The sound of the alarm pierces my eardrums. I had been muting out her yelling the night before by swiveling the volume knob to “max” on the portable CD player. I had chosen something intense like Nirvana. Her voice is still in my head, and I can’t recall how I had angered her last night. Maybe I accidently used a possessive pronoun again. She can’t stand it when I say I’m going to my room. Or maybe she misjudged a glance. She looses it when she thinks I looked at her forehead wrinkles. She now sleeps soundly on the couch. She hasn’t been there long, because she was fuming with insults from 1:00-3:00. Background arguments on Jerry Springer sound like calm discussion.
Time for lunges, crunches, and push-ups. My body runs on nothing but the adrenaline given from the drum beats in my headphones. I have become an expert at working like this. My energy looks strong. It’s not natural. Continue reading
Scientists have created Anteros out of a fruitfly.
A simple gene tweak and a bug becomes a god,
Irresistible to every other fly that finds it now.
This means nothing for us, for the gods do not exist
outside the stairwells of imagination, the whirligig
nature of human desire. We’re in love! we say.
We’re in love! With the open palms of history,
with the potatoes growing silently in the garden.
I could grow moss in my pocket, and never be alone.
I am lost without it! I am not lost. I am standing at a threshold
of mossiness. There is cold weather coming in either direction.
The wind curls itself around my body and sings
and it tells me that every chemical in my body passed first
through the body of a star, so I have nothing to worry about.
I was dead before I reached me. My spindly legs are the result
of the atmosphere, the rough journey down to the face of this earth.
I’m a crippled constellation masquerading as human.
The glint in my eye is more than just an expression. My sense
of direction is skewed for good reason. I’ll never find a point to end on.
Everything happens in circles. One day my life
will get caught in the orbit of another, and no one
will know which way to follow.
…we must learn to bear the pleasures as we have borne the pains.
Stories tied tightly in bags of sacred sorrow,
Tangled paper tucked away like treasures but forgotten.
I think of California sadly,
Three children born so quickly during a hot, dry season,
In a place so far from home.
Cowering in daylight dark apartments,
Winking through window cracks,
To glimpse silhouetted strangers beckoning at the door
Nursing the fear of a three day notice to pay or quit
Breathing the shame of night after night alone.
I think of those days sadly,
California sunshine sparkling against the windshield, brightly beating
On back seat babies tucked into blanket envelopes,
Sleeping gently, eyes closed sweetly,
Hands curled into delicate fist balls against sweet, fresh faces.
Driving unknown city streets in Glendale or Big Bear or Pacoima.
Unfriendly places far from familiar faces,
Places to write bad checks for diapers,
Places to get well, to breathe better air.
Places chosen with the hope that redemption resided somewhere near,
Somewhere mapped with a compass rose.
Radio loud, smoking with the windows down,
Cigarette ash burning sharp red against window wind.
Wind whistling lullabies through the car.
Humming in my ear,
Blowing against my face, across my skin
Swaddling me sweetly to remind me I am often lost
But find my way somehow somewhere.
What of other places that came before?
Those other whispered, childhood sorrows,
Of looking into windows from winding roads,
From Mosheim to Woodmore, across Route 66,
All the way to California and back again.
Precious coddled sorrow memories,
Stacked carefully against the wall with pictures, letters, scribbled late night journals,
Holding tightly to close little treasures of hurt and ache,
Each wrapped in strings of delicate sorrow,
Lullabies singing loss, brave battles lost,
Sweet, still sorrow held near.
I can taste the silence when they leave, like
copper or dirt and I wonder if they know what it is
to be still and alone. Sometimes I can hear them
when I’m sleeping, a voice in a solemn place.
Their noise echos around the room like the stretch
of flowers, sound searching for light. If I could
gather up their dried overshells that they leave on trees,
behind car tires and on benches, maybe I could hold
their outer layer the way I hold my own bones inside me–
close and pressing. Still, not quite hollow, my bones sleep
cradled within me: the bumps of the spine, the curve of the
ribcage. The thin, pointed fingertip. These are the rocks
I carry within my chest. The locusts have been listening
to my heartbeat; pulsing, sweet. They have been quiet.
They have found the crop. If I asked, they would know the answer.
They would tell me that it’s not death– only bones
like at the church at Kutna Hora with the
40,000 dead all piled and bleached white together.
The locusts stay together and hum. I touch my arms.
I feel the hardness. I will have a garden on my grave.
I did not realize there was a chameleon
in this poem until now. In the space
between the last lines, he protrudes
like a misplaced dab of white out.
He is skillful in his hiding. Even maniacal.
Like other chameleons, he will stalk his prey
for years. Time is no impediment for chameleons
because they can hide from it as well.
I look into my chameleon’s meandering eyes.
One is looking at me. The other swivels
across the room like a top. It stops
at the knife (on my wall) that I
supposedly use to cook. It stops at the picture
of the Yankees celebrating yet another world series.
I hate baseball. It stops on a deer head
that I bought. His eye stops finally at the window
staring past the woods and watching a man
climb onto a bus that isn’t there. His other eye
never moves. He seems scared. Desperate even.
Latching onto this poem like wet ink on a page.
Chameleons can hide from anything. Even other chameleons.
As they sat cramped together on the little taxi speedboat, the two of them smug behind the driver, Colin never looked at his wife, his eyes glued to the red reflection of the setting sun against the Pacific. This was just another job. Some millionaire’s summer cottage that needed a facelift. Lacey didn’t look at him either, pressing her dress to her knees in the wind.
They pulled up to the client’s island, a spoonful of dirt in the sea, and stepped off the boat. The cottage was tall. Four floors, each staggered smaller than the one below, with a tiny room at the top. Pots of various shapes littered the island, each with a single blue flower, a columbine, standing tall.
“I’ll be back to get you in four days,” the driver said.
“Thanks.” Colin paid the man, grabbed their things, and walked up to the house as the speedboat pushed back to the mainland.
“The key’s in the porch light,” Lacey said, her eyes fixed straight ahead.
“I know.” Colin slipped the key in the door. It felt a bit like walking up to their honeymoon villa in Santo Domingo. When he had opened the door that time, he had feigned surprise at the dozens of candles lighting the room. But there were no candles here, just a dusty chandelier above the entryway. He flipped it on. The home had that ancient, lived-in smell, like butterscotch and cigar smoke. Continue reading
The last time i saw my father he was standing beneath the rafters from which he’d later hang. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in September, it was the last day of summer. He was working in the garage. I remember lumber laid across wooden work horses, and an electric saw; he was building something. The picture painted in my memory places the four of us standing portrait-like looking in on his work. Mom has my little brother in one arm as she holds my hand with the other and on the other side of Mom, my sister stands: her tiny hands clutching something, a doll or a pair of flippers maybe.
“Honey are you sure you don’t want to come?”
He smiles, “No, you guys go ahead without me, I have work to do.”
* * *
We got home and the garage door was closed. We were herded inside by my mother who set the pool bag down by the door and the keys on the kitchen counter as she absent-mindedly picked up a note from the kitchen table. She gently shook as she held the phone to her ear. Almost before she could hang up the phone, our next door neighbor thundered through the door. He caught her before she hit the floor and guided her into a chair at the kitchen table. She was trying not to cry, I wanted to give her my bear. We were taken next door to play with our neighbors kids while necessary services were called. I remember the lights of the ambulance exploding like fireworks on the 4th of July. Continue reading
When you grow up in rural West Tennessee knowing you’re gay and go off to college five hours east where you meet the perfect guy, don’t come out to your family members one by one. Go home on a long weekend and gather them up in the living room Sunday after lunch. Tell them all at once. That way if it goes badly, you can just go back to your own apartment in Chattanooga and pretend it didn’t happen.
If you don’t, you’ll meet your dad at Chili’s in Nashville one day after his business meeting, and he’ll trick you into telling him first.
“Don’t beat yourself up,” he says after you tell him. “I know that it’s just the way you are, and you can’t do anything about it. But not everyone feels that way.”
I wonder what Daddy saw in that deer’s eyes
Before he put the bullet through its head.
And how Mother’s heart felt
When she looked at him and smiled
And congratulated him on his kill.
When she lies beside him at night,
Feels his skin and studies his face,
I wonder if she can see that deer’s eyes
Trapped inside of Daddy’s.
Or if she wants to run from his bed
When she feels it kicking through his skin,
Warning her to set herself free.
At absolute zero, helium is the only liquid. Here,
it is frictionless, free of viscosity.
I watch grey clouds suck a balloon
into their midst. A toddler cries out for it and
collapses in the sand. Weighed down by
winter clothes, he rolls around, trying to get up.
I am suddenly reminded of Dante’s Satan,
crying and stuck in ice. At any given time,
15% of the world’s oceans are frozen.
As I kayaked around Alaskan glaciers,
I was amazed by the cold that ice emanates,
the kind of cold that works its way inside your
gloves and past the jingling door of
a ginghamed pizzeria. It’s cold the way
I didn’t call out for the balloon too.