Poetry

Drums of Summer

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View from Doorman’s window, Montevideo.

Drums of Summer

                                                            —San Francisco 

I’ve showered and shaved and brushed my teeth

Slipped my hips through a pair of loose jeans

So many things I could do tonight

The drums of summer rumble by nine

.

Left on Mission to the Tip-Tap Club

Sweaty old hispanos drinking rum

Right on Mission to St Pats Saloon

Bearded burners done dropped outta school

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There’s the Castro, lotsa bars for guys

Bears and buffs and twinks, a trap surprise

How about a hotel bar? The Rex?

Someone’s always lonely in her bed

.

I could go out — I could — and I still might

But I prefer to drum right here, to write

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South America Studies

Heading south to Uruguay in less than a month after fifteen years away.  Getting so excited, I’m sketching the place in advance.  Thanks, Google Maps!

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Birds of South America

                                                                            —Americana arrogantus

When summer comes, los uruguayos perch

Themselves on Maldonado’s Punta shore

Like seagulls, each aims a firm, fat belly

Boiled eggs in salted sun.

                                                     Across the border

Beyond the Rio de la Plata’s breeze

Argentinos strut through Buenos Aires

Proud as peacocks, their tilted coccyges

Bent back, cocksure, as if supporting plumes

Of opalescent eyes.

                                                     Over the Andes

In war-torn Santiago, los chilenos cuddle

Nuzzle—all in cooing, kissing pairs

A flock of plaza pigeons, not people

 .

I mock them all, yes, yes—but I’m regal

Soaring above, a bald-headed eagle

 

Baskets

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Baskets

                                                   —for Annelies

Not the one carried by little red riding hood

Skipping through woods to grandma’s house

Not the metal one screwed to my first bike

Nor the netted one through which I swished

My first free throw:  There’s another basket

One we sit in patiently, tomatoes at a corner store

Each awaiting fingers, a squeeze, a test to reject

We are all tomatoes:  skinny, fat, juicy red

Embarrassed by our flaws, our absent hot-house taste

My own basket, woven now for fifty years

Not made of straw, not woven strips of wood

At some point, we leave our baskets on the street

Outside some corner store, out in the air

Bare for all to see, to poke and squeeze and sniff

Look — See that man skipping down the street?

He’s light as a feather, a strip of straw

A girl on her way to grandma’s house

 

Big Fish

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Many thanks to Gyroscope Review for publishing the following poem in their Winter 2017 issue: 

Big Fish

                                         —restaurant & bungalows

Last year, a beach-view balcony

  a midnight breeze brought salt

    thirsty lime juice on our lips

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At lunch, cotton-stuffed cushions

  tables tall as crisscrossed knees

    curries spiced with dragon weed

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This year, a cold-water room out back

  garden dogs, mosquito verandah

    laptop lines and letters glow

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Tonight, back for another sea breeze

  pineapple curry on chicken and rice

    I breathe the freedom absence brings

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Your absence, a ghost seated beside me

  stirs her own papaya pleasure

   same same, yes yes, but different

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Afternoon in Amsterdam

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Many thanks to Sandy River Review for publishing (most) of the following poem in their Fall 2016 issue.

Afternoon in Amsterdam

                                                                     —for Roland Möe

Forget the red-light district

. toothless skirts from overseas

.. imported age-old fantasies

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I ask the way to the Van Gogh show

. a bearded local walks me there

.. we smoke a bowl on a smoky bench

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Inside, alone, nose close to canvas

. amazed by heavy strokes of pain

.. such violence in a starry sky

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Someone tugs my sweater sleeve

. that beard with marijuana breath

.. twice my age, here to persuade

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I say I’m hungry, leave the show

. he follows, knows a place not far

.. leads me back to his second-floor flat

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Up steep and narrow bohème steps

. he serves up bowls of stovetop gruel

..  veggies and grains, a sweet-spice stew

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Once he tastes, I try a bite

. smoke another bowl, relax, unwind

.. he lays a lazy hand upon my knee

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Downstairs, distressed, I say I’m beat

. heading back to my hotel to sleep

.. he begs me not to go—Please, stay

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Half his age, afraid of his long song

I find my way to the red-light zone

.. still unsure if any road leads home

 

Seashells

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Thanks to Zingarapoet.net for publishing the following poem today.

Seashells

                                                       —for Mary

Open like a seaside cave

  the waves roll in, roll out

    the bats fly in, fly out

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And then you come, brief tourist

  flashlight in hand, your oohs and aahs

    only your absence left behind

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The Tao of Doing Less

cal-quarterly

Many thanks to the California State Poetry Society for publishing the following poem in California Quarterly.

 The Tao of Doing Less

                                                            —Koh Tao, 2012

All night, breezes brush the trees

  palm fronds imitate the rain

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When light appears, I rise from bed

  slip into the hammock on the stoop

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Dogs already up and down the beach

  island mynas pecking fallen garden seeds

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It’s enough for me, this warm humidity

  this balm to calm my aimless wandering

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Each morning, we wake to reinvent ourselves

  each day attempts to best the day before

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Though not today, not in this old hammock

  not with time before me like an open road

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This morning brings its gift of slow simplicity

  nothing but nothing wrapped in nothing

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I light a cigarette, take a sip of water

  scratch a bite that itches on my arm

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I have come so far to do so little

  give me more, give me more, give me more

Two More Euro Poems

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Many thanks to Bindweed, an online literary journal, for publishing the follow two poems — two more from my series about my travels through Europe in 1980.  That’s me in the middle, between Chino and Abel, with the eponymous Volkswagen van behind us.

Volkswagen Van

                                               “We never see him.”   —Louis XIV

Grand chateau, once royal court of France

  now packed with peasants on bus tours from Paris

    —and me curled up in a Volkswagen van

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Where once purple kings and sycophants pranced

  dancing with stars on a moonlit terrace

    this grand chateau, this royal crown of France

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Now hosts a daily deluge—trash cans

  full of coffee cups, littered souvenirs

    and me curled up in a Volkswagen van

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When one past prince fell ill at romance

  too ashamed to be seen, too embarrassed

    he shunned the chateau, a sin across France

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Like him, I’m alone, a grin with no glance

  never to know a stroll with an heiress

    only the hold of a Volkswagen van

.

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Railway Deli

                       —Train to Venice, 1980

Parents packed with diaper bags; infants, kids

    stuffed like peppers in a carriage corridor

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Uniformed soldiers smoking San Miguels

    strung-up salamis, olives in a jar

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I close my itchy eyes, dream of first-class seats

    roomy leather arms, air-con breeze

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I pop a Coca-Cola, pour bubbles over ice

    prop my tired feet, sip the countryside

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But eyes blink open, burning from the stench

    thin tin can, narrow wooden bench

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Three Welcomes (Sorta)

Barcelona Old Man

Many thanks to *82 Review for publishing the following poem in their Fall 16  4.3 issue.

Tres Bienvenidos

                           —Barcelona triptych, 1980

1)  Pensione Viejo

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Corner room with noon-blue walls

   peeling plaster, thin twin bed

      old wood dresser, stuck dresser drawer

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Across the courtyard, canary in his cage

    old man, too, staring from his window sill

       old brown jacket, old brown cap

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When I bid him Buenos dias

    he tip-taps out his cigarette

      pulls the shutters shut

 

2)  Muchachas no Tocas

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 Up the Rambla, down the Rambla

   city locals selling country crafts

      wooden tables, rickety stalls

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Spanish girls strut by, thick dark ropes of hair

   eyes tagged only on merchandise

      flowers and seashells, candy and clothes

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I ask the price of a white gauze scarf

   girl behind the table yanks it from my hand

      spats at me in CatalanNo, no toquis!

 

3)  Lluevos no Quieros

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.Sidewalk table, white-coat waiter

   unfolds a fancy café menu

      basket full of sticky rolls

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I order café con leche, plate of scrambled eggs

   sit back and watch the promenade

      parade of tourists, vagabonds like me

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.The waiter brings my breakfast

   scrambled eggs over easy

      cup of coffee a cup of tea

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Three Paris Poems

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Much thanks to Forage, an online poetry presence, for publishing the following three poems in their July 2016 issue.

Rue de Tessier

                                                                           —Paris, 1980

When I first sky her, I’m all eyes

   a hovering hawk, hedonistic high

       itchy skin aflame, wings open wide

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I welcome her, unsuspecting mouse

   I’m in, I’m out; around, about

      our image on the mirror clouds

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Soon, my hunger flies away, my bloodied beak

   I look to my wrist for a reason to leave

      desire now an empty cup of tea

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Parisian Park

                                                       —April 1980

Alone in a city of choices

   culture, croissants, corner cafes

      two thousand years of touristry

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Still, no baguette can satisfy

   if I cannot just sit and feed

      quiet on this weathered wooden bench

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One small bite soon invites another

   all become familiar, all the same

      each contains its craving itch for more

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A finch alights on the edge of my bench

   cocks her hooded head, blinks an eye

      feathers ruffle up her throat—she goes

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I’m mired by these daily hikes to night

   my search for food, my thirsty mood

      send the oceans, wash me home to sea

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Still in Paris

                                                             —May 1980

Ducklings on the river Seine

   small beaks safe behind a drake

     and me—no one to follow

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Along the bustled Champs-Élysées

   people bump and humble me

      makes no difference where I go

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My father must be home across the globe

   painting or pounding inside the garage

      pruning his backyard garden

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I could pluck a pistol from my pants

   taste its barrel, suck its bitter rind

      no one home would ever know

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I pause my hunger, shut my eyes

   poked and nudged, ignored

      a stone in the bed of a river.

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Roman Cats

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Many thanks to Red Omnivore, an online literary magazine, for publishing the following poem late last year.

Gatti Romani

                                                  —at the Roman Forum, 1980

The ancient stones, the uncut grass

  skinny feral cats arching bony backs

    mincing for mice, nosing for toads

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I’m part of a pack of five loose strays

  we, too, prowling; only not for lunch

    we nose for bowls of adventure

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Brazilian shorthair, royal Persian snob

  two Texas tabbies mewing out meows

    and me, their teenage tom-tom up a tree

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Dogs who chipped and chiseled earth

  who sweat to raise these crumbling walls

    they haunt us here like last night’s rain

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Like four felines posing by a column

  clawing the air, shaking tawny tails

    our own fossils chiseled into film

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Passports packed and visas stamped

  we leave our footprints on a path

    we cede another century to cats

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Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur

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Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Crimes Along the Côte d’Azur

                                                                                —Spring 1980

My trespass takes me to the harbor

 big-rock jetty, cool-blue bay

  Monaco behind me, shiny gold

   casino coin glittering in sunlight

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Yachts roll in, wealthy drunks aboard

 chopped duck liver, sparkling wine and cheese

  I’m chewing cheese myself—Smiling Cow

   stolen from a store this afternoon

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Same as stolen glances, half-nude tourists

 olive-oiled breasts topless in the sun

  me a thief like those Arabs yesterday

   snapping secret photos in Antibes

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The train to Nice, a woman sleeps

 we alone in our cramped compartment

  bar of English chocolate in her bag

   gone before she bats an eye:  Merci

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I slip away from the hillside hostel

 sleepy village porches early dawn

  on one, a basket—cold milk, fresh baguette

   I snatch it like a furtive photograph

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Down by the one-clock railway stop

 I peel the paper lid, lift the chilly top

  five dumb pigeons watch me break my bread

    they peck at one another over thread

 

Hotel Brindisi

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Many thanks to Route 7 Review for publishing the following poem in their May 2016 issue.

Hotel Brindisi

                                                                       –One Star, 1980

No fun befriending illness on the road

  scratchy sinus, itchy cough, aches and pains, the runs

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A fever comes, removes my clothes

  folds up all my maps and plans

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Dreams of travel travel back to home

  romance of discovery subsides

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I could die here—quiet, unseen, like those

  who make our beds, rinse our basins clean

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Tonight, I gargle with some stale Coca-Cola

  clutch another colon cramp, catch another fire

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The body always brings me back to now

  reminders always dripping off my brow

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One Prayer

One Prayer

Many thanks to Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine for publishing the following poem:

One Prayer

                                                              —Jerusalem 5740

I wait my turn, the western wall

  white shawls muffling

    gray beards mumbling

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I pen my prayer on a store receipt

  press it tight tween ancient stones

    tight among a hundred crumpled cries

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Some rabbi grabs my elbow

  drags me to a cave

     straps my arm in leather

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He chants a sacred melody 

  Adonai Elohanu, Adoni Echad

   one, we are one—everyone, everywhere

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The crowd with its long tradition

  me in this thin tefillin

    this rabbi with his open hand

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That early-morning Arab sipping tea

  demanding twenty shekels

    the pleasure of his plea

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We are all echad—one prayer

  one crescent, one star, one sphere

Long-Tail Taxis

Long-Tail Taxi

Many thanks to Marathon Literary Review for including the following poem in their June 2015 issue.

Long-Tail Taxis

                                           —Gulf of Thailand, 2012

Overcast dawn, low tide gray
..long-tail taxis bob awaiting rain
….waters to rise, to start their day

Tethered to trees, long rough ropes
..sitting still as Buddha grins
….quiet squirrels in coconut trees

One boat fat with jungle fruit
..Thai flag flapping, edges affray
….suns and moons of salty spray

I am a squirrel at a teakwood table
..curry and rice and coffee consumed
….waiting, too, for clouds to clear

That girthy garden statue squints
..always aware of this one moment
….low tide, high tide, water waist or ankle deep

Sunshine Bungalow

Sunshine

Many thanks to Panoplyzine, an online literary journal, for including the following poem in their Summer 2015 issue.

Sunshine Bungalow

                                                                  –Koa Tao, 2012

No coo-coo clock, no digital chime
..no mechanical ring, no alarm
….nothing to nudge me from my dream

Only the sweep of garden leaves
..the blossoms’ breath, plumeria, weed
….my hammock on the balcony

Down the path, a match strikes a can
a knife chops chilis, oil hits a pan

One That Got Away

Girl in Venice

Thanks to Rat’s Ass Review, an online literary collective, for publishing the following poem in their Love & Ensuing Madness collection.

A Girl in Venice

                                                               —April 1980

Flocks of pigeons, people in a plaza

..camera shutters snapping souvenirs

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You step into my long-lens view

..focused face, heap of hair

..

Then Ciao, Arrivederci…

..gone before I lift my eyes

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Back home, I pin your sudden grin

..to boarded cork above my bed

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Tell friends the story of your glance

..watch them bend with envy at your smile

.

Today, on streets in San Francisco

..I searched for eyes to dance with mine

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Tonight, alone, our momentary spring

..blossoms on my tablet screen

 

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