Ode to a factory town

Longview

In the industrial towns you’ll drive past
rivers green as moss
creeping up the crevices
of every manmade thing,
every stone-jutted hillside
and tree so laden with that lush verdant carpet
its limbs droop down with weight
like alien fingers probing
scientifically for proof
of their own existence.

The paper mills chew their sawed trunks
into pulp that steams
in the chill damp dark,
and emits a stench
most akin to boiled cabbage
when it rains
and traps the scent
closer to the earth.

Some days it’s difficult to tell
where the rising smoke
from the slate gray chimneys
comes to its end, and where the clouds
begin, so many swollen vessels
competing for space
on the ever shifting skyline,
it’d be beautiful if not so obscene.

These testaments of human progress,
factories, plants, wonders
of the mechanical age,
they light up like spaceships
from some Spielbergian dream
where strange visitors
make friends with troubled kids
then leave them awestruck
and staring after stars
just as the music’s crescendo
begins its inevitable fade.

night rider

night rider

white water falling from black jagged rocks,
trickles into thin rivulets
like pale fingers
stroking a consensual body
and these trees lean over, observant.

I look at my hands and feel detached
from the sensation of touch,
my mind unable to flex a fist
and these appendages moving
independent of my thoughts.

shadows criss-cross every road
in conjunction and relative
to location of the sun,
winking between the branches
becoming silhouettes, inverse lightning.

at night, the frogs are awake
and cacophonous, white noise,
an engine left to idle
where the air rests like a damp cloth
on my forehead to calm my nerves.

there’s the moon oblivious to its phases,
to its many faces,
dropping its white halo
into the mist and fog,
creeping parade of ghostly caravans.

my mind is free again
to observe the minutiae
of light’s give and take
among the pine needles
and foamy splashes along river’s edge.

I’ll purchases hiking boots
and a new guitar
like a premonition
of life’s continuance
that the mountain refuses to notice.

Jay Sizemore is Dead

Obituary

The wish for death always comes true
eventually
we all run out of breath
for wishing.

So many have wished I would die
like a candle on a birthday cake
that just won’t burn out,
but every fuse
flickers down to the powder
before it sets loose
the dynamite or the smoke.

Isn’t every death
natural causes?
All suicides occur on planet Earth.
All murderers convert oxygen into CO2.
Cancer exists in your DNA
from the moment you are born.

They found Jay Sizemore
in the bathtub
with a Ziplock bag
over his head,
duct tape closed
around the neck,
bottle of wine half full
on the lip of his porcelain tub,
water still warm
and cloudy.

They found Jay Sizemore’s body
sprawled out
near the foot of the bed,
one hand curled inward
like the corner of paper
left in sun,
as if starting to wave you closer
for one last whispered phrase,
“You are alone.”
Except that the face is gone
along with the lips,
his other hand still cradling
the trigger and stock
of the shotgun.

They found Jay Sizemore
hanging from his ceiling fan,
an exercise weight band
pulled taut in slow descent,
there were pictures scattered
all about the bed,
screen shots from Twitter,
Facebook and Instagram,
the most awful of mirrors
where the reflection
is just that inner pain
finding its way
from one body to another.

At the finish, it was all just words
and no one knew
where they ended or began,
just that nobody died
until they really died.

The apology you’ve wanted

The white apology

I’m sorry that you need to hear it,
sorry that history favored
the first to wield the sword
the first to encase black powder
in shiny brass and steel,
but this was not my doing.
I wasn’t there on the ships,
in the moorings, on the fields
of swaying grass and gut,
or surely I would have died
shitting my pants with fear.

I’m sorry that history allowed it,
allowed the oil tycoons and soft-palmed
narcissists to trade metal and paper
for all the world and all persons within it,
to layer scar tissue on the backs and the wrists
and the inner thighs of objects
they saw as objects instead of lives.

I’m sorry Jesus was invented
Mohammed was enshrined
Joseph Smith was batshit insane,
and I’m sorry so many believed.
I’m sorry for the laws
written on the faces of such belief.
I’m sorry superstitions still carry
so much currency
like buckets drawn up from wells
filled with blood instead of water,
and I’m sorry those wells
seem to have no bottom.

In low-lit bedrooms since the beginning of time
when a bedroom was nothing but smoke
caked into bedrock,
I’m sorry men of all colors and creeds
could get what they wanted without a fight,
before aluminum canned beer
was poured into Solo cups,
before fathers and Fathers
waited for the mothers to be out of town,
before grades and jobs and debts
became levers and scissors
on clothing and legs
pried so easily apart.

I wasn’t there, but yes it was me,
me too, me too, me too,
for not being there to stop it,
to raise my voice and do my part
to end the cycle of complicity
in the carousel of consent and discontent.
I’m guilty and I shoulder the blame
of an entire history I had no place in
other than sharing this similar skin,
this generic face, this entitled life
of accepting my body for what it is.

I’ve said the word nigger with no remorse.
I’ve called you cunt and fantasized
about fucking you like a receptacle
for lust instead of love
like so many starlets on display online.
I’ve said the word faggot and dike
as if it were a punchline
in a joke everyone already knew.
I’ve been a child in a world
made in my image
and I grew to hate myself anyway
as I grew to see past these shells.
Forgive me, I know not what I do,
and though I never hurt you
as a straight white man,
I hope it gives you some comfort
to hear someone admit their fault
for all the pain they know you’ve felt.
Forgive me. Please, forgive me,
then let me burn in hell.

Editors are not your friends

The editor was never your friend

Once, twice, published by Rattle,
not even the magazine,
just the Poets Respond blog,
still paid one hundred bucks,
and I considered this
my greatest literary achievement
having persisted for several years
until Timothy Green said he loved
something I had written.

But Timothy Green was never my friend,
though I defended him from accusations
of racism, of misogyny, of being an asshole,
Timothy Green was never my friend.

He denies global warming,
so why should I care?
He probably voted for Trump,
so why should I care?
Maybe he is indeed everything
people accuse him of being,
how should I know?
I was just defending someone
I considered to be a friend,
but when the chips came down
I should not have expected the same.

His favorite poet was a woman
he probably wanted to fuck,
so he sent her chapbook
to every subscriber.
When I had an argument with her
and she called me misogynist,
for not falling in love
on the internet,
he dropped me like a bag of rocks
into the river of the accused
where he fished regularly
for more drama-tinged poets
to drive the dialogue and currency
of more subscription clicks.

Timothy Green was never my friend,
and that is fine with me,
but people still hold that over my head
like a piano ready to drop,
just as they hold it over his head
like the billy club engraved
with jealous names.

Hello, Jesus. Hello, Peter.
Hello, Binders Full of Women.
Hello, Rachel. Hello, Leza.
Hello, Heather. Hello, long list
of bitches who wish
to stand on each others backs
for the sunlit warmth
of attention on your faces.

I have not murdered anyone.
I have not raped anyone.
I have not even held a grudge
for longer than a week.
Perhaps if I had, I could have
won the Rattle Chapbook Prize,
or at least made it into print
to become one of the few
the editor used as proof
of his egalitarian tastes,
while the idiots clamored
to stab themselves in their throats
with the razor
they fashioned from my very name.

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.