Thursday, December 31, 2015

XING

A raccoon skull sits atop the plastic scalp
of a deer decoy that stands on the front porch
facing the two-lane highway that cuts through the forest
Another year and you and I still comfort one another
as we watch the herds of traffic thunder past
thinking of those who didn't make it across


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Heart-Stealers

As Ray and I strolled along the sunny streets of Mahajunga,
snapping photographs and looking for a place to grab a bite,
we noticed that the locals all appeared to be avoiding us,
lowering their eyes whenever we glanced in their direction.
They seemed to be doing the same to the other white tourists
as well, even crossing the street when one approached.
Only one young girl smiled as we passed, and so we stopped
to chat with her. She was quite friendly, and in impeccable French
explained the legend of the mpakafo, the heart-stealers;
pale, slender beings whose greatest joy is to rip out
the beating hearts of its victims to feast upon.
Ray and I glanced at one another. This country was infested
with superstition. We'd heard plenty of tales
of other outlandish creatures as we'd crossed the island:
tiny beastlike men that crept through the forests on all fours,
fearsome flesh-eating oxen, seven-headed serpents sprouting horns...
We asked the lovely girl why she was not afraid of us like all the others.
Because, she whispered, I am what is known as a kinoly. 
After I died, I came back to replace my rotted entrails 
with fresh ones torn from the living, using my long, sharp fingernails.
She wouldn't show us those nails, no matter how much we pestered,
hiding her hands deep inside the folds of her patterned shawl.
She let us take her picture though, to help us remember
this charming girl with her wide, bright eyes, her brave smile,
her pounding heart, remember her long after we'd moved on
to find our dinner elsewhere.


[inspired by various bits of Malagasy folklore]

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pine Needles

jagged scales glued back onto the body
of a peeled pangolin

world's longest splinter, the telephone pole
pulled out of the tip of your ring finger

the broken cradle the fixed
singing them lullabies with cracked jaws
full of chipped teeth

paper crushed ice cone held all your hopes
thick and slow as sap
flipped it over and nothing fell out

sad how small our worlds become
she was so excited to be getting free ice cream
it was all she could talk about for days

claw pushes up through the rubble
like a barbed orchid
body buried beneath a pile of bricks
I draw this image over and over
it doesn't heal anything. Nothing gets healed

*

grabbed a squirrel by its tail
stripped of fur, it was just a necklace
of bones. Beaver tooth, mastodon molar,
cactus and sea urchins with the spines removed
we are spiny little bastards. We clench our teeth
and bug our eyes, daring the world to grab us
to receive its handful of quills.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Wristwatch

She rubbed lemon on her wrists, then dipped them
in powdered sugar, rolling them
back and forth. She spread her arms
on the lawn. The grass tickled her skin.
Ditto the ants

A plastic tarp stretched across the gap
in the rocky ground. 
Its grommets had rough metal edges
that scratched her palms. She kept dropping
the rubber band, the electrical tape
The knotted copper wire

It was all soft as pillows, soft as soap and snow
but it all went rough as sidewalk, sandpaper, tree bark
A wooden pallet flicked its splinters into the wind
Tiny explorers burrowing into the planet's skin

She slid her hands into a cold soothing pool,
fingers breaking through the sheath of ice
When she pulled them out she realized
she'd lost her wristwatch
she could see it gleaming down there
on the rocks far below
a distant lighthouse winking through the fog
She removed her shoes

She moved into a house of hair
and accidentally on purpose started 
a grease fire on the stove
Needing the thrill, or maybe just curious
Burning curtains, flaming braids,
sticks of dynamite with curly pubic fuses
lit one by one, they all fizzled out
every single one a dud
Gasoline on her lips, juice running down her chin
She held her wrists over the flames
and sadly squeezed out a few drops of blood
to squelch the conflagration
before tightly, tightly rewrapping 
the bandages.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wedding Portrait Photographer

Glistening droplets roll down the windshield
of the stolen car parked beneath
the tattered billboard.

Wadded in the back seat,
a sweatshirt, tube socks, sports bra.
Energy bar wrappers litter the floor.

On the asphalt beside the driver's side door
a puddle of dropped curry dried to an ocher crust
tries to keep from dissolving in the rain.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Turtle in the Smokehouse

She nearly stepped on the skeleton of a goose partially covered by scattered leaves. Not far away her St. Bernards had long since been reduced to the very things they would have once dug for, panting with excitement as they sprayed loose dirt everywhere. Across the way the pond was for sale, and she hoped the new owner would not fill it in, displacing the snapping turtles she loved despite their tendency to snatch young waterfowl from the gently rippling surface. Her father had once killed one of the reptiles and hung it by its front claws inside the smokehouse to surprise anyone who opened the door. With her mother gone she felt like she was being dragged under herself, that some horny beak had clamped down on her leg and was pulling her down as she struggled and watched the necklace of bubbles undulate upwards from her nostrils.
           She nudged the goose’s bill with the toe of her sneaker, plucked a yellow leaf from its eye socket. Marveled at the bones of its long neck. She wondered if she’d be able to wriggle free, or if she’d find a way to breathe underwater, find a way to survive in the darkness and the mud. Maybe the thing gripping her would not devour her after all but raise her as its own, teach her the ways of the sediment dweller, instruct her how to lie in wait before rising silently to the surface toward the floating leaves, toward the webbed feet paddling far above.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Eyeglass Repair Kit

The screw twisted free of its threaded cell
bounced off the macadam, landed somewhere,
I got down on my hands and knees, feeling around
for that brass speck, that crumb of gold

Warm plastic soda caps, petals of glass, 
metal ribbons curled up on the cement,
stars plastered like wet leaves against the asphalt
of the sky, orange traffic cones, parking lot lights,
stop signs bent in half, you filled your hand,
filled your mouth, got interrupted, spit it out,
it never happened

The bent coat hanger antenna, the radio dial, the vinyl seats
with their deep grooves
Gold wedding band dropped, the words engraved on the inside
disappearing when it gets melted down
I couldn't find that little tube containing
that skinny screwdriver, those spare screws,
those tiny tools

and then the lens popped
escaped from its frame, flipped through the air
to click against the concrete, where it acquired
a scratch the size of an eyelash
you couldn't see around
Origami eyes folded and unfolded, gaze shuffled
like a pack of cards. The world rippled past
in a watery blur. Silkworms and silverfish,
spiders and centipedes, all the little
darting floaters, water striders, and then
I had it, plucked from the gravel,
the screw safe at last
enfolded deep in the sweaty heart line of my palm.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Carrington Never Arrives at LaGuardia

     Look at the greasy glow of the lights shining through the glass walls of the station. A woman is standing on the platform, glancing at her phone every thirty seconds. The neighborhood beneath her is strangely hushed, her mind as quiet as the velvety antlers of a young buck. Her pupils are the size of dimes, two black holes threatening to suck the entire borough into them. She sits on a plastic bench, wrapped in a fuzzy white coat, ersatz arctic fox, and white heels. Her razor sharp ankles would cut through the snow if there was any. Her purse is the size of a  teabag. She tries to remember the last time she heard the cry of an owl. The noise of the city slowly rises. She lips her thin salamander orange lips. She drifts off and dreams of a potted palm sitting on the end of a diving board. She straddles the board, in her dress and white coat and white stockings and freshwater pearls, dragging her ass along until she makes ti to the end and wraps her arms around the trunk, clinging it to it for dear life. Carrington jerks awake to the sound of a warped recorded voice admonishing "Stand clear of the closing doors" but when she looks around there's no train, no one else on the platform. She looks at her phone again and the screen is covered with falling snow. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Swallowing Crusoe

Those twin memories slid closer and closer to one another
until they were sitting on top of one another's laps.
The savage running through the surf
and the salt taste of her neck, the feel of her ass in my claws.
Twisting together, melting, merging, it was disgusting.
The acid burnt through my bib. I pawed at it
with a wad of napkins. All these years I was passive
when I needed to be active and boy do I regret it.
I wouldn't survive an hour on that island.
Footprints fill with water, lakeside property for the sand fleas.
I wrote songs of dancing inside her, wrote songs
describing crimes I was incapable of perpetrating in real life,
hoping it would spark something, and it did,
but she were already gone, and so it fizzled
in the foam that trailed behind her.
Seawater seeped in to ruin the powder, to rust
the barrel of my weekend. No one would be caught dead
on this mound where I squat, watching myself wrestle
my better judgment on the sand, grabbing my own ass,
sitting on my own face, tracing sentimental crescents
in the spilled salt on the tattered tablecloth
Sometimes it's so delicious not to think, sometimes it's hell.
In my dreams we stumble along like naked babies,
you drunkenly sucking my thumb before we collapse.
Then I wake in my little shelter
hoping someone will creep from the forest and be charmed
or at least not tie me to the stake and devour me,
the smoke from my sizzling flesh rising up like an SOS
over the waves.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mattress

The box spring devours you.
It stretches its maw and tears you to shreds
with its spiral metal teeth.
The bed sheets strangle. The comforter
does not live up to its name.
Your remains will be found in a tangle
of blankets and bloodied quilts.
The pillows sit quietly, looking
suspiciously plump and content.

Other types of beds are no better.
A cot will snap your spine in half.
A sleeping bag will smother you.
You'll be lynched by a hammock,
drown in a waterbed. No one has ever
woken up after a night on a couch.
No, the only safe place to sleep
is on the floor, with nothing more dangerous
than a slab of cardboard beneath
your tender, unprotected body.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Yolk

Spreading [grabbing],
flowing [clutching]

[My father used to go on for hours about 
when he was a kid in the fifties]

Yellow smear across your face

[He said that when the grocery stores
first installed freezer cases
everyone thought it was a big mistake.
Who would want to buy food
that had been frozen, they asked]

 Rubbery white gums, slippery with mucus

[His mother would buy eggs fresh from the farm
and sometimes he'd find]

I am pricking your cheek. I am brushing against

[a crimson chicken embryo
suspended in the yolk]

your eyelashes

[He also talks at length about being pulled out of school
the day Kennedy had his brains blown out] 

Yellow fingers turn the belly pale
A single curly hair floating on
the milky surface

[how could you ever eat an egg
after seeing that, I'll never understand]

gives way beneath
the pressing weight
of my shifting center

my heaving bulk

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hung Far Lo

 On a grimy street in Portland's tiny Chinatown
Through a nondescript door and up a flight of stairs 
was a room that looked like the cafeteria in a mental ward
A place that had survived on the strength
of its ridiculous moniker alone.
I never ate there; food seemed to be beside the point.
No, the real destination was the dark, tiny lounge
tucked in the back, large enough for perhaps a dozen people 
if you really crammed them in. A room desinged
for shitfaced groping.
I went there once with the girl from down the hall 
I had a crush on. She'd turned 21 the night before, 
though she said she'd been coming there for years 
using her fake I.D. This place was a miracle of shittiness, 
a dive to end all dives. But behind the bar 
was a bottle of yellow chartreuse,
and something that aspired to be absinthe, and so
We drank ourselves anonymous
She told me about the night she found her boyfriend
after he'd blown most of his head off with a shotgun.
At closing time we walked back to our building
Her face so pale and angular in the moonlight,
Her hair long and black, a gothic witch
I could love this girl, I thought,
About as stupid a notion as any I’d had
Up to this point. I wanted to invite her in 
but just said goodnight and watched her disappear.
I waited a while then couldn't stand it ny linger,
left my place and stood in front of her door
and held my fist up to knock
Held it there a full minute before
going back to my apartment 
and quietly closing the door.

After that I started seeing her slip into the place
of the guy who lived next door to me.
One night, drunk and alone, I heard her moan
and cry through the wall. A week later
the fire alarm went off and everyone in the building 
huddled in the cold waiting for the fire department
to let us back in. I went up to the two of them
to say hello. They both just stared at me without 
saying a word. She whispered something to him
when I turned away. I never spoke to her again,
saw her once across a crowded room at a concert,
writhing and thrashing, her long dark hair
dripping with sweat. 
I also never went back to Hung Far Lo, 
and when the city tried revitalizing Chinatown
their rent was raised and they moved out 
to 82nd with all the other strip mall Asian places.
I recently heard they'd closed their doors for good,
but at this point I don't care,
after all this time, I've shut down as well.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Creme Brulee Scraped From the Inside of the Microwave


the widow slipped her bony fingers
into a mismatched pair of oven mitts
and pulled the pan from the rack,
resting it on the open door of the stove
she cut the chicken with a dull pair
of pruning shears, and slapped
the rough chunks onto a platter
drizzled the beige rice with watery broth
dredged from the bottom of the pan
with a bent spoon
In place of vegetables, a weedy salad
swimming in oil and vinegar.
Watched as I chewed, her small eyes
wild with mascara,
sunken in their bony sockets.
I poured myself more of the wine I'd brought
which she said she couldn't drink
because of her condition
and told her the meal was delicious
as I imagined bending her over the sink,
pulling up her black dress as she gasped
and begged me to stop
to at least wait until she'd nuked the dessert

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pink Sheets/Insomnia (Stationary Figure by Philip Guston)

Drag your knuckles across the floor
towards the bed, your heavy hands flopping
on their rubber wrists. Collapse into the mattress,
causing an earthquake that shakes the lumpy landscape of blankets.
Black clock eyes blink the seconds. The ring hangs heavy
at the end of its string, too tired to pull down the blind
to hide the hungry black vacuum on the other side.
Your thoughts trickle into a pool, coagulate into paste,
harden into a scab. A pink fog rises
from the cotton candy bubblegum wound of the world.
A crimson gash slices the taffy corridor in half.
Smoke oozes from the stubble.
The wrinkled hills are swaddled in unwrapped bandages
and gauzy shrubs. The sleepless stony eye
stares up at the unseen ceiling. Your body shudders
 without moving. I too remain motionless,
sitting here outside the frame, on a bench listening
to the ice tick on the skylights
above the gallery. I stare into the frozen image
of your pink sleepless purgatory
both of us watching that square of night sky
as it struggles to deliver the dawn. 

 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Orange Crush

I had roused him from the depths of his nod
and when he staggered to his feet,
clutching an unopened bottle of Orange Crush
by its neck, his needle and his phone
fell out of his pocket and dropped down
a sidewalk grate, and now he stood there
screaming at me to help him fish them out,
thrashing like a ray at the end of a line
flopping and flapping in the surf,
tail stabbing the foam
as the sea slips silently away

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dermestids [The Skin Beetles]

      This is not the part I wanted to ever have to consider, or even know anything about. I didn't need details. It was hard enough having that red canvas shopping bag in the freezer for a week, hard enough taking it out and holding it there in the living room while my friends prattled drunkenly on... hard to feel that weight, to see the orange tip of his tail and a back paw poking out. Hard when M. said he'd have to skin him first,  before taking him out to the shed and dropping him into the bin with the Dermestid beetles so they could strip my companion of sixteen years down to dry bone so I could keep him around in some small physical way. It seemed less creepy than taxidermy or freeze drying, seemed easier to distance oneself than from a skeleton still sheathed in fur and flesh... I thought I could handle it, and the next day I sent M. a text to thank him for his trouble, and that's when he wrote back

No worries. I just got him in the tank 
a couple of hours ago. I had a little hiccup
in dissassembling, and his left rear leg broke. 
I'm so sorry. It slipped in my hand, 
pressure went sideways, and it being 
brittle with age...it should still reassemble 
beautifully, the rest of the skeleton looks 
flawless. Again, I'm sorry for the rookie mistake.

     and I could not hide from the physicality of death, from the fact that the body is an object, fragile and delicate, its flesh easily stripped and devoured by the smallest creature... for a moment I pictured the knife tearing the pelt I'd stroked so many thousands of times, could hear the sound the leg bone as it snapped, and as if it was covered with ravenous, cleansing insects, my skin crawled.

for Iva, 1999-2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Black Ice


I miss the sheetrock and plaster, the coiled twine
and cracked pink linoleum
I miss the shiny scattered petals of the smashed bottles
I miss that coffee can full of nails and pine needles
crumbling to rust at the bottom of the stairs
I miss the horseshoe crabs, the whiff of brine
slipping from under their carapaces
I miss the version of myself that never quite emerged
from its battered chrysalis
I miss the clapperless bells, the little tin horns,
the croakers and clickers, your teeth and gums
your teeth and gums, your lips
I miss the wrought iron fence that pierced your chin,
the clawfoot tub we soaped ourselves against
the bottom of
I miss the chimneys, the smokestacks, the long-dead factories
The water towers with the names of the little shit towns
lettered across their bellies
I miss the fucking snow, even the slush, even the black ice
The plastic bags, the sugar packets
The hair that would fall over your raccoon eyes
I miss gently holding that hair back
while you retched, wondering if I should wrap it
around my fist
and pull

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pipefish

The tide keeps bringing us mussels covered
with barnacles pried away from the battered rocks.
The gulls have stripped the meat from the blue-black shells
but their passengers still huddle safely within the walls
of their concrete bunkers.
She gingerly picks them up then hurls them
to arc across the water in dripping clumps,
thinking there's a chance they might be saved.
She tells me again about the first patient she saw die.
She was giving him a sponge bath, didn't realize
what was happening until it was too late.
His wife walked in and was upset that she hadn't
closed his eyes. Look, I say, and point at
a metallic green and yellow strand of sea grass
that twitches once then gently floats
on a mattress of foam, staring with lidless eyes
up through a curtain of bubbles.
I prod it but the pipefish doesn't move
as the ocean slips its fingers out from under it.
She puts up her hood and thrusts her frozen fists
into her pockets. I shout a stupid joke into the wind.
She throws her head back and laughs her dirty laugh
as we trudge over the dunes and up to the street,
knocking the sand from our shoes before we step
into the warm, quiet car.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Nagasaki Crane Fly


Song from when I was one drop tall
Song of when I was swimming in tar
Of when I was doing the backstroke in
the shimmering mud
When my tongue was covered in glowing moss
When cumulonimbus blood cells swarmed
like crimson mites across the roof of my mouth,
the flesh of the sky before the blast

Song from when I was one hair old
Song of when I was choking on fur
When my esophagus was swollen with dust
My gums spray painted with rust
When the water tower on the edge of town
was furry with mosquitoes, making the block letters
printed on the side illegible

The gas chamber, the oil rig, the armored tank
The Portobello mushroom cloud
growing from the pot of bubbling stew
Torpedo bra fired from a cannon,
a one-piece swimsuit washed up on Bikini atoll
The garbled chorus, the warbled warning
that bubbled from our bloody beaks
as we perched on the wires of a harp made
of electrical lines
I refuse to lose the will to lose my way. I refuse
to chase the shadow flickering
in the last telephone booth left standing
in the neighborhood with its glass blown out.
I sing a requiem into the open mail slot,
whisper dirty limericks into a hole drilled in the side
of the noise buffering wall along the interstate.
I count the flattened gnats, each one a splattered note
on the scale in my fake book,
and I fill my throat, my lungs, even my ass
with your trumpeting song.

Song of stitches bristling up and down your milky shin
Song of the desert lighthouse, of the beachfront silo
Song of the one who died, and the one who wouldn't die
but probably should have
Song of someone who felt something
or couldn't, but wished they were able to
Song of the water babies and their foamy coffins
Song of the albino crows you kept feeding
when you couldn't even afford to feed yourself
Song of the rock that toppled from the branch
and clogged the culvert
Song of a flash of light, a smear of eyeshadow
Song of the steep stone stairs you'll never climb again
Song of how long has my goddam fly been down
Song of the roulette wheel heart, the misplaced bet
Song of my sequinned skullcap and how crooked it sits
on my lumpy, swollen head

Song of how I survived
Song of how I shooed
that enormous crooked-legged  crane fly
out the open screen door

We sucked in our breaths
then both let loose the same song
at the same time
with the same insect voice,
a song that no one could hear
above the roar.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Full Buck Blue

That fucking moon
You can't see it but it is up there
Most likely

Gently held a tender pellet
between finger and thumb
Applied a bit of pressure
felt the whole thing crumble

How often do our screens go dark
How often do our mouths line up
Hair goes slack
Door slams shut
Temperatures drop





Swollen as a milk-filled tick
A sagging splotch, an ancient breast
a single snow-white drop

The interrupted current
Dripping air, rippling sand
The moon you tell yourself
you'll never see again

It will snap its strings and crush us beneath its grin
Or else turn its face away
to hide its expression

I need to see it one more time
Even though I know

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nashville Witches

Despite the signs everywhere admonishing travelers
not to leave their bags unattended, and to report
any suspicious items to the nearest security agent,
two unclaimed suitcases have been circling alone
on the Gate E6 carousel for fifteen minutes.
They finally topple off, seemingly of their own accord,
and each slowly unzips itself, releasing two slender women
who carefully step from the bags and kick them away
like split chrysalises. They stretch their necks
and smooth out their dresses
and comb the crumbs from their hair with their fingers.
They step barefoot across the carpet
and through the automatic doors,
passing the line of taxis and crossing the parking lot
to flop down in the dry grass beside the runway.
When they close their eyes the air begins to stir
as the scattered pieces of all the birds
ever reduced to pulp
by the deadly inhalation of the jet engines
drag themselves toward one another,
stitching themselves back into the semblance
of winged creatures, patchworks of splintered bone
and knotted entrails and broken feathers,
tens of thousands of them flapping clumsily
above the tarmac, circling the tower
where the air traffic controllers look out in horror.
The eyes of both women snap open
and they leap to their feet and dance across the fields
toward the town, toes barely touching the ground,
accompanied by the ragged music of the flock
as its claws pluck the electrical lines
like bloodied fingers strumming a steel guitar. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yu Ling Duck


When I splashed past the equator, that crease
running halfway across the red and white
checkered tablecloth that covered the globe
I ripped off my water wings, hurling them to
be ensnare the carp-finned dragons that twisted
across the carpet. I let myself sink into the thick
sticky pond of crimson tar, my bubbles remaining
unnoticed by the waitress in her cheap porcelain
Noh mask, unnoticed by the mother scolding
her daughter for dipping the tip of her ponytail
in the duck sauce, unnoticed by the walleyed girl
and her date in the Led Zeppelin t-shirt who sit
eyes glued to their phones, not saying a word
to each other until their six hundred pounds
of shrimp and chicken arrive, loaded with a crane
from the barge that has been towed
by a sluggish tug from the kitchen.
By the time they fish me out, I'll be nothing but bones
in the bottom of a white take-out box,
a scarlet pagoda stamped across my grave.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Knife River

On my way to work, as I step across the tightrope
of the bridge,  below me on the freeway
passes a cement mixer with the words Knife River
slowly spinning along its barrel.
The pavement bakes, the windshields flash.
Gleaming silver fishes rush past in the current.
The sluggish whirlpool turns. Shining scalpels
of sunlight slice through the chain link fence.
I'm caught in a net of shadows, waiting to be hauled
onto the deck where I will flop until my breath is spent.
My head drops; the last thing I see, scratched in the concrete
with a stick or finger, long ago when it was wet,
two names, the only barrier between them
the whetted harpoon head of a heart.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Joseph Merrick in the Galapagos

A herd of tiny elephants stampeded
across Claude's formerly forked tongue
grazing his molars with their tusks when
he went back to revisit the old neighborhood
where he used to play hopscotch and handball.
He tried to forget but it all came groveling back.
The air smelled like Chinese leftovers
that had been sitting in the car all afternoon.
Traffic lights plummeted like icicles
for blocks around. Just like the old days.
Claude clomped along the cold, dusty streets,
swaddled and shapeless in crocheted
mummy wrappings, dripping mucus,
like Joseph Merrick in the Galapagos
trying to whistle like the finches, nodding off
against the back of a tortoise
knocking his skull on a rock when it walks away
then pretending to still be asleep to save face
Claude's ersatz snores echo through the streets
waking up a population doing their damnedest
not to fucking evolve

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Stone in a Puddle on an Island in a Lake on a Continent in a Vast Hungry Sea

I am the seemingly tireless tide
dragging itself at last away from the shore
to withdraw into the shifting bulk of myself,
having once and for all decided
that I no longer have any interest
in merging with the land.
I harbor no desire to be one with a body
that, given a chance, would merely absorb me.

I am a heaving, pulsing mass
with no need for the shore's illusion of stability.
After all these years I have wearied of trying
to combine our separate beings.
I bare my teeth and hiss at you through the foam.
From now on I content myself
with taking tiny pieces of you into myself,
with slowly, steadily wearing you away.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Branch

In the bookstore's cafe sits the perfect table,
its surface blonde and worn smooth
by thousands upon thousands of elbows
and mugs of coffee and books, I get dizzy
thinking of all the books which have pressed
their faces against it, rested their weary heads
upon its surface, kissing their distant cousin....
they recognize one other, both aware of the possibility
that right now they could be pulsing with sap in a forest,
could be stretching their arms towards the sky,
could be reaching their roots deep into the soil,
could be burning into a soft rain of ash.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chomp

As she's up there reciting the kind of watery verse
that slips like broth between the tines of the fork
before it can reach your eager lips, my ravenous mind
wanders and eventually arrives
at that alley in Seattle with the wall completely covered
with wads of used chewing gum stuck there over the years
and hardened to a brightly splotched lacquer
several inches thick and reaching up fifteen feet.
I want to express the awe and ick I feel
each time I stand before it, tempted to touch
but prevented by disgust, even though the gum
is no longer soft or sticky, any germs or saliva long ago
scrubbed off by the rain, burnt away by the sun,
thousands of toothy indentations
being the only evidence they were ever inside a mouth.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bridge of Sighs


Like Katy Hepburn in Summertime
Swaddled in a shell, suffocating in solitude
Afraid it's too late to be loved. Afraid
it might not be. Wanting to be swept off
my feet. Romanced on the Venice Bridges.
A dream of dropping dahlias into the wake
of the gondoliers. Not sure
what I'd do if I actually ever was
transported there, not sure that if I stumbled on the edge
that I could ever regain my footing,
I'd pretty sure I'd drown in the canal
or at the very least contract some disease,
like she did, ending up with a rare form
of conjunctivitis
which she battled the rest of her life,
despite the director's taking the precaution of
filling the water with gallons of foaming disinfectant.
This I suppose is what you get
for doing your own stunts,
for not going through life with your eyes
squeezed tightly shut. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Education

Mitch is shoveling Kix into his mouth,
slopping milk all over the break room table.
Three other janitors huddle on the couch,
one from Croatia, one from Nepal, the third
from the suburbs of less faraway Gresham.
The computer is blaring one Bread song after another:
Professor Mitch is teaching a course in
pop music from the seventies
The Nepalese woman has just learned
that her entire family was killed in the earthquake
that recently shook the Himalayas.
When she describes what happened, she gestures
with her hand to show a house falling off
the edge of a cliff, sliding down
the side of a mountain.
The woman from Croatia occasionally
pats her on the shoulder. Mitch belches, pours
another bowl of cereal. Bread sings Sweet Surrender.
Lost Without Your Love. Everything I Own.
Weeks later, they're still pulling bodies
from beneath the stone and mud
in Kathmandu. I'm not sure if anyone
is learning anything, or what this lesson
is even supposed to be. Between songs I hear
the metronome tick of the spoon
as it scrapes the bottom of the empty bowl,
hear the roar of the great machines outside
the window, spewing asphalt and spreading tar
and causing the walls to vibrate as they rumble past.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Changeling

I would see her flitting out of the corner of my eye, a dancing speck, a darting insect zipping and weaving at the edge of my field of vision. Over time I started getting glimpses of her through the trees, a shadow swallowed by mist, slipping beneath the surface without releasing a single ripple. A flash, a burst, a blur. Eventually small details began to coagulate into focus: a painted fingernail, a few waxy toes, a shock of black feathers. A moonless night and she stepped from the trap, slipped out of the snare, evaded the shutter. I let the handful of blank photographs drop from my grip and gnashed and flailed and rent my garments, howling my need to catch even one real glimpse. I scalded my throat in the shower and collapsed, hitting my head on the edge of the tub. When I came to I wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror and there were her eyes, so wild and dark I could never look away.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Defiant Roar in the Face of Overwhelming Terror

The wrinkled sheet of paper
twisted in the grass beside
the wall beneath the street light
that at first glance looks exactly
like a sleeping cat

I would gamble everything
on this

Friday, May 29, 2015

Streetlamp Dark Streetlamp Dark Streetlamp


A cop car wails through a red light
in front of  the all night self serve car wash
next to the Popeye's on MLK
just south of Rosa Parks.
The bus waits for the light to change
then plows on through.
We pass block upon block
of beauty salons, barbershops,
sneaker stores. Not as many as
there were a few years ago.
Most of the black people in town
can't afford to live up here anymore.
Neither can I, for that matter.
The fat white guy across the aisle from me
clutches a 32 oz Jacksons gas station cup
full of Dr. Pepper. He wears a zip up hoodie
with the words Big Dogs across the front
and a camouflage hunter's cap crisscrossed
with stylized branches and the shadows of leaves.
His black girlfriend, slightly less obese
than he is, sits in the seat in front of him.
They are too wide to sit next to one another.
His pale meaty paw rests gently
on the back of her neck
as he tells her not to yank the cord yet,
that it isn't this stop they want but the next one.
Or maybe the one after that.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Drawbridge

     A man plops down next to me on the light rail. He has a large fresh scab on the bridge of his nose. One by one he asks everyone around if he can use their phone to make a single call. They all give him excuses; their batteries are dead, they don't get service on the train, they're waiting for an important call...

     Finally he turns to me. I brace myself.

     "You look real happy," he says.

     "I'm tired," I say.

     "How far to Instate and Lombard?" he asks.

     "Ten, fifteen minutes," I say.

     "I was told it's four minutes once we get over the bridge." 

     I shrug. Another train passes us as we inch across the bridge. The late afternoon sun shimmers on the water.

     "Can I use your phone to make just one phone call?" he asks.

     "No," I say.

     He stares at me hard then looks away.

     "I just need to call the apartment before I get there so they can let me in," he says. I stare out the window. "If I don't call ahead of time I won't be able to get in," he says. I nod. He snorts, shakes his head. "At this point I'll be dead by the time I get there," he mutters, more to himself than to me. "They got my insulin in there. Without it I probably won't even make it to the front door. Be dead before I even make it to the door."

     I think of asking him some questions about his diabetes, whether he's type one or type two, how old he was when he was diagnosed. I think of asking him why he would leave the house without his insulin in the first place and why he thinks he could die if he doesn't immediately get his insulin. Perhaps he thoughtlessly just ate an entire cheesecake or multiple ice cream sundaes and is feeling himself slip into a hyperglycemic coma at this very moment as he sits beside me on the train. I think of showing him the insulin in my own pocket and asking him if it's the same kind he uses and, if so, if he needs to borrow any to prevent his suddenly death. I even carry a spare needle and a glucometer if he'd like to check his sugar. We could check it together, see how high it really is.

     After a few minutes he turns to the worn-out looking mother sitting to his left. Her kids are screaming and laughing and bouncing up and down on the seats. She tells him her phone is almost out of juice but "go ahead and use it anyways." He punches the number.

     "Hey man I've got the twenty bucks I owe you. You got my... insulin? What? She did? But I told her I would meet up with her there! I'm already on the train! Okay. Shit. Shit. Okay."

     He hangs up and hands the phone back to the woman. A full minute goes by, then he turns to her and says, "Thank you."

     "I'm not telling you again you kids you need to sit the fuck down! You're welcome," she says.
     When the train stops at Interstate and Lombard, he just sits there. I'm just about to tell him he's going to miss his stop when he lurches to his feet and staggers out the door. I take out my phone to check the time. It's been exactly thirteen minutes since we crossed the river. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Face in the Lard


Broke every bone in my body
Every muscle has been sprained,
pulled, twisted, every gland
is shutting down, every organ
closing shop. My skin
attempts to creep away
from the torso's sinking ship
but until I chop it loose it will remain
firmly attached. I am not yet ready
to scuttle this anatomy.
Every one of my hairs stands
on end -feeling merciful, I shave
them off, let them fly away with the breeze.
My eyes bug out but I am not quite
ready to let them roll free.
What will be left when all my neurons
have been fried, when all my nerves
have sizzled away to nothing?
Then I will let the bones clatter off,
cradling their marrow, let
the weary muscles drag themselves away.
There will be nothing left of me
but lumps of rancid fat, not even
worth rendering, giving everything
I am cooked in a bitter aftertaste.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Anxiety

The entire world is covered with them.
Countless billions of shining carapaces,
of shivering antennae. Billions of little
scuttling legs. You spray insecticide
in hope of clearing a path through them,
but they are immune to all poisons,
and so you spend your life resigned
to crunching through them, feeling insects
squish beneath your feet and swarm
up your ankles as you search
for one square foot free
of their creeping, twitching presence,
as you search for one bare spot
on this Earth you can stand.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The World's Last Can of Tuna Fish -Thrown Overboard, Sinks to the Bottom of the Atlantic

when the ship went down
our drills sank with it

we lashed styrofoam anchors to our wrists and ankles
and dragged ourselves across the spiky crests
the liquid daggers dug furrows down our bellies
 and sowed seeds of salt in the wounds
 that sprouted into waterspouts that spiraled upwards
reaching for the keening frigates and terns
beanstalks of slippery kelp rising toward nothing

we shat jellyfish and pissed anemones
grateful that they weren't sea urchins this time
we clung to the last lonely plank left floating in the entire ocean
feeling our shoulder blades shrivel to jerky in the sun

tens of thousands of fry nibbled at our pasty hull
our flesh disintegrated into algae blooms
that formed a new skin across
the flayed torso of the ocean

frothing wounds
blood and foam
rendered fat
even after all this time
our eyes stare down
two bubbles stubbornly
refusing to pop

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You'll Never be Alone as Long as You've Got Dandruff

After years of patient scratching,
I sloughed off enough dead skin
to sculpt an eczema replica of myself
from the accumulated crumbs.
He rustles like a husk with every step
and spits a tiny blizzard from his lips.
I gently take his boneless hand,
careful not to crush his fingers
when he leans in close to whisper 
all his dessicated dreams and
nightmares dripping moisturizer.
He hopes one day to be a father,
watch the spores of his descendents
peel away and let the breezes
pluck their bodies, fluttering
across the raw and itchy landscape.
In the meantime, I prepare to
make another doppelganger,
dropping keratin slivers into
a large glass jar whenever I clip my nails.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Octopus Gloves

Once she puts them on she can't get them off. Each finger seems to act independently of the others, a curling, twisting family of worms at the end of each wrist. Occasionally they become knotted and when that happens she delicately untangles them using her teeth. They crawl across the table when she's not looking, attaching their suckers to whatever objects they come across; glasses, plates, salt shakers. The only time they seem to heed her is at the end of the day when she crawls into bed, at which point they wriggle and writhe between her legs until her entire body convulses. Then they relax and slide from her fingers, releasing her hands like a pair of fins gently fluttering at her side as she sinks into the dark waters of sleep.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Morning After Pill [Genesis 1:1-28]

In the beginning was the word,
or rather a whole slew of words
spewing in a load from his
celestial throat.
Was it consensual, or did he force
his babbling upon her?
Whatever the case, the words wriggled into
her wide open ear
and swam up her auditory canal
until they reached the large wrinkled egg
encased within the shell of her skull.
Only one of them would fertilize it,
would use its alphabet [especially
the D, the N, the A] to spell a new life.
Once she realized what had happened,
She took pills to try to destroy it
but it kept growing, she could not forget.
The father was long gone, of course.
She went to a clinic to have it removed
but they said she was too far along.
As the due date approached
she grew more and more frantic,
She suffered morning sickness,
spilling gibberish.
Finally, the baby burst from her,
an abomination of an idea loose in the world,
eager to go forth and multiply.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Empty That Socket, Fill That Hole

In the bright sunlight
a dog's skeleton vanishes
from inside its body
and the beast collapses
into a shaggy pile on the pavement
at its master's feet, eyes still gazing up
in adoration, even without a skull
to cradle them.

The master turns his head toward
his shriveled companion.
The doors in his wooden mask pop open
to reveal wet eyes rolling behind
hinged metal eyelids
The lip shutters flap open
and his tongue darts out
like a cuckoo in a clock.
The nose is a beak that unfolds
like the petals of a flower, exposing
the raw, wet mess of flesh and mucus
that shines inside.

He reaches his dead hand toward
a jar full of eyeballs, reaches through it,
closes his bony fingers around
a glass of spirits that smokes
on the wormy counter.
The dead mouth opens. Down the hatch
gushes the churning river.
In the lightless, motionless depths,
beneath the frigid waters,
bubbles rise. The eye blinks.
A distant dog barks.
All the shutters slap shut.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The end of another National Poetry Month, in summary

I wasn't going to do anything to celebrate National Poetry Months this year, seeing as I haven't written anything of substance for months. The week before I had just participated in my first real poetry reading, and the process of going back and looking over my work really shook me; I was shocked by how poor it was. I had thought that after working so hard at this for over a decade, I should have reached a certain level of skill by now.

But no. Upon rereading my work from the last couple of years, I hated it all, it all felt so phony and amateurish. I did manage to find a few pieces I could bear to read aloud, and the reading went fairly well despite my anxiety. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd been wasting my time, that I was a hopeless misguided hack.

A few days later I attended what turned out to be the worst reading I'd ever seen. All throughout the performance, I kept wondering if the whole thing was being put on to mock those of us misguided enough to actually give a shit about poetry. The writer [I wouldn't call him a poet] read for a full hour, one long piece that was little more than a string of painfully unfunny one-liners, the types of things that college sophomores drunkenly scribble on napkins after reading a couple of Bukowski books. As he did this, a woman danced [I use the term generously] around the room with a Bible across her face and a rubber pig mask over the back of her head. A video of her dancing was projected above them. It all must have been a joke, right? Right? They received thunderous applause at the end regardless.

But it was freeing. I felt that first of all no matter how hard I tried  could never be as terrible as these assholes, and second of all, it was my moral obligation as a member of the local art community to oppose these people, to engage them in battle, and what better way then by working as hard as I can to become a better poet?

I don't know what that means though. I don't know what kind of further discipline might help me improve. I still read as much as I can and attend as many readings as I can stomach. I try to stay well-rounded, immersing myself in all the arts, trying to be open to as many different experiences as my limited budged will allow. But is it enough? I've been at this for years and I am still not all that good. Do I need to swallow my pride and take some fucking classes or workshops? The idea makes my skin crawl.

Anyways, at least I'm writing again; more than anything, I've missed the pure pleasure of putting together a poem, even a shitty one. I was surprised at how much good it did me to force myself to write a piece every day; they're not good by any means, but I enjoyed writing them, and even wrote a bunch of extra pieces which I'll post over the next week or so.

I know that no one really cares about any of this; anyone who stumbles onto this post can just assume that I'm writing this as therapy, meant for no one but myself to read. As such, thanks for your indulgence. And thanks to those of you who have supported me over the years; I know it can't be easy putting up with all this self-absorbed ranting.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30

ant vs. Ant

she watched an ant
dragging the head of a bee
by the side of the trickling creek
weaving erratically back and forth
far from home, probably lost,
lugging an enormous millstone
it had no idea what on Earth to do with
unwilling to just relax its grip
and open its jaws and let
that enormous burden go

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29

California Poppies [Nice Sandwich]


California poppies
flicker in the Oregon wind
at the base of a guardrail dividing the highway
that runs in a trough that cuts the city in two.
I watch them from through the chain link fence
of the Jefferson Street bridge
in the exact spot where a house once stood
where Lew Welch rented a room when he was a student,
a few blocks from my own rented studio.
These days I've been spending a lot of time standing on bridges,
staring down at the dark water, at the rushing traffic,
dreaming of gravity and exhaust
and razors and dissolving pills.
Next month it'll be forty four years
since Welch stepped out of Gary Snyder's house
in the Sierra Nevadas and into the wilderness
with a sandwich and a Smith & Wesson
.22 caliber rifle. I'm not sure about the sandwich
but I like to think he packed himself
some kind of nice last supper,
a pleasant picnic looking out over the landscape.
Or maybe I'm just hungry. Food is one of the few things
I still take pleasure in. I will no doubt leave behind
 a corpulent corpse.  Lew's body was never found,
He left nothing behind but his poetry and rocks
and scrub and an occasional clump
of California poppies.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 28

Baltimore

The UPS truck bleats
and I raise the metal gate
for the brown truck with the brown driver
in the brown uniform
who will hand me brown boxes to stack
on the concrete floor of the dock.
We see each other every weekday
but we don't talk about
the unarmed brown man
who got shot in the back by the cops
or the other unarmed brown man
who also got shot in the back
by the cops, or the... well,
we don't talk about any of them.
We talk about the weather, the rain
or lack thereof, the distance
of the weekend.
But smoke is rising from a burning squad car
on a Baltimore street where the storefront windows
have been smashed in, and all I can do
is sign the digital tablet
and hand it back to him,
our hands never touching,
and lower the gate.

Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27

Tip Spittoon

They slouch about in their black hoodies
emblazoned with the logos of their favorite watering holes
to watch the country band with the gravelly-voiced singer
everyone wants to fuck
The guitarist is decent but the songs are bland
and colorless, forgotten the moment they're over.
Everyone looks like someone I know
from someplace else. It's early and the place is filled
with families and young children:
three tiny girls link arms and jump wildly about
while a little brother stands and stares,
wanting to be included, or maybe I'm 'just projecting.
My ex and her new man are sitting at the bar
beside me, holding hands. I try to focus
on my wild boar tacos. The joint has wooden floors
and faux Victorian wallpaper. At some point
the drummer's gorgeous wife sashays around the room
holding out a brass spittoon for tips.
A bearded blob in a yellow t-shirt that reads
"Don't be a Dick" dances with a much
slimmer girl. He can barely shuffle
but her hands are all over his girth anyways.
There's a tear in my microbrew,
the spittoon of my heart is about to tip over.
My tongue is a tangled lasso.
There are tumbleweeds between my legs
and baling wire holding my sides together,
keeping  my guts from spilling out into the sawdust.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 26

Spalding [and everything is fine]

Stare off the end of the boat
at the water churning in your wake.

That's your past, a mindless froth
returning so rapidly to gentle
ripples of velvet.

The other figures on the ferry are
flickering shadows. The mist
is thick and welcoming and resistant
to reflections.

It would not be bad
to be embraced by arms of fog,
smothered painlessly, soundlessly,
all those spinning gears instantly gummed up,
the echoes stifled, the racing images erased.

A single motion and all goes dark.
And that would be fine

if it wasn't for the fear of pain,
if there could be some guarantee
that there would be no pain, both yours
and of those distant others who keep insisting
they love you.

Who knows, maybe they do.
In the meantime, I watch the water.
If not tonight, then soon.

There are plenty of boats, plenty of bridges.
A generous stretch of river
with an endless supply of current,
and, on certain nights, that wonderful
annihilating fog.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25


The Rain is the One Who Owes You a Fucking Apology



The sun lurked right on the edge
of the thunderheads, its golden gaze turning
the downpour to piss. The bus shelter was crammed
with drenched transients and their sopping sacks.
The rain had stopped by the time my bus arrived,
but the gutters were flooded and the streets were still slick
and turning right onto Mississippi, the bus smashed
into a parked car. The scrape and tear of metal
was awful. The car's front bumper
was ripped clean off, its front left corner
crunched and shredded. There was no
apparent damage to the bus. Unlike me,
when I collided with you, the driver stopped,
asked if everyone was okay, and got on the phone
with the dispatcher. He didn't just barrel forward,
pretending nothing had ever happened,
never looking back at the debris strewn on the wet
asphalt in his wake.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24


Where the 24 Hour Church of Elvis Was

It was right around the corner from here,
to my left, in the alleyway and up a set of stairs,
an odd little room crammed with custom-made pinball machines
and of course Elvis Presley memorabilia, most of it home made,
all of it presided over by a bedraggled, batty woman
who, if you paid her, would disappear into the back room
and return dragging a sleepy man dressed as Elvis
who, being an ordained preacher, would preside over
a brief- and possibly even legally binding-ceremony
after which you and your new spouse would be fitted
with cans around your ankles and forced to march
all the way around the block to display your new
marital status.

The Church was long gone by the time I moved here,
even though its location was still marked
on the map I bought to find my way around my adopted city.
The woman who ran the place showed up at the art museum
where I work a few times. She wanted to pitch some kind of
art show. The curators declined. The last time I saw her
she was drunk and standing out on the sidewalk
in front of the museum in the middle of the afternoon,
screaming at passerby. This city has changed so much
so quickly, trying hard to become just like everywhere else.
The King is not marrying anyone at 3Am in Portland anymore.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 23

Megatouch

No one glances around. No eyes meet
across the crowded room. All attention tethered
to irresistible screens. Every sharp arrow of focus ends
in a smooth glowing wall across which swim and flash
endless images. Phones, televisions, tablets
and on the end of the bar, the Megatouch machine
with its touchscreen matching games
and hidden picture games
and puzzles hosted by animated sexy women
and leering monkeys. A gloved cartoon hand
hovers over each scene.
You control it using your own finger,
your one physical contact with the world
sliding and swiping and poking
that sensitive yet impassive mirror

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22

Civilization

A couple of prostitutes step in and out
of their uncomfortable shoes
in front of Ruth's Chris Steak House.
It's late but the restaurant is still busy
with elderly tourists and Japanese businessmen.
Right across the street is the stiff solemn column
we spent hundreds of years trying to bend.
Nearby rests the ancient cicada spaceship
that spun down through a hole in the clouds
to land on a single hair curling out over the edge
of our mother's fleshy cliff.
I call myself the smallest pinch of fuzz,
the tiniest patch of bristly weeds,
I call myself the perfect scratch,
the suicidal smile. The elevator always breaks
 at the same time as the washing machine.
A white van with its headlights off
glides through the intersection against the signal.
Out in the courtyard a metal detector
curls its neck back, beeping frantically
as it detects itself.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21

Pikadon

There were two men
and she leaped like a bolt
from one to the other.

Can you feel your eyelashes
brush against the paper?
Can you find the strength to turn
your back to the light?

You'll have to.

They moved around within the sweltering box
with nothing but the crimson light to guide them.
And of course their hands.

Did you feel your body turn into a sculpture?
Did you feel your three dimensions 
flatten out?
The flash lasts only a moment,
and then you are two shadows
fused forever into one.

The slides blink faster and faster
The photographs curl their corners
And it's too much. I fly from
the stark white room
 filled with the skeletons
of black folding chairs
to escape to the soft gray
world outside.

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20

Inch

It didn't scare you enough, your father's warning
that if you went barefoot in the garage
you'd get hookworm. Likewise what he said
about fleas giving you tapeworm,
though I have to wonder about the accuracy of that one.
It was Southern Baptist country
and worms were everywhere,
chewing through apples, measuring cubits,
raining from the sky, whispering in the ear
of the recently no longer dead.
And then there were the elders
 draping worms around their necks
and holding them up and feeling the worms
within their mouths
flop out to speak to them.
It should have scared you,
but there you stand, arms spread,
feeling the worm wriggle
from fingertip to fingertip,
your entire body convulsing
as it measures you.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19

No Bridges

I don't trust the stones not to shift beneath my feet. Just because they've held so far doesn't mean they'll continue to do so. I stare in the folded mirror at a face has slipping between the cracks in the glass. Hair parted down the middle, standing with one foot on either side of the San Andreas Fault. Bridges are always collapsing, walls crumbling, houses sliding into fissures. Lightning splits the sky and cracks the stump. Sheets of paper folded in half, torn. I waste hours trying to tape them back together. Clenched hands wrenched from one another. I feel like I am constantly followed by a cloud of hornets that sting my face, perforating it down the middle so it could tear in two. Maybe then I'll be able to keep myself company, one eye staring directly into the other instead of both staring in different directions with a gaze that is never returned.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18


A Dead Coyote by the Side of the Road in Nisqually Country

We squinted through the cellophane shade
of the recently built old-timey diner
at the choppers lined up in front
of the Nisqually Bar and Grill next door.
Guys with beards in leather vests
milled about in the parking lot
in the blinding morning sunlight.
The waffles were overpriced
and bland. The coffee was bad.
Our cheerful young waitress
had long since disappeared.
American flags hung limply everywhere.
A banner congratulated the Seahawks,
who had lost the world series
six months earlier.
Oldies were playing on the piped-in
satellite radio.  Love is All Around
played twice in a row.
I popped a couple of Advil and prayed.
Five miles up the road, along the side
of Interstate 5, a dead coyote
lay in the weeds, its pale fur
ruffled by the gentle breeze.

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17

Raspberry

Her tongue was always dipped in glitter
and it would glint gold and apricot
when she stuck it out and wiggled it at the sunset
You look remarkably like her, you're the same age
she would have been by now, you have
the same wrinkles, the same sags, it's uncanny,
it's like she's wearing your skin, but I want to know
for sure, before I slap your ass, before
I bend you over and continue where we left off
before we were so rudely interrupted by
her metamorphosis into a box of ash.
So as soon as the sun prepares to drown itself
I'll ask you to open your mouth
and stick out your tongue
and let me see if it has
the familiar metallic sheen
of the sun sticking out its naughty tongue
back at her

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 16

Peepshow
I could feel the wall of feminine disinterest rise
effortlessly from both of them the moment
we were all introduced.
Maybe men do this too, flick on that forcefield
of aggressive apathy. Without my uttering a word
they had sentenced me guilty of having
nothing to offer. I'm not saying they're wrong,
but still. A fella likes the illusion of having
a fighting chance.
Now this is the point where more assertive dudes
make their voices heard, begin the game
of lassoing their attention.
But not me. I nodded politely as they chatted
and built that wall higher and higher until I couldn't see
their faces. Luckily there was a chink in the brick
through which I pressed my eye
and spent the rest of the conversation staring
at their decent -though in no way extraordinary- racks
with the impunity of the invisible.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15

Milkweed Hand Grenade

Every hair and feather, every blade of grass is gone.
Every leaf and every bristle, every whisker, every plume.
The world is shaved, completely bald and smooth.
There will be no more ticklish kisses,
no more soft nests or pillows to rest your weary egg upon.
All the fur has been sheared and swept away,
every bit of fluff, every tuft, every cotton ball and dust bunny
blown into the breeze with one puff.
The planet has been cleared of every silkworm's excretions,
every shard of milkweed shrapnel.
The earth has been slathered with shaving cream
and scraped raw, not a single stump or bit of stubble remaining,
the dirt beneath your feet still tingling with aftershave.

Monday, April 13, 2015

April 13


Deer Tick

I know you are a gentle, skittish creature
mincing cautiously through the darkened thickets.
Wide-eyed, sensitive, easily spooked and startled.
But I know that somewhere in there lurks
something kinky and perverted,
a part of you that longs to be bent and broken
over and over again, longs to be bound and bitten,
longs to let your usual murmur rise into a moan
that bursts from your throat like a flock
of screaming birds. rising from the trees.
You say it's not true, that I'm just projecting
my own twisted fantasies, that I'm the sick one.
But you can't look me in the eye when you say it.
The limbs of the trees cast shadows across your face
like bars of a cage. You don't have to say a word.
Just look at me and nod and I will free you
using nothing but these bare hands
...and, of course, my teeth.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April 12

Oil

When I was young, someone told me blood
was blue within your body and only turned red
when it hit the air. You could look at the blue veins
on the backs of your hands if you wanted proof.
Now I know better, of course, having learned
that all blood is black and every circle is a hole
and that if a thing flows beneath the ground
you should never let it out.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

April 11

Spin Your Hat Around and Tell Them You're a Quaker [Lectio Divina]

The coffee shop's a veritable canine ark, especially days like this with rain
hammering the dogwoods. Voices weave together into tapestries of nonsense,
patchwork conversation shawls spread across our shoulders. An elderly gentleman
lectures his date about the spiritual aspects of Eminem and Philip Glass.
Teacup fuzzdog rests its paws on the edge of a bench, begging for scraps.
The old man tells a story about a man who held his hands clasped together
in supplication for so long, his fingernails grew intertwined, the hairs on his knees
rooted themselves in the sod. A woman gripes about the overly spicy won tons
she had the night before. A Shih Tsu in an argyle sweater presses its wet nose
into her palm, dripping yolk. The air is clogged with pollen.
"Last night she was out there eating the grass like a tiny little sheep."
An angel with acne and a nose ring munches her bagel with intense concentration.
A huge bear of a dog shakes the water from its silver grizzled head.
In case you're wondering, the soup of the day is New England clam chowder.
The old man muses about lectios and how difficult it is to find them.
His date talks about writing divine poetry.
"What is the difference between a chapbook and a zine?" he asks her.
We sneeze our sticky prayers into virgin handkerchiefs. No one says gesundheit.
Spaniels prick up their ears at the chittering of a squirrel, just one of God's many
irritating messengers.
"Spin your hat around and tell them you're a Quaker,"
the elderly gentleman says. I have no idea
what it means. A bat-eared mongrel leads its owner on a hand-woven leash
and all the other dogs start barking murderously.
"Better to use your water pick than your floss,"
the woman says. The rain stops, the sun glows
between the young leaves, all of us forgiven,
even those of us who would dare to try to sort
these utterances out, unravel the babble
as tiny pink tongues slurp the floor.

Friday, April 10, 2015

April 10

Blue Foxtongue

The hills were blanketed with the furry cerulean petals
of the invasive blue foxtongue
which was choking all the native vegetation
and driving the local wildlife insane
with its intoxicating fruit.
Gnats crazed amongst the fermenting berries,
and cardinals and woodpeckers grew drunk on the juice,
their scaly feet getting snagged in the brambles.
A famished coyote lapped at an inky puddle
then munched on a frothing raccoon's anus
while the creature was still alive.
Hairy old men flapped their rubbery wings
and opened their beaks to swallow mugs
of wormy foxtongue slurry.
A one-horned elk bared its metal teeth,
black juice dripping down its chin,
then lowered its head and charged an ivy-covered
Eldorado that had been rusting in the woods
for half a century.
The hives overflowed with rancid honey that year,
and we filled our hats with it and buried them
in the cool dirt to coagulate into something
we could put in our lanterns when the sap
of the crimson bearfat trees stopped flowing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

April 9



I dreamed the phone rang, her voice
was on the other line, talking dirty
just like she used to when she was still alive.
Just as I began to grow aroused,
a thousand flesh-colored spiders
began to pour from the phone,
scuttling all across my flesh
wearing fishnets and stilettos
doing kicks and I woke up
erect and screaming
my entire body covered
in tiny heel prints

*

The HR assistant at work that day
wore a tight black and white checkered skirt.
Her hair was frizzed out to here.
I asked her if her ankle was feeling any better.
She stuck out her leg and twirled her black pump.
"It was so swollen up, it looked like a loaf of bread,"
she said. I stared at her leg in its black stocking,
tried to imagine a loaf of bread at the end of it.
It was kind of hard to picture. She beamed, a wide smile
full of gleaming teeth. I smiled back nervously
and left the office in a cold sweat.

*

As I crossed the bridge over the expressway
heading home after work, I saw a girl
in a tiny scrap of skirt
and boots with a long stretch
of creamy white thigh in between
striding behind me,
and I clawed my way up
over the chain link fence
and hurled myself off
into the churning current
of rush hour traffic.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 8

Pet Rock (Other Beautiful Creeps)

Along with all the other beautiful creeps
we washed our hair in one another's mouths
then found ourselves sucked into hourglass quicksand
to emerge on the incrementally swelling dunes
below that pinched glass belt
We trod across the moss, trampled heather,
scratched the lichen from the boulders with
our jewel-encrusted press-on fingernails.
We tore pictures of eggs from magazines
and sat on them, hoping to hatch them into paper chickens.
We went to a children's theater production of The Bald Soprano
and spent the whole show dropping long strands of saliva
from the balcony towards the bald spot of a man below.
We rowed across each other's chests, digging our oars
into the rippling flesh. We dropped our lines and fished
for oily eels that writhe in the depth of the pores.
We saved our shed skins, wore them as crinkly stoles
around our hairy necks.
We threw back the shower curtains
hung across the stalls with zip tie shower rings,
surprising the couples having sex on the hoppers
without using seat protectors.
We held a seance to talk to the ghost
of the inventor of Skee Ball,
went to a wake for Gary Dahl
who held the patent for the Pet Rock
for Sand Breeding Kits,
for Red China Dirt
Along with all the other beautiful creeps, we swore
we'd never make another list again, and then
we immediately set about making another list
of reasons why we couldn't bear to stop,
as all around, the scattered boulders turned
their backs to us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April 7

Dishwater Blonde

Hail pelts gravel eyelids 
that part to expose
milky salamander cataract puddles
Bra strap slips from one shoulder
Smoky mascara, liquid ash, asterisk eyes
Strings of hair plastered to the back of her neck
Fogged over microwave door
overturned Tupperware
The boom of a passing jet, lightning crack,
car backfire, the ding signifying
that your soup is done
Steam rises from the holes in your throat,
from the water collected in your cupped palms
She smiles and tugs a strand of hair
away from her mouth, staining her fingers
greasy red, counts aloud
as the brave droplets release their grip
from the lips of the faucet.

Monday, April 6, 2015

April 6

Ten Year Forecast

We walked hand in hand along the bank
with all the other tourists.
Eleven years later, I sit here shivering,
staring through the fence at the water.
The wind's picking up. Buses roar
across the crossed bones of the drawbridge.
Buds are fresh and raw on the trees.
It's a minor river, leading nowhere, too shallow
for shipping, too filthy for swimming.
There are more tourists than ever these days,
zipping back and forth on rented bicycles.
Cranes bristle across the skyline.
Darker clouds are closing in from the east
but it won't rain.
A pair of Canada geese skim low across the water.
Boats bob across the bridge's shimmering reflection.
A group of street kids cluster on a bench as if
on the carcass of some downed animal.
My glasses become speckled, I was wrong
about the rain.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

April 5

Easter Sunday and a bunch of guys
are swinging sledgehammers
at a pile of old furniture outside
the apartment building that towers over
the neighborhood.
The place is mostly student housing,
and the furniture is all old desks, futons,
particle board shelves.
The men wear dust masks pushed up
onto their foreheads. They laugh and yell
at one another in Spanish, taking turns
running toward the pile and swinging
with all their might, cheering the destruction.
Splinters and screws and chunks of
compressed sawdust fly everywhere.
The crashing reverberates along
the tree-lined streets, bounces off the walls
of the condos, of the few remaining Victorians
that huddle in this hollow beside the highway.
They toss the remains into a tall green dumpster.
He has died, He has risen. New students will arrive
in vans filled with new furniture.
He will come again.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

April 4

In the invertebrate amputee ward

the centipede moans about
the pain in its phantom limb

It could be worse, says the pillbug nurse
pointing an antenna towards the snail

in the next bed over

Friday, April 3, 2015

April 3



1.
In the tangled threads of spit, the net spreads
down your chin, down your body
to cling to your thighs.
That tendency you have to trip,
and in the process spatter juicy globs
at your own feet, then paint
wide wet saliva footprints across
the packed sand of the pavement.
Nothing in your life is absorbed,
nothing evaporates.
The viscous river bubbles from
between your legs, hangs from the tip
of your tongue, mirroring
the cavern it originated from. 

2.
Splinters, shards, slivers, scars.
You are not one thing, you are
millions of things, many of them
similar but subtly different.
You are not a single utterance
but a cacophony. You leave
scraps and flecks of yourself
behind, bits which mix 
with the remains left by others
to accumulate in the corners,
to gather in the culverts.
Stuffed beneath bridges, snagged
in the hems of hurricane fences.
You spend the centuries breaking down
into ever smaller particles, 
being scattered to the farthest
reaches of the planet. No wonder
you find it difficult to concentrate.