Combustion

What does one do in order to feel?

Not the safe kind, sanitized by Clorox wipe

left to garner in sun until just right temperature

palatable and convivial like a well heeled aunt.

No, I mean the bloody kind

coming at night, knocking your flippin socks off

just as you got used to living in a box, neat beige walls

knowing how you felt because you didn’t let it out

to crawl around and get dirty, muddy, sodden, feral

where feelings elongate into shadows and back again

tripping us up, as we shuffle to the bathroom for midnight piss.

Those feelings, the ones hammering your heart shut

as you open windows in the morning, anguish

and agonies unnamed, pour out into sore tongued dawn

you can’t even speak it, you can’t get the lump to dislodge

from your tightening throat, it’s like a scream has purchased

hooks and they’re pulling them out, fileting your senses.

The sheer ravage of it

makes you want to turn and run like a red gash

except … it’s everywhere, in your pores, your veins, the very

sentence structure of survival

how you make eye contact, which hand you use

to wipe yourself

feelings lie in the hems of your dress, the arch of your shoes

they crawl up your inner thighs and birth your secrets

with wild fingers and loose tongues

spilling afterbirth like unwanted punctuation.

For all your running in place, you’re growing tired

the careful structure of denial, unknitting itself

in a parody of lovemaking you come undone

till one day sitting at a coffee shop

someone asks you if you have the time

and it reminds you

suddenly, a cut the length of a sword

nobody asks the time anymore

and you begin to scream

rooms emptying

people looking backward

at the woman who

unfolds her horror

like a thin Japanese fan

to keep herself

from combusting.

Dear

Often I imagine, when you open someone up, peal away their layers, inside you find this pomegranate, bright in the way only nature can create. So many people have these rich lives; children, grandchildren, homes, adventures, careers, compassion. Beauty and abundance of life in so many forms. Social media exemplifies this which is why I need to limit myself, a bit like eating a box of chocolates. If I indulge too much, I feel overstimulated, lost in the sari’s of color from so many lives, people, worlds, thoughts. It’s not even the emotions, those I can relate to, it’s the living in technicolor.

When I think of what resides in my inner most self I see my old worn much loved penguin and little ted, I see me running into my grandmother’s arms. It is as if I am possessed by the past and not even present.

We are taught to live in the now or for the future. But never the past. Why? Because living in the past isn’t living, it’s remembering, it’s regressing. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honor the past. But we must also move on from it.

If there were a house fire, it would not be the expensive things I’d seek to save. It would be my green Kermit The Frog, the pressed flower from the meadow my grandmother and I walked. It would be trying to save the past from flames, even as they climb nearer.

Occasionally I wish to lose it all, so I would be forced to start over. Without the weight of the past on my shoulders. Some people say we’d be better off if we didn’t recall the past, we’d be free of it, and able to be whomever we wanted.

The funny thing is, if I were a blank slate, I think I’d go out and start looking for much cuddled toy penguins circa late 1970s and patchy, lost fur little teds and green frogs with crayon on their eyes. I think I would climb right back where I came from. Because nothing since, has ever, ever been as dear.

Highway 101

This is what I’d say
If we were speaking

If cellos played ambrosial
If those who said they were alone actually knew what alone meant
This is what I’d say
To the ancestors with sepia faces
To the full family tables I could never navigate
The empty drive, unfilled road, the lack of fake
I’d say
I can’t do pretense

Or big events
broken pipes
yellow light

Or changing people

False words
Mislaid purpose

I would say I couldn’t get on with you
We fought like siblings
Though both were singletons
The vibration of only children with no children
I would say I became angry when you lied
When you faked who you were
When you got suckered by people stupider than you
When you lived in your pretend world
Whilst I ate and feasted on blisters
I would say those from wealth and those from basalt cannot understand

The empire
Of emptiness

A track road with lisping night creatures
And desert burning into mirage
I would say it seems at times
Futile to try to get close

to anyone

But I felt serried to you
That’s likely why I got so churlish
Why I stopped talking

Said nothing

Because betrayal comes unconsciously for most of us
In the voluble let downs and unseen affronts
Like a storm threatening, then retreating

Electricity in verging air
Reminding us of bigger purpose

Points of tangency and points of equilibrium

The hour until we ease into contiguous dying
The way you assumed I’d believe what you believed
I never did
I carry a heart with wormholes in it
The rain lets out
You get out
I drive on
In the mirror of oil on the road
I see you understand

I would say we were the same
Not even at different ends
Just burning with curved impulses

That quench the other
As I look in your eyes

I see myself

And it hurts and unsettles me

Worse than my own reflection

Conveyer belt love

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Where if it didn’t work out?

You dumped and moved on

What a horrible way to live

Nothing redeeming, nothing eternal

I was told; you’re born three centuries too late

For nowadays people are impatient and demanding

They throw away more than they earn

We’re The Plastic Generation … hell we’ll be buried in plastic urns

In this fettered landscape, it’s no easy thing to find

Something left beating, whole and strong.

Conveyer belt love began to make sense

A logical response to an unfeeling era

Where being let down could be replaced by a clone

If you are lonely, buy yourself a Japanese doll

When you are sad, blow something up, or put batteries in

TV for the masses, turn on, tune out, get an i-phone

Be tracked by faux Politicians and told how to vote

Go to sleep with unconscious messages trying to sell you more

Who cares about love, it’s a sham, a fait accompli, an overgrown child

All notions thrown out, along with 24/7 Porn

Your husband is jacking off as you think you’re meeting for your anniversary brunch

Your wife is screwing your boss, even the dog doesn’t love you, it’s all programming

Pavlov will surely tell you that and what about Skinner and his box?

Aren’t we all lab rats in fancy colored clothes?

Maybe the thing to do is join in and stop wanting real

Because real hurts when it turns out to be false

And plastic outlasts us, polluting the oceans it stands sinful testimony

On the beaches in India you find Starbucks straws and CocaCola bottles

We’re international now, the big conglomerates boast.

Conveyer belt love

You nearly ruined me

In the shallows, near the swamp

Still I think about ideals once in a while and imagine

What if, it were all different and we found our way back?

Would Cathy let in Heathcliff? Would Anna Karenina still jump?

And Diane Keaton in Ms Soffel? Would anyone be alive to understand?

Why we lived once for love and it meant the world

Even as it was so often an empty house of cards

What if

We got the Queen of Hearts?

I inhaled the knife

You didn’t encourage me to write or let me know I could do it

you told me; you can’t spell

you don’t speak any language well

you have split ends and are at times

manic like a dervish without charm

but you’re always on time, good at lifting heavy things

maybe you should organize talented people’s lives

because you don’t have any of your own …

talent that is.

I didn’t listen. Not because I didn’t believe you

Oh I did. I inhaled the knife.

Sometimes the road will hurt like a thousand feet

trodden on your back, weighing your down

but what can you lose? 

Still not speaking any language perfectly

you may hate me … but I?

I send you love and I send you love

because that’s all I have.

I remember the year

I found a rabbit on my window ledge

celebrating six months of not wetting the bed

I had peed into nightmares wondering

if you would ever return, but you never did

though you may be surprised

I gained strength through that pain

even when you think I am weak in my ways

I see the courage in being able to feel

the toughness it takes to love when you are not loved in return

because I still can’t spell and you laughed at me and said

what writer can you be if you don’t know

your pronouns from your iambic pentameter?

Hemmingway. Austin. Oh I can name a hundred … 

But I learned anyway and by then it didn’t matter

because you’d already made your pronouncement and left

your wet umbrella still propped by the door.

I thought of all those souls like me

who were not taught words of light

instead the dark shroud of incessant criticism

who did not learn how to believe in themselves

recalling all the reasons you gave

for why I will always be a failure and a disappointment

then I wrote it down

poured myself onto a page

not always perfectly groomed 

with the savagery of one who has

felt so much and loved so hard

in the glaring halo of afternoon

where yellow turns to indigo

suffusing everything 

momentarily incandescent 

The Borderline’s Bride

Nuptial rites at midnight

espousal gently prodded for life

sleep walkers into union they

wake to find promises in dark fulfilled

she wore her matrimony patiently

believing any escape better than remaining still

but time plays tricks like a young child

what we thought then, changing like old glass

will gather yellow reflection within its make

until thrown out for being discolored

or broken half deliberately, the mind thinking it no great loss

is this the fate of age? Bequeath a lessening

value over years, ruin slipping her knot

through stooped shoulder blades with expertise

of well worn harbinger ?

What appeared so intoxicating at 19

shows itself, pickled and cloudy, parody of spectacle

aghast at her own self, the indulgence of emotion

losing reason for the oily climb of bodies urging

their mischief upon the other with that slick beat of youth

no surely not, people cannot

be this blind, not her, who has always

prized insight, could she have become

the Borderline’s Bride?

Her lover, in absentia is fickle, for her

butchery is not written down or photographed

but presented in myriad glass cases for dissecting

so slowly, almost lost to time, the gradual

rise and fall of things, until one or the other

is sullen ash

then she knows, really knows, in that

concrete unyielding way tragedy presents

its litany of excuses for why you mistook

the garland of betrayal and tenderizing

your own mouth, placed the fish hook

deep where wedged against sense it pulled

hanging your best intentions by their easy mockery

for years cannot be recovered

mistakes undone, still not repaired

they lie like unsent letters

beneath the pillows of

those unmoving in wedlock

a fox somewhere screams

redolent and full

a sudden horror piercing night

startling the most stalwort

to sit up in

terror

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

odd for the child

to fear drowning

when his life now is so long

stretching like taut ribbon in sun

he imagines like plain moths who drown themselves

in light emanating from dark

his own lifeless body buoyant on chlorinated pool

why he thinks of his death is anyone’s guess

perhaps the morbid humor of an intelligent mind

or the broken mosaic of life, beginning its downward cycle

once he asked his father, if the river levies bust

will I know I am dead before I am drowned or

will I wake in heaven first?

His father, a man who only worried about

whether his mistress was going to leave him for a younger man

did not spend time assuaging the boys fears

and he grew into a frightened soul who possessed

no mistress to sooth his night terrors

eventually even the hypochondriac will be right

maybe not this year

as she palpitates her breast for the forth time

crossing nervous fingers over heart, half prayer half search

malignancy her code red, flashing with every terrorizing headline

who invented social media? she mumbles beneath her breath

it was so much easier when we didn’t have access to all the maladies, we’ll one day die from!

Her hands cramp in late Winter cold, immediately she thinks

MS, MD, Fibromyalgia, the beginnings of CJD, maybe Parkinson’s

isn’t that a tremor? Or just too much coffee?

Her jittering nerves remind her, we are unable to compute

the exact day, hour, minute of expiry

all we know is our eventual death is an assured event

it’s the torment of those who are self-aware yet still ignorant

spinning in place, every migraine a brain tumor, every

sudden sharp pain a sign of pancreatic cancer, when a friend

discovers he has Multiple Myeloma (and he never touched asbestos his wife decries!)

she flicks through medical journals online searching for similarity

it’s not her wish to die, but a desire to live, control fate

keeping her on false tender hooks like owl without prey.

His life has been one of quiet dread, each day he inspects

the parts of him most likely to give out, checking his irregular heartbeat

the soft pounding of worry causing it to skip, feeling for swollen glands

skin cancers, lumps and bumps different from the day before

he knows his is an obsessive ritual, even as it soothes imagined

terrors, he sees the absurdity of living in fear bound to a wheel

perpetuated by hours spent researching ways of expiring

did you know you can develop throat cancer from invisible HPV

who knew love was such a sentence? He tells his eye-rolling neighbor.

If he counted the hours he took from his life

contemplating how he will die, when, what it will resemble

it’s quite mad

yet when he is lying in his childhood bed alone

impending dread crawling up his flannel spine

all he can hear are the waves calling

and then, a strange longing in him occurs

urging him to be done with bloody charades

join the onslaught and be carried out to sea

along with every child’s nightmare

and the stifled hiss of adults pressing their knuckles

closely to anguished mouths

for the pale mint waiting room seems

entirely too silent

an earie unsettled fog about it

waiting …

Below zero

Snow I have always

been thankful for your expunging

whiteout

how you take dirt

and suffocate it

beneath insistent layers

the wild and untame methods of your

settling, blown like befuddled

birds in all direction, swirling in

lost echo, falling eventually to

sugar-coat the dim world brighter

as pipes fail, their fragile egg shells

bloated with trapped water

a parallel I think

to our own shuttered lives

When I was a child I would

be told

do not go out in the snow for long

you will catch your death

and I hoped

very much

that were true

for to sleep

a red rose in bosom of white

I could fancy in my child’s mind

no greater perishment

though fancy and its

myriad ways of suggesting

death

grow less appealing

the older we get

Now I avoid slipping on ice

for fear of crushing my elbow into

shards like my father did

I see in the distance

my grandmother’s dog

he is trying to eat snow flakes

and puzzled when they melt

barks into whiskering storm

I think he speaks for us all

in this grand illusion

half wanting to be

taken off by encompassing whorls

carried to ice palace

where surely the meaning of

everything can be found

along with my mittens I lost

in tenth grade

stooping down to place

the cherry in

my snow robins

breast

Not a lot

Some of the forgotten towns

circling big cities, lone wolves

warming fur against bright lights

wear their bleakness like a flag

the emptied streets at night where

no merriment is found, kids have

climbed aboard their bikes and motored

through snow if necessary, to escape

into the cold clutches of wine and euro-pop.

The touring people who do not live in these towns

glamorize by proxy

their little steeples, the preserve of history

how charming graffiti looks in a foreign language

they do not see behind the doors

into a teen world of preparedness

all who will flee when time comes

somehow, make their empty pocketed way

to bigger cities, offering the solace of

24 hour misery

surely it beats

sleeping in your childhood cot

listening to your parents snore

inching closer to a local grave plot

they put their heads in bags of glue

just to feel like they are from somewhere else

finding it a marvelous irony

when their frigid mountain town is named

‘best hidden tourist spot’

by those who are also in their own ways

trying to escape

their stifled lot

Urging to be loosed

Before generic

we toiled

with well made heavy tools

to survive

thinking less, I suspect

of the quality of that living

whether we were ‘happy’

nor having time for slight or scold

to injure us

sheer brevity of our toil

overwhelming higher thought

which at times I believe

may be as fitful and ill-fitting

as apple eaten from forbidden tree

it is that knowledge of ourselves

sends us into quiet turmoil

perpetuated by hours to muse

on the fix and drip of life

we taste despair in our abundant imaginings

for all we learn, we grow further

from that seat of quiet peace found

in hard labor and less thought

for every Sunday where I get to lie in

watching snow fall outside my safe insulated house

I wonder at the wisdom of this progress

whether

like the man I know who

lives in the woods

gathering water by stream

keeping warm at fireplace

his rough shod life is

that much gladder

than mine, able to turn

thoughts around in my head

like blue flies

urging to be loosed