Wednesday, November 30, 2011


i like to live and let live
give, when i can give...
a hand to my fellow man
say a kind word
hold a door or give up a seat
for some elderly person
'cause i believe in karma

but there is evil in the world
and when i see it standing in front of me on two legs
smirking in my face
or beating down someone smaller
i like to take it by the collar
and drag it down into the pit
and beat it to death

because good and evil exist in the world
and though i favor the good
sometimes the evil part of me arises
against the evils of the world
and it feels damn good
still, i try to live and let live

I turn the other cheek once...
then twice...
but never on the third time
'cause then i counter-punch
a cheap shot, a blindside,
and evil goes down.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


winter in chicago lasts from october 'til june
then it gets hot and humid.
today autumn ended not with a gasp...
but with howling winds, known as "the hawk"
to all chicagoans.

i have my combat boots and leathers ready
snow and slush is soon to arrive
my batteries are charged, and anti-freeze is good
it's time for giant pots of chili and spaghetti sauce...
usually eaten on saturday or sunday
in front of a tv set, which will feature my chicago bears.

i will get heatburn
and swear off sports and spicy food
'til monday night football, and leftovers.
people continue to shop, and the rich get richer
the poor get poorer
and the parking lots are filled with people rushing
giving each other the finger.
ahhhh!...the joy of the christmas spirit!

i go about my mundane business
of working out in the cold gym
dressed like rocky balboa with holey sweats
and ripped up gloves and straps
and get even with wall street with every plate that i slam in place
and the healthy sweat saturates me.

i am in my glory, but wish they played joe cocker,
instead of lady gaga, 'cause this ain't gym music...
for old dogs like me.

and the food, gift, and gas prices are higher
and the politicians and corporates continue to steal
and the congress is as useless as tits on a boar
but my wife's cookies still taste pretty good
with a hot cuppa' joe

so i'm ready for winter
and i'm ready for another christmas
and hopefully, my old carcass will be here for spring
when i can wear muscle man t-shirts again
and pretend that i am still in the loop
in the game
alive and well
in chicago, my home town.

Friday, November 25, 2011


i fell in love with her
and she with me
we had youth, and clear-eyed hopes
and all that goes along with it

and the passion lasted
oh, so many years
each knew the other's thoughts
and we raised beautiful children together
and we laughed with our grandchildren

and as some old people do...
we ended up sleeping in separate rooms
she upstairs in the master
me downstairs in my studio

but our passion did not stop
and we made "dates" during the day
for love making

then one morning, i hobbled upstairs for coffee
i smiled as i poured my first cup
she had set the timer, and it was freshly perked
i called out to her, for she had overslept
and still she didn't answer me

so i went upstairs
and a mild fear gripped me as i made my way
and when i saw her, she looked so white
but she was at ease with her hands folded...
as if she was in prayer

she had a gentle smile on her face
so i stroked her hair
and it felt soft, like baby hair
but she felt so cold
as i kissed her forehead

as my tears fell on her brow
the rest was not so beautiful
until the rituals were over
so now i talk to her every day
for she is still with me
she is in my heart
and death looks less fearful to me now
because i miss her

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


thanks for life
thanks for family
thanks for shelter
thanks for food
thanks for being alive
thanks for all these things

i have my health
i have more years than i deserve
and more things than i deserve
i will not diminish this holdiay
with a rant or rave
i am thankful for so many things

i pray for those who suffer this day
i pray for my family and friends
who have passed on
i pray for all those who suffer in the world
and wish for the end to all chaos and injustice

i pray you all have a meaningful thanksgiving
and i hope that you do something for someone less fortunate
share your wealth and love
make this thanksgiving a treat for someone in need
blessings to all of you

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


"tough tony" is gone
i once feared him, but he turned out to be alright
once, i saw him in a chicago south side bar
must have been back in the 70's
his mind was already gone
filling his lungs with airplane glue by a urinal
walking with a cane
then he was gone
"mike the cleaner" is gone too
he hailed from taylor street
he knew all the tough guys
chuck, kenny, and jimmie bought it in vietnam
bobby died last year from agent orange
and bitched to the end about hines hospital
on how they treated veterans
"muscleman hokey" is gone from a heart attack
so is joe laporte, who was on my baseball team
and "billy akates" lies in bed all day
drinking 36 beers and waiting for his wife to come home
his christmas tree hasn't been taken down for 5 years
now i hear that "tom the shark" has throat cancer
i called answer...wish him the best...
prayers are coming your way...sounds so phony...
what else can a man do?
i go to the gym and push hard
fight against the clock
go out like a warrior, i hope
fight against the inevitable
till i'm gone.

Monday, November 21, 2011


give me less, not more
tv commercials
pop-ups advertising shows during my shows
endless commercialism
the biggest sale of the year
every day...every day...every day...
it obliterates all sensibility
it insults my intelligence
it makes me want to turn off
tune out
and leave all the devices by the wayside
i want to be my own guitar hero
to play for real
in the game of life
not the artificial game
the virtual cesspool will not include me
maybe for an hour a day
or two...
or six?
you see, it's insidious...
when's the last time you saw the sun rise?

Thursday, November 17, 2011


the cold is back
like death on divsion street
as i remember the tenements
and those desperate days
of hunger and fear
chased by the "bulls"
who protect and serve
only the rich
who are carried from limosines
like baby jesus in swaddling clothes
into pampered nightclubs
smelling of aged beef
while me and my cohorts
shuffled in shoes
with cardboard soles
looking in dumpsters
for day old bread
and other sustenance
which couldn't be found in taverns
where broken merry-go-round dreams
afflicted our souls
we walked in, not carried
the cold wind at our backs
to smells of urine and smoke
cheap frozen pizzas
tattered barstools
and aged bartenders
cackling females beyond their prime
so i got drunk enough
to face the cold
being just numb enough
to make it back home
to set the alarm
for the frigid morn
and go through the motions
at horrificly monotonous jobs
days without end
till the cold enveloped me
for the end

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


the heart is a muscle, too
he found out too late
in old age he was alone
he lived hard
he was the life of the party...
with strangers
now he was a stranger to his wife
his little girl
he had the biceps
a big man
with a little heart
the heart is a muscle too
a simple fact
he never knew
until now in old age
when the legs were gone
and memories haunted him
all that was left
was the charade of himself
so he muscled on
with great regret
knowing no iron plates in any gym
could save him
from the tyranny of his little heart

Monday, November 14, 2011


he sat and watched the old trainer tape his hands
and noticed the calcium deposits on his arthritic wrists
he pondered how many times he punched a heavy bag in his career
how many chins, how many speed bags, how many walls?
age takes its' toll
he had cauliflower ears and a perforated eardrum
he had hearing aids but never used them
the fight was in an old warehouse
most club fighters know these places...
where cheap beer is tended and cigar smoking chubs jeer at fighters
he was old, but in shape...
and fighting a kid who was young enough to be his son
he thought of the stenosis in his neck
his arthritic shoulders and rotator cuff problems
he knew he had glass hands, but he could still punch for a couple of rounds
his wind was adequate, but the job had to be done in three
he started jabbing and using combinations in his locker room
he worked himself up into a lather
he felt good and the adrenaline started surging
it was just like the old days
those halycon days of youth
he made the journey to the ring
skipping like a young fighter
bouncing up and down, he felt winded
"don't show fear", he thought to himself
the crowd jeered at him
they called him a bum...a tomato old man
this fueled a deep rage inside of his gut
the bell rang and he was in a dream
the kid came out fast
the old man covered up
the flurries came fast, but the old man wasn't hurt
the old fighter observed that the kid held his hands low
the bell rang after what seemed an eternity of three minutes
the old man survived the first round
his cut man fixed an old wound over his eye
he was told to "breathe"
the bell rang and the old man came out for round two
the kid taunted him
he laughed at him
the kid stuck his chin out with his hands held low
the old man popped him with two left jabs
he followed with a right cross
and a hellacious uppercut
the kid had round heels
he was cold-cocked
the crowd roared its' disapproval
the old man gasped for air as the referee raised his arm
it was the last round

Sunday, November 13, 2011


how many times must i make the same mistakes
feel the pain
before i am through with it all
through with sitting in shooting galleries
looking at the blank stares
the hopeless hustle
the danger it takes to get there...
just aint worth it

but when i'm rushin' on my run
i'm invincible
and the nod is good
everything makes sense
and no-one has it better than me
until i'm sick in the morning
and i search for the brown substance
borrowing from peter to pay paul
watching for the man
and finally making the score

always believing that tomorrow will be different
always knowing the lie
keeping a corner of my mind ready for the truth
the cold, harsh realities of my life
ever consuming
the reaper waits for me
and it's no big deal
for who am i?
no better than anyone else
we all end up the same
how many times must i ponder these realities?
'til it's over

and sweet jesus takes me in his arms
and the pain is gone
just like the thrill
and i meet my loved ones again
and the desperate urgency is gone
and there is nothing to long for
in my eternal bliss
and many times i have this dream
to survive my life

Friday, November 11, 2011


damen and division
once chicago strong
polish immigrants
made famous by algren
a man of deep understanding
with mighty pen
spoke what the poor could not speak
eloquently with verse
he opened the guts of chicago
and my damen and division
still had some of those guts
i 'spose about thirty years ago
when i drank at the gold star bar
and bought package goods from cheap liquor stores
and made transactions with ladies of the night
and division street had parking back then
no "big brother" parking boxes
made for politician's war chests
the poweer brokers exclude the real chicagoans now
and the yuppies pour in from the 'burbs
and buy overpriced, watered-down, foo-foo drinks
and i leer at these hypocrites
who call themselves chicagoans
and i don't visit too often
because i feel sold out
i can't smoke in a bar
or order a three-finger whiskey anymore for a deuce
or sip from a bag on the street
and wear a beat-up army fatigue jacket
with knees torn out of my jeans
'cause i might be detained
by one of chicago's finest
on suspician of bein' a real chicagoan

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


chicago is a dark place now
the winds blow and leaves are plastered to the concrete
soon the hawk will get meaner
with the death freeze
dirty men will gather at blackened garbage cans
ablaze with old newspapers and wood
with cold, calloused hands dressed in fingerless gloves
and homeless people will die in alleys
their pet cats eating out their eyeballs
for sustenance and survival
loyalty be damned

taverns and shooting galleries will relieve the pain
just like they did in the summer
for those lucky enough to have a few bucks
but winter is meaner here in the city of big shoulders
and wayward drunks and addicts will join the homeless
frozen stiff in the alleys

michigan avenue will put on a grandiose display
red and gold ornamments and ribbons will frame displays
of opulence
and people of means in furs and cashmer coats
will laugh and celebrate good fortune
and the wealthy will converse in grand rooms with mahogany covered walls
plotting and scheming
like clawed felines
waiting for dead carcassses to feed on
and their dark dreams will be fulfilled
in the dark winter of chicago
as they sing songs of comfort and joy

Sunday, November 6, 2011


irish jack was mickie's dad
the old man could do a million pull-ups
sit-ups, run like hell, and fight like a terrier
but he had humility
he had a great sense of humor
but don't yah ever cross him

i remember mickie's black eyes
but the kid was a fool
drinking and smoking cigarettes all the time
from the age of thirteen
irish jack didn't deserve this from his kid
'cause he lived a clean life
and was a paragon of a fine example for his sons
and the older brother teddy was even worse
a sadistic "mutha" he was
who died of alcoholism by the time he was forty
but that was the future and i'm talking about the past

irish jack took me and mickie to the boys club
35th and union avenue on chicago's south side
i learned to swim and shoot hoops in this great building
jack was my boy scout leader as well
he hiked my fat ass over hill-and-dale
my surrogate father...jack
while my old man wanted nothing to do with me

and jack sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee
black as the ace of spades
and smoking raleigh cigarettes
hacking and coughing
laughing and telling me stories
and teaching me how to have respect
and i learned a lot from the old man

when i grew up i saw him at a wake
he was riddled with lung cancer
a phantom of himself
the smile was still there
the tough, old sumnabitch denied the cancer
he got it from the nalco chemical plant in chicago
and the non-filtered butts he enjoyed all his life
and in a year i stood at his coffin
and said a prayer
maybe shed a tear

i sometimes wonder if he was a drinker in his youth?
both his sons had "the creature"
but i merely speculate on these possibilities
one thing i know for sure
jack was an honorable man
who gave of himself
and deserved a helluva lot better
but knowing him
i think he probably thought
he got a fair shake outta this life
so here's to yah
my old mentor and protector
i love and miss yah, irish jack.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


the tenements i lived in all looked the same
skeletal remains of crumbling stairs
painted in greasy, battleship gray
hiding years of neglect
and inside were the sounds of arguments
of paychecks mispent at delorto's bar on 63rd street
of affairs with local trollops
of dreams unrealized or untried for
the heat of the summer
the freeze of the winter
the barren backyards sprouting weeds
and dirt rising from my feet
as i kicked an abused ball
me of skinned knees
and dirty face
with a full head of hair on my head
blonde, tan, young, and full of expectations
not knowing we were poor
eating plenty of noodles
not much meat
never any extras
sleeping in one room with my brother and sister
the dreams of youth we shared
thinking we were kings of the world
the innocence of it all
not knowing the dread to come
on urban streets
where we would join the cast
and play our parts
in the horror show
of the late 50's in chicago
but it made us street smart
aching for our breaks
as the more-well-off got lazy
and two of us knew success
and one commited suicide
and all became alcoholic
just like our father and our uncles
because the urban streets
were only palatable
on a seat in delorto's bar
on 63rd street

Friday, November 4, 2011


red and i met at the bar
i helped him lumber out of his pick-em-up truck
once a hulking monster of a strong man...
red was a pale, bent over geezer now
shuffling along with a cane
a three ball, screwed to the top of it
a good weapon (i said to him)
and by-god, he is a year younger than me
and that saddens and scares the shit outta' me
but i remember the old days
and how we were the ruling dogs
in taverns all over chicagoland

so we sat down, with some difficulty at the bar
and some young dogs asked us to move
'cause they had some friends coming
and we did it without complaint
then some other young sons-a-bitches asked us to move
and we did again
and i saw the pain in red's face
the third time was the charm
and i looked at the young bastard
and said, "look sonny, we already moved two times,
and i'll be damned if i move for the likes of you another time...
and if you don't like it, we can take it outside,
yah goofy bastard, you!"

and the young guy, (all of thirty)...
looked into my wild eyes
and thought better of it.
and there red sat...silently laughing
and i'm watching his big shoubders heaving up and down
laughing in their faces
gripping his cane with those big paws
ready to strike

and i hadn't seen him smile like that for a long time
and we settled into our burgers
and red even had some shots with his beers
and it was like we had dialed in the past
and it was a good day
old miners, dozer operators, tough guys we were
and still were today
even if we were lucky

Thursday, November 3, 2011


i saw the broad-shoulders
howie strolled into the gym this morning...
looked at me sadly, as i hoisted a dumbell,
and said, 'i gotta tell yah about jack'

i knew it was bad news
alcoholic jack hadn't been to the gym for a couple of years
he just lost his alcoholic wife this year to cancer
jack was on a mission to drink himself to death
howie and jack are two chicago men...
tough guys and good workout partners

howie tells me that 'jack drove his truck into a parked car
he was drunk as usual and now faces his fourth DUI
what's worse is that jack is on life support, but awake and aware'
the respirator is keeping his lungs filled with air
i put my weights down
saw the perspiration dripping on my shoes
looked at howie and shook my head

i told howie, 'jack went down fast...
only took him two years'
i remember him when he was doing sets of twenty chin-ups
at the age of sixty-three
howie said, 'yah know what, rich?'
'he mouthed the words, 'pull the plug'

i asked howie, 'didja?'
'naw', howie answered
that was the end of the conversation
me and howie started pumping iron
i spotted him and he spotted me
that's what friends are for

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


i plod on south
down to mexico
my tongue feels like my boot leather:
worn out
on my calloused feet
oh!, mexico...
land of mayan culture
magic brujos
and peyote
i see the sign
bottles and cans

and i am saved
perchance, by those spirit guides
as i set my tattered ass
on the tattered bar stool
cowboy boots
a thirst for life
that never goes away
as i sip
that cold amber
a beer

in a bottle
not a can
a bottle
i love
the sign that says:
bottles and cans