Con Game

One day

Peter and I

Plotted a con game.

I would lure a rich man somewhere

With the promise of romance, but before anything could happen

Peter would discover us and make a scene

Until the unlucky target forked over cash.

That night we took the subway to the West Village

I went into a fancy bar, all mahogany and brass

Having never set foot in such an establishment before.

I sat down

Lit up an aromatic Gaulois and

Smiled at my reflection in the mirror.

I looked sophisticated.

In a very few minutes

A plump man with long sideburns and horn rimmed glasses said hello

I am a writer, he said, name is Seymour. I am

A friend of Kerouac and Ginsberg.

I was impressed

In spite of myself

After a few drinks

Seymour invited me to his apartment

Up the street and

Peter sneaked behind us.

Once inside

Seymour poured a glass of wine and tried to kiss me just as

Peter hammered loudly on the door.

Seymour opened up and Peter

Stormed in.

He shouted that Seymour was stealing his wife and

Threatened lawsuits and police.

Seymour didn’t seem intimidated

But he took out his wallet anyway and

Handed Peter a twenty dollar bill

After which he escorted us out.

We never did repeat the con because

Although it was amusing

It was an awful lot of work for not

Very much money.

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To my Daughter

Let me say first about my daughter

That she is beautiful and smart

That she is compassionate and fair-minded

Creative and forgiving

Funny and loving.

Let me say second

That my judgment in this matter is not

Influenced by our consanguinity

But is a product of cold scrutiny

Over a period of many years.

You can take my word for it.

The third thing I want to say

Is more difficult

It’s that when I am gone

And there is a whole world in which I do not exist

Indeed this very world

I hope she remembers that I loved her

And that my love survives

My absence.

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A Cough

You know

I’ve been insouciant as anything

Waiting out this virus

Until I coughed

Like I did last night

Just as I was falling asleep

A dry cough

And I sat up in bed with my heart skittering

The way it does when someone sneaks up behind

And touches your shoulder

Or you are suddenly startled

Out of a dream.

It seems that I only think I am

Calm in the face of chaos

But all it takes is one cough

To set me right.

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Free Time

Now that I am not busy every day with

Errands and shopping and working out at the gym

Or driving miles and miles to important destinations

Now that I am an isolate confined to walking close to home

Picking up the phone occasionally

I find myself plunged into study, examining subjects

Just on a whim

Because my time is cheap

Almost throwaway

And if I spend four hours reading about Japanese contemporary art

Or watch a video explaining the life cycle of a bat

Or finish a book about Venice I began two years ago

The cost is nil

I have time to occupy

Hours stretching out before me, I am

Abandoned by mandates and responsibilities

And consequences.

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Chasing a Bargain

When I hear

That something is the best deal ever

So I must

Snap it up before it’s gone for good

When I hear that

Some item is selling

Below cost and that

They are giving it away


I must admit I am tempted

Even if I never imagined wanting the thing before

At any price.

But I resist because I hear my dead mother’s voice

Repeating her favorite cautionary adages

Of which she had many.

I ignore most of them

But in this case I listen.

Don’t chase a bargain, she says

Then asks in a skeptical tone of voice

What do you need it for?

And I have to acknowledge that indeed

I do not need this particular bargain

And I am already out of breath

From chasing happiness.

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Weather or Not

After tantalizing me with

A robin

It snowed eight inches last night, creating

A winter wonderland

Which I might have admired three months ago, even

Buckled on my cross-country skis and

Flung myself across the meadow working up heat.

But today, weeks

After I put away my boots

Stored my wooly leggings and

Kicked my mittens under the bed

Today I am not happy to relive

A white Christmas

There’s no tree

No lights

And most important

Not one fucking gift.

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Coming Up in the World

Until I was ten years old we lived in a stiff dark apartment

Furnished with horsehair-stuffed mohair-covered settees

It was in the Bronx, on a mean street

Next to the El on Webster Avenue.

The train roared and clattered past our windows

Every few minutes

Shaking the dishes.

But in 1954 my father

Who was a struggling lawyer

Won an important case in the New York courts

And received a big fee for his efforts.

So he bought a turquoise Buick convertible with

Leather seats and

We moved to the Grand Concourse

My mother left all our things behind

Bought Danish modern sofas and chairs

New wall-to-wall carpets and

Silk drapes.

I had my own room.

We didn’t see much of our old neighbors

And friends after that

Because we had come up in the world

And that was the way

The world worked.

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