Careful scrutiny

I’d wanted to write
about night herons
and their delight in the lowest tides
their thankless patience
their red eyes and startling cries in the gloom of night

or the careful scrutiny of a gull’s eye
under the august sun
as the tide goes out
and sanderling plunder the wrack-line at my feet

instead there’s the moon rising, lopsided and yellow
the promise of a little prince, enjoyed together
this deliberate probing of a heart’s memory
and the shared revelation
of a whimbrel’s decurved bill.

Our options have recently changed


You’ve reached Laura in the Rental Assistance Unit. I’m not able to take your call right now.

Probably because I’m avoiding you.

Before leaving a message, please listen to the following options, as they’ve recently changed:

If you’re calling to request that I send a letter to your foodstamp/welfare worker verifying your rental share, press one (#1) to tell them to get off their lazy butt and walk upstairs to my desk to get it themself. It’s not my job to do their job, too.

If you’re calling to give me some lame excuse about why you haven’t paid your rent in six months and are about to be evicted, press two (#2) and realize that I won’t believe a single sad story you’ll tell me.

If you’re calling me for the fifth time in as many minutes, just hang up and accept that there’s a reason I’m not picking up the phone.

Like, maybe, I’m avoiding you.

If you’re calling from Georgia and want me to lie to my boss to save your ass, press three (#3) and reconcile yourself to the fact that you screwed up big this time and I won’t stick my neck out for you, ever, again.

If you’re calling to rat out your neighbor/ex-girlfriend/sister because he/she drives a nicer car than you/has more tv’s than you/pissed you off/kicked you out yesterday, please press four (#4) until you’re willing to put something in writing and sign your name to it. I love making fraud referrals with a real name attached.

If you’re calling to explain to me how you’re only “technically” married, press five (#5) and take a deep breath. I’ve heard it all before and this better be good!

If you make more money than me and still can’t manage to pay your rent each month then press six (#6) ’cause, really, I’m a social worker now and should have taken that job on Wall St. instead.

If you’re just lonely and need someone to talk to, dial x6023 to talk with Linda who’s bored and doesn’t have her fair share of nutty clients, frankly.

If you’re calling about bedbugs, dial seven (#7) and thank you for the warning before I do our next home visit.

If, however, you’re calling to thank me for my compassion and hard work on your behalf, please hold, as your call will be transferred directly to my supervisor.”

; )

– – – – – – – – – – – –


Memento mori

There is no need for me to keep a skull on my desk,

to stand with one foot upon the ruins of Rome,

or wear a locket with the sliver of a saint’s bone.

It is enough to realize that every common object

in this sunny little room will outlive me.*

Yet another vacant lot in Asbury Park where urban blight is being reimagined daily as art (or kitsch?) The long abandoned foundation pillars were wrapped in colorful fabric months ago by a local artist; the stone cairns and mementos left behind lately seem a futile offering to the fickle gods of real estate development.

*from Memento Mori by Billy Collins