Archive for Poetry

Happy Hour, the poem … and the film

Click to see the trailer of Happy Hour: a short film that explores the memory of childhood sexual abuse, complicity and grooming—based on a poem, narrated by Julianne Moore.

Happy Hour

When women laugh at jokes they don’t find funny
and men tell stories only half-true, I recall how,

at his house, my parents and their friends welcomed in the weekends.
How they’d sit by the fireplace wishing

the flame’s ribbons could tie up life’s loose ends. How they’d never
see him lead me from the room and up the stairs,

martini in hand. Olives bobbing like bloodshot eyes. After cleanup:
a monogrammed handkerchief, the quick zip of pants, he’d

slip a silver dollar into my pocket—Good girl.


Click to see the film’s fall 2012 Kickstarter video and campaign.

The Red Line

The girl on the 7:19 is missing. The girl you anticipate
each dawn’s drive past the Kiss & Cry spot to the lot.
The girl whose nails, lips and handbag match.
“Matador Red,” she once said in passing. “Perfect—
for a Bull Market.” Polish chipped, unlike your fiancé’s
flawless French Tips. Today, you’ve summoned
the nerve to introduce yourself. Only her aisle seat
greets you; its faded fabric sags, two frayed buttons
form a blue stare. Where’s the crowded car? The chance
to stand, pretending to peruse her Times, that mole
close to her cleavage, bidding you “read on”
like a catchy byline? The train jerks. You crumple
into her seat. In the past year, she’s never missed a ride.
Is she sick, a cold in her Romanesque nose?The conductor
rips your ticket. Or has some broker whisked her away
to propose? No, better she has the flu, a fever too.

You loosen your tie, open The Journal, focus on figures.
But articles on stocks and bombs bore. Out the window
a blur: one bedroom town, another and another until,
eyes glazed, white-shingled homes become milk cartons
stamped with a photo of the girl’s face—MISSING
and you’re nine on a bus, blushing because your mother
won’t budge. She stands at the stop, waves, smiles that
forced smile long after the others have left. Even the girls
poke fun and the one with budding breasts, the one
you can’t stop staring at, says, “Wipe that smile off your face
or I’ll wipe it off for you.” Slumped in your seat,
you study your reflection, broken by the sun’s glare. They’d be
sorry if you disappeared
… The train’s whistle shocks.
You catch yourself rubbing the worry-spot on your head.
Why is she missing? Forget. Concentrate on something,
anything else … Snapple facts … Fish can drown
Millipedes don’t have 1,000 legs … If you were a millipede,
you’d crawl up her ankle to her knee, under that stretchy
skirt she wears, over her inner thigh’s dimples,
you’d crawl until—“Elizabeth. Elizabeth, New Jersey!
Next stop: Penn Station, New York.” You keep your cell
off, pick up the Post from the adjoining seat.
One headline reads: “Here to Eternity: Obsessing
with Primes.” You’re 47, a prime number, well past
your prime, divisible only by one and yourself.
Soon, you’ll be married and multiplying. You flip
the page to “Pass On Chilean Sea Bass,” scan the piece
in that way your fiancé finds annoying: “… spawns
during prime fishing season … popularity leaves species
on brink of extinction … marketers confuse public,
disguising it with various names …” Could you name
all the women you’ve had? Brenda, Danielle, Joan,
Michelle, Jan, Elizabeth
… Many you miss. You can’t
remember. Once you craved facelessness. Now
you want to love every one of them, caress what’s
unique. But when you close your eyes to envision
the curve of a clavicle, all you see are
fish—spawning—colonies of female fish in their prime,
each with the girl’s red lipstick-smile. Nameless, they
multiply without you, spiral out of reach, leaving
you and your fiancé alone on a rough statistical sea,
and last night when she dug her nails into your back,
you cried out, “Christine!” “Who’s Christine?” You couldn’t
say. She rolled over. Fell asleep. How could she be
so calm? Christine … You can’t recall a Christine unless—
Is that the girl’s name? The train switches tracks, burrows
into black. Why is she missing? Brakes shriek. Is she
the one?
Florescent overheads flicker. Something’s missing
You turn your back on the window’s reflection. You can’t bear
to see yourself.

The Message

The Message

Richard Rau is dead—
click, disconnect, a dial tone,
and I can’t stop crashing into things:
the coffee table creeps
three inches to kick me in the shin
and out of the medicine chest
toiletries tumble,
Richard Rau is dead—
perfume bottles shattering on tile,
slivers of glass in my feet,
and I can’t stop.
Each face I meet becomes
Richard Rau, nineteen,
after the accident, his right eye
paralyzed, then I remember
Richard Rau is dead—
and I wait for a light to change,
but the sidewalk shifts.
I fall, no one offers help and
Richard Rau is dead—
Cement gems in my hand, I stand,
my skin a road rash.
Some guy on a scooter asks:
“How’d that happen?”
Before I can answer,
he’s gone and I’m five
on a playground of oily asphalt,
shoved by Richard Rau
against a brick wall
in a blind alley behind school,
a fist full of grass stuffed
down my underpants, so I call
my machine but there’s only one message:
Richard Rau is dead—
and I recall how satisfied we were
when he got humbled by that stunt
senior year, stealing the flag,
yanking it from the towering pole,
a washer flying through the air,
perforating his eye, blood-
blistered and blind,
his handsome face forever marred,
and I can’t stop
wandering down avenues
past lap dogs, trash cans, newsstands,
wondering how his face looks now:
Is it frozen like his eye?
Was his drowning accidental?
I don’t know,
but at age thirty-eight
Richard Rau is dead—
and as I step off the curb
a garbage truck runs a red light,
barrels through the crosswalk,
barely missing me,
and a man leans out, one hand
on the wheel, the other waving
through a shroud of smog:
“Don’t stop, baby! Keep movin’. Keep movin’.”