Daniel, Forever Sliding

Water and electricity hold a common trait.
They both follow the path of least resistance.
A woodsy farm house hill flood.
Moving wet boxes
out of the pavement cold storage room.
That dank, mildew smell
that can only resemble cat piss.
They had drawn a tub
but had forgotten to turn off the water,
and went to rent a video.
The bottom fell out of the one his mother carried.
Daniel looked at a pile of photographs
and noticed the lives he hadn’t seen.
Lumped up lines
in a bathroom stall at a bar.
Daniel in the second one.
The toilet flushed six times
before the couple left.
Daniel saw, in that stall
trace whites
on top of the toilet paper dispenser.
He wet a square with the bowl water
and wiped the square along the dispenser.
And then we wiped himself.
Daniel, ear-marked fox,
wax-winged American,
purveyor of the acceptance binge
felt the greased force-love
of the sniffers.
He took four shots of Bulleit
and saw himself
in the cool sunrise on the river.
To be like water
is to be dimensionless and forever sliding,
dousing true fires,
whetting lips,
raising the hillside green-grove,
to seep and pool in collected force,
dripping against stark cliffside’s,
in the clear blue of the pool blue,
Daniel with Lloyd, pretending
they were synchronized swimmers,
stoned and throwing a ratty dark yellow tennis ball.
It skidding against the surface.
There’s a difference in
“being like water”
“being as water”,
Daniel noted.
And water, like electricity
or anything else for that matter,
can kill you.
And though,
this thought bored him,
he was not as bored by the thought,
that you can turn on all the lights
in the house before you fall asleep,
as Daniel did,
but when your eyes were closed,
they’re off.
She opened her jack-o-lantern
with a serrated blade.
The other girl pointed this out to her,
but the first didn’t know the difference.
Daniel cut into his with a long clean blade,
from a set his father bought
when he was eighteen.
He didn’t know the names of any of the blades.
He knew their uses.
The second girl decided to make hers spooky.
The first decided to make hers a self-portrait.
They asked Daniel what his plan was.
He said
“it would reveal itself”
and the girls looked at each other,
and synchronized, they rolled their eyes.
When they were done, they looked at Daniel’s pumpkin
He had carved the image of a large dog.
The dog was normal except for the wings.
They asked him questions.
Daniel didn’t listen.
He couldn’t hear their words,
over the sound of the water
rushing over his hands,
lapsed and drawing towards the center of the sink.
He had carved a hole in the pumpkins side,
enough space to mount a spare electrical outlet.
Without words,
the girls watched him wire the pumpkin.
He plugged it in.
They watched together
as the pumpkin began to glow,
giving their dorm room
without a candle or a bulb,
a hue of heaven’s orange.
Its wings began flapping.
The pumpkin broke through the kitchen window
and flew into the night.
Wet wood under boots
makes a satisfying half-crunch
makes wet splinters over wet stones
Daniel wants to be “like water”,
not to live as water.
Daniel reflecting in the world
as whatever type of light
was attracted and reflected to him
an endless series of mirrors within mirrors
forever in love with mutual recognizance.
Daniel saw friends swaddle themselves,
couples swaddle each other,
the young families he knew,
making one big swaddle too,
grandparents joining under the dry warm blankets,
aunts and uncles
cousins and neighbors
bound together
tight and secure in community
a home like a glove.
At the nature conservancy,
Daniel is watering the flowers,
Daniel waters the flowers,
Daniel watered the flowers,
Daniel there forever,
or, for a moment.
There’s no difference
as in being as yourself for ever
or being like yourself for a moment.
Daniel humming to himself in tune to the hum
of the lights above him,
Daniel finding harmony,
finding a tune,
Daniel a small voice under many drops of rain.

Daniel like water.


Spooky River

Tight-lipped tiger named Antigone
got a letter from Daniel,
not an email, a letter
typed out on his red typewriter
(he noted the color at one point),
among beaded sweat of glass,
paper marked with ash
and smears from his damaged ribbon.
It began
“If I were perfect,
I would not be myself.”
He continued, later
“and to my knowledge,
if I were not myself,
I would be broken.”
She thought of him
as a clean messy monster,
Daniel, riding his bicycle shirtless,
a wad of chaw in his lip,
unmarked and careless,
riding through red lights
riding green angels through empty turnstiles
stopping his routine only for liquor
(he was always drinking beer)
or complaining about conceited actors & his boss,
the smell of armpits,
the politics of the 200 he worked with,
lost loves like Antigone, that aren’t lost
nothing is truly lost,
this would be news to Daniel,
that things are only misplaced,
hearts wander
stones burn
songs yield
mites duck
sleeping mice need no lullabies,
not in the dark quiet corners of the infirmary
where his mother worked.
A little breath,
a little loss.
He knew that friends, birds, time
anger, envy, doubt,
guilt, bad paintings
they all fall away.
Jealousy and regret though,
“they’re like tattoos.”
Antigone continued the letter.
“There are two kinds of people in this world.
The ones who thrive on attention and acceptance,
cannot function unless they’re confirmed by others
that what they are doing is “right”,
easily flattered, seduced and convinced.
These people excuse all sorts of shitty behavior,
they see these flaws as manageable, fixable
like navigating some spooky river on a raft
they see these same flaws within themselves
and sadly, wait for another to fix them.
Money, careers, these are their symbols
of success. All words have one meaning to them.
The ocean is one drop of water.
Hurting can only be hurtful.
Platitudes and truisms help them.
Their lives are actually charts and graphs.
They do not know the world of the other kind.
Those who have choked on water.
Felt desert salt in their eyes.
Have thrown up in blood in bed.
Have signed time away
as a contract with a stranger.
Small gloves in a smaller heart,
four AM phone calls,
stone sober, to tell only “I love you”,
They swallow cherry stems.
They have dreams about the bottom of the ocean.
Life is not a ritual.
It is not defined.
They read phone-books and dictionaries,
The Encyclopedia of Death.
It is a life being drawn,
It is not drawn.
They don’t bring blankets and wine
to the park with their husbands.
They swim in distant sounds.

In closing, Antigone,
avoid both of these types at all costs.
Because there aren’t just two types.
That was just a dumb conceit.
with love,

The tight-lipped Tiger folds the letter.
She puts it back in the enveloped.
She puts that envelope in another envelope.
Smiles, and writes the home address of Cassandra
from her black contact book.

Milk and Honey

Lloyd skips the coffee.
Too bitter and black.
Makes his stomach churn.
He says out loud
“I need sugar, milk and honey.”
He’s in Indiana now.
Working at a wolf shelter with Cassandra.
She works with the animals.
Lloyd answer the phone, organizes paperwork.
He buys staples.
He ate twelve bagels in the last three days.
He ogles the past world through lenses,
refractions upon refractions,
his pulse is gone
only returning
when sifting through an old love letter
like the ones slipped in Cassandra’s unread novels,
like the one he finds
in the front of Cassandras next book,
words and letters from Laura,
falling into the brown waters of November
words that sounded true then, in his version.
Laura looked like a Playmobil figure.
White epoxyed skin
practice smiles hung with a level
though imperfect cylinders is what’s driving her engine.
Brushes, q-tips, scalpels and dabs,
mysterious things that plug in,
blushing white and tan
copsed survival skills tapped from a bad credit line,
and a magazine subscription from mother.
Laura has memories of rodeo clowns
and falling out of airplanes,
at least according to panic-heart Lloyd, as
he swallows his old wounds, finding himself sipping at Cassandra’s coffee.
He finds he doesn’t mind it.
The corresponding dead-end brooks
from his parent’s home in that mountain town,
where he fell in love,
with the long-distance champion
of swimming in shallow water.
It’s a daffy duck move, he knows,
to hold out for another form of settling
“when you’re already settled”
as Daniel would say.

  • .
    There’s a drifting moon
    emerging along the coast line.
    Lloyd and Cassandra are driving on a very, very long bridge
    connecting them across the Chesapeake,
    all Lloyd sees is bridge and water
    names not meaning much of anything,
    they drive away from a grocery store home
    and stacked bills beside stacking bill,
    towards the true bill, blocking the sun
    as it breaks on the water.
    Laura was asleep beside her new man.
    He saw a thimble filled with yellow dust
    that she dumps in a wine carafe.
    She thought the tapped line had legs,
    a sign of quality, commitment,
    but it’s just the alcohol evaporating
    it’s just the air in the room evaporating,
    “it’s just” Daniel begins, throwing
    playing cards across the room
    “the quality of life discerned
    from sugar packets,
    and bad advice from bad friends,
    that they gleaned from their bad parents:
    their whole internal recipe
    could be covered with a stubby thumb.”
    Daniel spoke like an angry monk.
    And Lloyd reads the thoughts
    through the eyes he’s never seen,
    feeling the heart and soul evaporating,
    finishing his fifth cup of black coffee
    (he’s really started now)
    approaching midnight,
    he senses,
    that it’s the air in the cab evaporating.

    He rolls down the windows.

    The highway air,
    breaking the stability apart,
    and Lloyd looks across at Cassandra
    still asleep in the passenger seat, smiling.
    Lloyd smiles.
    And Lloyd pushes a little harder on the gas
    and closes his eyes and smiles too.

    Taking A Dead Horse to Tea

    ashes floating in my teeth like flotsam
    aware and lingering like stale bread
    without the gathered mold
    sore and unalert
    confused and crashing
    avoiding particular thoughts
    like a bill
    or a broken relationship.
    the machine of clear energy
    and broken shotglasses
    and mistake tattoos
    and mistake watch purchases.
    beautiful women dating twat dudes in beards
    or horn-rimmed glasses.
    trying too hard,
    the both of them.
    then, i remember that the word “beautiful”
    doesn’t really mean anything.
    like the word “magic”
    or the way people use “sorry”
    or “love”.
    generic functions
    to stumble through social equations,
    the paint-by-number images
    that monks tried to paint over
    with portraits of saints and angels
    lambs and dogs
    choirs and trumpets
    babies look at women.
    it’s not that i don’t want to listen
    through all nine voicemails
    i just don’t want to listen to the second one.
    i’m sitting at the end of the earth in this cafe
    far-flung from distance
    or of oil-paintings of pentagrams
    light shattering the focus
    wrenches burrowing into my head,
    halo figurines and dropped patterns
    going through your house,
    through your drawers
    rifling through your underwear
    spooled and unspooled on this identical reel
    a waitress comes up and asks me if i need anything.
    she’s beautiful
    there’s no other way to say it.
    my headphones are in, and i remove them
    to politely speak,
    but i see her look at me twice
    in two different ways.
    and i forgot what i was to say
    and i forgot that this place
    doesn’t have table service,
    murmuring, a frank murmur on my breath
    sliding thoughts like the way a coarse rabbit
    tails through the thunder,
    the words go missing again.
    i can feel the world around me reeling,
    as i try to remain silent and still;
    and the only words available are
    “i love you, i’m sorry.”

    Labor Days

    drum machine turned scratch’um
    beneath a rummaging overcast skyline
    with a prolonged threat of rain
    or contagious feelings,
    sleeping now on tired feet
    wrecked without a landing,
    today we celebrate how hungover I feel
    on my third day without drinking.

    at the playground,
    a group of black kids
    chase each other around the fences,
    a hide & seek of skinny bodies,
    they hurl basketballs at each other,
    and scream and push and scratch,
    among side-armed throws in open space,
    the orange leather whomping
    against turned sides
    against skinny asses.
    an older boy
    a younger boy,
    he has his knee planted
    against the top
    of the younger one’s spine.
    another boy videotapes the hold

    say that you’re gay,
    the older one says,
    what? ow
    say you’re gay
    say it
    agggg i’m gay
    say it
    i’m gay
    say that you like men
    i like men
    say that you’re a fairy
    i’m a fairy, owwww
    stop it, bitch. say that you
    say that you like balls in your mouth
    i like balls
    fucking say it
    i like balls in my mouth.

    they release him, cackling, running, whooping.
    they immediately show the video to another young boy
    he laughs with enthusiasm
    even though
    he had watched the whole altercation
    the young boy is still sprawled out on the basketball court
    he looks to be sniveling, crying, whimpering,
    the perpetrator walks up next to him

    are you crying?
    if you’re crying, you’re a pussy
    a fucking pussy

    the wind picks up.
    the small of their voices
    getting muffled in the increasing rain
    and the brick ends of my ball against the rim

    statistics and boring persistent swells
    the siren and songs of the alleys and avenues
    the boy was playing possum,
    he rises and stomps the perpetrator’s foot
    a rising swell of clattering voices
    they move like a group of birds dancing above a highway
    and bring me to a bar
    where an extra-innings ball game is on,
    and my spritely friend,
    confesses his faults and follies,
    of which he has neither,
    detailing the knees he’s planted into others,
    and his immolation is interrupted,
    by my slap dash assertions,
    as i explain the difference
    between 2-0 and 1-2,
    and that the count is all that matters
    the side arm throw vs. the overhand,
    the geometry of space and the slot
    a third key slipped under the drinking mat,
    and a tangled, trodden voice breathes
    from the corner pool table,
    undeciperable, unknowable, fully cold,
    resembling the voice
    of the grandfather I never knew
    or of one of the skinny-assed boys after sixty years
    and fifty-thousand flicks into the street
    return to me
    draw to me
    explain me like a painting
    or a nostalgic bit of china
    someone singled in, drawn and turn,
    derelict in seat, mold, dirt, sugar
    gas can blues
    am I impossible to know
    or merely impossible to fully see
    is what the voice merges out as
    and continues in and on and in
    drawn out as more then a voice
    a memory of a victimhood
    you know me like my mother does
    we look at each other like we were brothers
    in more than just blood
    our split fingered toes tied to the bar
    as Gonzo rounds third
    his labor like our shared labor.
    our communal sweat
    is a day named in full in its passing
    not in its end.
    my shoulders hug a bumper,
    I whimper loud like the shaded figures own brother,
    with his hood drawn
    with my skinny ass forgetting
    the orange leather still spinning in the nights
    I think of the people I placed my knee on;
    statistic and sirens
    pushing against young rib cages
    it’s all in the wrist
    he doesn’t slide into home
    he breezes through
    and the wind rises soft now,
    he nearly misses the base,
    likely moving in his own prolonged sleep,
    in need of the sweet god’s gas can doctor
    or the deflated rubber chicken above the bar.
    the batsmen, who became the runner,
    starts his car in the stadium after the game
    puts it in neutral and waits
    for someone to put a knee to his neck
    and make him say say
    that he likes balls in his mouth.

    Pregnant, Senior, Disabled

    I feel that poetry is better read by the author. In that vein, I have made a recording of my reading my most recent piece.


    Say forty preganant women walk onto an empty subway car.
    The train swells in the breath of the open doors.
    There are clearly not enough seats for everyone.
    How is it decided who stands?
    These women are coming from somewhere
    – a baby convention –
    and they’re already familiar with each others presence.
    Ten women must stand.
    These ten ogle and critique,
    lower their brows in discontent.
    They actively judge one another, weighing virtues
    Should the women carrying twins get an automatic seat?
    Does the overweight woman, 8 1/2 months pregnant,
    warrant the two seats she fills?
    Or have her poor long-term choices,
    ostracized her from the pool?
    Does the daughter of the senator
    deserve to sit,
    or does her fathers well-publicized extortion conviction,
    exclude her from the others?
    How much are the children truly their parents?
    Where do we mark?
    Where we do we stop listening?
    How do we fit our shapes into the offered structure,
    all before the next stop?

    Say a group of fifteen senior citizens now board.
    They are all septuagenarians, coming from their own convention.
    – it was called “Aging with Dignity” –
    they’re mostly women.
    None of the pregnant women leave the train.
    What does this new presence warrant?
    Where is the line drawn in the mass transit marginalized?
    The socially vulnerable, that must be treated as such,
    the cool soothing prerecorded voice of an MTA agent
    reminding us to offer our seats
    to the pregnant, elderly and disabled.
    But whose to say in what order?
    What if one of the septuagenarians was deaf and shoeless?
    What if one of the septuagenarians
    – through the marvels of the giggle wrestling
    between nature and science –
    was also pregnant?
    Do the pregnant yield?
    Is their need greater, for they carry at least two lives?
    Do the senior citizens fumble and glare and murmur,
    through pruned lips and thick glasses,
    carrying canes and liver spots, wearing old-timey hats,
    the tensity of the crowd
    the rumble of the deservant energy
    of fear and survival,
    thinking throughout:
    “you should allow me your seat young lady,
    I shouldn’t have to ask.”

    Say twelve disabled people board this train.
    not coming from their own convention –
    though these spontaneous, unorchestrated mobs,
    are undeniably like conventions –
    and as they hobble or trudge or sprint onto the train,
    falling over because no one has the frame of mind
    to direct them to hold the rail,
    others too busy focusing their harnessed energy
    on convincing someone to offer a seat,
    just through a stare.
    Does the doe-eyed brunette,
    not even sure if she’s pregnant,
    but who is ready to be,
    does this woman offer the one-armed myopic her seat?
    Should she offer it to the old women sputtering from standing too long?
    Should she exit the train altogether at the next stop,
    hustling away, looking down, holding her breath,
    letting the empty seat sort it self away?
    Falling through seamless through the frame.
    Or instead of acting,
    does she simply sit and think about what she should do?
    Looking, gathering, collating, ordering,
    Mounting thoughts snapping like camera shutters
    What if the seated few are reading a magazine,
    pretending to be too caught up to notice the drooling catatonic
    with the bruises on their forehead,
    or what if a seated someone is struck under that sliding subway daze?
    When does the mental register cling
    and it becomes time to recognize your surroundings?

    What if the seats become a bitter suggestion,
    not demanded or struck in a tone-seeded-argument,
    more like an open fist waiting expectant for the margin allowance.
    These people, subjugated to this particular bus by indirect force,
    with men pointing to the particular train at the station,
    the vulnerable,
    the pregnant wheelchair bound veteran transsexual,
    who already has a seat, in a sense
    what do we do if you don’t sort,
    you don’t fit any definition
    ones either strict as a whore
    or loose as a nun
    that you are not one thing
    but a collection of many one things,
    a pastel, a collage, a frame within a frame,
    a wheel within a wheel,
    as someone once said,
    not a single riding rail going back and forth,
    you are unique and complicated,
    just like everyone else,
    unscheduled, flailing, collapsing, unstable,
    not passing easy through a sieve,
    not passing easy between this station
    and the next beep before the next announcement
    before the next shuffle and the next stares
    between this and every stop.