A man carrying a motorcycle helmet

Does not necessarily own a bike –

He may simply cradle the thing in his two arms

Like a dead baby, and weep.

Who understands the longings of man?

Not woman, with her crazy lips yabbering half-truths.

Not man, his crazy head craning every which way.

Nor God, that nutcase:

A hurricane pounds and rearranges the coast,

A force of wind and water that no one in their right mind

Would have brought into being.

Yet, when the ocean regains a smoother rhythm,

The road along the land’s edge reappears

And people, working in teams, drag away debris.

“Happiness Study #4” , copyright Dan O. 1995, appeared in North Coast Literary Review, ed. the late Vince Sorti.


                            HORSE KOAN

                        The police horse knows 

                         it is a police horse

                         and stomps a hoof five times

 to say “you’re under arrest”

                         to the Captain that rides him.

                         It’s a little joke between them

                         that only the horse understands.

Thanks to Big Bell Magazine, and Russell Dillon, editor for publishing Horse Koan (2016).

 AT A DINER  (posted for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2017)


A short order cook – spatula flipping

A pancake as the other hand pulls up the fry basket

For the oil to drip and settle,

Two fat burgers on the left side of the flat grill,

One medium, one rare, exhaust fan toking away,

White bread buns in the eight slot toaster

With rye bread for a chicken breast

(“Grill Cheese up!!!”), slapping the bell like playing speed chess,

Glancing  at the orders clipped to a string, blur of acronyms, BLT,

TM, SE/WT, scrambled eggs and wheat toast, 4 p.m.,

Another batch of hash browns,

The swing shift prep cook calling in sick (“Yeah sure, sure, Okay.”),

Slicing red and white onions, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms,

Spare moments to slump-shut eyes against heat,

Lean against an appliance, thinking, splash

Sweat from face in the triple sink,

Slap hands on trousers checkered as human history,

V-neck T-shirt splattered with grease like a Rorschach test

Or sloppy baptism of dark water (“You see what you want to see,

The world’s not written in black and white.”), 

Back door propped open by a mop bucket,

Someone yelling bloody murder in the alley,

Bowl of minestrone in the microwave,

Cinder block stool to reach a 64-oz can of sauerkraut,

Opening it with a stationary crank for a fleeting Reuben

And another dozen hotdogs thawing out,

Glue strip cluttered with dead and dying flies

Like soldiers in a muddy ditch, 

And one bumble bee. (“Where’d he come from?”)

Waitresses handling the coffee, desserts, everything,

Changing soda syrup quick as a magic trick,

Black uniforms wavering between lingerie and shroud,

 (“God bless them.”), rags in their pockets,

My tuna melt on the ready board,

The chef’s window like a plywood peephole view

Of a construction site – gap in the city

Rigged with foundation lines –

Conversations from the tables a constant crescendo and collapse,

Snippets coming in clear from two loud mouths at the counter

Comparing American cities: 

Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Memphis, Spokane, Charlottesville, Duluth, Birmingham, Davenport, Buffalo, Boulder, Berkeley, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, L.A., Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Tulsa, Santa Fe, New Orleans (“Never been.”), D.C., San Diego,  Philadelphia, Sacramento, New York

(“No place compares to New York.”),

Top ten sound track bleeding from a transistor radio old as the soft porn

Calendar from a local hardware store that no longer exists tied to a metal shelf,

My order served with thick slices of dill pickle and potato chips,


Condiments clustered together like strangers at a sit-in,

Fresh fruit in a dusty wicker basket at the cash register,

Toothpick dispenser in the shape of a dinosaur,

Framed portraits of Martin Luther King and Malcom X,

Supporting beams decorated with photographs of friends,

Family, customers of all color and design, children,

A noble lineage.

Thanks to Parthenon West Review, and David Holler, editor, for publishing At A Diner.