Useful

For A & D

Last night we got drinks and she told me

how a young man of a boy

got aggressive at 17 and took it too far

and felt really bad seconds after.

She was 14 then and she’s 22 now.

Violent sex like little else

makes me aware of the blood in my face.

 

Tonight she slurred just to enough to give away

how fucked up she got moments before

I arrived in the driveway with pizza.

Some man paying for her time

and a little boy making her feel worthy

while her mom is getting kicked out;

she peed on the sidewalk and I looked away.

 

I guess it’s good

if my heartbreak

is useful

to someone.

Praying

sometimes I start out praying

on my knees

eyes closed and dry

elbows on the bed

fingers locked and still

head even-keeled

my whole body piously symmetrical

the Thank You For The Food kind of praying

the In Jesus’ Name Amen kind of praying

praying in a posture I can get behind

 

what happens next happens slowly

an arm lies down

a forehead seeking shelter

eyes open in the blanket

legs crossed or bouncing

a shoulder blade protruding

my body wondering who’s listening

the Please Have Mercy On Me kind of praying

the I Don’t Know If I Can Do This kind of praying

whispering my sins into the mattress

 

sometimes I end up praying

on my bed

eyes closed and wet

hands above my head

fists in the pillow

legs at awkward angle

my whole body in desperate display

the Oh Father Father Father kind of praying

the No More Words Just Needs kind of praying

falling into everlasting arms and sleeping

Split Custody

I left home last night

And got home this morning.

Te digo que llegué a casa por fin. 

Back home it was raining in the chilly black air;

Here at home it’s humid with an endless blue ceiling.

Tal vez la humedad me hace bien después de ese invierno de castigo.

The manner of speaking is musical;

It’s got a lilt you’d have to know to listen for.

Es que noo-mbre, pucha vos, ya llegastes, gracias a Dios.

The lilt that is the song stuck in my head when I’m home;

I can’t stop myself from parroting.

Hasta mis amigos mexicanos me dicen que hablo igual a ustedes.

It’s like split custody, and you love them both;

They just take care of you different.

Dos países, dos padres, que me cuidan bien.

 

Needs

Her love for God is that of a desperate man;

     she worries what would happen with her needs met.

The problem isn’t the landscape, it’s the line;

     this city is too falsely modest for her.

No one refers to her as a nice lady;

     she is violently kind in a womanly way.

Children speculate about what’s in her purse;

     friends see hammered rhymes and cover art in there.

The problem isn’t the sacred, it’s the saint;

     the bread and wine go down like forty proof gin.

Her love for God is that of a dying thief;

     she wonders what would happen with her needs met.

Still There

I was hoping for a rainy Sunday, or a federal Monday

for some quiet hum or a morning in bed

for a reposed window seat or a walk down the sidewalk

where no other feet are feeling their way about.

I was putting stock in a change of pace to decrease my heartrate

running is good for the vessel but bad for the blood.

I was counting on a breath of air to refresh my mental state

A/C is good for the clothing but bad for the skin.

I was wanting to go out, or in.

I was hoping for a change of something,

for a change of something,

for a change

in general.

I was trusting in a change of something.

 

Then I got a day off,

and it rained,

and I stayed in bed all day,

and I was still there.

God Won

it is salty

it tickles the fleshy underside of his foot a little

it is pooling in the hollows above his collarbone

warms him up

 

blood like a woman caressing the tendons in his back

blood behind his ears and in his eyes

and he can’t rub it out

blood won’t leave him alone

 

he has never noticed tiredness in his fingernails before

or in his skin

there is pain in his hair

that is new

 

someone in his skull is banging hard on the door

let me out

these gates are shut from the outside

you’re trapped in there for good

 

he wanted God

God wanted him

and God won

Rich White America

I’m from Rich White America, the human race’s one percent.

I’m from daily dinners with Dad and Mom,

cul-de-sac calm and patio parties

and nothing but failure to fear.

I’m from baby books, photo books

children’s books, classic books –

books that they would read to me so I would ace the SAT.

I’m from big grass yards and imaginary friends;

all the wars I fought were sticks and pirate ships.

I’m from homework help and holidays,

spring break trips and soccer games.

I’m from homemade meals and fresh fruit in the fridge.

I’m from innocence and warmth,

crystallized on Christmas with five presents just for me.

I’m from self-inflicted issues with a satisfied stomach

and a sheltered safe haven from violence;

even sickness was sorry to disturb the peace.

I’m from landlocked tears and

and keeping one’s emotions in one’s room.

 

I’m from everything you didn’t have.

Does it help if shame and loneliness are familiar faces in this fairy tale?

If anxiety and depression are the starlets on this silver screen?

Rich White America is the strangest of normals,

and I’m not saying that it’s fair.

So please tell me instead, where you’re from?

Biting Your Tongue

You don’t indulge me and for that I should be grateful.

I sometimes feel like an overly eager pet, tending to overwhelm newcomers with nearly violent affection and pleading for love, benefiting greatly from the restraint of its owner. I’m still an angst-filled child at heart, so afflicted with imaginary turmoil…

Afflicted with imaginary turmoil,
Abandoned in an un-mandated exile,
Distracted by the products of the epoch,
Distrusting of the motives ‘neath the get-up.

If only I could obscure it all in figurative expression. I find emotional thought mediated by symbolism much more comfortable than the immediacy that happens when I admit to you what it was I wanted to say, before I remembered to catch myself. Well, ‘remembered’ isn’t the right word, because it’s instinct now, not thought: an ancestral fear that my confessions won’t be well-received. For good reason. Have you ever detoured through the shanty towns on the internet’s outskirts, where the bad confessional poets try to console each other with bad rhymes and bad ideas, like the meth-infested small towns of the Rust Belt?

The darkness is my only friend,
And won’t you call me back again?

Get through there quick, it’s not pretty. The ugly part of the highway between sexier cities. Thus I feel right about biting my tongue, and you’re right in your lack of indulgence.

Biting your tongue, got a mouth full of blood
And they ask you what it is you’re thinking of.
Bad jokes, that’s it, move on, get a grip —
Don’t let them know that you’re fading away.
Chances are they’ll let the moment dissipate (instead).

But these are such tired moments. I know you think so too. I’ve got to either say it or get over it. Blood in the mouth has got to be spit out or swallowed; otherwise it stains your teeth and metallicizes everything. Rambunctious pets have got to be loved on or trained out of it, lest they jump on the folks at the door. Either hear me out sympathetically or call me out for acting pathetically…

While my pathos competes with your logos
and your ego competes with my id,
then my pneuma will duel with your psyche
till you meta find out what I did…

Ah, dear. Once again I longed for originality, only to find I was a product of my age.

To The Young, Ironic Urbanites

San Diego/Portland

I love you intensely. I’m besieged by concern.
With your smoking guns and your travelogues,
you’ve conquered the world of this city,
empire extending as fast as your chariots run:
four-wheeled, nonstop,
signet-sealed, kings atop.
With your brash self-doubt and your mystic’s eye,
you’ve stared down the old of this city,
the senatorial class with their face-saving moralism.
Visigoths, Turks, Mongols, Moors,
armored, armed philosophers –
you have upheaved us.

I love you so painfully. I sink in your heartache:
your silence, your noise, your aberrant sex,
your visions, your violence, your art, your shit,
rivulets in this city spreading out, flowing down,
till they meet in the delta of accusatory beauty,
fields flooded by an indignant want of grace.
Your confident flowing is still disturbed
by your dependence on the water cycle –
God’s gift of sun, God’s gift of rain.
Will you pray? Will you dance?
Does your genius come unbidden?

Home For The Holidays

I’ve been so proud of myself for growing up

and shedding this suburban scenery for more subtle forms of snobbery.

I the butterfly, you the broken cocoon. I the artist, you the coloring page.

I’ve proudly colored outside your lines.

But wintery tradition brings me back behind that picket fence

and I’ll whisper that I’m humbled by this homeyness.

I the weary traveler, you the cozy inn. I the prodigal, you the open arms.

This town pulls on my compasses.

 

On the way to that one coffee shop and who can think of anything else but that

the corner of 17th and Juniper is nothing if not the time I turned around to hear him out and welcome home another brother in the front of that movie-making robot

and that dirty donut shop is nothing if not the place I realized they were gone forever, interpreting the news of a shrinking world with coconut crumbs ignored

and the sidewalk across from Filippi’s is nothing if not the stage of my debut and the meeting of my first embodied inspiration at my entrance to the underworld

and that drive down the boulevard from Sunset to Grand is nothing if not the highway of my heart and the cornerstone of my conscience in every immanent sense.

The truth is that you made my good deeds good.