I vaguely remember writing this short piece. I was looking through old work when I stumbled upon it and decided to make a few changes her and there. I may have posted it here before, but I’m too lazy to look.
There’s nothing left for me here, but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving.
I’ve grown accustomed to the ache, the longing to be elsewhere, which is what I feel most days. Some days, it’s all I can think about. Me grabbing what I can cram in Mama’s pink and brown suitcase and shoving his old car in gear, willing it to work at least across the state line. I don’t felt that way when he starts playing that old guitar, the one his father stole for him the Christmas he turned thirteen, that he doesn’t touch unless he’s been drinking. He coaxes such beautiful music from the instrument, it nearly makes up for his wreck of a voice, his hesitant delivery, the way he stumbles over words he should know.
“You don’t understand music,” he always tells me, but what he means is, “You know more that I do,” so I keep my mouth shut and listen to him. The music is like a lover, a more patient one than him, this would-be musician playing in our tiny, cramped living room
The winter night lurks outside the windows, waiting to creep in when the lights are off and we’re in bed, clothes scattered through the place, his hands wandering across my body, re-staking his claim to make sure my dreams of leaving don’t come true for a little while longer.
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.
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?”
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.
I have mixed greens for memory
and an old window for a mouth.
It’s expected for some people of
the older generation, like myself,
when the laws of attraction were
more rigid and a man could count
on times spent alone–a few months–
but not this hellish stretch of years,
time like an old rubber band that
once held newspapers together,
and all the headlines screamed:
MAN SPENDS FINAL DAYS ALONE.
It would be funny if it wasn’t true, I tell
my reflection, which wants nothing to
do with me and decides to vanish,
looking for another mirror to haunt,
hoping beyond home it wont be another
selfish, long-in-the-tooth bastard like me.
She gave birth to a baby
missing his third eye but
with remarkably imitative skin–
as he grew, he often looked
like Rock Hudson or Rex
Harrison or Clark Gable
(though his mother wasn’t a fan,
thinking Clark Gable looked like
a well-dressed monkey), always
morphing into men from Hollywood’s
golden age, eschewing anyone new
all because his mother had gone
to pray at Forest Lawn and fallen
asleep and an unholy ghost had
overshadowed her, filling her with
life and deep sorrow as she murmured,
“I am the Handmaiden of The Hills,
be it done unto me according to thy
lustful will,” a fate set not so much
in stone as celluloid, stretching to
accommodate all the pain and beauty
splashed so recklessly across the screen.
I worry about the smallest of things
like the wound yesterday’s spider
incurred when it tumbled to the ground
and bent its leg backward and let out a tiny
spider moan that I somehow heard and knelt on
the floor and whispered, “I am so sorry
that happened, the world is a terrible place.”
“Break some glass and come on in, there’s
there’s plenty more to break here!” Mrs. Kurtz
said and cut a bloody pirouette across the foamy
carpet made glorious summer by this son
of a York Peppermint Patty–Mr. Kurtz–strutting
like the cock of the walk around the shards of glass,
carrying on some counterpoint to her nonsense,
he being vaguely aware of how silly they both were.
Guiltily, we grabbed some drinking glasses and
shattered them against the fireplace, the sound
reverberating and spreading like panic in a crowd,
and we sobbed without knowing why except our
hosts were crying, also, showing us their bleeding
hands and feet, Mr. Kurtz wounded even in his side,
and we decided that we could worship them–they
would do nicely as deities, since all others had failed us.
“How can you hate what I love?” she asked
draped over the sofa, ellipses stuck in her throat…
“Because I hate everything,” he answered
and deposited a lifetime of trust in an off-shore
account that the instantly forgot existed.
She thought about his words, and then she
thought about her relationship to the words,
so she took a powder and disappeared somewhere
up north, and he collected fall-out shelters
and moved among them like a wanted man.
I absorbed the style of your night,
your courage like a good-sized cocker
spaniel, crouched and hackles raised,
ready to protect you at a moment’s notice.
But you don’t need protecting, do you,
with your prodigious smile and thick
intentions, hogging all the finger sandwiches
at the Banquet of Forlorn and Spurned Lovers?
My, how you haven’t grown, remarked
the 135-year old woman, frail and blue.
It was true enough, though you rejected
her words like you rejected me year ago.
You moved with the the speed of paper
cut, small but fast, redolent with outsized
pain while the rest of us redrew our maps,
marking off the places deemed too dangerous.