Fifty More Words

We had all returned to the workplace after over three months away. Most of us had private offices, reducing the risk of infection.
“I’m guessing disinfection doesn’t include dusting,” I said, more as an icebreaker than a critique.
You grabbed my hand.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No, I’m not.”

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Fifty More Words


My maternal grandfather died in 1946, 13 years before I was born. He and I were setting out folding chairs for my daughter’s wedding in 2007.

“Beautiful day for a wedding,” he said.

“I’m pleasantly surprised to see you,” I managed to reply.

“It’s still a beautiful day,” he said.

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Fifty Words

She walked in on me as I was shaving off my beard. Just staring at the mirror, emotionless. Once I was done, she asked why.
“No reason,” I replied. “I was just looking for a change.”
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
“That’s not what I said.”
Of course she was right.

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The Great Gig in the Sky


Last week my Dad, Wilfred David Mena, was called up to the Big Leagues at the age of 87. Those who knew him knew of his love for gritty infield play and gutsy inside pitching as well as his disdain for free agency and the designated hitter.

Those who knew him also knew of his love for my mother Gladys, his wife of nearly 62 years. She remains his biggest fan, as do his sons, Joe, Mike and me.

This isn’t an obituary — that will come in time — but rather a loving snapshot of my Dad, whom I miss terribly.

curtain call —
the veteran pulled
for a pinch hitter

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the unstruck triangle


As is the case with most of my dreams, this one unfolded in fragments, shifting and mutating with no regard for a persistent narrative, nevertheless there was a sense of a beginning and an end, as well as some semblance of a back story, so I thought I’d try to capture it all before it disappeared from my consciousness.

The dream featured some familiar themes, running late and getting lost being among them. A much less common motif was that I was sharing a 3-bedroom off-campus apartment with two Boston University students, a young man named Ravi and a young woman named Jasmine, who preferred the nickname “Jazz”. Evidently I wasn’t a student and worked at night somewhere at the end of the Blue Line in Revere.

Ravi and Jasmine knew each other previously, but neither knew me, nor was there an explanation as to how I came to share an apartment with them. Ravi was polite and friendly to me, whereas Jasmine rarely spoke to me. Given our schedules, our paths would cross at different times of day. In the morning, I came home from work while Ravi and Jasmine prepared for classes. More often than not, they would be having coffee or tea at the kitchen table. Ravi usually stayed behind to chat with me while I prepared something to eat, whereas Jasmine either left for school or went to her room, closing the door behind her.

After eating a light meal, I usually went to bed for a few hours, waking up to an empty apartment in the early afternoon. I’d make coffee and then either read or write at the kitchen table for several hours.

Ravi always got home before Jasmine. We’d typically engage in some cordial small talk before settling into our routines. Since I was the only carnivore in the household, we never shared mealtime together. I’d make a light dinner and sip a glass of wine before returning to bed for a few hours, leaving for work around nine.

One afternoon I was surprised to see both Ravi and Jasmine return at the same time, chatting as they climbed up the stairs.

“What’s the good word?” Ravi asked cheerfully.

“Lugubrious,” I replied. He looked it up.

“That’s a terrible word!” he complained.

“I like the way it sounds much more than what it means” I offered as a weak explanation.

“What are you reading?” asked Jasmine. I was relatively certain that it was the first time she had ever asked me anything. I almost didn’t know how to respond.

I handed her a collection of haiku poetry, one of many scattered around the apartment. She leafed through it briefly and handed it back to me.

“I don’t get it,” she said before going to her room and shutting the door behind her.

“I she’s warming up to me,” I said to Ravi.

“I wouldn’t take it personally,” he said. “I think she’s reluctant to form too many attachments given that classes will be ending soon.”

“That’s very perceptive,” I replied. “In a few weeks we’ll be packing up and going our separate ways.”

You won’t stay here?”

“I can’t stay here. It’s student housing, and I have to clear out in May like everyone else.”

We talked about it a little more, but it didn’t provide any further clarity as to why I had chosen this odd living situation.

The weeks continued to pass, with Ravi and I continuing our daily light banter, and Jasmine rarely engaging me in conversation. When she did, it was always a bit terse, but never quite crossing the line to the point of rudeness. One day she caught me by surprise.

“Why is it that you never call me ‘Jazz’, always ‘Jasmine’?” she asked. “It’s much too formal for flatmates.”

As was usually the case around her, I was tongue-tied.

“Oh, I don’t see it as formal or informal. I just think it’s a very pretty name.”

“Well I don’t think it suits me,” she stated bluntly.

I had a reply in mind, but held my tongue, not wishing to be seen as flattering or flirtatious. Instead I just said “as you wish.

She pivoted, not angrily, but no doubt decisively, and returned to her room. We didn’t speak again.

Ravi had witnessed the whole thing and seemed about to offer some sort of observation, but thought better of it. We spent the next few minutes in awkward silence.

Before we knew it, there were only a few days left before classes ended and we’d all be moving on. I asked Ravi for a special favor. I asked him to delay his return to the apartment for a few hours so that I could meet Jasmine alone. In order to ensure this timing, I would have to leave work early — before the T stopped running — but I considered it worth the effort.

Ravi agreed to do it, but not without adding, “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t see this working out in the way you might be expecting.”

I told him that I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and that he was probably right.

On the appointed day, I hurried out of work to the Wonderland T station. I had forgotten how infrequently the trains ran late at night, and found myself pacing nervously. The same was true when I transferred to the Green Line at Government Center. Overall, a trip that would normally take between 30 and 40 minutes took over an hour.

When I arrived at the apartment, neither Ravi nor Jasmine were there. For the first time in months, the door to Jasmine’s bedroom was left open. Her room was empty, and anything she might have left in the kitchen or the small living room area had been taken as well. On the kitchen table was a sealed envelope with my name on it. It was a letter from Ravi.


I want to assure you that I never told Jasmine about your plans for this evening. This morning she told me that her last final had been cancelled and she chose to leave as soon as she found out instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. When I suggested waiting around so that she could say goodbye to you, well… I think you know the rest.

I found myself so angry and disappointed that I cried. Then I laughed at myself for crying. And then I cried some more. Then I decided to write the rest of this letter as if I were addressing Jasmine and not you. It’s a letter I wish you would have been able to give to her.

Dear Jasmine,

Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear Paul read poetry to you.

Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear him tell you that he loved your name because it was poetry, and that it was beautiful, sacred and holy.

Because you did not stay, he’ll never have a chance to tell you that he loved you even more than he loved your name, and even more than I loved him.

Yours always,


Assuming that Ravi stuck to our agreement, he wouldn’t be returning to the apartment for another hour. That would give me just enough time to retrieve my car, pack up my belongings, and clear out.

I tucked Ravi’s letter into the book I was reading and began gathering my other books into a box in my room.

I wrote the following on the back of the envelope that had been addressed to me:

classes over
the unstruck triangle
makes a sound

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Tuesday morning drive-by


The upside of waking up an hour before dawn is that the Worm Moon was still very visible in the Western sky. Here it is, taken through the screened window of our upstairs bathroom and filtered just enough to render it “cool”.

My drive into work was the usual blur of random observations and thoughts, some of which I attempted to capture on my voice recorder for transcription into haiku-like word fragments.

Dow futures —
a tree filled
with mockingbirds

between the lines
a row
of silent songbirds

Tuesday morning
a dog leaning out
the backseat window

bird droppings
the money I gave away
to lost causes

Dow futures —
ducks floating
in the salt marsh

into a windowless room
the men
who fix the boats

facing the tattered flag
a broken section
of fence

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Friday morning drive-by


Photo by Mary

I’ve gotten into the habit of using my smartphone as a voice recorder and dictating my observations and impressions into it when I drive into work. While I confess to doing some spot-editing in my head before hitting “record”, I don’t try too hard to create haiku. The idea is to document what I’m experiencing in real-time — whether it’s a static image or a passing thought — and then to salvage some of those as haiku or senryu.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s Friday or because there are finally signs of Spring here on the Cape (thank you Mary for the photo), but I got a little carried away this morning. So rather than pick and choose where I’m going to post on Facebook and Twitter, I’m going to gather them all here in raw form. You have been warned.

under construction
the convenience store
nobody wanted

through unraked leaves
and road salt
Spring’s first blossoms

escaping the fire

amber sky
that first cocktail

looking over
each shoulder
the winter gull

collected poems
scribbled notes
in the margins

writer’s block
the second-hand store’s
empty show window

scattered clouds
when you realize
they won’t write back

up and down the stairs
what I can’t tell you
about love

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dream sequence – part 77


I dreamed that I drove alone to a city that reminded me a lot of Albany, NY, where I spent about 3 1/2 years in the early 90s. There was a sprawl of steel and concrete that completely overwhelmed what could have been a picturesque waterfront along the Hudson River.

I’m pretty sure I was there for business — as no one goes to Albany for fun — nevertheless I sought out the hotel concierge for some ideas regarding what I might find in the way of entertainment.

She was frankly overwhelmed, also having responsibility for the front desk and a coffee bar set up in the lobby. I thought better than to burden her further with my petty request. At that moment, a stranger, who somehow knew that I was looking for something to do, asked if I was interested in taking a walk by the waterfront, which was apparently right across the street from the hotel.

This request seemed perfectly reasonable to my dream-self, so I found myself in an urban park stepping on stones at the shore of the river. Still dressed in business attire, I took off my shoes and socks in the event that I slipped from the rocks.

riverwalk —
in my dreams

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restless night


The overnight forecast called for rain changing to sleet and then to snow some time around the morning commute. I wasn’t overly concerned, as I could opt to work from home if the weather was overly dangerous, but my subconscious wasn’t convinced.

I went to bed early and fell asleep right away, only to wake up from some harrowing nightmares in the middle of the night. At about 4 this morning I startled awake believing that someone was knocking at the front door. Nothing gets by our dog Tito, so I realized it was only a dream, but I still wanted to make sure that our plow guy wasn’t in front of the house. As it turns out, it was only raining, and the knocking was all in my head.

restless night —
a ghost knocking
at my door

I returned to bed but tossed and turned for a while before falling asleep. I dreamed that I was in a big house with my wife, my eldest daughter, and her 4 daughters. My wife had an irritating computer issue I was trying to resolve when one of my granddaughters announced that there was a cougar in our backyard.

When I went to investigate (which I would only do in a dream!), a leopard and several other wild animals ran up a hill in our suddenly spacious backyard. The leopard, sure enough, changed into a cougar before catching sight of me. As I hid myself behind some brush at the bottom of the hill, I could hear the cougar settling above me.

restless night —
a cougar crouching
above my head

In my dream, I reached out for some rocks to throw at the cougar in an attempt to scare it away. In reality, I smacked my hand against the nightstand and startled myself awake.

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winter fog


All written in the past 24 hours. You’ll never guess what the weather is like here…

winter fog —
I listen
for my heartbeat

winter fog —
a crow calls out
to itself

winter fog —
the fragrance
of the salt pond

winter fog —
a seagull
on the weathervane

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