Pleasure dome

I’m 24

Funny shaped tap drips without end,
birds no longer sing in this city

I tell myself, I cannot survive much longer

If my view is a saffron robed Pakistani man, hawking up phlegm at 8am, into his dying rhododendron

Despair like me, at these four walls and dirty pipes protruding from beneath singleton sink

Who ever made sinks this size? Sometimes you throw up in them. Other nights you heft your hiney and pee long and shameful

The golden shower of malcontent. I don’t like to share bathrooms with strangers or friends

Poverty and her gifts, laying each day another absence, a reminder, you are in the meat grinder of the city, she waxes her legs on your sharp disappointment

As a kid you thought you’d wrangle diamonds from street corners, the fizz and pop of bright lights luring you to the center, like a Christmas nectarine

Is always spoilt.

In the petting evening, wet lipped men come to the spindly girl upstairs

She has thin shoulders and jagged hips, her eyes are always transparent and high on pyramid crystals

These men grind their dirt into her pretend cries of ecstasy and she gets crisp and filthy notes left on her childhood dresser afterward

I fantasize about asking her, if it has to be men she admits into her sanctum

But I’ve never paid for it and I don’t want to step in their cooling semen

If she knocked on my door and offered a damson breast I may

Break that rule and risk, even in the AIDS era, even as a feminist, even if I can’t afford the powder, her hungry nostrils crave

Just to feel the rub of her emaciated hips and hard thighs against my parched skin

I’d fucking inject it if I could, to take away the feeling of savage loneliness in the big city

That sick feeling, you’re stuck, among landlords and low paying jobs, even at 24

Massaging an ancient electric meter with dirty coins, for a little light showing more dirt

The temptation to let it fade out and lie, door open, legs open, coins in your mouth until blood freezes in your veins.

Come in and pay for me then, what am I worth? What can you fill me with, I haven’t already drunk?

Strange people’s scarfs on universal banisters, the smudge of sex in screwed up foil and old bus tickets

Lift up my hips, ram it in, pay your due, switch poison for love and love for death, welcome to the pleasure dome.

The man in 4b puts his hands down his granddaughters dress but the abuse hotline just rings and rings and rings

There’s a gypsy in 5a, cries for his lost lover til dawn. There’s a 13 year old boy who turns tricks in the street, who asks for bus money and new socks

The flashing lights of the strip club opposite are flamenco pink and penetrate through my squalid curtains, wailing their synthetic dreams

How far will you travel to see the sky again? To touch sand and sea and gulp with fevered breath, the pollen of forgotten worlds, lost in your lust for noise

I think of the Pakistani man and his phlegm, growing flowers from spit

As the Eastern eyed girl sells her small fruit for a ransom and a cry

Breasts like pinches, thin ribs beneath wool, taut ride of her skirt showing little pursed mouths of bruises

Her feet are always bare andlacquered, mine are unwashed and leave imprints of desire outside her door in ring-a-rosies

She wears her tips without a bra, nipples hurting in their push, smoking cheap cigarettes before light, smell of burnt coffee and sex on her chewed neon fingernails

They pay her to keep them hard, I beg her to stay soft

The city is a searching arbor of need and want and ingratitude

At 3am people wander the street for drugs and pain and death in little sealed packets

She leans in the doorway, exhaustion a shroud, touching her bottom lip with a haloed question

I open my mouth and let her in.

To her, and all the men she brings, to 24 years and not a minute more, to the nialism and thready vibrant flowers growing from scorn

Her body is a violated temple, a bingo hall, an arcade game, with multiple slots for change

Her mouth tastes like ashtrays and night clubs and old men, skinny throat a pin cushion of bite marks

I make her sing

As light wakes the rest of the world, all the lost birds hear her call

The Pakistani man admires his flowers and thinks

How beautiful this little piece of color is, here in this metropolis where all are brushed beneath concrete

I brush my hands across her small deflated breasts

Seeing sunlight find its way in between crowded houses filled with sore tenants

Touch her violet tinged skin in patterns, warming her before she awakes.

I’m 24 and she’s 22 and an entire life time, of fag butts and misery, washed down on lines of coke and old men groping for their last fuck

Later on I’ll take her to the coffee shop with the little bell above the door, and we’ll clasp hands beneath the sticky table cloth

Blue rinse ladies in the adjacent seat will remark, on our bright eyes and shining hair

As if we too were born

From the cracks of despair

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For my first friend in America

Your hand covers mine

we clasp for the camera and smile a 100 watt smile

The American Way

I have learned

how to park a truck

that pale legs are not

as anathema in Texas as in Cannes

I understand, ordering drinks you size up

trying clothes, you size down

topsy-turvy world for a foreigner

lost in her baggage claim.

You made me feel

easy and comfortable like an adirondack chair

smooth wood, deep grain, eccentric shape

this became my town and in so many ways

it was thanks to you taking the time

to show me the way to fit in

the candles dim in the windows of the bar

as if they know you are now gone

where the bird died and we buried it

flowers grow up and a little crepe myrtle

as if forever our steps, will be marked here

mountain laurel blooms wildly

across splayed streets replete with thin cats

seeking their breakfast at Taco huts, the color of watermelon

where I ate among the gladioli without fear.

In the beginning

you were like Tiger Balm

rubbed over my fear, I was no longer shivering

could make my way through the throng

as good as anyone

your watchful eyes on my narrow back

seeing how I did, urging me onward

how will I continue with you gone?

Family, you said, comes from the heart

you may find someone you love in the strangest places

I found you in a Chinese buffet eating Won Tong soup

in my skinny jeans and piss and vinegar

you asked me if I used to be a dancer

I said yes, and now I unravel for a living

you took under your wing, that juniper girl who

didn’t know how to fit in to her new clothes

taught her the measure of her adopted land

like the time we planted trees and you warned

never forget to be merciful, to those less fortunate

the sky was pure blue that day, on the wind

the smell of honeysuckle and river lily

white cranes flew languidly overhead

we shared Limeade and Tortas, our feet dipping in hot puddles

I recall

the first time you were sick

I said, you reminded me of my grandmother

and you frowned; I’m not old enough!

But what I meant was

she had a strength, nobody else could see

every time I went to school she’d wait

in her high-waisted pants of crepe or wool

tight curled hair, wearing oversized sunglasses

below the stairs, nodding with a wink

mouthing the words; You got this

and I’d go into my classroom with a 100 watt smile

not fearful anymore

nobody saw that side of her, just as

people dismissed you as a Jesus Freak

seeing past the strength of your resolve

to live with love

I admire those; who have mercy and compassion

I look to those; who are loyal and unafraid to love

it is the weave of this girl, to follow in those footsteps

bring kindness, do good, lend yourself to gentleness

when I grew sick I saw, how many live with

anger and resentment, undoing their humanity

until they are unrecognizable and only breathe

the exhaust of their bitterness.

To the rose

opening this day

after your passing

I say, O glory, O beauty

live in the sun

as radiant and perfect as anything I have known

and I hear your voice, see your face nodding

you got this

I want to run backward and say

please don’t leave me, don’t go

but I know you have to

and I have to go on

alone but holding your wisdom

your mercy

in those lessons you left

imprinted upon my heart.

She said to me this is why

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She said to me, this is why

you start the ignition and drive

never far enough

the feeling of mud stuck in your wheels

when you find you’ve been stopped

a god-awfully long time at crossroads

watching emptiness

hypnotized by blink in and out of hooded light

amber in raptured darkness

a welcome, a warning, a half-moon or pecked ball of cheese

the days you used to eat diary and wear

push-up bras and frilly skirts with Wellington’s

climb the clouds

invest in heavy coats and lace up boots, the end of the world is nigh

where did your combat go?

as you sat watching life blink and slow

what year, what day? what hour ceased your climb?

did you know? Or was it something stealthy and unobserved?

crawling up your corseted will and into your slack mouth

waiting to be re-charged

finding power in the notion

nobody’s listening

 

other cars go past

some race, some idle, there are sunday drivers and seekers

church goers, drive-in’s, back-seaters

there are race-cars and old vintage trucks with their bellies full of stories

home paint jobs and clean-cut straight from the shop

the latter go to the Wash Tub nearly every week to ensure

their interiors are spotless

and you? Are your insides up to par? inspection? White glove test?

how much dust and debris have you collected and stored beneath your wings?

now coiled in retreat like parts of an engine without spark

do your chairs sag from too much sitting?

has your key grown rust and your feet lost their motion?

as you lull yourself with colors against soaping dark

go, consider, stop, go, consider, stop, go, consider, stop

you idled

engine running a purr into long painted lines

thin women without succor holding their empty bellies up against moonlight

did you consider?

this is your only time

no more is left after the bowl is licked and scraped and washed

set to dry and be re-used by someone with more gumption

in their sunday shoes

 

when did you remove the will, the effort, the urge

replacing it as you would a hub cap with something less polished

so you would not be noticed, fall in with leaves collected in plastic bags

collected at curb side

 

would you recognize

your own self ten years ago?

arms filled with bangles of silver

hair braided to kink and denote

fire in your belly, longing in your chest

here is the shimmer of the undimmed

climbing trees in their favorite

church dress getting branches in their hair

 

you and I ate cherries and plums

the sweet from the marrow of Jamaican sugar cane

baked by a fitful city left to burgeon

music from a dozen sources, the resin and hum

you hennaed my fingers and I shared my belief

this moment could be stretched to eternity

lying with my head in your patchouli lap

feeling the move and sway of need in us both

to uncover the secret

to living

 

then you were gone

I mended myself imperfectly

with mincemeat and old Christmas crackers

that had not struck their gun powder

nor cracked in explosive alchemy of two people pulling from either end

a wish bone sucked clean

what do you wish for?

I wished for a map

draw my direction in red

like the tongue of your hair caught under spotlight

I learned to drive

you learned to walk

with each determining we split, like dried corn will

after being soaked and then left to burn

 

lights blink

lost and found

a mitten on tarmac

a bag of garbage

one lens from a pair of glasses

adverb and pronoun

we each saw correction differently

you still dance

when the brass band strikes a tune

you merge into the crowd

lifting your arms above your head

my silver still slipping on your wrists

your disapproval branding

the center of my forehead

you sold out” you mouth

losing your way deliberately

you thought by cutting the string, tying it to a tree in a wood, you’d forget where you came from

all you did was create another way to suffer all your own

you were once part of a tribe

daubed in blue and saffron women of islands and sea skirmish

fearing nothing but rocks, jagged and monstrous

and even as we hesitated

we urged ourselves forward

now you sit

idling in a warm car on a tepid night with windows down

listening to a station play unfamiliar discordant tunes

and the headlights of other cars

passing you by on the outside lane

are the faces of those you gave away

when you emigrated in reduction

like the sauce of ourselves

left too long on the high flame

will burn and stick

unable to be

poured

Thursday’s child

costume-cute-dinosaur-funny-girl-inspiration-Favim.com-48812They said Texas was more friendly than the East Coast

but she’d lived in New York and that wasn’t true

not for queers and people who didn’t attend church

the year she arrived they put up picket signs on every corner

marriage equals a man and a woman

with a red X marking the hate

obliteration of alternatives

a dirty word it was

not to be homogenous and touch your

four corners to the cross

the year she arrived they said

if you don’t like BBQ, if you don’t eat meat, if you don’t go to Dairy Queen

get the fuck out of our state

you wear too much black we’re certain

you prefer Satan

she became a shut-in who didn’t

believe in mythical devils but had

met a few who walked the earth in the flesh

not leaving the house an irony

for a Thursday’s child

who has far to go

 

You may ask – girl why did you stick around?

but we don’t all of us have the luxury

of choice

the saying

you made your bed / now lie in it

can often apply

so you suck all the oxygen out of the room

hold your breath

hoping they won’t notice you are still there

but they did

pinching and pulling

you’re far too thin

you’re far too white

you’re a spoil sport who doesn’t like to go on team building exercises

she began to drink in the afternoons

wanted to swear the way she used to do

in Europe

where every other word was an expletive

but swearing is crude in Texas

they like you to sweeten your words like your tea

and drink it ice-cold

 

It isn’t really their fault

if you move somewhere you’d better try

to fit in

even ghosts can see the purpose

in choosing where you haunt, wisely

it’s not enough to think you can carry on liking the same things

she cannot wear tights in Texas

even in December it’s too hot

you have to mow your lawn A LOT

though she would plant weeds and watch

them enclose her from disapproval

in time, she learned it’s a state of mind

sometimes when you stop realizing you don’t fit in

you just might

and if that doesn’t work there’s always

four walls and closed eyes

growing wild flowers in her mind

swearing a little less often

in time everything works differently

you look back and see

what was once strange

feels like home

 

 

Seven years


Seven years I let myself formulate excuses

not to return

and on the eighth

guilt had made her way into my closed heart

laying a light ribbon on the frayed part

 

going back was like being reborn

as yourself and not yourself at all

I walked familiar streets, spoke similar words

accent hardly altered

as if no time had passed

and so they said

you look exactly the same

though they were changed and I were changed

all altered irrevocably with time worn stain

as if glass no longer could be relied upon

to give accurately our real prescription

even friends were foreign handed

or I no longer of that land

left behind when things were too sad

I sealed the bottle and set adrift

seven years of absence builds

many barnacles to anyone’s vision

when the damned see the truth

the liars remove their seaweed masks

curtsy finely and pronounce

we did our part

exit stage left

standing on warm boards of the theater of pretend

where dance and energy has dissipated

into cloven wings

hear me now

shadows of my past

the girl with the big smile

her perfect fine figured mouth

and matching dragon tooth skirt

as if we dressed together in the darkness

of one another

except she is a mother and

I have a cut-out womb ebbing in formaldyade

don’t worry I feel no pain now

some of us are bearly hanging on

what good would a child of weakness

bring the sorrow further inland?

I miss her

like I write letters in wax to myself

those over easy days we knew who we were

or felt … some approximation of reality

good enough for then

when she looked at me

unequal teeth smiling and needing

how did the splinter drive that deeply?

wedge like sword between this time and before?

we know nothing of the other

as a blue bottle

cast on green and yellow water

will wait

seven years

to reach shore

when I climbed out and dusted myself off

she was gone

her footprints erased from the sand

nobody recognized me

only the echoes of an angry sea

calling me back to exile

whispering

you do not belong here 

and the white cliffs looked relieved

when I flew overhead

my heart aching with loss

the cheer of relief

like a season

changing from golden red to

brown