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