Thursday, August 29, 2019

Duet for Singing Saw and Tissue Paper Comb

The first time we kissed, inside our mouths
she passed me a tiny comb
and told me when the time came
I'd know what to do with it.

She has a look on her face
like she's standing in the center
of a circle of rats.
She has a look on her face
like she thinks if she opens her mouth
a bird will shit in it.

The bones of a snake   
A box elder necklace
A spider weaving a web
between her and I

She rolls around in the dust
to cool her wings
Scratches for grubs in the dirt,
then mails them to me.

She washes her hands in a fast, clear brook
so cold it turns her fingertips
into burning strawberries

She keeps one pocket filled with sticks of white chalk
and the other filled with lengths of charcoal
She dips her hand in one then the other
smears the gray powder across her lips
and scowls

She shrinks the city down to a pellet
that she can easily swallow
if she feels the forest around her
start to spin

Her favorite perch is a bale of hay
cast in bronze, hulking in the shadow
of a charred Volkswagon bus
beside a gully choked
with blackberry brambles.

She struts around with someone else's
bobby pins in her teeth.
On fancy occasions she wears
a safety-pin tiara
and fur stoles made of hair extensions.
She stuffs her bra with plastic baby doll heads.

She awakens in the night
to the ripping of Velcro teeth
out in the distant creek
and cries for her crawfish mama
to come caress her with her claws.

The first time we kissed,
inside our mouths she passed me a tiny comb
and told me I'd know what to do with it.

To this day, I don't, and probably
never will, but I keep it hidden
under my tongue, just in case.

Snake Song

It tries to warn me, rattling and hissing
But I stretch my fingers toward it anyways

There is a fist that plows through the waves,
that knuckles through the sand
throwing up huge plumes of dust
and salty spray
that settles like a mist
to glaze my skin
eventually calcifying
into an atom-thin shell
that crackles softly with every gesture

Something is rippling closer
An undulating laugh, the spiky gleam
of evanescent crests 
There is a twisting ribbon of air
That sinks its fangs into my lungs
and fills my throat with smoke

And they were everywhere
And you were not
And I found myself writhing with them
Hurling my body again and again
against the ground
as if trying to beat you out of me

I replaced its head with my fist
I slid my fist into my mouth
I wrapped my teeth around the match
and struck it against my tongue

And the brush and the broom and the brambles
And the sun-baked signs warning of flood
in the middle of the desert
And the tent-poles of bones
with no skin to stretch over them
And the pyramid of molars
And the concentric circles
of cicada husks

And the canvas sacks
and the forked sticks
The hoods with no holes
The withered branch, the coiled rope
Water balloons launched
from dowsing rod slingshots

The dusty riverbed carved into my arm
Its gentle curves carrying us
lethargically towards the rocks
with nothing reaching from the banks
to grab us, for us to grab onto.
No bridge stretching its rickety song
over the expanse

My limbs have all dropped off.
A hollow beneath a stone becomes my home.
We sink our fangs into this life
and in return, it swallows us whole

Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer Song

Tufts of dry grass

Angry juncos hopping across the pavement
sparring over crumbs

Weeping cherry tendrils
dancing with their shadows

Clouds reflected in a pink dog bowl
decorated with bones

You are not in any of these things.
I'm not sure where you are.

Please come sit with me.
I'm throwing extra letters in the fire
to keep it from going out too soon

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Thai Farmers Race Their Buffalo

A delivery boy rests his cigarette on top of the mailbox and slips into the deli. I watch it turn to ash as Lebanese rap blasts over the loudspeakers. A ragged gray-skinned man staggers past my table and points at my falafel, asks if I’m going to finish it. It doesn’t taste great and if I was less hungry I’d give it to him. I’ve given up meat in memory of her; for years she was a strict vegan and extremely vocal about it. A passing girl tugs at the hem of her dress, trying to make it cover more than it is capable of. A pink sightseeing bus rumbles past, its passengers lolling in their seats, all of them wearing sunglasses despite the thick, low clouds. The front page of the Asian Reporter reads Thai Farmers Race Their Buffalo in Show of Gratitude. A couple crosses against the light, traffic screeches to a halt. The woman waves at me though I don’t recognize her at all. . Last night at an acquaintance’s fiftieth birthday party at a crushingly bland banquet hall I found myself having conversations with people I hadn’t seen in years, people so unlike her, well-meaning but without passion, we had nothing to say to one another yet we kept talking. They'd hired a magician, an Asian man who throughout his entire act flirted with the only other Asian person there, a gorgeous woman with long, brown legs, holding hands with her skinny white boyfriend. "We have a complexion connection!" the magician yelled at one point, then continued onto his tricks involving dimes and matches and trick ropes and little red foam balls. It was embarrassing. Even the food was bad. I wished she had been there so we could laugh about it, maybe reminisce about the time I took her out for Ethiopian food for the first time, I was so excited, I thought she'd love it as much as I did, but the food was terrible. I felt so sad and disappointed, had wanted so badly to have a nice meal with her, I hadn't seen her in so long. Last week, another friend turning 50 also had a magician at his party, who stabbed the birthday boy through the neck with a sword, then made a guinea pig appear in an empty box. I think about my vanished friend, pawing halfheartedly at our beyeyanetu. She will never turn fifty. After lunch I ride the streetcar home, watching the world slip past and disappear. I am trampled, plowed back into the earth by the pounding hooves. May I crack my shell and sprout and stretch toward teh sun, may I grow tall and heavy with nourishing leaves, my limbs laden with blossoms that turn into fruit that smiles just like her as it ripens.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Park Slope Practice Space

A cord thrown over a bar of opaque air,
knots stuck in blocks of transparent concrete.
And you down there

In the back of the room, the beat of bird wing snares.
Electric eels unplugged. Hooves fumble
with a limp pick beneath the stage.
The neck is flexible and rubbery. The radiator sings

I am licking myself clean of all melody.
Clogging the cracks in the staff
with sticky half-notes.
Replacing the singing with humming
and the humming with choking
and the choking with silence.

I'm stomping the spongy pedal.
Working out the frayed equations
to the unpaid utilities.
Learning to tie strings
around paper-wrapped packages
in the dark
without your finger.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Song for Jasmine Lea

The roots of the heavy oaks
buckle the macadam
of the parking lot.
An acorn, green with August, drops
and comes to rest at my feet.
I pick it up
squeeze it tightly in my fist
then tenderly slip it into
my shirt pocket

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Royalty Nails

A nail salon is going in next door
to the bookshop where I help out
Royalty Nails is painted on the glass. 
I can hear them banging around 
as clearly as I could hear
my new neighbor’s moans
as her boyfriend fucked her this morning.
I just lay there quietly in bed
like I sit here now, alone,
listening to the hammering
and scraping and drilling
as they install the drywall,
hanging of brand new doors
on brand new hinges.
I think of you and the sounds you made.
Not unlike hers but even louder, longer.
The workers knock off for lunch.
Soon the place will fill up
with women getting mani-pedis
as the books sit so quietly on the shelves.
The neighbors will continue to fuck
as you do whatever it is you do
with whoever it is you do it with
and I claw at the thin walls
screaming without a sound

Friday, August 9, 2019


A spectral deposit
materializes in my account
A lonesome consolation prize
A monetary haunt

Is there a sadder refund
than the one you get
when the concert's cancelled
because the singer's dead?

There will be no more set lists
to snatch from the foot of the stage.
No more new lyrics to scream
in gleeful rage.

Who will write songs
that express our grief
that you're no longer here
to write songs to express our grief?

Thirty three dollars and sixteen cents
Paid for an invisible ticket
I'll spend it on some liquor instead
Put on some records, uncork that bottle
Sing toast after toast after toast
and swallow your ghost

for D.B.