in between songs on the radio, all four engines in the car
pause to laugh at the flowers, all their flambuoyant joy.
buzz fiercely over one another to drive out the murky
underbelly of everyone’s insecurities, blossomed into
jokes. the pleasure of friction, of throwing each other’s
manhood under the wheels. of grinding the nectar into
powder to make everyone sneeze out their fears.
at thanksgiving: a fat red-eyed bulldog named princess
drools in the corner while family friends toss doubt
about someone’s love interest. something funny about
him. everyone accepts this as indecent, the flowers
with their stamens winking in the breeze. they all
up end choosing a side. carving the flesh with their
teeth, hyenas cackling over something rotting.
in the auditorium, a drone of laughter erupts at the
backhanded beheading of the lilies. i sit, squirming,
praying the thousand searchlights won’t catch me
with my mouth full of honeysuckles. or praying
they will– that is, praying i’ll have the strength to be
a venus fly trap, act sweet and sticky to lure their
pollen before i swallow all their jokes whole.
see: flower boys of south korea
to my snoring lover
hoping my exhaustion
will catch up to me
before my fears
all our calendars are overrun with ants. shoveling food as we duck through doors. the late-night trek home after racetrack conversations, a day-long stream of words burning a hole in our brains. nights staring into an endless hallway of tasks, the ghosts of to-do lists hollering from the blur. we are suns racing and crashing back into the sea. we all sow the next day’s crop, banking on each other to pull ourselves up in the morning. run and run and run and run and fall, a wounded gazelle in the place of our lungs. doped up on crisis, because nothing happens unless a meteor’s headed straight for the schoolyard, though we all know the constant rain of pebbles on all our heads. the hounds are always snapping at our heels, their chainsaw laughter breathing down our necks. so what to do but pump our legs until we climb into the sky, climb until our legs give out and we dive, eyes closed. juggle all of our planners until this ferris wheeling fills our bones with the thin soup of sick. until finally, we hide in forts made of newspapers and properly cooked dinners, wrap ourselves in peace, and cut the cord, swearing we’ll never meet another’s eyes again.
the new grocery sells real cheese. edging out the plastic bodega substitute. the fruit truck still sets up its boxes of plantains down the block from plates of steaming mussels and bloody marys, tiptoe tourists. ooh, new land. artists march down the street, congratulate themselves on keeping it real. dog leash to the new deli. bringing culture to the west end. cop on speed dial. neighborhood cleanups catch a few live ones. finally some good pastrami around these parts. flashing blue through the window. radio crooning orders. flowers arranged. rubber on tar. skin on steel. an army of macbook pros. say west end like a badge while the folks on the other side of cranston street shake their heads. on the street corner, interrogation lamps burning eyelids. silent battlefront that new settlers keep in back-pocket boxes. sweeping the foyer. out with the old.
outlines of branches at dusk . the shush of sand
beneath wheels . blinking constellation of city
dusk at spring familiar . always-known . brings me
to the memory of a day . a story then too . you know
who you look like? i must have dreamt his face once
our passing always on the tip of my tongue . like salt
sharp & distant . i swear someone’s slipped me
the end of this story before . how to cook breakfast
spoon it into each other’s palms . a script clear
as rooftops set alight by a sun’s dying roar
bone-knowledge . the shapes of cheekbones & where
to rest my mouth . heavy in my spine as soil
i blinked alive always-knowing how to love this way
old magic love . solid as a city’s silhouette
Backseat. Shoulder to shoulder. Seatbelts
wedged deep in hips. Honey on my left,
trusted friend on my right. (Who called
middle the bitch seat?) Birches whipping
past. Sudden breaks in trees: lakes. Now:
the Scituate Reservoir, no longer myth.
Blessed is the real, this hot meal my love
heated for me. Blessed are the insides of
his wrists, which sneak into conversation.
Urgent philosophy in the front seat; here,
only laughter & marveling, the sunlight
skipping across our foreheads. Train car
diners. Roadside antique bazaar. Strange
landscape to our small-city leers. Familiar
shapes– ears and nose that find their way
between jokes. Here, too, a burrowing
place. Soft caves in the cushions. Safer
than plastic buckles or sudden sacks of
air. Safer is this: this heartbeat beside
mine, the ever-rhythm of live, live, live.
[Not posting publicly but I swear I wrote it.]
In February, Jeff Bush was sitting in his bedroom when the earth suddenly and swiftly swallowed him whole. Florida earth is riddled with these underground lakes-turned-caves-turned black holes, which gulp down houses and sycamores like spaghetti noodles. The ground no safer than swiss cheese layered with grass, hunters’ dugouts designed as solid earth.
At times, my heart is a mapless minefield. One minute I’m sitting on a couch with my lover, and the next, I’m at the bottom of a well, staring at the distant moon of sky. Then all I know is limestone, earthworm, shadow. Broken bits of furniture, what was once a lamp. My lover’s calls echo their way down to me, but the world above ground is too heaven in this earth. I lose track of my own name as I sit among the buried things, feel their black shapes, cut my hands on the bones, wonder at what terrible beasts left behind such thorny remains.
It is the first real spring day of the year
in a place where winter is as spiteful
as I am. And I am at work, two hours
past Friday, knowing the need for sleep
almost as real as deadlines. Finally,
I drag myself from sleepwalk’s
sinkhole and leave, lists and listless
duty hanging off my elbows. Outside:
yellow light, barbecue smoke, a guy
singing on the corner, and I feel
nothing. High schoolers with bright
backpacks and loud jokes crowding
the bus; and I am not full, nor filled
with hunger for more. I am a tube of
toothpaste squeezed dry. Muscles
in my back are a packs of wolves,
an ache I cannot outrun. Tell me
why my calves hurts after so much sit
and still and dull crises clanging around
the aquarium walls. Tell me, what sort
of work is this? Where the body pays
for the sins of the mind, its vanities
and obsessions? Oh, work– urgent
to everything but my own salvation,
without even the holiness of sweat.
While reading over my poem, I miss
a few stops on the 22 and have to walk
down the main artery of the post-
industrial West End: Bucklin Street,
a ghost town re-gifted to this city.
Somewhere past Bellevue and before
the old peanut factory I hear footsteps
from an alley and start tingling like
warfront– until the soft click of heels
waves me along. I am always ready
with battle cries but can’t lift my sword
without both hands and a podium. I am
too grenade with my protest, anger
targetless and everywhere at once–
useless. Fifteen minutes later, the only
blow Bucklin tosses at my feet is
a few words out the window of an old
Camry. Which might sound like treason
if I were a queen panning the river
for mutiny. Twenty minutes later,
I arrive at my boyfriend’s house,
unattacked again. This discomfort,
not quite sexy enough to be called
survivor’s guilt– just my souring fear
spilling out over the sides, a quiet and
shameful vomit staining my cheeks.