Angel Food Wasn’t It
Context Determines Pace
Burns Bright/Burns Out
Charleston, South Carolina
Fires and Hurricanes
Plane Trip #72
Some Destiny Happening
The First Lie and After
Her and Me Confused
You Were There
Even Less Likely
The Shit I Did and Survived
Johnny John and James
Pittsburgh and Someplace Else
Sweet Dreams Bitch
Plane Trip #71
One Old Man Walking
Palm Beach Gardens
Plane Trip #70
Angel Food Wasn’t It
I’ve become one of those people: I am heading back to a circumstance I know is doomed I am staying in a situation both terrible and familiar I’ve condemned so many for actions I now take for staying or not leaving or coming back for more I know something of why now how it happens you think there are choices that aren’t really there you think there are different paths but become grateful for having even one even one long and doomed right back into the heart of greatest misery because once and maybe only once a very very long time ago once and maybe only once or twice or three times or a week or month or year it doesn’t matter you find yourself marching back to the heart of your greatest misery as if it hadn’t happened at all because once or for awhile before it became what it is now – admit it – for awhile before it became what it is now once for awhile it was more or less okay. You walk right up to the knife that stabbed you in the back because you can still taste that cake it had cut Angel Food wasn’t it so light and sweet and simple.
Context Determines Pace and Vice Versa
It takes three days to fold the wash. It takes. Three days. To fold. The wash. It takes three days to make the bed. These are not the same three days it took to fold the wash. It takes. Three days. To make. The bed. It takes ten minutes to fall asleep and ten hours to wake back up again. I remember the second you fell out of love and the weeks I spent ignoring it. For months and months I tried still it takes years to recover something. I can hold my breath for a very long time but I’m too old now to faint from it.
Tell me is there is something you want to say before the first of us dies? Tell me.
Burns Bright/Burns Out
We charged the air; we wrecked it. We made stars fall and saw it happen; we made the sky come apart. The sky came apart and left a colored scar between the blue and the grey; we saw that too. We are a fortress and wine that survived the war, old and ready. We’re lucky like that. We are waves that crashed and made others fall down wet and us better than them. We are waves that entice then rob you blind. We are a machete in the hand of a child, dangerous and generous both and deciding which to show you. We are suspicious, or were then. We even hated you for a while.
We are slopes and ice and dangerous curves, we’re a reliable car that’s driven too fast. Fast, yes: It’s speed that took it all away and sent us home. Speed: It lifted us, we were even upside down and landed when others crashed, we were spotless then. We left broken ones behind. We ate yellow, we ate living things, we ate each other like no one has or would but I remember.
And we breathed. We breathed in green and blew out gold and in that currency we lost ourselves. We lost ourselves and we lost other things. We lost a life and chance to repair stars and cuts and those left in our wake until that very moment when we washed (separately) into some other’s, and we were the ones there melting, sputtering, broken. Now no one believes me.
We were too lucky. Something had to give and it did. But in the end I’d rather be your victim than be you.
Charleston, South Carolina
I liked the beach, that was my favorite part.
She had a headache the whole time and tried to chase it away with alcohol. Everyone did. He picks fights with the waiters and she orders another round. We’re too drunk to taste the food, but he complains about it. I leave big tips and cross the street recklessly, waiting for one of us to get clipped. Hoping for it.
They sell old slave posters in the market. Runaway: Dressed Liked a Boy. Runaway: Carrying Children. Plow For Sale, Mule For Sale. People. She’s says it so we don’t forget but I wonder who would buy such a thing. I wonder who makes them, who profits.
But For the Grace of God it says. But for the Grace of God. It happened.
I liked the beach, and I liked him too. I like when the sun comes up and when I can hear the birds wake nothing bothers me then. I wonder how it feels to wake up singing, this more mysterious than flight.
It’s harder to pretend by say the third day. No one noticed me before though they won’t now.
Goodbye Bug Island! He says with too much joy; he says with superiority, like these mosquitoes are worse than the roaches he knows so intimately.
She hates: Geese and beaver red wine the boss and the friends of her children.
The sun rose and the tide shifted and waves and I thought to myself For all time it has been just like this. I wonder if nature stirred my forefathers or if then there was just too much of it. I wonder how a man can live to own another man. I wonder of lust strong enough to continue. Living I mean living.
There were dolphins in the bay, in the bay so close to us and in a tidal pool I touched an anemone and it pulled as if to swallow me. I touched an anemone and it felt like a cactus, a specific one I felt one day in Southern California. I remember those spines precisely, but here, an animal.
He said The bugs were horrible! Horrible! There were dolphins in the bay and light was speaking to the water kind words, romantic ones. I think of this and scratch my bitten chin.
She hates: The waiter and the waitress and him and maybe me too.
Hate is a very strong word.
Snow gives off a specific light. You will know it has happened before you turn to the window; before you are even awake, or have opened your eyes. You believe you must be dreaming beautiful to see, this beyond silver more humble than gold. You will know it has happened before you open your eyes. You think you are dreaming but no. Snow gives off a specific light eyes closed beautiful and heaven when you open them.
The ex-patriots drink too much. I see them near the water at sunrise, up early so maybe it’s fine to have the first beer at ten. You can spot the Americans, always a beer in hand: On the beach, on horseback. Ex-patriots wear neat shirts, the tourists are in swimsuits – that’s how to tell them apart. I am instantly local, covered up as I am.
The last night is when the band is playing. They are either good or it’s just good to hear them, under bright room lights in a little café. It is good to be able sing out loud, careless. It is good to be the native, even if the label is a false one as will be proved by tomorrow’s departure. It is good to be beside my friend, to share this, to eat this, to make noise and to listen.
He is a good singer because we can hear the sadness in his voice.
I wonder why he’s like that, living as he does in his paradise.
A humpback whale, or parts of it; its breath spouting, its steam. That was the first day, I couldn’t have realized the sight was unusual. Privileged.
A ray, that’s what I think it was. Out there, black, triangular and spinning – spinning in leaps and fits, plunging into water, then air. Was it dying? Was it living? Was it playing? Animals play.
Later, the sun behind the waves, giant waves, giant horses tearing apart the beach with their hooves. Crashing in. The sun behind, revealing: Fish swimming inside of them. It didn’t seem possible, waves like monsters fish swallowed up but no, swimming. Animals play. Again, I couldn’t have realized then the sight was unusual. I kept looking for it again.
Children play, sometimes too rough with a pup still smaller than my hand. In and out of the surf, milder water yes but the dog is trembling. I offer to hold it but despite its distress it prefers its own children, and cries for them. I take it against my chest, My heartbeat will calm it down. I carry it into the sun, trying to warm it. It settles yes but unhappily, in a tiny ball near the children’s things. And this concludes my own day.
The morning that follows is tinged with destiny, or that’s my excuse for the small delays of forgotten objects or necessary refreshment, unavailable. Road trip, North along the coast. Skip three towns opting for the forth. Skip three venues opting for the forth, for breakfast. I face the street and meet some eyes, familiar and I place them. She heads to a truck and opens to door, and brings me the puppy. Yesterday’s animal. It is no longer distressed. I enjoy its musky kisses. I consider the odds, impossible. And yet, here we are. Maybe forty miles, maybe twenty hours. Time plays.
It was like that there.
I play. It is a game of my invention, spotting a stone and chasing it, trying to get to it before the a greedy wave takes my rock forever. I win about half of the time. I am like this for hours. I win about half of the time. I win.
I think of him now, an ordinary man lying on the beach but on his side, curled slightly, not much. Sand like bed, forearm is pillow. He is an ordinary man lying on his side, facing away from the water. He is lying on his side, listening to the waves, running his free fingers through the sand.
Well I haven’t seen you naked in so long. Now look at you standing there. You look good, pretty good, not as good as well before but you are just buck now aren’t you? And while you have no choice about it – none – you look pretty good. Now you don’t have any choice about it see but really it feels natural. It feels natural even though remember you’ve got no choice in the matter none or maybe this is as natural as it gets, having no choice at all.
Fires and Hurricanes
I wouldn’t do it now, but back then I was rolling in it. It made me reckless, not just with money I mean. I felt charmed, I felt golden like anything was possible and everything was mine.
Wind comes to bring something. Wind comes to discipline. Wind says Spoiled girl, you have everything but it isn’t enough.
I say It’s something I want. Not everything.
It was dangerous frankly, looking back on it.
Clever fox twisting words! I bellow from your mouth meaningless, destructive. It’s bad enough to think and worse yet to say. You try to keep me out but you’ll fail. Like fish I return to my source. You are a river polluted. I use my strength to dry you up.
Things changed. They always do, they’re always going to. I lost it and I lost you too but like I said I was reckless then.
I think happy thoughts and say them too I tell Wind. Even if they’re lies.
I did dangerous things.
Lies? Cries Wind. What is a lie? I do not know of this, I lift what tries to. I’d lift you if I could but you’re heavy. You are weighted down. With everything.
I lost it, I lost you.
Wind comes unexpected. It eats broken leaves. It takes the last breath of summer and chokes it off. This is its attempt at truth. But beware Wind, it is not to be trusted. It is never still and will leave you. It will leave you just like everyone does. Wind thinks it’s better but it isn’t.
You can yell and hammer I say. Shouting doesn’t make it true. You pretend to lead but you’re chasing. You won’t even be here tomorrow. You pretend to care but you’re ruling. Or try to. I’ve no respect for you, not here. You’re not a real problem just a little inconvenience. You can push others to harm but you yourself are harmless. You’re noisy is all. If I cause you then I can will you away just by thinking
differently. Why only today I breathed life into something positive; something selfish. I am wishing for something, not everything. That alone makes me humble and good. You’ve not blown me away, not hardly. You’ve not blown me away and you can’t. You won’t. Not hardly.
I don’t think you liked the recklessness but I think you liked the stuff.
Wind isn’t romantic though you’ll want to think so. It’s just as likely to dirty teeth or poke eyes. It teases like a child does. Wind is afraid of love.
I tell it so: Wind is afraid of love.
I think you still have some of it.
Love is my absence, I’m destined to fear it; I’m doomed to Says Wind. Love is stillness love will kill me. But I’m willing to die. I’ll cripple myself if it’s something you want.
I think I still want it back.
I say: It sounds like the quarrel is over.
Listen for me Says the Wind.
It was my favorite Summer ever so I’m sorry that it’s ending. Does it suffer as it withers as do I?
He says: It is not dying; it is sleeping. Remember.
It was my favorite Summer ever so I’m sorry that it’s ending. I am not sleeping; I am dying, remember?
Does it suffer as it withers as do I?
Plane Trip #72
I am doing my best not to have my happiness soiled by the two women one seat over and across the aisle who keep complaining – through the stewardess – that I ought to pull down the window shade when it’s clear that I am taking in the view, my body turned toward it, looking out. Once, twice, three times now I’m asked. Three times I refuse, replying, “But I’m looking out!” The forth rebuttal had already formed in my head: “I am happy to accommodate you, but not at the expense of my own experience.”
Beneath me: The Gulf waters, who wouldn’t want to look? The patterns, the textures in the water lead me to believe I see the reflection of clouds, but there are none. Spider veins mark the surface like a drunkard’s nose; like a waitress’s ankles. You could imagine the coursing blood in those blue veins.
I cannot hear the conversation of the two women, but I cannot help but hear certain words: She, she, she. Bitch. Annoying as hell.
In the air over these blue waters I am waiting for the sun to set. I am waiting for the angle of light to change, anxious for it. I am waiting for the sun set to relieve
me of the piercing eyes against my back and shoulders. She, she, she. I am waiting for the sun set because I am looking out of the window and there is power in numbers. They number two, and they want me to stop.
Boats leave marks: I see their paths on the water’s skin and I wonder how, why.
Girls leave marks: I admired them when they first came on, I smiled behind their backs. Two adventurous travelers, two friends. I remember myself with mine. It was recent.
Girls leave marks. And I wonder: Is there really any such thing as traveling alone?
Seventy miles south of here is the county fair where I saw my first demolition derby. About seventy miles south of here is the county fair where I saw the human cannonball; he was old when he landed, but young when he was flying. Around seventy miles south of here I fed a spider monkey cheerios through a plastic tube. The way he stretched when he saw me coming; the way he held his end of the tube, waiting; the way he stared with eyes too blank to plead and how he moved and laid down after in the sun like a satisfied man - all scared me. Driving home, the sky was red with sundown. Arriving home the house was dark but I flipped a switch and seventy miles.
His son took his first steps on a day he really needed him to. He’d been fighting with the mother that day, fighting about money. He’s not sure when that became his sole responsibility. He retaliates by accusing her of flirtations, and while he has no real evidence supporting this, he knows that for him at least these situations recall to him all his former lovers – each of his former lovers, he fantasizes not about the sex so much as the various destinies each one may have brought him. Belgium, Athens, Dallas, LA. With that one he’d have a Porsche and a Moto Guzzi. With another he may have been a poet, living urban and shooting up. His wife has a great ass and is nine years younger than he is. She signs her cards to him I want you and he used be very taken by this but now he thinks maybe she’s more literal than passionate, her feminine urge, the need for another one. He worries he’s merely some biological necessity, providing for, donating. Sure he feels resentment and it manifests as bitterness and everyone thinks it just because he doesn’t get to ride anymore. Everyone thinks it’s just because she doesn’t let him fuck around like he used to.
His son is walking. A little boy can’t understand the freedom that represents, just walking. And the funny thing is he’s been thinking a lot lately of just walking himself. He’s been thinking about walking, but it’s his own son walking that makes him decide to stay.
Some Destiny Happening You and Me
Hey you might think you’re all done with me but you’re wrong cause we still got some destiny happening you and me sure you’re going to leave me now and you might even forget about me for a little while but that won’t last cause we ain’t finished you’ll be coming back you’ll be coming back to me cause someday your drugs and your good looks will both run out and then where will you be see it hits a point when all a body wants is just a bit of comfort you’ll be looking for some comfort so you’ll be coming back to me cause you know I’ve got the money to give it so go ahead and leave me now or try to cause it’s temporary I know you’ll be back you’ll be back cause I got something you ain’t got the guts to ask for and once you’re tired you’ll learn just to sit beside me look pretty and enjoy the fucking ride.
The First Lie and After
It is the first lie I distinctly remember telling:
I must have been five years old. Colleen was the new girl. She and I were crawling through the hole in the fence that united our yards when Colleen got caught up. She had long brown hair tangled in the rusty wire. I think I was before her, already on my way, but maybe I was behind her. Maybe I pushed. Colleen said something like I’m stuck, I really don’t remember what she said but I remember what I did. I said: I don’t care. (That wasn’t the lie.)
My mother through an open window in an upstairs bedroom heard me. She was already suspicious of my nature due to my astrological sign. She thought I was cold. When I came in after, my mother was furious and aloof. I didn’t know what was wrong but knew something was, and kept my distance. With a clenched jaw my mother tucked me in that night. In truth I’d forgotten my crime from earlier in the day, and frankly at this point in the story I wasn’t aware it was a crime at all. My mother wouldn’t kiss me. She said I heard what you said to that little girl today. Okay, I knew what she was talking about, or maybe I didn’t. Maybe I played dumb or maybe I was right then. Me: What? What? Her: That girl got caught on the fence and you told her you didn’t care.
In my mind’s eye I saw it, in my mind’s eye I still do even if I see it differently now. But I saw it then, the long tangled hair and the scratch on her back and here is where the lie comes in: I didn’t say I don’t care – I said move your hair. Did my lie sound real because I was exasperated? Was I exasperated because of what I’d done, or because I’d been caught doing it? I was five years old. She believed me. She softened, kissed me goodnight.
This is maybe thirty-seven years ago. Colleen, I am sorry.
Other lies I told and got away with:
Of course I’ve done it before.
No, I’ve never done it before.
I don’t need any help.
I like it like that.
No I don’t miss it, I don’t miss it at all.
And of course, there is the worst lie of all, the one I get away with day after day even though the one I’m telling it to is myself.
Her and Me Confused
When you told me I was a boring lover it messed me up for awhile. We stopped doing it then, me just giving you head because you told me this is how I can please you. Everyday it was like that and it’s funny how love will make you break down but then you went and got her pregnant and unlike me show wouldn’t get rid of your baby. So you left then coming back maybe once or twice for a treat but even that stopped. So you went for that golden ring the wife and the kids and that made your parents happy and you for awhile, believing. But you hate being a husband and you hate being a father and why didn’t anyone ever warn you or tell you the truth? Now your wife won’t go down and won’t let up but she needs you and she takes you and she plans to make an army of these, these children serving as soldiers in her war against you. And you feel so trapped you can’t breathe sometimes and even see a doctor hoping she’ll take the hint, that they all will, that she’ll let you go to see you live that she’ll let you go because she doesn’t want to kill you; that she’ll let you go because she loves you and wants you to thrive but right there is where you have her and me confused.
You Were There
You were there. You were there with the cathedral right outside your window almost like you owned it you were there.
You were there. You were there when you were beautiful. You were there when you were flying and she thought you must have wings and called you Angel.
You were there when you screamed Coward! from the streets you were there when you screamed so hard you broke the vessel in your eye you were there when she made a memorial of every tiny action This is the last time we’ll be in a taxi together - This is the last meal we’ll ever eat together - This is the last time that we’ll ever say goodbye.
You were there. You were there before you ran up a tab and borrowed money and left her when she needed you and said the most fucked up things. You were there before the baby died you were there before you wished for this you were there before you smoked too much and drank too and did much too little to keep it all from getting away from you.
You were there. You were there no matter how hard it is now to believe you ever were.
I didn’t know I was pretty until I wasn’t pretty anymore. It’s only now that I’m not pretty that I can see that I once was. I can see the difference in how I’m treated.
I didn’t know I was young until I was old. When things started to fall and ache, only then could I appreciate how it felt to be careless, effortless. That was pretty, and now pretty’s gone.
I didn’t know I was stupid until I got smart. But now it’s too late to make it work for me: Careless, effortless, beautiful.
Even Less Likely Than You Are
Why didn’t you come? Just because I don’t see you doesn’t mean I don’t love you. Just because I don’t miss you doesn’t mean I don’t love you either. Where are you? What’s with all this unseasonability? Down south I smelled fertility in the air and you lack that still I know who you are by scent. The sun beat on me there like some sort of sensory pornography, my skin rose to its tingle but you are who you are. And you’re willing. That’s something.
Stop it. Stop bullying me. Stop running me over. It’s a habit yes but a habit’s still a choice and you have to make the choice to stop it now.
Are you punishing me? Have at it if you must. Perhaps being convicted is better then simply being accused. As if I were ever free anyhow.
See I’ve never really gotten over you in the sense that I’m still thinking about you, only in different ways. I’m still fantasizing about you but my fantasies are different, I picture bad things, accidents or arrest. I rather just forget you, but you didn’t leave a hole you left a lump. I keep running my fingers over it, hitting the spot that hurts. My skin rises to its tingle but you are who you are. So call me a poor flake and surely you’ll be right but I just want the truth. And pity me too cause you know already I am even less likely than you are to find it.
No one but me knows that the birthday message flashing on the scoreboard is recognizing a dead man’s. If someone in the ballpark notices, perhaps they’ll wonder about it – not the greeting Happy Birthday J----, but the part beneath that says Wish You Were Here. Perhaps someone in the ballpark is wondering if this particular message is being shown on television. Perhaps someone wonders if the message is intended for a photograph, to be snapped now, shared later. Perhaps they’re wondering, since clearly J----- isn’t here, if he’ll ever see his message at all.
Perhaps I wonder this too. Yet still I put it up there.
She said: I had dog named Susie that looked just like her. She died when I was in fourth grade.
So add Susie to the list of dead dogs I never knew, but did. Like my mother’s Brandy, her stillborn puppies buried in Central Park, a shoebox full of them carried on the train from Brooklyn a lifetime before I was born. There is the violent end of Georgie Dog, a wooden cross bears his name on the roadside.
The night before the morning my father died, I panicked. Lock the doors I cried, Set the alarm. But I couldn’t keep the death out.
I dreamt a song last night, I remembered it in the morning. It has no words, just:
The Shit I Did and Survived
Everyday since and again tomorrow you are inspiration to remember or forget and I can’t say. It’s unexpected places that recall unbelievable ones that I had such adventure and a lover and this life. Oh you brought me sorrow and you pitied me my sorrow which was worse than just the sorrow and brought more. I had a baby and I named it for you I had a baby and I killed it for you I want to baby you but I’ve done that before now haven’t I? And god did that backfire. You’re a thief a fraud a user a liar I must hate myself to love you still I hate myself to love you still. I hate myself. I love you still. Perhaps that’s some exaggeration or perhaps it’s just the season or those unexpected places that recall those inconceivable ones. The shit I did and survived, it’s just incredible.
Johnny, John and James
The tickets came from a scalper. But of course they were going to; it’s Fenway, on a Sunday. Right field seats, it was relatively calm or at least the local version of it, where donning his little league suit – with the specific team name and colors of the opposition – he drew no boos. He drew cheers from those calm right field seats when he was spotted waving on the Jumbotron, and high fives from them when they figured out that he was a Red Sox fan, too.
He didn’t want to leave.
You have to understand that that’s something in life of a boy, when sixth inning boredom turns into a sense of outcome, and a want for it. He didn’t want to leave. But the game was tied some three hours passed his bedtime. It could have gone on forever.
It could have gone forever.
He didn’t want to leave.
I remember that day looking up at the sky and how the sky looked just like the surface of the lake back home and for just an instant I was lost. I was lost and I was upside down with no idea where I was or when. It happens sometimes nearby or far off I can’t remember where I’ve come from or where I slept and I will tell you the truth sometimes it just all boils down to whether I am with you, or not.
You pool around me. You said She was a cool shower on a hot day but you my love are the ocean. It worked on me back then but like the sea I nearly killed you; like the sea it was my destiny to swallow you up. You said You are perfect. Then: You’re perfect for me. Then: It’s not you; I just get bored. And last: I swear to god you’re drowning me.
I pool around you. You are the low spot, so of course it’s bound to happen. I want to be the ocean again but I’m reduced to this, shallow and each time you step on me there’s less. I dream of your forgiveness and I tremble in my sleep, waking the man beside me. I pool around you and if only you’d be cold for long enough to turn me into ice but no. I pool around you you’re the low spot and you tug me like the moon and reduced as I am it doesn’t mean I’m not still under the influence.
I’ve never understood a swimming pool beside the ocean, but then that which is unnatural will always attract certain kinds. I smell chemicals or salt. I dive, or I frolic. There are barstools in the pool and while I know this is ridiculous, I have to try. Cabo San Lucas, I order Tequila. Ridiculous, like waiting here in this hotel knowing full well you won’t show up.
Lake Powell was built by flooding canyons - the guy I’m with laments this. Think of all the villages buried under water. I want to curse the water with him but I’m just stunned by this miracle in the desert.
This pool was like that too. A miracle in the way that something you want finding its way to you always is. Or rather, you to it. Somewhere in Mojave, I can smell the baked-on exhaust and I can see the empty highway and air is heavy and pressing in on me. Turn a key for shade, open a gate for water. Dive in. It’s warm but it’s the wetness that’s significant, that conquers grit and sand and soothes your skin. I don’t watch the sun set but I watch it get darker. Now turn the key for light.
I was shooting pool and he told me I was using the wrong hand. That, or I was using the wrong eye.
This pool is more valuable and lovely than I will ever be. Despite the fact that shallow things repel me, I am taken by her beauty. But pretty as she is, she’s used to better. She says No diving, no admittance. So I sweat, and I long. And I spit into the water.
This is the hardest one to get out. I mean, it’s everywhere. It’s inside me but will kill me if I let it. It’s in the air I breathe but if I breathe it in, I die. I reflect in it, I reflect on it, the repetition of its waves soothe me. The repetition of it dripping drives me nuts. I like the way it tastes but I’m told it tastes like nothing. I can taste it and when I say this he tells me I’m a snob. It used to be free and now I’m paying for it. It used to be free, now I’m paying for it every single day.
It’s likely that you might not even notice that the bridge is named for him, and it’s possible too you might walk right on passed the statue. That spot along the river there is named for him also; I saw it printed on the map. I wonder if it is his philanthropy or prowess that lingers most, that stirs those of us who travel just to see this, just to walk across that bridge or gaze upon that bronze, sneaking in to touch it. Even in metal he commands respect, even in death. I remember him a little but I know people that he’s moved; that he changed and inspired and saw come all the way here like pilgrims to stare into his twelve foot form and young as I was I still know he was bigger than that, and he lived passed his numbers and he died saving lives and sure he was a ballplayer and a great one too but if one measures greatness in how one makes others greater I can tell you straight up he touches me, and I am one of many.
Pittsburgh and Someplace Else
In of all places, Pittsburgh: I took the incline up the hillside and I remember that day or morning after when you took me up the mountain you were trying to impress me with that romantic epic choice. Do you believe that I’d forgotten until one afternoon in Pittsburgh though the ride was so much shorter there I saw that morning after the intensity of sunshine heat and light flew off the snow. There was this great potential then that only comes with newness when so much less is yet familiar and so much less had passed between us and it wasn’t until Pittsburgh in a trolley I remember the Chinese dinner after and it’s strange that I’d forgotten when it seems I might have dreamt it all perhaps forgetting’s natural but thankfully in Pittsburgh on that commute up the mountain I remembered who I was then. And that is what I did then and you are one I’d known then and I’m shocked that I’d forgotten it was good for awhile with you.
I am coexisting with black ants. Sometimes I evict one or two, banished to the oak tree out back. But they are feisty, and protest. I ask myself What makes this kitchen mine? Lack of any answer causes me to relent. Roam the counters if you wish to; seek out butter. I must admire how you work collectively. I must admire how you work, when here I am, idle. I envy you, Black Ants. I know how nice this kitchen is and what it is to be on a mission though right now I haven’t one outside of my intolerance toward you. My sleeping dreams are mundane things, battling ants and taking out the garbage. My waking dreams are fantasies where mundane things don’t require my attention. And ants live outside and you call me after all this time and that alone is an adventure.
It came, it happened. There wasn’t much fanfare. Not like there should have been. It already went from warm to hot, it’s been hot - by some standards a comfortable summer but here still early spring. So, in driving or walking past it, that dark grey ice didn’t seem anticipatory, and it wasn’t enticing. It was merely and somehow in the way, something that should be finished and just like that it was. From dull grey ice to nothing there at all; from dull grey ice like a laden sponge, dank, straight on up to blue water. And the funny thing is I haven’t seen it blue. I passed the open water in the dark - not all that different really, it’s just the way the light plays. And sure it is a sweet thing, but then it’s straight up hot already this heat and leafless trees and it shouldn’t be this hot and it shouldn’t be this bare if it’s going to be this hot and it’s like one little spark will burn down the whole entire world.
It’s like one little spark will turn that lake to dirt.
Sweet Dreams, Bitch
Hey Brownie, you need me and I need you so let’s get together. Hey, come here, hey, your hair’s so silky and your skin’s so soft. It’s a shame you don’t want me touching you. Hey, why not lay down with me, hey, did I tell you your breath smells just like coconuts? Hey, don’t turn away, get over here. Get over here now. I won’t touch you just lie up against me. I could force you but I won’t, just sit still. Sit still or I’ll make you.
I don’t know why you’re so damn unhappy.
Plane Trip #71
It was sixty-seven degrees when I left, sixty-seven and it isn’t even April. Sixty seven today, yesterday, before. It was a warm winter and now a warm spring, one that might seem too early but temperature is misleading – warm throughout the winter, warm approaching spring, but it was on its official date of arrival, on March 21, like some appointment kept Spring announced itself to me quite formally by virtue of its scent. I opened the door that very morning and I smelled it. I hadn’t smelled it the day before.
The plane lifts and I look to see the Minnesota river, flowing in a strange shade of green. Open water. I’m pretty sure it never froze. But it is the openness of this river water flowing which contrasts the frozen pond water beside it; the pond is frozen, as it should be. And in truth I only live a few miles away from here but I’m hit with this senseless panic, is the lake near my house frozen still? It’s too soon. Tell me I didn’t miss its recession. It’s too soon. Tell me I did not fail to notice its retreat. It’s too soon it’s too soon it’s too soon. Each year some landmark, some watermark of time it’s a ritual to me the day the ice gives way and sinks or lifts and flies away turning the lake back to blue; allowing me no longer to ride upon its back like a child but willing to let me inside it like a man.
Of course it is still ice, just like that pond. It’s a pool of still water or is beneath that frozen cap and it will strip itself down slowly like a comfortable lover and in time I’ll see it naked there and wet. I’m just going for a few days. I haven’t missed a thing.
I am most stricken by my homesickness the day before I leave. I am surrounded by all most important to me and I will leave it for esoteric reasons. This warmth I feel beside me will be absent tomorrow night by my election. The world may end in the three days I am gone and this is what I will flash before me then. This is the life I’ll remember. I am most stricken by homesickness the day before I leave.
There will be a moment sometime just before I return when I will feel plucked from that particular breast too, but that pang will be much more fleeting, and is weaker.
The plane bumps and bangs as it ascends. I feel the tail buck out and imagine sideways momentum. It is a conscious mantra that turbulence doesn’t bring down me nor planes. This is just some obstruction, one you can’t see but you feel just like so many others. This is just a distraction, some perspective on home. This is just an interlude, not riff or refrain. Problems solved prove to be only little inconveniences. I thought he’d die young but already it’s too late it’s too late it’s too late.
Resurrection may be coming but today I’m just plain dead. I’m dead, deader than dirt which harbors something or can cultivate it; deader than stones which have some hope of migration. No, today I’m just as dead as Death, and resuscitation seems impossible.
What killed me I wonder? What got me in the end? So many little things, what I built, what I turned into - today, I am not merely dead but Death itself, touching beautiful things and watching them wither. Today I am not hope but conclusion, taking things into my own hands and seeing that there is an end to it.
I remember standing at the airport and all the flights were booked. That’s how we ended up there. But that takes place in the future, I mean the past. Today is a different anniversary, of trials and bitchy girls and trying so hard to get it done but having so little left to work with.
Meanwhile, yesterday I felt it, that tentative touch of green with things not so much starting as starting up. And today it may be cold again and damp and white and all those things; the walk be slick and dangerous even but yesterday I felt it and truth is the next breath is inevitable.
I’ve been a stone you stepped on to cross the river. I kept you dry.1 I’ve been the ant you stepped on just for fun.2 You focus on me with that magnifying glass3 and of course I’m going to get burned.4 I’ve been your mother when you needed a few bucks or something new5 and I was your father when you needed someone to feel proud.6
One Old Man Walking
He looked like a boulder on twigs and he moved like that too, like those twig legs required perfect balance to hold up that weight. But he looked so damn happy walking along like that, meeting someone perhaps, going somewhere. He looked so damn happy that I found myself wishing for my own twig legs, my own boulder frame. Or to be in a place or state that allows me to forget my physicality entirely except to smile.
Palm Beach Gardens
The sea turns us into a child. The man tumbles in the surf, he let’s it push him down. He digs in the water, runs up past me: “Shells!” he shouts. “The wife and kids are going to be jealous!” I figure the wife and kids are up north somewhere. The Florida locals think it’s too cold to get in, but he doesn’t. I don’t. We are a child, shouting like that and fearless.
The sun turns my skin to an ocean, pulling it like tides. The heat lifts my flesh and waves move across my body. Behind me somewhere country western is playing, I hear it pleading with me Just Remember. I’d expect to melt down into this chaise but I’m melting upward instead, evaporating, accumulating, turning into clouds. As clouds I block the sun and rain back into my chair. Behind me somewhere he cheats and feels remorse. Behind me somewhere she is tempted.
The grass turns the air to a story. I sniff and read about growing things, and water resurrected.
My brother turns me to a sister. I sneak a cigarette at night and whisper late into the phone. The night turns me into a child, calling home.
Plane Trip #70
The gate agent was telling people to hurry up, not block anyone. She couldn’t take a delay for this: “I don’t want you to give me delay.” She even came onto the plane, slamming bins, ordering the checking of things, but we passengers were calm and united. We did some rearranging, it worked out fine and we even shared a laugh. She didn’t get us out in time.
The old couple I followed onto the plane fell prey to The Gate Keeper. They handed over their tickets and were reprimanded: “I already called the Exit Row. Where were you didn’t you hear me?” The Gate Keeper was parent, principal, obnoxious. Contagious: I follow the old couple down the jet way and I listen: “I told you they called us! Now look!”
The three hour flight was late getting in of course. I get off the plane and again I’m behind the old couple. They’re still fighting about it: “Next time, you listen!” “That will never happen, you never give me the chance!” - And on, and on and on they went, jabbing not the gate agent, who deserved it, but each other. Who, it seems, deserved it too and will get it for the rest of their life.
He can keep your secret cause he has some himself. Cigarettes, business deals – he has an attorney he can call. These things make him vulnerable, and that makes him gentle, or maybe he’s always been gentle but it’s not something you’d guess, even knowing so. I mean, he has an attorney, and he’s a big man, strong.
Meanwhile, I’m grateful just to spend an hour or two him, like petting a wild animal though I don’t know if he was ever wild, or for that matter if he’s tame. But he’s gentle, like a deer, so wild or not he doesn’t scare me and it’s great you know just to get close. I pretend that I smoke so he doesn’t do it alone, and I turn my face away so he won’t see me gagging. But he can keep your secret, even the ones you don’t tell him.
His wife calls and he snuffs his out before he lifts the phone. I look up as if ears are eyes, directional; I look away so it doesn’t seem like I’m listening. There is comfort in this when of course I can hear him and of course he has to know this; there are appearances to be kept up, even if it’s disappearing. He’s got something I need but he’s not writing a check and I don’t ask. He’s got something I want, and if the wife hadn’t called I like to think he might have given it to me.
After the call, he smoothes his lapel and sniffs his fingers. It’s a casual gesture but I take it as a cue; I stand to leave. He raises his eyebrows just a little bit a pinch, sees that I’m ready now to go. He puts he big palms on the desk and lifts himself. He says, “Thanks for coming by,” but somehow I hear, “See you later.” So he says, “Thanks for coming by,” and I tell him, “Yeah, maybe.”
He was about a hundred years old and of course he caught my eye, dapper in his wheelchair and sitting at the top of the stands. There was something else about him too, people would stop, shake his hand. The guy in front of me says They used to call him Double Duty. I can’t remember why.
So of course he caught my eye, and his eye catches mine and he calls me over. I guess he doesn’t see so well; he pulls me in tight. He was about a hundred years old and he squeezes my thigh and whispers Baby what are you doing later?
They clinched that night so everyone was wasted. I mean, it was a celebration. He weaves into the elevator with me and says Can I come to your room? I laugh and say no but it’s so innocent I smile. The door opens to my floor and he adds this: Please.
I tell my friend later who is admittedly excited about a hero seeming so desperate and a regular woman shooting him down.
I was in town for the series and homeless men gather in the square or pan handle on my route to the ballpark. I gave him a couple of bucks and he walks up beside me and says to me Baby let’s do something together.
I kept getting hit on by homeless guys.
Another elevator, I was younger then. He was too and I didn’t know his name. It’s his first day up in truth and I’m not sure if he’s feeling good or if it’s some kind of dare but he follows me into the elevator and says Want some company? Rookie; I shot him down quick and he asked me too quickly, doomed now to ride ten floors with me looking pretty smug. What I really wanted to know was does that ever work? I’m not sure if I asked him; I think I might have and smug as I may have seemed in truth I was feeling somehow diminished and what I wanted most of all was the hell off of that ride.
For years after that I could look him in the eye and he’d look down. For years after that I’d look him in the eye just to see that happen.
Personally, I liked the hotel. It was old, I could feel it. Victorian is the nice word for old, it was that too. And it was strange, I’ll give you that, and a strange choice for a business trip sure the pillow was lumpy and all that but shit you have one. Downtown, lots of folks here don’t. Does warm weather lure Homeless men like Nothern birds, or does it merely expose them? Bare branches this kind of climate. In any case, they lock the lobby door at night.
It started out bad.
Leaving before sunrise and the night clerk is crazy. She’s looking to pick a fight over things like valet checks or opening that door. She tells me There are predators outside waiting for a victim. So when this man comes up to the woman outside, a woman leaving, I open the door again to check on her.
She’s calm about it, the woman leaving, she even touches the crazy man who’s standing too close really but Crazy he’s forgiven, she’s gentle and I respect her for that. He’s saying I’m a gentleman I’m a gentleman I’m a gentleman. I can’t tell you it wasn’t my intention to become involved. Someone fainted on the plane on the flight out, I couldn’t help then so there’s this leftover mission. I check on the woman who’s leaving, the kind one. And calm. She’s more calm than me when he pushes the door and stands in my space: I’m a gentleman I’m a gentleman I’m a gentleman.
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between mercy and ignorance. How do I know this crazy man is safe? He’s not peaceful. That’s what I should have given him.
But the crazy clerk comes over and she’s huge and in his face and his mantra gets faster and louder but doesn’t otherwise change and I’m wondering about the strength of crazy men and what it takes to pull one down. I back off and call the cops because clearly things are escalating but it’s over before I’m taken off hold so I hang up I’m thinking Shit I just want out of this lobby and this town.
It gets better after that. There’s a cake, and flowers, and a card from folks who are more or less strangers but you know the rules are different for strangers, so the effort alone is a gift.
And I’m wondering now which part of the day I’ll best remember; which sense of it will endure because there just isn’t room in me for both versions.
I meant to make something so beautiful that I would compel you and you’d feel me and you’d call me I would answer. But look, look what I’m stuck with, what I’m left with, what you left behind as you’ve forgotten me or maybe just let it lapse but know that I have not let go of you even when I might have wanted this. I am too old now to miss you I am too old now and doomed to long to miss seeks some reunion still and I’m too wise to think of that. So longing is how miss evolved I long for when you might be missed for hope of some reunion there are scars from wounds we can’t remember getting there are places where the scars should be but aren’t now we didn’t get away with much did we? We’d dream back then and swear that one another’s death would be felt not torturous but we were attached then you and I and swore we’d know. And then this we let each other die away and even my dearest lover can’t feel it when I stub my toe oh yes we were dreamers but then isn’t that being in love? We stopped dreaming we stopped calling because even nightmares are compelling it’s when it turned to nothing I was already reflecting as in remembering as if there were no future I was right. It is night and I am here remembering and trying to make something beautiful so you might be compelled to call me you will feel me I would answer. Isn’t that what hope is after all but that isn’t what I call this because even then in the most romantic part I can’t separate your want from need and isn’t that what use is after all? But I am too old to remember the grief and too old to remember why you stopped loving me or rather calling me or I you. So now I try to make something so beautiful that I would compel you to remember that you loved or rather called me then it meant something it meant something it means that I was useful once and that’s something I meant, or not. But after all this time I am still young enough to think that I could make something so damn beautiful that at least you would remember why you used to think that I could make something so damn beautiful that at least you would consider it. And isn’t that what youth is after all?
I survived the gang rape that killed my sister, in our room there was more than one of them but I can’t tell you how many for that hairy ass on my face nearly smothering me very nearly and he got scared I guess and shit me and I got septic shock but my sister they just plain fucked the life out of. It was such a long time ago now but I dream it like yesterday and I swore off men and I haven’t touched one since, nor one me.
But it was group of women who held me down and shoved something up inside of me that broke me in a way I can’t be fixed. There were seven of them they called me uppity and thought I meant to steal their men. If only they knew, if only I had killed each of them, slowly, after some humiliation. I swore off women after that and I have lived in isolation, or mostly isolation since complete is fairly impossible but I’ve never met a soul I trust since that night eight years ago. Or rather, afternoon.
They said her skull was too narrow for her brain and that’s why these things happen. My dog turned on me. She nearly tore my face right off but that didn’t make it any easier to scrape and claw and twist her neck. I cried the whole time and weeks after too. They said her skull was too narrow but maybe I’m just hateful. So I turned to god.
And I prayed and hoped and I let that man love me and his son save me and Mary heal me. I poured myself into my savior in the hopes of coming clean. In the hopes of being saved, or even just spared. Spared any more of this.
But then god turned on me. The cancer could have stripped my female parts I’ve no use for them anyway, and they’re broken. Could have plundered my face who’d notice with all these scars? Could have attacked my heart which I know can’t be repaired and which god may kiss to heal and I would bleed my sins like Jesus oh but no the cancer went and ate my bones. Ate my bones, is eating them, and it hurts more than the tongues I speak in can describe and it hurts more than rope around my ankles or my wrists and more than a bottle stuffed up my crack then broken. It hurts more than the sound of my dog’s cracking neck and worse than it felt to realize I’m lucky to suffer and worse than it felt to learn I get what I deserve. It feels worse because it’s not a notion it’s a flavor like choking on sulfur and begging for mercy but knowing that you came to god too late and ugly and broken and that even he and his mother couldn’t love you any less.
A friend phoned today for the specific purpose of expressing and thus sharing elation. She was driving through the desert some 250 miles outside of Los Angeles, her childhood written in landscape. I knew what she meant by this or maybe I just knew what this meant to me.
The tears I cried were for various reasons.
Driving down the road tonight I saw a wooden cross on the shoulder of 50th Street. It read: Georgie Dog. I knew what was felt or maybe I just knew how this felt to me. The tears I cried were for various reasons.
It’s cold now, the wind brought it in after crashing against the walls like so many sets of giant waves. Like waves it brings an undertow. Tomorrow I will buy flowers and will set them at a cross on 50th Street, trying to keep myself and whomever else afloat.
It’s nearly four in the morning and too warm for December. The lake is wet some blocks away I convince myself I feel it. Mammals this lake does not house come up and gulp of air, grateful for it. The creek is wet some yards away I convince myself I taste it. Fish this waterway does not host leap celebrating its yielding surface.
It’s nearly four in the morning and Sheets call my name. They say Come recline in fibers here and know the continent from which we hail. Come roll in that which we surround and feel the geese who once donned very these feathers. Share with these long dead birds that sense of December water still flowing like the blood they spilled for your pleasure.
I tell Sheets and the geese: I don’t know if I’m ready.
Ice will arrive soon enough and then water again. You think of time too presently, what you know or do not will return. What you worship now you’d curse in June. Come to sleep, silly girl, it’s four in the morning.
I surrender to the sheets and turn myself to wind, restless like that. I ask Sheets Who made you? Who picked you? How many fingers touched you before my own? You have a history that I will never know. You have lineage and a past.
(Nothing is melting because nothing has yet frozen. Nothing has happened since nothing has been done. I can wait and wait for it to come to me...)
And who’s past might you know, who’s past might you ever know?
I can wake up tomorrow and go after it.
It feels not like spring or fall but straight up like summer. I stand on the deck out back and yes I am wearing a sweater but it’s not the attire so much as the action, standing out here, outside, with back door cracked so I hear the music from the living room. But it’s winter and the air is tighter I hear music and not neighbors but the sounds of the expressway more than a mile away. It’s night time so there is no length of day and it could be ten or it could be midnight as it is and were the light up I’d know more certainly the flowers are dead and branches plucked it’s really fat squirrels that are the true give away not skinny like the spring and the bird feeders busy still and I’d watch them if the light were up. But it’s midnight is that my breath I see or smoke? It feels straight up like summer not the air or green but the action and you wonder why I let it go and I’ll tell you that yes he is my enemy yes but I know him and his truth so I am doomed to pity him. For that reason alone I had to.