Everyday Objects

The cashier Jacqueline overseeing the self-service check-out stands watched me scan the 20 packs of yeast marked: “Best Used for Bread.”

She wasn’t busy so she started bagging my groceries, which I appreciated. I find using the “clerk-out-of-work” line a double-edged sword:

I’m quick at scanning the bar codes and sending my canned goods hurtling down the conveyor belt. I’m pretty fast at entering key codes on the fruits and vegetables. I haven’t figured out an efficient way to pay and bag at the same time.

Jacqueline, a slender faced, pear-shaped woman, said (referencing the yeast packets), “I used to buy these 10 and 20 at a time when I used to make bread, but I gave that up when I got too fat. It’s hard to give up bread when you’re French.”

“I bet it is,” I agreed, acknowledging her effort and discipline and yearning.

I didn’t disabuse her with the fact that I pour the yeast packets down my toilet to treat the bacteria in my septic tank.

His Wife

We rallied round
after her husband,
our father, died,
figuring we were
a link, a connection,
a shared memory.

But we were a past
they hadn’t shared,
and she was a life
we weren’t a part of,
twenty years the mistress
before Mom died.

We held up our end
with photos and phone calls,
but without that natural
attraction interest wanes
or the effort is too hard –
and to what end?

Had she ever wanted
to know us in the first place?

So easy not to reply
to the last letter sent,
having the last say
by saying nothing.

It Could Work

The US tax base is declining
with an aging America.
Who will pay for a
growing population
of senior citizens?
a crumbling infrastructure?
the education and health care of
12 million illegal immigrants?
Broaden the tax base: Legalize them.

ISIL, Al Qaeda, Assad.
No one wants them around,
but no one wants to go to war.
Send an army across
Syria, Iraq, Iran
of sneezing, sweating
victims carrying Ebola.
Instruct them to shake everyone’s hand.

So much debt, poverty, food insecurity.
So much money at the top and rising,
which is simply simple math –
5% of $100 is $5.
5% of $1 million is $50,000.
5% of $1 is a nickel.
You have to have money to make money.
Here’s a thought: Have the Top 1%
give 1% of their money to the rest of us.

Okay. That’ll never happen.
But the Ebola army?
So worth a try.

September 21

The farmers’ market smells of
dirt and root vegetables
and the first apples of the season.

Old-fashioned Ida Red, freckled
Baldwins, the white flesh of
McIntosh thump against
the bottom of the black stock pot.

Steam sifts through the screened
window where summer meets fall
and fall is still summer.

From the little boy on the corner of Orkney and York

I’m not angry.
I’m hurt or scared
or embarrassed.
Don’t humiliate me.
Not at home. Not at school.
Not on the street.
Don’t show the world
how powerful you are
by yelling at me,
slapping me.
Show the world how strong
you are when you hug me.

Acknowledge me.

You’re hurt and scared
and embarrassed.
Be strong through kindness.
Feel your anger leave.


We were given an 8 to 5 workday.
They added overtime.
We came in earlier,
stayed late.
Next month the 8-hour day
will become 10-hour shifts,
covering the 7 to 4 workday –
7 a.m. to 4 a.m.

They say it’s optimizing
our work schedules
to meet our customers’ needs.
We say, “I can’t get child care
at 9 o’clock at night” and
“My night course starts next month.”
They tell us, “It’s your job,”
dismissing complaints with an irritated shrug.

The VPs and the senior VPs
and the very president himself
enumerate the endless benefits
of working at BankBig:
We give you reduced ticket prices to concerts
and baseball games and discounts on laptops
and bonus points if you use your BankBig credit card
at Nordstrom and Lowe’s –
and we barely score 30% job satisfaction?
With scorn and disbelief they ask,
“What is wrong with these people?”

Next month, the week I start
my 8 p.m. shift, I’ll take
the annual employee survey.
They could use a lesson in optimization.

Instead of Writing:

Make a salad.
Pay some bills.
(Good lord, the power bill’s high.)
Change the light bulb in the garage.

Feed the birds.
Scrub the birdbath
green with summer algae.
Pull a few weeds.

Head to the basement.
Ignore the dusty cobwebs.
Scoop out the cat box.
Drop and give me 20 on the Total Gym.

Procrastination requires imagination –
or at least perseverance.

Find the emery board.
Shape nail, neaten nail,
even out and smooth.
Shine and buff.

Almost too late to pick up a pen
and stimulate the brain with writing.
Pick up the Smart Phone instead.
(As if that won’t trigger dopamine.)

Os score, weather forecast, email.
Hit Start. Win. Play Again.
Get stuck. Restart. Play Again.

Play Again. Play Again. Play Again.
Until the battery dies. FreeCell is dead.
For now.
Only ink remains.

Date Night

Friday at work people tell her:
“Great dress.”
“Thank you!”
“You have a date tonight?”
“I do.”
“With Mr. Right?”
“Or Mr. Right Now.”

At five o’clock
she drives home,
removes the dress and
hangs it up,
washes her face of
mascara and blush.
She tries to smile,
to laugh at her ruse,
but sees only smoke
in the mirror.

Once a Girlfriend

Looking around at their reunion the man thought, I remember her. 20? No – 30 years ago we dated. She was cute. She’s still cute. She had a great vocabulary. Because of her I can say, “My vegetable garden is languishing this year.” Because of her I don’t smoke cigarettes. My wife never knew who to thank for that. I enjoy the occasional cigar when I win a round of golf. She said she liked the smell of cigar smoke on a man. I wonder if she still does. 30 years. Man she’s still cute. She’d point out some nonexistent wrinkles, posture less than perfect. I just want to grab hold of her hand, kiss her cheek, hear her laugh. She always liked my laugh. Said I was smart-funny. I wonder if she still has that ring I bought her at the estate sale, a band of square-cut sapphires. I wanted to get her a diamond, show the world what she’s worth. She smiled in her eyes. “This is perfect. It’s a promise ring.” One she didn’t keep. I don’t know if I ever forgave her. I know I didn’t forget her. If she turns around and I catch her eye, will she remember me? How could she not? Sailboat rides on Charleston Harbor, oysters on the grill, how she’d get mad when I beat her at racquetball (I showed no mercy, I like to win), sex in the bucket seat of my Toyota on some back road of Tennessee. I used to type her manuscripts – Romance – hoping to help her in her writing success. Did she make it? I’ll ask her. In the back of my mind I’ll be picturing Tennessee. I’ll – there’s my beautiful wife, coming back from the bathroom. She says old exes can’t be friends.