On the night before 30 and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring but my keyboard and mouse.

Zorro and Janaki were asleep in my bed, a dog’s tail in the place where I would soon lay my head.

My mother on the sleeper-sofa and roommates in their room while I thought of my twenties, my future and doom.

Then atop my head, there arose such a clatter, I ran to the mirror to see what was the matter.

My hair was falling out, the rest turning gray.

To ensure I looked old, like a grown-up, for my birthday.

Its the end of my youth, my twenties departing, now insert some cliche about remaining young at heart, as my adulthood is starting.

another poem for ENGL 281

I have to hand in a poem this MONDAY because someone dropped the class. I wrote this one this morning and now I’m really not sure what to hand in.

Teenage Atrocities

There is an African Genocide at the lunch table
and a Balkan ethnic cleansing during 6th period,
while the teacher tries to teach about Norse Myths.

Girls drag their best friends by the heels
through the cafeteria as if
their friend was an Italian dictator
and in the clanging locker room
boys crucify all of their friends as faggots.

They all want to be Sylvia Plath
but don’t know who she is
and so they settle for Avril Lavigne.

They sob tsunamis of tears,
weeping away villages,
leaving floating bodies in their wake.

Smoking rusty coat hangers they discuss
their aborted lives out of sight,
getting stoned behind the football bleachers
while bloat-bellied infants with flies
in the corners of their eyes look on,
wishing they were that cool.

With the exception of Rasputin,
your best friend’s little sister’s
boyfriend who lives in his mother’s basement under
house arrest, living on a steady diet of
poison and ankle bracelets,
everyone older than 18 is obviously
a terrorist cell leader, commie-pinko, witch,
holocaust denier.

Watching them is watching Ragnarok on CNN,
a world of ash and blood,
interview with Heimdal at eleven.

“I don’t think the trolls and giants will win because they like totall suck ass and us vikings rock da house to the left and to the right,” he says, eyeing the horizon with sad eyes, nervously rubbing the horn he is to blow at the first sign of trouble.

Petition the U.N., Amnesty International, the PTA
but they won’t bomb the rails that lead
to the mobile home prison camps
only sending useless care packages filled with
the school nurse’s informational pamphlets
about the righteousness of abstinence
and how pot smoking leads to STD’s,
air-dopped from the sky.

Ivy League Sneak

I have snuck into a Cornell class and to tell you that this doesn’t appease my Ivy Envy would be a blatant lie.

And the truth is, the kids are no smarter, no more dynamic and no more interesting than the undergrads at I.C. or even the high school kids I taught during my student teaching. I am not quite the old man of the class, that honor goes to another. The teacher, a creative writing student in their MFA program, is probably a bit younger than me.

So, I’m taking English 281: Creative Writing. We have begun with a long portion about poetry. I don’t mind poetry but the truth is I want to get some short story writing in. What I really want is to ride the wave from this class into an even higher level class in the fall.

I have to hand in a poem in a few weeks and here are two that I am currently tinkering with. Any comments or thoughts are appreciated.

Books and People. People and Books.

Some books have scars.

Course Reserve Rectangles the size of a thumb-print on
the front covers to let their care providers know where to put them.

Elders have bindings that have atrophied over
the years, vomiting pages in dank book bags here and

These crones have yellowed pages, crisp and brittle.
They come from shelved nurseries of long dead
Scholars and touching them leaves your fingers dry.

There are sought-after courtesans, wanted for what’s
inside because everyone knows proverbs about judging them by their scuffed, over-used faces. Their lovers play cunning games of recall and counter-recall to vie for their affection.

Gangs of periodicals squat in between gruff home-made
card-board neighborhood bindings. These hooligans of the shelves are crowded together by month and year.

The books migrate in and out. There are casualties and even deaths, their blood paid in fines, rarely forgiven.

The patrons walk as if their spines were on the ground, pages fluttering as they go. You can’t read them cover to cover because that’s rude but if you watch carefully you can catch a glimpse of their table of contents or look up an idea or two in a glossary.

They take all kinds here, some are kanji, cuneiform, hieroglyphs and all of the romance languages in between.

Some want their courtesans so badly, scared they will be shelved in some dusty annex warehouse to never be seen again.

The proud have gang ink published in card-board ‘hoods that they carry like prison tattoos, not worn openly but everyone knows they’re under the clothes somewhere. On their title page are words like emeritus and tenured faculty.

The young ones are still an outline, filling in the blank pages, putting out query letters to literary agents and hoping someone will option their novel for a summer blockbuster.

The patrons migrate in and out. There are casualties and even deaths but without a bar code or an ISBN they just aren’t our concern, not our fines to collect.


First Morning

I woke up next to an important brown girl and the world was never the same after that.

The wisest move
colleges ever
made in the
prevention of meaningful
sex was in the creation of
coffin-thin dorm beds.

She woke me up early, her bony knees shoved into my chest. I left her with a soft kiss on her forehead, not wanting to taint her face with my corrosive morning-breath while she slept.

Back at my apartment, I put that station on, the one that still plays music videos. My roommate’s mother called, telling me the news and now I’ll never forget his name, even though he was a vapid shit well worth forgetting.

I watched the towers fall, didn’t we all?

And in the days to come I sat with her and we watched them fall again and again and again and again.

Falling asleep with the news on never gave me nightmares before that. The drug store clerk told me he knew a good way to kill towel-heads, looking disappointed when I cursed at him in disgust.

And I’ve slept with her every night since, knowing the morning after will never be as memorable.