One Thing & Another

Happy Birthday USA!

An earlier version of this poem was published in my first poetry collection, Back and Out Again feels appropriate to publish it here today.


America Speaking


  1. The Immigrant


The immigrant loves me

Waiting by the side of the road

Watching for a truck to slow

Hablando con sus amigos

He is happy to have come this far

To have worked so hard and saved so long

And paid the many propinasthat must be paid

He remembers kissing his wife goodbye

That last day, his niña in his arms, making promises

The endless, claustrophobic passage

And the first view of his new country

The overwhelming, eviscerating hope

A day’s work here, a month’s pay back home

Don’t tell me this was a mistake

Don’t tell me I’m not welcome

Don’t tell me I don’t deserve this

Tell me, “You! You with the crazy eyes!

Jump in the back of this truck…

This truck of rust and dreams”


  1. The Firefighter


The firefighter loves me

Resting on the station’s couch

Thumbing through an old magazine

Listening to Howard Stern

Proud as he should be to be chosen

Happy to be among my proud children

And although his body is relaxed now

He is strong and quick and ready

He is waiting, always waiting

For the chance to repay me

For the alarm to signal

His opportunity to show me

How much he loves me


  1. The Farmer


The farmer loves me

Sitting on his front porch

Looking out at his land

A hundred acres

Lying fallow now

Everything is resting

This is a good year

There have been others

He does not think for long on that

No, this is a time for sitting

For smoking a pipe

Thinking about his children

Gone now, busy elsewhere

Noisy, crowded places

Maybe this year he’ll visit

But the steel and grime

The haste, the tangled masses

What strength and foolishness

It takes to live like that

Yet he is proud of them

And happy to have this time

After this good harvest

To be, as he should be, grateful


  1. The College Teacher


The college teacher loves me

Sitting alone in her classroom

Her students absent

Thinking about another teacher

Whose soothing voice calmed

And then inspired her

Who came in early Monday mornings

To tutor her privately in English

Their little secret

The gradual eradication of an unnecessary past

The gradual accumulation of invisibility

Making it possible in small degrees

To become if not the best dressed

Or most poised or most accomplished

At least the most thankful and for that,

As she should be, she is happy


  1. The Car Washer


The car washer loves me

Rag in hand, ready to move

When each wet car emerges

Dripping and happy

To dry the gleaming bodies

The shining reminders of

What he does not have and

Does not deserve

These pampered pet things

Toys from another class

He will not think about it

But he moves like a cat

And like a cat there is

No room in his heart

Nor time in his day

For resentment

Neither for the owners

Or for his pot-bellied, cigar-chomping boss

He has no time for that

And these hulking creatures

Wet and happy as they are

Deserve to be kindly handled

And anyway one day he could

Have one of his own

And for that he is happy


  1. The Copywriter


The copywriter loves me

Grateful for the great markets he’s been given

The work is hard but when the results are published

And he sees the response rate for Split B

The six-tenths of one percent lift

He is happy for several good reasons

First because he’s become richer by six thousand dollars

And second because he’s proven his point once again

And won’t fail to remind them

If battle victories were as sweet

He might be a soldier

But marketing is love, not war

And his words are silky fish

His sentences shimmering images

His work a pool of restoration

And hope to millions

Without a cudgel to swing

He has metaphors, which, like bubbles,

Swell up prettily and then pop off

Gone until another takes its place

He likes to say he’s a lover, not a fighter

And he tells himself that every day

In the morning, washing his face

In the mirror’s bright reflection


  1. The Real Estate Developer


The real estate developer loves me

Hard hat on a sixty-dollar haircut

Wrinkled specs under a fragrant armpit

Cashmere sweater to warm her

And give power if power is needed

Standing again before the towering

Thing that was born from her faith

And desperation, head back, she is

Quietly amazed

At not just its towering verticality

But also its capacity to

Absorb so much interest

Its potential to yield a profit

Even if it takes longer to sell

Than expected

It was always a labor of love

For someone living in a small house

Who sees her children on weekends

Reads biographies of great women

Women for whom, like Einstein and Napoleon,

Found strength in audacity

That was their secret she carries with her

To work sites and to parties


  1. The Bartender


The bartender loves me

Rag in his back pocket

Tight pants, wet shoes

He moves like a cat

In a familiar landscape

Sideways to one end

And then back again

Always moving

Like liquid on a counter

The cuffs of his shirt are rolled

His arms are graceful

His ringed fingers quick

He has mastered much

The power of smiling hello

The hard art of confidence

The thoughtful, accidental touch

That lets you know you are welcome

For a cat in a cage every night

Is a chance to be beautiful and smooth

To move gracefully towards love

For if he knows – and you do too

That somehow thanks to me

He is there for love