4 poems by: puma perl

shoot the freak

My son worked as a barker
on the boardwalk

All we are saying he’d sing
is give freaks a chance

He’d joke with the crowd
and they’d line up
to shoot paintball pellets
at the freaks, Coney kids
who took turns running
around a garbage strewn yard
and made decent tips

The year the New York Dolls
played the Siren Festival
he was at his post, hoping
maybe David or Syl
might come by
and take a turn
on the house
It didn’t happen
but at least Syl was alive
and David hugged him

I went to the show
and wound up with a boyfriend
That lasted for about 10,000 miles
on his Harley
until I shot the freak

Metaphorically, of course.


oh, there it is

My most oft-repeated four words
Oh, there it is…
followed by a sense of relief,
a moment of peace within
the turbulence

Oh, there it is…

My misplaced keys
My wallet
My ring
My phone
The matching pillowcase
The remote

Now I have what I already had
I’m not better off than before
Except for that fleeting moment
of well-being, when I say,
for the ten thousandth time.

Oh, there it is…


dreaming of Steve

It was an airport, a group of writers on a trip.
The organizer of the trip told me to get on line to board.
I felt suddenly disorganized, kept dropping my bag.
Steve was walked with me and when we got to the front of the line
this same organizer could not find his name.
It was not Steve’s name on the list, it was somebody named DiDi.
My bag had gotten bigger.
They said I could take only the 3 items I thought I’d left behind.
A wallet, a makeup bag, and a notebook.
I told Steve how happy I was to have found these items.
Suddenly, the scene shifted.
We walked through a large empty space into nowhere.

And when I wake I think of Steve,
play a little Coltrane, and I think of Steve,
answer some birthday greetings,
and I think of Steve, and I think of Yuko,
whose heart is his heart, and I think of Steve,
and sleep for a while, and when I wake,
surprised that I slept, I think of Steve.

I finally left the house.
I spot Steve on St Mark’s Place but it wasn’t him.

And I think of Steve in a retro bar somewhere in the galaxy.
Somewhere singing doo wop while Steve Cannon plays jazz.
Because he never did like to be labeled.
And all the poems
I’ve ever heard
are written on the walls.
All of the music playing at once.
Every note
a rock n roll hymn
a jazz blessing
a blues cruise
a classical love;
Cascading chords
as we make music
we make art
just like we do
right here
right now
when we’re dreaming,
when we’re thinking
of Steve.


if you ask me

Ask me my age
I’ll tell you about Puerto Rico
Another earthquake,
6.0
That is the number
that concerns me

Ask me
the year I was born
Easy answers:
Australia,
500 million animals
killed
Temperatures
hitting 114 Fahrenheit
Venice, flooding
High water marks
over 5 feet

500,000 dead from COVID
Here in the US of A

Numbers matter
Years do not

All you need to know:
I saw the Rolling Stones
in Madison Square Garden
When JFK was shot
I was biting into
a peanut butter
sandwich
I remember life
before AIDS
I never used
an eyedropper

My father brought home
three newspapers a day
I read the headlines:
Ford to City: Drop Dead
Nixon Quits
Swine Flu Spreads
Headless Body in Topless Bar

Before voicemail
and Instagram
I smashed my toe
into the couch,
running to answer
the phone

It wasn’t the boy
I was waiting for
Just a girlfriend
Many years later,
she killed herself

But that day,
in that conversation,
we were young
and immortal
The exact date
doesn’t matter
She told me she felt
guilty about my toe
being broken
because she’d urged me
not to think about it
while I cried
OW OW OW

I still try
to take her advice
about pain
Just don’t think about it
for as long as you can,
and when it’s unbearable
crawl for help

I don’t know when
her despair became
too much to carry
I wasn’t around
Probably busy
with a boy
who said he’d call
and never did

A random number
of years rolled by

If you can’t remember
names or faces
remember their hands
moving slowly down
your body while the moon
looks away.

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