These god damned fever dreams coming at night, at naps. Lately I’m beached at dusk, briny coastal fog helping the sun get spent, while I’m eaten alive by a blackened, scabby whale’s liver. And ambergris – word from a dream – a putrid smell strong enough to be there when I wake. Unless that’s just me now, rotting from the inside out. Diagnosis prognosis hypnosis, waking is a kind of psychosis where I learn that I can’t see much of anything and then find out that I wish I really couldn’t. Half-blind is normal enough with my lazy left eye doing what it wants, but on a hungover morning with both eyes gooey and gluey from whatever it is in the booze or the body or both that does that, the only thing I can really do is cover that wandering oculus with a grimy hand and look around from my sticky naugahyde bed for whatever in the hell is making those noises. “I’m going to take this,” someone says and I wonder if I had asked anyone over. The smell is normal the hell is normal the visitor is not. I kind of fall up off the couch and plod pigeon toed – why is hockey on the TV in August – across my tiny living room. There he is in my kitchen taking things and stacking them on the table while I let the doorway hold me up. A conspicuous lily sits his lapel and whispers up at him. He grabs a picture off the empty, buzzing fridge and doesn’t ask who it is because I guess he knows and says as much: “Your mother. Homely, and your freckles are a tether to her.” He cocks an ear to the lily and tucks the polaroid into his coat in a pocket with my toothbrush. Beyond his bony shoulder my pills – due for a dose – stand soldiered between inert oven coils and I worry over having to shimmy past him to get to the orange bottles. Socks on linoleum, a sweaty, graceless glide through six feet of fear that he doesn’t even notice. I push down and turn and ask “Are you taking my dictionary?” The fridge stops buzzing. The Bruins score in the living room. Over the mute bay a fog horn gives its bovine low. In place of an answer comes an unexpected correction: “Those are your morning pills you’ll need the others now.” I know they are I just woke up – but I’ll be damned if it isn’t umbrella black outside the fire escape.
cities burned and traffic stopped
people beaten by mobs of frightened citizens
supporting and defending each other
gathered and powerful
claiming to feel unsafe
the group growing
their security growing
they say with each other’s voices
somehow shrinking anyway
a man hides behind a mailbox
trying to be tiny
forgetting his red hat like a beacon
can I go
who can I ask
to find out what it feels like
if this crowd is so afraid of me
like they keep saying
why do I have to hide from them
they’re after me
and I feel unsafe
to find out what it feels like
does somebody know
because this me and this them
sure feels like all of us
so who’s left
and who gets to go
and who gets asked
and who gets to know
what it feels like to be safe.
I have such a bright memory –
our sturdy room that mom kept up
where we jumped from bed to bed
while thunder boomed outside
and you said
it’ll never stop raining.
But it did.
The sun came out and stayed.
You were dried
and have hoarded every drop
trying to outdrink the desert
The bottom has no rocks.
The bottom has no bottom.
all the way
If you were at the party on the boat
that cut the humid vapor
on the Big Muddy
that buggy Summer night
you would have seen Jim
who doesn’t drink now but said
Huck’ll bury a few shots for him.
And if you joined us in the smoke
on the deck that held the cricket’s counsel
when the calliope took a rest
you might have caught me
whispering to The Judge
that I heard
Tom saw your daughter
Becky thatch her roof
in nothing but a nightie.
But the Judge just sustained his stomach’s
minor objection to the drink,
belched a gassy pardon
and said he didn’t like to think
of that boy wearing girls’ clothes.
In October the wind came at its worst
and the rain became confused
from knowing how to fall
just plain down
The boy said the rain is going sideways.
His sister used one hand
to put up her hood
then casually closed her umbrella
because she knew
it wouldn’t help anymore.
The boy said hey we need that.
But his sister just put the furled umbrella
(a rainbow colored rebuttal)
under an arm
and used one hand
to help him put up his hood too.
The breath of Autumn
inhaled ’til the next handshake.
Summer sneaks back in.
It takes no thought to lace me up
or to walk in me towards home
where you abuse me.
But I’ll take your little beatings.
The casual wooden raps knocking loose
A few burdensome clumps of clay
to prepare for the run you hope to make
Then you drive my cleats into the ground
and that dirty friction of hard earth
stirs up hints of my own scented body –
plastic, leather, steel.
A strikingly visceral lineup.
If only I were you instead of your shoe
so your twisted beginnings could be batted from me
like the packed dirt underfoot.
A few practiced taps in just the right spot
and with each one, another old scandal
cascades to earth,
lost among the swept remnants
of the others like it.
But let it not be a mere swap.
Shame for shame
crime for crime
regret for heavy, stuck regret.
Let it be a breaking loose of aged burdens
so we may steal a faultless moment
when we strike out for home again.