Life is tied
to the mud.
I have tried
to sew my blood
with words for thread
to your eyes and ears
through the dead
space that steers
you to this line.
These words are yours to sing,
they are not mine;
I never finish anything
Our secret swells in the space between us
where it sticks to a fever that will not break.
Infected, sick on intersection,
you swoon and sway. You shake. I shake.
We fall because you cannot hold me.
Unburdened, you walk away
but I live in interaction
and wait for the dream of your eyes.
You bloom against the olive
junipers forgotten in the shadow
of bricks that form a prayer of a building
decades past any purpose,
defiant beside flattened beer cans,
unmatched shoes, discarded people,
yet worry every moment with a scab of a question:
if no one picks you, what did you fight for?
You split and can’t remember
where we ended but the need
to lose yourself in us grows.
I live where you look last,
I dream of sheared reality,
knowing just this century is broken.
Like us, it cries out of tune with time.
Stepping only to theory, it will never know
our song except as always wrong,
a glitch in your head skips memories,
chasing modern ghosts to you.
The porch swing where you held me is rotten,
swaying in indescribable arcs,
bared boards revealing rusty screws,
chipping paint, one chain half broken,
the wind its lonely occupant.
You hear its weeping creaks.
If it remembered, if would long for us.
Your eyes open from a dream
to the black immobile night whispering Love is possible, like divorce.
You cry but I cannot hear.
I am still here, my tongue split or spilt
by a palette of intoxicants,
unable to taste meaning.
Our silence how I got here;
not where we planned,
but here we are.
Though the exile is killing us,
no diplomat will translate our map or tongue
and we cannot close the distance.
You want to touch me but,
only reach halfway
when you think about it.
At each midpoint I recede,
an empty synapse, a withered dendrite
you see from a shore where I sail and crash forever.
Always coming home, I am never there
but you await my return
because in the bones beneath words
you know our history is stronger than memory.
If you look now you will find me
looking. You are holding me,
It doesn’t matter where I’m from,
only what we are together.
On this paper sea of pine and ink
I try to be something you remember.
There is the moon. You strive to see it,
to save the image in your eye or lens,
but it is better to remember the feeling
of wanting to remember the moon.
Nothing we make will improve the memory
of the desire to keep what cannot be held.
So shift the focus of reality and sit;
remember the feeling of seeing a flower,
how it feels to live in a world of flowers,
what it would mean to not.
The cold concrete calls you a poem
you used to know. You shuffle off
to find a grave, resting in a piece
of the earth’s tall Fourier transform,
praying dreams follow desire.
Curl into a ball with me,
crave the curve that creates.
Feel the heat of the swamp
keeping memories deep.
I cannot kill the ghosts that haunt you
but we will read them.
In the morning see the lines of two great cranes,
tall necks stretching,
blue backed they swing and dance,
dangling cables and steel
another skyscraper against gravity.
You know there is something wrong with you
but you’re wrong about what it is.
This world of stories breathes on you like me.
It’s not nostalgia if you never had a home.
Psemalgia would be longing for a lie
if it were a word but don’t believe it,
our story is always true:
what we know can’t be as important
Language starts in broken bodies;
pick up our pieces, read me again,
be in me the way I am in you.
When you think about it it all seems so unreal
but you do too. Logic cannot cleave
the necessary distance between us.
I need your eyes to come alive,
your skin to measure my edges.
At the end we hold together:
a temporary bandage,
a permanent wound.
Wide streets with no
sidewalks where cars
rip by like there
are no children
in the world. Trees
trimmed for growing
the way trees grow.
Sagging strip malls
and red lights and
is a river.
The river is
a great thing but
for the fact that
we don’t want to
eat from it or
swim in it. The
diesel swill and
concrete banks make
a dip or fish
too hard to get.
So we see the
river through the
grates of bridges.
We have lovely
bridges. Spans of
downtown to make
I wish this were
my town. I was
born here in a
has been renamed.
Or torn down. I
I think it’s the
don’t want to go
I live here. I
moved back here. But
my house is an
this town forgot.
looks like my town.
But there’s nothing
to buy here but
fried fish and crack
and red drink. And
who but me would
else? That’s what the
owners would tell
even if all
folks love good food.
We walk around
the block with the
dogs or play in
granny’s front yard
two houses down.
is my town but
this town is not
my town. Over
part of town that’s
not my town there
are some poets
reading. They talk
about their lives.
No one really
cares because they’ve
got to get up
to work a job
that was once a
but now maybe’s
Or if they are
lucky they work
for the Navy
or the shipyards.
are not at the
And the reading
isn’t where you
would want to go.
Not one of the
nice beer bars or
few dinner clubs.
The food here is
good. But you can’t
eat words and so
no one shares them.
So I sit on
this bench staring
at the river.
I can see a
bridge to my left.
My daughters chase
fiddler crabs on
the concrete shore.
None of this is
mine but now it’s
Lone, the starched beaches stretch beyond me;
Bold mountains cold as the artists’ blood
Stare me down like I can answer earthquakes.
Teutonic, washed in a culture of knives,
I watch for anything to read in these lights,
The rising Phoenix of what never was:
Myths dead and dying; born and reborn
Between the broken synapses of my brain:
My neural net holds nothing but memories,
Space, and language.
I remember nothing
Between our hands but Coulomb repulsion,
Touching only in the waves where we were one.
Though the night holds simple mysteries,
How I would have held you, Alaska:
Frozen, the way you hold my dreams
In this pretended past we all agree upon:
Truthful darlings that never grow old,
Wrecked upon the rocks of necessary use
Where we wait to recover our petty youth.
Cleaved from the dream of you I remember
Our embrace that meant desired death,
To live suspended by the temptation to be
Immortal in the living words of loved language,
Tongues passed down through book and kiss,
Indelible as pheromones and phonemes.
O you who pass by, bound tight to your mast,
Tell me, on the shore, what have I missed?
Was it impressed in the smeared brass
Of a second line sousaphone, crying I’ll fly away
As the women in tall hats stepped like the dead?
Junked beats once forgotten jazz me into motion
In this sunken city held up by heat and memory,
Preserved by stained statues and cracking cathedrals,
Where black men hawk Heinekens and what never was
Except in realms where parallel lines bend together,
Glowing in planes squared to infinite spheres
Storied shards that build legends from fallen timbers,
Marble graves, and misuse.
I know this music,
Muse, and it uses me too.
Used and quiet on the banks of the river,
I wish this concrete were weathered rocks,
not stones pounded, priced, mixed, and poured.
Would I were crystalline, latticed and strong,
Laced with lovely inconsistencies;
I should not even mind the chisel’s edge
Cleaving mineral children from me,
Strong shards, bathed in this humid state.
But cleave me and I will not facet. I will crumble,
My silicosis sin choking my darlings
Unless by miracle the misaligned stones
Mistaken for bones grow straight within them.
Everything erodes. Nothing is the greatest memory.
I remember Alaska only in dreams.
Rooted in fear I lie on these lines of sand,
Dreaming of everything that can never be,
Praying for the strength to love the things that are,
Knowing everything we are propagates
Within those within us. On the syzygy of memory,
Dream, and reality, I fall.
On beaches I have never been
My dreams grow immense, untenable in their enormity.
That’s not how you’re supposed to do it,
mashed up against me like a grape
one-half bruised and hidden
in your fingers. Try one more time
but drop the act. See my hands on my hips?
See my raised eyebrows? I don’t believe
you. You’ll want me to look
like this—to be relaxed. See the smile?
See how my body’s open to your
plane of attack? Now try it again:
here I am.
That’s not how you do it:
mashed up like a grape,
hidden and half-bruised.
Try your fingers one more time,
drop my hands on my hips,
raise my eyebrowed belief,
want me to look at you.
Relax my smile,
open my planes to your body.
Try your attack again.
How you do it:
A hidden grape
mashed up, half-bruised
on your fingers.
Hands on my hips
raised in belief
to look at you.
My smile relaxed,
my plane open
to your attack.
Look at you:
I fall before the weight of words
forgotten, almost; robbed from you
by your eternal parting there
where I was not; I could not be,
so torn in distance from the us
that never was; our fantastic us
that sang on youthful arms to be
the pull that planted us here, there,
apart from all we knew. Then you
were gone; leaving me lonely words.
Our song, like Spring, was our one kiss.
The willow mourns the winter; windless.
“Nothing” we said in passing, stuck
in whippoorwill repentance, heads
sunk silent, ears ignored and humbled;
the jumbled gesture, mute, tone-deaf
fell onto fragile hands that fumbled
Our faces at our feet we moved
in opposition, telegraphic
words end-stopped within our hearts,
stuck in passing; saying nothing.
In every age the world declines;
profound and weary reasons hang
themselves upon philosophies.
Each Spring no birds remain who sing.
The feeble arts unclothe our minds
with nothing woven into proof;
our wisdom fails and fallen, lies.
We seek a spent, imagined youth.
But always there are lonely flames
that stand apart and burn on faith—
where works and love untouched by stain
rebuild with uncorrupted grace
reborn from mourning into light
opposing the eternal night.
I blinked and you were born
Unlike me and yet the same
Your smile and eyes the first
I saw; you were my mirror,
My opposite, my end.
We glowed in the green day
And I gave you all my names.
The gift of you alone
Bested all creation.
But the light failed and we
Grew blind together, lost.
And then i lost you; limp,
You hung your silent head
To never laugh again.
I was too dumb to know
That night would turn to day.
Ripped moorings drift within your reach
as you save wordlings from their fate
like children plucked from stranger fires.
Phrases arranged to hide or teach
condemn or love in measured weight
unhidden from ancient pyres
sing out of shattered aspirations
to rise and fall at your command.
These words you wean from mother tongues
stumble into foreign nations
ignorant of their master’s hand;
they fight with the fury of the young
shoring the fragments of our ruin
against a broken civilization.
Six points of snow teach me
cashmere embraces skin
like robots gripping glass,
bright strength buried within
commands unknown to us,
bound knots that were never free.
This precious death is bright
in a child’s arms like tears,
skin-rent. Intend, begin
to see this sphere–it shares
our breath, a space to span
with ease if this is right:
there’s everything to find
in a timeless state of mind.
Here is the arrow’s scar,
still stiff, it goes straight through,
reminding me of you;
reminding me from far
years past of the men tossed
in arms, their faces stilled
in fright, not noble, just killed,
who won less than they lost.
Yet here I am: old man,
dry husk of brittle eyes,
blind ears, deaf mouth; I can
no longer lift the sword
that won my fickle prize
who turned upon a word.
Without your road to walk
along I carve the air
unbound, unmoored, I stare
unheard, I lie unlocked,
heart-blocked and buried here
in an oceanic maw
of memory and awe,
of history and fear.
There is no freedom. Bars
adorn the fairest cage
open to air and stars.
We’ve had enough of hate
to burden every age.
I’ll exit from my own gate.
On this wet rock you come,
my hair around your waist
in streams like ocean foam;
the pressured salty taste
rests upon my tongue.
As we swallow the night
the morning rises stung
and stained with our delight.
Here in this temple crows
are swelling from the altar
screaming the holy vows
I promised I would keep.
I have done much more than falter
and vengeance never sleeps.
Rhea sweats, lost in the heat of her labor,
while two men battle over her contractions.
The static waves of the monitor cradle her cries
in a rhythmic circle-beat of straining hearts.
She moans in constricting pain and feral hunger.
Her husband says that she has had enough;
they decide that she cannot labor on in her state.
Against her wishes she hears the doctor offer
an intervention to preempt the pain.
Rhea says no I can through her dry lips
in vain. They do not hear her tired voice.
The epidural spreads narcotic knives,
severing womb and strength from Rhea's mind
as amniotic fluid drains past her legs
no longer cushioning the fontanel.
Pitocin forces contractions into her sinews
while a wire is screwed into her baby's head
to watch the decels build with every spasm.
The doctor reads the charts with a legal eye
and calls to ready the O.R. for a section.
The baby's head recedes. She cannot push
and so the doctor spreads her perineum
and kisses it with his knife. She cannot push
and so the vacuum cap is stuck in place
five hundred millimeters tight. He pulls
the child and Rhea tears from stem to stern.
Her child, born by extraction, is torn away
with blood and water at his mother's feet.
Everyone crowds the foot of Rhea's bed;
will they not let her see her firstborn child?
Weak, Rhea struggles up to see the child,
stillborn beneath the vernix and lanugo.
No place in the nuke ward but the MRI
delivers menace more than medicine;
though not for me; through these four years of dying
there have been few surprises; I have seen
my tumors shrink or grow with no prognosis
for salvation; but today a ceaseless sobbing
cleaved through the whispered conversations and curses
futile as a penitent before a king.
Strapped to the gurney, I am no longer trapped
and the Spirit knows where I was blind; I pray
and the Dove flies from me as if the flood
of fear was a phantom its wings could wash away
and in the silence of the ward I crack
a joke. The laughter is our gopherwood.
Things are seldom what they seem: skim milk masquerades as cream.
– W. S. Gilbert
Malacorp awoke: ten million shifting eyes
focused on their groping mouths and prayed within their lies
for Malacorp to stretch its banks of flesh and gold and steel
and pixelated light to make the nation kneel.
Malacorp for Mayor! The churchyard marquees shined
but the Board of Malacorp had bigger goals in mind.
Malacorp for Senate! For Governor! For King!
But the CEO of Malacorp, he dreamed another thing.
Malacorp the candidate was shining and immense.
Kissing babies and shaking hands at stockholder expense,
each primary was pricey and the competition roared
but Malacorp was triumphant, led by CEO and Board.
The steam was building nicely like the colors of the Fall,
Malacorp was polling in the sixties overall
and then that fateful Tuesday, Malacorp was on a roll;
five million times it voted for itself at every poll.
Its stock rose overnight as the news of victory struck.
The brutal winning margin was not beginner’s luck.
Malacorp our President! Is what the papers said;
the Republic sighed a final breath and finally was dead.
The stockholders were millionaires now making all the laws
and never to the lesser folk did they give a moment’s pause.
The poor folk hadn’t voted, and not for Malacorp;
and once the thought was spoken, they weren’t thought of anymore.
The Constitution ‘mended so that Malacorp could hold
a third, a fourth, and fifth term, as it never would grow old.
All criminals, instead of jail, now worked at Malacorp:
the white ones in the office, the blue ones at the store.
Nothing now was taxed and each thing had its price.
The suburbs built their walls and all stopped being nice.
The cities grew like corpses swollen with the poor
who bought their food in markets that were owned by Malacorp.
Directors and stockholders all fell laughing back in smiles
as campaign funds metastasized in electronic piles
singing money spent on Malacorp was money duly spent
for now five million souls could claim they owned the President.
“To stand for office, one must have religion.” Wal*Mart said to Microsoft and Coke, “So I’ve retained a priest to make us one.” The Father smiled, but thought it all a joke until the Board eliminated sin and actuated parachute salvation. With scripture set aside and doctrines thinned “New Babylon” was “Built for Corporations.” His contract made the Father’s conscience lurch: philippics vitriolic filled his cup and every one disparaged the poor church. Despite their might, no one could shut him up until he was impaled upon the steeple screaming “Corporations are not people!”
The Intelligence Of the Artist (Mary de Rachewiltz)
The intelligence of the artist
is the same intelligence
in the peach pit,
in the heart of grain, in the carrot seed.
It is the vein that leads
to diamonds, the cancer
to the pearl.
It is God creating beauty,
A prophet seeing truth,
An adventurer of the spirit
in unbound spaces.
The generous artist takes
starvation and avarice,
heals them, and leads us
The sky opens up for you as you dance across the pasture. There is no Bucolic that can Rime away your leaping; the second coming was a shadow of you. You are the first in everything, the strong, the swift, the wanted; your heart is the reason we live.
The daft craft of your speed is dizzying, we leap to the chase with pointed sticks, leaving words wherever we pursue. You guide us to discovery as your fiery escape from our futile scribblings leaves us worshipping.
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper thy peace to my soul.
Was it cirrhosis or Old Timer's disease? None of us knew, but Dad wasn't Dad anymore - those skinny arms, those blue eyes once so fierce were now old milk. Oh, now he could be fierce when he was defied, but we knew it was the disease. That was what he had become, nothing more.
Taking the family picture; Dad not moving: Thanksgiving weekend was an eggshell ballet. The grandkids wanted stories that were not there. I don't know what we gave thanks for but there, at the end of the table, Dad sat, never moving. Eyes open and hands clawed like they were when he lay
next year in the hospice bed as we all watched his left angular artery push out his genius and we closed those milk-blue eyes. As everyone let go to hold each other, I still held one cold claw of his in mine. I sat and watched longer than the rest, trying to stay his genius.