July 2007 - THE POTOMAC|
News And a Cigarette
Tommy’s Earthbound Son Gets to Jump Center on Senior Night
Cheerleaders flaunting pleated skirts and the off key high
school jazz band mistreating “Sweet Georgia Brown” are much
more exciting than the game. I make for the lower parking lot,
dark and slightly threatening near the drainage ditch,
snaggle of ragged trees and undergrowth, but it’s very quiet,
bright stars embedded in the nine o'clock sky. I think
I’ll take a spin through my old stomping grounds, maybe click
into an unencrypted wireless connection with my laptop.
Don’t blame me if I Google a trendy poet’s web site, jealously
admire the quality of her links. I’m missing, and Tommy’s
certain to notice I’ve vanished. His boy is back on the bench.
The home team’s dribbled onto the court; they’re taking out the ball.
Second half already, and Tommy probably figured I’d hit the can.
By now I’m sure he thinks my suspect heart’s petered out, I’ve keeled
over face first into a urinal. But tonight the pouty cheerleaders
stay beautiful and more than a short hair slutty. When custodians reveal
enormous eight-foot dust mops, as Billy Banfield re-counts
concessions stand money, I’ll be prying wishing stars free
from their settings–MIA, AWOL, and Where the fuck?–
navigating carefully vast nostalgic blocks of Milky Way.
When I return, the half-full trophy case glitters the deserted lobby;
shower heads still drip in the men’s locker room; nobody’s
left sitting on the bench. With an Allen wrench, someone chocks
the crash bars; metal doors click and lock. Have you ever been
this alone in your Alma Mater, walking down the nearly familiar
hallways in darkness? The feeble glow of an exit sign casts
a blood-washed spotlight on buffed terrazzo. Have you ever acted
out a death scene like mine, soliloquized maybe on this lonely
stage? Have you ever babied and bankrolled a dramatic production
clear through its standing room only, sold out forever, just one night run?
Expat at the Equator
A shadow at noon - that black dot about your feet - encircles
your place at the belly button of the world, but it’s not
what you’d wished for, cipher-self, a mere period
to end an overreaching passage, you know,
one full of lush adjectives
before every blessed noun.
No, you were dying to be there, in tropic
whites, strike a certain pose for a crisp silhouette,
true black, sharpened, as if cut anew in a blaze
of unrelenting light. Only another
country would do.
Fat-fingered, trembling, you folded like bargain
cottons into freshly lined luggage, creased
a careful passport, deleted some of your best
work for space.
You felt, then, it was best not
to think too much about it: night flights, warm water.
You knew, back then, what you were out for.
Carved Out of Airwaves
“Only after you realize sex
is essentially unremarkable
can you come to terms with infidelity.”
Marla’s a woman who goes for a
at once casual but in control,
long legs sheathed in nylon,
lethal as stilettos.
“Well, that’s one way of looking at it.
But it seems we spend our whole lives
trying to picture what other people look like
without their clothing on.”
Gregory, on the other hand, goes
for that torn blue jeans,
run-down sneakers look,
the overgrown adolescent.
Or at least this is how
I imagine them,
listening to a talkshow
driving home from work.
Their voices carve images
out of air, solid as marble,
smooth as burnished gold.
“We really ought to revise the Ten Commandments,
re-examine them, throw out the ones
that are no longer relevant.
Let’s not pretend things don’t change.”
Her hand points to heaven, a single finger
taking aim. She could be wearing wings.
“What would you toss out?
The taboos of our ancestors
remain potent today,”
Sententious as a politician, chest thrust out,
Greg’s hands tug the lapels of his frockcoat.
Denial By Any Other Name
“I hope you weren’t
offended or annoyed
when I mentioned
your mother's incontinence,”
I apologized to my sister-in-law.
“It just sort of slipped out.”
Clela and I had never gotten along.
I hoped I hadn’t sounded
like I was making fun of her.
my indiscretion at the party,
Heather denied she was
offended or annoyed,
only wanted to protect
her mother’s privacy,
though the way she avoided me
the rest of the evening
told me she was upset.
That was when it struck me
emotions don’t come with words,
like crackers with brand names,
medicines with labels.
Notice of Notice
Those car sale balloons
were like hitchhikers
with a criminal sway,
begging to be noticed
or not looked away
from to the horizon,
where drivers were going;
it seemed only seeming,
but I would remember,
half thinking, half dreaming
of those balloons, fighting,
I swear, for my attention,
and I know they strove,
making the smallest spectacle,
reflecting on me as I drove
and thought of their owner,
a paint-knuckled dealer
with bucket-seat spine
knotting the string,
the colors ripe on the line
for birthday parties or other occasions,
but, high strung, they safely sailed,
their cause to be found in the given slack,
the salesman thinking, "Please,"
as he never had developed the knack
for selling cars or shoes or stocks;
he looked up and hoped again,
which I saw ahead, though he was behind,
he and the balloons, failing, floating,
above the highway, in one mind.
The Rabbit Catcher
The spoon mouth alive with poppy oil.
A constant sliding of flames, smoke blown like
hair of the dead. How we perched up high
on a tight wire. The syringe, its clear
wall of intent, the dull plug of its tongue,
and blood tearing blindly, unreeling to
worship that little prick. Feel the thick glass
handle hit the vein hollow like fortune,
its deep vacancy, a rabbit warren.
Taking A Cat-Nap At The Methadone Clinic In New Bedford, Massachusetts
i can hear the long lonesome call
of the seagull, as it feels a lot like
those lovely holy boxcar diners set
back, dug deep into the weeds of jersey.
they sit like jack-o-lanterns in the lobby,
dazed and dreamy, some of them even
precious and pretty, and can't help but
to feel a certain amount of affinity of subtle
magical mystery, like the ravishing girls
from sicily when you wait at dawn at some
wind-swept cafe for the ferry, reflective and
redeemed, brain-dead and brooding; dead
dogs passed out beneath the palm trees, sighing
solemnly, and a sea sounding a little something like
...so it seems, so it seems, so it seems, so it seems.
A bathroom cut in a hillside
has the scent of the ‘50’s.
Water smells float in the air
from a metal pipe
that goes up through the ceiling
and down through the floor.
How far this pipe runs--
memories of grade-school
Exposed corner bathroom pipes,
on-post rec-room toilets
at a base in Korea,
near the same time.
How satisfying this pipe
carrying what it should
as it was made to,
all the sludge
and tissue-thin pulpish paper
or thankfully discarded
along with clean water
that carries it.
through all this service,
the pipe never fails--
never succumbs to rust.
imperceivably weighs the pipe down;
a heavy earth odor
rises from below
behind rivet-secured wall clamps--
this bathroom pipe,
not much by way of endurance
by what it is.
In the living room
My hand blossoms behind your back as I kiss you
We are watching “Inside Deep Throat”
I think the man in the movie is waving at me
My mother calls to remind me I am allergic to bees
I think of her pressing down on her husband’s arm
until a bruise forms there
I wonder if we will be like that
Once a woman said you were a man who could tame
a hummingbird, that I should invite you into my mouth
like a tooth.
I want to move into your hips, to house myself
in your left ear. I will lie there, a tick or a song,
waiting for some sign the universe is sending you
toward me like a star.
movies and telephone calls
“prostitutes are anything but easy” you said
we watched “inside deep throat”
you made sandwiches which we ate lying down
when it was over, you asked me how far I could go
it was our second date so I told you I felt uncomfortable
we kissed for awhile and you went to the window
“the star hangs in the sky like a tooth” you said
I stood next to you for as long as I could
you called an ex-girlfriend on the telephone
when it was time to leave, you stood by the front door
the inside of your mouth reminded me
we all come from somewhere
The night they find two women in a man’s trunk
I watch “Inside Deep Throat” in my living room
At work the next day, I practice relaxing the muscles
at the back of my mouth
My boss asks me if anything is wrong
I picture what I look like in the mirror of the apartment
where I have been giving happy endings massages
My sister calls to say she found a lump in her right breast
The man I am seeing sends me roses
They are lined like legs with bruises
My next customer pulls out a gun
in the shape of a part of the female anatomy
I imagine my sister’s husband going over her
breasts at night, some song
playing on the radio, the men I have loved
gathered at the window like moths
At work the next day, there are holes
in the roses the size of small mouths
This feeling comes daily,
the cleaver like a magnet
to metal, cold like the gun
she carried in the desert,
the cleaver used to chop the meat,
could maybe slice into her arm.
She fights the urge, of course,
makes the dinner, blanching peas,
stirring sauce, pushes the images –
people losing limbs, that kid’s
eyes hot with fear like the air,
cowering in the dark
when she entered the burned-out
building ahead of her platoon,
the one from where they say
the sniper shot – to the recesses
of her mind, swallows pills,
meditates, but still she finds
herself heading south on Route 1
counting utility poles,
wondering if she could shift
the wheel, aim and drive it hard,
car’s front end crumpling like her
sanity with the impact.