Richard Fox



If   I  die   today   bury   me   in   this   purple   blanket
I'd ask for the dog too curled in the crook of my arm
he isn't the  one  with  cancer  and likes you more
if  you  have  shiva  to  sit   he'll  fill  your  lap
thanks for cleaning the floor when I pass out
and  spill  formula  from  the  PET  tube
please  hold   my  head   as  I  vomit
blanket   bleeds   all   our   scents
my drool drink and food stains
in   the   grave   totem
not for my warmth
but my nose



John Lennon writes a note to Sean's teacher


Dear Ms. Goodenberry,

Sean was absent from school yesterday
I might say he was ill but that'd be a lie
We kept him home because he was well   naked
and lying on an empty canvas in Yoko's studio
he dipped his palms in paint   spun in
circles    ovals   diamonds
using elbows knees forehead backside
even his penis to draw daydreams
by the time he was bored it was too late to
get the paint washed off
I once got in trouble in Art School for coming
into class with oils and charcoal all over my kit
didn't want Sean to go through the same grief
nor you because you are a gentle soul
who follows the rules and tries to act stern
enclosed is a Polaroid of the canvas
far beyond a boy's homework assignment

Ta for now, peace and luv,


Nitrous Oxide

plop plop plop   drops on metal sink
the dentist   syringe in hand   bags under eyes
turns my head   apologizes for the pinch of the needle
ain't nothing I tell him   yesterday while
the oncologist sliced open a green lesion on my hip
my phone kept ringing and it was under my ass
had a choice of missing the call or bleeding my briefs
waiting for the Novocain to kick in  I play drums
on the instrument tray with toothbrush and pick

out the window ole Charley weaves across the street
cars hit their brakes   drivers their horns
Charley takes two steps   makes the sign of the cross
takes three steps and salutes the white lines
as he crosses a yellow pair   a pickup truck swerves
to miss him and spills a deer carcass   Charley
administers last rites   I hear quick steps
the dentist rips the apron from my chest   there's
a bomb threat he says   won't hurt my mouth says I


The Fifth Floor

the entrance to the fifth floor
is guarded by a red button
high on the wall
read the sign
press the button pull the handle
a hum as the door opens                                                                                

primitive art work tiles the walls
bright clumsy designs in childlike hand
the tables are covered with large stuffed dolls
stained satin pillows
toys with large beads to wind over wires
a man with glazed eyes sings cowboy songs
melodic voice dancing over a wide range
his companion mutters random syllables

Aunt Helen sits in a recliner against a table
as i speak, lips on ear
she feels her stump without expression                                                                    
for months her missing knee leg and foot
have daily caused mysterious anguish
a discovery lost in scattered dreams
gangrene has renewed its assault
morphine pump a dull nightstick
she rocks and fidgets with her clothing
plays with her tube feels the stump again
rubs her hands looks down into her lap

i tell her family stories shout familiar names
stroke her arm caress her cheek
she continues the ritual in silence
the antibiotics have been stopped

at Zady's shiva
whenever the Kaddish was chanted
not just the Mourner's Kaddish
but the Reader's Kaddish or the Chazi Kaddish
Helen would pipe in loudly and hold each word
then trumpet AMEN in a big high voice

linking her fingers with mine
i chant the Shema
the words she would wish to whisper
the declaration the rites the gathering
then repeat the watchwords of faith                                      
"Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad!”
"Hear O Israel The Lord Our G-d The Lord Is One!"
the last breaths martyrs utter
looking through the eyes of tormenters

the exit from the fifth floor
is guarded by a number pad
high on the wall
memorize the code
touch the four digits
a solid click as the door opens                                                                      

when i return home
my first task is to wash my hands
that's what we do
when we leave cemeteries


Notes: Shiva  --  period of mourning, held at home.  Kaddish  --  Prayer for the dead.  Shema  -- most sacred prayer in Judaism, a statement of faith.



When I stepped on African soil, I waited for my toes to burn...

The detour our guide chose -

Before Sidi Bou Said, white walls blue shutters gray cobblestone alleys
Before the Phoenician field of stones, each blessing a first born sacrificed to Baal
Before Hannibal's Carthage, buried by Byzantine brick and Roman marble
Before Augustus' Baths, Corinthian columns glaring like hawks at rows of catapult balls
Before the Palace of Bardo's mosaics, ancient sandstone veins

The detour passed by...

The United States Second World War Cemetery of North Africa
two thousand seven hundred markers in parade formation
my father's classmates
grass greener than any golf course
I yearn to walk with my sons down the rows
leave pebbles on each Cross and Star of David
let the blood beneath our soles join us to this land



Richard H. Fox was born and bred in Worcester MA.  He attended Webster University, as much artist colony as college, in the early 1970's.  These diverse cultures shaped his world view and love of words.  He seconds Stanley Kunitz' motion that people in Worcester are "provoked to poetry."