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At My Desk on a Saturday Night

- A Collection of Poetry and Prose

By Samuel Vargo

Copyright 2017 by Samuel Vargo. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be copied, duplicated, or borrowed in any way without the consent of the author and owner of this work.


“At My Desk on a Saturday Night” is dedicated to my cousin, Betty Spellman Peters Soni, one of the most wonderful people I have ever known.



Let’s go to Ike’s Café

Lost Stories in Real Time

Welcome to the end of the road

Secrets of a Guarded Woman

Lunch break

Haunted House

At My Desk on a Saturday Night

Reading the Obit of an Old Newspaperman

The pariah smells the petrichor

Black Ice

Just inside the only lit window on Sullivan Street

Spring comes after a long winter drought

A November Walk

- that thing about going blind, well it’s just an old wives tale

A salute to the dead of night

A Wild Child’s Ode to Snakes & Such

Cupid’s arrow is long and sharp (a short story/fiction)

Jack, the Jack Russell Terrier, is DEAD! (a short story/fiction)

Lapis Lazuli wetness under a scorching yellow sun

A hawk eclipses the sun

A foot closer to being processed for Food Stamps

Drifting Off to Engines Droning in the Distance

There's a ghost in this house:

After a midterm test, fall session

An Early Morning in a Small-Town Love Affair

Shagbark Hickory trees line the hollow

The Pecking Order

Love Poet

Some Say, Etc., Etc.:

Books, books and more books:

Another Name at yet another Nondescript Poetry Reading

Breaking Up is Easy to do 

8 a.m. at Huron Avenue and 34th Street:

Gone Crazy on Stephen King & James Patterson

A ritual in minimalism and essay form

The Cynic

Crazy Charlie's off his medication


The Economy of Numbers

The Adder of Addiction

A Day in Paradise

Deep vaulted forever: An ode to old cowboy movies


Saint Agnes was cute, but so is a tall can of gasoline and a half book of matches

Stark Scandal Seen from a Bus, Jacksonville Florida:


“At My Desk on a Saturday Night” wasn’t written on a Saturday night. Let’s get that straight right away. Actually, it was poetry laying around in rejected emails I have been sending out to literary publishers for about 15, 20, or even 25 years now. All sorts of emails just lying dormant in my email account. Some of it, also, was taken from active, withdrawn, and rejected submissions I made with my Submittable account and there are some poems I wrote just for this book.

But primarily, it is a collection of long-dormant work. Most of the poetry that appears in “At My Desk on a Saturday Night” was rejected with caveats like, “Although we really like what we see here, we’ve decided to use other poetry by other poets.” Or something like, “Don’t take this as a disparagement of your work, but we are rejecting this submission because your work simply doesn’t fit into the aesthetic of our poetry journal.” Or sometimes they’ll send something like, “We like what we see here but we’ll have to pass on this submission. Try us again when we begin putting our next issue together in three months.”

Many of these publishers of literature invite me to submit again, saying they want “to see more work” from me. And I submit again, and 99 of 100 times it is rejecte. The title poem of this collectiosays a lot about my problem, too. I’m old enough to be the parent, perhaps even the grandparent, of many of the young poets getting published in literary magazines today and young people tend to like to publish work that they can relate to – I can’t blame them, when it was our time to bask in the sun, we did the same thing. Actually, most of the poetry written in this collection was penned by a poet who was then, 10, 15, or 20 years younger than the guy who is now putting together this collection. So it wasn’t written by the old me, but a much younger me, way back when. . .

There is a lot of really good poetry online and much of it is free. Many of the literary magazines online, and there are hundreds these days, have deep and wide archives of poems, flash fiction, longer fiction, creative nonfiction, and even hybrid forms of literature that cannot really be pigeonholed into a certain category. Call up a directory of literary magazines and see for yourself. You can spend days, weeks, even months, weeding and reading through the archives of some of the fine online journals publishing today.

Some days I spend quite a bit of time reading the work of others. To become a better writer, this is a necessity, and even for accomplished writers, those who want to stay on top of their game read others’ work. And truthfully, most of what I read online is quite good in these little literary offerings that dot the peripherals of cyberspace. It’s very competitive these days even to get a little 21-line poem accepted into a literary magazine. Not to mention, a lot of work goes into publishing and producing an online journal. Most of these online and print journals are staffed by a younger set of writers, fresh out of college, many with M.F.A.’s and a few even with Ph.D.’s, who want to keep the writing craft alive and well.

I laud them.

In the days of texting, sexting, and screaming profanities into YouTube videos to make some harebrained political point, it’s refreshing and wonderful to know that the world’s young intellectual community is keeping its proverbial thumb in the dike of this insidious insanity and ignorance.

Oh, I still get an occasional story or poem accepted and published by online and print journals, even though I’m going to turn 59 in early winter. It beats losing all my dough at the slot machines in the casino around the corner and at least, if nothing else, hacking away at these stories and poems keeps me occupied and out of trouble. Although many journals, particularly those using the Submittable submissions engine, charge reading fees, which are nominal, really, like only two or three bucks a shot, I never pay these fees. There are still a lot of great mags and online literary offerings that offer free submissions via submissions engines like Submittable or even through plain old ordinary emails. I’ve made some gripes to editors who charge reading fees. Many say, “It only takes the place of postage” or “We have a lot of bills to pay” or “We have to keep a tech around for the really big electronic stuff we can’t figure out ourselves. What do you think, she works for free?” or “It helps to pay for our print editions”. But I really wonder, now, with some of these literary operatives getting 100-300 submissions a month, there’s a lot of money being made from writers, many whom are young, fresh out of school, with bills to pay of their own, including astronomical student loan debts, who have to scrounge up enough credit-card coin to pay some online magazine with a low circulation and a high staff turnaround the better part of a fin just to have their work read. Some of them are teaching college courses and want to build a publishing itinerary. Meantime, the cynic tells me that some online mags have editorial staffs who don’t read much into a manuscript before rejecting it, anyway.

Why can’t some of these presses that have an Internet presence attract tech-savvy computer wizards who would want to donate their time and energy to a press? Putting together a literary magazine is as much a social thing as it is an intellectual endeavor, after all. Surely, some computer geek without much of a social life may find a great home hanging out with the literati in that downtown bungalow who post a new collection of literature every month. And the argument that reading fees pay for a print run just doesn’t cut it, either. A press run should pay for the next press run. Copies of the journals sold for the spring edition of the Raked Leaves Literary Review should pay for the summer edition of the Raked Leaves Literary Review. Money in the publishing game should flow back to the writer, not from the writer. An old friend of mine came up with this and it’s even named after him, and it’s called “Macdonald’s Law” after James Douglas Ignatius Macdonald, who has written many novels himself and has had them published by major publishing houses. Macdonald has taken on the role of being a watchdog for predators who try to take money from writers, particularly novices. Flimflam agents, shady publishers, corrupt literary services, all fall under Macdonald’s eagle eye and he can be brutal in bringing to light those who play fraudulent games and run crooked schemes to rob writers of their dough. Those Macdonald eyeballs are primarily in commercial publishing, where the stakes are high and the money flows a lot stronger and harder than in the small press game. Say hello to him on the online writing community Absolute Write, where he’s a permanent fixture and posts often.

I don’t know how Macdonald feels about self-published work, but I haven’t invested a dime into the seven books I have had published on Smashwords and I am sure he would most likely agree that having my work available for a small fee sure beats having it laying around in email accounts and slush piles of electronic nothingness.

A young, or even an old writer, who doesn’t have much financial wherewithal should not have to pay to play. That’s utter bullshit. If anything, a press should pay a writer at least a nominal fee for a work accepted and published. Even twenty or thirty bucks should be thrown back the writer’s direction. And if the press isn’t making much money, at least a contributor’s copy should be sent the writer’s way after a press run. Before the Internet invasion, it was customary for presses to send out at least two contributor copies to each writer who had a literary piece published in the edition mailed out to contributors. These days, writers must buy print editions. Oh, some cut writers a 15- or 20-percent discount, but it’s still sort of cheap and chintzy. If a press run sells so dismally that the magazine must rely on edition sales paid by poets and writers published in the journal, that press really should give up on the literary game and begin manufacturing dog food. Or start an oil change garage. Or maybe, sell vacuum cleaners door to door.

When I was fiction editor of Pig Iron Press, we never charged reading fees, but Pig Iron predates the Internet and our submitters had to use snail mail to get their work our way. At the time I was a fiction editor at Pig Iron, I was also actively submitting to other presses my own fiction and poetry. At the time I was working for rather low pay at small- and medium-sized daily newspapers and for a good portion of this time, too, I was working on my M.A.in English, which I was awarded in 1997. Yes, it was a full-time gig for me at these newspapers and business publications, but nobody ever accused a reporter of making money hand-over-fist.

So no, I cannot equate charging reading fees over Submittable or through any other electronic submissions vehicle with bypassing the snail mail method. This is false logic. And yes, I’ll even call it a con game. Submittable doesn’t charge all that much for these presses to maintain their submissions accounts, and if some press is making $500-$1,000 (or more) a month on submissions from writers, many of which know little about the publishing game, even the small-press publishing market, well, it’s fraud and theft, simple as that.

But anyhow, now that I have opened the gates of hell with my critique of small presses charging reading fees, maybe I’ll have some very bad reviews on this work and my other work, too. It’s all good to me, since even bad publicity will create a buying public that was nonexistent before all that bad gunky came flying down the pike. Oh, I’ve got readers, readers galore, in fact. But going into the realm of the “hated” and the “notorious” and the “infamous” will bring even more page-turning fans to this collection of poetry and prose, which really isn’t the hottest seller in today’s narrow and struggling e-book market.

And like I said, if you want to read some great poetry after you read “At My Desk on a Saturday Night,” well, there’s plenty of great poetry, flash fiction, longer fiction, creative nonfiction and hybrid literature all over the Internet and it’s free. After you’ve read some of it, try your hand at writing a flash fiction piece or a poem. You don’t need an MFA to write, even though the stodgy academic world may want to make you believe this is so – you don’t even need a computer at home. Go to the library and use a public computer there. You can even submit your work to magazines with public computers at many libraries. If you don’t want to go to the library, buy some legal pads at the department store and a whole lot of pens and get to it. There is no degree or any other rite of passage in which you need to jump through to make you a writer. Some of the literary greats had little education. Others, though, were educated far beyond their usefulness. But being a writer takes practice. And discipline. All you need to do is write. Really. You can only improve if you start the habit of sitting in a desk chair and writing. Write something. Anything. But while you’re honing your craft, be sure to read other writers. E-books are normally cheap, so are many literary magazines. And like I said, many online literary publications allow readers to download writers’ works at no cost whatsoever.

It’s a great way to occupy your time in these dark times, it doesn’t cost much, and if nothing else, you can only improve your reading, writing, and analytical skills by working on the writing craft.

Good luck, God bless, and God Speed!

Let’s go to Ike’s Café

And so, she asks me if the greasy spoon’s still open at this odd hour and I tell her, “Hon, it never closes. Not ever. They don’t even have a lock on that place. You know why? Because it never closes.” And we’re standing there, after the band had quit playing, and the band (they don’t have roadies, so they have to do it themselves; well, they’re packing up their little van with their guitars, the drummer’s drum set, and the amplifiers, and numerous other things). And she says, “Ike’s has got to be closed,” and Karen starts slurring some rant about the moths flying around the streetlights and it’s late at night and the air feels weird, like it’s got mushy mushrooms growing out of it sideways, long-ways, and in-between ways – or something along those lines. So, I look over her way and she looks all witchy and intense. She’s really cute when she’s sober. Either way, she has a killer body. I think it’s because she doesn’t have a car – she can’t even drive one – and she walks wherever she has to go. And then I tell her, “Hon, Ike’s Café’s always open. It just is. And they serve beer in there at night, really late at night, almost morning, like it is now - if you know one of the waitresses, and well, I do, I do. I really, really do. I know Marge is going to be working there tonight. It’s her night to work. She works every Wednesday night.” Now we’re far from the Carousel Horse; we’re ambling in the direction of Ike’s – I know a shortcut. I look behind me and I’m surprised to see the bar looks so small far-off in the distance. I feel good about it and can almost taste the beer. ‘Last Call’ at The Carousel Horse seems like weeks ago, at least an hour ago, anyhow. And so, she asks, “This Marge, is she a nice lady?” And I say, “Babe, Marge is so nice she really should be a saint. The Pope should put that cannon to her, or whatever those Catholics do - she’s the most nice lady in the world. If not, she’s at least in the top five.” And she looks at me sort of weird and a car wheels past, then a pickup. She looks at me and says, “It feels like we’ve been out forever. I want to go home, but I want to go to Ike’s, too, and meet Marge. And have a beer. That’s the first thing – I really, really need a beer,” And I say, “Well, we’re on our way.” so I pick up the pace almost to a trot and I feel the vertigo of the world spinning around me. We’re already hoofing down the second block, but I wonder if she even knows we’re in motion. And she chirps, “Do you think Marge will like me?” And I say, “Babe, Marge likes everyone.” And she says, “I need a beer.” And I say, “Well so do I, and that’s why we’re going to Ike’s Café. Because it serves beer between the hours of three and six in the morning, and no other place in the city does this.” After a minute or so - it seems like a long time - well she says: “Okay,” let’s go,” and she chirps it out like a bird, and it’s so late the real birds will be singing soon. And I can’t even see why she’d even say such a thing because we’re moving like a locomotive down this dark, desolate sidewalk and we’ve hit sidewalk now with no streetlights overhead. We have to be careful since the sidewalk is pockmarked, broken even. We’re drunk. We don’t want to fall. And so, we’re far into this twenyy-block walk to Ike’s Café. By the time we get there, we’ll have walked our way sober and it will be time to get drunk again.

Lost Stories in Real Time

I lost all my old cassettes, compact discs, even my 8-tracks and albums to carelessness, time, and far too many thieving friends. What was left I accidentally placed in a carwash in Augusta, Georgia. It’s all on YouTube now. Even that song that never got played back in the day has four or five videos posted by people with names like LuckyJohnMusicMan, Low Spin Larry, and Miserable Mayhem. Sometimes I just light one up and the videos attached just follow like the radio. The ads at the beginning I can do without, but I’m too lazy to get out of my chair and hit the “Skip Advertisement” button at the bottom right side of the video.


I watch MLB baseball to get relaxed enough to fall to sleep. I know this is a stupid reason to be a sports fan, but it still is a reason. Baseball. Watching grass grow. What’s the difference?


As I type this a young man is sitting right outside my window on a bench smoking a cigarette and he’s hacking like a 70-year-old with emphysema. What good would it do to yell out the window, “Hey, cigarette smoking is bad for your health!” He’d probably reply, “I’m smoking a joint,” or “Mind your own fucking business!”


There’s an old man who refuses to go into a nursing home because he likes to live independently. He often falls down and can’t get up. Sometimes a neighbor helps him rise to his feet. Sometimes he has to push this button on an emergency device he keeps around his neck so paramedics arrive. This happens a lot, not because there aren’t a lot of people around, but rather, because there are far too few caring people that abound where he lives. He’s over eighty and is almost blind. And he’s nearly deaf, too. But he plays the television so he has something to keep him company. The guy who lives in the apartment below him often pounds on his door and orders him to turn the TV down. The old man plays it all day and all night long. It’s louder than a freight train sitting fifty yards away that screams down the trucks.


Ten to ten, ten to eleven, ten to twelve. Then before long, it’s ten until three. I sleep whenever I get tired these days. I can’t align myself to a schedule since time is so oblong, wide open, closed up and hog-tied, not to mention mish mashed. When the sunlight hits the windows a lot of nights, that’s when I drift off to sleep. Other nights, I fall to sleep when the sun’s going down. God doesn’t wear a watch and nearly does my sleepy-time barometer.


It’s a hot day. People stay inside and run their air conditioners. Just the other day, I heard some kid involved with summer sessions keeled over and died. High school football’s two-a-day football practices, in other words. It happens every year. Some kid dies. Just like the journalist and opinion writer George Will said, “Football combines the two worst things about America: It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” I lost my left leg playing football when I was 17-years-old. I went out for a pass and I was wearing mud cleats and an opposing player hit me high and another hit me low and my kneecap snapped. My left leg was covered with a plaster cast for months. It’s never been the same. When I was in my 30’s, I couldn’t run anymore. Now I have two artificial knees and can’t run at all. Some days, it hurts to walk. I can’t even play a backyard game at a family barbecue.


Dirty deserted windows welcome me like a vengeance. I’ve been here before. Way too many times, in fact, and I know one thing for sure: I never want to come back but I just can’t leave. Far too many devotionals and testimonials for us all to handle. Far too much nitwit hyperbole getting shoveled around on the radio, TV, Internet, and even in our bedrooms. I long for the days when life was simpler, but somehow crueler, but I felt no pain because I really had none. Now everything hurts. Everything. I wish I could make the world stop, jump off this wandering globe, and find somewhere else to sit for five minutes or so.

. . . Then I’d jump back on and ask anyone if they ever really missed me for the past five thousand eternities.


Two days ago, on March 4, 2016, I had a pacemaker installed in my heart. My heart is so weak I had little anesthesia and I wasn’t put under, but rather, wide awake during the entire procedure. The E.R. nurses put towels over my head and ordered me to only look to the right. A skinny nurse named Tiffany told me every so often, “It’s going well,” or, “We’re doing great,” or, “You’ll be back on the cardio floor before you know it.” Still, it gave me the heebie-jeebies feeling that pumping thing in my chest pulled and twisted as the heart doctor wired-up my chest. Now, I am writing this with the forefinger of my right hand while my left arm is in a sling, so my heart heals and those wires stay in place.

Welcome to the end of the road

The old hermit who lives at 99 Bryson Street

Never comes out of the house. A louse and a loser,

The old man’s probably a boozer but I never see

Him carry any bottles in or empties out of that ransacked

Eyesore. The two-story’s a dandy, all right, and I swear

That I can sometimes see termites crawling around the thing,

But it could be my imagination or the hallucinations I get.

I have to go to the clinic to get my pills Wednesday.

Please, please, my friend, I need you to tell me not to forget.

People say nobody lives there but if you watch the windows

For long stretches, the drapes sometimes pull back

And you see his face. It’s a long face, with a straggly beard

It’s a sad face, all withered and weird. He does look ghostly,

But that’s because he’s so pale – he never gets any sun or air.

Across the tracks and to the right sits Bowman’s Corners

And the scuttlebutt there is that 99 Bryson is as haunted as hell.

But it’s just an old hermit doing old hermit things

That has those rednecks rattled. Meals on Wheels comes

Every day at four and knocks on the door. All you can see is a hand,

A wiry hand that looks like a gangly spider, reach out and grab

The tray. I live in a tent in the woods right across the way

And I spy on the old hermit all day, but give it all up at night

Because if I watched him all day and night some people,

Or really most people, would say I’m really, really weird.

Secrets of a Guarded Woman

She bought herself the flowers

He forgot to buy her

The day after yesterday and the week before

But it was really a year ago. Maybe even two

And just yesterday she poured coffee for herself

And the man who left two weeks ago

Or was it for the man who left three years ago?

Not an act of forgetfulness, but bold defiance and rage

Steams from the ceramic top like volcano smoke

The man at work who lives most of his life

In the cubicle right across from her

Keeps looking, sometimes staring, at her

“Is he a pervert? Some kind of whacko rapist?”

He’s never talked to her. Not once

She likes to watch football at the sports bar

That has the most TVs and serves Fat Tire beer

With the barmaids dressed decently, like Puritans

And she always roots for the losing team

She yells for teams that are losing terribly

And always feels bad when a player is injured

Sometimes she goes with friends, but mostly, alone

She picks up dogs and cats

That are stray and drops them off -

Sometimes with friends, other times with the humane society

Once she ran over a dog and couldn’t sleep

For two days

She bought a clock, then threw it away

Two weeks later, she bought a watch

She thinks she accidentally discarded it

And just today, she bought another clock

But she doesn’t like its face

And she’s thinking of returning it

Linden Avenue, February 2017 online issue

Lunch break

I buy a coke and fries at McDonald’s and pull over to the parking lot nearby.

Dollar store shoppers look as bedraggled as the filthy seagulls

That wobble around on the nearby pavement.

Looking for morsels, they create ghastly cackles -

Flapping their wings and once in a while, puffing out their breasts.

I throw a French fry out the driver’s side window and a bird rushes it,

Then stops almost in mid-stride, as if to think, “This is too good

To be true.”

The seagull ogles the fry, bending its head forward and touches it

With its beak.

In the distance, an elderly man gets his shopping cart caught in a pothole

Shoppers trickle into the dollar store – in a week it will be the first of the month

And they’ll be descending on the place of bounty

And cheap prices in droves.

Another seagull sees the fry laying on the asphalt, near my car and approaches.

The other gull, still undecided on whether to gulp it down, pecks hard at the rival.

Noise and clatter from the birds pollutes the air while an engine backfires

In front of the dollar store.

It’s 90 degrees already and isn’t even noon yet.

It almost seems as if those birds are sweating it’s so hot!

I finish my coke and stringy potato treat, fire up my engine and wheel away.

I look into the rearview and the two gulls are both eyeing up my gift to them

As if it’s a talisman.

Haunted House

The HUD-assisted apartments they say, are haunted.

Built on an old Native American burial ground,

The bones won’t let the tenants alone, especially at night.

They say if you drive through here well into the darkness

You can see ghosts of Indians dancing in the moonlight.

Sometimes ghostly children swinging on a swing set

Greet you like phantoms in an old country graveyard.

I dated a girl here once; she was nice but had three kids

By two different fathers and I just couldn’t handle

All the dysfunctional gavagai.

The two girls and the boy were fine, but their dads

Weren’t. They were real assholes, in fact.

One told me he was going to shoot me,

And that was that. . . .Case closed.

“If you’d rather be alone, that’s fine,” she told me one morning.

- She gave me a ring after I’d not visited for over three weeks.

So I told her I’ve been alone all my life and I’ve adjusted to it.

“It’s like telling me I should have a Lear jet, it would make my life

So much easier. Well, I don’t have a measuring stick

For such a thing. You know what I mean?”

“I’d rather be alone,” I told her on my last visit. And when I left,

There was a horrible pounding and rattling from an apartment

Down the hall. I saw another tenant, and nervously said,

“Those people in 305 are trashing that place.” And he said,

“Ain’t nobody lives in 305. It’s been unoccupied over a year.”

I felt uneasy for a bit, then reasoned maintenance was rehabbing

For a new tenant. I walked briskly down the hall and to my car.

I saw that woman a while back. We walked past each other

Without saying a word. I was exiting and she was entering

A department store. Her three kids tagged along behind

Like ghostly apparitions on a phantom swing set.

- I never looked back, but something caused me to question if she did.

Linden Avenue, July 2017 online issue

At My Desk on a Saturday Night

It’s ten o’clock

And I’m at my desk.


But I don’t know what to write.

Though I know tonight I don’t want to work

on the novel that’s working me.

And I don’t have anything to write about.

But for once, I want to write short. Concise.

Something with punch and flair. Something

Cool. That’s the winning writing recipe –

Like a poem that I wrote when I was 26,

And in love, and very, very drunk.

That’s how all my poetry started

that was accepted by presses years ago.

When the editors wrote back,

Telling me how much they loved a piece,

And always clipped to the acceptance letter

Was the accepted poem, a photocopy? And

Of course, I couldn’t even recall writing the poem.

It sounds kind of funny, I know.

I always started by writing something.

Anything and nothing. Sometimes,

even gibberish. What a confession!

I think, therefore, I drink. Therefore. . .

I always wrote after staying out

All night. Howling and prowling.

These days, Saturday night out normally

Ends at ten-thirty. Such a domesticated

House mouse can’t write good poetry.

And today it’s soda pop or coffee? Crackers? Yogurt?

- It’s not possible, nor is it probable.

Yes, poetry has left me. My first love is no longer mine.

Poetry’s for the young.

The wild, the free. Those Bohemian types

who don’t even write for Internet space

and contributor’s copies. Prizes? Huh?

They’re out there in the night,

In the jazz clubs and punk rock bars.

- It seems that they don’t give a damn

About poetry, but poetry cares very deeply

about each of them.

They don’t think of it. It just happens.

No, I don’t write much poetry these days.

I could write poetry 20 or 30 years ago.

Sometimes I look some of it over and I’m

Amazed; at times, even proud.

But a lot of it is just pure shit.

And I must admit, I loved to write poetry then.

I don’t like to write it now. Maybe I grew up

Sometime during the course of the past two or three

Decades, but probably not, I don’t know. . . .

I think I could write short once upon a time.

Now I’m longwinded and my desk’s as large as a barge.

I don’t know where that little poetry canoe got to, but I know

It’s way down that river somewhere and I’m lost. . .

Two Cities, an online literary review, March 22, 2017

Reading the Obit of an Old Newspaperman

For the last twenty years or so, he's been writing a column for a weekly,

Telling of sweeter days, when the city was a good place to live.

I scanned his column-head photo meekly, never thinking an actual obit

Would someday be written for him. A good foot soldier of journalism –

Far to trite, syrupy, warm and fuzzy but at the same time, hoary, with freshness

And warmth. A teller of tales bright as candy canes and tie-died tee-shirts.

Sometimes I muse of my own obit, what it will say:

Days before death,

I see an old curmudgeon bachelor walking around

In a city bleaker and more crumbled than my city is today.

Aye, a Gomorra that would pour a poison on my dead predecessor's grave.

Ah, my last days: I’ll be living in some bungalow downtown,

Probably, in a cold and calloused, dingy, northern town.

Our Social Security long gone, cockroaches crawling around,

Scrounging up some coin for morning coffee, out to the snow –

Dirty slush everywhere, pass a penny or two to

Mr. Homeless and make the sign of the cross, thanking Him I have a room.

No weekly to write for, no pension, family or friends.

The 20-watt bulb hides the crevasses of the walls;

Wires dangling down like some barfly's short skirt

I removed when I was cocky, handsome, young man!

And it happened around here somewhere.

Oh, if I could only remember where.

I recall the strong smell of fish and a queer pheromone scent!

Ah --she was lovely, now if I could only recall her name –

And how long was our fling.

Did we do it only once, twice or thrice? Does it really matter?

Was it a longer fiasco, six months or a year or two?

Who knows and I don't think so.

- I'll ask Saint Peter when I see him.

After he lets me in.

The pariah smells the petrichor

A long dry spell and finally, relief

Comes with a smile and a hug

From a strange woman. Silent mist

Envelopes me with a kiss and a stare

From the moon. I’ve seen her before

Around here. She walked alone

In the rain under her psychedelic

Umbrella, making sure not to walk

On the cracks of the sidewalk. Ha ha ha

Hee hee. She had to have played a kid’s

Game, too, long ago; probably on these

Same sidewalks. I’ve watched her

From my lonely attic room for the past

Week, with the teeming rain hitting my

Window like a manic puppy’s paws.

It’s nice getting a smile and a hug

After this long draught, from a strange

Woman, without her umbrella, as the mist

Kisses us with the fall’s soft scents.

Autumn petrichor is filled with decaying

Smells while spring’s is so embryonic.

Even a heart buried in the cold cement

Of an ice man’s torso melts in an embrace.

And the dying scents seem to create

Something and anything that is bigger than me.

Bigger than us. Bigger than the rust this rain

Created and for millenniums has eaten away.

Black Ice

The street:

A witch’s mirror,

Black and shiny. I creep along, my flashers blinking, traveling 20 miles per hour.

Too fast, but still,

I’m being tailgated

By some dark figure

- A hazy head and shoulders, driving a dark car on a red-eye to nowhere.

Up ahead, an old pickup

With positraction dovetails

Madly. A wild stallion

Trying to pass the cemetery.

Somewhere in that copse

An angel of death spreads

Her granite obstinate wings.

(I’ve seen her on some dreary

Rainy days – under rock quarry

Skies and I’ve had to look away).

Between Shenley and Meridian

On Mahoning’s the worst stretch.

Longhairs hang outside the bars

Looking onto the streetscape -

Too sober to stay,

Too drunk to leave.

Red, white, and blue blazes

At sundry intersections.

The silhouette

Of a drunk woman yelling,

Falling down, wanting the police

To leave her party

Invades my darkness.

Just inside the only lit window on Sullivan Street

Sullivan Street is quiet and dark. She sits alone,

Fishing around for a fix. Where is he, that guy?

You know, the guy she met a month ago, online.

The one who said he’d come and actually did.

The dating site signifies his account’s deleted.

But let’s get the story straight here. Real straight:

Red, red wine is her new love.

A stage of resentments, each with a first name,

A surname and even a few nicknames

Swims around her brain as she prowls for prey.

Her Pentium is filled with malware and adware.

- Not to leave out that she paid a techie

To come over to get rid of a nasty virus deep within.

Too much surfing around for men -

She uses them like she uses booze.

- A gulp off the long neck. Who uses a glass anymore?

Drinking like a lady ended with the Obamas

Leaving the White House.

Maybe even with Billie and that Monica thing.

Ten past three in the wee. She takes a pee.

Everything in the room moves except her.

During another time, she went to work

Now she lives off the pension of a dead man

She earned it, after all, for untold horrid years

Of his lying, cheating, beating, and that smile.

Oh, that little boy’s smile that attracted her

When they were undergrads at State.

- He lies in a decaying state of embalmed dignity

Now. Worms and other creepy crawlies are his.

And really, she thinks, haven’t they always been?

Spring comes after a long winter drought

Driving down Mahoning Avenue

I smell the burned flesh of chicken, beef,

Turkey, and probably even horse.

Restaurants dot the side of the road

Like drone honey bees

Outside a hive. I feel good.

It’s the advent of spring

And I drive with my windows down.

The scent of fresh petrichor

And beads of water on my windshield

Make me feel refreshed.

I’m taking a book back to the library

And then, to where, who knows?

It’s the best way to plan a trip,

After all. Not having any idea

Of a destination. Drizzle dampens

The street and simultaneously,

A beam of light from the sun

Breaks through a cloud like some

Descending angel. Hello.

So nice to see you. Glad you’re here.

Ascent Aspirations, Friday’s Poems

A November Walk

Dead of woods.


Freeze. November’s

Rain pours down,

Again. Oh, so many

Frozen trees.


Went by -

Summer days

In my life

Are headed to



I think of you

During these walks.

I see freezing rain,

It pelts on my face

Like a grace

From above.

Icy branches,

High above,

As I try

To forget you.

- that thing about going blind, well it’s just an old wives tale

Will you ever turn down the radio so we can sleep, she said to me at three in the wee. I have no qualms about lowering the volume, but the volume in my head will increase and increase, dear Cyanide god of the curses and candles.

So whenever there is another brother around, and there are many at all times, everywhere, I just try to be nice and flavorful. I come in an assortment of varieties and there is nothing left to do in this life except to die someday. And that’s simple enough, right? In the meantime, I will write and sleep as much as possible, try to be mean to my fellow man, and throw carrots meant for rabbits and goats into the thunderstorms of life, hoping that they don’t retaliate, whip back in the whipping wind, and strike my face like hard rocks.

The woods are dark and deep and I have many, many lies to keep. I’m a career politician amongst the trees. I tell a little white lie to a pin oak way over yonder over there, then an egregious fallacy to this maple right in front of us, then I tell a funny little fib to this sycamore, way over there, behind that copse of bushes. They don’t believe a word I say. Do you know why I know this? They don’t say a thing to me. Never.

Careers built on the military industrial complex, that’s where we send our young right after high school graduation. Yes, my friends, it is indeed sweet and fitting to die for one’s country, and let’s not leave out Big Oil & Gas, the billionaire’s boys club, the millionaire’s old gal’s card club, and Big Pharma (when our kids get riveted with bullets from this war, that war, and the other wars, we have to give them medications). And let’s not forget Wall Street, the funeral industry, and the folks who run cemeteries into the ground.

My friend down at the Dandy Bar was pretty loaded when he told me this, and actually, I can’t believe a word of it, but he said something to the effect of this – I can’t rattle it off verbatim, since I was really trashed, too: “So she told me to go take a fucking hike. And I did, for forty years. Now it’s getting a little lonely so I think I’ll try my luck at love again. I’m tired of jerking off. These days, I stare at YouTube videos of washing machines stuck in the spin-dry cycle whenever I masturbate. I don’t mind telling y’all this, after all, it’s the days when anything goes, right?”

A salute to the dead of night

She said “any old wine will do”

And I thought she meant the homonym

Of wine, or “whine”

And I went on to tell her about the dumbass mailman who never delivered my BIA documents

And the stupid choir director at the church who yelled at me for singing off-key

And that dumbass drag queen who stands at the corner of Fifth and Bermuda

Who I always pick up on that nasty old corner when my girl’s out’a’town.

“So get it straight, Jack,” she snarled, “I want wine, and just stop your bitchin’”

So I ordered us both a bottle of the best house wine,

Which happened to be Boone’s Farm Strawberry

And she kindly thanked me with a little tickle to my crotch and her wanton, lovely smile.

“How do you do, my little buttercup,” she told me after she’d squashed her fifth glass.

“And it’s fancy meeting a really horrible man like yourself in a dive like this,”

She slobbered, then laughed and laughed and laughed.

I failed to see any humor in this, so I just called her a drunken old sow,

Which really isn’t too far from the truth,

And I know it’s not, for just for once, that old witch didn’t say a word.

A Wild Child’s Ode to Snakes & Such

Snakes. They fascinate and thrill me.

The bible made Satan out to be a snake,

But to me, God is a diamondback rattler

With fangs and a mean disposition.

The Old Testament God wasn’t like a lamb,

No, far from it, He was a black mamba

Or a cobra, or maybe a 30-foot water moccasin.

Water buffalo and camels

Don’t live where I live

But I’d love to move to where

One or two of these wonderful

Beasts are around every corner.

I’d take pictures of them all day

And all night long, then I’d try

To ride a camel right into the sea.

She told me that her iguana

Was a “low maintenance pet”

And in the next breath, she

Complained that I wasn’t.

She said she liked her men fried

And baked a little more mature

And Independent. She said I had

All the bad traits of a moray eel

And none of the good attributes

Of a Gila monster. That was nice.

The best compliment the girl

Ever gave me. I said, “Thanks.”

Most kids want a horse, a dog, or a cat

When they’re young. I wanted a rattlesnake.

I never got one, though, since my Mom and Dad

Couldn’t see much sense in it, no, no sense at all.

The God you worship

Is the God you’ll answer to,

Yes, indeed. If you want a God of Consequences,

A snake in the grass, don’t call him the devil.

No, he’s the other guy, the supposed good one.

But if you don’t want fangs and venom in your life,

You can opt out of that one, too, for a lighter yoke.

Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-37 show above.)