Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Monday Night. Tired. Will talk Super Bowl this week. Maybe talk Little Feat or McCartney too. Below is the next section of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt."


I liked being the last one home with mom. We’d sit at the kitchen table like I’m doing now and have coffee together. I’d make it. We’d talk, both with our white and blue ceramic mugs in our hands. Tom bought them for her for mother’s day one year. It was my single after school cup of coffee and it was a time for mom and me to just chat. In the summer we missed that time to share. I was too busy going to see my friends. She’d stop me sometimes and try to get me to stay. But I had to go, even though I could hear and I guess even feel the sadness in her voice. It’s funny that you can realize and even feel those things and not act on them. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know why I did it. I just wanted to spend time with my friends before college. I knew mom was sick, but you never think that your mother is going to die.

It’s not sunny like it was yesterday. The clouds have moved in and I can see specks of rain on the skylight above me. The coffee is a little strong, not enough water. I always did that. The coffee at school is fine, although a little hot in those thin paper cups. The inside of the mug is grayish clay, which looks nice with the black of my coffee. James always asked me if I was a fisherman drinking my coffee black. I just like the flavor, the bitterness, and the strength. But he liked to tease me.

I don’t think that mom ever talked with Maggie the way she talks with me. No, its talked isn’t it? The way she talked with me. I was too young to really observe how they acted towards each other when Maggie was my age. And she was out of the house for so much of my time growing up that I could only really see on the holidays. I think mom was always hard on her. Maybe it was because they were so different but looked the same with their terrific red hair. And me with my strange blondish hair that no one in the family has.

“Maggie did you and mom ever just chat like girls?”

“Like girls?”

“I don’t know. I mean you know about celebrities and hair and I don’t know share with her your problems.”

“No, I don’t really share my problems with anyone. And I never did with mom. Celebrities?”

I look down embarrassed. She’s my big sister and sometimes I don’t know where to start with her.

“Yeah, like gossip.”

She laughs.

“You mean you never even shared your problems with Jake?”

She stops laughing and looks at me closely for a moment. Then she smiles and turns away.

If only I could talk to her that way. What happened between her and Jake? I thought they were going to get married. I was happy when James got married, but it’s different when you’re older sister is going to get married. Because even though James and I have always been closer, it was Maggie I looked up to. A sister who is successful and has an interesting job and gets to travel and sends you pictures of exotic places. “My older sister is on assignment in Siberia.” Then your friends come over and see pictures of this beautiful girl with lots of red hair and you hope you can be like that too. Well without the red hair of course.

The drizzle is falling a little bit more. It’s like a mist. Tom went out earlier for a walk. I hope he isn’t getting caught in the rain. Where did he go anyway? I see him the most but know him the least. He should’ve asked me to go with him. He’s always sneaking around going on his train rides, going for his walks with his funny and forceful stride. It’s strange to grow up and not really know one of your brothers.

I sip the coffee. It’s nice and bitter and hot. My tongue burns a little.

I’ve put the dishes in the washer after dinner. The kitchen smells like strong brewed coffee.

“Why don’t you sit with me and have a cup, Liza?”

“I’m sorry, mom. I’ve got to go meet Lauren.”

“Just a cup? Soon you’ll be gone. And it’ll be such an empty house.”

“Tom will come by. You know that.”

“I know but it’s not the same as talking with you.”

“Come on, mom.”


She looked so disappointed in me. She just gave me a vacant nod. And I was so angry. Why did she have to put that on me? Why did she have to look so pathetic? And why couldn’t I see she was getting weaker? Wasn’t dad supposed to fix her? It wasn’t cancer, that’s what he said. I still don’t understand it all. You’re not supposed to feel guilty for spending time with your friends. Your parents are supposed to cope with having an empty nest, not die suddenly when they seem fine.

I didn’t kill my mother.

“Liza, is it true you killed your mother?”

“I heard that too. That she died of a broken heart because you moved out and went to school.”

“I wouldn’t have done that.”

“You all don’t understand. I didn’t do it.”


I didn’t do it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

1/2 Bird Bowl Part 2

Super Bowl Sunday. A terrible football game will be taking place at about 6:38 PM tonight. The guy who did "The Wrestler" song is going to be doing the halftime show. This game should be an awful rerun of the 2006 Super Bowl - The Steelers vs. The Seahawks (known to my friends and I as the bad Joo Joo Super Bowl but that is another story). This time we have another overachieving bird from the beautiful NFC West division taking on a predatory Steelers team that only rises to the occasion when the competition in the AFC is down a notch. Get your Roethlisburgers ready, this one will make you puke.

Thank God, then, that Sunday morning featured another classic Nadal v. Federer match in tennis. This one from the Australian Open. I hated tennis growing up. My family is part Greek so of course I loved watching Pete Sampras with his strange Grecian charms, five o'clock shadow and white sneakers. The rest of it though was for the Cardinals. My great uncle used to watch tennis all the time at family gatherings and make everyone watch it - this frustrated me to no end when there was a cartoon on or usually a better sporting event. So it comes as a shocker that I am now becoming a tennis fan. This is solely because of Nadal v. Federer. There are only a few times in sports when a rivalry can be a truly riveting event, half the time what people qualify as rivalries in sports are not even true rivalries. This has been. Their games compliment each other quite well and Nadal's unintentional comedy is off the chart. The Wimbledon final from last summer was the best match of all time and this morning's final was certainly up there. The whole match had you on the edge of your seat. However, this rivalry is coming close to one-sided unless Federer starts picking up some big wins. Nadal is truly impressive.

Anyway, that is it for the sports rant. Enjoy the game today if you can and drink 100 beers for me.

Below is my newest poem.

Whither America?

Whither America? The sound of the gas-stove
And she drank peppermint tea with honey
Talking about snow shoeing in the Catskills
Where once Rip Van Washington slept in dust.

There the wood cabins lie in the clearings
Where your friends set foot on the paths
They had thrust themselves further on,
The paths the dogs had laid in earnest,
The tracks we’d all imagined in the great shadow
Of our Brooklyns and our Manhattans and Chicagos
The places we could dunk our heads under cold streams.

Whither America? The key dropped from an open window
She pulled you close by the geranium pot
Wearing a grey skirt ruffled by the knees
With your arms on her back and two feet in the air.

Around the corner the full moon is over Christmas lights,
The neon piles of ice melt in the moist winter
Of Civil War beards and thick maroon scarves
Where boys and girls in slim black pants smile
Because they’ve known the snow entrenched season
That the picture books showed them in class –
The St. Petersburg and Moscow furies of their music
And the frozen Valley Forge December memories
With raw red feet and long tattered coats.

Wither America? The reel of a spinning bicycle spoke,
She and her girlfriend walk dogs in the Village
Where Gaslight photos make their hair rise up in cotton candy tufts
And all they want to do is shop for a stroller or crib.

Art galleries open up the front page of the daily news and
While most of their friends freelance or have no jobs,
The two women sit by their bicycles in the dusk
Watching the sun on the piers and along the narrow waterline
Letting New Jersey call out in pain to Oakland on the last page,
But the snowstorm is going to come in on Wednesday
The snowstorm is going to come in and make everything silent –
No jobs, no cribs or strollers, just white and the hair of the dog.

Whither America? The feel of a statue at summer’s high noon.
The courtyard butterflies won’t stop for the green berries
Neither will the smokers in the sunroom watching soap operas -
The woman in the straw-hat will, she’ll pick them all.

When you think of death all day your cheese platters won’t take,
The wood bases and berries won’t taste as sweet
Their flavor won’t stand above the warehouse walkways
When the girlfriend holds you both arm in arm in happiness
Knowing she did good hosting dinner for different groups –
Conversation over candles and Argentinean fillets.
Digestion is the afterlife of friendship and drunkenness
So make the best of all the secondhand smoke and sex
That juts out of the music, the mercury and moustaches.

Whither America? The hair curls in the shower drain
Letting the water fill the tub at the end of a long spring
With lobsters and purple lighthouse flowers and beestings,
Things that won’t leave you alone at the onset of February.

The underwear underneath the window belonged to her
Navy and filled with longing like anything left behind
He threw them out on the way to work in April’s relief
And she always hated strip malls with their Iowa parking lots
Their stained Stop and Shop fa├žades and neons
She could learn that desolation means the same thing
In the Texas panhandle as it does in the rice marshes of China,
Further around to the cracked olive hills of Spain
So too does love in this life or one from two times ago.
But they both moved away wearing different sunglasses
And we never received a postcard from either of them.

Whither America? The press of a hug before midnight
The wreaths are falling from the white doorframes
Beer bottles threaten to break the table and your eyes
While you try to let the embraces leave in single file.

What makes blonde hair and stories of boyfriends
Make you feel like a father with your burnt coffee mug?
No matter how many days you try to sleep in you will never
Figure out that mysterious love that stabs you at the stoplight
The one that balloons you up for some mysterious reason
The one that deflates you as the laughs come so easy and
Fade gently out the door leaving you sitting Indian style on the carpet
Not sad but desirous of a question that has no words
Made up of apples, baby powder, arousal, the whispers
On a back deck or light snow falling on a quiet lane.
So keep walking and let the secret follow you along.

Whither America? The mother and child reunion
The red hat placed against the broad coffin’s sheen upholstery,
Make-ups, scarves and handbags sitting against chair legs
While the animal crying only comes at the very beginning and end.

Salt the roads because tonight the mist turns into black ice
The car washes will do a brisk business this weekend to the dusk
With mothers driving in and out with their kids to let their cars
Pass under the scrubbers as if it were an amusement ride.
Your mother can foresee the emptiness next to the fireplace
But you can tell her it isn’t so, if she knows more than you about love
You have the leg up for studying the movement of death,
Though you can’t let things die, you know how death
Marries love – the gaze toward the stars or snow gently falling.
The ottoman sits squat on the paneled wooden floor
And you can love your mother with all of your heart
But she feels things you never will, though you can try
Your soul will never move away from the ceremony -
The marriage of love and death in the grocery line.

Whither America? The sound of the gas-stove and
The pant of rain on the road from the basement window.
I want to put the satchel to my shoulder one more time
To let all of these stories pass from my chest like blood
Inching in the rifts made by my boots with every smile
And kiss and hug that have come across my path.
The view from the Seine will never make me forget
Those lean-tos you all built with whiskey in your packs
The friendly smile on the underground train platform,
Bus glass covering your heads while you shivered in November
I won’t let the blood get away from me; I’ll let it go.
Heartache shouldn’t be buried with the purple knit afghan
It stays with death and love - the marriage in the middle of the day -
The mother and child reunion at the nearest exit of the highway
Me standing by the fireplace, bleeding in the light.