I watch him driving home from work
despondent and wordless,
divers call it decompression.
He listens to the breath of the other engines.
He knows the best promises are the ones he makes to himself.
He sees a painter he knows smoking outside of a bar
while he waits at a red light, thinking nothing.
He sees three lonely women trying to call a cab
as if it were a housecat lost in the night.
He announces his failures so no one else
can get in the first jab,
because in his heart
you’re riding shotgun with him any other night,
laughing about the tendency,
the unique patterns, of our own odd failures.
Composed in our chaos,
aware of the present unwrapping:
the dispossessed intentions, hard to ignore
wiping balmy sweat on paint stained jeans
before you summon nerves to talk to a pretty one,
summers of key pockets filled with bottle caps.
Our subliminal evils now a garnish
noticed and picked around
something we both see and don’t mention.
We laugh at the old photographs
of us or them passed out on couches
sprawling off the sides
bottoms of shirts brown with old blood.
We laugh because we don’t take pictures anymore.
The knuckled years left, gone and wandered
into bigger buildings with safe careers
and honest hours.
And it’s funny.
We used to think better of him
When it was worse.
These are the sparking thoughts flashing through his head
when the light
He passes the dark avenues, he passes the barlights
he passes the gutter punks,
swallowing the night,
the ones who leave
a forwarding address for their intentions,
baiting ourselves into the projected image,
the half-dozen directions your heart wants to know
at work with what’s provided.
I have lived so many lives.
I have known so many different hearts.
The names change like our intentions.
Bluebird to Bluebeard
Old Hickory to Old Smoke
Windsail to Ship Gone Lost From This Port.
Sawmill to Sawbit
to Quiet in a Big Country
My heart skips ten beats
as she breezes past my hair
and whispers something small into my ear,
leaning over my crossed legs.
She bites her lip and gets up first.
Clouds move over the park,
and I fold my copy of the correspondence into the bag.
We walk to her car,
making brisk time, moving like rabbits.
Rain comes, filling rusted July buckets,
sharp angles of missed reprises
she drives through the puddles,
moving into the opposite lane to hit big ones.
I am thinking of the places
she keeps her hair dryer,
the place where she keeps
the stubbed heart of this year.
Secrets rise up and then spill into the storm drains
on the drive to my new house
shuttered up voices
shadows of the love letter
I found stuffed into a door jamb
addressed to the other.
The one gone missing
The one who cheated us
The voice that made me resent goodbye
and empty seats and houses
the first breath of solitude.
This is all I can think about
after we make love with the window open
before she slips back inside my bed
before the drum marches us on.
He replaces one life with another
One tone with tomorrow
One joke to seven people.
He’s never alone – he has dozens of personas.
Hats, shirts and sunglasses directing his behavior.
Something cold in the room drawing on his neck
His emotions dictate his heart.
He looked scared the last time I saw him.
Like he forgot I was in the room with him.
He got the letter you wrote to him
that suggests full dominion of the honest heart
of the quiet things.
He said you asked him
to throw away the magic beans
the ones busy
working towards the someday world
of short commutes
and crosswords coupled with unfiltered cigarettes
still nude on Sunday until three.
He can hear
the life music for this home.
The dreadless, quiet, clarity
of a full-life planned out on wall maps.
He repeats himself.
Because that’s the point.
Bless the impossible love.
Bless the sharp hearts.
May they ramble on nameless
like our friend driving home
like the reasons for our behavior
riding eternal without reason
like passports and signatures
or birthday celebrations
or outgoing messages
opening acts and punchlines
during the long penance
of the six-sided heart.