Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Like A Pebble In My Shoe

I have a trumpet at home
That I call lulu bell
I’ve been a trumpet player
Ever since junior high school
And I am very proud
To say so

I love the voice that
Playing the trumpet
Gives to me
I like the high shrill notes
Like taking the loop
At the top
Of the rollercoaster
And I like to go fishing
For the low bass notes
That hide in the
Dark waters
Of the musical scale
(Bottom fishing
As I like to call it)
I play more than
One instrument
And I am always
Eager to pick up
Something new
That I never tried before

I have a hunger
For the bow fiddle
Blue grass style
New Orleans style
(Are You Washed
In the Blood of the Lamb?)

When I first got divorced
One of the first things my ex did
Was to sell my trumpet
(Along with my golf clubs
And anything else of mine
That she could lay her hands on)

What she did has always
Stuck in my craw
And it has always
Bothered me
(Even now
All these years later
Like a pebble in my shoe)

So once my divorce
Became final
I made sure
To buy a new trumpet
And a new set of golf clubs
(As soon as I was
Able to recover
From the many
Snake bites that
I had received during
My so-called marriage)
(And I still have all the
Fang mark scars
To prove it!)

But I am older and
Hopefully wiser now
(What’s that they say
Once bitten twice shy?)
I can sure vouch for that

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lake Pontchartrain

How is it possible
To be nostalgic for a
Place that
I have never been?
(Lake Pontchartrain!)

I guess it comes
From having seen the lake
So much on TV
During the televised
News coverage of
Hurricane Katrina
(How soon we forget!)

Also then too
There were
All of those beautiful pictures
Of the lake
Lovingly filmed during
The recent HBO series
That so totally captured
The scenes and essence
Of post Katrina
New Orleans

I was especially moved
By one of the show’s
Finale episodes
During which
John Goodman’s character
(An irate Tulane University
English Lit professor)
Commits suicide by
Jumping off the
Lake Pontchartrain ferry
(The fictitious professor
Was not alone
Post Katrina suicides in
New Orleans spiked off the charts)

New Orleans is
Finally on the rebound
And coming back
To renewed life
I would very much
Like to think so
(And by all accounts
I am hearing mostly good things)
As I would not like
To go on
Being nostalgic
For yet another grand
(And from all accounts
Magical place)
That I have never (yet) been

(I hope to remedy
That situation real soon
On the bonnie bonnie banks
Of Lake Pontchartrain!)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On A "G" String And A Prayer

You say that
You want to
Become  someone
And to find out
Who you really are?

Well you can always
Buy yourself some time
At Whiskey Joe's
Honky Tonk Bar

You can always
Climb up
On that stage
And wrap
Your thighs
Around that dancing

Just don't let them
(All those
Sweat soaked
Get a toe hold
On your soul
(Repeat twice)

And you can stare your
Laser beam stare
Into their hungry eyes
As you keep
Telling yourself lies

Is it just a temporary job
Something that doesn't really matter
Just something lucrative to do
While you're growing
Older and fatter?

Or should you go to that
Community college instead
To learn how to become
A paralegal?

But how will doing that
Keep your kitty cat fed
Or make you feel
More regal?

(But how will doing that
Keep your kitty cat fed
Or make you feel
More regal?)

You say that
You want to
Become  someone
And to find out
Who you really are?

Well you can always
Buy yourself some time
At Whiskey Joe's
Honky Tonk Bar

So which move
Will prove to be the smarter
Learning a technical trade
Or counting the dollar bills
Stuffed into your garter?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Greek Lady In The Aluminum Van

I would see her
Just about
Every morning
In her aluminum
Food vendor van
A kitchen on wheels
Where she spent
Every early morning and
Early afternoons
Serving up
Sausage egg
And cheese
Sandwiches and
Hot dogs and
Hot coffee and
Sweet tea and
Ice cold sodas and
A whole rainbow
Of assorted fruit juices and
Bags of potato chips and
Small packets of
Rich chocolate chip cookies

Her name is
Fredericka and
She is most definitely
(And proudly)
100% Greek
She was a woman
Of a certain age
(Late fifties)
And she had been
At her trade for
The past 36 years
Hardly ever missing
A day

I had long been
A faithful customer
Buying more than
My share of her morning
And Cheese
(With a small hot coffee
Milk and sugar and
A fruit juice to go)
Almost every morning
Before heading in
To my office
For my daily 9 to 5 shift
In the salt mines
As a chain gang
Worker bee
In the city’s mammoth
(Where the daily lashings
Will continue
Until morale improves)

“I gotta go make the donuts!”
I would usually say to her
While taking my leave
As I paid her
My usual $5 tab
She would always
Politely say
Thank you in Greek
(Σας ευχαριστώ!)
And I would respond with
You are welcome!
(Είστε ευπρόσδεκτοι!)

Over the years
We had become
Friends and
She had become
My Greek language teacher
(It always pleased her
To have a little conversation
With me
In Greek
To impress
Who ever was also
Waiting in line
For their
Coffee and donut
It was a little game
That we played)
(Then she would tell me
That I also had the worst
Greek accent that
She had ever heard!)

Being Greek
She was no stranger to
(Although we also had
Our share of laughs-
She always did
Have a great
Sense of humor
In an off-color
Greek sort of way)

Her husband of 35 years
Had recently passed away
Due to a losing fight
With prostate cancer
(Frederika often said
That she thought that
It was the hospital treatments
That may have killed him first
But that is another story)

Ted was a gruff man
Though he could also
Be a kind and gentle
Big bear of a man
Ted often worked
Side by side with his wife
(In that cramped
Aluminum lunch wagon)
In all kinds of weather
Day in and day out
Year after year
But it was clear
How much they
Loved each other

Fredericka took his passing
Very hard
But she mourned him publicly
For only two weeks
Before carrying on
With the little
Kitchen on wheels
Business that the
Two of them had
Built up together
Over the years

I would often
Try to console her
Whenever she would give vent
To her considerable sorrow
Over the loss of her
Wonderful Ted

It was a kind of therapy for her
To wear her heart on her sleeve
And she had a loyal following
Of customers who would
Invariably also become her friends
(And she had legions of them!)
Fredericka and Ted
Also had a son
Also named Ted                                                                                                                                                                
(But we all
Called him Teddy)

Teddy had his own little
Kitchen on wheels
And he worked
On the next block over
Serving up
Hotdogs and
Coffee and
Philadelphia style
Cheese steak hoagies
Just like his
Mom and pop

But Teddy
(Lord love him)
Was also a drug addict
With heroin being
His favorite
Drug of choice
(A very risky business
On the hard
Streets of Philadelphia
Where the purity of
The horse could vary wildly
Or so I have been told)

A few days ago
Fredericka found Teddy
In his bathtub
Dead from an overdose of
Her worst fears and
Nightmares had
Come true

The shocking news
Almost killed
Poor Fredericka
On the spot!

After all
She had vested
All of her hopes and dreams
In the hope of
Living to yet see
Her only son married
With and arm full
Of babies to raise
(The more the better)

That dream at least
Would make his mother
Very happy
And would also serve
To help balance out
Some of the grief
That she had experienced
In the course of her life

(But sadly
Such a dream
Was not meant
To be)

Ever since Teddy’s
sudden death
Little aluminum
Kitchen on wheels
Was no longer
To be seen
In her customary spot
(I later learned from some
Of her former customers
That she was quitting
The lunch wagon business
And that she was looking
For a buyer
For her beat up and
Somewhat broken down van)

Others also told me
(As if I didn’t know)
About how overwhelmed
She was by her loss
“She doesn’t want
To live anymore”
They said and
How could I doubt them?

I did see her
One last time
When she was
In the neighborhood
As she was winding down
Her business affairs

From her car
I could see that
She nodded her head
To acknowledge that
She could see me
As she passed me by

She waved
And even managed
A little tight smile
But I could see
That she was still
Too distraught to talk

I waved back
And I tried to
Offer her my
Shouted words
Of condolence
But she was in a hurry
To leave
And I stood mute
As I watched her
Drive slowly away

Another passerby
Friend of hers
Told me that
She lived in
Upper Darby
A nearby suburb

I told myself that
I wanted to at least
Find a way to
Contact her
And to send her
A sympathy card
That would somehow
Manage to express
How much and
How deeply
I cared and
With her loss

But how to find a
Hallmark card
With just the right
Combination of words?

The words
Would have to be
At once
Beautifully poetic and
Exceptionally caring and
Wonderfully and
Endearingly sweet

And above all else
It must be
Quintessentially Greek!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Home Again Alone

I am waiting at the
Xin Xing Chinese take out
For my order of
Chow Har Kew
(Breaded fried jumbo shrimp
Cooked with broccoli
Sno peas
Baby corn
Straw mushrooms and
Chinese vegetables)
When in staggers
A splendid specimen of
One of Castor Avenue’s
Finest female denizens
(Let’s call her
Lady Godiva)
To place her order
For four chicken wings
And a small
Won ton soup

Since Lady Godiva
Has a number of
Missing front teeth
Emily the order taker
Has a hard time
Lady Godiva’s order
Which has to be
Three or four times
Before Emily
Can figure out
The jumble of
Slurred words
That Ms. Godiva
Has been trying to
Spit out

“That will be five dollars!”
Says Emily to the
Obviously inebriated
Ms. Godiva
Who counts her money
And loose change
At least three more times
Only to realize that she is
A dollar short

Lady Godiva’s
Equally drunk paramour
(Let’s call him
Sir Lancelot)
Is leaning against a
Corner lamp post
And it is painfully obvious
That it is all that
He can do to just
Remain standing
In an upright position
I guessed
That the two of them
Had just stumbled out of
McCurran’s Tavern
Across the street
In search of some dinner
Before calling it a night
And heading home
(Which might be
A card board box
At the 13th Street
Subway platform
Unless Sir Lancelot
Had a SRO
Somewhere in the neighborhood
That he would be willing to share
With Lady Godiva
Even if it was
Just for one night

Lady Godiva rifles through
Lancelot’s pants pockets
Once again
For any loose change or for
Any loose dollars that
She may have missed
During her last scavenging
And bless her heart
She does!

Lady Godiva
Then rushes
Back into the
Excitedly waving
The liberated dollar
That she had
Found in Lancelot’s
Pants pocket!

Having thus paid for and
Retrieved her take out
Lady Godiva and
Sir Lancelot
Start chomping on
The chicken wings
While hanging on to
The lamp post and
Trying at the same time
To keep
Each other from
Falling down

The two of them
Seemed quite content
With themselves as they
Staggered back
Across the street
Clinging to one another
Dodging oncoming traffic
To make it back to
The warmth and
Alcohol fueled
Fellowship of
McCurran’s Tavern
I picked up
My food order
And beat a
Hasty retreat
As I walked
Soberly and
The half block or so
Distance to my home

I turned the key
In the lock
Stamped the snow and ice
Off of my feet
And slowly went inside

Home again

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Shroud Of Turin Man

The Shroud of Turin Man
Stands on guard
Almost every day
At the entrance
To the post office at
The suburban station
I often see him
Standing there
Like one of those
Puffed up
Popping jay
Military martinets who
Feign to guard the queen's
Buckingham palace
For the sake of the
Daily throngs of
Photo snapping tourists

I call him
The Shroud of Turin Man
Because that is what
And who
He looks like
He is the
Spitting image
Of the image on
The famed
(Or is it infamous?)
Shroud of Turin
The so-called burial cloth
That many have claimed
To be the burial shroud of
Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Who is claimed by many
To have been  the
Long awaited
Messiah of the Jews

Every time
I see him there
Standing at his
Self-appointed post
It takes my breath away
That initial
Shock of recognition
How could such a
Come to be
And then go
So unnoticed
By the milling throngs
Of passersby
Who are so
Focused on
Their own problems
And their own
Need to
Get to work
That they
Everything else
Around them

Not me
I am focused
On nothing
I am focused
On the obscure and
The mundane
On the magical
And the mystical
And the miraculous
Should it ever be
My good fortune
To luckily encounter such
(Either that or
I may also have
Adult onset
Attention deficeit
Hyper activity disorder
But for the time being
That will remain
The subject
For another time and
Another poem
So do stay tuned)

I can't help
But notice him
He is so imposing
Such a formidable figure
Standing at around
What seems to be
Eight feet tall
His head appears
To be wrapped
In a turbin
While the rest
Of him is
Wrapped in what
Seems to be his
Winter homeless gear

He stands erect
And ram rod straight
Almost like a soldier
Posted as a sentry
With his arms
Crossed across
His chest
And his eyes
Staring straight ahead
Into the wild blue yonder
Not blinking

His eyes are
Coal black
And his full
Salt and pepper beard
Comes tapered
To a point
Like a spear

His expression
Is stoic
And it is hard
To know
If he even breathes
As other men do

His bearing is regal
And other worldly
Oddly serene
And yet
Also somewhat
(As large as he is
As looming a presence
As he has become
As if he were here to
Make some important
But for the fact that
He is just too tired
And world weary
And too sad
To find
Enough energy
Or breath
To do so)

If he could
What earth shattering
Would he make?

He seems to be
Capable of saying it all
From announcing
The second coming of
The Messiah to
The coming of
(And coming from him
I would be prone
To believe it!)

But as of yet
I have never
Heard him speak
Not to anyone
Not to passersby
Not even to those
Who sometimes try
To give him money
Or to the police
Who are always
Telling him to
Move along
Move along
And warning him
To stop
Obstructing the
Access and Egress
Though he has never
Tried to do either
(I have often heard them
Threaten to lock him up
For loitering and
For failure to comply)
Usually he does not resist
Usually he just
Turns to the right
Or to he left
(Marching off
To the drum beat
Of some distant drummer
That only he can hear)

The next day
Usually finds
The Shroud Of Turin Man
Back at his post
Just standing there
Standing in the same spot
As every other day
Standing his ground
Guarding his post
Doing his duty
Carrying out his mission
(A mission that is known
Only to himself)
Making every day
Of my life
Whenever I happen
To see him
Into some kind of
Judgement Day

(The kind of
Judgement Day
That none of us
Ever really wants to
Live long enough
To ever actually see!)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

I'm Walking The Floor Over You

You left me and you went away
You said that you'd be back and just that day
You've broken your promise and you left me here alone
  G                                                      G
I don't know why you did dear, but I do know that you're gone

C                          F
I'm walking the floor over you
  G                          C
I can't sleep a wink that is true
C                                                      F
I'm hoping and I'm praying as my heart breaks right in two
G                      C
Walking the floor over you
Ernest Tubb

Did you ever
Have a song lyric
And tune
Just happen to get
Stuck in your head
And no matter
What you did
To try and shake it
The words and music
Just keep
Going on
Round and around
In your head?

The above lyrics and tune
have been
Spinning around
In my brain
For quite
Some time now

Maybe all of this
Can be blamed on
My Diabetes
Or I could blame
My high blood pressure
Or maybe
I really do have
A bad case of
Spring Fever
(I plead guilty
To all of the above)

Recently l was
To a women of
Immaculate perfection
Right here in the office
Where I continue to work
(At least until
My looming
Retirement date
Clicks off the time that
I have remaining)

You might say that
For the past year or so
With retirement
Staring me in the face
That I have been on
A kind of
Cruise control
Not really paying
Too much attention
To the goings on
All around me

And then
One fine morning
This past month
I was introduced to a new
Worker here at the office
Who I found to be
Attractive and
Soft spoken
And who
In all ways
Would make
Taking a walk
Through the park
(Or along the
 Lincoln Drive)
On a beautiful
Spring afternoon
Such as this
Into a joyous occasion
Well worth remembering

Her name is Lisa
And she lives in
The nearby suburb of

We are closer in age
Than I originally thought
At first blush
And I could really
Wax poetic
About her other
(If I was a better poet
And not all thumbs
As I am today)

I did wish her a
Happy Valentine’s Day
This past week
When red and pink
Boxes of cherry filled
Chocolates were
Everywhere to be seen
She smiled and
Wished me the same
And let me tell you
At my age and
For a man
In my much to be desired
Physical condition
That smile
Meant everything to me
(I can predict that
I will be living off of
The glow of that smile
Many months from now)

It was about
That time that
I began hearing
The singing voice
Of Ernest Tubb
Singing his signature hit
I Am Walkin The Floor Over You
Going round and round
In my head

Call me crazy
But I do believe
That all of the
Above events
Are somehow
Karma connected
I may even do
something crazy
about it
(Perhaps one day
I may even
Have enough
Guts and intestinal
To actually
Show her
This poem).
Now wouldn’t that
Be something, eh?

(Stranger things
Have happened!)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2010

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Last Days Of Adolf Hitler

It must have been ghastly
Those last few days
Down in the bowels of
Adolf Hitler’s
Fuhrer Bunker
Deep beneath the grounds
Of the burned out remains
Of the once glorious
Deutche Reichstag
(All that then remained of
The Fuhrer’s Third Reich
A Reich that was supposed to
Have lasted for
A thousand years but that
Had lived for only twelve
Long enough to have
Plunged the whole world
Into a second world war
With at least
Fifty million dead!)

The Fuhrer had finally
Been deserted
By all but
His closest friends
No more Mussolini
No more Himmler
Only Goebbels
Remained faithful
Spewing his twisted
Lies and propaganda
To deceive the
German people
Right to the very end

Eva Braun
The blond
German Bombshell
More cunning than
German born movie star
Marlene Dietrich
Also chose to remain
At her  Fuhrer's side
(Eva modeled herself
On the starlets of her
Beloved Hollywood
As she dyed
Her natural blond tresses
To look more like
The femmes fatales of
The silver screen)

Hitler liked his women
To be young and blond
(Like his niece Gaele
Who chose to kill herself
Rather than live a
Perverted life as
Hitler’s sex slave)

Hitler enjoyed
His daily injections
Of methamphetamine
(It made him feel like
He was victorious!)
But he forbade his staff
To smoke
(At least not in his presence)
“It’s bad for the lungs”
The Fuhrer would say
Although he apparently
Had no such compunctions
Against the use of
Zyklon B
(A toxic nerve agent
That was used by the
Waffen SS guards
In dozens of so-called
Concentration camps
To exterminate
Millions and millions of
Jews and Gypsies
And a whole host
Of others whom
Hitler considered to be
Racially Inferior to the
German master race)

As General Zhukov’s
Elite army troops
Fought their way
Into the heart of
To plant
The Red Soviet Flag
Atop the bombed out
Hitler and his new bride
Bid his staff farewell
And retired to his
Private study as
Thousand pound Allied bombs
Continued to rain down
On the ruins of Berlin

After a short interval
A pistol shot could be heard
Coming from Hitler’s room
“Oh that one was a bull’s eye!”
Said one of the staff secretaries
And she was right!

As the door to the room
Swung open
The grisly tableau
Revealed the dead bodies
Of Hitler and Eva Braun
(Eva had chosen the cyanide that
Her husband of two days
Had so thoughtfully provided for her)

Immediately the gathered staff
Pulled out their cigarettes
As they began to smoke
In solemn celebration
Of the end of their
Fuhrer’s life
While Hitler’s
Already rotting corpse
Was splashed with
The last remaining
Cans of petrol
As his body was
Set on fire

Advancing Soviet troops
Could also see the rising
Column of smoke coming
From Herr Hitler’s
Burning corpse

It did not take them long
To know beyond any doubt
What they had finally found

The official Soviet
Forensic examination
Of the dead Fuhrer’s
Dental records and
Skull fragments
Confirmed that
Adolf Hitler
Was indeed
Quite officially dead!
And an entire world
Could finally
Breathe a collective sigh
Of momentary relief

Make that
One more psychotic
Despot disposed of!

Okay world
Take five and
Smoke if you got em
(At least until the next
Crackpot maniac
So-called Fuhrer
Comes along)!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not Even In Your Wildest Dreams

I have been having
This recurring
In which
I am no longer
At my worksite
As the person
That I have always
Heretofore been
It was as if
(Seemingly overnight)
I had become
Persona non grata

In the dream/nightmare
I report for work
In the morning
As usual
Only to find
That my work desk
Has been moved
To a new location
I am given no
As to why
This has been done

My new desk site
Is located in the stair well
I have no phone
No computer
Not even a desk blotter
My usual comfortable
Swivel chair
Has been switched
For something
That looks
Like it came
From a junk yard

I am given no new
Work assignments
All I do
Is sit idly at my desk
While co-workers
Pass me by
Going up and down
The stair case
As if I were
A ghost

On payday
I do not receive
A paycheck
When I call payroll
To complain
They say that they
Have no record of  me
As an employee of
ACME Widgets
I tell them that
I have been employed at
ACME Widgets
For the past
Twenty years
(All to no avail)

When I return home
To my apartment
The key fails
To open the door
In its customary fashion
I knock
The door opens
And I see that
Strangers are now
Living in my apartment
When I check with
Building management
I am told
That I had failed
To pay  my rent
For the past three months
(And they insisted
On being paid)

When  I finally
Wake up
In a cold sweat
I have to remind myself
That I had been dreaming
That it was all just a dream

I still had a job
As a social worker for the
City of Philadelphia
Where I am valued as a
Respected and trusted
And I was still
Living in my own home
In fact
(This being the weekend)
I did not have to
Roll out of bed
And go to work at all

I go to the kitchen
And make myself
A cup of
Hot black coffee

As I lift
The cup to drink
My still shaking hands
Causes the coffee
To spill

From out of nowhere
A total stranger appears
To hand me a
Paper towel to
Wipe up the spill
“Your office just called”
Says the stranger
“They say that
You need not bother
To report to work
On Monday
Your position has been
Eliminated due to budget cuts”

I stumble back to bed
And pull the covers
Over my head
I try to fall back to sleep
To see if I can dream
A different kind of dream
(If I  can dream hard enough)
I may be able
To have
My old life
Back again
(After all
What more
Do I have left
To lose?)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Place Called Valley Forge

It all depended on him
And him alone
On his broad shoulders alone
When all else was lost
(Even hope itself)
He stood alone

His men’s uniforms
Were now reduced
To little more
Than rags
And rags were all
That now kept
Their bootless feet
From freezing
That winter
In 1777
At a place
In Pennsylvania
That the locals called
Valley Forge

With the winter settling in
And with prospects for
Joining against the British
In battle greatly diminished
General George Washington
Sought quarters for his men

Washington and his troops
Had just fought
The pompous Red Coats
To a draw at the
Battle of White Marsh
And Valley Forge
Would prove to be a
More secure location
For the coming winter
Where his men
Could heal their wounds
And regain their strength
To live to fight
Another day

Valley Forge
Proved to be
An excellent site
Far enough
To halt the threat
Of British surprise attacks and
Close enough to allow
Supplies and reinforcements
To get through to
His ill clothed and
Hungry troops

The high grounds
Of Mount Joy and
Mount Misery
Combined with the
Schuylkill River
Made for
Formidable defense
Against the British
Raiding and foraging
Sneak attacks that were
Designed to harass and
Disrupt the
American lines

Under their General’s
Close watch
12,000 Continentals
Prepared to face the
Coming winter’s full fury
As the men
Hurried to build huts
Of wood and mud

Though the huts
Did their job and managed to
Provide some protection
From the howling winds
And bone chilling cold
It was still
Difficult for the men
To keep dry
And disease began to fester

Soldiers ate a steady diet
Of  “fire cake”
(A tasteless mixture of
Flour and water)
And whatever other
Game and
Provisions that
Could be foraged from
The nearby farms and towns
(Where not all of the
Local townsfolk
Were loyal to
The American cause)

Conditions in the camp
Grew so severe that
Washington despaired that
“Unless some great
And capital change
Suddenly takes place
This Army must inevitably
Starve, dissolve or disperse”

The men tried to obtain
In the best manner
That they could
Under the guidance of
His new quartermaster
General Nathaniel Greene
Who had a talent for
Finding caches
Of food and clothing
“By hook or by crook”
As long as Washington
Wasn’t too inquisitive
As to how the supplies
Were obtained
(Every army needs a quartermaster
Like General Nathaniel Greene)
But despite Greene’s best efforts
Nearly 4,000 men were listed
As unfit for duty
Due to inadequate supplies

Undernourished and
Poorly clothed
Living in crowded
Damp quarters
The American Army was
Ravaged by
Sickness and disease
Dysentery and
Killed 2,500 brave men
While Washington’s
Appeals for help
Fell on the deaf ears
Of the constantly squabbling
Continental Congress
(Sound familiar?)

So sadly
The men continued to suffer
While hundreds
Of women and relatives
Of the enlisted men
(And many of the
Children as well)
Provided what help
That they could
To share the manual work
And to help with the cooking
And to help with
Nursing the wounded
And the sick
Back to health
All of them
Angels of mercy who
All shared in the
Many hardships and burdens
(Camp followers at Valley Forge
Consisted of the families
And sisters
Of the soldiers)
By the time
That the spring of 1778
Finally arrived
Word came to Washington
That the British
Had abandoned their stronghold
In Philadelphia

Washington lost no time
In ordering his men
To form their ranks and
To fix bayonets
With drums drumming
And with their flags
Once again unfurled
And snapping proudly
In the wind
On June 19, 1778
General George Washington
Marched his army
Out of Valley Forge
In hot pursuit
Of the foe

Promising the enemy
Neither quarter nor rest
Washington and his men would
Once again engage
The British at New York
No longer as a rag tag army
But now as a disciplined
Fighting force to be treated
With fear and respect!

An American Army
Whose metal had been tested
At a place called
Valley Forge!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Your Mama

Your mama may have
Your papa may have
But God bless the child
That’s got his own –
Billie Holiday

My mama didn’t have and
My papa didn’t have
But thank you Jesus
I may just end up
Being the child
Who ends up
Actually having something
To call his own
(Contrary to all
Previous predictions and
Contrary to all
Previous standards
And in spite
Of my epic efforts
At self sabotage)
After all is said and done
After the last shot is fired
And the fog of the battlefield
Finally begins to lift
Despite my many
Self inflicted and
Battle garnered wounds
When the final tally
Is taken
I may actually end up
Being the child who
Finally does have something
That he can call his own

All of my life
Has been a search for
Stability and security
Having been raised by a
Cadre of vagabond gypsies
Who never had
Anything in their lives that
Could in any way
Be said to even
Remotely resemble
The so-called
American dream

We lived
From pillar to post and
Hand to mouth
Always one step ahead
Of the sheriff or
The law or
The last landlord
Hounding my family
To collect
The last month’s rent
Before we had high tailed
It out of wherever it was
That we were last living
(Usually in the middle of the night
As was the custom in those
Hard scrabble days)

So more than anything else
I yearned for a place
To call home
A place
That really was a home
And not just another
Temporary shelter
Before we had to
High tail it out
To the next hovel
(Usually another in a
Seemingly never ending chain of
Broken down apartments
In some broken down
Multi-family tenement building
Where the absentee
Slum landlord
Didn’t ask too many questions
With the understanding that
He wasn’t about to be making
Any repairs or
Make any attempt to get rid
Of the vermin that were often
The only really permanent residents)

(By the time
I was ten
I was an expert on
The life cycle and feeding habits of
Every species of urban cockroach
That has ever lived in the greater
New York metropolitan area)
When finally
(By hook and by crook)
In the year of our lord 1999
I had finally managed to purchase
A fifty year old row house
In a rundown section of
Urban Philadelphia
I immediately
Felt like a king

Before you could say
Jackie Robinson
I had run out
To the nearest
Hardware store and
I purchased
A lawn sign that read
”Done Moving!”
And I proudly planted it
In plain sight in
My new front yard
And I really meant
Every single word of it!

Some ten years later
And despite multiple attempts
During the intervening years
By banks, bunko artists
Various city authorities
And a whole assortment of
Schemers and scammers and
Financial cut throats and
Predatory lenders and
Con artists
Of every ilk and stripe
I have managed to
Thus far
(Knock on wood!)
Frustrate and  foil
All of  their
Foul attempts
To foreclose
(One of the ugliest
And cruelest words in the
English language)

And despite their
Many other nefarious ruses
(And dubiously legal)
attempts to steal my house
And otherwise
Cheat me
Out my home
I have managed to
Defeat them
And I pray
That it may
Always be so

As another famous
American patriot once said
“Give me Liberty
Or give me death!”
(And as Charlton Heston
Once said
“I’ll give you my gun
When you can pry it
From my cold dead hands!”)

Hey, Wells Fargo!
Just you try and
Occupy this!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eye Of The Tiger

Say what you will
About Philadelphia
But there is at least
One thing that is still
Very interesting
About the place
(Besides being the
Unofficial murder capital of
The good ol’ USA)

We may be the
One and only city
That actually believes in a
Fictional athlete
(One who never actually lived
Except as a movie character
Named Rocky Balboa)

We even
Put up a statue
To honor the fictitious
Prize fighter’s
Fictitious achievements
(The statue has been
moved around a lot and
I am not sure of its final
Resting place as this poem
Is being written)

By the way
Philadelphia does actually
Happen to have
A genuine boxing hero
Who only recently
Passed away
Smokin Joe Frasier
But we haven’t yet
Gotten around to
Building a statue
To honor
Smokin Joe’s memory
(But don’t worry about it
We will!)

Balboa was portrayed
In the movie
Of the same name
By the actor
Sylvester Stallone
(Who incidentally does
Happen to trace
His roots back to Philly as
His home town)

Whatever else you may
Or may not do
When you happen to be
Visiting in Philly
Please do not be caught
Taking the names of either
Rocky Balboa
Or Sylvester Stallone in vain
(Or the name of Smokin Joe Frasier
Either for that matter)
Don’t get caught dissing
Any of the above names
(Unless you want to be
On the receiving end
Of a whole lot of trouble
That I am sure
You do not need or want)

That last bit of advice
Is not just a bunch
Of false bravado
Think of it as
More in the line of
Taking out a
Life insurance policy
And you can tell
Anyone who asks that
You got it straight
From Philly’s own
Rocky Balboa
(We have a whole city
full of them!)

P.S. Yo Adrian!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012