On a lazy Saturday morning

I wake to the smell

of coffee

waffling into my nose

while I read

my favorite writer

hoping my restless fingers

will start punching keys

so memories

can pass through my head

onto paper

fire engine sounds

cranked with emotion

boiling my blood

into a stream of words

too hot to touch

and too loud

to hear

Panic and pandemonium

shake me from my bed

when each word

falls

like a ton of lead

It’s raining

metal

in my room

with weights

so heavy

they cannot be moved

I’ll write the last line

in this tomb

until the words have vanished

from my cluttered room

And then…

I’ll open my door

and walk

into the bright afternoon.

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Cats on a Summer Evening

Cats sit at the end of their driveways

in the summertime evening

“Here puss…puss,” I say.

but they don’t move

They’re waiting

for what?

I do not know

In the doldrums

or the woods

I wait

wishing the winds would blow

but when a third of your life is gone

you might take a moment

to bask in the warm air

Remembering…

Next year

the forecast

will be stormy

with a touch of fog

but right now

I’m enjoying

blue skies

Neighbors mow their lawns

and trim their hedges

while cats sit at the end of their driveways

waiting…

for what?

I do not know.

Scalping Sprinklers with a Sage

Find a blue-collar man who is aware of the sensitivities of other men and you have found a sage. -Intellectual Shaman

Ambition can be marvelous, but it seldom is. It traps men who think they can steal from the snare. Pete had an “oh, screw it” attitude, but he could also get things done. He wasn’t a nihilist, but he didn’t have any grand ideas about life either.

I was 21 and I could talk to him about cars or just about anything. He would listen and make it all better by saying something like “Fuck young man, you just need to get laid. Take Ryan for instance; we got em drunk and took him to the strip club. And when he was tryin to take care of business in the bathroom, I paid five girls to jump him.” Pete cackled with laughter, but I knew him better than that. His wife loved him and he was kind to her and to his dog.

Pete knew how to talk the talk, which is more important on a blue-collar job than you might think. Nobody says what they mean. It’s 99 percent bull shit and the guys know what’s true and what isn’t because they’ve been doing it for so long. To say what is, is taboo.

Pete walked with a sense of humor, a swagger that annoyed the boss, but put a smile on everyone else’s face. He wore a John Deere hat and tried to act like a hillbilly. But if you talked to him, he always had something to offer that pointed you in the right direction.

“Well you sons-of-bitches, we’re scalping sprinklers today,” he said.

“How many?” One of the college kids asked.

“I want at least 200 scalps from you,” Pete said.

“You’re kidding.”

“Stop your complaining soldier; we have work to do.”

There’s something nihilistic about maintenance. I’ve never understood the hair trimmer, the auto mechanic, or the janitor who work jobs to keep everything running and looking nice. They’re needed, but how much oil can you change, or hair can you cut, or bathroom mess can you clean up before you want to let things go. The world is a mess and maintaining it can drive a man mad. It might just be me; it probably is me. That’s why when the boss suggested I should do maintenance for a career, I thought he was joking.

Pete unlocked the silver box and turned the sprinklers on so we could find them. In seconds, every man swooped down and scalped each head with a dull knife. There’d be dirt and roots hanging from the grass scalp when we threw them into our buckets.

This went on for hours until our knees were soaked, our backs were sore, and we’d cut so many scalps our trucks couldn’t hold them.

“Back to the fort!” Pete yelled.

I’ve rarely seen ambitious men work for just enough money to be free while avoiding serious responsibility, but Pete managed this with style.

When I started working at the golf course and I was unfamiliar with blue collar bs, I began to suspect that 75% of the interactions I had with the pro shop were practical jokes. I was paranoid.

“Jose to Andy…Jose to Andy”

The voice coming over my radio sounded like a fake Mexican accent. So, I attempted a better Mexican accent I’d learned in my Spanish class in high school.

“This is Andres.”

The voice sounded confused. “I need you to rake the sand trap near the number 10 green.”

“No Bueno,” I said. And I walked into the pro shop. “Which one of you guys is screwing with me?” I asked.

“We’re not screwing with you; you just screwed with Jose.” And they all roared with laughter. The entire golf course probably thought I was a racist asshole.

Pete met me in the break room later that day. “Jose was pretty confused,” he said.

He knew it was me, but I think he realized I had just made an ass out of myself. Pete wasn’t bothered though. He changed out of his work boots and put on his golf shoes.

“My wife keeps telling me I play too much golf, but she didn’t realize I had a mistress before I married her.”

Pete had a sensitivity for people. He could tell where they were at and he knew things about them, even things they didn’t know about themselves.

Billy was no longer a Boy

When you’re a young man looking for advice, it’s freely given. And knowing what to hold onto is a kind of wisdom. -Intellectual Shaman

For some men, their worlds grow larger and for others, their worlds begin to shrink. Billy smoked 2 packs a day and his world was the golf course.

The weekend shift is only 4 hours. A handful of high schoolers and myself chose to work on Sundays because it was more laid back. Billy was in charge. He arrived early in his red Camaro and pulled his clubs out of his car.

“I’ve got a men’s club tournament after our shift,” he said. “So, you boys better hustle out there.”

It’s strange how the boss sets the tone for the crew. Even on the weekends, the men hold to his routines. Billy popped the cap off the dry-erase marker and wrote assignments on the board. I’m not sure if his acting was intentional or just something he had observed for years.

“Andy, entrance.”

“Matt, course prep.”

“Jordan, sand traps.”

We hustled to the maintenance shed. It was the same routine every Sunday. When we finished, we walked back to the clubhouse.

“I got my nephew so drunk yesterday,” Billy bragged. “He turned 21 and I bought him his first beer. He didn’t realize that one beer easily turns into two.”

“I just turned 21,” I said.

“I’ll buy you a beer,” Billy offered.

“No thanks, I don’t drink.”

Billy looked hurt. “Nobody’s ever refused me before.”

“Well, I have church after this and it’s Mother’s Day. Getting plastered would sadden her.”

“Just one?” Billy asked. I could tell he really wanted to get me drunk.

“Didn’t you just tell us about your nephew?” I asked.

He gave me a sheepish grin.

It wasn’t long after that that somebody broke into the restaurant and stole a bunch of booze.

Bottles of Jack Daniels were lying everywhere, like somebody had a party right after.

When the police arrived, Billy checked in. “Are you going to log all of that whiskey as evidence or can I have it?” The officer hadn’t considered this. “If it’s okay with the restaurant,” he said.

Apparently, the booze was contaminated or at least that’s what Billy told me and he piled most of the bottles into the trunk of his car. We didn’t see Billy until 17 days later and he came back to work with a terrific hang-over and more drunk stories than I care to tell.

I usually played golf in the hot afternoons and Billy always sat at the open bar, watching the golfers tee off. He just sat there for hours, waiting for somebody with talent. His cigarette butts filled the ash trays and a column of blue smoke billowed above him.

I crushed it off the tee and Billy clapped. He did this with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. I turned to look at him and there was a big smile on his face.

I Wrote My Grandma a Letter

Hi Grandma,

I thought I’d write you a letter and tell you about things. I’m on summer break and enjoying my free time. The days are warm and it feels good to be home. I just finished traveling through Europe with my friend and his sister. We went to Barcelona, Nice, Rome, and Switzerland. The swiss are the most hospitable. They spend about 90 minutes eating, which is a great tradition that we don’t have in the US.

I’ve been thinking about sending you a letter for some time, but there’s always something that distracts me. I think of you every week, your place, and the good times growing up. I have grandpa’s typewriter and I write with it ever so often. It feels like I have a connection when I type and I like to hear the sound.

I’ve been working on my doctorate in education this summer. When I have a break, I like to take walks on the other side of the river. I’m still working on the girl situation. There are a couple good prospects, but I think men in our family marry late; and that’s okay with me. I’ve been writing short stories and poems. I always think of grandpa when I do it. He was a great story-teller and so maybe I have some of his blood in me.

I recently won 3rd place in a poetry competition and they gave me one hundred dollars. I don’t understand their business model, but I’m okay with it. I thought I’d include the poem that won with this letter. When I think of grandpa, I think of his favorite movie Darby O’Gill and the Little People. I wrote a leprechaun story too that I think you will enjoy reading. Well, this letter is already getting too long, but I just wanted to let you know that I love you and think about you often.

Your grandson,

Andy

Number 2 in Hole Number 2

Waking up before 4 AM is unnatural; at least it defies my nature. I nuked my burritos in the microwave and grabbed a Diet Dr. Pepper for my run to the golf course. The crew passed me in their cars; a bronco, firebird, exhibition, infinity, and ranger.

I punched in.

Billy was doing his crossword puzzle and smoking a cigarette.

Pete was taking a nap.

Jordan was making pancakes.

Dave was watching wheel of fortune.

And Bill was reading the National Inquirer.

Steve popped the end of his dry-erase marker and wrote assignments on the board.

“Andy, entrance.”

“Billy, greens.”

“Jordan, sand traps.”

I got up and put my rain-gear on. I looked at the walls where the men hung their things. Names were written everywhere in permanent ink, but there was impermanence there. So many had passed through this place; so, I breathed a sigh of relief.

It started to rain and I walked with the rest of the guys to the maintenance barn. 1985 was the password to get in; it was the year Billy graduated high school. Things are so slow to change there; I wonder if it’s still the same.

Dave inspected the mowers. “You gashed the hydraulic lines when you backed in Billy!” I could sense a fit coming on. “Watch the fuck where you’re going next time!” He picked up a broom and threw it across the maintenance shed. “It’ll take me at least half a day to repair!”

Billy got into the other mower and lit a cigarette with indifference. “Asshole.”

“What did you call me?” Dave screamed.

And Billy roared out of there. The crew had to stay ahead of the golfers, especially if they were near the greens.

When I walked onto the number 2 green, it was still dark. I put my hand into the cup to change it. SQUASH. Some asshole had done number 2 in hole number 2 and I rushed to wipe the stink off. It was going to be a shitty day.

Golfing with my Uncle

Golf is a game that tells people more about themselves than they would care to know. -Intellectual Shaman

My uncle was a short Irish catholic with a leprechaun grin. He’d take me golfing.

“Be ready to suit up in the morning,” he said. “We’re going to catch the early bird.”

In middle school, I was not an early riser. I’d be stiff for the first 9 holes and I’d tell my uncle.

“You know what this is?” He said. “The smallest violin.”

Those mornings were the best of my life. He’d pick me up and I knew I had to get my clubs into his SUV in less than 30 seconds or he would drive off. My uncle maintained a religious schedule down to the second. He followed his own rules and neglected the traffic laws. We’d be driving along and he’d tell me, “We have 3 minutes and 42 seconds to get there to beat my fastest time.” He’d be driving 15 over the speed limit and see a rusted bolt along the roadside. Then he’d slam on the breaks and jump out.

“Hold that, will you?” And we’d be a minute slower than anticipated.

“Christ!” He said. “The traffic was terrible today.”

My uncle was bowlegged when he walked. He entered the pro shop and pulled out his credit card.

“The Berry twosome,” He said.

“Yeah, I have you down for 7:30. Are you walking or riding?”

“We’re walkin; we have to play the whole course.”

“That’ll be 16 dollars for you and 12 for the kid. You’re up when you’re ready.”

“Remember Andy, you drive for show and you putt for dough.”

We’d walk out to the practice green and he’d straddle his ball with his mallet putter. Two putts and he was ready to tee off.

The marshal on the 1st hole checked his card.

“What’s the record here?” My uncle asked.

“54.”

My uncle always bogeyed the 1st hole. “Put me down for a fiver,” he said.

“I need to get some new golf clubs,” I told him.

“It’s not what you have, but what you do with them,” he replied.

He teed up on the par 3 and bladed his 9 iron down the fairway. It rolled towards the pin and slammed in.

“A hole in 1!” I cried. “We’d better take a picture.”

“I’ll tell you what; you break 80 and I’ll buy you a new golf club.”

It was a heck of a round with burgers afterward. My uncle added up the score card.

“You broke the record today,” he laughed. “For 9 holes.”

I don’t know what it is

I don’t know what it is

before I start to write

Is it inspiration

or nerve

that I need?

I’m not intimidated

by the blank page

I just know

that words can’t be forced

I can’t write all day

and I don’t want to

It isn’t work

or some joyless activity

If I get thoughts down

by the end of the day

small problems

get even smaller

and I rest my head

on my pillow

Knowing…

My words

gave me

Meaning.

Mentors and Morons

The men who want to be mentors seldom are and those who never take the time are gods to boys who need them. -Intellectual Shaman

I stuttered growing up and spending time with someone similarly afflicted always messed with my head. Larry was 6 feet 5 inches tall, a towering black man with a big heart. He always peddled some sort of advice or tried to sell me his golf clubs and gear that were three sizes too big.

“Just try em out,” he said. “See if you like em.” They’re Mizuno blades; worth 800, but I’ll give you them for 5. I’m buyin the MP-32s—latest model. They’re sweet.” He said this with a kind grin. Larry and I took golf lessons together from the same coach.

At that time, Larry was a marshal and I was a cart kid.

I was feeding range balls into the washer when Daryl and Larry entered.

“Just look at him work,” Daryl said. “He works twice as hard as you and gets paid twice as less.” Does that seem fair?”

Hey, come on,” Larry said. “Do…do…do you think I have anything to do with how he gets paid.”

“I’m just messin with you, guy.”

“Pro shop to Larry…pro shop to Larry.”

“This is Larry.”

“There’s a guy who’s snuck on hole number 10 without paying. Go collect.”

Larry looked at his radio helplessly.

“I guess you aren’t overpaid,” Daryl said.

Larry slunk out of the driving range to go tell-off the outlaw. Every golfer I know has snuck-on at one time or another. It wasn’t long until we heard more radio chatter.

“Larry to pro shop. The gu…gu…guy isn’t moooving.”

Fat Tom walked by. “That was a load of shit you just said Larry.”

“Tom, can you go help him out, a guy snuck on,” Daryl said.

“Oh, he did, did he? I’ll crucify that son-of-a-bitch. And he’s giving one of our marshals lip? That guy will never set foot on this course again.”

“You might not want to threaten him and just insist he pays,” Daryl counseled. “The course wants repeat business.”

“I’ll give him the business!” Tom yelled. And his fat face turned blotchy red. He was an ex-cop who never really left the policy force.

I went back to wash more golf carts. From the barn, I could see Tom had the golfer with one arm pinned behind his back.

“March!” He ordered. And the poor bastard got escorted towards the pro shop.

“Do you know how much money I have?” The man yelled. “I’ll sue your ass!”

“And to think you couldn’t have spent 20 dollars for a round of golf. Anybody who threatens me is a sorry son-of-a-bitch. I’ve got buddies who know just what to do with you.”

I looked at the guy. He was having a really bad day and he’d just picked a fight with the worst kind; a man who was nostalgic for his sadistic past.

There is a window

There is a window

you can’t see through

because…

opaque

brain fog

clutters

your screen

with self-sabotage

booze

and trivial tv

Let inspiration

clean it

with poets and sages

or your own thoughts

that were hidden there

Get alone

with something

that speaks

to you

and

Reject

the swarms

of the soulless

Trust yourself

to stay in bed

for hours

in a dark room

until venturing

outside

is

a rebirth

into

bright

sunshine.