Monthly Archives: July 2018

No Song

Everclear in the air: “Daddy 
gave me a name,
then he 
walked away.”

I think hard enough, decide
this is my song.
I drink hard enough, then
I know it’s not.

If there’s a song for me
in the air already,
I’ve forgotten how to find it.
It’s like Everclear’s song-daddy:

left a mark and 
vanished.

My daddy didn’t drink.
Quit before I was born.
Sometimes it felt like
he should have kept at it.

Like it didn’t matter
that he wasn’t drunk.

I’m sure there’s a mom song
out there for me too.
Once again,
I can’t find it. 

Ozzy, Danzig, 
Pink Floyd, 
maybe some older bit
of nonsense.

None of this
does the trick.

I think I’ll find my songs
on a Soviet-era radio.
Something with tubes,
something drab and static-full.

There are too many songs
in the American air.
Can’t believe any of them.
Can’t buy any of them as mine.

Daddy gave me a name
then he stuck around.
Mom gave me a birth
then she stuck around.

I wore out my welcome early.
Don’t need a song to tell me that.


Stingy

Stingy Night
takes its time
with me.  

If I had paid
more tribute to it
I’d be in it now,

that’s for damn certain.
This long day 
would be over

and I’d be enveloped
in warm, blanket deep
blue and black.

But last night I stayed up
till dawn, playing at
being one of those

who do that. I’m not
one of those who do that
though I recall

trying a few times.
The price was too high
and I’ve stopped paying.

I’m a physical dead head
mess. The whole system’s
gone bankrupt

as Miser Night
holds back its gifts.
I’m not asleep

when I need to be.
You call it
insomnia, I call it

the payback.
I don’t dream
like I should, I call it

the lost wages
of not sinning enough.
And when I do doze midday,

twitching in my lazy seat,
Night counts its coins
and laughs, that clicking keeping me

from falling away
completely.  Night
breaks me, leaves me broke.


Next Steps

Revised. First published, March 2018. Original title, “Requirements.” 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Start by reimagining 
the American flag
as a door anytime 
you see it.

See it as a locked door
with a complex code
you’ll need
if you want to enter. 

Then picture an eagle in tears,
starving, exhausted; 
the eagle on the Seal,
the one that has not been able to feed

with its wings up
and its talons full
for all these years.
Start wondering

what’s under 
your Uncle Sam’s 
hat, why he
looks so pissed 

as he points at you.
You thought you were tight.
After all, you’re family, or
so you were told.

Start wondering where that dollar bill
has been, where
they’ve all been. Start
thinking about them

in your pocket, your hand,
resting across your bare skin;
who paid for what with them
before they came to you.

Start imagining how hard 
you will have to kick
to take down that door.
Think about what might be on

the other side.  Soon,
your foot will start twitching,
longing to act 
even before you start willing it.


Trivial Note

Just a trivial note to all:  I recently pointed this blog to a domain that doesn’t indicate it’s on WordPress.com. 

No reason, really; just an option that became available and I said “why not?”

It is now at “http://radioactiveart.blog” for those of you who notice such things.  I don’t think it requires you to change any bookmarks you might have as the old domain works as well.

I told you it was a trivial note.

Carry on.

T


Friend

The poems often start
with an anchor to time:

dusk, midnight,
eclipse twilight,

predawn. 

It’s never two fifteen PM,
you may note. 
Never suppertime,

never late morning
coffee break. 

Why do you suppose so many
of these poems begin

at liminal moments?

Asking for a friend.

Why do you suppose
there was never a full length manuscript
from this poet? Why do you think
they never got there? 

Asking for a friend,
a friend afraid to admit
that they want that answer.

Afraid to say that answers, 
whether given freely 
or puzzled through,

are often the graves 
of minute reasons to remain alive.
In those times when the quest
is more invigorating than the arrival,
accepting answers
feels like moving closer to death. 

Asking for
a friend, as always,
one seeking

to understand

thick, stagnant truths
like the one about how
no one wants to touch
this old body of mine,
not even me. The one
that pushes out
another question:

why is that? 

Asking for a friend, one
tired and purely
disappointed friend.

How is it that one can be
so terrified of uncertainty freezing solid
one trivial answer
at a time?

Asking, you know, as always, for a friend.
Asking for one curiously ignorant friend.

Asking for a friend,
one like a shadow
who won’t step out
and be seen as solid —

say at two fifteen PM
or late morning coffee break — 

one who prefers the blur
of in between moments.

A friend who ghosts away
into the surrounding dark
once they’ve heard the answer.


Long Term Prognosis

From a study by researchers at the University of Oxford, 2014: “The average reduction in life expectancy in people with bipolar disorder is between nine and 20 years, while it is 10 to 20 years for schizophrenia, between nine and 24 years for drug and alcohol abuse, and around seven to 11 years for recurrent depression.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wave I’ve ridden
since I was fifteen

lifts me into
a teary dream
in the dark, in bed.

Wave full of shapes,
threats, teeth;

wave that raised me.

Tears in the dark,
stifled tears increasing
the height of the wave;
within it the shapes, the teeth, 
the cold hunger 
I have pretended to love.

Hope

is just another 
shape in cold water,
something frightening
I can’t see, beyond
the trough of this wave,
coming in the next one
or the next, or never coming
at all.

Wave I’ve ridden
from teens to now.
Wave I ride is 
fifty-eight miles long
and counting. 

Doctors once said
it would fade

as I aged. Said the wave
would crest, that I’d make
landfall soon enough.

Doctors:

more shapes under 
the crest of the wave. More teeth
to cut into me.

Wave I’ve ridden since
I was young elevates me into
fearsome visibility under
a moon that will not eclipse
or take pity.

Lunatic, I call myself, lunatic
surfing horror waves
under the sobbing moon,
the laughing moon.

Waves upend me 
in the dark, in night.
Upside down,
suspended,

airless.

You’re not supposed
to be still up there
crying on the crest
of a wave,
say the better surfers.

Fifty-eight years in? I know this.

Fifty-eight years
in this surf, still can’t see
shore.

May be
time at last

to smash down,
to fall into those teeth,

to drown.


Early Retirement

Y’know,
when I had a job
I liked my job.
My HR job —

yeah, I was 
one of those.

I liked the problems,
I liked the people
at my job.

At my job
the bosses liked it when

I listened
and answered 

as they expected.

If I disagreed or took another tack
they called it “recreational arguing”
and dinged me on my review,
year after year,
for doing so.

A disrespectful thing to say —
as if I did not care, as if
this was a game to me — 

as if the day to day labor
of how to make lives better
during the third of a lifetime
people spend at work
was amusing, was not worth
consideration
from multiple angles.

They won. 
They won
a different game,
one I didn’t know
I was playing.

Years ago now,
all of that. Water 
over the top
of a failed dam.

I do not argue anymore
for game or love
or righteousness.
They taught me
how to play the real game —

the one where I sit
and wait in the dark.

I sit and think
of how to play the game.

I sit in the dark
even while 
the dark sits in me. 


Bleaching

Before we begin,
a quick explanation of the Process

might be in order since
you may be wondering what is involved.

The Process removes
not only color but fragrance as well;

strips away the stain
of your inconvenient birth;

lifts and separates you
from your base;

gives you a flag
to cover your wounds;

is an offer, an estimate,
a matching grant;

allows for some variance
as a flavor, a hint. 

Lucky you —
not everyone

is afforded access
to the Process,

but you look like
the type. You look like

someone who would
do well with it, who

would be worthy of it.
Who would support it

after you’d been through it
Who would help enforce it. 

Who would know 
how to choose the right people

to go through it
in the future.

If from this you don’t
understand completely

how it works,
that’s all to the good.

It’s not necessary to see
all the machinery behind it

as long as you are willing
to go through it. In fact

that might reduce your
willingness, seeing all

the boring milling
and smoothing involved

in the Process.  It might
put you off what we promise

is a delightful result.
What we promise you

is a lightening of
the load you carry.

What we offer is
a great hope; you know,

I’m certain, 
the kind of hope we mean.

The kind of hope carried like
an unquestioned passport

over the walls and fences
you may encounter.

The kind of hope
on which this country was founded.

The kind of hope
that can stop a bullet.


101

From October 2017.  Revised.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the works of
Quentin Tarantino
revenge and retribution
are frequent themes.

I think they reveal 
the fullness of 
recent American 
dreams.

This explains so much of
how we got here,
where we’re going,
why we can’t turn aside.

We’re in Tarantino’s world.
Think of all the casual
evil accepted within
his concepts high and low.

Think of how
he excuses
the worst language,
the worst behavior,

through a complex math
that adds injustice and
revenge and gets
a cleansing zero.

Think of how 
with winks and smiles
he comforts, then authorizes
a stab, a shot, a blow.

Think most of all
of the one where 
an actor demands
his men bring him

one hundred scalps —
usually enough
to make me turn it off
and turn away;

too long a history
for me and mine
to fantasize in comfort
over scalping once done to us

for bounties 
much like this one. Still,
late nights or early mornings
when I sit and see the news,

when I watch 
and wring my hands, sometimes
I whisper when I know 
no one will hear

a phrase that tells me
I am part of his world now,
although I hate it: “One hundred?
Not enough. Let’s make it 101.”


Don’t Sing

To sing in the mouth
of that which consumes you
is no strategy.

To sing among the teeth
descending into you
is not acceptable..

I don’t care what the positive thinker says
of the need for love and civility.

I don’t care for the One
who said to turn the other cheek.

To open your mouth
and offer hymns of praise
to compliance and martyrdom
as you are consumed
is no good thing.

To be swallowed
without at least attempting
to strangle them as you descend,

to loose your throat
without sticking in their throat,
is not noble.

Is atonal, is
dissonance, is
anharmonic, anti-
melodic. 

To offer your music 
in the presence of that
which only sings your death – 

how would that song sound?


Between Us And Animals

the difference between
humans and other animals
is that we insist
on defining in detail
every difference between ourselves
and other animals.  

the difference between us
and other animals
is that we create charts
that show the differences
among wasps and hornets and bees,
another that does the same
for butterflies and moths.

wasps, hornets, bees,
butterflies, and moths already know
they are different from each other

and do not care.  
serene in their varied ways
of folding their wings, 
secure in their multifarious stings,
aware of what is required of them,
they are certain that they are
what they are, are not

what they are not.

the difference between humans
and other animals
is in how much we put into 
charting difference,
in how much we gain
from parsing it out.

the other animals
don’t need to work so hard at it.
they already know.

they already know us, as well.
they do not see our differences.
they see us as humans regardless of differences.

see how they side-eye us,
every one of us.

see how they sidle away
whenever any one of us
closes in.


A Broken Arrow

Originally posted August 2017.  Revised.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Used to shoot
my father’s bow
in the backyard.

Knew the right grip, the 
two finger pull without
the thumb.

Prided myself
on form almost more
than accuracy. 

Had a sheaf of 
arrows, yellow shafted,
target heads like sharp bullets.

Had one white shafted one
chased with red, my favorite.
Saved it 
for last every time. 

One day I hit something
to the side of the target
and shattered that magic bolt.

Panicked and stared
at the splinters 
for a few minutes.

Tossed it into the woodpile
to be burned 
in winter, then still
some months off.

Pushed aside the judgement
until later, I thought, but my father
never said a word.

I am not sure he valued that arrow 
much at all. It was
everything about archery

to me: fantasy 
arrow, the Ultimate.

I always tried
to be immaculate with it
when I shot

my father’s bow
in my father’s backyard.
Tried to hit the target dead on,

tried to make myself
perfect in a skill
I’d never need, a skill

from a past time,
a past existence, 
a fantasy I’d made of myself.


Two Doors

If you go through that door
you will enter a room

already full
to the ceiling

that somehow
never stops filling, 

a mouth
that won’t spit, that only swallows.

That other door
in the far wall

opens
on an empty room.

I have seen people
going in there all day,

no one has come out.
The room is small and 

there’s no question about it:
it is empty. I wouldn’t

go in there. You
will not come out.

I don’t know
where those people went

and neither do you.
Do you want to risk 

vanishing? Perhaps
it’s better on the far side

of Whatever.
As for me — I stand

between these rooms.
I get to choose,

to comment, to advise;
my advice

does no good to others
as far as I can tell

and for myself
I will not choose. Why?

Go into the stuffed room
and try to breathe. Go into

the empty room and 
try to exist, or at least be seen,

then tell me why
I need to decide. 

While you stammer
I’ll try and come up

with a satisfactory name
for the room we’re in,

or maybe I will do
no such thing. Maybe

I’ll just keep its name
to myself.  Keep it safe

from everyone who insists
on choosing one door or the other.


Peace

Peace is a glimpse
of my partner
lying zig-zag and still
under our sheets, seen
in dim light as I rise
and tend to our insistent cats
at dawn,

reassuring me 
that once this is done
I can return to her side
and fall back to sleep
in as good a place as I can find
in this brightening,
frightening world. 

That there is still at least
one safe harbor 
is enough to let me
remain awake for now
and face the light
that comes now to reveal
what has lately come to power
during the night
from the dark.


My Dance, My Bad, My Deep

Originally posted 2013.  Many revisions later…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My dance, my bad, my deep.
Gave a sorrow opening,
loosed it on the gap within, and now:

ornery. Tantrum. Layabout and cry. 
Going to victim the whole long day;  go pick me
some kudzu, funeral bouquet for a grief show.

Still, I still have rocker hips, roller hips, jazz
groin and lips and hips. Joy ends up somewhere
when pushed from head and heart…thus,

I’ve ended up one sad grinder.  End up bad.
Bad, sinking in deep but still, there’s
one way to set it off and hold it back,

so I’m off to music while still in the hole.
It gives my bad and my deep a resistance.
Gives them rhythm, digging in under the roots;

rubbles my dark village, 
quake cracking, flipping dirt
into the light.  

When I, frightened, shake, 
I still gotta dance my dance, 
my bad, my deep; 

dance even if 
I dance sad. 
It’s my gotta happen.