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.