Traveling poem

Migration

I drove across the United States
with my dog in the backseat
sometimes putting his nose
out the window I rolled down
so he could smell the intricacies
of each landscape we passed
like a customer wafting perfume cards
in some ephemeral beauty salon.

Here is a highway covered with soot
and tire-blackened snow along its edges.
Here is a cleft shorn and blasted
through this mountain to make way for our
future ambivalence to its rocky cliffs
and its hanging curtains of fanged and frozen teeth.
Here is a desolate moonscape
of flat tilled earth stretched to every horizon
broken only by the gray boards
of a dilapidated barn storing god-knows-what
in the middle of so much nothing.

Everywhere electrical wires
spanning pole to crooked pole
linking years upon years
of forgotten voices and tragedies yet to be,
linking travelers like pushpins
in a map of destinations connected with strings.
This road once used by serial killers
and hitchhikers and preachers and pioneers.
This road once used by carnivals of nomads
by the broken and the hopeful
by the faithful and the damned.
This road littered with beer cans
and dead dogs and empty shopping bags.

Once we passed a dump truck
hoisting up a deer carcass
with a pulley and steel cables,
its bed already full of twisted and rotting bodies,
brown and white fur matted with splotches
of that bright red liquid life
we all take for granted
for staying
trapped beneath our skin.

Bitterness FTW

Bitterness Poetica

I’m no poet, just a petulant child
with a pad and a pen
and a Macbook Pro, where every keystroke
is the embodiment of a scream
caught in a wind I somehow find myself in
like a loose cilantro leaf
stuck to the tooth of some beautiful woman
who only desires to bite my cheek
until it bleeds.

Oh, how I wish Danez Smith
would punch me in the face.
Then, it would be self-defense
when I make him eat his words
like glass shards
from a vodka bottle
tossed into the street
for the careless feet of dogs.

Fuck this community of clones
and would-be has-been’s
using the bullied and broken
piles of formerly closeted bones
for their soapbox sophistry
and self-righteous posturing
of career highlight reels gone wrong.

I wonder, have you even seen the mountains?
Have you seen the way moss ignores
the northern side of any stone
wetted enough with rain?
Have you seen the moon skewer itself
like a fish hook through the clouds
spilling its light over the tops of trees
like ivory clad chaos,
meant to drive the heart
through every guardrail of madness?
Maybe just stop and look around
at how everything dies
the same meaningless way
amid so much beauty.

Commute

If I believe my own voice

to be the voice of the poem,

I lose credibility, lose my integrity,

lose my attachment to the basket

of that hot air balloon we call wonder,

beginning to listen to my thoughts

instead of opening myself

to the vistas and visuals

of a disappearing world.


Notice how no one auto-tunes the birds

as they migrate overhead,

as they shout out their triangulations

and ping pong echoes

guiding themselves wherever instinct wills

beyond those seemingly vacant hills

long reduced to matte paintings and background noise

accompanying mindless drives

to and from the nowhere we call our lives.


Notice the absence of photoshop blurring tools

to smooth imperfect canyons,

make the multi-creviced mountains

into blot-gray slumbering seals with dolphin skin,

just more scrolling reflections against windows

and windshields where the heart is a distraction,

and the sunset is a blindness

to be shielded against for better commutes.


Next to the road is a river,

next to the river is a forest,

next to the forest is another forest,

and beyond that, the snow-capped peak

that seems to breathe smoke

into the treetops,

pine needles filtering light

like kaleidoscopes for squirrels,

where the sound softens to footsteps on sand,

and the air begs to be held

just a bit longer in the lungs. 

On Charles Manson’s death

When it is wrong to mourn the dead
~after Charles Manson’s death

Even forgiveness has its limits,
ask the mothers, ask the fathers,
ask the brothers and sisters
of the dead, the voices stilled
in the throats of the young,
the beautiful faces laid to rest
before their smiles drew lines
around happy mouths.

Tonight, there are monsters
crawling into heaven
with knives between their teeth.
There are madmen convincing angels
to carve X’s into their flesh.
There are wild-eyed demagogues
telling children they worship false gods,
and to burn is to live free
like vibrating cells exposed
to catalytic chemicals.

What is a cult, except the pinnacle of belief?
To smell the blood-soaked carpet
and feel unafraid of ghosts
though those ghosts carry chains
linked to the rusty cage of rage?
This martyrdom is not self-aware.
It’s a false flag, an insect
made tyrant, made giant
under the magnified lens
of historical inaccuracy.

I do not take joy or pleasure
from the texture of soot and ash
rubbed between the fingers
of an ambivalent universe,
just more smoke in my eyes
as these senseless candles scorch
and smolder their wicks,
leaving only that fragrant filament
of death, and a black cloud
billowing like a distant forest fire
waiting for the wind to bring it closer,
close enough to feel the heat
of that hungry thing that waits
for all of us in time.

Poem for mass shootings 

Copy and Paste Condolences

by Jay Sizemore


The residents of ______________ need our love,

in this time of unavoidable tragedy,

if only the sky would open itself

like a great swan unfurling its wings

to swaddle the grieving

and protect them from the rain,

the thunder and storm of their own

unburdened sobs.


We send our thoughts and prayers to them,

the buoys bobbing, lonesome and jettisoned

in the rough waves of this tiresome wake.

Let them be calmed by the notion

that loneliness is an illusion

in the absence of concern,

while our hearts carry their hearts

like hot air balloons gathering stones

in tethered baskets

until too heavy to float.


These stones are hardened eggs

warmed by the sun,

and this is a cycle of catch and release,

of nature and nurture,

of wound and suture and scar,

the abused given new life in the afterbirth of pain,

hatching from sorrow stronger than before

with haunted eyes remembering the wind

and how it carried them away

from everything hidden beneath the sea,

hot air balloons once again free to soar

and look for more lost souls to rescue.


Perhaps it’s too much to ask

that we forget what happened here

knowing what blood tomorrow holds

like a vein in a palm

that closes upon a fistful of glass,

the shattered remnants of a non-violent future,

the window we broke believing

it was the only way to breathe the air. 

Poem for gun lovers

Nothing that could be done

I remember my first paper cut,

when I was just four years old,

I went to the school nurse

for some kind of care, maybe just a band-aid

or the warm reassuring smile

of an adult who understood the world,

but instead she said, with her face so grim,

there’s just nothing to be done.

Let it bleed, she told me,

these things heal themselves.

And I looked at the red drops

like breadcrumbs shining

my way back to class,

stark constellations so bold and dark

against the sterile white tile,

and I believed her.


Again, in middle school, I fell,

my hands still stinking of rust and steel

from gripping swing set chains so tight

the links left white indentations

in my palms that flamed red upon release,

and the sound of my wrist snapping

was that of a dried twig

under the foot of a careless hunter

spooking away his prey.

My mother took me to the doctor

where they didn’t even bother with an X-ray,

just again with their go-to phrase,

Nothing to be done, broken bones mend

with time and the soothing song of the wind,

so the rest of my life I lived

with a crooked arm I could not use

except as a crude tool for propping up my face,

but my belief in medicine remained unchanged.


I sat at my mother’s bedside

and listened to the way her lungs

struggled like refugee swimmers

whose life vests were made

to absorb the ocean instead of float,

and I pleaded to the specialists,

I pleaded to the surgeons

with their walls full of degrees,

their photo albums full

of pristine family portraits

with every grin warm as a sun

meant to go on for endless days,

their manicured hands perfect

and poised as if penmanship

were their own secret language

of prayer, as if it were a privilege

to hold a clipboard and scribble fates

so different from their own,

and they said it again and again

like the mantra of the damned,

I’m sorry son, cancer is just a gun,

and I’m afraid there’s simply nothing,

nothing to be done. 

Strike while the iron is hot

Inspired

Ever wake up in the skin of a pig?
Maybe you forgot to pay the water bill,
feeling like a river that flows to both ends.

Feeling like the threads through a button
sewed into a stranger’s coat.
Carrying the new scars of the frantic dog
who just wants to be loved the same way.

These women wish you would just die,
they’d like to feast on your white meat,
a fine pork twisted and turned over the spit
until it drips its clear delicate juices.

I am not god any more than another acoustic guitar
leaned in the corner of a corporate junky,
and you are a voice in the walls.

One more mountain on the moon,
one more interstellar collision
sending ripples through the cosmos
like a heart attack numbing the left arm.

I love my enemy and their unflinching resolve
to break me open
like a fresh stick of Dr. Tom’s deodorant,
smelling of green mint and death.

I’m a feminist and a dental hygienist,
you are a serial killer of words,
you are the reason I keep writing them down.

An irrational fear leads to irrational deeds

Fear of words

I’m afraid of words, and what they might do.
Rape, as a word, cannot be trusted,
with its r it uses as a rivet
to shackle thin wrists and twist,
its a it ambulates over frantic mouths
like a palm to smother and stifle screams,
its p it puts between legs and pries
so the e can explore
like an ether or ejaculate that enters
where it is most unwanted.

Kill, maim, murder, lie,

all must be made archaic,
must be stricken from our tongues
to prevent future harm,
such grievous perils spoken
can never be undone.
To even whisper them
renders them powerful,
like a trigger in a gun
tethered to loose lips
just waiting to be sprung.

A poem is so heavy now,
it can never be lifted from the page.
There are libraries filled with obscenities
sinking like cities built upon damp paper streets.
We must put a torch
to the pyre before it burns us,
before it makes us feel
what we felt before as pain,
these words, these words shouldn’t exist,
shouldn’t open doors we want locked in our brains,

so pass the gasoline and pass the blindfold,
pass the blank white sheet
of our sterile refrain,
and come closer.
We can’t see our breath now,
but it’s cold, cold, cold in our bones,
so stay where its warm, here by the flame.

A poem about self-delusionment

How we convince ourselves we are right

My pain is no more important than your pain,
and your pain is no more important than mine.
What is this life, but a thin veil of inconsistencies?

You turn yourself into a platitude for justice,
a self-replicating viral meme
of the latest in social outrage.

These are the screws turning in your wrists,
pinning you to the cross of self-indulgence,
to the pyre of broke down birdhouses,

this kindling made martyrdom appealing
for the self-righteous holy ghosts
wanting nothing but to die for vanity.

It’s fallacy and fallibility made into sacrament.
The human condition leaves little room
for another consciousness inside its skull.

Where does the truth lie?
Somewhere, out there, beyond this moment.
This history is impermanent.

So, make your police reports out of jealousy.
Build your narratives out of decay.
Nothing will last, not even words like these.

There is no pain like yours, as there is none like mine.
We are living the same dream outside our bodies.
We just want the same things we can’t have.