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.

Death factories : NaPoWriMo #19

Life in a firearm factory

America the assembly line
of machined metal and mechanized death,
the safety-goggled eyes and oily hands
wiped on aprons like butchers
in a meat shop, the tiny screwdrivers,
etching tools, and the steadfast resolve
of building that which built a nation with death.

Inspected for quality, inspected for failure rate,
inspected for accuracy, inspected for safety,
each weapon fired at least forty times
past the door that forbids loaded firearms
of any kind, except the ones made inside,
hand-crafted and precision-assured,
checked to insure deliverance
is an unimpeded death.

The workers file in six days a week,
they punch their time cards
and sip their coffee from stainless steel,
they store lunches of sandwiches
wrapped in plastic and potato chip bags
in latched boxes in lockers,
they watch the clock just like you,
counting the minutes until shift’s end,
those hours between themselves
and the faces of their husbands and wives,
the welcome comfort of clean sheets and a pillow,
the warmth of a lover’s body
next to them at night, a sleep-weighted arm
draped over their waist like waiting death.

It’s a job like any other job,
except in the ways it isn’t,
each weapon cleared for shipment
a potential murder or guaranteed tool of war,
a serial number traced by the ATF or the FBI,
another statistic measured and cited
on the nightly news alongside images
of their week’s work with death.

This pistol stopped a robbery,
this pistol was used in a robbery,
this pistol shot a single mother,
this pistol was fired by that single mother’s son,
this rifle held off insurgents,
this rifle was used by an insurgent,
this rifle took 17 lives, took 22 lives,
took 26 lives, took 42 lives,
in Texas, in Florida, in Connecticut, in Nevada,
this rifle did just what is was supposed to do,
I built it, inspected it, went over every millimeter
before sending it out into the world
like a parent hoping the best
for his children with death,
and this is the right of every American.

Repealing the 2nd Amendment : NaPoWriMo #18

Repeal

Impossible to repeel a banana
once the skin is off—
the fruit must be eaten
before the air turns it black,
like a buckshot poison for the gut.

Impossible to retract words
once expelled from the throat
through the tongue teeth and lips,
no ticky tack paper to be rewound
into the lungs on a spool,
no apology to make the spoken unmouthed.

Impossible to unbreak a law
a mirror a precious vase
hurled against a wall,
the criminality remains
like spiderweb scars
caked white with dried glue
in the cracks of the skin.

Impossible to unchange
that which has changed,
to put every stone
back in its home on the range,
to shovel the snows
back to the peak the avalanche unleashed,
to uncarve the canyons
and straighten the rivers once snaked,
to smooth all wrinkles
from a traumatized brain.

Impossible to unpull a trigger
once it has been pulled,
no bullets on strings
stopped and reversed
at the cock of a hammer
or pulse of the heart,
the shot will stay shot
as the dead will stay dead,
even if you remove the slugs
from their bodies or their heads.

What’s done cannot be undone,
what’s made not unmade,
only destroyed burned down
dismantled piece by fucking piece
like an empire of matchsticks
oblivious to the frictions
of their blue tips against red tips
working like a war on common sense
until smoke becomes spark
becomes a heaping mound of ash
for others to write their declarations in
and start the whole damned thing over again.

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.

Let it Burn : NaPoWriMo #13

A New Constitution

The Constitution of the United States
was not torn in half
in the fists of a teenage girl,
but murdered, step by calculated step
by men with fingernails so clean
they must be teflon-coated
and alien to the earth,
having never known the hardship
and humanity of sweat-work
with bent backs and hands in the dirt.

Kept under glass, the sacrosanct
smothers in its refusal to change,
words must be twisted to fit
into the puzzled spaces
of an ever-evolving world,
used to permit
any invented atrocity
of a cunning and apathetic mind,
so let it die.

The truths have ceased their self-evidence,
when each individual manifests
their own cultish version of the facts,
a kind of sugar-laced poison
passed from pew to pew
and spewed like Christ blood
from an oil well, flooding
every living room floor
until all these smeared footsteps disappear.

The past must burn before it is rewritten,
before the triggering trauma
of genocides forgotten
can be repeated and relived,
every person born with a barrel
pressed against the resistant flesh
of a tender-skinned temple,
the red-ring of foreshadowed bang
just waiting for a prophecy
fulfilled by sound.

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.