Tag Archives: bourbon

Three Drops of Claret

Three drops of claret stand out against the faded grey wood
The aged and weathered pole supports the buzzing electrical lines

The drops could be roses
The drops could be blood
This is the Trail of Tears
The saddest place on earth

This is Highway 51 south in Clinton, Kentucky
This is Washington Street in Clinton, Kentucky

The three drops of claret on the weathered old pole
Serve to remind me of one important idea
History is written by those who survive it

The Rise and The Fall and The Loss

I feel the weight of the loss of my county’s history
And my soul sighs for what my child will never see

This isn’t a diatribe against the epic leaps of progress
This isn’t a diatribe against our country’s growing pains

This is a search for the less amazing things we grew up with
The things we never knew we’d one day miss only now we do
The things that are lost now – lost to time – lost to decay – lost to life

My country’s history is not always an inaccessible concept in a too heavy book
Sometimes my country is simple in its story – unfettered by class or by nationality
It can be a phone with a dial and a party line shared with the upstairs neighbors
Or a one-piece clothes pin that snaps when mother is hanging sheets out to dry
But makes a great milk-bottle game to play at your birthday party

My country’s history is a brilliant tapestry of rich colors and dazzling hues

Much of my country’s history is crumbling before my eyes and no one seems to care
These aren’t renewal projects that signal the advance of a civilization – these are different
These are decay and apathy and a shameful loss of vision and potential
These are anger and spite and the idle hands that are the devil’s pleasure

Mother doesn’t even hang the laundry out on the line anymore
Mother doesn’t even host birthday parties anymore
I’ve had enough birthdays – I have enough history

On a Rooftop in Cicero

Because a lifetime ago something happened on a rooftop in Cicero
And no one ever really got the whole story
So we filled in the blanks ourselves
Ours was a much better story anyway
It was all about this guy one summer night on a rooftop in Cicero
His mother was taking him back to where he came from

When he saw her face in the drunken haze of the shameful moon
He wanted to push her off of that rooftop in Cicero
She moaned and reached for his throat as she opened her eyes
There is some truth here – some of this story is true
She looked in the eyes of her own son and didn’t know what to do

Now his oldest son looks just like his best friend
It is uncanny how much his kid looks like his oldest friend
No one here seems to want to talk out loud about it

The Fighter in Repose

Bobbing and weaving through round after round without a trace of grace or irony
The fighter knows nothing but the fight – the endless fight that can’t seem to break him
Then the bell – he hears the bell – the sweet melodic chimes that call him to come home
He sits quietly in his corner – one hand full of love – the other full of peace
Like a solid roundhouse from a ropey southpaw – he never saw this coming – not here – not now
Like a Christmas kiss from Grandma on his frosty cheek he never felt anything better – not ever
The fighter is exhausted but he is done bobbing and weaving – for now anyway

Now I am mostly tired

I don’t miss anyone who walked away
I don’t believe in miracles anymore

I caught my soul on a crescent moon
And I tugged a little harder than I should have

I was strong – until I wasn’t
Now I am mostly tired

Standing alone amongst the smoldering embers
An absurd superhero in a black and white melodrama

Standing along amongst the smoldering embers
Another long lost hot dog forgotten on a holiday grill

I am standing here with my chin up
And my finger in the air like I just don’t care

I just don’t care is the lie
I just keep selling to myself

The Sun Struggles Up

The most natural feeling as the sun struggles up is my bones grinding against yours
You are jarring and crushing and breaking your promises to the ghost of my childhood
Still a whispered breath trapped within your vena cava keeps me cold and you alive

The ribcage forged of your love protects the soul of my past and memories of my father
Washing the bony joints of our crippled fingers the dirty water runs down the baby’s face
The weak understand this is a baptism of desperation and consolation but not redemption

The charred remains of a dream I couldn’t afford and you couldn’t live without haunt us
Our bones have been put up for the first thaw and there’s something burning on the stove
We argue His presence in the room but we don’t deny it as we watch the sun struggle up

Thursday Night in the Library on the Phone

The phone kept ringing
I knew I had dialed the wrong number
But I let it ring anyway

The voice that answered was a dead man’s voice
A friend of my father – recently deceased
He didn’t seem to mind the intrusion
But I hung up the phone nonetheless
Anxiously eyeing the redial button

Was the man of God back among us as promised
Or had the cancer really taken him away
I felt guilty for thinking about it
To ever have a thought like that at all
But I couldn’t help myself

When all around me got quiet
I redialed the phone using the right number
And when I got your machine I swallowed my voice
And left a message speaking as clearly as I could

The Ugly American

I was the ugly American who told her she was brave to come here
When she could have stayed there – stayed in that faraway land

She said if she was truly brave she would have stayed there with her mother and sisters
There in that faraway land with no ugly Americans to breathe their bourbon in her face

I couldn’t grasp the idea of staying somewhere like that – that which I did not understand
Me the ugly American; she the stunning Polish goddess – a dream walking

She felt like she belonged in my arms as we danced to a nameless old love song
Her smell was as foreign to me as she – but she felt so natural in my heavy arms

Jesus Christ I have never seen anyone who looked that good to me – no one so flawless
She looked like an autumn dream I dared to allow myself to have against my own will
She looked like an angel coming down to illuminate the darkest corners of the night
She looked like the remnants of a piece of Italian art carved carefully in Caracas marble

She started to say something but even she knew her words would hurt me
The ugly American is a sensitive beast – somehow she knew that better than I

I’m sorry was all she was able to whisper in my ear but she didn’t let me go
She seemed to know she already lost me to her sigh – me the ugly American

1/1/2005

Mr. 1971

A hard sharp glare from the little man
Sitting across the bar on Diversey Street
His leather skin is dark and
His salt and pepper beard is chiseled into his face
He looks like a negative from that old box camera I made in 1971
He is looking at me accusing me of some unnamed crime
I am drinking my drink and minding my business
Someone should buy the dark knight a drink
My green is a bit short tonight – bad week
No one bought me a drink all damned night
The younger ones – the ones with the strong backs
The ones with the regrettable piercings and tattoos
They have no idea what Mr. 1971 has seen
They crack their inside jokes and drink cheap beer
They stay just outside of his historical range
Never understanding his emotional depth – the fire inside
He sits there quietly until they walk too close to him
One glare they know to step back to their party
Some of the older men are smart enough to pay respects
I’m smart enough to keep my distance
I should buy him a drink but I won’t – not tonight
There is only enough green for whiskey and me

Fighting Gravity

God’s marionette dips and sways defying years of abuse
The precarious strings are attached to his head and his shoulders
The strings on his elbows and knees have broken like his heart
The strings on his elbows and knees have broken like his promise to Nana

God’s marionette should have fallen down by now
He fights gravity as fiercely as he fights the memories of his youth
Sometimes he just freezes – Venus De Milo in a down coat and skull cap
Other times he stretches backward as he lifts the dark brown bottle to his lips
Somehow how he is buoyed by that one more mouthful of failure

He is someone’s son – uncle – punch line – target – ticket – friend – victim – muse
He is God’s marionette and tonight he is fighting gravity