He Thought Better of It

Once, twice, then several times in the night, he awoke to rain and thunder. He had fallen asleep on top of the covers, still wearing his suit. He’d been fired. He knew there was nothing of value he could do about it. He’d thought about killing his now former boss. Sitting in his car after leaving the building, he’d tried to think of where the nearest gun shop was. Do they sell guns to men in suits? Wouldn’t it be obvious that I’d just been fired, and planned on killing that fat, piece of shit messenger? Sitting in his car, he thought better of it.

On the way home, he passed two gun shops he’d never noticed before, and a park he’d never entered. He thought about stopping at the park and sitting on a bench, the way people do in movies when they’re down-and-out. He thought better of it. It’d look stupid, he thought, me, just sitting there in my suit, not feeding birds. And I’m sure as hell not going to stop and buy seed for that.

That evening, he sat quietly, listening to a recording of Kissin playing Liszt’s transcription of Schubert’s Aufenthalt. S-five-sixty, number three, he thought. He held a gun in his right hand, as he had planned on killing himself. The song changed to the transcription of Standchen, he thought better of it, and he took a baseball bat to his piano, instead.

Abreast of Things

A non-play

The Players: Boy, Girl, Left Breast, Right Breast

Act Only

A quiet path in a park. Early evening.

Boy and Girl are walking, hand in hand, talking.

Boy: Look, let’s face it: you’re thin and you’ve got big tits. Score as high as you want on the SAT, but you’ll always have more guys wanting to get into your bra than your head.

Girl: (Horrified) That is such a guy thing to say!

Boy: And that’s a girl thing to say. What’s your point?

Girl: That is my point. (matter-of-factly) You’re not supposed to be like them.

Boy: Like who?

Girl: You know... guys who think about boobs all day. Them.

Boy: (Rolls his eyes) Yeah, ok.

Girl: (Separates herself from Boy, hits him on the arm. voice raised) I’m serious!

Boy: (Recoils. sarcastically) Hey, ow! Watch it! I was kidding. God, don’t take everything so seriously, huh?

Girl: Whatever.

Boy: (Puts his arm around her again) Look, let’s just go home, huh? (With the hand he just put around her waist, he gives Right Breast a squeeze)

Girl: Hey– (smiles at Boy, embarrassed) You’re horrible! Someone mighta seen you ...!

Boy reaches across his body with the other hand, and gives Left Breast a squeeze.

Boy: (Smiling mischievously) Yeah, well...

Girl hits Boy once more before allowing him to put his arm around her waist again as they walk offstage.

Left Breast: Damn straight–we make her look good!

Right Breast: (Concedes. irritated) Yeah, but come on, was that really necessary?


Outdoor Cafe

A non-play

The Players: Man, Woman, Table

Act only

An outdoor cafe, a cloudy afternoon. Man and Woman have finished eating and sit in silence.

Woman: (Feigning indifferent) So that’s it, then?

Man: (Without looking up from his drink) I’ll pay for lunch.

Woman: (Stares at him for a moment) Isn’t there... couldn’t I... well? What do you have to say for yourself?

Man: Nothing, I’ve said it all.

Woman: Won’t you at least tell me why?

Man: I told you already. I’m not going to go through it again.

Woman: But–

Man: (Becoming frustrated) Look, just get up, walk over to that bus stop, there (he points, indicating offstage left) and get on the next one, the next bus.

Woman: (Stares at him for another moment, then sighs) Okay. (Slowly, slightly shaking her head) Bye.

Man does not respond. Woman stands up from the table, passively lets fall a few dollars for a tip, and exits, stage left. Man continues with his drink, looking up every so often to stare blankly into the street. After a few moments, a bus is heard to come to a stop, open its doors, close them, and drive away. Man flags down the waiter, pays for the meal, gets up from the table and exits, stage right.

Table: (Mad) What the world really needs isn’t racial cleansing, but intellectual cleansing: people that stupid should be fed their own genitals and shot.



Red Sponge

There was the time I was in the library, reading the September 19th issue of the New Yorker magazine. Straight ahead, not twenty feet from the table I occupied with a small boy whose father was trying his best to keep busy with not-himself, a twenty-something with a sponge of red hair and a red tee shirt sat at one of four computers. Five minutes earlier, the small boy who now sat two places from me, his back turned to his father's back, had walked up to Red Sponge and asked, "What is that?"

"It's just a website."

"What is that?" The question had been repeated, not enhanced.

"It's just a website with pictures." His voice was somehow squeezing, and he might have had braces. The small boy walked away, satisfied or annoyed or distracted, soon to join me.

Ten minutes later, Red Sponge's library card was revoked for accessing pornography on a library computer. I suppose he might have been less than twenty. He left, slowly and without concern. The little boy was taken a few minutes later by his father, apparently having finished browsing back issues of Bazaar.



one of my notebooks
has my mother’s name
(written on its cover, in red ink
highlighted in yellow).
it makes me think of her
sometimes as I write,
think of her way,
her mother’s-way.
it makes me think of me,
sometimes, the way she
made me think; I think I
have my mother’s name

before me now
is the dawn of understanding:
to want so much is paralyzing.
I want for my child’s mother.

for my child
a brother, one,
and 2) a solitary spirit.
I want to know what it is like
to want one more;
my mother knows it still

I am my mother's son
I am her only, only child
she raised me alone till I was six.

Pencil sketch by E. E. Cummings


"a fresh hand with fresh power"

1. i called a friend of mind at ten-oh-three
and rambled on and on and on,
my neatly stacked thoughts on love
in shambles, yet somehow stronger still
for the thought of a sonogram.
i pressed “end,” and then i saw it:
in the not-so-distant distance
on the underside of a gas station’s
high sanctum, the lights changed
as i drove by, they slipped and slid and shifted angles
and something in my mind untangled
and i thought: revision,–
that’s a apt title
for a modern-day poem on love, is it not?

2. moments later, i thought,
i’ll never remember all that,
and i got right to work
clearing a shelf in my mind
upon which words went,
till they numbered so many
they built up apartments
and charged too-high rent
to new-comers, and dreamed of becoming
old words who spend winters
on paper beaches, down south.


Before and After

What Soft and Tiny Fingers

What soft and tiny fingers you will have
What soft and tiny, slender fingers!
What roundness in your face, and in your cries!
What purity of life that in the future lingers,
Within the grasping hands of my firstborn!

She sighs at me again. I look at her,
My wife of eight-odd months so torn–
Torn by her despair and by her desire
For a future not yet come to rest in present
As I still hold her now, not to go then.

But soft! What light from within me now breaks?
That I could want for tiny hands today
Is but the struggling sunrise of my hope!
Not just to cope with fettered comfort, casting “my” aside,
I welcome tiny futures with my bride.

* * *
i have not yet written you this poem

i have not yet written you this poem
as you have not yet come to be,
but still i wonder, already:
when you are grown, what part of me
will be most readily laid bare
by some turn of phrase
or gesture, a mannerism
or disproportioned limb of yours?
Artur's "statuesque pinky"
you will not have,
but will you share my warts,
or favorite drink?

i do not know, i think
i do not care. no,
i know that you will have
my wife's straightforward way of speaking
(i hope that you will share
my love of eating)
and too our love of pretty things.
(i do not care for that last sentence
but i do not dare dispute it)

tonight, as i am drifting off to sleep,
i will be still and try to think:
i will show you many things,
and tell you many more, with joy,
and ask that you tell me but one
(if only in a dream):
are you a girl, or boy?