Mary, Queen of Eyeballs

Mary, Queen of Eyeballs

Her reign had its ups and downs,
like the time Sir Bevel went blind and
begged for an audience, to which the
queen grudgingly agreed, sitting on
her throne—idly toying with two slick
eyeballs, fresh from the skull of Lady
Jordanson, late of the world as of ten
minutes ago—and waiting for Sir Bevel.

“Mine eyes failed me!” cried Sir Bevel
upon his arrival, and the queen sighed.
“You failed yourself,” she said and clapped
her hands once, prompting the guards to
seize Sir Bevel, who shrieked and carried on
until the queen held his sightless orbs and
decided they would adorn her crown, their
cloudy pupils close to her favorite shade of blue.

Regrets

You buried your
regrets in the backyard
and they took root,
blooming every spring.
Rather than fight it,
you water them with
your tears and cut their
blossoms to adorn
your hair and spread
in your bathwater.

I visit you one still,
gray afternoon and find
you standing amidst
the overgrowth, the yard
practically taken over with
blood-dark petals, and you
say, “I’ll never sell this
damn house now, will I?”

The Last of the Light

The best place for us is the dark
even though your childhood was soaked
in shadows and mine was a grayscale
dress rehearsal for future calamity.

None of that matters when you look at me
and my reflection in your eyes isn’t ugly.
Hope stirs in me as the last of the light fades,
and our hands find each other, holding tight.

Forgetting

I feel your absence as keenly
as a lost limb, the phantom pain
of your voice waking me in night
with its refrain: what will you do?
I have no more an answer now than
the day you boarded the black train,
its passenger lulled into forgetfulness
by the hum of the wheels…all except
for you, of course, the one who never
needed help forgetting anything.

My Student Asks If Flannery O’Connor Is My Wife

This happened back when I taught middle-school. The student in questions was a nice girl who was completely serious. There was no reason for her to know who Flannery was (unlike in the poem, I explained to the student who she was and assured her that she was not my wife). The John Lennon question threw me a bit more because why on Earth would I have a poster of myself in my classroom? Or a poster of myself anywhere?

My Student Asks If Flannery O’Connor Is My Wife

I have three postcards of her—two photographs,
one painting—and my student ambles over to my desk
and asks in all sincerity, “It that your wife?”
I study Flannery for a bit, in the first postcard, where
she stares into the camera with a half-smile, her blue
eyes intelligent and humorous behind her glasses,
the curl of her hair just visible on the side of her head.
The image is just a touch out of focus, lending Flannery
a ghostly air, as if she just floated in some time after
her death and someone snapped one last photo.

I glance at the three framed pictures of my desk
that show me, my wife, and my two children—color
pictures, obviously recently taken, our faces full of life,
in full focus, a split-second of captured happiness.
“Yes, Flannery is my wife,” I say. “She’s a bit older,
but we’re quite happy. She stays in Andalusia most
of the year, and I see her when I can. We read each
other stories and drink tea and watch the peacocks.”
My student nods, completely satisfied, and turns
to the poster of John Lennon on the wall. “And that’s you?”

Mental Health, Writing, and the Slippery Nature of Time

If you were to ask me, “How long has it been since you’ve written anything?” my response would be as overly dramatic as it would be incorrect. I’m not great with time in general, and things that happened in the ’90s might as well have been a few months ago. My wife and children know better than to rely on me for accuracy in recalling when most things happened aside from birthdays and momentous events. Even with things like that, it’s better not to bring me into the conversation.

I just looked at my last post, which was in April, but it feels closer to a year ago. Whenever I take extended breaks from writing, two things happen. First, I’m utterly convinced that I’ll never write again, and second, the break will feel exponentially longer than the actual time period. This has been the case since early high school, when I set myself on the path to be a Writer, the capital W carrying the distinction of being a published writer one day, as if that magically changes anything about the nature of writing itself. Of course it doesn’t; I’ve been a writer since I was nine years old and wrote a strange free-verse poem about the nature of God that freaked my conversative grandmother out.

In any case, the pandemic and lockdowns took my already depleted passion for writing (depletion set in motion by a house fire we endured in 2019) and pretty much killed it. I suppose I shouldn’t say killed it…let’s say choked it to a point that all vital signs dropped so low as to be practically undetectable. During that time and into the current world situation of another American mass shooting, the odd specter of monkeypox (it really needs a better name), and the increasing dumbassery of folks like Marjorie Taylor Greene in my adopted home of Georgia, I’ve stayed med-compliant but also away from the keyboard and journal. This weekend, for some reason, the fog lifted somewhat. Perhaps it’s because I went to my church to rehearse for our upcoming VBS (vacation Bible school, for those not familiar with the term) during which I’ll don the felt after a two-year hiatus and perform the puppet. When I was there–interacting with people in earnest for the first time in over two years–I felt a twinge of my former self emerge. I’m still an introvert and prefer being alone to doing anything social, but it felt almost good to be around people. I say “almost” because I’ll never be completely shed of social anxiety and the grab-bag of other neuroses that have permanent residency my brain. I’ve come to accept that about myself, and I’m proud that none of my issues prevented me from saying yes to performing during this year’s VBS.

What does that mean for me creatively? Will I start writing music again (a rather recent casualty after an impressive pandemic run of writing two or three songs a day)? Will I start writing in the morning again as I drink coffee, like I used to?

I’m not sure. I’m rather surprised to find myself writing this, which is easily the longest, blog-like thing I’ve written in years… no exaggeration. I’ll continue trying to take it easy on myself and not give too much credence to my inner-critic voice that can come up with some truly hateful things to say. Maybe I’ll see if I can still tune into the Cosmic Signal and shake loose a poem tomorrow. I hope so. Until then, vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen beckons me, and I should answer. Be well.

P.S. There are mostly likely several typos in this post, and they’ll just have to stay there.

Road Trip

I get up to the old thus-and-so game
every now and then, and my old lady
starts carving out a new home in the
black hills of South Dakota, which is

my cue to high-tail it back to Alabama
with a dimebag on my knee to find a
replacement for our dear old dog Fancy
who took a bullet meant for me last year.

“Bring me back something nice!” my old
lady shouts at me as I drive away from my
broken home full of broken dreams and
promise myself, this time, I won’t fuck up.

Last Night

Two poems in one day? Who do I think I am?!?!

Last Night

I smoked a whole bowl
of ground-up teeth and it
made me think of licorice
nights when you and I
co-mingled with deadly
dares and stared point
blank into eclipsing suns
while the band played a lazy
version of “Sympathy for
the Devil,” the only Stones
song you ever liked, and I
held your shaking hands,
saying, “One day, we’ll find
the time to love each other.”

Obsession

“What’re you obsessed with?” she asked 
before her her mouth melted away and
time, having lost all its stitches, unraveled. 
I thought of a dozen lies, some of which
made me quite proud, but I opted to tell
the truth, though her ears had long since gone.
But when did that occur? There was no way
to tell anymore, and that was for the best,
given the terrible weight of the world and
the failed dreams of everyone, not the least her.

Winter Evening, Reading Akhmatova

Was it prophecy that made you cry?
Was it exiled tongues and luxurious bloodbaths?
The hills ringing with the screams of sons
stolen in the night and you, like Grendel’s mother,

running toward that awful sound, recalling
your newborn’s cry, that silver fulcrum on which
your heart first broke? No…the truth is harder
than that, offering the kind of hard clarity

that follows death or after a lover, seeking newness,
sheds you like an old coat, disappears into another life.
What then, Anna? What is left for us, poets without
a homeland, men and women saved from the fire

only to be drowned in the icy river? What is beautiful
now that voices are silenced again and hatred springs
from the head of a malignant Zeus? Would you save us
or would you smile and tell us to fight our own battles?

I long to see you in the doorway of The Stray Dog,
eye dark with promise, your lips like hot coals, and I’m
stuck in this time, breathing air that could spell my doom.
Save me a seat in that fabled café. I will find my way to you.