When Every Night’s the Longest Night of the Year

They say tonight’s 
the longest night of the year. 
But I’ve already had at least 
a dozen dozens longer since January. 
That makes this the year’s
shortest day, too. But days, 
no matter how long, go by 
in just a blink when you live 
from one sleepless night to the next.
Each day’s just another little box 
full of meds, each with a lid 
wearing a 3-letter signifier 
that it’s WED or SUN, which is
the one where I refill them for another 
seven blinks without a thought and 
seven more dead-bodied stares while
my mind’s milling around
about you and them and sometimes me. 
That’s when I compose my best work - 
the stuff that never gets written. 
But actually, that best’s more like like 
a drunk’s singing voice or his irresistible charm. 
Except a drunk’ll fall asleep at some point. 

Visions of Sugar Plums

Somewhere in a Christmas fantasy, 
something like my Life’s sugar plums 
resting all sweet and spicy upon 
a cosmic comfit plate, right next to
the roasted chestnuts I hear about, 
warm and soft as a lover’s kiss.
Or so you tell me. Because this 
is a fantasy, a dream straight out 
of one of those Hallmark Christmas movies, 
only none of us are princes, princesses or
destiny’s darlings fated to leap 
holiday hurdles to couplehood and,
per every fantasy’s script, 
fall into one of those chestnut kisses
in the last thirty seconds before 
the credits roll. The sweet and spicy?

I don’t care.

But we all need dreams, don’t we? 
Otherwise why even have that one day 
of the year when wishes can come true 
and hopes aren’t dashed and danced upon 
by a fantasy fleet of reindeer,
an ill-fit significant other or 
make-believe mean girl. Maybe that’s 
why I keep my list short, written 
in invisible ink between lines 
of fanciful good-boy reveries of 
an exchange of Life’s gifts you can’t buy, 
nor steal and I’ll likely never get to try. 
Like sugar plums. 

Snowflake Warm As Summer Rain

Over my many winters, or maybe 
just this long one and only, 
I have stood, sat or lain here 
and watched the snowflakes fall. 
Some I’ve followed from the heavens 
to my feet. Others blown away from me 
by the cold winds that have chilled 
my heart and frozen my soul. 
A very few have deigned to spiral 
and swoop to land upon my lashes, 
catching my eye more than I caught them.

Then there’s you, who I spied one day 
in your earthward glide, toward me and away, 
then blown back by winds I never felt 
but you did. You’re lways defying gravity 
out there in front of me or 
at the corner of the corner of my eye. 
If you ever were to land upon me, 
I know you’d feel as warm there as 
summer rain or perhaps a tear on my cheek. 
One I'll never wipe away.

All Aboard ~ Finding Christmas Under the Tree

We used to put tiny tablets, 
like Lionel locomotive aspirin, 
down the engine’s stack to make it 
puff out white smoke while it circled 
beneath our Christmas tree.
But that was back when I was small enough 
to crawl beneath the real tree’s 
real branches that would stick me 
with its real needles while I rectified 
the inevitable headache derailments 
certain O-Gauge Casey Joneses always seemed 
to perpetrate when our Christmas train 
was rounding the turn behind the presents 
into the corner of the living room.

I didn’t mind too much. It gave me 
a good reason to roll over again to look up 
the inside of the tree and get enveloped 
by the lights and delicate glass ornaments, 
the tinsel tickling my face like some 
Christmas angel I didn’t know I’d wish 
to feel until Christmases to come.
Too bad I had to grow up and lose that feeling 
of being inside Christmas. 

I don’t have an electric train under my tree 
anymore and putting all the decorations up 
can be kind of a headache, but the other day 
I dropped a plastic ornament in the corner, 
and something moved me to crawl under 
my fake tree’s fake branches where 
the fake needles stuck me and, for a second,
looking up at those twinkling lights felt like 
I was back inside Christmas again. Funny, 
before crawling out I decided to reach back 
further because somewhere in that corner 
I might find more Christmas to re-rail inside me.

Warmer Tidings Of the Season

Christmas Day’s just 
over a week away. 
Yet the golf course is open, 
though I don’t dare to play.
It just seems sacrilegious 
to go tee it up, 
when I should be writing carols, 
and, yeah, tipping a wassail cup.
That’s how it’s become, though,
the weather gone screwy,
no morning snow on the greens, 
in fact, they were dewy.
No north winds howling, 
just gusts from the west
blowing decorations sideways, 
like a tipsy party guest.

Meanwhile, the trees out my window 
still have some leaves a’cling,
while that tree in the living room 
stands sparkling with bling.
But even if this weather confuses me 
with what’s the real season,
I still know Christmas is nearing 
and this is the reason.
I can feel my frozen heart warming, 
when that tree sparkles like jewels
and visions from our holidays past 
echo of those Yules
when I’d write you a present, 
though not tied in a bow.
Just wrapped in evergreen affection, signed
Merry Christmas! Love, Joe.

I Wish

I suppose it’s only right 
that I so often use a word that, 
if you listen to it slantwise, 
squinching your ears just so, 
sounds like a short burst of warm wind 
masquerading as a fleeting kiss on your cheek. 
But mostly, to me, someone for whom 
the whole auditory world echoes 
scrunched and askew, Wish reminds me 
too much of a sigh. Perhaps that’s
because so many of my wishes end up 
punctuated, if not begun, 
by a hopeless exhalation that starts 
with loosening up my lips from a kiss 
and then an admonition to just shut up.
I wish (see?) that just wasn’t so, 
but (another word I use so much 
I’ve worn a groove down its middle)
that’s wishes for you -- and me and us -- 
lots of misses full of near-kisses 
and things maybe better left unsaid.


Do you still bleed when 
the blade crosses your heart? 
Or have you ceased running, 
like a freshet lying near-lifeless 
waiting for the just right rain 
that might never come?
Cut me again, see how I’ve given up 
pumping the warm, red metaphor,
this life led without the touch
I always thought I needed. 
Yet here I am once more, 
carving for you another arroyo 
like so many I’ve inscribed during 
my days in this desert. 
I once cut the dust with blood 
from a full heart unscarred. 
Now all I’ve left is tears.

Your Feelings of My Feelings

I like the way you hold me 
when I try to speak to you,
how your hands close ‘round 
what my fingers wish to express.
I love how you might understand 
what I have to say, even though 
I’m not making a sound 
anyone but you can hear.
Perhaps that’s because no one 
listens so closely to my
clumsy, earnest efforts to let
you know we’ll be all right.

I blush when I see you looking
at me so attentively the way
you always have, parsing meaning
from between my creases and
lines that speak to you even
when our eyes are closed.
But mostly I love how you've 
always kept a place for me 
within the warm spot few 
have entered and even fewer 
you’ve let stay, even if what you 
hold, hear and see of me are just
your feelings of my feelings.