Lackluster Apocalypse

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,
Pestilence!

Published in The Oakland Review 2008.

Wake

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.

Legacy

I know how to disappear.
I learned it from my mother
who learned it from her mother
and my great grandmother
who went poof! one night
right in the middle of dinner.
After that, my grandmother went,
in between white sheets hanging
on a line in the yard, poof!
Then my mother as she held me
in the hospital, leaving me squirming
on her flattened gown. Even as a baby,
I could see how it was done.
At home, I would catch the men
standing outside at night with their palms
turned upwards. Once a cousin brought home
a magic kit and everyone howled for days.
When I left, they watched me with binoculars,
the horizon dotted with reflecting eyes.
Here, no one believes me. They laugh
at me at dinner parties, spilling their drinks.
They tell me to prove it, and I would.
But it’s the kind of trick you can only do once.

Published in Open Thread 2009.

The One-Way Swing

The one-way swing looked like any other. That was half the problem. Not one batted eye until the children started disappearing. We shook down the alley cats first, as they see everything. The calicos were uncooperative, but the solids all suggested the witch. We stopped inviting her to barbeques, not wanting to be too harsh on just hearsay. When nothing came of it we upturned her geraniums and found sapphires and bottle caps fused to the roots. It was something, but it wouldn’t hold up in court. The marching committee suggested a march. The flyering committee suggested more flyering. The committee committee suggested fewer committees and more searching as we’d lost five children during the meeting. Now robbed of his one true calling, the treasurer of the arithmetic committee sulked towards the playground to count abandoned gloves. The head of the marching committee followed and since he possessed a walk of such distinct authority, the town hall fell in step behind him. (He’d been asked weeks ago by the mayor to only walk at night as the constant spontaneous parades he trailed in his wake were causing quite a traffic problem.) We came upon the dejected treasurer mid-swing. We were already too late. Some say they saw a flash of light. Some say they saw him sprout wings from the pleats of his seersucker and take to the skies. One woman says she saw Jesus, but she’s been injecting deities into recounted events for years so no one pays her much mind. The crowd fell into a hush when he disappeared, the seat of the swing jangling wildly from its chains. Someone called for a ladder and the fire truck came blasting through. After an hour of fruitlessly stirring the clouds, we went home. A week later, the committee for yellow tape (which now met secretly in the storm drains like all the others) wove a web around the swing set. Days passed, weeks. The children never returned. Word circulated that the treasurer had been spotted in Tucson counting sugar packets in a retro-themed diner but it turned out to be a dead end. A film was screened in the elementary school health class denouncing the swing in the hopes of sparing more innocents. It was a success, for the most part. Now we only lose one or two a year, usually middle aged men with a penchant for building model planes or young girls in white dresses who don’t seemed thrilled by anything at all.

Published in Gigantic Sequins 2010.

After Hours

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.