In The End

In The End

I waited—with no one—
in the world’s most fierce, final storm.
There, in the greenish firmament,
a spider screamed, and birds decided
to watch banal TV shows in the air.

All the while, I chanted
the only words that mattered.
In the end, when the universe
was close to heat death
and circling God’s drain,
I had two thoughts—

but they evaporated like tears
in the sun, though there had been
no sun for ten billion years—
ah, I remember my two final thoughts…

I wish I had loved myself more,
and when I sank into eternity,
I wish it would feel like you,
and it did, and I finally fell
to pieces, atom by grateful atom.

In the Company of Rabbits

In the Company of Rabbits

When I opened my brain
with a black can opener
I borrowed from the dead,
I figured things would go
a certain way: I would see
the tendrils that connect one
awful thought to another,

but now I found myself giving
a speech to an audience of
rabbits (some robotic, some
organic, and some hybrid)
on the myth that eating carrots
will improve one’s eyesight,

a theory peddled by my 20/20
grandmother to her dim-visioned
grandson who would grow up
to be a man who borrows a can-
opener, peers inside his brain, and
finds solace in the company of rabbits.

Things I Don’t Know

I’ve started going through my poetry book collections and reacquainting myself with them, starting with James Tates Selected Poems. Tate had a major impact on me during my second year of college, most likely at the recommendation of my mentor and teacher, Dr. Lynn Burris Butler.

From the Poetry Foundation:

Many of Tate’s poems are character driven, featuring a narrator’s various encounters with a gnome, a goat, an insurance agent. In a 1998 interview, he pointed to one unifying element in his work: “My characters usually are—or, I’d say most often, I don’t want to generalize too much—but most often they’re in trouble, and they’re trying to find some kind of life.”

I hadn’t realized how much my style resembled his until I began reading his work again. When I’ve had my fill of Tate, I’ll turn my eyes back to the wonderfully weird Charles Simic.

My hope is that I’ll write more if I read more. That generally holds true for fiction, but aside from Stephen King’s recent (and excellent) short story collection If It Bleeds, I haven’t read any fiction…certainly not any that sparks ideas.

Things I Don’t Know

“There are some things you
don’t know,” she tells me as she
sews the children’s mouths shut.
She has a deft touch, and the
children hardly move as she works
the needle to and fro, humming.

“There are many things I don’t know,”
I say and begin sewing my own mouth
with a practiced hand, though I lack
her touch and soon begin bleeding
as the night blossoms deeply around us,
covering our little house in shadow.

Back on Planet Earth

I wrote this some time ago as a poem, but I think it works better as prose…maybe. I suspect it should be longer, but I don’t have it in me to produce long pieces, be they poems or prose. Once upon a time, yes, but those days are gone, and I suspect they won’t return.

“I ate a butterfly,” my son confessed late one night when the moon hid her face and the stars had twinkle-toed their way into the Great Beyond where giant creatures soared through interstellar space, a comforting prospect for me and my dutiful, sky-gazing, only child.

“I’ve heard worse,” I told him. “Hell, I’ve done worse, though butterfly eating isn’t the best thing in the world. You’re mom would have had a fit.”

I remember the time she cried in the backyard and I kissed her eyes until she stopped. She told me about memories she couldn’t have had, images of a past life she lived under violet clouds and three moons. We agreed that she was from another planet, and we acknowledged how terrible it was that she had to die on this one.

My son and I think that she must be one of the space creatures now, her cavernous mouth agape as she drifts in the cold darkness, lonely until she bumps until another creature she hopes is me or our son. Perhaps one day it will be, but for now she sighs an alien sigh and flaps her dark wings.

Back here on planet Earth, we struggle on. We etch our memories in sand, knowing they will fade with rushing water and wind. Some of us eat butterflies. The rest of us learn to forgive such things and try to smile.

Survivor’s Guilt

I quoted the first line of this poem the other day, which is actually a quote from my therapist. I’m sure I’ve posted it before, but I don’t feel like searching for it…and I want to share it again anyway. I feel myself located quite strongly in this poem. Not sure what that says about me about (probably nothing good).

 

Survivor’s Guilt

“Pain seeks its own level,”
you tell me as we look out

over the ruined city, eerily
beautiful in the moonlight.

I can hear the screaming
from here, or so I imagine.

You hold my face in your hands,
and I feel your breath as you

whisper, “You did not cause this.”
Far below, in the rubble, a hand

moves once and then stills forever.

Norm Reddick was from Nebraska…(freewriting)

I don’t write fiction much these days because it comes out as a garbled mess, as evidenced below:

Norm Reddick was from Nebraska but he died in South Carolina, where no one should die…or live, for that matter. 

It was July 5, 2019, about a year before corona-virus fucked us all over. Norm would have done fine with quarantine and isolation, because he was one seriously solitary dude. He died alone, in his kitchen, where by all accounts he was making mac and cheese and Vienna Sausages (a meal fit for a king, if you ask me, but no one asked me). When a neighbor noticed, three weeks later, an odd smell emanating from Norm’s place (in the middle of July, in South Carolina, where the mercury hovered at 98 degrees that entire week), she said to her friend Curly Cue Wilson, “It smells like that time my grandmother died and we drove up for a visit and the smell hit us as soon as we climbed out of the car. Lord Jesus.” She called 911, and they hauled Norm Reddick out on a gurney, covered by a sheet. The neighbor—Judith McLaren—shook her head and said to Curly Cue Wilson, “That’s a shame. Norm Reddick was halfway handsome. If he’d bothered to comb his hair once and while, he couldve been someone’s sweet dream.”

Curly Cue nodded but kept silent, and not just because she was a selective mute. She was thinking of Norm Reddick and how Judith was right. Even with his unkempt hair, Curly Cue thought Norm Reddick was a strikingly handsome man.He had been her sweet dream, and now he was gone. But had he lived, would he have ever noticed Curly Cue ?(real name of Ramona Piddle, but called Curly Cue on account of her pig-like nose and her affinity of all thing porcine, not including Norm Reddick who, if anything, had resembled a deformed whooping crane…but all things being equal, a deformed whooping crane that, even without minimal effort, met Curly’s definition of attractive).

“Well, that’s that,” Judith said and brushed her hands together as if ridding them of dirt. “Time to get back to our own miserable lives, eh, Curly?”

Curly nodded her assent, and later, dreamed that she and Norm were at Morrison’s cafeteria together, eating trout almondine and drinkng sweet tea. A waiter, who was missing an arm and had a spectacular gold tooth, approached them and ask, “Is everything to your liking?”

That was one clue she was dreaming; waiters never came to your table at Morrison’s or any other cafeteria. Curly wasn’t even sure why there waiters there, except they could carry the trays of the old people who couldn’t manage it. The other clue she was dreaming was that she talked freely and effortlessly. She often sounded like Lynn Redgrave in dreams, and that was okay with her.

“We’re fine, thanks,” Curly said in her dream.

The waiter smiled. Norm Reddick cleared his throat, and the waiter’s smile slipped. “Actually,” Norm Reddick said, “this fish is cold.”

“You’re eating it, sir,” the waiter said. “With gusto, I might add.”

“I’m also going to die soon,” Norm Reddick said, “so could you be a pal and heat it up again? Just nuke it, that’d be fine. You don’t need to fool with oven.”

“It would be my singular pleasure, sir,” the waiter said with a certain note in his voice that told Curly heating up Norm Reddick’s trout almondine woud actually not be a singular pleasure. And then Curly began to cry, because Norm Reddick said he was going to die…and her dream-self knew it.

When she woke up, she was still crying.

The Black Record

The Black Record

“I’m listening to blackness
and getting lost in it,” you say
showing me the record.

“Play it,” I say, and you
place the needle gently
in the groove of the first track.

“I’ve only listened it once all
the way thro—” you begin to say,
but we both slip into that night space,

that infinite shadow, where language
and thoughts have never existed,
just wave after wave of blank silence.

A Portrait

 

As previously noted, clocks appear rather often in my poems.

A Portrait

It was he: master of the nondramatic
handshake, non-functioning plumage,
and reasonless flicks of the tongue.

He was a fan of asocial sunset parties
and slick, adamant monotheism.

He was known to drag his eyelids.

No one sniffed when he parceled
out a spit of land for his dreams and lunged
for the kindest security he could find,
a maiden of gray habits and uniform grins.

Together, they invented wild secrets
as they quietly crept into small clocks.

Road Trip

Road Trip

My shallow breath should be
a giveaway, as it rattles in my
lungs and does its best to fog
up the windows of your car
but it can’t quite manage…

like so many things about me,
it’s only half-right, functions only
at a diminished capacity–my broken
thoughts, my shrunken confidence,
a puzzle missing key pieces.

You turn the the car back on and
drive through the night without
headlights, taking your chances,
chain-smoking and listening to oldies
while I try to convince myself I’m real.

The Going Rate

I’m going through old poems and editing them since I have so little time (or energy) to write these days. I think this poem appeared on this blog at some point.

The Going Rate

She was dog-ass drunk when he asked her,
“What’s the going rate for damsels
in distress these days?” and slid closer
“Not a lot,” she said, eyeing him. Not too bad,
probably even better with the lights off.

She wobbled off her bar stool, grinning,
remembering when she was younger, hoping
for more than one AM nights and a double
vision Prince Charming, his horse a weary
Dodge pick-up, barely street-legal.

They meandered to a Haggard tune,
kissed and groped in the dim wattage
that eventually bled into night.
She greeted the morning with a black eye
and he, late for work, drank breakfast.