I’m glad I know you
I admire your $800 Swedish jeans made from paper
that you only wash once a year, and I’m all in awe
of the ampjoules you give off when you’re sprinting laps
around me on the sidewalk it’s like having diaper rash
in the Sahara only more painful when I watch you
sashay across the room, all plump and unfortunate
as a cardinal flying into a window at high speed: you can’t
tell where the feathers end and the blood begins. Imagine
that eighteen inches from your face every morning
for the next ten years. You and your golden calf, your
pump sprays and your organic cotton sheets. Let me
loop a film of you over the Pegasus with her battered
lipids, her momentary grace, her equestrian glee.
I was razor sharp lemon drops strewn on the market floor
you were the cloud of unknowing meets strung-out debutante
meets that cat-faced drummer from KISS. All of this is super
relevant to no one but you and your lonesome pine scent.
One time we built a shared world of the mind. It glinted
and shone and terrified, like pulled-out cassette tape
by the highway.
I Am Always
I love how all your friends are shy. You befriend them in order
to put them at ease, make them nervous, and put them
at ease again. I’ll light a candle and think of a place I’ve been
to with you. And then I’ll stop because the wind will be howling
and the cold snap will be unbearable, mostly, without you.
Like this red down coat my mother had in the ’70s.
It made her look like the Michelin Man, even with her
long hair and bird bones, and I ripped the pocket
grabbing onto her in parking lots, waist high
and desperate. That coat is gone. I drew a skull and crossbones
across the back of it with a giant Sharpie and hung it above the garage,
and then it just blew away the very first day it was up there.
The view from here is Christmas lights and gravel, and maybe
a whiff of cinnamon and cigarettes. I don’t want to go home.
Age of wonders
Well, I guess I’m abject or whatever, waking up at night to study my leg
in the mirror. Telling myself there are no great storm flags, only cloth
and dye. Only impersonal wind and small electric feelings in the spine
and skull, where a body can get some work done and then sleep.
One of us would go, “Do you know how many years I’ve been hearing
you say that?” Like almost as mysterious as not saying it anymore,
which is when you curled into a ball and bloomed. In our spare time
when we’re done terrifying ourselves we cultivate our breath in
separate rib cages, triangulating birdsong from our locations across
town. But what is such math and theory in the face of extinction? I’ll
have the food from a tube a bath with salt and some rapid release
narcotic wipe for my brain. I’m trying my best with this figurative
gardenia in my hair, these earplugs nesting like shrimp in my canals
and all the likely moods that pertain to my enigmas.
No one will ever figure me out.
Some Friendly Advice
Don’t try to taste what isn’t on your lips; that’s like sliding down
a banister without a lower half. It’s hard to hold your own dance,
but no one ever really holds anything up when they’re crying.
Not that I’m crying, mind you. I’m just lapping up what’s been left
in the tub. Anymore, I’m mostly construction paper and animal bits,
courtesy calls, strong lines. You know, those nights when it seems like
everyone is dozing peacefully except the people you know. You know.
Let me give you some friendly advice, but first let’s stop and ponder
this cold and sun in our eyes, the real and only reason I’m crying,
which I’m not. I am on to you, though, and on to your friends,
who all seem to be privately motioning me towards you,
which is not making me feel comfortable, not in this climate
at least. I’m crouching in winter here, half baked in the light
of my own mystery. Partly toasty and stunned with myself.
The gestures aren’t helping at all, not yours or his or any of theirs.
It’s all just freaking me out. Nothing a nap can’t cure in my off time.
That’s my friendly advice. Thanks for playing. The prices were fabulous.
Red Letter Day
I feel so stupid for ever feeling the things I felt my ribs
bang against the bus when you pressed me against the bus.
I feel flushed and jostled, my life a series of small assaults
that have taken some sort of toll from me, so much so that
I leap into walls just to stop from laughing, if I were one
to laugh. And so my lumbar is silver and medicated, full
of oxygen and beams. Take it all (your well-learned politics)
in the event of this I give strokes to calm the engine right now!
I am that lucid. I am. I just forget who’s who sometimes.
Calm Down, Blanche
I’m actually in bed writing this to you on a feather raft
on a roiling sea. Nightly I wake up and die and then do
a bank shot and the money pours in. A vice slot jambed
up yet fluid, like us. In that old-fashioned elevator time
is a notion of neuter and all that I know is that this hurts
more than all the commercials about pain and its relief.
I can’t shake the notion I might die someday and leave
signs for me everywhere. Even these socks are a sign, my
excitable hair, alternative therapies like bleach induced coma
or pills with sedative qualities administered in moments of dread
directly through the skin via vigorous rubbing. Let’s speak
in Hollywood English. Let’s find us on a remote island where
the heroine pops up with a coconut and a lime so you are free
finally to do as you wish. Peignoir I guess would be the word.
Or palliative, as in care, with this thing in my heart.
Sometimes the care an acquaintance shows twists
the heart a little up in here or a little over there. Once
I shaved the back of a donkey just to have something
smooth to sit on as I made my way up the mountain.
Archibald MacLeish, We Love You!
Or maybe it’s D. W. Winnicott we love.
Kindly squints and black ties make us happy, if we ever
have been happy, which probably we were in childhood
when we learned to tell lies and walk around with our faces.
“Big whoop” was all we could muster. Our muscles bent
over thick bones. We were all forecast and goldenrod,
mobile as dice, really nothing more than fungal,
but feisty and robust and always nipping at the bus
standing on the bridge fat and skinny. This was life.
This was being alive, a cloud of knowing and
not-knowing. A cloud of counting the barks of a chained
dog for messages. Bark twice if you hear me speaking
to you in my head. Bark! Bark! Moderate swing tempo.
Water is good for the lungs. If you hear me singing it could be
someone asking you to come home or twist into a new shape.
The circumstances are clear though the results are not
always available. I am steady as a gutter. I am lifted and profane.
I lack only lack.
I Bet You Didn’t Know I Had This Superpower
You are probably more special than even they remember, too,
letting me breathe on your elbow for luck on my way out to fight
time you can’t figure out time, so you might as well join it,
but this is all I have, the heading out, the mechanism of doubt
like Leave it to Beaver, waiting for Ward to come home, facing
the abyss, and so putting on pearls and a corsage
to vacuum the house. I will never have you all to my own,
he says through crumpled leaves the lemon sun receding
the smell of lilacs assaulting our faces like tiny elfin
slackers. I will build you something sweet and rapturous
like a pillow full of soft dice and peanut butter. I love
the look of surprise you get when I build you things like
that, then eat the whole thing with Nutella before you
get home from work. Watch the nut butters, hon,
your heart is faint, will break were the last words ever,
or at least the last words I heard before the Rapture.
When last we saw our hero, she had taken up residence
as a manufacturer of good vibes. Her methods,
while outwardly sound, gave off a sheepish, though powdery,
glandular scent. The kids loved her smell. By kids, we mean
guys she met at poetry readings who followed her home
and mooned at her through various apparati. She had
graduated from the Bergtraum School of the Business of Veils
and Hunches and Improvised Esoterica, where her attempts
at being graceful met with laughter, but where all found her
realistic way of showing emotions to be soothing in the cramped
quarters of her single room. Like the small woman from Poltergeist,
she was mockable, but you wanted her around when ectoplasm
started messing with your shit. Short and magical was how
she described herself in personal ads, when in fact
she was rather tall and ordinary, and sometimes rumpled
and perplexed. But Xanax made her feel wrapped in cotton batting,
so she reverted to her practice of pretending to be a shaman who
gave psychic makeovers in the subway. She lived with ghosts,
laughing at the people who warned of their inability to clean
up after a tirade or a party. She’ll tell your fortune at her
discretion, for barter only and by appointment.
It will make you sleepy. It will change your life.
This Poem Is Written in Code
I’ll sit at my desk eating tangerines until you remember
the true meaning. Meaning: I’ve had it with low blows
& pop wagons. I need a county I can call “My Own.” But I’ll
write things down from there to tell you later, a selection
of my private behaviors. Me studying cheerleaders on tv—
their hair, their leaps, the shutters on their eyes. Me
smoothing my hair down like a Mormon and giving myself
a secret handshake. My ocean is a crushed bird. Let me sterilize
a bit and handcraft these wing clips with all the razzle dazzle of
a person who has made friends with death. Death is a man
with the loveliest face, a face as open as a child’s. He smells
of lavender. He wears a fez. Damn, burnt from bitter orange tweed
jacket set aflame with alcohol and matches. He taught me this:
Whatever you need, whenever you need it, come into my establishment
and take it. I would like nothing more than to sail straight for that grip.
Pumping my fist at the skin on the oar. Your head is bleeding.
I value your patronage.
Late December damp Tuesday and everyone I see needs love
and hot lunch. Soon a man from the future will stop you on the street,
and tell you the future is hunky dory. Soon you will find out why
they call it the Garden State. In the meantime, I love your
new reindeer sweater! This is all just to say please save me
from myself. I once shoplifted some golfballs from Target
and I didn’t even golf (still don’t) which goes to show you what
we’ll do to find a little excitement in that category, to avoid
that shaky feeling, something like tenderness, something like sitting
still and paying attention to all the crazy shit happening right behind
my face. I know you understand the care I take to stay this handsome,
the honey- and goose-based products, the wallet-size milk packets
from Wisconsin. I’ve tried them all. I suppose I’m what you’d call
a “cult celebrity.” Imagine the grooming costs for the really famous.
I’m counting on your understanding in these times ahead.
I’ll meet you in the future.
If you put in three to four hours per day of deliberate practice,
within ten years the air around you will become firmer, making it
easier to stand upright, even in a wind storm. Many friends accuse
me of being from Oklahoma, so this is something I know something
about– wind and survival, funnel cakes and gas station tacos, a strong
core. And the people, I forgot about people: How each person I met
seemed to hold a message of some sort that I would decipher years
later while scribbling in a notebook, the code revealed as quickly
as it was extinguished. I love myself sometimes in my love for
the people, how noticing is like the whole world sitting up straight
and giving you a sad smile, or like taking off your own shirt and loving
your animal warmth apart from yourself. But you can’t just say that.
What? I didn’t say that. Together we can envelop the news, and I do
mean what we read in the papers, what is sprayed on the walls,
or whispered in paneled dens over a sleeping sibling. Brother, I’ll be
over here, like Thoreau on a stalled Q train on the Manhattan bridge,
scowling at the wondrous implicated sky. Sister, let me illuminate
the electric green muck of the Gowanus Canal. I am all about
forgetting, even when memory comes trudging up the stairs in the form
of a poem I shall never write in order to simply say goodbye, goodbye.
OK, fine– I remember you. Goodbye.
Down by the Riverside
It is a vulgar error to assume the things you see there
were put in the mud just for you. You’ll be dead soon
enough, and you can think about it then, how a certain
percentage of the population walks around reading
your mind like it was an ad for laser surgery on the A train.
I won’t even mention the ghosts who wait for you outside
the bathrooms of historic homes, but I just did so: there
are ghosts outside bathrooms of historic homes waiting
just for you. Go to them but come to me first: I have the drugs,
the good ones for your alienation. But don’t be alarmed, you
have the option of paying a different fee, like joining a cult
to help you with your thinking or playing the hero and feeling
your feelings all the time. But I digress, in fact, I’ll be frank
and positive. I’ll be so frank and positive it will mildly terrify
the people around me who don’t quite see things my way.
That’s what the river is for: wrapping my friends
in light gauze and tossing them into the water.
En Plein Air
I know you’ve set up your easel right here, but you won’t mind
if I stand in your view so you can notice the landscape
of my shoulder as it bleeds into the landscape, you can kiss it.
And my grit, which is shy but true, I will present to you
as if for you in the same way that the branch is for the apple.
Think of it another way: there will be certain days that just
need a really good polishing, that’s why I’m around: to make
things shine, if you don’t mind me saying so. So? You’ll still be
the same different person when I’m done polishing you and your day.
You always are one spot removed from my particular idea of you
which is complicated and extreme and batting eyelashes. Buffeted.
I just want a month alone in the country. But first a message from
our sponsors who all seem intent on making things rough on the chow
line. Oh what can you do to space the words in my face
to the delight of some sparks, eagles, oceans, nudity, gravel,
and canvas. Will you be my valentine? I mean, what else
is there to do at 4:02 AM?
Let It All Hang Out
We will begin simply, sinking into our bones and allowing the tips
of our ears to be pulled heavenward. Feel the bisons of your arms.
I meant yams, the yams of your arms and the articulate way you espouse
your love for me in crayon, like a saint. Gather that love into your front
brain and then let your front brain melt away. Oh cheese on meat
in the diner, oh the plastic spork stuck in my thigh, oh that all of heaven’s
angels were somehow less scary, oh that there were a heaven or angels.
I’ll be over here on the lunch shift in my poet’s discount running shoes.
You’ll know me by my sleepy sway with an overlarge broom, like a saint
or an angel or any half-slumped member of celestial society. I’m starting
to feel slightly redundant, almost icicle-like in my self-involved mists
and open ended afternoons. Help?