Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Poems: 2008 - 2010

1 March 2010

The hands of time bound
behind her
the clock face battered
nobody thought to cut the ties but
someone gave her a cigarette.

I opened my eyes
stinging to find
everyone I ever loved
- or would have
gathered around, dimming
and you were there
and you were there
and you were there.
Someone had given me a cigarette.

Outside a fire was burning up an apartment building
firemen standing around a black hydrant
oil gushing
the trappings of wealth
spittle in the corners of their mouths.
People screaming
mattresses being forced through windows
then -
reborn hard, baptized in flames.

Somewhere in Kansas, a river flows
and laps at the edges
stones slowly smoothed
pollen loosed, flying
and a faint scent of smoke on the wind.


8 May 2009

ghosts hiding under sheets
because attics are scary, especially
at night
and people are
the myth of chains
in twilight sleeplessness
in a dusty dismissed thought
trying to pick up
something sharp
to carve a message in the tabletop
but there is no touch
and the only sound
muffled by cotton
and regret:
"Save me".


24 January 2009

Forever going back to that moment
a dead bird in the yard
kneeling down to see how thin the legs
how fragile
the toes curled and the eyes closed
but otherwise - perfect and beautiful
every feather in its place, folded wings
little black beak
something inside of you breaks
and from this day forward you have to
swallow it down

ashes fall from the corners of your eyes
and you open your kid hand
to watch the flame extinguish
in that last bit of twilight before
Mom calls you in for the night.


19 December 2008

I wanted to be your favorite poet
not that you'd say my poems are good
in any particular way
but because if you ever thought about it
you might stop your bike
on the sidewalk in front of a sandwich shop
and brush the hair back from your reflection in the window
rubbing your fingers together as you realize
you really couldn't say why
and then, noticing it's late, you'd start pedaling
again to get home


4 December 2008

You, still waiting to break
on through to this side
Like a stack of pretty presents
in heavy pink paper with brown polka dots
all bundled up and tied with a mesh bow
that nobody opens because
well - you can just tell,
some things are too good to be torn apart.

I might slip you a note underneath the glass door
with your name on the front, carefully printed in capital letters
to show that you are important.
I would tell you that the world is full
of people wanting to be understood
and everything is fine.
I would say that you could fall apart if you needed to
you could sleep, dream
and still be pretty.
And even if things haven't worked out
like you had hoped in your Summer
of clean sheets and pancake breakfasts and Christmas in July
there is still Time.


22 November 2008

If I was a magician I would
take all your doubts and worries and regrets
and put them in a hat
and flutter a silk scarf over the top to change
them into something like a dove or a bunny
and then I would carry the hat around the theater
asking people if they wanted to see inside -
if they wanted to look at your indecision and the way you beat yourself up
with alcohol and pills and bad art
and of course everyone would be so eager to see
although they would try to appear casual
as if they are just going along with the show
but they would say YES with a little too much shrill
while the spittle gathers at the corners of their mouths
and I know them.
Still I would let them all look in the hat
and there would be the rabbit, wriggling his nose in silent indifference.
Everyone would be secretly disappointed but fake chuckling
saying "Very good" and looking around to acknowledge that of course
they knew all along.
They didn't know.
They never know.
I know. Them. And you.
You'd be the only one who wouldn't look.
You'd wait until the audience was engaged in the trick
and then slip out the back.
You'd be walking home with your hands jammed in the pockets of your pea coat
and your head jammed with self-doubt and regret with that same
question spinning loops around your brain:
Where can I get some poison and how much of it can I get into myself
before everything goes black?
You are a walking Bad Accident Trick.



All my bad decisions made to march
through the desert winds, dark rain, cobblestone
fever shakes, dead of night, the snow seeps in through the soles

Bound to each other so
that when one falls
the others must drag the dead

Weapons being cleaned
by the hands of time
while empty mouths bellow orders
that echo in the chambers


Box Office Draw

That movie was on again last night - the one with
the guy who reminds me of you
It's not that he looks like you or acts like you or that
sometimes at 4am I wake up and can't get back
to sleep and I think of him.
It's not that part at the end where he destroys
himself and everyone around him
or how that makes me wonder why you
are doing whatever it is you are doing right now
It's not so much the way that movie
plays in my head when I'm driving or eating my lunch
or that sometimes I see myself in that movie
with you
a prettier me - more Hollywood and more commercial appeal.

I don't know why he reminds me of you really. It makes no sense
to think about it
on a summer's twilight
when the mosquitoes are like vampires,
the tree frogs are singing in the darkening pines
and the night comes in and holds you there
just a little too long - and the way that makes you feel
until everything fades to black.


16 July 2008

I have the beach to myself
because it's Winter
except there is a guy
shuffling along -
I don't think he notices me.
I feel around in the white sand
while I think about a postage stamp
that I need
that I can't afford.
Doesn't really cover it
Suddenly my fingers feel something
metal in the white
a chain
I feel some more
even though I don't want to -
it keeps going.
I follow it down to the shoreline
I have to dig with my hands
but finally I see the end
It's a huge rubber plug
I am immediately desperate with desire
to pull it
I'm going to drain the Atlantic Ocean
Me - who can't buy a stamp
I look back to shuffling man
He doesn't see me
I want to do it
I haven't been this excited in years
I pull on the chain just a little
to see if I could do it
The plug shifts and a bubble emerges
I can do it
I want to do it
I'm going to do it
Shuffling man will be my accomplice
He'll never realize that he was there
when it happened -
The start of the end of everything.
I pull the plug.

Hours go by and the ocean is smaller
I can tell
Water is rushing down the drain
I don't want to know where it's going
This is going to take awhile
I close my eyes to white
and wonder what it will be like
when that last little bit circles the drain
and it's the end.
I picture miles of flopping fish,
whales slapping their tails on the dry ocean floor, maybe an octopus
But what if it isn't like that?
What if Jacques Cousteau was just some
actor filming in a pool in Hollywood?
There might not be anything underneath
Literally nothing. An abyss
Black, as far as the eye can't see
The kind of black that grows and
follows you and eventually swallows you up
I've seen that abyss, stuck my hand in
and yanked back bloody fingertips.
It knows my name.

I stomp the plug back into place
and rebury the chain
I think about shaking down
shuffling man for a stamp.
But he's gone
It's just me now
The white Winter sun has set
and the tide is coming in
for me.
Like I always knew it would
I kick my leg a little to feel
the chain around my ankle
I want to do it
I know where I'm going
I close my eyes
and wait for it


5 July 2008

Everything Go

What's it to you?
There - sleekblack and cool for cats, palefaced and sunglassed
but me
Here - fuzzy and unraveling, loud and overheard
clutching an empty dance card
but you
don't dance.


23 May 2008

I'd like to be the kind of dead man
who inspires strangers, upon hearing of my death,
to do impulsive things that smack of majesty
a little.
Like some girl riding a stolen horse all night
until they hit the sea
and the horse wants to go in
but the girl holds her back
because it's dark and the horse
is a stranger to her,
like the ocean,
and me
dreaming on the floor
of the sea
of the United Nations
where a gentleman representing Zimbabwe
or some great sounding place like that
asks for a moment to address the dignitaries.
He starts talking about a dog he grew up with
and how he fed the dog from his plate
and told him secrets at night -
then the gentleman chokes up
and even though most people haven't been listening
to the translation, everyone is moved and for a moment - happy,
like me
as my body sinks unnoticed
into the moss and the wild mushrooms
and a dragonfly hovers,
landing on my nose just to rest
and look around
and figure out
what's next.


17 April 2008

Washing Up

I just wanted to surface in your library chair
with daisies pushing up the floorboards
and you
in your smoking jacket
my dress smooth but my mind careening down side streets
your flip book bible
plague dogging me
through holes in the roof
through gaps in my life
one drop of salt water dousing your cigarette
the softness of moss crawling the walls
and the smell of old books
once wet with rain, now holding their tongues.
Through a cracked glass eye
see the angled good in you trying not
to spill and your hair falling
while your leg shakes.
The whole thing happening like it never would
and everyone we know praying
because there's water damage on the plaster
and it looks like God
fleeing the blitz
but all I see are cracks.
I think I'll go over there
and explain the mystery I can't
tell you
just in case.
And then I'm going to do that trick
with the gasoline can and a match
just in case.


7 April 2008


Every leaf stripped from every tree
my rusted roots unearthed, crucifying naked
on the side of the freeway
I’m sorry I bled on
your white sheets of heaven
my breath steaming over your glass
sheets of hell
the fires coughing
and the rain burning
and the pills not working


8 March 2008

You can’t slide me into your wallet
between a business card for some lawyer
and a drycleaner’s ticket - I’ll fallout.
You can’t rattle me with spare change
in your pocket as you walk down the street -
I’ll nickel and dime the place until I burn a hole through it.
Don’t try to press me between the pages
of a book you never read because I won’t be there
when you dust off the jacket to admire your work.
But I wouldn’t mind your mind
if you wanted to keep me in the back
where I could swing in a hammock, dragging
my toes in your sands and letting the juice
from an orange run down my arm.


24 February 2008

I’m putting you in this poem
so I’ll always know where you are
right where I left you
right with everything
I love.
I never want to wake up in the middle
of the night
breathless and blinking
wondering what happened to you
and how things went so wrong
so fast, feeling the edges
of that hole you put your fist through.
I never want to have that dream again
where you are the river rushing
battering yourself against the rocks
raging darkly toward endless sea
silently mouthing your disbelief,
"This is my body, this is my blood".
I never want to have to reach farther
than this notebook
to find you
are safely sleeping, curled
at the edges, dreaming
in ink.


17 February 2008

I used to want to crack myself open over your head
and crumble all down you with your eyes closed
so you could say what you thought it was
and I would giggle and then we’d do it again

I wanted to guess which hand
held a sweaty fireball or maybe a sucker punch
not caring for either but acting as if
the whole of the universe depended on the outcome

I longed to make a Valentine
that would impress beyond my ability
but I was always out of glue
and the glitter wouldn’t stay

I wanted all those things then but none
would fit into my shoebox of love
with my heart on the wing breathing
through safety scissors holes poked in the lid


5 February 2008


I love you, I've always loved you
and I will
I just want you to know this
because I can't leave it on your voicemail
or text you or send it to you
in a letter on kitten stationery
written in pink ink loopy with hearts
to dot the i's
I can't read it to you by the moonlight
slipping through the window
but it's here
as this pen touches this paper
it's here

They say you can't take it with you
but you can - this
although I wish
you could stay
off the railing
on this bridge of doubt
its bay of regret
waving beneath
it's nice to see a friendly face
but there is a gap
of trust and understanding
I wish you could


27 January 2008

Stream of C

Crown of Thorns are destroying the Great Barrier Reef.
It's a holocaust and it's my fault
because I am that goddamned annoying
animal called human.

Aliens began abducting me when I was 4
out the window for experiments in the night
but I talked so much
"like a fucking radio" they said
that I was expelled from the program.
I haven't heard from them since.
Maybe I should quit ironing my pajamas
and become a pessimist.

A rogue satellite is careening
toward Earth
out of control and it
"may contain hazardous materials".
May? Don't they know?
Is anybody writing this stuff down?

The alarm goes off on my doomsday clock
radio beside the bed
It's another cold morning
as the bell jar descends one more tick
I walk outside and there is a rabbit
sitting behind my car
he has one wetblack eye on me
and it's like a pool of good memories
I want to dive in -
I forget what I came for.
We look at each other for a frozen moment
and I believe
Nothing bad is about to happen.
We think about how great that sun is
warming us so graciously
and I know
I'm going to iron my pajamas
again tonight.


21 January 2008

What if I just said nothing
and let the ink of you
cloud, swirl and melt
all through me

What if I reached out
but did not touch
the shadowy light which moves
over you the way I want to

I don't know why but I always
picture us laughing
as we flow through every open door
between your nightmare and my dream
changing the locks and laying the keys
on the drift
on the rise and fall
the weight of bad memories
the heaviness of time
pushing against your chest
causing you to breathe
making you think
you're winning
moving you
to say


10 January 2008

God but it's beautiful -
the light
over the boughs
the holes
the holes
empty, gutted
the flesh gangrenous at the edges
the urn
dropped down a muddy schism
without a prayer
because there's no one to pay
the cement poured over
to mark the spot
in case anyone ever shows up
with a checkbook
but it's beautiful -
the leaning
the falling
the sapling
breath hanging in the air
one more wish
the wren
on a wordless flight
heart pounding
wings beating through the night
because the sleet came too soon
the flight for life
or death
cutting a mortal path in the freezing rain
and it's so beautiful

All pieces are original and copyright protected.
Shirley Thistlethwaite


  1. thanks for the message - this makes me a very happy camper indeed! i was daydreaming about your poem the other day - the one with the chain in the sand.

  2. Damn - you have a very good memory! And of course I'm thrilled to think you would spend a tiny bit of it on me. I'll pay ya back.

  3. i'm loving reading this again. just realised 'box office draw' possibly inspired this of mine: