Saturday, April 8, 2017

We Haven't Spoken In Almost a Year

We Haven't Spoken In Almost a Year
Saturday, April 8, 2017
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There are those people you begrudgingly have something in common with,

Because you work with them or your kids are the same age,

Or you live next door and can see into their living room blinds

When the sun pisses down the right amount of shine.


There are those people you’re sexually compatible with,

Because the kiss right after the sharp whiskey and before the hard wine

Tastes just right, because their chilled tongue touches your chilled tongue

And the table where you sit becomes soft like the edge of a mattress,

And the morning after doesn’t make you want to spit.


There are those people you bond with because your childhoods were similarly horrible

Or you favorite the same White Stripes song, or your eyes meet at just

The right time when the country curves and there’s a bill in Congress and your

Thoughts echo the same protest signs.


Then there are those people who set your world on fire,

Who you melt with, where your laughter any time after

Colors with their stain, and joy and madness

Both and the same are spelled with their name.

Those are always the people you have to leave behind so you can live again,

Even if saying goodbye means death to the only part of yourself

That ever knew a world worth living.

Inauguration Day: January 21st, 2009

Inauguration Day: January 21st, 2009

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One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Back when your addiction felt like the cure,

One-hundred and fifteen pounds

Of unfed bones and fake baked skin,

Six months before your hospital stay,

The sole heir to a genetic mutation that appeared

On your thirtieth birthday like a Halloween monster

To take you under, transform you to surface beautiful,

Letting the good inside go ugly deep.


One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Saturated by transient men and janitors, intercom calling

Sisters, suitcases stacked by chairs, coffee spilling at the brim,

A mundane sun slipping its tongue into a sliver of window,

There you sit, a blonde by the bar on the way to a city

Where it snows in a state the President reigned

When he wasn’t President, when he was a candidate

On a ballot that you checked but your lover didn’t,

But your husband did and your children couldn’t.


We appoint our kings on Eastern Time, in mornings,

Central timers suck caffeine, eyes glued to the TV,

Waking as the newly knighted is sworn in,

And the red travelers stop and swear at him, fists enraged,

Stopping the passing on the way to planes,

And clapping donkeys reflect in the ice-clinking glass,

A bit of contrast, you rotate to the right and the faces pinch,

To the left again and there's hope, but the monster laughs:

"It will take more than hope to save you."

One day you will see yourself as you saw yourself then,

Ice melting faster than your luggage can pack,

The corpse of your marriage heavy around your neck,

And the pound of a phone in your purse

That made remembering history a chore--

Made everything a chore, even loving your children.

Its loud, insufferable silence a war, and warring it stayed,

Bloodthirsty even when the bones were fed,


Then rotted away for years until you finally buried it.

Lonely Spinster Cat Lady Mourns

Lonely Spinster Cat Lady Mourns

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I. Insomniac Blues
This poem means sleeplessness.

You went. Where?


II. Not Even a Hint
We watched shows about the dead, you curled upon my lap.

“That will be me one day,” I said. “That will be you.”

Death and taxes, the two inevitables.


You wisely said nothing, as cats often do. Still. You could have hinted.

Any action to suggest, “True, I will die, and sooner than you.”


But you were just a cat, and could not speak, and

I, a human, should have known, knowing

What I know—my heart beats slow,

Your heart beats fast, fast like paws pounding pavement,

Fast like freedom, no room needed for air,

No air needed to speak.


III. Charlotte Is Here
Charlotte is here, under my feet.

Another long day awaits; days six, seven, eight—

Yes, and the hours too—those termites.


But do not worry.

I have not changed.

I am not going anywhere.

The same music plays, Vampire Weekend, and I

Wear the same hair, strawberry blond,

Behind the same pointed ears.

I speak with the same overbite, and stare

With the same vacant eyes and their familiar bags underneath,

The same loose skin, the same late hours, the same sickness,

The same sleeping disease.


What has changed is few. For instance, the ashtray is full.

The couch has moved. The mailman came.

The food was replaced.


But I have not changed.

I am not going anywhere.


IV. Birds
Birds chirping, rejoicing!

Predator-less, they take the kids out of hiding.

Out on the town, they go,

Milkshakes made of seeds, wet disco at the water fountain.

Chirp, splash, chirp!
“Fuck to you, and good day!” they say to the cat

Who can no longer hear them.



V. Rebirth, Why Not?
Hope nose dives, cracks the glass. Summer’s come,

Beer pong, long days, moonless stars, and

Charlotte’s never been more pleased. Her

Competitive streak has outworn its use.

Archaic cream, milk of mimosas,

Balloons fall, the networks call it. Let it begin—

The reign of the Insane, the Sleepy-eyed Wizard princess

Perched upon her puddle of pee.

Slow blink, success, sleep.

Tabby brown. Eyes, green.

Her twelfth year, age one-hundred,

She is the victor. A one-party party system

Of her own since last week.


(I cannot help but hate her.)


VI. No, No, No
Has it only been a week?

Has it been a week already?

Where did the time go?

Why does it stay?

What can’t it linger?

Why won’t it leave me alone forever?


VII. Coping
Hammer me, nail.

I have not changed. Not in the least.

Dirt buries you, work buries me. We pick our suffering,

But I slug it out. Unwind with wine and flat teeth,

Pea pods, yogurt, home tributes, the like—

Name it, sister, and I’ve tried it! Tried everything.


(But I have not changed.

I have not gone anywhere.)


Distractions, bat caves, ice cream,

Fourth of July Parades, alone or

With friends, organized or sporadic.

And God damn it but yes, much more.

I have gone lower, and failed with the worst. You name it.

Cheap gauze strips. Generic anti-germ gels,

Reality TV, blogs about surrendering,

That moldy bagel in the trashbin I put back on the plate,

And ate, until I was certain anything spoiled

Could never be ripe again.


Because, why not? If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try again. Try until you cannot take it. Try until

You almost make it, try until you can fake it, and when

That camera is flashing, smile like you don’t hate it.

When they say they’re sorry, shrug and say, resolved,

“Thank you, but she was just a cat.”


VIII. Sometimes
Sometimes I need my mother.

Other times I need a man. But mostly

I need sleep. A refrain from

My waking life. Puckered Benadryl, cylinder lips,

Blue shrapnel, a glass of water to swallow the sorrow.

Pitch blackness, please.

Slip it to me, my prescribed child,

Peace by any means—peace by postcard,

Peace by muscled hand, peace by pillowcase, flower-shaped,

Peace with an unhealthy tan,

“A dark glow to go, thanks!”


IX. Sappy
Remember how you slept by my feet? Or by my head?

You eyed Charlotte. She’s mine!

And to prove it—fur in mass exodus.

Rough on my cheek, your sandpaper tongue.

I shook my face. “Needy!” I cried, not unhappily.

And I scratched your neck.


(That may have been it. That may have been the last time.)


X. Morning
Orange unfolds. Lavender pinks.

I gather my bones, I pour mint tea,

Red-eyed I go, porch-bound, where

The warm outdoors awaits.

I eye the sky for an apology.


Hello, Murderous Month! Hello, July, hello!

You sucked my kitty up.

You hung my happiness to dry.


Oh, enough.


I sit my bones, I sip my tea,

I watch the sun, I watch the birds,

I watch their wings beat back across the sky,

Across this thimble of time, and

Across birth, across decay,

With a tune that says yes,

We’ll all die someday.


(But not soon enough.)


So here it is, another day,

And this music, the tapping—it plays.

It plays in rhythm with my heart,

My burdensome, beating heart.

Envy

Envy

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She's got one of those faces

I always wanted.

Heart shaped, chin pointed

Like the mouth of a tear.

I'll be an androgynous lion

Of liquid film creeping closer,

Closer until I suck

The blood of her pretty.

Unlined, untimed, I'll be

The girl again I never was.

Drinks free, men leaning in.

The scar on my temple torched.

Other scars running scared too.

Inward, outward, I'll appear

The lack of everything I've been.

Beauty like a blunt pin,

Beating back, pain free again,

Unmutilated, bring me in.

Eating on a Budget

Eating on a Budget

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My Friday Denny’s dinner.

Scrambled eggs, scribbled frogs spread in butter,

Wax colored. Green and blue.

Boyfriend wars with the waiter. Plates grease-set

Given hastily, the check begged

Then delivered scrawled wearily while

The waiter waits for the tip she barely earns.

Her customer is not happy.

He turns to me, “Hope dies here,”

Because the walls are painted purgatory, even

Kids wear an Erebus cape,

Slaves to their parents’ pancakes and poverty,

Juice watered down drinks and the checkered

Dull drapes hung drearily,

Carpet screaming for a cleaning,

Battery-powered banter fueled by hunger,

Problems “Kids Eat Free” nights can’t sustain.

Christmas holiday cheer doesn’t live here,

Doesn’t bless the tinsel taped menus

Or the overhead carols which carol with

A mind numbing tune, a soprano or baritone

Breaking bread across the bleak,

Merry Christmas, it sings, Merry Christmas to all,



All but the forgotten and the poor and the meek.

High School is Forever

High School is Forever

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I’m thirty-five and fucking the student body president.

He went to law school and took tests while

I dropped acid and danced

To blinking lights in foreign lands where glass cut

The dance floor before the bar flared up in balls of flames.


We were dead to each for twenty years until

We hit the hometown together,

Wasting time judging the dashboard flexing figurines

Of friends who stayed behind to live

The complacent lives we ran

From in opposite directions.

Time and time we reminded ourselves,

We’re only tourists here, just visiting.

Our drivers’ licenses bared different zip codes

Than our birth certificates. We were winning.

He was living on an island under Guam,

Squashed in an office with two secretaries, his home

The government sanctioned blessing for

Unfruitful bachelors looking to move their lonely lives abroad.

I was bleeding Austin sweat and multiple texts from

Uninteresting men and marriages with part-time custody

Of the only two decisions I'll never regret.


Now we live together in a house

With worn rugs stained yellow in places,

Housewarming presents from an elderly cat that has

Taken a liking to the man who made a more honest

Woman out of her owner.

I stay domesticated, and his trivia winning—

Not always the kissing finish. But

The picture of similarity, no. He plays computer

Games while cancer and I have another meeting--outside,

Even when it’s freezing.

My drinking to him is heavy, I ask for tips on

Spelling, we come and go at a pace he finds

Unsafe but I find endearing

Victim Sends Her Regards

Victim Sends Her Regards

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After
We broke up,
I went
To the place
Where you used
To take me,
The park by
The lake
Where we kissed
For
The third time,
Where
Your sweaty
Breath held my
Attention,
Our hands
Young claws
Scratching
Innocence,
Sprouting blood
With each thrust
Of our tongues.

For a year
You cheated
On me
With a girl
One grade
Older
Than me.
Her name was
Karen.
She lived
Across
The road
From my street. 
I saw
Your car
At her house
Many times
Before
confronting
You
About it. 

The night
You left
My house
In a rush
Was the
Final straw.
I took
Your gifts,
Flung them
On your car. 
The little
Shepherd dress,
The Adam
Sandler
CD, 
The badly
Sprawled
Poetry,
Your plaid shirt
With
The missing
Button. 

You got
Revenge
By breaking
Into
My house
And stealing
My
Diary. 
You shared it
With Karen
And
Together
You made
Copies at
Some late night
Office place. 

The next day
You passed them
Out at school. 
My mother
And I
Called
The police,
Karen
Was
Suspended.
To this day
I’ve
Never known
So much hate.

At the park
I sat
After hours
Until
The darkness
Rang. 
Part of me
Wanted you
To find me,
To retrace
Where
We had been,
To
Remember
That kiss. 
I was empty
In
All places,
Even
The wrong ones.
A part
Of me
Missed you.

It’s been years
And I think
About my
Kisses since.
All those
Second
Guessings.
Sometimes
I picture
You
At
The copy
Machine,
You and your
Accomplice
Bride, 
Shifting
One page
From the flash
To perch
Another,
Intent
On my
Destruction.
I
Imagine
Your small lives,
And wonder
If you’ve felt
Enough pain
To know
The sickness

Of your ink.

Mercedes

Mercedes

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Mercedes, that day working the cafe when you stepped on the floor with your apron flung over your arms and Paul was talking nonsense and Luke was at the machine and I was sucking down espresso as fast as my addiction would allow, that day when the Chai guy came in and you were like, "Look Erin, another American," and Lucy the Chef was in the back tossing tomatoes into salad bowls and Claire was polishing lipstick off silverware, and I'm like, "Mercedes, you know that place where you wake up and your life seems bigger?" and you said, "A dream?" but it's not a dream really when it stays in the pit of your gut like stains to a coffee cup and you know this land is only a boat to send you back home when that last shift comes and it's the two of us lying under a tree, staring at a sky of milky stars and a moon with a bright white face outside your apartment and the plane comes the next morning but the mistakes you've made, the places you've been, the people you love, you carry them with you, you leave them but you carry them with you and just like now on this rainy continent a million miles away it's still the cafe it's always the cafe.

Melting

Melting

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Tea cups best like this,

Five or six and snowing.

Mornings hold, afternoons sneak the sun past the nurses.

By the time dark gorges the pavement steam, a nestle of cars can't keep melting away.


Always, this dream—

A bedroom at the end of my last life.

Brown-walled, wallpapered ceilings.

Two hungry mouths, one loaded mind. Fists making adequate use of time.

A phone hidden in a coat hidden in the sickness of a season splintered.

Dawn rooftops hit the windows, yellow rolls into rooms where I sit, the five-years-ago me.

She's a lurching bird misery-wrapped, all bones,

The flavor of forever--surrendered.

All four thousand square-feet of her nest squashed in the limits

Of pain that never goes away fast enough

Before the melting.


I know I had to go,

But in my dreams the tears are never too salty and I never leave. It's not bad enough. I can stay.

The laughter down the hallway makes the medicine.

An arm flings over the wall. Mother, mother.

Snow falls in Texas but never stays but I could have

Had my dreams never melted away.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Miss My Daughter As a Child

I Miss My Daughter As a Child
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
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To those of you with small children:
Cherish the playground days. Even the playgrounds with the swings where you have to push and push your little human halfway to the trees and back until it feels like your arms are falling off.
Because one day your preteen child will accompany your younger child to the swing set, and she will not know what to do. She will ignore her brother's pleas to play with him. She will stand by the slide and look down, blind to all of its possibilities. The real world has her now. It found her on Instagram, broke bread with her in the cafeteria, taught her how to use mascara, betrayed her to bullies. She can no longer imagine herself as a princess and the playset is a castle and the bridge is a moat and the sand is her kingdom. After a moment she will give up and slink over to a bench nearby and sit down wearing a sullen, bored expression, hands itching for her absent iPhone, and she'll ask, "Mommy, can we please go?"
...then the last, lingering hope that your child was in some ways still a child will suddenly be zapped out of you like moisture on a hot, dry July afternoon.
So parents, enjoy your children, while they're still children.

Things I Lost In the Burglary

Things I Lost In the Burglary

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I.
My suitcase for going home
A curling iron, a hair dryer
A tool kit assortment of mismatched tools
Left by men who left broken
Pieces of pieces too foregone
To conclude by a stick of glue
(The pieces were not stolen)

The TV. Thirty-inch something
I think said the man when
I went to buy (but men
Always lie about size)
Blue-ray, pictures (memories),
Markers, but no books
Or poetry (I guess he was not
Concerned about literacy)
Underwear I never wear 
Nail polish red burnt orange
Purplish pink (and yellow I think)
Kitchen gadgets never used anyway,
and my security,
My sense of safety, my
Unencumbered sleep (but
Left the terrors and bad dreams)

My suitcase no wait a repeat

II.

He left the fridge open
The ice cream fell out
Melting on the floor for days
Wiped away by a price 
I almost couldn't afford to pay

III.

The laundromat. I go
To clean clothes and escape
Football. But the TVs
Scream sports in every
Section. Crowds cheer
And the washer clears.

The thumbs of men
Plant prints on my skin no matter
Which places I wear.

IV.

I know the man who robbed me
He gave me a ride home then
He gave my home away
To the first pawn shop sold.

V.

When the chime breaks 
I'll know--fluff and fold,
Play, tackle, pass,
Press "start" for permanent, 

Pass my suitcase, it's 
Always packed. 
My missing artifact.
I'll stack the pieces packed
And ring wet where stains
Have set. Wire hang what ball
That kicker can't fit
Inside his money clip. Days.
Months. Tireless, tired. Oh.
I'm only angry now, time to hit
The path. Cause that road home
May be long, but the road
To no home is the longest.

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