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Prelude: I'm Not the Ancient Mariner

I'm not the Ancient Mariner

Wedding bound

But if you will stop and listen

I will tell you my unfortunate story.

There was no albatross around my neck

But a succubus hovering above me.

1. Meeting Her Family

There was the nervous cordiality

but he wouldn’t betray fear or apprehension,

his face would read humble and polite,

guarding other feelings.

They were black and he was white,

and as always they were separated

by a carefully constructed wall,

a horrible and brutal history

he was not responsible for,

yet he would be held accountable.

2. Her Endless Tirades

Her endless tirades

Brought bitter winters in a day

When angry winds like her lashing tongue

Cut through you.

And all you could think of was escape

Some other place, anywhere else.

You think, "Lord, make her stop!"

Wishing her heart would,

Knowing that it had long ago.

You think of Walter Mitty.

His endless flight into fantasy

Where else could he go?

"God loves irony!"

You scream out in pain.

Her vitriolic tirade starts again

Realizing you haven't been listening

Now you fear she will break

Something she can shatter

More quickly than your heart.

The Image Consultant

When I first came to know the Image Consultant

My identity was adrift, or in flux

Like floating between two radio stations

Or like the time worn black and white photos

Washed and dulled from overexposure

And too many fingers touching remembrances

Before being returned to the old Chernin’s shoebox

On the shelf where memories are stored and then forgotten.

But she wasn’t an Image Consultant at first

Just a young black woman in trouble

And I wanted to help her and perhaps get lucky.

God loves the ironies we provide,

But I wonder whether we create the dramas

For no one but ourselves: Twenty years later

I filed for divorce having seen in a moment of clarity

My own terrible destiny with her, past and present.

When I first came to the Image Consultant

The picture in the attic had already begun its horrible transformation;

First minor blemishes appeared, and then minute disfigurement,

Barely perceptible changes – the mouth twisting into

A smug and defensive smile. Dark shadows burdened the eyes

With hidden agendas, tormented secrets, and betrayal;

But she remained outwardly beautiful,

Color coordinated and perfectly accessorized.

In later years, I mentioned the picture, which I had not yet seen,

Beyond my imagination, unaware of its truth,

But when I saw her in court I saw the grotesque picture

Like a fading and cracked image in an old black and white photo.

How Long

How long would you take on

Someone else's pain?

How long would you let me stay

Inside you after our love

Was consumed?

Would you take my seed

Or let me bleed in a court of law?

Remember the children we named

But never had

A family we did not make

Did you believe the lies

I told you because they were

Sweeter than the truth?

I Helped Her

I helped her with frequent

Vaginal examinations

But I couldn't get close

To her.
I didn't want to be her


Just her husband.

What Kind of Woman Would Take a Man's Hard Drive?

She took my teeth, my partial bridge,

Accused me of taking something of hers she valued.

So she stole into the bathroom that night

And left me looking like a toothless junkie.

Although I would plead with her,

Lisping inarticulately that I did not know

Where her missing jewelry was,

She needed to teach me a liar's lesson.

A condemned man will claim his innocence

But makes peace with death outside his cell.

She took her revenge and hid my teeth.

And I saw my execution in her eyes.

I thought about Hamlet telling Horatio

About mysteries beyond the scope of our comprehension,

Knowing the measure of my humiliation

Would be as wide as the gap in my mouth.

This woman, my wife, studied torture in North Korea.

Once she took my glasses from the bedstand

And twisted them into a pretzel shape,

Then smashed the lens with a hammer.

It was as if she had removed my eyes.

Rendering me blind made her happy.

She needed me to feel Powerless.

Said this was the only way I would see.


She was training me, always training me.

Refining me. Molding me into someone better.

Like she was. A woman of imagined culture.

I learned to carry her bags,

And I learned to walk on the street side,

To let her precede me in a restaurant,

Unfold the napkin and correctly set the silverware;

I became a perfectly unhappy gentleman.

Who gives a shit about fire king or blue willow china?

For godsake you eat off of it and scrape away leftovers,

Like the crusty emotional scars she left on my heart.

That I am now scrubbing away with brillo pads and poetry.

Love Addiction

She was a cold heartless bitch

But she was my wife,

I loved her like a junkie loves his next fix

With a need greater than life;

But when I hit bottom

And found myself in a shit-stinking jail cell,

When I heard the plaintive cry of a wounded animal,

Echoing in the emptiness of my heart,

I knew our marriage was over

And already decaying;

So I left,

Before the maggots could hatch.

And never looked back.

O Gertrude

O Gertrude you wore another man’s ring

On the finger where I placed my future,

And the old king’s ghost demands revenge

For foul acts and stolen years.

How can a woman I so loved and adored

Be the same one I now despise and despair in?

“I could have given you the world,” you said.

Where was this world you could have given me?

You gave me a world filled with enemies: Friends

We once had. Family now denied. You told me

Of advances made. All my friend desired you

Yet you accepted another man’s gifts.

Your spirits and conspiracies surrounded us.

Your anger, jealousies, and broken glass.

Spirits lurking everywhere: gods and goddesses

Tormenting you with their struggle over your life.

This you brought into our lives. And your vengeance.

Your night vigils and frenzy. Plotting and scheming.

Disarray and dirt. Distrust and deception.

You made our home a hellish place.

Somewhere a picture is growing old and disfigured,

Bearing all the scars and hideous expression of your sins.

If your beauty won’t betray the truth of your age

And treacherous deeds, I will, as I pray for your tormented soul.

Now we speak only through orders and writs;

Our dates only in courts of law. While lawyers talk

I look at you and do not like what I see.

I despair at having made you my wife.

Our marriage died long ago,

But I let it decompose and fill my life

With the putrid stench of decay

And like a necrophiliac I embraced the remains.

O Gertrude, the old man's ghost cautions me

That your destiny is in another's hands.

Though your life be damned. Happy am I

To be free of your mean enchantment.

My Wife Disappeared

My wife disappeared.

She built walls around her heart

Having discovered enemies everywhere;

As the temperature plunged inside her chest,

Approaching absolute zero,

Her heart freeze dried and crumbled

Into tiny granules.

Perhaps someone else can make

A cup of human kindness

From what remains.

I Am the Lone Goose

I am the lone goose

in form and in flight


save for my mate

My wings spread

against the approaching night

as I fly

toward my fate.

I Have My Memories

I have my memories of you

That itch like an old scar

Occasion to remind me

That our love was broken glass,

Jagged-edged stones barefoot

Tore my sole, tore my soul.

I did bleed for you, my love.

Now I find solace and comfort in poetry

That I could not find in marriage.

Yet a word’s embrace, lines lyrical

And ideas illuminating will not suffice,

Nor satisfy the longing in my heart.

I still prefer a smile meant only for me,

Treasure the opening and unfolding,

As if coming out of bud,

And the eternal Spring love brings.

I Hear You Open Your Door

I hear you open your door and step into


I keep track of you, my wife, that way,

keeping you, my enemy


But we cannot speak,

no IM, no emails, no phone calls,

just the two sharks we have hired

that circle around us

for us.

This is what has become of

the hopes and dreams

vows and schemes

we had.

Broken lives that must be rebuilt.

Twenty years ago a mutual friend

introduced us.

He warned me that you were crazy.

I could not believe that beneath your beauty

a hidden darkness was lurking.

The Final Reinvention Was Dissolution

Maybe it was after she reinvented herself the last time

That I no longer knew who she was.

Even though she still wore the wedding band

I gave my bride several years before.

But even that became a prop

She used on stage for laughs.

And eventually discarded for another man's

Gift of silver and blood red rubies.

She was impressed by power and wealth

That my teacher's salary could only afford

A marriage certificate and a home

And for that she hyphenated her name.

But I supported her business ventures

Her comedy and acting and modeling,

Until the hyphen separated me from a stranger

I would never know and did not like.

Where Will We Find Romance?

Where will we find romance, my love,

When we have begun the Art of Deception?

When Springtime strolls in the park

Are fraught with argument

And Nature's jubilant songs go unheard

Or seem to compete with the dark

For our attention.

We Were Ravens and Gulls

We were ravens and gulls

Ravishing the remains

Of a bad marriage,

Feeding on the dead flesh

Of our marriage,

Feasting on rotten remains

And all the entrails of memory

Spill out in poetry and pain.

This is my cry:

A shrill carrion call of sadness,

My endless sorrow

For how we cannibalized love,

For how we picked at it,

For how we prodded its lifeless form,

And then abandoned it

Like road kill.

The Underbellies of Geese

The underbellies of geese in flight

Like sailboats

Inscribe upon the sky

Purpose and destination

And like the dreams you chased

Driving to a stage
In Lake Geneva,

Flying from me

To a runway in Orlando:

What did your journey offer?

Were the bright lights and applause

Brighter and louder than the love I gave you?

O the Blue Skies

O blue skies don't deny my troubles

And long Russian winters belie my sorrow

Beyond the breach of my heart

A cardinal sings and I celebrate tomorrow

With a new start.

There were too many dark hours,

So I shall not mourn yesterday.

Or love unattended

Like a bouquet of flowers,

Left to wither and die.

Wounds with time and fresh air are mended,

But scars often itch forever.

The Saga

This part of my saga,

My marriage story’s last act

Moves to the courtroom tomorrow,

Where I will stand within 10 feet

Of my only known enemy

(Bin Laden doesn't count).

God loves irony doesn't He.

The one person that I had loved

(Or tried to) everyday,

And occasionally made love to

For the past 20 years

Has become my nemesis, my sworn enemy.

And before I can try to forgive her

And move on with my life,

I must have my hired hand

Battle it out with her hired hand.

Rock'm, sock'm robots.

This is the grudge match.

Tickets are not being sold.


Is there ever finality--

Papers signed, money transferred

Documents notorized and judgment rendered?

Lawyers ask last of rehearsed questions

Circuit court judge makes his proclamation

Then it's over, ended; the curtain drops,

All players make their way to other stages.

But what of feelings? They don't end.

Divorce is death of our marriage.

What can I bury? Who can I mourn?

It died long before I left you,

Husband-petitioner, wife-respondent,

My sorrow is for the dream unrealized.

Who Among You

Who among you have never cried a man's tears

Drawn in like a disfigured limb for shame?

And who with puffed chest, muscles sculpted

Trembled inside at pretense and pain

But remained an insincere impostor?

Even as you lay claim to the busy boulevard

Emotional baggage drags behind,

Like wreckage you can't shake loose.

Everyone believes you are well rehearsed;

Nobody realizes you are a very bad actor.

But all masks must be removed before sunset;

The night conceals our identity anyway.

You Can't Erase the Treasured Moments

You can't erase the treasured moments

We shared or remove the memories,

Like an apartment of furniture

Conveyed to a moving van

Or photos taken from an album.

They are our children

And will not be kept from me,

Held hostage by your insanity.

The Onion Skin Lady

My hour with the onion skin lady

Is good therapy.

We hug -- she's a hugger --

And we talk about me

Mostly, but she talks about herself

Growing up, trying to make sense

Out of her world -- these stories

Like the parables of Jesus

Reveal, uncover, and enlighten.

I talk about what brought me there.

I am asking for help,

Peel away my layers, I say.

We will delve below the surface

She warns me, but I am prepared

To expose myself.

Mirrors and Windows

The mirror reveals where you have been

Only what came before, a glance backwards

Within the glass scrapbook an image's half-life

Expires even as you see the image reflected back.

The window shows where you may go

What lies beyond the place you stand,

Scripts of scenes still to be written,

Dramas of dreams and possibilities.

Between mirrors and windows each of us

Adjusts our vision as if impaired

Or obstructed by too much reality.

Between what was and what will be

We live, trying to make sense

Of this fragile life, drawing nectar

From each moment like a bumblebee

Buzzing here and there frenetically

Until we return to the nest.

We take inventory before the mirror

And then plan and scheme at the window.

Yesterday is fading fast, tomorrow is a train

Roaring toward its terminal destination.

In These Still Hours of Night

In these still hours of night,

When even the birds do not stir

Thoughts and fantasy merge

Into a world of imagination,

Where release and renewal attend us

As dreamers dream
And all things are possible

For sleep is the salve that mends the mind

And endows the soul with solace.

Some find enchantment and inspiration here

And designs like the inventor's blueprint take shape.

I usually remain wrapped in my cocoon of sleep,

But tonight I find myself awakened by thoughts

That would not dissolve or disappear into dream.

The Letter I Will Never Send

I could never leave my family,

which might account for my never being able to

sustain our marriage.

Perhaps you were right

when you said I put others first.

Did I bring you into the family?

Did you feel like my wife?

I have made mistakes. I trusted a woman

who could be hurt no more,

whose emotional skin was so tender

that her ego could not be scratched,

And who knew a time and place for affection.

Mine I must admit

was too often calculated and controlling.

If I could speak to you now,

through the most painful memory

of your cruelty,

I would tell you

that I had wanted to share my truths

with you.

Even those that make you cringe,

or angry,

but I was afraid.

Lest your anger turn into

an animal instinct for survival.

The Big Mystery

The big mystery of the universe

Is not about the unifying force

But how to capture a woman's heart

And keep it full and rich

With love for you.

The Night Is Veiled

The night is a veiled woman

Her mystery hidden beneath a black cloak

She speaks to me with dark silent eyes

Tales that whisper a secret shame.

And like the Sultan and his Scheherazade

I am entranced until daybreak.

In the secluded murmur of enchanted moments

I hear her stories in the chorus of crickets

In the supplication of birds when they wake

In the deep measured breathing in the next room

Yet an uncertain longing is my own heart's recital.

Talking About My HP

Do you know God whispers to us all

When the noise of day pushes quiet away?

How often have you argued for God

As if His voice is silenced by doubters?

I used to intellectualize God,

Never revealing our relationship to anyone else;

For so long, I hoped God would shout

For my attention, but I needed to listen to hear.

Recently, I told God that I

Am coming out of the closet

Finally telling everyone God is

With me wherever I go,

That I ask for His help and guidance

And thank God for what I am given.


Time to open windows and doors,

Let the fresh air slip in

And out and between,

Welcome the songbirds

And their happy chorus,

Take leisurely walks in the park,

Wipe the dust off the 10-speed,

Put air in the tires

And inflate my spirit.

Because I have no one special

To hold my heart's attention;

I shall make you Spring

My companion

And listen to your lush and delicate words.

I'll let your rain be sloppy wet kisses.

I'll let your sun caress

The back of my neck

Like a lover's gentle hand,

I'll let you fill me with a secret romance.

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