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BY Michael

06/01 Direct Link
It Figures #66

Absent Without Leave, that’s me this morning. I made the coffee. I did roll call, but I wasn’t there. A body stood on the parade ground wearing my clothes, but on closer inspection I found it was only the clothes stuffed with straw, wadded newspapers, and a couple of old Diet Coke cans. I was nowhere to be found.

I don’t know how I am to get along without me this morning. I have things to do. I have writing, research. I have to visit my daughter. What will she think when I take off my hat?
06/02 Direct Link
It Figures #67

Lately my figures of speech have lacked enthusiasm for life, so today I have decided to use a big word and ameliorate the situation. Today I bring you Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed.

BEBT leapt
From his bed this morning
The orange clock digits
Flashing an echo
Across his brow.

His angle of momentum was
So clever
That the covers landed perfectly
Making the bed as his feet
Hit the floor.

Then he showered,
Sang, shaved,
And briskly toweled dry.

He brushed his teeth
While combing his hair
And put his pants on
Both legs at the same time
06/03 Direct Link
It Figures #68

Pipe dream
Is an ethereal character,
A smoky figure
Whose genesis is clay.

He melts
Into a sunny hillside,
Locust blossoms
Shaken loose from tall trees
Slowly covering the grass.

Pipe dream
Imagines he hears someone snoring
He turns his head catching the echo
And smiles in his dream

He scales
A frozen mountain
Frost clotting his beard
His face blown back and
Fingers stiff against the sun.

Pipe dream
Rides cloud shapes
Over the horizon
Where he quietly rains out
To walk home.

Pipe dream
Sinks lightly into the earth
Planting himself,
Tickling rocks and roots.
06/04 Direct Link
It Figures #69

Empty Pockets is
Inside out,
Dangling like a tossed flag
On an amateur football play.

We assume he is
Looking for fill,
That he feel the emptiness
Keenly
And yearns for a lush pocketful.

But what if Empty Pockets
Delights in the light
Empty
Non-stained pocket lining?

What if he doesn’t want
His fingers to mingle with money,
Keys, a cell phone, or a
Half-eaten
Whopper?

What if he struts the street
In defiant statement,
Wearing cargo pants with seven
Different pocket linings hanging
Out
Deliberately Empty?

What if
He finds fulfillment
In his glare of empty?
06/05 Direct Link
It Figures #70

“What if, you are always about what if,” The Crone points out to me. “It sounds like a dog, a whatiff chewing on your leg. A big brown slobbering wooly whatiff pawing you. That is your problem, the whatiff. You are always worried about this whatiff or that whatiff and most of them never materialize, but you give them life with the energy you put into them.”

I have to agree with her. As she rants, I am thinking of the other little saying she taught me, “The wolf you feed is the one that eats you.”
06/06 Direct Link
It Figures #71

Face the Music
Is on the stage
Where there is no music.

Mouth open over a microphone,
Brain paused,
He does not know how
To answer the question
He has just received.

His first impulse,
And he’s thanking
His prescription drugs
For impulse control,
Was to just tell the truth.

“Hell yes, I did that,”
He wanted to say.
“What do you think I am?
A fucking saint?
I made a mistake.
It was stupid.”

But he pauses.

Though he knows
He will have to face the music,
He also knows it is customary
To first
Dance.
06/07 Direct Link
It Figures #72

Handwriting on the Wall.

The Whatif stares at it.
A castoff verbal construction
Of a mongrel, he cannot read
The Handwriting.

And it is too
High on the wall
To simply piss on.

This leaves us
A dark urban equivalent
Of a tree fallen in the forest.

The handwriting however
May be under consideration
By a different kind of beast.

I mean the sound can exist
Just for the sake of the sound.
It comes and goes with
At least as much consequence
As you or I.

But the handwriting
That cannot be read
Becomes something else.
06/08 Direct Link
It Figures #73

In the Bag
Punches and shifts.
He can’t stand up.

In the Bag presses
His hands out against
The sides of the bag,
But it is a stretchy
Rough burlap
He cannot break through.

This morning his eyes are gummy,
And the bag is damp from the dew.
If he turns his head
He can see part of a tree branch.

They are waking up.
He can smell cooking,
And he wonders if he will get fed.

He hears someone singing
As the hands lift him
Against arms
Against body
And heave him again
Over the mule.
06/09 Direct Link
It Figures #74

In Your Face
Is all about
Your
Personal space.

You’d think it would help
To understand this,
But it doesn’t.
Because when
In Your Face
Gets to
That mode,

She is flipping your
Switches and pushing your buttons
All over the place.

With her eyes locked on yours
And her mouth locked on your…
Well on your face...

This isn’t any love fest you know.
In Your Face is about
Personal power.
In Your Face is an
Emotional-sexual
Human rights grab,
A one-on-one
Assault on five senses at once
Designed to shut down
All cognitive response systems.
06/10 Direct Link
It Figures #75

Knee Jerk,
The young
And good-looking
New Reflexologist
On the hospital staff
Quickly
Became quite popular.

But then,
Something happened.

Her friends fell away.
Even the young male
Radiology escorts
Stopped dropping by her
Well-trimmed cubicle
Within a week.

As it turned out
She was a jerk.

If she liked your chair
She would just take it.

You could
Say hello in passing
And she would pause
As if her whole attention were on you,
But something was wrong.

Her face would be curiously blank
And she would suddenly
Dump her coffee on your head,
Laughing maniacally.
06/11 Direct Link
It Figures #76

Loose Cannon likes his work. You can tell by the way he throws himself into it.

This morning when Loose Cannon burst into the Board Room, the CFO stopped in mid-sentence, his coffee cup halfway to his lips. The marketing manager just paused, knowing it would pass.

The secretary, who was text messaging the COO, fumbled her phone.

Loose Cannon leapt onto the conference table, struck a theatric pose, and sang (in a very loud voice), “When I kiss your lips, I smell trouble brewing.”

Then he bowed to the IT director, and bounded out the door.
06/12 Direct Link
My father clips me on the jaw. It is a good solid punch for an 84-year-old man. It is playful though, and I don’t really feel it. He is trying to apologize for giving me a hard time earlier that day. He is apologizing for all the talk about kicking my ass.

He misses the company of men. He is gentle by nature, but he lived as a strong physical man and worked all his life with other strong physical men. There is a kind of play that goes on in that space. You don’t see that at “the office.”
06/13 Direct Link
It Figures #77

What is it? June 13.
Today we do
Up the Creek!

Up the geek!

Really, if you are
Up the creek
Without a paddle,
All you have to do is float,
Go with the flow
Down
Stream.
Now if you were down the Creek,
Like this Geek,
You could not get back,
But I would assume you would be somewhere.
Creeks always end Somewhere.

See Sea Shell City!

Unless the devious little devil has disappeared
Underground,
Beneath a slippery rock
Leaving you in the middle
Of nowhere,
Down the creek
Without a paddle,
Motor, pole
Or sail.
06/14 Direct Link
It Figures #78

Quality Time
Is a bright red
Pristine
1958 Buick
Convertible
Parked in the shade
Of a giant maple
On a hill
Overlooking the lake
At the family picnic.

QT has white leather upholstery
And fat white sidewalls.
No one knows who drove QT
To the picnic,
But we all agree Quality time
Is one peach of an automobile.

While the day grows,
Teens migrate
Up the hill to where QT dozes.

Slowly, they begin to surround it,
Leaning against it,
And growing bolder,
They sit on hot fenders,
Smoking
As the sun slips
Sizzling into the lake.
06/15 Direct Link
It’s a beautiful Friday. I don’t feel like doing a figure of speech today. I’m goofing off. It’s a special Friday, because I have no car. It makes me view my environment and my life differently. My daughter called last night, in tears. Her ’85 Cabriolet had puked its coolant all over the Meijer parking lot. She and her boy friend were stranded with groceries. So I made the thirty-mile drive and rescue, complete with the AAA card good for free towing. And I gave her my car. I shouldn’t need it until Monday. And, today is a beautiful Friday.
06/16 Direct Link
It Figures #79

Rule of Thumb
Pops his lips
And sucks the sauce
Off a barbecued chicken bone,
Maull's, St. Louis style,
And tosses it
Behind the throne.

Pausing,
He admires his purple thumb,
The royal gleam
In the chicken gore light.

This, he muses,
Is the thumb
That holds down the empire.

He smiles regally,
Looks down at a map of the realm
On a table next to him
And rolls the thumb over a small village
Leaving a dark print.

He leans back
Thumb held aloft
And cocks his head
Admiring his work.

“Mine,” he cackles.
“All mine.”
06/17 Direct Link
It Figures #80

Riding Shotgun
Settles back
In the passenger seat
And waits
For his driver.

He looks over
At the steering wheel,
Its leather cush,
And his eyes scan
The exotic instrument panel.

His hand caresses
The chrome gear shift,
And in his mind he
Nimbly flicks it through the gears,
His left leg clutching in precision,
While the hungry motor slings
The car ahead.

He notes the keys
Dangling quietly from the ignition,
And he feels an urge
To slide
Across to that other bucket.

He wonders
What would it be like to drive
And not just ride.
06/18 Direct Link
I’ve slept in late, way too late and the sun is pounding the carpet, while mothers lazily carry children to the pool. Their voices rise up through the screen and even through the blinds I have closed to keep out the sun which will raise the temperature in here another ten degrees, if I let it. But the air is cool, and the apartment with the blinds closed holds at a quiet seventy-two degrees. A weed whacker growls, and a car blips to life. My eyes closing, I lay my head back. I got up too early. Way too early.
06/19 Direct Link
It Figures #81

Sour Grapes
Sits on a lovely painted bench
In a lovely park
On a lovely day.

She is wearing a long white dress
And has a parasol slung over her shoulder.
Her head is cocked, inspecting something
Next to her left shoe
Which is crossed over her right
Discreetly at the ankle.

A book is open on her lap,
David Hume’s
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.

As I walked by,
She looked up
Rattling me with
An open blue-eyed smile.

I nodded and shuffled on,
Terrified, actually.

There is no way she
Would be interested in me.
06/20 Direct Link
It was a 3:00 AM phone call. I pawed the nightstand until I found the phone, opened it, and missed the call. It was my son who never calls at 3 A.M. I called the number back; no answer. I had borrowed his truck that day, leaving him a gift of a tank of gas for its use. I had some trouble working the lights. I wondered if… I called again. He answered, on the phone with his mother, trying to find his way home. He had gone driving and had gotten lost, drunk on his new tank of gas.
06/21 Direct Link
It Figures #82

Tie the Knot
Is struggling.
I can see him in my mind,
Or
Is it a she?
He or she is clearly
Bent over wrestling with shoe strings,
Running shoe strings,

Or,

No,
He is fighting his necktie
In the mirror,
The heavy end of the tie
Flying the knot for the
Sixth time because
It won’t come out right.

The ends are uneven.

Worse,
The small end dangles
An inch below the large end.

While the lady struggles
With shoe laces that insist
On flying loose as she runs,
Wild laces sipping water
From passing puddles.
06/22 Direct Link
My father the carpenter. I treasure the things he has made. With one exception. The pair of armchair coffee pedestals he made for my mother is so cute. Unfortunately-- you must have guessed there would be an unfortunately in here this morning—the three legs mounted to them are not far enough apart to be stable on carpet. So, they tip over readily. He changed the design and made two new ones for my mother which work wonderfully. I inherited the ones that work not so wonderfully. This morning, I once again dumped a mug of coffee into my carpet.
06/23 Direct Link
It Figures #83

Highway 61
Steps off the boardwalk
Into the half-inch-thick dust.
Main Street.
But it is not high noon
In this cowboy town.

It is merely Saturday morning,
It is time for a new Figure,
And Highway 61 is not at all sure
He qualifies.

He is dressed in his finest
Worn and cracked leather chaps
And an equally worn-out work vest,
Complete
With requisite sweat stains.

Hands hold ready
Inches from the pistol grips,
But something is
Making him uneasy.

Those pearl grips look small,
Too familiar.
One is definitely plastic
And patched with black
Electrical tape.
06/24 Direct Link
It Figures #84

Dead End
Is another highway sign.
I saw one like him this weekend
While garage-sailing.

But Dead End is
Incongruously posted at the end
Of a rail line
Rusty with disuse.

The rails are toed under
A small man-made mountain of dirt.
Not large enough for skiing,
Dead End muses,
And possibly not even
Large enough to stop
Any run-away train headed down
This
Dead end.

Dead End ponders the deadness
Of his existence.
He believes that the dead thing
Must lie beneath that mound of dirt.
It cannot be him.

Cogito ergo sum
And all that.
06/25 Direct Link
It Figures #85

Where There’s Smoke
Snaps his head around
At the sound of his name.

He’s nervous.
He gets blamed
For all sorts of things.

Now he is scanning the horizon
For the dark curl,
Or the hopeless angry crying
Blossom of bright orange
And gray on gray
On dirty white.

Where There’s Smoke
Is not comfortable
In social situations.
At weddings, parties,
Or even at ball games,
And he truly enjoys baseball,
People always move away from him
Not one, but two seats
At least.

They whisper,
Darting those glances
While he tries to hide
Behind smoky shoulders.
06/26 Direct Link
It Figures #86

You Are What You Eat.

I stare blankly at the subject I have given myself to write about this morning. “Where do you get these ideas?” people ask. I make up the subjects a hundred at a time, saving the document with the title, and surprise myself with a new mission impossible every morning. OK, get serious now, Michael.

What You Eat considers
The plate before him.

Trepidation.

It is piled with ham, potatoes, and vegetables.
Pickles slide to the floor
While mushroom gravy
Puddles
Beneath a slice of apple pie.

What does he want to be?
06/27 Direct Link
It Figures #87

Wherever you go, There You Are stares angrily at the email on her terminal. “Fuck this. I can’t handle this shit today,” she mutters to herself.

She chews on a thumb nail, and looks around. There isn’t much to see. The cube across the aisle is empty. She’s heard they are not replacing Palmer.

“I can’t believe the way they treat people at this place.” She mutters half aloud, wondering if someone will pick up the thread from an adjacent seat, But nothing comes back but the quiet thrum of the cube farm. “I’m going to quit.”
06/28 Direct Link
It Figures #88

Wherever You Go has decided to look for a new job. She stabs at her keyboard. Monster Job Dot Com.

Plop!

Monster Job Dot Com
Lands
All over her computer monitor.

A four-foot gelatinous mass with green spots Monster Job is making loud strangling noises and picking what seems to be his nose. Wherever You Go panics. “My God, they can’t see you here.”
Monster Job holds out two stubby arms for a hug. Wherever You Go shudders, turning away. Monster Job begins to cry. “Be quiet,” Wherever hisses, and looks for something to throw over him.
06/29 Direct Link
It Figures #89

Things Could Be Worse
Dangles his legs
Out the back of the EMT Van.

His head is still smoking.
His shirt is falling off his shoulders
Because the back
Has been burned in two.

Things is bored.
He doesn’t like sitting in the van,
And he certainly doesn’t want
To go to the hospital.

Talking to the TV reporters
Was interesting for a while,
But they’ve gone off now.

The firemen are still
Working on the house,
And everyone leaps back
As another can of kerosene
Ignites in the garage.

Things wishes he hadn’t lost
His cigarettes.
06/30 Direct Link
It Figures #90

Blue Moon
Parks his baby blue
Harley Davidson trike
Out behind
The New Moon Bar.

Next to the rusting dumpster
It sits quietly ticking as the motor cools
And he is the only one inside,
Sitting at a table
Next to his helmet
Nursing a beer.

Blue Moon fancies himself
A singer.
He paints his body blue
And performs in the park.
He would sing now
But the city has gone quiet.

Even the bartender is gone.
Somewhere.
And Blue Moon is alone
Watching the light from the setting sun
Streak the windows
Over the empty street.