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When This is Over
I want to be more archaic.
I want to carry a tall staff made of oak or birch.
I want to sleep with doves in cathedral awnings and hide coins in the
mouths of gargoyles.
When this madness is over, I want to drill holes in the sidewalk.
A bolt of lightning is not like a tree growing out of the sky. It is not like
a ladder to the realm of the gods.
I want to drink home-brewed wine from mason jars.
I want to find the lost Apache gold mine, and then carelessly lose it again.
I want to collect literary classics and nail them to the walls;
crucifying Plato, crucifying Shakespeare.
When the war is over, I want to roll cigarettes for old bearded poets.
A bird with a broken wing is not like a human with a broken arm. A wing is more
like a lung. Or a heart.
I want to build a tower with the bones of all my fathers and climb to the top of it.
I want to unscrew the lightbulbs in everyone’s porch-lights.
I want to grow a tree inside my house and let the
dead leaves carpet the floor.
When my body turns to soft gray dust, I want to be carried to the moon
on the wings of moths.

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Vignettes on Existence

I.
I AM NOT HERE
NOR THERE. A LITTLE BIT IN EVERYWHERE,
AND NOTHING
ALL THE SAME.
CITIZEN OF PASSING TIME,
I ELECT MY THOUGHTS
TO AN UNGOVERNABLE BOARD.
BRINGING ME CLOSER
TO OFFICIAL DETACHMENT
WITH EACH COUNTED VOTE.

II.
I SIT HERE SIMPLY AS A PROTOTYPE OF A LAND-BORN SEASHELL,
CAUGHT SUN-STROKED AND SKELETAL IN A FOREIGN TYPE OF AIR.
SOMEDAY — SOME HAND WILL PICK ME UP OFF THE SANDY MICROCOSMS,
TO PRESS ME AGAINST EARDRUMS IN AN EFFORT TO HEAR.

III.
YOU WILL NEVER BE FAMOUS.
AND I,
I NEVER WANTED TO BE.
SO HERE WE ARE:
TWO JADED SHADOWS
IN A STREAM OF ADULTHOOD IMPORTS.
KICKING OUT EIGHT LIMBS,
SOMETIMES TOWARD/SOMETIMES AGAINST.
NO LONGER CERTAIN
IF FLOTATION WAS REALLY THE POINT.

IV.
PRACTICING MY AMBIVALENCE IN THE MORNING.
THE RISING SUN MOCKS MY ATTEMPTS —
IN ITS GRACEFUL SWALLOW OF LIGHT YEARS
THAT STRETCH BETWEEN THE TWO OF US.

V.
FILLING UP THE PLENTIFUL HOLES
LEFT SIDEWAYS ACROSS THE SIGHT-LINE.
EXERCISING THE VOID LIKE A DEAD MAN —
WALKING AND WAKING.
IT’S BEEN TOO LATE FOR A WHILE NOW,
AND PERHAPS OUR PREDECESSORS WERE WISE
TO ABANDON THE ROMANTIC’S TREATISES,
THAT CRUMPLE NOW FORGOTTEN
IN ORIGAMI FRAGMENTS
UNDER HARSH LIGHTING
AND TOO MANY HANDS.

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Frankenstein Woman

I am a Frankenstein woman and I don’t want to be her anymore.
I come from the pieces of my numerous selves, crudely sewn together.
I hear the secrets of lives yet to be born, and each whisper conflicts.
I see myself bite our ragged tongue to keep their sonnets at bay.
I want the withered, worn flesh rid from our weary frame.
I am a Frankenstein woman and it seems to be winning.
I pretend to be pink and tender, when I am grey and putrid.
I feel the history of many halted in our veins.
I touch a stitch and let it pop to remember why our pieces interlock.
I worry the decay will spread to detached memories kept fresh in zip-lock bags.
I cry for the whole women inside that cower before the chopping block.
I am a Frankenstein woman and I feel I can’t escape.
I understand the healthy selves must be sacrificed to keep our vessel going.
I tell myself the next me will be safe; the new me will save us.
I dream her grafts of fingers and toes will once again allow our body to weave and dance.
I try, but her one gift of life is never enough to balance out our death.
I am a Frankenstein woman.
I reject warm transplants meant to save my life.

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Fogbound

A white blackout; a black whiteout-
the stubborn old fog has loitered
about town more than a week now,
lying down low in the streets,
curling over lawns and parked cars,
slowly smothering trees and towers.
It slips silently into dwellings,
navigates the narrow passageways,
and weaves through hallways and airways
to deftly evade every barrier and
enter our innermost secret chambers.

A useless, good-for-nothing,
cold blanket of smog, dull
lead color of dead shark skin,
settles down for the mornings,
smug and comfy with its job
of extinguishing the sun.
Not yet satisfied, acquiring
a filthy drab daytime hue,
it decides to hang around
hovering over the soggy ground.
This murk strangles colors,
smudges horizons, easily subdues
familiar shapes and sounds,
dissolves faces. Then it hunkers down,
brooding in moody silence
as it waits for the nightmists
to gradually crawl in and congeal
for the long graveyard shift.
They’ll hold a small moon
helpless captive ‘til dawn,
trapped in its own mystery
behind a dense mauve drapery.

The microbes flourish in the fog
and bask in the thick sickly vapors.
Viral crystals shimmer and swirl
amidst the acrid woodsmoke
and harsh, aromatic hydrocarbons.
You might easily choke
on the supersweet floral cloy
of perfumed soaps and fabric softeners
suspended in the air, recoil
at the viscous brown-yellow smell
of scorched food and cooking oil.

This is a strange, ominous time
when faithful dogs may stray,
even clever birds lose their way.
Families will quarrel indoors
as the children cough and complain
in their rooms. Downcast and dour
under this Saturnian pall,
we peer out into the dark
waiting for the faintest rays of clarity to appear.
For now, in its sway, our good thoughts
are forsaken in the depths,
words vanish as if written in the fog.
And for now, every page, every verse,
remains blank, without rhyme or reason.

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Diacetyl Love

Warm and hoppy beer fizzed
across my tongue; the amber bottle
eked its last beads of sweat
into my palm as I swigged dregs.
Bottle met cherry table top
with a muted clink and clammy
hands rode rough denim
in an attempt to dry them, pressing
as I stood only to be knocked
backwards by 80 frenzied pounds
of chocolate lab to the back of the knees.

A malted flush colored my cheeks
as I disentangled, avoiding most
of the drool and surreptitiously leaving
the rest on supple couch leather.
Her plum lips quirked
in amusement as she waited,
holding her door for me,
one meticulous black eyebrow raised.
I shrugged on my dusky wool coat
and slid out the door.

With each downward clack
of high-heeled boot on hardwood stair
hope sank like a day old balloon,
and fizzy beer turned to barley bricks
as I heard no echoing footsteps
behind me. Despair seeped
down glass panes in the guise
of freezing dripping rain
and darkness, until
polished hands turned me back,
firmly gripping hips, guiding
me into the bittersweet mash
of lips and tongue.

Euphoria is its own drug
and my wind-chapped lips
drew back in true Cheshire fashion,
so that she met with slightly off-white enamel
as I careened straight off the path of sanity
into the grey lunacy of love.

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The Morning Rush

It happens this way every morning,
the inevitable hour of seven o’clock
each creeping minute a crystalline drop of tension in the blood
scheduled to burst, to sweep through veins
with faintness and trembling the moment she appears
as a vision distorted in gritty panes or waxing chrome on bar,
sometimes nothing more than an elusive waft of Calvin Klein
weaving through the syrupy bitter sweetness of this café- subdued today
smoldering beneath a haze of smoke that mutes its glory,
our climbing star’s stretched fingers barely dither on the threshold
as the door opens, and the crisp silhouette of her burns insidious
as heart dives straight into kneecaps, wobbling, spiking the belly with anxiety
and with all those minutes rushing giddy and gleeful en vital there’s no time
so voice cracks as you take her order and hands shake as you take her money,
and when fingers graze your gazes meet and spark and skitter
because the knowing is too much for both-she moves away
and ears labor only for the silence of the door swinging shut behind her,
even as you smile and laugh, chatting with the man in the long grey overcoat
who waited after her, and ease is easy as hands fly across the screen
and lithe fingers stay well away from his blunted,
and for a moment intensity studies your face from across the room, substantial as touch,
leaving a spot of warmth when the silence is heard and flat emptiness
takes its place as the foundation of tomorrow’s crescendo.

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Met During Mess

When I really could not manage either
to find food, nor eat, and realized my
sickness with cortisol metabolites,
I slowly started to respond and fight.

The first campaign was merely two blocks south.
Not a long march: still challenging, for me.
Of all the Lutheran church basements I’ve
haunted, this hall was extraordinary.

I’d never before been in such station.
I feigned nonchalance, just got into line,
walked by a spectrum of society
I’m aware of, but never met to dine.

A man my age, veteran of a war
I managed to elude successfully,
the only one to offer me a chaironly
one then, and after, to converse.

It wasn’t quite mincing: awkward, allow.
Lowered voices, less than lighthearted, true:
two gen-Xers, mortified together,
meeting at lunch meant for the ne’er do well.

I’d only take a meal there a few more times.
We’d never meet again – the kitchen closed.
I hope to never repeat circumstance.
So good to meet a comrade, though, in arms.

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Kaleidoscope

She came to me
And whispered
That she loved me
The leaves
An autumn gold
Her hair a
Fire red
I whispered back
To her to let
Me go
I did not love her
No
Her heart shattered
Before my crystal eyes
Tears stained her cheeks
And sparkled
In the light
I watched her run
Pink dress billowing
In the sun
And quick as
Falling leaves
We’re done

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The Hoya

Jungle camouflage naked on a glass table.
Emerald leaves engulfed by a wax cocoon
as insurance for continued life.
The Hoya entangles itself in the damp soil,
stagnant at a glance
but its roots become roads,
valleys, snakes, rivers, mountains,
bending, twirling and snarling together.

The energy vectors a tendril.
It’s sleek, tender and freckled
by small, soft-set leaves
which ease larger in the morning light.
This shoot has a secondary existence
that unifies with any stable structure.

The Hoya refuses to replenish life
to roots or leaves,
all energy is devoured by the tendril.
The shoot begins to solidify
into a woody stem,
and the leaves grow wider to absorb enough life
to sustain the force of their tendril.
It makes contact with a wall,
caressing textured paint. Climbing.
Stretching, growing and yearning.

The tendril finds a crevice in the ceiling
and begins to unfurl
amongst the dark, dry sheetrock.
Fervent.
Creeping until it pokes
through a crack of light
and into the open air.
The Hoya flexes its leaves
in the warm sun beginning a new task;
A small lump surrounded by a barrage of leaves
that is a promise of stars,
sweet-scented nectar,
and life.

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Aftermath

A cracked china plate
Swept into the dustpan.
Dinner left unfinished,
Stomping upstairs,
Doors slamming.
All that’s left is silence,
Heaven help this home.

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The New Girl
She came with curls
she didn’t want to straighten.
She walked in boots,
we stared at them.
We looked at magazines,
she looked at the stars.
She danced like a bird,
we sat and talked.
she had an accent, sharp like an intruder.
Our voices were low,
plain and flat
like butter on a sandwich.
And she was like a snowflake,
intricately carved.

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Americana

HUMAN CONNECTIVITY BEING STUNTED BY TRAINING
IN AVERSION TO SOLITARY PERMANENCE.
OUR TELEVISION SETS POSING AS PRIMARY TEACHERS,
AND CHANGES IN PLOTLINES ACCESSIBLE BY PUSHES.

THE AMERICAN DREAM INSTILLS FEAR
AS POTENT AS ACCUMULATED PATRIOTISM,
AND LIFE’S STEPPING STONES
LOOK MORE LIKE LADDER RUNGS,
WELL-LUBRICATED AND STRETCHING ENDLESSLY.
PERSONAL PRIDE AS A HOBBY,
LIKE COLLECTING HOLLOW MARBLES
OR UNSENT POSTAGE STAMPS.

WHOLE POPULATIONS OF CHILDREN
STARVING IN CITY-RELEGATED GHETTOS,
AS THE COMPLACENCY OF NON-PURPOSE
SETTLES INTO OUR FIGURATIVE FORMS.
IN A REVISION TO OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM:
THE OLD WORDS WOULD SOUND MUFFLED
AGAINST THE DIN OF LITIGATION PROCEEDINGS,
AND THE SHRUGGING OF MILLIONS OF SHOULDERS.

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Louisiana

Gliding down the flying staircase,
gilded houses, flowing iron,
lie below, now above.
Rhythm and spice,
jiving and soft shoe,
Bourbon Street,
the Cajun fiddle recklessly hums,
clarinet purposefully drums.

Storyville, where jazz was born,
Holiday sings a honeyed tune
that hangs in a humid hall
where souls fly free
to her song.
The melody gives remembrance to
old sorrow.

Marble and brass carved epitaph,
shotgun houses twelve feet high, fans wafting in vain.
Skillful hands cut oysters on half-shell,
Creole and Cajun,
red beans and rice, jambalaya,
the French Quarter market on the Mississippi.

Cotton fields, plantations, sugar cane.
Mosquitos buzz,
cicadas erupt in a harmonious rattle
driven by heat.
Screen doors, slumped roofs, and no neighbors
for miles around.
Crawfish cages, alligator swamps,
Bayou, Baton Rouge, Rosepine.

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Particle

Bursting into existence, panoply of light are we.
Yanked in opposite directions by forces unknown.
Sizzling balls of pure energy.
Whizzing through the cold vacuum that is the universe.
Probability and physics are the parents of we.
My twin, my opposite, my negative, my anti-self.
Estranged we blossom, combined we annihilate.
Goodbye, dear brother, until eternity come.

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Tell Me What I Tell You

What is this,
what is that.
I know, you don’t know.
I know you don’t know so
I am telling you, so you will know what I know.

Not famous, not beautiful, a little bit creepy,
everyone will go there, willing or not.
Very quiet, very organized, lots of drawers.
Crowded inside, today or tomorrow.
Many lights, but seems dark.
Many fingers, but frozen.

This is a room,
that is a body,
I know, you know,
we know that people die.

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Plum

Her body is too big, somehow incomplete –
or too complete, concrete.
Inconsequential.
Punch drunk nights, pounding the pavement – eyes glazed, so tired.
Her feet sore, and the rim of the sky still lit with sunset –
it’s pounding in her head, like her feet, the pavement.
Eyelids growing heavy, like the rest of her.

She’s had men, and swallowed them whole.
They disappeared, mouthfuls of chocolate cake slipping and sliding down her throat.
She once lived with a man, one who grasped her thighs and peeled her open,
always satisfying, always leaving her longing
for something else, something more.
But she doesn’t deserve the right to complain,
perhaps anyone who doesn’t mind, or who at least keeps quiet about
the dimples and pimples
on her face and neck and back–
should be slept with,
surrendered to,
as a reward for their acceptance,
for their silence, and lack of standards.

Now,
her eyes scan the bountiful thighs and belly of a mother,
serene arms gathered around the swaddles of a baby.

She
should like to curl around this woman, inside her DNA.
And now,
as the lean purple-skinned sensation walks by, she imagines herself pressing her lips to that
sweet,
shaven plum, greedily licking the surface clean and feeling
her
own
power
at creating this tension with another
raising the final cry from this woman’s throat
and feeling a shock within her own vagina.

A Goddess may appear, unaware of her own glory –
her own curvaceous isolation,
the stretch marks silver on her golden skin, like burnishings,
like afterthoughts –
bristling wiry curls – plumbing the depths of her
with fingers moving beneath breasts
gently prying open buttocks, burying herself
in the layers of stinks and sweats
in her stomach, feet, ears, and mouth.

Yes,
she may catch herself on the odd day – her reflection in the bathwater –
flickering and shy among the bubbles
that drift over her rippling abstract self.
She stands at the mirror, on an even day
and spies a beauty she fears no one else can see.
Her eyes are molasses,
rapids of hair fall over
the air above a back of
vast American sky.
In her belly is seed,
in her belly are others unborn,
ova, breathless and brave,
ebb and flow each month.
She is finite, when she dies she’ll return to the winds and waters.
But right now she is endless opportunity.
She is complete.
Of consequence.
Fluid and binding – the strength
of glue-like mud that holds firm the roots of redwoods,
the scent of strong cheddar,
her numb fingers after masturbation.
She is senses and colors,
danger,
ugliness,
she is undeniable, absolute.

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Night as Frontier   (tribute to an essay of the same name.)

Shadows quickly usurp objects
they were once attached to.
Violet night washes in guerrilla curls
around the curvatures of city architecture.

Warding away sheer waves,
razors burning, we are trimming dusk.
Mimicking sharp daylight with simulacrum
fluorescent knives.

Meandering moon
highlighting cityscapes,
webs of neurons firing
into the belly of the sky.

Bayonets of streetlamps
gut reeling night,
ink between liquid and smoke
spilling from chests without becoming
apartheid.

Overwhelming, swirling smoother than water,
everything is blameless,
we can’t see the fingers
in front of our faces to point.

Strangers swathed in predawn
surrender anonymity
and drop the keys
in the mailbox of apartment 7A.
As we look up
a meniscus of dawn
teeters on the horizon.

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