- Asparagus Odor Detection
- Back Hair
- Bald Spot
- Bitter Taste Perception
- Male Hair Loss
- Widow’s Peak
When your wife becomes a mother,
She will not rest until the decorations are up
Or taken down, for that matter.
Before all this,
Holidays weren’t celebrations
The way they are now.
Before, she only photographed
Things like shadows of ducks on ponds,
And rhododendrons, and the dog in a necktie.
A lot, you once thought.
But boy, oh boy, you had no idea how many
Moments she could capture with that phone.
Thousands in the first year of life.
When your wife becomes a mother,
You enter into a lifelong love triangle,
Or quadrangle, or trapezoid, or whatever the angular shape.
Not a circle like it once was, when it was just she and he.
No, you commit to the third or fourth chair,
Sometimes the other table,
When the little warriors,
Your own blood and flesh,
Have won her heart for the day.
But she’ll come back,
And you’ll be there.
You always have been.
With your cologne on,
That new deodorant,
You’ve started putting on at night,
Lying in wait.
For years, I tried to read Don Quixote,
Revering the Spaniard writer in me,
Skimming a thin abridged edition,
Sophomoric in World History.
Later, greater windmills.
Exotic becomes quixotic.
The bookmark stops.
Dare you go on,
Know the ending anyway,
Some will never get their day.
Tee box talk
Green Room gab
Chiefs of Staff
Middle and/or Senior management
Presumptive press secretaries
Heads of security
Surrogates (sex or otherwise)
For years I tried to start smoking, scurrying out before theme parties:
Bad Taste Ball, Red Light, Pajammy Jam—to pick up Pall Malls,
Only to find the shreds of tobacco slipping past my lips.
Tonight, some fifteen years later, I rushed out for a walk, alone,
Minus wife, kids, mother-in-law,
Left a flat cauldron of beef stew to roast in the oven for an hour.
I cook now. I follow recipes. I make up my own.
“Be back,” I said. Like those fathers you hear about that say,
“Be back. Just going out to pick up some smokes,” and then never return.
What if I kept on walking and left for good?
When you’re wired for guilt and depression, this is what you think of.
You’re surrounded by light, yet spend your whole life,
Looking for shade, just a slice.
at my thinking place,
Where Mark Twain sits in bronze,
Forever reading Huck Finn to anyone who will sit next to him,
A few drunk hopeless fans smoke their consolation cigarettes.
We lost again tonight.
I want them gone, off my bench,
So I can sit next to Sam,
Breathe in some fresh air,
Clear the muck upstairs.
I sniff their second-hand,
Let them have our moment,
If we don’t win, it’s a shame.
Your life ended up going to shit,
And what did you do?
You kept floating down the river,
Smiling at it,
Your dial set to happiness,
If only for a bit,
Now you sit,
In front of the IHOP,
As you did then,
at your birthday party,
At the end.
For, who else,
Were you going to celebrate?
Toddy hurled the dice at his sister Maggie the very instant their father Elmer opened the door to let the motel housekeeper in. Maggie screamed, boomeranging the Wa-Hoo game board at Toddy in retaliation, marbles flying in all directions. Toddy ducked and laughed.
The housekeeper peeked over Elmer, who tried his best Bosnian on the woman: “The sheets are dirty. Stains.”
The maid spoke back to him in clipped words, still distracted by the ruckus.
“Kids.” Elmer shrugged.
The housekeeper went to English. “Our rooms are clean.”
“I don’t normally complain about things like this, but please look at these sheets.”
He led her to the bed, toward the table where the children were playing. Maggie sat slumped in the chair holding her hand over her eye, howling. “Toddy hurt me, Dad.”
Toddy was on his hands and knees and picking up the marbles. He always put away his toys—one good habit his mother had taught, and one that stuck—which Elmer adored, his boy being only eight. He kept his head down, away from his father’s stare.
Elmer pulled back the green floral print bedspread and showed the housekeeper the sheets. A yellow stain—the outer edge darker and more distinct—in the shape of a small country occupied the middle of the white sheet.
“Dad!” Maggie sat up, crying harder. She pulled her hand down and blood trickled down the canal of her nose and cheek.
The housekeeper pointed at the girl.
“Toddy, get over here.” Elmer grit his teeth.
Toddy trudged over to his father and Maggie stood up and followed him. She glanced quickly in the mirror next to the TV set and saw the blood. She screamed—she was prone to screaming, at her age, going through the first change, plus her mother’s passing didn’t help any—and fell to the floor. The housekeeper rushed toward Maggie and propped her up on her legs. The housekeeper pulled a hand towel from the pocket in her apron and dabbed the girl’s eye. Maggie shuddered and grit her teeth like her father.
Elmer took a knee and held Toddy by the shoulders. “You hurt your sister, mister. Say you’re sorry. Apologize.”
“I’m sorry.” Toddy turned his head to the maid and his sister. Maggie cried and gripped the hand of the woman.
“I AM sorry.” Elmer squeezed the boy’s shoulders.
“I AM sorry.” Toddy squirmed. “Ow.”
“You hurt me and your mother, too.” Elmer squeezed Toddy’s shoulders tighter and started to shake him, slowly. Elmer turned his eyes up at the dresser, at the black lacquer box with a green ribbon, when he said your mother.
“Dad!” Maggie turned toward him.
“You be quiet, Margaret.” Elmer shook Toddy faster, squeezed him enough to make him cry. The boy’s head rocked back and forth. “You hurt all of us. The whole family.”
“Sir,” the maid stood up. She spoke quick and breathless in Bosnian and approached him. Her sentences, strings of the crude Shtokavian dialect hit his ear. Elmer remembered Lana teaching him various words she knew; her grandmother had given her both a crash course and a language book before Elmer and Lana’s first pilgrimage to Medjugore in 1997—before the children. Elmer realized this was why the maid switched to English: his Bosnian was too advanced, straight from the book and not the Shtokavian tongue. Lana’s family didn’t speak that kind.
“Sir, stop.” The maid pulled Elmer away from Toddy. The boy bit his lower lip and he shuddered wiping his eyes. Elmer turned to the maid and collapsed at her feet. Her short wavy hair was dark with strands of gray. She was plump in the belly and hips—a grandmother maybe, with grandchildren about Maggie and Toddy’s age. Maybe they were older—the woman looked at least in her late 50’s—and maybe they worked at one of the shops on the hillsides selling candles, or the white statues of the Virgin on the way to the shrine. Or maybe they worked as house and groundskeepers at the other motels and hostels. Or maybe at the cemetery digging graves for all those who were born here and all those who wished to be buried here. She was old enough to have lived a long life, to see all her children grow up and have their own.
Elmer grabbed the woman’s thick ankles and feet, covered in worn, nurse-like shoes. He held her and gushed, letting it all go, asking for forgiveness. The children now cried with their father, reaching for him, holding each other, their little bodies pressed as close as possible to one another.