fun

All in all
I’d say
That the
Future of
Is very
Bright indeed

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Every Wedding

Every wedding
Is an invitation
To a funeral
Every funeral
Is an invitation
To a wedding
Every birth
Is an invitation
To death
Every death
Is an invitation
To new life


Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It’s A Matter Of Belief

I believe in the laws
Of karma
And in the doctrine of
Endless cycles
Of death and
Is this a Jewish idea?
Not necessarily so
Although the Torah
Does talk about
The resurrection of
The dead
When comes the
I believe less
In the coming
(Or second coming
If you prefer)
Of the messiah
Than I do
In the coming
(God willing)
Of a
Messianic era
Justice shall flow
Like a mighty stream
And all humans
Will live in harmony
As brothers and sisters
And when
The lion will lie down
With the lamb
And when we
Shall all beat
Our swords
Into plowshares
And neither
Shall we
Learn war
Any more

Will I live
To see the dawning
Of such an era
In my own

Perhaps not
I am not
Holding my
Do I believe
That the world
As it presently
Needs a savior?
I would
In the affirmative
Long lays the world
In sin and error
And men
Have forgotten
That the soul
Has its worth

Brothers and Sisters
Let’s face it
The world
All of the help
That it can get

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Those Were The Good Old Days

It used to be so easy
Living here with you
You were bright and breezy
And I knew
Just what to do
Now you look
So unhappy
And I feel
Like a fool
(lyrics by Carole King)

Yeah, I know
You can’t go
Home again
But that
Doesn’t mean
That I wouldn’t
Like to
If I only could

I would like
To go back
To the time
When you
Told me
That you loved me
Remember that?

I would like
To go back
To the time
When we both
Lived and loved
In our house
Not your house
Not my house
But our house
Remember that?

I would like
To go back
To the time
When you said
That you
Wanted to have
A baby
And I said
I was still
In love with you
And I wanted
Us all to be okay
And happy
Remember that?

I would like
To go back
To the time
When our
Little girl
Would rush
Into my arms
To say hello
When I returned
Home from
Having just
Flown home
From Albany
In the State helicopter
And having driven
The Long Island Expressway
Like a madman
Just so I could
Get home
In time for dinner
Remember that?

But when
It came down
To choosing
A loving family
Or going
You chose
As you do
To this very day

Me and our baby
Weren’t even
A close second
And come to think
Of it
We never
Even had a chance
Did we?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Elvis Is Dead, Long Live The King

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

And when the blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doing alright with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue Christmas

You’ll be doing alright with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue Christmas
(Lyrics by Brooks and Dunn)

Elvis has been dead now
For some 34 years
Yet his name
And his legend
Have never
Been greater

The death of Elvis
Is one of those
Seismic events
That makes everyone
Always remember
Where they were
When they first
Heard the news

I was at my office
In Albany, NY
When the news
Came over the radio
That Elvis had been
Found dead
Having fallen off of
His Vegas hotel
At age 42

Despite his addiction
To prescription drugs
Elvis had squeezed
More productive and
Fruitful years
Into his short life
Than any ordinary man
Should have been entitled to

You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Said my lady boss
When I informed her
Of the news
My face must have
Registered my surprise
At her lack of remorse
Well you see
She said
I was never a really big fan

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Slums Of East Hampton

You can take
The kid out of
The slums
But you can’t
Get the slum
Out of the kid
At least
That has been
My personal
In life

Growing up
In poverty
Leaves deep
And sometimes
Physical scars
That are more
Than merely
Skin deep

After my mother died
I was sent to live
With my brother’s family
In East Hampton New York
Coming as I did
From living in
One of the worst slum
Housing projects
In Coney Island

They didn’t call it
The Gravesend Housing Project
For nothing

The living conditions there
Were sub par on every level
Especially for government
Subsidized housing
My mom and I
Lived above
A rec center
On the third floor
With a view
Of the park
About three
Blocks away

The neighborhood
Was drug infested
Rat infested
Crime infested
And the streets
Were ruled by
Gang members
And thugs
Of every
Stripe and
All out to
Hustle a buck
And always
On the look out
For easy prey
For kids like me
Too scared to breathe
Afraid to make a
Wrong turn
Down the wrong
Street or alley way
Lest you be
Set upon
As if by a pack
Of hungry wolves
Looking to steal
Whatever clothes
You might happen
To have on your back
And any loose change
That you might happen
To have in your pockets
Or your shoes
Or from where ever
You hid your money

As I got older
I got smarter
And I always
Carried an extra
Wallet that contained
Nothing but junk
My Mugger’s wallet
I called it
Filled with phony
Monopoly money bills
And other junk
That I could toss at
My tormentors
While I turned
And ran away
As fast as
My legs could
Carry me

I could make it
From the surf avenue
Bus stop
To my apartment
In world class
Olympic gold medal
Winning time
If only they had
Such an event
Listed in the
Official Olympic
Schedule of recognized
My motto was
“You have to catch
Me first!”
I actually did win
A silver medal
For track from
Mark Twain
Junior High School
But that’s a tale
For another time
Suffice to say
That at the age
Of thirteen or fourteen
I was one of the fastest
Kids on my block

Then my mom died
Quite suddenly
But not
Given her catalog
Of health problems
When I was seventeen
And I was sent
To live in
East Hampton, NY
On the fashionable
East end of Long Island

The place was almost
To beautiful for mere words
To describe
I thought that I was the one
Who had died
And gone to heaven

My brother was
A successful CPA
With three of his own
Hatchlings to raise
I became the fourth

To say that I was
In culture shock
Hardly describes
The situation
Whereas I was accustomed
To being surrounded
By a sea of poor people
Here I was surrounded by
The very rich and
The very wealthy
The very snooty
And the very snobby
And I really did not
Fit in

Young as I was
I always knew
That these
East End
East Hampton denizens
Were not
My kind of people

Oh I put on a good show
I knew I had to maintain
A good front
(Smile, damn you, Smile!)
In order to please
My new guardians
If for no other reason
But no matter
How hard I tried
I always
Like a duck
Out of season

When my brother
He sold
The East End house
And moved
The clan to Florida
Where he and his wife
Could play golf
The live long day

After college
I returned
To my roots
Back in Brooklyn
In the hopes
That I could
Pick up
The loose strands
Of my interrupted
Life narrative
In the hopes
That I could
Begin again
And have a fresh start
Amid the familiar
And back lots
Of my vanished
Childhood life

Despite my fancy
The only entry level
Job that I was able
To find
Was as
As a retail
Seller of books
Working for
Minimum wage

And now
These many years
The East End
Still remains
Way beyond
My financial reach

And while being poor
Is not a crime
I do
Have to admit
I really do miss
The good times
Swimming at
E.H. Main beach

Philadelphia, Pa 2011


Ruth, Maris, Mantle and Me

When you are
In the batter’s box
And taking
Your turn
At bat
And you are
Going for
The record
And swinging
For the fences
It doesn’t matter
If you strike out
Once or twice

What matters
Is connecting
Bat to ball
And sending
That beautifully
Stitched object
Over the fences
And into
The stands

Not even
The roar
Of the crowd
Can be heard
As you listen
To your heart
In your ears
As you are
The bases
And heading
For home
While waving
Your hat
To acknowledge
The fans
Who really
And who
Have been
Rooting you on
Through thick
And thin
Good times
And bad

Through the times
When you were
In a slump
And you
Could not
Find the strike zone
Even with the
Assistance of a
Seeing Eye dog

When I was
In a slump
In a funk
And couldn’t
Find my way out
I could hear the
Boos and taunts
I could feel
The tossed
Brick a brats
That came
Sailing out of
The stands

Throw the bum out!
Came the catcalls
Feed him to the dogs!
Leave him on the road
As road kill!
And trade him for
Because Anyone
Would be better than

Nothing is more
Than the roar
And approval
Of the crowd

If you can count
Among your
Many admirers
And acquaintances
One true friend
Then consider
The most blessed
Of all men

The imposters
Hangers on
In every shape
And every size
And they
Are always
To greet you
So long as you have
A paycheck
To cash

But as the old
Ditty used to say
And out

So please
Don’t worry
Or fret
My so-called
Buddies and
My so-called
I wasn’t going
To ask you
If you could

At least
Not just yet

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Stormin Norman

Stormin Norman
Is a crazy
Him six foot high
And him mighty

Him have a mental
Diagnosis mon
But him not
Tell you
What it

Him a mon
Of many
Him a
Kind of a
Walkin quiz

Him a mon
Of many secrets
Him a kind
Of walkin a
Stormin Norman

Him always
Guessin mon
As to what
Him all about
He a fallen
Just a

So don’t
Be wastin’
Your time
Trying to
Figure him
All out

So don’t
Be wastin’
All your time
Trying to
Figure him

You’ll just
End up
All confused
And wearin
A pout

You’ll just
End up
All confused
And wearin
A pout
Stormin Norman

Him like
To string
You along
With stories
Of him sin

But best
Not to criticize
Or you
Be gettin’
Him skin

And then
Him be gone
In a sec
You to win

And then
Him be gone
In a sec
Cause him
Just don’t
You to win
Stormin Norman

Him say
Talkin to you
Is just like

Him say
Him can
Take you
Or leave

Not give
A damn

Yeah mon
You heard
Me right
Him say
All dis
Lightin up
A light

Yeah mon
You heard
Me right
Him say
All dis
Lightin up
A light
Stormin Norman

Him say
Talkin to you
Is just like
Pissin in the night
Him say
Talkin to you
Is just like
Pissin in the night

You may not
What he be
Sayin mon
Him proclaim it
As him’s right
Yes mon

You may not
What he be
Sayin mon
Him proclaim it
As him’s right
And now
Him be
Taken flight
And now
Him be
Stormin Norman

Philadelphia, Pa 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga


Lady Sonia
on the other hand
is hot, hot, hot

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

Six degrees of separation
Refers to the idea
That everyone
Living on earth
Is on average
Only six steps
(Degrees) away
In some strange
And mystical way
From every other
Person on earth
So that
A chain of
A friend of a friend
Statements can be made
That will ultimately
Be able to connect
In some strange and
Mystical way
Any two people on earth
In six or fewer steps
This idea was first
Proposed by
Hungarian writer
Frigyes Karinthy
And popularized in
A play
Written by John Guare
That was later
Made into a movie
Will Smith

Assuming that
The hypothesis is true
Is such a global
A good thing
Or a bad thing?

I suppose
It all depends
On individual
I find the idea
To be oddly

For example
I once had
The privilege
Of meeting
President Barack Obama
At a campaign rally
Across the street
From my Philadelphia office
When he was first running
As an up and coming
Candidate for the US Senate
I am proud to say
That I was able
To shake his hand
Though I am sure
He would have
No real recollection
Of the event
That single direct contact
Is the equivalent of
One degree of separation

And because I shook
Mr. Obama’s hand
Now that he has
Been elected as
President of the
United States of America
That makes me only
Two degrees of separation
From everyone that
President Obama
Ever meets and shakes hands with
During his term as President
And on an on
And so forth
And so forth
Until the last syllable
Of recorded time

Call me a romantic
If you want to
As I’ve stated before
I personally
Find the idea
Of such total
Of the entire
Human race
To be
In ways
That I find
Hard to explain

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Shoemaker’s Wife

When I was about
Eight years old
Me and my mom
Lived above
A shoe repair shop
That never seemed
To do any business
In fact
I often wondered
If the joint
Was still open
Or not
I had never been
Inside the place
And I had never
Tried to get any
Of my shoes
Fixed there
I used to fix
My shoes myself
By putting pieces
Of cardboard
In the soles
To cover up
The holes
It worked
Pretty well
Unless it rained
And I had
To step into puddles
On my way
Home from school
We had no TV
Or even a radio
For that matter
So I had a lot
Of free time
On my hands
With literally
Nothing to do
Or anyone to do
Nothing with
So I did a lot
Of wool gathering
And day dreaming
I would invent
My own games
Make my own toys
From cereal boxes
And milk cartons
And such
And I would
Wile away a lot
Of my idle time
By leaning out
Of our living room
Where I could catch
A glimpse
Of the passing
Street life
Such as it was
In the dreary
Down at the heels
Section of South Brooklyn
That mom and I
Pretended to be home
Truth be told
I was ashamed
Of where we lived
And I would
Under any circumstances
Dare to invite
One of my school chums
Over to see where
I lived
I would have died
From the embarrassment
Of it all
Not that any of
My so-called school chums
Lived much better
Since we all lived
In more or less
The same neighborhood
This was before they invented
Zip codes
(I just knew that anywhere else
Had to be an improvement)
So I would lean
Out the window
And watch and listen
To the sights and sounds
Of the street
As the passerby
Passed us by
Going food shopping
Doing errands
And sometimes
Even fornicating
In the back alleys
In plain sight
During the day
And during the night
I wasn’t supposed
To pay attention
To such things
Good little Jewish boy
That I was supposed to be
But I did
I listened
And I saw
And I suppose
It was all
A form of education
Of a sort

And on different
I would hear
The shoemaker
Fighting with his wife
The shoemaker
Was an older Italian man
With the greyest skin
And stubble on his face
He spoke in mixed
English and Italian
Mostly he just drank
And cursed
And fought with
His wife
Whom he kept
Locked up
In his shoe shop
Or so it seemed
To me
I hardly ever saw her
Outside the shoe shop
Or anywhere else
For that matter
And when I did get
To have a good look
At her
I was surprised to see
That she was a colored lady
(We whites would say colored
In the those day when we
Spoke about black people.
Of course today
We would say
African American
Unless the nomenclature
Is changed all over again)
But once again
I digress

The one time that
I did get to see
A good look at
The shoemaker’s wife
She was screaming
After her husband
Had beaten her severely
And tossed her out
Into the street
I felt so sorry for her
But I could not find
Any words to say
She was so thin and frail
And she held her right arm
As if it were broken
And I could see
That it hurt her a lot
And that she was
Crying and in a great
Deal of pain
The police arrived
And the gathered crowd
Began to tell
The cops the story
The shoe maker
Said that he was sorry
That it was a hot day
And that he had
Too much to drink
He said that he
Didn’t mean to hurt
His wife
And that she could
Come back
Into the shoe shop
And they would make up
And be together again
And that things
Would all go back
To being normal

The cops just shook their heads
And said it was a damned shame
To see a man
Mistreating a woman
So badly
And the crowd
All nodded in agreement
Then the cops
Told the crowd
To break it up
That there
Was nothing to see
They told the crowd
To go home
And that’s what they did
The cops said
It was a domestic argument
Just a disagreement between
The shoe maker and his wife
And that what had happened
Between them
Was nobody else’s business
Then an ambulance came
And the medics took
The shoe maker’s wife
To the hospital
But I could see
That she was
Still crying
And feeling
A lot of pain
But the shoe maker
Didn’t go to the hospital
With her
He just stayed behind
And opened another
Bottle of beer
Then suddenly
The shoe maker
Looked up
And saw me watching him
From the window
“And what are youa
Looking at?” he asked
Spitting his words
In my direction
“Whya don’t youa
Justa fucka off
And minda
Youa owna business?”
I ducked back
In the living room
Flushed with embarrassment
And fear
That I had been caught
Like a fly
In a spider web
But then
I found some courage
And some inspiration
And a suitable retort
Sprang to my lips
Just in time
To save my reputation
And my sense
Of dignity
I leaned back out
Of the window
And I shouted
At the shoe maker below
Yelling at him
As loudly
As I could
“Oh yeah?
Well the same to you mister!
The same to you!”
And I shot
A wad of spit
At him
Just for good measure

I was sorry to see
That my spit missile
Had missed him
(I had a reputation
for being a good shot)
But even though
I had missed
I could still see
That he had gotten
The point
And I kept on watching
As the old man
Spat on the sidewalk
And then slowly
Slinked away
Back into his
Shoe shop

I was still shaking
From the whole
When I flopped down
On the floor
To catch
My breath

On the whole
I was amazed
At myself
That I had found
The nerve
To talk back
To the shoe maker
For beating his wife
And I was real
Surprised at
Just how loud
My eight years old
Voice could be

Philadelphia, Pa 2011

The Dapper and Portly Mr. Shimmel

The dapper and portly
Mr. Shimmel
Suddenly came
Into my life
When I was
About age 9
Me and my
Widowed mom
Were living
(If you could
Call it that)
In an old
Cold water
Tenement flat
On the wrong side
Of the tracks
At Neptune Avenue
And Ocean Parkway
(Not that there was
Ever a right side
Of the tracks
If fact there were
No tracks at all)
Just a rat infested
Slum neighborhood
That didn’t even
Have a name
Except for maybe
Slums Ville
Or skid row
We lived in
A run down
Roach and
Vermin infested
Apartment building
In a slum lord
Ruled neighborhood
That was as blighted
A place as ever existed
In urban New York
(In fact the whole
Area was scheduled
For demolition
It was called
Urban renewal
In those days
Urban renewal was
Short hand for
Poor people removal)

Even though
I was only age 9
I knew enough
To feel ashamed
Of the place
Mom and I
Called home
Mom and I were
Dirt poor
And mom always
Needed to find
Joints to live
Where the rent
Was the cheapest
So I grew up
In several of
Most marginal
Yeah you could say
That we moved around
A lot
Chased by landlords
Looking for
The last month’s rent
In fact
I went to ten
Count ‘em ten
Different schools
Before I graduated
From Mark Twain
Junior High
But I digress
As I often do

The dapper and portly
Mr. Shimmel
Showed up
At our front door
One fine day
To take my mom
To dinner
Not me and mom
Just mom
And I was supposed
To just stay home
And keep myself amused
Which I did by
Setting things on fire
Nothing fancy
Just whatever
Happened to be handy
Like Brillo soap pads
Or cockroaches
Or newspapers
I used to use
My mom’s
Hair spray aerosol
As a blow torch
Yes you could say
I had some issues
Around fire and safety
But luckily
I never
Set the joint
On fire
Or myself
For that matter
Suffice to say that
I was left home alone
A lot
As mom began
To gallivant
Around town
With her new beau
The dapper and portly
Mr. Shimmel
Did I resent
Mom leaving me alone
So that she could
Gallivant around town
(That word again)
With the dapper
And portly
Mr. Shimmel?
You bet I did!
Did I resent
The dapper and portly
Mr. Shimmel?
You bet I did!
I even had visions
Of setting him
On fire
With my mom’s
Hair net aerosol spray
But I never
Actually got around
To doing it
Fortunately for me
And fortunately
For the dapper
And portly
Man about town
Mr. Shimmel

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Kookaburra Sits

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
Fun you life must be
(Australian folk song)

I was five years old
When I was first
Taught this Australian
Folk song
In kindergarten
At the time
I had no idea
What it meant
Either the teacher
Failed to explain
That the music and lyrics
Were Australian
Or I was distracted
And never heard
The song’s introduction
I couldn’t make
Heads or tails
Of the music
Or the lyrics
Who you callin a kook?
King of the bush?
What bush?
What kind of bush?
Who knew that
Bushes even had kings?
Old gum tree?
I didn’t know that
Gum grows on trees.
What kind of trees?
Where are they?
What kind of gum?
Wrigley’s Spearmint?
Bazooka bubble gum?
I was totally in
Over my head
And thoroughly confused
Was this the
Real main purpose
Of the school
To befuddle and confuse us
Until we were thoroughly
And ready to be made
Into compliant and
Easily manipulated
Members of society?
Back then
It didn’t take
A whole lot
To get me more
Than I already was

I was very easily distracted
In those early school days
School daze is more like it
I was not very oriented
As to time and space
My mother
Would take me to the bus stop
And the school bus
Would take me to
The school
P.S. 188 in Brooklyn’s
Coney Island section
All the kids
Would line up
And the stair monitors
Would lead the whole
Up the stairs
As children
Filed off
When they reached
The right floor for them
Not knowing what floor
Was mine
I simply followed
The stair monitor
All the way
To the uppermost stair
Invariably the stair monitor
Would look down at me
With a combination of
Disdain, contempt and disgust
Because now I was his
And I always
Made him late for class
“Kid, when are you ever going
To learn?”
Then he would have to
Take me back
All the way downstairs
To the main office
Where the bored
And impatient clerks
Again with varying degrees
Of disdain, contempt and disgust
Would look up my records
Find my home room
And my home room teacher’s name
And then I would have to be
Physically escorted
Once again by the hapless
Stair monitor
Back to my proper classroom
“Excuse me again Mrs. Quakenbush
But I believe this one
Belongs to you”
He would say
Finally turning me loose
To the laughter and giggles
Of my classmates
Who were just a bunch
Of unknown faces to me
And the next morning
The whole process
Would be repeated
All over again
And then my family
Moved again
And I was enrolled
In a different school
Only to repeat
The whole misadventure
Of finding my assigned classroom
All over again
I think the fog
Finally lifted
When I was old enough
For the second or third grade
Some would say
I have been wandering about
In a disoriented fog
Ever since
And they are not
Far from the truth
I think I was a
Freshman in college
By the time
I figured out
What the Kookaburra lyrics
Actually meant
And to what they referred
And then I asked myself
All over again
Why would they even bother?
And forget about
Figuring out the meaning
To the lyrics of
“Blue Bird Blue Bird
Through My Window”
Even though I was
Only five
I had never seen
A blue bird
Let alone
One that wanted
To fly through
My window

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stop Killing All The Elephants

The Maasai of Kenya
Are on a rampage
To kill all of
The elephants
In Kenya
The Maasai
Are warrior
Who raise cattle
The cattle compete
With the elephants
For food
For grazing land
So the Maasai
Have begun
A campaign of
Killing all of the
The indiscriminate
Mass killing of
Has maddened
Many of them
And they become
Rogue killers
Of cattle and men
The killing of the elder
Especially of the males
Has left young
Male juvenile
To fend for themselves
Without the guidance
And example
Of the older males
These young males
Are leaderless
And they
Act out
Their aggression
By going rogue
And killing
The Massai cattle
And destroying the
Massai crops
The Maasai then
Take revenge
And kill more
This vicious cycle
Must come to an end
The whole world must
Join forces to stop
The Maasai
From killing all of the
The elephants
Have every right to live
Just as much as the Maasai
I have always thought of the
As noble warriors
Who were as smart
As they were brave
But this killing spree
Shows neither
Bravery nor
When will we
Ever learn?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Pow Wow Time

Every year
Around Labor Day
Native American Tribes
From all across America
Gather to Pow Wow
And to dance in the
Sacred Circle
At the Shinnecock
Indian Reservation
At Southampton, NY
I try to join them
Every year
This Pow Wow
Is one of the oldest
And largest Native American
Gatherings in the USA
Also for sale
Are handicrafts
You name it
I hear the drumming
And watch
The colorful dancers
And hear the chanters
And singers performing
I am transported back
Back to another
Time when
Native American Tribes
Were free to live
According to the ways
Of their ancestors
And the singing
And the chanting
And the dancing
Can go on for hours
And for days
And all of it
Is sublime
If only we could
All learn to live
As the Native Americans
Once lived
Free to hunt and fish
To live in teepees
To dance around
Our campfires
And to invoke
The spirits of
The ancient ones
Who know how
To live in harmony
With nature
To be one with
The whole
Natural world
To be like those
Who knew how
To bless the rivers
And the streams
And how to be one
With all of the Animals
In the forests
In the mountains
And in the plains

(Wishes of happiness and prosperity)


Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Stonewall Uprising 42nd Anniversary

I am not gay
But I was happy
To hear
That gay men and women
Had risen up
At the Stonewall
42 years ago
The killer cops
And mafia bosses
Who controlled
Their lives
And who
Had made
Their lives
Into a living hell
Just like
The Nazis
Used to do
To Jews
And homosexuals
And gypsies
And undesirables
Of all sorts
Who did not
Fit into
“Normal” society
As defined
By psychotic
Social deviants
As defenders
Of moral decency
Back then
I was too young
And too green
And too unseasoned
To be able
To fully comprehend
The notion
That homophobia kills
Just as anti-semitism
Leads to
Leads to
Gay bashing
To murder
And to every
Other unspeakable
Act of repression
That a homophobic
Can and does
On those
It considers
To be
Second class
Before the Stonewall uprising
There was no such thing
As coming out of the closet
There was no out
There was only in
Stonewall changed all that
Giving birth to
The gay liberation movement
After Stonewall
There would be
No going back
The world had changed
Gays would not stand
For discrimination
Based on sexual orientation
Ever again
As a straight ally
Of the LGBTQ movement
I cheer them on
I join their ranks
The spirit of
The Stonewall Uprising
Lives on
With every
Gay pride parade
We are a kind
And gentle people
And we are all fighting
Fighting for our lives

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Moon Landing

I watched
The black and white
TV in awe
Along with
Millions of others
As astronaut
Neil Armstrong
A narrow
On the
Eagle Moon Lander
To become
The first
Human being
To set foot
On the moon
As a child
I had often
Dreamed of
Space travel
Of space rockets
Of Buck Rogers
Of space stations
And Flash Gordon
And of the evil
Emperor Ming
I loved to watch
The sput, sput, sputtering
Flying flat iron
Imitation rockets
That passed for
Special effects
In those days
Both Flash
And Buck
Had ray guns
And beautiful women
Dressed in
Skin tight
Evening gowns
Clinging around
Their necks
Who were constantly
In need of saving
Go Flash!
Go Buck!
Go Dale Arden!
Go Professor Zarkov!
Long before Star Wars
We had our new
Mythological heroes
A modern new
For the new
Space age
And the new
Atomic age
Into which
We boomers
Were born
Was it to be
Our destiny
To colonize
The stars?
It ain’t bragging
If you can do it!

And here it was
All coming true
In glorious
Black and white
The world’s first
Moon landing
Despite several
Last minute
Neil Armstrong
And Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin
And Michael Collins
The impossible!
The amazing!
The incredible!
And the whole
World watched
The flickering
Immortal images
In real time

“That’s one small step
For a man
One giant leap for
A perfect line
That Armstrong
Insisted he made up
On the spot
Pretty good poetry
For a rank amateur
And when we watched
Them cavorting on the
Lunar surface
Like two typical
American tourists
Snapping pictures
Planting the American Flag
Picking up moon rocks
For souvenirs
And for samples
That earth’s scientists
Would study
For years to come
“Yep” they said,
“Them’s rocks
All right!”
Well, gollololy gee!
Knock me down
With a feather!
Perhaps the greatest
Was seeing
Our astronauts
Our American astronauts
Return home safely
As if they’d been
On a shopping trip
To Sears and Roebuck
As if it was all
Just routine
No big deal at all
Neil, Buzz, Mike
And all the men
And women
Who have followed
In your footsteps
Thank you!
Thank you!
For making the dreams
Of millions
Of fifties era
Space crazed kids
Come true
For making
The future
Seem like
A place where
The hopes
of billions of people
the world over
For a better
For a better

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

On Reading Books

I can’t just
Read a book
Any more
At least
Not in
The conventional way
And never from
Just beginning to end
I dive into them
As if they were
Olympic sized pools
I ravage them
I read them
Backwards to front
And vice versa
Or I jump in
In the middle
If I fear to swim
In waters
Above my head
I need to
Fondle them
To makes notes
In them
To fold their pages
To physically
Mark my place
To stick my
Book marks
In them
They were
Engraved in leather
Or ripped from
A post it pad

And I can
Hardly read
A so-called
E book
Or digital book
At all
I champion
The new formats
I pad
I phone
I books
As ways
For unknown
To get
The establishment
Publishing houses
The brick and mortar
Have little or no
Interest in
New or
I recognize
That the brick and mortar
Are on their way
To extinction
Like the dinosaurs
Of yore
Only it didn’t take
A gigantic meteor
Or comet
To blow them
All it took
Was a new idea
Whose time
Has apparently
I need
A good old fashioned
Of cover
That I can
Hold in my hands
Fold over my chest
As I doze off
For a nap
I need to be able
To feel the pages
Between my fingers
I need to be able
To know
What a book
Feels like
Smells like
Tastes like
I need to be able
To make copious
Notes in the margins
To underline
Important words
And sublime passages
To be able
To gallop
Though the pages
And chapters
Back and forth
From beginning
To end and
Back again
To me a book
Becomes a companion
A friend
A partner in crime
A confidant
A co-conspirator
A fellow traveler
A new world
A new universe
A new ocean
In which to dive
And swim
To explore
To ravage
And pillage
To rip out pages
In a fit of rage
If I find the writing
Or irritating
Printed books
Are living things
They breathe
And sing
And chant
And postulate
They hold court
And they demand
A fitting place
To be displayed
Along with the rest
Of my collection
Where they line
Every inch of
Book shelf
My endless supply of
Ordinary and fancy
Lined up like
For parade review
Ready to go into
At a moment’s notice
Read me!
Pick me!
Hold me!
Caress me!
Don’t forget me!
Books the size
And weight of
Bricks with which
To build my
Castles in the air

I hardly think
That you can
Do all that
With just
A kindle
Or a

Philadelphia, Pa 2011

The Blank Page

The blank page
Stares back at me
Like a Rorschach
Of my
For a drop
Of ink sweat
To drip
From my
Down my nose
And on to the
Paper below
Black as ink
Like bullet holes
In space
What do you
Make of it?
What do you
I see a bat
I see a tree
I see a breast
A nipple
Broken fingers
A dead bee
A piece of
Lemon pie
A lemon
A lime
A carrot
I see the faces
Of my
Grand children
I see my
Impending death
I see the mourners
At the graveside
I see the black cars
With their
Head lights on
I see a mound
Of fresh dug earth
I see a black
A raven
A crow
I see the entire
As if from
A hot air balloon
I see clouds
I see drifting away
I see amber lights
I see
Lightening bugs
I see
A weeping willow tree
Growing by the pond
Where I used
To ice skate
As a child
I see my daughter’s
Face laughing
I see tears
I see rain drops
I see cherry blossom
Fall leaves
Brown leaves
Red leaves
Yellow leaves
I see an arch angel
Gabriel perhaps
Blowing his golden horn
Perched atop
A very high
Church steeple
And cows
Cows grazing
In the pasture
Shucking off
Clouds of
And bees
With the pendulum
Of their tails
Then another quick
Flash of lightening
And the silhouettes
Of the distant trees

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In My Hour Of Trouble

When I find
In times of trouble
Mother Mary
Comes to me
Singing words
Of wisdom
Let it be
And in my hour
Of darkness
Mother Mary
Comes to me
Singing words
Of Wisdom
Let it be
©The Beatles

Today is trash day
In my neighborhood
And we residents
Are supposed
To put out
All of our trash
Until the next
Pick up day
Next week
And in my time
Of trouble
The trash collectors
Come to me
Taking away
Piles of garbage
Until I am
Once again
Garbage free
Garbage free
And in my
Hours of darkness
The men in white coats
Come for me
Injecting me with
Shots of Thorazine
So let it be
Let it be
And as I wander
Here and there
All the homeless
Come to me
Seeking words
Of wisdom
And looking
For a place
To pee
And looking
For a place
To pee
They come reeking
Of urine
Always wanting
Something from me
So I give them
My loose change
And money
To help them
Buy some tea
So I give them
My loose change
And money
To help them
Buy some tea
I bring
Some bags of
Bread crumbs
For the pigeons
Who are stalking me
Asking me
For bread crumbs
So they can
Continue to be
So they can
Continue to be
And the squirrels
In the park
Keep begging
For food
From me
Since I am
In their home
And their
Needs are
Equal to my own
Maybe if I’m
I’ll grab
Something to eat
Maybe a hotdog
Or a pretzel
Before I have
To retreat
To go back
To work
To the job
To my desk
To sit for
Four or five hours
In total defeat
Staring at the
Computer screen
Until I can
Go home again
Leaving behind
The homeless
The pigeons
Mother Mary
The Beatles
Paul McCartney
My dentist
My bank loans
My post office box
The statue
Of William Penn
Perched high above
City Hall
And I join the
Homeward bound
Rush hour commute
In the staggering heat
Of yet another
Heat wave
And by the time
I make it home
And unlock
My front door
I am exhausted
And dripping
With sweat
And I wonder
The rolling thunder
Of yet another
Summer storm
How much longer
I can keep
This up
How much longer
I can endure

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ain’t No Cure For The Summertime Blues

It’s no wonder
That I have
Bad dreams
At night
Who can sleep
With all this
Ungodly heat
AC humming
And buzzing
Shifting gears
Like a cement truck
Mixing and
Pouring concrete
For some
I got bum legs
And my skin
Itches and crawls
From all the humidity
And the medications
That my pill pushing MD
Keeps tagging me with
The meds
Give me dry mouth
So I keep
A bottle
Of water
Handy at
All times
I have a swollen
The bane
Of modern man
So I have to
Hop in and out
Of bed
A half dozen
Times or so
To pee
Half awake
Half asleep
Stubbing toes
Barking shins
Stepping on the cat
Hearing the neighbors
I want to eat
Night time
Is a dangerous time
For diabetics
With late night
Sugar cravings
But wouldn’t
A nice ice cold
Be just the thing
Right about now?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dr. Jack Kevorkian Is Dead

Dr. Jack Kevorkian
Is dead
He died today
In his bed
Of pneumonia
It is said
Of natural causes
Caused by the
Pneumonia virus
He was called
Dr. Death
By his friends
And worse
By his enemies
His crime
Was in helping
Terminally suffering
Human beings
To end their
At a time
Of their own
With dignity
And loved ones
Close at hand
Whether it is called
Death with dignity
Or assisted suicide
It came as a blessing
In the guise
Of a gentle
And caring
Jack Kevorkian
Who would not
Turn a blind eye or
Deaf ear to the
Miseries of the dying
Instead of letting
Terminally ill patients
Continue to suffer
All the torments of hell
For no better reason
Other than to
Prolong their
Suffering and pain

Dr. Jack
Answered their letters
And prayers
To put them all
To bed
So that their suffering might
Suddenly end
So that
Death with dignity
Would be their friend
For this Dr. Jack
Was put on trial
At least half a dozen times
Though no jury of his peers
Would dare convict him
He was put on trial
For the alleged crime
Of assisting the
Terminally ill and dying
To ease their suffering and pain
Not only was he sent to prison
But they also tried to
Assassinate his
And his good name
But all that his
And detractors
Could ever have
Was to increase
Dr. Jack's glory
And his fame

He helped so many
Who were suffering
To die a peaceful
And he held
Their shaking hands
When they were
Their last breaths
Dr. Jack was their
Truer than true
Right up until
The very end

In the words of
The many
Whose suffering
He helped to end
These heart felt words
We now
So gratefully send
Thank you
Thank you
Dr. Jack Kevorkian

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another Wedding Invite

Once again
I have been
To attend
This time
A wedding
And you all
Know by now
How thrilled I am
On the subject
Of weddings

So what to do?
Do I attend
The wedding
And pretend
That I am happy
For the bride and groom
While all the time
Asking myself
What the hell
I am doing there
In the first place?

I have never
Had a good
Any wedding
Including my own
Most especially
Including my own

If I fail
To show
My face
Everyone will take notice
And everyone will know
And they will all be
Somewhat scandalized
And some will be
Genuinely hurt
While others will be insulted

The insulted ones
Will say
Well, what did you expect?
The man is a miscreant
After all
Well, I don’t know about you
But I for one
Would rather
Be called
A miscreant
Than a hypocrite

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What A Piece Of Work Is A Man

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet,
to me, what is this quintessence of dust?- W.Shakespeare

I was late for work
Once again
For the umpteenth time
Mostly because
I was dreaming
And I wanted
To find out
What I was
Dreaming about
I was late
Getting started
Again today
I am not
A machine
I am a man
I am a human being
And I have needs
I need to sleep
I need to dream
The dream world
To me
Is a kind of heaven
Where I can
With loved ones
Long departed
How beautiful
And how precious it is
To be able to see
Their sweet faces
Once again
To hear their dear voices
Once again
To be able to
Share our tears
To wish
That we could all
Be together again
To share love
To kiss
To hug
To cry
To laugh
To be able
To apologize
For wrongs
Not yet righted
For hurts
Not yet healed

I remember
The words
Of my beloved
Mother Clara
Once said
That if she could only
See her mother alive
One more time
She would gladly wash
Her mother's feet
And gladly drink the water
I may have been twelve
At the time
But even then
I recognized
The profundity
Of her words
And I repeat
Them again
To her
In my dreams
Doing so

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011