Two stages of the same painting. Acrylic on canvas. 2013.
I watched the peaks of your egg-carton spine
writhe against the loose blue hospital knot
at your neck where the cotton fell away
after everyone else had gone.
I pressed my purpled feet, with yours,
against that ancient wooden bed frame.
Above us, in muted ecstasy
the history channel’s Indian women danced.
I envied their clasped gold-dusted hands,
remembering the pastor who hours before
had appeared at your bedside, Bible gleaming,
with that assured smile all believers own.
I wished for a painted elephant or glowing saint
to process through that stagnant and weary room;
to drape your shrunken neck with flowers and turn
your restless ageless moans to hymns.
We played the tape your father had left;
listened to man-made rain and unnamed birds.
Behind the thunder, I started to cry
realizing we’d have the charge
of manufacturing our own happiness
from now on.
Published in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2006.
After you left, I crawled deep under my bed down the hidden cavern to where I keep my devious contraptions. Unscrewing a stalactite, I unearthed the secret photographs I’d taken with my eye machine of you, sleeping or sweating and always very naked. I donned the special coat I only wear for scheming and slunk down an alley, knocking on a certain door that trembled like a mouth in the rain. I knew a guy. He’d deposed royalty with a single lock of hair, but as he stooped over your photos, shuffling, a new smile squirmed onto his face. They were too good, is what he said, and we chartered a boat to the coast of Crete where he knew a guy, he said, who’d be better at dealing this particular hand. Oh, how it grew away from me, the whole broiling plot. We rose from bending back alleys to galleries by the sea. How they swooned over you, ancient art collectors with their hands still warm from fingering Epimetheus. One by one, my photographs were auctioned away. Some made to hang in ornate frames in salt buffeted bedrooms. Some locked away in cabinets full of crystal. They heaped gold upon me, decorating me like the sole medium to a god. Their ardor grew to a fever pitch. Enlarging some photos, the townspeople built giant floats for parades or carried you to sea like a saint set adrift in a halo of bindweeds. Rudely copied versions of you appeared on t-shirts, candles, even scapulars which tourists snatched up with wild abandon. I’d meant to disgrace you, you see, to your friends and neighbors but here I am, so far away from you and everyone, and it’s gotten away from me too. Even now, I can hear them outside my tiny apartment raising a call for you. I can’t move under my many jeweled hats, but I can hear them, can hear their passion pulsing through the cold clay of my bedroom walls. They are in love with you, every one of them, and it is my fault. I should have never let anyone see you through my eyes.
Published in Gigantic Sequins 2010.
Someone put their fist through the radio
and all weekend it played only Creed.
I tried to shrug it off, drove reckless
through the stars and woke up blanketed
in parking tickets. The Bible in my hotel
bathtub was stuffed with subscription cards.
My high school enemies kept inviting me
to the seafood buffet and all my sweaters
made me look like Dr Huxtable.
Pestilence. It was in the yellow yarn
and the crab Rangoon. I jogged
to the strip mall, but they were out
of priests or kaleidoscopes so I had
to keep looking through my own eyes.
I took myself to the half-price matinee
and threw popcorn at the screen
like a trained ape. The kernels stuck like
boils to the steel asses of celebrities.
Pestilence, I yelled to all the flapping seats,
Published in The Oakland Review 2008.
To be sorted, set among your souvenirs,
your stock photographs, your classics.
To be licked clean like a cat. To be laid out
some nights on your fire escape, bleached
by the moon to match your sheets. To be safe
in the style of rolled coins, safe like heirloom
pearls under glass, safe like sleep. To be announced,
to be spoken like a dead language, named like
a painting, arranged the way music is arranged.
To be reminded of the passing of hours. To be
reminded of promises. To be held together
like a broken figurine while the glue dries
on my wings. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your breath and dream my skin freckled with
mercury. Some nights, to fall asleep under
your hand and dream my body a nested doll,
only cages and cages, even into the heart.
Published in Gigantic Sequins 2010.
for John Chir
The last woman at your empty grave
is grounding rosaries into the wind, is
stitching a history onto rice paper leaves, is
repeating your name and repeating
your name, is waiting for an echo.
The last woman at your empty
grave is interviewing the dark,
is carving memories between falling
stars, is clawing and re-clawing
the dirt, is searching the trees for
a witness. When the breeze traps
itself in the burrows of her scars,
the last woman at your empty grave
hears only carousel music. When
the marble ribbon of your name
unfurls itself, she shakes like a flame.
The rest of us are wearing party
hats, crouched in a darkened room
waiting to yell surprise for you
when you finally arrive. You are not
with the last woman at your empty
grave. You are in the room with us
wearing a hat. You are huddled
in the smallest corner, reaching out
and losing your hand in the dark.
Published in Open Thread 2010.