I Wish I Could Break Your Honky-Tonk Heart

You said you was goin’ outside for a smoke.
A half hour later I called up your folks.
They said you weren’t there and just laughed at your joke.
And you weren’t in bed when I next awoke.

I got in the car to drive around town.
I’d find you if I had to hunt you down.
Our life is a circus, and I play the clown.
If I let myself cry, I’d most likely drown.

I wish I could break your honky-tonk heart
Into little pieces and tear them apart
Then throw them away like sharp little darts
At the next man who falls for your honky-tonk heart.

I found you at Darrell’s, the bar down the street.
A place where loose women and tight men might meet.
I looked on the dance floor, my vision complete,
And you there a twirlin’ so light on your feet.

I said “Come on home, your babies need you.”
You said “They’ll be fine, I’m losin’ my blues.”
You knocked back a drink, and kicked off your shoes.
Tomorrow the whole town will all know the news.

I wish I could break your honky-tonk heart
Into little pieces and tear them apart
Then throw them away like sharp little darts
At the next man who falls for your honky-tonk heart.

Walking My Lobster Back Home


On learning that the poet Gerard de Nerval had a pet lobster he walked on a leash.


Gee but it’s great after being out late–
Walking my lobster back home.
There’s little risk that she’ll turn into bisque,
Walking my lobster back home.

She grows quite bored of the maddening horde,
So I recite her a poem.
She slept with me once and complained that I snored,
Walking my lobster back home.

We stop for a while, she gives me a feel,
And snuggles her claws to my chest.
She’s not like a dog or a shrimp that you peel
Her green roe’s all over my vest.

When we stroll about I keep her on a leash,
Sometimes she borrows my comb.
We go out to eat and of course she has quiche,
Walking my lobster back home.

She rides on my back to a little clam shack
For a re-test on Teapot Dome.
She borrows my pen and she fails it again
Walking my lobster, talking my lobster
She’s sure my baby, I don’t mean maybe
Walking my lobster back home.

You Forgot To Be Beautiful

An evening of jazz, how pleasant one thinks,
then you hear a noise like a kitchen sink
being tossed out a window into a dumpster
or bombs bursting in air over Fort Sumter.
There’s a hint of three tomcats all tossed in a bag,
then shaken, not stirred as a loathsome gag.
You smile and applaud, but as a critic quite dutiful,
you tell the quartet, “You forgot to be beautiful.”

AACM:  Gack!


The public unveiling of a grand civic sculpture:
when disrobed, it looks like an arthritic vulture.
There’s rusted metal enough for a two-car collision,
the sculptor would think my praise quite high derision.
His manifest intent is epater le bourgeois,
I can only conclude that the guy is a doucheois.
When I meet him, I admit, I got kinda cute-iful:
“Hey man, great stuff—but you forgot to be beautiful.”


The Greeks had it right, if you want my view,
the good, the beautiful, and also the true.
Anything else—why bother trying it?
You can call it art, but I ain’t buying it.


The lady’s got two noses on one side of her face–
somehow, something looks . . . out of place.
If I could I would take my Artgum eraser
but the museum guard would pull out his Taser.
I’d be laid out twitching on the marble floor,
while the docents cried lustily “Give him some more!”
And so she retains a weird double snootiful.
My artistic advice—don’t forget to be beautiful.


The Corrupting Influence of Staten Island Picnics

Picnics on Staten Island Blamed for Ruin of Young Girls

                                           New York newspaper headline, 1884


If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t let her go
on a picnic with just any Tom, Dick or Joe
to Staten Island, ruin of young girls,
so precious, so dainty, beneath their spit curls.

Let’s get this party started!


On a picnic you’re likely to encounter ants
that can climb up your legs if you don’t wear long pants.
To scratch them requires an action indelicate
which you must do yourself, you can’t ask your fellow-cate.

Oh yeah!


If you start to sweat, he may see your nipples
as your perspiration down you ripples.
If your face grows flush, he may think it passion
and take liberties if he thinks himself dashin’.

Beneath those snarling exteriors lie snarling interiors!


With all of these threats to a young woman’s virtue
it’s best if she sticks to a quite early curfew
because things can get ugly, indeed quite hairy
if she succumbs to his wiles and should miss the last ferry.

Youth is Not Wasted on the Young

There once was a man of an uncertain age
Who felt his life slipping, that he’d turned a page,
So he dumped the Mrs. and gave her some dough,
And set off to find self, where’er it might gough.
He tried Grecian Formula to blacken his locks,
Wore slim-fitting sweaters, bought new argyle socks.
A little red sports car was of course required
And a personal trainer was quickily hired.

His friends and companions, they noticed the change
And more than one came soon to think he was strange.
His vocab was sprinkled with “awesome” and “skeevy,”
He watched Jersey Shore on his new high-def TV.
He’d buy rounds of drinks at a bar that had ferns
He studied the ways of the young, and he lerned.
He found you have friends if you freely spend money–
Folks hark to your talk, and think your jokes funny.

Once he was settled in his brand new skin
He looked round himself, and he took it all in.
He’d mastered the art of playing the dandy
And now it was time for some major arm candy.
He took up with a bleach-blonde aerobics instructor,
He briefily wooed her, then brieflier fucked her.
She found him too fast, “like a bleeping Niagara.”
She told him to get lots of full-strength Viagra.

One word to the wizened was more than enough–
He went to the drug store and purchased the stuff,
And when next the lovebirds climbed into the sack
He was like his old self at the beast with two backs.
He huffed and he puffed through the first time, then twice,
He recalled all he’d read of Hugh Hefner’s advice.
He would have been golden, except for one fact,
He lay back and suffered a mass heart attack.

Moral: If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie

There once was a man, whom to each woman fetching
Would extend an invite to come look at his etchings.
Once they were safely ensconced in his apartment
He’d make timid moves in the seduction department.
He’d look at them longingly, then sing off-key,
“There’s Danger in Your Eyes, Cherie.”

femme fatale

The gals would get flustered at this song from the thirties,
It was just the thing when you wanted to get flirty.
Kisses that taste like wine, all that lyrical stuff,
That reduced to print looks like so much guff,
But when sung in the mode of a 30’s crooner
Made of this diffident chap a first-class spooner.


All he had to do was trace over one word–
The name of each night’s particular bird.
But he couldn’t, he wouldn’t, he’d stumble every time
He had the soul of the poet, and was a slave to rhyme.
And so, upon the ears of a lovesome chickadee
He’d forget her name, and call her “Cherie.”


Then they’d all flee, thinking he was a cad,
He wasn’t, though he’d have liked to be, bad.
It just wasn’t in him, he found out by trying,
He was faithful to sheet music, and no good at lying.
And so on his couch, alone once a girl’d flee,
He’d hum to himself–danger, eyes, Cherie.

nelson eddy

And then, just when things began to seem lost,
He inveigled a young thing and her heart did de-frost.
She seated herself on his worn-out divan
He cleared his throat, and then he began–
“There’s danger,” he sang, “In Your Eyes, Cherie,”
To which she replied: “That song’s about me!”

Moral: When pitching woo, don’t shake off the catcher’s signs.

To The Woman Checking Her Pits in the Friday Sales Meeting

It’s hot, I know,
and there are places you’d rather be;
the beach for one, same with me,
and with you I would go.

But we are stuck here, my dear;
me in the front and you in the back row
while before us drones the regional manager,
about moving product.

I see you check your pits,
your nose tilted downwards
like a duck plucking at its
pin feathers. It’s the weather,
and we’re all sweating, same as you.

There are risks to sleeveless
dresses in the heat;
yes, they help you stay cool, but by ventilation,
and so your musky fragrance is a revelation.

You hope you don’t offend, but Lord, woman—
look at these men! The thought of your sweat
is the furthest thing from their minds: “Beer, tube, ballgame—

Ugh!” they would grunt if they could.
So let us go, in our minds’ eyes,
to a place that is cool;
a dark and shady grove is best,
and we’ll remove that summer dress.

For Refrigerator Poets, Verse Builds Bodies and Minds

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  By day, Toby Shasniff is an installer for Fallmere Appliances, a retailer with a large share of the local market for those who find big-box stores in the suburbs hard to reach or intimidating.  “It’s a pretty menial job, but I take pride in it,” he says as he tightens a dishwasher’s rubber hose to a faucet with a wrench.  “Every now and then a housewife short of cash will tip me with wild, uninhibited sex for putting in a stackable washer-dryer combo, but that’s pretty rare.”

“Thanks for the wild sex–let me know if you have any problems with the lint trap.”


By night, however, Shasniff moves from the mundane to the sublime as a participant in the New England region’s growing number of refrigerator verse competitions, a sort of cross between a strong man contest and a poetry slam.  “I go to open mic poetry nights sometimes, and it’s just not the same,” Shasniff says with barely-concealed disgust.  “Those guys are out of shape from smoking and ‘crafting’ their delicate little sestinas.”

In refrigerator verse competitions poets must bring their own appliance to the stage, often after climbing steep stairs to cramped night clubs and maneuvering around tight corners.  “The essential tools of my art include a set of magnetic poetry tiles and a heavy duty appliance dolly,” says Bobbi-Jean Nason, one of the few female refrigerator poets, who grew up bucking hay in Missouri.  “I try to stick to traditional poetic forms, but one night I dropped a crate of sonnets on the stairs and I had to improvise with free verse.”

Dolly:  Essential tool of the poet’s craft


Refrigerator poets are locked in a struggle for the soul of contemporary poetry with so-called “flarf” poets, who compose with the aid of computer-generated web searches, and “conceptual” poets, for whom the concept behind a poem–such as reading the white pages of Shaker Heights, Ohio, while taking a bath in public–is more important than the quality of the verse or its content.

” . . . to ask if I used deodorant is a question that smells itself.”


A fourth group, the “performative” poets, seek to produce poems that have an immediate impact on society rather than merely causing “a little ripple in a stagnant pond of academics,” says Rod Huden, a former practitioner who is now confined to the Ernie Doerr Home for Wayward Boys in Keokuk, Iowa, after passing one of his poems to a bank teller:

read my work close
i don’t write trash
small bills only
hand over the cash

Shasniff is running late and tired tonight, having just finished a Sub-Zero refrigerator “install” at an MIT professor’s starkly-furnished condo in Cambridge, for which he had to park a block away because of the neighborhood’s density.

“You’re all set in your kitchen quite Quaker.
It’ll take a few minutes to start the ice-maker.”

“I’m going more for a freezer effect tonight rather than a mere refrigerator poem,” he says as he takes magnetic tiles in hand and prepares his thoughts extemporaneously.

Bird’s Eye peas–I must get on my knees
to reach thee, sequestered as you are beneath
Eskimo pies, to which I’ll treat myself after
eating my vegetables, starch and meath.


Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection poetry is kind of important.

The Solipsistic Lady Novelist


. . . that singular anomaly,
the lady novelist—
I don’t think she’d be missed
— I’m sure she’d not be missed.

Koko, The Mikado


She thinks, and then she considers her thought;
she absorbs herself, really, more than she ought.
As soon as she’s oozed, she sucks it all up,
like a squid that spills ink, then scoops it in a cup.


“I’m haunted,” she writes, “by so many things–
earth shoes, amulets, seventies mood rings.
I wonder why that is?” she asks, almost sings.
A conversation with her is a hive-full of bee stings.

She tells you of when she was first struck
by the beauty of crystals, a date she remembers.
You’re tempted to say, “Who gives a . . . damn?”
But she cuts you off: “It was just last December!”


Of course she was sensitive when still a wee tot,
so precocious, other kids still haven’t caught up!
“I wondered quiet early, how things are so fraught!”
“With what?” you scream inwardly, but you stay shut up.

She wonders about men, about art, about life,
and why our world is so chock full of strife;
and then when she’s through with her ruminations
she re-chews it all with self-regarding mastication.

I’d like to help her, I really, really would,
but I don’t think my assistance would do her much good.
I can’t offer her fame, or power or pelf,
Just this advice–get over yourself.

Sharon From Tenafly

It was orientation week, at my highbrow college
where chalky pedagogues would stuff us with knowledge–
but first, a time to get to know each other;
we’d take a bus trip, all of us together!
and ask questions about majors, sisters and brothers
then walk the dunes in the early fall weather.


I was seated behind a girl named Sharon
with coal black hair that she chose to wear in
a bohemian bun, held tight by tortoise shell clip.
She turned and took me in with a look
that was seductive and arch, knowing and hip,
and put down her Marx or Freudian book.

She introduced herself and then she queried
“Where are you from?” and I said “Missouri,”
except that I pronounced it in my native tongue
as people from the southern and the western parts will:
“Mizzuruh,” I said, and as if she were stung
she screamed, then laughed, and finally was still.

poor white

“That is so charming!” she loudly exclaimed,
she was off to the races, I couldn’t explain.
“Do you always wear red-checked lumberjack shirts?
and keep straw or toothpicks ‘tween your teeth?”
I hesitated to correct her, bit my tongue till it hurt,
but within myself I started to seethe.

I decided I’d try to string her along,
and see if she’d buy my dance and song.
“Are you first to go to college in your family?”
she asked, and I decided to take the bait.
“I’m the first to graduate,” I noted happily,
“from pre-school, kindergarten and also grade eight.”


“Oh dear,” she exclaimed, “you’re so—so rural!”
she said with an emphasis that might have been plural.
“Your home—does it have indoor plumbing?
or must you repair to a bare, stinking outhouse?”
she said with a frisson, as if she were slumming.
and I was overcome and began to play head louse.

“What is this ‘indoors’ of which you speak?
Is it something we’ll see after orientation week?”
She recoiled in horror, aghast at my plight,
I was a Walker Evans photo she’d seen in a book,
Left behind by civilization’s march towards the light,
She rated me lower than a Seacaucus mook.


“Where are you from?” I finally rejoined,
I’d decided I’d rather stay out of her loins,
“I’m from Tenafly, a ‘burb of New York City.”
“Is that,” I said, “anywhere near Paramus?”
“Why do you ask?” she said with some pity.
“I used to watch ‘Make That Spare’ in pajamas.”


Moral: You’re only as sophisticated as somebody else thinks you are.

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