“Black Friday might affect these hours.”

Just shells of places.
Strangers with interchangeable stories.
Symbols into words (gestures into pains)
so few they hollowly clatter around
the Grand Central Station
after a bomb drill.
You could hear a pin drop.
The frost makes vowels of
the light that fades too soon,
onomatopoeias out of
the unrealized emotions
stamped on the crepuscular stillness.
They prayed away the drama
but not the want, and
there is no lack of resolution
for the turning of the page.
When I hesitate, it isn’t because
I left something unsaid.

 

 

 

Paradise Is Demanding

It must be thrilling to know everything.
Girls used to be so full of doubt but now they say, sure I’m sure. I say 1970, she says Nixon bombed Cambodia.
When I was a kid I found a brontosaurus under my corn flakes.
Today I get all of world history at the end of my tootsie pop.

The bodies, you cry. The dead bodies in the lobby.
Why can’t I reply, my mother’s violets in the window box remind me of tiny flamethrowers.
The poor don’t need money. It’s the rich who are always short.

Everywhere I go, I’m an unknown quantity.
Why do you invade my territory?
They bring me hot dogs when I order origami.
In China they begged me to stay, but here, why won’t you go?

Don’t ask, how are you? It’s an intimate question.
I think it is privacy and so do you, but here it’s a matter of public policy.
Infants wear reading glasses to mommy and baby English classes.
You are in another country

when students dance into class wearing chiffon tutus.
They hide their hair in green.
One student’s yellow toenails match his glasses; another’s braces are as sparkling as her tiara.

On trains, the girls don’t keep their legs together. One sees bandaged knees and little hands spreading skin cream.
The Santa Barbara coffee shop in Roppongi brews no coffee; it serves poached eggs on a bed of lettuce.

Paradise is demanding.
The bodies pile up to my Adam’s apple.
My daughter’s into cranes and pandas.
Are we punished for ignoring corpses?

Must I feed the neighbors, take care of tornadoes, split the atom, and make ice cubes?
I can barely add 2+2. I can’t remember to change my socks.
Last week I lost the Empire State Building.

I want my teddy bear.
Can’t I like pandas, too?
Thou shalt not kill.
Is that not enough for you?

The busker asks for what’s left over.
Must I share?
I have lots to spare but none for you.
Why can’t I say that?

 

===

previously published in Cecile’s Writers (Netherlands)

 

 

 

Origin of snakes

Snakes were once stooped
old men who had a hard look.
Their wives picked them up,
shook out all their stiffness
and lay them down in long grass
to sluff their wrinkly skins.

Wise women see the serpent
in a man’s simple smile and the way
he slithers beneath bed sheets;
they feel the scales on his belly.

Wise men keep their slippery
forked tongues in their heads
and when their torsos coil
around their warm women
they hold back half their strength.

 

 

Closure

I wish for endings
like tied shoe strings.

I seek finishing
like stains on cut tree limbs,
glossy in death
and dining-room tables.

I hunger for a last supper
of salted tears.

I dream of a wake
with super-glued caskets

and a heart that masks
its cracks and breaks

like me and you—

fake.

 

(A previous version of this poem appeared in Star*Line as “The Jinni’s Wish.”)

 

 

Close

too close

remember
the Ax-man
does his number
splitting dreams

remember
life in Antarctica
the sun
splitting
down

on unaccommodated woman
cold but serene
in the eye of the storm

now

blankets
sheets
voices
skin

this Sunday in April
nudges forward
on streets
narrow and

dangerous

he lights a fire
and in it
wood animals burn

and by it
like birds
we preen our wings

each feather
alive
in the heat

 

 

Him

1. Chamomile and Vinegar

You’re Earl Grey
sometimes with milk,
or black, spiced.
Last box, variety pack.
I’ll make a pot, fill 
the kitchen with the smell
of your best days. 

Your laptop, synthesizer,
the sixth time
you define a saw wave.

I wonder if you’ll 
ever finish
that fucking song?

Chamomile today,
with honey and a pinch
of brown sugar.

Watch you light a candle,
hide in the master bath
with a spoon,
the smell of your worst days.
Cobalt eyes all iris.

 

2. Moving Day

Shadow trapped
two paces behind me
keeping the peace
left worse
than it was found.

Spilled milk
on the counter
and cracked sheetrock,
isn’t a joke
or temporary,
or yours anymore.

 

3. Flattery and a Neon Moon

We sit and talk.

You lie,
I take the compliment,
act like you’re still here.

Blue eyes
over a bottleneck,

steel guitar moans
out of every jukebox
in every bar.

Mid-September, last year —
cool enough for my sweater
warm enough for your shorts.

Booth on the dark side
of neon
dividing that room.

 

 

 

car window cig flickers

the last acceptable lifestyle litter
pauses momentarily in the Matrix
fight choreography air
before gravity stomps it
to the asphalt
where it briefly flares
like a solitary meteor
mistaken for a sexy-cool shooting star
before being vacuumed
up into the guts
of my shuddering eco-friendly vehicle
then somersaulting on foam butt
to unforgiving shoulder
where it lies in soggy stasis
limp with lipstick
attracting curious puppies
and children with keen senses playing
one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other
among the pebbles and urine-tinged grass
while caretakers are preoccupied
smoking

 

 

one taste

does moonmilk quiver on every lake
you wade
because the whole world tastes like you now
umami and lychee slick

all
changing hands
to spin and push me from 10 directions
yours

the throats that sing and swallow me, yours
the world imagined in this electric lock, yours

I feel each fall of footsteps
called to the night

if you can read my light, dive

 

 

Ease the Transition

I swore I would not become the loft
where cats come to die
far from loved ones.

Yet here you curl in my shade,
stretch in my comfort.

Again I pour love like milk
into a chipped platter
and wait.

 

 

Coyote

Ring of oleander,
the arroyo: water filmed,
brown and white ducks
shower in desert noon.

Chihuahua monsoon
has passed.

Silent as solstice,
the spirit,
hand-length ears,
coat woven pyrite

He has seen
Franciscan theocracy,
burning kachina,
genocide.

He laughed
during creation
told the first lie.