Thursday, April 2, 2020

Six Feet Either Way

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
and the part that always made me giggle,
albeit a tad cautiously:
the ants play pinochle on your snout.

I never heard a giggle
ring untethered at that last line
in its sing-songing children’s voice
after the worms part.

Nary a snicker
that didn’t carry the wee hint of a shiver
(a frisson, were I submitting this poem
to a contest with a $25 entry fee).

The shiver I accepted bravely this morning
while pretend-measuring the distance
between serious Dinky and his veteran-capped friend
outside the laundromat where they said the manager

had scolded them for not standing
at least six feet apart from each other
came with my silent giggle
at the horizontal/vertical implications,

both conceived to cheat death:
one from the living,
one from the dead.

                                                                                                                 m.d. paust

My Bedroom's Still Old Normal

The nighttime routine chest congestion,
I'm presuming from allergies,
is the camel's nose of worry under the tent.

But sleep routinely wins out and
while my dreams have taken on
a tad more drama, the New Normal cast

has yet to confront me in my long gone workplace
wearing PPEs, spraying Clorox on my desk, or
shooing me to stand six feet back.

I still wake up refreshed and annoyed
by the routine cackles of Clarence and Clarke
the crow twins who bicker in the pecan tree

outside my bedroom window.
Everything's normal, old normal,
when I turn on the light and roll out of bed.

It doesn't take much to jolt me awake
to the new, though,
when I leave the room

and see on the bathroom sink
the cheap paper towel roll
where the toilet paper used to sit.
                                                                                                            m.d. paust

Wednesday, April 1, 2020


I'd planned to let my poetry be today,
take a pass, give it a break,
it being Wednesday ‘n’ all,
and my only idea had been to play with that,

but it couldn't get traction with my Muse,
its sophomoric connotations, you see,
embedded on my hard drive...

oh hahahahaha.

We're all seniors now
thanks to germ warfare--
those of us, anyway, who still read

strings of words longer than Tweets.
But for any of you Tweeters,
pushed by the title this far:

you won't find that wonderful word
anywhere else in this poem,
it being so insensitive it bespeaks

the emergence of our primal selves,
mine, anyway, and if you deny yours
I will secretly assume you are lying.

Oh, those (our) rough and ready
primal selves, marqueed by our
scalawag-in-chief, and the lowest

asswipe speculators...oops my primal
peeking out, for which I'd apologize were
we not sick of its la-di-da alternate name.

What’s that? Can’t get enough?
Toilet paper toilet paper toilet paper…
toilet paper toilet paper...say when...

Funny, I feel my primal rearing up
except for that. I still say “toilet paper”
even all alone, to myself.

But that other word,
the one in the title,
I use it constantly, cursing everything, ALOUD.

Cursing typos as they appear on the screen,
cursing my fingers for making the typos,
cursing my hijacked wifi for blinking out…

Cursing solely with that one nasty word,
and usually with “you” attached.
Happy Hump Day!
                                                                                                       m.d. paust

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Smug SOB

It's what I wanted to be,
or said I did, as a half joke
to a friend awhile back.
At the time, I'd meant it as a full joke--
on the surface, while knowing
we both knew, at least philosophically,
jokes are built on truth.

I've grown considerably since then,
in understanding, and, I should like to think,
in savvy, as well.

Smugness, as I’ve always known,
is that sense of comfort and pride
we get at times when in part
through effort or mere fortune
we prevail where others fail.
What I've learned over time
is to own the sensation

but keep it secret
from all but those who get a wink.
It's akin to the joy good Christians hide
when they learn the elected sociopath’s lungs
are hosting the lethal bug he’d denied.

I'll bet even Christ felt schadenfreude
seeing the moneychangers’ rage
when his disruption at the temple
took the edge off
a profitable day.

                                                                                                                         m.d. paust


What is the frequency, Kenneth?
Yes, he knew they were coming,
Dan Rather did,
these loopy, social-distance days.

Last night, for instance, or in the early morning,
I thought at first a dream, except
the voice seemed too real, so
I rolled out of bed to be sure--

oh, the hell it was,
it was to go pee, and when I got back to bed
I’d forgotten the voice, as
I seem to remember.

Next time I woke I looked at the clock,
its neon red digital numerals warning me
it was 4 something, 4:47, possibly,
when my walking buddy texted me,

and while my pupils adjusted in the dark
to read her message, I heard the voice outside
still talking as I’d remembered it
at least an hour before.

I’d thought at first it was the skateboarders,
three or four hardy youngsters
who hang out in the Post Office parking lot
out my bedroom window, which offers

a clear vista for me in the daytime,
but only highlights at night from moonbeams
and a couple of utility poles
and from the mail dock across the way.

I did not bother to open the blinds,
thinking the kids would be in shadows.
taking a break—come to think of it,
I had not heard the scrape and roll

of their boards as they practice to become
the next Tony Hawk. Come to think of it,
the voice was singular—no giggles, no
rise and fall of youth’s usual verbal drama.

The voice was young, or female,
an alto, its tone calmly conversational,
on a cellphone, I assumed,
on a cellphone in the dark, alone.

The cadence was familiar,
a soft and friendly sound, Latino, it seemed,
a casual tone revealing a very long story,
with words in which I caught no meaning.

But later, after coffee, I thought of Lupé,
from the Army very long ago. I never
knew why we called him that—
a friendly, casual guy.

                                                                                                                   m.d. paust

Monday, March 30, 2020

Hot Water

The only place I feel safe these days
is in the shower.

But unlike James Parker,
the bracing, wakening surprise of icy water
has no appeal for me.

I like it hot, need it hot
hot as Hades
to give the little bastards a taste of hell,

any, that is, that might be clinging to me,
intending to feast and breed,
that they will flee and tell their compatriots,

Leave that son of a devil bitch alone,
and leave his friends and loved ones alone!
Don't go near them, hear??

                                                                                                                     m.d. paust

Sunday, March 29, 2020

That Someone

Those of you who understand
how to calculate probability
have an advantage over me,
a right-brained (or is it left?) type
who can lose his way and sometimes fall asleep

when numbers and symbols are involved,
each one laying claim
to a particular undeniable authority
which, when joined with the others,
can lead the way to, say, curing cancer,

or putting Armstrong on the Moon,
and now they have proven that every one of us--
let me say that again—every. one. of. us.
will lose someone we know
to this virus ravaging the globe.

In a way, I like the way this is being put.
Saying every one of us will lose someone we know
is a clever way of leaving to our imagination
that because everyone will lose someone they know
we have more than a few chances to be that someone.

It's at times like this I realize
my imagination is not my best friend.

                                                                                                                m.d. paust

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Corona Evening

The blanket that protected me
from the midday sun bouncing off the white wall
that faces my apartment now dangles from a nail
beside the window in the door.

It's after 7, and the sun has drifted west
away from its favorite high noon bank shot
bouncing its glare at the window
where the blanket protected my eyes.

Off duty now, its dark colors in draping folds
which in the dark you can mistake for a giant bat
it's a comforting sight from where I sit
my time-worn recliner facing the door

where now the staccato passage of motorists
flicks across the narrow gap between the window edge
and the white wall's corner
zipping by from somewhere to somewhere.

A sobering sight from where I sit
without a clue as to who the people are
or if they are happy or anxious or sad or what--
or with which ones unseen killers are riding along.
                                                                                                                        m.d. paust


I did not sleep in this morning
as I had told myself I would
before turning in last night.

For one thing I am too old
to sleep in anymore, anyway, and
I roll out early no matter what,

and, no matter what, I take a nap about midday
everyday ordinarily for about half an hour
enjoying the cheap luxury of not giving a hoot.

At night, you might ask, are you in bed ordinarily by around
nine and I would answer yes. pretty much, as I have no TV
and you might wish to ask if my days are always this dull.

Oh, they've been this way pretty much for several years now...
before the politicians cramped our daily styles, trying their best
to keep a crashing economy from crushing their benefactors--

--and to save lives, of course! Oh my, nearly forgot...oh,
I did not. Trying to be cute here, as I have no TV to
confuse and accuse and amuse and enthuse and infuse

me with sponsored consensus, which I would accept only
if it agreed with my circumstances of comfort or aspirations, and
avoided agitating my irritations, or a particular one of my friends

which wouldn’t bother me particularly unless I heard it
more than once an hour, or, upon reflection, every few days.

Where were we...oh, yeah, I was thinking to explain why
I’d decided to sleep in this morning, and why, upon reflection,
I am feeling somewhat remiss for not walking as usual

with my walking buddy, who’s stuck in her home teaching
university classes via the World Wide Web while
I’m stuck in my apartment trying to write what looks like poems.

Weather experts last night forecast a 14% chance of rain for
this morning, and although I knew the chance of this was
as good as my recollection now of the 14%, the odds were close

enough to affirm my body’s desire to start the day out a little
differently than the usual up, Facebook, out, walk walk walk
Facebook, breakfast, vitamins, legal pharmaceuticals, shower

Facebook, curse Zuckerberg, thank Zuckerberg, etc. etc.--
why does it seem necessary always to do two etceteras
when, as per the outhouse sign, my mother told me, one will do?

Rolling out this morning an hour earlier than the usual five, and
shuffling into what the British call the water closet to pee
I noticed it was so dark out I could not see if the promised

raindrops were pockety pocketying on the usual puddle outside
the northwest window which, if they were, I could sleep in
without remorse, and start my day without the walk walk walk.

At this point I became annoyed, with the weather experts
and with the rain god or gods for forcing me to step outside
to see for myself there were no raindrops or even puddles.

Really pissed now that I had based my anticipated sleep-in
on unreliable scientific prognostication, albeit knowing
the inherent unpredictability of atmospheric gamboling

I hissed to myself, to hell with it, and climbed back under
the covers for that extra hour of what should have been
blissful sleep, except my irritation interfered, and here I am.
                                                                                                                                   m.d. paust

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sunny Day

The Boomer hears the Harleys and the punk cars on the road
in visible proximity through the windows of his front door.

He doesn't see them now because of the Navajo blanket
over the windows upon which the sun beats, bounding
from the white wall of his landlady's office
between the road and his front door.

It is early afternoon, and the bikers and punks are celebrating
perhaps their forced vacation from job or school, or they're
enjoying their youth or exercising their rage, or using
the roar of engines to mask their discomfort of
instinctive anticipation this viral scourge
will advance their own generation.

Or maybe, the Boomer accedes, it’s only the sunny day,
denying the gloom of abysmal news and its rules,
lifting all moods, including his own behind
the Navajo blanket blocking the sun and
muffling the boisterous sounds
of the exercised engines
through his front door.

The Boomer also wonders if his elation is not more attuned to
the fragility of his position on the spectrum of susceptibility,
the heightened clarity, appreciation, and the gratitude
for one more day--sunny, rainy, windy, or gray--as
the poets are wont to say of those condemned. 
                                                                                m.d. paust

Wee Beastie

I communed last night with one of the killer viruses
as I was about to open a bottle of Beaujolais.

The wine sat next to the apple cider vinegar bottle
with the clouded mother on the bottom,
the two of them behind the crockpot on my kitchen counter.

Limited to telepathy because of decibel incompatibility
I was unable to record the conversation, but I took notes.

After a perfunctory exchange of greetings, I asked if it was alone.

Wouldn’t you like to know, came the answer in my head in my voice,
and I said yes, and it said its answer had been rhetorical,
and, realizing now I was dealing with no simple germ, I asked if it could kill me all by itself, and it laughed, a slow, deliberate, condescending laugh, and, suddenly enraged, I lifted the spray bottle of 91% isopropyl alcohol I carry everywhere and waved it across the counter, and my adversary revealed its name and rank as Major Tom and said how do you know my legion isn’t positioned in camps all over your apartment awaiting my signal to attack, and, knowing this was no rhetorical question, I said I’ve been taking 1200 milligrams of liposomal vitamin C twice a day, and Major Tom said oh, and ended the communication.

And I opened the Beaujolais and poured a ceremonial glass, and it was good.

                                                                                                                   m.d. paust

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


It's Benadryl season,
so there's no dearth of healthy phlegm,
allowing a hold on panic--
advisable with others near enough
to hear the second.

I've not yet found the need
to try a third
for the reassurance
of a gurgle
and something to spit,
even alone and fairly certain
it will do the trick.

For I have others, tricks,
such as dialing down
to relax the sense of urgency in a
itself more a product, we all know,
of habit, reflex, tic--
unneeded to alarm us any more
than the situation requires.

                                                                                                         m.d. paust