Funeral

Funeral for a firearm

We’ve had a funeral for facts,
an unceremonious good-bye
to ways of measured truth
like lives held in teaspoons.

We’ve had a funeral for children,
a self-fulfilling prophecy
of profits killing kids over and over again
and politicians cashing the checks.

We’ve had funerals for friends
from work, from class, from church,
from the naval yard, from everywhere USA
where people carry death like spare change.

We’ve had a funeral for democracy,
electing stars of reality TV to play their roles
in high-back leather chairs
while leaving bloody fingerprints on every door.

We’ve had a funeral for decency,
choosing comfort food over truth
to keep a small, singular orbit
of revolving warmth inside such fragile cells.

We’ve had funerals for our selves,
sleeping with enemies under our pillows,
sleeping with enemies under our skins,
choosing to exist inside a currency of sins.

These illusions are self-evident,
to those with eyes open wide,
we’ve spent less time mourning these lives
than worshiping the source of the crimes.

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.

Among nature again

The truth of a waiting world

Is that another snow-capped peak
rising in the distance
or just cumulus clouds stacked beyond reason,
impossible to discern the difference
looking through a hillside of evergreens.

Even here the hum of highway
persists among the solace of tree and stone,
plots of grass sit occupied by random strangers
and their dogs, intermittent laughter,
the chatter of conversation fragments,
the haggard breaths of joggers
travel like the echoes of bird song,
the cries of the red tail hawk,
the chirps of a chubby squirrel
foraging amid the leaves,
it’s peace, it’s warm sun
on the back of my neck,
interlocking puzzle pieces
of this moment in time,
each passerby a story
independent of my own.

The flowering trees are in full bloom,
bright plumes of pink, white, cornflower blue
popping like fireworks
over the tops of the houses
along the road’s edge,
explosions of color frozen in full spark,
jutting against the sky
like alien manifestations of joy.

I’ve climbed the hills of this dormant volcano
still budding with life, I’ve stared
across the reflections of its reservoirs
and looked out over the descending valleys
where human achievement diminishes
itself from a cityscape to an ant farm,
and I have felt anxiety slip away,
the only threat here the promise
that the universe will keep its secrets hidden,
that every beautiful and dangerous thing
will reach the same unknowable end
and then be unable to reveal its truth
back to the waiting world.

I’ve made my peace

Making peace

No one will read this poem,

but I have made my peace with this

anonymity, the poem does not speak

for me, I speak poems into being.

To the poem, I am god,

a god that expects no worship

for or from his creations.

Poetry has been my ruination,

a blissless martyrdom, a penance

of stigmata and unseen suicide scars.

Poetry has been my weapon

against the demons and dragons

crowding the thoughts out of my skull,

succubae that refuse to be slayed.

I do not expect to be forgiven

though I expose my cheek

and ask to be abused.

I do not expect to be accepted

though I am exhausted

within the reality of zeroes

competing with the ones.

The poems continue to manifest

within me like tumors

that spread malignantly

if not removed. So remove them,

find the silence of a volcanic mountainside

and paint me with your broadest brush,

each stroke obscuring your own reflection.

Give everyone a gun

Armed and conscientious

Give the teachers guns
loaded with gold stars,
give the students guns
loaded with confetti and noise.

Give the politicians guns
loaded with indisputable facts,
give the media guns
loaded with human hunger.

Give the religious guns
loaded with bread and wine,
give the atheists guns
loaded with zeroes and ones.

Give the racists guns
loaded with rainbow light,
give the terrorists guns
loaded with human rights.

Give the film stars guns
loaded with pine cones and water,
give the lonely guns
loaded with glitter and lube.

Give the destitute guns
loaded with thousand dollar bills,
give the corporations guns
loaded with human joy.

Give the military guns
loaded with whoopi cushion farts,
give the pacifists guns
loaded with music and laughter.

Give the children guns
loaded with unrealistic ambition,
give the parents guns
loaded with wet ammunition.

Universe in a nutshell poem for Stephen Hawking

Organism
~for Stephen Hawking

What if every life is just an unwinding,
an unraveling thread of spirals,
branching out by years and days and choices
in wider and wider arcs until too large
to be sustained, each person their own
universe, an expanding golden ratio
of Fibonacci arms reaching for other arms
of other universes like brain cells
illuminating electrical clouds of REM sleep.

First born, the spiral is tight and small,
an infant fist closing around a mother’s finger,
but as the child grows the universe unfurls
and something gets lost, old connections fade,
the stars at the center begin their inevitable collapse,
family and friendships become occasional phone calls,
intermittent trips home for funerals or birthdays
or weddings to strangers,
and so the cluster of brightness at everyone’s core
begins to dim, and this we call dying.

If only there was a way to share the light
without sacrifice, to keep every star burning
like a perpetual fission furnace of love,
to hold hot coals in palms without being burned,
to tell every person every day that they are oxygen
and each breath is a flame, each heart essential
to the beat of the next to be named,
perhaps this cycle of expansion unto retraction
could balance itself out, find an equilibrium
where instead of competing for space to grow,
we allow the other to overlap our own
and these entangled galaxies
to become one,
just one set of breathing lungs.

Poem on the day of Stephen Hawking’s death

An ordinary day

Slept until noon because the sun has never been enough
to get me out of my own head, to get me out of bed,
to get me past feeling the opposite of weightless,
and after two cups of coffee, I’m skipping the shower.

It’s overcast and raining just enough to make noise
like an old television left on past midnight
and then it’s opting not to starve to death
and walking the dog once the static fizzles out.

The streets still wet, potholes filled with gray water
or brown water along the unpaved edges,
we could see our breath but breathing felt ordinary
and so, not worth acknowledging more

than birds chattering somewhere overhead, unseen.
I lose myself in tasks I put off longer than I should,
I load the dishwasher, drill holes and hang shelves
twice because I measured wrong, like most things

I am careless when I’m confident. The dog barks
at the vacuum, at the neighbor’s goat, at me
until I feed him and there’s a cat on my chest.
Two beers, a glass of whiskey and I’m buzzy

playing my guitar until my fingers are sore
because I rarely play guitar any more,
so on goes the television for some company
and off go the shoes, into slipshod piles by the door,

Stephen Hawking died today
and I heard about it via text,
a momentary pause among these flourishes
of ordinary perception, refracting around grief

or its absence.

The poem that vilified me

SCOWL
~after Allen Ginsberg, for Sarah

1.
I’ve seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by narcissism, believing their own hype,
that they could rewrite history on a social media feed, standing on their armchairs
with eyes rolled back to the whites, sharks gnashing at invisible meat in the white sea foam,
teeth chipped and cracking from clacking bone against bone,
who understood that feminists don’t swallow come, they peel back the layers of skin
from the hard cock, like dissecting a flexed muscle, using dull tools like fingernails
buffed to an acrylic shine, no anesthetic applied, find every fibrous layer of meat
and snip snip snip
who tore pages from the Vagina Monologues and stuffed them into their vaginas,
ingesting false gods into the real god, the birth hole of Christ,
who reclaimed Anne Sexton from the narcoleptics, only to fuck her corpse more quietly
in the tool shed, using male tears for lubrication of every opening,
who shouted TRIGGER WARNING from every window of every church in the city,
any time a thought entered the mind
TRIGGER WARNING: anal sex, a fist covered with shit, rectum flotsam and jetsam,
TRIGGER WARNING: another woman turning herself into a come dumpster,
a slave to the lustful male gaze, breast implants and rouge,
TRIGGER WARNING: another cis-gendered white man thinking about fucking you,
TRIGGER WARNING: the leaves are turning bright red in the fields, burning
like an empire at the end of its reign, burning like menstruation,
Christian Grey with a bloody tampon between his teeth,
who dismantled the patriarchy with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, an email inbox
stuffed with slimy testicular secrets and empty scrotal sacks,
who made themselves invisible and made every man a rapist in a bathroom stall,
standing in solidarity with the wind, the wagging tongues of dogs,
redacted, redacted, redacted
who wrote petitions to have women stop eating themselves, to stop the search
for the perfect wife, the ballerina dancing on the head
of Charles Bukowski’s prick,
who wrote petitions and blogs and Tweets and petitions about problematic appropriations,
the systemic oppression of not having a seat at every table,
who said Jay Sizemore is a piece of shit, Jay Sizemore is a fucking troll, I’ve blocked him
on all social media for thinking he’s a victim,
who got a teacher fired for reading a Ginsberg poem to the class, for daring to allow
a poet’s words to occupy his mouth longer than the taste of his lover’s come,
who wore a mattress around their neck for performance art, carrying the weight of
a rolling stone, of an abortion scar, of a sex tape gone wrong,
the world is a condom kept past its expiration date, the wrapper creased with white wrinkles,
a Dear John letter torn to pieces and meticulously recrafted with Scotch tape and tears,
the world is a liar, half-drunk, urging you into the alley with the barrel of a pistol
wedged at the bottom of your spine, the world is a garbage truck for dreams,
removing couches from curbs, black bags stuffed with loose foliage from tree trimming,
the world is a dog food factory with an undisclosed source of meat,
who said, you can be anything you want to be if you just never give up,
until cancer became the number one killer and Charles Manson died of a broken heart,
who built the MFA factories of the damned, churning out carbon copy creatives
with hatred for articles and a keen love of the ampersand,
who said a prostitute should be called a sex worker and never a hooker without a sense of humor,
never a come guzzling whore working her way through college,
who requested the vampires to sparkle, for lead female characters to only crave attention from
cruel, callous men, a sexual tension building to a broken bed,
who protested the syllabus for its inclusion of Ovid and tales of Greek mythology
for their content, the triggering post traumatic stress of fictional god rape,
who was offended by comedians, driving them away from their campuses
with pitchforks and flames, threats of litigation, thrown beer bottles to the stage,
who counts the gender of every writer in every magazine, counts the gender
of every editor, counts the gender of every facebook like, counts the gender
of every bookstore owner, counts the gender of every cat on the lap,
who asked the world to stop reading men, to #killallmen, to lift the skirts
of every pixelated page and check for smooth plastic parts,
the new rainbow is sterile shades of gray,
every person lives in their own segregated digital box or cell,
every person the warm nucleus at the center of their solipsistic self,
the cluster of stars at the beginning of the universe, around which it all revolves,
the zero model in the first line of impressionist clones
where political correctness is the low-hanging fruit, the bulbs of overripe outrage
dangling like exposed testicles,
the plague of man-spreading subway riders taking up extra seats,
the epidemic of non-empathic man-splainers with affinities for actually’s.
who said Sansa Stark should never have been raped, that it was time to boycott HBO,
that George R. R. Martin should be castrated with a letter opener,
who rage quit the Academy Awards, the Pen American Awards, the Grammy Awards,
too many kids on the playground trying to climb on one swing set,
who watched Michael Brown get shot in the back, watched Eric Garner get choked to death,
watched Tamir Rice lose his life in two seconds, Walter Scott shot unarmed,
who makes tragedy about themselves rather than the tragic,
putting picket lines around funerals, shouting God Hates Fags,
who put a glass dome over the North American continent,
waiting for the cannibals to come out of the closets,
the hunger pangs manifest like concrete blocks thrown off rooftops,
the sun is unmerciful with its lunacy,
each room needs an oscillating fan, rattling with white streamers,
the streets become Dutch ovens with sky for a lid,
brains boil like cabbages, making thoughts dark with a dismal stench,
churches are slaughterhouses and prayers are self-flagellations,
the beds are devouring the dreamers, but the dreamers never know it.
who decided what words should never be said, offended by the word cunt,
with cunts capable of being used like Chinese finger cuffs,
cunts used like pencil sharpeners, grinding dicks into hamburger,
shitting blood all over the pages of the Constitution,
check your privilege,
who was offended by the word nigger, calling for Huckleberry Finn to be banned,
calling for Tom Sawyer to be eradicated from the classroom,
as if the past were a curtain to be drawn, as if nigger isn’t shouted
every other word in every other pop song on the radio,
check your privilege,
who was offended by the picture of the prophet Muhammad and shot up the printers,
who said the artists deserve what they got, that action creates consequence,
that stirring a hornet’s nest is the best way to be stung,
check your privilege,
who was offended by Gone With The Wind in a Twitter feed, filed a petition
to ruin a career, starting with one position of influence,
and then protesting at every scheduled performance until there is no safe place
for poetry or art at the edges,
check your privilege,
who was offended by the word motherfucker, and demanded an R rating,
counting the number of fucks within every two hour span,
going home and fucking the Bible like a dildo shaped from Jesus’ head,
who was offended by gay sex, by the male genitalia, by anything other than missionary,
wanting to protect the children from escalating teen pregnancy
by making sexual identity and sexual freedom a mark of shame,
overthrowing the Supreme Court to protect the idea of selling women
for two goats and a plot of land, waving the Confederate flag,
who was offended by lack of Christian faith, forcing candidates to say they love God,
the word atheist like a dirty sock in the mouth,
religion that opiate the drunk mob force feeds like fire
to their children made of cutout paper,
who was offended by Jared Leto playing a transgendered male on film,
wanting all actors to stop acting and start only playing themselves,
check your privilege,
who was offended by a rape joke, offended by a duckface, offended by a blowjob,
offended by a staggering lack of privacy, with all emails made public,
offended by another man fetishizing the female body,
offended by rape drug-detecting nail polish,
offended by any singular comment that strikes a bad chord,
offended by the notion of equality of opportunity trumping equality of outcome,
offended by Caitlyn Jenner being called a hero,
offended by Caitlyn Jenner having more money than most identity-struggling teens,
offended by the Nobel Prize,
offended by Coca-Cola forgetting your name,
offended by anything that exists outside the solipsistic self,
who observes such freedom of expression with an indignant scowl,
anamorphic time travelers, clothed in Puritan rags,
scowling from the wilderness before it was named,
scowling from the pulpit of haloed light,
scowling from the mirror and the stranger’s face,
who can’t breathe amid all this strangulation of ideas, this tightening lynch knot
around the throat of the free, the burdensome gaggle of lampreys
clinging to the body of the immortal giant, the leeches feeding
on the blood of their own making, a new form of vampiric anorexia,
the streets are gorged with this silent war, hands turned into lenses, eyes turned into mirrors,
all windows are LCD screens, the skyline is a flickering continuum of YouTube viral video,
we are running out of drinking water, reservoirs turning yellow as urine, nothing but bleached sand,
the California forests are a tinderbox, a funeral pyre for man,
while PornHub raises money to see people fuck in outer space, to see semen float in zero gravity,
while elephants are getting their heads blown apart,
the white rhino has seen its last days,
half the world living in denial of man-made climate change,
vilifying the homeless taking baths in public restroom sinks,
ignoring the scent of car exhaust cloaked alleys, of unlaundered sweat-stained fatigues,
of sewer steam drifting ripe through rusted grate, of garbage left untilled in a landfill,
ignoring the taste of the spoiled, rancid meat, the rotted fruit clouded with flies,
the salt in a lover’s sweat, the last cup of coffee ever served,
the future is a butchery,
the tabletops run with the blood of the poets,
tongueless mouths open and gargling a strangled yawp,
splattering droplets of crimson rain,
no words are sacrosanct,
no bone is immune to the hammer and saw,
who will stand in front of the armored tank, placing a daisy in the cannon’s black maw,
who will join hands in a circle that becomes a net, a mesh of forgiveness
cushioning the fall of humanity, and saving our truest selves,
the meteor of guilt caught like a bird in a cage,
taught to fly and hunt only for worms, instead of feasting on the carrion of decay,
the unbalanced wheel of life resuming its perfect spin,
with every voice taking part in that harmonious song.

2.
Reflections aren’t capable of cracking skulls, aren’t capable of pinning tongues to the roofs of mouths, of painting windows shut, sealing doors with hammered nails.
Hail Satan! The deceiver. The Morning Star. The white man.
Nightmare made flesh, made lover, made king of everything on Earth.
Hail Satan! The torture device! The wireless router! The justice system!
Satan, whose year-end bonus is the world’s salaries combined,
Satan, whose wristwatch is made of human kidneys,
Satan, who put a padlock on the clitoris and declared rape children miracles.
Hail Satan! The cellular phone! The dick-pic! The Saudi Arabian prince!
Satan, who invented the high-heeled shoe.
Satan, who invented fast food!
Satan, who started the Industrial Revolution with steam.
Hail Satan! The pharmaceutical giant! The income gap! The minimum wage!
Satan, who enslaved the world to the concept of ownership.
Satan, who made addicts to happiness, who made sadness a sin.
Satan, who invented the concept of race.
Hail Satan! The holocaust! The red wedding! The abortion clinic!
Satan, porn industry mogul, shrimp boat captain, the new Pope.
Satan, who refuses to free the nipple!
Satan, who condemns assisted suicide!
Hail Satan! Member of the Academy! Congressional lobbyist! Child molester!
Satan, who teaches creationism in the classroom.
Satan, who builds the bombs.
Satan, the river of time.
Hail Satan! His cliched red horns! The mustache! The American Native!
Satan, who murdered the buffalo for their tongues.
Satan, who forced Chinese feet into a golden lotus.
Satan, who built the railroad.
Hail Satan! The Masque of the Red Death! The Raven! The Hellbound Heart!
Satan, who clips the birds wings.
Satan, who sets the emission standard.
Satan, the military recruiter who wanders the halls of high schools.
Hail Satan! OPEC! Warmonger! President of the United States!
Satan, whose furnace is fed with coal.
Satan, whose teeth shine slick with human fat.
Satan, who turns the Grand Canyon into a mall.
Hail Satan! MLB! NFL! NBA!
Satan, reinventing the slave with a leather bound ball.
Satan, claiming ownership of the sun.
Satan, charging a fee to breathe.
Hail Satan! King of the coral reef! Toxic waste dump! Graveyard tyrant!
Satan, who arms the rebels.
Satan, who trains jihadis to fly.
Satan, owner of Fox News.
Hail Satan! The police state! The carpetbagger! The candidate!
Satan, who bailed out the banks.
Satan, who killed the electric car.
Satan, the blindness of human palms.
Satan who stands on the backs of the divided, cracking his whip, breaking the bodies made of water, captain of the slave ship carried by multitudes of hummingbirds strung to the sails,
floating above everything, so that people are no more significant than ants,
but when the giants fall, it’s the ants that eat the bodies.

3.
I’m with you, Sarah,
in your bedroom when your daddy knocks on the door.
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you wake up naked on the floor.
I’m with you, Sarah,
when the world starts to spin like an out of control ferris wheel.
I’m with you, Sarah,
when he says you can trust him, when he lets you leave a toothbrush at his place,
when he makes you late for work with another blackmail blowjob,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you have to flip the mattress to hide the blood,
I’m with you, Sarah,
in New York City, where you got those bruises on your arms,
like purple handcuffs, like clumsy tiger stripes,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you wash your hands for the hundredth time a day,
when lotion burns in the cracks of your skin,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you post another selfie, asking for faceless approval,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you touch yourself and imagine being raped, being dominated
by a force too powerful to feel anything but lust,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you cry yourself to sleep,
when you smother your screams into the cotton pillowcase,
I’m with you, Sarah,
when you feel like it’s you against the world,
when no one believes your story,
when the police officer looks at you like you asked for it,
when the layers of your clothing still leave you shivering underneath,
I’m with you, Sarah,
and I know you are strong enough to make it on your own,
but I’ll put my arm around your shoulders
if you’re ever tired of feeling alone.

Own this work.

Natural progression

Building a life

Do memories make a life?
Memories do make a life,
on a deathbed, looking back,
the mind becomes a scrapbook
with pages missing.

I always wanted to live
among the mountains
where the shadows of clouds
crawl like sneaking cats
across the cliff faces and the valleys.
I always wanted a life
of veritable joy upon waking
beside the warm body of a lover
and a puppy’s blinking awareness
from the foot of the bed.

You can call me selfish,
call me monstrous
for daring to carve a hollow
space for this wanting,
but every man is guilty
of some deforestation
to make space for a home.

The night sky plays no favorites
with where it drops its dew
or whose view of the moon
gets obscured by creeping cauls,
we must make due
with surviving the magnanimous tide
that gives and takes our breath,
and this gravity that allows our steps
without crushing our fragile frames.
These steps were always balanced
on a high wire between here
and not here.

A poem is a gun

If poems were firearms

Another disenchanted youth loads his backpack
with weapons, the heavy oil stink of black metal
and copper clinging to his pink and sensitive fingers
like chalk dust and graphite from hand sharpened pencils.
He’s spent the night memorizing Dylan Thomas,
loading clips and carbines and lubricating slots and slides
with metaphor and simile, with adjective and verb,
the lasting impressions of a concrete image.

The bell sounds and he drops the weight from his shoulders,
crouches behind a line of plain gray lockers to unzip his bag,
no one paying attention, he’s just another student in another hall
in another school in another town of America,
where the kids form packs and cliques as easy as amino acids
build ladders in the blood, and he’s up, and he’s done thinking
about whether this is right or wrong, red or blue,
he puts a barrel to the forehead of a beautiful blonde
and bang, fills her brain full of Shakespearean sonnets.

The kids begin to shriek and scatter like seagulls chased from beaches,
bouncing off each other and into the walls, falling down,
trampled by sneakers and boot heels and twisted ankle soles,
as the shots echo in rapid succession, leaving their words
like bruises on the flesh. A boy whose only desire from the day
was to ask Maggie Mae to the dance, suddenly compares her face
to the sun, wants to tattoo his heart with rhyme, to leave verses
like postcards from his hormones inside her mailbox at night.

Another finds that his appetite for carving curse words into desks
is suddenly replaced with Gwendolyn Brooks’ “we real cool,”
a girl stops taking selfies and starts speaking in iambic pentameter,
another throws her phone into the toilet and jots down five lines
in a three-subject notebook that previously held only her name,
a teacher suddenly realizes he’s shown favoritism to white students
and has an entire chapbook of poems about racism in his head.

Slowly, the crowd loses its panic, as more and more students and faculty
hit by the power and ferocity of stanza and scheme
feel their lives take a sudden change, a nod toward beauty
gone too-long ignored, their faces slackening then glowing with grins,
one by one they realize they’ve allowed their lives to be consumed by lies,
to forego existence for mere reflections of selves in palms,
and they line up like believers after the pastor’s psalms, saying, “Me too. Me too.”