a man who used to know me said that
i am not worldly, as i once claimed.
even if i add up all the empty moments,
it still leaves a taste, a richness in my mouth
like the cake i will not eat because i am
terrified of gaining weight, so i stuff down
cigarettes to stave off my hunger, but
the hunger goes deeper and deeper still.
i didn’t fall from heaven. i grew from the
earth beneath the pavement, in cracks
and voids, pushing through, just to see
a bit of sunlight. my hands often have
scrapes and cuts on them and i don’t
remember where they came from–
it is with this same kind of carelessness
that i leave the front door unlocked, but
am not nervous about anyone entering.
and should i be. what will come, will
come, through windows and broken
screens that flap in the breeze in the
hall of my heart. i would devote myself
to the sky but i’m not sure if it would
matter. i am not your angel, and i proved
it to you by leaving, as i have left every-
one before, before they could leave me.
i do these things out of a fear i can’t
pinpoint, out of a vulnerability that i
must cover with earth before anyone
sees what may fruit. these pills are
supposed to balance my brain, but i
am already upside-down and gone
before you even knew i was there.
the forecast is partly cloudy and chance of kisses 50%
but these lips have flown from my mouth, and the dry
season is coming upon us. some days i just don’t feel
like reading any self-help books, when i am very far away
from myself, a shadow with a cigarette. my edges start
to mingle with the atmosphere and i long for the sea
to help me remember infinity, because the myth of the
horizon has been already been revealed. these vaporous
tendencies don’t mean i contradict myself, and though
the words vanish in the air i can feel them still hanging
like earrings from my earlobes. there is truth to be
found even in the dissipation of half-hearted promises
and i don’t lie to you, the birds overhead, or myself,
i just change my mind often and life isn’t to be filled in
with one neat little bubble per question. the blood
inside me ebbs and flows, that inner tide that carries
with it the questions that nobody can answer but
myself, and as my shadow lengthens i feel myself blur,
and go softly into the stillness there.
why does the rush and torrent of the soul
so seldom break out from beneath our skin
we’ve got trigger hair tempers and mistaken ire
carrying the carcass of truth in our hands
obscuring the light, that although never fading,
can dim until we can no longer see in the dark.
blindly we reach with our hands and will grasp
anything near, even the necks of our beloved,
desperate to keep the old adages true,
that we are flawed and broken-winged
that the lines in our paper hands can never be
unfolded or uncreased, that the ink that dries
beneath our fingernails will never fade.
go soak your hands in the salty ocean,
knowing to move when the tide comes in,
betraying not a single grain of sand with
your footprints because we are carried
forward by the wind, and we leave no trace–
not even the sun will recognize us at dawn,
unmade and spotless in the light.
the seed has been planted
the willow will wave
the redwood will tower
and the oak will be strong
against your back
this is how you learn
how to lose anger
how to keep sadness spacious
that space within the heart
that knows its own death
pour yourself like water into clear glasses
let them drink from you
and see their own reflections
and know who they are
the glass is most beautiful
right as it slips from your hand
right before it hits the floor
right when it shatters
not everything broken
begs to be fixed.
where were you when the clouds hazed over the moon
when the most acute longings boiled to the surface like a sea on fire
i have waited an eternity for just a few moments to rest
a few minutes to sit and catch my breath in a field of marigolds
swallowing petals like poultices for my lungs that are weary of breathing
i am a curtain filling with light as the dawn breaks over the line of the sea
the billowing wind that carries with it the sense of treason against dreams
and the singular thought that i might never get to do what i was meant to
here in this incarnation where i gasp as i run towards the shoreline
that would let me give myself to that primordial rush
that swells beneath my skin battered by memory,
that would forgive me of my mistakes plentiful as rain,
that would finally let me unyolk myself, and be free.
she is cloud-eater, destroyer of perfection
that illusion that held us so deep in prayer
how predictable our heartbeats are
how the things we can count on
so often drag us into the ground.
she rubs the temples she sits within,
entrenched in the memory that binds her,
a red-eyed heaviness that is not reflected in the mirror
but still penetrates and pervades.
the sluice of the present becomes the past
and she cannot tell where one ends and begins
a glistening fish that evades her severed hands.
midnight drips from the sky, a ruined canvas at most
she brings a palm to her mouth to taste the salt
that will bury her yet before this eviction of ghosts
we were no match for the sunlight,
these dust motes in our eyes
but we broke the seals on the sills
and let in the day.
the things we must face: crowded
grocery stores, the drive to work,
fathers with deteriorated minds,
cavities in our teeth, how i don’t
love you like i used to.
when we cough clouds of memory
float forth, but it’s hazy as a half-
we miss the things we never had,
and the fingerprints on your heart
are mistaken for maps of mountain
ridges that we have never traversed.
eventually we will forget everything,
even the pain of forgetting itself.
i’ve had writer’s block going on two years now.
but it’s time to get to work.
your tongue lies still and cold inside your mouth
the color of cigarette ash on snow
your mouth has become a coffin
a sepulcher of words
What I hate most about going out is that everyone always looks like everyone else to me. I know that person. No I don’t. I remember you. I’ve never seen that person before. Or have I. How did you not see that, he says to me, the body under the yellow tarp in the middle of the highway on our way to work. Because everyone looks like everyone else, I don’t say.
if this is where i must find you
a ruined footpath in the woods
the edge of a shadow against a
wall of water, a salt-stained shaft
of driftwood, endlessly drifting,
then this is where i will find you,
aggressive as a bird even in dreams.
there was one piper, a clutch of
ducklings that spun apart like a
clove of garlic beneath the thwack
of the blunt edge of the knife, in
a kitchen where the roots were
baking and i did not know how,
i could not tell you why, i never
gave you a copy of that poem.
if this is where i must find you,
then let me find you dead and cold,
with only the feather of the piper
between your palms, on a shore
where i lay scattered as broken
shells, denuded and ever-quenched
in your memory.
she detested the maneuvering and sidestepping that always accompanied
the crossing over the threshold, over into that place that stymied all the thrashings
of her elegantly violent soul. she was a satellite–she sat in the middle of the room
surrounded by glass walls and, when appropriate, pulled out clots of her blood
and tossed them into the wastebasket. no one saw her. but they watched her all
this is how we change–nautilus chamber, spokes of a wheel
some passion i don’t speak about. i see the growth curl, i see
it siphoning water and glory, i see its breath as it breaks through
the gutter and reaches towards the sky–my waist expands rotted
wood and i feel tendrils of myself steadying, then sinking, then
sinking. peat-moss fingers on me–i kiss them as i would the muzzle
of my lover’s gun and dose myself just to be sure–hazy smoke-filled
thought these days leaves me nostalgic for the past and angry about
what happened then, all those wrongs adding, multiplying, staggering
the numbers–just when i think i will tear you key from key you hit
depressed ivory notes and i can feel the terror in them, the quiet
hatred and the laughing crow and the white egret and the great
blue heron all become one sinuous figure in my mind, a summation
of all the greatest parts of my life–a raindrop staining a window that
you turn from when you hear someone call your name down a hall
in a house that is torn bit by ragged bit from my memory, until all
the edges are worn–i remember who has died and who has remained
and wonder who is the better for it. the sunglint is too much–it blinds
me with its radiant angle, its disastrous glare in the rearview of my
youth, and the sparksun becomes a single point of light–i press it
into your hand, then scatter.
returning is not an option. the tide has gone out
and taken all the sea glass that i might draw across
my wrists again and again, singing the song of
not-knowing, the worst of all fears.
the dye runs off my tongue and stains your skin
you look towards the rain-washed window
and i instinctively turn my head,
gazing back at myself, naked as a fresh page
that which will survive, only time can see
that seer indifferent to all the little catastrophes
that make up my heartbeats, my breath–
even the trees will eventually shake me loose.
i have come to this place because i am
no longer the one i once was,
because it is only in dream-space that we
might reveal ourselves and the stars
would not rage in jealousy.
this is where i tell the truth
for the first time in my life.
i was raised by the earth
cast out by the earth
and now am dead
wandering the earth
gathering silt and loam
the crushed abalone
and the green stems
that grow in the furrows
that run along the highway
all thumbs point north–
no, all thumbs point to the sky
and i am sun-blind and weary
with a dessicated dream under my arm.
we were all asymmetrical desire
the earth remembers me not
and i have come to the city
to revoke the rights of those
who haunt me
to return again to the tide
of human flesh
to bring you my brackish words,
so that you, too, might remember
who you tried so hard to be.
she puts a needle-sharp word to my tendon
and my wrist twitches. a few carefully aimed
stabs and i am moving not of my own accord.
she knows how to throw the acid of guilt over
my musculature to make me do what she wants,
how to twist bone just to the point of snapping
how to make me smile and nod, smile and nod
how, at this point, i yearn for strings,
just because it wouldn’t be so painful.
all i want is your love dripping into me like an iv–
people drive by my window, boxed into their little
cars, their big cars, worrying about the origins of
the universe, and hoping that dunkin donuts will
have that cheese bagel twist they want. these days
i think about all of the people i have loved and how
presumptuous it is of me to think i know love, love
in a closed fist, love in a bandage. some damage
the hospital can’t treat. the bonesetter simply looks
at me and sighs, the surgeon puts his gloves on.
even my veins shy away from your love. they get
out the saw, let the acid tabs dissolve. here it comes.
the interstate makes no promises. but this is new haven, and this is providence, and this is boston, and this is love. i wake up too early in the mornings in new jersey, an empty space at my back. shivering in the summer though my small windowless room beneath the stairs is quiet and cool. a profusion of dying flowers in the dining room. lilies are for death, my mother had said. then lilies are for all of life, i thought. the clockhand is a spindle i prick my finger on. come on, i’m waiting.
all i want is to meet the sea as an equal.
when the words don’t come, it’s time to
go hold my head under the water in the
bathtub, break another heart. such things
these days are locusts in my hair. i’ve
learned to flinch at the setting of the sun,
wondering if what they said about me
was true after all. i read my diagnosis again
and again. intense stormy interpersonal
relationships. can’t keep a friend to save
her life. often dates the people who sew
up her wounds. i put the paper down and
blot at my wrist. this kind of seepage was
meant for lovers less than 250 miles apart.
there is no truth other than what lies in my heart.
where were you when the light was gone,
after it had dropped like a stone below
the horizon of my body, that vanishing point
of myself where i was alone. a dip of tonal static
and you might hear my torn voice scratching
at the walls, don’t look at me, my face like
a broken windshield. you wintered in the eaves
of my heart but the spring drove you in search
of more hospitable dwellings. do not under-
estimate the malice of a picket fence when
it pierces your skin, where i fell with scabs
on my back and a dark twist of hair lamenting
its own length as you plucked ingots of tears
from my eyes, beautiful and worthless.
i sit with my back straight out of habit
not learned from school, which didn’t
teach me much except how to fit an
entire sonnet on the toe of my converse
sneaker in sharpie, how to feint & dodge
and faint & be dislodged to finally settle
in my own ire. my knees have been giving
out on me lately, locking like a canal where
i could see myself rise and set in the same
day over and over again, an unearthly clock-
work bound by laws of science which
fascinated the both of us, but we could
spend our lives theorizing about quantum
existence and it wouldn’t really change
anything, not the way we fight or make
love or read about new developments in
technology, which still hasn’t gotten
anything right about love, and probably