Daily Archives: June 5, 2009

Unfinished Business

You were doomed
to do this before
you ever picked up a pen.

Your first word wasn’t “Mama” but “apple,”
although by that you meant “Mama.”
No one could see that even then,
you thought in metaphors.

You read from cereal boxes
before you learned to eat from them.

You cut yourself wide open whittling an arrow
with a Bowie knife at six, and still remember
the sight of the bone
in the center of the cleft in your thumb,
and thinking of that now,
it should have been clear

that you would be hurt
every time you tried to create something,

that you’d open yourself up
on impulse, just because you could,

and that you’d always reach for the biggest tool
to do the smallest work.

Fat pen in the hand tonight
and all that blood still inside.

What a gift, they tell you.
What an inspiration.
How you have moved them all.

That scar
still hounds you
every morning at breakfast,
a note in plain sight telling you
to stop wasting time eating
when words are still everywhere,
and you still haven’t explained
why “apple”
is another word for
“mama.”

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A Letter From Philadelphia

the ultimate
was a quarry cliff
in the little massachusetts town
where I grew up.

adjacent to it
was a cliff we called the windsor
which while not as tall
still had a damn scary
edge to it.

we got stoned and dived off them
when the cops weren’t looking,
just hoping not to die
in the pursuit of less boredom.

i don’t know much about that town anymore
and i’m glad.  for me it was always a pit
some folks could dive into and come up again,
but though i was raised there,
on the whole, i’d rather be in philadelphia.
you can think of me as the replacement
for that missing boy.  he stayed here and he stayed
dead.  i got out, was dead at first, but got my life back.

there’s a housing development
all around the quarry now
and a fence around the place where the cliffs
were.  i don’t know if they’ve drained the ponds
and filled the quarry in
and pulled out all the cars
or if they ever found the kid from philadelphia
who disappeared into the pit one night
after drunkenly deciding on a midnight swim.
it’s not likely it matters to the folks
in the comfortable homes
that surround the place.

if the ghost of the missing kid
ever wails at the top of the ghost ultimate,
or if the chain link ever rattles
in the humid stink of summer,
they might get a sense of how much fear
you had to conquer to live there once,

but i don’t care:
good luck to them all.
magic spells and talismans to them all.

they can stay there
and i’ll think of them
while i’m somewhere in germantown,
in center city, stuffing my face at pat’s
and thumbing my nose at jeno’s.

i remember what i left behind.  that corpse.
what it was like to come alive as a new man.
to leap like that.


So You Think You Can Dance

so
you think you can dance

you can

you shouldn’t be fooled
into thinking otherwise by
these hardbodies
all air and fire
slow burn turning to flash power
with presence of mind
and uncanny kinesthetics
reminding us all
of those occasional moments
during the best sex of our lives
when the body did exactly
what the body was asked to do

if
you think you can dance
then
you can

think of all the great dancers you know

grandmothers
rotating their wheelchairs
around awkwardly tuxedoed grandsons
at wedding receptions in VFW halls

spontaneous office party freaks
loudly regretting they had that last Jagerbomb
but secretly thrilled at the cheers and screams
busting out like firecrackers around them

construction workers pirouetting
over the piled up prefab sections
of the first new house they’ve worked on in a while
while sorting out which bill they’ll pay first when they get paid

that baby girl shaking her tiny butt to the loudest radio on the block
until big daddy scoops her up and she giggles
and buries her face in his shoulder
while he bounces along to the beat

same baby girl a dozen years later
catching hold of something bigger than the stripper pole
and one tuesday afternoon in a half-empty gentleman’s club
making one man swear off ever seeing another dancer after seeing her

a greasy man doing a driveway oil change
timing the turns of his wrench to some old C&W twang
and only sliding out from under the car satisfied
when the song burps up a pedal steel epiphany

dropout in traffic
on steering wheel drum
hands and hair flying
in heavy metal tarantelle

if you think you can dance
then you can
the only time you can’t
is when you settle into
the can’t
of your couch
and let them convince you
that you’re wrong

there’s nothing wrong with imagining
perfection and admiring
the journey toward it

but if someone with an agenda
about picking your soul’s poorer pockets to make his money
ever clowns you
into telling yourself
that any dancing that is not perfect
is forbidden

get up off the couch
and dance
all shaky heart and floppy fingered
dance
all blisterheeled and trippy toed
dance like someone died and made you
gene
cyd
elvis
shakira
michael
or mikhail

you have always been a dancer
everyone dances

even if just once
all alone
in a bedroom
in front of a mirror
transformed
and deathless
breathless
in motion

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