--YOU BUILD ME UP FROM BONES
Tonight the ghostsare throwing punches again.
One has brass knuckles,
the other a razor wire wedding ring.
Jackson Pollack blood splatters across the walls.
Down the hall we huddle like a human tent
but there is no force field for this kind of thing
and the imagination can only do so much.
Little Sis screams, “Make them stop!”
My brothers don’t hear her, the ghosts don’t either.
They throw jabs, an uppercut, a haymaker.
The cupboards rattle as glass explodes against a water spout,
the trailer rumbling, trying to hide inside a sink hole.
More Jackson Pollack, this time chunky yellow vomit,
cracked teeth, broken fingernails,
bloody tufts of hair and scalp.
Little Sis asks, “How can ghosts bleed?”
I reach down and whisper in her ear,
“These are different ghosts.
They’re not our parents.
Now say it after me.
These are different ghosts.”
The man was no one I knewthough he somehow knew me,
said, “Call me Uncle Buck,”
kept touching me, kept telling jokes
that were crude and not funny.
“Come on, kid, lighten up,
I’m giving you my best shit here.”
In Sunday School they said angels
are all around us, everywhere, if you can
just adjust your focus to find them.
But the only halo in this room
was broken in half, each gray semi-circle
dangling in a valley of mottled skin
under the man’s milky eyes.
When he told me
he knew ways to make a boy like me rich,
I abandoned God and flew through
the trailer door,
soaring over treetops and hills,
over Pasco, Spokane,
Falls Church and Mahwah,
flying to where I am right now,
so much older,
but breathing and alive.
My older brotherran away at thirteen,
wound up somewhere south of North Dakota
But there weren’t horses where we lived
so our mother broke children instead.
Single-file, couplets, one-at-a-time,
it didn’t matter.
A belt, a spatula, an eggbeater,
that didn’t matter either.
She was a pro who’d
finally found her passion,
inspired by some source of
evil I couldn’t comprehend.
What she never reached
was the well we’d made inside of us,
that long, dark slip of
sturdy, earthen walls where
we’d drop our pennies,
brave as hell perhaps,
or just young and ignorant enough
to believe they might
actually come true.
Off The Table
Two days after I’d visited andsaid I would buy Dad a computer,
Mom called me at work
to say that idea was off the table.
He’ll only use it to watch pornography, she said,
the sick, kinky kind.
He spends every day in his shop
walking around wearing women’s clothes,
bras and wigs and high heels, she said.
He’s not what you think, she said.
So that notion about a computer,
it’s off the table, she said,
her voice so flat
it could have been a recording.
After I hung up
my assistant came in, frantic,
her face a blur of concern.
Everyone’s waiting for you, she said.
I asked who, what.
Have you lost your mind, she said,
there are two hundred people out there.
I gripped the edge of the desk,
watching the wood warp
and squirm inside my palms.
My assistant cleared her throat
and wrapped on the doorjamb.
Seriously, she said, this is not a joke.
You’re holding things up.
I looked at the ceiling, at my feet
and shaking hands.
It might have been me
or someone else who said,
Tell them I’ve got the flu.
Tell them laryngitis.
Tell them I’m in a coma.
Tell them I’ve switched companies.