January 19, 2018


Anna Yanni was born 22 days after my father in 1931.

She never had a Christmas morning where-as the only child

The room would be full of gifts for the gift.

She never played in the yard or worked in her grandfather’s garden.

She didn’t go to school.

Never acted in the high school production of Best Foot Forward,

Never went to art school-never drew a thing.

Didn’t spend 18 years in the Army Reserves

Pushing and being pushed.

Never worked,

Never laid a brick.

Didn’t marry, raise children,

Worry, love, be paralyzed by fear.

Be proud, prideful or exult.


Work, play, fish

Have friends, have family,

Watch the Steelers,

Live, love, laugh, drink,

Die at home.

Maybe that last. Probably.

For 16 days why even leave Heaven?

Who booked her on that cruise?

Who was little Anna sent to serve

Or to save?


He Remembered to Eat

He remembered to eat, at least.

Two rice cakes with peanut butter.

He did it in front of her as she was leaving for the gym

So she could see.

She kissed him on the cheek and he’d playfully grumble.

Once gone, he would swallow the pills that she didn’t know about

Nor what he did to get them.

They would make

The day tolerable.

No, that was wrong…

They would make the day livable.

No, that’s the same thing.

They would make the day…enjoyable.

He would be right with the world by the time she got home.

She would sometimes mention his good moods

As if complimenting a puppy for not shitting on the rug.

How happy she was to have him back she’d say

Though he never remembered being anywhere.

He’d watch the clock and with every blink of the passing morning feel the

Darkness begin to lift, the grays become tie-dyed.

Feel yesterday’s regrets dissolve and tomorrow become nothing.

He would try to remember the feeling. This fearless thisness, and try to

Recapture it later, without the pills.

He tried that always.

It never worked.

The darkness always lurked, like a thief hiding

Until everyone was asleep.

Those times when she lay her head on his chest as she once had

With no direction, meaning or pretense and he could

Smell her sweet scalp through the shampoo.

Those times he wondered why it wasn’t enough.

Why nothing was ever enough.

Flea Market


Homage #Bad Barbies

He had brought forty bucks with him

But couldn’t imagine what he’d spend it on.

He followed her up one aisle and down the next

Passing tables burdened with crap that

Had the church not held a flea market would have been tossed.

She had bought an occasional table that they had no place for

And a single place setting that almost looked like their good China.

He handled a couple of Civil War books that he already had

And a broken faux Tiffany lamp that might have been worth fixing

If it had been real.

He was ready to slip out the side door for a smoke

When the Barbies caught his eye;

Dozens of them on a back table-houses, cars, outfits.

He moved in that direction and picked one up.

Then another, looking for something until she caught up.

What are you going to do with those? She whispered low.

She caught the glint in his eye.

For Chissakes!, she said.

This is a church you know. The basement,

But still a church!

He laughed and bought six for five bucks each.

She wouldn’t walk with him to the car.

At the VFW


I’m BOOZER! he roared

Slamming his fists on the bar,

Rattling glasses and tipping Baldy’s beer.

Jesus Walter, Baldy said catching what he could.

He’d been quiet, blinking behind his glasses for hours.

A man and his whiskey.

Now this.


You’re Walter Tattalega, old white shirt said,

His officious head up his ass.

That was it from them for now.

When Boozer got started they melted into the dark paneling like oil

Leaving me alone to manage him

Because I was the bartender and bigger than them

But no way the size of Boozer.

Plus, I was a kid. The only battles I’d fought were on the football field-

Which counted for shit.

He had a bad war, they said. Whatever that meant.

Didn’t seem to be having a good peace neither.

He’d a killed me if he had a mind to. But he didn’t.

Word was he served with my uncle who didn’t come home.

He’d always let me walk him to the door, my hand resting on his shoulder

A giant breathing, ham.

Never pushing-just resting there-feeling the strength and the tension.

He touched me on the chin as he left-a soft cuff that

Made me wince.

They oozed back around the bar once Boozer was gone.

You think you could play ball, one said. You shoulda seen Walter when he was a boy.

Shame what happened to him.

Shame what they did to him.

I was suddenly too small to see over the bar.

Had to jump up to sit, legs dangling, on a stool,

Having a Pepsi and chips while the old man shot pool.

Christ, he’d a killed me if he had a mind. to.





Nem pomes? She asked.


Nem. Pomes? I see that one page only has five lines on it.

Figured pomes.

Yeah, poems, he said as she, beside him, flipped through a magazine

Tearing out coupons.

He let his gaze lift from the page-beyond Kleinzahler to the

Cracked plaster ceiling, where dust would work loose

When trains rumbled by.

This was untenable, he thought, squeezing his eyes tight.

He had to make a move.

If he could sober up for a week, maybe, he could figure things out.

Then, to his right, was her breast again;

Firm and round as an orange, jiggling only slightly as she flipped pages.

He lifted to see the other one-as happy and round as this one.

What? she asked.

Nothing, he said laying his head back down.

It was her house after all.

And her beer which she buys and doesn’t drink.

Wine on the weekends.

And he was, through no fault of his own,

Between paying gigs.

He put the book aside and rolled into her, mouth open

Like a blind bear cub.

She folded the magazine to hold in her right hand

And guided him home with her left.

He cupped his mouth over her tightening nipple.

Suddenly, things were tenable again.

He should have turned in his dick

It wasn’t the flu.

She would always think everything was the flu.

There would come a day, he thought,

When he’d come stumbling in with a sucking chest wound

And she’d diagnose the flu and make tea

While he bled out.

Fuck that. She was gone now-ministering someone else.

It was probably a torn meniscus. Fucking stairs.

Had one of them before; fingered the old scar on his left knee

As the right one pulsed-swollen and hot.

‘If I knew I was gonna live this long, I’d a’ taken better care of myself’

Was something his old man used to say.

He mumbled toward the end, his old man.

Didn’t want to open his mouth to show the tumors and sores

That were already too far along to deal with.

He winked at himself-and me behind him-in the mirror.

Dressed like a million bucks he had one more score in him.

Or so he thought.

They found him beside the dumpster in the alley behind the club.

He was barefoot. The fuckers had even taken his shoes.

He was alone now-having broken with his woman last month.

Over sex.

All she wanted to do was blow him.

He wanted something more intimate;

A nice slow screw with kissing. Like that.

She wouldn’t, so he let her go.

When he told that to an associate

Who had gotten exactly five blow jobs in his life-

And one was from his uncle when he was a boy-

The guy looked at him like he was nuts.

‘You should have to turn in your dick’, he’d said.

He took a pill out of the bag before taping it closed.

One more or less – it will still bring two grand.

He limped out the door and took his time

On the stairs.



Stenciled letters emblazoned in yellow

On every black coal car that roared too fast

Past his window.


He got dizzy and stopped counting at forty-nine

And just stared. Mesmerized.

But they kept passing

Until there were no more.

His vantage point so narrow he never saw the end coming.

When the rumbling subsided, the warm salty silence

Coursed through him again.

He lifted his eyes to the river beyond the tracks where something:

Ducks, geese, gulls, buzzards, crows, tow boats, was always happening.

Except now-everything blanketed in a frigid winter fog

The color of rumpled old bedsheets

Revealing nothing but the darkly spectral fingers of denuded maples

And the big sycamore

Sliding in and out of focus

on the near mud bank.

Still he stared, willing something to happen.

It probably wouldn’t.

As would happen at times like this, he remembered.

He was in bed. That he knew.

But it seemed to be daylight-not night.

Was there light coming through the thick drapes,

Or was it a lamp?

He was young. Not little, little…but young.

You’re not going to like this, she said, sitting on the bed beside him;

Causing him to slide toward her.

Why was she in her underpants if it was day time?

He remembered “turbidity” from his years on the boats.

It referred to particulates-mud, sand, what have you,

Clouding the water.

Was there a similar measurement for air? Or for the fog that pulsed and pressed?

Or for memories? Or his own soul?

The more he stripped away, the cloudier everything became.

Upstairs a thump as the cat jumped off the bed

Probably smelling potato chips.

He sprinkled some small fragments on the floor.

He didn’t mind sharing.