Paradise Row

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Met, at Mother Kelly’s in London,
a nouveau restauranteur
who perhaps was being provocative
when he grumbled several
pro-Trump statements
such as “I hope he DOES build a wall.”

“Are you pro-Brexit?”
we asked him. “Of course not,”
he shrieked. Later, my wife
recalled him as “That coke fiend,”
and I can’t blame her.
She really hates Donald Trump.

• • •

The Writing Life

Saturday, July 14, 2018

It is all coffee shops and typewriters and
thin smoke rising from unstubbed butts

Cigarettes burning silently down to the knuckle
of drowsy, lost in thought writer,

It is ink spent, ink spattered
And ink wasted, ink’s ink; the ink of ink

Curled pages tucked absently into attachés
and hurried through rainy streets
to editors waiting in austere and lonely offices

Yes, it is all of that and also
lost love, hated love, rejected love,
Love in all its masquerade

It is lost family, hated family, loved mother.
Betrayed and redefined.
Writing life is the Loved Mother
of all lives. Yes, it’s the invented mother.

And it is a certain winsome threadbareness
of the blazer with the one seam pulled
of rumpled cotton shirt and denim pants
and out of fashion boots

The writing life is an utterly genuine badassness
that always feels sui generis

but is in fact the same everywhere
both the same, rather, and as
absolutely different

as it seems.

• • •

Meeting at Work

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“This is the assembly line. They change
trains here and they need to avoid
the domino effect into other elements
of their journey. This is where the dominos
could tilt either way, and they just want
to protect their bucket of money. We want
to make sure we’re planting holistic seeds,
so when they get to 59½ they don’t think wow,
I’m at a crossroads and don’t know how
I got here. All they want is Social Security.
All they care about is their bucket.”

• • •

Stop Looking at Me

Friday, July 6, 2018

The biggest key to success
is knowing what’s what.
The biggest key to what’s what,
however, is grasping who’s who.

Master that and you’re
in the master class reserved
traditionally for masters
and others of their ilk.

So success sort of sucks,
because you think you’ve nailed it
and there’s another sucker
or two buying what you’re selling,

and suddenly you’re no longer
on top of the human pyramid
but in its squirming middle
hanging onto a hanging handle

like the elderly subway rider
no one will cut a break.
The aged pedestrian beset
by Nobody Beats the Wiz bags

en route to the randomest
bat mitzvah money can buy.
The biggest key to getting out
from up under is knowing

whose whistle to wet
and at what precise moment.
That and really cut back on TV
Really, really cut back on TV.

• • • 


Friday, June 22, 2018

The two best countries
are Canada and Japan.

The two best artists ever
are Picasso and Van Rijn,

or possibly Van Eyck.
The two best houses are

the Biltmore House in NC
and the White House in D.C.

The two best cars ever
are Blue Streak and the first Model T.

The two best people in history
are Jesus and Lincoln.

The two best roads are
the Autobahn and Route 66.

The two best inventions in history
are the pencil and the wristwatch.

The two best ideas ever
are the dictionary and the fireplace.

The two best sentences are
“Today you will be with me

in Paradise,” and “It was the best
of times, it was the worst of times.”

The two best moments in history
are when George Washington refused

to lie to his father, and when Kirk
Gibson homered off Dennis Eckersley.

The two best brands of ice cream
are Peveley and Briar’s.

The two best brands of shoes
are Ecco and Nike.

The two best trains are
the F to Brooklyn and China’s Iron Rooster.

The two best words are
“translucent” and “piloting.”

The two best birds
are canaries and mourning doves.

(May, 2001)

• • •

Leaving For Work

Monday, June 4, 2018

This morning, a
tiny kiss from
my wife—pinprick
in a balloon
of loneliness.

• • •

Hearing From You

Saturday, June 2, 2018

I love hearing from you when I do.

This town is full of long afternoons
that grow overcast, sultry, and break
into cool evening rain. Then, black
wet streets in the darkness steam,
and the night becomes steamy,

and in the streets shine neon signs
of diners and dry cleaners. The day’s
warmth returns. Our tires hiss
through wet streets as we drive with
windows down.

                            Now I am a man
with gently whitened sideburns
and salt and pepper beard. I have
what people call a “paunch.” Now
my jokes fall slowly down—drift
quietly to the ground. “How
do you get to the bottom of Carnegie
Lake?” “Cracked ice, cracked ice,
cracked ice.” No one picks that up,

and so the day goes on, toward sultry
night, toward rain and memory.

I love hearing from you. Just know
that things have changed—and I’d say,
for the best. For the better, anyway.

• • •

North Carolina

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Wake Forest; okay.
Nap for rest in the afternoon.
Sleep for awhile; and wake.
It’s the drowsy cycle marked
by patterns of light,
and, quite honestly, we
prefer dusk. We love the quiet
zip of chainsaws in far forests
and rush of traffic on the interstate;
the dust of our convenience store
printed on its heavy drapes
a young woman hung there
more than 40 years ago.
North Carolina is long—long
shadow, longer days
of distant sound, the cardinal’s
“Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet!”
among some cedar’s boughs.

• • • 

Staggering Intellect

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Some say I have a staggering intellect.
Staggering drunk, that is. Drunk
on ideas, though. Ideas about alcohol,
however. Just high-end scotch. My wife
brought home a bottle of pink champagne
from a women’s event at our church today.
A church event—that has champagne at it!
Or had. Come to think of it, my wife
came home early. It wasn’t a leftover
bottle. It surely wasn’t something
she should have taken, but she did,
and now here we both sit penciling words
into separate Moleskins, but sitting
near enough that our shoulders touch.
I suppose you could say I love my wife.
She is preparing drunken noodles.
The old fashioned way. They’re
sizzling in a stovetop wok. Lovely!

• • •


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

not really
that hard of
a game to
figure out.

• • •