Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Dispatch from the Cascadia Subduction Zone

Am I alive? I was told I was but there was no way
of proving it. After years of documenting
the various parking lots and waiting rooms
I’d spent so much of my life skulking around
the edges of, after years of withering
under the condescending smiles of the Shirley girls
as they posed coyly at the fringes
of their color-corrected ropes,
smiling as if at a little boy lighting his first cigarette,
the earth shrugged and let us slip through its fingers.
I was already about half buried
when the slide commenced.
Never stood a chance. Only choice
was to try to eat my way out, chew a path
through my neighbors, my comrades, my fellow working stiffs.
It could always be worse. Even at my lowest point
I could still feel the squish and crush of bodies beneath me.
I never hit the true bottom. What was down there, anyways?
Bedrock, concrete? A metal grate
to allow the blood and pulp to drain?
An ocean of magma? I look up
but my view is blocked by asses, backs,
flopping appendages, fingers scrabbling to climb.
I no longer hear the low, constant drone.
I catch glimpses of light but it’s not the sun,
it’s the flame of something burning high above,
sending down an occasional spray of sparks
and we open our mouths so they may singe our tongues.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Glass Bachelor


Fanned out like a deck of cards,
A spiral staircase made of glass shards.
The neighbor's blender bores through the wall.

Bachelor balances on his crutches
at the bottom of the stairs
Waiting for the bride to descend.

They say it’s supposed to snow tonight, I said.
That’s okay, she said, placing her hand on my arm.
I want you to stay. I’ll drive you to work
in the morning. The weathermen
are never right anyways.

I'm stiffening into metal 

one limb at a time.
The moon is a white hot forge. Melt and pour

into a sieve. She rolls over in bed.
There's fire down below. She needs
so much more. I stare up 

the carpeted stairs, waiting for her 
to spread her legs, to open the door.

A sheet thrown over a glass of milk.
The  moon is a urinal cake. The river overflows.

A crown, a bottle rack.
She pedals her exercise bike. 

Fan left whirring night after night. She claims
she can't sleep without it. 
Spokes spinning atop a rickety stool.
 

A tumbling smile.
I slide down the banister. Nuzzle
her Mona Lisa fuzz. Smoke rises from

smoldering coals.
The origin of the world
squeezed through twin peepholes.
A waterfall, a lantern, a fountain

The undulating hills,
My face buried in the snow

The aquarium froze and cracked. Fish turned
into shimmering gems. Bubbles hovering in place,
globes filled with her breath.
The frost-covered nest.
She curses when she comes.
A chessboard of lust. The queen's climax,

an overturned pawn. A melted shovel,
a statue of Duchamp sliced into facets.
Pillows and porcelain. Mortar and pestle.
Muse laid to rest in a snow globe cemetery.

The moon is a hole in the ice 

photographed from below. The engine belches smoke,
lurches to life, spits out copies of us. 
Ceramic plates strapped to our feet. 
Disks become shards
become spheres when they spin
The bachelors surround her. 

I'm no longer one of them. I'm turning to rust.

It snowed overnight
just like the weathermen had predicted.
She refused to get out of bed.
I checked the bus schedule,

strapped on my suit of gray glass armor
that reflected the gray glass sky
then shouldered my crutches 
and tramped down the stairs one last time 
to set out slowly across the fields of ice.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Drive Into the Storm

An old man shopping at Goodwill
has been in the housewares aisle for an hour
sorting and organizing the glassware
into size, shape, color.
He remains focused the entire time,
his face tightening briefly into a slight smile
when he completes a set.

A woman comes into the café, laden with bags.
She picks up and replaces every sandwich
in the deli case, yelping and barking periodically,
before finally buying one. Everyone is staring at her.
She suddenly starts screaming
“I ain’t no hollaback grill! I ain’t no hollaback grill!”
before storming out, dropping and picking up
her bags, yelling the rest of the song
as she scurries away

Just inside the Vietnamese restaurant
stands a full size white artificial Christmas tree,
fully decked out even though it’s almost February.
The waiter wears a black baseball cap
and a t-shirt that reads FBI: Female Body Inspector.  
Salty pho ga, rubbery banh cuon.
The waiter asks if we want our leftovers wrapped up
and we say yes with phony enthusiasm

Black clouds roll in like a tide
swallowing up the wisps of gray and white
I slip into the car just as the first fat drops
explode against the glass
The floor is covered with sandwich wrappers
and empty take-out boxes
and the mismatched jars I use for drinking glasses
The back seat is filled with garbage bags
piles so high I can't see out the back window
Black clouds heading west
I turn the ignition, the radio shrieks
and I peel out and drive straight into the static

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Hospital Birds

The cold suck of the tubes and wires.
Clear bags of glycerin, ice water,
thawed and refrozen and thawed.
Every morning a hummingbird hovers
outside my window, looking to insert its beak
into my arm. Every evening a robin
perches on the top branch of the larch
and sings my diagnosis, though I can't hear it.
My skin bristles with pins.
A grid of tiny knots I keep picking at
An itch in my testicles. The skin grows
over the stitches. A hawk hangs suspended
over the parking lot. The mouth of the wound
is jagged and hungry and will not shut.
They stuff it with gauze and honey
and send me packing. Once home
I sit on the edge of the tub and
the moment I unwrap the bandages
a swarm of flies appears and covers
the oozing chasm, tickling my skin
with their hairy legs, their lapping tongues,
their shivering wings. They lift me up
and carry me back
where the technicians strap me down,
reconnect the tubes and wires.
Rehang the transparent sacks.
The beeping recommences. My skin
bristles with pins. They smear goo across my chest
so they can see through my skin.
We watch my heart, valves flapping
like tiny wings. Nothing sticking to them.
Down the hall an alarm sounds.
An old woman whimpers.
If I turned my head I would be able to see
perched on the top branch of the larch outside the window
a single junco, buffeted by the wind

Friday, June 21, 2019

You Stopped Asking

I finally figured out what I should have done
What I did wrong, what you wanted me to do

The colors were less painfully chromatic
when a fine layer of dust had settled on them

I returned to work
No one had noticed I was gone

The icy fluorescent tubes washed everything
A faint flicker of painful blue

I swiveled my neck to see you crumpled in the corner
Just your clothes with nothing inside them

Box upon box of c-fold paper towels
Standardized size for most manual dispensers

You stopped telling me and I stopped asking
I guess you were tired of all my wrong guesses

The chilly whistle of the H-VAC system
The whining of pipes, hair clogging the vents

I dreamed the walls shook, the floor shuddered
I dreamed it was January instead of Summer

The hand truck with a broken wheel
The elevator stuck between floors

I dreamed about breaking into your house
And unbuckling my belt and kissing you

with as much tenderness as I was still
able to  muster

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Inch


Wary sparrow eying
the tortilla crumbs at my feet

A man staring at a tree
as if deciding whether to piss on it

Two strangers waiting in the parking lot
for the locksmith


It's been months now since you turned away
I hope to write again someday

Diet

You left your hands in the fridge
not sure if it was by accident
or if you expected me to take them out for you
the next morning. But the next morning
you were gone
and your hands were still there
and I didn't know what
I was supposed to do with them.
I secretly hoped
you would come back for them
and when month after month passed
and you didn't, I realized
I had to do something.
I couldn't bear seeing them
every time I opened the door.
I found myself skipping meals
or else eating out
but I could still hear them in there
scuttling around among the condiments
scratching to get out and caress me
in a way they never did
when they were attached to you