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Thomas Piekarski

Monday Night 

 

     I

 

The day having wasted away, he slumps

in an easy chair, his labors seemingly

amounted to rubbish. Tonight he feels 

subdued, quite pooped as he cowers under

the big shadow of corporate compliance.

He kicks back and pops open a beer,

lifts calloused feet onto the ottoman,

relaxes, and yawns as the moment rises

and then falls without notice.

His wife lurking in the living room

watches sitcoms she doesn’t care for,

afraid the lazy bum may get canned, 

and then what would they amount to?

Their souls may tell them it will be alright,

but when the money runs out hopes expire.

 

     II

 

He’s certain that out there possums 

are mating on white sands of finality.

He shuts his eyes in order to connect 

with fond memories of their wedding dance.

It was a time before the fire between them

was extinguished, their problems still solvable.

Cherubs chirped then, and church bells rang.

Lollipops tasted dandy, and cracked sidewalks

seemed smooth as maple syrup on pancakes.

Now they both suffer from indigestion,

the mortgage is way overdue, and his beer

has gone flat sitting on the coffee table.

Meanwhile she’s run out of channels to surf,

and neither is a candidate to accomplish much.

 

     III

 

He feels somewhat like the event horizon 

of a black hole from which there is no return.

He mumbles a few sentences to her as he reads 

the daily paper, but she doesn’t listen,

distracted by post menstrual syndrome.

At times their thoughts are dead on arrival,

and indecision regularly alternates

with systemic anxieties. Their ambitions like 

seeds planted in salty earth refuse to sprout.

They wear blue jeans with holes in them 

and drive a car with worn-down engine parts.

They can’t come up with any other choice 

but to slog ahead, non-participants in their

doleful indifference, any truth beyond what

they can touch and taste way out of reach.

 

    IV

 

Suicidal tendencies appear on a daily basis.

And it’s not as if they’re on some noble quest

to free Palestine, wearing belts with bombs. 

Manifestoes like eating, sleeping and talking

don’t make much sense. They act as though

magicians are playing peekaboo with them, 

taunting their psyches. His inner voice says

take ten paces to the left and reach eternity,

which would doubtless dampen the sting

of those issues that plague him the most.

But he’ll never approach this elusive eternity. 

She embraces pragmatism, somewhat inclined  

to advocate a constructive end. For in the end

the beginning, or so she thinks Robert Frost

said. Upward to darkness, downward light.

 

    V

 

They cannot defuse shrill voices that cry out

in the night. She dreams dancing a fandango   

on a giant polished iridium mirror, romancing

a throng gathered at the crown of creation.

He struggles to exterminate those visions 

of heaven that he concludes must be spurious.

They both fantasize cosmic factories wherein 

stupefying monsters are pumped out in droves.

Their attempts at sex are about as satisfying 

as paying income taxes. His ego is on sabbatical,

and hers continually probes the caverns of death.

A ship at anchor is battered by a stormy sea,  

their weightless spirits pacing upon its deck.

An unexpected quietus arrives as they walk

their slinkies down steps to the basement.

 

    VI

 

He deduces there must be a lion awakening 

while a purple satyr serenades him outside 

his bedroom window, dancing in the shadow

of a black sun, perhaps product of a quasar.

She nods on and off while listening to AM  

radio and darning socks. He projects himself

collecting galaxies in a tote bag. She might

be accused of welcoming her grim demise

when one takes into account such lethargy.

No-one should be surprised that feral ghosts

attack their minds like lightning, or that 

the holy grail seems to them a dead myth.

Having faith would only get in the way,

he reasons, so refuses to read the Koran.

And if he did it wouldn’t make an impact.

 

    VII

 

For him the simplest of activities are enough.

The lighting of a cigar, hogging the couch,

surviving a nightmare to wake into the light 

are his rewards for toughing it out. Otherwise

he might as well go ahead and end it all. She 

not to dwell on such boring topics as mortality

will mope around in a moo moo, stuff her face

with savory pies, play pinochle with herself.

When he walks crowded city streets or peruses

stores at the shopping mall flat broke, he feels

totally anonymous, shunned like a download

containing a virus. And to think in their youth

people would remark at what a lovely couple.

He’s become bald and arthritic, and she flabby,

perhaps all there is to what’s called destiny.

 

    VIII

 

They remain incorruptible in the eyes of their

peers, which isn’t saying much because those

whose hopes and dreams are so sparse are in

denial that humanity is purposeful. Even though 

magnificent echelons of joy, pride and ecstasy

loom within the grasp of anyone who would seek

them, they remain resigned to a fate in which they

view themselves as victims of a massive disaster.

Although their cute kitten rolls a ball across 

the kitchen linoleum, it offers scant solace.

There is enough pressure built up inside 

these two to make them explode like a boiler.

One day their ship may come in, but don’t

hold your breath because you’ll turn blue

as they contemplate returning to the womb.

Doppelganger

 

The great Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over till it’s 

over,” but this isn’t the same America anymore.

No more Betty Grable. No more Sinatra.

We keep dodging genocide by a whisker

like asteroids that pass close by Earth,

the odds against us mounting.

 

Ghandi said “An eye for an eye causes 

blindness on both sides.” Currently 

both sides are sitting on a time bomb 

that’s ticking loudly

and about ready to blow up.

 

The spoken word will not help.  

 

One can only shrug that so far

we’ve avoided the ultimate tragedy. 

 

When the day arrives that we know 

our time has finally run out 

it may be prudent

to avoid going scrambling 

randomly through karmic vaults.

The Sculptor

 

Once I drew the conclusion that love is a loosely

officiated charade, I pooh-poohed any notion

of ever being worthy of redemption. I felt I’d

broken just about every rule any God had set out

and didn’t deserve their rewards. Nevertheless

I needed something to lessen the pain my broken

heart constantly dwelled on. I tried fashioning

my own God out of brain waves, but that was

nothing but a dud. I bought heavy work boots

and trampled vacant lots like Paul Bunyan just

to let off a little steam. I spoke several languages

fluently to myself, which made me feel a bit better.

I employed carrier pigeons to convey messages

to my cosmic wife, but she never returned them.

I often stood erect in my private Eden for hours

taking notes on invisible angels. I would chronicle

their every action, name and classify each one. 

Paratroopers fell like fireflies in big bright helixes

carrying payloads from continents I may one day

want to try on for size. Why had the street become

so sloshy, and how was it the sun had grown dull?

I got to thinking perhaps the porpoises deserved

a break. But I could not provide it myself because

I held no sway over nature, similar to dipping my

toe into an inferno. I felt guilty about trespassing

sacred ground. But then nothing is sacred anymore,

so you couldn’t rightly accuse me of encroachment.

Oddly, I became popular due to my unusually dour

demeanor, and the press was after me day after day,

hounding me, collected at my front gate. All I wanted

was to be left alone in my sculpture garden to chisel 

serenity of the very highest degree from dark matter.

When I go to sleep tonight I think I’m going to dream

about shooing pterodactyls away with redwood trees.

Berkeley Buzz

 

I know of no other city than Berkeley                     that would name a middle school after                   a radical like Malcolm X.

 

Back in the days when Berkeley hummed

they were more than tolerant of liberals

like Mario Savio, who touted free speech,

drawing overflow crowds at Sather Gate

and blocking the entrance to Sproul Hall. 

 

In Berkeley they backed Bobby Seale

and his ravenous Black Panthers

with zeal unusual in any era.

 

That’s when extreme emotion was 

status quo. The people loved 

to get riled up,

avidly anti-establishment.

 

Berkeley years ago one of the first cities

to declare itself a nuclear free zone.

And now the sign hung on Durant Street

designates it a drug free zone as well.

 

But it really isn’t drug free, because

plenty of junkies still call People’s Park

sweet home, along with winos and drifters.

 

And as for nuclear free, what can this

possibly mean? The atom’s been split

and you’re not going to stuff that genie

back in the bottle.

 

The university students mix well

with lots of screwy types and tourists

along Telegraph Avenue. 

 

These days I feel this relative indifference 

amongst the population. Be they dismissive, 

laissez-faire, uninvolved or introverted, 

it’s as if they couldn’t care less about changes 

that don’t bode well for the human race.

 

It doesn’t bother them that skyscrapers pop up

like hotcakes in the area, bold structures

the Earth can’t afford anymore. They’ll apply

great strain on the electric grid and water

resources, depleting the Earth of materials

that should remain untouched for generations.

 

Collectively the people have no clout, perhaps

because they’ve forgotten how to shout.

 

And yet among them the geniuses we must

count on to dig us out of a hole. Without

the likes of Cal and its brilliant minds

there would be no solutions possible.

We would bow to pollution and consumption

and let humanity fade away.

 

One could look at our Earth as a huge

battery, its native riches immense,

barely tapped over billions of years.

And then comes modern man

with his heavy hand

draining it of life and limb.

 

We’re seeing Capitalism at its most vain,

but Capitalism isn’t the only culprit.

The cup from which midnight oil

is daily sipped is running perilously low.

 

And Berkeley keeps its fingers crossed.

 

 

Dr. Jekyll Can't Hide

 

The Old Monterey Book Company is closed,

so I scan the front window, igniting my

dynamite eyes.

 

What blasts back at me

is an antique lithograph of Walt Whitman

hung from a weathered wooden post inside.

 

The lithograph yanks at my heart. Here is

venerable Walt grown old and submissive,

gaunt and grizzled. It’s as if he’s arranging

a truce with some higher power, making

final arrangements for his funeral.

 

Directly across the street the Casa Bonifacio 

hotel once stood, where the impressionable 

and youthful Robert Louis Stevenson boarded

during his month-long visit to Monterey.

 

On most mornings he would leave his room

and stroll over to an eating establishment

long since replaced by the transit plaza,

where flags ripple and whap atop tall poles.

 

There he would engage the gregarious host,

Frenchman Jules Simoneau, in subjects

enchanting, fascinating, and sometimes dour.

They were joined by Monterey transplants,

Scotsmen, Portuguese, Chinese, Italian 

and Americans who were often mesmerized by 

the lively banter. Today a block away we have

boisterous beer guzzlers at the Bull and Bear.

They whoop it up while waiters sling plates  

of grub, and music parishioners regularly collect 

on the patio, listening to reggae or soulful blues.

 

Across from the transit plaza Yellow Cabs wait,

lined up along an adobe wall. Aromas from

Peet’s Coffee house fill my lungs with frolic.

 

I want new everything. I want Stevenson’s voice

to ring anew in my soul. I want Walt to come back

and fill my coffee cup with liquid gold. Old as new.

But I don’t want to watch frivolous cartoons

like Heckle and Jeckle the way I did as a boy.

They’re no longer cool, no longer pertinent.

 

Moreover Dr. Jekyll still can’t shake

his impetuous id Mr. Hyde, nor can I.

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly, as well as Associate Editor of Impact magazine and The Literary Monitor. His poetry and interviews have appeared in dozens of literary journals internationally, including Nimrod, Portland Review, 

Mandala Journal, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, Boston Poetry Magazine, The Journal, Gertrude, and Annapurna.  He has published a travel book, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems. He lives in Marina, California.