A Man Can Dream

His eyes were going,
but he said he didn’t mind
too much because he saw things
most clearly in the dark,
especially during those hours
he stared at the starless sky
of his bedroom ceiling.
His hearing was shot long ago,
owing to genetics and
a corresponding need to turn up
his headphones to 11.
But he heard the voice and music
no one else could hear in this dark.
His heart was failing him, too,
what with the stiffened scars
he hated to admit it bore.
Some were idiopathic etchings
of unknown origins, while others
marked wounds self-inflicted,
one way or another.
So now what? no one asked, because
no one heard him whisper through
life’s lightless vacuum.
Not even the one whose caress
he felt on his arm, his cheek,
his chest, when it was really
his own left hand in that meantime.
But a man can dream.

For Love of the Game

I was late to the game,
seventh inning at least,
a set-up guy for the set-up guy
for those who closed the deal,
who had all the pitches
and a feel for it all.
I was obsessed with the quest,
the how-to, watching from
the bullpen or giving up
the home run to the lover boys.
The girls really do love
the long ball. But that’s the game,
their rules, my inadequacies,
a Single-A rag-arm who wouldn’t
know what to do if he ever
made it to The Show, shaking
off all her signs and inevitably
being sent back down where
my love of the game of love
got lost among all my other losses
over those lonely nights
between Helena and the Bigs.

Sorry I’m late for Poem #26 of Poem-A-Day April. Destroyed my phone and painted away the rest of the day. Was prompted for a love or anti-love poem. Not sure I have either here, just a metaphor for a guy with a 58-foot high school curveball and a BP fastball when it came to the game of love.

All for a Flicker

I must admit to the numbness,
the loss of feeling, because
I’ve gone too long since
feeling warmth against my cold self.
Whatever coziness within
comes from a fleeting flame,
a lick of yellow without a spark,
providing little light with which
to inspect the darkness within.
The occasional obsession,
the headlong chase for no other reason
than to fan the ephemeral flicker,
burned me since I followed two miles
a block behind that girl in grade school,
all the way to her home.
Burned but not really illuminated,
I acquired this soot-seared heart.
But outside?
Scarred and bruised.
Chill and unfeeling.
I cannot accept what I
cannot give; cannot give
what I no longer can feel,
and have lost the key
to remembering.

54 Across


“Joel, you’ve got to hurry up here and see this,” Andi Simkins called one Late Sunday afternoon from the patio window to her husband down in what Joel called his Subterranean Lair.

“I’ll be up as soon as I finish this part of the Times crossword, hon,” Joel replied from his leather lounger, as the Giants versus the Eagles provided a background soundtrack from his 50-inch flatscreen.

“Lemme see…54 Across…seven-letter word for skyline,” Joel mumbled to himself, with an Eagle’s player’s interception of a late-day sun-blinded Giant receiver’s potential catch sending the Philly crowd into a mega-decibel frenzy in the background.

Andi called one more time, “Joel, please, you’ll miss this if you wait much longer….”

And when he didn’t answer, Andi sighed once again, stood by the patio window, and recalled all those afternoons Joel would tangle his fingers in her auburn hair and she would beam at him with her gold-flecked blue eyes, as they’d watched the sun sink, a searing communion of light and heat, beyond that southwestern horizon.

A five-sentence fiction based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word HORIZON.

If Wishes Were Horses

Miss Viviane Nimue—I knew her name from the plate on the doorbell for apartment 310—was an old spinster lady who would sit staring out onto Lake Avenue every evening from her window in our brownstone, a candle lit next to her, until she went to bed.

“I wave to her every afternoon as I come up the front steps, being the good neighbor and all, and it’s like she’s a mannequin or something…no recognition, no response at all,” my girlfriend Lynn said one night in June.

“Maybe she’s expecting someone, waiting, wishing, a Mr. Right maybe, to ride up on his white steed and whisk her away from all this,” I said, half-laughing.

“Get real, Ben,” Lynn said, “and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride…and let’s face it, Sir Galahad is never going to tie up to a meter out there on Lake Avenue to rescue old Viv .”

In August, about a week after the old girl passed away, Lynn and I were sitting on the front steps when a white Ford Mustang pulled up and an elderly man wearing a silver Van Dyke and what Lynn later said was a Bond Street suit stepped out, approached us and said, with a quite proper English accent, “Pardon me, but is this the home of the lovely Miss Viviane Nimue?”

Based on Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction prompt word: WISHES.

After the Rain

Opening the Door
Opening the Door, photo by Joseph Hesch

After the rain, shoulders hunched
and face clenched into a fist,
you punch your way through
the west wind. It undresses you
with your clothes still on,
stabbing and chilling your skin
like you’re bare-ass in the twilight.
Your eyes open wider after you splash
through a puddle that’ll pickle
your feet in their leather jars unless
you find a warm shelf to rest them on.
Red-shouldered black birds spin their
motorboat wings, tailfeather rudders
yawing this way and that, nattering above
the whole fuss of clothes and shoes
and the cars that spit in your face
as they pass. The same face Mother Sun
wraps in a smile, your sweet companion
in this westward walk to tomorrow.

The Best Gift EVER


Little Black Book 2 by lusi

Like most of the aides at the Glen Rest Home, Hildy Zink thought her favorite patient, old Chris Kriegel, was cute and sweetly wacky, the way he would begin keeping a Naughty and Nice notebook and let his beard grow out each year around Labor Day.

But Hildy’s new supervisor, Mrs. Fassbender, who came on board after the first of that year, didn’t think Chris was cute at all, telling Hildy, “He’s disruptive and I think he’s a nut log who, if I had my way around here, would have been moved to the psychiatric wing years ago…Now go give him a shave”

One afternoon in early December, Chris wandered into the linen closet, thinking it was the men’s room, and found a crying Hildy there, who told him she was one of three aides Fassbender was letting go before Christmas because she “didn’t like their insubordinate and unprofessional demeanor with the clients,” which was Fassbender-code for Wouldn’t Shave Chris.

After patting Hildy on the head and telling her not to worry — “After all, Christmas is the time of joy and miracles” — Chris went back into the hall, pulled the black notebook from the pocket of his red flannel robe and put another Happy Face on Hildy’s page, writing The Best Gift EVER at the bottom.

Flipping through the pages until he found the one marked Fassbender, Chris put another Frowny Face next to the hundreds of others and wrote as he did for Hildy’s previous supervisor, Best Gift EVER: Stairwell – Push.

This week’s Five Sentence Fiction is based on Lillie McFerrin’s prompt inspiration Whimsical. Not sure I nailed it, but, as a whimsically cranky old man, I like this story.

These Keys

Smith-Corona Classic 12

Smith-Corona Classic 12 (Photo credit: mpclemens)

When I took possession of the gift of these keys
they opened doors no one with my name
ever entered, addressing the royalty
and the slave, the saints and the malevolent,
and this image of me even I
could never see.

But these keys can lock doors, too,
confining me to a solitary life within,
where I grope in the dark
for the right keys…not to escape,
for it is too late for that, but to open
where hides the me you do not see.

Everything I am, seen and unseen,
I owe to them. But, now it is clear,
in this darkened room, alone,
just these keys and me, it is they
who have come to possess me,
not I them, you see.

Here’s a Free Write inspired by my friend Kellie Elmore’s suggesting a “gift” poem. Everything I write is a gift, but they spring from the simple gift my parents gave me when I was seventeen and about to go away to college. Those keys built the framwork of my adult life.


Blue Jay

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Blue Jay always perches alone,
though sometimes he alights
upon the grass, scattering sparrows,
because he is Blue Jay and
alone and loud is who he is.

But even Jaybird can tire of his
solitary life of Blue after a while,
and will pitch his scratchy verse
into the air hoping it might
find the ear of another like him.

When Blue meets Blue, the hue
and cry takes on a frantic courtship
of feathered blue-flame fire—
and then it’s over, because
Blue Jay can only be loud Blue Jay.

And he perches alone.

Only Words

Mine is a life of words, I fear.
Any deeds I’ve lived solely in my head
as I would the lines of this story
I shall never write.
They are threads of worthless language
strung over and over,
woven into the discomfiting comforter
I wear each night, eyes open,
staring into the dark ceiling,
where brightly plays the fantasy journal
of the young, brave, athletic, loving
writer’s days that never were.
Then comes the eye-blink sleep
without dreams and, too soon,
creeping dawn. It drags with it
my hope merely to stand and
sumnambulistically beat my breast
from inside out through another day,
only to live again for those seconds
in which I lie and lie, playing once more
with the words that are my life.