A hawk diving for a sparrow diving
for a wren. A glint of sunlight on white.
Darkness worried by the sun, red-stained
teeth shouldn’t shine in polite company;
they’re never clean even after repeated
trips to the dentist or that guy by the Dumpsters
back behind Safeway. I liked you better when
you were fat and easy. Never forget: man
is an animal but who will change his diapers
when he’s brought indoors? Or will he stay
outside? The taste of wetness, the smell
of pink on young skin. None of this compares
to warm feet, quiet Sunday mornings on hawk
-feathered pillows. The chains hardly chaff
with the proper ointments applied. Sears is both
a palette and a way of life. The lonely literalist
of the heart tastes blood when he runs, but it’s
always his own. His white shirt, starched stiff,
glows in the morning light. No one asks to see
Elegy for the Dryer
Mom taught me to clean a lint trap, that time,
was it even six months after Dad bought
the brand new dryer that it caught fire and burned
because she didn’t know you were supposed
to clean the lint trap out. “I thought it was self-cleaning,
like the oven,” she said. This was after the disease
had taken her taste buds so she lived on onions
and pickles, taken her memories so she wrote everything
she could remember in quick lines, taken her sense
of self and left her with a nervous twitch and terrified
eyes, but really; can everything be blamed on bad
wiring? We found her wedding dress after the funeral,
the stitch-work on the lace jumped and fell like the dial
of a seismograph. “Can you believe she was a home-ec major?”
My sister said. I’d had no idea. But let’s not pretend
our past matters more than it does. So many anecdotes pale
in the light of shining eyes when you realize you’re simply
revealing the shame of the little boy who can’t keep up,
tumbling down the hill behind his mother, who’s running
to outpace what can’t be escaped. So you clean
the lint trap, make notes, yourself, but walk slow
when the hills are steep because grass stains don’t come out.
The trepannist smells the oil beneath
the grass when we see nothing but
green. He can hear the pulse of the clouds
sheltering us from the supposedly searing
heat let in through their burr-holes. His
thinking is magic; he tastes the dead in
every bread loaf. The demons can’t escape
without a path; when God closes a door,
a window must be opened or else the house
will explode from the pressure. Likewise,
the heavy stone of madness must be
extracted lest it weigh one down. But what’s
to be done with the stone once removed?
Once it’s out, he doesn’t care. He’s concerned
with the unimpeded flow of blood from inside
to outside, the exchange of divine radio signals.
It’s not for us to understand the skull-less
thinking of an uncovered brain, the soft places
in his thought patterns, the openings that allow
what we cannot imagine: it’s for us to abide.
Children of the Mail
We were born with No Postage Required tattooed on our backs, and we wonder why we’re forever sending ourselves away. We stink of ink; our skin is rough as yellowed paper as it ages. Our tongues taste glue, no matter what we use to wash it away. We are forever hearing the postman’s footsteps while we try to get on with our red work. Each tooth, a quarter. Each quarter, a curse. There are gods in distant cities passing over each of our children with fingertips stained with the blood of the newborn. They’ve wandered onto pedestals because they could make no miracles of their own. They smell like cigarettes and granola, crunchy failure and stale ambition. They are legion, and we would all trade 5 a.m. for their workload. We scribble out loaves and fishes, raise the dead as offering.
Try again, later.
Cathedrals of the Useless
We didn’t know how to dance, didn’t know smiles were for more than showing our immaculately cared-for teeth, so we swayed awkwardly, grimacing at the walls which refused to acknowledge our manners. We didn’t know what mattered, so we catalogued minutiae, built cathedrals of the useless and called ourselves avant. We conferred degrees on the most pedantic among us and fought bitter disagreements over the proper spellings of the janitors’ names, which we never remembered when we met them in the halls. We had paper cuts on our tongues from trying to taste genius. Our noses bled ink. Sometimes, in the alleys between the marbled halls we’d built with our parents’ money, we saw dirty, paint-smeared things, swaying in time to their spray cans as they applied the slightest dash of color. Our security force would wait until the paint dried before locking them in the highest towers where everything below looked like something we couldn’t define.
Blues for Clooney
You got fat and I got fat but you
still get work. We can’t all afford
a monkey, but that’s what makes
you George. The other kids closed
their fists when they speculated
I might be gay. I wasn’t and you
weren’t and they were but who
cares? You got old and you got
political and your movies are just
as boring as my life, now. See?
We’re the same. No villas for me
but that’s okay: my monkey
doesn’t have to wear diapers.
It Isn’t Ice Cream
Einstein crying in the park as his ice cream
melts on the sidewalk; he knows too much
to ever be happy. Me, breath bated with chicken
liver, I’m going to catch me a turtle. But only
armadillos can walk on water, and Einstein’s
never been to Arkansas. Delilah, I can’t talk
to you when you listen with your mouth.
Words are not thoughts though they appear
just as fleeting. Don’t tell me about your lactose
intolerance when I’m trying to share my
philosophy; I can smell it in your teeth.
I’ve had enough vanilla ice cream hours;
let’s make chocolate days. Better yet, moose
tracks. All that bench sitting only serves
to collect splinters in my ass. Delilah, let’s talk:
the red womb of your discontent cannot hold you
indefinitely. At some point, your water’s
going to break, and who’s going to clean
that up? I’ll love you until it melts if you share
your waffle cone. That’s all I ask.