Poems

Ocean floor

There are rumors of sky.
Last words of swimmers, fallen
from waves. Limbs unkempt,
sleep-sown hair tossed
over wet, windy, winding sheets.

Swollen eyes, pressure kissed,
or eaten by the curious
fish who want to taste last sights.
Synesthesia, second hand.
Pearls of life melted
on tiny tongues.

A child's game, the rumors pass
from lips to ears to lips,
stirred by convection,
confection, consensus.

"Yes, there is sky. It's where
they make the dead."

Exchange of hunger

My bathrobe wrapped wrinkled
rose terrycloth trailing
while paying for pizza
she shivers taps
dances while he
tries to see
more than
pale peeky feet
more than
flushed freckled thorax
long storm damaged hair
lips dark from the well
green eyes lit from mine

he exits with ache

and I dine

Force

I want to lie to you.

The bear in the cave, he is asleep.
He has eaten everything there is to eat.
All the nuts and berries, grubs and fish
are gone. Gone to fat and dreams
of delicious summer hunts. He snores
and keeps the bunnies on their toes.
They know he hibernates, but still
the jagged, rattled breathing makes them freeze.

There is no bear.

The lantern on the table has been lit
for hours now. It's not just warm but hot
to careless touch. Turn the wick down,
please, before you burn yourself.

There is no lantern.

If it would make you smile
I'd shave my back.

I would never shave my back.

I want to lie to you.

I want my words to fall like rain,
to slick your t-shirt to your breasts
to melt inside your mouth like chocolate
burn like whiskey
trip you up
roll you on your back
lick your face, the taste
of rain, whiskey, candy, rum
hum a moaning, railroad travel song
against your neck
bite tattoos that show tomorrow
make your dentist wonder
questioning the not-so-subtle
not-so-gentle
not-so-fragile true intent

I want to lie to you
because the truth
has never worked.

Bears, lanterns, laughter, blood.
Whatever works.
Whatever stings.
Whatever moves.

If I thought silence was the way
I'd sew my lips up tight
and wait, wait for you to tell me,

"It's all right. I swear, baby,
everything will be all right."

Silence would be another lie,
of course. I'll try it soon.
Just to see if that will make you
make you
make you
make you
see. 


Lipstick

Only I can make you blush.
You said that to me once.
Whether heated, private, mottled flush
or public rush of rosy, freckled gold
at lunch. Quick chuckle or slow thrum
of blood. Either/or is mine alone
to pull from stores of
secret streams
that make your pulse not yours.

You put on lipstick
when we go out to play. I dont know,
yet, if I like it.

I like the lie it tells to other men.
The lie of dawn, the lie of heat.
The neon sign, the flash contrast
is fine. I'm not the jealous type.
You know that.

But there is now some small corner
of your smile that is not naked to
my eye.
I compliment your choice of shoes,
make jokes at my expense,
stand back from crowds; just this side of shy.
All the tricks that (usually) make you
mine.

Your un-red red-red now hides
something... something.

Only I can make you blush.
You said that to me once.
But paint and paper keep your blood
behind a wall
I'm not sure that I trust.


Sky fear

Brown-eyed Heather planted flowers
for her mom in April every year.
Heather, fair hair streaked and flowed
like cereal grains or
unmowed wild grasses, bleached and bent
and wet with warm, soft rain.

Heather played in earth and clay and mud
and seeds and leaves. 
All these things
clung to her. Their sounds and smells
and textures crunch, crumble, poke
the cushions of her sofa, lumps of her dogs
and cats, pillows of her thighs and breasts.
These bits tangle in her and the nest,
her home, tastes of dust, wood,
stone, sap, pinecone sprinkles. 

Until Sky came for her one day.
All the clouds retreated on their stormy hooves,
kicking thunder, screaming lightning,
tearing cotton comfort, white lamb's wool,
wishing daydreams far away.

Sky is blue, and sees with circling eye.
The pupil may be black, sleep-trimmed night,
but we all know (Heather knew) that Sky is true
all-seeing, all-knowing, deepest, clearest blue.

Why it came for her, she didn't have
a clue.

First, she hid beneath her lashes and her hair.
The smells of summer were still clinging
to the hand-combed strands. Strong there,
where she'd braided daisies, once. But Sky teased
her for her artifice. She knew herself lovely
even bare of brush and pins, painted blush
and tins of man-made pinks and reds.

She fled beneath her dogs and cats. But Sky
knew they were slaves, not friends. Sky saw her time
with them was for her pleasure. Sensual stroke
or galumphing, frisbee-catching, warm feet 
by the fire. Gentle chains,
but still a mistress' yoke.

Into the yard! The willow, roses, bougainvillea and vines.
The pumpkins, cucumbers... she climbed
the peach tree she'd planted many years ago.
She scraped her knee, an elbow, reaching for the furry fruit
and wolfed it down
gasping, gagging almost as the juice flowed
on her tongue and in her throat
and, sticky, ran over fingers, knuckles, wrist and arm.

She leaned back against the wood.
Convinced she'd cheated Sky for good.

But Sky knows over-ripe and Sky knows rot.

The cramps began, the pain, and Heather dropped 
down on the cool, damp ground. Writhing, bent,
she watched the blue eye hover, drying dew-drops as it went.

One last chance, she dug.
As the spasms gripped her, tore her from herself,
the hole grew deeper, well-loved mud and earthworms parted
as lovers hold backs sheets, arms wide
inviting in a cherished, well-known bride.

Pulling brown onto her, Heather smiled. Sky foiled
by the final comfort of her gentle soil.

Brown to black. Air grows thick. And now Heather understands
that she's been tricked. For as her last breath warms 
the sand Sky laughs. It did not want to own her,
bind her,
not at all.

It wants more.
For her to 
be 
the Sky.
To watch and see 
and know and be the one 
to find the secrets, judge the lies.
Sky is tired,
wants to try
dirt, cats, dogs, bees, scrapes, peaches, knees.

Now, trembling, as she gives up the clay,
her eyes become as blue as noon-bright day.
She knows she was right to fear
what she now passes into 
now becomes:
the staring, merciless sphere
the sight
the one.

we freeze they burn we

you trans
form me little one
(ocean cat) your per
fume (sea salt peach sandal
wood) into faster
feral hungry drunk noc
turnal

[wind wolf]
you call
me (smile eye
joke brow arch)

time moves slow
your eyes (green gold 
grey spray tan sand)
lock mine lock

cycle drums club children
thud plod march dull strum while
you in stride in
side along my line

[wind] (wave)
make ice silver jewels
rust gold hair
they freeze where
they be
gan no more never
there to us

your (bare feet) press warm
carpet dents my [cold words] 
lift icy laugh your wake 
hot know your folded core

[ ( we slow they speed we ) ]
( [ we freeze they burn we ] )

smile (ocean cat)
swim seas of dried acolytes

only wind [wolf laugh]
sows heat 
only frozen (curious) seas 
reap burn



Strange place

They opened up the past as an amusement park.
Rides for every decade, merchandised by year, characters
in cartoon suits. That last was what alerted me:
this was not a public place, a common set of history
and figures from the halls of fame and infamy.
This was us.
The bloated clown in garish, pleather slacks
whose 80’s hair was teased up tight, lapels like razors,
thin, satin tie. That was me. That guy. Inflated well past
caricature. Unkind but not unrecognized.

You they treated better. Too much makeup, sure.
But at least not oversized.

I peeked inside the carousel that circled our best year.
Frozen as I watched our joy and genius, our
private perfect laughter bob and spin. I watched it
from the outside, a hundred turns or so. I could not
make myself go in.


Fifth season

When did the slim, slightly tousled
slip of a girl
with grass in her hair and
wrinkled, linen slacks
slide, unnoticed, into some quiet pool 
of stagnant water?
Her honey hair swirled clockwise
just a moment,
barely disturbed the grey scum
that coats the liquid skin,
and then
she was gone
as if she’d never strode beside me.

Summer lived in her tan face,
the bowls of her cheeks held sun like soup.
Her forehead a map of beaches, trails and parks.
Each step she took pushed back the globe
one step
the other way.
You could feel it
walking beside her.
Barefoot, sandals, boots or heels – no matter.
Slight of frame; petite, perhaps,
but mighty as Diana in her stride.

Winter lived in her laugh.
Grown men feared it.
The laugh and short, sharp glance that said,
“Oh. You. Never mind.”
The cutting laugh.
The lovely laugh.
Warming, you cold drink from it.
Suck cold sustenance and, maybe,
flavor something sweeter. Maybe.
Maybe later.

Spring lived in her breath.
Quiet words. Soft against my neck,
soft against my ear.
Hard against my heart and bedrock.
Whispers of new life. Whispers of
growing things
that seek warmth
and rain.
Her words brought wind
and warmth
and rain.

Fall lived in my eyes.
Every change a scarlet gem,
every touch a drop of harvest gold.
She could do no wrong.
From sunrise yellow hair
to blue noon eyes
to mischief heart of midnight black.
Nothing marred the sweet, cool day
of her, my autumn girl,
the world I love.

When, then, did she find time
to die?
Between the sun and wind there is no crack.
Between the ice and breath?
I cannot say.
I only know that she is gone.
And so, without her fair, firm stride,
the earth stands still.
Trapped without sun
without ice
without wind, warmth, wet

without gold.



Half circles

This summer is older than last summer.
This summer has white in its hair
and a beard gone dry and wiry.
Napping.

Spring was younger than ever.
Juicy.
Falling all over herself to make mistakes.
Barefoot on wet pavement.
Asleep on the front porch.
Inventing drama with her roommates.

We don't know yet about fall.
And we never speak of winter.



Night meadow

handfuls of grass

i want you like that

like
rip
shred
manual thresh
tear great deep
pressed pinched green
scattering threads
wondering why?
still feel boyish
yet shyly great
fling fists skip chunks crush clods
grab more always more
bare gods'
brand emerald sweat

funny and bitter
sweet in the teeth
rolling you prickly forgiving
beneath
hands
leave a trace
strands
weave a pace

breath in my breath
picks slivers of mint
and tinny thin sounds
wind on wind
give me this
roll over
take handfuls of grass

there is more
always more
thick grass never gone
and water to wash
before
dawn



Hitchhiking

(There is no way forward
but through. A hole
in the hill, a side-wound track
in sand. Even tide
breaks ocean into tongues.
Before first light,
last tunnel.)

She balances, a tie-dyed stork,
on a visibly gravid portmanteau.
One foot hooked beneath homemade skirt,
one bare and loose on median.
No sign of depth or lore or harm.
A scattered woman; humble girl.
Shy beneath a wide-brimmed, floppy hat;
quiet beneath a darkening sky;
patient beneath...

your curiosity.

You are young. You were born
post trust. She is not the norm.
This lady-woman-girl in clothes
both festive and confused. Like a bright quilt
sewn from random flags. But she is
slight and fair and it is dark
and you are young. And there
is room for four or more and you were born
post indifference.

"Where are you headed?"
"West. Just west."

She manages to leverage the portmanteau
into your trunk. You can tell it's heavy,
but she waved your help away and as she settles
into shotgun seat and buckles belt she says,
"I'm Eve."

You're on your way and think yourself a minor saint
for stopping on this tertiary lane. No other
would have passed her for awhile. You've seen no other
car for miles. Empty road, empty scything curves
through slow, green hills and mossy slopes.
The road itself a cut that shows the eons'
bones in vivisected stone.

You ask her if her car broke down, she shakes her head.
You ask her why she walks with heavy pack.
She shrugs. "It's all I've got."
You ask her why she walks instead of bus or train
(you think yourself a minor saint for
leaving out "or plane").

"I always get picked up," she says.

You nod. You guess that were she man and heavy, tall...
she'd seem a monster. Even standing still
with thumb out-stuck, a blade of need and threat.

She hides her eyes beneath her hat and seems
to maybe sleep or count the trees.

The hours pass, you tire. You pull over,
both get out to stretch your legs
and as the moon peeks out from yellow clouds
she strikes.

"I need this," she whispers. "This," she hisses.
Sweet, child's face now edged with shadows
drawn in black by headlights from behind
you on your back and
something wet is crawling
down your collarbone.
Something wet and crucial,
wet and warm.

She stands, you see her shadow like a tower
or a tree in winter, leafless,
jingling your keys.

You hear the toss of scree, feel the rubble
flung against your thighs as tires fling it loose.
The sky grows darker...
no; it's you. You'd thought it almost dawn
by man's o'clock when you slowed down.

Now it's done;
you will not wake
from your mistake your
underestimation
of her wholly feminine and
unassuming

thumb.


Ars Gratia Artis

[Note: the following is a text-only poetic remembrance vT'd to me by my great-grandfather, after whom I am named. In it he reflects on a memtec of his youth in the 1970's, watching Saturday morning "cartoons." Before sharing this with me we discussed the conture of the time. There were only five or six "TV stations," displaying linear programming with no recback available; real-time only. There was very little devcont specifically for children, as well. He passed away about a year after we vRetted on the topic. ~ Andrew Ward Havens, June, 2088.]

Saturday: the only day
Dad didn't rise with dawn for prayer or pay.
I'd wake my brother from his hollow-log,
we'd wend our way down, down, down, down
four stories down, to the TV Cave carved beneath
the vacant oubliette where we kept extra
candles, hats and casks of fish. "For the love
of Cod, Montressor," I whispered. Brother
tapped his cane on damp, rock walls to scare away
the scarabs; tiny clicks of dainty, poisoned feet.

These were our cartoons:
The one where the chicken tortures the dog.
The one where the rabbit tortures the duck.
The one where the rabbit tortures the hunter.
The one where the rabbit tortures the pirate cowboy hessian arab.
The one where the bird tortures the wolf.
The one where the other bird tortures the cat.

That last, the only truly moral play;
the cat tried to eat the bird,
so torturing him's OK.

Because he was younger, my brother's chores included
fetching water to keep the TV coils cool. He'd make two
trips for every hour watched, but enjoyed the smell
of lilies that floated in the well.
I trapped butterflies in the cathode jar
and disposed of the luminescent crust.
We'd had a sister. But we sold her
to the hobos for a case of
color.

Years later we knew that our beloved shows
had not been born as children's tales. That they were bite-sized
chunks chipped from Central Statues in the Central Forum.
Shards small enough to fit in little mouths.
Not true kiddie fare. Just cast-off bits
of cocaine fueled nightmares.

At school we learned tiny, tinny songs;
/to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony/

From our cartoons we learned opera.

We breakfasted on cardboard pictures of fictional food
and drank from second-hand tangerines.

At 9 am Dad woke, we'd climb the stairs
to scratch away at chores of bone and bristle.
Swapping lines, brother and I,
Dad would smile in wisdom of punchlines we'd memorized
but did not understand.
Gentle racist musings. Innuendo. Cutting snark.

The pig who wore no pants.
The midget Roman alien.
The cross-dressed rabbit.
The singing, sadist frog.
They were all the same (we knew)
because they shared one voice.

Weeknights were for family, friends and buddy bunches.
Days filled with soap and anchors.
But Saturday mornings
were simple, mad, violent, bloody, coarse
and true. 

I own the moon


Because I say I do.

Yah...
There are wolves, for sure,
and loons up late. They hoot,
black charcoal shadow cartoon fools
whose gloom assumes
we, too, mourn loss of bright
fiery blaze;
patent days.

There are none, though, walking ways
of cratered, corduroy, rolling, dust-grey 
hills and basins. Peaks and vales
like battlefields of grim grenades
and silent, sentient cosmic chum.
None
but me.

And I say, "Pay!"

You lovers on my white-glow leaning;
you hunters creeping, deer-spoor seeking;
you children peering, “One day,” dreaming;
all who look upon this, frankly, dreary, lifeless face,
this wide-eyed, gaping maw of rock and shining, lantern jaw,
you now owe toll!

No more free ride. Pay up. Way up.

The Man in the Moon be damned.
Homage? For the loons.
I own the moon.


Dry

When the ocean fled
we were left with many dead
fish.

That Wednesday (Thursday in Japan)
when the seas just up and ran
the fishermen in fallen hulls
had one or two good raking days
of harvest. Bloated gulls
were everywhere and gorged
on mundane bass and trout
and monstrous, deep trench horrors
eye-stalks poking out
of yellow, running beaks.

What had been the beach
was now just sandy path between
two dirt worlds
no spray, no salt, no scene
but earthy, constant fixity.

And you won't sing for me.


Wear white

Is it so hard for you 
to wear white
once a year?

Once a year? For coffee? Is that so hard?

You are twelve and blonde.
Not yellow-sun-corn-blonde. Not Hollywood blonde.
Not pancake or butter blonde 
or golden retriever or screaming neon Vegas blonde.
Just your blonde. Which my mother said was honey.

Your eyes are still the deep wood, fallen tree brown
of something permanent yet soft. The soil 
at the base of the stone wall where we dug with our hands
and buried a cigar box time capsule.

You have the map. It is folded up inside your copy of
"Pilgrim's Progress." 

You have the map. 
You always had the map.

Your hair has not been blonde for twenty years. 
Once when we met for yearly coffee
your eyes were blue
and I nearly [here we will spare the reader
the melodramatic spew, the pseudo-trauma that is,
frankly, pitiful and sad].

Frigging contact lenses.

We held hands twice.
We never kissed.

I once watched you while you slept.
And later, much later, while indulging chemical vice
while at college, I relived that watchful moment.
But that time the half-hour stretched out to a hundred years.
I watched your hair go dark. 
Honey, nutmeg, leather, tea.
It shortened, straightened, became proper.
You grew heavy. First with age and then with children.
Lines on your face. Lines on your hands.

Email is so much easier than phone calls.
I can bring myself to type the words,
"Wear white."
I could never bring myself to say.

I always get there early. You know that, right?
At least a half hour. The waiting gives me pain.
What will have changed? What new pages 
will the hand of Brother Death have turned down now?
Will he have marked a chapter on your son? How
old is he? What marks in school? What kind of boy?
Or on your job? Your health? Your art? Your man?

You are twelve and honey blonde.
With dirt under your fingernails. White shorts.
White gym socks. White Keds. White t-shirt that says, 
"I'm a Pepper."

The waiting gives me pain. I would show up
even earlier. If I were brave.


Shadow Lamp

The curve of your neck beckons,
shallow bowl of moon stone. Cool milk
spills, silk on silk below dark eyes,
deep-dyed, hooded, never fully wide. Your sky
of shaded hair spins windy nighttime
sighs around your curve of throat.
You are just a touch away, a gentle lean, 
but I could never slide a hand
across our breath-thin yet deep divide
to find the smile (wound) that hides behind
your shadowed, shining, nighttime  
maned disguise.

I turn my eyes. From you, from my desire,
and see the silhouette of
your neck up on the wall. The fall
of shadow inked by yellow light behind,
lithe shape the same, slender goblet full of life.
I am trapped between my eye and mind

and yet...
this gap I may bridge. I slide
my arm behind, my fingers' shadow 
on the wall’s blank page. Your back is turned, 
the plain, dull plaster just a stage where now
I’m free to lift my hand, stretch, plead
and finally end this silent
aching need.

The curve of your neck beckons,
its silhouette the inverse of bright lamps 
from ancient desert tales.
Finally I feel
the sweet, soft slippery
glide of fingers down inside

you (your
shadow).

I stroke the false curved 
image of your neck,

and this dark, wall-bound lamp
whispers of sweet storied breeze and begs, 

"Please. 
Now.
Three wishes.
Make them
quickly."

Lamp light flickers,
your hooded eyes are almost closed.

I am a coward, fingers caught 
in shadow. 
What to wish for?

Perhaps I know.



Green, I say

(from a friend's dare/challenge to write a poem about M&Ms)

nothing so shallow, 
nothing so thin 
as candy crunch color micrometer skin

no peanut no licorice whipped red or black 
no nothing with actual
taste to its tack
or rasp on its back
is shallow as candy crunch color skin that
spills rainbowy slippery
elbow deep seeds
all chocolate inside
but we pick out the greens

(you never did hear what the others are for?)

listen, then, child
aphrodisiac’s safe
compared to the rest of the prism of taste

yellows are seeds for soldiers of light
plant them near holly, they blossom at night
and scalp neighbors’ kids who have taunted or teased
the brown ones, when juggled, cause mad cow disease
these days Charon takes ferry payment in red
put two in your mouth (they won’t melt when you’re dead)
a trail of bright orange leads men to your wife
every blue one you eat takes two months off your life

the green makes you horny?
well, here, take a few

they don’t look quite right?

well…

I’ve peeled them for you



Simple Gift

Because he loves me,
and because he has a sense of humor,
my God has shared with me the ten ways
I might die. 

There is the misstep on the stairs while carrying
too many things.
The food poisoning from tiramisu. 
Car crash in the rain (not my fault).
Car crash while merging (my fault).
Heart attack when surprised by a young relative
in the act of eating peanut butter
(smooth) straight from the jar.
Hit by falling masonry while a tourist in London.
Stroke on an airplane over Kansas. 
Dying in a dream and not dying in real life,
but then dying when I get up to write that down
as an idea for a poem
and trip on my slipper and crack my head
on the vanity.
Choking on an hors d'oeuvre I didn't want
but ate to be polite
to a person I don't like
at a party I didn't want to go to
but went to be polite.
Quietly, in my sleep, in a hospital bed,
surrounded by people I don't recognize. 

Because I love Him,
and because I have a sense of humor,
I switch to chunky. 


Upward Spiral 

To learn you
I will start below.
My eyes raised up from old, dead stone
tunnel roots and cellar walls
through bricks, blocks, pipes and copper wires.
The moist, dark soil swaddles you
in seasons' leaves, bright pages turned
to mulch and compost where now stretch
peach, almond, pear.
Those, your scent, as I break ground,
swim up through years
to walk your uncut grass
and stare through night-slick glass.

To know you
I will enter in.
A student on a morning tour, and I begin;
stroke banisters, scratch mortar lines,
drop muddy footprints in the hall
and leave behind the litter of a visit.
Nothing but a flirt. A scouting trip.
Come back as night custodian,
who knows your locks, bookshelves and walls.
The spots where moisture pools,
the warm, soft corners, safe to rest
against a banister for a quick nap or furtive bite.
I wander you at night.

To win you
I will rise above.
A wind exhaled from cracks
of winter's knuckled grip. In spring you sighed
and opened all your windows,
threw them wide, hopeful at the scenes of light
and green and growth outside.
So I fly out and circle upward,
see the hills and roads that sketch
your landscape. Bring them back, stretch tales, paint

bright, new colors that reveal this view:
a world made ever, always, only you.


Pencil sketch

straight lines are
boring necessary but
boring efficient but
boring black and white is good for
checkers
chess and
moon pies.

fucking moon pies.

summer is black full thick.
winter is white obvious trite.

Spring is silver,
his edges slippery and shy.
Autumn is fallen brown.
She holds the liquid center,
gracious in sleep,
dreams words,
drools a little,
and settles, slowly,
into promise.

~ For my friend, Tam Dalrymple


50 and 10

The gentle bell rings.
She wraps up, he collects his things.
"Next week."
"Same time."
Door opens, closes. She thinks, "I'm a fool."
But still she takes his place,
the couch indented from his form,
not yet cool, faintly aromatic
from his aftershave. 
She stretches out. Long, bare legs 
on leather that has held
a thousand broken men. A million
babbled dreams. One of them, though...
One is in her head.
Eyes closed, she pictures him
beside her, there. His half smile.
Tapping on the arm of what is always
(always... always...)
hers; the doctor's chair.
Just once, though, she would give it up,
give it over,
give it back
if he would enter in,
would take the place where 
she needs fifty minutes
of concentrated, focused
care.



Medium

Deep winter made Amelia Jesus.
"Mimi" to her friends, she skates the lake behind the farm
where no cows graze and no corn grows.
Walking on the water where
she'd dived last summer, touched the bottom,
swam to shore, kissed Donnie Blake
while they both dried in sun and breeze.

Sixteen soon, by next December she will drive
to see him weekends, stay the night, and maybe
maybe maybe maybe let him let him let him...

She slides a thin skin of change. A scant few inches
held between the piercing blue of Christmas sky and
a black like swollen pupils, grown to try
and catch the last pale winking light.

It never broke before.

"Wait until Christmas," was the rule. But whether
Mimi was a little heavier with muscle mass
from soccer and a lot of yoga
or the ice was thinner... still remembering a long
long Spring.

It didn't hurt. She wasn't even scared.
Couldn't feel the cold. Body soaked with shock
and chemicals and vertigo and
all she sees is white above. The pale
thin skin of change.

Her mother's shouts of, "Mimi! Mimi! Mimi!"
the last sounds heard as fingers tap
one last time
on something solid
and Amelia remembers,
"Oh, yes... Jesus dies."



Safe Words: A Zombie Sonnet

Deep down inside, we knew we were bad.
All of us. Everywhere. Everyone had
a cellular knowledge of what we had done
to all of our victims. And now we have come

to a drought of fresh blood. To a desert of flesh
where the ground is a stone, where the wind just a breath
of enmity, apathy, memory, dawn.
Alone with our horror. Our hunger now gone

to sleep with its victims, now marrow and hair.
The scent of them absent. No trace of them where
there once was a bike path, a playground, a mall.
We wait for a sign. We'll wait here while all

of the stars flicker out. Until time itself ends.
To reunite, finally, for dinner with friends. 



Heisenberg's Second Date

You said, "Yes." I don't know why.
The first went, I thought... bad. 
To say the least. Your grace, 
my clumsy humor not matched 
so much as all opposed and all that
wine spilled on and in your shoe. 
Why would you say, "Yes" to more?
I thought I knew before I called.
I thought I knew half way through
the first. All the awkward 
silences. The food sent back. 
The mention of the film
your ex was in. All that
and still the magic, unhoped... "Yes."

The joy of being wrong
is in me like a flare of burning paper.
And now I do not know
where this will go
but I am glad, so glad,
I so fucked up
the measurements.
Justify
reason chases reason
all around the stump of ego
never pauses never hastens
breath of question
tramp of logic
falls the fire
falls the water
falls the sweep of wind
and seasons
rots the branches
crumbles needles
reason circles
still the hole



Alone or dark

Heisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know
both

where?
and
when?

No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Your movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.

Walk
slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.


Grayhouse

There is a moment every morning when
I hover, warm and senseless, palm to palm
with sleep and darkness. For three breaths I can
forget the square of earth I care for. Wrong

and calm in unhinged thought. I rise and dress,
limp down the stairs, go out the back, abide
a moment's sun. The grayhouse lock is flecked
with rust. The knob is cold. I push inside

the freezing box. Dead dirt is still the same.
Nothing grows, as long as I remain. 


Next steps

Because its proper use
saddens you,
I will cut out my heart.

A picture of a thing is not 
the thing, no; but it is a thing.
The eyes stare, the light surprises 
from odd angles, eases into
soft, familiar, friendly lines.
In the evening, after work, almost
a smile. Almost a nod. Almost

ten minutes since the last time
it beat. That's a record. I can wait.
How long will it take? I should wait.

There is no prize for being good.
No prize for the sweet, hard alchemy
that made you laugh... no prize for finding
your smile at the bottom of a box of
"fuck fuck fuck my life"
down down down 
way down again again so far, so far, so far

so good. The ribs the toughest part.
That noise, the *creak* before they snapped.
Unpleasant.
The worst? Over? I hold on for fear
of... of... of...

Healed. Your eyes, your smile, your scent
covered some dry, dead, wrinkled place
where sun and forest, fire and rain had never met.
Come together, magic in the dark corners...
games in the

night. Wired back up. Rags in the washer.
Blood collecting in the cup
you used for sweet, light coffee.

The map is not the territory. 
The scars are not the wound.
But they are something.

Eyes open, chest silent. I daydream
of sleep.


Snack

You break
beneath me
like a cool, green,
seedless grape.

Taut, at first, and firm. Smooth
curves, small dents, a tiny
tip of hard, rough stem.
Rolled, flicked, fluttered, licked
and swirled under my tongue
until the chill is shed, the blood
warmed skin still slick,
yes, but now with layered spit on sweat.

My teeth on you a tease,
a grin, a dare to let me further into
where you keep you close and closed.
Then harder, rhythmic nibbles growing bolder,
building into full, harsh
bite.
I bear down,
delighted as your eyes spread wide,
shocked at what you now allow and
ask and plead for and demand and

there there there the

breaking skin
juice flows
coats my mouth, lips, teeth, tongue, chin
sweet/salt/tart
I swallow as you
break apart and

like one cool, green, seedless grape
leave me thirsty. 



The audience is inside

When she speaks, her breath is heavy
with the dust and wax of women
who knelt down before an altar
of defensive procreation.

The words are less a message
than a beast of daily burden.
Brimming pails of clotted vowels
sticking to her labored tongue.

The moral and the punchline
are not served for your amusement:
they are pieces on a game board
stretching back before her birth.

Like a flute, she's just a vessel
for a set of measured holes.



Betrayal

I dreamed last night that you came back to me.

Drunk, of course.
Though still fine and smooth as ever.
Beautiful. Like dawn and ice-cream all at once.

First you raged.
Spit-soaked curses launched across dream kitchen.
Arms and hands all Pets Gone Wild,
you tried to escape your monologue.

Then sad.
You followed me into dream living room.
Filled with couches.
Low light, dark, dark dreaming carpet.
You sat, your feet curled underneath you,
wrapped your hands around my wrist
explained why things just
sucked.
So much.
On and on. A rum-fumed litany of suck.

Then playful.
Tease me. Punch my shoulder. Pull my hair a little.
Dark eyes grinning up
from under dark and swaying bangs.
(You know. Even drunk you know.)
Your touch is poison. Feeds hot guilt,
cold heart kept intact just in case

(in case, oh Jesus just in case
you ever really, ever sober, ever thoughtful, ever wanting,
ever ever ever just come back).

Finally, sleepy.
Curled up beneath my arm.
I lift-half-carry you to dream bed.
You purr and slide beneath the sheet.
Beg, in that small (sweet poison) voice,
"Stay with me. Please."

I lay down next to you.
Cheek to shoulder.
Breath to neck.
Arm thrown carelessly 
(fuck... of course carelessly)
across my chest.

Knees pressed to my hip.
I remember this. 
This skin, these bones.
The summer, dried grass smell of your hair. 
The bruised-purple tint 
of your eyelids as your breathing
slows. Your long fingers. Your breasts
against my ribs.

You sleep. In my dream.
I'm awake, there.
For hours. Feeling. Waiting. Broken.

I dreamed last night that you came back to me.

Which doubly stabs...
since you were never with me
outside dreams.

And now I know the dream of losing you,
and of your drunk, doesn't-count, fingers-crossed return.
To add to the mix

of how you never, ever, really
loved me
anyway
at all
for real.



Bleaking

Breathe
while you have lungs yet whole
and whistle
through your whistle hole
and tap your fingers
on the back
of something black.

Blow
a kiss to those who wait
so burden them
with dread, wet weight
and leave behind
your name in dust
on something bound to rust.

Lay back and nap the white noon sky.
We'll wake you for dusk rise.


Q&A

What weaves
seeming solid
elbows, bone, long
hair undone
in wind fan
lamp light eye
slippery grin
drippery lips
over and
over and
over and down?

The right
match.


Husks

wind dance snow dust
oil orange sky
pink chapped horizon rime
eyes closed
against the cold

pepermint dry hollow mouth
candle waver heart
march used brass hymns
feet stern
on silver cobbles

dream ribbons dream tinsel

husks only choke



If I die

If I die of boredom,
let me lie in plain, brown dirt.
No stone, no box, no flowers.
Just the earth and me
and worms and water,
roots and rocks.
Naked, face down, hands at sides.
Ten feet deep, please.

If I die of thirst,
bury me inside a tree.
Sealed behind the scratchy bark.
Upside down, feet pointed
toward Mosquito Moon.
Eyes sealed with moss.
A willow, maybe. I'm too far
removed from royalty for oak.

If I never die,
plant me in a chair. My old,
soft La-Z-Boy. Or the leather couch
we first made out on. The one
that palms your ass
like a catcher's mitt.
Facing East.
Towards the rising sun
network.


No enemy

Sunrise doesn't fight the night.
No fire-bright spear,
no black dagger,
no mythic, balanced dance.
Just breath.

The jungle gym is air and iron.
Sweet young fear
raised higher.
Toes balanced, seeing far, far.
First frost.

Where the other is, you are.
Your fight is just his pounding heart. 


Never the last word

I test the ocean with a naked toe,
then fall, like rags, in folds of purring foam.
Float, eyes wide, the sun obscured by clouds
too dense, too gray, too heavy with their load

of next year's sea. The pregnant future glides
across the sky. I paddle slowly out,
past rocks and turtles, shells and staring gulls,
twisting in the tide. The sun goes down

without a fanfare; no drum roll for night.
Just the billion billionth curtain call.
Still stroking softly, I breathe deep the spray,
the juice of what I've done. It's not at all

a suicide. It's just a quiet song.
With only sea to say, "You got it wrong."


Needs salt (this is the poem that writes itself)

This is the poem that writes itself.
Loose, salivated ink, black flowing loops
of spit verse dripping, dropping out,
pulled down by gravid dirt
pushed out by startled wind
released from mincing lips
to flutter
flop
and finally fall
to misspent page below.

A napkin for the lost verse.
Two rhymes wiped thin and smeared
across a hairy hand.

Words without work,
phrase without weight
stuck 
like last night's pizza sauce
on paper plates left in the sink.

Roll them down your chin.
Lick them from your cheek.
Dabble fingers in the juice
that oozes
comforting and warm,
nap-wet breath
you do not choose to hold.

This is the poem that writes itself.
Repeated lines, grim soldiers hefting gaudy flags
bang hollow drums,
demand 
demand!
attention. March to masturbated beat.

The words that fall from trees;
the words that rise from dreams;
the words that lead parades;
fear these. Hate them. They are not yours,
they own your air
and leak you out
a squeaking, tepid tire.

Any line that hasn't bled,
any word that isn't clamped
any poem that doesn't hurt
needs salt
rubbed in its gash.

This is the poem that writes itself. 


Rest for the questions

where
the path begins to curve when
red sunset swallows day what
dense wet wood mumbles soft why
the sweet-eyed dancer bows

how 
my fingers tense and tighten beg
release from black banked coal test
taut wires tense with current raise
a frost cracked coin of blood

take
more time than time requires break
more bone within the bowl ache
with me while sunset swallows choke
our clouds 
inhale 
spun gold 



Death warmed over

Listening to tragedy
twice removed
is a radio
in the next car
playing songs
I don't like.

Your brother's wife is dying?
Maybe it's thrice removed.
Who talks like that.
Who says, "thrice?"
But "twice" is OK?
Stop.

I don't know you that well.
You work three cubes down.
We've talked at lunch
less than ten times.
You borrow
my good scissors. 
I borrow
your secretary.

I didn't know you had a brother.
Until you said,
"My brother's wife is dying."

I am...
sad?

Not sure. Certainly not pleased.
But I don't know him.
Don't know her.
Really... don't know you.

If I died, I expect I'd be
quite upset.

If you died, I might be
somewhat put out. Maybe sad.
Maybe.

If your brother died, I would have
some reasonable empathy.

I guess... I guess...

"That's terrible," I say.

You nod. And swipe one of my fries.



Green waste vaults

Pandering folk gnostic, shimmering stapled.
Laugh-pointed gyroscope, nocturnal fractal.
Hope not glow warm wash,
his tarmac assemble.
Green waste vaults tangerine,
slip under simple.

Theocrats? Optical, not rainy parlor
to font of more lamb tanning, shingle slam slow punk.
Nascent.
Green waste vaults tow submarine lemon,
fix toward mass bongo drown
champion lotion.

Whore tonnage tulip flow,
last puncture tendon.

Trance dappled circuitry

furnace

unleavened. 


Cold front

A sudden possibility
provides a subtle pressure.
Or, perhaps, a gentle suction.
Tugging one way, pushed the other.

A vague, external vacuum
stretching outward from a center
that was hidden, draped in surety,
now stark in taut relief.

How odd, to learn the contours
of an unnamed, buried organ
only after distant doorways
open outward to the sky.
A well behaved death

Peace is a traitor. A comfortable fiend.
Shy, quiet failure disguised as a virtue.
Dreams filled with poison that tastes of vanilla.

I am the model for normative philters:
the ideal amalgam of watered-down meaning.
Cool, clotted ash in a Bakelite bowl.

Aim the doomed at my image. I'll try to absorb them.
While wishing, again, for a cure for the cure.



Pause

Lunch outdoors. You said it felt more
like a break. Every Wednesday, we would eat
somewhere beneath a canopy or golf umbrella.

Or under nothing. Just bare blue of spreading noon,
white of sheepish clouds. You nod, faintly,
to the waiter, ignore the crowd of words
and soon there is nothing
nothing
but the bright clear sky above
and you and...

and something
at the corner of your lip.

You smile, take a sip of coffee. Still
it's there. I watch, enchanted, by the yellow
spot. Your tongue darts out. I stare.

(I'd been staring all lunch long, but at your
eyes, the way your
breasts stretch out and tent the blouse a bit beside each rise, your
perfect neck, the shadow of your
collarbone, the taper of your
fingers, bridge of knuckles, sun lines in your
hair, your
wrist across the napkin, your
pale skin)

Now a little drop of mustard draws me
in. Breaks the fantasy, the dream of

we.

Work may stop. Reality
is yellow, though.

Blue brush above. Two checks below.



Alone or dark

Heisenberg is not your friend.
Would you want, in the end, to know
both

where?
and
when?

No such luck. Bend
to see the object, hot and bright,
of your desire. Any movement
changes light. Your eye, warm metal,
glides like wind. Unseen but stiff enough
to stretch and send dry leaves against
the wooden fence. A scratch heard faintly
by the one you stalk.

Walk
slowly, softly past.
The warmth of want
will alter orbits, warp fine lines
and change the curve and comfort of her path.




The conversation

What art is choicer than the talk?
A thousand thousand colors paint
the clip snip nip nibble bubble pop
of you and me while we bob
for puns, slip flirt, nudge points,
poke parody inside, joke, tumble, prop
the social pole, the hidden pile
of life's dark hole. Not grave, just deep.
The eyebrow dance, smile, shrug, hands up,
hands out, hands point, hands fist,
sideways glance that says what's said
is less or more than puffs of air.
Bright lens flare of context. All about
the angle of the phrase, the way
you don't say
what you don't need to say.
The way I know that you don't say
what you don't need to say.
It's all been said, and will be said again
in other ways, on cold, warm, broke,
flush, distant, closer, tender, harsh,
loose, bound, free, forgotten, glowing
different days.

We work at this. The vital whole built
on whispered leaves of play.

More coffee, please. More traffic noise.
More brush of coats and cell phone buzz.
More rain in slithered tracks on windows,
circumscribed by others' colors, background
noise does not distract but emphasize
the drip of words we let slide down.
Like stalagmites, conversation built of tiny
microscopic stuff, dissolved in wet, wry words,
grown statuary, monumental
witness to our shared wonderful and verbose worlds.



Just a fling

Contradictions weave delight
through daydream wishes.
Balance light and dark on fingertips,
hot and cold, flipped and spun
a juggler's trick of white and red.
Candy cane fun. Pale innocence
deep bedded now with dark, wet lust.
No science here. No formula. No X+Y
must equal Z. Just fantasy.

Waltz onto that road for real?
Dreams die flat beneath laws' wheels.




Winter triptych


Cold, Stiff

Walk with me again
like we walked home from school when
sticky, yellow buses couldn’t wait
for drama and debates.

Snow-congested, gravid Boston skies
harrowed moisture from the corners of our eyes.
Trees shamed bare of gaudy, orange leaves
stood naked, proud of winter’s clarity.

Breath comes quick. Too cold to talk.
Legs pumped, rubber boots cracked ice, we walked,
I watched you bend your neck, your shoulders bowed
as wind rode your arching back, your hair a tumbled, yellow cloud,

the only light below a fading day
of dirty white and depthless, concrete grey.
Movements slower, harder as we near home.
Stiffening as cold seeps into bone.

Nearly numb just before entry.
Eyes closed, fingers dead, you fumbled for my key.

Brittle

You can spank a bad boy with a finger-thick willow switch,
cut fresh, dripping green and running full of summer sap.
Or you can curl it back, head to tail upon itself, end on end.
Go even further, make it bend into the Christian fish;
an alpha. Then let it snap! The tension gone, it rises, spinning,
falling, finally. Lost in high grass by the swimming hole.

That branch’s brother cut in winter’s short, sharp noon won’t yield
up one degree of give. The juice that lives in sun and rain is gone,
sucked down to ground. It sleeps in rocks. The willow only knows
of it in dreams of caravanserai, eastern gifts and tales of kings.

“Softly,” is the wise-word of the willow on his darkening wind,
his long-night solstice wind that shakes the lights and brittle bulbs
hung on the changeless, undead pines.
The willow sleeps and waits for limber times.

Snow Angel

Fallen, fallen in the snow.
You can point, but she is gone.

We name the hole the thing. The wet recess
where she once lay. It’s long hatched
its angel, though.

Wind and flakes have now erased her footprints there
and back. Two wings. Two legs. A head.
A halo where
she shook her snowsuit hood.

The hole is not what’s real.

The angel is revealed, released and dances now
with cocoa and a powdered doughnut. How
the white fluff coats her fingers,
coats her cheeks.

Winter wind seeks cracks, lifts twists of sugar
and of snow, dusts eyelashes of angels
as we watch them fall
and watch them dance
and watch them go
to sleep.



For Lena

There is a place where silence meets
the roar of blood, the wind of breath.
Restless.

The black of black and white of white
important only for the contrast.
Together.

Massaged in sunlight, deep night drained,
curtain rain, desert dry, winter ice.
Mirrors.

Stillness, violence, worry, peace,
passion, boredom, hatred, love.
Balance.

Our eyes cry beauty.
Our hearts beat love.
Our minds find pattern.
Our hands hold

peace.



Silent rock

His dreams are dark, except
when they are too, too bright. Light
caves in, an avalanche of yellow,
white, blood-filtered red, the grey
of baked cloud wind. Dead concrete
reflects from up above, somehow sky
flipped, squint, for rock, day blue gone
elsewhere, somewhere, out of sight. Blue
hides from him, he hides from light.

His childhood church: but laced
with locker-room alleys, extra stairs,
circular towers from medieval games.
Still, though, the small room, there,
behind the lectern. Where children wait
to enter, singing. In his dream, though,
filled with late files, boxes, totem papers, notes
and scribbled lines. He is peppered with
a dream-laid need to search, to find...
what? What? Something buried in the pile.
The light breaks in. He runs. Clutches
a score; music sheets drip behind him,
rustling forests of reflection. He needs more
time. Runs short.

The garage is dark. Clean, easy, drab.
Seven stories of parking for working moms,
single uncles, dying dads who peel
the skin off one more day, squeal tires,
escape, as he makes his way around and up
to rooftop star-pecked cold clear night.
The music in his briefcase a light
weight. No great tome, no mound
of xerox compost to drag home. Just notes,
black freckles on a field of chaste, pure
snow. He lays down on the concrete,
rests his head on leather.
Back cold on stone, he knows
the weathermen said, "Hail." Doesn't care.
He waits for light to come, but
sings a short, soft prayer:

"There's no hiding place down there."

Cuddles up to asphalt, curls over on
the yellow line rubbed dim and gone
by daily tires. Tries to sleep before
the light finds him. Sings, falls,

"... hiding place. No hiding place."

The rock cries light, bleeds sun.
He wakes.



He dances with ghosts

Forever is such a long, long time to go
without knowing how
to fox trot.

Nor waltz, tango, jitterbug,
box step or cha-cha into eternity. Nobody turns,
no hand in his hand. No wrist
like a stopwatch, ticks out blood time
draped over his shoulder. Nobody smiles,
dips her sharp chin, hides a tight grin
and follows each sweep of his steps.

Clumsy or practiced, heavy or slight,
she is nowhere reflected. The heat
or the light from his effort, the
exercise, short-breathed and pink
from no bounce, tarry, twirl, sashay, tip.

Dip. No dip. Nothing held or upheld
in a strong-yet-soft grip. No venture,
no gain. Not even music. No strings
from the balcony, horns from afar,
piano, accordion, drum. No guitar strums
lines he might follow.

He dances with ghosts. Spirits of sense
in his driveway, his kitchen, his den.
Imagining shoes and the click as they tick
across parquet and marble. Sashes and slips
and maybe a boa.

No... probably not. Too dramatic.
This isn't the 30's. He's got to be
reasonable, even in dreams.

The band plays. It goes on
a very long
time
so it seems.


Wait, wait

Shit falls down. Shit breaks.
Iron oxidizes. Gate left open, dog
escapes and runs into a busy street.
Dog dies. Dogs die. Rust cakes
beams from the inside out; time
and traffic make the cables weak.
Bridge falls down. This is not
tragedy.

I turn over. You turn too late
to see the liquid wake, the streak
of water slide past my nose. Too dark
to see it stain the pillow. You take
no time to think, "He's asleep." Eyes
dry but staring. I don't see you linger
longingly. You wait. I wait. Blind, blind.
Tragedy.



Always boy

Red rubber balls smell always of summer,
of asphalt and jumping, sweat, cheating and mirth.
The bounce -- a bold fracture of chaos and planning
spins outcome and circumstance into a mass

of possible endings: a run through the lavender;
loss in a sewer pipe; climb to the roof.
Watch it blomp merrily, picking up dew and grit
snaking through dust until finally still.

Only in others or over long memory is there a line
between child and man.



one day

one monday i slept for a year
january dawn curled buglike embedded
winter toast bread
spring commute sheet twisted
summer nightmare heat lightning
autumn noon bright rolled over
winter again dinner fasted

one year i slept for a ten
one decade i slept for them all

night, sugar night
sweet syrupy night
deep sanitized basket
dreams' pills on the night stand

i will sleep i will sleep
turn over
it's tuesday



Where there's smoke

The thunder came back for a third time last night.
Explosive light spattered (or so I assume)
too far up the county to preview the drums
with a white, sharpened, spark bone
jammed into your eyes.

Sitting, not sleeping (for how could we sleep?),
as the fists of the clouds beat down on the tent
that night stretches over our streets and our eyes
now pointless as shelter
from bothersome light.

Each rumble is different, a fingerprint boom.
One feels like a train rolling over our graves.
While the next is a branch cracking under your foot
in a forest of black fingered
dry-as-dust wood.

The first wakes us up and the next pulls us out
of our beds with a fist of sound gripping the sheets.
By the third... we've relaxed, and got milk for the wait
while mountains of air
converse with the heat.

They talk to us, too, of course. Querulous bombs.
The volume is such that it's hard to make out
what the words are. But listening, closely, we hear:
"Don't fear us -- we're only
the gentlest of signs."


Bad pun

he defines "untied"
as "tied to nothing"

no hope of hope
no jump into a lake of cool
sweet summer peace
no rope swing leap
from earth to air to water

boys fly free

men tire
mourn
hang rubber
on a dying tree



Thinning

I took pictures.

I remember taking them. In my head,
the picture I have of that summer is
of you
on the beach
with me
taking pictures.

I don't have them anymore. Except
the ones in my head.

You found a t-shirt I gave you;
one I'd designed
for a friend's store-opening.
I hadn't known you then,
but had a few extra and
gave you one.
You never wore it.
Though you said you liked it
at the time.

It's going in the bag
of stuff for Good Will.

There's a half a bottle of wine
in the pantry.
That couple from your office brought it
the third time they came over.
The last time they came over.
Vinegar, now, I assume.
So long ago.

I turn the label inwards
and put it behind the mac-and-cheese.

We built the Adirondack chairs from kits.
Two-by-fours, slats and bolts.
Three coats of weather-resistant paint.
They've lasted well
through twelve winters on the porch.
I sit and listen to the wind.

The wind says,

"Remember the day when you were eight
and sat beneath the tiny, scrappy maple?
It was October, and the tree
had just twelve leaves left.
All orange. Do you remember?"

I nod. I remember.

"You were there," I say. "I wore
a hooded sweatshirt. And chewed
on the ends of the drawstrings."

The wind chuckles. "Yes.
"But you don't do that, now."

The chairs will last at least
another winter.


No pressure

Jenna collected bleak, broken dolls.
Snatched back from dumpsters, yard sales, consignments.
Blind socks full of rags.
Bare, pink plastic torsos.
Porcelain tea-cup heads, mapped with vein cracks.
Hair torn out, fingers chewed,
faces bleached, headless.
Smelling of powder, soap, sweat, paint and dirt.

She put them on shelves
in the light of her window.
Paired them up. Match-made them.
Gave each a place.
Made sure they were dusted
and nestled in families.
Sang them to sleep at night.
Smiled them awake.

Easy, so easy, to love what is broken.
No fear of failure.
No future of doubt.

They're already ruined,
her cracked, shattered babies.
Do anything to them,
she'll still be
their saint.


Long road

Twelve steps
there are between the cupboard and the fridge.
Straight lines, shortest distances, again.
From anywhere to anywhere
calculate, separate
here from there and split
the difference down
a thin, mid line. Tear
in half a universe of choice.

Go this way. Step by step, step, step.
Voices of reason, rulers,
razors, bells, hallways, handcuffs,
file cabinets. Tell me
and I'll go. Just tell me.
Point to points. Show
me the shortest distance.
Logic. Fine.
Except

I'm disappointed in the sense.
No straight lines in children
forest memory shade shadow
fallen voices kissing hair
dense scent vanilla
amber
sunlight
snow.

I've asked the nice, young man
to put me in the crow-stepped gable room.
It's quite uneven. And I've asked him
if he'll move the cupboard or the fridge
from time to time.
He's promised that he'll help me
blur these many lines.


Luddite hymn

She bakes.

The oven's heat overwhelming other senses.
A kitchen with a mission
centered dead on iron purpose.
Air shakes above the box,
wavers up in rippled force.

The smells are ones of mother
and grandmother
and grand-so-on. Apple, pecan,
pumpkin, cherry, rhubarb,
mince and
plum.

Inhale the days of simple scents,
of ginger, allspice, nutmeg.
Breathe innocent fumes and
sugared tales and
fruit in severed piles.

She runs
her kitchen like an army;
utensils at attention.
Marching rows of pans and cups
and shining sheets of tin.

The pies go to a bake sale.
Every Sunday, every Sunday.
She never sees them eaten
just the plates returned next week.

Her kitchen is an altar
and she sacrifices time there.
Like mother did. And grandma did.
And grand-so-on.

Amen.



Passing

"thanks."

the word eaten by wind
as I hold the heavy door
turn to catch a whiff
of brunette and hazel
and grey wool and
iPod

young young young
slight and slightly
curved

for less time than it takes
swung glass to shut me in
her out
I forget my headache
my debt, dead, day

in scent
in vanilla
in baby powder
something something something

something young



Edge of

Near dusk, the separate sea and sky
die. The blue-green-grey and violet-black
stand back-to-back and her blood
swirls in his hair, merged
in heavy, deep, same sleep.

So drab, this two-in-one. So flat.

No moon, no sun ring chords
from separate spheres. No tension
in the place between, no force
seen. We won't hear steam
hiss from the space
where depths touch heights.

So bland, this cuddled mass.
So similar. So tight.

But lightning shows the edge again.
The off-shore storm that rips
and kills the blend. White heat
points, "There!" We see
wind pull clouds to death,
waves toss spray.

The blood-stamp, eye-print
memory of edge
will keep us
until day.


Myth of memory

It is hot. The day is long.
Cy stakes his dog
and mows his lawn.
Cy sweats beneath a broad-brimmed hat
he bought in Mexico, back that time
when he and Polly cruised and shopped
and danced and ate and drank
and loved. Remembering that
he forgot to move the metal 
sprinkler head aside.
Serious mower; metal flies.
No noise, no drama
Cy's dog dies.
He hugs the bloody body on
his perfect summer sunny lawn
and red runs over Cy's pale palms.
He holds them up
and sees the life-lines long ago traced
by a Gypsy girl at the Maine State fair 
now laced with...

It is cool; an evening draft.
Cy digs a hole,
takes off his hat.



Eat them words

She dangles grapes the way they do
in corny movies
wet and cool
drags them across my lips and chin
jerks them up
won't let them in
my mouth.

I snap and bite
and drag a few
down south.

She dangles words the way they do
in sloppy stories
"pet," and "fool"
drags them across my ears and mind
"forever," "tender,"
"prick," "unkind,"
"please... no."

I snap and bite
and drag a few
down slow.



Passport

The party's barely started and already you're in trouble.
There's a bottle of tequilla that's gone missing from the bar.
Antonio won't ask me if I've seen where you have put it
but he looks at me and smiles,
and I know he knows you know.

This music isn't music -- not at least as I'd define such.
There is something like a zither or a harpsichord on crack.
I am older by a decade than the next in line behind me
and most of these, your best friends,
were unborn when I first fucked.

Across a pond of smoke I see you dancing loose and perfect.
Your body bends like cream, your arms unhitched from sense and time.
I meet your eyes, you stare back, rotate hips, and rock your shoulders.
You beckon with your chin
and I advance, a drink in hand.

I feel the other men here, with their young and snappy bodies.
I sense the lines of lust connect their eyes and hearts to you.
They travel in tight arcs, overlap your zone of notice.
But you do not give the signal
and they pass by on your breeze.

They wonder, these young captains, "Why should he be here beside her?
She takes her drink from him and licks his knuckles? That's just... odd.
Another song, an old one, starts. He'll try to dance to this one?
He takes a goofy step... She laughs!"

I laugh. We laugh.

You're mine.


Tired prayer

Father:

Help everything
go right.
I'm tired of the fires,
tired of the balancing acts,
tired of the fight 
for sleep.
Choices to be made
that I don't want to make.
Waters fast, waters dark
waters deep.
The questions now
are growing questions;
Escherian, like vines that grow
outside the frame.
Blank faces
I don't want to know,
faces
I'm afraid to name.

I'm tired.
But I don't know
how
to rest
to break this march
to stop this beat
how not to do
the best
worst striving
at the bit and bits and bites.

Father. Help everything
get right.

Amen.



Swing to

Inhale.
Small chest rises under new moon's pale, white silk.
Exhale.
Blanket folding, tiny hands clench dreams of milk.
Inhale.
Lashes lucious on a cheek like summer peach.
Exhale.
Hair like willow. Skin of foam on bright, blue beach.

Breath is all and breath is one,
Night is here and day is done.
Mama sleeps and Daddy stands
Watching over turning sands.

Inhale.
Stars are swinging through the purple, summer sky.
Exhale.
Freight train's whistle sounds; a friendly, mournful sigh.
Inhale.
Tuck the blanket in. Sit, watchful, for the night.
Exhale.
Hours and hours 'till dawn. 
Thank God.
Thank God.
And love the little
little
little 
lights.

Breath is all and breath is ours
Night is short and far the stars.
Mama sleeps and Daddy stares
Blessing God for all his cares.


Swing fro

dark line crossing painted twice
eyes over easy
feet over ice
keep to the riverbank 
coins in your purse
sleep is a blessing but blessing's a curse
wrists sweat vinegar forehead on fire
preacher brings whiskey
teacher just smiles
canter the goat and gallop the crow
fallow the music bare gums to sow
tender an offer of skin on the vine
give me the ringer
shed me the time
tell me your tantrum
splinter your broom
scare up the children
bury the groom
bundle the razor
grapple the blood
dangle a favor
swallow the flood
bite
finger
scratch
angle
post
termite
jack
tart

hollow
hole

lantern

flesh

damage crack heart.


Grave of glass

Unshaved, unbathed, the scatter-fingered man
burried stained-glass windows
in the soft earth down by Shadow Creek.
Laid out flat,
stolen from a dozen churches.
One round and small,
a saintly ball
of yellow, blue and red.
Three or four are
simple squares of patterns
with the patrons' names
etched in poison lead.
Several weigh sixty, eighty pounds
at least; those big guys,
you know... rounded at the top.
Scenes of prophets, angels,
animals and apocolyptic skies.
How he got them down the hill,
through the trees, over the rocks,
across the scrub and swampy spill...
who knows.
Through the moonless night, 
all night it took
for him to dig the dirt by hand,
though it was soft like clay
that near the brook.
But, in the end, 
they went down, down, oh-so carefully down.
Flat, with a skin of dirt
between them.
Dark, red earth to soften the weight
of hard, dark scenes and years of
pressing, pressure. No escape.

He washed his hands in the nearby stream,
in the water that moves, cold as ice.
And he scuffed his shoes to hide the scene
of where he'd burried
his little slice.


The grace of knuckles

Lined, linked, rimmed
with paper-bag
loose skin
and dark spots
drops of ink
or black strap molasses
near the shadow
kinks that crunch
and sigh
over keys, cards,
deeds, darts, beer,
tears, a thousand
a million parts
to tighten
loosen
grip and grind.

No glory for the fulcrum.
The arrow flies;
the bent bow
left behind.


An extra set of hands

Yes, the light.
We know, Plato.
Behind, outside the cave.
Before us, shadows dance upon the wall.
The chains. Yes, yes.
Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Look! I can make a bear!

Hold your slender arm 
(is that your arm?)
just there and lean
(is that even you?)
this way, towards me
(is that even me?)
and maybe we can

make a bigger bear!
a T-Rex!
make a... make a...

I don't know...

funky, disco, MTV,
Who-Wants-To-Be-A-MillionShadow-aire

I can't tell 
(could I ever?)
where mine ends
and yours begins.
Which is OK.
As long as they can't
either.

What I want
What I want you to want
is for another set of hands
to interpose
to set themselves
to cast the beams
to break the rays
and shake the inky stains
that mar the back wall
of this cold and dusty cave
to mystify, misdirect and
purposefully distract 
so you and I can slip away
while others point
and say,

"Look! There!

A bear!"



Not so much

If I could change color
would you love me forever? 
If I could change color
would you love me like an angel, 
like a hero, like a god?
Not "color" as in "ethnic,"
like Caucasian, Asian, African...
Not color like a tattoo, 
or a sunburn or a tan.
But like an octopus or chameleon
a magic paint-job from within me
washing outward like a wave
of purple, green or gold?

If I was a mountain
would you love me forever?
If I was a mountain
would you love me like the land?
A racial memory, family history,
roots incarnate. The place
where sky meets water
where we finally
make our stand?

If I was a mirror
would you love me forever?
If I whispered, "You are lovely,"
would you love me like a song?
If every time you faced me
you saw everything as I see it;
you'd see colors ever changing,
moutains, angels, sky and god.

Days are not colors.
Hands are not mountains.
Words are not mirrors.
And I
am
not
god.



Strip

Where does nudity
begin? So obvious

the end. 

Exposed all.
Well lit, dark draped,
linen dry, tub splashed,
misted, wind kissed,
sun slapped, moon
piqued, window gleaned,
fanned, spanked,
raked, pried, given,
planned, tanned,
pale, surprised...

All of that?
Why. Where. What.
Doesn't matter.

Always and forever
every woman
every man
without
anything
anything!
different than
Eve and/or Adam
before the Big Fall
had had.

But where it starts...
Oh, that can be a cunning plan,
a chilling, cold and calculated
stance
or random, bumbling innocence.
Three kisses. And the fourth? 
Stinky.
Scurries it away. Lost. Lost forever.
Start again with
email. Coffee. Letters. 
Bowling.

(Bowling?)

Yes! Bowling, damn it! 

The real [wonder joy joy sky-jump fright 
train-ride still Tuesday with
iPod on random play dynamite 
flavors bring inside-out sweatshirt]
beauty of nudity is that
it 
must start
somewhere (somewhen, and with
someone(s?))
and you don't know

[Winnie the Pooh]

when [now?] [if?]
it has.

Or
do


The glass bed

( In dorm rooms the students smoke their pot,
Tweeting of T.S. Eliot)


I have abandoned cotton, relinquished wool,
packed all comfort tight in giant, Ziploc bags 
so full that oxygen can’t wriggle in. No warmth 
possible down inside where memories 
of soft and tender sleep now lie.

All must be angle, memory and light. 
Diamond cut and water cooled. I circle, ever wider,
mind on horizons, focused outward. 
I shove aside all coverings, all sheets of conscience. 
Freakish, ending-blind,

beginnings – who cares? Moment is the tinder, 
dry, fast burning, instant upon instant. Feeding
eyes. Lidless, without mercy, without voice. Orbs of sky 
blue, bottle green, remember nothing they 
have seen, nor ever cry.

Stretched out, now, perfect, in my skin
and hair, my nails, sweat, spit, bone, blood,
everywhere, blood. Thin as water, nearly
clear, and spread flat out, I drip it down
in waves too trivial to hear.

Circle me, circle, from above. 
I ask 
nothing 
as I bleed liquid glass, 
nothing but this relentless glance 
I assign myself instead of love.



Process

I want you to read this,
to think on it deeply.
And maybe re-read it
several times in a row.

I want you to frame it.
To copy and paste it
and email it out
to your dad and you boyfriend,
the gang at your office,
some people you only know
vaguely through Facebook
or Internet chat rooms.

I want you to wonder,
"Just what was he thinking
when he sat down to write it?
Was he naked? Or humming
a tune from a musical?
Something. A classic. Maybe
'Anything Goes' or 'Hair.'
Not 'Titanic' or anything by
that Andrew Lloyd Weber."

I want you to think that my line
breaks are special. That I do
this on purpose. That there's some
thing that matters about where I hit
"Enter."

If I switch to a mode that's more
subtle and timid, less ironic
and paranoid
will anyone notice?

I want to stop writing.

I've failed.

I want you to read this.


Come 'round right

I watch her walk away
that way
the way those hips move
side-to-side 
sashay
skip-dance-step 
roll-slip-slide more play
than motive force
I sigh
the heavy syrup sunlight rises
up in waves
from cracked grey pavement
seems to lift her skirt 
up high climbs calf
and rides her tanned firm thigh
wraps 'round her waist and finds
a way to shine from
inside out her dress today
I close my eyes
and pray
that I might ever watch her
walk my way
that way


Divide by zero

I have left me drawn and quartered, 
rasped, 
and gasping,
on the altar of multitasking. I 
divide my time and eyes 
and thread the days by hours and 
blips instead of 'round round wrists
of gists or ken or zen or anything
but punch-clock swiss precision
tick-tock march to falling pendulum
of syrup sleep the only sweet
not cut up but still defeated
ring and rang no fat
circadian pudding
for our sturm und drang.

The nominator is just me. Just one.
I cannot twin myself, though some
break mirrors wanting more. 
That's what's killing me. So,
I say, "Less."
The ever-growing, morbidly obese
denominator tips and sways, approaches millions
billions
google (googol)
infinity
and math types they all say, "OK."
But it can not be
zero.
Can't divide by
zero.

No "none." Never "no."
Have to have some number there
to make it go.

But can I drive it down?
Can I watch the little fucker almost drown?

At one-half, twice my time can then be spent
on a lovely book or casual entertainment.

One-tenth means I can take the time to find
a friend to share a day with, mind-to-mind.

One-one-hundredth and I've got a span of weeks
to champion a cause, to hide from shame and sin
and seek a place of peace and retrospective
calm.

One-one-thousandth...

I am young again. Time means nothing.
Red-blonde hair stretched out across my arm,
a piece of sun sits grinning on her hip.
Her eyes are closed. Dust, golden, floats 
on air as afternoon slips into purple evening.
Plans for barbeque? Maybe a movie? Drinks
with a good friend or two?

Back then
it came damn close to zero.
Point focus closed to outside influence.
Worshiping our
now
here
this
me
her.

The altar empty
of blood for idiot gods of future
tense.



Slice of life

She left the garden, apple in her hand.
Naked, here I am. Innocent still, I stand.

Curled like smoke around a cherry tree
the serpent watches, waiting for me
to do something. Something dumb, I guess.
Run after her? Make a scene? I won't, unless
he bites me on the ass. He has, you know.
Bitten us both. It didn't work. Hurt, though.
Hurt like hell. Call's himself a friend.
I don't believe it. Not with fang marks in my end.
He does, though, keep me company.
Better, even, than I'd gotten recently from she
who's now removed herself and half the red, round
fruit. Gone without a word. Without a sound.

Hallucination lifts again on poison wings.
Can't kill me, worm. Can't slay
clay made breath stone heart
naming name before word flesh
of mine before one was two
water crossed with fire
she me you
where did you get the document?
where did you learn to talk?
where did you put your legs?
why can't I walk
away away from crotch of river
breast of wheat and rye
altar of my forehead
knife of lips
bowl of upturned sky?

sun has stolen pillow night
where once I lay my head
I may I may I may I may
be better off
be better
off
be better
better
better
off
off

I've left the garden, apple in my hand.
When I find her, I will eat it, and be glad.



The blower man must die

In Summer, when the grass is high
the Blower Man must die.
His porch is outside in the air,
the wind brings dust to gather there
and I hear whining everywhere
everywhere
everywhere
the high-pitched, droning, drilling, screening
screaming of his power blower
cutting through my Saturday,
my only-nap-day, get-a-way
across the street and up the hill
the shrill, high, pierce
that makes me think to kill
the Blower Man.
Your porch is outdoors, man! God-damn!
That's where dust lives!
Leave it alone.
Please stop with your infernal drone!

I must kill the Blower Man
when Autumn's leaves turn rust and tan.
He's not alone this time of year,
but, please... let me be clear.
For whereas others rake or blow
a time or two before the snow
replaces leaves, the Blower Man
must blow each night at 6pm.
The dinner hour! Sancrosanct, until
he shredded it with dentist's drill!
I can't escape
there's no escape from
his piteous, electric scrape.
I just want to eat
my buttered peas.
Please, Blower Man...
Shut up, soon. Please...

In Winter, when the snow falls sweet,
I'll kill him in his sleep.
Before an inch has had a chance
to settle on the still warm land
and melt away in just an hour...
he's out again with his noxious howler.
He'll blow it three times in the space of a day.
While it won't even stick
on his neighbors' driveways.
But at 7am... and at 10... and at noon.
He'll be out making noise
like a tortured, mad loon, and I swear
that the peaceful, soft sight of the the snow,
coating the trees and the streets down below
is transformed into hell
by his foul, noisesome din.

So in Winter... this Winter... 

I'm doing him in.

In Spring-time, when the grass grows new,
the silence is like dew.
Something makes the flowers grow more bright:
roses -- deep, blood red;
daisies -- pure, bone white.

Children wake to the first, warm rays
of sunshine as the lengthening day
extends her hand as if to say,
"Thank you. Thank you.
Now... Go play."


White on white

My son on snow in new, black, stomp-boots:
yellow hair tucked in blue hat,
cracks silver frost from rigid oak leaves,
kicks at eddies of white dust.

Grey the sky and grey the pavement.
Grey the mall's long lines of cars.
Grey the bills and grey the work week.
Grey the songs bled dry of joy.

Not an inch of snow, but still he
tries for angels, makes some piles.
Runs and skids, laughs, falls, laughs, wiping
snow from knees and face and hands.

All it takes: some lights, some tinsel.
Matchbox cars, a touch of snow.
A string of lights. "The Grinch." Some cocoa.
All he needs for magic days.

What I want for Christmas, Santa,
is to keep him from the grey.


I hate him, too

Isn't it enough that I can’t stumble?
No whiskey excuse, no handicapped tag.
Justice sees plenty. She peeks through her rag
past myths, Mrs., Ms. Miss. So, seethe
or glide, we gag on what we’ve swallowed.

See: I'd kill for clean. For small. For clear.
Reduce me, de-fable me, quite smartly seize me.
My bones will laugh, liquid, as when ice in the spring
escapes to brown earth when melted at last.

I can't afford lazy. I can't afford drunk.
Lush, careless, sloth-like will get us all killed.
Who is he to forget that the roads are not empty?
Slippery in two directions. I so want

one night as a weasel. A home in earth’s hole.
Near a willow’s sweet roots, by a saphire stream.
The auburn earth smells of last autumn’s dead leaves
and I can’t hear the traffic or late-night TV.

He can’t know the darkness like I do or else
there wouldn’t be questions of fighting or flight.
The wind is my brother, the night wind that whispers
of places where white goes down deep in the ground.

His glazed eyes reflect a sweet, singular song;
what his hands feebly clutch, where he rides
before he falls. He has the answer 
to the whippoorwill’s question. And I hate

his final fortune. That he has a chance to fight
your arms around his neck. Allow and let
his lips to drink? I'm dry as dust,
have lived a life without a breath of dew.

No. Love’s not blind. And just as clear as hate
when love is far and hate is near. Cold comfort
is some comfort, yet. Don’t cry. The ground's
already wet. Please, cool hands, spread

the trap wide. Enough to invite two inside.
Escort me to the burrow by the brook.
I’ve done the work. I just need pure light
to guide me down the narrow forrest path.

Cool hands, please fill my eyes with moist, brown earth.
Your bliss is wasted on him who does not know its worth.


Thinspun

it feels like a cylinder
(the it being I)
with the child scooped out
and replaced by a light-
bulb, the three-way kind
but force fed into
a standard one-way
reverse threaded socket
that's hanging instead
upside down from a thread
pulled up, ever up,
by centripetal force
so it's swinging (I'm swinging)
we're swinging, I guess,
which accounts for the mess
I've made of the blessing
it's my turn to say
how thankful we are
for the food and the day
but I've left out the parts
about giblets and lungs
(was it eyeballs and hearts?)
they're all scooped out, too,
and ground up
ever up
so it's sausage, ok,
for supper, in omelets,
breakfast food? fine 
when we dine
upside down
on a thread
with our feet when we eat
hanging over our heads
and I'm just
shaken up,
hollowed out
like a ball
coated with images, sounds and an
army of small, tinny samples of musical themes,
business cards, coffee stains,
mens' magazines

I'd like to stop turning
I'd like to be filled

there's a child
I remember
who was solid
chocolate
still

I remember the wind on a cold, autumn day
I remember the moon on sea gone blue-grey
I remember the way that we kissed on the stairs
I remember the taste of sweat in your hair
I remember the simple rhymes read from a book
I remember the choice to dive
into something different
looking
for a broken thing to fix
or ringing bells to summon drinks
from serving girls in tight, short skirts

I remember wanting it to hurt

what is "hollow?"
but memory of inside
now turned inside-out to see
where heart, lungs, eyes
now flung, spun, dashed
sent spinning outward, onward,
far far far beyond
beyond our sight and sound
perhaps to crash
perhaps to sputter silently
and melt into the dusty ground

what was in is out
what was here is gone
what was heart is lost
what was one
is spun


TiVo for two

Let's get together tonight to watch TV.
You in the study above the garage,
me in my rumpus-room, basement retreat.
I assume you'll watch nature shows, something
with fish.
I'll watch a "Star Trek: TNG" repeat,
for an hour or so. Then, giggling, we'll switch.
Passing, briefly, for popcorn and pink lemonade
in the midnight-black kitchen. Then, making our trade,
I'll see you recorded "That 70's Show."
How utterly odd. How strangely unlike
you. I sit through it all. Complete, utter tripe
and climb down to bed where you wait
barely hiding (not hiding at all, stage
hiding, at best) a massive, broad grin.
"What? What?" I'm not pissed. Well a little. In
jest, just as you are sure loving what you
wait to tell.

"Did you like your shows?" You ask, coy-as-hell.
"I liked my show," I reply. "How'd you stand
that crap you recorded? At least I taped something 
we'd both like and..."

You burst out laughing. "I didn't watch it. I taped it
for you and watched ice-skating."

Shit.

This calls for revenge. 
She forgets I have nearly perfect recall 
for bad TV dialogue, gags, jokes and all
the stuff I just sat through.

I straddle her hips. Her eyes open wide and she tries to resist.
Nothing doing. I've got her by 92 pounds.

"OK. It starts off with these four guys sitting around,
smoking dope in their basement..." She panics and writhes,
but there is no escape, and for longer than I
spent in front of that tube watching second-hand crud,
she hears it third-hand.

Now, that... That is love.


Ho

What's on your Christmas list this year?
A mirror? Or a rake, my dear?
What do you want to get from me,
wrapped in gold foil beneath the tree?

A pint of blood? A pound of brain?
An atomizer stoked with pain?
All my best dreams bound and pinned
like butterflies on plates of tin?

Santa's bag may not quite hold
the pulsing, wriggling things you've told
him you would like to see him pry
out of my jaws, clenched tight. Do try

to be specific. I can't part
with more than one stiff, ruined heart.
Nor night terrors, once they've gone
and fled my marrow, fled the bone

of their dark birth.
I just hope you
don't want to
celebrate
Hanukkah,
too.


Farewell to Gog

Sad and pasty ancient god.
Left behind on altar rock
to swear on himself and swear
to gods left less behind,

"I am not done!
The blood is sweet!
The dogma fun!
Give me a coin.
A chunk of...
something
anything.

Someone.

Anyone?"

We are not there.
We moved along
to places where the gods are
fluid, windy, wise.
Not bathetic. Never tired,
worn or too hung over to inspire
guilt, shame, war, love,
mercy.
Death.

Gog was always out of breath.

Sitting on his mossy crack.
Too fleshy, farty. Too laid back.

Too like us.

So, Gog, goodbye.
We move on.
And old gods die.



I hate her

Who can blame?

Action isn’t taken from
a passive vacuum state
in plain, black space
an empty plate
naked, pained, shaved, cold, awake
and stained with nothing

left lying, moist and waiting
draped across blank canvas bed
like some voluptuous
head of state
finally deigning
to turn a touch
just enough 
to make a choice
and point and whisper

“This. Him. Yes.”

Oh, no. Not me. Not me at all. Him.
The Hideous Other.
He In Whom She Delights.
He Whom She Has Chosen.
He Who Touches Her Most Hidden Parts.
He Who… you get the point.

That’s not it.
That’s not real.
That’s not how it goes at all.

It’s how I’d like to think of it
for then I’d get to heap the blame
like meatballs on a plate of shameful
noodles; wet and limp
with nothing on my conscience
but perhaps bad judgment.

I am not five. I can not blame
the toy that breaks. I can’t pretend
when she goes off to hide that it’s
all game. That I peeked between my
fingers and I know that she is gone
into a place I cannot follow to

be coy.
I am not a little boy.

The walls of plastic bricks come down
(my fault, my fault, I built them all)
the rubber ducks and sailboats drown
I see my trail of snacks and beer
and Xbox games and here and there
the snapshots of girls
who played other games.

And I am left with 
meatballs, blame, a metaphor or two.

I hate her.

She has left me here
No longer me
the boy
broken from my playground
divorced from days of yellow crayons
and still not yet a man.


Storm passage

We used to count beats between 
lightning and thunder. 
"Five is a mile."
And we'd giggle and smile,
curl up tight as fists
beneath covers while rain like
God's own hissing breath
tore through the old
aluminum gutters.

Wonder. In a skin of oil
draped over a puddle, a veil of
rainbow-black ooze.

Wonder. In the smell of ozone
after clouds roll through
fast as grey horses.

Wonder. In the ponk-donk
of drops as they sputter
down from the roof
onto cans by the shed.
"A tin symphony."
That's what you said.

An October storm that blew through
in the span that it now takes
to have a "quick" meeting.
Or two.

My old friend, I ask you... 
where is our wonder?

The fire is yellow, is orange is red.
The fire is hot, but the color is dead.
I turn 'round and 'round
and the circle is smaller,
the water is dry
the sounds from the sky

are just racket and boom.

No cannons. No trains cross
the roof of my room.

I count, "One.. two... three..."

There. It's less than a mile.

So what? Just a noise.
Keeps me up
for a while.



Lightshow

Moon is not the opposite of sun.
Sometimes hot, sometimes hidden,
sometimes welcome.
Sometimes not.
Both cast shadows.
Both are round.
Circles chasing circles
in a foxtrot we ignore,
looking ever down.
So what if one shines out
while one reflects?
Yellow glow or silver sin...
Both have dangers,
both have slept in
clouds of cover,
hiding lines of light
under branches, leaves,
even roof-tops. City streets
spit-slick with rain and gasoline
will spoon with him
as readily as her.
Fickle asphalt.
And I, too, am torn,
between the light that gives
and light that steals.
Soft silver
glow so 
lovely.
Harsh yellow
eye, now, what
what
what at what and why
do you stare?

Leave me alone.
Moonlight on still, black water
is all that I can bear.



Two fathers

Which wonder where
would the whole hole
False Father tear?
Test wrested rote
rattling rant choked
raked and rather than
rest
relieved --
instead, blast belief
trade timid
trick trust
flick back tender
tries
leave paralyze pooling
loose limp useless
limbs rolling
eyes.

Real Father rolls back
red veined gagging black
cool scene peace dream
light beyond
light between.
Layers of there revealed
in the real
steal clarity down
from above from
around. Truth sea
see vanity flee
from He
who saves me.



Outside in

When summer cracked the creek bed, blurred the tar and swelled our sneakers
there was nothing left to do but wait for wind or rain or night.

Sometime roughly five years after VJ-Day our downtown 
may have looked less like a skimpy slice of crap. But I was born 
into an age of “For Lease” signs and boarded windows, dirt lots empty,
guarded only by the crows that waited, barking, for The Rapture.

One large warehouse, labeled, “VINNY’S” had been empty since “The Love Boat”
set a course for (crap) adventure. White, like cruise ships. White, like Dover.

One summer Gary had a crazy, fucked-up idea for a party.
Asked his dad if we could borrow his projector from the classroom
where his dad taught drivers’ ed and used it to show films of wreckage, 
you know, accidents and crashes, drunk guys with their heads exploded.

Gary’s dad was cool, divorced, and so he said, “Why not? Have fun.”

My mom was school nurse, so the librarian let us borrow all these old films.
That first night we watched “Citizen Kane” on the wall of Vinny’s warehouse.
Next night “Days of Wine and Roses,” and a few friends joined in with us.
“Casablanca,” “Grapes of Wrath,” “The Treasure of Sierra Madre,”
“Wuthering Heights,” “Duck Soup,” and “Giant,” “City Lights” and “Sound of Music.”

August broke, the rain and wind came, but we still had “sit in movies.”
Two-hundred plus with tarps and slickers, hats, or simply soaking.

Summer finally ended. Gary’s dad called back the projector.
No more Bogart. No more Hepburn. No more cuddling on the tarmac.

But passing Vinny’s warehouse, even now, long decades gone,
it’s white walls whisper not of dust, nor broken glass and crow shit,

but of music, life and magic
still sleeping in the asphalt.


Pause

Let's take a basket
down by the river,
down to the place where the willows bow low.
Push past their branches,
brush through their curtain,
out to the flat rock that juts out below.

Dragonfly dances,
butterfly rambles,
blackbird with redwings takes flight at your laugh.
One finger touching,
one finger tracing.
Sun warms the flat rock while daylight slips past.

Jam from the garden,
bread from the oven.
Pickles and grapes from the store on the way.
Bottles of water,
water slides by us.
Plenty enough to last through the day.

Lay back on the rock face,
warming and drowsy,
your hair on my shoulder, my cheek on your brow.
The sun halts its movement,
the river stops flowing.
You are my everywhere. Forever my now.


Sins of omission

Startled, Sue wakes from a blanketless sleep,
cold and alone on a mattress she financed.
She still has four minimum payments to meet
before it is hers and not owned by the bank.

What made her wake up? A noise in the kitchen?
No, nothing stirs there but a digital clock.
No lover, no kids. Not a bird or a kitten.
The apartment is quiet and still as a vault.

Sue reaches down to pull up the fat comforter,
up from the foot of the bed where it lies.
Then she realizes what troubled her slumber;
she knows what it was that caused her to rise.

It wasn't a car horn, a dog bark or footfall,
it wasn't an owl's strange cry or a train.
She hadn't, in fact, heard any sound at all.
Silence, in this case, had snatched her awake.

All night and every night, Sue keeps a fan on.
The white noise is comforting, helps her to sleep.
But now the fan's silent. Something has gone wrong.
The quiet's too quiet. The silence too deep.

Clutching her comforter, Sue cries and cries.
Hours until morning, until the sunrise.


Look both ways

fate is not a woman
fate is patient
fate is not a woman
fate is graceless
tumbling sudden logjam ripcord
vertical thunder
lost
antidote
last
reflection
breathless acceptance
trembling
resignation

fate is a woman
fate is patient
fate is a woman
fate is graceful
gliding waiting spidersilk garrotte
horizontal whisper
found
poison
first
translucence
torpid rejection
stony
refusal

fate is is not
a woman
a woman


Recess

The sounds of the playground
are comfort in winter
no children, no laughter, no shouts
in the cold
just the iron ring cry
of a swing on a eye hook
the wind in the monkey bars
sleet on a slide

Grey snow all but vanishes
yellow paint hopscotch
and ice jams the joints
of the merry-go-round.

Nobody lingers here
just a few blackbirds
and me and it's noon 
so my shadow is gone

All alone with the crows
and the sounds of the playground
so useless
so empty
so peaceful
so cold


Getting in

Part I: Around

If I have to be funny
at the front door
I will hear the screen door out back
slam.
Peering in the blue draped windows
only makes you
nervous, makes you
shut the blinds.
If I knock too hard
you run upstairs.
If I knock too soft
you pretend
you do not hear.
If I ring (ring, ring, ring)
the bell,
well,
that is what you waited for
and you don't trust that
anymore.

I will slip
a piece of parchment paper
in the brass slot
where mail used to drop
(rules change;
curbside box;
slot remains).

One word written.
One word only.
In watery sepia, loopy hand scrolled
Baroque stroke lines and curls.

One word.
One word only.

Part II: There

I'll wait across the street.
In the little public park.
Underneath the yellow willow
where the old men stop to rest.

I'll face the other way
so I won't see you approach.
I'll wait until it's dark,
your shadow won't give you away.

I'll wait until it's quiet.
I'll wait until you're calm.
The echoes from the sun have died,
and everything is still.

They all tried to get inside.
But I know why you are frightened.
I don't need to see your curtains
except from here, across the street.

I'll wait until the moon grows soft
with sleepiness and stories.
I'll wait until I feel your hand
in mine as you sit down.

Part III: Here

Tomorrow they'll see the
crack
pester push
maybe not even wait.
But nobody's home.
Nobody's home.
Empty shell.
The princess prize taken.
Stolen by silence, by darkness, by ink.
Dust ruffles, wainscotting, sheers and an end table.
All useless. Waiting
for a mistress now
fled.
No clue, no evidence.
Where? Why abandoned?
Just one word
on parchment
one only,

"mercy."


Whip wind

Whip wind
blinds hands
numb punished
into pockets
pushes eyes
pricked, whittled
punished sideways
into sockets
slaps slacks
forth and back
harries hairs
on hocks and thighs
whip wind
teeth grind
lips grin
here am I
do your worst
up yours
I win
until
I die


Skinny dipping

Samantha wears a football jersey
faded by a hundred washings
robin's egg and powder blue
and nothing underneath it.

Her hair is late October night black,
long and straight and held by nothing
loose around her neck and shoulders,
curtaining her eyes.

Barefoot, she descends the staircase.
Barefoot, she escapes the kitchen.
Barefoot, she goes past the hot-tub
out into the yard.

The law demands an eight-foot fence!
And so an eight foot fence they built.
An in-ground pool can be a danger
to a random brat.

But for a priestess eight-foot fences
are a screen from profane eyes.
Mr. Hanzyk, Miss. McKenzie
wouldn't understand.

Robin's egg and powder blue
in a tumble on a bar stool.
Late October night black streaming
straight and wet behind.

Worship water without seeming.
Water is the first and farthest.
Water knows your heart and harvest,
depths and deepest down.

Wind, the Laugher, will not trouble
if you lie and feed him stories.
Fire, his brother, eats too quickly,
doesn't really care.

Elder Sister, Earth, the Altar,
far too stern to care for worship.
What has she to do with music,
dance or hands or tears?

Samantha swims in ancient patterns,
sewn into her womb and iris.
Drags her palms against the concrete,
spins and dives again.

Floating on her back she places
both her hands beneath her breasts and
waits to hear what she should do next.
Waits for revelation.

A helicopter with a searchlight
looking for a speeding Mustang
plays its beam across Samantha
wakes her from her spell.

Back in bed and shivering slightly
Samantha feels a trace of wonder.
Feels as if she's been invaded
by a liquid light.

She will sleep and wake tomorrow,
shuck her husband's football jersey,
step into a nice hot shower
and never be the same.



Too healthy

She stoops to pick up scraps of men.
Shrink-wrapped chunks of morning light
toying with her as she kneels and bends
to grab the skittery, spinning piece of guy
she’s spied. Sometimes they get wind-stuck,
face flat towards the sausage cart.
It takes a practiced eye, some time, a bit of luck
to build a real collection, to make art
from pieces others left behind.
Anyone can pay retail, shop full price.
She would rather be the girl to find
a portion that, at first glance, ain’t so nice.

Just my luck; all my parts are still intact.
Maybe if I break myself, then she’ll take me back.



Why I hate nice little Irish pubs

Part I: What I wanted to say

Light seems to love you.
Any light smooths your passage
yes -- even fluorescent --
the xerox room death-glare
is bent by the sweep 
of your denim or sneakers 
your Old Navy sweaters
into fluids less acid
more twilight than neon
I just want an hour
of time in your sun

Part II: What I said

What was I saying? That is I
[no, I’m not, no, it’s OK, that’s fine, no]
What? No, I… I thought you
[yes, please, two more, thanks]
Wait no I’ll, no
[no, that’s not mine, no, that’s OK]
Did you? You what? No, I’m not
[thanks, that’s fine, no, keep it]
I can’t... No, I didn’t… I thought you…
No, no. I just said, I… What 
was I saying? That is I
[no, no problem, that better? you’re welcome]
What?
You what?
No, no. I didn’t. I thought you.
[no, we’re fine, no, thank you]
No, not you, no.
What? What? What 
was I 
saying?


Walls of light

So high, you can’t go over it,
So low, you can’t get under it,
So wide, you can’t get around it,
Gotta go through that door.

from, “Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,” traditional


Technology is often neutral;
a two edged sword, my lovely sons.
We’ve seen it more than once.
But not this time. Pay close attention.

First, we’ll see the full effect of lovely Asmodai
when flesh-on-flesh is slapped across their eyes.
Will they ever push the jinni back
once they’ve seen a thousand perfect racks,
the perfect ass, the perfect abs, thighs, hair?
Their beloveds never will compare.

Berith, my savage, vicious, bully-boy:
go out and make blood sport the sport of choice.
Murder not a crime to make the heart stop, throat
choke closed with panicked grief. No,
just another counter in a shitty, stupid game.
Until a hill of gore, bone, guts and brains seems tame.

Astaroth… wake up! You will have it easy. So what’s new? 
But there are still some details left for you.
As always, they will see less in the shy
mirror on the wall than in their inner, stupid eye.
You have a cancer for that orb you never did before.
It will be your ever-faithful, crippling, clinging whore.

Sonnilon? You think you’re put upon? New knowledge where
once only enemies were seen? I guarantee their
fraternal bonds won’t last. Familiarity breeds… what?
You remember that. Put them all into a global melting pot
and they’ll refuse to mesh. A more than daily dose
of “brothers” and we’ll see how well they manage “close.”

Leviathan, you’ll be the spark. The one who lights the final fuse
to burn the world. Can any doubt that it is you I’ll use?
When all the children eating dust and drinking misery
can gather at the blinking window, crowd around and see
the shiny, shiny, happy, happy, fat and glorious winners.
A moment’s work for you to turn them into dinner.

This tool is ours. Nothing like the others.
The rest of you; pipe down. Go help your brothers.


Unreliable narrator

I remember shadowed, torchlit waltzes
I never danced.

There are daisies. Clipped, pressed flat
in books I haven't read
on shelves I never bought
over beds untouched by my flanks
in rooms I haven't dusted
at the end of halls
whose walls my fingertips have never brushed
as I stood walking slowly
in the dark
eyes closed
listening for the breath
of sleeping guests.

I was not there.

Yet I remember the skin of plaster 
that licked my fingertips.
The rough, lizard-belly stucco walls.
The bump-skitty-bump of my hand passing over
the light switch and thermostat.

So real. So very real. 
All really 
here.
But never 
there.

Whole worlds whirl. Some drain
like rainwater
down the gutter. 
Goodbye, cool world.

And if
whole worlds
ripe islands of white sand alive with emerald tribes;
webs of railway lines connecting diamond hotel empires;
tiny children in red uniforms, all with red umbrellas;
whales before the time of men, whales who speak in rhyme;
and worlds made whole
and wholy
mine and mind
what
oh what
do you suspect
I make
of you
when I 
find you
have strayed
from script
have lost the sense
a bit off track
or more
than that
no longer play
the way
the sayer says
conforming not
not
not to my most
most
delight?


Limping

While I slept, buried deep,
a storm-shadow passed across my hand.

Careless, careless. Yes, I know,
But I had eaten late. Bored and restless,
watching TV shows rerun from boyhood.
Drinking tepid water from the sink.
And that, I think's, what did it. Made me
turn and fling my arm out wide
past the notch I'd made,
past the carving on the headboard,
marking, "This side: safe."

I built my house across the ley-lines.
Built the axis of the bedroom right along the path
of eidola. My architect was pissed, the contractors
just laughed. I paid too much. But reaped
and reap rewards of kelpie passage
through my fridge.
Banshees wrapped around my cable box provide
free HBO and Cinemax. Poltergeists drag dust
from underneath my wainscoting.

I leave unleavened bread for fey folk, beer for hobs.
They string my Christmas lights, and sometimes
brownies even wax my car.

I shouldn't sleep so close 
to where the dark line lies.

I shouldn't push my luck.
I shouldn't test the impishness of pucks.

Not his fault; my own. The knife held in my hand.
The blood a pasty pool, a darker shadow than the one
I'd crossed, eyes closed, in some dreaming
desert land where all I knew was sawing at a violin.
Waking, blade embedded in my shin.

I don't think I'll die. I'll just call 911.
But how will I explain?
How can I convey?
"Doctor... nurse... the power that I need
to keep the dark at bay
to shine the mirror brigher than its source,
is darker than the storm.
And sleeps beside me
every night. And helped me
build my home."

But courting darkness
is not covered by my HMO.
Perhaps I'll think of something
by the time they come.
Perhaps the faerie know.



Morning bell

She dances tiny laughter,
sunshine strut, toe twirl, halo hair.
Away and back,
sashay, hop, tip, jump, clop.
New steps; my heart swells,
sees the pattern grow. She glows,
steps away away away and back back
back to me. How can my heart
get any larger and contain
all the strands and strides and steps
of what might be?

She dances, and I sway.

Tight corner

I confess, I love squares.
Chess white and chess black. 
Checkers red and black. Scrabble 
pink, yellow and blue.
Scrabble red. Stamps and 
CDs and coasters and crackers.
Ceramic floor tile.
The pyramids' base.

Nothing grown, nothing born,
nothing woven of blood.
Nothing wet, nothing torn,
nothing cast up by waves.
Nothing soft, nothing rolled,
nothing complex, connected.

Four perfect lines.
Drawn from the mind,
collected on paper,
joined in the corners.
Mathematical fiction,
angled perfection.
A drop of pure reason
on emotional gauze.

Here I find comfort, here in geometry.
Our world of confusion transected by will.

What would you grow in a perfect square garden?
What would you plant in our four-by-four plot?
Flowers? Some veggies? A tiny spice haven?

The frame is the picture.
My square is the world.


Dancing away

Cheesy lights. Tacky band. The mirrored ball
flicks silver M&Ms of rented fiberoptic glee.
The not-quite-friends we don't-quite-know
are not-quite-drunk, but you and I, we
drink coffee. We may stumble and sway,
but are solely moved by memory and cha-cha-cha.

Watching you dance barefoot
on the parquet floor;
watching you dance laughing
to a Kenny Loggins cover;
watching you dance sexy
while you hold my eyes
and hands
and do not let me
touch you
there or there or there.

We are a vacuum, aether world
in a universe of humid smoke.

We are a tongue of ice
in a bowl of fleshy sugar.

We are ancient in our worship
in a chapel full of alter boys
(and girls) who mouth the words
but have not eaten
living, beating hearts.

White looks whiter in the night sky moon,
black blacker on the hot sand blood.

Barefoot, laughing, sexy
you dance away.


New Tricks

You are met in Heaven by a talking dog.
And to you he says,
"You were right to pet my head
and scratch my ears that whole night long.
So... Stay... You are entitled to this place."

Eyebrows raised you ask the beast,
"Who? or what? are you to be the judge of me?
Where are the rolls and tallies of my deeds?
The tithes and charities I gifted with my time,
my money, sweat and honest energy?"

He laughs, with tail and throaty bark.
"You think that giving back
what was never yours is charity?
Share meat with butchers and be marked
a fool. No wings nor halos await such acts."

He walks away, tail swaying lightly.
You follow, looking all around.
There's only clouds on either side
and blackness there below.
Can't go sideways, back or down.

Change your pace, speed up,
and walk beside him, hand upon his back.
Scratch the spot behind his ears.
Do this and see the light shine from above
the misty road, the foggy track.

Oh. He is a sheepdog.

I should have mentioned that.

Tight corner

I confess, I love squares.
Chess white and chess black.
Checkers black, checker red. Scrabble
pink, yellow and blue. Scrabble
red. Stamps and
CDs and coasters and crackers.
Ceramic floor tile.
The pyramids' base.

Nothing grown, nothing born,
nothing woven of blood.
Nothing wet, nothing torn,
nothing cast up by waves.
Nothing soft, nothing rolled,
nothing complex, connected.

Four perfect lines.
Drawn from the mind,
collected on paper,
joined in the corners.
Mathematical fiction,
angled perfection.
A drop of pure reason
on emotional gauze.

Here I find comfort, here in geometry.
Our world of confusion transected by will.

What would you grow in a perfect square garden?
What would you plant in our four-by-four plot?
Adjectives? Road maps? A tiny spice haven?

The frame is
my picture. My square
is the world.


Who Counts

Numbers more than three, I do not need.
One is me.
Two is ever me and thee.
Any they (or he or she) and we
(that's you and me)
is three.

There's​ no we if only me.
There's​ no they without a we.
A million them?
Still we (that's you and me) and they:
that's three, I say.
A million we?
Still me and all of  you:
that's only two.

You have said,,
"See... We're all one."
Well, that's ok. But less
than three, so they
(the all)
don't bother me.
Two is fine, too,
me and you
do not confuse;
no multitudes,
no divitudes.

Four's just two twos,
five feels contrived
and six or more?
Tedious, tendentious bore.

Listen. Listen. I don't see
more ways and hows and whys to count
than three;

are you (both),
are you (all) with
me?



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