The Manager

The Manager

on game days, my mother would fill paper grocery bags
with popcorn cooked on our kitchen
stove. the pots were lined with a thin layer
of vegetable oil, heated to the point
where kernels popped on contact.
these bags of popcorn kept the kids
distracted during the tedious
company softball games.

my father had achieved the position
of manager for the company team.
it was a desirable position within the
Pfizer Athletic Department;
and he was quite aware of that.

the Pfizer team participated in tournaments
throughout Greater Southeastern Connecticut.
my brother and me
spent many weekends in
Baltic, Norwich, and Stonington;
collecting empty soda and beer
cans in exchange for soda and bubble gum
at the concession stand.

my mother’s first boyfriend
after my father walked out,
loved his Coca-Cola.
he bought it in 40 oz. bottles,
a quarter inch thick, with impeccable
label printing. the deposit value was
clearly marked on the paper banded neck.
“40 cent deposit”

he would give my brother and me
five empty Coke bottles
every Friday night.
that worked out to $1.00 for each of us.

we applied this approach on the
gravel parking lots of various
municipal recreation areas.
maximize the potential.
the tournaments were a temporary
sentence;
we tried to make the best of it.

i kept thinking someone would ask us:
“hey, why are you kids going through the garbage?”

during our search for
returnable
soda
cans

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Our Final Phone Call

my mother had her first date
with the man who would become my step-father
on a sweltering July night.
i was playing basketball in our driveway, the aging hoop
dangling above the garage door
by rusty nails we kept banging back in that would one day
be rebuilt by him.

“he is going to be here in five minutes!”
yelled my mother from the front porch.
“you better watch out so he
doesn’t hit you in the driveway!”

on our quiet street, we could hear a vehicle
lumbering toward the house.
the collected kids from the neighborhood
scrambled into the garage
and quickly closed the overhead door.

a sleek, silver van slowly rolled
to a halt on the oily pavement.
a rather large man with curly brown hair
and a working man’s belly exited
from the driver side door.

“he’s three times bigger than your mom…..”

we shuffled to our right
to catch more than a glimpse of him as he walked
across the lawn, torn up
as a result of my mother letting us use it
as a football field following the divorce.

i was in my second floor bedroom
when he arrived for their second date.
one of the windows faced the driveway,
and this time he had another car, not the silver van,
but an enormous four door sedan.
i thought that was a good sign, as none of the other men
in my mother’s life
owned two vehicles.

at their wedding, a year later,
my nine year old brother was plied
with canned beer by the uncles and cousins
in attendance. they found it fascinating
that a little kid could drink beer
like a teenager.
i drank cola over ice, a habit i picked up
from my mother.

my step-father introduced us
into a world we could hardly imagine.
his family owned a ski cabin in the Maine woods,
as well as a lake front cottage
closer to home.
having secondary property
up to that point
was my mother allowing us to bring
dirty, old couches into our basement
during neighborhood bulky waste disposal.

the diagnosis left little room for error.

“it is an incredibly aggressive, invasive form
of melanoma. we might have to get your permission
for clinical trials.”

he granted his permission.

my visits to the house
of my childhood, during his rehabilitation
dovetailed
with the presidential election of 1992.

“you both need to vote for Clinton!
the last twelve years have been
a disaster!”

“Clinton is a phony. we are voting for Perot.”

“do you seriously
think a billionaire
has the best interests of the people
at the forefront of his policies?”

“yes. we need a businessman
to run the country like a business;
with responsibility, with accountability.”

i was arguing Presidential Politics
with my step-father,
as he endured radical radiation
treatments.

when our friends arrived at my parents house
to hang out as my high school rock band practiced,
they were greeted by my mother,
taking off the headphones i had purchased for
two of them,
as well as a small chalkboard
they could write messages to each other,
in an effort to not completely
interrupt
their lives.

“i just think they are adorable! i hope i end up
watching TV with my partner and a chalkboard.”

the band checked in to the motel
in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

before i left town, my mother
called me and asked
that i call my step-father
on the Friday night
we were due to arrive in Lancaster.
the band had two shows that weekend.

she had her doubts about him being
alive by the time i returned.

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the Night my Father was Robbed

my father’s first relationship,
following his divorce from
my mother,
was with a gentle soul.
she had no idea what she was
getting herself into.
i was too young to articulate
my inherent reservation.

when she finally called it off,
my father parlayed a manipulative
relationship with her parents.
they agreed to let him house sit
during a cross country excursion
that was their initial realization of retirement.

my younger brother and me
visited our father due to a court order,
every other weekend. our routine was perfected
in short shrift.
he would pick us up at our mother’s house,
and we would hear the sigh of relief
from the back of her throat
as i opened the door of his faux sports car.
he couldn’t afford his desired Corvette, so he settled for a Capri.

the car parked at the apex
of the horseshoe driveway.
we carried the snacks
our mother would never have allowed us to purchase,
over the threshold of the outdoor patio,
into the elegant kitchen.

we began to unload the groceries.

my father asks us to listen to him, for a moment.

the two of us are taken aback at his
deference to something
seemingly serious.

“someone broke into the house this week….”

he then regaled us with a tale of
educated thieves;
who knew the owner of the house
was a very successful businessman,
selling TV sets
during the golden age of television.

the thieves came to steal the
vintage sets he had accumulated
while owning a retail store.

i believed him. i believed my father.

i convinced myself
that he was telling me the truth. surely,
this was an isolated incident.
and yet, every time i was at that house for a
weekend with my father,
i was petrified.

he went to the grocery store
early, one saturday morning-
to get cereal he had neglected to account for
the previous night.

a few minutes after he left, the house lost all power.
my only thought was to find my brother
and get somewhere safe.
the thieves were back.

we crouched behind a stone wall;
half covered in a pristine green moss,
gazing toward any proof of
entrance, shivering in the damp
March morning. my father drove up
to the property
and witnessed us
crouched behind a farmer’s boundary, where the driveway
met the street.

“what are you guys doing out here?!?!?!?!?”

“there was a sound in the basement, and then the power went out.
i thought the thieves were back….” i replied, in a defiant tone.

“c’mon guys, get in the car….”

we did.
and my father drove the twenty yards
to the back door of the house.

he lied to me.

someone was owed money.
he was targeted for a reason beyond
a vintage television market volatility.

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reunion

Friendship may fade,
as the lives of people
we know create trajectories
that shape a present tense.

The reunion of my graduating class
is to set to commence
in two weeks, when i receive
a phone call
from my close friend Thomas.

“You need to go to the reunion.”

“No, actually you do. The Loner’s wife is on the committee and
you need to go.”

The Loner was a long time friend
of Thomas, but was only an acquaintance of mine.

“Ok, I’ll go. But if i have a bad night
it’s on you.”

“Hahahaha, Ok Kid. I’ll take that bet.
We got along with everyone at the time.”

“It’s about time you walked over here to talk to me…”

Caroline was way ahead of the curve in the 1980’s.
She held a multi-band concert
in her parents backyard
in late August 1985.
It was my first
proper gig as a musician.

At the reunion, Caroline asks me a question.

“Why are you not on Facebook?”

I reply, “I am. I use a fake name.”

“So, who are you?”

“It’s under Ellery Twining.”

“Why is that?”

“Well, you can’t search for my real name
on the platform for anything.”

“Do you have something to hide?” she asks,
simultaneously coy and probing.

“Of course not! But, someday, you will
regret using your real name
on social media.”

“oh, Ellery, some things don’t change…..”

A month later, i receive
an email from Caroline.

“Hey ELLERY! My friends and i think
it’s so funny
that you use a fake name
on Facebook!”

My reply was simple.

” I find it hard to believe
that you, and all of your friends
have three name profiles:

Joyce Burr Carpenter
Caroline Williams Smith
Sage Scott Anderson”

Our conversation eventually
led to a humorous
evaluation
of a shared morality.
Caroline invited me
to attend a dinner
at her summer rental~
a house at the end of
Cedar Point Road.

The evening immediately dissolves into
predictable tropes.
The women congregate on the patio.
The men gather on the
first floor deck.

“I have an incredible picture of this waitress from
my last business trip. Do you guys want to see it?”

He turns his phone to an angle
where we could all see the image.

“Will you look at that… hooo boy!”

Thomas and i I looked directly at each other.

I immediately knew
i had to suppress
this information,
as something i could not reveal.

I thought I was protecting Caroline.

I was not.

I was afraid.

Parade Season

each spring, as the parades
approached, many veterans
would need to update
their uniforms. a small percentage
are Vietnam Veterans
who discarded their awards
in disgust. an accumulation
of time altered their original
conscription, and now wanted to
participate.
and represent.

the veterans of World War II
did not have to confront
the decision their Vietnam brethren had to.
the Greatest Generation watched over decades,
as their uniforms were desecrated
by curious grandchildren.

“i need a belt buckle.”

“a regular web belt for work?”

“No, a Goddamn USMC buckle in all it’s glory!”

my father in law- who owned the Army Navy surplus store
i found myself working in
had bought 120 USMC Dress buckles
at a trade show years earlier.
there were still a few dozen
in our attic stockroom.

“hold on one minute, i’ll be right back.”

i immediately find a
boxed USMC belt buckle,
and head back down the
rickety stairs from the attic,
to the retail floor.

“how much do i owe you, kid?”

“on the house. it’s the least we can do.”

“awww, c’mon kid, i can pay you!”

“hey- didn’t anyone give you something for free today?”

he raised his head to look directly into my eyes.
i thought i could hear his train of thought.

“a free buckle? a free buckle?”

holding the small
cardboard box
he spoke eloquently

“You are making an old Marine proud.”

he then exits the store.

the sound is congruent
everyone in earshot
was aware of what we heard.

i race to the deck outside the store
as customers are dialing 911
on their cell phones.
when i reach his fallen figure, i ask “are you ok?”

he replied~
“yes, i am.”

a moment later, a police officer arrived as
the first responder.
he walked across the deck
that provides access to the store.

“have you been drinking today?
“no, no, no, sir…..”

“Stand Up….”

the officer plants his hands under
the arms of the Marine Veteran
and gradually brings him
to his feet.

“have you been drinking today?” the officer repeats his question, with
an edge of malice.
i was shocked at the lack of a level of subtlety from the officer.
perhaps they dealt with this “emergency” everyday.

and yet, i decided to speak out:

“hey, take it easy on him….”

the officer held the Marine in the same position and then
slowly craned his neck to look directly at me.

“i’ll let you know when i want you to talk.”

i thought to myself
i would oblige,
and remain silent.

a gathering of EMT’s, firefighters, and police
have gathered at the scene.
they all seem to look at me
with a coordinated
disdain.

“you couldn’t differentiate a heart attack
from a drunk old man?”

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October 2001

October 2001

i was confronted
with the dichotomy
of the internet
in the late autumn of 2001.

the attack on America
had specifically affected the content
of our culture, and our national identity.
i attended a concert
by a prestigious English band
at the Riverside Church during the
October of that year.
in Manhattan, security was
prominent.

a week after the show, i found myself in a
bulletin board forum,
the early century precursor
to facebook, and twitter.
a topic caught my attention- the security
at the Riverside Church show, which many
felt was inappropriate.

i wrote to the forum in response
to the topic:

“hey, are you aware that planes flew into the WTC less than
two months ago? could that be the reason for
heightened security?”

member after member of the online group forum
savaged my interpretation of the situation.

“those searches were inappropriate!”

“they negated our personal space!”

“we are not the terrorists!”

“we have no stake in violence, why target us?”

following their compelling statements,
i continued to howl
the content of my rebuttal.
it was an attempt to defend my point of view,
while simultaneously
regarding criticism
as a necessary element.

the awareness was sudden, and complete.
i did not want my personal opinion
validated…

i wanted to be seen as
the smartest person in the room.

i immediately disengaged.

Washington, District of Columbia

memorial d.c.
20 june 2017

the Residence Act of 1790
established the District of Columbia
as the nation’s capital.
Philadelphia became relegated
as a temporary centrifugal point,
while the District
was constructed.

the realization of the national capital
was ratified by the First Congress
of our United States.

I was fortunate enough
to visit the Martin Luther King Memorial
during the summer of 2017;
at the edge of the second year of Trumpism.

Kevin and I planned on meeting
at Farragut Square at noon,
which was the end of his specific
workday in DC.
I arrive uncharacteristically early.
the statue of Farragut catches my attention, its
stoic commitment toward completion is as obvious
as the humid component of late June in DC.

I look him up on my hand held
computer device,
while I waited for Kevin’s presence.

Admiral David Farragut was a
Tennessean who fought
against the Confederacy,
for the Union.
his efforts as a commander
were instrumental in the capture of
New Orleans in 1862,
and was of the mind that
Secession equaled Treason.

the K Street kids buy lunch
at the food trucks that line
the periphery of the park.
Kevin arrives, and greets me with a smile.

“i think the MLK memorial is over there, past that row of trees.” states Kevin as
we approach the entrance of the memorial.

I am initially surprised by
the inherent deception.
across a wide plaza sit two massive
rocks, towering over the people
that are walking between them.
In the distance stands
a third stone, the missing middle section
of the granite mountain.

what appeared at first to be inconsequential,
was immediately and instantly revealed as a lesson
in the realization of totality:
the center rock of the split mountain
contained the sculpture
of his image.
conclusions are inherently happenstance,
and yet I understood that Martin had
created a path through the mountain
that did not exist before him.

his majesty exists beyond containment.

a large group of Black Americans
are gathered at the front of the memorial,
for a lasting impression.
they appear to be a multi-generational family,
some smiling; the majority reflecting.

I look to my right to see
who is taking the photograph.
a White woman in shorts and ponytail
squints to get the focus correct.
and I am in awe.
Is this The Dream?

to my left, about twenty feet away
sits a White American family of four.
their teenage son is wearing
a Make America Great Again red ballcap.

I turn my head back toward the group taking photographs in front of the Monument.

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A Prophecy

the old systems are being destroyed
right in front of our eyes-
refrain from shielding your sight…

we exist within the hidden nature
of a heedless epoch.
a severance of our accepted
deference toward divinity.

our examination of
behavioral traits
stretches decades.
was it all part of the plan?
we participated, subscribed, and invested wholly
in the disruption of the anticipated outcome.

perhaps, the convincing argument
articulates a recollection,
not an institutional
creationism that
may protect the possible
consideration of the
work.

the evidence is everywhere.
a collation of failed firewalls,
as reckless malware
creates a composite portfolio
of corruption.

is the mirror image an exercise of divisive involvement?

we are being asked to
define formality.
a curious reclamation
of a previous reality.

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reminiscence

i recently perused the CD
you gave me
of photographs of the U2 show
at foxboro.

and now you cannot speak for yourself
the tidal wave that took your life and forced us to ask
is there really a God?
who could believe this circumstance?
the depth of a recognizance
we were tasked to come to terms with

begat an avalanche of an inescapable reality.
as witnesses, we were then
asked to confront the fact that

death is always at the door.
living is within every door,
and you taught me that.

IN THE VILLAGE

i walk toward
work in downtown mystic,
amidst our recent heat wave.
the pavement dissolves into
a blur of recognizance.

the sidewalk is dry.
however, my footsteps raise
no dust.

a car pulls into
the parking spot
in front of the local
health food store.
a window slowly unrolls,
defining the progress
of electronic sensors.

“could you tell me how to get to Mystic Seaport?”
“Eric Bogosian!”
“Yes…..”
“Cool. Ok, take the first left after the Drawbridge, at the flagpole.”

“and next?”

“take the left turn at the next stop sign at Route 27. The Seaport lot will be up on your right about two blocks.”
“thanks, kid…”
his wife smiled at me, and turned toward the windshield.