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wine & iron
How do I manage to have trouble getting to class at 3 o'clock in the fucking afternoon? How can I have trouble falling asleep before 5 o'clock in the morning? It feels like some joke my body plays on me, seeing how much I'll put up with before I give up. The simplest tasks out of routine (hell, sometimes even the routine ones) push me to the edge of frustration. I want to flush my darkness down the toilet, waste you'll never see. But too often I let it cloud our morning, let it get under your skin without apology.
Been up late doing some kind of
amateur hacking, the kind having
nothing to do with tracheal aching.
Was trying to get my words back –
not back, but away from all of the
places they shouldn't be, saved in
electronic boxes, folders, neatly,
unable to wear, erode. Yeah, I was
rescuing our world from remnants
of toxic poison, to go overboard
about it. It's still exaggerated
in my mind as the end of…
well, what would've been
the end of… something,
something more than you and me,
something bigger in me standing
alone, or not standing at all.
Wrote a poem on Dylan the other
night, was bothered that it did
no justice. Didn't expect it to,
but a surprise would've been nice.
Got the next worksheet of poems,
From my show-and-tell, most
seemed to hear my trailing words
(or got more use of them anyway),
that my life is made up of little
moments like these.
But one, Joanna, with dark eastern
hair and Cleopatra's nose and skin,
used the moment's object:
"dropped the old keychain in the water.
I've had it since high school. It is
a symbol of a troubled relationship
I had with myself."
Because I gave him the benefit
of the doubt, thought maybe he
didn't know any better. Because
Angie never woke up to find him
there when I called her name at
night. Because Raeann didn't tell
anyone either. Because I buried it,
and the voice that might reveal
the secret. Because Matt was
the first person I let touch me after
him, and all Matt cared about
was touching me too. Because I
finally let Michael kiss me at 17.
Love? Because I kept cheating
since all touch felt empty anyway.
Because bodies could no longer
be components of love.
Doing laundry, something so mindless,
we needed a chemical fix.
No, not ‘needed'. But we took
some pills anyway.
"They're there for those people
to take when they're hurting,
in pain, depressed –
just to feel normal. They can't
appreciate it like I can."
And you had our justice outlined.
Satirically, I hoped.
I couldn't understand why you felt
funny – headaches and fuzzy stomach.
Topping off your dose with
two prozac behind my back,
I had to think of Kelly,
her mother-dubbed ‘good-for-nothing'
guy, and her mother's empty
Maybe that's why my father always
counted his pills every night.
I remember writing a poem comparing
the crescendo of an orchestra to an
orgasm, long before sex, just a concept
in my head of that build up to the ultimate,
a metaphorical… ideal?
Well, you fingered all of those white
piano keys just right, left my
heartstrings playing like violin chords,
trumpets exhaling in triumph.
Cliché, but it's like a symphony
in my blood. Did you ever listen
to a sonata or musical masterpiece
so affectionately that even those
feather light notes hit the bone?
The booming orchestral climaxes
almost make you feel stoned?
Beethoven, Mozart, eat your heart out.
In literature we read one called
The Things They Carried. He gave
a good juxtaposition of external
versus internal. Side by side, a picture
of bullets and hand grenades, two-
to twenty-pound guns right along
to a picture of men clutching letters
and pictures of loves, trudging along
with the weight of dead men's hearts,
memories of their bloody bodies
lying bent as broken bramble in
jungles where politics makes murder.
I thought of Eric, and how I promised
I would write him once he got stuck
in green fatigues and tents.
Where are you now anyway, Eric?
I hadn't even thought of that
whole scenario until
you brought it up.
I asked to make sure you weren't
going back to town for the weekend,
to make sure I wasn't riding in
the pink bubbly company of a
Dixie-Chick-singing primping sue
when I could be belted in alongside
you, humming Louis or tapping
the steering wheel to some BR tune.
But the question tangled your appetite,
reminder of a disregarded rendezvous
talk, reminder of a conscience
veering from its tracks, a trust
Thank you for the reminder.
And I mean that; I should not
Missed another slam tonight,
the second in a row. I guess
you lucked out, ready to go with me,
to listen to my music of solitary
voices uttering life into
unbreathing air. But the place
was jam-packed, and I wasn't
about to put you out
after you gave in.
Two weeks from now, though,
when the next two come along,
you'll be up on that stage too.
Guitar in hand and poetry of
Dylan on your tongue, perhaps,
you'll give a song for every poem
I pound out of the bag.
Perform? Performers? Performance?
Hit the stage?
Break a leg?
We went to Strombolli's for dinner
with your mother, who's staying
at the cabin, who you swear
She gave all the updates
on family news you've missed,
mentions Uncle Mark being up
to visit soon, remembers Mel?
And Mel's… Suzanne?
who's two weeks dead or so.
She recounted the whole story of
Mel meeting a seemingly no-good gal;
gal gets cancer; dies.
"They got in a boat –
friends or family or… someone,
who knows who wanted
to go – and
tossed her ashes
over the lake.
And that was the end of Suzanne."
Humorous cancer story?
Only your mother…
We're reading Chopin's "The Awakening." I've only begun it, but I know from class discussions that it's another one of those novels – the type that seems to dominate this class – weak hearts, weak women, conventions that squash ‘self' into a wedding band. Everyone wants to escape.
By the end, the woman has had an affair – more than once if mental infidelity counts – and she's thinking of her husband, her children, thinking of how they stole her away from herself.
She walks out into the ocean, swims until she can't see the shore, until she can't swim back.
Ain't life sweet?
First time in years,
my mother's entire family in one room,
Allens all abound.
Ricky and Ray:
balding heads still fuzzed by
persistent whiskers; blue-eyed
flatulent family clowns.
minus – a husband and three children;
added – four inches of hair and
head first into a war; you'll have
our prayers when the navy
buys your life.
look at those mama-long-legs
limbs; blonde flip; pink lips; Daddy
better watch out for this one.
Raeann and Will:
putting back beers?
in front of the folks?
have I got some growing up to do…
Grandpa and Lida:
I hated it when we moved in –
pale pink walls whispering
femininity into my sleep
like tapes of hypnosis.
And the afternoon sun would
blaze through those blinds,
heating my black-covered bed
to an oven of blankets.
A terrible room…
But now, now it's something
more… and less.
Now it's an office fully decked
in the trimmings of
military insignia – planes,
flight suit patches, encyclopedias
of war machinery –
even the bedspread with an
I had to sleep under the universe
of my father's obsession.
I'm glad it's more than
puke pink walls,
sad it houses wars, bloody history.
Before leaving town, we catch
a visit to your dad's.
Showing me one of the mementos
he bought you (on his travels?
a cruise with Luann?):
a Venetian mask,
beige and blue.
One side is plain, seemingly
gilded with laurel curls;
the other, a geometry of navy
painted across forehead, nose, cheek,
lined with a dark golden seam.
Its eyes are empty, dead;
mouth, stiff and furtive.
It hangs on the left wall
of the cave now, giving thought
to theater masks, veils,
guises and skins of hiding.
Can't help but wonder if
it watches us sleep,
playwrights our dreams.
An exam coming up in sexuality,
you're briefing yourself on
the Zen Sex text.
‘I think you should read
the last chapter in here –
The Way of Acceptance
‘What makes you say that?'
‘Nothing. Just what others said
about it in class or what I've
seen… I just think
you would benefit from it;
it would be good for you.'
‘Why? What'd they say?'
Then I can't squeeze out
one goddamn word more.
What a time to hold
It's as unsettling as
a pissed-in drink; every time
you dodge the topic, I want
to strangle the words out.
You tell me about your sexuality professor's
raunchy anecdotes, his open confessions
of where he's done the deed, what
he's seen; I'm intrigued.
At one of their little… conferences?
he got an ogling dose of bestiality,
women getting fucked
‘He likes to be very open to
others' sexual preferences, fetishes;
he's fine with anything
as long as it's consensual and
doesn't involve kids.
And, well, these women were
getting paid for it, and the animals
seemed to be having
quite a good time.'
You chuckled at that.
My jaw dropped.
I just can't take this
sick shit lightly.
I wanted to be watching it
in solitude – could have, but
my effort is rarely in forethought.
I wanted to construct my own
four walls, own small room
to watch you in your prime.
Here you were, a broadcast
spanning the entire country,
three musicians on a national stage.
Your djembe, your harmonies,
fingernails, hair, and skin.
I couldn't see your eyes
(but your nerves were taut?)
I couldn't hear my name
(but was it somehow said?)
Still a summer and weekend
flew to me in music beats and in
a reflection from blank black lenses.
La luna sonrió anoche
Guess who I ran into tonight?
My sophomore year crush.
(God, I hate that word.)
Kessler. A freshman (how taboo,
socially criminal), new to the school,
to me, to my senses; quiet,
kept to himself, I figured,
or it seemed.
But within a few weeks or longer
he had signs up with his name,
running for some student council office;
and shortly after, his face appeared
on Monday morning announcements.
My interest disinvolved itself
the more he got involved.
Silly anti-social girls…
Now I don't think he even
knew my name when I gave
Hello again anyway, John.
Another afternoon waking
ready to crawl out sleepily
and dazed, start a plain morning
at 1pm. But we rest a little longer
Somehow certain things come up –
or one, anyway, that has crept
into my conscience all week –
and I feel the clouds
before I'm out of the covers.
‘Wait, I can't get out of bed.
I need something good
to think about first.'
I mope in bed, upset that
a decent morning found ruin,
waiting for shadows to fade,
waiting to rise brightly –
for your sake.
You call me selfish,
like I'm seeking bedroom-dark pity.
purple. bland. gay. trite. sing.
please. you. beeline. cash. rope.
igloo. work. once. maybe. lady.
liberty. shoe. grease. frat. fly.
crying. ugly. pity. yellow. thin.
tiger. hurting. band. whiplash.
teacher. supply. hunt. year.
plain. oval. exotic. zen. few.
crisis. wine. dull. width. plywood.
more. say. always. toss. pile.
hump. dry. inkling. sky. if.
hour. eye. bite. goodies. jinx.
lap. japan. crystal. red. frequent.
vindicate. cede. sew. opium.
truly. oklahoma. never. kite.
dire. excrete. sadly. indifferent.
public. knowledge. hay. raw.
pubescent. jitterbug. colloquial.
but. vary. member. imbue. hijinks.
locksmith. dover. cozy. play.
forever. greet. slate. charcoal.
bum. blush. huff. clever. simple.
‘You know, you're really not
a morning person.'
No shit, Sherlock.
(God, I used to hate when my dad
would say things like that –
half of the time only because
he said them in excess.
Maybe it had something to do
with being a public speaker;
but yeah, he had enough trite
phrases like that to
put you to sleep.)
You know, I got a whole slew
of nicknames for the bitter taste
I brought to everyone's morning.
Man, I was such a bear,
grizzly at the waking sun
stealing my dreams away.
Ever try interrupting
a bear's hibernation?
All night working on trying to edit, revise, patch together, and tear apart something to have for tomorrow. I feel like I've barely gotten anywhere. Remind me why I agreed to do this again?
(I say agreed, like I had nothing to do with the idea.)
Morning Sick Notions.
How Did We End Up Here.
Accustomed to Quiet.
Not exactly the pieces to win over an audience with. But they're all I've got for the night. I'm tired and worn of words. And of course, now, thinking of Raeann's past year, Dove's aloof detachment and misunderstood parting, Lynn's cancered body…
Thank you, baby.
I don't know what else to say
except for that.
You got up there, my guitar
in hand and Dylan's words
on your lips, and raised my spirits
just at seeing us
outside of your place,
outside of our common
sense of selves.
But not just that…
You got me up on that stage.
You brought those words
out of my throat and into the air.
You are what anchored me
in contentedness when my awkward
nerves sent confidence reeling.
Thank you for the glances
that needed no words,
for the consideration
in your touch.
I kept thinking about his poem.
I don't know, it had nothing
to do with conceit or with that part
of any girl which looks
over her shoulder when she hears
a whistling catcall.
It's not like I heard my name
or caught a side-eyed glance.
No reason to address his words
to me as they entered
my eager ears.
But I did.
‘I never thought I would
meet someone who liked…'
‘But when I try to talk,
I get caught up in uh's and
wha's and umm's…'
It was Neesha's presence
spoken of. Did she hear
with my ears?
Would he slap me
if I told him how proud I was
that he was so blissful in
It's a shame the constraints
of my faith couldn't agree,
that my ‘brothers and sisters
in love' would shun him,
because he is a master of laughter,
a connoisseur of vogue;
enigmatic gaze – he's a
Calvin Klein dream,
this king of queens.
I search for his lovers,
ones he has not yet met.
His unknowing family and fears
that crowd his proud poise
are erased when I look at him
as the man growing in this
I shouldn't be here.
All I wanted was to spend
time with her. But now,
I'm watching her live
regrets she doesn't realize yet
(or maybe she does –
I've seen us both act out
things we claimed to hate).
Will's at home, asleep, and
Tony's pretending he's not
just replacing a better man.
She's as blind as I've been,
as blind as we make ourselves
to the shadows of opportunity.
The smile on her face is etched
out of customer service grins
she spreads over pursed lips
like mood-changing butter.
I hope she learns
to hate the taste.
You noticed I came home a little less than chipper. I didn't want to explain.
I didn't mind the weekend home without you. It was good, seeing Alex, my sister, of course my parents. It was good for us to have the space –
except that I force myself to wonder (worry?) about what fills it… when I'm gone, when you're gone.
When we got off the phone, I screamed into the air of my sister's empty apartment, smacked her leather couches with balled up fists. But I don't want to explain.
I guess I got green over nothing big anyway.
Getting ready for class,
I catch bits of news flashing
on the TV screen while I'm too busy
to change channels.
Half a state away, at U of A,
another man wanted to be heard.
He loaded four or six or who knows
how many guns into his bag,
tossed in extra rounds
of ammunition, came to class.
8:30 am, mid-term anxiety the only
preoccupation on the agenda,
he walks in and
With enough bullets to load
dozens more to leaded death,
what explains why he only took
lives of three professors
Tragedy's feeding on tragedy…
What is safety? What's crazy
and insane and what's supposed
to keep us toeing the
It's been awhile since I walked
so nervously, since I feared
what was around
Remember that movie line,
something like ‘what if I told you
crazy was working 40 hours a week
for 40 years, only to be laid off at
the end of it all and replaced and
live the rest of your life barely
affording yourself the
dignity of making it
to the bathroom
I'm watching my step today,
and marking my decisions,
A supreme picture in your words –
not of you but of cerebral adventures
I miss out on in your mind.
I see a summer backpacking –
jaunts through Scotland, and
India with a love that still makes
your heart gingered,
to come here, to find my face
remembered on first sight.
You complain about rejections,
publishing words to only
your own pages and local eyes.
But I see the god you claimed
is giving clarity,
ingenuity. I see
the grandeur of his voice in yours,
find a halo around your words,
see the life of them sealed in
mental envelopes –
Do you know how long it's been since I celebrated Halloween? I can't recall. I remember, at best, maybe three Halloweens from my childhood.
I was a clown one year, and I only remember despising my costume, adoring my improvisational mother.
Another year, I recall no costume, only fainting the next day, scraping my back on a door knob at McKenzie's.
Another year, all four of us kids in the family were my parent's project – a refrigerator box, washing machine tubing, and same-hued sweats and turtlenecks, paint. We boxed ourselves inside, cacooned, and slogged along as a massive four-man caterpillar.
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