Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tonight Will Be a Lucky Night (poem)

Tonight Will Be a Lucky Night

Wednesday night. Central
Square. Chinese food.
I need a fork.
Across from me, you
use chop sticks.
It feels familiar,
like a date we’ve had
before spending a solid minute
in meditation, working
through what you need
to explain. You tell me
I’m right, about many things.
About the ex, about the new
someone. You say you don’t
want a girlfriend. You say
you spent three hours discussing
this with the other woman
the night before, and I wonder
if she knows that you’re here
with me tonight -- I wonder
what it means to you
to be here with me
tonight. I ask you for nothing
but you offer me words,
explanations, weighted
with honesty, brimming
with details of fall-outs
with the ex, slow starts
with the new, and we
are finally on even ground,
sure-footed. Familiar.
Accepted. Nothing is resolved,
but we’re OK. We’ve said
what we needed to say
and we are still friends,
spend the next hour
and a half in comfortable
language, united in our
commonality, our useful
banter. And as we finally
accept that it is time to go,
you break open your fortune
cookie and smile, say, This one
should be yours. It’s something
about courage. But I think
I got the right one. Sliding out
of the booth, I read mine aloud:
Tonight will be a lucky night.

Stopping His Mind on a Hollow Evening (poem)

-- after Robert Frost

for Leigh

Whose life is this I want to know
His dream is lost in others’ glow
He should not see me waiting here
To watch his patient tapping toe
My swollen mind can’t think so clear
To stop without reason to fear
Between the hard and bending quake
The darkest moment dawning near
He gives me bells and I do shake
Silent, asking if there’s something great
The response is sweeping,
Windy with gripping flakes
His mind is hollow, dim, and neat
But I have nothing for him to keep
And nowhere to go before I sleep
And nothing to say before I sleep

Second Date (poem)

I arrived on your porch,
hair plastered with humidity,
with the downpour of rain
caressing my umbrella
and you turned on
the Red Sox, playing
in the Bronx, sound off, eerie
cheering fans, mouths open, muted,
silent. Unlike us. Chatting
with ease about the game,
how God is
a Yankees fan, laughing
at slingshot jokes. Then
you cook for me, ask me, “Fork
or chop sticks?” and I take
the metal in my palm,
balance my wine glass
in the light clutch of fingers
and talk incessantly
while you stare through your glass
table at my socked foot,
stare intently at my hands
as they move to demonstrate
nothing, interrupt me to say
my nails are painted the color
of our wine. I smile, pleased
you noticed. We amble
to the couch to do what
we’d planned, but here’s
where things go awry.
The technology fails us,
and as you hover, disc and remote
in hand, your roommate returns,
casual and oblivious.
You’re frustrated; I see that.
But I find it funny
that a techie like you
can’t make his DVD player
play. And now our party
is stunted and growing
in number. You’re aggravated;
you say so. But you pull
videos off the shelf and operate
on Plan B. Back on the couch,
in the dark, we’re bookends
on opposite sides, with our feet
pressed together, simply, affectionately,
comfortably. You tell me
I’ll like this movie because
I like to laugh. You noticed.
I smile again. We’re synchronized.
Your roommate joins us,
but only for a few scenes, and then
he disappears to get enough
sleep for his new job
at Starbucks. You and I remain
polar opposites, twisted
on the couch, ready for sleep,
but not with each other.
Your eyes start to close
during the second movie,
and I opt for home at 1:30 AM.
You drive me. You’re disappointed.
I know. Things were broken
tonight. But I came home happy,
remembering the rain,
remembering the night.

An Enigma Wrapped Around a Mystery Inside of a Puzzle (poem)

Is there a better way
to make you care
than saying, “Don’t
you care?” Maybe
it’s silly to think
you’d automatically be
the genuine stretch
of luck I’ve searched for,
that I shouldn’t have
to work to make you see
what’s really going on
(What’s really going on?)
and I want to ground you
in concrete details, the nervous
spike of your hair, the uneasy
lines creasing your smile,
all of this oi-ful energy
pressed in your compacting
muscles as you sit
at your day job at MIT,
while you long to be naked
at parties, body checked
in a hockey rink, stroking
through scripted waters, holed
up with some secret joke
or other. You want
so much, but where
does that leave me?
I know my piece fits
snugly in your puzzle.
And I know there’s a reason
I feel like we never broke
up -- you’ve simply
been cheating on me
for the last five months.
Do you know, though,
do you? Do you, do
you ever...

Beached (poem)

Your voice is drowsy
with desperation, filled
with pockets of sand
soon to be stuffed
in a jar, carried away
by a tourist, any tourist,
though you have called
me. I cringe with anticipation
at the sleep I must knock
you out of, of the dream
I must drain from the sea
of your heart. I can’t
find a voice within myself
to counter yours: shaken,
needing, quietly anxious.
Let the moon-tide drag
you out and see where
tomorrow the ocean will
lay you down, in whose
cradle you can rest,
in whose water you can heal.
Your own, perhaps, in whispers
of Sirens and ships that are lost
until time remembers to find
them, call them home.
Your own altered state
is best realized in blackness
of self-possessed night, far
away from sand, untugged
by the world, let alone me

After Revisiting “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World: A Tale for Children” (poem)

“The first children who saw the dark and slinky bulge approaching through the sea let themselves think it was an enemy ship...”
~ Gabriel García Márquez

This story used to make me laugh.
Something absurd and homey
about poor old Esteban, invented
after his death by a deprived village
of absolute morons. I remember
loving this story. You did, too.
Almost a lifetime ago, you struggled
to recall the plot you thought sprung
from Borges, and I supplied the title,
Gabo, and miraculously pulled the sad
yellow cover from my bag. Only a quarter
drunk as I would get that night, I read
the story out loud, slurring and stumbling,
lisping and laughing. You got it, anyway,
why it was funny, why it was worthy. Our first
odd entanglement, our first bold coincidence,
stirred by a dead man in a dead village.
We spent that night together, drunk and happy,
barely knowing each other, filling each other
with hilarious tenderness, finding a way to be.
Oh, what worthy hours to be hoarded, greedily saved,
tagged and labeled, preserved. Because now,
I read the story, this tale for children, and let it go
so easily, allow the pages to melt in my hands,
feel compelled to dismiss them, pray for their necessary
evaporation, magical and real. I want to disengage
you from this text that I love, have loved
so long, but you’re there, a footnote,
a carelessly inked “ha!” in the margin,
an unintentional circle, imposing and virile,
an impassive phrase. Or, something blank.
These pages are all that I have left of you.
I can’t laugh at the story now because
if your fate could be Esteban’s, then mine is
to name you and bury you at sea.

A Sort of Apology (poem)

Let me think
of a way to say
I’m sorry -- and mean
it. I stumble
into each apology
with my weapons
drawn, my faith
guarded. I want
to be a part
of your life, but
I don’t know how,
if I can fit in.
You, round peg.
Me, round peg.
With no square hole
to hold us together


Women in the Road (poem)

Melissa and I are lost
on Columbus Avenue,
on our way home
from Jamaica Plain,
a foreign land in our Boston
explorations. In her truck,
we stare at signs, laugh
at Map Quest, rehash
our days, our moments, our lives,
until a woman staggers
into the road, towards us,
through streams of winter traffic.
We stare at her, shocked, as she
lays down in the middle
of the road and rocks
flat on her back. “Call
911,” Melissa says and I
do, wait for an operator,
the police. We drive on, unsure
of the woman’s location,
prognosis, regression.
The police say they’ll be there
for her and we feel
like we’ve done something
right for once. Even though
we’re still lost and using
the Pru as our North Star

The Hows of Hat (poem)

The man smiles, disarming
me, and says, voice bobbing,
“So how’s your hat?”
Outside, it’s frigid. Nearly
twenty-below, but here in
the Pru in Boston’s Back
Bay, it’s a keen fifty-eight.
But -- and this is important
I’m not wearing a hat.
Instead, I’m paused, smile stilted,
standing in front of a sign
embossed with a large, gold
crown. Welcome
to Hallmark. I am
unprepared to answer
a question about outer
wear, but the man waits,
pleasantly enough, until
I manage, “It’s nice.”
Because it is. “And how
does it look on you?”
he bobbles. I answer
before I take the time
to consider how bizarre
this all is. “It looks great.”
Because it does. I get
compliments. The man
looks relieved, happy
for me, and I mean it
when I tell him
to Have-a-nice-day.
He nods and replies, “Good
luck with your hat.”
I laugh and glance
at the tacky plaque
on the wall behind me
and wonder how well
my hat fits after all.

Tearing Down I and II (poems)

Tearing Down I

I was up by five a.m.,
at the store by eight, opting to walk
through Somerville and Cambridge
to arrive in Back Bay energized
and ready to destroy. We were
a twelve-fisted wrecking crew,
us Hallmarkian Divas dressed
in our most casual slaughterwear.
With boxes and hammers and our very own
dusty voices, we sang and laughed
and violated the remains of our gutted
store: once the place we came
to work, now a carcass, picked
at, sucked clean, with a trail
of glitter leading to the high-
noon sun, leaving us, sunk
into the bowel of what was once
a body of glory, impenetrable

Tearing Down II

Everyone cried except for me.
I stood, dry-eyed, dry-souled,
and waited for them to dab
each other’s faces while I leaned
against the door. I wanted to laugh.
I wanted to sing. I wanted this day
to be fun, and it was. Bare-
armed, I threw shelves and glass
and yellow backdrops into the dumpster
dubbed us “The Girls of Refuse”
and littered the air with stories
about my old job. I don’t know
why I didn’t care as much
as the others about the dismantling
of a twenty-three-year-old homestead,
but I do know that I’m going to add
doesn’t do construction to my resume

Suppose (poem)

you bow your head
and listen while I say
I love you,
not a confession
but a stabilizing truth.
You know the words
before I speak them,
I think, and you feel them
like my dry, desperate
hands on your own.
Your reply is simple,
silent, but real
as you lift your head,
square my gaze,
and I am stunned

Some Days are Like This (poem)

I am guy-gutted today,
slaughtered by my own unwillingness
to settle, to let go, to roll over
for any master. And I am sun-tired
today, soaked in rays that shine
my skin and bake me back to the girl
I always wanted to be: glowing.
Between the spooning of my innards
into a deep, yellow bowl
and the browning of my skin
in the patient day, like light,
I am somehow perfect
and defeated. I’m losing
myself inside and out,
but life still loves what’s left
enough to bleach the hairs
on my arm until they are golden

Post-Overreaction Ruminations on Trivial Conflicts in Ego-Reality (poem)

for Chris Tonelli

There’s no problem
so maybe that’s the problem:
that no one’s offended
or put off or mad, real
fuckin’ mad, and no one
gets why there’s nothing
to apologize for because, well,
someone said too much, surely,
but, really, did anyone go
too far? No. But here we are
again -- that’s the problem.
What problem? A lack of.
Conflict! Argh. Someone’s
bound to lose metaphorical eye
over this one. Which one? That one.
God. Damn. It. I already
forgot what we were yacking
about, spitting about, balls-to-the-walls
bickering about. If I knew any
better, I’d hate you. Yessir.
Or no? What? I thought
you said something, but maybe
you were just thinking out loud
inside your head. Mute.
WRITE! Right? Write RIGHT.
Can’t argue with this
neo-logic. If I knew
what was at stake, I’d bust
out my serrated knife. If
I knew what I was under,
I’d be over it. If I could
remember if I ever said hello,
I could decide what it would mean
to say goodbye. Fuck it. Now
I really am pissed. Huh?
Jesus. Forget it. Already.

Poetryland History Lesson (poem)

“If you get the joke, you get the history.”
~ Shirley Wajda, Kent State University
Wonderful Professor of History and Museum Studies
and former resident of the City of Boston,
(NEVER a professor at Poetryland)

The class is called “History of the United States.”
It is taught by Professor J R P Cueball
who makes less than $40,000 a year,
has three cats named Linus, Marty, and Sprig,
and secretly hangs teenybopper posters
of Britney Spears on the wall
behind his office door.
He is single, thus the posters, and cross-eyed.
He has a reputation for being a dick.
Students take him
to develop backbone,
to learn important life lessons
about bitter white men
who are condemned to teach,
who say, “We’re all historians here.”
But no one knows
what a historian is.
He knows his reputation and thrives on its word,
brings pop quizzes on the first day of class
and makes them worth 25% of the final grade.

His social security number is 412-98-5006.

He lives in one room of a small house
that he does not own
on Winding Trail Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri.

He takes the train
to Poetryland everyday.

The class is held in the Lundberg Auditorium
on the North Quad of the South Lawn.
Professor J R P Cueball hates his classroom.
He tells in-coming students it’s the worst
room on campus. Welcome!

Students at Poetryland University
are fairies and figments of imagination.

They are rogues, they are lovers.
They are pretty, petty, and perfect.
They are lofty, lighthearted, and luminous.
They are as smart, if not smarter than their maker.

They glow “like the moon.”
They sing “like the birds.”
They babble “like the brook.”

They are a whole generation
of well-drawn

Professor J R P Cueball hates them. All of them.
Even the pretty ones.

On each first day of class,
he welcomes the new bunch
with the same speech,
even though he tries to make
it sound extemporaneous:

I am Professor J R P Cueball.
You are druids and imps
with no finger prints.
I guess.
For lack of a better word.
This is the History
of the United States.
I hope none of you
are big Jefferson
fans or Washington buffs
because I don’t teach
them in this class.
The Constitution’s too old -
who gives a rat’s ass
about dead anarchists?
The Civil War’s all bullshit.
(Let me save you the suspense:
the North wins and the South
will not rise again)
The World Wars are nothing
but propaganda.
The stock market crash is dull,
so is foreign policy with Latin America.
The very mention of Korea puts me to sleep
and no one cared about Vietnam when
it was current.
So, fuck it, no really, fuck it all.
Why dwell on the past?
It has nothing to do with today.
This course will begin our nation’s
proud history
with Bill Clinton, our Founding Father.
Light your cigars,
throw away your history
textbooks and subscribe
to Time and People
or The National Inquirer.
If you don’t ask me
to ‘Remember the Alamo’
or discuss the War of 1812
or admit there ever was a Civil Rights Movement,
we’ll get along fine.”

This time, when Professor J R P Cueball
finishes his solemn, thought-provoking introduction,
a fairy-like student with Rapunzel hair
and a Britney Spears body
raises her waif-like hand to ask why
he skips two hundred years of history
and he stares at her, cross-eyed and smirking,
and says: “That shit

is archaic and tired.
Useless, too. Unimportant. Uninspired.
We’ll stick to the cutting edge,
what modern writers say
about history. This class

is all about shits and giggles.
Starting now.

Here’s your pop quiz:

What are contemporary poets
writing about?”

The Archangels and the Devils,
the Melodramatics and the Seducers,
the Fallen and the Rising
all stare at Professor J R P Cueball

and he laughs.

“Don’t say they write
about history, either, drones
because, look, all that shit
is out-dated.
No one reads Thomas Paine
or Ben Franklin anymore.
People watch Hardball,
60 Minutes, The Daily Show
with John Stewart.
I have four words for you all:
Fuck. The. History. Channel.
Our forefathers didn’t make
that many mistakes that were
too catastrophic for us to repeat.
In this class, we pontificate
on ‘farting in the general direction’
of those who came before.
Now, pass your quizzes forward,
my pretty pirates and handsome handmaidens!”

The Britney Spears/Rapunzel-like fairy stands
when he finishes, bows her head respectfully
and says,

“Professor Cueball?
In the immortal words
of Kurt Vonnegut,
‘shove it up
your fundament.’

History is foundation,
isolation, explanation.”

Holding her quiz up in the air, she continues:

“And contemporary poets
try too hard to be free
from the past. It’s
dry and tough, just
like you.”

The Britney Spears/Rapunzel fairy lives
with her boyfriend, a spider monkey named
Zed, in a tree on Mortimer Lane.
She has no social security number
because she’s not human.
She has no finger prints
because Zed licked them off.

She has no history
because Poetryland University
doesn’t teach her about it.

That is the lesson.

Out of the Blue (poem)

Like derelict muses
sinking in orbs of jaded
sparkle-dust, they stand
at the podium, stomping,
shouting, reading, performing
a line of ditties
about That Route 3, Led
Zeppelin, and misunderstood
victims of rape. But
I feel violated, feel ashamed
that I’m laughing
at their overwhelming incompetence,
their lack of style, lack
of grace, and I realize
my bewilderment is pressed
on my face as I chew
on the edge of my lip,
struggle to stay focused
on their art. They are
out of the blue angels,
telling stories of Rat, their Satan,
insisting they know nothing
but each other’s genius, never
their own, even praising Buzz
who’s invented a language,
and I can’t help but wonder
how lucky they are
to see each other
as beautiful

Not for Another Six (poem)

My brother calls me
to say he drank too much
the night before and was left
under a pile of blankets
in his best friend’s side yard.
“I woke up with grass stains,”
he says and he laments
nights wasted being wasted,
wishing he’d been in bed
with a good book. “I’ll never
drink again. Not for six
years,” he says, and I’m left
with a mouth full of laughter.

My Brother Calls (poem)

My brother calls at one a.m.
on a Saturday night to tell me
he really likes the Counting Crows
CD I sent him for his birthday
two weeks ago. I sez, “Good.
Can I call you back tomorrow?”

The next night, he calls me
at midnight to say, “You know
what I really hate? White trash.”
He sez they come to the video store
where he works and they smell.
I sez, “That’s understandable.
Can I call you back tomorrow?”

Monday night arrives and my brother
doesn’t call me and I sleep poorly
in anticipation of his interruption.
Silence is heavy, though, a stifling blanket.
I sez to the darkness, “That’s nice.
Can I call you back tomorrow?”

Mercury Lounge (poem)

Spiral arms
in thick air
Vapid smoke
Love, long, linger
Beat beat
Hear me
See me
La la
Throw Your arms

Last Days of Hallmark (poem)

My name is ‘Bellum, Boberra,
Sarahwolf, Savannah, Sahara, the Angel
of Narcolepsy, the Queen of Fresh
Ink and Plush, Chrissy from Three’s
Company. “Supervisor?” an old man
reads off my never-worn name tag.
“That’s a new one.” I don’t know
if I had the most nicknames, but Tina sez
I have the most popular votes (add Miss
Congeniality to the list). I want to thank
my supporters. I did what I could.
But I couldn’t stop the store
from closing, couldn’t prevent
the end of our time in the glitter-lined
trenches of Holiday’s, doused in Agent Orange
by Boston Properties Leasing Demons.
Of course, no one expects me to have
all the answers. Although, I will confess
I’m the one left gasping on everyone’s
darkest secrets. I will carry them
to my grave. And in the last few days,
I feel my soul rip away from these
Gold Crown saviors, watch them tuck
closer to each other while I step
to the side. I wonder if they notice.
I wonder what name they’ll remember me by.

It's a Great Day (poem)

to panhandle. I practically trip
over homeless people as I maneuver
through the Saturday/February
Back Bay crowds, hearing,
“Can I git a qwa-tah?”
I’m beginning to wonder
where they’ve been hiding
all winter, if this fifty-degree
day has defrosted their vocal
chords, de-numbed their joints.
And I laugh when a man asks for change
from a skirt-clad twenty-something
who responds, “No thanks” -- as though
he was selling mouthwash or knitting
needles -- and the man repeats her -- “No
thanks?” Even he thinks it’s funny
but doesn’t miss a beat when he
sees me -- “Can’t you spare
something for me, honey?”
Regardless, I don’t, too consumed
with the idiocy of cramming
so many cup-janglers on the same
city block. Spread out, I think,
and you’ll convince people to invest
in your poverty. I’ve had no
business training and spent no time
being homeless, but I know
what it means to saturate
a market, so I walk past
their pleas, smile-plastered,
with my eye locked
on the generous sun

It Will Be Called: Hamlet: A Play About Politics (poem)

I need a slam-bang finish
to a play I haven’t written
but might some day begin.
I don’t have any characters
yet or any concept of plot.
I don’t know what the costumes
should look like or the sets,
and I don’t know how I want
to play with the lights. I’m not
sure if I want the audience
to laugh or cry or if I’d rather
the theater remained empty,
except for me, the Creator,
sitting in the center of the aisle,
mesmerized by my own unknown
genius. Do I need to write something
to please anyone beyond myself?
I hesitate to write the first stage
direction, so that tells me I must care
what outsiders think, but I’d feel
more confident if I already had
that slam-bang finish in place.

The Democratic National Convention Descends on Boston, July 2004 (poem)

A stolen Ryder truck with fifteen-gallons
of propane gas dodged armed Boston
security forces and made national
news. But I found out
from a customer, a simple woman
who had just smacked in to Michael
Dukakis on Tremont Street outside
my shop. There was no chance
to fret over either scenario
as protesters on every side
of every issue lined Boylston Street
while anarchists hung dummies
of Bush and Kerry from nooses
on the Common and bomb squads
tucked in yellow school vans
whirred from the Fleet to the South
End, sirens blaring. MPs sauntered
down city blocks as pro-lifers circled
touristy areas in big trucks plastered
with the exploited carnage of partial birth
abortions for children to see. Even DC
residents staged an impromptu tea party
REPRESENTATION. Just move, fuckers.
All of you. I want to diffuse the bombs,
disarm the military stationed on every street
corner, lift the siege on Boston.
I want to walk my miles, live my life
with only the usual amount of chaos.
This is not your city. It is mine. And even though
that Ryder truck was recovered safely, I felt unsafe,
sort of shifty and unsteady as helicopters circled.
I sat, rocking, waiting for the explosion.

Cracker Chad (poem)

Cracker Chad

I said he might
write the Great American
Novel, and he agreed,
but said he’d write it
in Russian, a language
he does not know.
And I told him
he should invent
his own dialect, write
his debut in that.
He said he would
if we’d sell it at Hallmark
and I said, sure, but
we’d need decoder
rings to read it.
Meagan, silent until
now, pipes up
with giggled smiles,
said, “Like in a Cracker
Jack box?” He said,
yeah, and you can call me
Cracker Chad, the Great American
Novel Writer.

Bill Knott's Poetry Workshop (I. thru V.)

Bill Knott’s Poetry Workshop I.

He told him
“That’s not
what poets
write about”
while insisting he
doesn’t want to argue
he says

He tells her
you can only
be vague when
you overcome
he says

I listen in
pale tones,
dread my turn
in the guillotine
and I hope I
listen well enough

Bill Knott’s Poetry Workshop II.

“What we have in your poem”
he says, twisting his fictional mustache
“is one big cliché
with poorly
placed line breaks”

Recommended solution
to said problem:
Insert head in noose
Kick box away
Hang until death shows up

I look around
for some different advice,
wonder how to become a slave
to Knottsville Poetry Writing, wonder
what the speaker’s social security
number has to do with anything,
wonder why I must disguise fiction
as poetry, wonder if I can find
a map of this Poetryland he keeps
talking about

I ask Chad #2 what the difference
is between poetry and fiction
He tells me line
breaks and phrases
are key and

I stare at him and pray
that this vulnerable piece of paper
is metaphor-free
because I know the noose
will just give me rope burn

Writing Poetry for BK
(Bill Knotts Poetry Workshop III)

I scream into my pillow,
toss my pen and paper
to the floor
and struggle to lift
blocks of concrete
thought,try to banish metaphors
from my Poetryland mind

What about metaphors attracts me?
What about unreality makes me create?

It’s easier to talk
about sunlight as matter
than to say
He and I are through
I pull my face
from the pillow and think
about line breaks
and life breaks
and no breaks

and concrete images
that don’t compare

Bill Knott’s Poetry Workshop IV.

I’m a poetic
Eliza Doolittle,
kept under syllabic
lock and key.
Shut the door
on definition!
I hear.
Open your eyes
to modern verse.
I cringe and fold
my hands in criss-
crossed bundles
in my lap
and don’t know
how to dance
for my Henry Higgins
with all these marbles
in my metaphoric mouth.

Bill Knott’s Poetry Workshop V.

I got an A
from Bill Knott, Poet Biscuit
Extraordinaire, self-proclaimed
scourge of the syllabic seas
and I laugh because I am
delighted to have survived
my turn on the plank
and readjusted my
sea legs to stand upright
on the higher ground

And (poem)

And she talks about death
as a positive alternative
to life, and I shudder

And wonder if
my father will meet
her grandfather
in heaven,
if my father visits him
now on Earth

And I hear the
respirator ticking
and wheezing
in my brain
as my stomach tenses
from smiling too much,
as my face squeezes
like an accordion pump
until I read away messages
about hospitals

And I feel like
life is helpless
and she’s right
to talk about death
as a savior

After an Emerson College Grad Student Reading (poem)

Everyone tells the same
Bill Knott story. Yet,
every semester, his name
is bandied about as though
he were a newly discovered god
(the god of poetry sledgehammery,
that is) and as we stand
in the Tam, a line of students
breathing smoke-free Boston bar
air, I am reminded how much,
how little binds us as I laugh
once against at the largeness
of the holes in Bill’s sweaters

A Recipe for Disaster (poem)

A Recipe for Disaster

Start with a bowl
and place it on the floor
in a kitchen, hot, explosive,
unbearably stuffy and add
as many cooks as the room
will allow and then add
seventeen more. Now open
the cupboards and seek out
some sugar, some flour, some fluffy
arsenic. Add two eggs, passive-
aggressive email, a dash of envy, a bottle
of Absolute, Ani DiFranco
and Eminem, a handful of bitter
lemon rinds, The West Wing,
a couple old boyfriends
and their ex-girlfriends,
a whining mother and a shotgun
wedding, half-truths, flat lies,
Christopher Guest, the special
edition Fight Club DVD
a shot of Jack Daniels, a bottle
of Prozac, ladybugs on gravestones,
a crust of bread, a long distance
relationship, a round of orgy
strip poker, AOL Instant Messenger,
some chips and dip, mold scraped
from bathroom tile, a free cup
of coffee, strings attached
to wads of money, a glob
of butter, plastic chop sticks
and a metal fork, a few tiny violins,
justice laced with vengeance,
a handsome drowned man,
a Hemingway novel, wild curls,
a shaved head, nervous laughter,
an orange and some goldfish crackers,
accents, foreign languages, days
at the beach, magical realism,
subway platforms, a Stalin
hockey jersey, wine glasses,
a Boston Red Sox post-season,
ego, Sprite, pages ripped
from Leviticus, crumbs
left in a bag of Chex Mix,
too much curry, not enough spine,
a ball of rejection, half cup
of denial, a negative wind-chill,
text messages, train rides,
a broken chair, three spoonfuls
of Dayquil, six Twinkies
in their wrappers, a sword,
a new trick for an old dog,
The Cat in the Hat,
four tiny umbrellas for tropical
drinks, a reason for spite, a grammar
lesson, a laugh track, Seinfeld and Sex
in the City, a bar
of chocolate -- special dark.
Absence. Presence. Lust.
Stir with your fist, mash it, until
you can’t cry anymore.
Bake until the smoke begins to billow.
Ignore your instincts. Ignore advice.
Be sure to serve yourself
the first big plate. Heap it.

A Reason to Love my Otherwise Ridiculous Job at Hallmark (poem)

Jay B hates it
when I tell customers
he’s our Vera Bradley expert.
“Why you gotta say that?”
(Beat. He smiles.)
“Yo, I’m a guy. Why do I
gotta do the purses?”
So many questions, and I
don’t have the answers,
except he is the expert
and it’s fun to see him blush.

At least twenty-four hours
in advance, never in a rush,
he negotiates when he will take
his break and I always
say yes to whatever he requests.
He doesn’t care that I outrank
him and shakes his head when I ask
if a customer wants his receipt
in hand or in bag, barely waits
for the line to clear before blurting, “Yo,
what if he wanted it in his pocket?”
Wouldn’t we all like to know!

He often chants, “It’s getting hot
in herre” and it’s my job to add, “So
take off all your clothes.”
I suggest his rap star name
should be Jay2-da-Bzazz
but more often call him
Jay B Bo Baby. He points out
which girls are “mad smart”
(his own code for good lookin’)
before beat boxing under his breath
to his own rendition of “To be
or not to be.” He’s impressed
I’ve read Antigone, concedes that Crime
and Punishment is “aight.”

Alone in the store at night, he announces
he “needs a Lexus to start his life,”
and though he is straight-faced, he’s laughing
so when he is trapped in the elevator
a few weeks later with the store’s owner
who has more than one, I am disappointed
Jay B doesn’t ask if it’s nice driving
a vehicle with a DVD player to entertain
the kids -- and “da ladies.”
His phone sings “Better Off Alone”
one week and “Cry Me a River”
the next, but the love of his life
goes by “my girl” in his vocabulary.
I want to tell her never
to let him go. His mama raised him
right and I don’t want her to know
how rare that makes him, want to say
she’s one lucky eighteen year old

“Nah, fo real. Check this out”
(He leans in) “A lot of gay guys
hit on me.” I start to retort
it’s because he does
the purses, but he tacks on
“I’m cool with it, though,” so I tame
my response to, “Well,
you’re just a cute boy.”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

at moe.down.x (poem)

Here is a face
behind old school 3D glasses
and here is an unknown
boy twirling glow sticks
between his fingers.
There is a splintering
of color, a nonlinear time
warp, a cascade of mind
blowing opportunity.
If only acid
was introduced to blood
stream, wow, think
of how far this'd soar.
Instead, the trip
is trippy but tame
and easily recounted:
Here is a face
hidden behind 3D.

This Light (poem)

Under this light, I look innocent.
I look suburban and tan.
I look well-adjusted and middle class.
Under this light, I look so everyday.
You know differently, though,
you wrote it in a song. You put me out
there, black lit my soul.
Not that I'm accusing you
of sabotage, not that I'm saying
you are wrong. But look at me now.
Under this light, I am the girl-next-door,
I am a whole slew of beautiful cliches.
I am bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
I am what every man desires --
but only under this light.
You know. You know. You know
what there really is to know
and it's not here, under this light.

Again Soon (poem)

Back again, here, perched.
Like this was a desired view.
Like this was the best place to dive.
I'm not moving, not up
or down, not an inch.
Instead, I am frozen, where did
those headlights come from?
Because. I don't need to look out.
I don't need to let go.
This freefall will grab me
when gravity gets a firm grip
on my fresh soul.
Imprints of fate wrap solidly
once more around that woeful
free will illusion.
I'll be dead again soon.
Flush these cheeks red til then.

The Hand That Feeds Me (poem)

Cornered, an animal,
I am foaming, cancerous,
poisonous, unforgivable spite.
Menace my way
into this pit where
my kind ain't allowed.
One of these days
I will bite this hand
that feeds me
and it will turn
in my mouth, it will
blacken and cease
to be and then
Starved, I'll surely become
more dangerous than I am
now and how
can that be?
What strange creature
will be my evolution?

Where You Are (poem)

It was late night
for all of us
but seemed later for you,
down on all fours, crawling
with the dogs, drunk
doesn't even begin to cover it.
The rest of the partiers line
the kitchen walls, snapping
photos on their phones
of you -- one hot mess.
The youngest of the bunch
vies for your attention,
even though you've called
the wrong person by her name.

How interchangeable we are
where you are! Until --

I lean into you to say goodnight
and you grasp me harder
than usual and say my name.
"I'm staying here," you say.
"You should," I reply.
"You should stay, too," you say.
I look at your face, at your unfocused eyes,
and, oh, heart, broken, I can't stay
as late as it is wherever
you are tonight.

Friday, September 10, 2010

In Time (poem)

I am interested in time
and how it changes
how you feel about me.
I am interested in how
you feel about me.
Time tells the story
with an infectious laugh
and I lean in close
to hear all the tonal nuances.
I am interested in you
and all the nuances
of how time reveals us
to each other. We are timeless.
We are slowly vibrating
in space. I am so sure
of my fixed place
on your time line that I will
let this all unfold.
I will actively play out
my passive part.
I am interested in how
time will end this all.