On all my social media
The sun will melt these continents,
wash it all to sea.
One hears the constant racket:
knuckle contact on shuttered panes of the
glass eye, complaints about a contract,
all blurred at their ever wavering lines of contrast
like the soft consonance of water,
ever wearing rock. One sees
everything all around,
encircling, telephone tails and faceless networks,
the arms of the new mother attention,
the wide eyes of children, yet unashamed,
every stillness and every movement, a
hardware store ceiling fan silently suspending dust
at a summer six thirty, still hot as hell
and sticky. One learns
that one must cope,
that one must have a strategy,
that one falls always not before God
but before the waiting,
that a man wears a wristwatch like a crown of numbered thorns,
and a bold face, his nailed wrist carrying on and on. One dies
with one’s every thought,
all of them now too bloody to speak,
so one speaks of the season,
of last year’s meager harvest and again
one plants nothing.
The sun will fall, a burning roof
come down upon us.
with double head nails and self-tapping screws, spade bits and
hammer drills, the measuring tape, always
quick with the level, the clamp.
of building, of the brick, of the mortar,
of the trowel, never of the water,
on the telephone never spoke of
running throughout. They danced
at weddings every five years
and in between were not exactly sure how
to dance if
nobody was getting married.
They drank all their dreams
and sobered up
ten years later, when they
drove their American and Japanese cars
behind buses in the salt of early spring,
perhaps without a second thought,
perhaps with a third and a fourth, and went
to the appointments, fifteen minutes late,
but made it there and collapsed on
a million couches sobbing.
A grocery bag flickering on a
bare-knuckled branch, they held
The earth will bubble and kick
her blood flowing forth
hot metal in the night.
The hunters came at dawn,
came before, were surely there all night but
sat quiet and ate nothing and then
came at dawn, and
drove it thundering sweating mad until it was trapped and
drank from the old cup and
danced in the old tradition and
spoke old prayers for its life for its blood and its memory and
taught their children to do the same,
died when it died, and wept and
learned its old name from its flickering eyes and
saw them close and
heard its last howl echo
Ever and Anon
Your fear burns white hot,
right at the spot where your skin
did not touch mine.
So let me tell you all about myself—
about red suns that rose, that set on
the literature of my childhood, on
dreams of running away to live in the woods,
and about all the continua i had to fold
just to find you, you plot device I will use
in another tepid story
that I will not write.
I have trapped you
in the blank white page.
I define myself today
in theories on thoughts and underwear,
(what color is yours?)
the facades that nobody sees, that
I wear like my tobacco hypotension. I am
all vascular falterings, but the blood still shows
in tiny beads
on my cracked white knuckles.
There are many whites—this one
you would wear
like a virgin’s cocaine habit.
The cardinal does not leave for winter; with it
I will streak bright red, all crest and feather,
across frosted backyards.
I cannot leave them silent.
I will speak to every
quiet thing I find.
Waking Up on Your Sofa
These are the red octobers,
The months that unfurl like a matador’s blood,
And are gathered up in private cups,
Each man a personal
Caesar, and each a private
For two nights behind a stone I
Stayed awake, because I
Had no more to give you than sleep, and I
Woke with a conviction that withered
In the sun’s content, and molted like an addiction.
Morning found your fingers buried in my bloody wrist, and mine
Inside the morning mist—you
Love me when I’m not sober, and
Bitch, I’m back out my coma.
Frater Ronald was a great man, you say—your
Nightly routine, a movie to relax.
You want me on top, you say,
But we can’t both be—your
Morning routine, a reckless need to dominate,
To get me tearing at the walls
Like the people in their chains—Oh the flourish
With which you defund public transportation,
Your motorcade tinted and
American made, though perhaps leaking antifreeze.
Can you feel it trickle down?
No, the inaugural date lingers your desires,
A December moon overhead which looks
Like the face of a clock and shouts, hands bound,
To comfort, “And all’s well!”
Carter now sits halfway off-stage,
Contorted in the penultimate violence of true theater. Sing,
O Muse, of the rape of his solar panels, the weeping
And gnashing of teeth as the great
Obelisk shot shadow on the streets.
He sins who wastes his seed on the ground,
He the tree-hugger, naive in political nakedness,
His skin running mercury below that
December moon, a trapezoid
On half the bed above which he kneels,
And this the advent of Reagan incarnate
Once again, a scandal and a winning smile.
By Way of Proof
I’m calling to collect, concede concern,
exploit and disregard apologies.
There are no sorries left, no water fetched,
no tumbling after broken crowns, and down
these hills I’ll plummet, still contrite, or limp,
or lying all the way. The debt remains,
a debt these limbs will leave unpaid again.
Instead, attrition tenders credit’s claims,
in tendon and in spid’ring bones, the wrist,
in fingers’ sins, the noiseless sex of dirt,
or cartilage. You owe me for my sweat,
and for the cells you’ve stolen scratching. A
sincerely untold doubt is written there,
in epithelial loss and potting soil,
in unstill space, still air still being filled
with color and your hips’ conjecture still
so absolute, and killed—so fucking dead.
With tendons sore (and aching to remind:
the mind is only strong because the hand
can bear the force), I told you I did not
believe in falling. Maybe I believe
in jumping; maybe I believe in sounds
of bodies splattering upon the ground.
These suburban lawns are a different cliche altogether,
perfect in their imperfection—look:
all the brown patches the same shade,
sod in surrender to sun,
gold paling to white, and green held fleetingly in gold
as we fall from the center,
each prostrate before purples
of typewriter ink—read:
And the ashtray’s gray and brittle silk exhaust
(we’ve written off the loss) is fading into languid grace,
delicate and dead,
snake-skinned dusty gases overhead, these threads
I watch damp airlines pull from cumulus, kernels pop and
yellow over campfire sun,
the jet-wash and the UV’s done
with bleaching fencepost tragedies—one I recall:
gone for ice cream in the evening steam, we were high and someone said,
"after a storm, there is drama in the sky." Stage lights down.
This yankee town is blanketed
in a speck of darkened page, a serif borrowed
from 1968, and with one vowel key
being depressed deliberately, it’s sent
lavender and salmoning, pinking down to fuchsia now and
violeting, indigoing, black—each another track
laid out parallel to cool, as
far below, I’m walking up a hill.
the land undulates.
God Forgives, I don’t
The trap pervades.
Between the 808 and casio snare,
time counts presidents, five (doctrine) and twenty (lasagna),
and space bags; feel the air pulled from inside you,
dying on a wrought
escape, -isms to find and to file
away—no, records to drop, no,
rock to move, TEC and open I with which to sleep,
rich to get or trying to die, lean to drink and stand to take—an
over the shoulder glancing piss.
Elegy for What
We’ll gather soon, we two,
lay flowers at the cenotaph
a chisel named “last year.”
Hair to hips as flowers now become
to slightly greening granite talks
of mutations, likely atavisms;
I’ll say in mustered measurement,
"a reading from the book still blank
you gave me for my birthday.” Or was it Christmas
and I’ll pontificate on some typically
half-assed soteriology, on bottom-lip topography
that’s grown dramatic as two plates converged,
as glaciers backed like bangs off foreheads,
scarring chasms now too wide to cross, and rock
now caving down, now buckling up and up and now too steep to climb,
especially since I took up smoking.
Water of Life
I sat across from what was probably the tiniest adult I’d ever seen, between us a vaguely expensive-looking wooden office desk littered with personal effects but devoid of any sort of work apparatus. No mouse or stapler rested on the heavily finished surface, but several children—not possibly all hers, judging by the range in the photographs’ age—laughed through spaghetti sauced lips at my artificial posture. On my edge of the desk, my fingers badadadupped the time that should’ve been kept by the immobile hands of her wall-mounted cat clock, which also held a grinless stare in my direction. The small sign on her desk, exactly like the one on her door, read “Enid Shatler, Medium at Large.”
"You must understand, Kevin, that my line of work is not accepted by all as legitimate." Enid carved these first words into her shiny desk. "For that reason you’ll not be able to claim this on your insurance like you might a counsellor or physician. I do hope, however, that our experience here today will help you in ways that those methods can not. Not only myself, but any other media to whom i can refer you, can offer you something that, say, a diploma-hung pair of glasses cannot."
"Plural." She was almost smiling, a little spark of the eye. "The plural of the word medium is media."
"Is that normally used? Also, if you’re ‘at large,’ then why are we meeting here, in your office?"
Enid dismissed this question with a sort of painful-looking smile. I think for a moment all of her face muscles were working in opposite directions. I’m surprised she didn’t break a sweat trying to make this face at me. “So, as for a method of payment—”
"I have cash. I mean, I think I have enough in cash."
"Am I supposed to ask where you got that?"
I looked at the arm of my chair—slightly sweaty. When I looked back up she’d broken into a truer smile. Unclear as to whether this was intended to put me at ease, I caved my shoulders into a rounder shape and tried to smile but just sort of squinted at her, and probably contorting my face in much the same way she had just done.
Enid was probably in her late fifties, and apparently making no attempt to look younger. Her skull was of indeterminate size, as a mop of grey hair billowed and spilled around the sides of her face in messy curls, ending just above the shoulders. She sat relaxed, left ankle resting on her right knee. I remembered being told by a girl in fifth grade that this was the “man” way to sit, with women crossing their legs knee-over-knee. A bit of Enid’s white sock showed between her pant leg’s cuff and an aged purple Chuck Taylor. Behind her on the wall were stills from The Wizard of Oz, with Toto at center, flanked by witches, one of whom looked particularly wicked.
Enid spoke up again “The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite films.” She must have caught me looking.
"I haven’t seen it since I was a kid."
"Kevin, you are a kid."
Still fixing me in what could only be so dead-on a stare as to put me precisely in the back of her retinae, Enid seemed to be waiting for me to follow up. At this point I realized I’d snapped at her. I was now sweating embarrassment in .44 slugs.
"Kevin, you’re not going to reach your mother if you don’t approach her as a child. She always knew you as her child."
"So you’re saying I should ask to go out and play?"
"I’m saying you shouldn’t ask for spending money."
"Look, can we just get started here?"
She chuckled. “No, we can’t. Not until you’re ready.”
"I am ready! I’ve been ready since she fucking died."
"You’ll watch your language in our meetings. And you’re not ready. You don’t know what this procedure is about. I need to explain it to you, and determine whether you can find what you’re looking for here."
"I wanna…" I started out strong and then somehow trailed off, as though with the words a certain understanding had also left my mouth. You shouldn’t keep your understandings in your mouth.
"See what I mean? Now, first you need to know that this will not bring your mother back to you. I’m sure you knew that, but deep down, it’s likely you still came here with that intention."
At this point I realized my shoulders were sore. I slowly let them fall into something like a resting position.
"This procedure will allow you something just short of genuine interaction. You aren’t talking to her like you would’ve on the phone; in fact, you won’t be speaking to her. If she speaks, I will answer, as I am the professional here. We will not prompt her to speak, or ask any questions. She knows whether she wants to talk, and that’s a decision we leave to her."
I sighed. “OK.”
"What you may do is feel her presence in the room, and, within reason, speak to her indirectly. Think of me as a translator. Your mother no longer speaks the language that you speak."
"Now, we may not be able to maintain her presence here for much time, but you’re always welcome to try again after at least a week has passed."
"You’ll have to also understand what exactly a person’s spirit is after they’ve died. In the closest thing to understandable terms, your mother is sort of distilled. Are you familiar with the process of distilling?"
"Yeah, they heat up the, the, the stuff and condense the alcohol vapor in another tank, right?" With my hands I gestured upward from my imaginary still, over, and back down.
"That’s the gist of it, yes. So, think of an infant as the barley, or what have you. Your life experiences, as they build an identity, followed inevitably by the confrontation of death, function as the various preparative steps—malting, grinding, brewing—until the wort is gathered up at the end of your life. Death is the yeast and the fire. The dead are fermented, alcohol floating free in the air. What I do is analogous here to condensing the spirit into liquid form." At this point I realized three things. I’d been staring at Enid for what I perceived as too long a time, my hands’ sweat had left two dark palms on my Levis, and my mouth wasn’t fully closed. Enid began clearing off her desk, putting the children into what sounded like otherwise empty drawers. From one drawer came two rocks glasses—they were soon plinked with ice—and an unlabeled glass bottle of what smelled (and tasted, I later found) like some kind of whiskey.
At this point I realized that Enid was probably an alcoholic.
if E. E. Cummings wrote baa baa black sheep
sheep we inquire the wool about your black (bah)
wool enough no more no more for a
Master dame and little
B O Y
He downs the lane (bah)
three bags under I (bah)
and will you a sweater make
and bleats who what for (bah)
wool enough in slimming black no, more for a dame
for Master for more little
B O Y
Presiding over some vague domain, I observe as its expansion slows, reverses; which comes first, heat death or total collapse? There is ice on the table before us ice on the table melting slowly on a hot day and the oven is open and running on a cold day / it is a hot day beneath the grape vines at that house i never visit anymore the grapes never grew beyond small hard and sour they were delicious and i feel this immense longing for the hot days eneath the semishade of the too young grapes the sourness of youth not ready yet not ready to nourish the larger beings each being must consume to live and life is inherently immoral as it devours other life to sustain itself devourss itself it tears at its own flesh reinternalizes itself over and over i’d like to eat my eyeballs but i know i’d never grow them back that’s not how bodies work maybe i will replace them with sour grapes
The Thing to Be in Life Is a Master of Revels
They made me a window,
so that when it got dark
they could see themselves
in the rain outside
both against and through me.
Dry and warm, despite the illusion.
They made me a promise,
and tried to keep me
until I could no longer
be kept. I paced over
their minds, turning
every stone to find
the half truths, half attempts
beneath, to force their hands,
and open-out doors.
They made me understand
that I am inside-out,
that my proper self
is the self which digests;
innocent and cruel, I consume.
They made me a neat line of dust
at 3 AM and a vending machine bender
and a GPA worthy of my name they named me almost and I am almost I am not a who but a when a where and a why the fuck not I, I who chased the blackness from the hilltop I who am not I who drives the wistful bus, whose diesel complaints rise to God municipal God and I, I, I who blackens the clouds we I who falls who eats marble steady if only i were steady if only i were only if I am your shadow I rise when you fall
and I hide in your mind when the dark covers all
and I smoke what you smoke and I pay for it too
like the pavement must pay for the sins of the shoe
and I move when you move but I’m always behind
won’t you please as you walk leave me something to find?
fingered yourself—sorry, you
don’t get all the blame.