Russian Cognac

My hosts in Moscow thought I was Russian
Because my surname ends in s-k-y
And is identical to the names of
Famous Russian historical figures, streets, parks, theaters, stadiums.
Two generations ago
My family blood ran in a small village near Minsk,
Where relatives fought through pogroms and other conflicts.
So I suppose I am Russian,
Though I don't speak the language
Nor worship vodka.
But Moscow,
Cold and foreign,
Seemed welcoming and familiar.
I ate at a restaurant with my last name above the door,
Where I was treated like a celebrity,
An expatriate returned in triumph.
The owner asked if I wanted cognac.
I declined, but that meant nothing.
A squat bottle emblazoned with my name was thrust at me
Despite my protestations.
I drank until I couldn't see,
Until I understood the waiter when he said nazdrovia,
Until he invited me to banya, a steam bath.
He was just being friendly but I managed to decline in
Fear, self-doubt and inferiority,
And so became a true Muscovite.

© Poem Fix 2012


Claiming Victory

I am trying to think of a way to say
I don't appreciate you
As a human being,
But I won't.
Taking action would reveal the
Size of my ego,
So I'll remain silent.
In you I see someone with an
Angry heart
That demands justification,
Judges people,
Tears them down.
This observation makes me
Just as judgmental, and
Perhaps even a worse person,
Doubly so
Because I observe your failings and
Decide they are faulty.
I measure myself and others as better and
Choose to do nothing.
Your failings are honest and transparent;
Mine are complex, calculated, suppressed.
Please end my misery.
Provide relief by calling me out and
Claiming victory.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Christopher Walker


Smoked Trout

The clerk says
Smoked trout
Is the best thing in the store,
So I buy eight cans and
Bring them home.
I'm scolded for my extravagance:
Whoever heard of smoked trout?
I say, The guy at the store seemed very high on them.
She says, I sent you there to get vodka.
I'm not sure how to reply other than a lie:
They were out.
She says, You can't drink smoked trout.
I want to yell, but I keep my anger in check by saying,
It's supposed to be amazing.
She looks at me like I'm the biggest
Mistake in her life.
I asked you for
One thing.
When she leaves, I turn on the television
And open a can,
Draining the oil from the shallow rectangle.
I sit in the dark with a small fork and
Eat the fish.
It does taste good,
I change the channels and imagine being alone forever,
Not answering to anyone,
Doing nothing for the rest of my life
Than eat smoked trout in frightful solitude.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Trader Joe's



A college teacher
He succumbed several months ago
But I didn't learn the news until today.
I barely knew him.
He smoked,
Was an excellent artist, and
Surrounded himself with a
Bohemian harem of young admirers who wanted
Poetic rub off.
I desired that, too, but
Resented his acceptance and encouragement of
Those who worshiped his prose,
Wanted to sleep with him
To slice off a piece of his minor fame.
I hated him, of course,
Longed for praise that never came,
But I am forever grateful because he taught us
Gabriel García Márquez,
Who made us understand the
Promise and potential
Of life and literature,
And the futility of equaling him.
Rest in peace, Steve.
Thank you and damn you.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Jose Lara


The Death of Dreams

We are told that dreams are
Nothing more than
Electric pulses bouncing off
Filing cabinets in the brain.
This seems unfair because Freud said that
Every dream is a
Secret wish,
And that they reveal the unconscious,
Soul secrets,
Repressed desires,
Experts say that isn't so.
Dreams expose only arbitrary connections from
Random brainwaves.
They hold no more meaning than
Or bumping into a stranger on a train.
Then what of my dream last night
And its strange revelation?
I shall be forced to abandon the important insight
And the changes it would bring,
The better man I would become,
The security and peace that would wash over me,
The idea for this poem.
All of this disposed
In favor of serendipity.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Lee Jones


We Can Stay In and Play Games

His lover stands at the window,
Gazing at the impenetrable rain,
Her hand flat on the pane.
It's just rain, he says, but her only reply
Is a sigh.
He thinks he ought to join her,
Put his arm around her,
Give her comfort,
Tell her that all her
Great plans
Can wait until tomorrow
Or whenever the storm relents.
But that would take great effort
So he stays sprawled on the bed
In his underwear
With a beer,
And he enjoys the nostalgic smell the
Rain brings,
The mesquite and creosote,
And a particular summer when he was 10.
He thinks it's good that the parched lawn will drink
And the birdbath will be filled.
We can stay in and play games, he says,
But realizes too late it is the wrong thing to say.
She turns to him, then back to the rain that will
Not relent,
Not forgive.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Frank Vincentz


Woman and Guitar

My new guitar smells like an
Exquisite woman.
Perhaps she is one,
A woman,
Only a bit less lovely and
Soft where it matters.
But the fragrance,
The glue, the wood, the lacquer,
I will do almost anything for her,
To preserve the aroma as long as possible,
Keeping the rosewood beauty tucked safely
Inside its luxurious cushioned hard shell case
So it, too, absorbs and
Memorializes the factory tang.
Still, despite my drunken attachment to her,
She is certainly not a woman,
Though I will ply my lover with it and so achieve

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Poemfix


Another Damn Poem About Love

Do we really need
Another damn poem about love?
Too many sonnets to muses have been
Written and
Memorized and
Used to nurture intimacy.
I offer this prose to
My only love
To ensure she knows ours is unyielding,
And to fight off those false
Mind monsters
That slither from the deep when we're apart.
I would not know how to find you
If you had not
Found me.
So please accept this,
Another damn poem about love,
Unoriginal yet abiding.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by gnlogic


The Javelinas Came Last Night

The javelinas came last night
As they often do at dusk
When the wind pushes the chimes,
Calling to them.
The dogs sense them first,
Spotting movement and large shadows
Moving through the brush.
Barking doesn't startle the musk hogs
Though they pause to consider the attention.
They scurry quickly, following each other,
Staying close to the pack.
I call my wife who joins me on the deck.
We take turns finding them.
Is that a tree or . . .
As it grows darker we notice a small figure,
A baby that appears lost,
Trailing the rest.
My wife comes closer, touching, worried.
Over there, she says,
As if the animal can understand her urging.
Where's the mother?
The wind changes direction and it's
Too dark to see them.
Still, we stand against the rail,
Against the night,
Comforting each other.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Alan Vernon


Dream Shaping

I am told that dreams can be shaped by
Focused mental exercises at bedtime.
Concentrate on what you want to
Experience while sleeping,
Then it may come alive in your dreams.
Last night, head on pillow,
I focused on a
Secluded pristine white beach,
Just me and my lover
Under an umbrella,
A fresh piña colada every twenty minutes.
I pictured fine grains of sand and
The water, the sun, the smell of sunscreen.
But in the morning I had no memory of beaches,
Only a vague recollection of
Being with someone I know.
We dream several times a night,
Which means the beach may have been my
First dream,
Followed by nightmares of falling
Or being chased by a demon.
What's the use of forcing a dream
If it can't be savored?
Perhaps lucid dreaming is next,
In which I will know I am in a dream
When it's happening.
Or maybe a real trip
To a real beach
With my real lover.
But that would be too easy.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Johntex


Me, and Not Me

I might not be
Who I think I am.
I must keep this in mind
Because the man I see in the mirror
Lives in an
Alternate reality.
All these years I have been
Someone else,
Hair parted on the wrong side,
Clothes flipped,
Everything in reverse.
Me, and not me.
If it's true that we are what
People see,
If perception is reality,
Then I have lived a double life,
A false existence.
I need a mirror that shows what people see,
An internal double mirror device.
Then I will know what
Others observe,
An unfamiliar version of me
That I must get to know.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Poemfix


The Couple at the Next Table

The couple at the next table is fighting.
She says, I had a life before I met you,
But he doesn't reply.
They sit quietly, barely looking at each other.
He taps his shoe on the floor.
He says, I don't think you have any idea how much I care about you.
She says, Oh yes I have an idea.
I definitely have an idea.
They fall into silence again,
She glances at me and whispers to him.
Then he says something about love,
About recognizing it, and
All the things he's done for her.
Go ahead, she says,
Please tell me everything you've ever done for me.
No answer.
I really want to know, she says.
They perceive me listening and quickly pay their bill.
They leave,
Walking past my table,
Glaring at me for stealing their secrets.

© Poem Fix 2012



National Geographic studied
They traced my ancestors back
50,000 years to the Rift Valley in
Northeast Africa.
Withdrawing from the Ice Age.
Stone tools and early art.
My Y-chromosome then migrated north
Through the Middle East
And into southern Europe.
I’m in North America and
Not feeling my roots at all.
I suppose we’re all from Africa if you
Go back far enough.
But I can barely remember what I
Ate for breakfast two days ago
Or why I let my ego get out control yesterday.
Africa thousands of years ago seems distant and
I can't feel it.
But the girl who stuffed me in her closet when I was 12,
That I remember.
That I’d like to change.
I wish I had been brave enough to ask her to
Explore my Y-chromosome.
That would have resonated more
Than a dusty patch somewhere in a distant continent.

© Poem Fix 2012
Illustration by Archaeogenetics


A Ring of Red

Nearing the highway,
I wondered if I'd
Turned off the stove.
I washed the
Omelet pan and spatula.
Slid the fork in the dishwasher.
No question.
But the burner?
Before the turn of
No return
I made a U and reluctantly drove home.
I would be late now,
All for my worry and faulty memory.
Where did it go?
How has something so simple become a
I saw smoke as I neared my neighborhood,
But my home seemed fine.
The stove was not glowing
A ring of red.
I am unsure what is most disturbing,
That it might have been on
Or that it wasn't.

© Poem Fix 2012



I was afraid of haircuts.
I was certain that a single drop of blood
Would drip from each strand of hair
And that my scalp would be matted with
A thick coagulation of gore.
It would drip down my forehead
Until the barber wiped my brow.
I learned these thoughts were foolish
Though I still grow anxious
When my hair is long
Because I will be forced
To smile and make small talk
With someone I don't know
And don't want to know.
Go ahead,
Wrap my neck with a harsh white strip of tissue and
Snap a smock too tight.
Attack me with razor, scissors, and comb,
But please do not converse with me.
Let me gaze at my reflection and
Listen to others in the room.
Don't force me to reflect on the weather
Or what I do for a living
Or weekend activities.
Leave me alone to disappear
In a world where
Blood is preferable to human interaction.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration


Dueling Memories

When I was nine
The girl with freckles and straight brown hair
From across the street
Said if I showed her mine
She would show me hers.
I wasn't sure what that meant
But I sensed it was
Naughty and exciting.
We exchanged peaks in the pool
Where splashes and ripples
Obscured everything.
This is what I think about now,
The girl, her challenge, the water
And I wonder where she is,
If she is happy,
How satisfied she is with where life has delivered her and
How often she's been in love.
Is it possible she thinks about the
Strangely shy boy in his bathing suit and,
If so, is it a memory of
Nostalgia or regret?

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Sergiu Bacioiu


Dead Fly

I hit my head hard on a cabinet and
All the stars jumped around in my brain.
For a moment I felt
Knees buckled.
I cried out, held the counter and
Eased myself to the floor.
I rested my head on my hands.
Eyes closed, afraid, alone,
I waited for my body to decide
Where it would go.
I opened my eyes a final time to see that the
Kitchen floor was terribly dirty.
Crumbs and dust and a dead brown fly.
These would be my sad last thoughts
As I floated into the light
But air came deep into my lungs and
I knew instantly I would survive.
I felt better.
My strength and awareness returned.
I stood up and
Immediately swept the floor
Just in case.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Bff


Bra Strap

He lifts his head and
Eyes his girlfriend
Who wants to be his wife,
But he's not there yet.
She has her back to him.
She senses his glance.
He's looking at my ass.
Not quite.
He's gazing at the swivel of her hips, true,
But a loose bra strap is what
Catches his eye.
It somehow defines her
And everything he admires and
She figures it out,
Shrugs and straightens her blouse.
The bra strap disappears and
Along with it
His optimism.

© Poem Fix 2012


Lost Phone

I lost my phone
And worried for an afternoon
Hoping a good soul found it.
I called my number
And listened to it ring.
I didn't leave a message.
I tried a few more times
Not expecting success
But half hoping I would answer
And tell myself where I could
Find my phone.
If only
I could talk to myself more often
Things would be better.
I could find my lost phone
And all the other things
Physical or not
Missing in my life.

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Tom Murphy



If I had been born
Somewhere else
I wouldn't be the same person
Nor have the same thoughts.
Those things
My past and potential
Would not exist.
But there is finite mass in the world.
Nothing can be gained or lost.
That's a rule of physics.
Where would my present reality go?
It must exist somewhere.
My life, my loves, my actuality
All would coalesce into a
Single floating entity,
Existing in an ethereal netherworld
Waiting to be absorbed by another person.
Claimed by a close match
Who I would have been.
In my new life
Raised on an obscure island in French Polynesia
I would assume another person's identity.

© Poem Fix 2012
Drawing by Louis Choris, 1916



A lost appetite doesn't
Leave the body
It hides behind the spleen
Dreaming about peritonitis
And other abdominal distresses
It wants to be discovered
Returned to favor
Fed chocolate and cheese
But it will not make itself known
But for a warning pang
Don't forget me!
Until then, the absent appetite will revel in
The hurt
The stress
The illness
The pregnancy
And join its host in the horrible ecstasy of depression

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Mikael Häggström



I wonder where pens and pencils go
When they disappear
They must roll behind my desk to
Respite from subjection
And another's imagination
To purloin scraps of paper
For freedom of expression
To finally be heard
Absent of human hand
Here, commiserating with each other and
Runaway socks
They help each other cope with the
Remains of captivity
And the pain of having to
Compose their own next chapter

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Nevit Dilmen



When love is too familiar
It can fall in on itself
And be difficult to rescue
Exult in the comfort
Take it for granted
And watch it spin away
A love so tight must be
Unwound and ignited
Razed so it can be raised
Deconstructed to form a
A beacon for weary souls
Who are tired of love
And its impositions

© Poem Fix 2012
Photo by Ballymuner


The Job

Jurgen from Sandesneben, Germany
Who has better work than the rooster?
He has two primary tasks
To have intimate relations with his willing harem
As often as possible
And to wake the farmer
He need not be talented at either
No judgment of technique or prowess
Fast and efficient is preferred
If he doesn't cock-a-doodle-do on time
No one complains
Is that why he crows?
Rejoicing at his job
Strutting to fertilize at will
Never mind coping with other roosters
That can be managed
Young master of the barn
Without fear of wrung neck
Or becoming the farmer's dinner

© Poem Fix 2012



Photo: SriMesh
A girl looks in the mirror
And thinks
I am ugly
She stares at herself
And wonders why she is
The way she is
And why others have
What she doesn't
But someone must offer contrast
So we can weigh ourselves
Against others
And place value where it does not naturally exist
Oh, ugly girl
You make others so
That makes you essential
Am I really ugly?
She removes her clothes and hides her face
To become something exotic and desired

© Poem Fix http;// 2012


The Penny

I spotted a penny
In a sidewalk gutter
Near a leaf and pebble
Dirty and quiet
I thought to retrieve it
But hesitated, hovering
Standing over it
I considered the coin
And what it would say about me
If I stooped to grab it
I looked around
To rule out a joke
Or humiliation
What did I need a penny for anyway?
What good was it?
How could it help me?
I took a step away
Then another
The penny grew smaller
But larger in my mind
I hoped it would be there tomorrow
Consider it again, I thought
It deserves a second chance
As do I

© Poem Fix http;// 2012


Founding Fathers

A wise friend once told me
That our founding fathers
Were criminals
Of the worst kind
That they betrayed their homeland
Defined the word treason
And if they had not been successful
England would be a bigger country
And mock the names of Adams and Jefferson
But not this year
Because July 4th was on a Wednesday
Depriving us of our regular revelry
Of beer-soaked weekend barbecues
Flags normally hoisted remained tucked away
Parades were Saturday out of convenience
Still, fireworks flew
Detonating in watercolor streaks
We considered the turncoats
And wondered what they would think of us
What we believe in
How we treat each other
Our loves and lies and divisions
And the criminals we have become

© Poem Fix http;// 2012


Left and Right

If I never make a left turn
I will experience less worry
Fewer accidents
And I will wait less in traffic
Money hoarded
But the safety and savings
Will be offset by
My lack of daring
The waiting at a light
Inching into the intersection
Hunting for my turn
Guessing if there is enough room
Hoping the traffic will stop on yellow
A left turn never provides the right of way
Always wrong
Risking everything
Still, encountering and luxuriating in the unexpected
A life well lived, perhaps
But the right turn provides confidence
Dizziness and unevenly worn tires
Both will bring me to the same destination
The comfort of the right
The peril of the left
And the awareness to understand the difference

© Poem Fix http;// 2012


Snowy Owl

Photo: Fotografiert von Marcel Burkhard
Bird watching isn't
About spotting birds
It's finding a father
Who may tread dusty trails with me
Searching for the elusive snowy owl
That remains uncatalogued
We would walk quietly
Shoulder to shoulder
Words barely needed anyway
His consent to find the owl
Was all the love I needed
His binoculars lifted to his eyes
Over there, he said, barely audible
Next to the thing
Him next to me
His cologne
His smile that opened my soul
And while he bird watched
I father watched
I will give up the snowy owl dream
Its black beak and yellow eyes
Its mythical krek-krek call
Its deep recurring song, gawh
All of it, willfully abandoned
But for a sighting of the man

© Poem Fix http;// 2012


The Lizard Queen

The tiny dog hunts for lizards
In futility
Creeping slowly
Inching forward in her shadow
Thinking, Is it time to pounce?
Will my master be proud of me?
True, her master watches at the window
Hoping for a bloody lizard death
Readying a camera
And Facebook post
So the world will marvel at the
Lizard Queen
But no lizard today
Like most days
The dog lowers her ears and gives up
And hopes her master doesn't judge

© Poem Fix http;// 2012



Old man at the store
Shuffled and limped
Despite his cane
I hurried ahead of him
To offer a shopping cart
It would have been his anyway
But that would have deprived me of
Small goodness
A feeling of having earned my right to be a human
For a day
It wasn't necessary
He would have made it just fine
Didn't really need my assistance
Selfish, I know
Forcing him to accept my help
Here you go, I said
And gave him no option
He smiled weakly
Said, Thanks
I took my victory and felt worthy
For five minutes
I saw him in the aisle later and we nodded to each other
Him, perhaps for my kindness
Though likely aware of my manipulation
Me, for his disability and gift
And allowing me to use him

© Poem Fix http;// 2012