Sex Change Operation

(A cappella doowopissimo, moderato)


First voice:

Oh-oh I, I’m so lonesome and blue—

Second voice:

Tell me why . . .

First voice:

That’s just what I’ll do—
I had a girl, and I loved her so true
On cloudy days, she turned my grey skies to blue.

Second voice:

So what’s the problem?

First voice:

Her condition was giving her the blues
‘Cause her gender, was slightly confused
And one day she brought me the news
Her doctor said an operation to use

She’d get a—


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation was what she would do.

Second voice:

So what’d you do?

First voice:

Wo-oh I-I—I got down on my knees
and I begged her, sayin’ please baby please
Don’t you do it—I wish you’d think of me
You’ll regret it, so don’t be a tease.

But she told me, it was her decision
so the doctor made the fatal incision.
And she begged him to do it with precision
‘Cause she hoped there would be no revision,

She got a—


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation she went through.

First voice:

I, you know I loved her so
So-o I-I, I couldn’t let her go—
But I, did not know what to do
She’d turned into a Tom where she had
Once been a Sue–

Second voice:

So what’d you do?

First voice:

Well I, I started to look
in each and every kind of medical book
Until it hit me—and my world it shook–
It was simple, so the steps I took

Second voice:

You took your life?

First voice:

No, I–I don’t think so,
but now I get stares wherever I go
Cause the solution, the simple thing to do
Was for me
To get a sex change operation too.


Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
Sex change, sex change operation—
Sex cha-ange, sex cha-a-ange–
A sex change operation he went through.


At the Repo Man’s Christmas Ball

It was the depths of a recession,
And real estate prices had fallen.
Some contractors were overextended
And their creditors were callin’.

Me? I was just doing my job
Arranging for repossessions
Of cranes and ‘dozers and backhoes and such
By gun-for-hire Hessians.

One was a guy named Rocco
with a gooseneck trailer and truck.
Another was known as just “Jimmy”
By those who were down on their luck.

They were glad to hear from me, though,
The guy who sent them the work;
They had to eat too, they’d say,
When the deadbeats would call them both jerks.

So they’d wrap their log chains ‘round the axles,
and drag the machinery off,
Then we’d sue for the balance that was due
with a grim face and contemptuous scoff.

When Christmas time rolled around
I found an envelope in my mail box
Inviting me to the Repo Man’s Gala,
The prom for my school of hard knocks.

I dressed in my best vest and finery,
and put on patent leather shoes;
I looked forward to wining and dining
‘Cause repo guys knock back the booze.

I drove to the cheesy steak restaurant
and looked for a place to park
but my little white banged-up Toyota
presented a contrast quite stark

With the varied and sundry tow trucks
That the repo men used for their labor,
A pit bull in each of the front seats
and the ball bats they swung as their sabres.

I squeezed in between two behemoths
big boom winches stacked on their backs
with barely an inch in between us,
a gnat couldn’t fit through the cracks.

When I entered I was greeted by cheering
and glad handings all the way round,
but when I emerged with my speech slightly slurred
my Corolla was nowhere to be found.

I looked high and low for my compact
that was missing from its parking space.
I scanned the dead-ends and alleys
I looked every god-damned place.

But nowhere did I find hide or hair of it,
It had vanished into the snow.
Had I failed to pay parking tickets
and given cops reason to tow?

When I turned I saw guys with their dollies
all red-faced and florid from drink.
One said “Hey–you don’t look so jolly–
There must be a problem, methinks.”

When I told them my car had been stolen
While I hobnobbed with them inside,
They scratched their heads and hemmed
and hawed until finally one replied:

“I don’t want to start no trouble,
On this festive occasion and all,
But one bit of advice that I’d give you—
watch where you pahk at the repo man’s ball.”

The View From Cezanne’s Studio

The guide book said the one thing you shouldn’t miss
in Aix was the view from Cezanne’s atelier. The No. 1
bus dropped me off on a hill and the man standing
by the driver said “La bas,” down there, and so I
walked to where two college girls were standing,
waiting for the gates to open at 2, after lunch.


Up the hill came a man waving me off, saying
“Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.” He was about
my age, less hair, near-sighted like me I guessed
from his glasses. “It costs five euros,” he said,
and the college girls looked at him with studied
condescension; how could he know more
than their professor had taught them?

“I’ve lived here all my life,” he said. “The view’s
better up the hill—for free.” We climbed higher
and he told me he worked in a hotel in town.
He pronounced the painter’s name SEA-son,
not say-ZON. “Is that how he said it?” I asked.
“What–the name? Sea-son, say-zon,” he said,
as if it made a difference only to snobs.


“Up there is the promenade du peintres—
the walk of the painters,” he said,
“turn left–you’ll see it.” I thanked him
and made my way up to the peak.
An older woman was climbing ahead of me,
slowly, so I turned and looked–
Sainte-Victoire stood there, a shell
against the sea of a sky. I thought I
knew then why his brush strokes seemed so rough.

Firing Truman Capote on a Snowy Evening

Truman Capote was fired from his job as a copy boy for The New Yorker after he angered Robert Frost.

Whose kid this is, I do not know,
He seems to have a job here, though.
He’s irritating, and quite fey,
If they ask me, he’s got to go.

He putters about the place all day,
and never runs out of things to say.
He wants to write—give me a break!
I truly wish he’d go away.

He gives his little head a shake
When he points out my rare mistake,
I glare at him, the little creep,
A budding novelist, on the make.

The New Yorker’s a place where writers can sleep
for years on end, not earning their keep,
but I’m stuck with this little *bleep*–
It’s quite enough to make one weep.


Nobody Gets By Sister Joe

Her nun name was Sister Joseph Arimathea,
“bad cop” of the Sacred Heart School cafeteria.
You were by her most skeptically eyed
before you could take bat and ball outside.

As you approached the tray return
she’d give you a look with eyes that burned.
If she saw scraps, no matter what your story,
you’d roast in Hell, or at least Purgatory.

Did you leave uneaten your yellow wax beans,
your breaded fishsticks or turnip greens?
If so, she’d make you go back and sit
‘til you finished your lunch, or what remained of it.

So you’d stare at some forlorn mystery meat,
having already eaten your apple crisp “treat,”
and liken yourself to a prisoner of war
while you longed to escape out the cafeteria door.

“Think of the starving folks in Crimea,
don’t forget both North and South Korea,
and also, there’s a new place that’s called Eritrea,”
quoth the grim Bride of Christ, Sister Joseph Arimathea.

But grade-school boys have minds made for mayhem
so the eternal fire to which you’d be condemned
if you didn’t eat your—whatever it was–
was too distant a threat to mean much to us.

What was needed was the old misdirection play
one sees in football down to this day:
A snap count, then motion, and after a fake,
we’d be outside in two lamb’s tail shakes.

“Look Sister,” we’d cry, with fingers pointed,
“there’s a vision of heaven, for the pure and anointed!”
She’d turn and say “Where?” and while she was looking
we’d be up the stairs, free from lunch ladies’ cooking.

And when she realized she’d been gulled to her sorrow,
she’d scowl, shake her fist and say “I’ll get you tomorrow!”

Moral: It’s not a sin if God isn’t looking.

As Roadside Elegies Spread, Cops Take on Poetry Duty

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. It’s the beginning of Thanksgiving vacation and Lieutenant Jim Hampy of the Massachusetts State DMVD is on patrol in the Metrowest area of Boston, on the lookout for college students home from school with too much time on their hands and beer in their bellies. “I’m not sure how much longer I can take this beat,” he says with resignation as he watches a carful of twenty-somethings beat a hasty retreat when they spot his car parked behind Ye Olde Package Store, a faux-Colonial retail liquor outlet that is the last place to buy booze before a driver goes through two “dry” towns. “The things you see out here–it’ll turn your stomach.”

Hampy decides not to give chase and takes a sip from his “lahge” Dunkin Donuts regular coffee. “I got bigger fish to fry tonight,” he says. “I been tailin’ a gang of girls for almost a year now. I got a suspicion they’ll be out in force, since they’re probably sick of their parents already.”

The instincts of the “statie,” as his adversaries in this cat-and-mouse game refer to him, prove correct as a Volvo blasts down the highway loaded to the gills with six girls, singing songs from their senior year in high school. “Suspects heading west on Route 20, send backup,” he says as he accelerates out of the parking lot, without, however, turning on his siren or flasher. “I don’t want ‘em to know I’m coming,” he says.

The girls have a quarter-mile lead that is lengthened when Hampy is forced to stop at a red light, but he seems unperturbed. “It’s okay, I want to catch ‘em in the act,” he says, and his game plan works to perfection as he pulls up at the dangerous intersection where the girls have set up a makeshift–and illegal–memorial in honor of Amanda Skrulnik, a classmate of theirs whose cheerleading career was tragically cut short when she broke her femur in a car crash last New Year’s Eve.

“I . . . I tried to rhyme ‘awesome’ with ‘possum.’”


“Those things are a fire hazard, and people could mistake them for a traffic signal,” he says unconvincingly, referring to the tall votive candles the girls have kept burning since that horrible night. As he cuts his headlights and cruises slowly to a stop, it becomes clear that safety concerns are secondary to him, however. “Worst of all is the poetry,” he says, shaking his head. “I hope no daughter of mine ever writes nothin’ as bad.”

He exits the car along with this reporter and makes his presence known to the girls, who are sobbing quietly. “Good evening ladies,” he says, and it is clear to this reporter that he maintains an air of professional calm only with difficulty. “I thought we reached an understanding there last summer,” he says, as he plucks a piece of paper from the paws of a stuffed animal at the roadside shrine and begins to read aloud, his voice at times betraying his overflowing emotions:

We really miss you, Dear Amanda,
On the sidelines where you cheered with flair.
We know your favorite animal was the panda
but we could only find this Teddy Bear.

Hampy looks at the girls one by one, as if scanning a police station lineup. “I want to know who wrote this,” he says gently but firmly. “Tracy? Lindsey? Chloe?”

Amanda: She will never *sniff* cheer again!


The girls from the back seat are silent, so he continues. “Siobhan? Whitney? Courtney?”

The last-named friend finally cracks. “It wasn’t any one of us–it was all of us, a joint effort,” she says.

Hampy groans involuntarily. “Haven’t I told you–poetry is the product of a unique and individual vision. It’s not something you write by committee, like the mission statement of a non-profit that wants to rid the world of trans-fats. Now clean this up and go home.”

The girls are properly chastened and get to work at a routine they have down pat; extinguishing the flames, removing beads, stuffed animals and signs, and crumpling up their roadside elegies, as commanded by a duly-authorized officer of the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicle Doggerel.

Today finds Hampy in a public service assembly at Pumpsie Green Consolidated Regional High School, lecturing a gym full of bored and inattentive kids about the dangers of roadside poetry. “For the first offense, all you got to do is take the Junior Operator Scansion Adjustment Seminar,” he says, drawing no reaction from the students. “It’s three Saturdays,” he adds, eliciting sighs and the rolling of many eyes.

“Second offense, you got to go to the Do Not Go Premature Into That Good Night Retreat.” The young men and women are paying attention now, as Hampy pauses for effect. “That’s a whole weekend.” Groans are heard from several students, but Hampy cuts them off to let them know it could get even worse.

“These are good kids–they just write crappy poetry.”


“Finally, after three violations or refusal to comply with prescribed meter or rhyme scheme mandated by court order, we impose the death sentence.”

“What’s that?” asks Wade Aucoin, a pimply 15-year-old in the first row of the bleachers.

“Permanent revocation of your poetic license.”

Available in Kindle format as part of the collection “poetry is kind of important.”

Of a Painting Titled “Winter Sunset at Duxbury”

I bought it with my tax refund, a rendering in violet blues, greys,
deep greens and indigo of the winter sun going down over a hedge.
It gave me peace to look upon it, especially on those hopeless days
when I’d leave home and return in the dark, fulfilling my pledge




to wife and child; there’d be a time when I’d have a salt marsh view
down on the Cape, away from the city, the madman’s cry
each morning as I came out of the station, I thought. I called to
track the guy down–last name “Hughes”–and found him, first try.


salt marsh


I told him I liked his work and asked if he had anything else to sell.
“I gave it up,” was all he said at first. There was silence which I tried
to coax him out of. “There’s no money in art,” he said. I could tell
he was bitter, so I let it go. I figured something within him had died


but its ghost haunted him. I said “If you change your mind, call.”
He said “Sure,” we said goodbye. I wondered if I worsened his pall.