Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sneaky Devil (Part Two)

“Your teacher said you misbehaved we
Read in your notebook today.”
Jeremy nodded that this was indeed true
And he knew it wasn’t okay.

Regarding how he’d acted in school, we
Didn’t want to excessively nag.
(The notebook in question, by the way,
Was put everyday in his bag.)

We explained that if this behavior kept up
Certain things would be forbidden.
The next day as we got him ready for school,
Jeremy’s notebook had been hidden.

He knew that if this notebook was around
It was going to inhibit a
Way for him to have any fun at school, so
He got rid of Exhibit A.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Anger Mismanagement

The walk from the car to our house
Should have been a piece of cake
But there were many times when this
Was a treacherous journey to make.

Jeremy, now 12, let his body go limp
For reasons he wasn’t telling.
I carried him, he dragged his feet and
The whole time he was yelling.

He just would not cooperate --- both of
His knees were buckling.
Three guys in their twenties walked by
All of them loudly chuckling.

Instead of just resorting to my
Getting really quiet act
I completely lost my temper and
Read these guys the riot act.

“Do you think this is funny? Yeah,
Autism’s just a crack up!”
(People several blocks away could
Hear I had my back up.)

“I’m not bothering you! Some days with
My son knock me to the floor!
Unless you three have other plans, do
You mind if I walk to my door?”

They mumbled and looked sheepish as
They skulked away from my yard.
My final punctuation was slamming my
Front door especially hard.

My wife was out, so I called Josh because
I knew he would care
That I’d stood up forcefully for Special Ed
Families everywhere.

“Did these guys point at Jeremy?” Josh
Asked somewhat abstractly.
I thought this over and replied, “Well,
The truth is … not exactly.”

“Did they call him some kind of name?”
My resolve was not so steely.
“Now that you put it that way … I would
Have to say … not really.”

Josh then concluded, “My thoughts on this
Are not entirely complete
But it sounds like for no reason you screamed
At three guys on the street.”

I’d seen this kind of dance from Josh and
I’d heard this kind of song
Which is why I felt so confident that he
Was totally … right.

If you lived near Melrose Avenue
Around 1993
And someone had a hissy fit who
Looks like me

This may seem rather long ago
To you like archeology
But if I yelled at you, please accept
My most belated apology.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Day I Met Ricky Jay

Around 1980, I was at a friend’s house
(I was around 26)
And Ricky was amazing all of us with
His incredible tricks.

During a lull, I picked up his deck and
Gave it a good perusing
As I was curious as to just what kind
Of cards Jay was using.

Loud gasps. I instantly realized that I had
Done something horribly improper
Like doodling on the original painting of
“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper.

He looked me in the eye, sighed and said,
“Tony, with regards
To magicians, you should never put your
Hands on their cards.

It takes months --- many, actually --- for us
To know each and every one
Which is why anybody touching them is a
Thing that should not be done.”

Jay paused and sensed he got through to me
And that his lesson would stick.
He smiled that wonderful smile and launched
Into another stunning trick.

Jay could have understandably ripped me a
New one and read me the riot act
But didn’t and handled my ghastly faux pas
With both ease and quiet tact.

I’m writing this on just hearing about his death:
In his sweet memory, I offer a cheer
To recall how his kindness and magic skills once
Made my embarrassment disappear.


Friday, November 23, 2018

55 Years Later

One day in a Pasadena bookstore, I accidentally
found Of Poetry and Power.

It came out in 1964 and features many of the best
poets in America pondering JFK’s death, including
Robert Frost, John Berryman and W.H. Auden.

“Bulletin” (just twelve lines) is my favorite poem
from this collection.

Here’s a Wikipedia link to the poet who died in
2017 and was only 23 when she wrote it.


by Chana Faerstein

Is dead. Is dead. How all
The radios sound the same.
That static is our seed.
Is dead. We heard. Again.

We peck at the words like bran
Strung on a string of air.
Is dead. Again. Is dead.
Too rhythmic for despair.

Our faces are all the same,
Learning to taste the word.
Lockjawed with awkwardness.
Is Dead. We know. We heard.



Friday, September 28, 2018

Of Republicans and Drunks

Bush Sr. thought his old pal
Was surely going to shine
As his Defense Secretary 
Way back in 1989.

But John Tower’s virtues Democrats
Were unable to extol
Because his alcoholism then was so
Clearly out of control.

However, the Texan senator changed
His way of thinking
And promised that if he got the gig
He would quit drinking.

One reason I love Republicans
Is 47 of them did agree
That a life-long boozer should
Be head of the DOD.

Tower didn’t get enough votes:
Those charges seemed to stick.
Unfortunately, the guy who did
Was that Cheney fellow, Dick.

Looking back on this years later
Will put Democrats in a funk ---
We’d all be much better off now
If they’d just supported that drunk.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Ken Calvert

A woman named Denise follows me on Twitter.
She lives in California and recently posted her
hope that this Republican is voted out of office.
His name was familiar. After hunting around in
the semi-vast Peyser Poetry Archives, I found
something I wrote about him a while back.


Ken Calvert

Once in a car in his California district
A hooker had her head in Calvert’s lap.
He told a cop they were “just talking.”
(I would’ve said she was taking a nap.)

That same year, 1993, he was divorced
And accused of alimony he did not pay
And right at that particular point in time
Calvert had this amazing thing to say.

He noted all of these specific events then
That had been happening to him lately
Had “helped him become a better person”
And also enabled him “to mature greatly.”

Frequenting hookers & not paying alimony
I bet most sensible people would be loath
To regard as reliable paths to take when
One becomes focused on personal growth.

This sundae isn’t really in need of a cherry
But there is one that I would like to place:
From the House floor, he criticized Clinton
For his affair with Monica Whatsherface.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Julia Child

The famous chef was born in 1912 &
Arrived in the world’s arena
In a wealthy family. (No one called it
The mean streets of Pasadena.)

One looks back now & can easily say,
“Julia, very soon you’re
Going to be in the big leagues but now
Enjoy one that’s Junior.”

With Pasadena’s Junior League, the
Fundamental fact is
She worked on plays for children as
A writer & an actress.

The Junior League’s loss was our gain:
She was later keen for us to believe
In French cooking even if we couldn’t
Define or pronounce joie de vivre.

Because Julia was so unpretentious, she
Made culinary tips approachable
And even when recipes were complicated
She prevailed by being sociable.

Dashing about the kitchen, she had the energy
Of not one person but a dozen. It’s
Chaotic but fun, she was always larger than life:
Think Big Bird but with oven mitts.


Friday, August 10, 2018

Teaching Philip Larkin To Dance

This fell to Maeve Brennan, a fellow librarian
Whose life was arguably a bit dull
Until she later became one of the three women
Involved with the Don Juan of Hull.

At Oxford, Larkin loved jazz but didn’t dance
And back then had the view
That dancing --- without any question --- was
Something very difficult to do.

He even consulted dance instruction books
But concluded concretely
That black feet, white feet and dotted lines
Just baffled him completely.

One imagines Maeve wasn’t merely hoping
He would be ooh-ing and aah-ing
At her expert instruction in both the waltz
And all manner of cha-cha-cha-ing.

I guess her secret mission was to make Larkin
Not see it as a possible hex
To have physical contact with a woman that
Wasn’t actually part of sex.

Intimacy was something he grew up without
So it’s pretty easy to understand
That regarding aspects of love & romance, he
Was a stranger in a strange land.

Some of her lessons must’ve sunk in but I bet
His mind drifted off to mopeds
Being driven by young & flirtatious girls who
Were Hull undergraduate coeds.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Jonathan Gold (1960-2018)

The achievement that still remains
A bit hard to believe
Is Gold’s being chosen as the first
Food critic to receive

A Pulitzer Prize but what’s even more
Worthy to yell & shout about
Are the City Of Angels restaurants that
He decided to write about.

Unlike his L.A. Times predecessors who
On a rather regular basis
Reviewed upscale restaurants, he was
Drawn to out of the way places.

The various and exotic ethnic dives that
Jonathan often sought
As a rule always tended to reflect Southern
California’s melting pot.

Gold inspired so many locals to be daring &
After an awfully long freeway trip crawl
Across surface streets to find some amazing
Vietnamese place in a crappy strip mall.

He changed the way that millions eat &
Embraced this as his duty
Yet somehow did this without sounding
Like an obnoxious foodie.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Cutoff Point

My old pal, Jim Jensen, recently told me that for a while
the receptionist at the beauty parlor his wife went to was
... Lorena Bobbit.

Yeah, that Lorena Bobbit.

I promised Jim I'd find the poem I wrote about her and
post it.


The Cutoff Point

While he was asleep, Lorena Bobbitt
Sliced off her husband’s penis, went
For a drive and then tossed it out the

Window like it was a flyer that she’d
Found under her windshield wiper
For teeth whitening or rug cleaning.

In court, Lorena claimed John Wayne
Bobbitt persistently denied her any
Orgasms. I’d hoped the fallout would

Be husbands with unsatisfied wives
Would overnight all become the most
Attentive lovers. No such luck.


“The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” was on
Then. I sensed that Robert MacNeil hated
This story & desperately wanted no part

Of it. But the following year, 1993, when
The verdict in this case was finally going
To be announced, MacNeil had to mention

This because the Bobbits had found a way
To become legitimately newsworthy. He
Did the wrap-up on world events and then

Brought up the end of this controversial
Trial. I wondered exactly how he would
Convey all of the sordid details. The wall

Behind MacNeil now was suddenly like this
Enormous dam with multiple visible cracks
And water beginning to leak out. Still, he

Single-handedly attempted to keep it in
Place and prevent the coarsening of the
Culture and harm to all things decent and

Proper. “Lorena Bobbitt was found not
Guilty of ‘malicious wounding’ against
Her husband for severing his … payniss.”

MacNeil elected to mispronounce the
Offending word to make it seem genteel.
But the dam broke anyway as cable TV

And talk radio and O.J and Fox News and
The internet would soon wash away all of
The decorum that PBS and their flagship

News show had fondly cherished. Looking
Back, it was inevitable but I now can see
MacNeil bravely trying to stop the tide like

Some Canuck King Canute and despite my
Mockery back then, I now salute MacNeil
For giving it the old college try.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Downward Spiral

In my teens,
I met Mary twice.
A friend of a friend.
Pretty. Nice.

A few years later
At twenty-one
Mary’s short life
Came undone.

Atop an office building,
Unanswered prayers.
Descended to street level:
No elevator, no stairs.


Mary was the first
Person I’d
Met who committed

In the heyday of shame
Such events
Created a silence that
Was immense.

Her death was hushed up
Efficiently banished
Like mishaps where nuclear
Missiles vanished.

It took many
Many years
For whispers about Mary
To reach my ears.


A Golden Gate Bridge
Documentary provided
Glimpses of people
Who had all decided

They’d had it with the world
They were living in
And took leaps without faith
Into oblivion.

These images helped me visualize
Mary’s fate ---
Battling gravity means punching
Above your weight.


Over 200 feet in the air
Should be a corrective
To supply any missing
Life perspective.

But speeds approaching
75 miles an hour
Will deprive anyone from
Having the power

To think very clearly when
What beckons
Is a death wish whoosh of
Four seconds.


If you swallow pills, there’s
Always the chance
To invite salvation by calling
An ambulance.

But jump off a building & things
Are as bad as they can be.
No cavalry left to summon ---
No Hail Mary, no Plan B.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sirhan Sirhan

I actually have not one but two connections
To Sirhan Sirhan.
Right from the outset, I would really like to
Be very clear on

All of the basic facts --- the first one is that
I do remain somewhat beguiled
Because I now live in Altadena near where
He attended classes as a child.

He went to an Altadena school but Pasadena
Is where he lived back in the day:
Seventeen miles from the Ambassador Hotel
Where he shot and killed RFK.

My proximity to history brings it alive and it
Reminds me how Fate can be cruel:
I ponder Sirhan and Robert F. Kennedy when
I’m driving by Eliot Middle School.


The second connection’s also school-related:
This happened way back when I
Was fifteen, living at home with my parents
And going to Pacific Palisades High.

I missed a whole day of school --- an event
Which alone was worthwhile:
A family friend in local news had offered to
Take me to this historic trial.

The defendant that day was quite silent, very
Much the introvert
Unassuming and tiny in his way too big, loose-
Fitting white shirt.

At times he seemed distinctly lost in all of
The legal proceedings
Often sitting without moving at all during
His lawyers’ pleadings.

A courtroom artist slowly nodded off
As I watched his techniques:
I later met the defendant’s mother &
She pinched both my cheeks.

The morning session broke for lunch and
I felt like I was in a classroom
As class just ended. I went on a mad dash
To try and find a bathroom.

I looked without success and hadn’t figured
That one would be so hard to find ---
I approached newsmen with microphones
Who wondered what was on my mind.

I didn’t think that The Fourth Estate were
Folks I should be shunning.
I stopped, blurted out, “No comment” and
Then resumed my running.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Market Going

I was minding my own business driving to a
Southern California store for groceries while
listening to Philip Larkin on a CD reading

“Church Going.” He suddenly stops, coughs
(coughs?) and, incredibly, improvises this
entirely new stanza that I instantly know no

one’s ever heard before. Was I hallucinating?
Probably. Nonetheless, I abruptly pull over,
park & play track fourteen thirteen times but

what I thought I heard has gone missing, like
Larkin himself did back in 1985.


Phil, are you taking the piss out of me from the top
floor apartment you now occupy in the next life with
a most commanding view of the cosmos? Did the

telescope I assume you brought with you find me
here on Earth and prompt you to prank me just like
Conquest famously did with you? (These days, you

would no longer have to ask Robert to pick up girlie
mags for you in Soho porn shops --- computers now
have access to smut 24-7.) In related news, 1,000

Girl Guides have still yet to assemble to recite “This
Be The Verse” but give it time. I agree with you it’s
bound to happen. Your old pal Kingsley became the

famous novelist you never did. But there aren’t any
statues of him. However, there is one of you in Hull
which also has popular Larkin festivals where large,

colorfully painted toads that you'd gleefully loathe
dot the landscape. After Motion’s biography, some
felt you were racist, sexist and didn’t deserve your

reputation. But, like Martian Poetry, that didn’t last.
You’re still beloved around the world but especially
in England where (as you predicted) there was room

for you in Westminster Abbey: you wound up in the
hallowed Poet’s Corner in 2016. Anyway, feel free
to spy on me whenever you’re inclined. I’ll leave my

computer on. Right now, it’s playing one of your
favorite songs --- Sidney Bechet’s “Blue Horizon.”
Like his playing, your poetic voice falls upon all

of us as they say love should, like an enormous …
something or other.


Friday, April 13, 2018

My Poem In The Journal Of Modern Poetry's 2018 Anthology, Dear Mr. President

Subterranean Homesick Blues (Rerouted & Updated)

by Tony Peyser

Donny's into debasement
Messing with your medicine
We’re on the pavement
Protesting the government
In a romp, drain the swamp
“The middle class’ll get paid off!”
Don’t buy that or deny that
He’s another Bernie Madoff.

Watch out, kid
For any takeover bid
Wall Street’s cheat sheet
Puts Main Street in the backseat
Ignore friendly Putin spies
In every DC alleyway
If you see Mike Pence,
Jump a fence & run the other way.

MAGA comes fleet foot
Free elections now kaput
The social media cheat put
More lies than his tweets could
The phone's tapped anyway
Trump’s a chump the Russkies pay
They must bust any day
Orders from Robert Mueller say.

Look out boy
For any Wikileaks ploy
Be careful how your ship goes
Don’t back down to those
Neo-Nazi tiki torch cryptos
Kick these lackeys in the khakis
You don't need the Weather Channel
To know which way the wind blows.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Poem For Poetry & Autism Awareness Month

The Kindness Of A Stranger   

Our son (four years old, autistic) often
Yelled loud and then even louder:
After his diagnosis, pretty much every
Shred of normalcy took a powder.

Life with Jeremy was a buffet of panic
Wreaking havoc every day
And caused most people who we knew
To all silently drift away.

We desperately tried to hold onto what
Was left, yet while
We did just this, we still found ourselves
In unwanted exile

Which as the years passed by we did
Eventually learn
That this was a place from which you
Never fully return.

Many familiar ties were cut --- a loneliness
Hard to forget.
My wife & I then reached out to someone
We’d never met.


The man who got our letter knew we were
At the end of our rope.
He said talk to professionals and be sure to
Never give up hope.

He actually wrote us two letters: an amazing
Thing to have done.
The first one was meant for us but the second
One was to our son.

We didn’t realize right away that this man
Thought we would need
To imagine that our autistic son someday
Would actually read.

From such kindness can come strength
To banish fears,
Its repercussions felt and remembered
For years & years.


Hold on --- my bad --- I buried the lead.
I should’ve already said
This stranger’s last name was Rogers &
His first name was Fred.

(He might dispute the term “stranger” and it
Would take some getting used to:
Let’s say we were people in his neighborhood
He hadn’t yet been introduced to.)

It’s worth noting something now and
Not in any way that’s cursory.
2018’s a big landmark for his TV show:
It’s the fiftieth anniversary.

My 31 year-old son has a talking computer:
Jeremy’s good at multi-tasking.
Can he read? Oh, yeah. Of course. You bet.
(By the way, thanks for asking.)

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but doesn’t seem gone.
For me, what he achieved in
Those two letters was passing along hope that
We hadn’t dared to believe in.

His spirit now lives in all those who recall him.
If you’re wondering could this
Great man could be summed up briefly? Sure:
The embodiment of goodness.