Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dog Daze (poem)

You will find me buried
up to my neck in green and yellow towels that need to be folded correctly
and sorted into piles of whole - versus - holes.
And I will be sloshing in tiny red buckets full of watered-down bleach and soap
scribbled with faded names of schnauzers and pugs.

I act as dishwasher, cage scrubber, and hostess.
I act as groomer, bather, and drier.

I will be with you in a moment --
after crawling out from under the thumb of an impatient customer
who rolls her eyes and claps her teeth together.

And soon I will be the shepherdess leading the flock of stationary
pets away from the door --
I say once again, “No, they never go out.”

I act as policewoman, mother, and friend.
I act as taskmaster, baby-sitter, and mute.

I turn a deaf eye toward the thunder-clap shouts of shoe-
size-four patrons
who dash through the super tunnel vision of their actual folks
And I pretend not to notice the sound of glass breaking.

I act as laundry maid, bartender, and cook.
I act as slave-driver, slave-driven, and free.

You will find me sighing
shuffling my feet, treading water in air.
You will find me pulling my hair out, counting split ends.

And I will be glancing at the clock on the fake pillars
of Lily’s garden
And I wonder how three hours can feel like fifteen minutes
and fifteen minutes can feel like three hours.

Maybe we should boycott time and learn a line dance.

I act as scholar, expert, and chief.
I act as lackey, imbecile, and brute.

See me flip the CD player and toss Sheryl Crow aside
(not because I don’t like her but because she’s boring me).

See me open the case and put in the Beatles
(because they are never boring).

You will soon find me laughing
at the girl who names her new puppy Bruce --
at the old story about Nancy’s wig and a bottle --
at the strange phone call about sugar gliders --
at the comfortable, sad truth of this place --

See me slide my key in the lock
and leave dog daze behind.

Massacre (poem)

Flesh can be cut from bone
And re-fitted onto other flesh.
We call this a mask.
We call this terror.
Even in movies, blood and sweat
are liquids of mass destruction,
constantly flowing, constantly infecting
every stark point of life.
May I begin by welcoming
what is dark and damp and hidden
in basements and crotches, anywhere
dark and damp, and what I mean
is let’s not leave what shivers
us out in the cold. Invite it in.
Wear fear like a stretch of someone
else’s skin. Let it be damp.
Let it grow moldy on bone.

All the Same (poem)

I can forget without forgiving.
Melissa Coogan

I have a long memory,
longer than any other capacity
within me. I don’t love as long,
hate, or stall in neutrality
as long. I remember what you said
that night we met (You can’t leave
until this wine is gone) and I remember
that you attempted an I love you
too soon and I remember all
the details you’ve omitted since;
these staggered moments
are grayishly all the same.
Because in the span of seconds,
you test my ability to love
and hate and shrug, so when I look
back on these winks of time, they blur
into one, which means this:
I haven’t forgiven you.
I can’t remember if I should.

With and Without You (poem)

I want to say things are OK
without you, that I’ve finally found
a path disconnected to your door.
I’m in love again, even, with a man
who’s so good, you’d never understand
him. I want to say I’m happy
in this chaotic limbo and I want
you to know I’ve finally given up
on us ever reconciling. And all this
is true and every word is checked,
but somewhere deep inside me,
you still live, comfortable and mean.
That probably pleases you and I don’t
know how else to fight it except say stay
as long as you want. Maybe
I sort of need your pit within.

Waiting Game (poem)

It’s a waiting game with changing rules.
Day turns to night and everything’s cooled
except for you.
I’ve learned not to ask questions
when you’re mad and quiet.
These are life lessons that I do
not challenge. I roll along
here, across from where you stare
into the blurring haze of dusk
where stars may start to burn
and it’s my turn to flip a switch inside.
Electricity was discovered, not invented.
Channeled, not controlled. I am your bulb
and I might break or fizz out
before this darkness makes you shout
about all the reasons you need me
to lose. It’s not a fight that I choose
but I can’t tell you no.
Instead, I say it’s the way
I learned to play this game: turn the board
and close your eyes, please, for me.

Used to this (poem)

I. You, you broke my heart again
(and not for the last time, I know).
That was tonight
II. and I had a dream
where you leaned into me and said
your girlfriend was blowing you
off tonight and you kissed me,
broken with passion, and I was surprised
by how quickly you walked away.
Stunned, I’d say, both of us.
III. There was a time before
where I meant everything I said
and you would listen and you would
IV. Like the time I had a dream
you were swimming with my nephew
at least a year from now and my mother
greeted you warmly with a splash.
You looked at me and smiled and tossed
my nephew up for the water to catch.
V. I don’t know what to think anymore
I only know that I cannot choose
not to love you. Not even subconsciously.
Or especially. I am at a loss.
I am used to this.

Split My Infinitive (poem)

I love it when you
talk grammar to me,
correcting my verb usage,
un-dangling my participles,
refitting my prepositions,
clarifying my pronouns,
correcting my spelling.
You tell me you cringe
at the sight of a split
infinitive and my pulse spikes
knowing I taught you
that lesson. Oh, baby,
I’ll let you capitalize
all my proper nouns
if you’ll let me
fix your punctuation.
We can copyedit
each other today
for tomorrow’s presses.
The rules are clear,
not to be broken
by us, raw disciples,
our lips tingling
with the sweetness
of the perfect word
choice. Whisper it
closer, in my ear.

Pieces of Winter (poem)

Undercover, you ask:
Is there warmth left at the core?
But I ask the same.

We drape blankets across
our thick sheets of December-land,
our bodies the known geography
bound under this bedridden winter burden.
Snow falls like tears from the stuffy clouds
above our physical map and I see
the rocky soil of your face has thinned
and paled in the cold. Mine is chipped.
We are tucked into the earth, frozen
to the fabric of our listless lives, suffocated
and dry in the burning, chaffing winds.
I open my hands wide beneath the atmospheric
covers while you twine silent
frost through my fingers, over my tongue,
binding me to you, to the choking
avalanche of our new winter, discovered
and explored from the comfort of our bed:
absent and empty of natural warmth
and overstuffed with these uninvited
pieces of winter, but still
the only place where we can
burrow or hibernate
or surrender to our core

In the Event I Want to Frequent a Show (poem)

I am the last one
You pull close
to your sweaty body to say
thanks for coming out on a Sunday night
and you hold on to me
a little too long. There is a woman
standing nearby who you have failed
to introduce as your new girlfriend.
But we all know that’s who she is.
She is watching you press your body
against mine and she sees my face,
happy and loved, and she isn’t reacting.
We finally draw back and you say we will
talk tomorrow and all of us leave you
behind with her. I get in the car
and smell your spice everywhere all the way home.

File it away: (poem)

Martha was born
on March 28
(the Day of the Child
in the Week of Innocence)
which makes her
an Aries, fiery,
like my mother.

Leigh thought
that made her
a Gemini, like me.

He returned my call later,
after sending me straight
to voice mail, responded
to my laughing plea of
Where the hell are you?
I need to talk
about The West Wing
The drama! but he
only told me about Martha
having something in common
with his leaking tire.
(Except he called her
“the ex.” X. ecks.)
He said she can’t
make a decision
to save her life,
that she’s losing air
as quickly as his tire.
And I wonder why
he’s called me back
to talk about her,
and remember
he’s a Leo, born
on the Day of the Double
Agent, the Week of Balanced
Strength. Sneaky. Like
he couldn’t take my call
in front of her, but he’s more
than able to spend
his time with me
sliding her name
through his lips.

I’m in a weird
place tonight, he
finally said, abrupt.
I have to be up
in five hours
cuz that’s when
the water is best.
I want to remind him
I was born on the Day
of the Entertainer
in the Week of New
Language, which makes me
a daughter of the Air, faithless
to waves. But I’ll remember
what he’s said, I think.

I’ll file it all away.

Support Local Musicians (poem)

There are lyrics
on the spine
of my courage, prickled
and unwavering and horribly
What if I want
to sing
about porcupines
or paper hats?
if the sound of ice
in a glass
stirs more romance
in my gut
than a well-
executed kiss?
What if there’s nothing
to say
with my mouth

God, I fucking love everyone who came out tonight.

Strange Things (poem)

You whistle at me outside
Stata, wave your arms
in a salute. I cock
my head towards you as I move
away from a sign post.
I say: Was that for me?
And you say: Well, I saw this
hot chick. If I was in my car,
I would honk. We laugh until

we are close enough to touch
and then you swallow me
in your arms. I say: You give the best
hugs and you lead me in

to the maze of the MIT monstrosity
on the corner of Main and Vasser,
let me try out your thousand-dollar
chair, and for the next twenty
minutes, we live like we are what
we never and always were: together.
You show me the uncomfortable
couches after I reenact shoving
shoppers. You teach me
the new word you made up
while I spoof the dialogue on Sex
and the City. We spend more time

in back story, limitless jokes taped
to our insides, barely finishing
sentences, letting phrases linger,
finished off by deft winks. On our way

out, you say I like strange things
and I shrug under Stata’s awning
and smile only for the you
who whistles and holds me tight

In Concert: Boston/November/2002 (poem)

Suddenly I hear my guitar singing
and so I start singing along
and then somewhere in my chest
all the noise just gets crushed by
the song... Ani DiFranco, “Imagine That”

The tickets have seat and row
assignments, but when we get inside,
it is standing room only,
and we are pressed, body against body,
to get close to the stage. I stand back
six heads deep from the microphone
and think this, this is good
enough and wait for another
hour in a sea of bobbing lesbians
who pride their spiky hair and unnatural
piercing and seem excited to be
close enough to other females to brush
their asses or touch their arms under
the guise of “crowd.” But it doesn’t bother
me tonight -- me, who despises people
in general, let alone mobs of girl-on-girl
love, allow the lesbians to yank on my pigtails
and step on my toes because I get to see

Hammell on Trial. At least, he opens the show
and makes the first round of solo guitar magic
seem beautiful and grotesque as he
offers us his pulse because he thinks it
will be useful, sings a song about killing
his girlfriend’s son and then another song
about how god said “thou shall not kill,” and I
am glad that I understand the irony.
His guitar looks like the only true victim
of his homicidal tendencies: battered
and babied with what he repeatedly
calls “Berkeley Tough Love,” whatever
that is. He shakes his face like a bowl
of jello and at the end of his set, sticks
his guitar pick on the peak of his sweaty
forehead. “Give it up

for Ani,” he says, before jabbing
his guitar in the air one last time.
The lesbians cheer, and so
do I. It is another twenty
minutes of female compacting
before the main event. And I
think I’ll die from the exhaustive
heat of standing, still wearing my coat
because there isn’t even enough
space to lift my arms to take it off.
I listen to a groupie behind me tell
her cohorts about how the crowd has changed
since Ani got married -- to a man, no less --
how now straight couples have the nerve
to ruin the air of raucous, liberated women
with shaved heads and a taste for cunt. And I
almost want to turn and apologize
for the intrusion, except I am there
with my female roommate and am not
the obvious sore thumb in the audience she
is referencing. How dare the
straight people invade their bisexual
musical goddess’s inner-space! I shift
my weight and try not to laugh at her
blatant unacceptance of heterosexuals
and bounce jokes of reverse discrimination
off my brain until the lights fall

dark and the pressed body of the crowd
cheers in one breath, with one arm reaching
towards the stage as the lights come up
to reveal a hobbling Ani DiFranco, apologizing
for breaking her foot last week, and then sitting
with her guitar in her lap, playing “Back Back
Back,” one the lesbians and I can sing
along with and the true concert is underway.
I close my eyes and tongue the words
in the back of my throat, think about how
I’d used them like a one-night stand and left
a line from the song on the digital doorstep
of my would-be boyfriend, tell me boy boy boy
are you tending to your joy or are you just letting
it vanquish? And I scream those same words now
into the back of the neck of the tiny lesbian
in front of me, wondering if the simple phrase
had meant as much to him as it does
to me, but I lose sight of him

in the sweaty pulse of the crowd
gasping to the beats of a single woman
on a stage with a solitary guitar, her
hair in twisted blonde dreadlocks, her
fingers banded with black duct tape
and plastic nails that provide her with a pick
on each finger, ultimate artistic control
over her guitar. One nail breaks
and she takes a moment to bow her head
and pray towards the Mecca of Crazy
Glue, saying “It’sallgood” and winking as
the nail sticks in her thick, knotted hair.
She talks very little between songs
because she’s left with nothing new to say
since she says it all in her songs, since she hides
nothing in her lyrics. Her words are like vitamins.
Her life is as open as her sexuality, and why should
she rhapsodize between songs when she can
put her life into lyric and beat her tough fingers
against the steel flesh of her guitar? She sings
and invites us all to sing with her, smiles
with an open mouth and dilating eyes, throwing
her entire body, as restless as her mind, into
her melody, even though she can’t rise
from her chair. I take in the scene, smell the sound

of a felt song waft through the air and see
what I’ve heard for years in her captured/
recorded voice. She’s almost too honest to trust,
but I’m sucked in, and I rock with the current
of unity in the space. I feel the words, even
the ones I don’t recognize, from within my skin
and want to take up room because I can, want
to sweep the sea of the room into my pocket
to take home and swim through later when I’ve flushed
the salt from my eyes and taken the time to see
that she does, indeed, have the kind of beauty that moves
and the capacity to level me with her words. Magic
is cliché but the sentiment is not. There is an amazing grace
about this woman, this performer, this artist
who doesn’t think it’s right living for what she
can’t define. All that’s left for me is to sing
with my eyes turned up towards the smoke-infested lights
and allow myself to get lost in the sea of bobbing lesbians
in the middle of a dance floor, standing room
only, to see Ani DiFranco, live, in concert,
one woman, one chair, one guitar, one night -- god,
this could never be long enough...

Bridal Fiesta (Ashland, MA) (poem)

I watch babies crawl
across suburban carpet
and listen to mothers talk
about wanting to move
back in with their mothers.
I think: where am I?
This is not what I want.
One baby can stand and talk.
One baby falls off the couch.
One baby boy clomps around
in a baby girl’s shoes.
This one cries. That ones claps.
Others inspire cameras to click.
I watch it all and sip
my frozen margarita, deep
red, like sealing wax, and I try
to suck out the alcohol.
What do you know.
Alcohol brings out the poets
and behind me I hear two women
talking about form. Not babies.
Count me in! But even they shift
to small talk about boyfriends
and big futures, while all I’m interested in
is grab bags and One Acts.
My friend is the bride-to-be
and she’s got a feather boa
around her neck. I have a fake
paper pineapple falling apart
on my straw. And I want to get closer
to the reason I’ve come,
but ever step is blockaded
by some mother’s big baby.

Absence Makes the Heart (poem)

Nine hours, thirty-eight
minutes, or six hundred
thirty-four miles apart,
I knew I loved you

when I told a stranger
in a bar. A stranger I nearly
kissed, his warm, stubbled
cheeks, so much like
your own, gripped in my light

fingers. Closer and closer,
he and I, two seconds
or one centimeter apart.
“But I love a boy named --”
I said, never so sure, releasing
him back into the scene.
Tonight, I told you everything

in three syllables: I-miss-you.
And you said we’d see each other
again. I don’t know, though,

I don’t know. How love is.
So far, like a pit.

Fall is in Season (poem)

Something is broken.
It might be me.

Not so long ago
in a very near land
lived a girl who loved
a boy and the boy loved
the girl and everyone knew it
and no one was happy.

Maybe there really is no one
like me—occasionally suicidal
with thoughts of thoughts of death.
Passive masochist. Maybe I am
brilliant and glinty like a fresh faced
chandelier. Maybe I’m unreal.

Really, I am.
I am, I am, I am.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
Now stick my head in an oven
and step on the gas.
I was doing just fine
until a man stepped in my path.

Yeah, I love him
and, yeah, he loves me.
But that’s the easy part.

Escape (poem)

There is always an open window
so there is always a way out.
Why, just this weekend, I found
an old metal escape ladder,
in case of a fire, lumped in a trash can
behind a displaced door in a closet
I have never opened.
Bring on the fire—I can escape!
There is no doubting my insanity,
my extreme confidence, my solitary
vision of life in tempered speed.
Today I am calm.
Today I am clumsy.
Today I am catastrophe.
Today is nothing without yesterday
or tomorrow.
I avoid all the nothing
by ignoring the doors
and lighting out through the window.

Song About the Weather (lyrics)

for crm

I met this girl on a Saturday night
It wasn’t long ‘til we got tight
My girlfriend hated her, we’d get into fights
Somethin’ about this girl, she was all right

Now she’s my best buddy, not a homewrecker
Even though people don’t get it – they don’t get her
This song’s not about her, it’s about the weather
Cuz my new girlfriend might think it’s funny
that I wrote a song about my best girl buddy

Thunder and lightening and falling rain
She cheers me up when I have a bad day
Sunny or cloudy or misty skies
She gives it to me straight cuz she’s not shy

Now she’s my best buddy, not a homewrecker
Even though people don’t get it – they don’t get her
This song’s not about her, it’s about the weather
Cuz my new girlfriend might think it’s funny
that I wrote a song about my best girl buddy

Sometimes we get into a fight
Neither of wrong, of course, neither of us right
But in the end, we’ll always be best buddies
Because she knows all my secrets… Just kiddin’, honey!

Now she’s my best buddy, not a homewrecker
Even though people don’t get it – they don’t get her
This song’s not about her, it’s about the weather
Cuz my new girlfriend might think it’s funny
that I wrote a song about my best girl buddy

Yes, she’s my best buddy, she’s so good-lookin’,
One glance at those dance moves, whew, nice as home cookin’,
She’s as smart as she is funny,
as bold as she is sunny,
Yessir, she’s so money,
Oh, my best buddy,
she’s no homewrecker
but there’s one more thing to get here:
She wrote the lyrics to this song
Yup, she wrote them all, so get up and sing along

Now she’s my best buddy, not a homewrecker
Even though people don’t get it – they don’t get her
This song’s not about her, it’s about the weather
Cuz my new girlfriend might think it’s funny
that I wrote a song about my best girl buddy