Friday, May 26, 2017



 
--I’M ALL TANGLED UP IN BARBED WIRE


 A Poor Boy’s Necropolis

I am telling my bones
To be patient
Don’t break
Not yet
Put the noose down
Use it as a jump rope
If necessary
Dice it into a dozen
Bushy eyebrows and
Short moustaches
Make a decoupage
Charlie Chaplin portrait
Pin it to the
Bedroom wall
And wait the war out

Next I am coaxing my bones 
Like a snake charmer
Until they turn fluid and liquid
Becoming a series of lava lamps
That glow under skin
Electric and ethereal
My heart shielded
By so much color
Distracted by all that beauty
A dull toad
Barely beating

Next I am telling my bones
Bedtime stories and fables
While trying to sound
Convincing and authoritative
So they know
I mean business
Like Yahweh in
The Old Testament
When he wiped out
Whole countries
Using genocide and infanticide 
When He asked a father
To take his own son’s life
Without apology

Next I’m becoming a young
Orthopedist skilled at the craft
Tucking my bones
Into soft scarves
Swaddling the ones
That still have flesh
Clinging to them
I dig a shallow grave
Nothing elaborate
Where my bones and I
Lay down together
Tricking ourselves
Into believing the dirt
Showering us overhead
Is an irregular water feature
Spewing pebbles and soil
Instead of clear sprays

Last I tell my bones
The biggest lies I can think of
And when I run out of lies
I tell them two short ones
That they are safe
That we both are
I repeat these over and over
I tell them anything
To distract us
From what’s coming next

 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017



 
--SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO HAVE YOUR INSIDE ON THE OUTSIDE. 
THAT WAY YOU CAN SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE REACT.

 
Echolocation

Earlier a bat snuck
Into the house
Through some seam
Hanging upside down
Like a black smear
In the rafters
Using echolocation
Quite effectively
When the screams
Became too much
For even the bat
It swooped down
And bit my mother
I thought that bat
Must be Jesus
In bird form
But the bat had
Faulty poison
Or foamy fangs
Though the
Screaming continued
Earlier a bat snuck
Into our house
And made itself
At home
With all the
Other bats
Living there
Bellies full
And satisfied
Crimson dripping
From their mouths

 

Colt

I am trying to discover
How far I can run
Without breathing
The wind is a
Fluid brick wall
Up against my chest
Resisting every effort
And still I run
As a magpie caws
Telling me
It’s not worth it
You’re tired
Go back home
Get it over with
Beatings are
Better than death
But I’m stupid
A confused colt
Caught inside a
Lightning storm
Tripping on prairie divots
Dodging bolts
Sweating slick rivers
As I sprint and gallop
Across a plateau
Reaching the edge
Running straight off
The cliff where
The air carries me
Through a jumble of clouds
That would hold me
In its arms
If they were stronger
If this was just
Another nightmare
Instead of my
Futile attempts
At thwarting
Destiny

 

Grappling
 
Me, I am always grappling
In dreams, falling down
A black hole whose muddy walls
Are too far apart
To reach or claw
To stop the constant dropping
I grapple with the wind
With the swollen moon so close
I can see her gray fetus roiling sea sick
In a bunk bed I grapple with
Each night wondering why
In the morning the sun
Even bothers to show up
When it’s the same old play everyday
The one about the woman who
Convinces her children they’d be
Better off dead but decides to
Use them as kindling because
That’s the only time
Their crackle sounds sweet
The only time
They burn bright

 

 

Monday, May 22, 2017



 
--I MEAN, IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE HERE, MIGHT AS WELL FIGHT FOR THE MIRACLE


God

I’d see Him sometimes
Robed with a staff handy
Fingers twirling the snow-white
Whiskers of His beard
Elbows on knees
The old ancient man
Leaning over heaven thinking
What have we here
Looking befuddled and stymied
As with Eve’s antics in the garden
As with His choir leader turned Satan
I never did see Him in church
The pastor made sure of it
With his convulsing and shouting
His snake oil salesman routine
He was an actor my mother loved
And would have slept with for free
He can leave his boots under
My bed anytime
So I didn’t trust him
Or the building in general
Or the paintings
The prayers
The strained glass murals
The braying pipe organ
The phony sculpture of Christ
With a loin cloth where
There should have been none
Even when it was just the pastor
Everything still shook and trembled
Congregation antsy
Eager or agitated
Shouting Amen!
And Preach it!
The whole place as
Raucous as a prize fight
Where one boxer beats
The pulp and life
Out of the other
Back home it wasn’t
That much different
There were beatings aplenty
Noisy ones too
Bloody pulp hitting tile
Like a flat of strawberries
Foot-stomped
If I learn God was watching
Any one of those episodes
I’ll be unable
To forgive Him
Even if that earns
Me a return trip
To Hell

 

The Welder’s Song

This is the sound of breaking
Then melting
A sort of soldering
Smell of burnt iron
lining the nostrils now
Sparks from the welder’s flame
Shooting 4th of July bright
Landing on tennis shoes
And cracked cement
Hitting skin

This is the sound of love
Fierce devotion
The kind of rapt attention lovers
Show one another when they can’t say
If they’ll ever see each other again
Noticing moles and blurred scars
Seeing it all again for the first time.

I wished he would show me that--
The love a welder has for his torch and metal
I wished he would solder me back into a boy
If only half of one
Watching him work I wished so many things
That by the time my father finished his piece
And held it up to the light with a smile
There was nothing left to wish for

 

Plastic Chandeliers

That was the way I knew
How to fall, tuck and roll
When the fire reached
The ceiling
Melted the plastic chandelier
And every bold hope
Along with my
Brothers’ army portraits
Melted their stripes and tin
Until their smiles bubbled ichor
That was when I knew
Nothing was normal
That families who eat
Their own young
Are animals of
An entirely different kind
Tarnished beyond
Belief

 

 

Friday, May 19, 2017



 
--SCREW ALL MY FRIENDS, THEY’RE ALL FULL OF SHIT

 
Restraining Order

“There’s a chance you might have super ceded yourself.”
“The big problem is you still think you’re nine years old and the boogey man’s in the kitchen.”
“I know a lot of nine year olds who’ve seen some shit and they’re not all mopey.”
“Do you think if you went to see ‘The Vagina Monologues’ it would just be you talking to yourself?”
“The mirror doesn’t lie. The stars don’t. Neither does your conscience.”
“There are scarecrows with thicker spines than yours.”
“If you think about it, you’re very lucky to still be alive. Plus, you have many people to thank.”
“Maybe the reason you’re so thin is you’re birdlike.  I mean, that your bones are hollow, not that you can fly.”
“Course correcting—now there’s an idea.”
“I know you’re older, but you used to juggle better back then.  Now you keep dropping plates, stepping on the shards, slicing your soles. That’s a lot of blood to mop up.”
“Why do you keep checking the time?  It’s not going to change.”
“Thinking that everything has a reason is a scary proposition.”
“Some people aren’t afraid of death at all. Then again, some people aren’t you.”
“When you get out of prison, you should consider writing a screenplay.  Or your will.”
“The key to a productive life is doing the things you don’t like.  So, what are you doing now?”
“Alice said, ‘Only women bleed,’ but you might be an exception to that rule.”
“The way the trees bend in the wind--it’s a form of dance. It’s poetic. It’s a gift, really. Do you even notice?”
“As far as I know, there’s only one person who’s ever made wine out of water, so stop thinking you’re Him.”
“News flash: The moon thinks you’re a stalker and has taken out a restraining order.  Better draw the blinds tonight.”
“If life is a flat circle, what does that make death?”
“A sunburn is your body’s way of telling you you’re killing your skin.”
“People and their guns.  People and their penises.  People and their sports.  How about a book instead?”
“Having acne is a test of patience and willpower. If you fail, those scars can last your whole life.”
“The letter L stands for a lot of things—Leader, Loser, Lover, you.  Well, which one is it?”
“You wouldn’t recognize a miracle if it kissed you sloppy on the mouth.”
“Do you think Eskimos Eskimo kiss when they have allergies or runny noses?  Do you think it bothers them at all?”
“Stop trying so hard.  You don’t have to kill yourself this soon.”
“It’ll happen on its own eventually.”

 

Garbage Disposal

“I can’t believe you keep showing up.  It’s actually kind of impressive.”
“I could throw you a bone, but you’d probably choke to death on the splinters.”
“Your self-talk is a garbage disposal working overtime.  Plus it smells bad.”
“Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack.”
“Everybody needs a good set of tools. Where the hell are yours?”
“Maybe your infatuation with twins is because you are one, or were one, only your twin was a hell of a lot smarter and ditched you in the canal.”
“If it’s too beautiful, look the other way. There’s plenty of carnage elsewhere.”
“Wow, didn’t see that one coming.”
“What is this? A diary? Therapy? Waterboarding in print?”
“You know, it’s possible to legally change your name.  Some people do it.  You could change yours to The Moody Blues. It has a nice ring and would look good on you.”
“Who cares where all those stray socks go?  For god’s sake, they’re socks.”
“Blah blah blah, Ginger.  Blah, blah, blah.”
“Everyone adores something, or someone.  They give their heart away expecting nothing in return. Is it so hard for you to do the same?”
“When’s the last time you bent over and took in the scent of a wild flower?”
“See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
“It’s scary to think someone was just born this second, that someone just died this second. It’s too easy to be scared.”
“You have all these questions you’re going to ask God, but what if He doesn’t let you in?”
“Termites have a purpose. They don’t mean to do damage. It’s how they survive.  So stop hating on them.”
“In fourth grade, life is a water slide.  After that, gravity’s going to get you every time. That and the things you fear the most.”
“Remember when you wanted to be President?”
“A teacher?”
“A lawyer?”
“A good person?”
“Well, look at you now, you fickle bitch.”
“How’s that chair feel under your ass?”
“You look a little uncomfortable.”

 

Glue and Gauze

We’re caught in trap.”
“You have the oddest foibles. I mean, who gets “Suspicious Minds” stuck in their craw? Maybe inmates, but they’ve got time on their hands.”
“Aside from twins, your biggest obsession might be prison. Is that supposed to mean something?”
“Is your stomach really empty if you have a muffin top?”
“Remember that Sin Jar thing you wrote about? You might want to pull out one of the slips of paper and read it  s  l  o  w  l  y.
“You can watch the eagle all you want, and the beaver too, but you’ll never be that free.”
“Everyone has a quirk, but you’ve got bushels of them. I mean, who says ‘bushels’?”
“The thing is you listen to yourself too much. That kind of thinking is definitely bad for your health, if not also your complexion.”
“Lighten up, Schecky.  Most people have worries that are actually worries--the kind that would make a guy like you impotent. So suck it up.”
“Someday you’re not going to make it up those stairs and it’ll mostly be your own fault.”
“Logic would say that there are times you’re thinking about that other person at precisely the time they’re thinking about you, but it doesn’t mean they’re thinking nice things about you, even if you are about them.”
“Holy smokes!”
“Remember when you hated being called a kid?  See how stupid you were?”
“A gnarled, elderly couple holding hands—now that’s the definition of love, of magic, or perfect symmetry.”
“There’s sad and then there’s pathetic.  Be careful how you straddle the two.”
“There are a million things to feel guilty about, like, even if you’re not a vegetarian, how can you put that meat into your mouth and swallow knowing that not too long ago that meat was connected to bone and living tissue?  It was probably an adorable animal.  You might have even found it cute, but now it’s dead and you’re eating it and not feeling the least bit of anything.  What you are doing is saying, ‘That was pretty tasty’.”
“For the last time: STOP THINKING SO MUCH.”
“Sometimes a mirage is really just the landscape we’ve painted for ourselves.”
“Sometimes a call out of the blue from a friend can save a life.”
“Someday you should drive all the way to the end of a rainbow and discover what you covet so much. I hope you’re not disappointed.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
“Glue and gauze, rubber bands and tape, stitches and staples—they can only do so much.”
“Remember that preacher who said you should never put another person’s tongue in your mouth? I wonder how he’s doing.”
“There are reasons you’re this way.  Think about that for a while.”
“Someone recently said ‘Most people are afraid of the dark, but the dark is afraid of you’.”
“How’s that make you feel?”
“After all, your dark side is pretty heavy.”
“How do you bear its weight?”
 “I know what you’re thinking: It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”
“I think this is the first thing we’ve ever agreed on.”


Wednesday, May 17, 2017




--I WISH YOU WOULD, COME PICK ME UP


Note Cards

“Wait, don’t tell me. Let me guess. You’re sad again?”
“Maybe if you worked on your core, your back wouldn’t be so stiff.”
“Multi-tasking is overrated.  Good luck being a rubber band man.”
“All of these questions are just answers turned inside out.”
“If you could actually fly, would you still be afraid of heights?”
“Everyone on earth was once loved by someone.”
“There’s a reason you get cranky when you don’t eat, same as there’s a reason hailstorms make you feel full.”
“If it’s really so beautiful there, why aren’t you smiling?”
“No, really, I want to know: why aren’t you smiling?”
“You could always try talking to yourself.  It works for some people.”
“Some people have it worse off.  A lot of people, actually.  Don’t you read the news?”
“I mean, why are you there when everybody else is someplace else?”
“You should be a better listener. The moon wants to tell you something.”
“All the books in the world might not be enough.”
“You could try writing a letter to an inmate, but then mail it to yourself, respond, mail it back, and see if you get a satisfactory answer.”
“Some medicine isn’t medicine at all, just a placebo.”
“Some medicine is actually bad medicine.”
“There you go again.”
“You might want to notice that the sun’s been in quite a hurry lately.”
“What does it mean when your phone is the thing you touch most in this world?”
“Why read the instructions if you’re not going to follow through on what you’ve been told?”
“There are hotlines for what you have.”
“It’s an older model, so be careful with the brakes.”
“Good posture is often more impressive than good looks.”
“There’s always a code you’re trying to crack, even though you suck at math.”
“One thing you can always hang your hat on is this: Everybody has issues, but most keep them well hidden.”
“Don’t forget: A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Smoke gets in your eyes, but really, it seeps into the skin.”
“There’s heat in your kitchen. Can you stand it?”
“Yeah?  For how long?”

 

Glossary

“Your problem is you keep wondering about wonder.”
“The thing is, puppies don’t stay puppies forever.”
“When it’s that windy, a tree’s coming down somewhere.”
“Some fish spend their whole life at the bottom of the ocean, and you don’t hear them complaining.”
“If you keep asking, you’re only going to get more confused.”
“Every wave is its own piece of artwork. Look. Watch it bend and ripple. See what I mean?”
“I can tell you’re a little unsteady.”
“The nights are more important for some people. What’s important to you?”
“An exercise in futility is still exercise. Well, isn’t it?”
“Just look at you.”
“Remember when God took that trip and you thought he’d run out of gas before arriving? Hilarious!”
“Sometimes ‘Silly’ isn’t meant as a compliment.”
“You should take a moment to understand why you get this way.  It could be time well spent.”
“Who needs a shrink when there are blisters that need popping?”
“Nobody gets cold sores at your age.”
“Envy is often underrated.”
“All those cute toddlers you see out there?  They’re not yours.  Never will be.”
“Be careful.  Remember that time the clock inched its way backward?”
“You should take the peanuts and Cracker Jack.  If you’re even halfway-to-smart, you should also care about coming back.”
“Made in the shade—whatever that means.”
“Piranhas are actually very small fish.”
“Once bitten, twice shy.  Once bitten, and you may or may not end up with scar tissue.”
“The end of the story means different things to different people.”
“Whoever said ‘One thing is not like the other’ should have won the Pulitzer.”
“If it turns you this blue, try thinking of another color.”
“The man on the moon just threw something at you. Can you find it?”
“Some love notes don’t even contain the word love in them.  Do they have to?”
“One last question: Why are you here?”
 

 
Index

“Procrastination is your twin brother, only he’s far more handsome.”
“If you’re like this now, what’re you going to do when it gets really dark out?”
“Baby, baby, baby, I love you, Baby. When are you coming back this way again, Baby?”
“Surround yourself with lots of animals.  Most will love you unconditionally.”
“I know you’re not trying to be funny, but still you crack me up.  I mean, come on.”
“When’s the last time you __________?”
“Filling in the blanks is very difficult for some of us.”
“Smirking or winking are two things you should never attempt.”
“Maybe there’s an angel napping on your shoulder right now.  Have you ever thought of that?”
“Being able to hold your breath for long periods doesn’t make you any lighter or smarter. It just makes you stupid.”
“You should shy away from sarcasm. It makes you uglier.”
“Once upon a time someone came up with the expression ‘Once upon a time’.  Now it’s your turn.”
“You trying to be strong—now that’s a real hoot.”
“Does it even bother you a little bit that all the bees are dying?”
“I bet you’d make a really good ghost.”
“If a blade can stand up straight, what’s your excuse?”
“You can put it under lock and key, but it’s still going to be there.”
“A recipe for disaster—that’s something you should look into.”
“If you’re going to be that way, the birds will all just fly somewhere else.”
“I know you get all worked up over the moon, but really, she’s got other stuff on her mind.”
“It’s best to be mindful of hazardous material, especially when it’s sitting right there.”
“You know, in the old days, people like you wore jackets they couldn’t get out of by themselves. And yet they were called Straight.”
“Of course you think you’re the only one, but seriously, Dude?  It’s a big world.  Look around.”
“You can rotor till all you want, but if you don’t pluck out the rocks, nothing’s going to grow.”
 “Not all seedlings want to become plants. Some want to stay just the way they are. Isn’t that just so sad?”
“Animals are startled by loud, sudden noises.  That should teach you something.”
“When’s the last time you taught yourself a lesson?”
“Did you learn anything?”
“Yeah, and what are you doing about it?”
“Thought so.”

 

 

Monday, May 15, 2017


 

--WHEN YOU’RE AFRAID, EVERYTHING IS A DOORWAY

 
Walrus

He already had a body
Two in fact
But he wanted a different one
Needed a younger one
Of his own
A confused doe
One of those you’re
Supposed to kiss
Lips closed
In affection
Not open-mouthed
Like a rabid walrus
Whiskers cutting scars
Flippers bruising breastbones
Tail flapping obscene
The heft of all that blubber
Pinning down a life
Crushing it like a
Bulb underfoot
Pieces shooting everywhere

 

The History Of Their Handprints

It was the second fire
Years after the garage
Had burnt down
I came home from
Night church
The light switches
Wouldn’t work
I didn’t smell smoke
Right away but heard
My kitten Christopher
Mewling downstairs
The hallway door
Leading there was closed
And in the basement
The shell of my brother’s
Bedroom had become
Charred crimson cinders
Each slat of wood
Resembling red rebar
Or long stove coils
In the smoky haze
I scooped up Chris
Went to a neighbor
Dialed the fire department
They brought an investigator
Who grilled me
Out on the damp lawn
Until it grew so dark
I could no longer see
His expression or
Determine if he was
Actually serious
He pointed questions
Was I resentful my
Parents had left me
While they lived
Somewhere in Idaho
Did I want retribution
Were there issues
I had with them
That would lead me
To set my own house on fire
I said
No
No
And
Of course not
I never said how
In those years
Each day was spent
Hustling the demons
That buzzed around
My shallow skull
Like a hive of
Angry wasps
Sometimes drilling
Their stingers
Straight through
My hippocampus
I never said I
Was actually thrilled
My parents were living
Someplace other than here
Where the history
Of their handprints
Still haunted everything
Darker than
The thickest smoke
Glowing brighter
Than any oven coil
Burning everything
To ash
Again and again
And again

 

A Boy’s Manhood

We went to
Different churches
Every other month
This time Catholic
When the priest mentioned
Something about St. Peter
My brother pointed
At his crotch and chuckled
We were young then and
Didn’t yet call our penises
Dicks or Cocks
Or even Boners
They were just our Peters
It struck me as funny
My brother too
We laughed into our palms
Pretending we were coughing
From the pulpit
The priest dressed in
A milky-silk robe snickered
Trying to ignore us
Mother said Shush
With those eyes that
Always signaled danger
But we couldn’t stop giggling
And then our giggling only
Made us giggle harder
This all about St. Peter
Or a Peter
A Willy
Juvenile names
For a boy’s manhood
At home afterward
Dad called us out to
The open yard
With Mom peeking
Through the sink window
He made us take our
Pants down
In broad daylight
Neighbors close by
Who might watch
He said You know
What this is for
Though his voice
Wasn’t harsh at all
Though he swung
The familiar belt
Over our bare asses
Taking turns with each of us
Swack! here Swack! there
Naturally it burned but
We were still giggling
At the end of the beating
Pulling up my shorts
I wondered what
St. Peter thought
About a couple of
Foolish boys finally
Out on a lark for once
I pictured him with
A hand pressed to his face
Camouflaging his laughter
From the rest of the saints
With their bowed heads
Dutifully subservient
Prepared to receive
Communion
Eat the body
Drink the blood
Ensure their salvation