24 Indulgences – XXIII

There’s this weird condition some people have
Where they despise anyone who’s not the ‘best’ at something,
Even though they themselves aren’t really good at anything.

I played the piano as a kid, and
I found out that, it turns out,
Absolutely everybody is an expert on music,
Even though few people can actually do it.

So I got lots of advice when
I began to play professionally.

Others would ask if I could play
This or that,
Disappointed or even scornful
If I could not.
Or would not.

I see people like that still:
Experts on sports, politics, business —
You name it.
When I do, I remember why
I turned away from music as a profession:

Which was,
Because I loved music more,
Much more,
Than I loved competition or

Pleasing others

i learned to read

i learned to read when i was three years old
from cereal boxes, riding in a grocery cart

when my mom would lift me into or out of the cart,
that would be the only time all week
anyone in the family would touch me

in the family i grew up in, we
didn’t touch each other much
or tell each other much that
actually mattered much

my parents were never cruel
never neglectful
never touching us, or,
each other —
at least where we saw them

i never knew what they were feeling
because they didn’t say


i learned to read

to read feelings, to figure out when
people were sad or angry or
anything else without them
actually telling me

it’s not a very exact science
i’ve been a practitioner to this day

and as for never being touched:

when you are never touched,
if i am any representative,
you may not feel hated, but
you feel

or maybe


stretched in stretches

hungover, and a little sick,
pulled over on a stretch of road,
and thought about the night i’d lost
and why life seems so hard

and was i meant to always be
alone and drinking just to live,
and why nobody fancied me
while all my friends got married

i got out of the car, and heard
across the way a barking dog
protecting what he knew was his
from me, a distant stranger

and thought my focus maybe wrong
to concentrate on what i lacked
instead of maybe changing things
and stretching

dancing days

the seven of us at the beach
and dancing days like music played
from our top 40 radio
and no place else to go

the girls walked by in twos and threes
but not too many looked our way,
another wave will always come:
the callback in a dancing day

the smell of lotion, salt and spray,
and everything you’d want but shade,
the tunes the laughter and the light
of dancing days that never


integrity, abandoned

how do you get back to a place
you’ve never been?
how do you find something inside yourself
that’s never really been there?

across the empty diamond,
a breeze was blowing, gentle and serene.
the day was one of roaming
and wondering at the autumn i had seen —

then, sounding like my father,
a voice said “keep your promises, be true:
for men are good for nothing,
unless the things they say match what they do.”

the struggle’s real, and pressing,
the choice between the ideal and the urge —
no emptiness so deep
integrity, abandoned

in the search


At 180 months, nobody
Understood me like Prokofiev,
The solitary walker in the white
Of he Russia and me Florida

Who knew my intervailing times
Of drama and lyric introspection
And who knew that underneath it all
Lies the universal state of life:


A Resonance

I heard across the span of years the sea.
A younger smaller form of you-and-me:
Our latent powers weakened by the storm,
Each pressured in our ways to fold, conform —

But on that shore, we held to skin on skin,
Our bronze desire: to escape again
Into a world we hoped we could make last,
And be unchained from still more distant past.

But on the brink, a sudden hesitance;
The sea-sound of our hearts, a resonance
That echoed over shores where blue turned gray,
And blew our fragile happening