My dad always said, “Money doesn’t grow
on trees!”

The idea was that we were very poor
but still he always had

lawnmowers, weed-eaters, roto-tillers,
pruners, sprayers, mixers, spreaders,
trucks, tractors, chainsaws,
drills, etc.

My mother always said,
“We don’t have a pot
to piss in!”

but she always had
electric mixers, bread-makers, self-cleaning
ovens, deep freezers
full of meat, a thousand
knives, big oak table, so much bread
it turned green, silver spoons,

It is a real trick to be rich
but feel yourself poor,
even to be ashamed of it.

It took me 40 years
to meet my wife, a Mexican woman
who had nothing to eat but beans and rice
most of her childhood,
lived in her house with a yard the size
of a rich man’s
cemetery plot,
no tree,
no bed of her own,
had never even heard a cat purr
when I met her,
but she was happy and healthy
and proud
and still is,

helping me now
to live poor
and feel rich.

I Hate Those People

who write poetry as if it were some
kind of self-therapy.

Having written that,
I suddenly feel better.

My Poems Are Not My Children

My poems are my
birth control.

An Ironic Poem

I’ve had sex with many prostitutes
and I’ve also had several
long term relationships
with “real women.”

When it came to the hookers
my friends always told me I was going
to catch something,
but I never did.

I can’t say the same
about my long-term girlfriends.

One girlfriend gave me crabs (she said
she got them from a toilet seat)
and another gave me
which she would never
and another gave me a strange rash
which she tried to blame
on some OTHER woman
who I had supposedly had sex with,
but that was

From the hookers I never got anything
but poorer
which I knew was going to happen
from the start

and this is only to say
I’d rather be broke
than itchy,

I’d rather be penniless
than have green pus.


These two black guys moved in a few
doors down.
They’re young, about 20 or so
and they seem to have nothing
to do.
They’ve been here a month
and they live in one small studio
and they leave their curtains
open for all to see.
They rise in the morning early
and they sit at the table
on the only two chairs in the room
and stare at the wall
sometimes in silence
sometimes with music
that you can hear out the window.
One of them will sometimes
drag his chair outside the front door
and plop it down in the walkway
and sit down
and play his guitar
The other one will sometimes walk to the end
of the walkway where the stairs go down
and stare out from the second story view
across the alley
at the houses and the backs of the shopping center
next door.
Neither of them ever speak
unless it is very late at night
in very low voices.
One day I walked by and they were sitting
on their chairs staring at the walls
doing nothing
and I thought
maybe they are in the witness protection program?
I have no idea how they get food
since they never leave the apartment building
but sometimes the smell of potatoes and meat frying will
drift out.
One night I walked by
and it was dark and their curtain was open
and one light was on
and there they were sitting on their chairs
staring at the walls
with their eyes closed
and the door was wide open
it was warm
and a recording of crickets was playing
on the stereo.
There aren’t any crickets around here
but this was a full forest orchestra of
crickets chirping away
and they sat there in the dark with their eyes closed
and I walked by holding my key.
There is something snobby about them
the way they won’t look you in the eye
and act irritated when you
walk by.
I’ve hated people for a lot
They dress in the latest trendy clothing
as if they’re always ready
for a big dance.
Maybe they are aliens
or robots?
Maybe they are
my imagination?
Anyway I don’t like them and I wish
they’d leave.

Be Mine

When I first started sending out
poems to magazines
it was 1992
and if there were Internet publications
I didn’t know about
I didn’t have a computer and had
never been on the net.

When submitting my poems
I didn’t understand the whole
SASE theory.
I couldn’t figure out how you could put
one envelope inside another envelope
if they were exactly the same size,
and folding one just
seemed wrong.

I bought these small envelopes
like the kind kindergarteners put their
valentines in
and I used

A few editors managed to cram
rejections slips into them
with ingenious or angry
sloppy folds
and then one editor finally
wrote me:
“Get rid of the little envelopes.”

I heard about people putting
little extras in their submissions (I wasn’t cool enough
to call them “subs” until many
years later)
such as candy hearts
with messages on them
like “I LUV U”
and “Be Mine”
but instead I decided to impress them
with a wild fancy
cover letter.
I put a large,
grainy, photocopied picture of my face
in the right corner
and I drew a mustache on myself
and glasses.
With the bio I said things like:
Skin: White.
Hair: Lots.
Age: Why, is this a bar?
Sex: yes please.
Activities: see Sex.

Finally another editor wrote me:
“Stop being cutesy and pretentious
and just write.”
I was angry at that editor for
a while:
I mean, pretentious? Me? Ha!

In a few months I got my first acceptance
from a journal called
The editor was Dan Nielson.
He sent me a contributor’s copy
and I still have it.

I sent Dan some more poems right away.
In a few months he returned my poems
and wrote:
“Journal folding. Sick of it all.
Will never read another poem
as long as I live.”

After that
he completely dropped out of sight,
never published again,
and maybe he even kept his
I wish I had
guts like that
but at the same time I hope my poems
weren’t specifically
to blame for his decision.

If anybody out there
knows where Dan
Nielson is,
let me know.
I would love to
send him a Valentine
with a small candy
and no poem.