Thursday, May 27, 2010



Apostrophe, misunderstood,
and commonly misused,
I wonder if it makes you sad
or if you are amused.

Although unmoved by plurals
I find it most impressive
that your heart’s unselfish mission
is denoting the possessive.

You’re frequently omitted
and yet you volunteer
to indicate omission;
Ironical? Or queer?

Will we ever understand you
or will you endlessly expose
our imperfect grasp of grammar?
I guess heaven only know’s.

Question Mark

Question mark, who made you?
Why do you loop and drop?
How is it that you always know
When questions need to stop?


Not quite a colon, not quite a comma,
your mark is distinction; you’re given to drama.

You like clauses independent; you link them up like so.
You’re the comma comma calls on when a list requires a pro.

When John, from Jamaica; Frank, from Peru;
and Tim get together, you know what do.

Not quite a comma, not quite a colon,
You wait for the thunder; consider it stolen.


A little dot. So simple, yet
as useful as a speck can get.

A little dot, and yet so great,
to end and to abbreviate.

Some say you’re a decimal,
but I must disagree.
(Perhaps you are – I must admit
that math’s just not for me.)

You are Punctuation, Inc.,
the spot that stops the thoughts I think.

A little dot. So simple, yet
so easy, sometimes, to forget


Comma is that breath you take,
a quiet pause, a little break,
when a new clause has begun
dependant on the other one.

It’s always happy to assist
sort out the items on a list
so we’re not stumped, mixed up, confused
by different things becoming fused.

When in pairs, somewhat like these,
they stand in for parentheses.
“They’re used with quotes,” the scholars say,
“when it’s the object, see? This way.”

Between coordinate adjectives,
after greetings on missives;
your cheerful, sideways smile’s a clue.
Dear Comma, what can you not do?

Quotation Marks

“It’s with pleasure I appear
each time you use a quote, my dear –
direct that is, not paraphrased,
corralling what another says.”

Have you any other quirks?
“well - titles of artistic works,
nicknames and use-mention too -
I act as italics do.”

What about to emphasize?
Is it alright? Is it wise?
“Perhaps, I guess, occasionally-
when words are used ironically.”

I see – now I have the tools.
I “love” all of these grammar rules!
English isn’t all that tough!
“All right, wise guy, that’s enough.”


I went strollin’ with a colon
and we had a little chat
‘bout the way that it could help me
when I’m writin’ this or that.

It can introduce descriptions
or the items in a group
and we had a three course dinner:
lemon cake and steak and soup.

It can introduce an outcome
of a fact that is preceding
so I thanked it for the meal:
colon said that it was treating.

I went bowlin’ with a colon.
Know why that’s its favorite game?
‘Cause it’s two dots down the middle
like two balls in every frame!

[a collection that’s been pieced together over the last couple of years, mainly as catharsis – how is it that, judging from their correspondence, better educated and better compensated professionals seem to be at such a loss when it comes to the basic use of common punctuation marks?]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ray Combs

The road began at Hoodwinks
telling jokes for free drinks
killed on the Tonight Show
got me a big stand O

Richard D was history
handed it right to me
some kid from Ohio
looked good in stilettos

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Hob-knobbed with the A list
shook hands and I got kissed
all about the giving
asked questions for a living

I’m sure they’ll all remember
forever and forever
me and Dick and Bob and Wink
tickling our contestants pink

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Dickie came back into town
I was out a gig and down
no one seemed to come around
no work for a one note clown

Swimming in a sea of red
maybe in over my head
guess that’s how the cookie breaks
between the suits and sharks and snakes

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

Got off the road in Glendale
stepped onto the third rail
sure do miss the family
wonder if they’ll miss me

another TV tragedy
check it out all month on E!
the guy who tried but couldn’t be
I swear to god that isn’t me
can’t go back to comedy
standing up is hard you see
when you’re crying til you choke
because the braces pinch and poke
and your ego needs a stroke
but you’re busted and you’re broke
and you find out you are the joke

my way
no cash
car crash
strung up in a closet
it’s not the answer you wanted, was it

[hey, was anybody looking for a poem that appears to be lyrics to a punk song about a relatively obscure late 80’s game show host? because, um, i found one. from the archives, late 90’s.]

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I never felt the feelings
that you did and that I should
and I don’t know what that makes me
but I’m sure it isn’t good

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is all I had to say -
if I wasn’t late or missing
I was getting in the way

I never meant to hurt you
but that’s all that I seemed to do
I could never find the right words
but I’m sure you have a few

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is all I could express -
if I wasn’t getting mucked up
I was making you a mess

I never saw the future
that you seemed to see in me
and it’s not for lack of trying
there’s just nothing there to see

I’m sorry that I’m sorry
is the state I’m always in -
if I wasn’t at a standstill
I was in a tailspin

and now I’m doin’ 90
I’ve got no idea where
but it isn’t like I left you –
I was never

[from the archives. november 1996]

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Corner Kick

There was this sketchy little kid at the end of the block
with a shoebox full of sluggers and a robot that could talk
he didn’t have no friends, no one called him on the phone
and when he came around I’d pretend I wasn’t home

His dad died in the war, his mom was always on a bender
drove a yellow Grand Marquis with duct tape wrapped around a fender
he always walked to school always staring at his shoes
the first one tagged in dodgeball and the last one that we’d choose

Always wore an army coat, too big and kind of brown
always had some bruise from hitting doors or falling down
nobody really talked to him, was like he wasn’t there
kind of like a fencepost with a mop of matted hair

One night, I think in April, just before the sun was gone
a couple of police cars pulled up and parked there on his lawn
his mom was out front cursing, screaming, spitting at the cops
somehow got a free hand and she punched one in the chops

and I saw the kid come walking out and climb in the cop’s backseat
you could hear his mama’s yelling echo up and down the street
and he looked out the window and I saw his pale face
and he just looked kind of tired but there wasn’t no disgrace

he looked just like he always did, just bored and blank and sad
and he didn’t cry or look afraid or mean or scared or mad
and that’s exactly how he looked as the cop car drove away
the same nobody nowhere look that he wore every day

The cops, they never brought him back, he never came around
his mom packed up the Marquis and she steered it out of town
the house sat empty for awhile, was razed and built again
and then my buddy Frankie and his family moved in

The kids at school had stories, but none of them were true
I could’ve told them what I saw but no one really knew
and we kind of just forgot as dust and pine tar filled the air
and no one really – like I said, was like he wasn’t there.

[from the archives. mid-90's]