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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.

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.

NaPoWriMo Poem #11

On hanging a bird feeder

If I am a stranger to myself
maybe I’ve always been,
wondering at the man I’ve become,
buying a better drill to drive
these screws into the deck post
when twelve volts couldn’t do the job,
securing this wrought iron hook
to hang this lantern-like object
with its windows only reflecting light
I can no longer discover inside.

And then the disappointment begins
when nothing seems to happen,
days of waiting like a child
for a Christmas morning with no snow
and a living room floor absent
of the gift Santa promised to bring,
sitting in a cloth-backed chair
sipping beers at sunset,
the wind gently flapping
the sun-filtered shade of an awning
while blue-gray clouds ease their way
eastward beyond the trees that lean
into a sky past the fence line.

This is pointless, I think, listening
to that ambient susurrus
of neighborhood noise like ocean currents,
what winged thing would ever want
to visit me in my apathy?
And, of course, nothing answers,
as it always does the thoughts
of an aging mind.

But, life still holds an element of surprise,
life still happens without announcement
of itself, when without applause
a red-breasted finch alights
along that lantern’s metal-railed base,
cocks its head to and fro
as if in ambivalent acknowledgment,
picks up a seed in its black and white beak
and flutters out of sight,
back into the canopy of camouflage trees,
and there’s this moment
this inexplicable pause in the minutiae
of heartbeats flooding my veins,
where happiness finds its wings.

Another gun poem : NaPoWriMo #10

A penis is a warm gun

The measure of manhood
can’t have a snubbed nose,

this open carry seems indecent
in the presence of children,

yet, here we are, waving
our dicks around like trophies,

impregnating the air
of coffee shops and grocery stores

with that curdled milk odor of death.
Shooting off at the mouth,

shooting off from the hip,
stroking these polished barrels

and stocks in orgies of masturbatory
fear mongering for what?

A good guy with a cock
keeps his happiness at home

and shines up his chrome
to internet porn when he’s alone

like an ordinary homophobe.
Maybe it’s less manly

to keep your junk in your drawers,
to keep your chamber cleared,

to keep a pistol only capable
of shooting six girls before needing reload,

but at a certain age it becomes obscene
to think of anything but a future

where the young can decide for themselves
which wounds they’d prefer to die from.