Blue Genes





My genes shatter on these rocks,

Swirling around in the turbulent currents

Of my scattered thoughts,

Spilled down my sides,

My seed wasted in polluted waters

Leaving only the broken glass

Of abandoned dreams

Tearing me up inside




My life is a word

Whispered in the dark

Not ruled by rhyme,

But plainly spoken

By plain men

From the rude corners

Of my world,

Where young men

Gather at night

Faces illuminated

By flickering

Theater lights

Or cracked

Yellowed window shades

Hotel rooms

Where shadow dancers

Dance to each passing


My fingers weaved together

Like old friends

Linked to crude

Phrases of hope:

Tits and ass

Aching in me with lust

Mingling inside of me

With things I cannot

Put into words

The voices of young men

Echoing in my head

Like madness





The glass gleams

So squeaky clean

I see no glass at all.

And have to touch it

Each time to make certain

It is really there,

Leaving a thumb print

Of my touching

As if from a crime,

I see my life outside

Full of lust and lack of luck

A loveless love child

Struck dumb

Locked up behind

This window

Of shame





I tell Susan, I’ll stop writing

It is an empty threat

I cannot stop –

I would be like ceasing to breathe

I walk wet streets this morning

Looking for answers in the fallen leaves

Each brown-veined face

Pressed against the pavement

Like a glued penny,

Impossible to pickup only ponder,

I read these leaves

The way gypsies do tea leaves

Finding no truth in them.

Why do people have to choose between

Love and romance,

Art and sexuality,

Susan and what I write

Her head full of theories

Text books from which

She interprets the world,

I am just a figment

Of Freud’s imagination

A collection of impulses

I can never resist

Writing and breathing

In a continuing flow of life

A wet day pinning me

Against the background of my life

Just one more fallen leaf

For people to ponder

And read,

My life pressed

Between the pages of a text book

Just a memory

Of an impulse

Long forgotten




I grew up a Paterson child

Locked in a Straight Street

That ran from park to river,

The stone wall too high to climb

On one side of me,

And the slope of a river bank

Too steep on the other

Me, a struggling three-year-old

Clinging to tree trunks

While stepping over the shards

Of shattered booze bottles,

Drug dealers barking out

Their wares

Like newspaper boys,

Each delivering a headline

Of high hopes I was still

Too young to understand,

My mother clinging to church doors

Crying to find them all locked

The face of the Virgin Mother

Scrawled with street gang talk

As I peered into the fountain

As Holy Mother’s feet

Searching for coins I knew

Other small hands like mine

Had already plucked out

My hands rising from the water

Wet and empty.





I couldn’t keep my fingers off the cash

Once I saw my uncles put it in the safe

Grandpa when alive had let me snatch

Coins – even dollars – from the dining room

Cupboard, pretending he never put them there,

Some of his sons got beatings for taking less

Perhaps he’d grown too old to terrorize

The young the way he once had his own kids

Or simply forgot where he put things

If indeed he had put anything there at all,

Such as store keys or eye glasses,

Though years later I think of it as love

As with tie I bought him with newspaper

Delivery money other men might have

Hidden in closet or trash,

But he insisting on wearing it daily

Until it wore out around his neck,

The stripes fading under splotches

Of motor grease his finger prints left

He was even buried in it

With me afterwards sneaking downstairs

To the safe where my uncles buried

Grandpa’s cash,

Taking away all I could carry

For the long trip west

And my long anticipated

New life without him.





I was born out of a cactus

Inch-long needles up my butt

My fingernails could strip flesh bare

In one swipe.


My mother had flowers for her head

Pink and white fading

Whenever the sun got too hot

Or high in the sky


I never knew my father

Although mother called him tall

With the most handsome

Green face she’d ever seen

And needles so long as to

Knock your eyes out


Then one day a wind came

And blew him away.





I wasn’t even high

When we threw pennies

At the stone people

In front of Paterson’s City Hall,

Just tired,

As tired as the town seemed

Like a pool of muddy memories

But of which I could

Barely draw recollections,

The old Fabian theater

Rotting in ruins,

The Garden reeking of

Bank deposits instead

Of old film,

Vaudeville giving away

To performances of greed,

Alexander Hamilton installed here

When he envisioned this a city of silk,

Banks barricading the city center

Like jail guards,

The faces of each building

Crying tears of bird shit.

I miss Woolworths, Grants

Kreskes and John the Bargain stores.

I miss the Stop the World headshop

Where I always left my head

Getting myself high on the fumes

Of incense and joints

Other people smoked,

I miss the moments when

Me and Hank, Pauly and Garrick

Met in front of city hall,

Each of us waiting for a different bus

To take us in a different direction,

Us finally paying tribute to the stone mayors

By bossing our pennies as their eyes.





Early morning streets reek

After second shit

Blank, hot, wet

With me coated in donut sugar

From a night-long

Love fest with grease and flour,

High as any junkie on caffeine

Addicted to a work ethic,

Worse than any drug,

Too weary to dance or drink

Or think of lust,

Though the click of my heals

Over glistening asphalt

Makes me ache for love

Loneliness linger inside my head

Laughing at my lust

No cure for the common cold in me

As I watch the whores pass,

I make donuts not money,

I explain in vain,

Too weary to give chase,

Too broke to pay for what

I cannot catch,

Feeling every bit of the death sentence

Birth pronounced

A ticking clock inside of me

Waiting for the moment

When I run down

Feeling dead at 37, instead of

57, 67, or more

living life at a rolling pin

rather than a rolling stone

me and Bob Dylan

hiding under manhole covers

living out our dreams,

both of us always careful

to pay the parking meters.





They come and go

Injecting a hint of summer heat

Onto the frosty snowy beach

A striped stranded beach tent

Made prisoner by frozen sand

Overturned lifeguard towers

Testifying to the assault

That has taken place here

Even the row boat, upside down

Rots from lack of care


Overhead the gulls cry,


And come up empty,

Picking again and again

At the corpses of empty shells

That litters the beach,

Flipped and turned so often

like perpetually toppled grave stones


The vacant boardwalk hums with

The music of crashing waves

Moaning and groaning wood,

Glittering concession stands

Tinted winter gray

The empty amusement rides

Like bones of dinosaurs

Just dug up


The rising tide drags in

Pieces of drift wood

Red and white deflated balls,

Wax paper wrappers

From salt water taffy,

And occasionally,

A twig of green

Hinting of spring




poetry menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan