Friday, May 30, 2014


It quivers as it approaches, jerks once, then stops a few inches above your skin. Your eyes widen but your mouth remains clamped shut. The table is cold, the sheet thin. There is a pile of outmoded machines stacked in the corner. The blade retreats. Gloved fingers clutch the gloved wrist of the hand that wields the scalpel. A wince, a tense smirk; maybe imagined. A fly circles the room. A sign above the sink admonishes everyone to lather up. The lights in the drop ceiling are tombstones of pebbled plastic. He coughs without parting his lips, cheeks puffing out to contain it. The knife approaches, stops a few inches above the skin. Hovers. He glances away, looks back at the patch of shaved flesh. A slight vibration. The entire room is trembling. The knife should descend but it just hangs there. It hangs there. The fly lands. The lights flicker. The air bleeds.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Keanu Reeves Will Keep You Company

the bartender says, lifting my Tecate
from the bamboo countertop
and slipping beneath it a coaster advertising  
47 Ronin, opening Christmas Day in Theaters
and Real-D 3D. This being the day before
St. Patrick’s Day, it’s not exactly timely,
but there he is every time I take a sip,
long haired and wielding a samurai sword.
I’m here to see my friend perform
in her novelty country duo, but before she comes on
we’re being serenaded by a smoky little
weekday stripper/weekend folk singer
strumming sad chords, her throaty rasp drowned out
by the self-satisfied squeaking of the girl two stools over,
who is desperately trying to convince her friend
(and herself) that everything in her life is magical
now that she’s finally on the right path and found
the love of her life, a burly, bald, bouncer-type
with a goatee who sits to her other side,
never looking up from his phone.
Plunge that sword into their eyes, Keanu.
Skewer them with your dreamy, deadly scowl.
And for Christ’s sake keep the Tecates coming.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I Kept Waiting for Them to Play Tusk

The Fleetwood Mac cover band is finishing 
their final set of the evening when I suddenly remember 
that it’s my father’s birthday and I forgot to call 
to leave him his yearly message. He never picks up, 
neither does my stepmother, both of them screening 
their calls for years. It’s too late anyways, even without 
the three hour time difference. 
The Stevie Nicks impersonator is not quite on key, 
but she looks close enough. It’s warm and dry 
here at the Spare Room and my friend is making me laugh
harder than I have in a long time, even if the laughter 
has a slightly hysterical edge to it. A huge black guy
taps me on the shoulder and asks “That your coat?”
and it is, dammit, it's slipped off the back off the swivel chair
and onto the filthy carpet. This place used to be part
of a bowling alley, converted into something else,
leaving nothing but the bar intact.I should admit now
that I hate Fleetwood Mac, all but that one song,
that weird one with the drum corps tattooing that 
military beat over their ridiculous chanting.
The TVs play sports commentary shows. Keno machines blink
in every corner and I realize I’ve never gone out to a bar
with my father, not even once, isn’t that something
you’re supposed to do at some point, go out and have a beer
with the old man, only it doesn’t always work that way,
sometimes the father dies when you're young or runs off
or maybe he doesn't drink and anyways I’m fortunate 
to have had any time with him at all, even if 
he drives me a little nuts, I’ve been lucky in general
despite the creeping choke of despair I feel 
on a regular basis, lucky to be sitting here, listening to someone 
who is not quite Stevie Nicks, yet not completely not 
Stevie Nicks either singing the big finale, and I know 
I need to run and catch my bus, but maybe there's time, 
maybe it can wait until right after this number.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

After the Afterparty (The Eighties)

     Groan that blade of light that pries your eyes open shouldn’t be so bright shouldn’t even be day yet these useless curtains the red throb rather than black cobwebs so thick the light gets tangled like flies never escapes kick through the rubble nothing moves waded and crumpled and compressed then strewn not so much conquered as crushed with boredom then ejected from a cannon particles collide and separate clump together then crumble gaping craters and scorched carpet and broken glass you try to step gingerly but your bare soles want to stomp the bathroom is no better something draped across the mirror something sticking to the ceiling lets go with a plop and you jump startled witch's snot and goblin semen kick through to the kitchen plow a path through the limbs and piles of scorched clothing couch cushions saturated with grease piled precariously on the stove you turn off the oven and slam the door unbutton your shirt and reach in to grab the thing twisting in there grab it by the scruff of the neck yank it out of your chest hold it at arms length where its claws can't reach your face until out of breath it stops struggling and hangs there limply staring at you hateful but not even having the strength to spit.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


In the dusk it looks like a pulsing, fuzzy haystack rising up in the middle of the vacant lot where the City of Roses Motel once stood. Peering closer, one can see that it’s a machine of some sort made of live ferrets wired together by their legs, necks, tails. It starts to rain and the heap of writhing weasels begins to move, slowly, dragging its bulk along on hundreds of tiny paws across the cracked concrete, screeching and squealing as it inches through the weeds, past the piles of debris, seeking shelter but finding only a chain link fence linterlaced with vines thick with passion flowers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Predatory Vows

      The shark with the bridal veil caught between its teeth. The raptor with the bloodied cummerbund snagged on its talons. The rhino with a garter looped around its horn. The Bengal tiger pawing at a lone wingtip, licking out a single bloodied pump. The snake slithering up the leg of the tuxedo trousers. The bull stomping the bridal bouquet to fragrant pulp beneath its hooves. There are piranhas spawning in the punchbowl and scorpions nesting in the centerpieces. You can barely see the buffet table for all the hyenas, and the cake is being devoured by a pack of second cousins you haven’t seen since Uncle Davy’s funeral. In good times and in bad, the minister said. In sickness and in health, 'til wild beasts tear us from limb to limb and feast upon our entrails. 


I pry that rattling mirror from the wall,
try to angle it so I can see up
the raw, fiery pucker 
of my own asshole,
that dark corridor from which emanates
only death and waste
So I can look into that mouth
which does not consume but merely spews,
toothlessly babbling its language of flatulence.
I twist and contort my torso in order
to stare myself in that one squinting eye,
The stinking socket that stares 
blindly back.
If I had a cunt, things would be different.
I could gaze upon the source of all life
and fixate on creation, on fertility and birth
rather than decay. In its place there’s just
this blunt object 
eager to pound its way through the world, 
this brainless battering ram,
slobbering and oblivious of the void,
of the horror that gapes
right around the corner.
It would be better to have an orifice
whose emptiness signifies
creative potential, to remind us that
the screaming from the pit
is not just a howl of despair
but an echoing cry of life.

Gary Snyder on an Empty Stomach

It’s been snowing for days, a rarity here 
in Portland, but the lecture hall is still packed
with students and old hippies. I get there early
and snag a seat in the second row.
He sits down two seats away from me
and asks the man between us,
“What are your thoughts regarding
the eating of horse meat?”
The man says that, being someone who spends
An inordinate amount of time around
the animals, his feelings on the subject
are complicated. They talk about
the willingness of various cultures
to devour their steeds. 
A woman with a long gray ponytail interrupts them
with a tattered first edition of Cold Mountain.
He carefully signs his name, along with some
Chinese characters. A young man
with turbaned in dreadlocks wants to talk
to him about living off the land. “Where’s your
camp?” Gary asks cordially. 
Then the president of the college 
gets behind the podium and delivers
a surprisingly lively story about growing up
in Petaluma, a town known for its chicken ranches.
One day he went to a book signing by a woman
who had written a history of the town called
Empty Shells: America’s Chicken City
and she turned out to be Gary’s sister, who introduced him
to her poet sibling, who now rises and stands behind
the podium at the bottom of the lecture hall
and begins to read his Cold Mountain translations,
with long tangents in between each poem.
Gnomic, face crazed with wrinkles,
resembling a wizened imp brushed on a sheet 
of crumpled rice paper, his voice lilting and merry
When it's over, I realize that I haven't eaten all day
and I cross the snowy parking lot
past the scraping of ice from windshields,
past steam rising from headlights
off to forage for something more substantial
than poetry to eat

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Cry

It’s been snowing for days
and the reminder I scribbled 
on the back of my hand
in ballpoint pen a week ago
is still there, nearly indistinguishable
from the hairs

I sleep most of the day
then late at night venture outside,
the only one around for blocks
Every footstep crackles and crunches
as if I’m stepping on broken glass.
The sound ricochets off the buildings,
screaming my existence up and down
the deserted streets.

Next day I tromp down to the coffee shop
Someone has drawn a heart in the snow
on every windshield on this side of the street
Chunks of ice drop from the wires, from the eaves
to shatter against the ground.
I sit at the counter along the window
watching families lug sleds,
listening to chains churn the street brown
and I reach out with my fingertip
write a single word 
on the fogged-over pane

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Passion of Taz

Paging through a book of photographs
of bad tattoos, I’m mesmerized by an image 
of Taz, the beloved Warner Brothers cartoon character,
jerking himself off with his eyes squeezed shut 
in ecstasy, tongue flopping obscenely
from the side of his mouth.Globs of semen squirt 
from his gargantuan erection. It gives me pause.
This is not exactly a poignant, heartfelt homage
to the losing of oneself n the blissful throes 
of orgasm. Or is it? Maybe this indelible image 
is this guy’s way of expressing the sacred reverence he holds
For the pleasures of self-gratification.
I know this planet is crammed
with all different kinds of people
and that many of them see the world
in ways that I find incomprehensible,
that they spend their lives doing all kinds
of crazy, irresponsible things to their bodies.
Hell, this book overflows with examples,
many of them more offensive
than a masturbating Tasmanian Devil.
Swastikas, celebrities fucking
And eating each other, dismembered babies…
but for some reason this is the one
that sticks in my head.
I can’t help but feel that, heartfelt or not,
This image is indicative of the entire culture’s 
incurable sickness.This is America, 
a horned animated whirlwind
blind to everything but its own pleasure,
jizzing shamelessly across the arm hairs of the world.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hotel Valentine

We wrapped our hot bodies in paper towel togas, then locked ourselves in the room and slid the key beneath the door. We tore up ragged strips of carpet with our teeth in search of the flat cardboard heart we suspected was pulsing beneath. We were wrong though, there was nothing there but the metallic powder of squashed silverfish. The curtains were made of long tresses of hair that had once been blonde, the bed stuffed with wet oatmeal; we heard it squish beneath us as we rolled about. Above the bed hung a painting of a fish market, and we slid it aside to find the safe behind it. When we spun the tumbler it creaked open but all that was inside was a stack of postcard reproductions of the painting of the fish market. We thumbed through a catalog of Gideon's Gags and Novelty Items, mistaking it for a bible. The light fixture was made of a thorny crown of antlers around which was woven a stuffed rattlesnake that had long since lost its scales. There was a ghost perched on the toilet and we pissed right through its misty ass. There was the usual flyspecked mirror, the predictable fireplace choked with crusty tissues. We rode the night like a brick galleon barreling towards a shore of silk. By morning your tongue was wired to your cheek so you couldn’t laugh when I showed you that trick you love where I pull a roll of yellow Police Line tape from my mouth, pull and pull and pull and wrap our own crime scene in it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Forsythia Nebula

Through this especially bitter winter
I need to focus on the little things
the buttery kouigh amann
that flaked in my fingers as I sat behind
the fogged-over windows of the coffee shop
the three-legged cat that hurled itself
to the pavement at my feet, begging me to rub
its fuzzy belly beneath the streetlamp
that film, that book, that song,
that conversation with my mom
which was so precious not because of its content
but because it was even possible
I’ve been so busy being miserable
I didn’t even look up to notice that
the crocuses were starting to poke up
through the grass, that suddenly
the world is aglow with flickering
lanterns of daffodils, bushes filled
with twinkling constellations

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Shark Teeth in Bubble Wrap

Staring out through the narrow eyes of a mask I can’t remove, the outside covered in dust, the inside coated in a thin dusting of chalk and cheddar. Skin burning with bubbles from a rancid champagne dousing. Out there in the dusty park are beasts with dildos instead of antlers, lizards with vibrator tails lounging beneath cacti that ooze semen from their spines. A buried fang sprouts a bush of dry rattles. Dice tossed down prairie dog holes, darts stuck in the bark of a stunted larch, robins’ nests weighed down with billiard balls. My mouth is a tacklebox, a long barbed lure whips out every time I part my lips to speak. I plunk down grimy bills for tickets to the bacterial raffle, stamp my cards in round after round of extinction bingo. The old woman beside me unbuttons her blouse and out pokes one shy but curious nipple which grows and stretches toward the light switch, playfully flicks it off. We curl up together beneath a an old Navaho blanket woven with pictures of Campbell’s soup cans. Blue shadows stretch across the copper landscape, frosted pink mesas, crumbling terra cotta palaces. I reach for a brick but wake up clutching an empty tissue box. I look over and she’s lying there with frozen yogurt dripping down her chin, between her breasts and down her belly to pool in her belly button. I wait for it to overflow but it doesn’t, just keeps sinking deeper and deeper into the well of her navel. I roll over to crush her and she tries to push me off but our tattoos become entangled, binding us together like the locked braces of lovestruck teenagers. That afternoon head down to the post office where a clerk is busy packing shark teeth in bubble wrap and jellyfish in padded envelopes. He puts down a long cardboard tube filled with krill and hands me my mail, a single postcard depicting Frida Kahlo pleasuring herself with an armadillo. Out back I step over the postmaster, buried up to his bicuspids in the sand. Soccer moms cradle Gila monsters in their arms while their husbands traipse across the petrified forest with metal detectors. Rest stop graffiti “I fucked your mom” “You’re drunk go home Dad”. Half conscious valedictorians, sophomores slathered in “Despair” by Calvin Klein, infants with joysticks surgically attached to their palms. Every oozing pore a one-way portal from another dimension, according to my eleventh grade physics teacher, the one who we’d catch licking chalk dust from his fingertips. Bedroom smells like a cannery, air thin and cold as David Bowie, poster of an old woman in a wheelchair looking up at a mannequin. Edvard Munch paints Screaming Girl with a Pearl Earring as Julie Delpy’s corpse is violated by a female cab driver. The crack in your porcelain forehead is dripping glue that will not dry. You tap into a vein of mislaid passion, the underground river of venom clogged with chunks of carrion just like you will be someday, nothing but bones and slime and eventually just scattered atoms with which to paint the inside of someone else’s mask.  

Monday, May 5, 2014

In Tinfoil Vultures

Fat shrews scurry through the halls of this cardboard tenement, munching on the centipedes which occasionally surface from the soggy cellars. I carved a to-do list on a granite slab and suspended it above your bed for you to read when you awaken, provided the ropes don’t snap in the night. I sit on the urine-soaked Lay-Z-Boy in the den, razor blade pet curled up in my lap. From the mantle dangle locks of hair snipped from every woman I’ve ever kissed but refused to go to bed with. Crooked on the wall, a painting of a girl propping her broken leg on the shell of a giant clam. Roots and tendrils curl from the cracks in the ceiling. You dream of dump trucks full of sponges, of cement mixers full of mayonnaise. When you can’t sleep I tell you the story of how birds evolved from worms but it gets more convoluted and Byzantine every night. When you smile I can see the glow of the string of Christmas lights you swallowed last January. “The secret of life,” you whisper, “is knowing the proper amount of lubricant for every situation.” I can see the ceiling fan mirrored in your eyes, churning my reflection to mulch. I am thirsting for blood, hungry for the gush, ravenous to bury my muzzle in the rubbery anemone of your loins. The slurp and the slobber, the blowing rush and burning blush, the sizzling river, the poisonous panties. At midnight I creep down to raid the fridge, spilling the leftovers from their cartons nested in tinfoil vultures. I breathe in the early morning marrow, standing knee-deep in the bones and slurry, a single belch thundering up toward a sky full of teeth.