Tag Archives: Poetry

Bedtime

They were laying in bed.
She said how her dad had gotten into a fender bender,
but he was okay, and the car was fine,
and that she went swimming at the gym,
and then came home,
and waited for him to come home.
He breathed shallow,
eyes mostly closed.
He sat up and said he needed to go home.
And she laughed.
He got up and got dressed and slipped his beanie on,
and left their apartment.
Confused, she waited for him.
Twenty minutes later,
he came back, short of breath, panting.
He undressed and washed up in the bathroom.
Then came into their bedroom
He asked her how her day was, and what she did.
She repeated that her father had a minor car accident,
but he was fine.
And she went swimming at the gym.
He laid down next to her and told her,
a friend of his,
had gone swimming at the gym,
and then she got lost driving in the suburbs near her parents house
and drove mystified along yellow terraces,
making u-turn after u-turn,
until she came to Broadway.
And at the crosswalk were a parade of dwarfs,
and yellow cab duck cars,
shining happy sunshine rhythm through the trees.
And he turned and told her,
that she should meet his friend,
that they would like each other.
They have a lot of common.

Rabbit Suit

My father used to light matches with a Bic
and casually say,
that if it’s a shredded up piece of paper
then it’s probably worth something
or once was.
When our mother went to book club,
my father put on a rabbit suit.
He folded and stacked his human clothes
neatly on milk crates in the garage.
He’d get sit on the couch,
drink a bottle of vodka
and call friends from college.
He never said anything about his rabbit suit.
The memory ended up like a shredded piece of paper.
Something that meant something,
or touched something that was.

The Loop

Daniel was told by a psychiatrist
that there were past lives,
well…
the psychiatrist crossed his arms.
It’s more like a library of other lives
that one
if bored enough,
could pain themselves into seeing.

Black spaces
summoned into light with a dog whistle.
It must be pushed through a canal
or blown like air into the bottom of a flume.
Worlds within worlds,
hearts within hearts.
He imagined in this space he used to be a viking.
Or an alien.
Although in reality, he knew it didn’t work like that.
He couldn’t get the fantasies off his mind
as he stared out his apartment window
at five in the morning,
drinking coffee since two-thirty.
He looked at his neighbors window.
Watching the strip of light
beneath a bedroom door.

Daniel was told
by a stub-fingered card counter
that he met in Salinas,
that he could get there,
if he stayed up for three days
and opened all the doors and windows
and ate particular seeds.
He was not allowed to roast them.
Or drink more then one glass of water a day.
So that’s what Daniel did.
This is what he saw.
.
Green-gray sky
dirt road kicking red dust.
Lloyd’s olive work pants layered in soot and ash,
worn Atlas gloves in the back pocket.
They talked about who they used to love.
The conversation was very short.
Dawn in a white dress,
walking barefoot,
beside Lloyd back to their house.
Her thumb carried her open-toed shoes
that she slung over her shoulder.
Dawn swayed back and forth on the road.
The hills collapsed and rose near the horizon.
They were not rolling,
They inhaled and exhaled,
breathing body of Atlas,
ruddy lungs of under,
a place Daniel would say,
and did say
“you could walk all over,
or stay still,
and have the same experience.”
Lloyd pulled a cigarette from his ear
and cupped his hands as he lit a match.
The fire brightened his face.
He continued talking.
After thirty seconds,
Dawn stopped listening to Lloyd’s joke-chatter
the words Daniel could hear but not make out,
but he could tell it was nervous chatter,
based on the way Dawn looked more at the trees
and the queer tone of sky,
the lips of heaven.
She asked him to stop talking.
Because she had stopped moving.
And he had walked ahead.
And she reached for Lloyd’s wrist.
And he turned his wide body around.
She wanted to tell Lloyd a story.
It was time to match the blueprint
against something other than structured chaos,
too familiar with the way,
that someone lost in the forest
continues to make the four wrong turns,
stuck in a self-imposed circle,
damned to the loop.
The story involved choices.
Best described as a lack of choice.
And more like
“Well, shit just happens.”
The story was about no choices
in that, let us say
that a train on a lay of track
has a choice.
It can continue.
It can return,
step-by-step,
rail-by-rail
or
it can stop and rust.
A story told in the middle,
like the one Dawn (finally) tells,
as Lloyd pinches his tongue
and they walk
in the way and the waiting,
a world and a blade of grass
sitting between them.
Same thing.
A story, a device to suggest another story.
The narrow choices of the train
swallowing coal and cinder like Dimetapp.
.
“They had dated for a year but never slept together.
Well, they slept in the same bed.
But, you know.
He had…drug-store problems, I think he felt
something…small, I guess,
like in the shadow of his brother.
Ovid.
His brother’s name was Ovid.
Ricky was, like, a simpler name.
I dunno.”
Dawn laughed at herself.
“Ricky is an alright name.”
She stopped walking and softly kicked at a pebble
that limped along the space between the grass and the road.
A sad pebble.
It plopped in the ditch water,
and Lloyd,
realized there was a ditch there,
and tossed his loose smoke there,
spitting tobacco from his lips.
“It’s hard to say what happened
though none of our friends…
and then before it made sense,
she had fallen down the stairwell.
It sounded awful.
I was asleep on the couch.
It was that abode house…
you remember it, I bet.
You were there, I think.
The one on Anodyne St.”
Lloyd nodded.
Lloyd didn’t remember the house.
“The house with the really hard couch, it was like,
a wicker basket.
The stairs were hard but sort of like clay.”
There was an emphasis and her Texas twang sat up on clay.
“She made like, a soft thud.
I looked a the step later.
There was a dent.
..
But, I guess it could’ve been damaged from before.
Oz thought she was dead.
She was sprawled out,
she didn’t even react,
that girl,
she was like perfectly still.
I can’t believe I don’t remember her name.
Ricky stepped over her to get to the car.
There was a cab outside,
to take them to the airport.
They had a flight that day!
Oh my god, I remember now.
God.
He was high.
He was always…high.
It goes without saying, I guess…
those times…
I guess if he weren’t high.
He just wouldn’t be Ricky.
..
..
I don’t think he thought,
but I don’t think it would’ve been any different,
if he knew we were awake.”
Lloyd heard a frog hiccup.
He wanted to go find it and say hello,
but he could tell Ovid about it when they got back inside.
“Oz and I tried to go back to sleep.
He did.
…I couldn’t.
…She snapped clean to while I stood…
it was just like she just…
and Ricky…
I asked her if she was flying or if Ricky was just going alo…
they were both…
his cab was gone…
no waiting…
she made me promise I would
teach English in Taiwan.
She gripped my wrist
and she moved in to kiss me…
and…she nearly was gonna miss her flight…
and…I got her in a cab
and…she mouthed “Taiwan” to me as it sped off.”
..
“But you weren’t there, Lloyd, were you?
I thought you were Oz.
…a cab came back,
It was Ricky.
He was the one that missed his flight.
He had left maybe an hour before her.
He saw through security, and something happened.
Something always happened.
Or, I guess the right things just never happened.
She ended up boarding before he did.
He just laughed and said it was “bullshit,
that shit just happened.”
and
“Fuck that”.
And Ricky said he walked out of the airport.
And hailed a cab.
And as the family in his cab got out,
paying the cabby,
Ricky vomited on the child.”
.
They went inside the house.
Ovid wasn’t home, but Lloyd would remember
to talk about the frog tomorrow.
Notes in the blueprints
a ledger of a past,
here in the sequestered,
sleeping among the horses in the stable.
Their house with no doors
wind of the deflating hills
moving through the house like an outlaw.
Gin poured into plastic cups,
that neither of them drank,
silent on the elevator,
sitting out on the villa,
red clay birthing
a simple name without words.
Dreams revealing the nature of their loops.
They took their four turns
while looking at each other on the villa
and Lloyd said
that in his last life, he dreamed he was a cartographer.

Three Small Stones

Waves come running
some small, some large.
They’re inconsistent
as sample dirges from a master
sound to native ears.
The waves crash orange
along the shore of the East River.
Harold, Robert and Cassandra
play cards, chain smoke
up on the roof.
Good getting done in the old shoes.
Cassandra says it gets hotter at night.
Harold thinks of the clouds
that have hovered over the city for weeks,
lingering, nascent
a promise made that went forgotten.
Pears fall clumsy from a tree
that grew through the neighbors building.
Robert clambers on top of a tall chimney
and squats, though there’s a chair,
and he notes
that the waves are growing.

Empty amethyst of our lives
protecting us from the loose juice.
Dawn bought Oz tango lessons for Christmas
and they stayed dry and warm in the drawer.
Infinite loops leading to infinite failures.
Diagrams drawn on the back of a lager label,
one Cassandra had torn off the bottle,
detailing how a young woman can own a young man
using three sentences.
When Harold got out of the Air Force
he used his GI footing to get his masters in poetry.
He found himself using clamps to crack nuts,
more interested in drawing portraits
of a falling sky,
or looking at old photographs of strangers
than listening to an older woman
discuss the form of things
and how to count.
He received letters from Daniel,
and he wondered how Daniel got his address in Eugene,
but he didn’t wonder after he read the letters.
Some people have a way of knowing.
Here in the cold space
are Warm whispers
beside a daughter of America’s shoulder
with crossword puzzles
and bright skin
all known from a borrowed tune
listed in a podunk almanac
from the back of her hatchback
notes on being a loose-lipped survivor
sleeping in moss and mist.
Here are notes how it feels
to not fit into a suit,
or tell a tailor that you just don’t know.
Pull up your pants,
roll up your sleeves,
when there is no breeze
no jacket is really warm or cold
just an addition to a neutral feeling.
So, Harold read Camus, Dante and Milton.
He drew partial extracts from a nearby sunset,
noted the color and shape of things he could see
handed Robert a pair of 8’s on the fold out table,
stamping out a butt,
and smoke bloomed around Robert’s thick forearm
like traces through their mutual ghost.
Robert felt like the mascot
of a forgotten, trampled city.
He said this in a letter to Daniel,
which Daniel unfolded and read in his garden,
watching the Macon azaleas breathe,
a blue-breasted Kingfisher in a branch.
Daniel daydreamed of the King of America.
He hoped he had a warm place,
maybe a jacket or two,
maybe pancakes and marmalade.
Something’s we are better off not knowing.

Harold daydreamed of an empty America.
One with lilac fields and candycane branches
bricks swathed in petals
walking through a slanted desert
he imagined the peace
of the inviting quiet of a prairie.
Horses and foxes
Elephants and wolves
warm moons on envelope dreams
riding handbuilt bicycles with Daniel,
meeting in strange places,
living squadrons among caverns and stolls.
The rain a gleaned mightless drip.
Harold knows he can slow down without this,
that he honestly needs to,
too much gets lost in the noise,
and you forget what you were trying to do
so he wants trees and cliffside’s
and the voices of children
near that same ocean shore
with Lloyd
throwing a tennis ball again,
skidding gentle and rapturous
like a smooth stone on water
these splashed notes
set to a harmony
with the emotions water wrung
a heavy sweater dripping out on the clothesline.
Once the clouds dissipate,
the cloth and the shroud will shrink
the way America will.
The waves pulling back
the valves closing
the shutters and the dust swift
among the footprints
and the song of overactive eyelids.
Harold and Robert sat on rocks in Central Park.
Thinking and talking about the way things were not,
what change and growth did not bring,
no settled peace or contentment,
just another title and job.
Ten feet away a photograph was taken
of a couple standing beside a still lake.
Robert couldn’t think of the last time he was photographed.
Robert wrenched change from his key pocket
and threw three smooth small coins
against the still water.
And then huffed breath coughing phlegm and old smoke
dancing in the quiet stream,
he hacked at his lungs until it sprouted
three thousand miles away
at the railroad overpass,
where his muddy boots and her bra lay underneath,
he heard two lovers laughter.
He did not hear his voice.
Robert stayed quiet
the way survivors do
when they think about what was lost.

These two marble sons of America
making sacrifices and tolling sweat
riding trains and paying bills
drumming through duty
waiting for dignity to arrive,
losing themselves in cards and bourbon,
syntax slippers on a gallows deck
They yawn and they don’t sleep.
Cassandra draws their portraits,
without looking at the paper,
it comes out looking like cartoon captains
born on a cereal box.
And after looking at that,
and feeling a bullish knot in his stomach
Harold drunkenly climbs into his room
and removes Daniel’s letter from a box.
And Harold reads a section aloud
because he thought that it was needed

“Harold, you slow dulcimer,
pick up your borrowed name
and cold shoulders,
say what you are,
shake the drowsy feeling from your hearts,
the cold lovers of yesterday cannot hurt you.
Slack your pace, hear your rhythm,
be one with your spirit,
not your mind.
The beautiful blonde at this cafe you are looking at
will not complete your life,
though you will probably complete hers.
Why do you work so hard for someone else?
Why do you wait for them to raise their standards?
Why do you invite this pain?
Why do you strive for completion?
Why do you try to finish your life,
round it off,
before it even started?
How can you be so sure?
Harold,
get away from what you have known.
Stop loving others
and love the world first.
Do not ask yourself
if the intimacy they have shared,
that America has shared with you,
is the same intimacy,
they get from a cold cauldron on an empty night.
Follow and ask the pollute stars
for your name in a constellation.
Skip rocks as a heartbeat moves
across migrant shores,
the lapsed batty heart of America
is not lost to you,
bend your eyebrows through a thicket
tuck your good lover into a warm bed,
kiss their forehead,
carve your false thoughts into a cliffside
to announce and forget them,
get out of Eugene,
go anywhere,
stop tugging around these bricks by your ankles,
you are only strong right now,
because you are young,
and your momentum
and heavy shoulders will not keep you young.
Hold your doubt’s in a vial against the desert sun
so it will crack like it was meant to.
The waters in the center of the Pacific ocean
are brackish poison.
But we live against the shore.
With the near-silent echoes
of each others bodies.
There is nothing more than this.
There’s a balance beyond yourself to master,
after you master the balance of yourself.
Remember when Laura told you nobody cares about your feelings?
And we talked
and I told you to announce it to the soil
either as a truth or a lie,
and to keep it that way?
I gave you the seeds
to plant in my garden.
I watched your earnest loving heart,
working in the name of America
dig a flower bed with your bare hands
and kiss the back of your hand
and smooth the soil over.
Harold,
those flowers grow.”

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”
vs.
“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.
signed,
with love,
Daniel.”

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.