Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Digital Giotto

A portal opened in the air
and a hand reached down through it
from the other side
A winged cell phone fluttered through the sky
We wore glow sticks around our necks and froze
in the strobe lights and above our heads appeared
neon halos
We could step through walls and break stones like bread
and sometimes we'd find ourselves erased by a wave
of digital static as blue as the winter sky
And all the while an angel tapped on a keyboard
with tiny, precise movements, lips pursed
as she concentrated on getting out one last email
before the weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Tarantula Hawk

"The male tarantula hawk does not hunt; instead, it feeds off the flowers of milkweeds, western soapberry trees, or mesquite trees" –Wikipedia


"I swear to God if he wins I'm moving to Canada."

"Right there with you sister."

I toss back the last of my drink and swerve away from the two women I've been only partially listening to and head for the kitchen. I yank open the fridge and take out the pitcher of the horrifying blue concoction which isn't destroying my brain cells nearly as fast as I'd like it to be. It’s really my own fault for not bringing a flask.

"We running low on Blue State Special?" Michele, the hostess, pops her head from behind the refrigerator door. She’s wearing a sweatshirt printed with a picture of a cat dressed as Uncle Sam. I finish filling my Mason jar then hold up the pitcher for her to see. It’s nearly empty. She grimaces and gingerly takes it with both hands. "Well that won’t do. I'll fetch Cary, he's designated drink mixer tonight." I stagger off before she can scold me for still having my shoes on. I know it's against the house rules but I really can't stand to remove my shoes in public.

Probably a good idea to hit the snack table. It’s pot luck. I brought a bag of pickle-flavored chips which last I checked no one had touched. A collective groan rises from the living room as yet another state topples.

I head in to see what the commotion is. Two television commentators stand to either side of a three-dimensional projected image of the country. One by one the states turn either red or blue. Mostly red. The bland droning voices give way to the rapid-fire delivery of reporters at various campaign headquarters where both factions are preparing to celebrate. Commercials interrupt the live broadcast with increasing regularity, mostly for cars, or car insurance, with some fast food ads sprinkled in. Which reminds me: snack table.

A woman in horn-rimmed glasses and a shapeless blouse over black yoga pants screams and gives me a big hug. I search my memory for a name but if it's there it's buried deep.

"How are you?” she asks. “Looks like it's going to be a close one, right? I can't believe it, I didn't think that maniac had a chance but..." another moan from the other room. "Oh my God, is that New Jersey? That can't be New Jersey. It is New Jersey. I have to watch this."

Michele has suddenly materialized beside me again. “I'm so glad you came,” she coos. “We haven't seen you since the campaign party! How've you been?” 

“I’ve been better,” I tell her now. “You know. Like all of us, a little closer to the blessed release of death each day." 

 "You crack me up," she laughs.
 
God, the campaign party. I'd almost forgotten, even though it was just a few months prior. In this very living room with those two campaign reps grinning like missionaries, smiling like recruiters for a cult, sitting us all down with drinks to convince us that it wasn't enough that we just vote, we needed to contribute to the cause monetarily. "Personally the whole thing makes me sick," the woman had said. I kept stealing glances at her legs. "But this is how the system works. Without help from our supporters, we don't stand a chance. All that advertising adds up."

At this point Michele had leaned over and whispered, "Don't worry, I got you covered." I wanted to tell her not to bother but looking at her face, so shiny and hopeful, I decided to keep my mouth shut.
 
There’s a commotion as a man in a wheelchair rolls into the room. I wonder how he got in, I don’t remember there being any ramps leading up to either porch. Behind him is his wife, leading their twin blonde toddlers by the hand. Michele screeches and runs to greet them. She lifts a large glass bowl full of seven layer salad off the man’s lap and puts it on the snack table.

"I know it's past their bedtime," the woman explains, helping the twins take off their shoes, "but Daddy insisted that they get to experience their first election night!" Both children start to scream.

Right, snacks, that’s what I was doing. I weave through the crowd to the table which is crammed full of bowls of bean dip and quinoa salad and plate upon plate of thawed appetizers. A stocky black man with thick glasses stands there munching taquitos. I hadn’t noticed just how white this crowd was before I saw him. I nod and he nods back and I scoop up a handful of tiny quiches and try to think of something to say.

“Try these little taco thingies,” he says. "They're outrageous." I take one and nod again.

“Mmhmmffm,” I say. It does not taste outrageous. I take another.

“Good, huh?” he says. “What are those there, quiches?”

“Excuse me but I really need to take a leak,” I say, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. I head to the bathroom behind the kitchen but I hear the twins screaming on the other side of the door and their mother trying to reason with them. I seem to remember that there’s another bathroom on the second floor, so gripping the banister hard to steady myself, I lurch up the stairs.

The cacophony of voices becomes muffled as I stagger down the hallway. I put my ear against one of the doors, then push it open; there's a queen-sized bed and right in the middle of it sits an enormous gray cat. I approach it and it stares at me up at me with beautiful green eyes. The moment I reach toward it to scratch its head the animal darts off the bed and out the bedroom door. I vaguely remember Michele saying something about wanting to keep the cat locked in the bedroom during the party. The whole house shakes as another pivotal state is claimed for the opposing side.

I head back into the hall, closing the bedroom door quietly behind me. I think the next door is the bathroom. It's closed but I don't hear anything behind it. I knock; nothing. I knock again, then turn the knob and open the door.

"What the fuck!" a woman’s voice barks.
"Sorry sorry sorry," I say, and duck out.

"Wait," she says. I cautiously step back in. A woman in a Jello Biafra t-shirt with the sleeves cut off is sitting on the fuzzy closed lid of the toilet. She stands up and slides her phone into the pocket of her jeans. “I know you. The block party last June.”

A spider web tattoo covers her naked shoulder. Her face is severe but lovely, with laugh lines fanning out from the corner of her eyes. I do remember her from the block party but I have no idea what the hell her name is.

She smiles. "It’s okay, I don’t remember your name either. You don't have any pot, do you?"

*

Ten minutes later we're out on the back patio, each with a fresh jar of neon-blue booze. She blows smoke out over the hanging heads of the dead sunflowers. The cat stares out at us through the storm door. I see the cat through the storm door.

"They still can't explain building 7," she says, handing me back the joint. I wave it away, take a long gulp of sweet blue liquid instead. She takes another drag.

"You need to see this website. I mean, these guys aren't some kind of nut jobs, they're actual scientists, and, you know, architects and shit, and they all say the same thing. Which is that it defies the laws of physics."

"Wow," I say. Her eyes stare wildly in the light of the colored lanterns strung up around the eaves, in between the Tibetan prayer flags. I can just make out the chicken coop from here.

There’s another loud groan from inside.

"Listen to them in there. Fucking hypocrites,” she says. “This is exactly what they asked for. They made this all possible by turning a blind eye to the truth that was right in front of us all these years. They totally deserve whichever clown wins this pointless fucking dog and pony show."

"Yeah but what about..." It's chilly out, and the lanterns are just bright enough that I can see her nipples straining against the fabric of her shirt. My mind is scrambled, I'm feeling slightly spinny and I have not even the slightest hint of what might sound funny or impressive or even just non-idiotic to her, it's taking all my willpower not to just lunge at her and take her in my arms. 


The storm door bangs open. The cat dashes out, nearly tripping Cary as he stomps outside. "Goddammit, you’re not supposed to be out here,” he says, we’re not sure to the cat or to us. “You guys're missing the bloodbath in there." He lights a cigarette and plops down on the stoop. The woman -I realize I still don't know her name- starts to cough. "Oh, sorry," says Cary, and hops to his feet. She shakes her head and waves that it's okay but he's already disappeared into the darkness of the garden.

I hear a knocking sound and look up to see an enormous moth batting itself against one of the plastic lanterns. "Look," I say, but she's already looking. It's gorgeous, with two huge spots on its lower wings that look like owl eyes.

"You never see them this late in the year," she says. Just then the cat, which has stealthily crept onto the banister, leaps into the air and lands with a thump on the porch. The moth flutters in its paws as the cat starts to tear at its furry body with its jaws.

"Get away from that! Go! Go! You little fucker!" she screams. The cat scampers off but it's too late, the insect flops pathetically on the porch. “Fucking savage,” she says. “I don’t know why we keep these things as pets. So fucking cruel.” I look around and see the recycling bin overflowing with paper. I take out a Trader Joe's newsletter and with one whack smash the poor dying creature as hard as I can.

Cary runs over to see what the yelling is about. The door bangs as my companion disappears into the house. I point at the moth with the rolled up newsletter and say, "The cat," but just then everyone starts to scream at the tops of their lungs.

We run inside to find that it's over, the great hope for the future has just conceded, pledging to support their adversary in whatever way possible so that together we can continue to make this country of ours the greatest in the...

The room is filled with lamentations and curses. A plump lesbian couple hold each other and sob. The twin toddlers are the only ones who are quiet.

“We were robbed. They need to do a recount. Ever since they rearranged the voting districts, they”

“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe the stupidity of”

“All that negative advertising and mudslinging, distracts from the issues and”

“At least we went blue... we did our part…”

“Yes but only because of the metropolitan area... you know the rest of the state is full of ignorant”

"How can people be so"

The television is showing clips from campaign headquarters across the nation. Champagne bottle pop, rock music blasts, people cheer. I look around the room, at all the angry, stricken faces, and I start to laugh.

The whole room gets quiet and I laugh harder and louder, then stop.

“Don’t you see…” I start to say. All eyes are on me. "I mean, don't you all realize..." I don’t say anything else. It was all so clear a moment ago but now I can't seem to find the words.

Everyone goes back to talking. A woman I don’t know pats me on the shoulder and smiles then moves on.

I turn and hurl myself out the front door, stepping over the rows of shoes. In the corner of the porch stands the pretty woman, smoking a cigarette. Before she can say anything I run down the front steps. I miss the bottom step and nearly fall on my face but catch myself at the last moment and go staggering across the lawn and I think I’m going to make it when bam, I trip over something and end up face down in the damp grass. I lie there a few moments, breathing in the rotting leaves and wet earth, the musty smell of decay.

“Holy crap, you okay?” the woman says, jumping down the steps to help me to my feet. I brush the mud from my knees. She points down at the thing I tripped over and starts to laugh. I laugh too. It's the campaign sign stuck into the front yard.

From the living room explodes that song "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. "What the hell?" my companion says, and runs back inside. I follow. Everyone is dancing and shimmying to the music. The guy in the wheelchair is spinning around with his kids on his lap.Michele grabs my hand and tries to pull me onto the dance floor. I gently pull my hand away.

"What's going on?" I ask.

"We're celebrating our future landslide!" she cries, shaking her hips. "All we have to do is get through the next four years!" Cary swoops in and grabs her and she whoops and they both go whirling off across the room.

"I fucking hate this song," the girl says.

"God, me too," I say, and stick out my tongue and make a face and flap my arms in the air like I'm mentally challenged. She laughs and crosses her eyes and kicks like she's having a seizure. We twitch and gyrate and flail all eight of our limbs like a couple of complete idiots as the music blasts even louder. We shake and thrash and holler. And, as if some ravenous baby insect is wriggling deep within our guts, eating us alive from the inside, we dance.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Marsden Hartley

"Famous Tahiti woman,"
the Japanese man said
to his three children
as they stood before
the topless Gauguin.
He pointed to
the waterlilies
and asked the guard
"Is this a real and not
a duplicate?"
Assured of its
authenticity,
he had the kids pose
for a photograph
in front of it.
A minute later the eldest,
who wore a sweat shirt
with the word CHAOS
printed across
her tiny breasts
sneezed all over
a Marsden Hartley
painting of a lobster trap
nestled among the rocks
buffeted by wave
after crashing wave.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Leon Redbone


Remember when we went to see John Prine, you and I
and a couple of your fellow folk-singer friends
at the old State Theater in downtown Reading
Leon Redbone opened. I’d seen him once before
in college, though why he would deign to perform 
in front of a bunch of art students who knew him only from
his ALL detergent commercials will always be a mystery. 
It looked like he hadn’t changed a bit; same Panama hat, 
same sunglasses and mustache, same strum and mumble.
A weird caricature of a bygone era, singing songs
from the infant days of the previous century.
And he whistled, a pinstriped peculiar bird,
strangely affecting despite his aloofness
And then Prine came onstage, performing with more gusto
than a man his age should be able to muster,
but what I really remember from that night
is that lonely, haunted whistling. I hear it now, 
summoning the hungry animal that gnawed a path through your bones 
burrowing up your spine until it finally found your brain.
I’m glad I saw you that last time, tired but still able to laugh
in your living room with your floppy hat
covering your skull, though I never did get to hear you 
play your guitar, never heard you sing I Ain't Got Nobody,
Shine on Harvest Moon, Whistling in the Wind.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Crowbar

Plunged your hand into the icy water
Curled your fingers round the clawed iron rod
Raised it over your head and shook it
Releasing a shower of winking crystal droplets
The sun did its best, but the wet length
did not shine, its black surface
sucking in the light.
Even with all the beauty shimmering  around you,
lush green vines and leaves and the bubbling stream,
even with the sky so flawlessly blue,
the dancing motes and midges,
rainbow hued river stones, sprays of wildflowers
even with the forest singing and whispering her secrets,
even with the world so still and calm and nature
such a soothing balm, even with all that love
and the iron weight in your hand
even with all this, you did not smile

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sparrow

She was all sticks and twigs,
slapping, scratching,
bony knees, big glasses
crushed beneath the leaves
shoulder blades sharp clouds
of breath, cutting
sun, branches black, teeth
tight, eyes
unable to shut
Birds huddled silent
feathers the color of the wood
watching her flutter
and wrestle herself
to the earth

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

White Cotton


I dreamed of you for the first time
 just before I woke up this morning
I was wearing your bra on your head
it was white
Don't tell my therapist but
my mother was there, too,
watching from inside the house
with, I feared, disapproval
as I finally gave in
and grabbed and kissed you,
slipping your white cotton panties off
from under your dress
and tucking them into my pocket
just before I woke up.

When I got to work later that morning
alarms were going off
and there were leaks everywhere from
the late night downpour
that had occurred while I slept.
It was a frantic, chaotic morning,
spent running around
and cursing, but when I finally had a chance
to sit down, I took a long drink of coffee
and reached into my pocket
and smiled

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Burning Web

Sometimes sparks erupt from the overhead wires.
Sometimes it rains baby spiders. Sometimes you feel like
you'll die if you're touched, or if you're not touched.
Sometimes you stretch your arms to embrace the world
and they are instantly covered with all those baby spiders.

Sometimes the clouds cloak the meteor shower.
Sometimes the sparks seem more frightening
than magical. Sometimes I hide for days
in my apartment, listening. Sometimes all it takes
is one badly wired hot tub to burn down an entire forest.

Sometimes the train leaps the tracks
Sometimes the underground fires
smolder for years
Sometimes the eggs hatch
and the atmosphere crawls
Sometimes a strand of spider silk acts
as a fuse

Sometimes it feels like your skin is slipping off,
sometimes it feels like your eyeballs are being
pinched. Sometimes you swallow torch
after torch after torch. Sometimes we throw
match after match after match at the river
but it stubbornly refuses to catch fire.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mountain of Hubcaps

Burned the cobs
Burned the sponges
Burned the pile of greasy
baseball caps.

Burned the plaster casts
Burned the dice
Burned the rolled-up carpet
Burned the drawer full of fast food
drive-thru receipts

Burned the book of mirrors
Burned the crystal palace
Burned the garden of hair
Burned the mountain of hubcaps

We burned it all
Burned it all before it had the chance
to burn us first

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Everyday Hustler

There were rivers of liquid methane
carving out canyons on a moon of Saturn.

There was a reservoir beneath the city.
We took a gondola tour. I kept calling it a sewer
and the guide kept correcting me.

There were fleas trained to scale tiny ladders,
to ride the backs of crickets, to form letters and words
and lines of verse across the arm of the beloved.

There were 99 names for Allah
one of them was The Expediter
another was The Delayer

There was a jellyfish smaller than a pinky nail
That had discovered the secret to eternal life

There was a man wearing a t-shirt that read
"Everyday Hustler." One day someone stabbed him
and the knife slid between his ribs and stood there,
perfectly still, as the world spun around it. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pangs

I heard tell
I heard tell of nothing
All a little fuzzy

It won't be us
It won't be us moving of our own
volition, sometimes
Sometimes you just want
to be forced

There were pangs
I heard about them
clenched, doubled over,
straining
I heard about them

There were paw prints
in the warm tar
There were scratches
from the brambles
on my arm

It won't be us
moving of our own
volition, released on our own
recognizance, we will have
to be dragged

You won't hear about
what happened
what happened to us
You won't be around
to hear

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Protest

I reached for a stone to throw
into the stagnant pond
to leave a dark hole in the skin
of green-brown crud.  I knew the wound
would almost instantly seal over.
I knew that throwing the rock
would make a satisfying plunk
but would ultimately change nothing.
I knew that it would take more than a stone
to get the water flowing,
to make this place a home for creatures
other than midges and mosquitoes.
I threw it anyways.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Pagoda

We sprawled out on the sofa bed in the living room
of your stepfather's house
watched Requiem for a Dream I wanted to touch
your creamy skin but you were frozen
and I knew that if we touched that I would freeze too.
You'd loved morphine but not for a long time
and a little ways above us perched on the top of the hill
was the pagoda that looked out over the city
built over a hundred years earlier
as part of a resort that never materialized.
In its topmost story, an 18th century bell
brought to Pennsylvania from a Japanese temple.
Though my grandparents had lived just across town,
they'd only taken us to the pagoda once,
climbed up the seven stories to the top, I remember there being
a little local history museum inside.
In your backyard your stepfather had installed
a koi pond. You couldn't forgive him for the things he did
years ago but you had nowhere else to go
and just as I reached across the expanse to touch
your tattooed wrist your youngest started crying upstairs
The next day your stepfather drove me home, we sat
in the backseat for the hour drive and didn't touch once.
Years later of course other things happened
between us, and all those things piled up
roof upon roof upon roof of the pagoda
towering over the city, a decorative exotic building
that doesn't really belong there, a building
visible for miles that everyone has affection for
but no one really knows what to do with.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pluots

Cattle cluster around the bases of the windmills
that cast their oversized shadows across
the straw-colored slopes. In the ditches,
backhoes and dump trucks huddle.
A plaster statue of a sea captain
grins at the highway, welcoming us to the arid expanses
of the San Joaquin Valley.
We drive through miles of apricot groves
and stop at a stand to buy a bushel of pluots.
We stop again in Oakdale for coffee,
parking illegally in the handicap space
in a strip mall while my friend runs into Starbucks.
I stare out the passenger side window.
A pretty green-haired girl in a flowery summer dress
with a service dog takes off her sunglasses
and steps into the Starbucks.
There is a sticker slapped on the front of the
hadicap parking sign that reads SHARK SMEER,
which I assume is the name of a band,
though I turn out to be wrong about that.
A sign in the window of the Supercuts reads
"Ask us about the tea tree experience."
A pudgy cowboy waddles in just as
my friend comes bursting out, cursing the incompetence
of all human beings, baffled that our species
has made it this far. I hand him a pluot
and take one myself. They are juicy but don't
taste like anything.

Event Horizon

She whooshes into the lobby, leaving shimmering trails
of stardust in her wake, grasping a handful of necklaces
she says she found outside the strip club. Thrusts them at me
and gingerly I finger coral, amethyst, lapis lazuli.
Her bones shine through her skin. She was recently beautiful
but today I smell urine, booze, cigarettes, let her use the bathroom
even though it's against the rules. She disappears too long
but I don't have the heart to knock on the door. I check my watch
and wait for her to emerge from her cocoon.

A series of nested craters open up beneath her. Her skin erupts
with fibers so fine she cannot see them. She squints and plucks
and scratches and every day there's a new crop. Doctors nod
without looking up from their screens, friends laugh, family frets.
Or they used to. Sludgy syrup coagulates in the sockets.
Gray soap scum collects under the fingernails. A rusty splash
dances across her retina, a brown gash splitting the planet in two.
Time becomes a slender filament knotted to her accelerating fingertips.
She can still hear the distant suck and swirl, the whoosh of a galaxy
being flushed into oblivion, taking with it wisps of plasma and ash
and pulverized diamonds, potato chip crumbs and sanitary napkins
and crumpled aluminum foil compressed into an impossibly dense
particle then turned inside out and boiled until it bubbles.

There's a scrap of rawhide she's been gnawing on for months.
There's a soup can full of marbles. There's gum squashed
beneath the sink. There's a brain-eating amoeba
reaching for the knob on a door that has no latch and no chain
and no deadbolt just a keyhole large enough to drive
a Subaru through on the way to the chop shop.
There's a pair of lace panties hanging off the horn
of the crescent moon, she swears they're not hers.
There's a tiny black blob balancing on her fingertip,
it squirms away every time she tries to squish it.

The milky orb darkens she closes her fingers around it
and slips it down the front of her jeans. She needs a belt,
everything's sagging, sliding, bunching up. Eclipse follows
eclipse, moon and sun take turns blotting one another out,
her throat burns fire and brimstone, crystal and coal, she bends over
clutching her stomach, confessing the secret to eternal life
all over her sneakers.

A thousand years later she bursts out of the rest room
and strides past the desk and my mummified husk
into the bright cold sunlight of the dying universe.
The day is a thousand black balloons deflating
she crushes glass beneath her feet, asphalt tries to trap her soles
The red constellation of her mind burns out star by star
leaving nothing but a bare clothesline stretched across
the vacant lot of the sky.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Peonies

His smile writhes with life, a smile full of eels,
with maggots instead of teeth, his throat a burrow
for a thousand wriggling fingers he digs
into the brick and begins to scale
the side of the building, nails finding purchase
in the mortar, while all about him
pale pink peonies tumble through the air,
dropped from above to plop heavily to the ground, he leaves
a sticky trail behind him as he climbs, bits of skin
and hair clinging to the wall in his wake,
wet scabs, petals like peeled eyelids, scraps
of glue-encrusted velvet, he reaches the roof
and squats and drops his pants and lets loose
a stream of nectar that drips down toward
the sidewalk, spelling out his signature
in steaming cursive across the scattered blossoms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Poppyseeds

A black SUV circles the parking lot
from its underside dangle a number of socks
filled with something heavy, a dozen of them swaying as the car
makes its turns slick as oil
bumping together like heavy dugs, brown with grease,
nearly but never quite grazing the asphalt except
when the vehicle hits a speed bump.
The windows are tinted and the driver's eyes are shielded
by mirrored shades and the back seat is filled
with a pile of garbage bags filled with adult diapers.
The only storefront in the strip mall that is not vacant
 is the bagel place where I sit, trying not to ogle
the fresh-faced college girls behind the counter
with their ponytails swishing from the backs of their sports caps
Instead I stare out the window, watching those black birds circle,
watching the clouds bunch up and disperse
and bunch up again, watching the SUV pass
every five to seven minutes. I absently stir my coffee
and fail to notice the time or the pink glob
of salmon-flavored cream cheese clinging to my
mustache, though I notice it now, now that it's too late.
Don't ask me how I know what's in those garbage bags
in the back seat, or why I don't know what's in
the socks, or what I think their purpose is. Instead, ask me how
my bagel was, or what flavor. Ask me which one
of these freckled girls is my favorite. Ask me anything
not related to that car out there, or why the driver
shoots me a grin every time he drives past.

Barracuda

You dive into the squawk of interference
ricocheting off the walls of the echo chamber
overlapping voices, coherency chopped and wadded
into cacophony, speech scrambled rising in pitch
and volume before finally flattening out
into a sea of static.
A mesh of text ensnares drifting ideas garbled
into a slurry of glossolalia. Do you choose
to add to the torrent with your babble,
or do you paddle through it with your lips
shut tightly, listening for a sound that floats
gently through the tumult, for a voice
that clearly enunciates a single shining sentence
that cuts like a silver fish
gliding through the current?


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What the Doctor Wanted


Doctor talks you out of having the procedure
Doctor walks you through the process
Doctor paints a picture of the inside of your liver
Skirts the word cancer
                                               
Doctor closes the door of the dreary office
Doctor overcome with desire

Doctor cracks the plastic
Doctor uncaps the bottle
Doctor throws the leather
and swings from the rafters

Doctor defers to the elders
Doctor pulls on the lever
Doctor ignores the evidence
Doctor abandons the center

Doctor interrogates a lover
Doctor kicks off the covers

Doctor wears a stethoscope to the strip club
Doctor hits the snooze, returns to the nightmare
Doctor reads the horoscope
Doctor heads to the barbershop, never does get
that haircut

Doctor attends a lecture
Doctor loses track of the big picture

Doctor gets easily distracted
Doctor dicks around on the internet
Doctor wins twenty bucks at video poker
Doctor gets suddenly inexplicably tired

Doctor in danger of losing their marbles
Doctor starts to slip backwards
Doctor sabotages the practice
Is encouraged to take a leave of absence

Doctor dithers over the price
Thirty thousand dollars
Doctor chooses a color
Mustard. Olive

Doctor starts to slowly move forwards

Doctor motors over the Rockies, dragging a trailer
Doctor crosses Utah, measures the desert
Doctor stops to watch the Colorado River, ponders
Doctor finally waves that flag of surrender


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

San Berdoo

     I would do anything to distract myself, would love to send my thoughts anywhere but here in this waiting room. On the seat beside me is a recent issue of People Magazine, featuring the 25 Most Intriguing People of 2015. In the upper left hand corner, in a solemn black font, reads "San Bernadino, the Tragedy Changing America." One more thing I don't want to think about. The world is gunfire and bloodshed, yet every time I hear the name of that town that stupid song runs through my head:

"Five little miles to San Berdoo
I woke this mornin' and thought of you
Looked out the window
What a view
Five little miles from San Berdoo"

     "Plus! The Year in Pictures, Hall of Shame, and More!" It's a gorgeous day outside. Blue sky, bright winter sunlight. I take deep, slow breaths. Stare at the plants, so generic I have trouble even seeing them. Stare at the pattern on the carpet, geometric flecks and blandly-colored  blobs. A smiling little boy is carried into the other room. His mother explains to his sister, "Hayden has to have a picture taken to find the penny." I reach for the magazine.

"Three little miles from San Berdoo
My bag was packed and ready
I said to myself, 'Steady!'
Two more miles and you're in heaven!"

     Before I can open it, A teenage girl with braces on her teeth and a pair of crutches starts chattering on about her injury, how she felt her leg go out from under her, how she screamed when she hit the floor. The pain was so bad she blacked out, she says. She laughs when she says it. She has a beautiful laugh.

"One little mile from San Berdoo
My heart was skippin' a beat or two
Oh what thrill when I saw you
Waitin' at the station down in San Berdoo"

    I give in and flip through the magazine, but it's all a swirl of colors and unreadable blobs of text. I try to steady my breath but it keeps skipping ahead of me. I don't want to go into that room. The sound of gunfire echoes inside my head but it's only the pounding of my blood.
     An infant across the room begins to screech. His parents don't say a word, keep tapping their phones. I feel like my brain is being squeezed from my skull. Everything in the room disappears, sucked into the maelstrom of that unholy yowl. Even my own pain and fear is driven from my mind. I am pure and clear, I have disappeared. The sound is horrendous, relentless, ear-shattering. I pray it never stops.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Ray Charles Sings Georgia on My Mind Whether You Want Him to or Not



I saw Ray Charles perform
at an outdoor concert years ago.
All I could see of him from where I stood
was a flash of silver sequins
as he rocked robotically back and forth,
face frozen in a grin,  performing slick renditions
of Unchain My Heart, A Fool for You,
of Hit the Road Jack, and of course,
that overbearingly maudlin melody
Georgia on My Mind.
He was old, it was understandable
that he no longer burned with youthful fire.
And people want to hear the hits,
to bask in the familiar. But still I kind of wish
I wouldn't have been there
It wasn’t worth the bragging rights.
I would have been better off
going to my grave without having seen
that once great man reduced to an empty shell,
a hologram, a husk shuffling blindly along
beneath the moonlight, beneath the pines
along the road leads back
to someone that never really was you.