Soil brushes against
the inside of my finger
like sweet mush.
The patted down surface
of broken life re-emerges
from itself in a circle.
A tiny green speck bursts through
the placenta of blackness
and opens its two tiny digits
to the far-off sky
with very little chance
and reaches all the more
for the air and the light.
It isn’t true that mice prefer cheese. They would rather eat crunchy peanut butter or Purina brand dog food. I should never have told Don.
I work at Exxon. My grandfather has stock in Exxon. That’s why we buy our gas here. I’m on bathroom duty. December 14th, 2:04 p.m. My initials: JM.
My hands sweat as I poke the trap with the toe of my sneaker. The tail jiggles.
Toilet paper gets expensive, Don tells me. We can’t afford to keep donating it to the mice. His lips are stained blue from free raspberry Slurpees. He has zits on zits.
In gym class we had a visiting Tai Chi teacher. He tells us we should stand like sponges, hollow and absorbing. Absorbing what, I want to ask. We are straight lines from mouth to anus. I try not to laugh. He says this after Ellen farts. A long drawn-out fart. The kind that smells.
I think I should stand like that now. Deep breath, sunken chest.
I bend and pull the lever back, the body jerking. Its whiskers are as thin as a spider web.
There is peanut butter smeared on its small paws.
I touch it with one finger -- still warm. I wonder how long does it take to get cold?
I wipe my hands on my jeans and pinch the tail between my thumb and forefinger. I dangle it over the toilet bowl, close to the water.
The neck is squished flat -- a joint with no bone. I feel a beat and a breath and the mouse blinks so fast I think I must have dreamed it.
I drop it into the water.
I am a sponge.
A whisker twitches.
The toilet handle is slippery like Don’s lips must be.
One angry, muggy day I punched a hole in the wall. I blamed the fly that decided my kitchen was an acceptable alternative to the unbearable out-of-doors. He lived simply enough and didn’t mind sharing with me. Soon he was usurping my dinners, getting big and fat on prime rib. That night, though, he went too far when he devoured half of my chocolate cake. Despite his newly acquired girth, he was a quick fly, darting around the kitchen, landing only to gleefully watch inertia overtake me as I spun in concentric circles. Bulbs splintered and screamed, caffeinated mugs hovered and jetted, papers folded themselves into airplanes to escape.
Still the fly lived.
I stared at the hole and wondered if I might lure him in there and plaster it shut. Murderous thoughts took hostage of my patience. He smartly disappeared as I settled in to watch the news. But as Letterman wound up for his opening, the fly was back, buzzing around the TV. Louder and louder, faster and faster he buzzed. I knew what the cake thief wanted and I wasn’t giving in again. Finally he landed and crept across the guests’ faces, sucking the sallow pixels until I could take no more. I flipped to Leno. My fly settled in on the armchair beside me.
Space Monkey with Boo
Because they are kids and because that’s what kids do, play Space Monkey with kids like Boo, who use words such as whatever and meh in the company of grownups, things are bound to happen.
Tom James would be the first to admit this, if he was still breathing. He would probably also tell you he enjoyed the high especially when Boo did it to him because she was the most caring. She held his neck the longest. Never with an obvious belt or ordinary rope. Always with hands.
In the hours leading up to this event, Michael Roy challenged Tom James to a winner-takes-all of Rock Paper Scissors to see which of them Boo would choke first. Both were wanting. Roy lived with his mother in an apartment above a convenience store. James lived with his dad in a house built with construction scraps. Both were 13.
When Boo first arrived at school prior to this happening, the other schoolgirls took notice as well. Soon they knotted their shirts in front like Boo, their bellybuttons exposed, their breasts appropriately accentuated. In time these schoolgirls are walking the halls as if adolescence is one glamorous runway.
Before that, when Boo moved into the neighborhood, the local girls noticed. Soon they were wearing makeup the way Boo wore hers. Eyeliner, thick. Eye shadow, dark. Lipstick, MTV glossy. In time they are pouting and preening as if sex is just what you do after Hide and Seek and Kick the Can are no longer interesting.
In the weeks leading up to her arrival, Tabitha "Boo" Harris spends her days in a gated Westchester County community suggestively called Cloud 9. Afternoons while her parents work in Manhattan at important jobs with titles like CFO and SLA she undresses at her bedroom window. Instead of completing her honors homework, she poses for the neighbor. When done, she looks through college catalogs her parents have left out for her on the kitchen table. They are splayed like a deck of cards. Next to them is this note:
What you witnessed last night was not what it seems. I meant no harm to your father. Although it may have appeared I was trying to hurt him, in fact I was not. I love your father with all my heart. I'm sure you understand.
Dear Brian: I've read these poems
with a covetous jealousy
that has nagged at me all week.
If you don't publish these things
I plan to steal at lest four images
and probably seven whole lines.
You asked for advice: I say write
until your bones ache. The only
real difference between a writer
and a nonwriter is that writers
write and nonwriters talk about it.
If the mind's work remains invisible
as wind, how shall we understand
our toes? Thinking would be less
dangerous if thoughts could be seen
clearly as a bridge or thumbtacks.
But to be pedantic, let me warn
you about long lines. They can sag
in the middle if you're not careful.
Watch your step with adjectives.
They can clutter a good line
with so much debris, your readers
will get lost along the way.
Don't be afraid to move in and out
of the dream state. Words become
elastic when we dream. Plant seeds
but remember that weeds often bloom
better than anything we try to sow.
Lastly, if you must have muses, learn
to dance without stepping on their feet.
Letter to Ranek Living in the Land of the Short Sun
Dear Jason: I have finally had time to read through
the last collection you sent for consideration. It is easy
to see how living in the land of the short sun has helped
you capture other forms of light with nothing more than
a few dark marks on paper. These poems remind me of
how social the literary arts can be. So many dedications,
so many poems spun from the bone and marrow of old
friends and the new lives you and Terese are setting out
into the universe to find ways of fending on their own.
I am taken by all the God and journey poems in this group
too. The question poems are among the best I have read
anywhere - and if you recall - my personal library of poets
and poems is the best in town. Nothing and everything
seems hidden in these poems. They prove that none of our
genes must trek through space, matter and time alone - but
without some solitary downtime we can't plug into enough
of the process to feel ourselves pulled toward its center.
These are poems that know how to revive drowned moons
and have peaceful last encounters with one's enemies. I am
writing to tell you we are going to gather them together,
even that little three-line number toward the end of the book.
What the hell. If a collection of poems can celebrate Thor
and Buddha without falling apart, why should it surprise
us to find the sonnet and the haiku nestled so close together?
if the bed is unmade, if the laundry is undone, if my octo cat children are unfed, if there is no more coffee left in the universe, if alpacas knit pashmina wings, if the Internet implodes, if my fingers are severed, if the swine flu mutates, if my sister remembers—would the world end—if I wasn’t composing, if I didn’t submit
Forget about the weather
and whether or not the two of us
threw sticks and stones,
or spat words at childhood's bones.
Bribe an angel, tap a message,
smuggle out a sign.
Silence is the granite
I'd roll back from your grave.
In case you don't know, I'm older,
the world's warming,
and we're not on standard time.
In case you care, I'll stay awake
burning this letter
in some windless recess of my brain,
burning till, through the smoke,
your distant planet shines.
A tree made only
towers above us.
half a drop
but a thought
rattling in an atom,
but this notion
split open like a seed.
exterior cutaway of the planet earth induced by love
a cough on the round trajectory of multiplying lives
the bright arrows of geometry spear the planet to reveal its inner geometry
the sun winks an astonished eye
thunder migrates through tectonic plates continents tug at rubberised sky
the glittering lakes of europe declare war on space
papuan grass creeps round low mountains
north american owner occupier plains shift in colour
carpets of tundra roll out across russia
somewhere in all of this someone pads barefoot from room to room
somewhere gardens fidget underneath their fences
somewhere insomniacs listen to silverfish colonising floorboards
somewhere there’s talk of a wife and kids
somewhere they’re changing the area code
somewhere they’re buying rowing machines repainting garage doors
somewhere journalists’ cameras flap like an upward roost
somewhere the traffic swerves violently
and all the dwarfed cities wash themselves lilac with sunrise
and the drowned pulp of bathtime turns papercuts into gills
and warm fat rainwater drips from skins of peaches
and someone somewhere is finally happy after all this time
and now it’s exposed in all its microbiology
and hope bursts out of throats
Benji hardly ever left that damned sofa.
He lived on it as a matter of fact.
It had a permanent Benji imprint.
“What was it I was supposed to do when I remembered it?” he asked.
Remembering the truth best to forget.
“I don’t know him anymore,” she said.
Peggy was a tall thin blonde with no hope of ever getting a man.
“With hope, I can dance the night away and dream of love again as before long ago.”
Tense, irritable and opinionated.
Men don’t like that.
Like soft loose-lipped, doe-eyed.
Blonde hair both upstairs and downstairs and lots of questions for big and strong.
Too many opinions for a blonde.
Meredith tended her garden for tenderness which was almost always needed.
Head in the clouds when touching and planting the various sweet smelling bits of color here and there.
Tiny chairs and brightly colored red and green glass apples, ceramic bunnies and metallic Suns interspersed among the roses and peonies and trailing vines of color for funs sake. For the child’s eyes to light up.
Steve rode into town with his tin horn hat stacked high atop his head.
Sitting with a swagger on that black stallion as if he was born up there as comfortable as you please.
He had an air of mystery, very appealing to the ladies.
He was a thoughtful guy more intelligent than most with an air of refinement about him. Riding so high on the black horse.
He knew a fine woman when he saw one and he came to take her away into the sunset. An idyllic life as long as they didn’t let their feet touch the ground.
They stayed high atop the black stallion forever riding into the golden sunset.
Rose stayed by herself.
She had work to do.
No time for others.
Like the work of a marriage once with just about as little thanks. No place for a Serious minded person.
Keep those sweetnesses unbothered, unused.
Hair the color of cotton candy and pants so tight you don’t need no imagination.
See the hip hoppin’ gum crackin’ smackin’ double mint packin’ candycane pink girl Walking with one of those nervous nellie kind of dogs about as big as a minute and cute As a button attracting as much attention as she wanted to.
“I told that girl not to wear that outfit out”, said her mama.
Don’t listen to a mom’s lament of sadness and grief.
She come home all knocked up, ripped and torn to shreds.
All those pink misunderstood clothes.
“I told her not”, she said shaking her slow head.
say it, peace
give it to me
bring it here
let it go
to the floor
say it, peace
give it to me!
lump atop the ancient
moans a lump for not
her milk is heavy
but milk spills
like a fleshy faucet
a lump a lump
lumps cool and fresh and hot
the doe the buck the bread
a lump filled lymph
streaming lump of snot
for landfill lumps
and glands and
lumps clogged up
and a dirty water colored lump
by the serving cup
while the cleaner lump and detergent lump
release and sink
with the tug of a heavy lump
and a slurp
forefather as much an ancient lump
in with lumped together lump
take or steal or take the hump
while there are
lumps like earth
and tits go limp
when sucked lumps
sugar and skinny milk
"Poem for a tiny felt cap"
If a swift nibbling
my element would deride
and larks take flight
in cartoon colors
light night light tights.
We say goodbye
but we do not mean it
we freight our shit
our thoughts upon a trestle
way the fuck up in the sky, atop a cloud
and we just let gravity push us down
gravity's pinned minions
ain't that sweet
—I was only asking if—
and ellide a larconaire, a female jacket
we both ride.
inches and inches
an awful fragment
a tower rising from the sand
sinewy and bent
monks might genuflect
or cozy cities
be laid down—
a pastry on a pastry pad
A pastry on a pastry pad
a pastry on a post-it pad
a penis on a pantry post
a pen cap on you, mom and dad.
"Edwardian untethering, now"
To mull about, and mulberry—
like the tree we had when we were young.
To Martin Mull and mulled wine ,
to Andy Trammell (did I dream him up, baseball fans?).
Easing off my slip (I am a woman) I slow up and prepare to get drunk
like the tree we had when we were young.
If I were a tree
with branches unconvincing and long
I would chop myself down
with some swag-like butterknife from Disneyland
and mulch myself
a million times over.
and mulch .
Does this poem make me sad?
Would it, if it were printed on my mulchy stomach
and me, if I were splayed out on your soiled dormroom desk?
"A new international poem"
If I wrote this poem on a lil slip of paper
and managed t gitit
t slip it
t sneak it in
t your pocket, ma'am
would you trundle it down to Mexico?
would it still sound the same in ole Mexico?
My lil poem
because of all that travel
so much sandwich meat
between ass/jeans and transit seat.
Would Chiapas make my poem strange to me
or would it remain
—would I be the same?
I could still sneak in there
my fat face
a lil ass curtain-obsessed youngster
writing poems on the back of liquor store receipts
about ass curtains?
Hey: what's the Spanish for "ass curtain"?
—Perhaps, is there some dude down there thinking
the same thoughts as I?
We teach because we want people to know, to follow us, to be a mirror, stumbling blindly in our wake. We trail. We want fingers of people following us, lingering in our shreds, attempting discovery in our footprints, our bones. They pulverize bones and drink them in warm water, the solution of trees cut and carved out, the insides. I am inside. It is a collection of scenarios, these environments, the places they exist, these people I have found who were, until I mentioned them in my whispers, in my sleep, without. And here, under palms and in desert, where the trees change from Serengeti to pine forest, these people wash my outsides with their blackness. I remain moon-white. The last plane was a bi-plane or something wooden, the wheels not wheels at all but floats that somehow touched earth with a wind. I became a spot on a speck of light that was diminishing circles. Everything circling. I was nauseous and dizzy, forthright in my fear, dipping into my own panic. I blacked out and was resuscitated by careless pilot lips that kissed before blowing back out. I was arrived. Planes boats and the way in. The last set, the final line before I broke, made the center, them, they in their last line locked arms, elbows as shields, knees as spears, guarding me out, boxing. They were not protecting the inside, they were protecting me. I did not listen. I never listen. I wanted the center. I made the center. I am the center.
The special ring decoders of our youth
When we were old enough to know
that things did not make sense
but young enough to think
that there was something
that could make sense of them
something that came from outside of us
but was from us
invented by us
we were old enough to know our parents weren’t the ones
but young enough
to think someone
the special ring decoders of our youth
available in five different colors
for only three cereal boxtops
and two dollars
when they arrived in the mail
they soon broke
or were lost
along with our two dollars
they were small
didn’t fit very well
made of plastic
and when we held them to pieces of paper
or our parents
or the window
the same messages appeared:
BE THERE SOON
or THE CODEWORD IS DOG
or GOOD WORK SECRET AGENT!
Oh I don’t know
and why not
go snorkeling at Cabo San Lucas
and find drug money
that smugglers had to ditch
and take it
and have them chase us north
at high speed
over the Mexicali border
and into the Mojave desert
where we could make love
in one sleeping bag
while coyotes howl?
It’s five dollars
for another dance
for three songs
(for Robert Creeley)
Lemon and Salt
I’d be reading a book
and she’d walk up to me,
and silently place a bowl of
carrots with lemon and salt
next to me.
I’m looking for you now,
the way I would feel for the bowl
of carrots without taking my eyes
off the page.
But you are nowhere in this
city of dry heat and fast food.
Not in my house that gets hot
by midmorning and chokes me with stale air.
You are not in the sunflowers that
died while I was away because
I wasn’t here to water them.
You become a face printed on paper.
It’s difficult to conjure your hands,
how they wrapped roses in paper for me.
Sometimes a breeze will blow in and
it seems to carry your unguarded laugh.
I’m not as sure of myself as I was when
I knew the bowl of carrots would be there.
Still Life with Frigidaire, East Rockaway, N.Y.
Inspired by the static spaces
between channels, she learns
the message of white noise:
Magnetic fields are where old cars
gather among long grasses to rust,
as magnetic waves are what draws
land bound creatures to the sea.
That you will see the secrets of other
worlds comes from the currents
that are carried in wires and similar
transmitters revealed by test patterns
affixed to certain channels.
Seeing the soft electric glow
of snow that follows transmissions,
she is drawn to dark arctic wastes
contained by Frigidaire.
Staring inside, she feels the sudden
chill of absolute zero, numbing her
frost bitten eyes, closing inside
an endless night, this all enveloping
You never stand still
Everything is black
You have mistaken
for a stone
and put an arrow
Though its heart
The chromatic sunrise
has been left alone
and the peach-headed
Gannets are diving
and no one
Monotonies of Winters
The eight o'clock door thuds are tight and measured. Wrapped in a tea towel I open the door. It is not the mailman.
"Excuse me, let me get undressed." I glide into the bedroom, pull the sheet off my bed, and drape it over my shoulders. "How can I help you?"
"I am very sorry, Miss," the man taps his fresh-shaven chin. Pieces of toilet paper are pasted to three bleeding cuts -- three maroon pistols, white petals fluffed up by his fast breathing. "I hear you are expecting the mailman."
"I will leave then."
I lock the door behind him and stare at the top of his head through the peep hole. He has rusty wild hair with snowflakes in it.
Susanna and Phyllis come over for tea. They perch on the sofa and chirp, and loop the air with their pinkies.
"We heard you were expecting the mailman today."
"Yes. At around eight o'clock."
"What's in your tea?" They wipe their foreheads with tea towels.
"I added wild berries, some red and some blue."
The gray hardened snow banks have grown since last week. They press into me as I squeeze between them. Someone has painted ice patches with beet juice. The door to the post office is locked.
Even the Earth keeps its clouds
on the move though you have forgotten
all gestures begin with a train
setting out --you expect change
and the constant far-off glow
still trying to connect the nights
with nights once caves and distant herds
--you know how it goes, the grass
was always greener so you sit
let a million years slowly recede
till the ice carries you back
where tracks had already taken root
in silt beginning first as a creek
then trickling toward another
--you can hear the hooves
and along the gravel bed --be sure to wave
touch nothing! let your still cold breath
lie down beside you on its way for water.
And step by step this cane
scratching the way the dead
plant their scepter in the darkness
--they never forget which end
takes hold so you limp along a path
or perhaps your shadow overflowing again
--they rule the ground, commanding it
to rise slowly, let you lag behind
while their castles drag you on
--even here there are nights
warmed by walls and longing
and one knee is always colder
--you make yourself lame
are helped into the turn
years ago pulled down to make room
for the rain that no longer falls for you
only these stones that have the speed
are always in front, taking you back.
Letter to Grangitano a Few Years Later
Dear Michael: I'm writing to apologize for having
a large blown-up photograph of your face printed
on the pinata they filled with candy and money
on my 65th birthday. I did my best to smash it.
I figured I had earned the booty. Nothing I did
broke the damn thing open. Not even David
Shurter, a much younger man than I, could crack
open your skull so the candy and money would
spill to the floor. Retired General Jim Murphy
(his wife Rita was once a greeter at our church)
was unable to smash the papier-mache globe of
booty that hung from the living room ceiling,
and he's had the best military training available.
In the end, it was a nun, the head of the local
Gandhi Peace Foundation, who cracked the pinata
open. When I asked her how an old lady like
her ended up with more muscle than the rest of
us, she said, "Honey, you can't hit knuckles with
a ruler for twenty-five years in the classroom
without developing some pretty worthy biceps."
She finally turned to a life of peace. I sat in
rapture the night she took me to listen to Gandhi's
grandson talk about his life as a child with the
great man. It was his talk that helped me under-
stand it was time for me to forgive the money
changers and return to the temple. I went back
ready and willing to forgive any of the trouble
makers still on the property. To my amazement,
I didn't have to forgive anyone that day. They
were all gone. I went to a burning-bowl ceremony
anyway. Instead of writing each of their names
on a piece of paper, I just wrote, "Lord, forgive all
those assholes, and help me do the same someday."
it be possible to write over the
sketch, the ink covering
first his drawing, then my
scribbles, Twombly-esque or
far from it, real words with
spelled meanings, caffeine-
emotion served over a puree
of cocoa and egg yolk, vertical
lines carving ahead of time,
curlicues added after
the burst stamen, the golden
pistol, the implement goddam-
mit, of the spirit?
(Sounds of garbage trucks,)
Sounds of garbage trucks,
pneumatic hoses screeching
and blowing off steam
Smells of Plaza horses,
Those rifling through black plastic bags
huddles on street curbs
for cans, uneaten bread heels,
potato, orange, banana peels,
the unused butt-ends of moldy lettuce heads
To guide your future offerings, here are 10 lines from Issue #19 that left footprints for this editor:
- Death revolves slowly / in my head / when you are not there. Denis Emorine
- Todd, you want another beer? Bryan Coffelt
- My languid window-ward glance / saw a many-winged angel / on a rooftop Katherine Holmes
- It's got rhythm, it's got music, it makes me want to dance. Anonymous comment to Anita K. Boyle
- There is a voice without a body within me Duane Locke
- perhaps knowing in their bones that eternity is / beautifully pointless Howard W. Robertson
- My mother knelt, coatless in the snow, trying to suck gas from the broken-down Chevy’s tank Sarah Seybold
- Tom said "Frank O'Hara will plant a poem in your head" Title by Lisa Nickerson
- The land was scoured flat or buckled into glacial warp; I ate the same fish stew for dinner; I introduced the local punk band to the Misfits. Mark Cunningham
- Now meet what they mete. Lisa Albers
P.S. We've read your submissions through May Day. Hang in there, snow monkeys. We'll be reading on any rainy days we get this summer. But on those hot, sunny days look for us at the higher elevations.
Bonnie and Clyde: Five Dialogues
BONNIE(the lady is knittting together her fingers
nefarious and many-colored strings)
"my stomach hurts" i said "must be intestinal" these
she says words unclotting them
the lady's fingers are wailing as
(CLYDE)she reaches in me saying i can
touch them i can (BONNIE)look
BONNIEdeftly we took refuge in each others necks
out hands trying and trying to ignore
the other people in the next room how they wallow
into obsolescence but subside
jus take it now my hand is
small you'll forget
it clyde barrow but you can mark my neck there'll
always be someone
in that next room
CLYDEyep in that chamber where the money is
men collapse each
other collapsed and stole
my heart hon is worth nothing
it is hardly a timepiece or
you must wind it and if you remain insolent and
spin and if you
wont spin it
wont gallop or
waltz and honey lets leave
or tornado well on out of here to smithereeeeee
CLYDE*[IS WATCHING HIMSELF ON FILM]Never telling what you're going to do or say or if I'll be caught with my pants down, gun-shy, in front of everyone's damned checkerboard glances. I've frequently had problems being out in public with you. Now I can't see you save for, peripherally, a little blue glow on your cheekbone and patch on the nose, from the screen-glare. Double-jump and it's me or both of us.
Faye Dunaway you are gorgeous. You comment on it, sitting here, watching this, with me and my arms tied, and I wish to tell you you are more beautiful, yes you, my Helen, my Juliette, my Brigitte Bardot, but all that would be unfair to Bonnie. You can't compare movies to real life, it would be ludicrous people
just don't rob banks like that.
BONNIE(he spoke imprecise it
was his tongue running round
on wool and here's us trying to have and escape exper-
ience both i said to him you
can't stick a fork in
the machine it's both of us
he said youre still on that aren't
you i said "Sweaty hands, you could drop the gun and it'd be me and you both."
and he said as if out to woods GET MY POINT, YA DAMN CAR bonnie parker
precisely there is no
ne so i skipped town
CLYDEhoney it's over now i
can't find any them any-
more than the cows sing to the stars
and the evening's a saddle to take us
["You know what, when we started out, I thought we was really goin' somewhere. This is it. We're just goin', huh?"]
"come i'm lost now bonnie"
"that is not my concern"
"i need a hat to keep goin"
"thats not mine either"
"good luck finding one well have --"
"to steal it and each -- "
"others hearts fuck keep -- "
"looking out for the turn -- "
"pike there was one second--"
"'s-soon's awai- --"
Fourth from End -- ZYXW
that which hold door
open even when no reply, wedge
water wheel turns and turns
for energy antagonisms generated, guilt
dirtied excesses of the heart
called wanton use of self
whack of thin hammer on ice
distributes unevenly broken fingers
language of Nootka, Wakashan, one of many
tribes to communicate sounds of understanding
aroma caused potion to turn into bitterness
something words do every day, wormwood
another name for closure, womb, which in time
causes need to break out with cry of freedom
wadi, a desert in puddle of water galoshes
splash yellow with green slicker reflection
misalignment of scale between us, whiplash
the strain of delirious vibrations to the nerves
wicker used to hold heart and song
the one carried well, the other
weaseled out of trap taking love
and leaving only frame to try again
twisted wood wrung into beautiful spindle
ventures writhing through wonderland
the whoosh of wind created flurries of stars
vibrating chords and dazzling poets
Not Piecing Together the Little Parts
The clouds looked like smoke signals
Without intention of conveying a message
To have interpreter.
The evening's conflagration, spots of illusory fires,
On the white sand shore's driftwood,
That was wet, dark, and cracked. The fires
Went out as the sun sunk,
Leaving only strands of red hair on the horizon.
Now only a tip of red hair,
The head, the body has disappeared.
I am alone,
Except for the apparition
Of a tip of red hair.
She is probably standing among umbrella pines
Where a path curves through trees in Fregene.
There is a voice without a body within me
That tells me I'm extremely happy
In my melancholy among sea oats
On this white winding shore line.
A man is walking down your street pushing his sleeping offspring in a stroller. Coming toward him is a pretty girl with dark hair and headphones on both ears. The sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate both. At the penultimate moment, in a paroxysm of helpfulness, the man swings the stroller off course toward the street. He misjudges the distance and one wheel goes over the lip of the curve.
The baby is bounced against the side carriage, awakened rudely. She stretches her petal pink face and begins to scream. She will grow up to trust no one. The girl with the Walkman, meanwhile, having jumped lightly up off the sidewalk onto the low wall running alongside, continues without looking back.
The man looks back, once, ruefully, before tending to the squalling baby. On the way home he passes a sidewalk cafe. There a young man and an older woman are having coffee together. They pause to watch the father and his child pass. The woman is smoking, leaning back in her chair with leonine grace and assurance. The man is hunched over his cup considering what she had just told him.
"I hope your new boyfriend gets cancer in his dick," he says finally, and her composure cracks just long enough to knock her spoon off the table.
The small sound of it hitting the pavement is lost in a swell of Peter Tosh from a car rounding the corner. Inside, four people, each monstrously obese, are each smoking a joint. The driver pauses at the stop sign then peels away leaving a patch of steaming rubber on the road.
A man from the neighborhood walks over to inspect it. He holds his hands behind his back and moves deliberately, with the gravity of a gentleman surveying his property. When the 409 bus drives by, he looks up and runs after it, screaming "Wait! Wait!" One passenger after another spots him and alerts the driver. When the bus stops, the man turns on his heel and resumes his survey of the gutter and its contents.
In the tree above the bus stop a hawk is ripping the insides out of a small brown bird. The air fills briefly with a shower of feathers, more than you'd expect, which covers the ground like a carpet. Soon afterwards you pass underneath without looking up and a feather is stirred from the sidewalk. It flies up and sticks to the back of your head. When you get home you find it there, maybe while you're sitting on the steps taking off your boots. You absentmindedly stick it in your pocket. Your bare feet make a soft friendly sound on the linoleum that I know even without being there.
Head of the Class
The noggins of the heady
ride spin cycles, to the
crowning of last rites
in a chaos that is upside
down all over again. An
inevitable blur assumes
credits best left to fate
and her little sisters. The
balancing of acts in the
play on words never to
be spoken in haste makes
waste the standard by
which broken men are
called to serve.
The Vestige of a Nostalgic Inferno
"But, do allow yourself the inward stare of that eye which is exterior to you," the man stated, looking at the shoes of people who passed by in the distance. The other man, whose appearance could only be described as something awkward, or of a nature tangled, at first did not respond but as he readjusted his grimy spectacles and looked at the train in the distance, he allowed himself to utter something. "My perturbation with this 'act', which I shall commit regardless, is merely a part of life, a segment in which I shall always find myself attached. I must be bound to something besides this irrelevant skin."
"You realize that I can not exist any longer, once you relinquish the composition of your very nature!" The awkward man did not seem to pay any diligence to the other man, who was by that time, uncontrollably nervous. "Why is it that you shall even be upon that train, you yourself said that you did not believe in destiny, or anything similar to human fortune, you, filled with a thick set of lies, an utter nihilist!"
Because the World Needs Us Now
Lance told me my dreams were like the Himalayas, tall and irrelevant. I figured this was a warning or something. I got extremely disfigured when he talked. He'd say dreams were so obfuscated you ought not remember them. Just forget them, he'd say, the way you try to forget your last girl. It was like listening to a preacher on a Sunday, trying my best, reaching out and shit. I'd pass myself around the room, caressing egos and touching girl hair.
--Your hair smells so good.
They'd believe me, flip it a bit, grin, party on. We never got along, me and hair. It was so fickle and condescending. To think, hair could be condescending. I hated it and took ibuprofen more frequently because thinking about it made my head hurt. Hair in front of eyes was, like, enticing. I remember that. I was always enticed by something, or forgiven. I was always between segments, just strapping myself into the current requisite.
Lance was wearing suede shoes and talking with his left hand a lot because his right hand was a giant party foul. He spilled and gestured, spilled and gestured. I ate it up, a well trained mime. We bantered about politics for a moment and I sat down on the couch. I needed to cross my legs.
--Ever seen that one movie with Kevin Spacey about life and shit? That one is crazy as fuck.
Crazy as all fuck. Crazy as a hypnotist with an agenda. Crazy crazy like those dolphins that can smell fear or bombs or something. We lay on the sound, carry it upward into the maestro's nostrils. Who can smell the noise? No one takes our pithy comments as commands or suggestions anymore.We are rock stars without voices. Lance hit me for thinking too much.
--Too many big words and shit shouldn't be thy nature, you know?
We like to crowd around the coffee tables at parties and watch people play cards. Sometimes Lance bets money, but I always like watching what cards people have in their hands. Tonight no one had a good hand. Tonight we all found ourselves shrouded by lonely thoughts and slow music.
--Todd, you want another beer?
I nodded and started peeling the label off my empty. It's something I do. Someone came in and started yelling about his girlfriend and how he just caught her with someone else. He was crying and half drunk. We started pouring him shots and letting him vent. I had the deepest sympathy for him I'd ever had for someone before.
--We know man, I said.
Lance just sat back in his chair and glanced around the room before he gave the order:
--Let's go break her.
So we were off, out to break her. None of us were sober, so we walked. We were responsible young people. We came to the elementary school where Lance and I grew up and played kickball and got in fights and where Lance's mom came to pick him up when his dad killed himself, and before I could stop him, Lance was dashing at the fence, then climbing it, then falling over the other side. I chased after him and ripped my pants on the fence. I yelled for him to stop but there is no stopping a rock star. He did stop when he got to the front office. He was cupping his hands around his face and looking in the window. He took off his jacket, put it on his right hand, nodding and grinning.
--Fuckin' A, he said, Fuckin' A.
Then he slammed his fist through the glass and tried to reach around to grab the doorknob like you see in movies, but he was so drunk that he didn't realize there was no way he was going to reach the doorknob. His knuckles were swollen and probably broken, and the glass cut his arm. I stopped him, which is something I never do.
--You're going to hurt yourself man. Let's go before the cops get here.
And Lance cried because he didn't reach the doorknob, because he didn't open the door. He hunched over while I wrapped his arm in his jacket and we went on through the relentless myriads of broken streetlamps and brick alleyways with steam vents. We skipped town the next day and decided to learn how to put our fingers on fretboards.
Practitioners of psychiatry
and the parlor tricks laid open for inspection
On the dark square platform an exercise machine
pale into the metallic-tasting room
In the ten or so single-
chambered hearts of the worm
plasticity and the burning
Reports that the deeply disturbed
are now in charge
Qui suis-je? Qui etes-vous?
shock of prices
brandishing their stitches
like a merry new mother
A slowed-down world.
Borrowed Horoscope: San Juan
I spend a week on a houseboat as if
my truths are all burned, and I'm free
to lie. My journal says Romans were
our first tourists, that souvenirs were
the only proof that they didn't spend
their last years in prisons. I write just
to look at the splendor of my penmanship,
the Caribbean waves crashing inside comfort
rented by the week. It has only stormed
one night here and the shore became a blur,
a blind man's deathbed attended by dozens
of dark crows. Then calm returns, remains.
It is not what I expected, this smooth cheek
of a day never to wear a beard, never to host
my dead days. Poor Noah, sailor never to know
one small sea, water without interpreter. At night
I dream of priests carrying lost letters from home
on backs of sharks as black as the crows.
Lost in thoughts by the Lincoln Park Zoo,
I startle pigeons feasting on bread crumbs.
They scatter in four or more directions.
"Bird scarer," an old woman hisses at me.
I feel cursed for the year. She sits to wait for
the return of those who count on her blessings,
gray rats with wings, citified albatrosses.
I can't go home (I'm a bird scarer). Better to
hit a dance club, that loud denial of reality.
Carol's Speakeasy or the club down
the street that changes its name weekly?
Yes, that one, This week it is Pegasus
and not The Bat Cave. The bouncer nods
as if a Pope-in-training, and I enter a world
without clocks or bill collectors (but for
the bartender). I'm here, wherever that is,
where everyone dresses in black like vampires.
For seven days I seek that old lady, but she is
gone, vanished in a city that wears ambulances
like costume jewelry. Her pigeons remain,
sure of the bread that will be theirs--sooner
or less sooner. This bird scarer leaves
the park to the scattering feathers that grip the light
and own the joy of movement that human
architecture, even at its best, will never know.
I intend to scare myself. I begin writing again.
I would like to write a story about my father.
However, when I was two years old, my father left my mother and moved to Arizona with an older Japanese woman.
So I do not have any stories about my father. Like the rest of his belongings, he packed my early memories of him into a cardboard banana box, peeling them off my windowsill, the back porch, our swingset.
He explained everything to my mother the day he left. "I met Sakura at the local farmer's market. She helped me find healthy eggs. In turn, I helped her choose ripe zucchini. I am truly sorry. These things are sometimes like gravity." He ate a green apple and washed some dirty silverware in the kitchen sink. Then he kissed my mother goodbye, promising that he would always love her, just not as much as his Japanese girlfriend.
For years my mother collected butterfly wings in a thick glass jar she kept above our kitchen cupboards. The wings were crisp and colorful, like dead leaves. Although I never saw her put wings into the jar, they rose steadily toward the rim, while life peeled years from her skin, until the jar was nearly full.
One night in early summer as man wearing a red ski mask broke into our basement through a loose window. My mother, who was drinking a warm mug of tea at the kitchen table, watched breathlessly as the burglar crept into the kitchen. The burglar did not turn on the lights. Instead, without hesitating, the burglar tiptoed to the kitchen cupboards, climbed onto the counter, and slide the jar of butterfly wings into his arms. He swung a green duffel bag from his shoulder onto the counter. The burglar was wearing dark gloves. He set the glass jar next to the duffel bag and, still standing on the counter, began shoveling fistfuls of crisp wings into the bag.
My mother says she wanted to scream, or to run upstairs and hide my sleeping seven year old body in the broom closer. But she was frozen, lifeless, like a bumblebee in a snowstorm. She sat silently and watched the strange man stuff butterfly wings into his duffel bag. She could hear the wings crunching against the green fabric, and she could feel the tea steaming underneath her chin.
When the jar was empty, every last paper wing, the burglar climbed off the counter. He fumbled around in his pockets and tossed some loose change into my mother's jar. He carefully zipped his bag, buttoned his coat, and tiptoed out the back door.
Wobbling to her feet, my mother stumbled out onto the back porch. The burglar was creeping across our lawn towards the woods.
My mother opened her mouth to speak. But the air inside her wheezed, like an accordion with moth holes in the bellows. So she said nothing.
The burglar disappeared into the trees.
I do not believe this incident had anything to do with my father.
Where I Am Going
I want to become a better person of the instant variety, a grand oaken spiral with alcoves for one night stands; somebody could give me a lot of money and say how they wished they were me. Unlikely. And it would only work if I admired the people who wished to be me, otherwise creepy.
When I was about to die, age six, my mother took the rooster down to the local parish and sacrificed it for chicken soup. The rooster had yaw disease and it was done for; my mother wasn't into waste. The cure wasn't instant but a miracle over 12 months. The priest smoked a cigar while he blessed me. He was English. A few years later there was another coup d'etat and I got a waterborne disease that left me with a weak digestion. This time my mother didn't bother with the fowls of the earth; she and dad packed up and went back to fur coats and barley soups and less sun and serotonin.
Actually, I'm afraid of being a better person because of the immense responsibility. Nothing happens. Except that John calls me up to say I am a blemish on his life. He doesn't use that word but I know what he means. Also, I make some absolutely delicious apple cake. It has three kilos of apples in it. And a gap-toothed man stops me in the street and says hi, where're you going? Hey, he calls after me, I know where you're from.
How It Slams Back, a Letter Used as a Bookmark
who could figure out
love? Not the old
blues men with
their whiskey and women.
Women who've changed
the lock on the door.
Not Robert Johnson,
busted and poisoned.
Blues all around the bed,
the blues dogging,
dusting his brook.
How could some old
words make me remember?
Baby, won't you follow
me down. Old words.
No words. Even before I
started thinking of
him I knew if he
read this is was way
Arduous the timely tanks
Come creamly into sight
Their threadbare tracks
Righteous over the bones
Of grass left happily dead
Talk to them like crying silhouettes
In orchids mad with unknown Christs
Beam your Baudelaire headlights up my spine
How it hurts to call you home
The Little Damp Foal
The course of western history has been a little damp foal all these years. We call it Wesley and present it to our old parents when they come up for weddings and baptisms but otherwise leave it to roam in the far field with the goats, from whom it has surely learnt its duplicity and sullen ways. However, because it is still technically the course of western history, we bring it into the woodshed after the first frost, a privilege we would never consider bestowing on those rascally goats. There, in the dead of winter, with snow like mallow plummeting as in a silent film, the youngest among us has been known to break in, clad only in her crocheted pajamas and a scarf, to pet the course of western history and kiss its hoary cheek and clutch it about the neck and whisper to it all the clandestine romances and betrayals that have accompanied the past semester. And if it chatters its milky teeth and rolls its swollen eyes and with sullen pomp blows warm jets of loamy air into the twinkling cold of the woodshed, then the smallest among us can be assured of victory in endeavors of the heart and high standing among her peers in the coming spring, when the dirt melts and the course of western history teeters from among the logs and peat stacks to lumber sullenly in the direction of the far field, there to continue its miseducation among the goats until next frost (unless a wedding or a baptism draws our old parents who coo and stroke it with their withered hands, saying, Oh Wesley, haven't you grown so tall and so handsome with such milky white teeth).
Seven Dreams Under the Knife
The hawk tears at my flesh. Imagine that sensation, like being eaten alive. Of course, he only wants to play with me. Leave me a bit unconscious. He rhapsodizes about my taste, comparing it to the most succulent of bivalves. I writhe under his steely beak, his clamoring claws. When he's done, great tragedy, he leaves me alone without a word, his vast wings flapping across the light of the windows.
A wooden house, old bones. In this condition I will strain all through the night. A gentle rain offers no succor, just cools it down. Most days I can feel the earth wanting to sunder from it, render the walls unto dust. A clock ticks, or it's the rain, and I wait for the tremors, hands held out for protection.
When I lived in the tank, I became accustomed to breathing the heady odor of linseed and turpentine. Color here had taste, you can be sure. A cobalt blue was chalk and pomegranate, leaving an insatiable desire for water. Crimson was holy, like the sweet air of one's last moments. Ecstatic, I could barely think about myself then, let alone my undesirable surroundings.
When I made the discovery that I was light and air, suddenly everything was possible. The small confines of my terrestrial life didn't concern me anymore. If the moment was too disorienting, I concentrated on my strengths: the power to burn, the capacity to rive the earth. It was a good lesson.
The stillness of the river is a sadness. For then I know we are going away, never to return. Never to let the bonneted bride lap bare footed in the shallows. Her dance is another kind of bounty. Only a memory. We return to the rage, the canyon and the fall, where we will caress the noble beasts. Our moment of the lily pad, the salmon spawn, forever a mystery.
I've failed to get the word out. Daily they toil on, a juddering mass trying to communicate with an unknown correspondent. I made it as far as I could, knowing that without them I have as little use, as little life. I will die a dry husk under the light of this knowledge.
I will not stop. I have had to forgo the common table, but I make do. Some even see in this effort an inspiration, calling it a spiritual quest. I don't mind, as long as they can offer me tribute, my daily sustenance. The journey only becomes more difficult.
Sense and Antisense
Though quashed by dizziness, I feel supersymmetric today, and I'm taking this microelectronic variance as a good sign. No point in blasting the moon just to control our nucleotides. So Idon't get along with computers. So what. You know, I'll never have to buy a light bulb again. Thank whatever, they're under warranty.
But how's your wife, Phil? Mine's praying for yours. Put a cross in our room. No more half-naked men in the bedroom, I'd say. But I'm not allowed. Wilson was right. Before you know it, they'll breed out balls.
The other night, we had spaghetti--the kid's idea--and she said, "You made this, didn't you angel?" I scoffed; I said, "I boiled it darling; I didn't make it." "So at least admit you had a hand in it," she said. "The spaghetti, pumpkin, was always there." "Well then," she grinned. "We shall forever by satiated, and dinner will have no help from me." So we had take-out last night before she and Tommy went to church. "Jesus Christ, Dad. I'm just curious," he said. Lost and limbic, I'm afraid. "Limbo, Dad. Limbo." The nerve of that boy.
Now look, I'm as soft a determinist as the next geneticist, but I was a mess. I dove back into old dissertations. Adrenal Glands and Defiance. Adolescence and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. And suddenly I'm thinking, if I love Thomast, what about Thomast+11? Are they the same? And when I found myself at ego-identity vs. role confusion I started crying. I mean, Erikson--he wasn't even a real scientist. I curled up on the floor, trying to maximize surface area, not rely so heavily on equilibrioception, and I just couldn't stop crying. It felt like the world was snapping back in on itself, furiously imploding intoonedark point of infinite density.
Tommy came in, via the direct route, and squatted down in front of me. "That's really not the way to increase blood flow," he said. "I'll get your some gum." I sat up, wiped my nose. "Histamine--" I said. He returned with some horrifically brignt hexahedron. It couldn't have been organic. I popped it in my mouth. "Enjoy church?" He didn't answer, but his brow gathered. This allowed a strand of black hair to fall over his eyes, all his mother's, that awful penetrating brown. "Did you pray?" He looked away. "Yes." "Well? What did you pray for?" He slid to the ground. I didn't realize how slight he is. You've met him. He seems so large. "Balance. For neurotransmitters," he said. Down the hall, his mother was looking for him. He moved closer. "Tell me about the big bang again, dad," he said. I choked out a laugh. "It's just a theory." "Yeah dad," he said, "but that's all we've got."
So I told him. I'm not sure he was hearing me, but I'm sure he was listening.
Anyhow. Phil. This kid, he will be the greatest thing you've ever done. I only hope yours turns out half as good. Although, I find it a genetic improbability.
Well there's always hope.
love poem 23
is your rust * so tender
as the kiss which these wings
over a liver of watermelon
(my hands) *
spread so clumsily ! a large lank
of monsoon leaf
wet upon this warm * the russet key
of these most intimate hours ...
(wake * wake)
so of the choses you never did
remember * to tell us (to forget) ... ? *
yet your name was
to me * innate
as in the life-
of your loveliness ... * well ! years were
spent at this pale definition : as
beautiful * as the sonnets
in the rose
the rose avowed if : wilts ?
ardent love's * affirmation
will only lead to land's end " Lear's
round deserted rock and the leap
of Gloucester towards
a greater *
its night : its image
where the rose perceives * its brother
and burns in an instant (consumed)
upon the darkened * river's
darker * banks ... as if
in bright as brilliant
lit ... as the fire
in * our hearts is ageless
and lights the thresh of flesh
inside to out : the eyes an inner signal
to the flame's high flare * it's tracer-
arc which a true love promising
signals new ships now ?
It is in the pinnacle of desire
across the room
a skin white as a sheet glows
slowly into sunrise with the receding
pale of moon
it becomes a pink skin fused
with longing and landscaped
with dark brows like trees
groomed hair the tended lawn
the gaze is across acres of fields
the rancher longing for home
a pot of coffee steaming
hot meal for the empty belly
human hands to touch.
There's no reason to go back. I've managed to walk away now, weaving slowly through the muck that surrounds the cabin, my footsteps disappearing into the quicksand of wet Maryland clay. The rain pelts my face, feels good on my not skin. I feel the downpour cleansing my hands, her blood dripping into the red ooze, though it's too dark out here to see.
I remember the hollow tree stump that lays in the east meadow. I turn and head in that direction. It is a place to sit, to take the weight off my wobbly legs. Emma and I used to go out there after supper in the summer, me with a book and her with a piece of sewing or darning, the baby asleep in a basket. The orange sun would set the woods ablaze as it dipped, infusing the air with an uncanny chill as if a furnace was turned off, and we would hurry back inside. That is how I feel now. Like the switch has been pulled and the whole world as I know it has turned cold and dark. But there's no reason to go back.
When we had the child, Emma was ecstatic. She sang and we made love while the baby slept. The infant seemed to bring us luck. I got work in the dairy at the Tuckers, then helped harvest Joe Mason's crops. The diaphanous future was just beginning to take a shape, and even the crowded cabin seemed spacious and full of light. We didn't know how it happened. The doctor said it was viral, possibly from the cow or our sow. He said it could even be from the chickens. The little thing fell into a coma and one morning I woke up to the sound of Emma's screams.
People wouldn't understand what a thing like that can do to a woman. Emma couldn't help herself. I couldn't help myself either. The grief gets you like a big dog shaking you in his jowls and you know you're done for. I couldn't help the drinking. She couldn't help the icy cubicle of her private sorrow or the fiery, pent up rage that would eventually lay me low. She blamed me. She had to blame someone.
I sit on this log and the rain comes down with a final certainty that gives me peace. The wound doesn't hurt much. It is like a foreign thing. A torch burning in my chest. I don't want to touch it. It was Emma's solution, and perhaps it was the right one. Our luck eked out, like my blood, like Emma's blood from the round hole I put in her temple. It was hard to walk away. There's no going back.
From their place of honor, the large pink in the doll case and bookshelf that the father had made for his little girl, the dolls gossiped.
Her button eyes gleaming, the Jamaican doll fluffed her faded skirt of shredded voile and shook her red head wrap, "Sometimes you've just got to laugh. Out of the mouths of babes. To get into such multicultural fervor from Walt Disney!"
The Swedish doll, with little candles in her braids, pretty in gold and blue, purse her lips together, "Imagine, getting the idea for us from such decadent capitalism!"
The Irish doll, her red braids ribboned into loops, fingered her white apron and the thick green cloth of her rickrack trimmed costume and sighed, "O, the irony. Yet at least she figured THEM out," pointing to the Barbies on the peeling bookshelf near the door.
The Barbies pretended not to listen, pinking in indignation. They, like the little girl, loved Disney without question, yet thought she was strange in her disinterest of them. They patiently waited for the next child to be passed along to, one who would appreciate the beauty they knew they had.
"He's strange," the 100 tiny polychromatic woven dolls from Guatemala chorused, motioning to the gangly Pieman who waved an insidious fist amid the sweet faced collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls on the floor, "but at least the rest of the fruit dolls look like little girls, and smell of innocence."
"It is from the mother, the mother has done a good job teaching her these things, Disney just ignited her imagination," the Filipino doll, in a dress of batik and carabo shells decorating her throat, hurumphed.
"Nonethess ironic," the Swedish doll sniffed.
The Hawaiian doll spoke next,"She doesn't understand that we are not just flowers, song and hula. We are struggle and heartache, this is what makes us women. The mother knows this, but shelters her."
"The mother shelters herself," tisked the Jamaican doll.
"Well she gets that attitude from HER mother," cautioned the Filipino doll, "it always goes back to the mother."
The Korean doll, in a dress of pink rainbow arian satin, sighed, "The mother and grandmothers have given the little girl an inherent goodness. However the girl is very spoiled, hopefully she'll learn."
"Yes," echoed the Filipino doll, "but what I'm worried about now is the grandmother who is the father's mother, the one who took in the girl's mother and taught her things her mother never taught her. The grandmother is sick. Who will help the girl, who will help her mother? The men are so limited in these things, and it will take years for them to recover from the grandmother's death."
The dolls looked to Esperanza.
"You're awfully quiet tonight Esperanza," the Swedish doll quipped, straightening a candle.
Esperanza, sending a silent prayer to Lorca, did not respond to her friends and cried softly into the night.
Just a little
I’m not going to call
you today I’ll leave you alone,
leave you in peace for a change.
I called you 3 or 4 times yesterday.
“You can call me again later
if you’d like,” you were so kind to say,
so generous with your time. But,
I shouldn’t call you today I should
leave you alone. It’s good for you
to have some time without me,
some time alone with yourself
perhaps reading or walking the dog
or catching up with your friends.
Yes my love, you deserve
some precious time away from me.
You’re busy after all and can use a break
from being around me,
from having to pay attention to me,
from having the annoyance, the aggravation
(like swatting gnats from around your head)
of me following you around like the lost soul
that I am. No, I’m not going to call you today,
I’m trying not to anyway, trying to leave
you the hell alone. And maybe, hopefully,
when I return you might claim
to have missed me just a little.
the young man took his girlfriend to where he worked
a construction site, lots of heavy machinery
he brought her to the wood chipper
had her stand in front of it and told her to wait
he walked around, turned it on, returned
he must have had to yell, will you marry me?
and the poor girl confused and perhaps eager
he grabbed her as if to hug her, as if in ecstasy
picked her up and jumped into the chipper
she was saved only by him being pulled in first
blocking the teeth for a second so she fell away
will you marry me will you marry me
Things that Should Remain Shut
Our occipital neuralgia is under control. Cocaine was prescribed alongside larger
refrigerator space and misplaced inter-cranial massage chairs.
The wife's mouth was open and several thousand baby spiders waved tiny tentacles hello.
The brother's mouth was open and we shoved our tongues inside it.
The bacon seeds were buried in our yard. The bacon tree grew slowly.
Children came to climb the bacon tree but the gardener's mouth poured pesticides onto their clothes.
We were lost but our genitals were open and spilling peanut butter on the pavement.
Leftover Animals Swimming
Feet smash into the mailbox.
Lights stay on specific streets like carpet cleaners
standing naked in an unfurnished hallway.
There are several empty shopping carts and one says
"place your tongue-depressor sticks into our mouths
and swab our gentle cheeks."
The doctor was late giving birth. Without a shirt,
service will be quick and dirty.
The deodorant sticks are flies in your mouth.
Sometimes clothes don't last.
Tatters of jeans accumulate in an empty closet.
The lips were large and bristling
with pre-pubescent fur.
Take the moments to cover your crotch.
Crocodiles were left in the refrigerator
and they feel like morning sickness.
Walls of Reading Gaol, 1895
The angels crept through the prison and sat on the cot where Oscar slept. They took turns letting saliva drop into his ear. "He still worries that what he writes is against what we wish," one said. The rest grinned with the certainty that Oscar could only use words he received.
Bosie lurched into consciousness amid dead pet portraits and halls that twisted toward boudoirs of family friends. The solitary 25-year-old only knew the precise locations of two creatures--the pheasant he'd shot in the drive and the 41-year-old who'd received hard labor for consenting to his sex. Bosie woke tonight because of Oscar, or rather the need to utter something that would give him that man's size. As stars withdrew, he fretted that strangers would measure him by action alone.
The remnants of pensive Jonah are akin to a buy from his used book shop, perhaps a bit moldy, some brittleness, a mark or two from other hands. The pensive produces sleep that fills his mind with abstractions he will later paint while his room bathes him in the scents of licorice and mothballs. Jonah wakes asking, "Why must I give up Monte Carlo?" to a wall, bridal gown white, satiny if dusty of his one bedroom apartment.
He has dreamed for thirty-seven years of a James Bond type tuxedo custom made. Classic black tie: current cost estimated at five thousand dollars. He sees himself standing near the craps table having not yet bought in but surveying, Cuban cigar upon the air with and the taste of Cognac on his tongue.
Jonah tips his right hand off the bed and shakes it to stimulate a bit of circulation. Only quarter till eight. He'll draw for an hour refusing to believe he is not immune. The idea of diabetes bothers more than the pain of poor circulation or his weakening vision. His thoughts return to Bond and the girls of Bond.
He floats his memory to "You Only Live Twice" and deposits the eye of Tsai Ching's "Ling" while the mane of her back-teased hair becomes a wintry, engulfing sea engulfing. Jonah masks her image as she was only seen in the pre-credit sequence. He feels akin and inspired by the minor characters drawing and painting them into his oils.
No one notices the Bond motifs in each painting not even those rare individuals who buy Jonah's work for a paltry fee Saturdays at the flea market when the owner lets him set a display outside in exchange for ten pecent of the profits. No commitment on rental space. Most days Jonah goes home with nothing but the pleasure of salt pretzels dipped in mustard that the owner, Phil, sells at his concession stand.
Jonah bundles up his oils at the flea market only to place them down on the floor of what he calls his common room. He spreads them out like a giant jigsaw puzzle in the barren room with the bridal white if dusty walls that smell, too, of mothballs and licorice. In the far corner near the double French doors to his small balcony sits easel and paints. On the easel sits a painting of a man dressed in a tuxedo with his top two shirt buttons and bowtie undone.
The man curls over, nearly fetal, hunched toward a giant fire that burns with images of small paintings. The man sits in the belly of a whale. Jonah crosses to the painting and stares at it while images of "Live and Let Die's Solitaire" come to the foreground of his thoughts. "Why must I give up Monte Cristo?" he says to the painting as he slashes deep indigo across it obliterating both the whale and the man inside. Jonah, a man in the sea of his paintings, enveloped in the belly of his bridal white room.
I Know a Woman
Beneath a crescendo
she fans herself with notes,
wind's hidden syntax.
Something bays at it
raucous made-up girls at night
men arching their necks,
a man's bike chained to a
bosom gaudy with cleavage.
Girl's pay. Boy's night out.
The woman-ness crouches.
Wigged men read her abdomen.
Glass ceiling of what--
the oscillating black and blue sky.
Letters on the scales
reach everything but his heart.
In Marseilles it rains
people, lovers, candles.
bringing up life and
all her boats are docked.
except for one--the plush green
leaf at the current.
Portrait of Olga
On any occasion when a girl might have cause to wear a white dress
but the time has passed, somewhere inside may be Dora Maar
matching a shadow against the white wall.
She always resides out of sculpture. The smell of turpentine
dissuades a venturing out into the rounded bodice of a full woman.
She slips back under the point of the sun's triangular ray
and how unfaithfully the colors mix in light; the flat orange
moon falls into the solid lake, the tree's oval mast hides her
view from the sky's flat plane, her long rectangular legs
dangle like Marie-Therese from the line tied to the square garage.
Her eyes only sway side to side, or out. We look
in but our gaze hits a black wall in a star field of pricks,
concealing with primary shapes all the brute innocence about us.
The Dance of Veils, side to side, never drapes around the men,
and the bullet of Jacqueline, just a small tear in the canvas.
6: Eggs are hatching
safest to refer to it as a moment:
small, sharp beak breaking
through, the sky a resplendent
blast across little sparrow's
brain. Stunted sea turtle hatchlings
slapping awkwardly towards
dark water with sandy flippers.
Eggs everywhere hatching
into the potential for portentous,
unpredictable worlds: bubbles
and motes in vertical threads--
human heads on human bodies--
where the direct moment's
something smaller than a second,
and merely to live one moment
to the next is to hatch once more
he was the first to observe Saturn's
rings. It's disputed whether his blindness
actually came from staring at the sun.
Might stand that light can be un-
forgiving to the person who tries
to become it. Unglued, no longer listening,
she decidedly despises memories.
Too much racket above and below.
There are people standing around her,
"Mom, mom, it's me Mom, Angela,"
and it really whitens her face, the way
that forgetting everything resembles
remembering everything: the something
and the nothing weighed equally:
the first falling through the second,
producing the same end, which is flux
My mother pointed out the house, a big white painted house with many windows, on the outskirts of the village. It was the house where the youngest son had gone crazy after the Finnish Civil War. They were rich people, my mother told me, and I knew already as a child that rich people can do a lot of things others can't -- it was a law of Nature.
We. my mother and I, walked past the white painted house, and the wet snow fell down heavy and silent covering the dark earth, the yellow reeds, the sighing woods, the houses, the human beings -- big and small.
The son of the people in the big house had killed a "Red" -- a farmer -- and cut off his head in the kitchen with a knife. The hatred had made him do such a thing, my mother said. Then he had kicked the head through the window; the window had broken and the head had fallen down in a drift of snow.
We walked slowly, my mother and I, toward the village and when we walked by the military cemetery, she went on telling about the son of the rich people, the son who had killed the man in the kitchen. The window that was broken by the head of the dead man, was replaced, the glass was changed several times. It didn't stop the son of the house from screaming every time he entered the kitchen, he saw the face of the dead man, the man he had murdered, in the window. Nobody but the son saw the face, only he saw it -- the face -- clear and sharp -- gray, unshaven, with blind eyes. The son screamed, realizing that the dead man's face would never leave the house. The son went crazy and killed himself in the same kitchen.
My mother took my sweaty hand, squeezed it so it hurt, and started walking faster, bending her body against the increasingly snowy wind.
Rain is only useful if you’re just about to
purchase an umbrella
just as a parole hearing is only handy
if you don’t own a spoon.
Concealing your mirror’s face only shows
if you wear natural-looking makeup
just as concealing ideas with words is only
practical if you’re some sort of mute.
These are things we know already.
Tall blonde looking
for man with BMI of 25 or better,
IQ between 130-140,
must have a perfect PFT.
Resting blood pressure should
not exceed 120/70, head
circumference of 25"- 30"
preferred. Age negotiable.
Man who knows how to dress
Like a woman, not in women's clothes.
Voicing an opinion should always
be in the form of a question, or
with a request for agreement
added at the end of the opinion.
Sense of etiquette around my girlfriends
Essential. Reply to: Status Quo
Legs like beef teriyaki,
breasts that could be
compared to hard whipped
An ass that bounces
like Jello salad
a sense of humor
that tickles the tongue
more than Pop-Rocks.
Must come standard
with ability to cook.
of spiral snails
on the slick surface
of tide-flat mud
was like seasoning:
a side of beef on a spit
with specks of spice dotting
the flesh and fat
like a planet
above the fire.
The neighborhood knew
she had a furred snake,
and if you grabbed hold
it would utter rosehips.
No, not the word, but
those orange pods packed
with seeds. She used them
at the barbecue to spice
the beef kibble.
I ate some and it was good.
The Next State
(Arriving in New Mexico 11/27/2005)
So, there we were
in our gray seats, tiltable by degrees,
at the discretion of a uniformed lady
with pressed tight hair, common spit,
and slack lips smiling us
into another land within the same,
where the wet of the air had dried and cooled,
drawing artists to clean light
gathered in a spirit laden sky.
It was cheek cold on this winter's edge.
People crowded into sock end huddles
to brave wind that snatched golden leaves
and burnt adobe corners smooth.
The Road Beyond Roswell
(U:S:20, New Mexico - 11/30/2005)
Take a look at this madness!
It is a ballroom where the wind may vaunt,
and everything solar may pose in bright gowns?
Black pavement sliced through it, yet makes no barrier
for that high on energy, scuffing cracked grasses,
rattling the last dry seeds over scruff carpet.
It's a coyote's unwashed fleece -- ripe to be stomped.
Here is insignificance, treeless families
clinging to bleached sod. They are the masses,
cushioning players that fail to notice
the clear chill dragged behind them in winter;
a slow waltz breeze, or a tango gusting spirals,
danced in morpho blue dresses and long shadow tails.
Child of the Parrot
Three witched offered to grant one wish to each family in the neighborhood. Every family chose the same wish: safety for their sons, or, in other words, exile before the boys reached the age of military service. Each family paid a fortune to the three witches, who said they needed money to hire a sturdy boat that could carry the boys far away, to a safe, foreign harbor in a legendary land where there were never any wars.
Soon after receiving the money, the witches disappeared. Later, they sent back a portrait of themselves standing in front of an easily recognizable landmark, a statue in the foreign country where they had promised to take the boys. Naturally, the deceived parents were furious. The boys were despondent at first, but one of them noticed a serpent twined around the base of the statue in the picture. He pointed it out to the others, who took turns imagining all the ways a serpent could cause trouble for three witches.
If you look very carefully at the historic portrait, you can see the witches already beginning to shrink, grow scales, and lose their legs. It was just a matter of time until the boys sprouted wings. By then, they had formed the now-famous club, call Child of the Parrot. They knew they would be ready to migrate to a war-free zone long before the witches had a chance to float all the way back to their homeland on bits of flotsam and jetsam, in a vain attempt to reverse the magic of vivid childhood imaginations.
In my hometown there are young men considered so dangerous that when they appear in juvenile court, they are caged. Shackles prevent them from rattling the bars of their cages. They refuse to speak or write any words that contain the first letter of the name of the enemy clan. In this cult of death, even the alphabet is vanishing. The judges are solemn, as mothers and sisters of the accused reach up to clasp the feathers of invisible angels.
No one is dreaming. The young men in the cages are real. The wings and hands are alive. The souls of unspoken words float away, musical hearts vanishing through bulletproof windows.
Cliffs of cinnabar sunset rise beyond the manmade lake, with its earthen dam, hidden tunnels, and a cluster of cabin-tents inhabited by adventurers who pause to swim and rest during their atavistic journey along the Pacific Crest Trail. They travel on foot, lugging backpacks, and leading llamas. They sit on tree stumps around a fire pit, speaking of music and nightmares. "Funny nightmares," one explains, "the kind where you don't know why you were afraid."
The next morning, their journey resumes. The llamas' posture is swanlike. The hikers' beards and backpacks are once again coated with dust. They take a water taxi to the far shore of the lake. Returning to the wilderness, they vanish, as if the High Sierras were a foreign country in a distant time zone, far beyond the sun, as it rises above crumbling vermilion cliffs.