All Posts in Volume 71
The metro is faster anyways he says until sweating stuck on the south-bound 4 everyone’s melting into each-other’s lap. I drink, we drink to be funnier to reappear & I start telling him about the Villa of Mysteries Pompeii oranges red and purple walls corpse flowers everywhere orgies & sacrifices, rituals of initiation now a ruin under ash. I see eros holding a mirror to a young woman while a horse plays the lyre or so I imagine. I say I’d like to think there is a place where everything could exist simultaneously. He is not colored by these visions, & unlacing his shoes only says this will be bad for you.
A Postcard from the Robotic Boatsman to his Cyclical Lover
Sorry, but I can’t spare any hope.
And anyway my boat’s already been covered up.
There will be no more oceans today. Just rain
and full stomachs, just temporary companions
and this zipped-up sky. You want too much
but so do I. When you point a laser in the dirt
I pounce on it for hours. And when you feed me I love you
until you switch me off again. I bark and roar on command
but I am not programmed for reassurance. If I was, I would tell you
that you have options. Folding laundry and unfolding it again.
Eating food and later eating food again. There are drugs
and rollercoasters, postcards you could send. I can only speak
from experience, but some nights I was brought to gatherings
and made to read poems about the loneliness of the sea, and afterwards
the applause was somewhere between polite and fulfilling, afterwards I got laid
to rest and dust. But know that they got it wrong,
about how it is to be. I did ride my boat along a great many seas
but it’s not that I was alone, it’s just that there was nobody with me.
Listen. I love you like the hedge loves the gardener who whistles
while she cuts. And I know you like the shine of a circuit just starting to wake up.
And tonight, I hear the rain pounding at the window again
to be let in, to be held, to be warmed by the fire. And I try to explain to it
that an incomplete life is what you want, that a complete life is
finished completely. But the rain wants to know everything about hope,
so I tell it You know honey, I think everything will turn out just fine
and I hold it to me drenching. I drink what I can before it dries.
Varieties of Containers
I was in a room without a trashcan or rather it feels anachronistic
to call a trashcan a trashcan cuz it’s rarely like a “can” usually
it’s more plastic or maybe even like woven straw (weird)
which to me is simply not “can” material maybe a “bin”
anyway it’s just like lunch boxes I had a lunch box as a kid it was purple
just solid purple with no dinosaurs which was fortunate
but it wasn’t really a hard thing it was a lil floppy soft thing
and so it felt weird calling it “lunchbox” cuz boxes are solid and metal
or maybe cardboard who am I to judge it was more of a lunch “container”
but really the shift from metal to plastic has changed a lot of things
for language and children and the robots of the future will probably be plastic
Plastic Astro Boy we can call him Plastroboy or Plastic MegaMan
I don’t have a pun for that and also MegaMan is not a robot
although it is worth wondering if a robot is a bin, a box, or none
of the above but let me get back to what I was saying I was in a room
with a box of Kleenex but there was no trashcan
so I sat and I thought for a while about varieties of containers
then the pleasant man came in and told me how today
nobody new would be dying
Only a little bit wrinkled, and promising some kind of danger. Still red. These are almost water, without a perceptible smell, but soft when pickled. I choose one. I pluck. It breaks. It is like a blood vessel on my palm. It releases its jelly. Jelly delivers the delicate smell of: dog shit. Roast turkey, cranberries, juniper and torn grass. Then it slips like viscera in miniature between my thumb and pointer fingers, becoming cold. A bloody, gelatinous perfume with no heartbeat and no hair, the vague scent of citrus, the memory of the temptation to eat the yew berries outside my grandmother’s house. Skin: translucent, even transparent, even window to the soul, even encasement of blood stew, which is coming undone on me, still smelling like the day after a death. Still red.
Winter at the Lake
Lines of broken black water scrawl across the dusty surface of the ice, where it has broken and reformed over night. Geese were here only days before, desperately paddling to keep small pockets of the lake from freezing. They are now nowhere to be seen. A car drives by, whipping the wind up to an unbearable chill. The old-growth conifers at the northern corner of the lake would offer more protection than the dead land of the deforested western bank.
(“What is the importance of vision in the work of John Clare? If Romantic poetry is defined by the desire to notice and describe the natural world, then vision is the primary tool of the poet. He is given the ability to see this interaction, apart from the direct interaction with nature, and so the poetic voice here transcends the natural in order to do the simple work of taking note.”)
The walk to the conifers reveals an unusual sight: at the corner of the lake there is a mysterious shape in the branches of an oak that fell into the lake years before. The trunk and a hemisphere of the oak’s sprawling, hollow breadth of branches reach out across the water, sore against the wind. The skeleton tree rattles against the ice that cuts a cold perimeter around the length of its half-submerged form, cutting out the negative spaces where the water meets its dark, damp bark. The other half of the tree must spread out like fingers in the dark beneath the solid surface of the lake. There, in the space hewn out between two weighty branches, something small is tucked and fluttering.
(“The haunted aspect of Clare’s work appears most powerfully in its subtlety. In November, haunting is both natural phenomenon and disturbance of nature, personified in the movements of the owlet, a creature of the landscape, who is acting outside of the natural order. Clare notices the ripples of this disturbance passing through the web of animals that surround her, finally arriving at the human, who is the first to invoke the word ‘ghost.’”)
The object in the ice, between the branches of the drowned oak tree, is covered in what can only be called plumage, although the actual texture of its surface would be impossible to determine at this distance. The realization that it is feathered is followed by the interminable wait. The hope is that it will move. It must move. It must be either animate or inanimate. If it is animate, then it will move, or it will not move. If it does not move, it might be dead. If it is dead, it might be inanimate. If it is inanimate, then either it is dead or never was alive. If it never was alive, then what is fluttering in the wind? Rocks, for example, do not flutter. If it was once alive, and is now dead, then it would not move when disturbed. I will wait for it to move.
(“Humans, like animals, are part and parcel of the landscape to which they belong. Syntactically leveling the field between human and animal has two primary effects in Clare’s work: the ennobling of the animal world and the reunion of human and natural surroundings.”)
A rock I throw from the bank breaks the ice only feet from the fluttering form. No reaction. I follow it up with a hail of desperate rocks that land one after the other and break the ice in small, controlled explosions until the once-smooth swath of grey ice is pock-marked with dark bruises where water is bubbling through and lapping in small black pools, flat under the weight of the arctic air. No movement. No sound but the howl of wind. There, on the tundra of the western bank of the lake, close to the shadow of conifers, I think I see – in a vision that falls into the murky category of sensation that is neither quite lived experience nor quite hallucination – the shadow of the object’s neck.
(“It is the human […] that is an aspect and symbol of nature. Clare is not interested in the use of pathetic fallacy in the same way his predecessors were. Instead, by placing the human in the context of our natural surroundings, by describing the movements of the human only in relationship to the pressures and whims of nature, Clare is inviting us to see ourselves as part of the landscape, and something very small. Mostly, our peers are songbirds. Clare’s refusal to indulge in metaphor subverts the androcentricity and andro-supremacy of the earlier part of the Romantic era.”)
A rock. Another rock. A hundred rocks do not convince the silent thing to move its silky neck. It must be a neck. When I step onto the ice, the shock of my weight sends an electric, popping rumble hurtling across the length of the lake and back again. I freeze. The small valley echoes for an instant, passing the dissipating sound of the ice back and forth across the hills until it is gone. The surface of the ice shifts, almost imperceptibly, to accommodate me. I look closer: I see the curve of an inky black neck that follows to tuck its head beneath a brown-grey wing on the body of a bird that has been frozen into the ice. It is dead.
(Time dies. Fields are harvested and then they die. People die. And life, it appears, continues on without us. Death, through Clare’s remarkably objective lens, comes out looking as if it were part of the weather […] There is no final hallelujah; there is no wish for or promise of something more. It is his sheer simplicity that strips death bare of image, name and status as a noun. Instead, death is a verb. Death is something we all do, because it is a function of time. Time, which carries us forward, which ripens crops, which brings new storms, which chases weeks with more weeks and seasons with more seasons, time which dies and is reborn, is inescapable. In this way, Clare’s description of time is not linear but cyclical. A time that dies cannot be eternal; it must start and start again. Everything dies as a function of time, and so nothing can die eternally. In a nonlinear view, nothing falls off the surface of the infinite line of time to live in another reality, but instead comes around over and over again, as if each life were a thought that cannot escape the mind of God who is going crazy little by little and refuses to let us go. Time is reborn. The work, it appears, goes on.”)
I am breathing in air that stiffens my bronchial tubes just before it enters and opens my lungs, and I wonder if this is what it feels like to begin the process of freezing to death. I am watching a dead bird trapped in the surface of the ice. Its body must be very, very cold now. At home, there are piles of bio notes waiting to by memorized. I recall something vague about apoptosis, the self-destruction of cells. There are clothes that need folded. There is work, and time, that demand attention. So I, cyclical, and inescapable as I am, go home. And although I almost want it to, the ice does not give way.
The road from Washington is straight and hanging heavy over the Chesapeake. Stretched pregnant, ready for renovation but no trucks moan. Her route reaches the country’s edge in under 3 hours. It floats, even now, along the olive freshwater and funnels into the Atlantic. She does how they do here, afloat on a Hobie far past the break.
It’s only been three months but hot and branding are her growing feet: into each crab house stair and down a flight and up two more and down again and down one more for a joint on the back stoop with Ann and up another back to work and down one out the door and across the street and on the ocean floor and along the edges of a foam learning board. Beside the bed of a man who won’t move to Hawaii and then, finally, back home. Six hour glasses of wine. All this summer fun: He is thirty. Fishtail boards aren’t popular but he favors them anyway. The babes toss their braids at him and lap at all uniqueness. All this summer fun. Swell begins to shy.
She feels the burning palms of her arches on the spill of beer on backyard grass. Soak in. A bonfire at dusk: someone’s toddler fills up the bong water. She wraps her hand in the child’s own for a dance to the Allman Brothers because it turns out that there is nothing closer to everything than the palm of this ripe human. Unstained, she thinks, bleach on our blemishes. She can’t approach the thirty year old’s bed inside, but behind her tanned, closed lids he rubs her back tenderly and brings her to his surfing competitions. She’s still stumbling over the old song lyrics and dancing with someone else’s child curled close, a sponge on her dream.
Her dresses graze the grass and she tosses the skirts around the way all her friends do. Hanging from her scalp are static yellow locks cropped to the ribs’ ends but yes, she has a degree from Washington College. Ask about the specimens. Request a map of the xylem routes in red pen on loose-leaf. I have a degree, you will learn. She: once waif-like, a waistless line. Weeks have passed since then, and her friends stay wasted into fall, eyes wide for the waves’ revival. She knows better. It is the eighties now, their time has passed. She has hips now, has felt the moon crack inside her, crack like the coconuts that Delaware doesn’t have. A fine world, this year is; a fine entrance point for what lay waiting. Her marble eyes keep rolling. All this summer fun.
China blue cradles breast milk pool,
refill. Watch hound slinks off as I wake Wake.
Citrine reflections off morning prisms. Hour hands as stop-
light reminders as rifles as lozenges
and hopes fall far from tree to fingertip.
My first traces in ink incunabula in
a pigeon claws’ clutch.
Someday in this waking world watch
a crawl cross floorboards, fatten vases full with petunias.
There must be a million others. I must be a million others.
I am an action star
on my first rescue mission.
I jump from a plane & die
a total of three times
before the film falls.
I come back
to an interstellar
playground teeming with lovers.
They swarm the jungle
gym lit by the expanse
of stars. Celestial
bodies; never closer.
Venus looked more like Mars
than ever before.
You are there.
You are writing your memoir.
I offer you
a cigarette. You say
No, thank you.
Your eyes opaque.
I dip my hand,
& touch the marks
on your wrist.
They leap from you.
You mutter something.
I reply, I know.
You walk away to the one
you should have loved.
I hug myself
as moonlight crawls
& falls on the floor,
& solidifies into silver island-nations.
There is no end in sight. The waves like hot
hands pawing. The lip of the horizon brushes
your waist. You seem so small. The pale moon
invades you. Your knees shake at the beating
wind which wraps around you like a tongue.
Your clothes whip at you. It is not too
quiet when we go. Some call these noises
bliss, but you are awash in something dangerous,
Toward the ocean's maw you walk. What can hurt you
does. Your feet raise because they must. Your hair
is always falling. The strands look like static
in the sand. Your body: lithe, erratic,
an internal dial turned too low, too long
stuck on mute. How it happens then.
We dance on the shore. You step in glass
without my ever noticing.
Boring Old Jack
Five Sessions on Overcoming Difficulties
I was confidently mountain biking, which is weird because I’ve never done that before. I saw this “sick jump” and I knew I had to take it. Suddenly, I was up in the air and about to fall off a cliff but I wasn’t scared. I saw the edge of the cliff and I grabbed it at just the right time. I got up and then this guy came over and he asked if I was alright. I said, “Yeah, but I almost fell off that cliff.” We looked down and the bottom of the cliff was about nine feet below us. I asked him how far he thought that was. He said, “About nine feet.”
The Third Walrus
There were three Easter eggs, and I knew that each of them was poisonous. I didn’t know which one to pick. I looked up and nobody was waiting for me to pick but I knew I had to pick. So I picked the one on the left. Somebody, I think it was me, opened it and it was filled with gelt. Nobody asked me what I thought was in it, but I remember answering with, “This is bright gold gelt.”
Package for delivery. I couldn’t read the name, but that was okay. A big walrus gave me the package and I remember because it was big. And the flippers.
There was no way that walrus could have held the package, I’m no Suskamachoo. So the walrus disappeared and then I was in a cave with a really big boiling pot. And that was pretty scary, I’ll admit that.
Frank the Walrus
This was the last train to Clarksville and I was at the station. I didn’t know what time it was but it didn’t seem like things worked like that in Clarksville. But then I realized that I wasn’t in Clarksville yet.
Frank Walrus is a thing of which I cannot conceive.
Frank Walrus does not love me and Frank Walrus certainly does not love you. Frank Walrus is love in absentia; he is a void with no love and no waffles-Magorium. Who even is Frank Walrus? Frank Walrus is just some proper noun wordsmash with vague allusions to God and the Tao and the mystic Saint Josephine. Whatever. Fuck it. Fuck Frank Walrus.
Frank Walrus might eat your children, I don’t know. Frank Walrus donates to every cause you hate and avidly boycotts those that you love. Fuck it. Frank Walrus isn’t shit, spit on his image.
Do not let Frank Walrus into your life. All he wants is waffles-Magorium and I have no more to give. His diplomatic lectures were never more than cornflakes. Wake yourself from this dream of who you once thought Frank Walrus was, but know that the harder you try, the more impossible it will become. To struggle against Frank Walrus is to accept Frank Walrus as something where you and I both know that Frank Walrus is nothing. This dream species cake-in-hand hoodlum is codswallop. Frank Walrus is done, he’s gone. Right now.
You won, you beat him. There is no more Frank Walrus and, from now on, you get to keep all the waffles-Magorium. You are mystic Saint Josephine.
I walk to the Black poet. I stand before the Black poet. I say, Black Poet, I heard what you said, I hear you. Black Poet shakes my outstretched hand. I grip the hand as if its grip will squeeze all the caught blood out of my face and into the handshake. Black Poet says, Thank you for coming. Black Poet glances at my bushy hair and my flat nose, and then to my pale yellow face. Black Poet does not linger on my grey-blue eyes. For a moment, I expect recognition. Black Poet glances to the heads in line behind me. Goodbye Black poet, I say. Hello, Black Poet says to the heads behind me. I take one hundred and fifty large steps. I let each year pass. I am Black, I say to the miles between the Black Poet and me. Alright, Black Poet says to the space.
YOU ARE A WEB-CAM MODEL FOR CHATURBATE.COM
The way you see it we’re all just trading goods
and services. Still, every time you do it there’s
this feeling behind your belly button like when
you look out of a particularly high window in a
building, in a sky scraper, or when you look out
over a cliff. You love that feeling. It’s weird,
watching yourself, because it feels like you’re
watching a stranger. You’re performing for
yourself, that’s the only person you can see, but
it’s different than looking in a mirror. There are
fragments of yourself that flake away when you
have experiences like this. I don’t mean flaking
in the sense that you’re falling apart, but that
you’re fracturing yourself into smaller pieces,
smaller separate images of yourself that live in
other places. There’s the original image, and
then there’s the image your parents have of you,
the image your boyfriend has, there’s the image
your friends at home have in their heads—what
you look like to them when they can’t see you
and imagine you off at school doing whatever it
is you do. There’s an infinite amount of images
when you start to think about it, and if you think
about it too long, it’s hard to remember which
one came first. You don’t think about it too
much. Now, you’re in bed, and you’re looking
at this image of yourself and you start taking off
your clothes, and you’re making eye contact
with yourself the entire time, wondering if that’s
what other people see when they look at you.
But They don’t care about any of this stuff—the
real things you think about while you’re
spreading yourself open for them. They are busy
buying a fantasy. Most of the guys are older,
and into the little girl thing, even though they
don’t admit it. You always get that one guy who
won’t stop calling you his daughter, and that can
get pretty fucked up. But it’s easy to block
people from your room. You’re not even visible
to most of the northeast. You’re so easily
transported and hidden it’s like you’re not
human. They love telling you what to do. It
makes things easier that way, because then the
whole show starts to feel like you’re not really
there, it’s just a rental. It’s just your body, just a
picture of your body.
YOU ONLY LET BOYS WHO HATE YOU LOVE YOU
You are fourteen years old exactly (it’s your
birthday) and you hear yourself say that
you’ve never done something like this
before (which is not a lie technically).
You’re just glad the boy laying next to you
doesn’t say anything about the elastic
showing in the waistband of your
underpants. For some reason that makes you
feel safe because you thought he might have
laughed at you. But he’s too focused on the
squish-squish sound coming from between
your legs. It makes you nervous because it
feels like you peed your pants, but you were
too embarrassed to google what it meant to
finger someone when he asked if he could
do it to you, so you’re not sure if he’s doing
it wrong. When he pulls down your shorts
he asks if everything is cool and you know
you’re supposed to say yes—he said he just
wanted to see what it felt like—but it
doesn’t feel anything like a tampon when he
sticks his fingers inside you (or what you
imagined that would feel like)(what your
sister said it would feel like). You smile and
you breathe slow to make it sound like
you’re enjoying it (you should be enjoying
it). You think that maybe people like the
way this feels, the way his fingers make you
hurt. He says your pussy feels like a soggy
hot dog bun. You know he’s going to tell his
friends. You’re worried you’re doing it
wrong. You’re worried he feels bad for you
and that you’ll never get another chance do
this ever, not with the beautiful perfect boy.
You think maybe you love him. And now
you’re blowing your one shot to prove you
are a grown-up adult woman, so you fake
moan and say you love it. But it’s too
intimate to have another human being inside
of you, so for a minute you pretend that you
aren’t fourteen in the guest bedroom of your
best friend's house with a boy you barely
know whose meanness you misread as
“passionate.” You pretend that you’re a
grown-up woman and that you want this.
But you’re only fourteen years old, with a
pair of underwear your mother bought you
wrapped around your knees. You don’t even
know that you’re pretending. When it’s over
you know you didn’t cum like you read you
were supposed to. He just stopped and laid
next to you and looked out the window, and
when you asked if you could kiss him he
went to wash his hands.
ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS SECRETLY HATE YOU AND THEY EVEN HAVE A CLUB
They probably meet once a week, at least.
They’re very very organized and have an
agenda to get through every meeting and
someone takes the minutes to send out to all
those who couldn’t make it. They start with
attendance and snacks, and then they make a
joke to get things started. Everyone takes a seat.
They have a list of all the things you did that
week, and things they still haven’t resolved
from the last meeting. 1) You talk too much. 2)
Your honesty is more like brutality. 3)
Sometimes you treat people like objects. 4) You
are too cold, and you never seem to care about
anything. 5) You are too ugly and untalented to
be their friend in the first place. They make sure
everything is written down neatly, to be
transcribed into records for posterity. Then they
open it up to a group discussion. Everyone
laughs at how easy it is to keep the club a secret
from you. Even though you’re suspicious, they
lie to your face about how much they love you.
You try to catch them in the act, but they keep
changing where they meet and you can never
find them in time. They tell you it’s all in your
head, they say that you are paranoid. You are
not paranoid. One day they will slip up, and
leave behind the piece of paper with the
scribbled information about their club’s secret
meeting place, and you will show up right in the
middle, in time for snacks, and you will say: I
knew it. I knew it all along.
There’s a file on me made of bark,
oozing amber, full.
I get comfort from those who are still
in the woods
from the way they bite the hot bent
thighs of the birch, how they swell
and march for the pods in the brush.
Today I outlaw the pin.
I’ve seen ruptures
and sewers of gum.
If I don’t keep my legs crossed like this
blue locusts come spurting out.
The keys drop onto the table
while you burn my fur coat.
The white paste of my mouth
sticks onto yours, touching
the fur at your cuffs, ripping
the smut from your hairy throat.
Earlier I saw the paws bat the berries
bloated in your skin; I caught seed.
Believe me, I am waiting for the fluff,
the mess. I am never softer
I hang around on spinning wheels
in a warehouse with a lake in it.
By the inflatable trees that pass
over the cold snaps of the people
in the security monitor.
Here, I lean into the willow; here
the witch walks out of the water and tells me
if the hard ropes I’m heaving are too much
I should swing out a sacrifice to her
to feel my hair wet against my back.
I’ve met human teeth; do you not know I wish
I could forget what I’ve been patrolling?
For once I’d like to pass the chain link and fail
to see more than some paint
glistening in the gravel.
I want your armies to put the spikes down.
If we could just for a moment change our trades
you can be the one to hold the barbs to their skin
and I will put in new fashion batteries
for one night where I do not clatter,
Something is wrong with me. I know it.
Last week, I nearly threw myself down the mouth
of the kitchen sink. Then, I slipped away,
only to be found, shaken, at the bottom
of the sheets. I can still remember when I was
perfect. How I curled around you like a pet
that rolls over just to feel itself submit.
Now I don't fit. You bring me to a man
who says he can change me. He says words
like tarnished and minimum. He takes your hand
and already I am gone from you. Next, he holds me
to the light, searching for flaws. Something
in his eyes looks very sure. But I will not
budge. I am too committed to be fixed.
We move into the back room. He examines
my circumference. Everywhere, the wink
of metal instruments. His hands are rough
from burns. He gives me water. I am set upon
a throne of stone. He says value is a pressure
that gives way. Then, heat, a biting serpent.
Call me your little lady, your sterling
darling. Don't be afraid. I, too, am
manmade. I was born heated and beaten
into what they call loveliness. With all
the deftness that allows you to forget
the size and weight of every promise,
My Bomb Shelter
My bomb shelter has four levels. You enter through a spiral staircase. The top floor is the reception/detox area.There are facilities for washing off radiation, and a partition to quarantine any diseased people. There is an emergency eyewash station. There are a few chairs. The manhole that leads to the next level is made of stainless steel and only I can open it.
If I opened the manhole for you, you would climb down a ladder. This is my work floor. There is a small laboratory. My scientist friends have recommended some useful chemicals and instruments. I’m no scientist, but I would hate to be trapped down here without a few beakers.
The arms locker is also on this floor. A couple of my gun-nut friends took care of this one. I’m not crazy about guns myself, but I am quite confident that I will be able to defend the bomb shelter. Besides the guns, I have a nice collection of blunt objects as well. I would hate to run out of ammunition and have nothing to fight my way out with.
There is a small gym on this floor as well. My bodybuilder friend recommended a bowflex, and Linda from work recommended a treadmill, which I thought was more sensible. I also have a punching bag that might come in handy. I don’t really work out much. I prefer to get my exercise outside, walking. But I would hate for my muscles to atrophy if I had to be down here for years.
This floor alone cost me millions, and that’s not even considering what it costs to power it. I have three generators, buried with forty-thousand gallons of fuel, not to mention the solar plant on the surface. Losing power would be a nightmare. Even if the power goes out in the entire rest of the world, I still want to be able to play my records and read by lamplight.
The record player is on the third-deepest floor. This floor is my sanctum. If security was breached on the top two floors, I could seal this manhole, the thickest manhole, and still be able to live out the rest of my days in peace down here. My bedroom is here. It’s smaller and safer than my bedroom on the surface, and it has more of my favorite art on the walls. The walls are authentic wood and painted a deep blue. I like this bedroom better than my real bedroom. This is the bedroom that I would stay in for the rest of eternity, if I had to stay in one bedroom for the rest of eternity.
The reading room is my favorite room on this floor. There is barely enough room for the chair and the record player between the bookshelves and the artificial fireplace. It almost feels warm in here. The bookshelves go up to the ceiling, and they make me feel more secure than the four-foot thick slab of steel above my head.
I have collected here not just my favorite books, but the books I think would be the most valuable to a future civilization. Along with dictionaries, atlases and encyclopedias, I have all the great classics of literature, and a pretty good record collection too. I have enough fragments of culture to start civilization again if I needed to, and I’ll never get bored.
My food stores are buried on the deepest level. This is by far the largest floor in my bomb shelter. It resembles a massive, cavernous warehouse, stacked wall to wall with cans. It took me years to collect them all. But I don’t just have non-perishables. I have a freezer, filled with my favorite delicacies. And maybe someday, long after the last cow has died, I will sit down to a steak dinner and listen to Mozart in my bomb shelter.
I hope I never have to use this bomb shelter. I really do. Some people don’t believe me, seeing as it’s taken me so much of my life to build it. I do come down here often, sometimes for hours, sometimes even days, before returning to the surface. I like it here, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped here forever. I keep thinking that the worst will happen, and it hasn’t so far. But if the worst really does happen, and everything on the surface is destroyed, I have a bomb shelter with four levels. And you would be welcome to come and stay.
It’s even easier than usual to think about how little you’ve accomplished when you live in a soul-crushing heat trap of an apartment. The factory was such a place. Renovated with habitability as an afterthought, the brick facade still housed a gun drill factory on the first floor. The entryway made me worry about getting cancer even more than all the things that I do that will give me cancer, but at least it was air conditioned. Upstairs a stifling heat ruled the place, growing more and more leaden the nearer I got to my apartment door. In the windowless main room four fans rattled constantly as they stirred the thick sedentary air. Inside the apartment I was shirtless, often pantless, suckling on freeze pops like a chainsmoker to cool off.
Sometimes I went outside to smoke. I would pace the gravel parking lot in the hot sun, venting out clouds of smoke and sweating. It provided a momentary break from the stillness of the factory, walking outside and back in again, once every hour or so until I could go somewhere else. The brief exercise of walking inside and out helped stave off the dissatisfaction of choosing between one hot, inhospitable place and another.
For three people we generated an alarming amount of trash. Most of the food I ate came out of little disposable plastic bags which I opened and then put into little resealable plastic bags. Sticky freeze pop sleeves were scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. Cigarette butts were also scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. I wish that all my favorite types of food didn’t have to leave wrappers behind them like little bits of incriminating evidence. All food should come in a blank white package that dissolves instantly upon being opened and leaves no trace of the consumer devouring his prey. Either that or all food should come stamped with health warnings bigger than the label itself and that lie around your apartment long after they’ve been emptied out, like on the packs of duty-free cigarettes Eliot brought back from Europe.
The weekend before we moved out of the factory we drove up to Brattleboro. Up in the mountains, the trees were already turning red. Premature patches of fall color crackled like embers in the late summer green. Lately chilly days had been flickering over town as if someone had been toggling a light switch back and forth between hot and cold, and apparently this had been confusing the trees.The flickering red of their leaves outside the window gave me the impression that I had not seen nearly enough of the world, and probably never would.
Eliot drove too fast as usual, but I figured it was more comfortable inside the car than outside of it. I glanced anxiously between the scenery and the road, watching up ahead for an impending accident that I knew I would be powerless to prevent if it happened.
Science says that summers are getting hotter every year and winters are getting colder every year and the two of them are getting closer together every year, or something like that. Science says that driving too fast makes it more likely that you’ll have an accident, and that it wastes more gas, or something like that. Science says that if you smoke too much you’ll get cancer and if you smoke even a little bit you might get cancer and if you’re around too many people who smoke you might get cancer but you can still quit before it’s too late and even if it is too late you can make it less too late if you quit, or something like that.
The factory was not a good place to be stoned but it was a worse place to be sober. Getting high was not quite as enjoyable as it used to be, but it was more enjoyable than thinking. When I was out of weed I would pace around the factory neurotically, feebly but anxiously trying to coax myself into action before inevitably breaking down to scrape resin. My most consistent source of resin was a glass pipe shaped like a hollow fish. As I chipped the black pieces of residue off the inner walls of the smoke chamber, I wondered if the insides of me and the insides of the fish looked the same by now, both of them having held their fair share of smoke.
I lit the resin and it crackled and glowed red. I didn’t want to think about what the resin was doing to me. I didn’t want to think about garbage and hotter summers and cancer and boredom. Thankfully, the resin took care of that.
August 30, year any
Now that there is only one day between me and Other Continent, I am unsure about how accurately I have packed. It is mathematical: as the hours lessen, my doubts grow – an awful inverse proportion! Have I calculated correctly the number of items required for each of the five months? How absurd: using the same suitcase traveling back and traveling to! Builders of suitcases should take into consideration that the same suitcase will be used multiple times; sometimes it ought to fit a one-month large memories, sometimes eleven months worth of items.
(but really just hours later because the last entry was past midnight)
Trouble! I had finally gone through each item in the suitcase, and in closing it I had to press with with my whole body and a metal chair - I had done it, it was done. And now this!
I have agreed to meet an old friend who came to bid me goodbye: not only did this goodbye take more than two hours but he, as he kissed my cheek, dropped something in my hand and told me that I ought to take it along!
The weight of it was horrific, and it took me good five minutes to even look at it in fear that my gaze upon it would add to the burden.
It was a small leather bag, but the weight made it feel - undoubtedly - larger than my suitcase.
Seconds felt like minutes and a paralyzing anxiety made its statement through sweat on my forehead as I was opening the bag. The bag had buttons, and I spent a fair share of seconds with each of them – there were exactly six – as I went through all the possible excuses I had stored in the past years, searching for the one that I could use to set aside this unexpected burden.
But then I opened the bag, and almost fainted: not out of joy but due to despair! None of my excuses would ever possibly cover such a thing: he had given me his beating heart.
How was I supposed to say that I would not take my friend's heart with me? What would that heart do beating to an abandoned room? There aren't even clocks there to beat back!
Trouble! I better go figure out how to fit this thing in my suitcase, and I will think about its content once it's packed.
I did not manage to fit the leather bag into my suitcase, so I had to carry it with me on the plane.
Oh the terror when I was asked if I could be carrying anything potentially dangerous!
I was just one menacing look away from bursting into tears and saying that I practically have an AK-47 with me; but the officer scanned the small leather bag and said nothing. I think his uniform prevented the flow of emotion that would sound the alarm: the officer saw nothing dangerous about someone's heart traveling with me. Voilà!
September 5, hours later
The heart ocasionally bleeds, which does not surprise me; after all, it was a twelve-hour flight and then a twenty-three minute walk to The Motel.
Still, what an impressive heart – such a long way from home, yet still so full and beating!
I cannot really place it in The Motel, so I am going to leave it in the small leather bag for now; I will think about its contents once I'm Home.
I was about to leave The Motel and had almost forgotten the small leather bag; no wonder, after so much packing! It was much lighter this time, and when I opened it I noticed that the heart has decreased in size. I wonder if it needs something...hearts don't need to be watered, do they?
I hope all the natural light at Home does it some good.
October 1, hours later
Horrific! The heart kept beating irregularly throughout the whole trip, which was almost three hours long. The taxi driver seemed like a decent man, so I asked him about the needs of a heart; how horrible he was to me!
Apparently he had once given his heart to someone, and apparently that someone was better at carrying hearts around than I am. Does he know what this heart has put me through, this burden?!
Why did he take his heart back then, if the person was so good at carrying it? Has it gotten too small to be taken care of?
I have placed the heart into the light, yet it still keeps withering. What more could a heart possibly need? Water?
I am clueless – I hope it sorts its terrible heartbeats out soon.
January 3, year new
The heart has shrunk. It can no longer, by no means, be displayed! And what a beautiful, full heart it once was.
Oh well - I have put it in a drawer now. In a few days, when I am about to fly back to Continent, I will finally be able to fit it in the suitcase. It is no more than a size of a walnut, and just as hard so no damage can be done to it. Good!
There is darkness, I know it.
Locked inside a body brimming,
oilslick oil threatens to black miles of sea.
I could black anything.
In therapy the doctor says You are so black
as if she is knowing for the first time,
her soil-eyes narrow and I say: Yes
meaning: the darkness is absolute.
I’m sorry in advance.
I unlatch my mouth
to speak and the world
God’s hot breath is gold.
I cannot hear what he’s saying.
Let me lift my head and listen.
Away is always beautiful, the color is right, the lighting is perfect. It is always the perfect distance from where you are. That’s why the inclination is to run to it, to run away. You don’t take your time; when you get your chance you run.
I think I was born to leave. There have always seemed to be some kind of forces pulling me away from our little town, ever since sitting on the front stoop of our tiny first house and asking every person passing by where he or she was going.
In second grade I liked playing the part of the dramatic child by sitting on the edge of our rickety-wooden playground, legs dangling, while the other kids chased each other and flipped off swings and accosted the family of bunny rabbits that lived under the bridge. I’d sit out there on the edge and spend all of recess staring out past the corn at the deep green hills that rolled on and on. I remember feeling pulled toward something out there—something I couldn’t see but could feel deep in my eight-year-old bones. And then, of course, Andrew Page would tap my shoulder and ask if he could take a turn and any sense I had of being a special little snowflake deflated immediately.
I think the real fantasies of actually leaving started when we moved into the big white house on the edge of town. There was a field back beyond the yard that grew crops in rotation: corn, corn, soybeans, corn. I was nine when we settled there and I started dreaming of packing a bag of tuna sandwiches and walking into those tall, mysterious stalks to somewhere far away. I didn’t know where I would go; I just wanted to start walking. Our cat Minnie once slipped out the basement door and got to live my dream, but she only came back three days later weighing five pounds less and matted with dirt and fleas.
As life got meaner all I thought about more and more was leaving, escaping. There began the obsession with airports, airplanes, hot air balloons, helicopters, those BW vans with mattresses in the back; birds that could fly and birds that couldn’t; flight attendants; the travel channel and on occasion the food network if Rachel Ray went anywhere interesting. Streaked across the sky geese flew south in the fall and part of me went with them.
I don’t know how it started but I know that by the end there was no doubt in my mind it was the place I needed to leave, the place and all its people. But even cursing the invisible bars of the town it was impossible to stay angry at something as beautiful as Black Earth. In the summer everything flushed green and the country had a heartbeat that made the leaves on the trees pick up and come back down with the wind. I’ve spent days trying to think up the right words to describe the color that the sun turns just before it dips down behind the hills, but there are no words to put you right where I’ve been. It’s the kind of light that’ll fill your whole body enough to make it feel like any second you might float up and away. Just before you do, though, something sour always yanks you down at the ankles: the inborn and almost imperceptible hate that permeates the soil.
It isn’t loud, this hate. It grows up with the corn and spreads smooth between the layers of bread and butter at dinner. This hate’s old as the iron train tracks that have run through town since the beginning, when anyone here still had hope. You can taste it rusty like blood under your tongue, like tornadoes picking up barns in August, angry like the pastor locked up for hitting his babies with a wooden mallet whenever they cried during services. It’s bitter and fresh in some places, like “fag” written on your best friend’s locker and families fighting over money they all know is gone. It’s hate so deep that the town has been slowly destroying itself for years like an immune system confused. I will see Black Earth die in my lifetime, just like they told us we would when we were little and couldn’t see the cracks in our perfect pretty world.
The tricky part is seeing past the good, heart-swelling parts: driving up to the farm after school and hurling hay out of the back of a pick up truck while the maintenance boys drive around to the different horse pastures; Sundays on our 12-foot fishing boat; weeknights catching crawdads in the creek. Days that made you feel proud at the end of them, tired and a little dirty and filled up full with crisp fresh air.
The photograph I love most in this world is of my third grade class, the fourteen-or-so of us all hanging on the monkey bars in front of a blue blue sky—blue so deep I can still taste it on my tongue. In the picture we are perfect in overalls and toothy smiles, squinting from the brightness of the day. I don’t even remember Mrs. Taylor taking the picture, but in my mind she looks through the disposable lens and knows that she’s caught us in that tiny clear rectangle forever just for an instant—an instant that’s come to speak for so many lost years. I do not know how to reconcile forgetting the texture of whole years of my life, instead substituting in a flat word like “happy” and hoping it’s true.
An instant in time, her finger pressing down. I can relive it over and over even if she is dead. She is pressing down the button and we are smiling because we really are happy and the sun feels warm and sweet like honey and nothing can ever be wrong. Not in that instant.
She pressed down and the camera clicked. Years went by and everything changed and she sent the photo to me in an envelope with my name on it. Then she went home to Virginia and lay in a bed until cancer ate her up and death took all of her memories of us with her. Less and less remains.
I loved that town and I think that’s what broke my heart the most—that it didn’t want me by the time I had grown old enough to understand it. I tried to keep on loving it, but it hurt to wake up and it hurt to look at the faces and it hurt not to understand why a place I loved hated me. No one could understand why on God’s green earth I would ever want to leave this town that was so small it didn’t even show up on the channel five weather radar.
So for the last few years I had to stay there I resolved to leaving in all the ways a person can while still standing in the room. I left them all inside my mind, said goodbye to friends and family without them even noticing. I became the empty girl they thought me to be, smiling at the right times and screaming in the backyard later on. In my head I held pictures of far away places that I would run to as soon as my sentence was up and I was free. No one knew.
Towards the end, on one of those dark January afternoons when no one has the heart to turn the lights on so early, I was in the middle of a period when I hardly left my bed for weeks unless I had to. I lie in there with my door closed and cried for all the places I wasn’t, and the one that I was. Just then I had come down to get a glass of water. My dad leaned up against the counter next to me. I saw in his eyes that he was worried, he and my mom both were, that any second now I might do something drastic. They weren’t wrong; those days I felt like breaking everything in the house, or shaving my head, or running somewhere far away and leaving them forever, but my heart was too tired for any action. Two hands clutching the countertop, he told me “we can take a trip.” They were empty, useless, loving words. We both knew there was no trip; there was no money, no time. He said it because he was afraid. I filled my glass, and didn’t look at him when I told him “Sure, let’s take a trip.”
I stuck out that year of fill-in-the-bubble tests and presentations on the benefits of pursuing careers in finance and/or orthodontia from a guidance counselor who believed in spraying his clothes with Febreze instead of washing them and I figured out how to run away without breaking any rules. So I ran away to Vermont with all the paper work in order.
The satisfaction of leaving was entirely as wonderful as I imagined it would be all those years—to drive away from that town and not know when I’d see it again was something I’d been waiting for in some ways for my entire life. It helped that the place I chose to escape to was special in that it would take me in wholly and I could start again completely new.
When I go back I’m always surprised that no one in the grocery store stops me, amazed at how I’ve changed, how different I look from everyone else there. No one even gives the sideways glances I always expected; no sign hangs above my head flashing in neon “THE GIRL WHO LEFT.” Occasionally a neighbor will ask me how Virginia is and I’ll tell her that Vermont is beautiful, but by then she’s always stopped listening.
Something else happened, though, after I left Black Earth: I stopped loving airports. They are romantic until you’re standing at the gate, looking at people you love and feeling like a criminal for leaving. The magic of the in-between has been lost on me now that I have anchors on either end. I don’t know which end to call home. When I close my eyes I am still the girl stuck in front of the blue blue sky, legs hanging down with a bandana in my hair, stuck forever in that sunny day, looking out at nothing.
Eyes open, here is a whole different world, the one I chose. No matter how long I keep my eyes shut that other world is gone. I have the picture and a few others and the memories of growing up in wide-open spaces drenched in warm sun. I go back there in my mind but can’t stay too long, or else the hate seeps through and ruins everything.
This world, now, is finally a place that doesn’t hurt to stay. I will leave it but for more loving reasons. I got out of the place I was meant to and the rest of the world is empty of the invisible bars Black Earth held around it that I fought against for so many years. I will leave this place just like I left Black Earth but the difference is that here there is nothing to forgive.
Young and Loaded
We made it to Florida and it’ muggy as all fucking hell. The bugs ain’t helping either but we got to keep the windows in the truck down all night long, it’s so hot. Having to piss woke me up. Cheyenne’s lying half on top of me but when I gotta piss I gotta piss and I just push her off. She doesn’t even wake up; her mouth just hangs wide open and drools all on the backseat. Real nice. I grab the gun from the glove box before getting out just ‘cuz this park&ride isn’t like a real friendly-seeming place.
The guy we lifted the truck from in Georgia had the gun sitting in here like it was just for us or something. It’s a pretty gun, too—one of those .357 Magnums—not any of that BB gun shit for going at squirrels.
I push it in my back pocket and walk a little ways away from the truck to the grass. The goddamn bugs are buzzing so loud it’s like they’re inside my head, the stupid things. I’m pissing on the grass and they’re everywhere, and the air’s so thick I can’t hardly breathe, and I think maybe Florida’s not so great. We won’t be staying here long anyway.
“What’re you doin’?” Cheyenne yells from the truck like I’m not allowed to piss without her knowing. I can’t hardly see her except the messed-up blond hair all over her head.
“I’m taking a piss, that ok?” She starts walking over. I zip my pants up and light a cigarette.
“I just got scared when you weren’t in there,” she says.
“I wasn’t gonna wake you up. Settle down, woman.” She scrunches up her smile in the dark. I know she likes when I call her woman ‘cuz she’s only thirteen and no one calls her that.
This whole plan was her own idea. I had a court appointment coming up that I was gonna skip anyway, and then she said we should just go, get out of Kentucky, and I said yeah okay. We were both sick of getting shit from everyone about me being old and she being young, like it’s some kind of horrible thing. I never met a thirteen-year-old like Cheyenne, though. When I saw her standing outside school waiting for her ride home, looking at her phone and swinging her legs turning all around, all I thought was “I want that.”
Now she’s reaching out for me to give her a drag and with her makeup all smeared she doesn’t look like much. The smoke comes out of her mouth and it’s so hot, the air and ground and everything feels wet and like it weighs a million pounds.
“Is there any more beer?” She asks.
“Nah, it’s gone. Tomorrow I’ll find somebody to get us some.” She hands me back the cigarette, almost out now. Then neither of us says anything for a while, and all we can hear is the bugs. We’re both just looking out at nothing in the dark.
“You love me, Dalton?” she asks out of nowhere.
“Sure, baby come’re,” I say and grab her ass. She laughs a little but pulls away.
“Seriously! You love me, right?”
I tell her, “I stole us a truck, and did three Walmarts and a gas station with you. What’dya think, I’m gonna bail?” I can still see the stupid look on all the cashiers’ faces, scanning people’s Mountain Dew and cheese balls and hot pockets like nothing in the world could ever be wrong. Not one of them looked over at us; we were just a couple a’ kids. A couple of smart motherfucking kids. But she’s still looking at me all sad, so I say, “Yeah I love you.”
“I love you too,” she says and kisses me on the lips. We both smell like sweat from not showering for a couple of days.
We make out all the way back to the truck and stretch across the seats together. I start undoing my pants. She says, “I’m tired.” I say, “But I love you,” and she smiles and says “okay,” real soft. The blankets and our clothes are all soggy and fucking her is a good enough reason to have run away. We can just keep running and stealing and fucking and drinking and smoking forever, I wouldn’t mind that.
A little while later the bugs seem to get quieter.
“If you breathe slower you don’t get so hot,” she says.
Then she’s asleep again, and I’m trying to breathe slow and think about where we’ll go next. I start drifting off when I see the lights coming closer—flashing red, white, and blue and looking like American flags somebody set on fire.
The Backcall of Earth
We turned your clock again to assure your heels once more the burial mistress, her body dawned over stone the culp of the plow.
A peel of the tombing babed by swaddlecloth and grain’s eve for sunmothered tracks sooned as you were sleeped: ashore as your were born.
A road journeyed south, a hand turned astone ofsea.
Back open water cumbs to sea astone.
Aforn afrom fedwave I’ll have the wall your back was up again adipping updripping gauged whipping your skin for the cane and the cane’s holding.
A tumbling came through his feet ofland and a stone journeyed.
See him fromsun.
I’ll have his name in a place overseen and might twin at random reaching rams in the eitherribbons of fullstitched murials of my grassend.
All men find their ends in a grass.
The seabead man’s wake.
An ovulant stretch to sun.
And such a stretch nowed see him in the tracks.
And down such rode and in its midness a lady leeving lieves to let and worship milk pouring on everlimb O a nympant swim in the wombing.
And down through such midness his eye dithyrhymned the seeding rode and he tumbled not for he turned astone ofsea to hishand.
Say thee her body in a plyth how comes his mind.
A peel of the wombing he to the stone now it stones.
How he dithyrhymns the blooding the stone does it speak back:
Out of a tree came your falling.
Remnants yet of the wheel assured its shed and its vein, seconds of the best of men.
A sow to their mouthes she adores a swaddling, sea a warble babed in seed, Adam at random leads the premises.
A shower, a wettening, a lee, a sinking:
Mankind stumble forth of her lashen pore.
A pore through the sate, sapid sapient, a lactic flow.
A seasonal impulse for vision.
A trough cistans, urreligion and thurge immol, larum comes the sought a mew cleared the world and errand of further gull, this phallic vegetant beneath seas, sought is thought to see and seize grip and grasp this world all, come conscious.
Sume wroth sistrum in: the bethlam restings.
Melolaw concised and sung, sistrum sing as his eyes swing to socket and come felling trees phrygian, the midrush of sistress in the maw, the linguam guranator through mapped hulks.
How the castrants stummed, their mouthes fedmud, to be born again by their hips, O bees keep your buzzing, to be again langurous in the pollin!
He laid to wrest his mend by the collum.
He bears the great sun mooring above the dawn, ashame for his hands, thestone placed.
A coming gathered the mud.
A drevvy, saved by the well of collumb comes.
Culth stretched in the mulk.
Tull of dolmens they say gone mad.
A calculan swaled once and the hay came down in its treading.
Any tulm thames and a moon mooned and dulled and he trembled barefoot and sulked off mud for weeks and then fore out his eyes a cuncullan and smoke in the coolth he found his spittle.
A cuncullan culled, must be walls for how else such roof?
Once lade cool he found his feet upon such sill.
He knocked, or else did he knock, or did he cumb a knock on the wooden heavement hewn on the hulks.
A walled reeling and the journey where was the sea behind him.
O a heavement here such walled, he culked his feet more and O such a dreaving he did in his heave.
Where: O let him plead mudfed and enswallowed of such stone sprung rampant.
Take off the wools of grass, alain in meadow a ceilinged fire.
Off to meadow and alain come whispered mudstalks the willow that was in the branched tree clingings.
I see a silling a window that is and the walling which mends it not, save the meadow that wills in that utter istofade.
O all: it is to babe!
I know he could have washed him alive the eye the reedsreeek unseaed, the pleroma of nightshade, castrant to be langurourous, strung.
A reeds hum, a lost origin to the mending.
Come given a night, a nightbled weep, he could have for I saw the saw that feeds.
What have I been hungering, lean.
A collum colled, come cadmus, come oedipus, I saw.
A callor, a pillar, reeded, the calender recorded, apparently conceived warm in its bleed.
A simple sunstance judged not of semblance.
An origin stood away the wind stars and shoots upstance alight anight.
Her body washed in seawater, a colming came to her hair beautified.
Alast the wind scattered fore the night.
A toll for coming.
O to come catching the sillen the lofthidden wave O to be leaving my head on its sillwool to see me sirened on stone, to see over wheat the only sun a watching rise.
The fullstitched murials of my grassend.
Where all men find end.
The seabeads find wake: an ovulance.
I sunned ocean I shun, take lambe as your warden, lambleak as warning bah to bah will you see the willing in the meadow, the sun setten.
Coll cadmus come.
And a tongue! Burth curve and lamblipped, you are meadowed. The surring bah and to bah back. O, her lips on you and the deadsea dugs everwet. When archons walked hilltop. To be no curve in the meadow. Settle now for I set my stutter to lipping avowal a vestal washed not in the daying, the wetness she ran like a daygull, truly southing she laid her cold hands on herself and spoke the gullnotes through the spittle, the endlike cooing of her kicking singing fore the moon the lipnote of her breathing and as if sooned by her beading the wayman pebbled and announced himself intoned upon her road to read the plynthculp, in the mermud the reek of shell, extand from beneath his hullbones he pulled a riveread theorem and the broadawn baywinds flashed to read him his root in the marls to feed him his roost in the bedlambs and his lips mumming her body moonbroad stretched ovulant reaches she for he O say I saw forth allread with the bedlambs and the curlnote of their lapping say thee I witness thee I wash thee!
The grass: the blade: spuriant deodands. Unpurposed stone belays the field. Threads of stone run docent, droned. Be, betide, be tide, be happened. A god is behind the wall wracking the earth, searching out sound in the stone. Seeking bliss in the inner tryst of all eyes crowded by: the first siren. A god to all sailors who shall be found upon the moon. Fresh from heat I dread where his lamb wracks the earth.
Bert Rampart wrote a suicide note on Christmas Eve and put it in his wife’s stocking. He didn’t mean to do it on Christmas Eve but he meant to do it at some point and that point just happened to be the night before Christmas. Bert felt he needed to go and that he might as well go festively. It wasn’t meant to be cruel, he wasn’t reaching for the last laugh.
On Christmas morning Bert’s wife found the note in her stocking but she didn’t find Bert. She thought he must be dead. Probably drove his truck into a tree. Either that or he put one end of a tube into the exhaust pipe and wrapped the other end around and in through the driver’s side window. Rolled up the window and started the car. A quieter way to go and more like Bert. But when she went out front to see if his truck was gone from the driveway, or sitting there full of carbon monoxide, she instead found Bert standing next to it, smoking a cigarette. Snow was falling, it had been falling all night, and in the morning light the ground beneath their feet was glowing, a blinding white.
“You’ll catch a cold,” she said. “Why don’t you come on in?”
Spring turns and pushes
me into a new bed,
room with a view
O baby we’re not there
anymore and I can feel
my heart knock on a new
This place floats
which is neither good
nor bad tho always difficult -
and if you would just listen
you’d see how we’d sync
up like two hands on a wrist.
Watch me float away,
drag you right
along with me.
to Christian Skin
I want to hold you in my hands like soft mint lips
made for smashing on stone, with a glass kiss
from memory that bleeds green tears
I see through brown love cracks for eyes
that should be peeled out of their soft baby shells
and laid at the foot of your mountains as gifts
to be hung with the stars
and slide down your Christian skin sides.
More than broken violet petals or frozen pearls in blue suns twilight
I want to see a thin night sky that would hit the metal teeth of mountains
as it longed to touch their love cracked tops tops
and when the sky screamed out in shattered dust
stars would slip down the rocks to join their lovers again
for fear of ever being the crying pink bundles of sparked and fried veins
the stars would live in pools at the foot of the mounds
they are floating with their lovers there
all safe in haunted dirt lakes
lucky pink drip drop stars
always safe in reflection stature.
Just When You Thought Iced Tea Couldn’t Get Any Sexier
“Hey There, Joe.”
She chose him out of the line of many. He was tall, dark, and smelled slightly of Thai tea with a hint of mint. Mm, her favorite. How could she resist? It wasn’t hard to reel him in either. She just went up to the counter, slapped down a couple of bills, and pointed:
When they got back to her apartment, she smiled and said, “Honey, I’m going to drain you of all the 20 fl. Oz (591 ml) you’re worth.”
He stared blankly back at her, wavering ever so slightly. She could still see perspiration dripping into his rather reflective sideburns. His registered birthmark seemed to tremble in its tiny circle below his nametag. Whether he was ready or not, his time had come.
She took a step towards him in order to begin the consumption process. Wrapping her hand around his firm, rigid cap, she started to unscrew.
Bacchus as Kid, Venus as Fish
I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
When they gutted her like a fatted calf,
I crawled inside and made my home,
opened small coffee shops for artists
When they gutted her like a fatted calf
I drew bridges along her ribcage,
opened small coffee shops for artists.
I learned lessons in living smaller.
I drew bridges along her ribcage,
to reach the places I did not know.
I learned lessons in living smaller
in the flimsy world of flesh.
To reach the places I did not know
I built churches on the avenues of her bones.
In the flimsy world of flesh
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.
I built churches on the avenues of her bones
filled with half spent candles and aging idols
I installed street lamps on her sidewalks.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.
Filled with half-spent candles and aging idols:
I burnt an entire city down inside her.
She lit up like a jar of fireflies.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.
I burnt an entire city down inside my mother.
I built a city inside the belly of my mother.
I crawled inside. Made my home.
Her belly grew heavy with smoke.
My Dear Boy, the War is Over…
At the gates of Horn & Ivory I am sick
with power. Sink my teeth in the muddied
fur of beast. Growl at its feet. This is not
the hour for honest doorways. I exit hell
by the way of false dreams. In morning,
the spoons all bend to the mysterious
shape of crude letters. The teacup shivers
in my hands. The entire world is an inch
off balance, while I am filling jars
with night at your discretion: cupping
the murky sky into my palm
like a firefly between flickers. I grasp
at everything. Palm and finger
trinkets from shelves and corners. It all resists
for a moment then gives gently
with the promise of a golden bough.
The shadows that move and do not speak
frighten me. They keep me from the noble
ivory castle that I build around my heart.
In May I am gentle
with the time marking
the waxing and waning
of tongues, where I come
timid like a fawn
to my lover. Cocooned
in the interiority of the doorway
in my museumed room
in my domestic still
life, I shuck away
my grievances like gray
shored East River bones.
Endlessly quiet about
the way I’m drowning
in a sea of green apples,
the way my legs have moved me
into abstraction. I feel more and more
like a pronoun, a euphemism
like I’m not wholly I.
In June the sun is only
dazzling the dust
If the end of the world came,
I would want it to be on a day like this.
Imagine watching everyone glow in the thin setting sun,
turning them sacred. The yellow light, cast over everything,
would feel like the last of something, like leaving,
would leave everyone feeling happy
without knowing why. Then it would sap itself out of our walls,
would remove its halos from our heads,
and the moon would step up to the sky.
The cold on our cheeks would start to burn.
First, the Christmas lights would blink off,
then the streetlights and buildings, then the heat.
Engines would clamp shut from the cold.
None of this would make a sound.
You see, if the end of the world came,
I would want it to be on a day like this:
the golden sun, the empty square.
It already looks like heaven here.
A Study of Urban Botany
In England, you see a lot of flowers that bloom in the rain:
pointed petals arch downward, bouncing above the two-legged stems
that glide beneath them.
Their roots are restless and tread earth quickly,
sending neural signals to shrink the petals
back into the bud from where they began.
I've seen one of these buds dangle from a girl’s wrist,
it was pink and delicate, hanging upside down.
In full bloom the flowers tower over us, their webbed metal fingers
outstretched like the bones of a bat,
keeping us between the water that nourishes them
and the sidewalk they float above.
I know what breakfast potatoes are!
I love breakfast potatoes.
Breakfast potatoes are my lifeblood.
I will hire two assistants: breakfast & potato.
And everyone will love them!
And I will marry a breakfast potato.
Inside of a breakfast potato!
My priest will be
Padre Pio! And I will call him Papas.
Papas are potatoes
In Spanish! And there will be
Stigmata! All over the potatoes!
And he will despise
Nobody is jealous of the bride!
I like them big.
I, too, am big, burnt, & thick.
I taste like heaven!
I am a majestic breakfast potato.
Bake me in an oven!
Like Hansel & Gretel!
Eat me for lunch, dinner, dessert.
Makes me cry.
So does Padre Pio.
Like a baby!
I will give birth to a breakfast potato.
I will fry up latkes in my womb.
I will eat my young.
It will take courage.
It will take courage.
The Boy at the Reading
He’s here now too, sitting in the back of the audience with his one leg crossed over the other and his head tilted downwards to read something in his lap. I notice him mid-sentence, mid-line; my vision and my attention snag on his thorn-bush beard and his carelessly popped collar. My first thought is: I’m imagining it. It’s a projection of my pre-reading nervousness, my anxiety familiarizing, flowing into the vacancies of an unfamiliar face.
But it’s not.
(I make eye contact with the professor whose class I spoke with earlier, who is the reason I stand at this podium; he beams a comforting smile. I read, and when I reach a section I’m particularly comfortable with, I direct my gaze to the seats sequestered in a darkened pocket above the others and deliver the line, with practiced cadance and perfect poetic emphasis, to a boy who leans over to the girl next to him and whispers something. My voice echoes in the near-empty auditorium, the words I’ve already spoken still strong and unphased by how he cups his hand to her ear as she leans attentively inwards. I can’t be sure, but I think I manage to keep from faltering noticeably, even when they split, covering their mouths with cupped palms and crooked elbows and eventually burying their faces in their laps. I do not betray that I hear their unsuccessfully suppressed barks of laughter. I think, in fact, I don’t even miss a beat when I look up again and see the whole lot, four, maybe even five students, clustered in the topmost seats, faces red and mouths gaping like fish in air. There are those people sometimes who disturb the reading atmosphere giggling at texts, snickering at whispered comments and facebook posts, but something about this, I can tell they’re laughing at me. At my poem. At the section about the swan on the water. After the reading, after the question and answer section, I don’t notice any of them leaving, but I also don’t see them in the audience. Some of the faculty come up to thank me for the reading. One of them, a woman carrying a young child and several books I haven’t written, tells me it was an honor. Some students have lined up in the aisle, wanting to meet me. I try to see past them. I sign three books, absently; I drift to the back of the auditorium, to the door, outside; it’s cold, and there are no leaves on the trees, so I can see very far, through the mountains and to the highway, but I don’t see the boy anywhere.)
He doesn’t notice that I notice him, but for a period of time I can’t be certain of but which can’t be more than a few seconds, I gaze at him in intimate suspension, like falling in love across a crowded dance floor. He tilts his head upwards and directs his vision toward the front of the room, towards me. His brow furrows and his eyes cloud with indecision. I try to keep going; it’s only as I near the end of the poem that I realize I’ve skipped a line, no – a whole stanza!
Can I wash your feet
whisper to them
I shouldn't have said that to your head
hope your knees don't get offended
send life off for long bouts of needless worry?
this is a poor resumé
for a foot washer.
I’ll get going.
I have heard of a school in West Germany that holds an annual race between three students, chosen because they are in love or at least because they proclaim to be so (it is never quite clear how the faculty is privy to this information). Each student must strap a potted fern to his/her head and run sideways without spilling any soil from the pot, which is completely full. Whomever manages to tickle The Everlasting God, whose fat is peaking out of the ceiling panels, first, wins. Though it is never stated what exactly will happen when the God is tickled, the winner usually finds some great success in life, although whether or not it is related to the race is also unstated by the faculty of the school, for how could they know? It is about sacrifice. But there is another factor of the game I have not told you yet, and it is an important one: each participant is photographed in the process of running his or her plant sideways in an attempt to tickle The Everlasting God, and these photos are then shown to each of the participants’ lovers while they masturbate. The question here is about love and confusion. If you were masturbating and were suddenly shown a photo of your lover in a serious bout of concentration, trying ever so hard to appease The Everlasting God and its tender stomach by balancing a fern on his or her head and willing a half-pound of soil to remain still, could you continue? Would you want to? Or would you wonder about your lover and the situation they find themselves in, or about how this academic has found his or her way into your private masturbatorium, assuming you have one? You do, right? But I am simply expressing my opinion for a solution. I am tired of this place too.
We all go down to the falls, the family.
Of course there is rumination
for what else does a waterfall bring?
the weight of it a great quilt
by which breath can pass through.
I with my vacations always foggy
walk off higher
into the ruins
in the brush and rust. I am brought down
later by a girl in purple rain boots
with a dog under her smile
and I imagine she got them
in the same week. Shameless,
she throws rocks out and into the
bubbles of the peaceful torrent
the new dog can't find. A few
men in shorts lie on their
elbows tanning luminous thighs
in the sunlight halfway watching,
Again, no shame.
The girl's dog
slaps at the water and circles particular
spots, ears up,
creek bottom bustling
two-for-one deal: fish & stringy shit.
I go to find the family
without saying thank you.
The Telephone Pole
Am I reaching.
Is this call connecting.
Are you free right now.
Am I reaching out.
Would you like to go sometime out.
Do you like poles for telephones.
Am I reaching sometime out.
Would you like for me to wear a red dress.
Would you like to play a game of battleship.
Sometime would you like to get Italian.
Is your battleship located at coordinate A-28.
Are your wires long.
At what time will I receive your battleship.
Are your wires long and hard.
Do also you like often to touch a tree.
And do also you watch at night.
Do also you watch the corn and the wind.
Do your wires trail off into the corn.
Into the night do they trail off.
Are you there.
Are you there into the night trailing off.
Do you also feel then that something real is this.
Have never you loved anyone like me.
Did I hit your battleship.
Do you dream like I dream.
Are your wires long and hard.
Did I hit your battleship.
And do you know the way to home.
Could I ever sing one song
that doesn’t sound like sinking.
6am on the hill
God at the top of His
blessed new day hops
up on His dawn
mower and prunes
the clouds to make
way for sun My god
I say, marveling He
chuckles obligingly She
passes me the lighter It
gets hot as the rain
begins to fall like a grass
wind or an itchy salt
bath of follicles I don’t know
the right way to praise
this world High on the hill
I shout Sorry
God I knew a