For my Seventh Birthday

I got my last dead grandpa,

I saw daddy cry.


By most accounts,

my first dead grandpa

was a saint.


I mostly remember



And folks, including

my last grandma,

who will never quite be dead,

thought my last grandpa was a jerk.


He doted on us grandkids

we all missed him,

my grandma lived alone

in the little green house

on the farm

by the big pond.


I guessed her lonely

though she never said

not to me,

within two years

she married her

high school sweetheart

and became Grandma Brown


This is not the story of my dead grandpas,

and come to think of it, I had three.

The last, JB Brown, she buried, too,

but lived in his little house

on Santa Clara in Jackson

until she died.




This is about smell of soap.


Grandma Brown had one hall bathroom

as old houses do

outside a floor furnace,

almost burned bare feet.


The bathroom, unheated,

save steamy bathwater,

cold linoleum

but a plush rug

spared one when drying.


Over-the-john cabinet

of golden plastic

held spare tissue and soap

there, between the soft imagery

of nude children bathing

the aroma blossomed in heavy air

a sweet perfume of ladies soap

in a small boy’s nose

All the grandpa’s and grandma’s have been dead a generation, the houses, too

the lone remainder is the smell

and when I die it will be gone

for no one else alive will remember

standing cold and clean in the little Santa Clara house in Jackson, feeling the chill, the softness of the rug, steamy little prints faded from years of moisture, the coldness of the floor off the rug, the burn and cut of the furnace as one trod across to a bedroom to dress.

This painting, I hold in my head, of smells and memories and touches of cold and hot, locket size, fits only in my mind, if I can share it, maybe someday, someone, long after I am gone will and know what an old man knows, what a small boy knew, a thing that was wholly good, a thing to hold a lifetime, after bodies have rotted, after bulldozers smash old houses, after the air has become too polluted to breathe, in some place, where the world I knew is almost forgotten, maybe someone will see and smell whatever soap they have and imagine they can remember steamy air turning to cold and feel of the towel,

drying, drying,

out to the furnace and on swiftly as it burns and cuts, to the cool dark bedroom to dress warmly to go out with the cousins and play down by the creek in the cold Christmas air.


For my Grandma Brown, and the amazing Al Filreis who never got to meet her.


(It is hard to express how much I dislike long poems, as I am a firm believer if you need more than 100 words, you need an editor or another poem, but I cannot manage to make this any shorter than 448 words.)


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Oh Lord, Give Me Not a Simple Prayer

Why do people want a “simple prayer”?

Give me long and complex rituals!

Neither do any good,

but, like solving a Rubic’s cube

offers no answers

but is a fun challenge

(until you get bored with it),

a complex ritual is fun

(until you get bored with it, too).


Give me the complex prayer,

one I have to cross myself

seven times and climb up a tower

and say it backwards,

first in a language

I do not speak

and then in English!


Oh Lord, Give Me Not a Simple Prayer



like a mythical Bitcoin,

let me unearth it through

strange and mysterious “mining”

until I find my own golden heaven,

where I will learn

to walk on clouds paved with gold

and to stay within

the great high wrought iron fence


which serves two purposes.

first, to keep all the unsaintly folks

from intermingling with us good people,

and second to keep us saints

from wandering off the cloud

reservation we call heaven:


dios este día el pan nos da

da nobis hodie

For God knows

I so loved the bread

I offer up my body to diabetes

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Dark Rainy Saturday Afternoon

awaken from nap

to mother’s voice

my dead mother


and wonder

is she close

after time passed


or am I closer

to where she is

than I think?

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Warm Against my Thigh and Not Dreaming

I am awake:

I hear my wife

get up and go

to the bathroom,

and then out again.


I feel the curled-up dog-

warm against my thigh-

through the covers,

yet I am dreaming.


There is a pull-down staircase

into someone’s attic,

not mine, I have

no light, no tools,

but I must go

up and look.


A truss is falling

(which cannot happen).

It misses me

and then I see

a garage door

in the attic,

it has windows in it,

I cannot see out.


Now I am down

and I see my mother has fallen.

I help her up


and the awake me

remembers she is already

dead nearly two years

and I feel the curled-up dog-

warm against my thigh-

through the covers


and remember

it is time to go

wake the boy,

the boy who loves

the dog,

and I am not dreaming.

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I Am Not Suicidal

In fact

most days

if I could be healthy

I’d like to

live to be 94


or 100


but some days

I’d like to

die early

not tomorrow

but not too

far away


and some days

that just seems

crazy but not always


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Lady Baby Jesus

has angel wings

only they aren’t angel wings,

but look like them,

except hers


have a little

good crown at the top

signifying this:

She is the “head bitch in charge.”


She pronounces all our guilt,

shakes her little wings

and flies away, muttering

“Jesus is love, don’t give me that shit!”


Lady Baby Jesus has a dirty mouth,

but who gonna tell her that?

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The Boat He Drove Down Dexter Avenue

Maybe this isnt a poem, maybe it is:


He drove a pale blue green car
the color of the water off the beach Destin Florida
with fins that came up to my shoulder.
soft white leather seats
and a soft white top.
pushbutton starter, no keys
and a chest crushing three foot skinny rimmed steering wheel
I wanted to be him
of course I wasn’t
and never will be
I’m the guy in the little green Fiat scrunched over.

Actually I love the little green Fiat. I don’t think I’d like to drive
a big boat like that.
I just wanted to be the guy
who wanted to drive
a boat like that.

they don’t make them anymore. they do make cars without keys without metal keys,
but now it’s all electronic
high security
no beauty
no heart
no class
high price higher “quality”
no soul.

“Boy, if you’re going to do a crime don’t do her a scrawny crime make it big, make it showy!
How do you think I got this boat?”

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