Poem – Dropping The Euphemism

He has five children, I’m papa
to a hundred pencils.
I bought the chair he sat in

from a book of chairs,
staplers and spikes
that let me play Vlad the Impaler

with invading memos. When I said
I have to lay you off
a parallel universe was born

in his face, one where flesh
is a loose shirt
taken to the river and beaten

against rocks. Just
by opening my mouth I destroyed
his faith he’s a man

who can think honey-glazed ham
and act out the thought
with plastic or bills. We sat.

I stared at my hands, he stared
at the wall staring at my hands.
I said other things

about the excellent work he’d done
and the cycles of business
which are like

the roller-coaster thoughts
of an oscilloscope. All this time
I saw the eyes of his wife

which had always been brown
like almonds but were now brown
like the crust of bread. We walked

to the door, I shook his hand,
felt the bones pretending
to be strong. On his way home

there was a happy song
because de Sade invented radio,
the window was open, he saw

delphinium but couldn’t remember
the name. I can only guess.
Maybe at each exit

that could have led his body
to Tempe, to Mars, he was tempted
to forget his basketball team

of sons, or that he ever liked
helping his wife clean carrots,
the silver sink turning orange.

Running’s natural to most animals
who aren’t part
of a lecture series on Nature’s

Dead Ends. When I told him,
I saw he was looking for a place
in his brain to hide

his brain. I tried that later
with beer, it worked until I stood
at the toilet to make my little

waterfall, and thought of him
pushing back from a bar
to go make the same noise.

Poem – A Shopkeeper’s Story

I sell one bristle brushes. People
seeking two bristle brushes I send
to the guy on Amsterdam, who’s in a rush.

I may have one customer a year
for my one bristle brushes, a one-eyed
lover of tanagers, she may have

one dollar to spend in the moment
light’s neither day’s or night’s,
but one’s where infinity begins. Whoever

she is, she’s always painting barbules,
I’m always thinking, no one will notice
that they notice this, that her tanagers

move, that everything’s alive. We talk
care and feeding of the one
bristle brush. Care exists. I thrive.

Poem – Toward Accuracy

We’re high enough that what I call fog might be cloud.
Not Everest high, or Chomuolungma, “Mother Goddess
of the World.” If we named things what they are,
our sentences would be monsoons, long rains of sound.
Morning is “the time I suspect I am a horse,” dusk
“the light which treats our shadows like taffy.”
The number of times my name changes in a day,
from “looking at the world with eyes of wood rasps”
to “feathers have replaced my bones,” rules out
the wearing of name tags: I wear a chalk board,
thesaurus, that book of whispers, of meaning sex.
“There’s a woman who smokes a cigarette
now and then, who picks tobacco off her tongue
as something moves along the fault line
of the horizon, knees pulled to her chest,
her breath wearing a dress of smoke”
is one way I think of you when I think of you.
And when I think of you, “wants to be a candle”
isn’t romantic but accurate, wicked light
leans in, away, writhes to get out of, to leap harder
into what it is.

Poem – Unmediated Experience

She does this thing. Our seventeen-
year-old dog. Our mostly deaf dog.
Our mostly dead dog, statistically
speaking. When I crouch.
When I put my mouth to her ear
and shout her name. She walks away.
Walks toward the nothing of speech.
She even trots down the drive, ears up,
as if my voice is coming home.
It’s like watching a child
believe in Christmas, right
before you burn the tree down.
Every time I do it, I think, this time
she’ll turn to me. This time
she’ll put voice to face. This time,
I’ll be absolved of decay.
Which is like being a child
who believes in Christmas
as the tree burns, as the drapes catch,
as Santa lights a smoke
with his blowtorch and asks, want one?

Poem – A Private Public Space

You can’t trust lesbians. You invite them

to your party and they don’t come,
they’re too busy tending vaginal
flowers, hating football, walking their golden
and chocolate labs. X gave me a poem

in which she was in love with a woman
and the church but the church
couldn’t accept four breasts in one bed.
When I asked if our coworkers knew,

she dropped her head and I said nothing
for years until this morning I realized
no one reads poems: my secrets and hers
are safe in verse. I knew she’d have enjoyed

the Beaujolais and I want to meet Dianne,
Mona Lisa, Betty, Alice,
the name’s been changed
to protect women who can’t stand in a room
holding hands because you can’t trust
heterosexuals to love love, however
it comes. So I recorded

the party for her, for them, the mic
a bit away from the action
to catch the feel of waves touching shore
and letting go, the wash of moods
across the hours of drink and yes, some grapes
were thrown and I breathed
the quickening revelation
of a cigarette, someone said “I gave up
underwear for Lent” and I hope

they play the tape while making love.
As if finally the world’s made happy
by who they are, laughing with, not at
the nipple lick clit kiss hug
in bed and after, the on and on
of meals and moons and bills
and burning days of pretending
they don’t exist. “Who’s she? Just

a friend.” And oceans are merely dew
upon the land.

Poem – Go Greyhound

A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn’t the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren’t fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body nostalgic
for the touch of adored sound.

Hope’s a smaller thing on a bus.

You hope a forgotten smoke consorts
with lint in the pocket of last
resort to be upwind
of the human condition, that the baby
sleeps
and when this never happens,
that she cries
with the lullaby meter of the sea.

We were swallowed by rhythm.
The ultra blond
who removed her wig and applied
fresh loops of duct tape
to her skull,
her companion who held a mirror
and popped his dentures
in and out of place,
the boy who cut stuffing
from the seat where his mother
should have been—
there was a little more sleep
in our thoughts,
it was easier to yield.

To what, exactly—
the suspicion that what we watch
watches back,
cornfields that stare at our hands,
downtowns
that hold us in their windows
through the night?

Or faith, strange to feel
in that zoo of manners.

I had drool on my shirt and breath
of the undead, a guy
dropped empty Buds on the floor
like gravity was born
to provide this service,
we were white and black trash
who’d come
in an outhouse on wheels and still

some had grown—
in touching the spirited shirts
on clotheslines,
after watching a sky of starlings
flow like cursive
over wheat—back into creatures
capable of a wish.

As we entered Arizona
I thought I smelled the ocean,
liked the lie of this
and closed my eyes
as shadows
puppeted against my lids.

We brought our failures with us,
their taste, their smell.
But the kid
who threw up in the back
pushed to the window anyway,
opened it
and let the wind clean his face,
screamed something
I couldn’t make out
but agreed with
in shape, a sound I recognized
as everything I’d come so far
to give away.

Poem – Prodigal

You could drive out of this country
and attack the world with your ambition,
invent wonder plasmas,
become an artist of the provocative gesture,
the suggestive nod, you could leave
wanting the world and return
carrying it, a noisy bundle
of steam and libido, a ball of fire
balanced on your tongue,
you might reclaim Main Street in a limo
longer than a sermon, wave at our red faces
while remembering that you were born
a clod hopper, a farmer’s kid,
and get over that hump once and for all
by telling A Great Man’s stories—
the dirty jokes of dictators, tidbits
of presidential hygiene, insights
into the psychotropic qualities of power
and the American tradition of kissing
moneyed ass. Your uncle would still
call you Roy Boy, pheasants
sun themselves beside the tracks,
waiting for the dew to burn off
before their first flight, and corn
grow so high that if you stood
in the field you’d disappear, the fact
aiming your eyes down the road.