romance

Seashells

seashells-3

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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Two More Euro Poems

chinio-abel

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 Paris Poems

Champs-Elysees 2

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

.

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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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

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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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Poem for Mary Beth Moore

Mary Beth w Journal

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

Red Bandana

                                             —Ionian Sea, 1980

Starts at a stoop, a souvenir stand

..red bandana falls to the floor

….one lost part of me reaches for another

……an ancient ferry crossing mythic seas

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I sleep out on deck, me and the rain

..cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

….icy pellets nip us as we dream

……we hold on tight to a red bandana

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A photo of her fingers journal jotting

..sun-white pages, jeans and flip-flop feet

….that red bandana at the postcard rack

……her Texas Sally sidekick stamping beats

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I should have left them alone to graze

..to follow their maps to convents, cathedrals

….that red bandana could’ve fallen all night

……cuddled up with Mary Beth—more, more, more

The Couple Upstairs

Couple Upstairs

The couple who own the top unit above me are away in Tahoe this weekend, so their tenant decided to have his girlfriend stay overnight.  I was dead asleep at 1:15 a.m. when they got home, but her stomping heels on the hardwood floors woke me up.  They were in the midst of a mega fight.  Usually, I can’t hear much of what’s said up there, but I could clearly hear her shout at him, “Are you in love with her?”  He said something back I couldn’t understand, but I heard her response:  “Because I’m a woman, and you’re my boyfriend, and I love you!”

I don’t know if they were throwing stuff or what, but there was stuff bouncing off the floor right above my bedroom ceiling.  Sounded like I was living under a bowling alley.  I’m surprised my son didn’t wake up from all the noise.  At one point, I heard the guy tell his girlfriend to “get out of my house!”  The girlfriend refused, said she wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s when I started wondering if I should call the cops.  Hell hath no fury and all.  Despite whatever he’d done, I was really worried about the guy’s safety.

After a while, I went outside and stood in the backyard and could see them upstairs in the kitchen.  Their light was on, so they couldn’t see me.  I was hoping they would, though, so that he’d have a reason to distract his girlfriend from her tirade.  I wished I had his phone number.  If I did, I’d have called him so he’d have some justification to urge her to chill:  the whole guy-downstairs-has-a-kid thing.  Finally, after several minutes of her standing over the sink as if she were going to throw up her pain, he put his hand on her back and started to comfort her.  Then she turned to him, and they hugged, and he kissed her.  That’s when I went back to bed.  Of course, then their own bed started squeaking like a honeymoon suite, so I could barely fall asleep.

The whole thing got me thinking:  Who had he met and where?  And when did he finally tell his girlfriend about it?  She was so full of emotion, it seemed she had just heard the news.  Were they out all night on some date, her enjoying herself and him holding on to this secret that he just couldn’t bear?  Did he bring it up just as they were walking from their car to the house?  It’s horrible having to tell someone you’ve met “someone else.”  As much as it hurts to hear that from a lover, it’s an equally unbearable guilty burden to unload.  Ugh!  Made me think of a few breakups of my own and how sad and painful and dramatic they can be.

The dramatics upstairs got me thinking how vulnerable everyone is, how strongly we all desire a deep connection with someone, and how desperate we can be when that connection is threatened.  In any event, I hope they’ve worked it out between themselves.  If nothing else, I hope they at least go shopping this morning for a few new padded rugs.

Chalok Ban Kao

steam-ticket-front-cover-2015-1

Many thanks to Steam Ticket, a literary journal published buy the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, for publishing the following poem in their Spring 2015 issue.

Chalok Ban Kao                                           

                                                —Koh Tao, Thailand 

Privacy—so public here in paradise

  things best left behind bamboo

    a market stall of mango nuts

That couple on their morning stroll

  their steps into the soupy sea

    a flirty splash or two or three

 p

After a kiss, he’s stomping back to shore

  kicking the calm green buoyance

    girlfriend left to wonder what’s gone wrong

p

It’s bread and circus for the beach

  karaoke tourists, fools taking turns

    staging their small dramas for the bored

p

Even I and my coffee are seen

  woman alone at a teakwood table

    and I watch her watch me

 p

Here comes her tan companion

  her leading man, her garden palm

    their bickering falls like sudden rain

 p

My own companion’s abandoned me

  left at dawn for scuba school

    a Sunday swim with silent fish

 p

So much I’d like to say to her

  to issue my objections and complaints

    popping fried eggs in hot, hot oil

 p

Two Paris Poems

Metonym

Many thanks to Metonym, a literary journal published by William Jessup University, for including the following two poems in their Spring 2015 issue.

Nineteen

                                                            —Paris, 1980

April—the cruelest month for me that spring

Beauty, briefly, held out her slender hand

Carelessly, though, I scared her off with words

Dumb mumbles, even silence would’ve served

Even my own bashful breath, if honest

For a moment, all eyes focused on me

Girls paraded by, all in slow motion

Here:  A tight pink dress, a pair of pink heels

I couldn’t control the roll of my tongue

Jesus, forgive me—I was just a kid

Kids make mistakes when testing out their wings

Look!  Look!  She smiled at you!  She likes you!  Go!

My so-called friends egged me on, urging me

Not one of them had even dared to cough

Or ask the time as her high heels clicked by

Perdón, I’d said, Your pink dress pales my red

Quirky?  Perhaps.  But my shirt was pale red

Reason enough for her to turn and wink

Strutting off alone through the sidewalk crowd

That’s when my friends got pushy.  Go! Go! Go!

Up ahead, I saw her:  A glimpse of pink

Visible one moment, then gone the next

Writhing through the crowd, I caught her thin wrist

Excuse me, I said—then my jaw went loose

Years slipped by before I could forgive myself

Zeal turned out to be my passion’s foe

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Piropos y Propinas

                                               —Paris, 1980

 A small token of gratitude

  a tip left for a café waiter

    a few francs by an empty cup

 a

Some flirtatious compliment

  whistled at a woman on the street

    Aye!  Qúe buena la rubia!

 a

How many mademoiselles

  might stop to say Merci

    their grins a gift for your gab?

 a

How many café waiters

  might race across a crowded street

    to thank you for your copper coins?

 a

A waiter only chases you if stiffed

  if left no tip

    waving his finger in the air

Some women only stop

  to stomp your brittle shell

    to crack your cocky smile with a smirk

But not if she’s from Spain

  she’ll appreciate piropos

    maybe even rattle off some words

Words you’ll misinterpret

  drops of rain you won’t understand

    and so, a fool, you’ll snap at her

Like snapping at some waiter

  racing up the boulevard

    waving your wallet in the air

a

Seeing Vonda Shepard

IMG_1018

Saw Vonda Shepard in concert tonight in San Francisco.  We first met thirty-five years ago at summer camp in Southern California, where this picture was taken in 1979.  The following fall, I got tickets to a Don McLean/Karla Bonoff concert at the Roxy, and Vonda came with me.  After the show, we got backstage and met both Don and Karla.  Now, Vonda’s the one performing around the world.  Seeing her tonight, after such a mad crush on her way back then, reminds me how quick life passes.  There you are, an infatuated teen; and before you know it, you’re a middle-aged dad with a mortgage.  To see what Vonda’s up to these days, click here.

It’s All Good

photo-1a

When we got back from Thailand, she said she couldn’t “see” me anymore — “no phone calls, no emails, no texts.”  She said she was setting me “free.”  During the five months we dated, she noted, I hadn’t written her a single poem.  That hurt, she said.  Up until our breakup, I hadn’t written any poems for more than a year.  Oddly, her disappointment inspired me.  Freedom always breathes an air of opportunity.

Yo Baby

                                —August 2014

 A tsunami arrived that day

  you spread your jam

    on my smooth sand

g

A hurricane blew

  a ukulele tune

    farther and farther, out to sea

g

 In your summer absence

  autumn winds arrived

    warm air oiled up the beach

 g

And that icy-hot sun

  your sun, ever present

    finally set one dawn

 g

Now all the birds fly free

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