Breadcrumb #480


An Oldsmobile Cutlass and a Mercury Topaz sat in Mom’s driveway, cultivating a world in rot. Their flattened tires spilled down across the concrete, baked to a cragged barren surface. This black desert landscape was full of life -- invasive Jersey Fresh tomato vines crawling up the rubber walls, bay sand embedded in the threads, glass twinkling in the sun. Survivor of Many Offensives, Builder, Black Sheep, First (and Only) of His Name, Father to Three, Husband, Brother, Grandfather (to be) and survived by all, including these, his armada of rust (but they didn't put that in the obituary).

Mom wanted to clear the driveway and revive its adjacent garden since church hadn't exactly inspired the spirit-haunted distraction the old chaplain promised. And anyhow she didn't want the neighbors thinking her a poor old widow that kept a shrine room to her dead husband, like leaving the slippers just so beside the bed as he left them the morning of the attack. So she divided the spoils to the kids: I, the oldest, naturally took the heaviest of those burdens, two unflipped economy vehicles. “Do whatever the hell you want with 'em,” she said. “The Oldsmobile actually runs.”

And I did, whatever the hell, starting with the Cutlass. My brother came along for the ride, driving that once blue hunk of metal back to New York. He congratulated me on the new whip. "You might have inherited the Ding Dong Dealership, but you know I got all the cool shit," including Dad's crucifix-made-weed-stash and a stack of Playboys that Mom pretended to ignore through its 30-year black-plastic-wrapped subscription. (I laughed a little thinking how she might receive the renewal notice in a few weeks and call him a dead prick or something.) We hit a Garden State deficit-sized pothole on the Parkway that sent my brother’s Skittles and Wawa iced tea flying all over the car and he cursed the Governor, the goddamned purpose of tolls, public infrastructure, something about a rat's ass and all things holy including Jesus himself just like Dad. I felt a little moved by it actually and submitted a weepy “fuckin' A, man” for good measure. "Sultan of Swing" was on the radio and I cranked it up through the two speakers that worked. We drove on to New York, bumping along on that shockless frame.

     Goodnight, now it's time to go home
    And he makes it fast with one more thing

Fall came and only one vehicle remained in Mom’s driveway, making room for tomato vines rotting wide open with fruit flies like a gift to the family dog. Meanwhile, the Cutlass sat in an overpriced garage, across the river from our apartment in Chinatown, awkwardly alongside luxury vehicles and vanity plates for three months - three months I hoped to fill with family visits to Storm King, emergency diaper runs at the new Target, weekend getaways to Cape May to visit Mom... I fell into arrears with the garage and waited for the voicemails to become angry before driving it back to Chinatown in hopes of a free street spot. For a week I battled my neighborhood's parking bullies, experts in the waiting game of opposite-side street sweeper rules.

Luckily, I received a callback for my inquiry to donate the Cutlass to Vietnam Veterans in need. "Yes, yes," I said, "the vehicle is still available. It's so cool you called me back. You know my Dad was a survivor of the Tet Offensive!" Silence. The caller said she'd send a representative from the VVA in Philadelphia that afternoon to pick up the Cutlass and leave a tax form for what Mom called “that sweet, sweet write-off.” If I timed it right, the tow truck would arrive just before the street sweeper stormed down the block, kicking up dust and a mad rush of angry Cantonese retirees in minivans. And, sure, I'd feel good about it too, my "commitment to those who served" and all.

For a week I battled my neighborhood’s parking bullies, experts in the waiting game of opposite-side street sweeper rules.

Waiting for the pickup, I turned the radio on and caught the tail-end of an interview in which a woman was saying,

...and we do it this way because we can't in real life. Here, we're all going to the      same place, and it's not a good one

Odd, I thought. As an ex-Catholic, I assumed the "same place" people took a more agnostic view of the afterlife, neither good nor bad given its no-thing-at-all state of, well, literal nothingness. In that moment, suddenly, I found myself dropping in on a big wave of guilt and regret for donating the car and wished I could call Tracy from Philly's VVA back to tell her, “Hey, it’s me - the son of the Tet Offensive survivor. Remember? Yeah, about the car..." But it was too late. Time to make some veteran's day with a beautiful once blue Oldsmobile Cutlass, no shocks, two speakers and a Hoffa-sized trunk.

Jimmy, the VVA's driver, spoke in a thick Philly accent like my Mom. I could picture his EAGLES SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS tattoo under the cliché striped mechanic's long-sleeve, a little name-patch on its breast.  Jimmy. "You might wanna check the car again for any personal effects," he said. In the glove compartment, I flipped up the manual, searching. Beneath it I found an old a cassette of Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill. The album opens with a song called "Do It Again" that Dad used to play at full blast through long rides at night, my child-mind remembering only the scary thunderstorm drives, his joyous singing at odds with the chaos around us. I could hear him through that cassette:

You go back, Jack, do it again, wheels turning 'round n 'round

But I left it, closed the compartment and handed the keys over to Jimmy. "All yours, buddy."

I hoped the next guy to drive it had a falsetto.

• • •

Breadcrumb #479


August in southern Illinois & we are drunk
    on everything but worry.  The tin boat we rented rocks
        under our recreation. Plastic wine glasses & gasoline

from the engine casting a rainbow across the man-made
    lake.  Boredom or something more brought us here
        to float on cotton candy inner tubes, a plastic unicorn

with a dumb cartoon eye toddles under my naked thighs,
    flank up to the fleshy sun. Look at how we are not animals -
        our teeth gnashing in fits of laughter,

my two hands crumbling a bag of potato chips.
    What we have evolved to: our lips puckering
        around a neon candy, our sunglasses skewing

the world darker.  & these two rocky bluffs,
    jutting out like an underbite, are a sharp surprise
        in between parched farmland.

When we arrived, a small printed plaque told us
    that the rocks were formed from glaciers.
        Water dripping for billions of years

just to bounce our base music back to us.
    Our small bluetooth speaker humming
        atop nylon & fiberglass.

& the state paid for this sulphur-dry earth
    to be dredged & filled with muddy water.
        Shadows of fish here & there

dumped weekly by Park Rangers just so
    twice-divorced fisherman can reel them in,
        pretending a kind of wildness.

& the birds chirp so loudly
    we think it is the ding ding
        ding of our phones.

& they find us
    large turkey vultures whooping
        down from the cliffs,

& we are blissed,  motionless, a beer bottle
    tipping in a limp wrist– our text messages
        whimpering out now & again

as these birds circles our plump bodies- waiting,
    waiting. They think we are dead,
        or that we may die very soon.

• • •

Breadcrumb #477


We take pills without prescription
because we own our body without restraint
being dumped it’s a starter that we eat
every single day, and we accept bad blood
his excuses and late nights so I growl inside
to not speak loud and hurt your stereotypes
of me without wide open legs, elbows on the table
talking easily and claiming my conquers.
"He's a whore, I offered him four beers
and two hours after we are having sex". Oh sex,
excuse me to have desire inside my mouth
with my permission and not yours. Don't push me
back and forward, and back again, you're my container
of disaster that's why I get high to flood useless power
that's why I raise my hand and I slap you in the face
that's why I can't take no more your indecisive breakups
your mellow voyeur fantasies, your new girls and texts
that's why we are Tinder, we are "the Tinder" of real life
even those who don't use it, we are the scroll ups and downs
the supermarket list, the blindfolded dates wrapped sometimes
in surprise and realness, when I wish I had met you before
without rain and six years of past, and Netflix series on the couch
and low cost tickets that get us everywhere we want to more
superficial artifices and filters, and cuts, and likes and unfollows
that's why I pour my wine and I watch porn as a blockbuster movie.
I don't do comparisons about my hips, if I'm skinny enough,
tall enough, sexual enough, pleasant enough, woman enough
as I'm counting the late acne marks:
is it smoother? less visible? less relatable to smoking one pack
of click cigarettes when the reason is being stressed
being under pressure, putting pressure, having my eyes balls
squeezed into screens of objectification and self-approval.
Self-approve my existence and see if I let you!
I'm not a established gender
I'm not a tag on my sexuality
I'm not a waitress serving your wishes and exploiting egos.
Too commented
too touched
too exposed
don't apologize for wanting to be apart of a neutral game
where woman is a chess piece formulated as a castle
full of walls but with doors too
don't apologize for getting laid
buying condoms and forgetting them beneath your mattress
with your socks and old lace bra
don't apologize for exchanging testosterone for estrogen
loving lakes instead of mountains, don't hike too much dear
without reaching the top, we're water, watering nature
full of walls but with windows too
where I can jump and hug ideologies
my hard-on for a man
for woman
for both
for libido as power
Just be libido.
Just scream libido.
And don't forget to touch yourself.

• • •

Breadcrumb #476


I remember the color of air before I was about leave my least favorite bar in Bushwick when you called out to me 

I liked to pretend I didn’t believe in Love back then

some nights I got on my knees and tried to cut at her with my own flesh

I swore and blasphemed her, defending the nightmarish gift that hisses at my veins

the moon witnessed the whole thing

to give up on Love is to assume the position of a shell and embrace the hollow fierce wind that takes up in the soul

howling obscure and indefinable; where does she reside?

you called out to me and I could feel her quiet breath on my neck

she never did turn away, but let me throw my fits

and timelessness laughed

and ignorance wept

we introduced ourselves right there in front of everyone because even strangers respect the beauty in hope

my hand touched your hand in a formality  

then my hand to my mouth, because I had to double check—

it was a smile

 • • •