Sunday, October 8, 2017

Operation Frequent Wind

A lovely woman waded in the cold surf
taking photos of the waves exploding against the base
of the rock formations that rose like tombstones
out of the ocean. The wind whipped her hair
her orange skirt. The swash was littered
with pale legs ripped from sand fleas
and sand dollars pounded into pennies,
scattered like chips of bone.
A gull the color of ash buried its bill
in the shell of a crab, stopping to glare at me
when I walked past on my way back to town.
On Hemlock Street the galleries were crammed with pictures
of those same rock formations seen from every angle
and every time of day. There were no images of dead crabs,
no shattered shells, no gluttonous gulls.
That night in the motel room I turned on the television
just in time to watch the helicopters lift off
from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.  
When the last marine had been choppered to safety
I wandered out to where the street turned to sand
and listened to the sea roaring out of
the black tunnel of night. I could see nothing.
There was no moon, no stars. Just sound.
Muffled crash after muffled crash.
I stood there as long as I could
then turned and ran back to the room
where the lamp threw its light against the wall,
against the cheery shoreline watercolor
that hung there, furling and foaming,
hanging slightly crooked beside the bed.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Does it Get Dark?

  The wind peels at the corners of the wallpaper with its fingernails to see what’s underneath. The empty light sockets buzz and spark. Threads of electricity are pulled from the outlets, wadded into glowing balls and bounced around the room. Big, thick nail heads rise from the floorboards, snagging the hem of her dress. Through the glass, tarps flap, ropes whip. A few brittle sticks shudder; all that’s left of the garden after the long, dry summer. Her eyelashes spark and smolder. The teeth of the saw bite into your arm. The world bores holes in you then hands you the drill so you can finish the job.

     The world bores holes in you then hands you the drill so you can finish the job. The empty eye sockets buzz and hum. The wallpaper is covered with pictures of pine trees. They stick in my teeth. The wind keeps banging its head on the limbs. The wind combs its hair. The wind blows scraps of burning skin across the river. The animals don’t have time to eat, they’re too busy running, they’re too busy burning. They’re too busy throwing a party and the party is fire. The forest opens its mouth and feeds on the flames.

When will we be able to breathe? you ask. When will the sky be blue, when will the curtains part? When does the wind stop telling its boring, terrible story?

     The forest opens its mouth and feeds on the flames. They arrest the forest for manslaughter but it claims self defense so they let it go with a stern warning. She drives to pick up the forest outside the courtroom, greets it with open arms but it just sits there in the passenger seat in stony silence. She stretches her tongue out to fill its mouth and it chokes and she withdraws her tongue and laughs. The water in the car radiator turns to steam and the steam turns to rain and the rain turns into the river and the river drowns us. What does the wind say in its defense? It says shut up, shut up. She starts the engine and peels away from the curb.

     What does the wind say in its defense? It tells a story of a woman who stood on the rocks on the edge of a river. She unscrewed her left nipple and sand poured out. She cupped her right hand to catch the sand and held it out. The wind ate the sand from her palm as she petted it on its prickly nose and murmured to it. The woman driving the car tells the wind to stop telling this story, that this is not the story we need to hear, that this story is boring and terrible. The wind grabs her tongue and squeezes it and hisses shut up, keep driving.

When do we write our name in smoke? you ask. When do we crack open the book of matches and read our story, one flaring phosphorus head at a time?

     The wind tells me to shut up but I don’t shut up. I put the wind in a bucket with some fire and some water and stir them together, then I force it to listen to a story about a little boy with thick glasses sitting at the kitchen table with a mouthful of plastic soldiers. All their little rifles and helmets were sticking out of his mouth. His mother set a chicken sandwich with mayonnaise sandwich on the table in front of him. He chewed holes in her dress to pay her back but she just patched them up and smiled. The wind interrupts me and says, I remember that. I remember lifting her dress, stealing the hair from her head. I remember the electricity. Despite itself, the wind smiles at the memory.
    
     I don't want the wind to keep smiling so I tell it a story about a little girl who was a fire eater, a sword swallower, a pile-of-broken-glass jumper. She stood still while others threw knives at her. She was the closest I ever got to the fire before the wind blew it out. For years afterwards it rained broken glass. For years afterwards the air scratched my throat. For years afterwards every word that came out of my mouth was a sword. I stop talking and wait for the wind to respond. The wind shuffles its feet and looks embarrassed. Tarps flap, ropes whip. The forest opens its mouth and a crowd of animals stampedes out, their fur singed, their eyes black with fear.

     When does it get dark? you ask. Then it gets dark.

     A crowd of animals comes running out. of the forest's open mouth. I stand with my hands open to catch them. What did the wind lift up? Salt shakers, sugar packets, a flutter of napkins plucked one by one from a plastic dispenser? Where did you disappear to,  she whispers to me, her voice a thin zephyr spiraling into my ear. Tarps flap, ropes whip. The sockets spark. I tell myself I see her face sculpted in salt, shimmering in the air. I’d like to lick the salt from your face. Every time I take a sip of water I gargle her name.

     I should have known better than to fall in love with the storm. To become enamored of the hazy curtains, the stockings of mist snapping on the line. I force myself to look away. I try to focus on the glass jar inching toward the edge of the table. The glass jar filled with electricity. I try to guess the seconds before it hits the ground and explodes into sparks.  

     I try to guess the seconds before she hits the ground and explodes into sparks. I close my eyes and open my mouth and count. Before the burning leaves cushion her fall, before the shredded wallpaper covers her body, before the animals with the singed fur and the charred skin chew holes in her dress. I lean over and explain to her that I tried to rearrange the sticks so that they would not hurt her when she fell on them. They hurt her anyways. The ground is scattered with plastic army men. Her eyelashes spark and smolder and her eyes turn the color of ash until the river overflows its banks and when it does her eyes turn the color of the river. The last page of the book strikes but fails to spark. The wind is gone. The forest closes its mouth. 

     When does it get dark? You ask. When we love each other, I say. We both look up at the sky. It looks like it will never stop burning.

   


Saturday, September 2, 2017

California

We lived on the banks of a parking lot river, on top of a pole in a nest woven from hair extensions. We dove down and grabbed supermarket sashimi in our talons, pretended we had just snatched it flopping from the rapids. We chewed it loudly, our beaks bristling with the glassy bones.

We lived strapped to the underbelly of a train. The bedroom carpet squished with grease that dripped from the churning gears. When we tried to speak our mouths would would fill with pellets of pig iron, which we would pass between us when we kissed. By the time we ground to a halt in the switching yard our bodies had been totally reduced to steam. 

We lived in a paper sack sitting on the low wall that surrounded the vacant library. The inside of the sack was decorated with portraits of Ben Franklin we'd torn from hundred dollar bills. He would look down at us with a twinkle in his eye as we tried to sleep, kept awake by the crackling of the wind through the tears in the paper walls.

We lived buried in the thick fur of a grizzly pelt spread across the rough floor of a hunting lodge. Mounted animal heads hung like a pantheon of horned and snarling gods high above us. Every month we prayed to a different one -the pronghorn, the puma, the peregrine falcon- all of them signs in a butchered zodiac. We asked them to read our fortunes but all of their predictions, no matter how rosy, inevitably ended with the blast from a shotgun.

We lived in the half-eaten candy bar clutched in a brown hand dangling from the back of a pick-up truck bumping along the road that cut through the apricot orchards. We lived in the tip of a match spilled from the box at a campsite at the edge of the kindling forest. We lived between the silicon teeth of a grinning supercomputer, our dreams marinating in the drool of data.

We lived in a land of parched throats and glistening roadkill. We lived in a country of empty beer cans and fast food wrappers and the occasional luminous strawberry. We lived on the tip of the world's tongue; we were what it was trying to say but couldn't quite spit out.

We lived in California.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mother

I unclasped your metal dress
and chain mail undergarments,
letting them clank to the floor.
I unbolted your metal wings, careful not to slice
my fingers on the feathers.
You shuffled into the other room
and twisted the valves, draining the pungent fluid
from each of your tanks.
You came back and pried out your eyes
and placed them in a wire cage
so they wouldn't roll away during the night.
Dabbing grease here and there,
you eased yourself onto the mattress.
The springs screamed in pain
and you whispered for them to hush,
that everything would be alright,
before unstrapping your mouth
and setting it on the bedside table
where the sharp teeth glinted yellow in the candlelight.
I gingerly climbed in beside you,
running my hand along your lightly-oiled seams,
careful not to get my fingers pinched in any of your joints.
You unlatched the door in your chest
and motioned for me to crawl inside.
I hesitated but you put one hand on the back of my neck
and wrapped the fingers of the other around my wrist
and squeezed. I opened the hatch
and a blast of hot hair scorched my face.
You tightened your grip.
Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath,
I crawled inside.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Washington St. Bridge

Christ's peeling face gazed down from the brick wall.
I looked back and kept walking
Didn't see the car until it slammed on its brakes.
The driver flipped me off and drove on.
I continued on as well, eventually finding
the bridge that spanned the Mississippi
with its suicide prevention signs
I marched across it, wondering where exactly
he had jumped from, where he had landed,
who had found him.
Did a hand catch him in midair as he fell,
holding him there for a moment
as he looked up at the dark sky,
down at the dark water,
before finally letting go?
Did a voice reassure him on the way down
that he would be forgiven?
I reached the far bank and looked down.
The afternoon was hushed and bright.
"We almost hit some fucking tourist,"
the driver snarls that night,
sawing and stabbing his supper.
I lay in my hotel room, looking up at the ceiling.
The squeal of brakes. The rush of air.
The eyes of Christ. The clear and watery sky.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

O Thus be it Ever

In the middle of an empty parking lot
in front of an abandoned Toys R Us,
a car has struck a streetlamp pole head on
and sits there with its windows fogging up
The driver snores, his forehead  dripping blood
The radio announcer talks nonstop
beneath the orange sodium vapor light
flickering in the February dusk.

Russian Roulette


Before you can unbuckle your belt
with its five vacant notches
She presses the barrel of her cunt
against your temple, and grinds her pelvis
click
click
click
click
click
then stands there
your sweat soaked up
by her pubic hair
both of you knowing
that her next gyration
will blow

your fucking brains out

Molasses


putty     wax     pollen
soap     glue     mayonnaise
oil     ink     syrup
powder     broth     vapor
milk     smoke     honey

ice melting in a Styrofoam cup
paper ice
confetti frosted glass
your wriggling snow worm
your little handful of flakes
I can see your frothy face
in my spit shined shoes
black mirror rimmed with lace
one stone in an icy puddle

Catch me in your bubbles
my bubble baby
my little saliva child

you are a stone used by an otter
to crack a shell
I am a stick used by a chimp
to draw ants from a hole

box of instant potato flakes
box of powdered soap
bag of dandruff 

nothing coagulates
it all just allows itself
to be whisked away

flakes of skin
flakes of ash
I brush them away
wish it was snow
crashing down
wish there was a black 
sticky puddle 
for me to lick

wish it tasted like

molasses

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pilot Light

He beat her with a dead crow
clutched it by its claws and whipped her ears with it
The beak left deep scratches, raw angry welts

When she left the house she covered her arms and legs
Wore a hat with black netting over the face
Hid her bruised bones in a shroud of black feathers
She fled, thinking he would never find her.
He found her

Tied her to her perch by a thin silver thread
knotted around her ankle, a single strand of gossamer
that she could not manage to snap

When it got dark she could see,
in the distance, far off in the kitchen
a tiny beacon, a tiny flame showing her the way
She lifted her bony wings
and hurled herself towards it

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Silkworm

You crawled into your sleeves
and it sewed your sleeves shut.
You curled up in your pockets
and it sewed your pockets shut.
It sewed shut the neck of your shirt
so you couldn't push your head through.
It stitched shut the cuffs of your pants.
It tried to clog your ears and nostrils and mouth
but you kept tearing away the threads.
It stitched your eyelids shut
and you welcomed the dark.
It wound its sticky strands around your fingers,
bound your phone to your hand.
It attached your crutches to your armpits,
stuck your hat to your scalp.
You managed to open your eyelids just a slit
and the sun burning through the threads
made the whole world shine silver.
Sounds dissolved in your mouth.
You gave up the fight for your ears and nostrils.
It sewed your ass shut and you knew it would be
only a matter of time before things got complicated.
You knew you could tear the silken stitches
any time you wanted to, knew you could easily
break free of those delicate bonds.
But you didn't. 
You didn't.
You didn't. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Bassoon Player on the Isle of the Dead [after Arnold Böcklin]

She's much too elegant to be playing
such a clumsy instrument, its sound
so comically mournful. The landscape is vast
and cluttered, not one thing claiming the right
to be the focal point over any other thing.
Piles of debris, stones, beautiful women
and men in business suits staring vapidly
into the distance. Someone politely jumps into
the cold black water. Someone runs, then stops.
But mostly they just stand there for a while before
picking their careful way across the steep, rocky bluffs,
around the clumps of woolly scrub.
The shaggy cypresses stand, ominous sentinels
between the knees of the bluffs. I tried to swallow
myself whole and now I'm choking. I only sleep
when I don't want to, the rest of the time I'm lost
in a dopey haze. Hitler once owned this painting,
you know. Die Toteninsel. How does that affect
its already rather bleak beauty? And then fucking
Rachmaninoff digs his nails into it and writes
this maudlin piece of...

She purses her dark, lovely lips around
the delicate reed of her unwieldy woodwind,
its deep vibrations booming like a splintery laser
out of the maelstrom of the orchestra
directly to where I sit in the mezzanine,
speaking only to me, saying Let's fall apart 
in style, my darling, disintegrate in one another's arms
Let's throw open the doors to this maggot motel,
assure them that there's plenty of vacancy.
Let's serve our last dwindling crumbs of consciousness
to the crows, buffet style.

Your dirge has stolen my heart, my love.
You keep playing while I book us a trip
on Charon Luxury Cruises. According to
the website, the ship hits no less than thirteen scenic
Isles of the Dead, where the leprous natives come
running from their dilapidated huts to greet you,
scorched skeletons on bone-white beaches,
throwing garlands of intestines around your neck,
spitting rotten teeth and screaming Aloha.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fury Black Grip

I trapped Cyndi Lauper in my locker
outside the computer lab with its black screened IBMs,
blinking cursors broken glass crashed cars piled up
Lyndon LuRoche and Dukakis, secret notes
buried in the margins of every blue-lined sheet
of college rule in every three-ringed binder
taped to every surface, rustling in the hot breath
of thousands of Middle School girls
in jean skirts and pantyhose
The Like a Virgin LP on display at K-Mart
I don't remember my own clothes,
every mirror plastered with pimples
Don't remember my voice ever changing, 
just all the masturbating and of course
the learning to curse,letting the words spit and slap
and loving it, like holding a knife
like the Fury Black Grip I found stuck in a log
in the woods beside the Little Lehigh
one one of my excursions further and further from home
Opening and closing the blade, I cracked my best
Bill Murray grin, rolled my eyes, said fuck.
Felt in control of something. 
Back in the tiled corridors, thus armed,
I still blushed and sweated in the presence of the girl
with the ankle boots and Simon LeBon haircut,
still tripped and crashed backwards over
my own tongue.
I could hear my heart inside the locker
of my chest banging to get out
but I'd forgotten the combination,
never did remember it, it's probably
still there, shriveled and starved
with Cindy, sadly whispering
the words to She Bop there in the darkness.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Great Plains

Last year my heart was
plagues locusts
The sky turned black,
atmosphere roaring like it was
raining chainsaws
The ground rustling, bodies
crunching underfoot
But they've since passed
and left nothing but
fields picked clean
miles and miles of desolation.
There may not be any life left here
but there's no noise, either,
no distraction, no distortion
no wind
No boot soles hardening the dirt
No bare feet running from
pounding hooves. 
I lie down in the dust,
feeling the dry stubble tickle the back of my neck,
watching a single heart-shaped cloud
drift across the blue sky,
watching it slowly lose its shape.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Anarchist Arachnids

There were cops everywhere on May Day
I saw a bunch looking at their phones
The anarchists wore outfits to mimic
and mock their beetle-shell riot gear
Protestors had fashioned a couple of
gigantic spider puppets
out of papier mache and shopping carts
Not sure what they were supposed to symbolize
-maybe it was about us all being flies
in capitalism’s web or something-
but they looked ominous
There were flash bombs
shattered shop windows
a couple of garbage cans set on fire
After the cops put an end to things
I walked to the grocery store. Walking back home
a young man stopped in the middle of the street
in front of me, waited for me to pass him,
then walked beside me for two blocks,
eyeing my brown paper bags and saying
“Yum yum food. Yum yum food”
over and over again with a big grin on his face,
at one point leaning in and whispering
“Beer”
Finally he reached out to touch my elbow
and I stopped and yelled, "Do not fucking touch me"
He just giggled and wandered off.
As I crossed the highway, I saw
in the middle of the bridge
the hulking carcass of one of the spiders
its carapace caved in and all its legs
spread at crazy angles against
the chain link fence
as a single helicopter buzzed overhead
flying too high to ever get trapped
in any web