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Characters:

These poems are mostly on the borderline between haiku and senryu and deal with people, character, etc.

Smack of cupboard door--
Mad?...No. Hands full of wet plates,
She used her elbow.


My third scotch--not drunk,
but my smile keeps coming back
and I swallowed me.


He reads, looks at the clock,
reads, looks....Should I tell him
the clock is stopped?


Jumbo Hot Fudge Caramel Sundae:
I'll have to make up for this
somehow.


At a table in the library,
farting...
quietly.


You look harmless
this morning, penis. Is this, too,
being a man?


She leaves the restroom,
closing her purse as if she'd
just finished herself.


"Back! Back from the rim!"
(My body insisting
I can't fly.)


People walk by
balancing on skinny legs,
none falling.


"Brigadoon" rehearsal:
Kids in their first kilts
smirk.


Dead tired. Stopping
at a "STOP" sign, I wait
for it to change.

Notice this is a stop sign, not a stop light. You have to wait a long time, maybe years, for a stop sign to change. But I've caught myself doing just that.


Know myself:
Lean forward enough
to miss my belly when I spit.


Dead face lies still there,
not breathing: looks difficult,
or too easy.

Too easy because suddenly that dead body (in this case, at an open-casket funeral service) looks so natural that the phenomenon of breathing begins to seem odd, and one wonders if it isn't artificial.


Some fizz, some BANG!, some
are silent. What will this one do?
Eyes tease ears.

The suspense of waiting to see what the next sky rocket will do. Eyes tease ears because, while all of them blossom out into flowers or balls of light, only a few of them explode with a series of load bangs.


Just a minute ago -
so easy to sit down...
My back!

My bad back
teaches me to use it.
Impatient teacher.

Turning Over In Bed,
Step 4...I used to think it
simple.

My spine, bone on bone -
I can almost count them
like a Rosary.

Aliens among us
pretending to be us -
our bodies!

Crooked, creeping, rude -
Ah, body, I can't take you
anywhere!

Goddamned back!...Ah, no!
Issa pitied fleas; I forgive
my back.

Lose weight, more minerals,
exercise - and face
what a bad back solves.

The above 8 haiku were intended to work as a single poem. Issa is one of the classic Japanese haiku writers and one of my favorite poets. He put up with a lot more than a bad back. But that's another story. By the way, this bad back had me in bed for a week, then was handled, permanently (it's 14 years later, and there's been no repetition) by a Scientology counseling session that took about 3 minutes.


Bulging black sky -
the neighbor mows
faster.


Deep among thorns,
a juicy blackberry...oops!
I'm juicy too!


Still Cedros Street, but
no cedars on the Latino
side of the tracks.


Grey morning, breakfast done -
why am I rereading
the cereal box?


A stranger asks me
for a cigarette. Will he
believe I don't smoke?


Going door-to-door,
so careful not to scare,
I forget to be scared.

When selling or delivering door to door, especially in well-off areas, one runs into scared people peering through peepholes, etc. Their fear makes one feel dangerous, makes one try to be as unscary as possible. In the process one forgets to be afraid of them. After all, are not the people inside as unknown and potentially dangerous to me as I to them?


Does he grimace in thought
because he smokes a pipe or
vice versa?


Walking down Sunset,
stepping over stilted shadows
where pimps lean.

They were tall to begin with. Add their high heels, their high hairdos and fancy hats, then lengthen their shadows (it's near sunset on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood) and you get some very "stilted" shadows.


Fall Classic close-up:
A strong young man squints
and spits.

A World Series game seems to include many gallons of saliva.


In a room, me
and sixty others, but no doubt
which is the hero...

It must be I. Am I not at the center of everything? ("Hey, this isn't about you.")

Bride and groom so high
on each other, the wine
never catches up.


As I walk past
the lady smiles, her dog snarls...
Which should I believe?


Family album --
those who almost never smiled
smiling at me.


Hitch-hiker: car door
jams. I push, he pulls...
all to ride two blocks.


A door pushes open
against talk in the room
not yet heard.

In retrospect it seems the door you opened into that room was resisted by the talking of people you hadn't realized were there. As you open the door and catch the first waft of talk, the motion stalls an instant. Or so I've noticed.


Party. This buzz
is made up of voices
speaking words.

Ever play Heisenberg (he of the Uncertainty principle) at a party? You listen to the white noise of talk. Then you make out some of the words of a single voice or conversation. Then, while continuing to hear those words as words, you try to make out the words of a second conversation. Difficult, I've found. It's like eye focus: If foreground is precise, background is blurred and vice versa. If you separate out one conversation, all else becomes noise. Hard, too, to follow the descent of two snowflakes at once or to make out the individual raindrops and their sounds. For this we invent God and/or work on increasing our awareness.

Laundromat. Two cops...
People waiting for clothes
try not to notice.

What do they want here? Are they looking for someone? Are they washing their clothes? In uniform? Should I speak to them? Etc. Poor cops.


3 a.m...."Pam!"
From the living room: "I'm here.
I couldn't sleep."


Working late, knowing
exactly when she'll wake, say
"Come to bed!"


She's still asleep.
Breathing?...yes. (I saw this
movie once...)


Sexy models --
all that make up on sad
skinny girls.


Snazzy Black man,
alone, squinting, leery
of Manhattan daylight.

In my cab-driving days, when such folks often hailed my cab around burned-out dawn, they were inevitably pimps, high-heeled, slickly coifed, etc. (Not all pimps drove purple cadillacs with gold trim and transparent domes back in the 70s.) Some of them acted like TV pimps. Some of them were just duded-up nice guys. One talked to me the whole trip uptown about how worried he was about "his girls" and the difficulty of keeping them out of trouble, off drugs, etc. I believed him. there went another stereotype. Just about all the girls on the street were black and/or Puerto Rican. One pimp explained to me, you knew we were in a recession when white whores showed up on the street. Sure enough, the economy sagged, said the papers, and next day the all-Black brigades along lower Lexington Avenue had white recruits. (I guess during better times, when people could afford expensive dates, whites were call girls, so didn't have to do "cold calls" from the street.)


An old man whose wife
and children have died,
a gray orphan.


My bed is as rumpled tonight
as I left it this morning --
vacation.


Going north by bus.
Tinted windows mask the hills,
so I read.


Hollywood: Tourists stroll,
stand, eyes glued to the sidewalk,
star-gazing.


Stale wetness (piss?)
on this bench next to me -
wish I hadn't seen that.


Gunshots? "Car,
backfiring," quickly I explain
to myself.


Face puffy, eyes red --
can hair's false gold console her?
It just hangs there.

Where's that glorious hair when you need it?


"Come to bed!" "Just a sec" --
spotting one more beard hair
sticking out...


At the door, your eyes
flit from face to face, ‘light
on mine, fly off.


"Lunch" she calls,
and I finish just one more e-mail...
one more...and just one more...


People in a room –
they come with the chairs
and table.


At a table,
papers before each, they think
"egg rolls? Kung pao shrimp?..."

In the conference room as lunch time nears.


Talking fast,
the teacher grimaces -- can't
pick his nose.


"Prove to me I've lived
before," says a man who's
never lived at all.


"That's muscle, not fat!"
"Sure" you laugh, patting my belly
as I'd hoped.


Ice cream - dangerous
stuff. I eat it all, to make
the world safer.


She wakes up mad at
the world. I tiptoe, pretend
not to be the world.


"Let's just end it, then!"
(Trying words on for size,
hoping they won't fit.)


Spring

Summer

Autumn

Winter

Rain

Wind

Night

Morning

Dusk

Walking

Places

Children

Lovers

Loss and Loneliness and aloneness

Characters

Old Age

Music

A Poet's Life

Cats

Dogs

Beasts

Birds

Insects

Plants

Trees

Telephones and TVs

Things

Mankind