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Fourth of July 2009

1

Changed my hairstyle so many times,

            I don’t know what I look like.

                                    —David Byrne


My home is outside Philly

where the empty brick factories

speak the poetry of lost hopes

while the city’s tax base moves away

in search of the American dream.


Freedom—

I’ve come out of so many worlds

of searching.


Walking through suburban streets

I remember a riverside picnic

on a hot day

when the ants stayed away

and we stuffed ourselves with

the moment.

Afterward I read you a poem.

It was about choosing life.


I hear music when I walk.

It is the soundtrack of a chameleon’s life.


I don’t sound like anybody

said Elvis to the Colonel.


The King is dead

and buried in Graceland.


2

Everybody knows this is nowhere

                       —Neil Young


In the locker room of The Boy’s Club of Queens

I learned the rap of the streetwise.

Who?

You momma.

Let’s not get on mothers,

‘cause I been on yours for a week!

Competition—

Word tricks

designed to create

a pecking order

among the toughs.

We all believed

there was someplace better to be.


Driving through

burnt out neighborhoods

with my doors locked

I see the homeboys

sitting on stoops,

or smoking on the street corner

with quart bottles

wrapped in brown paper bags

and miss

the love that comes

from acceptance.


3

Fountain of sorrow, fountain of life,

        you’ve known that hollow sound

         of  your own steps in flight

                    —Jackson Browne


When I was young

I did not believe in impermanence.

I could swim the 400

faster than any high schooler

in New York City or Jersey.


My father died.


I wore his winter overcoat

and a brown Kangol cap

speckled with yellow paint

to swim meets in the cold weather.


I have an old black & white picture of him

in a cabinet full of bric-a-brac.

He looks at the world sadly.

When I see his expression

I understand his pain.


I surround him

with medals, diplomas, plaques,

I have earned.

He continues to stare

at something unseen

in the distance


 4

Send lawyers, guns, and money, Dad,

       to get me out of this.

                           —Warren Zevon


During Business School

I owned one navy, and one gray

pin-striped suit.

Red ties.

White shirts.

Worked in Midtown

for an investment bank

and thought a lot

about money.


At my grandfather’s funeral

I asked my father’s b rother

how he and my father

had made money

in the construction business.


He said simply,

We stole it.

5

I’m just sittin’ here

    watchin’ the wheels

       go ‘round and ‘round

                 —John Lennon


In a low rent motel

near Lake Winnepesaukee

I play jazz

on my ghetto blaster.

Snippets and images

from the path

that led me here

rise and fall

like swells

in some great ocean.

The sun is shining

in a cloudless blue sky.

Yesterday I bought

a rubber raft.

Today I will inflate it,

take it down to the lake,

and float

where the wind

and waves take me.

6

Be here now!

              —Baba Ram Dass


In the White Mountains

the taste of the air,

sweet in my mouth,

reminds me of weekends

on Little Peconic Bay

when I was a boy.


I am staying in a luxury hotel

where the guests are pampered.

Two person Jacuzzi—

chocolate chip cookies on my pillow at night.

My wife is shopping for antiques

while I sit with a double espresso.


Still, I have the urge to smoke cigarettes,

listen to street corner singers,

and drink warm beer from a quart bottle

wrapped in a brown paper bag.


I contemplate dinner—

18 year old single malt,

oysters on the half shell,

free range duck

enhanced with a glass of wine.


I read

poetry, literary fiction, Buddhist philosophy—


Life

is the mystical experience.