Good with Balloons
Those wiener dogs kids love?— my buddy Ted
can twist a snarling pack, eager to gut any wacko
belting up to bomb a school. Need a teddy bear,
spider, giraffe, working mule? Ted’s your man.
He can blow swords for an army. Light-sabers, too.
Down on your luck? He’ll build, under your overpass,
a palace of balloons, and stuff it with air-filled
artifacts better than anything from Greece,
where balloon-shaping is deader than Hector.
Crave your own Pieta? Just say the word.
If you’re hungry, Ted can make, out of flavored,
cell-sized balloons, a steak dinner with all
the fixin’s. Iron-lunged Creator, he would never
plop a couple into Eden, then drop-kick them out.
He’d never populate the earth with balloon-
people, then send a rain of pins. He’s more
of a balloon Jesus. Kind, I mean. Except
to creeps, crooks, crap-heads. Pilates of the world,
open your eyes! Mockers, scourgers, con-men,
thugs, duly-elected hagfish and lampreys—for you,
Ted’s got a big balloon surprise.
Old Love Letters Become Space Junk
Gaze at the sky just right,
a pulse of love may strike
your heart, and you’ll be kind
to everyone you meet that day.
Let the same letter pulse two hearts,
and they will find each other,
no matter what scoffers say, or how far
apart they are in place or age.
So many letters pine in trunks,
boxes, and drawers, hidden there
by those who couldn’t bear
to let them go. Thrown—
as they all are, finally—away,
they hover, clear as air
over nursing homes
and graves, making a high
hum only hearts can hear.
The ones that pause, like a last
glance, above a marriage bed
may cause disturbing
dreams. But like the ghosts
they’re frequently mistaken
for, all rise at last
to join the orbiting.
When He Grows Up
My son is either going to write great symphonies,
or headline in Vegas, burping his ABCs.
He’ll conjure life by crushing green berries
with red ones, then adding Elmer’s glue, chalk-
dust, balsamic vinegar, and cornflakes,
or he’ll learn to pee calligraphy. He’ll either lift
Amazing Kong by the chin for a choke-slam,
followed by his “finisher,” the Tombstone Drop,
or invent the stink-bug Slurpie. He’ll score
a hundred runs in one World Series by running so fast
no one can tell his “team” is just one boy,
or he’ll out-paint the Lascaux Masters by blowing
colored Kool-Aid out his nose. Already
his laugh, when he won’t get up for school,
makes orchids coalesce from cold October air.
Tree-ferns of eye-stabbing green shrug off
the clinging dark to please him. Small, feathered
dinosaurs begin to sing as, from behind earth’s
flowered skirts, the gold balloon that he inflates
daily, just by breathing, springs.
Polar Air Invades LA
—The Six O’Clock News
“Does it come from the North Pole?”
my son wants to know. It’s thirty-two
days till Christmas: thirty-one
till Santa’s ride. If air can’t make
the trek, how will a fat man in the sky?
Our furnace, rumbling on at midnight,
shakes our house like an earthquake
eager to shove us out into the dark
and chill. When my wife whispers,
“I’m cold,” I’m glad to warm her,
my stomach stuffed with Thanksgiving
while, outside, the atmosphere
fights for equilibrium like kids
trying to split a chocolate shake:
“No! You got more! It isn’t fair!”
Clouds hurl orange spears across the sky
and fire fusillades of hail into our roof
while Polar air pours in like Europeans
to America. “Over our dead bodies,”
the natives raged. And so it proved.
How did I exist without these poems,
my polioed soul strapped to a crack-axled
wheelchair that lacked a ramp to lift it up
life’s curb onto the Glad Highway?
My highest aim, before these poems,
was to upgrade life’s Portacan to a cesspool.
My soul floated, formless, in fetid night;
these poems proclaimed, “Let there be light.”
They beat swords into spatulas; H-bombs
into scrambled eggs. They’ve quadrupled
the blood supply by squeezing stones.
Turnips are next. They stop pain, kill Death,
ward off asteroids, flush away unsightly
belly fat even as they undo global warming,
lift your kids’ grades, snag you a raise,
and answer the phone when you’re on the pot.
You know that drip that you can’t stop—
the way your garden hose buckles in one spot—
the driveway crack that could gape
into a sink-hole—the cam-shaft ping your dealer
calls nothing and won’t fix, lemon-laws
be damned—the Ben Franklins you’d shower
on the poor, if your trees could only grow ’em?
Call these poems!