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Poem contemplating life and death

Epiphany of the lemming

There’s a lightbulb cooking dust
in my troubled mind,
something so akin to meaning
I can practically taste the alkaline.

It’s worrisome, this notion of age,
that I’ve lived long enough
I’m now imprisoned by breath
that heaves as I’m forced
to watch my idols die.

Maybe it’s imaginary,
this vision of mine,
that everyone I love
suddenly takes on the stilted posture
of a marionette, string-guided
and trance-like in single-file rows
toward the edge of a cliff
that separates the light from the dark.

Daily the news comes,
be it phone call or text,
news headline or tweet,
that another great influence
of my life has taken the dive
into that unquestionable void,
and each disappearance
causes more of a stir in my gut,
more of a dread-set panic
that blooms like an electrical burn,

because I’m here too you see,
I’ve woken up trapped
inside a body of wood
and cheap metal joints,
my eyes fixed forward
as if they’re a painted stare
watching the bobbing rows
of shiny black heads
careening like floating ducks
on a river without rapids,
and only I seem to understand
it’s a trap

there’s a waterfall waiting,
and it’s impossible to hear
the deafening roar of the cascade
until it’s swept you away,
out and into the ether
far from the crowd that remains
and wonders absently where you’ve gone.

I want to scream,
WAKE UP YOU FOOLS!
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS PEACE!

My heart a piston out of control,
turning my insides red,
but I can’t open my mouth,
my lips now just a pen-drawn line
curved at the corners
into a concrete smile of catatonic glee
watching more members
of this cursed conga line
vanish from my sight,
their scents still left like chalk plumes
in the absence of their bodies,
dissipating seed clouds that glow dim
and swirl like coffee creamer
between the ignorant passers-by.

There’s no way back from here
that doesn’t sever the world from me,
and I’m suddenly haunted
by a repeated phrase, a recurring dream,
ask not for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee,

and every shaking step
carries you closer
to the source of the noise.

Poem for Tony Hoagland, RIP

Fuck Cancer
~for Tony Hoagland

I could say fuck cancer
but cancer never seems
to get fucked,
and all these repeated incantations
reverberating in kitchens
and hospital walls
like backwards Hail Marys
or curses of wind
expelled when stubbing your toe
on the dark corner
of the coffee table,
in the end, they’re just words,
creature comforts like chocolate cake
or favorite characters in a sitcom,
and it’ll never stop,
despite the stadiums filled
with pink scarves, pink socks,
pink shoelaces and gloves,
the pink will disappear from the faces
of the ones you love,
they’ll slowly turn an ashy gray,
waxy synthetic, almost mannequin-like,
only their eyes will remain
glossy and wet, quarters in a creek bed,
shining up at you on the bank,
someone so stupid,
you believed sometimes
coins carried wishes,
and even if they don’t,
people keep throwing them in,
so many coins, so many scattered prayers,
the stream shimmers like a disco ball,
and even if you died right now
there’s something beautiful
about that, something disorienting,
a virtual vertigo of the senses
spinning in a captive body,
when death’s black jaw yawns
so close to the ear
its breath raises the fine hair,
that whisper of finality
like trickled drips down an IV line,
a sound not unlike a fountain
found in a Buddhist shrine,
so hard to discern the difference
from the echocardiogram
and the scribble of a poet’s pen,
perhaps why it was once a custom
to place coins over the eyes of the dead.

Poem for Anthony Bourdain

Parts Unknown, for Anthony

This poem almost writes itself,
except it doesn’t.
I had to be here to write it,
as you had to be here to read it,
except the person I’m writing it for
slipped out the back door
without saying goodbye,
leaving us wanting more
of his infectious light.

There’s a darkness I find myself in,
a cold place, damp as a cellar
with leaky soiled walls
and a chilled breath that shudders
free of its body, an odor
like fresh mulch mingled with spilled wine,
the kind that stains clothes and skin
the color of a bruise,
and every reflective surface
is a doorway
saying go ahead, step inside.

Even the extraordinary
holds something back,
eyes like keyholes
whispering a hollow wind
only heard between smiles
and casual affectations
when the mask slips.

We see each other
and nod, across that precipice.
We press our hands together
through that pane of glass.
We see ourselves
and feel so alone,
surrounded by those
who’d embrace us and take us home
if we only knew how to ask.

Primal sonnet

Primal urges sonnet

Rhythm was found in a makeshift drum banging
two sticks against an open rock face
or perhaps the hollow of tree long before
violence was born from necessity,
before stone was sharpened and woven
onto the ends of clubs, there was dancing,
a primal stomp and chant around crackling flame.
Then, came the rival clans and the instinct
to protect the water and the camp,
and war became another kind of music,
banging these crude instruments like breath
out of the skulls and bones of the enemy.
All these centuries learning the best ways to kill,
to dance, to chant mine mine, to make the drum bang.

Right to bear arms: NaPoWriMo #24

A right to bear arms

It’s my right to feel powerful,
to protect what’s mine,
my family, my home,

come into my cave uninvited,
come near my children
and face the consequences,

these claws I’ve sharpened
on the trunks of so many trees,
these teeth that have gnawed

marrow from bones,
I am not hibernating.
When I stand, I’m ten feet tall,

my arms are strong enough
to break bodies like promises
of a peaceful night’s rest

during hunting season
when animals disguise their scents
beneath their bright orange vests

and their hands still stinking
of lavender and axe,
of oil and steel folded and honed

into things alien of the Earth,
but their arms are not my arms,
and their deaths are my self-defense.

Poem for Waffle House : NaPoWriMo #22

Ode to a Waffle House in Nashville, TN

You’ve never been good and truly drunk
until you’ve entered this little haven
of greasy floors and fingerprint-smeared tables
with its soft glowing lights
hung like Chinese lanterns in the windows
and its cheap laminate menus
sticky with syrup or spilled soda,
mists of grill-seared oils wafting
like waterfall-churned moisture
in the lamps and fluorescents
amid the odors of fried egg, sausages,
hot waffle irons overflowing with batter,
all a-sizzle and sweat condensing
on a short-order cook’s brow
at 3:30 in the morning.

You’ve never lived until after ordering
your hash browns scattered, smothered, and covered,
you have to make a dash for the dirty
swinging restroom door
and spill your stomach of beer-and-bile-laced
vomit, wiping the saliva strings
from your lips with cheap harsh toiletries
dispensed from a plastic hood
engraved with racist logos and lighter burns.

You’ve never seen heroism
until you’ve nearly shit your pants
while choking down a mouthful of burnt steak
with its flakes of open-face griddle residue
attached like artisan confections of American spice
like a living document of countless meals
shuffled onto white plates and under warming wicks
before being served to the inebriant starved,

when the shots start pinging through the glass,
and the patrons start screaming
and your friend slaps at his neck
with blood spouting between his fingers
that for just a moment you mistake for ketchup,
before you see the man, just an ordinary man,
probably just as intoxicated as you,
wrestling the rifle from the naked shooter,
scalding the skin from his ordinary hands,
and the silence settles in like slow-motion
as the murderer runs away
and the freeze-frame glitter of shattered bulbs
cascading into the night
sparkle like displaced galaxies
waiting for the sirens
and the shuttering strobes
and your heart to return to its normal beat.

After all that, you’ll want to shake his hand,
but there won’t be time, and it would hurt
beneath his bandages, and maybe your friend
is dying in the ambulance, and maybe
you’ll ask for a coffee to go
because the adrenaline withdrawal
has left you more drunk than exhausted,
and maybe they’ll say, sure,
it’s on the house
just like your life
and maybe this is your church now,
say Hallelujah for America, amen.

Poem for Ammosexuals : NaPoWriMo #21

Ammosexual

There’s just something about a man
with a big package
concealed and carried or swinging free.
Is that a 9mm in your pants,
or are you just happy to see me?

Bullets and barrels are cylindrical
and the way they fit inside my mouth
can’t just be coincidental,
I’d suck fire from his machine gun
know what I’m sayin’?

I don’t mind unsolicited glock pics,
they get me hard like a carbine,
make me want to fuck in gun oil,
to taste metal in sweat and saliva,
to feel the sensation of steel

as it slides and glides
inside my locked and lubed ass,
a cold but pleasant penetration,
then maybe we 69,
his hands around my pistol-grip stock

and my lips and tongue stroking
the long rigid shaft,
fingers probing inside dark empty holes,
a night echoed with our gunshot moans
until we’re both spent, filled with hot lead.

Poem for the Second Amendment : NaPoWriMo #16

Needs of a gun enthusiast

I don’t need a gun
to tell you I love you,
to know the anxiety of your absence
like a tiny corset pulled taut
around my still fluttering heart.

I don’t need a gun
to watch the moon appear like a dime
in the blue haze
of a wishing well sky,
and to wonder what it reveals
about a person, which face they see
in the Rorschach canyons
and deep crater shadows.

I don’t need a gun
to stir my mashed potatoes
in with the brown gravy,
to move my food around my plate
like river churned silt
instead of eating
when I’ve lost my appetite.

I don’t need a gun
to protect myself
from the ambient sounds
of an empty-except-me house,
the creeping footsteps
of rain begging for change.

I don’t need a gun
to become a criminal,
to touch that which isn’t mine,
to discern the nuance
of a painting’s pebbly imperfections
stroking my finger through the landscape
centuries old on a museum wall.

I don’t need a gun
to write my poetry,
each line like a gentle suicide
that never takes my life,
just pushes me a little closer
to those crosshairs
where time and chaos collide.

Trump’s Democracy : NaPoWriMo #14

Kakistocracy : The New Constitution part 2

Let he without morality rule them,
let he devoid of decency close his fists
about the throat of the world
and throttle, his spittle-flecked lips
frothing white, his face flushed bright
with the tantrums of every subverted wish.

Let he without conscience be king,
his sagging skin but an ill-fitted coat
cloaking the hideousness of his greed,
the unscrupulous and the craven
leprosy of want, a blood-filled sack
covered in pus and wet dollar bills.

Let he without humanity declare himself
dictator of the masses, the masses clamoring
for a new Jesus to usher their souls
into the fire pits of penance and self-deprecation,
tomahawk missiles sounding like horns
blown from the mouths of archangels.

Let he without intelligence lead them,
bumbling and stumbling, foolhardy and blind
into the next Dark Age, a cavernous catacombs
of blank-screened smart phones
and television monitors caked in dust,
a continent sealed in walls of bones.

Let he without grace state his amoral decree,
The truth is but a noose swinging
and wound from fake-fibered news
in these gallows of country turned cataclysm,
and the people will willingly slide
their heads through the holes!

Let he without gravitas guide them
as he strokes his member for all to see,
ejaculates vile filth onto every belief
while they bathe in it, rub it like salve
over their faces and eyes and gaze upward
awe-struck, slack-jawed, begging for the trickle-down.

Poem for Anthony Borges : NaPoWriMo #12

Between Death and a Door
~for Anthony Borges

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but there are those who refuse to listen.

These seconds seem small
waiting to die, nothing between the end
and the now except this barricade
of flesh leaned against hard wood
and heartbeats pushing blood
out of the body and onto the floor.

This act is selfless, to stand
in defense of the helpless,
to feel an entire existence
kept in the balance
while something faceless
sends its bullets ripping
with white noise and white flashes
through muscle, through lung,
through sound shattered bone.

Five strikes of the iron bell
to stave off twenty more,
five ear-splitting bangs
of skeletal fist pounding
against one shaking frame,
five brushes of bony fingers
against tear-streaked cheeks,
a world condensed down
to the scent of cauterized skin,
to the sound of shrieks,
to the sensation of breath
as a dissipating echo
in the mind.

And when you wake up
in the hospital bed,
your body feels less than your own,
a host of surgical scars
and open wounds no suture can close,
you hear them call you hero,
but you know it isn’t so
you just did what had to be done,
and now, just want to be left alone,
to heal, to feel time return itself
back to that steady second hand
where every tick of the clock
isn’t another triggered gunshot.

Death doesn’t knock upon the door,
it demands to be let through,
but you, you refused to listen.