Poems and Stories

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fathers and Sons

Fathers & Sons

He was my father,
I was his only son.
Now I am a father
And I have a son.

That is how it works
In this world.
Fathers have sons,
Mothers have daughters.

I can not speak for my sisters
I can not speak for my mother.

As the son of the father,
You watch him
And you see what he does.
And then you decide
What to do.

When you are young,
You do exactly what he does
Because you want to be like him.
Then, later, it gets confusing.

You get older and you see things
That you don’t like or understand.
The influence is still there,
The bond, the frame of reference.

But then you must you decide:
I will or will not do this
or that thing that he does.

But you will always be his son,
And he will always be your father.
You know you will always love him
Even though you do not understand.
What he is thinking, or feeling.

He shows you in different ways.
It may be a horse that
he wants you to ride,
Or an old boat that you know
Is just yours together,
Or it may be a long drive in the car
handing him cup after cup
of black coffee.

It doesn’t matter what you do together.
Every minute is worth days,
Every day is worth months,
A week together is worth a year.

You wait for a word of praise
You remember every one.
“You look natural on that horse”,
“The boat looks good”,
“Good shot, good cast, nice fish…”

Then you go away
And you write your own story.

You have a son.
And you think about him
And what he did and said
And what you will do
And what you must do.

You do some of the same things
That your father did
And you do or say different things.
And you create another son
Who will be a father.

You don’t think about it all the time
But you are trying to improve him,
To make him a better person.
But, instead you make a man.

A man who may become a father
But will always be your son.
And you remember all the good things
That your father did or said
And you hope that your son
will remember, too...

Written 10/11/98 after the death of my father
Frederick Thomas Crowley (1923-1998).


F. Thomas Crowley, Jr.(1948- )
Father of
Thomas Yates Crowley (1975- )
Grandfather of
Lochlan Thomas Crowley (2011- )

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Last Pizza

The Last Pizza

Tony's Pizza, may I help you?”
How many times in the past 40 years had she answered the phone with this short, simple phrase? She even answered the home phone this way by accident. Tony's “accident” changed all that and a lot more. When he crashed the delivery VW into an oak tree, while trying to pick up a dropped can of Bud, he changed her world.
No insurance, a pile of bills, an underwater mortgage on a shitty house, and a failing pizza business was what he left her.
Yeah, I want 4 large with 2 white and two half pepperoni, half mushrooms delivered as soon as possible to 12 Oak Street. How much?”
She did not respond but simply looked around the kitchen to see who was on today;
Mike, sluggish high school football moron who drove the new “delivery van”, her own aging Dodge Town & Country van,
Stephanie, brain-dead, pierced, tattooed slut, her cashier who used to take all the calls for Tony. After the funeral, she was not very lively on the phone;
Yeah, this is Tony's. What?”
Her own daughter had escaped a few years ago, thank God, to finish college at St. Johns and look for a job.
That will be $48 plus tax and a $5 delivery charge”
No way! Pizza Hut has a special for $9.99 large and free delivery!”
Great. Call them.”
She hung up the phone and leaned back against the flour-dusted counter. A few minutes went by and the phone rang again.
Ok, we want Tony's pizzas. Can you get them here by 6 pm?” It was 5:15. typical.
6:15 maybe.”
Ok Ok hurry up we have people coming over at 6” . click.
She was so sick of this. Tony hadn't been sober enough to make a fucking pizza for years. He pushed his hands into the flour and water goo and made little pizza dough balls. laid them out on a huge, stainless tray, and then went in the back to drink 4 beers. That was, he had mysteriously, and inexplicably calculated, the exact time needed for the dough to rise. He would get up out of his favorite drinking chair and come into the store slurring his favorite, stupid, tired line:
Time to make the doughnuts!”
This meant it was time for HER to make the doughnuts/pizza as he flirted with Stephanie, joked with Mike, and fiddled with the cash register as he watched her to make sure she didn't see him pocket a twenty.
She made the four pizzas mechanically, set them in the oven and told Mike to get the van ready. He always forgot to check the gas and always had to come back in to get money from Stephanie.
The phone rang.
Is this Tony's Pizza?”
Yes. TONY's Pizza”
I need a huge pizza.”
Uh. Ok. We have large which feeds 12. What do you want on it?”
That's what is usually on a PIZZA….anything else?”
Like what?”
God help me. Another moron girl from the St. Johns dormitory.
Pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, mushrooms, green peppers…….”
Oh no! I'm a Vegan! No meat! Yuck!”
You mean Vegetarian right?”
No way. I'm totally Vegan all the way!”
Soooo, cheese is Ok?”
Sure, I love pizza!”
Where and when?”
WHERE do you want the pizza delivered and WHEN do you need it”
St. Johns University around 5”
Uh, yeah. Dorm 5 by the church on campus”
OK. That will be $12 plus taxes and a $5 delivery charge”
Ok. Do you take credit cards?”
Master Card & Visa. Charged in advance”
OK, bye”
Miss. We need the card number “ (you fucking moron)
She took down the information, slipped the pizza in the oven and 12 minutes later pulled it out, sliding it into a pizza box with the clever words “PIZZA” on top. Tony never wanted to spring for his name on the box so she would write it on as it left the store.
Where's this one going?” Mike reluctantly asked.
Never mind. I'll deliver it.”
Mike and Stephanie looked at each other as if she had said she was going to put her head in the oven, yet said nothing but “OK” and went back to their lame conversation.
She walked out to the van. Started the engine and looked at the gas gauge. “EMPTY” with the warning light glowing...Big surprise.
She went back into the store, opened the register and took out a twenty. Mike and Stephanie looked at her as if they had never seen her before. Blank expressions, no questions, no comments. She walked back out to the van.
As she drove through the quiet, upscale neighborhood, looking at the houses where they had been delivering pizzas for so long, staring at the beautiful brick and stone mini-mansions with long, curving driveways and two, three and even four car garages or carriage houses that were much bigger and more grand than their own modest raised ranch twelve miles away in another smaller, blue collar town, she thought to herself; “Why?” and “Why not?” and “What happened?” and “where did the time go along with her dreams”?

As her mind wandered, so did the van, into the opposite lane and into a large moving van heading up the hill as she was driving down the same hill.  The funeral was sad.  Tony would have made it a party with free pizza.  Not one customer showed up but Stephanie and Mike were there.  Stephanie cried and Mike held onto her as he sipped from a 24 ounce Bud light undr his Philadelphia Eagles parka.
Note: The last pizza ws never delivered. It was discovered by a lab-shepherd mix who sniffed it out at the junkyard whre the totalled wreck of the van was delivered by Tony's Wrecking Service (no relation) and devoured without incident in about 3 seconds.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Russian Roulette with Jimmy Tahoe

Writing is like Russian Roulette.  You write, you shoot. Sometimes, its a blank and you feel sort of good that you wrote something even if it wasn't very good.  Then, you write, you shoot, and BANG! It works and the character you wrote about comes alive.  You keep writing and he grows with you and learns from you and you learn from him.  Then, you stop.  He stops too.  He waits for you to come back and finish him or save him or kill him.
Jimmy Tahoe is out there waiting for me.  He is a small native American boy living on and off the lake. Lake Tahoe, of course.  He was born on the beach at the end of the lake where the town is now. His parents named him after the lake.  Then, they died soon thereafter when he was only 8 years old.
He has been 8 years old for over 30 years because that was when I stopped writing about him.

This is what I think Jimmy looks like.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Ice Tides
Image result for ice in a dirty river

Ice forms strange shapes as
tides clean dark rivers daily
our lives need tides too.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Cuban Paintings_Chapter 1

Chapter One – Havana, Cuba, 1925
The ancient, rusty freighter slid past the El Moro Castle two hours after sunset on September 19, 1925. and entered Havana Harbor where it dropped anchor and as required by international law and custom, raised the yellow quarantine flag. Another smaller flag, no bigger than an ensign, was hoisted on a second yardarm. The Captain raised his binoculars and searched the empty ramparts of the castle for his signal. Nothing. He went below to his cabin, opened a greasy porthole and lit the Cuban cigar he had been saving since leaving Cadiz Harbor, Spain.

The next morning he woke to a brilliant sunrise, went on deck and waited for the harbormaster and his assistant to come aboard to clear customs. After the usual pleasantries and a perfunctory greeting they glanced at the manifest listing the cargo, shrugged, smiled and accepted a significant “harbor clearance fee” and left the ship. No more than 15 minutes had elapsed to inspect the vessel and its cargo. That evening, at the dock in Havana, four men came aboard to claim three large wooden crates. The crates contained over 100 priceless works of art and sculptures by masters from France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands dating back to the 16th century. 
 They were not seen again until May, 1935 when they were produced to satisfy a debt owed by Salvatore Buffardi, Italian art critic, to a Severino Marrozos y Andrade. In 1937, they were smuggled out of Cuba on a diplomatic flight to Miami, Florida. From 1937 until 2014 they remained hidden in the garage of a small townhouse in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The house was owned by my maternal grandfather, Nicholas E. Meneses, Cuban Consul General of Philadelphia.

Nicholas E Meneses (left) inspecting a cargo of sugar shipped to Philadelphia, PA from Cuba, 1948.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Flannels in August

The girl -
She was 15, tall and thin, growing up too fast. It was a cool morning in Maine. August, but still cool in the morning. She picked out a red and black checkered flannel shirt from the closet in the Soldier room. It had been her grandfather's and had been in the closet all winter. It was damp from the basement below the closet but not moldy. She sniffed the arm and tried to remember her grandfather's smell. It had been too long and she couldn't smell him but she tried to believe she could. Everyone else in the old house was still asleep so she quietly slipped out the back door, closing it gently so it wouldn't slam. She was barefoot and the grass was wet and heavy with dew. Some bird on the bay made a strange lonely, singular cry. That's a Loon, she thought. Her grandfather and her father had told her that years ago.
The daughter -
The small, black and white checkered flannel shirt was too thick and too warm for August but she always wore it in the garden because that was where her father wore it when he was alive and still able to work outside. She remembered the years when he seemed possessed by the garden and the yard, working late into the evening until her mother called him in for dinner. Whacking the weeds to keep them back, out of the yard, cutting and hacking everything as if to gain some control and restore order. She saw the signs of dementia early but it took 10 years to take him completely. She fought along side him for all those years but they both lost. Now, she had his flannel shirt and it still smelled like him, she believed.
The son  -
As soon as the August sun reddened the sky over Islesboro, Jake would open his eyes, with some effort as he was still tired and a little rough after last nights late dinner and drinks by the fire pit, roasting marshmallows for the kids and drinking another ice cold beer. The sun warmed his face and was the best alarm clock on the Maine coast. He got up and walked to the closet for a shirt. Nelle had stocked up on warm flannel shirts at the Goodwill in Rockland and kept them in the closet in the Yellow House for summer family and guests. He picked out a faded brown and purple one, soft as a chamois, and put it on as he walked to the kitchen. After he made coffee, he grabbed his rod and headed for the dock. The tide was wrong but it didn't matter. He might still catch and release a few mackerel before breakfast.
Big Red - husband, father, grandfather,
He was cold again. August in Maine but to him it was always cold, everywhere. He was wearing his long johns and opened his eyes but only saw the ceiling. White, empty. He reached out his left hand as he did every morning for the past 60 years to find Martha. She was there. Asleep and snoring gently even though the rising sun was bright on her face. He got up slowly, put his feet on the cold, hard, wooden floor and shivered. The rug was not there so he walked to the dresser and got out a pair of socks. The closet door was open but there was no light and he did not want to turn one on so he reached in and felt around for a shirt. A warm shirt, like flannel, but a thick one to keep him warm. There. He had one and walked slowly to the bathroom, closed the door, pulled down on the string to light the room and looked at the shirt as if he had never seen it before. Black and white checked, thick flannel and warm. He put it on and walked into the living room and sat on the old, red couch, scratching the left arm of the couch as he waited for Martha to get up and fix his breakfast.
Tom Crowley
August 11, 2016
Lincolnville Beach, Maine

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Preservation on The Rocks_Chapter 1_04262002

“Preservation On The Rocks”

April 26, 2002 –

Closed on the house today. At the closing the current, soon to be former owners seemed a little jumpy. They kept looking at their watches, and hopping around in their seats. They were dressed up to go somewhere and were anxious to get there. Later, I realized that they were probably leaving the country, or at least the state. Then they started telling us about the ghost of The Countess that had been seen in the house at times. Not by THEM of course, but by others, also long dead. Thanks for sharing that detail NOW! We signed the papers anyway and everyone ran away from the lawyer’s office as fast as possible. I think I heard laughter in the parking lot.

We drove over to the house, which is located in the Rocks Village Historic (or Historical) District is located in a town called HAVERHILL. When we got to the house, we practiced pronouncing “Haverhill” for a few hours, while we were drinking the champagne left by the grateful (and relieved) former owners. Then, we decided that we REALLY lived in “ South” Merrimac because it was easier to pronounce after you had been drinking.

Exercise: say Haverhill three times real fast, correctly.
Restoration work: None

April 27-30 –

Long weekend, didn’t do much at the house but look for frogs in the basement. We also determined that the basement is ideal for storing wine. White wine goes in a deep hole in the basement floor that looks like an old well. The water also shows you where the water table is, all the time. Handy. What’s a water table?
The red wine goes in a brick lined cave where the old furnace was. We didn’t check the temperature but we are sure that the wine will be OK. Especially since we only buy three bottles at a time. Then we drink them over the next 2 days. There seems to be plenty of room for more bottles when we have money again. Like never

I was so concerned about all the work we had to do and the fact that I had sweet-talked my lovely, wonderful, gullible, arthritic wife into still ANOTHER restoration disaster that I had to go fishing with my brother in law, Mike. Mike has been married about a year, I have been married for over 30 years, ergo I had much wisdom to impart. Besides, Mike had some beer.

May, 2002 -

May 4th

Our furniture, which had been stored in Columbia, South Carolina for about 3 years after we moved from Chester, Connecticut (another diary, another restoration, for another time!) The movers from South Carolina called from the wrong side of the “Rocks Bridge”. This old green historic span connects West Newbury with Rocks Village. Their van was too heavy so they had to find a way to get to us via I-95 & I-495. We explained this by cell phone and they left. They arrived about an hour later and started to unload as the sky darkened and the rains came.

As we tried to do a running (literally) inventory check we noticed that they only had about half our furniture, and half of that was broken or water-stained and moldy. Naturally, the water stains and mold were on carefully preserved photographs and framed paintings. If they had been on our old, moldy furniture we wouldn’t have noticed, for a while anyway. I think the furniture would have been safer on the ORIGINAL “Mayflower”. I know the “crew” would have worked harder.
The worse news? They lost my best fishing rod! This means WAR! The war of Northern Aggression is about to start over. Don’t be messin’ with a mans fishin’ pole!

May 5th - (Cinco de Mayo!) Paralyzed with fear & apprehension, we opened more boxes and still more wine. The fear was that we would run out of wine before we ran out of boxes. We had plenty of both so we went to bed. “Cinco de my - - -!”

May 6-11, 2002
Writing by the week is better for a diary. That way it seems like you really got something accomplished. This week we opened more boxes, scraped some paint off one wall, found a hardware store, a lumberyard, and a package store nearby. We now know we can buy milk, bread and eggs within 2 miles, guns, liquor and ammo within 6 miles, and four different ice cream stands within 4 miles in any direction. I can also walk to the river to fish. Good week. Oh, I forgot, we haven’t seen any ghosts yet. A very good week!

May 12-18, 2002 –
Met some of the neighbors. Nice to know many of them drink. Not that this is a pre-occupation with people who restore old houses. It’s just that after sucking down or sniffing in plaster dust, attic insulation, or basement dirt all day, you really need to open a bottle of wine and pretend that the “workers” just left (the imaginary ones, because you couldn’t afford to hire any) and walk around to critique their work.
This week we worked in the yard and started to do some real work inside. Since it was both Mothers Day and my daughter’s birthday, I got Nelle a new putty knife and promised to work like a slave for her all day. The kids tried to help too. However, Elizabeth had a prior commitment and got her hair and nails done, and Tommy got a speck of dirt under his contact lens so we had to go to Home Depot (20 miles away) to get him some protective eye gear and gloves. Then, after stopping at a Farm Stand for pie and doughnuts, Starbucks for coffee (another 10 miles) it was kind of late when we got back to help Nelle with the ceiling. She had an ice bag strapped on her shoulder, a putty knife in one hand and a scraper in the other. No eye gear, no gloves. But we helped her down from the ladder and got her some ADVIL so she could make us lunch
Without hurting her shoulder or arm too much. After all it was Mothers Day.

After lunch, Tommy had a great idea; we really should buy that new lawnmower so he could mow the lawn for us. So he and I jumped in the SUV and went out in search of a mower. As we left, I think I heard Nelle shouting out something about hyperactivity and staying on task or not listening to her or something like that. Since we had the cell phone with us, we knew she would call if it were important.

By the time we got back with a new mower, (I don’t remember now how Tom talked me into a $3,500 John Deere Riding machine when we had a yard the size of a Half basketball court) Elizabeth was home with new hair and great nails. She really wasn’t in the mood to scrape old calcimine paint off the ceiling and besides I had gotten them tickets to Incubus on the Internet for her birthday and she had to get ready. That’s when we remembered that we forgot to buy gas for the mower. We called up to Nelle that we would be right back and did she need anything? She mumbled something from the top of the ladder. It was either “have a good time, I know I will” or “I need primer and more ADVIL” We couldn’t really hear her, but we still had the cell phone. I think Tom and I were bonding pretty well on these little trips. He was getting to learn a lot about “period restoration” and I was hearing a lot about his life. Perhaps a little too much. He had just gotten laid off and I was afraid he was going to hit me up for some cash so I just kept talking and changing the subject. I didn’t want to hurt his self-respect or deny him the chance of experiencing true, character-building poverty by giving him money. He would just resent us later and besides I had my eye on a new fly rod and the stripers were coming up the river soon. Is that wrong?

This time, when we got back, it was time for Tom to take a shower and get ready to go to the concert with Elizabeth. I got mad and told him he had to mow the lawn first. He did this in about 5 minutes with the new ride and only clipped half of Mom’s new flowerbed.

I checked on Nelle. Whoops, she really did want primer and more ADVIL. I felt pretty bad so I got up on the ladder and started scraping away.....Hmmmm, what the hell is this stuff on the ceiling? The layers from first or oldest to last included:

Wood lath - These were actually hand-split 7/8 inch boards with horsehair plaster on top of that, finished with a nice veneer plaster, then 2-3 layers of “calcimine” paint, the worst stuff to try to remove in the world because new paint won’t stick to it, but then they had painted it and then wallpapered over the paint, painted it again, and then, to cover up the cracks, gaps & holes, they had smeared a concrete-like swirl finish for the final layer. Great. This concrete crust had been slopped on to the side walls and also used to fill some fist sized holes in the wall. I scraped like mad for about 5 minutes and then told Nelle, she really looked like she could use a glass of wine. I hate it when she drinks alone so I stopped to open a nice bottle of Zinfandel.
After we had a few glasses, sitting outside in our old Adirondack chairs (thanks to Pam & Tony) we went back inside to stare at the ceiling.

I think May ended about here. June, 2002 diary entries to come later. Probably in November, 2002.

STOP - end of Part I – submitted to Port Planet – published in early Nov, 2002 issue