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I found a cat or a cat found me

I found a cat who found some food
Who licked its paws
Who hissed as if to scare
Who scratched as if to hurt
Who shot me amber eyes of reproach
Simply for offering milk and dry food.

I found a cat and grabbed it with
Gloved hands, locked it in a little room,
“You’ll be mine and no,
those scratches won’t deter me.
I own you now little cat.”
Her response: muted guttural rage.

The cat found a dark corner
Lowered her shoulders and looked
As if she would never love
Another. “You won’t see me eating
your dry food or sipping your milk.
I will do as I please. Now leave.”

I slunk away, a little embarrassed by my need to vanquish
the spirit of a little tiger cat. But the cat,
Only the cat, turned out finished,
And proud and stood up, walked to the bowl
Sipped some milk, licked her paws and me?
I pretended not to see.

Four a.m.

A song

penned into my brain

sewn in cross stitch repeated

refrain after four o’clock refrain until

I shooed sheep, spelled backwards

and drooled on my pillow, asleep

at last until the notes

played anew.

Hell.

If I wrote you a poem

If I wrote you a poem,

I’d start with your tiny painted toes:

big blacks, red seconds, greens thirds,

burnt oranges, and little blues.

When you cross those fleshy feet,

you are spring time in November.

I bury my head, breathing in

each golden brown ringlet.

You tickle with giggles and

the space between each tooth and

the syrup on your cheeks and

the juicy stains of living until

 

Yawns lift frayed books to our

Snuggled laps, hip to hip, we read,

page by page by picture by word

by love by love, rocking

night, rocking dark, sleepy breath,

Full heart. Good night. I’ll write.

 

Halloween

It’s November 1st. A strangely bright morning greets me at 6:20 a.m. Daylight saving time is over. Done.

So, too, is Halloween. The candy is counted. My fifteen year-old organized a slew of favorable trades with an eleven year-old visitor. Hard, colorful candies for brown chocolate bars. Skittles for Snickers.

My four year-old is sleeping through her first true candy overdose. Her legs first began to tire when we stepped on the stoop of a darkened house. There sat a skull set atop a stool. With modulating colors, purple into blue into neon green, circling its sockets, I wondered if this plug in skull would prove too scary to pass. Brave Natalie commented, “Things that aren’t real don’t scare us. Right?” We pushed on, walked around the skull and tried the front door. Nothing. No response. No candy. Just a return trip back around the skull, down the steps, to the sidewalk, up the hill, and across the street to the next lit house. At the door, a bespeckled hotdog leaned against the gravity of the bun all while placing candy in the bag and greeting us, “Happy Halloween. What are you?” The hotdog was not talking to me, the shadow chaperone. No. He’s talking to my daughter, with the subtle tow truck hanging around her middle.

I whisper, “Natalie, tell him what you are.”

“No.”

“Natalie, say thank you.”

Thank you.
Thanks.”

Our thank yous come too late. The hot dog has already retreated into his house.

As I survey the houses ahead and the slight hill, and as I listen to the rhythmic drumming in the night air, I wonder how long it will take us to join the rest of the family at the New Paltz parade given our pace. My thoughts are interrupted by the warm four year-old hand squeezing mine. This is Halloween. And I slow down rather than speeding up.

I will have a rotten day

At 6:11 this morning, I adjusted the alarm to 6:45 from the customary 6:15. Trying to risk as little alertness as possible, I tried to sneak under a warm pillow as if I never had awoken. I tried to postpone a day that wanted the writing of an “academic” article. A day that preyed on my first waking thoughts: the Cardinals lost last night. Somehow the Padres, after spotting the Cardinals a 5-2 lead, came back with five unanswered runs and won the game, 7-5. Normally I don’t take losing hard – except when my team loses seven games in a row and risks falling out of first place after an unprecedented, two-week free fall.

Only five hours earlier, I ventured to the computer between one and two in the morning, just curious to find out if the Cardinals just may have won. They hadn’t. As I coaxed myself back to sleep, I thought my way around the bases, from third, to short, to second, and only stopped at first – certain that no baseball team had a better first baseman than the Cardinals. Albert Pujols, a mighty Dominican, superstar is about the only thing keeping them from falling out of the tree.

At 6:35, I turned off the alarm clock. Fully awake and tired from worrying about the Cardinals, I wondered how it is that a grown man can care so much about a dumb baseball team, day to day, noon to night, and year to year. Why? I rested in the hot shower and found writing clothes. A worn green cotton t-shirt with the words S.t. L-o-u-i-s  C-a-r-d-i-n-a-l-s  splayed across the chest. Just as I prepared to head downstairs, I noticed Andrew’s bed. A cat, on top of lump, turned her head in a leisurely way as I walked through the threshold of the room. Andrew, my eleven year-old, rarely makes his bed. Upon further inspection, the lump was Andrew.

“Hey Andrew. Get up. It’s late.” The cat re-positioned herself on Andrew’s hip. “Andrew.”

From underneath the covers, “I’m tired. Go away.”

As I sat next to him on the edge of his bed, I noticed the plastic bag and the molar. Again. Forgotten. The eleven year-old tooth only a day into the world outside of Andrew’s mouth, had offered itself up for trade. A one? A five? What would it take to have that tooth? I’m too old to be a tooth fairy. Andrew’s too old to believe in anything other than teeth for cash. I’m too smart to believe that cash would fuel Andrew’s full recovery from sleeping lump to moving boy. In spite of my misgivings, I reached for the crumpled bill in my bluejeans – a five. I swiftly lifted the ziplock bag, reaching in for the molar. As I stole a glance at the dried blood and slipped the five into the bag, I lifted myself up and out of Andrew’s room, calling over my shoulder, “Andrew I’m heading downstairs. Get up now. I’m loosing my patience.”
Downstairs comes with dogs, coffee, bagel with melted cheese for Will, and indecision followed by cereal like Andrew’s for Natalie. Cereal sits on the counter and we board the van with backpacks, Will’s electric guitar, and Andrew’s sour comment lingering in my mind, “I will have a rotten day.”

October’s first breezes blow

October’s first breezes blow

round tomatoes too scared to leave the vine
and vines too scared to wither and
red ivy leaves chasing up the tree trunks.

past a juvenile hawk resting atop a rotting tree,
preening, as a red-winged blackbird
dares to dart across the marsh.

Fist-sized frogs from green water,
hop up  up  up the muddy hill,
to the glossy black pavement

spotted with yellow leaves.

Just dodge the bees

When a swift breeze blows yellow leaves
like sun showers, and

when just juvenile snakes wriggle in the warmth
of fresh fall asphalt, and

when crisp, sweet red balloons spot the green
leafy canopies, and

when two orange Monarchs deftly climb
September swells, and

when beefy men wrapped in American flags
smile for your vote, summer’s over

no matter how sweet the sun or dry the air.

Preying on – second draft

A sleek purring SUV pounced on the sunning snake before he could protect those newest coils.

A blue fish, somersaulting in the bay, ignored the diving birds, focused instead on the baitfish that jumped like sweat from the warm salt water.

A brown dog, or was it the brown leather boot, paralyzed the preying mantis, breaking the bones that held one of the hands in prayer.

A waxen face as still as the rosary, unaware of the stifled sobs, lent no solace to the grandchildren’s first taste of death.

Preying on – first draft

A snake, sunning lazily on the asphalt lane, remained unaware of a sleek purring SUV.

A baitfish, like a bead of sweat, jumped out of the bay as a blue fish pursued.

A preying mantis, missing one half of its preying mechanism, sat frozen, blinking in the grass.

A grandmother’s waxen face, unaware of stifled sobs, had been stilled by death

Back to school

Sept. 2, 2006 — Yesterday my son, Will, bought a t-shirt with a caption that borrows the corporate logo of “Stop and Shop” and reads instead, “Support Mom and Pop Shops.” He bought the shirt at our local fish store, Gadelletos. Gadellettos, like other New Paltz stores, is in danger of losing out to our new “local” mega grocery store that took over the northernmost portion of our Ameless Plaza. Ames left New Paltz and several other northeastern cities four years ago. With the “anchor” property gone, I wished for a roller skating rink in its place. Intead, under one huge roof, we have fresh vegetables, a bank, a drugstore, a flower shop, and even a mini-Staples. The problem is that just next door is a flower store, a local office supply store, and a natural food store. Down the block is the local pharmacy, and lord knows, we have many banks and food establishments. So when the great sucking noise is heard up and down Main Street, Will will point to his shirt and remind people that had they remembered to shop locally, the local establishments would have remained locally owned.

Okay. But this posting is about back to school shopping and that brings me back to this rainy Saturday. With Will’s urging, my three kids and I loaded up and headed to Kingston to support a fairly local vendor in Kingston New York, Catskill Art and Office Supply. The store has pens, pencils, greeting cards, and art supplies. As each of my boys browsed with purpose, Natalie decided she needed supplies too. I told her we could look as she wanted. She didn’t want crayons I casually pointed to. “Glitter would be good Dad. It would.” Before she could work the glitter angle too hard – I was imagining glitter littering our floors in and the belly of our puppy – I found pens that looked glittery. Andrewm carrying a list of supplies that the school urged him to buy, noted his disappointment with the limited selection of pocket folders and wondered aloud why we couldn’t just go to Staples.

Back to school shopping makes me think about how times have changed. Didn’t my school supply paper and pencils when I was young? And what about these mechanical pencils? Are they truly necessary? What if a kid needs to get up and think? Is sharpening really that much of a distraction? Maybe the smell of ground wood and lead induces good thinking. Will paper and pen be superceded by computers once and for all? My kids do a lot of wriitng on the computer and next to none on lined paper. One thing that intrigued me about the list of supplies was that the school recommended that the boys buy memory sticks.

We left Catskill with many pens. Andrew refused, though, to compromise himself by buying their folders. We headed back to New Paltz and PDQ, the office supply store in the former Ames Plaza. While Andrew perused PDQ’s folders, I found it interesting that Will browsed Radio Shack, a multi-national. He explained that there was no local competetion for Radio Shack and thus, he wasn’t disturbing any local businesses. Eventually, when Andrew bought folders at the Stop and Shop in New Paltz, I wondered to myself if that one purchase was like the first nail in the local business coffin.