Old man with a cell phone (Version 1)

One sunny morning on the way to the office, I spied an impeccably groomed older man sitting at a terrace, writing a text message on his cell phone.

I couldn’t see his face, but he looked to be long past 60. He had chosen to keep his hair a bit long, combed back over his head with hair gel, those little curls just grazing the collar of his elegant dark suit (a look locally known as engominado), and I could see the glint of cufflinks on his sleeves.  I had the first verse before I arrived at the office. Naughty me, I knew where it was going to go from the moment I saw him.

Old man with a cell phone

The old man with a cell phone
and cufflinks on his sleeves
still tells his wife he loves her
each morning as he leaves.

He dresses like he’s off to work.
They both know that’s a lie.
(There hasn’t been a paycheck
since a year ago, July.)

He imagines her as busy,
ironing his shirts,
and as he texts his mistress,
briefly wonders if it hurts.

But no harm done, a man’s a man!
It’s always been this way!
(Unknown to him, his wife has guests,
a new one every day.)


The other day, as I was photographing cyclists riding up and down Rambla Catalunya with total indifference to the  “bicycles forbidden” signs, I saw that I had captured something much more interesting….. Design is everywhere.


I was on the final stretch of my morning walk to the office, rushing along the last two blocks, dodging strollers and cyclists, and I caught a glimpse of the legs and feet of a woman just in front of me that left me thinking long after I’d passed her. She was wearing black orthopedic shoes and white fishnet stockings. Dissonance? Bravery? Self-esteem?

Before I entered the office door, this line was rolling around in my head “Her shoes were black and sturdy and her stockings, made of lace…”.  I put that on hold for a couple of days, let it develop, and it took me to a place I did not expect.  Fragments of my long-ago life in the US, mixed with the Joan Colom photos of the Barrio Chino (red-light district) of Barcelona. Bravery and self-esteem? Definitely!


Her shoes were black and sturdy
in agreement with her face.
Her dress was “go-to-meetin’ ”
and her stockings, made of lace.

She had a voice could split the heavens,
bring down glory on us all,
but that don’t earn a livin’
so she’s workin’ at the mall.

She couldn’t get a day shift.
They said she didn’t have the look.
So they told her ’bout the night shift,
and she learned how to hook.

She takes her lonely strangers,
and gives them so much more
than they could ever ask for.
(But they still call her a whore.)

She asks for no one’s pity.
Knows the Lord loves her the same.
She sings in church on Sunday,
and at night, she’s on the game.

one of these is mattie


When the first line of this poem came to me, I thought it would be a great title for a short story. (Maybe it will be?). By the way, isn’t there a Harry’s Bar in every city in the world?


He was a fiction character.
I knew him long before
I met him down at Harry’s
(third table, by the door).

I knew that he’d wear glasses,
have an earring, and be tall,
and as I approached the table
he wouldn’t speak at all.

But the eyes behind his glasses
would unnerve me, and I’d fall
head over heels.

We’d share a coffee,
a few kisses, promise to call…

The good thing about fiction is,
it hardly hurts at all.


This qualifies obliquely as a Sidewalk Poem because I composed it while walking. The content was prompted by people-watching, and reflecting on the fact that although I’ve lived in Barcelona for almost half my life, about 20 minutes into any conversation I still get asked where I’m from. And the answer started this poem…


My family came from Europe,
passed through Texas on the way.
Greatgrandpa married an Indian.
She was beautiful, they say.

I’ve never seen a photo,
but her cheekbones must be mine.
I share them with my brothers —
an interracial sign
too subtle to be noticed
if you are not inclined
to look for family secrets.

My children can’t be Indians,
with freckles and blond hair.
It’s just a story for Thanksgiving
when all the family’s there.
It brings to life the history
they read about in books
and teaches them that kinship
is more complex than it looks.


*Note – liberties taken: wasn’t greatgrandfather, but great-great. And my apologies – Native American didn’t fit the meter.