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

I remember you

and I miss you

boots and all

Advertisements

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

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

Railing

I dreamed I was a Bangladeshi shipbreaker
toiling in the tropical salt air
with taut muscles and hard callouses
with cuts on hands and shoulders
with burns from oxy-acetylene flames

I worked on the deck of a broken ship
a behemoth with no back half
like a tuna with its tail removed
floating dead in the shallows
in a harbor with a hundred ships like it
on a sandy coast with no end

There were thousands of us working
stretching our rice-fed bodies in the heat
flattening tanks with mallets
taking torch to hull
glancing at the sea a hundred feet below

I was paid in cash each week
enough to buy a bit to eat
and pay for my worker’s flat
a room in a building off the dockyard
where the company provided one bed each
for only two-thirds a month’s wages

My brother died the week before
he was working a few ships down from me
tearing pipe from a plumbing run
pulling copper from rusted conduit
loading pump parts on a limping wagon

I was told it was eleven PM
that a chain had wrapped his ankle
that the other three men faltered
and dropped the bilgepump engine block
off a deck that had no railing

it had long been cut away

lift off

the shower’s a warm blanket
but the cold lives in my spine
if only i could see
then i wouldn’t be so blind

tell me i’m not fine
tell me not to cry

the president’s a virus
and my family is the host
they pull all of their pants down
to get lashed by the holy ghost

castigate my mind
tell me that i lie

my father is a rapist
and my mother cries all day
the sun dances in the window
but has nothing much to say

i’m starting to unwind
i’ve nothing but the time

let up
lift off

weeping at the visage of our glorious leader

be wary those that are born
into this prison
and straighten your spine
and look forward
for all eyes belong
to the great gods of hell
who filled walls
with your dead brethren
and covered them in
the faces of their family

eat love and pray
under their holiness, I say
although
it may pick at your soul
to do so
the sun will shine on
endlessly
but men can
block your view.

Giving Ground

I.

The air was cement
in the afternoon sun

I counted the stains
on the upholstery
on the backs of chairs
until The Law walked in

I was brighter then
I am warmer now


II.

At Eleven O’Clock
the pain set in

I clutched your thigh
through gritted teeth

I’d heard what you said
I never heard you say a word


III.

The Law was restless
pistol hand on grip

I tried to keep my eyes down
as her visage shook my soul

The air in my throat
grew thicker still


IV.

There were just us three,
two tables and a pistol between

You stood to leave with elegance
as I floundered, chair to floor

I spat your name as the door swung


V.

The Law saw my despair
and her pistol hand was mercy;

She shot me twice

and waited

for the light in my eyes to go out

estelle

a summer dream
we speak of love
in birdsong

do not poison
the air with your
“sentences”

do not focus your
“attention”

i would work a lifetime
for 5 minutes more

with her

Almost Paradise

“You’ve come so far,” you whispered
as you wrapped me in warm arms
robbing all my breath from me

“You know I can’t come with you.”
I felt you say in to my chest,
my arms finally overlapping yours

“I swear you’ll see me again.”
you crackled, tightening your hold
even as you began to fade away

You took the light when you left;
With hands and knees I found the cave floor
and laid my tears there in the darkness

air is a gas

walking in circles picking off dead skin

trying to stay alive

we ask big questions of ourselves

like what do i WANT?

until we forget how the sun feels

and why we need it.

discovered 2

inspire my
pencil fingers
to trace your
crooked spine

write stories that
never resolve
that we both hate them
should be enough

lay ruin to topsoil

dig for something

underneath

that never

If Time Could Travel Backwards Part 7

All the money in your pocket
for a brand new ’79 Ford truck
with custom ordered everything
with a radio that wails
nearly as loud as the gasoline motor
burning rubber beneath a Carolina moon
You’ve been drinking a little
and so has the man to your left
but you get home safe regardless
and didn’t hurt that truck of yours
as it sits rusting in the driveway
just like it has
For decades
It’s 2017
and you haven’t seen your oldest son in 4 years

Billy

Billy lost his thirties
To hard drugs and cheap booze
And a wife that didn’t love him

He lost his money because
He couldn’t stop himself
When the crack-pipe came around
And besides, the boys on Cork street
Always treated him right

Billy lost his stride to gas station food
And he lost swagger to head trauma

He even lost his luck on pawn

And now he’ll lose his forties
To the tumor that’s growing
In the roof of his mouth
But he’ll never lose that look in his eye,
not that horrible broken one.

Not til the day he dies.

if time could travel backwards part 6

I would knock you over
before your new soft skin
ever touched the fire

I would let you slide
when you needed to
even if I hated it

Instead of snapping back
or head-butting
I would take more hits
more stoically,
I would take your lashing
with much more grace

But later when your skin was tough
I’d let you take your scrapes head-on
without an unsolicited word,
with all the fury of a desert storm

Fury there would be

And I would hope and wish and dream
that when a cold-front came in
you would thrash beyond it’s milding

You would burn bright forever

and sometimes I would light my torch with yours

If I could make time travel backwards
and make you whole and even
I’d give you everything I could.

Everything.

Summer Cold

It’s the cough that kills me.

‘Too warm for this.’ I think
to myself out loud as the shiver
sets deep in to my bones
– just for a moment –
as the crickets chirp
just outside my window.

This old blanket serves
just as good as new
for to swaddle me up
and keep me warm in this
65-degree-Fahrenheit night

And I lay awake wheezing
and wiping clear snot
on to the back of my hand
until it’s saturated enough
to flail to find my kerchief
– an old cotton T-shirt
that I’d already worn.

The chirping seems to swell
with the unconscious chatter
of my arms and guts – and
everything, as far as I
can tell – and it would
fade again, I’m sure,
if not for this headache.

‘Ain’t it just the way?’
I yell to the uncaring crickets,
‘Sore throat in the middle
of Goddamn June!’

It’s the cough, though,
the stupid fucking cough,
that gets me every time.

Cold Patches

I am a considerate sort,
I promise myself.

Shuffle papers quietly
ignore shouting next door

We’ve all got to be mindful
while the tough parts get sorted

I don’t want to do any sorting.

The wind blows through the old sill
near where I lay my head most nights

sometimes my nose is cold
when I wake up to use the restroom

When I come back, I just tuck deeper
in to the blanket that I keep
in spite of differences of opinion.

The rest of my home is warm, I guess,
except for 5AMs with eyes wide open

ceiling fan spinning above
a recently interrupted dream

It isn’t a very bad one
but it always makes me feel bad
anyway

Datestamp

I think I think the world of you.

Unpaid parking tickets resting
in a drift of melting snow.

I think I want you to get
what you think you want.

Every moment lined up
in a digital calendar
in someone else’s database.

I think I think I love you.

Analog clocks
clicking every second
overhead.

I want you to get
what you think you want.

‘Art is never completed;
only abandoned.’

I love you.

The sun comes up
six hours sooner
than it seems that it ought.

Worlds are visible
from orbit.

Water Poem

Pools are fine to tarry in
until the weather cools
and you are forced to drain it
half-of-the-way down
and add a mix of special chemicals
and wrap the top with a thick
taught tarp until springtime

The river becomes quite attractive
should you have a proper vessel
and though the ice won’t form
so heavily to stop your cut
the cold will be close to unbearable
at times, and there is always
the fear of rough rocks and
hard current and capsize

I think I’d like to brush up
on my sea-faring bends and shanks

The pool was perfect, after all,
for learning how to swim

Almost North of Town

It is early in the season

The leaves have slowly begun
to turn and fall and scatter

You cut a fine form in this
chill, half-covered moonlight

You don’t want to hurt anyone
(you don’t make any promises)

I mention I have toughness in spades
(you assure me I do not)

When we turn back down the trail
I am not cold or uncomfortable

(but I shake sleep from one leg)

When we return from the trail
I think we are both smiling

It is early in the season,

after all