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Preview: CROWNED WITH LAURELS

Crowned with Laurels Poetry



"Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit"- Perhaps,one day, remembering even these things will bring pleasure.- Virgil



Last Build Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2017 00:56:09 +0000

 



CHILDHOOD AT THE SHORE

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:52:00 +0000

There’s a boy at the water’s edge,laughing and splashing, wet sand smeared on his face, chest, armshaving the time of his life, no doubt-is what we always used to say.I want to tell him to keep it up,don’t stop jumping into the waves,swim under the water, stay here,never leave and soak it all in.You’ll look back on this as a man,as a father and husband- you willneed this when you have a bad day,a particular challenge, or hardship. You’ll think about the smell of salt air, the breeze in your face, the coolness of the rising tide on your ankles and shins, your eyes darting across the ocean floor.as you point at minnows, sand crabs, shells.These memories will keep you afloatis what I want to shout, because I thinksomeone should explain this to all of you.But the children of the beach wouldn’t listen.So instead I just grin and nod. And the boy?He runs away. I turn to look to the horizon, the Atlantic, nothing has really changed it’s the same view from forty years ago, only the children at the shoreline are new.[...]



VIN SCULLY

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:42:00 +0000

Mind you, I’ve never been west of the Mississippibut each night this summerin my bed I’m listening toa strange bedtime story- thanks to modern technology.There’s a light blue glow on the ceiling of my roomas I lay still and soak in thelullaby of each Dodgers gameespecially if it is his voice- the sound of seasons past.I imagine drinking Coronitas in the parking lot while radiosblast the songs of Sublime. I wonder if there are statuesto honor the great Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, or Kirk Gibson.I dream of sitting in the bleachers in Chavez Ravine without a jacket or hat knowing the chance of rainis just small talk, a bit of rumor.I’d eat a Dodger Dog as the sun setover the infamous Freeway traffic.Without fail, after a few inningsI begin to fade away to sleep.My wife come up to yell at me,“Turn that off, you’re sleeping,” she says and I roll over knowingI’ll check the score in the morning.[...]



Tennessee Education, 1992

Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:30:00 +0000

To think that I could forget windrows,why it’s important to put hay up dry,where to hook a chain on the truckwhen you’re pulling it out of the mud.To think that I could forget tobacco barns,how to sort the brights, the lugs, and tips.The sweet smell of it hanging in the rafters,a need for moisture and the foggy mornings.To think that I could forget black coffee,the taste of JFG brand, no milk, no sugar,Family seated on tall chairs at the counter,when they got up, they’d say stay with us.To think that I could forget winter evenings,the heat of the fire from a Franklin stove,the laughter of Papaw in his big chair tellingstories about logging camps and driving trucks.To think I could forget how biscuits are made,soup beans, slab of onion, chunks of cornbread,the squint in Granny’s eye when she spoke ofthe one’s she despised or told of their stupidity.To think I could forget how crops and seedsmust be planted during the full moon or as heused to say, “when the sign is in the head”Sixty eight days from planting to picking.To think I could forget about cows in the field,Black Angus, Charolais, classic red and whites.riding the fence line, doctoring a sick heifer,gathering young bulls in the barn on the hill.To think I could forget about the hunting,how running rabbits made the old guyslament a pack of beagles and basset hounds,how sadly men spoke of the long gone dogs.To think I could forget which exit to take,how odd roads run north to south and even run east to west or the names of the rivers tocross over, the Pigeon, Nolichucky, or Holsten.To think that I could forget those words,when you come here you get that dirt in your shoes.No matter how far away you go or how long you leave,you can always come back home to these mountains.[...]



HOSPITAL CURTAINS

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:20:00 +0000

Another trip to the hospital
she coughed too much,
moaned in pain, didn’t know
she was fighting to stay on Earth.
Didn’t know her or her story,
her diagnosis or her name.
We feel guilty now, for hearing
her take her last breath as she
passed from this world.

We sat nearby, as the nurse tells
the husband how she has died.
I shouldn’t have seen his face as
he stared blankly the silent body-
his wife for more than fifty years.

Can I call your children for you?
We never had any.
Does she have a brother or sister?
They’re all gone.
Is there anyone you’d like me to call?
I don’t think so.
You let me know. Are you ok?
I just don’t know how I’m going to tell the dog.
He loves her so much and she loved him.





PROPERTIES OF MATTER

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:12:00 +0000


It stunk like somebody dying dozens of eggs,
the children shrieked when the baking soda
plopped into vinegar and the balloons inflated.

He stacked weights on bridge models made of
notebook paper, cardboard and drinking straws,
they cheered loudly as it collapsed and crashed.

“Will it sink, will it float?” with an old fish tank,
“Waves in a Bottle” with cooking oil and water,
amazed at how it always goes back to the top.

They laughed at riddles about the elements,
glued Fruit Loops, Cheerios, and Apple Jacks
on neon colored poster boards to show atoms.

After a week, the water was gone, salt left behind
and it was time for them to put away the books.
The materials and mess are what really mattered.





THANK YOU RED ANT

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:11:00 +0000

for the sting on the top
of my sunburned foot.
You sent me to the water,
made me get up and
leave my beach chair.
After all I heard that
sitting is the new smoking.

Thank you waves
for sending me these shells
to gather and take home
as a reminder of my trip.
A strange custom, yet
no one seems to find peculiar.

Imagine strolling a trail,
gathering the bones
of woodland creatures-
a white tailed deer’s femur,
a jawbone of a raccoon,
strolling a trail,
picking up those tiny fingers
of a gray squirrels.

See what I mean?





FIRST FRIENDS

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:08:00 +0000

After a while, it will happen- swing a lot, drag your feet,
puddles form below swings, but only if you use it a lot.
There’s a photo somewhere of me and the girl next door.
A snapshot from 1969, bundled up babies, a chilly spring.
We’re staring with beady eyes, no smiles, serious faces,
small hands clutching cold chains, no idea of the future.
Flip it over, all the white bordered photographs of the time,
have names, dates, places, and sometimes little sayings.
Words written in blue ink, a mother’s perfect cursive writing.





SeaWorld, South River

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 23:05:00 +0000

There’s a commotion down at the bridge tonight,
the one by the plumber’s and old comic book shop.
Yellow and black crime scene tape drapes the trees,
a part time cop sets up plenty of orange safety cones.

There’s a dolphin swimming near the bridge tonight,
he took a wrong turn, went up into the Raritan Bay,
continued up the creeks and waterways to this place.
And all of the experts don’t know what they can do.

There’s a lot of people standing at the bridge today,
entire families, all with cameras, iphones, and ipads.
The poor creature surfaces for air, they take snapshots
and videos of him jumping like the football team’s logo.

There’s an ABC-TV news van on the bridge tonight,
capturing shrieks, squeals, and wows of the onlookers.
They tell a reporter it’s awesome, quite amazing to see.
I saved a ton of money, didn’t have to travel to Florida.

There’s a dead dolphin down by the bridge this morning.
he washed up on the shoreline, confused and exhausted.
This was no place for him, too many cameras, no way out.
This week’s casualty, the ongoing story of Man vs Nature.





JUST PASSING THROUGH

Thu, 20 Aug 2015 22:59:00 +0000

Tonight I sit inside a noodle restaurant
it used to be a Mexican burrito place and
before that, in the 90’s it was a Wendy’s.
It gives me the same feeling I have when
I sit in my living room in my big brown chair
a place I’ve lived for about a dozen years.
Others lived there before, sat in the same spot
watching TV, arguing about paying the bills,
raising kids, putting up Christmas trees,
painting the walls their favorite colors,
rolling out carpet to make it warm and cozy.
In another twenty years, someone else will
call this place their home and they’ll paint
the walls their favorite color and buy a new rug.
They’ll be out front watering the hydrangeas
that I planted along the driveway and raking
up all the leaves the way we used to each fall.
One day, when I’m gone, the postman will deliver
a piece of mail with my name on it, somebody will
glance at it, read my name, toss it in the trash
and say, “must be the guy who lived here before”.





Forgotten Muscle Car

Sun, 17 May 2015 15:01:00 +0000


thunders by on Route 18 South,
neurons fire, my 50 year old brain
searches for the word on the car.
Look close, a metallic logo confirms.
Drive on, beside him, behind him
remembering an old guy’s lament-
back in the days before computers,
street legal, slant sixes, big blocks,
4 barrel carburetors, a story always
laced with numbers, V8, 383, 426,
street legal, slant sixes, big blocks.
Secret codes for those who lived it.

Never saw these, even in the 70’s,
Chargers, Firebirds, Mustangs, sure.
Something ugly about this one, long
in front, squared off grill like a mouth
of the fish a Detroit guy named it after.
This one’s dull gray with a white roof.
I’d paint it purple, make the roof black.
Must be headed down the shore with
Historic QQ Jersey plates. Bet he plays
that old “Heart” song as kids walk along
the rows of cars with parents and say-
It’s kind of cool, what’s the name of that?



The Wait

Mon, 06 Apr 2015 01:01:00 +0000

Ropes and stanchions keep the lines in order
as if the people are going out on a Friday night
to see the latest blockbuster at the Regal Cinema.
Women at the front desk sit in their little windows
like the workers at Motor Vehicles, only they smile,
speak in quiet, calm voices to ask if you need help.
Dozens of people fill the expertly arranged chairs
like an airport terminal but no one has baggage.
They wait patiently to hear their names called by
sweet voiced young women in pastel scrubs who
remind me of the hostesses down at Olive Garden.

In the back, the machines await, its 21st Century
medicine at its best- sonograms and mammograms,
CAT scans, MRIs, your basic x-rays machines too.
By this time next week, the waiting room people
will know if it’s a boy or a girl, if a lump is dangerous,
why they have frequent headaches and blurred vision,
what kind of operation will their knee require next,
or how bad is the blockage in the coronary arteries.
For now, all they know is that they must wait for
their names to be called, wait and fill out the forms,
wait for the technicians, wait some more, and worry.



SHE DIDN’T WRITE ABOUT

Fri, 03 Apr 2015 13:12:00 +0000

how pink smells like pretty flowers,
how it feels like butterfly wings or
that it tastes like cotton candy and
it doesn’t remind her of Barbie’s car.

Instead she writes hers about a ham.
It is pink, cooked with yummy pineapples,
honey and sugar stuck all over the top.
I tell her she kind of missed the point.

Later, as I collect papers from the class
she tells me why her poem is about ham.
No one ever made a meal that I asked for.
This Sunday, my grandmother is making
ham because I told her I like it so much.

I don’t see my mother much anymore.
My parents are really my grandparents.
The others all have moms and dads, so
I never told them. I tell her it was the same
for me growing up, but it was my father
who I never saw. Smiling now, she tells me-

“And I always thought I was the only one”.



Shake the Salt on When She’s Not Looking

Thu, 02 Apr 2015 02:34:00 +0000


to avoid her high blood pressure lecture.
If she sees his red eyes, she’ll say it’s a sign
of a health condition. She’ll insist on making
an appointment for him, he’ll say he’s fine-
Those doctors always find something wrong
and I’m not ready to hear bad news just yet.

He thinks they’d try to give him a prescription
and he’s afraid he’d have to go back every few
weeks to piss in a cup or get stuck by a needle.
Lately, he’s had tingling in his toes, now and then
there’s been those sharp jabs in his right side and
sometimes it’s like there’s a weight on his chest.

He’d agree to go in for a physical but knows
they’d tell him how he needs to lose weight.
Maybe he’ll go this summer, he’d consider it
if she makes sure the appointment is with the
big heavy doctor, you know the one who’s always
in the parking lot smoking cigarettes by his car.



LESSONS LEARNED

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 23:28:00 +0000

(AT AN EARLY AGE WHILE LIVING IN LOW INCOME HOUSING, 1974)Sometimes in life it’s a good idea to hide in the corner behind a red naugahyde chair.Sometimes in lifeyou have to pound on the steering wheel and shout, “you know I wanted ice cream”!Sometimes life tastes likeSwanson pot pies, Campbell’s soup, Quisp cereal, a packet of Wyler’s juiceSometimes life feels likethe shot gun blast that killed the old guy who was the apartment manager. Sometimes it’s likean across the hall neighbor out of her mind on acid running in with a butcher knife.Sometimes in lifeyou have to push the furniture in front of the door before going to bed.Sometimes life is about lawyers in the living room and toys you’re forbidden to play with.Sometimes it’s your cat having kittens in the closet, but you can’t keep one of them.Sometimes life burns like shampoo in the eyes or it cuts like a broken water glass.Sometimes it sounds likea Carpenters album, a Gilligan’s Island laugh track, the Banana Splits theme song.Sometimes in lifeyou want Mrs. Beasley with her polka dot dress, not the red heart shaped pillow.Sometimes life is likepulling GI Joe’s string and the only thing he ever says is, “I've got a tough assignment for you”.[...]



OLD GUY WITH THE NICE POOL

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 15:49:00 +0000

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor.Do you know your next door neighbor?”- Mother TeresaRed lights splashed into all of our back yards,guessed it was the old guy with the nice pool,but it was his wife, a loud lady I talked to once.She suffered a heart attack and died. He’s beenalone for ten or twelve years now and for hourshe sits watching TV on the back porch, I’d hearMASH, CNN, John Wayne westerns, war movies.His pool always crystal clear, open Memorial Day,closed on Labor Day, check the calendar and seethe trampoline-like green cover perfectly placed.He moved slower, didn’t swim, watched more TV.Had less pool parties with his family and last winter a sign went up on his lawn, the house sold quick, luckier than most who have been trying to leave.Another neighbor says, “His kids got him to sell andmoved him to assisted living, on his first night there, he got out of bed, tripped on the rug, broke his leg. Doctors find he’s filled with cancer. Three weeks lateraround Christmas, he’s gone. Dead. Jack was his name”.[...]



JETTY GEORGE

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 01:04:00 +0000

hooked a bluefish, so did Tommy, his busboy.
Pop and I caught weakfish on the Fishin’ Fool.
Worth missing a day at the beach. I remember
how the Royal Flush party boat blasted by and
put us in a wake, rocked us, made us struggle to
bring in our catch of the day, but we reeled it in.
Two slabs under the broiler with lemon and butter,
and a Kodak moment above my desk for eternity.




WE BOUGHT HOCKEY STICKS IN 1974

Sun, 13 Jul 2014 15:09:00 +0000


at Riley’s Sporting Goods on Laurel Street,
sawed them off if they seemed too long.
South Jersey side streets, makeshift games
whacking a plastic ball at the one boy with
a mask, pads, and goalie stick. He’d block
them all and kids chanted like fans at the
Spectrum- Bernie! Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!
We pretended to be Broad Street Bullies-
Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Dave Schultz.
In school, we drew pictures of them with
clenched fists, black eyes, teeth missing,
orange sweaters with the famous flying P.
Saturday nights we’d put on Channel 29
in the back room, a fire always burned and
Pop smoked El Productos in his easy chair.
Kate Smith’s God Bless America, the voice
of Gene Hart delivered play by play of battles
with Blackhawks, Redwings, and Canadians.
At Christmas, we asked for black and orange
coats, hats, everyone wanted to be a big fan.
Before bed we’d drink milk in glasses with the
unforgettable saying- Lord Stanley Lives in Philly! 




FINDING MYSELF

Fri, 30 May 2014 14:36:00 +0000

Sometimes I go days without looking in the mirror.
I get a good look when I decide it’s time to shave.
In front of the sink, shake the can of Edge, lather up-
I wonder when the wrinkles start, been lucky so far.
My left eye, no- right eye is bloodshot again, stress?

Notice more white hairs than dark, there’s a blemish.
A few spots here and there, never had them before.
My wife insists I should go and get them checked out.
I look tired after a full night of sleep and why does hair
grow faster in my nose, ears, on the back of my neck?

Somewhere between the last razor stroke and splashing
on the cold water, I remember the friend from college
who always joked about having a Talking Heads moment
while shaving. All of a sudden you stop, stare at the mirror
and say “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”






VIRAL

Fri, 30 May 2014 14:30:00 +0000

spreading like a disease, with over 800,000 hits, still going
they’re fighting in the streets, kicking each other in the ribs,
dragging women by their hair, beating each other down in
school yards, restaurants, on city buses, put it on You Tube.
Bystanders, no longer stand by, they hold their phones up high.

Commenting on the action, laughing at the poundings, gasping
at the beatings, shocked by the blood flow, but still recording.
No one tries to break it up, avert the crisis, diffuse the conflict,
or call the cops, happy to push record,  glad the beating is not
on them, while others sit at home- clicking, watching, sharing.







BACK WITH THE SIXERS

Fri, 30 May 2014 14:25:00 +0000


Black jersey and a Phillies cap, we drove down
early in the morning with him belted in the backseat.
He read the directions printed out from the internet,
we found the Philadelphia zoo, I called him My Navigator.
I remember being amazed at how the Monkey House hadn't
changed since my kindergarten class field trip back in ’72.

Been a while, a long time since we've been back.

We rode on to Independence Mall and took photos
with the Liberty Bell, people in Colonial costumes and
stopped to hear songs played with a hammered dulcimer.
Dinner was Tony Luke’s, a small steel structure surrounded
by chain link fence, wedged under the Walt Whitman Bridge
Cheesesteaks with onions and wiz never tasted so good.
We kicked a soccer ball in the empty parking lot at the new
basketball stadium named after a bank, not the old Spectrum.

Been a while, a long time since we've been back.

In the game, the Sixers and Wizards dueled it out on the court.
It was April, both teams had no chance of seeing the playoffs.
We sat in the cheaper seats, marveling at the three pointers of
Arenas, gasping at Iverson’s crossover dribble magic, high fiving
strangers and the old black guy next to us who shouted loudly-
C’mon now AI don’t let Gilbert show you up, not in your house.


Been a while, a long time since we've been back.





SUNDAY NIGHTS ON HBO

Fri, 30 May 2014 14:19:00 +0000

Meet me in the living room, it’s almost nine.
You know where to find me, I’ll be in my chair

The weekend is over, but it’ll be fine.
Others think about Monday, but I don’t care.

Tony Soprano had to bump off his friends,
but we don’t know if he got it in the end.

Dick Winters, Nixon, Guarnere- Band of Brothers
greatest generation, braver than others.

Stringer Bell, cops couldn't get him on The Wire,
in the game until Omar opened fire.

Nucky gives orders, runs his Boardwalk Empire
greed, corruption, a professional liar.

Game of Thrones, poor Rob Stark, rotten King Joffrey
found out weddings are deadly places to be.







LET ME THINK ABOUT IT

Fri, 30 May 2014 14:10:00 +0000

I was probably 3 or 4 when
she first encouraged me to
create art, always plenty of
markers, crayons, paper.
And I love her for that.

I was probably 5 or 6 when
she first taught me to
love plants, flowers like
forsythia, hyacinths, lilacs.
And I love her for that.

I was probably 7 or 8 when
she first pushed me to
read books, thick books on
history, animals, mythology.
And I love her for that.

I was probably 9 or 10 when
she said nothing as he turned
his anger on me, wish she’d
said “Stop”, that first time.

And I can’t forgive her for that.






BIG ORANGE

Fri, 30 May 2014 13:59:00 +0000

Wish I had one more chance
for one more game with him.
The only time we ever went.
Should’ve asked a guy to take a
photograph of me with my father,
way up high in Neyland Stadium.

Wish I had one more chance
to snap a photo of the 106,000 fans
in orange, singing Rocky Top as the
Pride of the Southland Band forms
a big T for the team to run through,
led by everyone’s hero,Johnny Majors.

Wish I had one more chance
to get a picture of Carl Pickens,
star wide receiver, stretching out in
the famous checkerboard end zone.
I still hear the call of “Give him 6!”

and the howl of the blue tick hound.





WEATHER SMALL TALK

Fri, 30 May 2014 13:51:00 +0000

Welcome to Jerseyif you don’t like the weather-don’t worry, it changes.Last year we were offa week for the hurricanethis year it was snow.Winter is done now,ice dams haunted usno need for more salt.He never liked spring,because it doesn't knowwhat it wants to be.Four seasons this weekeighty degrees, a snow stormcool, windy, and rainy.In spring and fallyou save cash on utilitiesno AC or heat.Ready for summer?window units will run hardif it hits ninety.Hey, it’s better thandealing with single digits,please remember that.[...]



MONSTER MOVIES ON TV, B.C.

Fri, 30 May 2014 13:45:00 +0000

Television before cable, 13 channels if you count the UHF,
did it even work, remember antennas on all the rooftops?
When the set was busted, we’d say Oh no, better call Ono!
Mr. Ono, a TV repair guy knew how to get it working again.
Now we put them on the curb, head on down to Best Buy.

Creature Double Feature on 48, Dr. Shock on channel 17 
from Philly, same time, Saturday afternoons, the Seventies.
Mighty Joe Young always on Channel 9, not sure about 5,
maybe that’s where Abbott and Costello met the monsters?
Now we laugh, can’t believe we watched in black and white.

When it was a little chilly and rainy on a Saturday, she’d say
Be a good day for a nap on the sofa and a Godzilla movie.
How come they don’t have any scary movies on TV anymore?
Only people our age would know what she meant by this.

Now it’s easy, she grabs the remote and finds one on Netflix.