"Your parents don't live together?" Wide, unbelieving eyes.
I shake my head. "Nope."
Her name is Emily, and she's six years old. We're in the same carpool and she likes to sit next to me and ask me questions: "Why is your hair so long? Why do you wear glasses? Can you write in cursive? Is there anything left in your lunch? Can I have it?"
Her last question--"Why doesn't your dad ever pick you up from carpool?" is a new one, and I wasn't expecting it.
So far, Emily doesn't get my answer. "But why?" she asks. "My mommy and daddy live together."
I glance at the driver, Ms. Amy, who happens to be Emily's mother. I'm wondering if I should change the subject. But Ms. Amy has her eyes on the road, and Emily is craning her neck, looking at me expectantly.
"Why don't your parents live together?" she prods.
I take a deep breath. "Sometimes...sometimes mommies and daddies don't get along," I tell her. "Sometimes they stop...stop loving each other. And so they...stop being married. They get divorced."
Emily mulls this over. "That's sad," she says after a minute.
"Yep," I agree. "It's sad."
"My parents don't get along sometimes."
Her voice is tense, worried. Guilt washes over me. Great, Becca. Way to scare her. "All parents have arguments sometimes. That doesn't mean they'll get divorced."
She looks at me, not assured.
"Emily--trust me. I've seen your parents together. They...trust me. They love each other, they're always going to. Okay?"
Relief washes over her face. "Okay." Read more »
one day im going to change this world i want it for the good, i want to change its outlooks one day im going to make the world smile i aint a sappy person that says it to get a awww i lived with shadows i have lived with fights ive lived with distress and depression and thats not what this world needs it needs a smile one day this worlds going to shine its going to twinkle with happiness no more sulking because its the easy way out i mean yeah there will be days that are like that but they are neede to live when i say no more sulking, its for the everyday living where people see no future in going further one day there will be no war i dont want it to live no matter for good or evil its no good one day ill be able to speek to this world and express to them the needs amd feel that will draw in a paradise
The room in the barn where my teacher and I drill scales always strikes me as bare and cell-like. The decrepit ivory walls form a casket, jerking your attention to the exact middle of the room where there are some disfigured chairs from different parts of the building. A scrutiny of the rough walls reveals scuff marks and chipping paint near an oily clock and a mirror. The shrill tick grinds at my ears, seeming faster than normal, but it is not nearly as off-putting as the hulking missile the mirror is reflecting. It is a black effigy, straining at its bottom and slack at its top. A number of slick harnesses and shiny zippers augment its disturbing reflection. The effigy’s ashen-colored accomplice lies on the dark gold floor, head resting on a diminutive rubbish bin. The bin is putrid, smelling of decomposing bananas and other rotten fruit. There is also the muffled buzz of fruit flies near the bin, though none are visible. Perhaps I am confusing it with the drone of the fluorescent light fusing with the harsh clock; I am not sharp in the fetid air, which leaves my mouth as dry as the gritty ceiling. The ceiling, like the walls, is shedding its paint. There are thin gray streaks on the ceiling and powder on the floor, both from the fallen plaster. The powder plugs the black punctures in the floor, and the effect is similar to the leftovers of a darts match that used a drill lathered in liquid chalk. Stepping on one of these punctures produces a bleached nebula around your foot that smells of ammonia. Read more »
Some nights in the bow of the lilac tree
my love on the wind-breath comes to me
he asks, why is the world so round and so wide,
marred by the voices and scarred by the tide
and scarred by the pull and the grin of the moon
and the fanciful dance of a dish and a spoon.
He sings me a poem of a traffic light
and the moon and the star-sky lost in its night.
Some nights in the bow of the lilac tree,
a dance in a party dress comes to me
it asks, why are their arms so loose and so tied
and why won't the bridegroom dance with the bride
and why are there lyrics ground into the mud
and why won't the microphones spell the word love
and why don't the girls in the lilac trees
go scream to their song and make it change key.
Some nights in the bow of the lilac tree,
the first of a snowstorm comes to me
with words of betrayal laced in its tongue
with kisses in gardens that rip things undone.
Why do the nightmares live in the roofs,
why do the dead leaves live in the truths.
Why are there poems to the young and the old
and none to the touch and the eyes of the cold.
Some nights in the bow of the lilac tree,
no person, no person comes to me.
Tell me why the newspapers cry,
tell me where all the footsteps lie.
Why does the end of the sky melt away,
carrying hours and carrying days.
And the wind whips the leaves and the limbs and they bend
and no one explains when love stories end.
The equivocal scars
Bruising this new found beauty
Cigarette behind ear,
James Dean in a well lit kitchen
A self-fulfilling standard
Viewed from a smoky lens,
The third wheel softens the road
With a fear of ghosts (we enjoy.)
And these paths might not lead to metaphors
But tired and blistered feet
Are all in the name of new adventures,
Let’s drive, darling, in search of time
Or that cliff pondered with a fear of falling
And a want for the fade of boundaries
The blue light looks like poetry
Reflected in knowing eyes
Downed with the burn of another man’s name
A wish against the curse of love
And life's necessity for cages
my clarinet is how I scream rhyme, I choke up on heavy hard
reedy low notes and I make them wail, I make them dance dangerously
out-of-control in the wild mist by the fields in the summer dusk,
feverishly foreshadowing like when Tess sees Angel Clare, that
uncomplicated man in the dizzy starry bare feet on grass – but
they don't dance, they don't dance and we all know what comes next,
we study and the pages flip and rip and careen out of tune, out of step.
my clarinet accompanied in the dark echos of the hills stretching
through the pages through the darkness to the end.
I spit sharp staccato, I will wail all the stories I've ever read
over the break up into the sound of screaming birds and beyond,
down, down, arpeggios breaking across my fingers my clarinet is
my voice and I will ask you questions, I will echo to the echoed room
why do we live on a blighted star, why do we live on a blighted star
ears beat notes heavy with words unexpressed unpossessed
empty from the books I read in school,
empty with ripped up music in the crow-voice I can't write can't sing.
Can you hear me?
Listen up please, because I want to ask you something. I want to make you think, even just a little. If you disregard this, fine. But I hope someone can hear me. Here goes nothing…
I want you to think about the last time you made someone smile? Not a funny joke you told, not a superficial artificial fake laugh-cause-they-are grin, but really smile. Made someone's heart so happy that it just brimmed up too fast and spilled across their face? Gave someone something they really needed: food, a helping hand, a friend?
When was the last time you smiled? Why is it all too often too long ago to remember? Why don't more people get up the nerve to be different and help someone? Not because it's cool, not because it's fun, and certainly not because it's easy. So many people would tell you they'd love to volunteer, but given the opportunity, let it slip; forget; just flat out say no thanks. Read more »
I knew a girl, once. I did not know her well, but she came to know me and therefore, somehow, I felt as though I knew her. She was a lovely sort of aloof in person, and she had a put-me-at-ease smile. I knew her by her words and her connections and not much else, but it meant the world to feel included. I considered myself guilty by association, and it was almost as glorious as I'd imagined. I wanted to follow her through the night until the sky looked like two painters came together to create the clouds in separate styles.
I knew a girl, once, when the world was falling into rivers. I looked for her, and I've still yet to be able to justify it. I lusted for a piece of her heart, because I knew it was broken and I've always been the one to make beauty of a shattered mirror. I wanted to believe that if I could just make her love me, then both of our lives would be healed.
I knew a girl, once, and she was as sad I've ever known a person to be. Try as she did to be happy for the ones who surrounded her, the ache within her diffused through her fingertips to mine. She despised the hurt she found in the eyes, so she was the face of comfort and the arms of welcome and the shoulder of solace. I saw within her and I craved it. My depth perception was inaccurate as always, but the things hardest to let go of are the ones that do not make sense.
Turning nor'west, I see
The rocky island, so small it bears no name.
This is hell for most,
But fine with me:
The nearest living soul two leagues away.
The ghost of the wind lifts my sails
Like laundry on a line in a sun-bleached town:
Listless, but moving all the same.
I hoist the colors in cheerful good-morning
To the quickly brightening day.
Later, anchored in the afternoon sun
Off the rocky islet,
I'm snapped awake by a low "thud".
Looking east, I see a puff of white
Ascend lazily skyward.
It's a cannon signal;
The ten trim white triangles begin to move.
Who will win?
I laugh quietly and look down at the bending pole
I have over the gunwale.
I've got a bite.
You know, I always associate
Waiting for my turn at a poetry slam
With really terrible things
Like sitting on death row
Or being led to sacrifice.
And y’know, I can’t help but think
I’m not the only one
Cause all the waiting poets I see
Are a shade of green
That would make the Wicked Witch of the West
Look like Key Lime Pie.
It’s kinda like being at a slaughterhouse
(Told you, terrible things)
You watch the other animals go forward
And you know you’re going to be next soon
And the people holding the axe
Show no mercy.
But it’s just the waiting that’s a slaughterhouse
Cause being on the stage
Is like being an assassin
Get in, do the job, get out
Feel no emotion.
And after you’re off is like Free Cone Day
Nothing in the world tastes sweeter.
"Where were you last night?"
He grins laconically. "Gonna have to be more specific than that."
The cop takes a long deep breath and forces himself not to strangle the young punk in front of him. "Where were you last night between the hours of five and eleven?"
"Why? Someone kick it?"
"Just answer the question."
He leans back in his chair. "I dunno, man, my memory's kinda rusty."
The cops grabs him by the front of the shirt and slams him against the wall. "Now, listen here, asshole. I don't have time for this shit, so just answer the goddamn question!"
He stares at the cop, then looks away. "Line."
The director groans inwardly. "Cut!"
A techie reads him the line while the actor playing the cop thinks that in his day, actors knew their lines.
Her hand was boring and beige-
but maybe she was boring and beige too-
and she worked in the weirdest ways,
which made me wonder what the wild do
when given a reason to rock and roll.
And though I wouldn’t take a poll,
I also wonder what makes a soul
become a me or become a you.
Her writing curled off the page,
looping and twirling and wasting space.
She wrote about living in a haze,
saving money in jars but wearing lace
and leather and satin and faux-fur coats,
wishing-sailing in wishing-boats,
dreaming of castles and knights and moats
and finishing last in a solo race.
Where’s the power in rage,
if peace and silence just don’t exist?
Emotions should be a maze,
with tricky corners and not-quite twists.
So wear a gown to the farewell ball.
Keep it in or tell it all.
If the tall were short and the short were tall,
we’d be a little confused and a whole lot pissed.
She was born with it, I think
doesn't that make the most sense
because nobody could grow into teeth like that.
expose the soul before the tendons
speak to him of heartache breaking and
enter into the softest parts of his psyche
the soul first, always the soul first
with her words
and the boys say oh and the boys say darling
and the words are in their heads now
block the view of her teeth now
too transfixed by the lips
to see the teeth hidden beneath them.
run fangs over sleeping flesh beside her
love them dearly and nearly to death
and she can't feel them yet
except in the hands and between the ribs where her own
black as night; her palms tell the future her heart can't feel.
and the boys say oh and the boys say darling
run with her lips drawn
blood flecked and
bite their tongues the boys say No
hear that snarling
hissing spitting and remember that the heart tastes like
licorice, dark with the teeth and the lips and the skin.
And she is soft in the middle
and she is starving, yes, always starving She
doesn't want to do this, no, She
doesn't understand it either;
it's genetics, she is sure because what else
could make a lady chase the ventricle, atrium
heart and blood. Read more »
Sailing across the bay the other day,
White hull bounding through laughing, shining waves,
Some small wasp of an idea took hold in my head,
And gently urged me southward
Towards a tree-lined cove, where the afternoon sun
Held court over a gentle green hill;
Where birds called out in sweet, elegant greeting
Which must seem ordinary to them, but to me
Seemed far more pleasant a sound than
The cursing of the dockhands
Or the profane yip-yap of the dogs
Trotting along the bleached boardwalk.
As I sailed closer, I saw two figures
Lying on their backs,
Reveling in the sun's present generosity,
Occasionally offering an outstretched finger skyward
To indicate this cloud or that bird.
They were talking,
And I couldn't help but overhear,
Because, you know, sound travels so well
Over the water,
That they were talking about writing.
Tempted to heave to and stop awhile,
I snapped my rudder straight and kept on tack,
Content to hear one figure, a young man,
Discuss his feelings about poetry
While the other, a girl, listened.
I laughed to myself as I noted
How the girl clearly admired the boy
And he, for his part, liked her as well.
It drew me back, as one draws a heavy Danforth
Across the silty lakebed
To younger days when poetry was novel,
When every stanza was blurted out
In breathless present tense,
Love of skateboarding,
Every undertaking turned new stones,
Plotted fresh courses.
But even now, I saw the young man Read more »
we were thrown
over the side of a
plastic swimming pool,
five feet ten inches
the ocean itself
waves of happiness
sand in plasticshowershoes
to the number of years
we’ve come to the beach
to see you shine
and I smiled
I knew that
I would miss you
if you changed
even at all
but we balanced
the salt and
the sand in
wasn’t it peace?
even before the
moved from east to west
like an autumn wanderer
and even before the
bird beak flower nests
soared around your eyes
like a lifetime of
and even before
wet like a raining
storm had caught us
we found meaning
in crypts and floors,
oceans and lakes
--but I think
you would think
it could be a good idea
to grow up from these
lockets and back pockets
mismatched hope Read more »
Their hands are cold because their hearth is gone.
They tremble in borrowed blankets,
ash-eyed and pale-skinned
as they pull photographs from the wet charcoal,
from the ruins of their home.
We open our doors to them, and numbly
they hand us boxes
to fill the plywood vault of our shed.
Because this is their treasure:
halloween costumes and baseball games
new puppies and tooth-fairy grins.
It is nothing short of a miracle to hold
their children’s faces in our hands,
laid out to dry on old newspaper.
No one knows how the fire started,
quietly gulping timbers while they drove home
They returned to a blackened churn where their house
Someone must have found the thin corpse of the cat,
trapped, undoubtedly, in the blaze. I hope it was not
those mischievous brown eyes my brother admired once.
I hope it was not that poor girl who found it.
I’m so sorry.
Here, we will salvage your memories Read more »
I find my brother in this stranger-boy
because he reads aloud
in the hallway, book pressed
to lap, far away from the face
hand on temple tense.
when my brother sees too quickly
letters play tricks and come all at
once, or backward, or not at all.
he too holds his book at a distance
because he does not trust the
I read too close, guard the page
eyes on each line, inches only
between reality and not.
my brother is a pragmatist, a cynic.
when I suggest the unreal,
joke, play with words like they
are something lovable, he does
he is fascinated by the way I digest
fantasies, that they are sown into my
skin like grafts over old wounds.
in the car I recite memorized passages to him
he likes the curse words
they come clearly in his head
because they hide nothing-
bastard, shit-faced, fuck.
they look to him like anger
and speak of anger, and he
smiles when they come to him
from my mouth because
I do not hold them so closely;
they exist for me at arms length,
someone else's, and distrust is something
he knows when ambivalence becomes ambulance,
friend to fiend, in his head.
& I meant it, too.
Every time I see it on my bedroom wall, I still mean it.
& I'm watching myself dig deep roots and grow strong branches
up out of the earth, tied to an endless network,
breathing in sync with my still-tender leaves -
I will reach my prime, and then
I will descend. Time is on the move.
& I will find you,
I will gather
your limp limbs & set them back
into their place and pluck
stray heartbeats & tuck
in your chest, where they belong.
I will trace the outline
of your cheekbone again, & your strong hips
& your graspable hair & soft lips
find me again.
& Time is
compared to the endless universe you hold
in your hands & the deep
fire that burns in your chest
& you can breathe,
you will breathe,
and I will grow and give you room to breathe,
my tender leaves will brush
your hands as you climb into me.
& Life is
anything but long,
anything but short -
we will make it exactly as it is, and
somehow that will be enough, and
whatever forever ends up meaning,
I will be glad to have spent it well. Read more »
Pull the dust of sleep from your eyes to replace it
with the lined wetness of living.
Your limbs are thick and loose-jointed as you stretch,
looping your muscles back into their oiled grooves.
Yawning jaw creaks like a furnace-
shudder the rust away
and stir the embers beneath your tongue.
The wooden floor is cold, and the world outside
is heavy with the matte shimmer
of dew on fallen leaves.
Turn away from the window, ligaments warming
in the motion of a turned doorknob.
Shovel coal into the young fire with a silver spoon,
and smoke lisps from the chimney.
The engines clatter, then whirr, and your body now
moves with purpose, as though the machine that is you
has read the blueprints of existence
and must stand along the assembly line today.
There is a loose cog trembling deep in the clockwork,
and it rubs against its fellow gears with
You request its quiet and go to work,
standing before a conveyor belt that holds the coefficients
of equations and half-read books.
You can hear the cog rattling with a persistent whine.
Its tremor sets your teeth on edge
as metal grinds on metal,
slipping away from those grooves that promise
efficiency and smoothness. Read more »
I have spread all your favorites
from the Pearl Street Wok
out on the coffee table.
Carefully, I pick small servings from each,
place them on my tongue, and remember.
Low mein drips its shrimp and veggie juices
onto the table. I pick the baby corn, teeth
all lined up and deciduous likes a child's, and make
a pile on my plate. I eat each with my fingers
and then suck them clean.
I am noisy.
I let the hot tins grow fond of the
delicate balsa table top.
I eat my pork-fried rice with a
fork because it is easier that way.
Words like love, when applied to the self,
so often get lost in translation. It seems like every
language but ours has a word for the day before yesterday.
This fortune tells me how to say "dry cleaning"
in Chinese. I am too busy laughing
to myself to read the other side.
So we know each other like rain knows rain –
it runs together and drains across the sad slanting streets
and slips under black shined shoes and red sharp heels
and black skies with black umbrella flowers sparking over
brisk words and slapslap shoes, unfurling like pop-up book pages.
We are old cold rain showers that bring up bent spring flowers in
white cracked plastic window boxes against flat cold windows.
We know the cracks in the bricks like our fingernails – we hold hands
with the brick too and we soak the flat cigarettes and crumpled papers with
blurred and crying names, playbills for forgotten love stories and
echoed songs. We are the late winter smell of melting snow and dirty earth
and automobiles that spray the streets with mud and bleary horns in the early morning.
We know the words of the old playbill songs with the smudged-out names
and we sing them to the foundations of buildings. We have disjointed, whisper voices,
whisper voices, ghost throats and ghost eyes. So we are the streets that fold back and forward
and soak up tears and soak up screams and soak up sun and soak up dreams,
so we are the anachronism of the year because we crawled out of the gutters when they were
laying them down and asked for stories and the sky said no no no
and rained on us. And we melted into snowdrifts and back again, curling like book pages
through the rains as wars fought and wars fled. Our voices are soft, we don't need analysis,
we are sharp gravel and soft rainy laughter. We are the ghosts of ghosts.
This is long. Suggestions appreciated.
The first bouquet came on a Tuesday. Sarah was in the kitchen with the newspaper when the doorbell rang. It was early morning. She heard her husband’s footsteps on the stairs and listened as he opened the door. Words were exchanged, too muffled for her to hear. She kept reading.
Gary, her husband of three years, came in carrying a bouquet of roses. “Surprise,” he said.
“What are those?”
He shrugged. “Flowers. A guy just came and delivered them for you. Maybe there’s a card.” He handed her the roses.
Sarah took off the packaging to look for a note, but didn’t find anything there. “He didn’t say who they were from?”
“No. Just handed them to me and asked me to sign.”
She inhaled deeply. “They’re beautiful.” She looked at him suspiciously. “Our anniversary isn’t for two months. And Valentine’s Day was a while ago…”
“Don’t look at me, I didn’t send them.” Gary laughed. “You know I’m not that smooth.” Read more »
Let’s steal away to far-off places,
unknown ground, unfamiliar faces.
It would be nice to get away and see the sun in untouched lands.
It’s not so hard to disappear,
pretend that we were never here,
forget the people, places, things and walk until we find the end.
Then, you might just hold my hand
and look to where the colors blend.
You grab a boat, I’ll steal a paddle,
and though our empty pockets rattle,
we’ll need no currency but love where love lies ‘twixt the sea and shore.
Toss a penny, flip it double,
whisper to it faith or trouble,
cutting doubt in half and leaving choice to shoes and undarned socks. Read more »
Wooooo, angsty 17 year old me, making bad life choices!
Wooooo, angsty 16-year-old me.
Napoleon and his soldiers,
They almost froze to death, marching through the snow.
At night they’d slaughter their horses
And crawl inside their eviscerated bellies to keep warm until morning.
It wasn’t a home,
Just heated, by a heart the size of their heads. A hiding place.
Everybody’s searching for a quiet place,
Campaigning like conquistadores and we don’t get to call ourselves soldiers.
Prophets call it manifest destiny, on the other side there’s home
For the taking. No footprints in the snow.
Some of them never woke up in the morning
Anyway, but the meat was warmer than gloves when they butchered the horses.
When they walk they track behind them the blood of the horses,
Like gingerbread crumbs leading to a safe place
In the dark Siberian winter. They can’t even tell it’s morning.
And they don’t feel like soldiers,
Like the fox and the hare in their tundra dens don’t feel cold in the snow,
And the eternal arctic twilight feels like home.
It’s easy to find sometimes that home
Should seem like the battlefield, empty of lovely doe-eyed horses
Standing in the pastures, their black feet sunk in snow-
They don’t spend their whole lives searching for any kind of place,
Quiet, or safe, or even warm. They don’t know about soldiers.
We wonder what we’re chasing after when we watch them in the morning. Read more »
My heart is floating,
Above my head
and to the ceiling.
My heart floats
right to yours,
just my feelings.
My heart floats
in sorrow and desire.
When will I be enough?
For you to realize,
that this is me.
I love you.
I am enough..
With my curves,
and crazy laughter,
I am enough."
My heart floats
back to reality,
Just me being enough.
Angry because you stood me up
for two weeks straight, you stood me up
You stood me up and kept me waiting
Waiting for an answer.
Hurt because you wouldn't say
for two weeks straight, you wouldn't say
You wouldn't say but you told her
While I sat and slowly went crazy.
Broken because you act so cool
For one week now, you've acted so cool
You're acting so cool, you no longer care
For me and our time together.
Empty because you left me alone
For a whole week, you've left me alone
You'll leave me alone from now on
And act like nothing's changed.
Angry because you stood me up
You stood me up and wouldn't say
You wouldn't say and you act so cool
Act so cool though you left me alone
This is how I feel.
Those close to me don't know me well
They know what I choose to tell
But I don't say much that's really true
There's little to see in what I do
I wish that I could speak my mind
I wish I could leave it all behind
I wish that what I hold inside
Would run away and let me die
No one knows my rightful face
Beneath the mask I emulate
But what's inside is hard to see
Even if your close to me
If bottled up my hate and rage
And let it fester and degrade
It ate away my heart and soul
until there was nothing left at all
Faith nor science cannot cure
The pain that I have long endured
So I emulate another face
To cover up the empty space
I'm now a hollow, empty man
But I will do the best I can
I used to wish that I would die
But now it seems I'm dead inside
She watches men fall apart in her
hands and her sex
puts them back together
but only for a moment:
only until the bucks and moans
have shaken them loose again.
She rocks them to sleep with hands
like lace that might as well be steel
and fondles her dirty pearls when
they drop off,
waiting to hear them beg.
"Don't leave, don't leave"; their murmurs
set the cadence of the night, deliver
control straight to her lacy hands,
and she smiles: Forever is her
favorite word. Full of inflated
nothing. Pregnant with hot air.
A word that without the weight
of lust might float away, her
hard-earned pearls on the wing.
"I don't usually kiss," she tells
each one, "but for you, I make an