Tag: poetry

There Isn’t Enough Rope for This

Petaluma alley

This dirty corner crusts with regret faster than you can count cost. Nightmares rise into morning like train whistles killing time. Jump cars like a punk and find your bones breaking under the weight of emptiness, the feral smell of skin gone rogue. Whiskey mornings blazing through your blood like newspaper clippings drunk on all the sick, wait for it. Every time. You thought it would be easier than this, that the siren call would sound more like love and look more like joy.

It’s all been recorded on the freeway of your emancipation, the asphalt, the better Roman roads. The blue silk Cheongsam Ms. Rose gave you, the one that seduced you like the math she said could calculate and translate your curves. A thousand cigarettes couldn’t erase her influence on your mind. Took years to unbury what she built in you but it paid off like a lottery of love.

All these small ladders, the tie shop, the passionate crush, the eloquent silences, the concession to friendship with the man, dead this year, who broke up with you for fear of breaking your unbreakable heart. You laughed at his arrogance, you knew yourself to  be harder than he could possibly know because your face wears your hope rather than your experience and knowledge. Twenty years later and nothing has changed.

Can still smell the clove cigarettes and hot coffee. The shelves you put these things on are weak. The light snakes and the memories shake like blancmange. Predators circle and you smell them first so they can’t net you into their game. You’ve dished them the rope they needed to hang themselves and there’s no regret. No looking back at what you might have done if no one had forced your hand.

It’s always come down to this.

Everything I know to be right is sideways.

There isn’t enough rope for this.

Aim Your Arrow Where the Drums Hit Low

fennel leaves

I watch people trawling for all expression of light like greedy black holes of insatiable platitudes no one will teach them to regret.  They take their nets through the underbrush catching at twigs and thorns that pull at their hair and knot the threads of their fear without dimming their hunger for shimmering flecks reflecting off the dead branches they’ve hung their dreams out to dry on.  I watch people trawling for scraps of light as though it were the everything, the coin that opens happiness, the element that delivers the secret of God.  I watch people falling on their knees to the sun, shedding themselves like abandoned promises, falling to their knees in abject worship.

The light is emptier than they can measure.  It reflects back to them what is already there.  I have tried to catch it too.  I have broken myself against the impermeable glass I was born looking through trying to claw my way out of this dark.

Prey lives in the negative space between the cracked clay and the cotton.

Hunger is sated in the negative space between light and dark.  I would aim my arrow where it meets, where color fills the hollows.  I would aim my arrow where the drums hit low and break through the placid surface of dead lakes.  The vein of the doe is strung between the brush and the sky where everything runs red with iron and oxygen.

The light isn’t the driver of God, it doesn’t scare the devil from the corners.  The light is what burns through your retina and blows through your skin until it’s an opulently transparent husk.  The dark feeds everything the light evaporates with heat.  The dark cools streams and slakes thirst.  It’s the thing that holds the light to earth.

I am the arrow that aims where color fills the hollows and weeps for mercy.

I am the prey.

I am the prey that hides in plain sight.

I am the prey you can’t see under this canopy of light.

Measurable Truth


Against the backdrop of hideous entropic dreams

I stretch my limbs to meet measurable truth

Then drop to my knees for the translation of unambiguous beauty

Against the hypnotic green-screen of planned movement

There is a cell deep revolution of spontaneity breaking open

I will bend my rigid soul with your reeds into the pools

If you show me your light shining on the paralyzed dark

I will bend towards it as boneless as a ghost

I will bend to exquisite love without hesitation, every time.

Every time.

This Old Artery

This old artery wears fresh bruises

like toes drawing new lines in washed sand

didn’t know it still had blood to clot

didn’t know it still had blood at all


This old door missing locks

opens anyway to the faintest prayer

opens to a spidery garden of please

opens like an old whore calling favors


This old voice rides fiddles and drums

like they were jaguars moving in slow motion

shouting down a resilient deaf moon

shouting down funereal half-notes like trash


This old path still damp with the last bleed

leads you down to the place you started from

the place you imagined for your sleeping eye

the place you left your skin for safe keeping


Ghost Notes

Lord it’s been a long time since I’ve said hello to myself.    It’s been so long since I’ve called the rooster’s song.  A long time since I’ve blown the trumpet of dawn with my own breath.  A long time since I’ve turned a blind eye to whore’s alley because I’ve been asleep for so many grainy blow-jobs against the loose brick wall holding my life in place.

The sand slips between memory and wishes where ghost notes are written and never sent.  Sun glints off the pink cliff-house setting color on fire above the rocks.  There are places where ankles break, there are places where skin numbs with ice, and these places wait for visitors to seek protection in the dark wool air and are tricked into devastating traps.

Whole cities disguise themselves into Atlantis luring the broken fish of the sea to seek salvation between the oxygen and the horizon.  Shoals full of glass and waves juggle the light and the depth with the precision of a clock-keeper and hold the injured with hypnotic visions projected like amateur theatre against the bald rocks of the tide pools.

This is where I play.  This is where I play the records of memory over and over until they become arteries of false communication.  Where I throw up my wishes like facts.  Reaching for the voice of my muscles beyond the human ear, beyond the limitations of sight.  You can see it all in salt.

There are no shoes for this.  There are no colors to throw out the window of our summer that can describe the perfume of our tipping hopes and over-ripe lusts for the flesh of peaches and the corpse of hunger.

Translating A Novel Into My Mother Tongue

Burning Hand

The first punishment came like road rage
scorching the pavement with friction
devils uncuffed with viscous screams
thick and rich and choking with blood iron
flooding the closed room filling with metal death
small hands buried in mud, elbow deep
constricting nightmares lapping at small skin
punishment like living threads of belief
frayed to a nothing point, to a nothing thought
a nothing pain, a nothing confusion
until the mud is tight and cracked with thirst
fighting for oxygen, crying with child’s tears
for being a dirty girl.

The Weight Of It

You will look at me, sisters.
you will remember me as I am today
you will not say my name but you will feel my hair
the weight of it will hold down your chests
the weight of it will remind you that I’m free
the weight of it will remind you of your passive life
how you stood and watched me hang
how you turned your eyes away, from a nothing face
how you shut your ears to me, a nothing noise
you will look at me, sisters
you will hear me, sisters and brothers
you will see me for the first time
I may die as I leave but you will envy me
when you discover how they lied
about the cost of the freedom they promised
how we paid in wages of skin and sweat
alone we are nothing at all, not even names
we only exist in this strange forest cage
we are their trapped dreams delivering promise
we are their weapons of war against the machine
we are their fevered delusions squalling in poor light
you cannot follow me into the road
you cannot tell me I am nothing anymore
you cannot stop the machine of change

Note: these two poems constitute this evening’s notes for Baby Girl Six.  This is how I grab onto my fiction.  It is always poetry first.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good poetry or not.  We need not attach value to it.  I don’t, and I would appreciate it if you offered no critiques.  That’s not what this is about.  It serves to let me get to know a character in my own language.  A repetitive emotional shorthand.  Poetry isn’t something to “get” unless you get it.  It isn’t really a puzzle to be solved so much as it’s a script for longer thoughts, for longer stories.

When I was 23 years old I realized that poetry was my first language.  I’ve written a couple of good ones in my life but most of them are worthless to anyone but me.  Poetry is my mother tongue.  It is where I begin.  It is where I will end.  It infiltrates my prose, my most serious discussions about life and death.  You hear me most of the time as a translation from poetry to regular speech.  I think in poetry.  I smell in poetry.  I see in poetry.  I am constantly translating.  It is no wonder, then, that things go awry in my life.  Translation is not a perfect art.  If I want to write a novel I must first hear it in poetry.

Other trends emerge.  Patterns of thought connected tightly to music.   I cannot write without a soundtrack.

Tonight I learned another lesson: there are specific stories I have to tell.  All of my stories are guided by an internal switchboard directing what is revealed.  I have a beginning point that is necessary for me to tell stories from.  You don’t need to know this because it will become obvious to you over time.

Tonight it is Six I’m hearing.  Her story is becoming lucid.

Reaching For Winter

Reaching for Winter

This fall air collapses lungs
sharp needle intention rents empty space
where your heart used to be
you wear your colors like your milk
in drooling white streaks across a devastating void
you’re too far gone now
sparrows diving into spoiled crumbs
crushed sunflowers rising to light
with eyes like silkworm wombs
green, with water light
you see between the days
killing through corrugated windows
with cellos sketching the negative space
carving one more minor note to decorate your throat
it hangs like the moon on your skin
a jewel of flesh
a cancerous tool of life
listen to the autumn music
rich with black keys reaching for ether
reaching for winter, even now.


Bring the Whiskey Down on the House

As long as we’re talking in the fractured timbre of mourning, let us walk also with thin black bands and other markers of savage life.

Bring the whiskey down on the house and pray.

As long as we’re streaking dolorous notes across a bleak dawn, let us also cry for the hours lost to the glass shattered underpass.

Bring sleep down on the house and pray.

If you were ever full here with the calas and cosmos spilling from clasping hands, don’t look behind you where the hunger hangs.

Bring the tide down on the house and pray.

If you were ever in the smokehouse with your skin on fire and a mouth of ash, don’t wait for broken bells to speak for you.

Bring flies down on the house and pray.

As long as we’re divesting ourselves of pearls from heart and crown, let us drape our winter coats across the children’s bones.

Bring winter down on the house and pray.

As long as we’re catechizing the queens and corner boys with liquid jugulars, let us also paste our poster love across the asphalt in flesh.

Bring the dice down on the house and pray.

If you were ever barefoot across the sun scorched banks of sharp dry rivers, don’t look behind you for the flood.

Bring war down on the house and pray.

If you were ever shoved on the blade of a better man and bound with bitter weeds, don’t look for your voice on your wrists or grave.

Bring the crows down on the house and pray.

As long as we’re marking soil with rough cut stones and stolen wings, let us spread unguents across our brothers.

Bring the quarry down on the house and pray.

As long as we’re scrubbing souls for abandoned sacrifice and gutted kisses, let us also lay the eyes to sleep.

Bring the whiskey down on the house and pray.