31 December 2007
Sometimes you pray for rain and it rains
sometimes it doesn't but you
know love does not wait there
and all this time, you just want to get home.
Here is where love waits for you -
under the floorboards with its creaking sound
while slippered feet slide in the dark
beneath the sink, as a musty scent all bottled up
in a streak on the kitchen window making the Willow
slightly blurry on the trunk.
Love waits in a blanket you pull over to mute the chill
an aspirin to cure the little pain in your head
the sweet taste of chocolate melted sticky on your fingertips
and the light from a star on your back porch that carries a wish
for love, back home
as it has for all this time.
23 December 2007
You Will Be Snow and I Will Be Gold
You might be somewhere, out there, waving
between two worlds, feeding off the afterburn
never wanting to know about me with my busted kickstand,
chipped paint bike against the world, sailing for
tomorrow's sky, always looking too far forward
while holding back.
You might be watching me through a cigarette burn
in a yellowed window shade, not wanting me
to know because you're so far gone and I'd never
understand and even if I could, you don't want me
to because everything you touch turns to smack
and you think I'm destined for something great
although you're so far wrong.
You might be the best thing
that never happened to me
making this poem a requiem for nothing.
you might be the only thing I ever cared about or
ever will care about.
And in that last hour of that last day,
while they sift through ashes looking for sad explanations,
I'll be at the station, waiting on your train.
I will help you carry your bags
and where the platform touches stars
we will walk in time.
17 December 2007
The dream was becoming a lowlights reel
which played in every shower with those damn heavy drops,
every sidewalk step scraping beneath,
every steam rising from every cup of hot
and there was a matinée and midnight madness and I couldn't stop
spending my last dollars
on overpriced candy in the lobby
even though the taste was bitter.
But as I wrap my torn ticket stub
around and around my finger,
I have a vision of an open door on the silver screen
it's full of stars, my god,
and a moment of you the way you were before everything went wrong -
asleep in the valley of angels, a wisp of wind lifting a skirt hem to step carefully
over your waves.
I wanted to hold that door open for you - my foot wedged against
that damn heavy wood but you
flew too soon.
As I untwine you from the back
of my head, festively dead leaves now drift
through that door with the mat that says HOME
and dripping down my hair, hope leaks pretty.
7 December 2007
Angels curled at your feet
you wade through silver stars
chaos dragging behind you
like an old dog with a limp.
Winged ashes fall slanted from your fingertips
as the ends of cigarettes
smoked manna on a buffet table
for the old dog to sleep beneath
his belly full of roasted meat scraps and sandwich crusts,
graying fur smoothed by your lullaby strokes.
Time wends its way in the hushed glow.
5 December 2007
I have always been plagued
by a sense of justice.
I bring out my dead
while the world plays
1 December 2007
I close my eyes and there is a silent movie
all in gold.
The moon kind of looks like you
and the sun kind of looks like me.
They are at the edge of something
just like we are.
A gold dust wind is blowing all around
and the two of them stand there
because it's a silent movie
but really there could be words shown
so we could understand
but there aren't and
Then the moon just holds out his hand
into the breeze
and ripples flow out of that gentle, gold dust
as he moves his fingers slowly,
making a pretty design.
The sun watches like she's in slow motion
wonder - but she isn't - it just looks like that
and when she falls off the edge
it isn't like falling - it's more like she's leaving
like her time is shifting
and she holds out her arms and sort of fades
leaving the impression of an angel in the gold.
You can tell she's happy and the moon looks
a little like you as he walks on -
his silent footprints dusting the edges
of the hourglass.
27 November 2007
If only my somewhere heart
could see with your looking glass eyes
absorbing the night sky squishy
through eyelids framed by spider silk fingers
laced with longing, with hope,
and trying to catch shadows of sea change
somersetting in midnight's blue dust
against a somewhere sun.
24 November 2007
As the afternoon sun cast me long
into the rows of corn, I walked
when all at once the stalks
lay themselves down in a circle
and amidst the crackling echo,
you let go the rope, I feel it slacken -
the rope being the thing that connected us
the way back for me
but now it's like the moment in a movie when
everyone suddenly looks to the crazy guy
who's been predicting an earthquake to end the world
because this is the moment when their dinner plates
start rattling, knick-knacks begin to fall off shelves
and complacency melts from their faces.
This is the moment of transformation
from madman to hero - with no way back.
The hero steps forward - right to the edge
of the afternoon sun casting madness beneath shadows.
The music swells as he opens his hands
and from them the earth
tumbles - spiraling counterclockwise into black
smaller and smaller in the wobbly distance
and becoming just a slight imperfection
in the iris of the corn circle eye
The rope pulls taut again.
19 November 2007
We are made only into glass
our lives spent looking back
never knowing if the other side
exists or can see us.
Fingertips pressed against who
we think we are
so we don't notice
the slide, the pain, the shards
spinning beneath our feet.
We levitate, we blur the quick look
the second glance
in the corner of a madman's eye.
Contemplating the weight of it - this madness
the way we look at a flower
and our eyes wilt, becoming too small
for their sockets so that we must squint
in order to distinguish ourselves
from stars and still the light leaks
through, too small
to fill the spaces where there is beauty
where there is flow
like an animal sleeping.
We see the little death in everything
always chasing our watery reflections
and so we wipe the steam from the glass
which gives up nothing -
no insight or comfort
only into glass
only a life looking back
and the blankest of stares.
14 November 2007
I was remembering something
that I wish I would just forget
when a thought hit me
then pulled my hair
and wrapped itself tight around my chest.
I pushed it to the back of my mind
to the corner chair
where I tied it up, blindfolded it
and asked if it was finally ready to talk.
13 November 2007
She wanted to walk into the ocean
but I held her back because it surprised me
her wanting the sea
and I didn't know if I could trust her
once she got into the memories of you
but then I thought
for a moment
maybe I should just let her go
see if she comes back.
I stood beside her -
watched her feet, anxiously shifting
her warm breath hanging in the cool air
and suddenly everything stood still:
the waves stopped waving
the breeze stopped misting
and the clouds froze in the sky.
She bent down and rolled onto her back
throwing sand everywhere.
When she got up again, things went back to normal.
I saw the angel she had left for you in the sand
and watched her bow her head as
your fingers came gently reaching, lapping
drawing her gift out to sea so you could place
it on that mantelpiece we call
the edge of the world.
10 November 2007
Remember once we were sparked
and we condemned regret and forgiveness
and for that brief moment you chased me like mercury
on the countertop but I was inconvenient and on fire
and you backed away. I went by your house
and found it all boarded up with a notice
from the city tacked out front. I took that paper
because it was mine, it was the love note you
never sent me, it was the physical thing I
was entitled to in the end.
And then one day I woke up to a brick
through the window and the shards were everywhere
but they were all smooth like sea glass, having been
burned and buried and resurfaced over time and waves
and on the brick - tied with braided string - that love note
finally. But I won't open it, I won't read it because it's not
a love note. It's only a notice from the city
telling me to condemn you, to burn and bury and resurface you
to turn you back out to sea and to loosen the braids of regret
and forgive myself.
8 November 2007
Everything flows, even when you don't want it to -
especially then, it gushes
in grey and dim and blur
where there should have been a carpet of wildflowers
beneath a warming sun whose gentle rays would feather
their way to you on a Summer breeze
but instead there is silty water in a rush
over dirty feet and carrying angels cast down that now appear
as bottle tops and potato chip bags floating
toward the sewer - the graveyard for the city's unwanted.
Gurgles, spits and spurts like beat poetry reciting itself
in an empty parking lot long after last call
the black hum of chain link and floodlights exposing
the flow, uneven, lacking rhyme, snarling reason
and the drip of drops onto blacktop puddles and unnatural
streams rushing headlong with no plan
except: flow - like blood, like thoughts, like memories
of meadows spilling wildflowers, dangling feet wrapped in velvet
and a glass sun on the wing.
3 November 2007
I wanted to write this for you so that one day
you would know. Not now, when you are not ready.
Not now, when you are still young and holding in
dreams like a breath that could win a schoolyard bet.
Not now, when you look in the mirror and expect truth
when your little terrier runs in circles around your feet, barking
and you laugh and walk down the street greeting strangers,
making them feel at home in your world, being patted on the back by friends
and handing out dollars to panhandlers, addicts and runaways without judgement
making them feel at home in your world.
I want you to do all those things and to pass the years slowly
and then one day, I hope
you will read this and know
that despite what people said or wrote or thought it looked like
you made me feel at home in your world
and I was happy.
31 October 2007
Where once the hibiscus fell
upon the footpath to our secret meeting place
now lies a sandy slope
washed over and beaten by the rains
until it was no longer recognizable
as the way home.
That small dark clearing in the bamboo forest
where we were rendered speechless
because it was plain that we fit -
my jaw set with the teeth of the lock
and your tongue being key.
We opened and stood in the doorways
of each other, blinded by the light
and hearts pounding in anticipation of the
keepsakes yet unrevealed.
We were high summer and river rock and the sound
of a ladybug drinking from a drop
of dew upon the greenest of leaves.
But the rainy season must come
and the sweet scent of hibiscus on
my feet must be rendered pointless
by the flash floods.
And so, with my memories tucked safely beneath
a blue tarp that makes the rain sound like 1000 doors closing,
I keep watch over the ferns
as they flourish in their excitement -
let them have their time,
as all things must.
26 October 2007
I saw you again and you looked so beautiful.
It wasn't you, I know -
it was the dream.
But the blue that sank me to my depths,
the red that burned me up and down,
the black that lashed me out of my head -
if you could have seen it, well
you wouldn't have thought it was a dream
I was standing next to you - you were small
and out of focus, a yellow sapling bending
toward the soil by mistake again but what I saw
out the corner of my eye was yellow Hyacinth
standing tall and blooming amidst the decay
and rotted wood - that was the you I saw
although I know it wasn't you.
I was high above, leaning over the iron railing
and I saw you with your head down, there were lines
across your eyes and your hand was reaching for the earth
because you wanted to touch something real again
and I couldn't say anything because I understand
what it is to be lonely. With your head down
I was not sure, but I didn't think it was really you.
It was the dream again. You were the dream again.
The one that starts with your voice, softly saying,
"This is not a dream."
In the end, I come back for you - the you with buttercups
behind your back and hope floating in the oceans of your eyes -
I come back just before
the lights go all out.
23 October 2007
This is not a love letter
or a Summer Saturday night, lying on the windshield of your car,
listening to the crickets and looking for Saturn
It's more of a stitch
joining your masquerade hand
to your costume jewelry wrist.
It's more of a prayer
that this things holds
and the weight of it doesn't grind
us to the dust that we know we are.
The blood is not dragging
on a cigarette
from my hand to your heart,
there is no slight tremble
to be felt beneath Saturn's smoke rings
and I never said any of these things.
They're only runaway thoughts -
hungry, tired, cold, not like what they envisioned
looking for a safe place to sleep
trying to avoid being caught
and wishing for home.
Meanwhile, you sigh into the stars,
"It's amazing what passes for poetry these days."
20 October 2007
I Often Find Myself Standing On Top of a Trap Door Called "What If"
I wanted to soak into the grooves
and channels of your brain
to float along with the current
and try to see over the ridges of your thoughts.
I wanted to sigh with your breath
to the sound of happiness
drawing you in at just the right time
and letting you go beneath a whistle from a mystery train.
I wanted you to name me and to
name things you liked after me
to explain your absurd ideas to me
in the dark, into my embrace
the room holding us, catching our momentary
flash of light, telling us not to worry,
not to move before the image is exposed
and to never look back with regret.
All of these things collapsing into a fold
in the continuum where every possible outcome
is a reality. I picture you there, walking -
the sound of you carrying happiness in a brown paper bag and
I wanted to call that love.
18 October 2007
There is a gap in our conversation and it looks
like a leftover puppy in a box at a flea market, trying to hoist herself
over the side to see where the world has gone.
I lie on the floor and try to keep my backbone straight,
my head straight, my heart
straight but everything leans and falls to one side
or the other - my backbone becoming a pile of vertebrae
as my head rolls across the floor, picking up speed;
my stupid heart leaping until she tires herself out and then,
throwing herself on to the carpet, resting up for the next burst.
Words fail, meaning escapes and memories slink away on tiptoe
during the night. We are ever trying to fill something, to wait on
something, to remember something that was lost in some distant past,
before we were born, before we were human, before we were light.
And if we could find that lost something, we would dig a hole for it
and lay it there, waiting for it to bloom or change into a pile of bones or
otherwise reveal a special perception meant for us
to know now, in our heightened state of anticipation.
My head, now far away from all this, is thinking about the blank space
in our conversation and how everything we say is full of holes
with light and dust flowing through in a pretty way
that we never really understand.
My backbone is remembering that day long ago at the flea market
when it bent down to a box and hoisted my wimpering heart over the side
to show her a world that she would never really understand.
15 October 2007
I'll be back.
And when I return, I know
I have no right to expect that you
have waited for me
so I will wait for you.
I will be patient while leaving you
small signs of me here and there -
to let you know, in the corner of your mind's eye:
The milk bottles on your porch may be opened
for the blue birds to fatten on the cream
Your mailbox may contain the occasional anonymous envelope
with a blank page love poem inside
Where previously you curled in your chair with a book
and felt a draft, you may now find a sweater.
I'll be back.
But for now I hope that as the generations of blue birds
know to come to your porch,
and with each unwritten love poem read
by you, curled in your sweater
you will think - not of me - but of something good
that you know without doubt, always comes back
like morning mist over the fields,
the soft silence of snow at Christmas or
that tangible understanding which awakened
the first time you felt loved
12 October 2007
Life becoming a continual ink blot test
to which every answer was death
the glare of headlights and swerving car horns
as I stumble down the yellow line.
Entropy failing to draw me in, everything locked up
The revolving door issues me to the steel elevators
anonymous floor, hallway full of closed doors
and at the end - a window, streaks of light bleeding through
the pain, a sundial temporarily noting the times of our lives
for no one as I
step out on to the ledge, close my eyes and start to sway.
I think about all the things I placed such importance on,
read too much into, and was so wrong about
in the end. This one stroke of genius - a chance to wipe the slate
clean and make everything right, open all the cage doors
and watch them flap their wings for once
toward the sun.
I lose my balance and grip the pane - I am a performance artist
a burned out neon sign, a billboard suspended in time - I hang in the wind
the doors to my head flung open
memories flailing as they plummet to the street
the blood rushes, under pressure, trapped and falling
the crowd growing/speechless
placing emotional wagers on a high rise acrobat
because they got in for free and because in the end
11 October 2007
Some indescribable twilight, you might be sitting on your steps
when a friendly cat rubs up against your leg.
You reach down without thinking, to pet the glossy black familiar
and after a little while he looks up at you, the velvet eyelids slowly
squeezing gold eyes shut, and begins to purr.
Listen for me.
In a hurry and thinking of a thousand heavy things
waiting for the light at the crosswalk, the weight
of your briefcase being enough to cause bodily harm
to the skateboarder next to you who may try to slow you down
by cutting in front - a red leaf glides across your path
making a scratching sound against the pavement, a symphony
accompanying a ballerina in red: stay and watch.
Wait for me.
The horizon hangs - at the end of your vacation,
the last night on the beach - black ocean overlapping blacker sky
and it may appear that the stars are dipping
into the sea, their light breaking into a million tiny shards
riding the waves and ending up as white foam on your feet.
Look for me.
Hope - caught in your throat, your glass heart choking on the pretense
forever walking in a storm, you don't notice the fade, the sun
on your skin, the light, the heat, warming the rocks beneath your feet
loosening everything for the slide, you don't notice but
I want you.
Feel for me.
7 October 2007
I'll just fantasize that you went mad -
that makes all of it easier to swallow.
I like my fantasies straight
make it a double
and don't even think about trying to water it down
and that defeats the purpose
because I don't want to know
I don't want to remember
you or nothing about you or nothing about
I'm only going to think about the flow of whiskey
and listening to Henry Rollins recite poetry
in an alley that weeps
and the thumping fade of it beneath unforgiving
yellow lamps, dim with street filth, the jewels of the city
the light poles being saints begging to be climbed
begging to be defaced, begging for madness
but finding no such release in a computer operated timer
monitored monthly by a uniformed technician -
their earthly miracles reduced to ON and OFF
nothing saved except a few tax dollars
although tonight could be it - this could be the one
everyone's been waiting for, if -
there's enough whiskey in the river
because this bottle's empty.
I check with the saints but they are shaking down stars,
ransacking the cosmos as they search for God,
too preoccupied to notice me
walking down the wet night with a fantasy straight
in my head, yellow light wedged under my fingernails, you
held - not in a memory - but held under the drift of moonshine
and Henry Rollins wrapped in brown paper that weeps.
5 October 2007
I Read Your Poem and I Wanted
I read your poem and I wanted
to drive all night to your house, pound on your door
run past the protesting person who opened it
find my way to your bathroom, fling back the shower curtain
and burst out with something that began,
"You don't know me but I just had to tell you"
while you looked at me with polite understanding
the shampoo suds running down your neck
the water beating nervously against the wall
and me, breathless and sweaty and flushed.
When the police arrived you might ask them to be kind to me
and as they escorted me out, I would
try to explain to them about the poem
and how I was before I read it:
with the museum of my heart being vacant and
just a few spotlights fixed on the bare floor,
an empty display case, the full time security guard
protecting nothing and a torn admission ticket swirling
around the entrance like a bored ghost.
But now, I am a major attraction bringing in tourists
from overseas, CEOs on their way to prison and homeless
patrons from all over the city. They form lines
and wait for hours to admire the pieces of my heart
and with tremendous enthusiasm, I personally explain to each one
about your poem while they eye me with suspicion
and wonder if I belong in such a nice place
wearing such a beautiful gown
being all breathless and sweaty and flushed.
I regard them with polite understanding
the poem in my head, beating itself nervously against the wall.
1 October 2007
I think I should tell you
before we go any further
that I've never done this before
because no one has ever invited me
to walk into their dreams
No one has ever waved to me from a distance
and unhooked the velvet ropes, motioning me
to cross over.
No one has ever stood at the door
holding it open
and said "After you"
and then followed me into the room with the huge oak table
pulling the door closed behind us
with a click.
And while you look quite comfortable sitting there
with your feet up on the table, notebook and pen
on your lap,
I think I might tell you
that I am nervous about sitting in the chair across from you
and not entirely sure about touching the familiar
notebook and pen on the table in front of me
because I've never been asked to
write someone else's dream before and it's possible
I'm in over my head.
I want to ask you about those two people
we passed in the hall - I want to ask
if they were angels
because even though they had no halos or wings
or anything like that, they looked up
for a moment as we passed
and I saw in their faces that they were filled - almost
overflowing, like they had extra,
like how I thought angels might look -
with a film of pretty blue dust coating them
as if something precious had burst overhead
the blue trickling from their hair down to their small feet
and even floating here and there in the light
and I think I won't tell you
that it scared me a little that they knew my name.
And all of this - the door, the room, the table -
scares me a little and when I say 'all of this'
I mean 'you'.
But you look so comfortable sitting there and you
smile at me with your imperfect teeth and I
feel better and you look like
you want to help someone as you say,
"Let me show you around"
I walk with you across the room to enormous windows
framed on the outside by a white stone ledge
and I see through the glass
in this room where we will write your dream
in notebooks at the oak table
that the white stone ledge is covered by
a thin layer of blue dust
with small footprints making a pretty trail off the edge
and I start to feel less hollow.
The view from these windows -
beyond the scope of my human understanding and
so amazingly right, containing everything, as if there
was extra - the thin film of blue dust over my eyes and
without hesitation, I remember and
I think I should tell you.
29 September 2007
You wake up in a cold dream
but your eyes won't open
and only a thin, white blanket covers your legs.
A familiar voice tells you, over and over,
"You are in a room, surrounded by love"
The sound of medical machines is constant
making day the same as night.
You wake up before her
but you don't move
because she's asleep on your arm.
Her tossled hair falls gold and red in piles
you long to dive into again.
The pain in the arm is terrible
as it shoots into your aching shoulder
but you don't move -
the sound of her breathing
You wake up early: the first day of 8th grade
and you lie in the warm half-light,
grinding teeth and wondering
if Jimmy Cofield will remember his vow
made on the last day of 7th grade
to kill you
or if maybe he's forgotten over these past hot months
or if he'll pretend like he has,
You wake up from a nightmare -
the one where you're buried in earth
and at first you lie still
to let the nightmare dissolve,
your eyes fixed upon the stuffed dog, accidentally wedged
between bed and wall during the night,
waiting for you to reach out for him
and pull him into the crook of your neck
so you can get back to sleep, without fear -
the dog's watchful eyes standing guard
staying awake until dawn's rebirth
and surrounding you with love.
27 September 2007
There was something about the guy that made me like him.
It wasn't his consistent presence
on that particular street corner
or his handwritten signs warning me
The End is Nigh and offering
an alternative to my destiny in Hell.
I think it was the fact that he gave a date.
He wasn't afraid to commit
which set him apart from the class of "crazy people"
forever murmuring vague and dire predictions.
He gave a date for the end of everything.
I liked that.
On my kitchen wall hangs a calendar with that date
circled in red ink
and miniature fireworks sketched in
and each night I stand in my pajamas -
a consistent presence in moon print cotton -
using black ink to X off the days
because at the end, I want it to be said
that I wasn't afraid to commit
to my own madness.
25 September 2007
I'm no good dissected,
scrutinized, poked, prodded
or probed for depth.
I don't show up
on an x-ray nor will you find my meaning
under a microscope.
If you test my words by holding them
underwater for a length of time
they will float, lifeless,
to the surface.
Don't bother trying to analyze or categorize -
the Dewey Decimal System
does not work on me.
But if you're wanting something
to swirl around your head
so that you look like Saturn with a human body
please feel welcome to pull up a chair.
22 September 2007
It's that length of time in the groove between yes and no.
An ordinary man in front of a post office -
any post office -
slides the appropriate combination of coins
into the box
in order to get today's paper.
With the arrival of the final coin -
the emotional difference between news
and no news -
the teeth shift and the man's hand
pulls on the handle.
He leans forward, his free hand reaching in
toward the stack of newspapers
and this is the moment -
this length of time that it takes
for this man to reach for today's paper -
this is the measure of everything.
All things exist in this moment -
Amelia Earhart is flying her plane,
smiling and humming a little to herself;
the Andrea Doria is serving dinner on heavy plates,
passengers unfolding napkins for laps;
Jacqueline Kennedy is straightening her pink suit in a mirror,
touching fingertip to tongue and dabbing eyelashes -
whatever could be
but it's a mystery of life
Everything changes and everything stays the same
before and after this moment
although the groove itself
does not waver.
There could be a slight breeze
in this moment
and the sound of a car horn in the distance.
The fact that I am writing this moment
into a poem
could be awful, like some of my other poems,
or it might be the last thing I ever write,
the slight breeze being enough to push me
into the street, into the path of a drunk driver,
his car squashing me and then he
blows the horn.
And although he shouldn't have been driving
under the influence,
I can understand what happened.
It was reading that newspaper
that busted everything.
It was an ordinary man wanting to get back
that moment when all things were possible,
wishing he would have been a nickel short
or that the lock
on the newspaper box would have jammed
and so the little door never opened
(as sometimes happens, but not
when you need it).
He could have given the box a frustrated kick
and looked around to see if anyone cared,
peering into the post office and finding
his answer there.
But as much as he might want to,
he can't get back to that length of time
it took for him to reach into the box
and grab a paper.
That moment when Section B, page 4 -
the blurb about the drunk driver squashing
a pedestrian -
was held in time,
not existing or failing to exist,
just unquestionably clean and plain and white.
Because reading something like that,
well who could live with that, who could even
think straight just then, who on earth wouldn't
need at least a couple drinks after reading
something like that?
The mysteries of life twisting within that moment remain
under the influence
of things still possible
like how they turned out after jumping the groove.
20 September 2007
You are true art -
the kind that makes art critics
uncomfortable and nervous -
they try to make a joke out of it because
their feelings are hurt;
the kind that turns the heads
of people who don't care about art
because even though they wouldn't normally notice,
they can't help themselves.
When you walk by
they stare at you with unblinking eyes
and they see something
not just color-by-numbers or placid lake scenes
or alabaster faces with blank eyes -
they see what they never knew
existed before - they see beauty in a painful way,
like the majestic elephant in whose path we should scatter rose petals
so that his journey might be softened, but instead we tie his feet with chains
in order to scrutinize his divinity under lights, through lenses -
they see you.
You are true art and you are of course
aware of this.
You read your own reviews while shining the shoes
of paintings and sculptures and other pieces
less celebrated than you.
True art understands its place in the world.
Memory must be long so as to remember the feeling
of being unrecognized and unloved and free.
Eyes must be kind so that people will feel
comfortable approaching you, as if joining
a pleasant conversation in the middle.
You are real and you motion with a wave of your hand to
anyone who looks lost, like maybe it's their first time in a gallery,
and you invite them to linger and to feel happy
so that they might bring a friend next time,
returning to this safe place you created just for them.
You are true art and you stand wherever -
under a tree, at the edge of a river, on a freeway overpass -
and people come. Mothers with too many children,
elderly men who shouldn't be smoking cigars, writers who
think they are better than Hemingway - everybody wants
you standing there, naked under the sun, the light being just right
to be captured.
But at night you turn down your shine and walk
around the dark museum, sheet draped loosely around your waist,
bumming a smoke off the ghost of Judy Garland, her feet tied with chains,
the two of you browsing through the gift shop,
scrutinizing the divinity of memory
and setting the place on fire.
17 September 2007
There is some reason why
I have to write things down -
some tale that needs to be told
or wisdom that must be imparted
before my death
but I don't think it's that really.
It could be that if the reader holds my words
up to a mirror and squints at the spaces
something important will be revealed,
possibly about Alex Chilton,
and the news will spread like wildfire -
he'll be a guest on Larry King
and I will get to sit next to him, glowing
under the tiny colored lights.
perhaps if all the first letters
from every line I ever wrote
are strung together backwards,
the meaning of life
will be discovered
behind a men's room door, holding a sword and
But I don't think so.
It's possible that I am drunk
and that I drool when I write
which could mean I'm asleep
or awake in an alternate reality
or that the reader is asleep
and needs to be awakened
by reciting an obscure incantation
found only in my poems
and thus the explanation for why
they don't seem to make sense
if you happen to be awake (or sober) when reading
because the magic is spent
Although that seems an unlikely story
there is some reason why
I have to write things down
probably having everything to do with
the fact that I was never any good
16 September 2007
I wanted to tell you that
you were wrong about me
that I never dream about you
that I couldn't picture your face in my mind
even if I tried because I forgot it.
I don't remember your smell, your taste,
or the way you clink your teeth against the glass
when you are thinking.
I wanted you to know that
when I answer the phone
the sound of your voice is the furthest thing
from my mind.
If I happen to pass you on the street, I don't even see
whether you are smiling or frowning or
walking too fast to catch a glimpse of me
not noticing you.
cheerlessly hanging like Christmas ornaments
no one remembered to take down,
eternal understudies to the rings
which reap all the glowing reviews
from the critics of the universe -
but at least they have each other
which is more than can be said for
a celestial Oliver Twist,
mute as the cow jumps over
stealing all the glory again,
slave to a job he can never clock out from -
pushing the seas back and forth
over sand bars and rocky shores
and the bare feet of tourists.
If I was the weatherman, I would
institute a "Don't ask, Don't tell" policy
regarding the forecast.
I would however be delighted
to appear on television each night
in front of a green screen map
of the country, dotted with
randomly placed clouds and suns
and offer my predictions on
various other topics.
I know they mean well -
skull and crossbones prominently placed,
neon print offering
various forms of
WARNING and CAUTION.
I'm afraid I must decline
their polite concern for my well being
as I still enjoy my strychnine
with apple seeds on the side.
That first time you took me
under the blue - deep
I held my breath until I couldn't anymore
but then I found I was breathing in
and it took some getting used to
though my heart was breaching the surface
like a baby whale.
You asked me if I was alright
and I didn't know if I could talk
so I opened my mouth
and a gurgling sound fell out
before I recognized my
underwater voice in the bubbles.
keep trying to start conversations
with sea horses and tuna and sharks
can't stop laughing.
I've always been a slow reader
although I just thought it was normal
until my teachers explained
you could devour books much more efficiently
by having your eyes jump hastily
from one group of words to the next
and drawing from this practice
the basic context.
My eyes balked at this idea
preferring instead to glance demurely at each word
from across the room
with the slightest hint of come-hither
and wait patiently
until one by one, each word approached
and asked for a dance.
15 September 2007
Woolly Bear Caterpillars, butterflies and toads
living in old coffee jars with holes poked through the lids,
grass clippings and dandelion leaves lovingly placed
as a source of food and to make a soft bed
in the new home.
Each creature completely content and delighted to meet
a human child perceptive enough to communicate
in the native language.
Each one given a special name and sharing
in the day's adventures from the comfort of the jar.
My Mother, completely ignorant of the magical qualities
of human-animal discussions, telling me daily that each
must be set free outside before I came in for the night.
It was useless trying to explain that
the particular caterpillar in question on this day
wanted to spend the rest of his life in my coffee jar paradise,
protected from the elements,
supplied with food and friendship for eternity, and that
he was very fond of his name - the sound of it making him wriggle
with joy in the palm of my hand where he occasionally liked
to be held and petted.
There was never any point in trying to convey the harsh
realities of a cruel world that awaited the caterpillar once
he was removed from the safety of the jar.
My Mother had no understanding of real life and would say
the most ridiculous things about him being free, etc.
She was too fixated upon such mundane activities
as peeling potatoes for dinner to appreciate the caterpillar's
loneliness, which he had revealed to me in a conversation
on the back steps, and that it was hard for him to make friends
because he found other caterpillars were mostly mean
and not at all interested in the magic of words being found
in a raindrop on the edge of a leaf.
What value was freedom when the heart withered beneath?
But I did understand what the Woolly Bear meant
and tried to reassure him that everything would be
all right as I removed the lid and turned the jar upside down
under a twilight sky so vast.
I did not like to linger as he made his solitary way
toward the mysterious perils of this wild earth so I turned,
replacing the lid on the coffee jar for tomorrow.
14 September 2007
I Come Back Again with Ashes
I come back again with ashes
on my tongue
the taste of bad all in my mouth
memory - like slanted rain that forces blind eyes to close.
I reach out for where I think the railing should be
the twisted iron feeling black
and me feeling that I just want to get down the stairs without falling
I just want to remember this the way it wasn't
but should have been and maybe will be again
if we get another chance
in my imperfect dream where your voice is love
and everything is wide open
the only thing being imperfect is the waking up
which takes awhile to get over.
I want to wash my mouth out with this slanted rain
in a glass that Bukowksi turned down a drink from
one of those times he thought about changing
the world and opening a window,
calling out crack one-liners to wandering cats and dogs
on his block.
I will chain myself to this iron rail, forcing passersby
who would otherwise be polite to curse me under their breath
as they step around the mess I've made on the landing
where I've got shots of rain lined up
and a broken beer bottle with a dandelion sticking out
The railing, never where it should be, never when I need it,
rocking in its foundation and twisting its way down
to the end, which is the beginning if you are heading the other way
though it always seems like the end to me anyway.
But there's more than one way to get to the bottom of a bottle
or a glass or an obscene thing - now shards but once something pretty that
held meaning, never really understanding what happened.
In my dream I make it down the stairs without incident,
passersby all stay polite, my mind is blank straight
and the beer bottle is not broken.
It doesn't rain and I don't come back - I just keep going,
wide and open.
Your voice is love and I never
hear a thing.
12 September 2007
It was Always You
It was always you.
From the first I ever opened my eyes
seeing infinite stars adrift in the tilted night,
to the second I closed them
dreaming the charming beasts
and the hideous slough of romance -
I knew you were there.
In my youth I longed to wear your coat -
ancient wings woven strong, ragged and too fragile to touch -
I pictured myself
all wrapped up, walking down Main St. with a purpose,
everyone smiling like snow under the bright sun saying,
"It's the real you!"
as I wave and try not to smirk overly much
knowing today, the sun shined for me.
It was always you
in the sparkling sequined suit
twirling your baton in the parade -
the crowd, 10 deep on the sidewalks
me stooped on the curb, holding my popcorn and my
breath while you tossed all my hopes high overhead
and the sweet release when they were back in your hands.
And later in the half-light, me fumbling with a baton from the old toy chest
my hopes weeping as they came crashing down
over and over in the backyard.
I felt you through the years
like some kind of drunken angel
staggering at my side
smear of blood on a busted wing
all slurred speech and street hustle...
Sometimes I had to drag you
(and you were heavy)
but sometimes, in my watercolor blue dark,
you pushed me
away from the edge, pointing me toward home.
I didn't understand but
I always knew it was you.
And now it's a little easier for me to recognize
you in your many faces,
you of many names -
October's rustle of leaves at my feet
stirring the scent of Autumn as I pull on my coat,
stirring my sense of home
which was always you.
10 September 2007
I feel the fault lines chattering
with every step
even though I am on tiptoe and bare feet -
my weight on the hardwood floor
being more than the earth
can take or maybe it's the thought of it
being more than I can understand
although I can imagine precisely
how it would be if the earth opened
and swallowed all of us -
that one brilliant second where we'd get to see
everything. I swear I would not flinch.
I feel the fear that forms on the rim
of a glass
on the edge
of a bar
the hand of sobriety gripping - having been that way
for too long,
coming now to this -
the edge of the world.
But the view from the glass is kinder -
buckled and smudgy -
bearing witness to dark eyes
that know what's coming
but hope against it anyway.
I feel the heat from that last note
you wrote me
as it burns its way through
the still sealed envelope, through
my coat pocket, through
my flesh and hair and bone
into my brain and then burning its way
out the back of my head
the flames melting me from top to bottom
everything in the room
starting to smoke - then later,
the fire marshal wandering around the
blackened remnants of everything
trying to come up with
some kind of explanation
for his report.
I feel that in the end
the last thing left will be
kind of like a foggy wisp
swirling around the rim of the world
watching it burn
remembering that one beautiful second of
8 September 2007
The pink pillbox hat is still perfect as she
crawls across the trunk of the limousine
which never stops.
The secret service man running behind -
he jumps on to the moving car and there she is:
stranded in slow motion, frame by frame,
compelled to live out her days and all our days
in a grainy home movie,
wearing a pink pillbox hat.
I can't help but wonder
the last time you passed by a mirror
and that version of you
trapped in the glass
telling you something awful
that wouldn't come out of your head -
that version of you
that stood there listening,
waiting to reload.
7 September 2007
Your heart like soft stone
I feel the soft
I feel the stone
it messes me up
and I don't know where to look
to keep you from seeing
all the way in
The soft retains the imprint of my hand
for a little while -
love's performance art
admired in transit
hung in the gallery of clean memories
The stone is heavy - it sinks to the bottom
all your bad decisions lie in wait
dark caverns of good intentions wielding misplaced fate
no telling what happened here
We drive along the soft stone road
as it rises and falls beneath the wheels
slow breaths resonating, the black hum
vibrations of soft, of stone
etched in relief like a vision of Blake, floating
fearless in the moment
sinking to the bottom
water over the road, over my head
I close my eyes and push play on the dream
eroding, the breathing slower still.
I look up as if in answer to some divine calling
but hearing only the sound of pen against copper
as your heart drifts
out of sight, out of mind, out of soft, out of stone.
4 September 2007
I know that you're waiting for
me to say something great -
something like what you imagine
I might say while walking in the woods -
pine straw strewn, crushed under boots
the weight being the only sound, being my only voice
and the words somehow redeeming me
in your head.
The quiet, like nothing
even the birds realizing
the clatter of wings cutting through air
would be obscene right now
and the stream, still
so as not to be unbearable.
But I am not that way -
I can't just think up something to say
that will even come close
to your expectations and besides
I don't like your whole idea
It fits me badly - I have to cuff the sleeves
and keep on pushing down the puffy parts.
And sometimes I want the silence
even if it disappoints
because there is no perfection
It's all just out there
on a limb
reaching toward the sun,
parching in the glare
and bearing blossoms, however painfully, whatever beautifully.
The low branches, some darkened,
telling twisted tales of our lives.
Trunks with mossy whiskers, revealing years and protecting
initials carved in the sap.
All of these timbery things in some complicated dance with the sun and rain
a dance without steps, lacking music
creating a breeze, which we like to think we affect
with our waving of hello and goodbye.
The forest, pregnant with Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood -
both on the lam,
making friends out of necessity - which is a fine enough reason,
practicing french braids on each other's hair,
never speaking about the obvious.
They laugh and drink apple juice, pretending it's wine,
acting drunk and swooning over boys they are too afraid to talk to;
rude words, tried on the tongue for size, and on the other's face for reaction,
to discuss Snow White
because that bitch has everything.
They are redeemed.
My boots, sunk in mud, abandoned,
my feet becoming gnarled,
leaves and twigs all in my hair,
I start to sway as I hear the music for the first time.
The wildwood does its best to adapt to your
changing heart, your frame
of mind, set in quiet motion,
the cornerstones falling away, the spinal cord unraveling
as you try to define me
not by what I said
which was disappointing and unbearable for you
but by what you think I might say
as I become the tree, walking
toward you in a better dream -
where I let you french braid my hair,
never speaking about the obvious.
2 September 2007
A Decade, Momentarily
It was the country's bicentennial,
special quarters were issued
and my Dad collected them in the belief that someday...
We put on a patriotic play in the school gym,
my Mom came with rollers in her hair
and I was embarrassed.
There was a Presidential election that year
and afterwards, when Carter was inaugurated,
they let us watch it on TV in class.
TV in school. I may as well have been on Mars.
But it made the intended impression
We had a blizzard that winter and all I knew
was that it was another snow day.
Off to play in the snow with my Collie
and what a thrill to find I was half buried in white.
The dog helped create a path and together
we made snow angels.
Later, I would be made to give that dog away
in the rain
which hid my tears
which I denied ever shedding.
The year of years to stay up til midnight.
I calculated in my head
the next time the decade changed
I would be 21 years old -
some kind of adult -
what sort of alien creature might I be?
I thought ahead further
to the decade after -
which would be a new century -
practically impossible to conceive of, and I
who was 11
who was old before I was young
would be 31 - which was totally unbelievable and
I'd probably have died of old age before then anyway.
Special Report breaking into my Mom's soap opera in the afternoon
to tell us that Reagan had been shot.
My Mother always groaned with concern when a Special Report came on
and I adopted her stance.
Another Special Report: a plane crashed in DC
and survivors were being plucked
one by one, before the television cameras
from the icy Potomac -
that one guy
who kept passing the rescue line on to others
who never got rescued himself.
Sometimes in my dreams, I go back for him.
He is there, waiting.
I bring him to shore and Red Cross volunteers wrap blankets
around us and give us coffee in styrofoam cups.
Amidst the chaos and tragedy, we linger
for a moment on the banks of the Potomac
our breath appearing and disappearing
in the air
and he looks at me and says, "Whew, that was close"
before going home to his family.
I wake up.
The year I graduated high school,
the year I didn't go to the prom
because nobody asked me, which was not unexpected.
Prom night was like most of my other Saturday nights -
paging through my Mom's 1968 set of World Book Encyclopedias,
sipping tea at the kitchen table.
That edition contained the Warren Report
which I read many Saturday nights over the years.
At that time, to me it was just another FACT,
like everything else printed in the 1968 set of World Book Encyclopedias,
I never doubted it.
My mind had other troubles then
and the questioning of FACTS would have to wait.
31 August 2007
Time passing in the fast lane and in the slow lane
making me think I should move over
closer to you on the couch
while you are in the bathroom
so that when you come back
you might not notice me moving in
or maybe you will.
you might return with a measuring tape
and I will be embarrassed
I will fidget and sigh deeply and avoid your gaze
perhaps spilling my lemonade
in the chaos.
I may never see you again -
the bathroom being
a portal to another dimension
where I might try to follow you
but not quite knowing how
to work the controls right
I could end up
being chased by a dinosaur
or run over by a flying taxicab
driven by someone who looks like you
who didn't see me because he was reading a book
and as I lose consciousness
I will think that yours is the last
face I'll ever see,
this taxi becoming an invisible monument
to a moment in time when I was happy
even though on some level I knew
it wasn't you -
even on the plaid couch I knew
but did you ever just want something
so badly that you held on with a death grip
far beyond reason and the well intentioned
concern of others?
If so, then you may not understand
because that's not at all what I'm talking about here.
I'm just saying that I knew it wasn't you
but I felt happy
telling myself it was.
Ultimately I wake up tired
in a hospital bed
with the nurse explaining
how lucky I was to come away from the accident
with only a concussion and a tattoo;
that time is passing
at a phenomenal rate
which could cause side effects;
and that in order to avoid
I should move over on the couch
just a little -
not enough to cause a tear
in the fabric of time
in the fabric of this plaid sofa
with so many tears in it already
but just enough to indicate
I like you
I like what's in your mind
and if you wanted to pass me
in the slow lane,
I would make time for that
despite the chaos
despite the lemonade spots on my dress
and never minding the silver stars clogging my arteries -
all choked up
because they are all about yesterday
and my heart, woven into the fabric of this
old couch is tearing gently
into you - whoever you are
as you open your book:
the door on a gilded cage releasing
a dove, a tiny strip of plaid in its beak -
probably for making a nest
All this because I wasn't keeping up with traffic
because my mind wanders
when I'm trying not to think about you,
steering wheel in a death grip,
and I realize I drove past my exit
years ago and I'm now
far beyond reason, in the breakdown lane.
I stop the car and climb into the back seat,
this old sofa with a sun roof -
I make a visor out of my hands,
straining to see a dove in the chaos
under a lemonade sun.
A faint tearing sound from inside my chest
and yeah, I know what that is.
29 August 2007
I'm in a window seat
on a plane and it's
through cloud layers
of uncertainty, of self-doubt,
through years of sleep, questionable escape.
From the outside, I'm sure it looks
like a regular plane -
a man-made marvel of steel and reinforced glass
ferrying passengers to and from
their dreams and nightmares
it is one of those things
that's hard to explain.
Some people are praying
the failure of gravity I suppose.
Others are sobbing or screaming or
silently gripping the arm rests
(though there aren't enough to go around).
Many are thinking about things they
wished they would have
but were afraid of losing
and now it all comes down -
tears mixed with rain
soaking up grey
in a cloud layer of blues, busted.
Overhead compartments have lost all pretense
and come unhinged
spilling their contents on the heads
of the regretful.
Stewardesses have suspended the coffee service in mid-aisle
and are handing out headphones, free of charge.
I take a set in order to watch the in-flight movie
which today happens to be
my life story in 38 seconds.
In black and white I see
myself on the screen, depicted in a series of
awkward situations from childhood up to now
where I bled out
helplessly - because I couldn't stop it (and sometimes I tried),
gracelessly - because that's how it goes (no use in painting it pretty),
on paper, in letter form
who and what I really wanted in this life.
I watch as the me of different ages
seals each envelope carefully,
addressing them with love and hope -
always hope -
and drops them in mailboxes
all over the world.
Postmen are pictured, sacks of bloodletters
into planes -
although it's not shown if the planes arrive safely at their destinations
or if they end up like this one I'm on now.
And even though it is just a short film,
on a very short plane ride,
the viewer is still expected to suspend disbelief -
like the way the plane is not
and never was;
like walking out to the mailbox, wearing a coat with pockets,
a little hope wrapped in a blood smeared handkerchief;
like clutching a letter, unopened, for as long as you can take it
which today, will not be very long, given the situation.
The recipients of the letters are not portrayed in the film
due to lack of time
but I know them all
by heart and I picture their faces there
as it all comes down
coughing up blood
past the cloud layers
of bad judgement, of misunderstanding
into the bright blue - wide open
for two beautiful seconds of clarity
and everything I knew all along.
And although in the movie it doesn't show
that I ever received any replies,
I still like the ending
because there is no regret -
and now, snow.
27 August 2007
"Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in"
I know that Pinocchio is supposed to have a happy ending
but sometimes I wonder about what happened after
he became a real boy -
after he grew up,
doing what real boys do:
wishing upon stars,
all manner of things...
after he grew old,
when he and this life turned against one another, weary.
This is the part that worries me.
Where would a former wooden boy go
when it came time to meet his maker?
I can't help but think of him -
an expression of confused disbelief carved on to his pale face,
eyes blank, chest hollow -
as he finds himself in the afterlife
sitting on a shelf in some kid's room -
hinged knees bent over the edge, feet dangling
wedged between his old friend Jack-in-the-Box
and a stuffed dog with googly eyes and the tongue hanging out.
with his toys arranged on the shelf
being completely unaware that any are currently in shock
being entirely fearless of death
having been born immortal -
wishing upon a star
because even though he is immortal
he is observant of the fact that something in him feels broken
with no way to mend.
He remembers it starting out as a little pain
the first time he came upon a dead sparrow on the sidewalk
stooping down to gaze at the delicate perfection of its beauty
the lay of the feathers, the tiny feet, now curled
and with each year this feeling widened
hollowing out more and more space inside him
and he looks to the future with dread now
which seems so unfair.
So the kid
asking the magical powers that lie behind the star
the one for wishes
if he could be changed into a boy of wood
so that the hollow inside would be exactly right
and there could be a future without doubt and with
a happy ending.
Being Here Now is Jack-in-the-Box, who goes by Jack,
who likes to read late at night
after everyone has gone to sleep.
He is well versed in the works of Aesop,
knows all the fairy tales by heart
and looks up to the Cat in the Hat as a hero.
This day he is hoping to assuage the boy's little pain
by way of mindless distraction and a not-so-surprise ending.
This night he will be reunited with his old friend Pin
and though he will want to ask him all sorts of questions
about what it's like out there -
with the sparrows and the moon,
he will offer quiet company and a comforting hand
on the end of a long accordion arm.
There will be no reading of books tonight
but perhaps a little stargazing out the window -
not for wishing mind you,
there being no sense in that
as things, Jack has noticed, break and mend as they will,
but maybe a way to read a little bit of magic into
this life -
being what it is
and what it is not
and not to worry so much about the ending.
25 August 2007
I read your book
almost to the end.
I stopped because
I was afraid
to read those last few paragraphs,
to turn that final blank page
and close the back cover
because maybe when I looked up -
you'd be gone
having never existed in any plane of reality
and maybe if I tried to read the book again
I might find the pages all blank,
never knowing what happened
perhaps forgetting that there had been a book
or a you
or even that I know how to read.
But I've dogeared that last page -
my testimony to our once and future exchange of thoughts
and this way I know for sure
we'll always be friends
and there will ever be
something to look forward to
and every time you ask me
if I've finished your book,
I will say
and you'll know that means
there is more to the story.
23 August 2007
the laces, the telephone wire, the chain link fence.
all the words
having already been shot -
flying, being thrown
in your face
their shell casings scattered
their echo in every room in the house
in flames behind you
the expiration date on understanding
in another dimension -
having never existed here
the last dollar
for the change
being tossed into the fountain
of youth and stupidity and clumsy wishes.
the surface tension which had been held so carefully
now unrecognizeable in its shock and awe.
as your eyes could not stay
that last night, pleading
for the change, watching
red tailights fading in the distance
of bad memory
of waking nightmare.
all things being
dried up now, equal, spent
and the tiny, unburdened hope
floating invisibly in your aura
following you home.
22 August 2007
Here Be Dragons
I keep waiting for you
at the cemetery
because I know you won't come
because you are afraid of cemeteries
and I am afraid of you
so somehow there is safety and comfort in that -
like the bright white light of morning
exchanged for a one night stand
against the drift and fade of dark.
And although I know your ship came in
and you have no use
for my buried treasure maps anymore,
I still like them
the way they feel in my hands: promising,
the crinkling sound of the folding and the unfolding
and that they are something great, made to appear small -
as if being shoved in a pocket was endlessly fulfilling.
It gives me something
to do since I still want to wait
a little while longer
until I run out of flimsy explanations
to offer the caretaker.
The waiting is actually the easy part, it's the
going home empty handed
that fills me with dread -
that long, broken walk of silence,
save for the clicking of soles
on asphalt layers of corruption.
And I know about dread -
having spent a lot of time lately,
reviewing the most abrupt summaries
of strangers' lives
etched in grey
that if I've got somewhere to be,
I'd better get going
because later, that somewhere
probably won't fit
in the most abrupt summary of my life
etched in grey,
read by strangers
and preceded by 'meant to'.
So while I'm waiting for you,
blanketed by black, pierced by white and leaning
against the grey,
with my hand reaching
over my head, under the stars
just in case,
I am looking at my map in a curious light
and thinking about whether or not we are
be very much more
than a beginning and end date,
and a lonely walk to eternal home.
21 August 2007
Permission to Slip
Every letter you send me
is like a permission slip for a school field trip
to anywhere -
because it doesn't matter where -
what matters is the anticipation:
that special day to look forward to
when there won't be any schoolwork,
just a chartered bus to ride on
and some kids' parents awkwardly
trying to ride herd on their groups,
and that special lunch my Mom made for me the night before
with things she had purchased in advance,
just for the occasion -
like the tiny cans of Coke
placed overnight in the freezer
and wrapped in tin foil
so they would stay cold during the day;
and the sandwich was maybe a regular sandwich
but on that day, it seemed extraordinary
as I unwrapped it
and felt the smoothness of the bread
which I'd never really noticed before
and how good peanut butter tastes
and everything is just extra
because in fact I'm not even hungry -
it's just that I want to savor the flavor
of eating lunch outside
on stone benches in the sun
with the same kids I eat with every day in the cafeteria
except today we are each different - better -
as indicated by our handwritten nametags
and sensible shoes
(as per the recommendation on the permission slip).
It's all so much to look forward to
that I might even let my anticipation slip a little
in front of everybody at home
by X-ing off the days on the calendar.
I will pester my Mom with great urgency to sign the permission slip,
explaining I must return it to school promptly
to secure my spot on the bus without question;
and I will place it in my lunchbag carefully,
protecting it from creases and pickle juice
and any other calamities which have no right
to tarnish such a perfect thing.
Your letters are just like that to me
and I can't help reading them with all my hopes,
even if I am slipping a little.
19/20 August 2007
If I got to be an angel for a day,
I would like to lie on my stomach
on a cloud and rest my chin in my hands,
wings flapping lazily behind me -
just enough to make a pleasant breeze.
I would gaze down at the earth
and see what sort of shapes I could imagine
and point them out to you
while you lie on your back in the grass
of a mountaintop meadow,
telling me what shapes you see in the clouds.
If I had the chance for just one day to be two things at once,
I would like to be two flowers
grown up through the sidewalk cracks
on the path to your front door.
I would stand up straight and tall
on my spindly stems
and wait for you to choose.
I hope you would pick both - one to give and one to keep -
because I'd like to be the flower
that you picked to give to me
and I'd also like to be the one
that rests in a mason jar of water on the kitchen window sill,
keeping you company
while you wash the dishes.
Three candles on your birthday cake
each representing a bunch of years
so as not to start a fire.
A present, wrapped
even though you already know
what it is
because I told you
because I keep telling you
because I'm like that.
My third and final wish -
having already been granted
I could ever hope for
(plus being an angel
and growing in your path).
So for my last wish,
I hope they will bend the rules
while you blow out three candles
with your eyes squeezed shut,
you won't notice me
making the switch
as I give my last wish to you.
18 August 2007
Remember that day on the carousel -
you asked me to marry you?
I knew you weren't serious
but lately I find myself wishing
I'd said yes
and held you to it -
not so much out of love
but because I wouldn't have minded
teaching you a lesson
for my own good.
I wouldn't have minded
you looking at me
so we'd have to accept one another
without struggling too much.
Mostly, I wouldn't have minded
being stuck on that carousel with you:
the sun in your hair
and the stars in my eyes;
the smirk on your face
and the butterflies in my stomach;
the questions in your head
and the answers in my heart -
and never the two shall meet.
Nothing to read into it:
just some painted horses -
their manes blowing wild in the wind,
some lions wearing elaborate saddles,
offering you a ride in mid-pounce,
and a magnificient dragon
with ruby eyes and a blood red tongue
as he tries to hold his breath
And the music playing
and the operator frowning
while we all hold on and
No, I wouldn't have minded that at all -
for better or for worse.
16 August 2007
Every night on my back porch,
the stars tell me all about yesterdays -
about a tree, thought of as ordinary
by the other trees in the woods
and looking just that way
but this tree had no roots
and stood as a living miracle
until it was cut down and changed
about a pen, unremarkable in any way,
carelessly left on a train;
picked up and used by a quiet little kid
with large eyes and small fears
then forgotten on a window sill
in a hospital room on the 9th floor;
dropped into the cleaning lady's pocket,
used to write a 'Dear John' letter
and one bad check;
being abandoned - like Miss Lonely Heart's hope on Valentine's Day -
on the counter at the store
about a river, rushing
feeding its own hunger for adventure,
tempting fate with its white water
but slowing over time and finally
feeding a reservoir in the city -
its white water now flowing
through pipes buried beneath the concrete
pipes occasionally breached by tree roots
pipes leading to your house
about you and all the things
you were brave about in this life
and all those you weren't
about you with your kettle whistling -
full of white water from a once - and still -
about you sipping your coffee
while you write with a pen accidentally
picked up from the counter at the store
in a notebook of paper made
from a quietly miraculous tree -
humble and content and glorious
about you finishing your coffee
and finishing your story:
an ode to commonplace things,
tales told by stars,
and this hallowed ground we tread upon so heavily.
14 August 2007
You wrote a song for me, finally
and I asked if you would whisper it in my ear
but you decided to sing it at midnight
on New Year's Eve in Times Square
while I watched you on tv.
And although I was looking at you
as you are now - a man -
in my mind's eye, I saw
dressed in a white robe
standing atop an altar
with his mouth opened in an eternal "O",
eyes cast upward,
waiting for that drop of golden light
to spill from the chalice
and bathe his voice in rhapsody
as was certainly God's plan all along.
Later, you only wanted to know
had I cried.
I hardly ever cry about anything
and I didn't want to lie
so I told you that I had felt and understood
it and it was beautiful.
But that wasn't the reaction you deemed fitting
and so you gave my song
to another girl
and another and another and everybody
until half the world was certain
you had written my song just for them
and they told you how wonderful
my song made them feel
and that it made them want
to learn to play guitar
and that you - just you -
were so inspiring and lovely.
You were the picture of grace -
bowing so elegantly
and thanking each one with special attention
to the eyes.
You were right in your element,
brimming with golden light
and exactly where you were supposed to be.
And although you did not notice,
I felt and understood
12 August 2007
I had a song stuck in my head
turned out to be you -
broken, like a record baby
broke, like the wallet
left behind in a cafe
instead of paying the bill
breaking, like the heart
of the waitress left holding your tab
when she realises
today is not her lucky day
break, clean - like a fracture line
that wanted more - too much
and tried too hard
and the snap - like cracking thunder
under the flesh
the terrible grimace on your face
while you keep singing for your supper
because the show must go on
and the sound, so sweet
like a record baby
You finally got your book published
and it was a goddamn
smash, like I always knew
smashing, like you and your charm school manners
when you want something
from me and my schoolgirl heart, bursting
smashed, like the tiny glass horse
given as a gift years ago,
lovingly placed on a shelf
and kept free of dust, scratches,
and other tiny pains
that might befall such a treasure
until one night
when a waitress who'd had a bad day
comes home and is reminded
of how things never seem to work out
like she hoped
and what's the use
of a glass horse anyway
so across the room it flies
with its little pegasus wings flapping
as hard as they can, panicking
and against the wall it shatters
over and over
in my mind for years
stuck on auto replay
like a record baby
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