Monday, February 18, 2019

Art of the Deal

He was still negotiating
as he plummeted
Some bargain might still be made,
the broken contract
might still be mended
Unlikely, to be certain.
But as the ground rose up to greet him
he put on his most
accommodating grin
and thrust out his open palm
to shake its hand.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tsetse Fly Kisses (Four to Six Weeks)

Water slithers along the curb. You find yourself snagged
in a check-cashing scheme which somehow slipped past
your barriers of paranoia. Starship captain
holds the door for you and you internalize his pity,
swear vengeance.
You rage about the unfairness of the witch hunt,
waving your broomstick in the air for emphasis.
True love is standing beside your man
even when he is wearing a suit of fecal matter.
I'm tired of all this kneeling, tired of the crinkling
of my aluminum foil armor, tired of every bump and crack
in the sidewalk jolting my spine. I feel like a
five foot ten pile of dirty dishes.
The boss called in the middle of the night and I told him.
Sure, I'll work whatever bullshit shift you tell me to
while the lazy weasels come breezing into the office
whenever they like, knowing you won't lift either of your fingers
to admonish them. I can't afford the distraction
from my life's work but it's too late, I'm already knee deep in you
and sinking fast. My feet turn to sand in my shoes,
my wrists spin like propellers.
Late at night we turn on Alice Coltrane records
and stage epic battles with socks filled with dead batteries.
We record the crunch and wallop on our phones,
play it back over breakfast
while we chug our Kool-aid and chew on chemtrails,
wiping the sticky juice from our chins.
No matter how hard I shake my head, you still cling
to the back of my skull with your claws.
Red blood hair like a warrior, green blood eyes like a fly.
Reworked position, revoked permission,
crotch choked with weeds, mouth full of eggs,
shoelaces soaked in honey, syrup spilling
over the dental dam, hurricane fence
erected around the bed, headboard topped with barbed wire.
The nibble and buzz of a drone alighted on your lips.
Hay bale walls close in. Kansas sod house collapses,
robots blink in the corner of the root cellar.
I didn't realize how boring this would all be.
We'll never escape this labyrinth of carpet samples.
I'm as skittish as a tipsy teenager with a fake ID
at a traffic checkpoint. I saw you in that shower cap
you wore after the chemo and I wanted to sob.
I was a tiny creature scooped up in your cupped palms,
caged within your fist.
Our eyelashes got tangled, you hurled me
the scissors. My face an explosion of skin flake confetti
I'll shred that pink slip to ribbons, chop that lightning bolt
into bite-size chunks. Four to six weeks the doctor said
but it's been longer than that and my flesh still looks
like a Seinfeld episode. Nothing heals I guess.
I mean, you're still here.
Let's go back to our working class roots and watch
Children of the Corn together while drinking Spumante
out of jelly jars. Let's trick one another into sailing
halfway across the ocean in a life preserver made
of one another's arms. Let's scratch our initials
in the snow with our antlers. Let's scoop up handfuls
of bug spray breath freshener from the men's room sink
at the titty bar. Let's let acid waterfalls
dissolve our bones, leaving our skin intact.
Something in my pocket is trying to gnaw
its way out. I think it's you.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Smoke as White as Paper, Black as Ink

I stuffed the fireplace with letters to my wife
With letters to all my wives,
The real and imaginary ones,
The ones who half existed, the ones who
Flickered in and out of reality. The wives I wrote about,
The wives I refused to write about. The ones
I could have sworn I wrote about but about whom
There is no trace, not a single sketch or scribble.
The wives I dreamed of, the wives who dreamed of me,
The wives I were to other people, the wives
I was to myself
None of the letters were ever read
The envelopes still sealed
I squirted lighter fluid on the pile
And lit it with my last match
Just as you stepped through the door
And with a slightly worried smile asked me
What I was up to

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dolly Parton

When they asked me to describe my wife
I found I couldn’t. Her face was still and steady
and clear in my mind
yet I found I couldn’t say the words to describe
her features. I went dumb, blank. A slack-jawed mute.
They glanced at one another. Eventually I found
I could spit out some small, useless details.
The single black bristle that would occasionally sprout
from her chin. Her tendency to wear bras
a few sizes too large. I hummed them the melody
of that little tune she’d sing to herself
when she was feeling particularly satisfied
with herself, but they weren’t interested.
I told them she liked Dalmatians, and saffron,
and Dolly Parton. I knew I wasn’t being helpful.
I flipped through my phone looking for pictures
of her, but all my photos were of parking lots
and humorous church signs, the only videos I ever took
were of the stray cats we left food out for
on the back porch.
They sighed and thanked me and drove off.
You can come out now, I said when they were gone,
and she came tumbling out of my mouth,
her own words arranging themselves before me,
describing her form better than I ever could

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Aphrodite Giant (International Cat Show)

She’s more of a dog person, but it was her idea
to come to the cat show. Neither of us
had ever been to one. Her favorites
are the huge Maine coons, which are basically dogs anyways.
They frighten me a little, but so does she.
I pet her hairand listen to her purr,
knowing she could take a swipe at me at any time
as we walk up and down the convention center
between the rows of tables covered with cages and cat carriers,
some simple and some insanely elaborate,
plastered with glamor shots and awards ribbons 
and here and there a homemade sign announcing 
It’s been nine months since my friends cat disappeared.
The other one wasted away and a few months later
she had to be put down. Poor little bag of bones,
I loved that kitty. She hasnt gotten another cat.
I fantasize about showing up to her house
with a new kitten in tow., the way a friend of mine did
years ago when my cat died. I hadnt thought I was ready
but there she was, with this little orange ball of fluff
peering out of her coat.
Why do we keep getting attached to things
we know are going to leave us?
I am a scratching post, a litter box. 
My new companion and I stroll past the booths
with the pet photographer, the pet psychic, the vendors
selling feathers on sticks and felt bats. We laugh
at the ladies wrapped in head to toe leopard print,
at the girls wearing cat ears, at the guy in the shiny track suit
covered copper tigers. She picks out a carrot
stuffed with catnip
for my furry boy, so he won’t be too upset
that I cheated on him.
We watch the judges bestow the ratings,
baffled at why some cats are deemed more worthy
than others, the rules seem arbitrary and arcane.
I’m not going to grow attached to this person,
I tell myself. I am a cat.
Fickle, selfish, difficult to please.
And why not? Look at all these Ragdolls and Selkirk Rexes,
all these California Spangles and Aphrodite Giants.
They don’t need anyone, yet they are still lavished
with affection, groomed to within an inch of their lives,
worshipped like whiskered deities. 
Of course, who can tell if they’re happy?  They all look
slightly peeved. They all look like cats.
I glance over at her. 
I’m not going to fall for you, I think, and she smiles
and without meaning to or wanting to,
against my feline nature,
without giving it a single thought

I smile back.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


How many words ago was it
how many periods, commas, ellipses
have passed since that original question mark?

How many teeth have been removed
from how many mouths since I first kissed you?
How many chainsaw accidents have their been
since we first collapsed like felled pines
into bed together?

We measure the years by the pound,
by the length and height and width
of our wall of empty beer cans,
by the depth of the peanut shells covering the floor
of the honky tonk where we used to take
country line dance lessons, back when we used to be
into that sort of thing

How will we celebrate our Sandpaper Jubilee, my love?
We'll take the day off to drive out to Hourglass Cove,
walk along the beach of golden glitter.
We'll stare out across the ocean of eyedrops,
the sea of mouthwash, the lake of skin creme,
collecting the ropes washed up on the shore
and seeing who can untie the most wet knots.
I'll present  you with a ring set with
the 24 Karat kidney stone I passed
on our last anniversary 

We'll stay at that motel on the cliffs
and spend the dark and stormy night
huddled in front of the laptop,
eating croutons out of the box
and watching reruns of our favorite show,
that one we used to star in before ratings plummeted and
they killed both our characters off and replaced them
with younger versions of ourselves
We'll set the alarm on the sundial
and set the VCR to record our dreams
so we'll have something to bore our grandkids with.
Here's to another fifty pounds, my love,
another 750 cans.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Safeway Love Poem

There’s a pigeon strutting along
in front of the soup bar
inside the Safeway
Some little kids scream with delight
as they try to chase it out
the automatic doors
but it keeps running away from them.
The doors keep opening and closing
as right outside, a homeless man
crouches on the curb
with a full case of bottled water
unscrewing the caps one by one
and pouring all the water
into the sewer grate
Across the street, a couple of guys
try to sell me a case of Corona
but I’ve got my container of soup in one hand
and a bouquet of flowers in the other
the third-cheapest ones they had
because even though it’s not payday yet
I just couldn’t wait