Aftermath

Meanwhile in the meanwhile,
in the mean time, this meanest of
intervals goes humming by
and there on the far edge of it
is a human, someone clinging
who once might have been centered,
might have been the ruler, the slick
dancing ruler, the measure
of the center, how they led
the edge forward before this,
before the year broke loose,
the whole decade in fact
slipping its moorings and now
that human clings for life
as the decade spins off its spine
and all are flung out into space
except for them, and after the mean time
they sit with their head in their hands
wondering if they really needed
to cling so hard to this plane
that now is so utterly changed
it is hard to imagine them ever being
centered again.


The Nested Country

Behold: a country of nested
borders.

Look at it and be awed by
the Big, the Bright, the Beautiful of it.

If you manage to twist it open and enter
you’ll find another within —

less Big, less Bright. (Beauty is in
the eye of the contained.) If you

go in, you will find another,
and then another; it will be dim in there.

At the heart, a battered core with two faces:
one, Black Kettle, the other, Nat Turner;

it is nowhere as Bright and Beautiful
as the Big Doll you can barely recall

now that you’re
all the way in and can see

that even though it is full,
it is also hollow.


The Scent In The Mirror

It’s so dumb and common to speak of
the mirror moment of an easy
and tired description of
introspection. I’m not less
susceptible for knowing it’s
a cliche. That said,
when I see the desertification
below my eyes, the end-zone theatrics
of the silver overwhelming my beard
and brow’s defenses, I take a moment
to shift my sense and note how
all the scents of all I’ve been through
have stuck to me almost in spite of the visuals;
I smell everything from early sex to first death in that image,
and now and then the fragrance
of roses, lilacs, every one of my teachers’ eau de colognes
and aftershaves; stale cigarettes,
beer and whisky long soaked into cheap carpets,
Thai sticks smoldering, the antiseptic skin-burn
of cocaine cresting inside my pore-pocked nose;
suddenly I am young again in defiance
of the mirror’s insistence that I am not.
I inhale and suck my youth straight out
of that reflection, and the clinging flavor
of all those years takes my old breath away.


Carbonated Mouthwash

Upon waking from a dream
of being awarded the Nobel
for inventing
carbonated mouthwash

I immediately look up the possibility
that the dream was prophecy
and not a side effect of the weed
I smoked before bedtime

only to learn that not only
is the invention a done deal
it was in fact a bad idea
for what it does to teeth

Once again I’ve dreamt
of being honored for crap
Gotten my hopes soaring
over dangerous and unoriginal thoughts

and thus have replicated in this dream
and its sobering aftermath
the entirety of
my literary career

Fortunately
there’s some weed left


Attention To Detail

Attention to detail suggests that
in order to complete the full circle
someone who looms large to all
will likely have to die before anyone
will admit this is over; a person
beloved or hated by large factions
will have to die to fuel a round
of theories and essays, violent reaction,
polarized grief and mourning; a person
chained while in this sphere to opinions
they will drag with them
into the next world, deafening us
and leaving scrape-marks behind.

Attention to detail suggests that
in order to come to what some will call closure
and others will call the start of a new cycle,
someone will have to die in some extreme way
that offers a chance for mythic explorations
and rejuvenated symbolism about royalty
and a snake swallowing itself
as it disappears in fire, only to become
a legendary bird upon its rebirth. A stone-tipped arrow
shall be found on the cooling stones after
and all will begin to argue about which direction
it is pointing, what it means, who should take it up,
set it on a bow, and let it fly.



Spells

A tiger and a grove of cedars,
a door and one dead tree.

A sword with an apple on its tip, a seeded cake,
a crow perched within a heart-topped arch of iron.

A stone with a voice, a goat dancing the tarantelle,
a blue-tinged wind hurrying leaves of blood along.

Something happening. Chilled backbones,
wet lips, trembling hands. Sorting the beings
in our minds, wondering how they mean.

All the possible revolving meanings
of transformed symbols falling into
their respective places.

If there’s a prophecy here it is open
to interpretation, but not
to doubt in its existence.

If it is an affirmation,
what it empowers
is hidden from us.


The Great Conjunction

They will look back upon us and see us for idiots
looking for stars to do work we needed to do.

They will say the great conjunction
was not Jupiter and Saturn’s illusory closeness

but our own embrace of magical thought
in the face of the growing heat and disease

that took us down. They will say this
while shaking their heads at how

we ignored the mocking laughter
of the implacable science that runs the universe

as it rolled right over us. Our hatreds
spread like a plague even as a true plague

spread just as fast, as we choked the oceans and air
until we were choking as well. The Great Conjunction,

they will say, was not the doubled up light in the sky
but people down here, a black hole,

angry, scared, crowded
into one another so tightly

nothing could penetrate.
No light, no heat, nothing in there

but faith in the efficacy of crossed fingers,
crosses, and whatever the stars might say —

although the stars said nothing except
this one, dear people, is all on you.



This My Body

This, my body:

nondescript and hard-regretted tattoos,
pedestrian piercings, a belly hung
over the belt line, badly crusted feet,
wounds long healed in the skin if not
in the tissues below. I claim the title of
man covered in evidence of mistakes
that led to this being, this now.

Some would say do not fall into the trap of comparison
but here I am staring into my own eyes, seeing
coal mountain strip mine, railroad cut
in New England granite, shoreline wasted
under washed up oil and the garbage of decades.
I claim the title of warning shot, alarm
long ringing and long ignored.

Old friends stand aside,
watch me self-inspect; they do not interfere.
Who knows me, knows I will go hard upon
this dark body, down this long tunnel called old man,
will mine it until I can draw out gold from poison.
I claim the title: I am temple of hard road.

Thus, my body,
my only shelter
against storm I brought
to bear upon me; storm
of unmet challenge, of
lessons remade and repeated;
storm bent on cancelling me,
storm I birthed to make me free.


Late Night Cable

You can be truly free somewhere,
possibly. That is The Claim:
that there is a place where horizon
is an arm’s length away
no matter which direction you face.
There, your skin shall change to a stunning
reversible bronze. Your dog gets bigger and fluffier,
your yard greener and wider. Successive partners
will dance with you under electric town square stars
where no one shall ever gun you down. There is certainly
a prophecy that mentions you and yours, offering you
perpetual honor and generous means;
and while once there you shall gently age,
you shall never pass from that land
of easy grasp and casual arm’s reach.


Dinosaurs

This society’s been
huffing gasoline for so long
it can’t sense anything else

All those cells vaporized

It has killed its way
to this point and now
it has only itself left to kill

in the hope it will feel something then

Thrived on erasure
All those bodies left behind
that it can’t even see

The dead keep screaming for it to turn back

Maybe it hopes
that those corpses will compress and fuel
a future like their past

It imagines that it lives on dinosaur leavings

Of course it is wrong about that as well
but without full brains
the people it has sheltered will never understand

how all they have left is fire




Heresy

Some people say they just need
the paper. The scent of a book
in hand, the weight of it,
the slight bend of the page
just shy of creasing
between their fingers as it is turned;
to me it is as if they hold the vessel
more dear than the words within.
It is as if the vase matters more
than its flowers. As if the poems within
are less real if they can not be highlighted,
scribbled on, or torn out; as if the stories
only work if they can be burned
for warmth when society comes to
its eventual end, which will come
once its artifacts are worth more
than their contents.


Favorite Places

when I am asked about
my favorite places among all that I’ve visited
I answer
new mexico (all of it)
venice italy (all of it)
all the ghost castles I’ve ever seen anywhere
new york city’s left front pocket and
the far corner of all those rooms
with a couch upon which I’ve been stuck
for days on end half stoned and half
ready to drown myself in the memories
of all other places I’ve visited
and cannot believe I’ll ever see again
without having to pass the veil



Oh, No, Meatloaf Again?

We are the movie
(you know the movie)

which just doesn’t look the same now
(does it)

If we had seen it from the beginning
without the mystique

or the audience theatrics to guide us
to an opinion on it

the cringe coming up in the mouth now
at the offenses

might have surfaced earlier
and while some of us had fun for a long time

there were others who said
it wasn’t working for them

and we looked at them funny
at the very least

At least the music was good
and some of those on screen were hot

and we now know how
when certain people show up or speak

we are supposed to yell
ASSHOLE

but overall it’s mostly horror
at what we’ve been fed


Fragment From Remnant

It keeps getting harder.

Small things. Triggers.

Deeper holes, steeper sides.

Darker, darkest; pure and wholesome darkness.

Not a man. A flesh wound. A mere annoyance.


Remade

As if someone has put hands
on either side of my head
and lifted it one inch off my shoulders

turned it completely around
and let it fall back into
its accustomed place

Looking at the same world
with eyes forward again
but the notion of my mind and body

forever changed
so that nothing
is in its original frame

and how I interpret
what I see now is detached
from old context

This is how I fell into
this desperation about
my now obsolete name

I am not that
Do not call me that
Can you not see

I look the same
but am somehow
altogether again and so new