11.18.2004

Father

It was snowing deeply outside
In the pre-dawn symphony
As my father pulled his rubber galoshes
Over his Redwings and took
To the snowplow.
Partly, he enjoyed the work,
And rising early was normal,
But he did it for those
Still tucked beneath the summer,
Their chests rising and falling
To the sound of the traffic
On the highway.

In Memory of Memories

There's snow piled under the windows
Where lovers use to watch
Their ex's fornicate.

Winter always comes
When they're trying
Hardest to be warm,

And snow becomes the ambulance
To rush them off to surgery,
IVs dripping transfusion

Into their lives.
They ask themselves if there
Was ever reason enough

To cheer the eternal summer.
Even autumn's auburn freckles
Find a way to lose face

As change contrabands
The childhood smile
And inboxes stacked with the real world

Negate the laughter
Of chubby cheeked boys and girls.
Now that they're grown

(and know not to laugh),
They sit in bars drinking up
The dregs of adolesence

While reminiscing drunkenly
About the people they loved,
Who slept with someone else

Last night while they
Got frost-bite on their fingers
From wiping the fog off the windows.

Contradictionary

There's nothing so far as companionship
Or so close as distance,
Nothing so real as the imaginary
Or so fake as reality,
Nothing to live for but death
And nothing to die for but life,
Nothing to gain that won't be lost
And nothing to lose that was never gained.
There's nothing more complicated than love
And nothing I love more than that complication.
This is all to say that
It's easy to find the answers
But the answers are never easy.

Portrait of Melancholy

The hum of the refridgerator,
The flap of the flag outside
In the dull, night wind,
My reflection in the windowpane
On the door,
The squeak of the bar stool
At the island counter,
Blue on top
Like the ocean running
Off the edge of the world,
And no one even cares.

11.16.2004

Why I'd Like to Be Alone Right Now but Am Sitting in a Restaurant at Midnight With Some Friends

I
Harvest the money you left in other pockets
With the callouses barely newborn to this stubborn life.
Someone stole the twinkle in your eye
While you stared longinly into forever's soft skin
And things never seemed quite normal again;
They seemed, somehow, leaked out
Like the lights melting behind me into the darkness
As I drive away from the house
Wondering how I came to feel this way:
Unjustified -
The distance can't be kept in egg cartons,
Though it breaks as easily, or in baskets
On somebody's cold winter porch.
It's all ending the way it began -
Silence in a well-lighted room,
Dreaming about growing old,
And that shunted feeling
That accompanies me up the stairs at night,
Soft steps on the carpet, into the bed
That doesn't lead to tomorrow.

II
So much for life walking
Barefoot in the autumn grass.
Fields like Elysium are starving
Into revolution,
Only a penny in the pocket
Emptying onto the dusty street,
As Zeus becomes an old and lonely man
Stepping through winter.
The walking I discovered, misfortuned,
Becomes like a path,
Like all paths that seem to flow now,
Singing mockery into opera spectacles,
And I am just the left-overs
Of something significant
Crawling for sunlight in the rain.

Looking to Someday

Ocean man said to the gathering twinkle
Of sand on the head, the moon
Shaking loose the descendents
Of Abraham, "Come about.
Don't be so Jacob about everything!"
I've lost three Isaacs that way already
And I'm only twenty-two,
So I understand this hesitance,
Drawing up to the passing traffic
And peeping out uncomforably
For merging space.
There will come a day
When I won't be able to speak
Or open my eyes for fear
Of being consumed,
And in the time it takes one car
To pass me by, I'll have merged four times already.
Ideally, merging wouldn't be necessary
Because we'd already be side by side
On the open highway,
With the sunset coaxing us on.

11.15.2004

Not the Way It Should Be

It's not enough to love
When love is a many-splendored
Parasite, the copious excess
Of emotion spilled like blood
Across the crime scene
Of a late night diner.
The only witnesses were those
Who no longer see the world
In victimized allegory,
Their shirt collars turned up
To hide the wounds on their necks.
And we think that our saving grace
Is bottled in the affections
We spewed out for one another
Beneath the stars
Stretched out to hold us
In our own self-cacophonic
Failure. The only thing
That can bring us down
Is ourselves, when our only
Comfort is our selfs.
Just the petrified alimony
Of living; just the scars
That allege our mortality;
Just the knee-harkening
Sky at dusk cradled
In our lucred palms.

Joshua sinks into his chair

Joshua sinks into his chair
and slinks the way a snake might slink
into his cellar thoughts that make
him hate the parts of him that think.
He wants to seize his vast mistakes
by the throats that swallow his quenchless prayers

and squeeze them dry. Repentance is
a wooden awl, fresh with ear
and shore-bent with the howling tides,
the waves whose lunar puppeteer
escorts them to the beach's side
like a squiring father surrendering his

only daughter. Joshua's need
to re-grow up, that bleeds with doubts
and manifest missteps, is matched
only by the faith he does without,
an old garment, poorly patched,
that reeks of life and foolish deeds.

Joshua doesn't like the night

Joshua doesn't like the night
because he is dark-shy and because
the dark is mean and nasty things,
giant things that give him pause
hide beneath his bed and spring
upon him in the lapsing light

just when he thinks they're gone and they
don't cede, ever, but jump on him
and eat him up and it seems he has
no part at all. They always win.
Like a prisoner escaping from Alcatraz,
he stands no chance of tasting day

again. He could be happy; he could
be sad. He could be purple or blue
or green but when the dark falls on
him, he assumes submission's hue
and the regret he knows will come at dawn
a night too late to make it good.

Joshua wants a wish tonight

Joshua wants a wish tonight
but doesn't know what wish to make,
if one is right and one is wrong,
and so he ventures to the lake
where he and she do not belong.
But it's too late to overwrite

the questions forming for the bullfrog,
black and slimy in his deep
waters, surrounded by his reeds,
with no prophecies to keep
Joshua wishing on the needs
that slur behind the darkening fog,

the blinding clouds of heart clichés.
He wants a star to wish upon;
he wants a name to fill the blank,
a name before the blank's withdrawn,
a penny for the piggy bank,
a sun for all the stormy days.

Joshua still feels lonely on occasion

Joshua still feels lonely on
occasion and lonely feels him back
with long and nasty death-like fingers,
like a specter waiting to attack
that never rests but always lingers
and he can never be alone.

But alone and lonely are different kinds,
estranged lovers one-night-standing
when it's convenient, and when it's not,
laughing at Joshua's impending
shiver, and he wants to blot
out all he struggles to define.

Sitting in a chair and thinking,
he tucks his knees into his chin
and rocks his thoughts into and out
of consciousness, more out than in,
and he doesn't feel so strong and stout
in his inescapably rapid sinking.

Joshua the strong and sure

Joshua the strong and sure,
but all he knows is timid teddy
bear Joshua, the klutz who can't
get anything right but daddy
can fix the uncontrolled decant
of hidden things that have no cure,

the secrets he believes concealed.
He hates that daddy sees them but
he loves that he can take them all
away. His eyes are never shut;
his big eyes baptize like St. Paul.
Joshua's frailties are revealed

in the water that consumes his weeping,
like fire purifying gold
and drawing out its imperfections,
the removal of the lingering cold
from a spring whose latent resurrection
Joshua gave him for safekeeping.

Joshua feel, Joshua flee

Joshua feel, Joshua flee
and cast down your bloody trimming shears
or trim away the parts that like
to trim and unJoshua your fears
and the parts that tend to forget your strikes.
Rip out your dictionary entry

and mail it to Webster, who is dead,
with revisions of your inner state.
You are not bound by what you've done
or by the taller trees that wait
for you to climb into the sun.
You can swim the deep end in your head

but hydrophobia can rotyour mind.
These wounds would heal if kept
uncovered in the air and some
could make it all feel better except
you tend to keep them hidden from
them and Joshua needs to not.

Joshua Cannot Tie His Shoes

Joshua cannot tie his shoes.
He knows his name begins with "J"
but he is small and unimportant
and nobody knows him. They
can't saywhy they smile or why he can't
smile back and still for him there's news,

front page headlines, of unexplored
full and dark depths with bleeding
secrets that fill the coming years.
But he is weak and oft misleading
and the help he doesn't want to fear
he can't undo and can't ignore.

He can't stop what's set to motion
by his own incriminating hand
or the rain he hates being caught under
like a captain navigating to land,
who's caught beneath the vast thunder,
adrift amidst a vaster ocean.

5.26.2004

A Momentary Love

I was walking objectively
Through your shadows
When you whispered
In my ear, unintentionally,
Like some mysterious variable
Sneaking into gravity.

I joined you briefly
Under the family tree
(It was cool
And so familiar)
Then plucked up a small flower
For you instead, and you
Accepted it accidentally.

I thought for a while
I might stay and share
A bottle of fine words with you,
But the parallax between us grew wider
And our shadows longer
Until you were a child again,
And I was a head
Looking over a shoulder
From an increasingly greater distance
My body carrying me pragmatically away.

My shepharding feet, however,
Have not forgotten the way back.

Misdefinitions

It wasn’t love that brought me home to you,
It was something . . .
Something more like flashes of a movie
In a television advertisement,

Keeping our attention-for-each-other-deficit
In tact. I thought love
Was more like winning a championship,
Hoisting a gold trophy over your head,

And proclaiming to everyone, “Look here!
Look at what I have done!”
How silly we can be when we think
We understand a thing,

Out of misunderstanding, called love.
I was standing in an empty room
Hailing you queen of every green corner
In which I had wanted to place

A token, a heart, a broken down
Lugubrious definition of something
Like me in the way I brush my teeth maybe,
Or the way I throw my hat in the air

At the turn of a season,
But I found myself lacking
The quickest distance between such points.
At least I was lacking it well.

The Drunk's Philosophy

We sat in the corner drinking beers.
You had a few,
I had a few . . .

If only we could sit discussing
These men,
Men like ourselves, but sober,

Until morning,
till all mornings rowed past
Wearing plastic rain coats,

Mounted on rubber ducks
All in a row.
If God is dead,

Where did the duck come from?
If it were my raincoat,
Is morning only murder for it?

Taking your hat off the stand,
Your coat, your galoshes,
You kiss the barmaid sloppily good-night

And wade out the door
(forgetting your umbrella)
Into the seizing rain and I realize

The only truth to be bought
This night is:
I drink, therefore I am.

Buildings and Bodies

Let us say “church”
And see if any dust balls
Spring out of the floor boards.
If we say “grace,”
Aren’t we really just saving faces
For a rainy day?
Who broke the bottle of champagne
Over the hull of our fellowship?
Did it drip and leak
Into the storage closets
And our once-a-week rations?
Inasmuch as we are uncrowned kings,
Are we unragged vagabonds as well
(shuffling tremulously through life’s
drab and dungeon corriders)?
Was there ever a time
When we understood the meanings of words,
The ones we heave about carelessly,
Cannon balls into a field of infantry.

Crippled

After something like several hours
Of stupefied sitting,
Paralyzed self-consoling,

I stretched my legs, not so eagerly,
Toward the end of the horizon
Hoping maybe in other worlds,

In fraternal existences,
Mirrored in similarly opaque words,
Were the sentiments, the fulfillments,

Of all the short-comings here
Shrinking shorter like cotton undergarments,
And I know,

In the way you can never quite explain,
That, though I stretch into valleys,
Redemptions, graces,

All beneath the ever-familiar sky,
I will never move again.

What You Conjured Up

It was good to see you again
But I think I may have been eternally happier
To have stayed naive. Life is such
A handful of horse manure at times
That it’s a wonder the smell
Has not stifled us into submission:

Submission is who I am
And you are the rose whose petals
Lie on the linoleum floor in the bathroom.

I feel I’ve been here far longer
Than time could ever measure in subtle
Slouchings of a head, my head - hitting
The steering wheel at the thought of the music
Hitting the windows like rain.
My knees are bleeding in their consummated
Mormon marriage with the concrete,
The carpet, the thought of you again,
And I know I’ve wondered before
If you would ever end, that is,
Change your mind.
Curiosity, I know, will never be enough
To drag me under so I can just forget it.
It will be too much.

Another Day Like That

A long gone day has just
Brushed its tail
Along the outside of my window
In a darkness that seems
Sudden
And shocking,
And I thought I saw
Something like a sunset
Creeping,
Hunched-over, the under-cover
Spy of all elusive summer noons.
I wept today
For the silence I keep
In the dandelion coin vault,
Imagining that it may never
Scream again
In quite the melancholy anguish
I’ve always wanted it to.

5.20.2004

The Man from Babylon

With one finger
He pushes aside the knife
His mind turned toward

Him, and squats by the river
To wash the other man
From his hands. A third

Sits on a rock behind
Him, but neither knows
How to be a man.

Looking back, the first sees
A glowing angel, his back
To him because, he assumes,

He can’t look, and, stooping
In the water, he feels
A tail grow out and tuck

Between his legs. He returns
To sit beside the frontier
And the angel, not looking at him,

Asks, “Are you here for me?”
The angel lowers his sickle
And looks, then, at the animal

With glowering sorry eyes,
And the animal sees his reflection
Shivering there like Janus,

And droops his head only to see
God emerging out of the ground
Between them and the angel

Says, though it is God’s lips
Moving, “Woe, woe, the great city,
She who was clothed in fine linen

And purple and scarlet, and adorned
With gold and precious stones
And pearls, for in one hour

Such great wealth has been laid waste.”
God grows into a towering city
As the animal’s tongue falls,

Severed, to the ground, and the angel
Goes to the wormwood creek
To wash his reaper.

Speaking of Feelings

We sat
In a bench by the window
With carbonated skyscrapers
Stretching between us,
Pawing at our words.
We negotiated
Carefully around them,
Pilots patrolling a foggy,
Carnaged cityscape,
Searchlights diving
Into office windows,
All business at this hour,
With shades unpulled
Revealing our hesitant nudity.

Sister

They’ve done everything
right, and yet somehow
they are hiding below
a toadstool; they
are standing in dark
corners looking
for spare change;
they are drowning
in the fiction they’ve
created with hopeful
dreamy eyes.
There are two patriarchs
looming over them
waiting for them
to breath, to move,
to step off narrow,
lemon-scented line,
and they, motionlessly,
are afraid to love.

Severing Pieces

I, like a lower case cross,
Burn in the midnight
I created myself
And I tell you
I didn’t think it
Would lead to this.
But how was I
To know? The weather
Comes and goes
And we will simply
Sit on the hard
Concrete and whisper
Of the days that
Go and come, charged
With the feelings
A single eye can
Sear into eternity
Like words jumping
Out of our stars
In the sky
And settling down
In our laps
To lick at our faces.
But stars are just
The death of our
Quivering voices, filled
With the tug
Of meanings we attribute
To things and people
And places and the conjunction
Of those things
With the leaving of them.

Impressions of You

I
I thought I saw you once
In the long Ohio December
But it was really January
And it was really your sister.

II
You danced, in the quiet light,
Beneath the dim music,
With a friend while I
Rode off to some future engagement.

III
Your hair leaped to my eyes,
Though your eyes never had,
And I formulated a title page
To a new, uneasy chapter.

IV
In the market place,
You talked him down to save
Me the money I had slipped
Casually into your oracle.

V
Coming home, we spoke
To self-duplicities at some
Distant reunion, and you flickered
In the candles on the dinner table.

VI
At great distances, I rolled over
In some filament of morning,
To the phone ringing
You into my head.

VII
I felt the chase sneak
Into my eager toes
And I came close –
You will never know how close!


VIII
To be quite frank, I never
Saw you with him, and then
You were, so I sat and drank punch
To keep my stomach from falling out.

IX
Then you hopped, little rabbit,
Between two gardens,
Wanting one, and leaving
Only when it rained.

X
Finally, though I’m really not sure,
I saw you walking toward the sunrise
As the moon set behind you
And a star fell into my hand.

Graduation

Two hours
Until the world
Like an irritable dragonfly,

Accepts the wind
With quickly beating wings
And moves off to find

A place in the sun.
Let the talkers fix their tongues,
Specimens pinned

To a Latin name,
And the tradesmen jingle
The coins in their third-

World pockets. Never
The goblet to suffer the blood,
Never the earth to entwine

The sky, never the eager
Christian man to transubstantiate
His friends and lovers,

Never the story we have told
And are still telling with words
Like satellites on re-entry.

A Euclid thief lingers
In our prayers
And testemonial dreams,

When the sink is full
Of our pulp, like a man
Swallowing several church bells.

At the stroke of freedom,
Let us ring into the hollows
Of our illucid futures

And shift our weight
Uncomfortably out
Into the summer furnace

That growls in the shadows,
Versatile and sterile,
That we have yet to see.

Deja Vu

This is the second time
The world has spun
On other axis’, secret ones,
Restricted by those
Who know what it means
To be notorious.
I look through the frosty
Winter window, with oracle eyes
Into a room with a fireplace,
Warm like sleep
Late on a summer day,
And imagine winds
With made-up minds
That walk with striding
Certainty. I’ll go where
They take me
And mark the words
Jotted in the space
I empty: “The prisoner
Andrew Nichols shot
In the stomach while
Attempting to escape.”

Coming Home

Such a curious thing:
Like a bee circling
The lips of a flower,

Like a trace of a man
On a slim transparency,
Like ripe berries

Jellied and preserved
In glass bellies
In our inconstant cupboards,

Like a first kiss
Stolen behind the schoolhouse
Or a last kiss,

As the doctor
Pulls the umbilical plug
Out of the cold and silent wall.

5.14.2004

Come Rapture, Come

Let the waves crash where they will.
Let our credits fill the space
Where the sun once rose.

Let the dust shake Off
Of our homecoming feet
And dance in the easterly wind,

The warm breath from before the world
Caught in the spokes of angel's chariots
That came, come, and wait in the cloudy

Tide to cover the earth again. It's just enough
Of a hand to hold, just enough
Of a meeting of eyes, just enough

Of a smile to cling to hope
Like the coming of spring,
Gathering our breath into baskets

For the final plunge, the atrophy
Of icy water taking hold and numbing
Our wounds till they become scars.

Then the boughs which bear our burdens
Slip from their pale winter garments
Into beautiful nakedness.

Ripples

There are so many long long ways.
In my house of winter,
All windows face east

Toward spring,

And the driveway slurs
Into the edges of the world
Like each color of the rainbow,

Melting into the next,
Or like two words
That sound nearly the same,

And summer slowly rises,
Like water in a storm,
Into winter's throat

Singing quietly.

I step out my door
And see a cloud cut across me,
And suddenly, it resembles

Your hand scooping me
Out of the water.

The Second Best Feeling

Pink crab-apple blossoms fill my windows
And asian lady beetles their sills.
The aroma of fresh-cut grass
Blends with the scent of new sheets
Signifying summer.

All My Yesterdays

It's always quiet in this holy place;
I shuffle toward the front down worn-out aisles,
Empty now,
Waiting for another Sunday's trails
To cast feet and knees upon its red carpet.
I stand, tears falling from my face,
Not quite knowing how
To find the yesterdays I lived before.

They dance and trickle through my mind and long
To be more free
And join in chorus with the songs I sing,
Free at last, free at last! And more
Than this, they want that freedom to be strong
And ever-unbreakably
Enduring, never (oh never!) again to ignore

That call, never again to seek return
To those keyless locks and chains I left
So far behind.
The room fades and I feel wholly bereft
Of all hope. I drop my gaze and stare
At the quiet floor. They say to live and learn;
If you seek, you'll find.
In this quiet, I feel unaware

Of God, of all holy powers stirring,
And alone, trapped in empty churches. All
Seems somehow lost,
Yet in this loneliness of carpeted walls,
Somehow separate from the pulpit wood,
There is a growth in me, a strange maturing
That underbids its cost
And shows me this is really for the good.

The Now Room

The dog is asleep, black and white,
in
Her cushion bed on the floor,
and
My eyes hurt because it's two
in
The morning and I'm sitting
a-
Wake, dazed by the music of strange
5/4
Signatures, pianos and drums
and
Other expressions holding me
from
The dark outside, and I think
to-
Morrow might arrive before
i'
M ready. Oh God, touch me
in
A pinprick to bring goodbye
to
Tired eyes and send me
sen-
Sibly to bed, before I lose
all
Of everyone I've ever
been.

Beyond Arcadia

If I could pass beyond Arcadia
And the fake perfection
That leads astray,
That props me up
On anxious legs
And helps reference me
To the fool I once was,
I could stress the maskless me,
The initial me, the unfamiliar me,
And compose a new face
That chance may sing someday
In helpless harmony
With the distance I always feel.
I am numbered
By my unfounded claims
That flounder and fail to serve
In conquering all
That separates me from myself,
That line the walls
In pictureless frames.
Patience is a virtue
Blushing can't achieve,
A candle can't ignite,
A sorry can't erase,
And I thirst for something
Done under better intent.
Miles and miles
Of length and width and depth
In varying degrees of eternity
Are more than a choice
Could untangle.

Ten Count

Don't get me wrong -
I'm not a nature-lover,
Tree-hugger, green thumb
Environmentalist
Or preservationist
(One foot in the all-American
Ever-coursing river,
The other looming
Over a wildlife preserve
Or Indian camp)
But I saw, twice
In one day (twice!),
Trees being lumbered
To make space
For man's incessant
Technology, and I thought
What happens
When there's nothing to chop
Down but ourselves?

Somewhere, beneath
the plasteel, bandwidth,
Copperwire, cornerstones,
And all the "man" we find
Necessary, is a nature
Bleeding from the mouth,
Eyes swollen shut
In painful black and blue,
With lumps and scars,
In a state of semi-consciousness,
A drunk man sprawled
In a doorway in the late evening,
Slowly disproving Darwin
And going the way of all things.

While You Were Out

I took the liberty
Of organizing your library
According to the number
Of sins in each book.
Those with the most
Are along the far wall.
I am forever scrubbing
These dirty floors,
By the tainting of my heart,
The tainting of all hearts.
Where the lights were out
I turned them on
Hoping the flies in their globes
Wouldn't cast too much shadow.
I drank a bit of your wine
And ate a bit of the supper
You had prepared for tonight.
I'm sorry if it was your last.
Everything is in the order I found it
(Except the afore mentioned things)
And I buried a few coins
In the front yard.
I also trimmed a few of the trees
That seemed to be producing
Too much fruit.
They made the other trees look bad.
When you come again
I hope you will take notice
Of my house keeping efforts.
Best wishes
And farewell.

Pacing in the Parking Lot

The night bares its wooden fangs
And I put my nose on my shoe,
Importing steps, exporting saline,
Waiting for this generic evening
To immature into a puddle
I'll probably step in.
Are cloudless skies
Some divine gag
Meant to elicit
The midget inside me?
Pacing doesn't resolve
Into a rabbi's closet
And crying invents momentum
Equal to the tarot
In the stars
That grimace in my wake.
I feel capable of eternity
In these shoes,
In this place,
At least, the part of eternity
That lasts until morning,
When the sun snares the tear-
Entrapped me on the pavement.
Parts of me cringe
At the thought of day.
Give me my vampire
That sucks out my only life
Onto an asphalt platter!
I'm happy with without
When I imagine
The thickness of union
And its retreatlessness.
I like parking lots.
I need the speckled sky
Looming above, a black
Umbrella at a rainy funeral,
And the impotent answers
I shudder to attain.
I can't compose fortune
With ink and paper
And there's no harmony
For silence.
Maybe I'm too mute and deaf
To stand in opera
With one whose tenor
Reaches scales
Weighing out possibilities
Beyond my range to pitch.
If I find a tongue,
I'll hold on
And ask to be renamed
Something beginning with "her,"
Or I'll simply lie
With my head on the curb
And hope to dream
About climbing
To where there are answers.

Thinking on the Way Home

1. Driving
We'll honk and pass
And pass and honk
And feel good about summer,
At least for this hour,
Lost in the paper shreds
Of a calendar day,
And when the clock
Rolls over to tomorrow
And whispers of yesterday
Bittersweetly in my ear,
I'll think of future
Tomorrows and yesterdays.
It's hard to say
What each would mean.
Passing a last truck,
I see open interstate
Scrawled between
Me and Mansfield,
A sleeping 71,
Circumstanced in sprezzatura
Glowing beyond Shakespeare.

2. Dreading
You shattered your goodness
On my thick head
Several times already
And I can see you
Poised to strike again.
Seven years bad luck
Pales to three years alone,
Three years you smashed
And called good.
The splinters of such years
Could fill a pin cushion
If they weren't
Imbedded in my flesh.
Does it mean
More than I think
Or do I just
Think more than I should?
It's a riddle in wolf skin
Besetting an innocentFlock of evenings
Wanting to eat and drink
And not be wary,
And I am weary.
Nothing tastes better
Than the feeding hand,
Full of good,
Bitter than glass fragments
Still fresh
With my own blood.
I can already feel my life
Pooling up between my toes,
And in the arch
Of my right foot.
I can hear it
Screaming to believe,
Knees screeching to the carpet,
Arms open to the sky
In that one word,
Why!

3. Dreaming
All my inner voices growl
With the same inflection
And I'm too good
At fooling myself
To find the difference.
I want,
With all my atoms,
To believe in sleep,
And in sleep, dreams,
To believe that driving
Will solve my problems,
That I-71 leads home.
But all my years,
And the intake of my,
Lately, eyes
Want to bind and shackle
Those treasonous words,
Declare war
On their taxation
Apart from representation.
Harness me to another yoke
And let me till
The bloody battlefield,
Then give me my carrots
And let me lay
In my straw
And dream.

A Love in Seasons

Chase away the cashmere tears
Exploding from your eyes.
There's more to this than you and I.
The tears that fall, that plunder,
Are little more than work and wonder,
And the black rain that racks my shutters
Listens for the sky to mutter
Trodden words from weakening tongues.
I remember when I was young
And season's fruit the trees behung.
How the golden leaves warm the earth
Celebrating autumn's birth
And how the vagrant wind drives our worth
Through vagrant lives from summer's fold.
How we all have grown so old.
The fog that fills my lungs is cold.
It rolls off my shoulders
And shivers and shudders.
It plunges past me and grabs my skin.
My confidence is wearing thin.
The glistening cobwebs peal away,
Cool and grey, day to day.
How it soon will pass me by.
There's more to this than eye to eye.
Overhead, the cherry moon
Waxes and wanes
As seasons change,
As hours pass and swoon,
As mornings shift to afternoons,
And some would call me strange,
But I am just a trinket on the shelf,
A picture framed in maple wood,
A fading face, a fading self.
But there will be other times
For every rhythm and every rhyme.
How we all will feel sublime,
(And yet we all will feel alone)
Walking barefoot on the cobblestone,
My only company my shadow
Breathing heavily at my feet.
Oh, how I'd hoped to find retreat.
Cherry blossoms from the meadow
Lay enlaced upon the street.
There they moan and whine
Waiting for a glimpse of time,
Just a touch of some immortal,
Just a touch of the divine.
How the foolish ones will chortle
At the dust of man's decline.
How it all will fade away
And quickly waste to dusty clay.
The purring rain that licks my windows
Drags its claws along my brow.
It seems there's always something more.
Winter's feet will find the shore,
And sweep away the summer's dust
Beneath the rugs of seasonal trust
And unearned lust.
It can never be how it was before.
The wind will gust
The rain will snore
And painful leaves will find autumn's floor.

For Lack of Better Words

Under the evening canopy of loneliness
On the barefoot concrete,
Rough and calloused from the day's trudge
And punctuated by the recent rain,
A part of me walks
Circularly, desperatised by a clear sky.
Each eye, each wink, makes each step
A bachelor party, a remembrance
Of all the things - the person - I can't have.
We wasted hours on the trampoline
In the front yard, talking,
And inside watching movies
On the couch, my arm trying
To be around you, though
I wouldn't let it because
Of your dad at the other end
Of the couch and because
I wasn't sure. A tail
Of cloud entertains the moon,
Throwing its orgasm across
The poorly-lit parking lot
Outside the church,
And I pass, infinitum ad nauseam,
My car, a quiet tear of a lonely night
Waiting for me
While I jump a puddle
Baptized by the moon's candor.
I knew what I had to do,
Knew it like the wind
That flayed the autumn trees
That almost seemed to say it.
Parts of us still lingered
On the trampoline, the arm
That still wanted one more chance.
We knew those parts,
Knew them like the wind
That echoed with the very voice of God,
That hushed my flailing prayers.
I crossed to my car under
The slowing breath of the moon.
I had to tell you,
And then we would be friends, again.
We would be just friends.

Once It Was Me

Time doesn't seem to count
On the nights like these,
With that unexplainable feeling
Of too little hanging over me,
Like the lights that
Painted our togetherness on the floor.
I feel emptied,
A glass of spilt milk
Waiting to be refilled,
Especially on the nights like these.
Your words were kind
But belonged to someone else.
They chant into memory
Our moments of a year ago
That sour as I ponder them.
I sought this solitude
But never wanted to find it -
Not like this.
Every day I feel I am running
From a hunter that never catches me
And never loses me,
And I don't know whether victory
Is escaping or being caught.
It doesn't matter;
Nothing matters but the hard table
Beneath my elbows,
The cold November air
That sneaks in the windows,
And the rain that melts
Harshly into the pavement outside.

September Together

The world was all above us,
Distant, dark, serene.
The trees that bent their curled boughs over us
Seemed other-worldly.
Laying still, with the trampoline
Bowed under us, heads toward the center,
I think the world did not really exist.
The words we spoke
Floated between us,
Completely immaterial.
Your aura awakened the night
And tainted it a brilliant mix
Of vibrant colors.
The entire ambiance,
The darkness, the old and squirrel infested tree,
And the toys scattered throughout the yard,
Seemed placed there for our benefit,
To serenade our foolish emotions
And coax us into something
We would later regret.
I could feel your smile
Though I couldn't see it.
The wine of our togetherness
Made us long to tarry
In our self-conceived perfection.
But I drove home
Back into the world I had abandoned,
And waded slowly through time
Seeking the next splattering of us,
The next time your presence
Would mark all things other-worldly.

The Face of Death

In the black, black sky that hangs over me
Rests the ugly face whose motives pause
The pulsing blood of hearts contained in flesh.
His ghastly eye intrudes upon the mind
While tears as dark as blood besmear his sharp
And poignant smirk. Again he apprehends
My conscience, quickly paling in his deep,
Enchanting stare, piercing through my skin.
A thousand crystal freckles fleck his face
With light, lying of the things within.
His black robe is cast from strong shoulders,
Looming like distant foreboding mountains,
To blanket naive faces with woes of fate
And fear. He swiftly shreds the silent night
And fills it with the howls of loneliness
Like grey wolves on the edge of shadowy forests.
In an instant, unsuspecting minds are taken
Through years of wasted life and useless fears
To memories as fleeting as the wind.
A spear of light, that shreds the leafy canvas,
Strikes the glowing water, singing softly,
While children play and skip flattened stones
Off pools flattened by the morning fog.
The ebb and swell of music can be heard
Rising through the reeds above the marsh
While dragonflies and damselflies exchange
A symphony of smoothly whispered words.
The light of morning nuzzles weary eyes
And chases off the shadows of despair.
Its golden fingers stroke their tired faces,
Rubbing off the stains of yesterday
And searing new life into jaded hearts.
The crusty blood smears drying on their cheeks
Are simply splotches from the masterpiece
Of artist's hands, in genius, streaked with love.
That brazen eye, lurking in the dark,
Slowly sinks out of timid mortal view
As morning greets its travelers with peace
And wipes dangling tears from their aching eyes.

Cancer Song

(for my mother and all who endure it)

It marches to the dripping
Of the gaunt, scarecrow IV
Decorated with drooping, hanging
Family pictures,
And to the slither of platooned
Nurses in white smocks
Up sterile white halls
Filled with sterile white silence.
The youth group sent cards
That sit on the dresser
Beside her bedpan
And she laughs,
With her children and her
Husband who wants to be
A thousand times Sparticus,
At their self-portraits
Which require great imagination.
She makes her struggle,
Her daily walk,
Down the hall and back,
Her only form of exercise,
Then goes to sleep in her
Hospital bed, which seems
Pyre-like to the family
And they pray for miracles
And white blood cells
Then look out
The window over the glowing
Night-scape of Cleveland.

Nuclear Shadows

I've seen pictures -
Ground zero evaporated
Like puddles in the aftersun
Of rain. I wonder,
How did it feel to kill
So many in one
Breath, their last,
And fly away smiling?
I don't blame you.
You were taking orders,
But the pale oriental
Outlines, the shelter
Of bodies against
The radiation,
Cannot understand that
Like us, sensible people,
And will never have a chance.

Black Velvet Bride

Sometimes, when I think
Of all the force-fed retrograde
I've thrown into the world,
Birthed unleashed upon unsuspecting
Mankind like Frankenstein's
Hideous villain, my claim
To holy matrimony seems
Self-usurped, betrayed
In the deep places, the parts
Capable of murder
Though not with these hands,
But with words, thoughts,
Deeds, the everyday self-
Succumbing and voluntary
Surrender, crimson lips
Creating other lovers, prostitute
Legs spread on the wedding's eve
Defiling the smooth satin
Sheets of the marriage bed,
Consummating broken also-ran.
That bride, when I see her,
Holds an apple in one hand,
Hammer and nails in the other,
Her cheeks flushed
With self-inflicted guilt
And shame, a noose
Around her one time lily neck,
Dressed in smooth black
Velvet, not the white
Innocence you see,
A rebel opposing reason, love,
Trying hard to nullify
The blood-stained dowry
That won her hand,
And still you stand
At the altar, at the union
Candle, beckoning me,
Known unvirginal, unfaithful,
Adulterous, hips swelling
At the taste of my own dust,
At the feel of the very word
Forming in my mouth,
Unregretfully into intimacy.

Like Jonah

It's like a dream I watched myself live
One life, some time ago;
I find myself sitting
With a pile of thoughts I hate
To sort through, all because
Of coincidence.
And what I call coincidence
May, in fact, be some divine reaching,
A finger breaking the surface tension
Of a well-plotted life, making me shudder
At the ripples that don't belong,
Or the street-side beggar
Masked in royal robes.
When all the tumblers click into place,
It's hard to call it any less than fate.
Monkeys can't type out Shakespeare
Striking random keys, but you
Seem to have evolved from Darwin's nothing.
I can't float away from the road at my feet
Or stop my trance-like walking;
Something shoves me forward
And I get the sinking feeling of being
Separated from my exit
By five lanes of rush hour traffic.
I don't know how to get to where
I don't know I'm going, and I won't
Until I've spent three nights
In the pit of a whale.

The Calm Before

Where the purring swallows,
their unpruned shadows surfacing,
stop to rest, a sagging wire
coursing vigor from the house
to the barn and back,
the air exhales a nervous
twitch, halfway hitched
between the throat and mouth,
the half-life love exhumed
in droppings splatting on a car,
a road, the green of grass
sloshed with dewy shiny
black in the aftermath
of Sunday morning mass
both given and taken
by the wind that winds
through the hackled countryside
with a heckle and a handshake
over dryad handshake
promenading home.

3.23.2004

Tymotchee Creek - Chapter 1: Skipping Stones

Peter York stood barefoot on the sloping bank of the creek that flowed through the woods behind his house. He liked to be barefoot in the summer and he could feel the soft, cool mud oozing up between his toes. It was a still day, the wind only jumping up occasionally to rouse the trees from their quiet slumber before dying away again just as quickly. He held a small, flat rock in his dirty hand. It was ugly brown and nearly circular, with a nick along one edge. He gripped it in the curve of his hooked second finger and slung it across the water. It skipped twice on the shallow pool just beyond the bank and then jumped into the giant maple tree that hovered over the bend of the creek majestically. A dull thud resounded through the quiet woods. Peter pushed a strand of blond hair out of his face and smiled triumphantly before looking over at his friend. She was squatting in the rocky river bed, looking for a flat stone but had looked up at the sound. She was barefoot as well.
Her name was Christen Kingsley. She, like Peter, was ten; they had been friends for some time, their families having grown up only a few miles apart. They also attended the same nearby church. Peter’s sister Anna, who was a year younger than him, and Christen’s brother Justin, who was a year older, were usually with them, but Anna had gone to visit another friend, and Justin was sick. The four of them did most everything together, and they often came down to the creek to skip stones. This occupation had recently, as they grew to an age of competitiveness, become more a contest than a pastime. A week before, Justin, the most artistic of the four, had drawn a crude circle on the giant maple with some white paint they found in the York’s garage that Mr. York let them have. Since then, they had spent their time trying to skip rocks off the water into the circle, but no one had gotten it yet. None of them were, in fact, very good at skipping stones. Most often, they simply sank them into the shallow pool without a skip at all, and hardly ever got them off the water, let alone into the small circle.
“Did you get it?” Christen asked in something like mock awe, hardly hiding the fact that she would rather have been the first to hit the mark.
Peter, not really sure if he had actually hit the circle or if he had just hit the tree, and not wanting to lie but, at the same time, wanting to be the victor, hesitated, then said, “Yeah,” then hesitated again before adding hastily, and in a hushed voice, “I think so.”
Christen looked at him for a second, weighing his honesty against his competitiveness, then waded down to the tree to examine it. It wasn’t that she thought him a liar, or even that she realized that he didn’t really know. It was simply an issue of competitiveness in her mind, one in which lying wasn’t lying at all but was, rather, a tactic that anyone might employ in the heat of battle. It was one that she herself might employ in his situation. After bending close to the tree and observing it for a short time she straightened and, turning to face Peter again, exclaimed, “I don’t think you did.” She sounded very relieved, in the way she might if she had found her cat dead, but then discovered it wasn’t her cat at all. “There’s a chip in the bark here below the circle,” she added, pointing behind her at no particular part of the tree.
“That could’ve been there already.”
“No,” she returned, shaking her head. She made no attempt to define why it couldn’t have been there already or to defend her belief that it wasn’t, but seemed satisfied that her answer solved the problem and walked back up to rejoin Peter.
He felt a sudden need to justify himself, having accepted Christen’s answer as readily as she herself, and said, “You haven’t hit it yet either.” It was not a good argument, because it didn’t change the fact that he had missed, but it made him feel better. It made him feel that they were, once again, on a level playing field, and besides this, any argument seems like a good one when it’s the only one, especially to a ten year-old.
“As soon I find a rock I will,” Christen commented casually, with an uncommon confidence, as she returned to searching for a stone, now wet up to the waste. The water split into shallow ripples where her ankles interrupted the creek. “I’ve been closer more often. I’m obviously better.” She said it with an air, not of arrogance nor of a need to validate herself, but of sincere belief. It didn’t sound prideful to Peter either, although he somewhat wished it did, for it negated the stride he had just made to be equal with her, and he would very much liked to have passed it off as arrogance. Unable, however, to deny that she was right but not wanting to let her prove herself, he slipped the extra stone he had been holding back into his pocket. He had thought for a moment of letting her use it, but was afraid, then, that she would hit the target. Her confidence had swayed his somewhat and he didn’t want to be aiding and abetting her victory. In the end, he decided it was far more important to keep the rock for himself. They hadn’t, to this point, taken turns, but Peter, not so much deciding as simply knowing, without thinking, that it was her turn, that coming so close somehow entitled her to the next chance, sat down on a thick root protruding from the bank where it dropped off into the mud and then the creek, his feet dangling just off the ground, and waited, kicking his feet in circles as one is wont to do when one’s feet are dangling.
Christen was not long in looking, before she straightened up with a thin rock in her small hand. Peter stood too, feeling that everything rested on her throw. But she didn’t throw. She stood for several moments in a contemplative stance, turning the rock over in her small hand. Peter assumed she was sizing up the throw but she was actually gathering up the nerve to venture in another direction, and was searching for the best way to do it. She turned to face him with something like sympathy on her face. “So what if I hit it?” she asked, to Peter’s utter surprise. He thought maybe she was trying to make him feel better about missing.
“What do you mean? If you hit it, you win.”
“But what does that mean? We’ll still keep throwing either way, and it’s really more like luck if any of us do hit it anyway. None of us are really that good. This is just a contest to see who’s luckiest really.”
Peter stared at her for some time in silence, save for the breeze rattling the trees. Usually, he understood Christen better than anyone, better than Anna even, and had come to accept a certain range of responses from her, but this did not fall in that range. Children his age do not often think of the grand meaning of life, or if they do, they do it unintentional, without realizing it, and attach it to something both worthless and fleeting. Accomplishing that thing suddenly seems of the utmost value, indeed, the only value, and this is where Peter was. Over the last week, that small white circle had grown, without his recognizing it, to represent in his mind, not just the target of a stupid children’s game, but the target of all living, the very aim of life. Inner peace and happiness, though he didn’t think of it in such terms, could only be achieved by systematically placing a rock in that circle by skipping it off the water, and the greatest success, therefore constituting the greatest peace and happiness, would come from doing it first. In addition, he felt he could never be happy if he did not hit it. Christen seemed suddenly to oppose this, though he had thought before that she felt as he did about the game. He tried hard not to think about being unsatisfied after hitting the circle. He couldn’t imagine that it would be so and yet, something inside him continued to ask, “What happens when you do hit it? Will it make you happy? For how long? And what then?”
Peter did not know how to argue her and tried several times, with no success, to begin a sentence, then, realizing he could never put into words the importance of hitting that circle and hitting it first, even to himself when he was thinking clearly, much less to someone else now, when he felt so suddenly confused, closed his mouth and sat again on the root, looking at Christen with amazement and despair. She seemed suddenly to him like a stranger, and not just an innocent stranger, but the kind of stranger you think you know who is only getting to know you so they can rob you. He pulled the rock out of his pocket and rubbed it between his thumb and fingers. It was rough and grey. She was trying to rob him or she was trying to trick him. Either way, hitting the target would save him. He stood and took aim, then threw the stone with an abnormal force, rising out of his growing anger. This same anger, however, caused him to throw the rock more vertically than horizontally and it sliced neatly into the shallow pool sending disturbing ripples out toward the muddy bank where they stood.
“See? And what if you had hit it?” Christen asked. “Would the game be over? No. We’d continue to throw at it and continue to miss and, after a while, maybe we’d get better and start to hit it, or we’d give up, and either way the first one would still be luck, and what would we do then? It just doesn’t matter I don’t think.” She threw her stone. It made several small skips and sunk as well.
Peter felt confused but really things were beginning to sort themselves out in his head. He wasn’t ready to admit it, but he was on the brink of a different sort of thinking, one that took into account things much more distant than the present, much more abstract than a tree with paint on it, and much more elusive than happiness. Happiness was a life long pursuit, if it could be called a pursuit at all, and anything that was not life long could never constitute happiness. That included the game. He knew, without knowing, that it was true and turned to face her again. He felt bewildered and wanted to change the subject.
Christen on the other hand was still as confident as she had been when looking for a stone. She had not seen the debate that had taken place in Peter’s mind, nor had she intended to arouse such a debate. She had intended to take the conversation to what she considered risky ground, being a girl on the brink of her femininity, but she wanted to take it there without the distraction of the game. She was simply trying to eliminate the game, in order to get on to more important things. What she didn’t realize about Peter was that, in his mind, “more important things” consisted only of good food, particularly his mother’s, and that debasing the game was like destroying a man’s god.
Peter finally found some words and sputtered half-heartedly, “Well, what do you want to do then?”
“Do? I don’t know. Don’t you ever want to just not do anything?”
“Well you can’t do nothing. I mean, everything is something.” He wanted to continue with “and skipping stones is a better something than most things,” but he was still unsure of himself and did not want to reapproach that topic until he felt safe.
She ignored his question and asked, “Do you ever think about love?”
He hadn’t really too much but without thinking said, “I guess. Mrs. Brennamin says we ought to love God.” Mrs. Brennamin was their Sunday school teacher. She was a large bossy woman with, in their opinion, a mannish haircut, and they often took her word as law out of fear, without really considering it.
“No, I don’t mean that. Well, I mean, that’s good, but there’s other love too.” She paused for what seemed a very long time to Peter. He was just thinking that he ought to say something, or suggest something to do, though he couldn’t think of anything for either, when she continued with modest trepidation, “Let’s get married.”
“What?” He paused. It wasn’t that he thought it a bad idea, he had just never thought it an idea at all. He had never considered it. Marriage was what “old” people did, people his parent’s age. Oddly enough, his concept of marriage excluded everyone in-between, even though he had cousins less than ten years his senior that were already married. “Get married? You and me?”
“I don’t know. Do you love me?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
Christen seemed to relax some when he said this. It was what she had been waiting to hear. “Good. I love you too. Let’s get married. That’s what people do when they’re in love.” Christen did not fully understand what she was saying, but she had been to a wedding with her parents earlier that month and had been unable to think of anything else since then. She had decided that she loved Peter, that he probably loved her, and that they should, therefore, get married, and she had been looking for a time to bring it up ever since then.
“You mean now?” Peter asked.
“Well, it can’t be now, stupid. There’s only you and me. We need a minister and a witness. And rings too.”
“We need what?”
“A minister and a witness and rings.” As if restating it made it clear, she paused to see if he understood, but seeing that he didn’t, she went on. “We need someone to perform the wedding and we need someone to watch it to prove that it happened and we need rings, as signs of our love.” She only knew this because she had asked her father at the wedding what was necessary to get married. “Ok. Could we use your brother and my sister?” Peter asked her, unconsciously submitting to her, as he saw it, greater knowledge.
“Well, your sister couldn’t marry us because she’s a girl, and it’s supposed to be a man. My brother couldn’t do it, at least not now, because he’s sick, and I don’t want to wait ‘til he’s well. That could be a week.”
“What about Michael?” Michael Trump was another friend from church, also ten, who lived just a few miles away and often spent time with them. He was energetic and easily distracted, talkative and sometimes, even, overwhelming, but he was one of the nicest people they knew, and if they were going to be married, they would want him to be there anyway, so Peter thought they might as well make him the minister.
“Yeah, he’d work. And your sister could be the witness. So that’s settled. Now, what about rings? We could buy rings,” she suggested.
“I don’t have any money.”
“What about your allowance?”
“I’ve been saving up for a Gameboy.”
“You could dip into it for this.”
“But I already bought the Gameboy. Last weekend. I’m broke now.”
“Fine.” They both stood in silence thinking, Peter with his hand on his chin as he often did when he was lost in thought. “My mom might have a couple old rings lying around that she doesn’t need. Or your sister might even have some.”
“Well, we can ask I guess. Do you think they’d fit me?”
“I don’t know. You do have fat fingers. If you wouldn’t crack them all time . . .” She trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence. “Well, we’ll check anyway. If that doesn’t work, we could make some with Playdough.”
“Playdough? Playdough rings?”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“It’s silly. And won’t they break?”
“Do you have another idea?” she asked, with her hands on her hips and her bare foot tapping on the mud, in a tone that suggested he had better not have another idea. Peter noticed that her eyes seemed narrower than usual. “When should we do it?” she went on.
Despite his early uncertainty (he had never much enjoyed weddings; he thought them utterly boring, and consequently, didn’t understand what they were about), he was growing more and more excited. He had forgotten all about skipping stones, by this time, which is what Christen had been hoping for, though she had not anticipated success with such ease and to this degree. For Peter, in fact, as is often the case with children, the marriage had taken the place of skipping stones altogether, and he now saw it as the white circle he was trying to reach. All happiness lie in achieving it as soon as possible, so he said, “Tomorrow?”
“The sooner the better. Tomorrow would be great. At least, we’ll plan on that. I’ll have to ask mom and Anna about rings and we’ll have to see if Michael can come tomorrow, so it might have to wait a day or two. But we’ll see. Anyway, I need to go home now.” It was just beginning to get dark by this time, and Christen’s parents liked her to be inside by dark. She climbed up the steep part of the bank, using the large root Peter had sat on as well as other smaller roots to get out, and stood looking back at him from the top. “Are you coming now?”
Peter usually stayed later than she did to skip rocks, but usually Justin was there with him. He didn’t particularly want to stay there alone, and he no longer had any desire to skip rocks, so he scrambled out of the sunken creek bed to stand beside her, his feet sinking comfortably into the soft, grassy turf. “I’ll see you tomorrow then?” he asked. It was a question he had never asked before, since they came down to the creek most days, and his coming had never been dependent on hers, but he felt inclined to ask it now, as a reassurance of everything that had just taken place, afraid it was all a dream, as those who finally get the nerve to tell someone they love them, and are surprised to receive the same in return.
Christen did not answer, but looked at him, right into his eyes, and Peter was suddenly aware that he had never paid any attention to her eyes before, or to anyone’s eyes for that matter, but that he should have because he found them terribly beautiful. While he was still contemplating this, he could see Christen leaning towards him, and then he felt her lips press against his, only for a moment in reality, but the sensation, for him, lasted longer, like cold fingers that continue to be cold even after being inside for some time. When he finally came to realize what had happened, she was already walking off toward home. He smiled and turned toward his own home.

1.30.2004

Looking Past Winter

It's never been our place to think
The trees might rather keep
All of themselves intact,
To think they might suffer loss
When their leaves wade into the arms
Of the waiting earth.
Really though, that grave,
That threshold tired feet must cross,
That end of a beginning
Begins an end
That brings the beginning back.

P. O. W.

As he returns from long-awaited days
To lovelorn dungeons buried deep in the smoke
That curls from cigarettes like locks of hair
And fills every recess of burning air,
Winter's touch having only just awoke
The cold and bitter TV-static haze,

He screams against the truth. It isn't right.
He wants to turn around. Nothing lies
Ahead but pain. He passes through her door
Back to reality, back to the daily war
Fought against the ever-resounding cries
Of love, ringing hollow in the mounting night.

They're everywhere and yet they don't exist,
Echoing in his footsteps up a flight of stairs
And through familiar rooms, past graffiti
Scrawl but when he turns he finds them empty
With posters strewn about that no one cares
To read. If they were gone, would they be missed?

Would he be missed? If he were taken down,
Crumpled carelessly, and thrown away,
Who would notice? Who would say a word?
Would he pass screaming, his muffled cries unheard
As they are now, leaving more to say
About life and love? Yet now without a sound,

A breath, he concedes that life and love are unfair
To leave him stranded in this land of unconcern.
While affection is daily borne from heart to heart,
He finds his own more often shorn apart.
Can one reach the point of no return?
Can one truly love from out of nowhere?

The night falls heavily beside his feet
As he sits in darkness at his desk, alone,
Waiting for another day to bear
The sun to radiant heights, in burning glare.
Perhaps tomorrow's seat will be a throne
And love will offer more than just retreat.

These Awkward Things

1
Not all fish
Are created equal
And when minnows
Latch onto us,
Practically jumping
Into the boat,
Sometimes it's best
To throw them back.

2
How does it feel
To sever an infant
Flower from its birth
To display in a vase
For a day or two,
Knowing you've begun
Its slow
And agonizing death?

3
People who live
In antique shops
Shouldn't tickle other's
Porcelain dreams
Or behave in ruffian manners,
Especially when
The value of their antique days
Is being appraised for auction.

4
We speak along tangents,
Sometimes parallel,
Sometimes askew,
Always simply fingering
That fragile ball of glass
With a feinting touch,
Like Adam reaching
Into distant ceilings.

Gravity

Where the rolling tide
Washes up against the rocks,
In bursting foam, kissing
The painful jaggedness
That seemed a mighty distance
Away, where it finally crashes
Before its sinking return
To the uniform expanse
Of all the oceans,
There the moon has brought it,
By no idle hands,
In no idle way;
There it leads it on.

The Way I See It

All I am escapes me.
All the world escapes me.
Just a glowing ball
Like the frail glass
That hangs from my Christmas tree,
Just a single match,
Burnt and crumpled
To the fingers
Waiting for something to engulf,
Just a single thought
In a lexicon of ideas,
And still, it is that itch
Just out of reach
That no manipulation
Or contortion can remedy.
I am hopelessly lost
On a straight path,
On a bright day,
A futile nomad in my own house,
Seeking echoes in crowded corridors
And dust balls
In closets stacked with boxes.
A new dawn traipses
Across the horizon
Spilling little drops of
Gold and red and purple,
While I stare blankly
At my cream-colored walls
Like a cryptologist mathematically
Analyzing absent patterns,
Reading strategies into their bleakness.
The sun knows the place of its setting,
Ages distant from me,
But alive inside me.
It is the chilled breeze
That ripples across my goosed-flesh,
The rich breath of coffee
That swirls from half empty mugs
In the morning,
The frail October tide
That bites my feet
As I stand and sink deeper
Into cold, muddy sand,
The implied melodies
Wrestling through the autumn grass,
The slowly disrobing trees,
And the sundry hues
That warm the morning dew.
Despite the tangible reality
Of all the things about me
That I can't escape,
Somehow, it all escapes me.

As Time Slips By

Though time, for now, may rest its head with me
Its calling, soon, will lead it other ways,
As years slip by, all too easily.

The gifts I found beneath my Christmas tree
Have faded into foggy yesterdays,
Though time, for now, may rest its head with me.

My younger years, a vivid memory,
Live on inside, but only as clichés
As years slip by, all too easily.

My closest friends, the scent of potpourri,
Have melded into long forgotten days
Though as for time, it cools its heels with me.

The coffee spoons I use to stir my tea
Have rusted over time in dead cafes,
As years slip by, all too easily.

And as I sift through the rubble and debris
Of years that fill my lungs like a dusty haze,
Killing time still rests itself with me;
The years slip away, much too easily.

Facing Misfortune

May all the sky settle into your lap
When the time comes.
May the sun draw close
And bend down and tie your shoes,
When momma is just too far.
Feel the fall alight on your shoulder
And bury its claws under
Your stretched skin,
Drying like paint-film
In the sun, the sun that tries your shoes;
But they are too big.
You ride them out your door
And down the street, beyond the rainbows,
Into the storms, saying all the way,
Pity me! Pity me!
And the passers-by look through
Spotted spectacles and don't seem to see you.
May the storms have mercy
When they see the rainbows beyond.
May your rainbows stand tall,
Sticking out their chests in defiance,
When the rough and the tumble of every day
Wash up on your shore.
Among the flotsam, can you pick out
The gold and silver,
The Viking treasures that cast them into the sea?
Can you salvage the scars
That threaten to return, with the waves,
To the ocean and slink
Into the rolling blue-green expanse?
Can you mend the proverbs you discarded as insults,
That you dragged up fishing for advice
Or will the wind carry their stench away
Before you have a chance to gut
And eat them?
Your hunger will return like a stray dog
Who has never known anything better,
While the cruel sun
Steals from the night to feed itself.
It towers before me like a great citadel,
Housing apathetic nomads
That keep no time
Or wrong time.
Their banners sleep in the wind
And dance in silence,
And sometimes sing the disenchanted
Songs of once summer.
It's too late to save the headless chicken
That beats its breast like a cave man
As it tottles off to a place
We can only imagine.
Savor the chances Custer never had,
And let freedom be the soles of your feet,
Even when the concrete makes them ache.
When you leave your home in haste,
Don't forget to put on your pants;
Don't forget to let one foot go
Before the other,
And smile when the sky descends
To spread out a chessboard against you.

Driving Ohio

We have no mountains
To dissect out evenings for us,
To peal off orange skins
Into darkness.

I thought our hills were something.
Driving west
I thought they were mountainous,
But we are just a pubescent girl’s chest,

Peeking up slightly
Into blue atmospheric fabric.
If we are David,
Our Goliath lies south and east,

Stretched vastly
Over a thick southern dialect,
His hand extended toward us.
Like cancerous lumps,

Our terrain is small and soft,
Built on soil, not on rock,
And when the floods come
We often fill up too quickly.

Given enough gravity,
We drown in our own shallowness,
Like hollowed-out toy soldiers
Left in the bathtub,

While the stripes of morning
Jump early into our unexpectant arms
Past the stubby knees
We thought would shelter us.