Monday, November 29, 2010

POEM: If a Father's Wish Had Any Clout

if his love had any power
you would be whisked away over
wide oceans steepled mountains

these words,
these things,
these poems
these useless limbs, i know this now.
these are incense a cry sent up as curling smoke

but if you were the yellow moon
or in your room feeding me on your smile
or your spirit spread like jam into every corner
these thousand blooms

i would know how to be a father once again
my strength would flood my arms again
and i could maybe breathe again.

Friday, November 19, 2010

POEM: Kissing Corpses

The first time I saw a dead person was my grandpa - the German one.

His face was waxy and his body more clay than flesh.
When we went back to my grandmother's after the wake
I met my Uncle George – grandpa’s brother –
whom i had somehow never met before - sitting in the corner of the room
looking so much like my grandpa, drink in hand, animated as wind,
that I turned to stone.

For that one moment which I remember like light, I believed that when
people died they popped right back up like a cartoon character
whose head is flattened by an anvil and simply re-inflates to its original shape.

On the Italian side of my family there were many wakes
where I learned through breathing the air and eating the marinara
with clams that it was respectful to lean over a corpse,
to kiss it squarely on the forehead.

I made up rules about when I should kiss a corpse and when not to:
if it was someone I kissed while he was alive then I would kiss him at his wake.

The first corpse that I ever kissed was that of my Uncle Al.
I kissed him whenever we met.
He was a brusque Greek with a temper like frayed wire.
I kissed his chocolate skin, felt his white cactus stubble.

Even at the end of his life, I knew what that spongy kiss
on his cheek meant to him.
Even when it was behind the plastic of an oxygen mask,
lungs filling with fluid as he grew smaller and smaller.

It was like kissing marble.

I wondered if it was a safe thing to do but I did it anyway.
I knew that he would approve.

The most difficult corpses of all are babies.
How the leaden appearance of miniature coffins commands attention.
How complete everything looks, tiny as a doll house except
for that one glaring thing you know but cannot shake off:
there is a baby in there.

It is the realization of a razor.

When Conor died it crushed me like an empty paper cup, as wrinkled and small.
A balloon burst deep in my stomach and I thought I smelled the acid.

Teenagers are so full of shit which is why they appear so brave and bold
but underneath you know they are just quaking leaves.

But here in a bundle that resembled laundry, waxy,
more clay than flesh, dried fruit body, shriveled and narrow,
approaching the size of dust, sliding toward disappearance,

I took him for the child that he really was.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

POEM: Do You Even Know How to Hold Her?

how you said the sadness of the springs
of the couch reminded you of me?

how the whole fruit of me was rotted,
from seed inside out accompanied by my favorite fruit flies
to seal the deal?

how we pledged allegiance to a flag
that could never fly stiff enough in the wind of all the shrapnel we let fly?

how the christmas lights we strung made shadows and that was all?

and how the dim halos you took in like a straw with teeth and hair
dwindled you down on the sharpstone to a point so fine that neither one of us
cared enough to blunt it?

POEM: My Heart is Missing

Have you seen it?
Wet and rouge

Damp as a sponge?
It slipped through slotted hands

Now, what will I do?
An orphan, I wished

I had met my grandmother, Josephine –
My heart was a birthday gift

Boxed and wrapped
In the memory of family.

I placed it into your fingers
Outstretched like whip coral.

I have searched for it everywhere.
But it has vanished

Without leaving so much
As a forwarding address.

Friday, November 12, 2010

POEM: Hardening Season

warm coffee
on my tongue
presses its nose against anorexic trees
skeletal remains
liquorice crows stapled to pale blue window dressing
of a cream cheese sky &
evening stars hold court and sway

everything balanced / everything at rest -
dusky bedroom light
the "i loved you" croaked voce sotto
this gravesite

bloom spring empathy for flower bulbs turned
below gray surfaces of the hardening season.

Monday, November 08, 2010

POEM: Musician

You don’t have to be a trainspotter.
Count Basie wasn’t a real count

He claims to be a textualist at heart.
Songs are just an emotional anchor.

In the Joe Loss Orchestra,
I’m a secret lemonade drinker.

If he could find a piano here he would play it with his toes until the girls
All take their clothes off.
Only two things matter: revenge and guilt.

It’s the lash and rum sodomy.
About love and lust, infidelity and betrayal
And all the tawdry pleasures and difficulties that arise out of them.

“It’s too bad for people who want to know, ‘cause they ain’t gonna know.
Songs don’t tell the truth.”

I’d bind his e-mails and give them to his publisher.

He’s tried to learn how to do it.
How to keep moving
Not out of perversity
Or some desire to impress

Avatar of English punk.
Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

His mind works a bit like one of those impossibly complicated
Pentagon PowerPoint presentations.

Music is more like water than a rhinoceros.
It doesn’t charge madly down one path.
It runs away in every direction.

It’s taking a long time to die, like big things do.
Believe me, it will remake itself.

POEM: Rock Star

He emerges in a shiny silk midnight-blue suit,
Black patent-leather Chelsea boots,
a blue shirt with white pin dots,
a black-and-blue polka-dot tie
And a Stetson Gambler

He darts into his tent stall and comes out in a different hat.
He is sucking on a lemon.
I sneak a peek at the mint-green Stetson,
Size 7 ½, with a blue-and-yellow band
Purchased at Meyer the Hatter in New Orleans.
Tucked into the sweatband., the card reads
“Like Hell It’s Yours.”

In a previous life
His duties included printing out invoices for the moustache
Waxes of the occasional Duchess who visited the company’s West End salon.
He spent a lot of time with just a big jar of instant coffee
and the first Clash album.

There was the “Look-at-me-I’ve-got-a-big-hairy-chest-and-a-big-willy” rock’n’roll
The “Fuck-me-I’m-so-sensitive-Jackson-Browne” school of seduction.

He eschewed both
How comical the whole knock-kneed stance seemed
To photographer & subject.

He is the king of the cameo.
Discouraging admiration and flirting with a controlled fall from grace.
Control is hard to come by in this feat of self-sabotage.

Playing fast and a touch rough
A set list taped to the soundboard had already been abandoned.
Remembering what his father always told him,
“Never, ever look up to a note. Always look down.”

Despite the gift of an old favorite,
A din of inattention spills past the soundboard toward the stage
The way rock’n’roll sounded in 1921.
It ended with him whistling into a full breeze of indifference
From the back of the room.

He narrowed his attention and shrunk the hall.
On a blond Gibson Super 400 guitar
Which he thrashes with little hands of concrete
Into a long, not always tonal discursion.
Arms outstretched at the finish,
Combining sincere appetite for applause
With half-ironic self congratulation
And a task master’s impatience for the guitar tech –

It was time to swap out the Gibson.

A honky tonk show
A honky tonk audience

The VIPs sheepish and beaming.
The where-you-froms burble on.
A mention of Spokane soon had him talking
About getting ill in a motor lodge in Boise, Idaho.

Friday, November 05, 2010

POEM: The Bloody Scratch of Me

The flesh beneath your fingernails,
Excavated for an autopsy of us,
Was all that you could not burn
Or give away to Goodwill –

The bloody scratch of me is what remains
Of the clods of our earthen bodies
and black & blue ocean limbs
Once smothered by ripe certainty.

We tripped into bed sheets and blood,
The disintegrated crumbs of who
We’d wished we had been -
Found long after we’d vanished into thin air and

That bloody scratch of me was
Left to decompose in memory.

POEM: Waiting for the Bathroom

the last of my four children has lain siege to the bathroom,
a bloody battle, with barricades and foxholes, replete with its own fog of war
and collateral damage
of depleted ozone and the hazmat yellow of a superfund site
defending the honor of young female adulthood about which I have no business

what can she be doing in there?

how can it possibly take her this long to get ready for bed?

the house is stuffed with cotton. the others are gone, ghosts now wander the gray-black light of late nights, watery shadows of text books and dishes left in the sink now just a wish.

off at school or in their own place, off in their own time and pacing.

it wasn’t always like this.

there was once the quaking of Rock Band, the thump of rap and the jittery twang of world music in every corner of every room. There were the Scattergories and Buzzword marathons, all night Harry Potter and everlasting sleepless sleepovers.

but now my bathroom door is a monolith. singly massive.
for me, an anchor.
i breathe easier knowing she is here and mine and for now, in our bathroom doing whatever it is that 18 year old girls do before going to bed.

it’s her bedtime story to me. i listen and grow sleepy. i read a little longer, think how good it feels for her to be in that room and for me to swim against the
tide of this
arduous waiting

Monday, November 01, 2010

POEM: november

she flirts with me as
a mountain shadow that retreats
like ebbing tide. evening

is draining water a landscape
disrobed a curtain with sparrow-breath
and felt pad feet.

bellowing leaves can be heard well into the next valley,
steeped in dewy gold
express sunlight drip by shiny drip.

billowing ocher cracks air crisp as toast
with the sharp edge it needs to shatter
glassine darkness, to coax a cornfield’s wish

for summer a secret now divulged:
day can start in earnest, punch a clock
take all her allotted coffee-breaks.

but the start that is a streamstone.
smooth miracle held in raw palms of revelation.
she hikes her skirt just a bit

& asks if i am interested.