Can you?

You have the beginning
and the end, right?
how do they connect?

Can you sing off key
with all your heart
while everyone listens?

Can you dance off beat
to your own groove
while everyone watches?

Can you trust the music
inside of you
without fear?

I have the beginning and the end
a broken voice and a deaf ear
I move beyond the edge of balance

and trust I will not fall
and the path will find me
as I place my feet upon the ground.

Blue Chameleon Blues

Inspired in part by Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”

Dawn’s finger tips of rose, along with the rest of her heavenly body, repose deep beneath a quilt woven of light and Phoebus’ traces across the sky. Above, a dark vaulted blackness leaks pin pricks of lights depicting cave drawings of her friends and relatives. Breakfast or brunch or whatever you want to call it came and went in a the flick of a young girl’s knot of curls. Dinner too. The reels on the recorder spin round and round. He inhabits the two and the four as the drummer taps those swung triplets on the high hat while punctuating them with the kick. The bass man slaps a repetitive figure like a shuttle on a loom, weaving the groove with ghost notes and swinging so hard everyone marvels at how close he gets to the next beat without falling out of time. Memories of the Blue Diner fade into his cries, “Stay on the one, on the one!” The guitar player and piano man shade the sketch purple with notes of red and blue. He taps a stomp box, raises harp and mic to his lips and threads a melody through the narrow spaces left in time and silence. The groove holds them or they hold it. No more instrument and musician. No one knows for how long. Groove, only groove.

A light flickers in the booth, She’s pours into the room like cream falling into rich black coffee. He feels the light on his lids and knows it’s Her. Smooth creamy skin and dark curls inhabit the groove. Somehow it becomes tighter and silkier all at once. The melody fills all the empty spaces to the point of bursting. To the bridge he cries, take it to the bridge. Tension builds and resolves to the groove and they stop. They hear her voice over the studio PA, when are you coming home?

Blue Plate Special

Young Dawn contemplates a fork full of cold eggs as He sits quietly in his booth. A Dylan lyric loops in his head, “There must be some way out of here.” He reaches for his third habnero infused Bloody Mary, “Said the joker to the thief.”

At once She appears in the vestibule by the front door and crosses the space in a bubble of self-possession. A baggy wool hat abruptly flops on table followed by a shower of thick-dark curls.

He contemplates her arrival and imagines the conversation,

“You stole the covers again. I got cold so I left”
She smiles imperiously.
“You do it all the time, I’m tired of it.”

“You left me,” Her voice cools the peppers’ heat as it carelessly veers to remonstrance.

He manages, “You looked so comfortable wrapped in our blankets. And I was hungry.” She doesn’t take the hint.

From the empty space behind the booth the word “Coffee” interrupts the moment. Hot black liquid spills into a white cup. She frowns, “Tea.”

The cup disappears. The cymbal clink of a stainless steel carafe lid punctuates the silence followed by the muffled tear of a tea bag. Hot clear liquid mixes with the leaves as the metallic scent of commercial tea billows upward.

“Need more time?” asks the empty space. She doesn’t bother to look at the menu, “Blue Plate Special.”She rips six packets of sugar and tips the cream.

She notes the dead soldiers strewn about his paper place mat, each grave marked with a twisted lemon slice and half-eaten a stalk of celery. She adds, “And thirsty too, apparently.”

Scovilles of doubt enflame his belly. There’s too much confusion / I can’t get no relief. She goes in for the kill. First a pout then,

“How come you didn’t wait for me?”
“I’m sorry. You looked peaceful. I didn’t want to wake you.”

The blue plate specials arrive. Two eggs over easy, hasbrowns, and toast. They tuck in. He motions for another drink. The chill of silence cools the moment.

Young Dawn stands on the sidewalk, brushes her hair from her face and hails a taxi for home.

Almost Moving In Day

The summer of 2008
seems like yesterday
Olivia sat on a chair
in the middle school
band room warming up
on her tenor saxophone
preparing to wow
the high school
band director.

Tomorrow she’s off to Hofstra
as an accomplished bassoonist
ready to wow the world.

I’m very proud
of how hard she’s worked
to arrive at this moment.

I pray she learns to find
the secret places where
life’s true blessings lie
and that she always remembers
she is strong enough
to face her challenges
and to overcome
the inevitable obstacles.

Blue Taxi

The sounds of blue Nikes squeaking on marble fade in his mind. He wanders the neighborhood lost in thought while Young Dawn’s fingertips of rose dig knuckle deep into the day.

He reaches the boulevard where schools of taxis carry lovers and drunks home. The bleary eyed slouch in ripped back seats avoiding Young Dawn’s prying hands with tipped caps and closed eyes. He thinks to follow suit, “I might as well go home.”

The cool air causes his nose to run. He absentmindedly wipes the dribbles from his mustache with the back of his hand. Her scent arcs across membrane and synapse. She lay crumpled on the bed with the covers avariciously wound around her body. He follows the twisted curves through strange dusky lands full of joy and despair.

A blue taxi breaks from the school and slows down to measure his intentions as he stands on the corner. The passenger window glides open. “Uptown Mate?” He reaches for her keys in a gesture that spooks the driver. That settles that.

He arrives back to her apartment as Young Dawn’s crimson soaked claws tear off the day’s skirt and panties. He fumbles with the locks. The key still fits. She looks up dreamily from the knot of bedclothes. Whatcha doin? He mumbles “Blue Taxi.” She says, “Come back to bed.”

He kicks off his Blue Nikes and carelessly tosses his clothes in a heap at the foot of her bed. As he peels a blanket off her body, he wonders why the blue taxi swam away.

Shema Ysrael. Dybbuk me-ru’ah ra’ah

(Oh Israel. An evil spirit embraces you.)

Note I only speak English. The title
Translation came from the Internet.
As for the Yiddish words? I had a
Jewish grandfather and was born in
The Bronx. So sue me if I
got it wrong.

I imagine it was a crooked mezuzah
Great grandfather Kalman clumsily nailed
Over the door of the Bronx tenement
In which he and his family lived that
Caused my grandfather to marry a shiksa.
Maybe the old Russian, who crossed the
Atlantic as a Kramer and left Ellis Island a
Cohain, used a bent nail filched from
The construction site where he worked
As a laborer.

Surely a dybbuk caused Nathan to say,
We’re in America now. Who cares
What The Torah said or that meshugana
Christian Bible with its fancy-schmancy
New Testament and that luftmensch
Yeyshu who thinks he’s better
Than everyone else.

To which Kalman replied,  So what?
The Torah isn’t good enough?
Moshe Rabbenu was a real macher
He came up with the Ten Commandments,
And don’t forget that Red Sea shtick.
That clever Landsman sure fooled
Everyone. Said G*d parted the waters
–never happened. Shh. Everybody
Knows the Jews control the media, and
The banks too.

Some say Moses really waited for low tide.
Then all those Yids tip-toed across
Ankle deep water praying to Yahweh
Their corns and callouses wouldn’t
Soften and blister.

All the while the Egyptians watched
Feigning distress over losing free
Labor. Truth to tell, the Pharaoh had
Had it with Moses’ incessant kvetching,
“Let my people go.” Go? Go where?
To Israel?  Knock yourself out.
G’wan Get lost.

Ramses had the last laugh. After all
Those years in slavery EquiFax
And TransUnion rated their credit
Below 300. By the time they got
To the Promised Land, the gonef
Moneychangers wouldn’t loan
Them a red shekel to buy last
Century’s chariot, never mind
A mud hut with a picket fence
And a view.

A hint of a smirk colored Ramses’
Face as the last tuchas skibbled up the
Far bank. He undertoned to a nearby
Vizier, “Did you slip The Dybbuk
into that wooden wine box like
I told you?

Not waiting for an answer, He intoned,
“Schmucks.They’re gonna wander
that desert for 40 years. When they
finally get to The Promised Land,
some schlemiel’ll open my

mercy, mercy, mercy

I picked up a G harp yesterday
it felt like bumping into an old
girlfriend recalling countless
nights of naked music colored
my lips white how are you
I looked at my feet and
shrugged a bit worse for the
wear We didn’t break  up I
just stopped calling in a
gesture more akin to kissing
a friend I pursed my lips to
the cold mouthpiece too soon
for tongue blocking or split
octaves Shyly pulling on the
two draw the home base for
the blues I played a D7th scale
and then the pentatonic a note
reminded me of Cannonball
Aderly’s version of “Mercy,
Mercy, Mercy” he says ”
sometime we don’t know just
what to do when adversity
takes over” he says “and I
have advice for all of you
I got it from my pianist Joe
Zawinul who wrote this tune
and it sounds like what you’re
supposed to do when you have
that kind of problem it’s called
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” How can
five notes suspended in time
so completely express that feeling
you get when you reach the bottom
when it takes so long to get there
and longer still to climb out?
mercy mercy mercy

An Exhibit at the Bronx Zoo

“Integrity is telling myself the truth.
And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
-Spencer Johnson

I remember seeing an exhibit
at the Bronx Zoo when I was little.
It promised the world’s most dangerous animal.

My young body tingled with
wonder to know the creature
kept in that cage.

What will you see
when you peer
in the cage?

Look in if you dare.
The answer lies in the mirror
with the painted bars.

Perhaps a few healthy cells
yet live in your black heart
with which to scratch out

a few sour notes on
a tone deaf conscience.
Probably not.

What do you call it
when you lie to yourself
and everyone else?

Sleepless nights
haunted by the shades
of your victims.

They never go away
because, being ghosts, they
can not hear your lies.

am i happy yet?

paperclips pens keys and coke
scissors thumbdrive tzio lamp
aeron chair, bluetooth
apple industrial complex
ipad, iphone, computer
original art on the walls
and a picture of my own star
facebook, twitter, and blogs icams
two hundred something friends
privacy through exhibitionism
two acres and four bedrooms
two kids and a wife
am i happy yet?

Three Muses. Three Seeds

Utë the black woman
With deeply graven features
wore a chin length bob
Another lighter skinned
woman with no name
sliced by low key light
stood next to a third form
immured in the shadows.

They gathered over a shiny bowl
shaped like a funnel
with a shallow reservoir
containing three seeds.

One instantly blossomed
into a thin me wearing
a Fu Manchu mustache.
the other two were
promises for the future.

Lurking nearby
a hideous face regarded
me with a malignant eye
excluded but not banished
his lips swelled with a word
I told him, Je n’écoute pas.

He grinned with patience.