Sunday, September 25, 2016

Salted Caramel by Michael Gerleman
I bought a salted caramel,
plucked it from a bowl by the cash register.
I was attracted to the brown glow under the
white wax paper, and the caramel drops
seeping from the slit in the wrapping were
as promising as locking eyes with a stranger.

I swear I wasn’t thinking of you.
But when I popped the brown sweetness
in my mouth and began to probe it
with my tongue, the salty sweetness,
the smooth, firm, yet yielding body of
the caramel, reminded me, oh my lost love,
of my tongue in the hollow of your neck,
the salt on your skin at the end of the day,
and how my mouth could make you
dissolve, make you release your

salty sweetness to me.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A small wound weeps high on my inner thigh.
Like a lidless eye, it seeps and oozes,
leaking from the juncture of leg and hip.
The clear, greasy fluid glues my pant leg
to my flesh and stains my white underwear.
I don’t know why it is there or what it means.
Like Jacob, I have wrestled angels through the night.
Perhaps one has touched my thigh with a wing,
and like the still, silent, statues of saints
gazing up into the vaults of stone churches
with tears tracing trails down their plaster faces,
my wound is a miraculous event
leaking an oil for the anointing of kings.
We all battle with angels and demons,
and while demons can be defeated and
vanquished, it is well-known that
it is the angels we fight the hardest
who leave the lasting wounds.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Priestess of Morgan Boulavard

Her skin is tough, and wrinkled
like she is  some Mayan woman living
on top of the Andes exposed to wind and sun.
Her arms swing in great half circles,
as she walks along the side of the road,
her cracked lips muttering prayers, or rants,
or maybe spells summoning the loose change
out of the pockets of those of us she
stops in a Stripes parking lot as
we emerge from our cars to buy tacos,
or as we sit on a park bench watching birds.
“Can I have some change? I’m goin’ to K-Mart
to buy some hamburger meat” is her
usual line, and she says it with one
arm extended to you, yellow nails
on her fingers, the palm of her hand cracked,
like an old cement sidewalk.

She walks the same route every day,
as constant and as regular as the tide
or a sunrise, and her walk is metronome steady,
almost unworldly. She moves not sweating
in the heat of the sun, powered by
her madness, her addictions, her fear.
To see her it to feel the world tilt for a moment,
the battles roiling in her brain are visible
in her eyes and so fierce is her need,
it draws you to her like a black hole.

In another age, she would have inspired legends.
She is walking the roads looking for her lover
they would say. She can tell fortunes, but went
mad from looking too far into the future
they would tell their children. You must
give her a quarter or she will spit into the
dust on your car tires causing them to go
flat they would whisper. She might have
been a priestess, instead of the lady at
Stripes who accepts your change while
she looks at the other world she sees
just over your shoulder.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

 Three months without one and it's still there,
the itch beneath the scab, the nagging urge,
tap-tapping against my molars, and sending my tongue searching.between my lips for
the cotton, paper, and smoke.

The ancient priests knew the value of smoke,
saw the divinity in the ever expanding cloud, traced the prophecies in it's curls, and realized that our poor wingless prayers rode the rising
plumes like hawks gliding on thermal currents, circling their way heavenward.

So don't congratulate me on not smoking.
I have lost my prayers, my ritual, my vespers,
matins, and lauds, the punctuation of my days, the moments of respite, and  the fuel of my future plans. 

It is only the tube-brearhers, carrying their 
life support systems behind them on
two-wheeled carts, struggling across
the vast distance that is the doctor's 
waiting room who keep me from 
the box,  the cellophane, the foil and
the flame.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"The Serious Moonlight"

The serious moonlight glazes the tree leaves,
a frost without warmth, a worn silver plating.
Moonlight’s magic is transformative.
As photographers once dipped blank sheets
of square paper into chemical baths, 
and waited patiently for an image
to emerge from the blank whiteness,
so does moonlight bring us a new world
washed in her pale, cold flames.
This silver star tied to a naked branch,
is so much more under the moon’s caress,
than the limp leaf that dangles helplessly
in the breeze, beaten by the brutal sun.
The diseased branches, the sickly arms
of dying trees imploring for help from
a pitiless, blue, and indifferent sky,
become terrible and wicked
when bathed in moonlight.
We make our wishes upon the stars,
but it is the moon who answers.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Portrait of the Poet

My mirror’s nature is mutable,
Its function changes with
the length of the day's shadows.
In the morning it is a mother
with a checklist for the day:
face shaven,
teeth brushed,
shirt tucked in (like a badly made bed).
It tells me, “You are ready to set out
into the careless, brutal world.”

In the evening it is a trusted
counselor, dispensing advice
for the night:
“Yes” to this shirt,
“No” to that haircut,
“Yes, you may catch someone’s eye.”
(My mirror isn’t afraid to lie.)

But oh, that 3:00 A.M.
mirror is the mirror of
unvarnished truth, of
hard and harsh honesty.
My flesh is collapsing like
the Greek economy. My
joints ache like the Tin Man’s,
and my face cracks like
an old pie crust. “I am
a troll now,” I think.

A troll. Back in the 80s,
when AIDS was the great
unsolved mystery, and it
seemed A Flock of Seagulls
would be a major band,
a troll is the name I used
for the old men who roosted at
the bar and cackled at each other
like grackles on a telephone wire.

Yes, my 3:00 A.M. mirror
is the teller of savage truths.
But here is another truth.
The eyes are still the eyes
of my youth. The old hopes,
the old longings, the old
defiance is still there.

Yes, I am a troll.
I am a troll and
I shall linger under
bridges, tossing
riddles up at the club-bound
smooth-faced youths
and cackling like a grackle
at the puzzlement in their faces,
as I eat the Billy Goats Gruff.

Friday, August 14, 2015

100 Word Poem

A  brown husk, an old cocoon
adheres to my wall, a gaping hole,
an open mouth marking the spot
where something segmented,
with wings thinner than sparrow’s breath,
with scrambling legs, and unfurling antennae,
emerged knowing all that it would ever know.

Consider the caterpillar who wove this shroud.
Did it understand the impending death of
its present self?  Did it understand the voracious
feeding on plants, the devouring of the leaves offered
to him, communion wafers, life,
nothing symbolic here, being consumed,
destroyed, and transformed to fuel
a future transformation?

 Life consumes life; death is a pause between bites.