trial by fire and/or gravity

die, make do

or get strong

lose or break your heart

every couple years.

take up the space that math

will let you

fight not to fall

due to gravity

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growing a neurotic plant

i am a stupid fucking farmer

who will not check for toxic soil

or find a place with the right light and rain

to grow in

upright and happy

but just stare at and

scream directly into the sun
“what you will, will be!”

so that the plants grow crooked

and neurotic.

i dream that the morbid fields

come alive at once

grow vividly wicked

tangle me and choke me out

and let things go back

but even the most crooked stalks

don’t know that it might be

worse for them that way;

it is worse for them anyway

it is worse

is random?

o, god of numbers
and infinite variables
why have you forsaken us?

are we not your children
that live together
in this lonesome hatred?

with all your many arms
you do not cradle
but hold us down

we add and subtract raindrops
and guess at how long they fell
in the meantime

forgive me, the crooked and wingless
and small and unheard
that i am the poorest of your numbers
and i do not overstand

a hand with a thumb

you make them clap or they will eat you

the white ones found on monkey island

i’ve no memory of being thrown overboard

but being washed ashore here

hear the incessant clapping and loud snores

make joke

get food

reach for banana

get scrap

i could kill all of them or none

and nothing would assuage my loneliness

pick your teeth with my sun-bleached bones.

who i am and what i done

loss of the things that define(d) me
and the lack of feelings about the loss
now define me

no that’s not true
i’m angry as fuck that that was me
for so long

who i am can change, but what I do
must
change or all those who love me are in for one hell of a shitshow

it’s a beautiful friday afternoon

you would love today

and this song i just heard

oh, you’d never believe

the cubicle i live in

is it selfish or profound
for the unfairness to weigh on me?

that i can only share things
with a bastardized memory
of you?

oh my god,

the agony of

being excluded from

every day,

going forward (outside of my mind)

for you

are dead

i beg that it would save
a single tear

in the lonely moments before
you left

for you to know that
your friends will cry

during minutes that
you won’t see.

Heaven

You told me there are rules
about how babies are born,
about how clothes are worn,
about gluttony and adultery

You spent every Sunday chatting
with your Brothers and Sisters
about how the rules apply
to everyone

There are no exceptions

Then your Husband wrote a letter
about getting out early.
He quoted Seneca, who said
that the wise man will live
as long as he ought

There are no exceptions

So do not talk about heaven

There are rules, after all,
and certain rules apply
when the wise man
cashes
out

it has poisoned its own roots

what infertile soil
could grow such twisted shocks?

and with such plain days as
this to grow!

i too grow, but confused
as i sit and think

it has poisoned its
own roots!

like an invasive weed
on a new island

tarry i, still
among the pathways

yet ingrained
in my fibers

i’d not tend to these abominations
by choice!

they say nothing
but a dead star

lies
round the horizon

they are wrong
though

cuz i can see
it shining

3/10/10 – 3/11/19

1.

it was unseasonably warm that day
and the day before, too,
and it was windy. I remember that much,
and the sun in my eyes
on the patio
through the plate glass
on the short drives
here to there and here to there
while our friends traveled through Germany
for the sixth or seventh time

there was nothing but time then
drinking black coffee in jackets
with the traffic hustling by
whispering about ‘forever’ at 20
and I remember meaning what I said out there
and I remember the look in her eyes

2.

Time has a way of stopping sometimes
with a phone call for example
in a tacky Chinese restaurant
surrounded by our people
while the sun set just outside

and I told the people what I heard
after I pressed the End Call button
while our hearts all stopped beating
forever, I think,
for just a moment

3.

I drove to her in darkness
and she was all alone
when she let me in to her sitting room

There were no lights on
but she could see me
and she hated every word

I don’t know if I’d leave her now
but I left her then,
nine years ago

4.

We sat in a cafe
in silence
for what couldn’t have been
forever
and my tea got cold
as the weather had
that night

we talked about your boots
not in detail
but we did

5.

I remember you
Warmth in March
sun in the afternoon

I remember you
black coffee
downtown patio

friends in rooms
and cars
and futures
and that goddamn
cul-de-sac

and I
still remember
to remember you

boots and all

restlessness (and please don’t let go)

i eat even when i’m not hungry
and i want you to suffer

you’ll kill yourself if
you don’t change
but you’re always changing
and you’ll always die

the balance will always be
as constant as passing energy
off onto everything you touch
and oh what you’ll do with
all of your power

enough to notice
not enough to care

let your mind trip you up
the path is just a wheel
anyway
and you’ll try and love,
love
the rush of drugs swirling round
your bones

but i’m always hungry
there could always be more

all these sharp cubes are boring
let’s go back to the
sphere

143

Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you be my lover?
Won’t you be my friend?
Through thick? Through thin?
Here in the neighborhood
Or in the land of make believe.
Because we should tell each other,
the truth and the facts.
Because we should tell each other,
That it’s a beautiful day to be alive.
So won’t you be mine? Would you,
Be mine? Won’t you be?
There’s been 143 times 33
Days since we’ve married.
And 1 + 4 + 3 still equals
I like you.
I love you.
I want you.
I need you.
Just the way you are.

your unlucky heart

while standing in
the shade a strong
hand took you

and although

i would share
a million sunlit
hours with you

at that moment

i was so weak
i could not even
look your way

i ran

and i ran
and felt remorseful
but never did i cry

which is just what weak men do

standing in the doorway
with the light bouncing
off kitchen linoleum

i lock eyes with Lal
it’s an eerily quiet
afternoon in wichita

i turn as i smell
a hint of freedom
in the air

i spend a moment with
what is left of you
inside me

it’s an awkward moment
because i am ashamed
and i finally cry

for you

Rob

You are dead and gone
and I still do not know
what that means

In eighth grade we were seated
at a table in a corner
in an art class
why was that enough

We talked every day
and sometimes we walked home
together

One day in the summer
you and your neighbor came over
unannounced
so we walked a long time
and found another friend
from that art class

Then I was in high school
and you were there too
so we memorized each-other’s
home phone numbers

We played games
every weekend
our junior year

The next step we planned together;
community college until
both of us slept through
the bus to our second
semester finals

We drove a lot that year

Then we found jobs
and you worked until you didn’t
so you moved away
while I stayed
but you came back

I was a manager then
so I hired you
and we did what we always had
but sometimes you got things wrong
that you never had before

Then Matt died and you left again
and I blamed you for a long time

but I forgave you when you came back
when you told me you were schizophrenic
when you showed up at a show to scream
when we fought in the parking lot
when you sped away drunk
when you messaged me angrily

I forgave you
but I never called your phone again

Then it was Christmastime 2 years ago
you were sick, you were tired
you were sorry – you swore you were sorry

you were dying from bone cancer
in a broken arm

I told you that I loved you then
and I meant it and I still mean it
I told you that you’d be OK
and I’m sorry that wasn’t true

When they took your arm you said
all you wanted was a life

When it didn’t work you told me
you just didn’t wan’t to die alone

I’m sorry.

Sarah

I met you on a Wednesday night
you were twenty one years old

Your flight to school in the Netherlands
was only two days away

We left the bar to play music
and your drumming was perfect
for all the tunes he called

and I saw you smile at him
when you caught him smiling at you

You were bright as a beacon
at the center of a starless desert

You were going to be a neurologist.

He will miss you every day.

Length / Breadth

We walked from the east forever ago
dragging our belongings in burlap bags

You were with me then
with a smile that stretched as far
as your eyes tended to wander

and I should have known
that you couldn’t stay

When we reached a strong, shallow river
I said I’d take your load
but you swore you couldn’t swim

So you headed south
when I waded in

On A Country Road

Rosie was eleven years old
she told us, as the overweight bulldog
began to wheeze near her feet
while a television program murmured
in the living room

A tree had fallen on the property line
so now she was all alone
except for old Rosie here

He was driving their big-wheel tractor
with the mower deck running off PTO
maintaining 28 acres on an August afternoon
when suddenly he succumbed
to a massive skull fracture

She warmed the other’s coffees
but she didn’t need both her mugs anymore
so she sent one out with me

‘No more air piano,’ she said
trying her best to smile
As we bid farewell to Rosie
and left them both
with the upright grand we’d come with

Bygones

Suddenly
there was a shrill sound
cutting through the autumn air
as triumphant as it was discordant
summoning in me an unease
I had not often felt
in the comfort of my father’s home

I rushed to the doorway
and flung the storm wide
to the fire and horror
to the siren sounding louder
to the smoke a mile away

They were flashing over head
a half-dozen at a time
less a swarm than a saber
slicing and buzzing
and bringing bright lights

and I stood like a statue
on the front lawn
of my father’s home
as the roof fell to the foundation
as the bright lights overcame me
as sulfur filled the air

rainbow swimming badges

rainbow swimming badges
and sunlit freckles

passionate glances
during reveille

tiny pebbles skip across
a glacial lake
in backwoods michigan

(won’t you keep me,
broken memory?)

the sun never sets just
the same
as on a kayak race
to an island
that you never seem to reach

take on heat and
pay in sweat

long for the cold so
you can help build
another cabin

learn of kindling
and the fire

(you can only do this once
you are going to fuck this up)

shrug it off
take it hard

watch butterfly
migrations.

devilry

i dreamed i was an ohian farmer
thinkin affront a mechanical breeze
my taut muscles and hard callouses
rotting within my hands and shoulders
and gasping for air like old flames

i sat atop a great machine
like a giant chugging black tar
emitting a putrid smell and noise
among otherwise silent fields
from each coast, a million giants wide

we each had taken plots of land
and bought guns, and put up walls
flattened hills and forests
squeezed the dirt while crying and praying
it was a crime of passion

and i was paid a healthy salary
it was insured against poor production
to grown corn, and nothing more
we let a lot go sour in the silos
but the government man never cared
long as our ballots fell to him each year

my son died from pancreatic cancer
he had worked the land every day since
he was strong enough to lift a till
and as good as any man
at pulling richness from the soil

i was told it was two years
since a sickness had changed his basic chemistry
and i thought on how the devil convinced men
that it was will power that kept them alive
but i saw the red ink ledger lines at the end

and all debts will be reined in