(and I choose to fill it).
Someone is constantly
coughing at these things.
I can’t hear myself.
Clever is not a lever of power.
The whirr of machinery.
I would have expected comedy.
(and I choose to fill it).
Someone is constantly
coughing at these things.
I can’t hear myself.
Clever is not a lever of power.
The whirr of machinery.
I would have expected comedy.
The seventies burnt in orange and brown corduroy,
scratched, stretched and held together with Scotch
tape. The eighties smoldered in somber florescent
hues, peppier, yet more thoughtful. In my head
I keep black and white images, a Polaroid holding
nothing in color but your lips pursed in a question
beneath a piano. At night we were safe. The flash lit
nothing but your nose, the faded page of your cheeks,
your sweater washed out at the edges. My albums
spin with a skip, my movies look awful in high-def.
I love you in still-life without the hope of movement,
in memory. Fidelity is the tragedy of technology.
My head above the cold sidewalk
where the sun breaks a streak along the line of Kansas.
Behind it, states I’ve given my years to, by choice,
by circumstance, where folks I miss
woke earlier, rose children, burnt toast
who are now
busy scheduling meetings.
I face west to do what I’ve always done
facing the wide sky. Run. Bad
at long hauls, at dark nights,
at big gambles, and being Mr. Right
for anyone for very long. Bad
as anything, but
a sweet memory, a story, somewhat quotable.
The long clean line of mascara painted in the mirror by my hand when steady and my eyes wide open
led directly to the quaffed up hair and two spritzes of perfume walked into and mashed between wrists
by the end my equator was wobbling
by the moonset I carried my sandals
the sun woke to peel and squeeze me
The long sash around the center of the planet where days and nights are equal I’m reminded in Astronomy
half asleep and healing is not a circle but flat at the poles and bulging because of the speed of its spinning
by the end my equator was wobbling
by the moonset I carried my sandals
the sun this morning to skin and pour me
With all this babble
you think I’d be able
to uncover a spell
to whisper how well
I have been moved
by the thought of you.
And yet these words
come out absurd
when I try to define
this sense of mine
that delves below
the highs and lows
of your flesh.
I am awash
to identify the pure,
holy, humble, sublime
sense of you. Namaste
is the closest to say,
that the oneness in me
can almost see
through our lies
and our lives
to the deal
we struck to feel
separate, to fool
ourselves into dual
bodies. We play
along this way,
hide and seek,
but I long to speak
in one voice, finally,
with the truth beneath.
If I could curtail the cacophony in my head and somehow store
each agony in a jar, can them, let them slumber in the basement
while snow sedated the green grass, we could eat from sealed glass
canisters all winter and never wonder whether the withered crops
would return in spring. We could grow fat on the fertile jelly
of my worst tendencies. We could grow lazy on my lack
of industry. We could dine of the fine and acerbic wit
of my anger, my lashing out impulses. And I would
sleep-in long enough to be well rested and greet
the afternoon sun with a dry yawn, containing
nothing but my most lovely, fruitful musings.
In the shade of my first decade a voice too small to know
could have told me, “You have lived so far in three states, spent
existence as the youngest, a big brother, a four-eyed outcast.
You have loved like no one might have ever. This you’ve done,
just ten years gone.”
Careers poked through from seeds and grew. Promotions, evaluations,
each experience a blend of faces leading and faces lead. Leaves felled
from the end of branches, flowering. They run. Now hung in a vase,
or spread out in their own field. I worked till the crops had come,
those ten years gone.
Lovers lives rose like balloons, bright and colorful, hot nights blown into
with all the might lust-filled lungs can produce, lifting against the sunlight
with no ground in sight, surely meant to always rise. The dot on the horizon
cool with falling night, cool against inevitable dawn. Laid on uneven ground,
ten years gone.
Passions and hobbies, majors and industries, hair styles and musical taste,
small existence come and gone, plans some might call a waste, cities, projects.
We can meditate for a lifetime or two, figuring out what to love and what to do.
In the end only the stories carry on, characters in our misspelled memories,
ten years gone.
Exalt, if you will, the evolution of the pre-frontal cortex. Exalt,
if you must, the grip of the opposable thumb. Blame
every innovation and evil on these digits. But what changed
when we left the jungle, when we skipped from the forest
for fields, was a scent on the air of something delicious,
a scent we stood erect to canter towards. Blame God,
but it was the serpent slipping us a gift to discern poison,
which gave the apple flavor, which gave life to sweat,
the wet tongues of Adam and Eve, tossed from paradise
for knowing, lashing out in blame for each other till they met
for the first time in embrace and tasted, with lips, another glory.
So, we have wasted eons learning to cook a delectable dish,
to explore our bodies, to speak of this. Exalt, if you will, buildings
boned as namesakes to phallic leaders, but the long twisting wires
bind us now, to nothing more than language and lust, spread out
from our throats to the other, to the One, to our once and true
love. Evolution, ever forward, until we learn to ask back in, to tell God
what we’ve learned from skin, what we’ve done, with our tongues.
I’ve been misheard as a man risking fortunes on a tumble.
Would rather be bounding round a meadow. Longed for grass
to be grown to my knees, such that I must jump to be
a simple boy who finds joy in the sun overhead. Landing
in a puddle of sweat shimmering up to a pond’s edge,
peering up at the black that comes when a day surrenders.
Simple, path and relax in a joy found freely. You find me
on the green felt under fluorescents believing cunning
will get me off the floor up-enough to head out for the door,
past parking lots and gold bulbs, which I can’t seem to find
anymore. No idea, the sky today. But I hope blue, to lie
beneath you causing us a moan, for your eyes to close,
for something inside us to come alive, fly. Our wing tips
on the grass’s edge. If not to boxcars, then, to the end.
What I thought was forty-one was thirty-four. What I thought
was thirty-four were my twenties. What I thought were my twenties
was a paradise of lawless love — and love. What I thought
was a lustful energy were cold songs playing loudly
in a one-eyed vision, some echo from a time before time
when we agreed to see each other only through agreed upon mosses,
a deal in which I could not abide. What I thought was my hand
was a Luke-warm stream tumbling over the jagged rocks of a waterfall.
I was only here one time. What I thought was my youth
left me by a pond downstream, and a thousand years old. I’ve seen
this before, this longing. It’s nothing more than an illusion,
nothing which can’t be heightened — or indulged
brought to truth by enlightenment. What we think of
as the world in front of us swims behind our eyes. What we long for
is our own voice rung through the ears of a lover — when we are elsewhere,
a voice to confirm the beauty of our existence. What I thought were my eyes
were your eyes. What I thought was a body — melted into spirit.
What I conceived of when netted in my own devices
was a whiff of perfume that skipped me like a stone and left me
on the opposing shore. What I found there — what
I believed to be our first time was our first time.
If we woke tomorrow and everyone had half an acre, a similar size home, food on the shelves, some form of reliable transportation to take them to and from a valued and valuable job, and similar support from security, sanitation, education and health-care workers, what would be different? Most of us lead our lives searching for the things above (space, security, sustenance) so that we can pursue the fun and good work of life, our hobbies, our families, our passions.
What would be different would be the ability to make a living, to earn money, particularly at the lavish end of the scale. If people wanted for little, if their neighbors car was not vastly nicer than theirs, their house actually quite similar. If we had no reason, really, to invade, outdo or lord over the country at our borders, what would we buy?
Sure, we’ve found work here for the teachers, doctors, police, construction, farming, sanitation, bureaucrats. We have even found work for the pen-makers, clothing designers, canners, bicycle shop owners and computer companies, as people pursue their basic needs and passions. But, who needs lawyers, or hedge fund managers, or manufacturers of weapons, or lobbyists, or bank tellers? Who cares about stock market prices or interest rates? Is anyone’s passion truly making outlandish sums of money, were it not a game of proving you are better, smarter and stronger than the person next to you, were you not afraid for yours and your family’s safety? What good is proving what you can accumulate?
So instead, we have wars, government shutdowns, arguments on guns, health-care, marriage and God that have no solid answer, that breed intransigence and squabbles. And we hold our beliefs on these as sacred and unbending. Who we do not see are the money changers in the temples, those people taking our donation and sale in exchange for a promise to lobby for us, represent us, navigate a complicated system, offer a return on investment, a promise to keep us safe by bombing the other.
Peace does not pay.
Equality makes lavish estates, passed on from generation to generation, grown like algae to choke a vast lake, impossible to maintain.
Quiet, calm and inner strength are the enemies of the rich and the elected.
The true revolutionaries are the ones who need little to be happy, who remember, in some way, the beginning of existence at a parent’s knee, when all they needed was a dry backside, a small amount to eat, and a kiss on the cheek.
The week before a marathon the miles die down and you are left with time to contemplate the training you’ve done, and the race ahead. Why anyone would run a marathon is still beyond the grasp of reason. But, what can be said is that training for, and racing, at any distance, requires a ton of sacrifice.
One must surrender, first, the notion that you are who you were brought up to be, and that you cannot change. This notion becomes impossible to hold onto as you run your first mile, then two, then ten. Once things that once seemed undreamable become easy, you can no longer hold the notion of a stuck and static and immovable you.
You must sacrifice, as well, being sad about your life, because your lungs are becoming stronger and your heart and your muscles and your mind. The droopy face in the mirror tightens up, and dare I say, you might often see a smile. It’s a wonder really, that doing these simple things we humans were no doubt designed to do, prevents the pointless doldrums of electronics from sappy our enjoyment of existence.
You must be willing, also, to part with unhealthy eating, for it makes the miles harder, and no one loves hard miles. You must give up negative self-talk, the voice of your sleepless parents, your insecure classmates, your confused first lover, and your crossed former best-friend. You must surrender the snarled face of every bully who made you breathless, as you need your breath daily; deep, slow, even breathing.
You must give up being stuck between fourteen and eighteen, staying up after midnight to prove a point, seeing how much you can drink and still make it through the day, being always angry. Longer distances will suck these energies out of you, and leave them splattered beneath rubber soles on concrete.
You must give up the drama of being put-upon, of feeling that this whole world is out to get you. Because most of this world can no longer catch you. They are sitting at home imbibing TV. The sun is up and they are still sleeping. They are out late at expensive restaurants bitching about how unfair this all is, and overeating. And you are watching yourself change.
It’s not easy, to give up these dramas and admit that you know nothing. To admit that your body and your being and your capability are unknown, especially to you. That you have no idea what you could train for, what you could grow into, what you could learn to love to do.
Honestly, if you’re not willing to sacrifice these things, not your time, nor pain, nor your “…always had bad knees”. If you are unwilling to sacrifice the current image of yourself, then you might be better served being one of the people who says, “I would love to be able to…” Someone who sits stuck in their square box and laments how easy, how hard, how uneven, how unfair, how disproportionate this world can be.
I warn you. One step outside that box and you risk your very security, your safety. You are being watched, and stalked, and followed right now, by someone close by, someone awake and alive, by the person you could soon be.
Something in you moves me
to anger. To magic.
To a man’s emotion
and a child’s tantrum. Something
raises me off the ground and
pounds me down.
my gaze and grinds my stones,
like a river, to smoother angles.
A thing in you
that wrinkles me.
That reminds me of long flat days
and pointed nights. Where the air
can be seen
escaping. A thing
that when I snuggle up closer,
growls, and moans, and huffs
before it falls
at least. Raring for a new day.
Walter White was found dead on Sunday due to complications from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He is survived by his wife Skylar, his daughter Holly, and his three sons.
The relationship between father and son can be twisted. Something innate activates in a man when he realizes he will have a male offspring. He sees this small and helpless boy as the potential for his own longevity, for his own immortality. Perhaps it is the same with mothers and daughters, but sons are to their fathers the very glass into which one can pour their best self. In the days when men had farms and businesses, their sons were the ones to ready it for, to add “and son” to the sign, to pass it onto.
White’s first son, sometimes called Walter Jr. and sometimes called Flynn, will graduate from his father’s former employer, Wynne High School. He was, at times, proud of his father, and at times horrified by him. He has grown into a man, perhaps one of the few men, to stand up to White throughout his rampage. From his father he learned to be sweet and caring and right. It is Flynn’s soft hand that lands on Holly’s head, that finally speaks a prideless truth to Skylar, that steers through life with a moral compass which says that family is more important than money, that risk is not always worth reward, that being a teacher is a higher calling than pioneering a new industry.
White’s second son, Jesse, came into Walter’s life when he first learned he was dying. A boy already separate from his own family, whose potential had never been tapped and who had seen his best days left in the past. Jesse is the great idea, the master plan, the true self that White abandoned for the security of family. He does not want money, but thrills. He tastes, but cannot digest anything familial, any nesting. Even his friends, those closest to him, are a distant (always distant) echoing. He is the pure focus and application of skill, and the only one remotely able to carry on White’s dynasty. Screwed up from the start, he was last seen laughing maniacally, flying through a fence and headed, like a laser, away from everything.
White’s youngest son was born around the same time as his daughter Holly. Unnamed until the final song, but sometimes called blue magic or blue sky, we know him simply as Baby Blue. There is little chance he survived the incident that took White’s life, but more than Flynn or Jessie, Blue is likely to be well-known for a long time. Into this child Walt poured his imagination, his precision, his expertise, and the child gladly received. He never fought back or disappointed. He never fled or lashed out angrily. No, Baby Blue simply paid attention and did what he was told. For that, he ended up every bit as ideal as any father or any school teacher could imagine, the apprentice that listened intently.
Walter White died with a smile on his face, most likely because despite his transgressions, his violations of law and morality, his wife and his daughter and his three sons survived. And what more could one man ask for, then to leave a gift for each of his sons. To one he gave his heart, his sacrifice and his morality. To one he gave his freedom, his talent, and his industry. And to one he gave his reputation, his story, which will live on forever, his fame, his infamy.
Yes. We hung out in coffee houses, which at the time meant shelves of donated books and ratty old furniture and bent cards and old board games and a live mic, and it meant someone from our generation might be profiting from our presence, and
Yes. We loved our friends more than we loved our families, knowing that in a pinch we could count on these chosen few to show up and lay down beside us and listen and cry, and
Yes. We married them, and
Yes. We had aspirations, many of them infinitesimally small because we were jaded and bitten over the grandiose failures of our parents’ promise, and
Yes. Some of us moved towards those frail dreams and some of us fell flat or fell into careers or fell into families, and
Yes. We failed to follow through on the neat idea of the great lot of us choosing a small city and living together, and
Yes. Some of us got divorced and some remarried, some even twice, because in your twenties all you can imagine is loving your friends, rather than finding someone who will make you better, and
Yes. We are only halfway towards forever and already feeling the squeeze of a world being held onto tightly by our parents and inherited quickly by our children, and
Yes. You can blame us for the far right-wing and for government shutdowns and for legal pot and for the death of print and for all the new technologies, but
not for this music, nor this mindless sharing, nor the apocalypse.
‘Cause, see. We never sought to save the world, nor to destroy it. We just thought we would sit face to face and know our neighbors, and taste the air around us, and taste the beats and leave the best examples of ourselves mired in drug-induced rhythms and exiting early. And,
Yes. We thought we’d leave a live mic open in the center of it, so someone could sing, or slam, or scream.
Drink, drugs, sex; perhaps we must commit every sin
because we recall the appendix, an organ
which at one time held a place of privilege, body
unable to play the black keys of its organ
without its stone and grit, to digest the gristle
of a mammoth, or some extinct fiber, or kin
but whom softer living has rendered meaningless,
vestigial appendage that will never lose or gain
anything, like a twin heart’s addiction to beats
it never heard correctly, not once, or again.
It’s as if you wished the shutters, installed at sixteen
to sharpen contrast with the shade you and your siblings
skinned over the house years earlier, would stay straight.
Thirty years gone, their off-white slats hang awkwardly
in a way no level and no nail could seamlessly realign,
as if no care has been paid since to your upbringing.
The paint too has been scraped away by weather to reveal
something underneath, a dull yellow neglect, or yelling,
the rot of mystery being gnawed away by now and then insects.
A couple months ago I visited the town and the house I grew up in. I was disturbed by the run down condition of that house, my house, that no one had painted it since I was in high school, that the bushes around the house had died, that it was littered with junk, that its life and vibrancy was just… gone. I hadn’t been able to even attempt to write about it until I heard Dan Klass talk about a similar experience on the Bitterest Pill. The title is stolen directly from his mouth at the end of the podcast.
Here, the hands work to find a field so dear
words feel resigned to failure, absurd
in their attempt to render it, consigned to sin
filled existence. Unwind your clock, still
your reasoned mind. Divine then our stored
memories, seasoned and blind. With ease
you’ll well that kind of fuel.
While not quite sleeping last night a big thought occured to me. It offered me a link between Buddhism, post-modernism, alcoholism, meditation, the Bible, psycho-babble-pseudo-neurology.
I thought, as I often do, in long strings of sentences, each one leading away to another, until I found myself in a place far from conventional wisdom. In this distant thought, which I reached along the linking track of words after words, I came to understand that language is an addiction to the human brain. We crave it. We need it. When we first learned “mama” we were loved. We want love. We are addicted. When we try to get away from it, we will suffer the result of any other addiction. DTs.
There, on the desk before me is a coffee mug. Get one for yourself. Place it on the desk in front of you. Now, consider this mug. But, do not allow yourself to use the word mug or cup, coffee or tea. Do not think of the word round, or handle or red (or your color). Do not think in or out loud; handle, hard, ceramic, container, weight, water, wash or break. Consider this. What’s left?
On the run I will listen to music, enjoy the songs, specifically the lyrics. Or I will speak a dialogue to myself about how slow or fast I am going, am I hot or cold, is the sun bright or mired behind clouds? What should I eat when I get home? How is my heartrate? Why do I still miss talking with that girl I liked so much in high school? It’s an endless string of babble. A steady drip of morphine.
But last night I was carried to the end of that road, to a place where I could sit, for a few moments in barrenness and contemplate without language. Buddhists say the central tenet of life is suffering, and that only by acknowledging suffering can we get beyond it. The post-modernists say language is insufficient and diminishes the thing we are naming. AA says you must first admit you have a problem. The Bible tells us that God tasked us with naming each thing. In the beginning there was the word.
As a child, my mother taught me to name catfish, and frogs, no, toads, no, turtles. We learned the difference between flurries and flakes, snow and a dusting, lake-effect and powder. It’s a game, language. The central tenet of life is addiction. We have a problem. We have been tasked with staying strung out. And it has served us.
What separates me from my three puppies is my ability to name things, to separate and label them. As air breathes in and out of my lungs, as consciousness allows me to speak, I can tell you there is a car coming, or that my wife will be home soon, because I can see each number on the clock on the stove in the kitchen. And we have thrived because of it. Stories became poems became songs became scrolls became books became pictures became electronics became movies.
But the next step needs us to go beyond language. Our next evolution needs us to not diminish the thing by naming it. We will not solve our next steps with more language, finer detail, greater vocabulary. We have a problem. We are powerless against it. So I try, each night, before and after I sleep to lie there and contemplate. Blank slate. Thought, though no verbal thought, sans language. And I shake. And in the morning, take a deep breath and take a hit, and speak. It may not be me. He’s too lyrical, too rhythmic, too trapped in the love of rhyme and play. But we will get past it soon (or someday). Words. You’ll be the end of me.
At the top of Ward it becomes easy to see
the whole world as a basement. Down deep,
from an ocean trench, the entire planet
lauded simply as a series of arid peaks.
From every man, the control of woman,
for the unelected, government conspiracies.
From the rich, everyone needy and poor,
for the child, adults controlling everything.
Ours is neither the world of demons, persecuted
villains lurking around each corner, nor
of those who would do good if only
they were fed and clothed and cared for.
This angry diversity, struggles we’ve carried
in from the rain of our upbringing. What did we
dry for, if not our ascendency, nudity, willfulness
to launch off flesh and our habits and gravity?
We’re on the back porch, all four of us,
basking in the rise and fall of yellow balls
as running becomes a trot and jumping a hop.
After the last bark it’s time to go in.
A fly follows a final tail through the wall
between the dry summer heat and whirring AC.
It’s instinct, really. Immediate pleasure
without planning or a thought of what comes next.
And so, through dinner, through clean-up,
through the buzz of melting sugar desserts
it bangs against each pane of glass and lands
long enough to gasp, and not get caught.
When the lights are shut off, it flies
up the stairs exhausted and slips under
the door to the only light visible.
We gorge ourselves in this moment,
in sweet scented sheets, in fans pumping,
in store-bought and installed seclusion:
Comfort. Comfort. Comfort. Thinking
we will find our way home by dawn.
But daybreak is a heavy burden,
this fat body that cannot be lifted by such
small wings, a slow trip down the stairs
and a pause before the slap of morning.
The quiet comes lightly, sifting at first as sand might,
or in this part of the world, like hay-topped dirt
filled with thirst.
The quiet comes, and is as quickly overrun
by a commercial, by advice, by a flashing
The quiet, inside whom the voices live, behind whom
the images, the long spark of creativity.
But so much has already been credited,
renowned, commoned, created. Long lines
we stand in,
not for a shot at the oboe or the canvas,
but to relieve ourselves in plastic booths
filled with other’s excrement.
If we were to end every thought
with the pun, I would tell you
that I have prayed for miracles (in bed)
big and small, for the one beside me
to hear my calls, for my heart
to be opened and luck to roll out (in bed)
to wake tomorrow at thirteen
and know the world unfolding,
for happiness to fill me head to toe.
The secrets I know are whispers
coming back across the veil,
a laughing god willing to offer
both condolences and magic,
good wishes and good thoughts
knowing that I will choose (did choose)
this same life. Though it could be
one misfired neuron, or the voice of the sun,
far away but constant and warming.
In the filter of memory that place–
which had four walls and was alive
with people, there for a cup or a paycheck,
whose furniture was carefully chosen
to match the shade of paint on the walls
and the art, which were photographs
taken by someone as invisible now
as the reason we had run inside–
has been reduced to a window
speckled with raindrops
which broke the traffic light
into countless shattered shades.
The only face I longed to see
bursting through the front door
long ago gone from this city.
Whatever time I have spent
in this hub of achieving
in search or in transit
has been hoping
I’d pass the one meant
to be coming while I was leaving
and we would sit
side by side moping
over our loves and losses
our jobs and our bosses
and upon further inspection
fall in a deep spell
and make love of heaven and hell
You have nothing. Start here.
Your love in the other room
was never there. The pup
in the corner is also new.
You didn’t paint these walls,
nor chip the doorframe, nor put
any of these objects here.
You never worked food service.
Therefore, you never bawled
the night your true love left.
You didn’t carve this scar
in choices. You were born here.
Your father was never distant,
indeed, he was never born.
You were not born. Your first
kiss was not on prom night.
You have never been kissed.
The one you wish had noticed
too never existed. The moment
you bluntly spoke some raw truth.
In your head. A lie. A myth. This
is the first moment. Start here.
Bright lights, no rain.
A cool night in August.
An old song playing.
Crickets in the back.
Even round this city.
Night breeze, I’m driving.
Here is everything I know about cutting hair
I mean, I have never seen the brash cannibal
grown out in all directions, from birth uncared
for locks in every crevice. He can’t smell good.
But the cost of the trim, the taper, the waxing,
the primp is an endless battle against a rash
of ever thickening, ever darkening, ever more
present strands such that a lust for baldness
can never be quelled. The cost of smelling well
for that fleeting moment, impressing your crush,
quenching some thirst to be a dolphin is an itch
that can’t be fully quenched, a scar unhealable,
a curious tear in the psyche for an art collapsing
as soon as one stands up the chair. Shut it down
early, in childhood, come to grips with legs, pits,
ears, and all being a slight fuzz such that nothing
need be done weekly daily, hourly, by the minute,
for the rest of our time on this round smooth cue.
What can be said about the dark and the cold,
that it does not suit us, as does not growing old.
And yet, every specie’s hell is another’s eden,
so as we die I am sure someone else begins.
Call this season one for another man
to spread seed and grow across the land.
Let us recede if not in space than in time
wait for the sun again before we forage to find.
It’s not your body, though that certainly fails,
nor how you were born, nor raised. It’s the weight
with which you lay across our days. The leaves
that were rich and green before light slipped
off at an angle, retarding the chemicals
that kept us growing. It’s your holidays,
deep, black and orange, thick with syrup,
growing cold. It’s falling that makes you old.
If I could sum it up in a phrase
I’d say that more of what we know
to be out there is in here. More
authority in a seed than a tree,
more of it is making and less
made, more is self-loathing,
and yes, more, delusion.
What’s left is transitory,
a universe in passing, tools
to build things, more a warehouse
than playground, ingredients
and lighting for a feast
or for our starving.
Whatever we need.
Press those things down which cause you rage
hope against hope that they are like compost
refuse that will melt into fertilizer and speed growth
rather than a spring which coils its energy
such that every additional thing winds it tighter
until what is held outweighs what holds it in place.
A child wailing away as the engine revs on an airplane.
Dogs whining in the backseat of a long journey.
Teenagers in love when their lover leaves.
Those who hurt deeply.
to snap at them to be silent
but that day did we go away quietly
into the air, into the night, at wholly unnatural speeds.
Look up from your eyes for a moment.
A fly has entered the room through a door.
It bats the window through the blinds.
It’s seeking a way back through the crease.
It is terrified, through and through.
And will not cease its trying, its flying.
What can your hands do but whisper,
sometimes in the bold hope of hitting
a chord or the bell just before washing
themselves clean of dried grease?
What song is trapped under the nail,
pinned down in a hole by its own iron
the clank of pressure, repeated blows,
who knows what joists our hands hold?
All the good ideas of the world
swirl in this factory atop my noggin.
Call it an assembly line, a library,
a precipice over which showers
great floods of electricity,
watt hours of images
teeming ions of life. And yet,
I am robbed of much it
by someone’s drawing
or by someone’s murmur
their pinked view of the world
every mediocre lustful thing.
All the good ideas reside here, hid
in the hum and buzz and static.
As kids, mom would refuse to let us watch Little House
passed the opening titles, a lithe girl bounding down a hill.
“Too sad” she said, knowing the hells that came, like shells
overhead, into her life and hers, mom’s and the girl’s.
She hoped (mom, not the girl) to save us from the outset,
somewhat futilely, from the lethal sadness of the world.
Hoped this solution would help us elude what would come,
what always comes: sleet, rain, the elite plowing prairies.
I came to this world in hope
of never taking more than my share
more than the cast off scraps
more than what was just
and necessary to breathe
to move unpassingly through.
What kind of greed is this?
What brand of rude? To hope
to pass unnoticed beneath
the eye of the sun, some disguised
weed suckling resources and taking
not enough to create anything in return.
More than once I was told the body I inhabited was a gift
either from God or my mother or my geneology or community
and that to harm it in anyway was an affront to whichever
entity wished to claim dominon over its passage into law.
As I have grown up and out and moved on, as I have faced
the failed prospect of parenthood, the unlikelihood of office,
the daily rituals of education and the creation of community
I have come to embrace a greedy and sadworn reality.
This body, made of cheese and carrots and dark chocolates
is no more consistent than the blotches blowing across radar
or waves breaking against the everchanging beach. Sure,
these scars last and I have something called memories,
But in reality I owe only the first eight pounds of it
to my mother, the first micron of it to my father
and very little of it to the local community. I owe
as much to the cows in Ohio and to the banana trees
in Brazil, and some, perhaps the largest part or the smallest
to my choices, my decision to stay out late, choice of college,
rev of engine, my lusts, my intellect, my capacity to keep moving.
And God, what belongs there will only be known once I selfishly die.
Feet on pavement, those first steps, splash and lift,
the whole world agasht at the weight of it. Muscles fire
and great explosions, electric mindset burning grafitti
off underpasses. Past animals in cages, past cubs
in cars, back through all variety of evolution. I’m running
through time, back to ocean, to the edge, crawling uphill
against gravity, against all right thinking, against history,
onto the dry hot grandular empty unbreathable shore.
It’s dark, in this cupboard, at night,
the door shut tight, my label straight
and the seal still intact on the can
they packed me in. My juice
is stewing and makes me stink
of my own devolution. I’m sleeping
when I should be in field, with friends
in a barn, in the belly of all the animals.
It’s dark, in this cupboard, at night,
blinds pulled tight and not a sound
until the hiss of tin on tin abounds
to come and finally let me out.
It’s greed, I say, that I should belong
to you alone, that the whole of me
should wait for your wants to unwrap me
and until then I must life hidden.
sit with me child, but be still
not just in your rolling over
and over, but in your flailing
limbs and in your center
be like the lightest wind
over the surface of the pond
kiss and so gently lift me
before you move away
No one loves an empty room.
“The news of a shooting”
Another goon has raised his sight
and stung repeatedly into the night.
So soon after that last shot tinging
off the walls of another town stingged
us. A hint about culture, sign about songs,
hoisting our snooty attitudes about wrong.
We, oohing and ahhing, and how could he?
Yet never outlawing the vehicle, the thing
That makes such horror possible. No.
The argument is thin, the day slow.
We can think of nothing to say
to this ghost who will not go away.
If I ever I run it will be from the land
cross dunes of sand and to the ocean
where frantic arms will paddle me out
past exhaustion until muscles burn lactic
and I fall asleep beneath the deep
deep. God, find me here and save me.
O’ Sunlight, where you have gone is unimportant.
When the glint of you pours over the horizon
or gusts out from behind a glut of clouds
I become a lush forest, thin, guiltless,
lung of nigh an issue, night unwoven, sling
of joy over anything broken, all insults unstung.
Oh boy, this beach
this beach is busy.
It’s as if someone opened a door
on dry land and every dour sod
saw the suds and buried
his sordid hours into a drawer
the stark metal orbs of their eyes
wide and squinting, rosy cheeks
bobbing amongst the bouys,
his fur-cling to evolution sopping.
Odds are, nothing here will rob
the great beast of his buffet,
and tension will bud again
in our communiques. The rub,
every summer, every sour drub,
man to man, hopes to cleanse
his heart and his ears, and so
buds here, like a grain of sand.
Oh boy, this beach,
this beach is busy.
If love was simple
we would, like day one,
always be falling.
But the earth rises up
at some point to meet us,
so we must walk.
At time run, at times crawl,
at times curse the sky
for letting us down.
When it comes to the loves who have stuck
the ones who still, at some point, rise up
in quiet moments to grab my attention
it is not the curves nor the curls
the whispy voices or the backs arched
in a passionate embrace, not even the taste
but the room and the building, the town, time
that pulls me back, this love of location
and era that keeps alive my errors.
I would love to say I’m panting
at the memory of you, but I’m staring
instead at these walls of memory, painting.
How long is the dawn?
Stretched from a rooftop
cut short by a cliff
off in the distance.
How long? Until the river
turns at its bend
and sends morning light
out into the ocean.
It’s curved. Like the back
of the one asleep
beside you, the one
who always loves you.
How long? A lifetime,
the length it takes to pass
over the rough edges
and peek into the light.