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Turn turn turn

I found my opinion
leering at naked women
and chastised it
for its brazen disregard
of ocular transgressions,
micro and macro.

My opinion stumbled
from the red rectangle
of the bar entrance
to the driver side door
and blinked away
blurry vision
all the way home.

My opinion is a crybaby,
a bully,
an often misguided missile,
striking a target
with no concern
for the collateral damage.

He walks down dark alleys
dragging a crowbar
caked with rust
and dried liquid
that flakes off black
in his hands
very similar to rust.

I toss him out of my house
like a paper plane,
a drum with a hole in it,
a bowling ball
tied to some fishing line
with two hooks,
one imbedded in each
of my bloodshot eyes.

I wrestle him down
like an older brother
or a father I never had
asking me to say uncle
with no idea
what happens next
after the name has been uttered.

My opinion gets lonely,
it needs to fuck,
to be touched,
admired for its form,
the shock rock smoothness
of cold steel and flesh,
it has needs, it has feelings,
but most of all
it has fists.

It comes in waves

Waves

The morning my dad died
I sobbed in my wife’s arms,
she held me like a child
as I shook and shivered
and left my snot smeared
in her hair, cold and wet,
dripping down my beard.

It was like I awoke
washed in waves of tumult,
all these thoughts rushing me
from all sides, the inverse
of the eye of storms.

He died while we slept,
and he didn’t visit my dreams,
like so many stories I’ve heard,
there was just the room,
the light-filtered drapes,
the furniture, the sounds
of people in other rooms
carrying on with their
ordinary lives.

It’s stupid how guilty I felt
for crying my tears,
wondering why this hurt
so much more
than other deaths,
wondering why I found it
so difficult at times
to just pick up my fucking phone
and listen to his voice
on the other side,

our paths seemed to diverge
like planets and moons
losing their gravity
in ever-widening orbits,
entering each other’s space
less and less over the years,
though born through the same
hot fire of experience,

and now, I’ll carry this moment
until my ribs cease
their own rise and fall,
holding my hand
over your chest
to feel your failing heart
hammering in the heated confines
of your body being outgrown,
and if I decide thoughtlessly
one day to pick up my phone
the only voice I’ll be able to hear
is my own.

For my dad

How you choose to be good

You don’t know this boy
but you love his mother.
The interior of your car
smells like warm leather
and the rolls of Certs
you keep stashed in your pockets.
You picked the boy up from his house
to stay at your place
while you take his mother out of town
to a casino somewhere
just over the state line.
The car is a Grand Marquis,
white, with a supercharged engine
taken from a police cruiser,
its power vibrates through the seats
like a giant cat’s purr
always on the verge of a roar.
You don’t know this boy,
but you know that his mother
will soon be your wife,
and soon you’ll all live
under the same roof.
So when the boy says to you,
he’s never had someone
he’d be proud to call his dad,
and he wonders if you’d mind
if he called you that,
you should simply smile
and slap a hand across his knee,
and say, Sure, son, sure,
that’d be just fine by me.

grieving the loss of a father

GRIEVING

I’ve been wearing your shirt
for six days straight,
trying to meld your memory
to my flesh, a tattoo of plaid,
big knuckles, and Obsession
splashed through a gray beard.

It isn’t working, I feel the room
darkening where I kept your voice
like a phone recording
of a birthday wish
carried further and further away,
until the only sound is shadow,
and scrape of palms against walls,
scouring every shapeless surface
for any familiar frame,
perhaps a locked window clasp
that if loosened, would let some light in.

I can’t rebuild your ephemeral form,
instead I hold it in abandoned objects,
a few clothes, a silver half dollar
melted down and crafted
into a wedding band,
some dusty mandolin strings
strung to a dusty mandolin,
and the black leather jacket
you once let me wear
when I pretended
I was a reservoir dog.

I find myself continually surprised
at how empty I feel,
I’ve become a self-peeling onion
of diminishment,
my mouth a circular inhale
of silent shock
with every layer gone
revealing only more absence
of the space you took up
inside my human shell,
and when all these levels are husked
with only my skinless self
standing in this room
of memories draped in sheets,
I’ll either find myself reborn
or I’ll find myself a bed
among all these blankets
my body once warmed.

Poem for a facebook friend

Reasons to exist
~for John Duddy

We try to make sense of this life,
we want to understand
how our differences intersect
and make connection possible
among all this random bullshit,
how we can love one another
despite the myriad reasons
to simply close the door and hide
inside our nests of self and same,
our quiet holes of comfort and light
dimly cast from curtained windows
or lamps among stacks of well-worn words,
and yet, there’s no sense to it all,
no reason to be found for why
even the good people die,
suddenly, another novel removed
from the shelves of ourselves
leaving only but a faint outline
from where the dust fell
just as careless as rain
that causes the land to slide
and close the spines
of thousands of stories
never opened to our eyes.
You were here yesterday,
and today you are a glimmer
along the edge of the glass,
a trail of sun waving its last
ghostly filament of shine,
while in this world we move on
in fading remembrance
or without missing a thing,
poised on the ignorance
of our next innocuous mistake,
running stop signs, running red lights,
forgetting to signal a turn
that always leads us here,
looking around and lost
about what exactly happened
and how can we still love
a world such as this,
but it turns out it’s simple,
it’s because
we exist.

Not a racist

When they called the dead poet a racist

I suppose I’m selfish
because my grief makes me so,
turning your death into an excuse
for me to need something more
than even your presence could offer,
I say I’m sad, so comfort me,
make me feel anything
other than this emptiness,
this loose coat of flesh
dropped to the floor
like a fresh gutted fish
because it slipped
from the butcher’s hand
before he reached the brown paper,
and god damn it,
I just want to keep finding myself
reflected in the eyes of your words,
they gave me courage
to emulate your fearlessness,
your playfulness, the way criticism
seemed to bead from your skin
like water on a newly waxed car,
labels sliding off you
as easy as eggs from a pan
onto plates you just kept serving
to hungry customers
who kept standing in line
no matter what the protestors
shouted from outside
on their sidewalks, their lips curled
with rage, their mouths
all flying spittle and clouds
of cold breath, how could you,
how could you continue
without apology, without explanation,
smiling beneath your veil
of hot tar and goose feathers,
your teeth so white,
your skin so pale,
your poems so good
you insisted they do all your talking.

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.

NaPoWriMo Poem 5, Gun pastoral

Second Amendment Pastoral

If guns grew on trees much green would be gone
from the world, replaced with gunmetal gray,
perhaps a pink camo dogwood here or there,
the rest turned reflective and dark,
like American hearts.

The hills would become congregations
of slouching, heavy boughs
cloaked in deathly funeral-like robes,
a procession of morose ghouls
producing their yearly harvests
of yet more life-taking tools.

How long before the weapons
outnumber the souls, outnumber
the blades of grass in the yards,
outnumber the stars?
And yet, the hands reach up
for such deadly fruit,
just to feel something colder
than the memory of a mother
with black opioid eyes.

Is this the utopia we deserve,
land of breath by Russian roulette,
land of nitroglycerin smoke,
black residue left on the fingers
of the firing trigger fist,
land of forests where the wind
through the limbs
sounds like a chorus
of haunted pitch pipe barrels
whistling in the key of apathy.

If guns grew on trees, we’d tell the children
not to climb them, to build their play houses
in the graveyards instead,
just to shorten the distance
between growing up and playing dead.

Always time for hating yourself

Lunar phase

so the moon is a sliver
against the turquoise and mango-tinged dusk
mountain ranges gone purple and gold
where the light hits the snow,
the black orb of the illusion,
what’s hidden in shadow can still be seen
just before the sky goes black.

in twilight, I find the darkness
before the darkness can find me,
and pry its skeletal fingers
into my skin like knives
digging around for buckshot
or bullets shaped like my mother’s face.

I want to sing the stars a love song
about the rapture of yoga pants
and summer clothes
but in this age I’d be called sexist
or worse, for daring to admire
women without their consent,
for objectifying shapely buttocks
held in spandex or stretched cotton,
for peeling the thin veil of apple flesh
from the core of my wicked thoughts.

I am an animal surrounded by animals
tying themselves to fenceposts
and then struggling against the ropes
to gnash and spit
inches from each others faces.

just say what you have to say
before time robs your words of their power
and leaves you fingering another dead flower
left in its vase for too long,
the water in the bell end
turned a fetid brown, rancid with decay,
there’s always someone picking fresh bouquets
just as there’s always time
for feeling sorry for yourself.