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Next To Last Things


On the Uptown 6

Always one's sense of humanity—

on a NYC local train

until it passes beyond the midtown express stations

the hub stations where many get off

and every car jam-packed with people of every description

and most of them strangers

all heading in the same direction for ten or twenty minutes

for ten or twenty minutes

body touching body

faces facing faces

staring or trying not to stare

trying to hide in the head

behind a veil of thoughts

all shaken and shoved and rocked

in a shared career of limited destiny

railed and rigid and inevitable

affording glimpses of beauty and mystery and pathos

interpreted severally and secretly

and rarely a word spoken

except by the conductor's voice

over a garbled intercom

announcing stops and next stops

and warning everyone to stand clear of the closing doors

—is heightened

and sometimes even deepened

before one arrives

and gets off

feeling released

and relieved


A Work in Progress

A thought keeps turning cartwheels in my head—

like Susan Finnegan

in the schoolyard

in Sixth Grade—

Sister Matthew

watching wimpled

while we played—

the thought that I won’t know it when I’m dead—

playing hopscotch—

playing tag—

jumping double Dutch—

Capture the Flag—

Amid the riot of that recess running out—

her school skirt

flouncing on the handspring—



flashing of white linen

like a shout—


Second Clutch

“Be gentle with my heart,” she said.
And he recalled the robin’s egg
A boy once found
Beneath a willow tree
And held for a moment
In the palm of his hand
Like a star sapphire,
And what his father said
When he got home
About certain things
In this world.
He said:
“Look. Don’t touch.”



He sat on one of the benches alongside the curb
with his back to the avenue
facing the park

I sat across the sidewalk from him
on one of the benches alongside the chain-link fence
with my back to the park
facing the avenue

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon of some immemorial spring or summer
I'd just come off the courts after three hours of three-man
just cooling off and waiting for my friends to finish up inside the park
Beside me on the bench I had my old grungy Voit
still with a true enough bounce after a thousand Saturdays in the park
although its positive grip was worn away for years of dribbling on pavement
I was in cutaway shorts and a tee soaked through with sweat clingy and cool
I wore white high top Cons in their own way also cool
I must have been eighteen or nineteen

He was overdressed
He wore a flat cap, like a newsboy from the Great Depression,
a sport coat over a cardigan over a button-down collar
baggy trousers and brogans
He worked his mouth continually in the absence of teeth
his beaky nose and chin seemed to be trying to meet
He didn't seem to notice me
He didn't seem to be looking past me
through the chain-link fence
into the park
He seemed to be looking inward
or back in time

I remember him to this day
all this time later

Even at the time I understood
I was looking at myself


You’d Have To Say
(Revised Version)

In the photograph she curls up
Lamblike in the boy’s lap
Looking back at the camera
You’d have to say laughing.
The boy, almost a man,
Is almost smiling,
A canny twinkle in his eye;
The mother, plainly smiling:
A pleased and pleasant smile dimples her face,
Serene and soft and full of quiet grace.
The room as well,
All woodgrain, white and wicker and pastel,
The room itself, all smiles,
All warm and bright with modest Country Living cheer.
But she, you’d have to say, the dog,
Is rather more than smiling here.
Cuddled by the boy,
Caressed by the mother’s hand,
Unposed, unpoised by joy:
Her fleecy head tossed back and fair,
One floppy ear unslung,
Her little big black nose aflare,
Mouth open on a long pink lolling tongue—
The dog, you’d have to say, is laughing.


You’d Have To Say

In the photograph she curls up
Lamblike in the boy’s lap
Looking back at the camera
You’d have to say laughing

The boy, almost a man,
Relaxed in his D.A.R.E. cerise tee and dark cargo shorts,
A twinkle in his eye, is almost smiling.

The boy’s mother, cross-legged on the arm of the chair,
Is smiling tight-lipped and dimpled,
La Gioconda in white Capris and midnight blue top.

Even the room, so pleasant, clean and bright—
The lustrous hardwood floors and cloud white walls;
The sunlit wood-framed window, the oaken armoire, the wicker baskets,
The framed Vorpal poster for Gio Biondi;
The armchair upholstered in Venetian red and the potted schefflera rising behind it,
Palmate, like a dozen hands raised in blessing—
The living room itself is smiling.

But she, you’d have to say, the dog,
Cuddled by the boy,
Caressed by the mother’s hand,
Is more than smiling:
Her shaggy head turned up in rapture,
One floppy ear thrown back,
Her big, wet, black raspberry nose flaring,
Her mouth wide open on a long pink lolling tongue—
The dog is joyous.
The dog, you’d have to say, is laughing


a poem

Jelly you sieve
And jam you don’t—
Maybe I’ll tell you
And maybe I won’t.

Just do what you’re doing,
The best that you can—
That’s all there is to it
Now that you began.

The thing to remember,
And remember it well—
Some deeds go to Heaven;
Some deeds go to Hell.

The moral is simple:
Don’t spit in the wind.
And make sure your hopes
Are sagaciously pinned.

Don’t beard the old lion.
Don’t slaughter the lamb.
And don’t above all
Confuse jelly and jam.

Jelly you sieve
And jam you don’t—
Someday you’ll know this.
Or maybe you won’t.


Dream For a Sunday Night

I dreamed about Joe Coiro last night


He was my best friend for a year and a half

He was from Hester Street

He'd been transferred and arrived with a ready rep

A kid from Hester Street

tall and tough and good-natured and funny

finding humor in everything

golden and gone

and graced with quick high color in his cheeks

whenever he played stoop ball or ace-king-queen in the school street

that great pompadour swooping out to a teendreamy flop

the girls flipped over him

and I let him copy my homework

Man! He hadn't changed at all!

Looked just like he did in Seventh Grade!

Grand dream it was for any night

but especially for a Sunday night

without commercial interruption


Cupid's Bow

Every woman has a distance

at which she looks her best

regardless of complexion

size or shape and all the rest

but the arrow is in motion

and before its flight is spent

all distances recovered

a woman’s chief charm is her scent


Stone Fruit





tart astringent

flesh unfolding

seed enfolding

wrap my soul


DP Veteran
May 3, 2017
Reaction score
New York City
Political Leaning
I think that about does it, JB. I've shot my bolt.
Thanks to Schweddy for the opportunity, and to theliq and Pippi Longstock for their support.
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