Monday, July 27, 2020

Remember tangled limbs
Remember someone else's sweat
Remember soft lips hiding hard teeth
Cursing and laughing at the same time
Pull back. We can lose
what we need to lose, shed
what we need to shed. I slough my skin
then pin it to the wall, listen to it whisper
when the door blows open.
Stories of wet grass and dry sand.
Or dry grass and wet sand.
The story of the glass of ice. The hot macadam.
The story of two palms, paper thin,
writing stories on one another.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Staring through the transparent mountain
that separates me from the outside.
The thin, clear line
of melted, flattened rock
I would reach my hand right through it
As if it was a crystal pool
The morning sun ignites it
I press my palm against it,
a mirror of flame
still cool from the night.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Butterflies

At the post office, 
I complimented the woman behind the counter
on her face mask, covered in butterflies.
She glared at me and when I handed her a twenty
said they preferred if I could pay with a card,
said that there is a national coin shortage.
I made some joke about looking for change
in the sofa cushions. The woman
continued to glare. She asked me
if there was any contraband in my package,
any controlled substances, weapons or chemicals
or fireworks, any live animals.
Just a couple of books for my mother, I said.
She told me I had the zip code wrong,
made it sound like a personal affront,
made me change it myself.
I corrected it and put my card in the slot
and thought about the statues coming down,
the slave-owners freed from their pedestals,
the founding fathers finding themselves
tumbling to Earth. I thought about replacing
the faces on the coins with pictures of animals.
We've already tried eagles and buffalo,
why not jackrabbits, termites, porcupines.
As she printed my receipt I kept making
stupid jokes, trying to get her
to lighten up, but it was useless.
There was no smile beneath those butterflies.

Cottonwoods

Beyond the industrial park is the woods,
and beyond that the river.
The path through the trees is cobwebbed
with white fluff that drifts through the air,
catches in the blackberries.
The forest stops abruptly at the beach,
littered with logs and hunks of driftwood
and little shrubs with roots that cut
through the gray sand like electrical wires.
A yellow butterfly flits erratically, never landing.
A young woman stands at the water's edge
with her tiny daughter.
Waves from a speedboat slap the shore.
The wind picks up. The trees moan.
The woman reaches for the little girl's hand,
grips it so tightly the child grimaces
and squirms to escape.
The trees are waiting for her,
sending their downy emissaries
to show her how easy it is
to float away.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Very Fine People on Both Sides

Here come the fuckerbells,
the wingtarts, the zagnuts
Here come the fartlickers
and tithonkers. The goose suckers,
the pussy slappers.
Please, greet them with a mild smile
and albatross arms. 
Massage their cobalt taints, tarantula their scalps,
Squeeze oily tinctures and soothing ointments
across their bedbug freckles.
Polish their waxy foreheads,
squeeze their ruby blemishes
until they gleam.
If they hand you a book, and they will,
do not attempt to open it.
If they pass a greasy sack, don't peek inside,
no matter how enticing the smell.
In their minds, they are already busy munching
on what's left of your dignity.
For now, just smile
and gingerly shake their paw
when they extend it
and look forward to the day
when you can pick their hairy rat tails
from between your teeth.

Monday, June 1, 2020

I don't usually let myself want you
But today I miss my muse so hard
Your dark eyes, your warm lips,
Your dizzying breasts
I miss being inspired by you
Drawing you
Writing you poems
It's taking all my strength
To resist sending you a letter
Not a text or email; no,
I want to give you something
To hold in your hands,
Something you will touch
The way I wish I was touching you
Gently tearing open
Your envelope
I should mail you something
To put in your mouth
To melt on your tongue
A dollop of chocolate,
A pack of gum
That you can absently chew 
As you stare at your phone,
Scrolling through photos
Of all the guys
Whose muse you long to be

Thursday, May 28, 2020

the hungry beasts dance to your favorite alternative rock hits

two teenage brothers murdered their parents and younger brother in their home assisted by their cousin all three were skinheads one of them had sieg heil tattooed across his forehead the other two the word BERZERKER they stabbed the mother with a knife beat the father to death in his bed with a baseball bat all three got life sentences without parole

this all happened across town from where i lived i had a friend at the time who was obsessed with grisly crime stories we joked about us getting matching berzerker tattoos on our foreheads she was a sweet mousy girl with amazing legs i met her when she sold me a pair of shoes at mccrory’s in the mall I ran into her at the coffee shop a week later and we started hanging out nothing physical ever happened between us even though it seemed like all i could think about was sex ravenous for it she on the other hand seemed grossed out by the mere mention of anything erotic but god those legs i could never figure her out really we would sit in her living room and play sonic the hedgehog and listen to weezer later that year when the oj simpson trial was going on she was captivated and would call me nearly every day with updates

as the years went by we drifted apart i got tired of her prudishness had my heart broken pretty badly a few times still obsessed with women one night i went with some co-workers to see one of their boyfriends' band play at this place downtown called the Hotel Sterling upstairs it was still an old hotel frequented by pushers and prostitutes downstairs was divided into three narrow rooms one with a stage one with a long old bar and elaborate wedding-cake ceiling the third room was filled with  a hunting photographs and trophies including heads of deer and caribou and even a moose head plus an entire brown bear rearing on its hind legs next to a photo of the man who shot it standing next to his downed kill still clutching his rifle

i started going there nearly every weekend with my sketchbook preferring saturdays to the more meat-market vibe of fridays i would spend the evening nursing a couple of yuenglings in the room with all the animal cadavers keeping watch as i sketched people sometimes i’d have guys come up and want me to draw their portrait or their girlfriend's portrait and they’d give me a couple of bucks or buy a beer i could draw well but i wasn’t a great portraitist but i was fast and they were drunk and only occasionally did anyone seem ticked off by my incompetence mostly they acted impressed it got so the bouncer would let me in free one night i made fifty bucks the bands were almost always cover bands playing top hits from the previous year blur and green day smashmouth and foo fighters rage against the machine with the occasional timeless party anthem like sweet caroline thrown in it was a real pick up place and i’m sure there was a ton of coke being sold and consumed but i was always a little oblivious to that sort of thing hell i didn’t even smoke pot back then

i would sit in the corner hating myself and my drawings telling myself what a coward i was to be hiding behind a sketchbook i assumed everyone could all tell what i loser i was occasionally some woman would talk to me one night a woman chatted me up had a teenage kid she was very attractive but pretty drunk she was there with some friends she said she’d just gotten dumped kept talking about her ex who drove a zebra striped motorcycle at one point she said she had to run home and check on her puppy and did i want to come i surprised myself by saying yes she lived pretty close we'd only driven a block when she suddenly said look there he is and sure enough there was some dude on a zebra striped motorcycle whizzing past she lived in a beautiful old victorian house filled with books which was not what i expected the puppy was a huge ungainly golden retriever in a large plastic kennel in the kitchen she let it out and it jumped all over the place she fed it i couldn’t tell if i was supposed to make a move she wasn’t acting flirty or coming onto me she just locked the dog back in its kennel and we left when we got back she tried to get me to dance but i was too self-conscious so she went to dance by herself and that was the last i saw of her swallowed up by the crowd

many nights i would stay until closing even though i knew it was pathetic to wait around everyone left by that time was trashed and truly desperate i secretly wanted to go home with some drunk desperate woman i was drunk and desperate myself but with absolutely no self-esteem so i never took any action just filled sketchbook after sketchbook documenting my miserable existence

i didn’t drive so i would walk home late at night it was a twenty minute walk through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods one time some guys drinking out on their porch yelled and made fun of me as i walked past i heard the crash of a bottle another time a guy cruised slowly alongside me in his car for a number of blocks trying to get me to let him give me a ride It was scary but i didn’t have money for a taxi so i just kept taking my chances

one night a woman ten or fifteen years older than i saw my drawings and flipped out she gave me her number and insisted i call her she was attractive in a blonde skinny high strung kind of way she said she had been the school psychologist for the skinhead brothers who had murdered their family and she alluded to the fact that she had screwed something up with their case according to her the whole thing had been a fiasco so they didn’t do it i asked I didn’t say that she said i can’t really talk about it but let’s just say i don’t work for that school district any longer

i lost her number but ran into her a few weeks later she gave me a ride home at the end of the night we sat in her car talking a while with hunky dory playing on the stereo she was amazed that i knew all the words to andy warhol she dumped her purse in her lap it was filled with arrowheads she said she spent her free time combing the countryside for them she said she wanted to see my paintings and i invited her up but she said anther time

i did call her and she invited me to a party she was going to at the house of a guy she knew from the bar a high powered lawyer she picked me up looked great in a tiny skirt long tan legs we drove this modern gated place and she talked to me a bit then disappeared into the bedroom with some guy later on she told me he’d tried to kiss her one of our neighbors growing up was tending the bar i’d always had a crush on her very sexy i spent the time drawing and awkwardly attempting small talk the lawyer had an amazing collection of antiquities vitrines filled with figures and relics and masks from mexico and south america when my friend finally emerged from the bedroom she drove me home i wanted to kiss her but she was talking a mile a minute and i was too shy anyways the following week i called and left a few messages but she never got back to me and i never saw her at the bar again though a month later i saw that old neighbor there she sat with me a while and kept asking me who i thought was attractive there what about that girl she asked what about her she’s cute she scolded me for not being more confident with women i kept wondering if that was a hint but i couldn't bring myself to try to find out

i ran into someone i barely remembered from middle school who seemed to remember lots of things about me even though i could barely place her face hadn’t seen her in over a decade we had never been friends you were always drawing back then too she said you drew better than anyone else in school she was cute though she still looked like she was thirteen later I found her picture in an old yearbook and she did in fact look exactly the same we talked a while i wanted to get her number but was too shy never saw her again will never see her again her never aging face fading like the full moon at dawn

another old acquaintance from an art summer program in high school approached me one night we talked for hours made plans to get together she said she used to design sportswear she and had even worked as a mascot for a local sports team for a while dressing up as a bobcat or something we went on a few dates seemed to have nothing in common but she had a nice body and i liked talking to her she had a photographic memory collected Barbie dolls was obsessed with pop art andy warhol roy lichtenstein she obviously really liked me from the very beginning i was afraid of leading her on but god did i want to sleep with her and one night i gave in and kissed her and from there we started making out regularly though i hesitated to sleep with her especially as g felt myself growing more annoyed at her negativity finally one night I told her i didn't think we should go out any more she seemed on the verge of tears but then suddenly pulled herself together and said that it was alright that she had no intention of letting me break up with her

she got us tickets to see warren zevon at this little club across town he was great we got right up front he sang all the hits ended it with werewolves of london one of those songs I’ve heard so many times it’s hard to hear it fresh reconsider me was much better with just him playing alone on keyboards or my favorite roland the headless thompson gunner she looked really good but I restrained myself and didn't touch her once i could tell she was disappointed but i was proud of my own willpower

she came to see me at work a week later and asked what i was doing later i said i was busy but that night she called me anyways i gave in and admitted that i was heading down to the Sterling to draw she showed up there already pretty drunk we talked a bit then she wandered off and returned a half hour later holding hands with some guy she looked at me and smiled as she passed i just kept drawing she returned soon after saying she'd just made out with a different guy I’m such a slut making out with strangers she said i said okay and kept drawing i’m such a slut making out with strangers she said again and staggered off I decided it was time to get the hell out of there but didn’t want to be an asshole and just disappear i pushed through the crowd of girls in halter tops and dudes in baseball caps to find her sitting on a guy's lap in the room with all the animal heads she said wait wait and ran after me i’ll drive you home she said i said that's okay but she insisted it was freezing out so I relented when we got to my place she asked if she could come up and use the bathroom i sighed and said okay after she'd gone to the bathroom she started begging me to still go out with her saying she was in love with me and just wished she could make me fall in love with her by magic by this point i was completely repulsed an also hating myself for ever having led her on even though I'd been pretty clear the whole time that i didn't want anything serious I was usually the one being rejected being on the other side of it felt awful

despite how depressing it all was i kept going there week after week out of boredom or entropy kept drawing in the corner kept nursing my beer or two kept feeling sorry for myself and not good enough for anyone and too good for everyone and self-absorbed and thinking it’s no wonder you’re always so alone you self absorbed asshole

one night a pretty young redhead peeked over my shoulder to watch me draw we got to talking she was majoring in art history at kutztown a lib arts college about a half hour away she was impressed that i knew who jenny holzer and laurie anderson were i’d never met anyone there who had any serious interest in art she was there with her two roommates who wanted to go to this bar across the street and asked if I wanted to go i said sure it the place was called boca joe’s had a spring break sort of vibe thatched roofs and tiki torches even an entire vw bug for some reason painted in bright psychedelic swirls the crowd was ten times worse than at the sterling just desperate horny trash slobbering into their margaritas the art history major and i screamed to be heard over the music when her and her friends were leaving they asked if i wanted to go home with them that she would drive me back into town the next morning i was pretty taken aback but we squeezed ourselves into the cramped back seat of her roommate’s truck her knees were so close to mine

we drove to their attic apartment in downtown kutztown didn't mess around or anything she slept on a mattress on the floor and they put a futon mattress nearby for me the next morning the two of us went out to breakfast and she drove me home i asked if she wanted to come up and see my work she said sure i opened the front door of my apartment my cat was lying on the middle of the dining room floor i bent down to pet him and he was still and cold he had died in the night he wasn’t particularly old i hadn’t noticed him acting any differently i was shocked i could tell she didn’t know what to do i told her she should probably go i sat and cried and called an ex who came over that night we buried him in a shallow grave on the edge of a human cemetery he had been the first cat i ever had caleb such a sweet boy

despite this awkward beginning or maybe because of it we started going out she loved going to karaoke not to sing but to watch this guy who called himself rock and roll steve who haunted all the local places he was pretty terrible but in an endearingly over-the-top way we took a trip to new york and another to philly to see the museums she started to annoy me she was kind of a hippie and sort of laid back and spaced out but also really negative and sarcastic and always contradicting herself we made out a lot i tried to take her top off one night and she wouldn’t let me finally i told her i thought we should just be friends and she started crying said this always happens to me what did i do i didn’t do anything wrong and i reassured her that no she hadn’t that i just wasn’t sure how i felt and didn’t want to lead her i wondered why Iikept getting involved with these women who were even needier than me i realized that my low self-esteem was to blame but i had no idea how to change

one night i stayed until closing time then walked home i was about six blocks from my apartment there were some teenage kids sitting on the steps in front of a row home across the street one of them got up and crossed the street and began to follow me i could hear him behind me getting closer i started to walk a little faster i was almost home i heard him quietly saying are you gay hey are you gay i decided to ignore him and hope he left me alone he caught up to me and walked beside me and asked if i had any change i said no and his fist hit the side of my face so hard i fell into the street my glasses flew off i told him okay hold on gave him the three dollars i had he took the money and said and the change too i dug in my pocket found seventy five cents he picked up my glasses from the asphalt handed them to me and said here you go man and i continued home amazed he hadn't asked for my wallet my face hurt so much i was afraid i would lose a tooth

i didn’t go to the sterling much after that couldn’t afford to take taxis home and was too paranoid to walk at night besides there was a much better bar near my house where all the people i knew from the coffee shop hung out i did go back to the sterling once maybe a year later they’d renovated and put in a new stage and removed all the animal trophies whenever i hear songs from that era i can’t help but hear the cover version with the audience screaming along mindlessly as I sit in the corner horny and alone and dripping with self-loathing and drawing drawing all the time drawing as all around me the  other animals thrash and slaver and bare their fangs all of us drunk and ravenous and so fucking alone