Phantom Pains

phantom heart

There has always been an emptiness
A place where a piece of me seems missing
a longing for understanding
or at least a connection
A chance to know someone missing from my life

Being part of a splintered family
raised by two loving parents
but never getting to know one of those
responsible for your birth
creates a cavern of un-felt feelings

This cave, a place of unconnected love
creates echoes, as emotions bounce
off the hardened parts of my heart
filling the emptiness with phantom feelings
knowing reality and perception are unaligned

And now, as this part of me, my blood
fights, then fails to draw life-giving breath
those sympathy pains of unfulfilled love
become aligned through actual loss
phantom feelings for the mother I barely knew

Static Interactions

static electric2

Every day I stand at the copy machine, knowing-
as I touch the button, carpet static will bite me. Not
that it hurts, maybe borders on uncomfortable, more
the pain of anticipation, knowing it’s coming, knowing
a spark will be triggered by touching the login pad

There’s always that person who has the effect of collecting static.
Their energy gets passed to us whether we want it or not. No
matter what the interaction, we know we’re going to get shocked.
They start walking your way and you have the same
anticipation, knowing unpleasantness is coming

When someone rubs you the wrong way, neck hair
stands on edge due to their nearness. The thought
of contact makes every character defect pulse, every
past annoyance makes its way from history to present
giving unpleasant thoughts way too much power

The work environment is the perfect fishbowl where people
who share goals, ethics, and etiquette come in contact daily
There are many ways to ignore the annoying things they do
Others annoy us by showing up for work
making the hair stand up in the wake of their passing

The common denominator is based on past feelings
instead of what we have in common. Expectations
of aggravation prepare us negatively, develops
an island of attitude, only seeing things that will piss us off.
What can be built on this kind of framework?

The day in, day out interaction with these folks, set us up
for nit-picking and focusing on all their faults. A case
built against them before they do anything.
A perfect example of how a reputation precedes you
always entering the room way before you do

Playing in Condemned Houses



How far do I let the thoughts go?
Where does the trouble start?
An innocent fantasy can grow
while left alone in the dark.
Romance it or feed it
with the least bit of thought
pack it away while you get back to your day
but carefully check the lid before re-opening!

Fantasy grows in secret!
Blooms into obsession
takes on a life of its own.
Once the roots set and the thoughts grow
they never remain a single plant,
but grow like vines
into all the surrounding trees
strangling the life out of whatever they touch!

Fantasy takes so many shapes.
I never know which are safe playgrounds
and which are condemned houses
with floors just waiting for my foot to feed on.
Which thoughts can be manipulated
for my own enjoyment,
and which will manipulate me
for my own abuse?

Reality versus fantasy…
a constant battle of wants
against what is real!
The separation in my head
between my outward self and my private self
become subservient to my dreamer self.
How long can we live in fantasy land
before it is just considered life?

John Quixote


How is the view from up on your mount?
Can you see the big picture from way up there?
I am trying to listen to your point of view
It is so hard to converse when you are talking down
From such a lofty perch

I’m not sure if you’re seeing
What should be clearly in front of your face
Maybe if you came down to our level
Looked at life from other than your slant
Then the urgency needed would be more apparent

It isn’t so much that you’re on your high horse
But that you’re so much in denial
Trying to ride in on your white steed to save the day
While what we see is extremely different
Quite obvious to all that are watching

The long ears of your mount hear better than you
The constant braying of your dumb ass must un-link your logic
We all know stubbornness is part of the breed
And whether you are riding high on a white, gray or brown mule
There’s still a jackass in the saddle

Twisting by the Fringe


Certain topics will always be hard to discus
come to the tip of the tongue, the tip of the pen, and die there
causing issues to be carried in our head instead of shared
allowing presentation by those who either do not care, or
presented by those with so much passion, that the message
gets lost in the rage or judgement

All the hot topic subjects put forth by pundits
fought for with acrimony and unreasonableness
polarize the issues into good or bad, right or wrong
the left and right making narrow-minded declarations
and the majority voice of reason is lost, drowned out
by the constant screaming and dogmatic ravings

Race, religion and politics are topics always on center stage. The
media’s tools to grab ratings, creating news instead of reporting,
topics always wrapped in chains of broken logic, with radical tones
presented by irreproachable personas with opposing views. The
views of the general public are never represented
no ratings for a show where everyone is agreeing and reasonable

The fringe twists every problem and every issue out of perspective
escalates outrage until it becomes a flash flood, a firestorm
making people choose the sides of right, instead of what’s correct.
Instead of dividing, let’s reach for the strength of common ground
forming with reason, a strong majority of the middle
not infected by the hate mongering of those trying to divide

A Glimpse of Glory


67 cougar

Buried under years of growth, but now exposed
sitting for years, trapped under rotted beams
neglected, abandoned, mostly hidden from view
as the leaves fall and the vegetation withers away
the light sometimes gives a glimpse of its old glory
reflecting off all that is left of many a man’s dreams

Oh, what a life all those years ago
back when the sheen couldn’t be missed
heads turned and watched, fantasizing
this gal knew how to wear her colors
turquoise and white, sporting shiny black leather
a chrome carrying member of the best of the 60s

This cat had all the right lines to appeal
the snub-nosed hood and the wide electric razor grill
the power to run or just make the heart pump
nothing but comfort, but built for performance
whether plain for around town or dressed to kill,
she was the pride of 1967

1967 cougar

And now she sits, another part of a decaying neighborhood
just a pile of rust, rot, and worn out dreams
hidden headlights corroded closed forever
the hardtop ruined, the paint faded and chipped
the rubber and chrome only suggestive
yet the shape is unmistakably still a 1967 Cougar xr7

May she rust in peace!

Young and Old


A baby born, requiring maximum care
learning to roll, learning to eat, laugh and play
softly molded as they grow; building knowledge.
So inspiring to watch the learning stages,
soon declaring their independence even though they still need.

The infant becomes a child who grows toward adolescence
hopefully gaining confidence, building character, becoming adult,
off to school, moving out, building a family of their own.
A new learning curve comes with becoming a parent,
realizing the perceived flaws of our parents were not so bad after all

We watch our children become adults and learn to allow them to grow.
Sometimes this is the hardest part, allowing them to fail and fall,
hoping we taught them, encouraged enough, to let them right themselves.
Instilled the fight in them, to right their wrongs, and be responsible.
Allow them to grow, encourage them to go, and then what?

We realize we are still growing too!
All of a sudden we realize we are old, not able to do all the things we could
feeling the changes every day of muscles, not so elastic,
aches and pains that don’t go away; just ease off a bit,
until one day, we fall and are not able to get up ourselves.

We realize that over time, all our friends are gone
either dead, convalescent in a home, or living with their children,
not able to do things for themselves, reliant on other’s help.
Suddenly our faculties are leaving, memory, vision, hearing…
our independence is gone, our ability to live alone, diminished.

And the big picture becomes clear one day,
being wheeled into the doctor by their child, on the elevator up,
a mom and her baby girl push in with their stroller.
Looking over from the wheelchair; looking over from her stroller
they see the complete picture of the circle of life

So, rejoice in the day you have.
Make the most of life while you can live.
There is no time for regrets, get up when you fall,
learn and grow, and then pass it on.
The circle moves on, even if the mind doesn’t see the motion.

The Pendulum


The pendulum swings, and another moment grows into minutes.
The passage of time has little effect on anything, other than
the comparisons of today versus yesterday. The edges
of our extremes grow outward, as the excitement of
the day, the compulsions, fears and wants,
push emotions into overdrive.

The near completion of another cycle, the full swing
of highs and lows, the trip from obsession
to contentment, and back again, brings on the
revelation, that the pendulum, the perfect icon
of extremes – of bi-polar – of instability,
is also a perfect definition of consistency.

Fast and far or slow and steady. When will we learn to
sit back and ride the tide, let the swing show where we fit
between the poles of opposites. Feel what we feel,
instead of what we think we should feel!
Love – Hate! Boredom – Excitement! Intensity – Apathy!
There is no reason to try and slow the swing. Time takes time!

The pendulum swings, and another day begins. Today is what we make it,
or better yet, what we allow it to be.
The ups and downs, the mood swings, the extremes
in our lives – they are the constant. The quest for balance,
a driving force in my life, has been present all along.
The swing is life!

Clipper Ship on Stormy Seas

Clipper ship

Clipper Ship on Stormy Seas

Round bales of wool cut into two and a half inch segments
Grouped by color, wrapped and numbered, filling a box
One by one, given a new home on the canvas
Fold over hook, insert, loop, pull, and adjust
Space by space, row by row, color by color
Move on to the next row

Compulsion, obsession, suppression
Fear of stopping drives the progress
A world of people, places and things
Waits patiently for the hook to be put down
Keep moving until the fingers are raw
Seventeen days later and almost done
Fighting through blisters, cuticles bloody
Loose wool lint coating clothes, chair, and floor

Began with the sky, ending with the green-blue sea
Light and dark and dark greens, creamy foam topped waves rolling past
A small JC in the bottom corner finished off the piece
Withdraw preserved in strands of wool
Mounted on the wall to always remember
The pain of beginning a new life with choice
A clipper ship on stormy seas now safe at port

A move and then another, a couple more to come
Its new residence, a shelf in my parent’s basement – forgotten
Cardboard boxes are never safe in floodwaters – everything ruined
Decades later another flood and the need for repairs
Demanded the first floor be cleared, boxed and stored
And there on the top shelf of the hallway closet it sat
Folded, safe and sound, the colors just as bright

The first seventeen days of my new life preserved
Strand by strand, hook by hook, fingers raw by nightfall
The sinking ship that was my life prior, reprogrammed
Thirty-five years later, still sailing along with choice
Row by row, hook by hook, day by day
The years line up and life takes on an image
Gratitude for the reminder of what was lost, then found

Previously published by Silver Birch Press as part of the Lost and Found collection

Shark River Dreams

When I was thirteen and fourteen, I worked on my uncle’s lobster boat in Neptune, NJ for a month each summer. My uncle treated me as a real employee. The work was hard, the hours were long, and the smell of fish was hard to escape. For a teenage boy, it was worth getting up at 4am to be on the ocean all day, become part of a crew, and be treated as a man instead of a boy. It was impossible not to learn about karma first hand from the lifers on the docks.  I will always remember these days with fondness.


shark river2
Postcard from the seventies for Shark River Inlet

Shark River Dreams

Seems the head hits the pillow, and the alarm begins to ring
total darkness, except the mocking face of the clock
sit down to eggs and hash browns to power the day
stars still watching, their shift almost ended, ours begins
old filleted flounder and such, garbage to most, bait to us
salted and set aside to ripen, now loaded aboard
as the mooring lines are tossed, the engines roar
timing the tide, to begin our day

Purple on the horizon fights the black
the sea, a glass-like calm today, merges with the sky
surprisingly, these are days that most flutter the stomach
the fumes of diesel accent the ripeness of bait
no breeze to rescue the senses
no distraction of swells, or jolting drops
just the spread of ripples across the surface
the distant horizon, birthing a sunrise in glorious form

Most days, just as the sun begins to crown
the winch is primed to disturb the peace
the first flag is pulled, raised from the depths
crabs, starfish, seaweed and tackle cling to the line
then the first trap hits the gunwale with a shot
my standing sleep shattered by our captured crustaceans
empty the trap, band the claws, bait the trap, and off the stern
just enough time to do it again!

Thirty pots to a line, fifteen to twenty lines make a day
following the path from rock bottom to mud flat
not really knowing if we are ahead or behind
the sun begins to bake the bait, add ambiance to the afternoon
crushed ice coated boxes filled with another days pay
the coast changes sides, the last flag of the day
the scrub down, the rubdown, the countdown to home
the tide again low as we enter the port

A full day at sea, but the day is not over
lobster deliveries get done and the bait trip is run
biz talk, trash talk, smack talk and plans
who’s stealing lines and who’s drilling hulls
what goes around-comes around, to the extreme!
men acting like boys and this boy feeling like a man
sitting with my Dr. Pepper, soaking it all in
can’t wait to see who’s not sailing tomorrow

Shark River, NJ – a summer full of dreams
never worked so hard or enjoyed so much
memories, one after another, so vivid and fresh
still taste the smells, and feel the swells
sea legged careening and rocking boat dreaming
combinations of curses never considered or imagined
and a cast of characters never forgotten
a remarkable summer job that taught life lessons

The world on the docks embraces a normal all its own

Previously published by Silver Birch Press (First Job Series)