body

When They Fail You

go away at speeds approaching disintegration
go away with no trophy
go away without your name carved into a bedpost
an oak tree, any lonely mountain

be happy you had rain to drink
be happy the nights left you alive for the big birthday
party
each burned-down dawn
be right like a broken clock, on the money, twice a day
be a quitter, a 9 of clubs, but never an ace, be a fork
dropped
and picked up with a socked foot

go weigh the dice
go open the screen door for the trapped mice
go climb the reflection of the moon on each ripple
as you swim away for good, for better islands
go off crushing the violets
wherever you stomp, stomp hard.
body

We Were All Odysseus In Those Days

A young man learns to shoot
& dies in the mud
an ocean away from home,
a rifle in his fingers
& the sky dripping
from his heart. Next to him
a friend watches
his final breath slip
ragged into the ditch,
a thing the friend will carry
back to America—
wound, souvenir,
backstory. He’ll teach
literature to young people
for 40 years. He’ll coach
his daughters’ softball teams.
Root for Red Wings
& Lions & Tigers. Dance
well. Love generously.
He’ll be quick with a joke
& firm with handshakes.
He’ll rarely talk
about the war. If asked
he’ll tell you instead
his favorite story:
Odysseus escaping
from the Cyclops
with a bad pun & good wine
& a sharp stick.
It’s about buying time
& making do, he’ll say.
It’s about doing what it takes
to get home, & you see
he has been talking
about the war all along.
We all want the same thing
from this world:
Call me nobody. Let me live.
body

Self-Portrait Against Red Wallpaper

Close the blinds and kill the birds, I surrender
my desire for a logical culmination. I surrender my
desire to be healed. The blurriness of being alive.
Take it or leave it, and for the most part you take it.
Not just the idea of it but the ramifications of it.
People love to hate themselves, avoiding the
necessary recalibrations. Shame comes from vanity.
Shame means you’re guilty, like the rest of us,
but you think you’re better than we are. Maybe you
are. What would a better me paint? There is no
new me, there is no old me, there’s just me, the same
me, the whole time. Vanity, vanity, forcing your
will on the world. Don’t try to make a stronger wind,
you’ll wear yourself out. Build a better sail. You
want to solve something? Get out of your own way.
What’s the difference between me and the world?
Compartmentalization. The world doesn’t know
what to do with my love. Because it isn’t used to
being loved. It’s a framework problem. Disheartening?
Obviously. I hope it’s love. I’m trying really hard
to make it love. I said no more severity. I said it severely
and slept through all my appointments. I clawed
my way into the light but the light is just as scary.
I’d rather quit. I’d rather be sad. It’s too much work.
Admirable? Not really. I hate my friends. And when
I hate my friends I’ve failed myself, failed to share
my compassion. I shine a light on them of my own
making: septic, ugly, the wrong yellow. I mean, maybe
it’s better if my opponent wins.
body

Song

You know that it is there, lair
where the bear ceases
for a time even to exist.
Crawl in. You have at last killed
enough and eaten enough to be fat
enough to cease for a time to exist.
Crawl in. It takes talent to live at night, and scorning
others you had that talent, but now you sniff
the season when you must cease to exist.
Crawl in. Whatever for good or ill
grows within you needs
you for a time to cease to exist.
It is not raining inside
tonight. You know that it is there. Crawl in.
body

Gathered Here Today For This Thing Called Life

There are two sides to the coin.
One side of the coin is empathy.
The other side is blank, shiny like a mirror.

Please paint your door red, so the Angel of Death
flies right past, doesn’t take away our future.

I have placed an amulet over your sleeping body
and the amulet says: "You can pick you friends
but you can't pick your family. You can pick your frenemies. You cannot pick your famenemies or enemyfamily."

It's a big amulet but it's important.

Remember, there’s a light emitting from you and it's not just your cellphone.

The Internet is a scorched wasteland.
But you've walked through worse places
on your way to work.

But beware 9000 notifications kicking you awake from your dream. Instead, just keep dreaming.

And never mind a human heart stuffed into a cannon and shot at the owner of the heart who is already dead anyways.

It may be that we all be trying to scoop handfuls of honey out from between crags of volcanic rock but we can't quite reach it.

But somewhere out there, a person wants to connect over drinks, then go back to their place to show you their honey, their volcanic rocks, their crags. Go for it.

None of us will be retweeted by Sleeping Beauty.

It's the time of year where the colossal blankets of blackbirds cover the entire sky. Also when the mystery caves fill up with dollar store bubbles.

I wish I could take all your pain and mix some co2 in it
infuse your bubbly pain with some fresh berries
and splintered ice, and drink it.

Then I wish I could take all my pain
and mix carbon dioxide in it, infuse my bubbly wubbly pain with wild cherries and crushed ice, have you drink it for me.

We could help each other.
body

A Small Moment

I walk into the bakery next door
To my apartment. They are about
To pull some sort of toast with cheese
From the oven. When I ask:
What’s that smell? I am being
A poet, I am asking

What everyone else in the shop
Wanted to ask, but somehow couldn’t;
I am speaking on behalf of two other
Customers who wanted to buy the
Name of it. I ask the woman
Behind the counter for a percentage
Of her sale. Am I flirting?
Am I happy because the days
Are longer? Here’s what

She does: She takes her time
Choosing the slices. “I am picking
Out the good ones,” she tells me. It’s
April 14th. Spring, with five to ten
Degrees to go. Some days, I feel my duty;
Some days, I love my work.
body

Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale

Measure the walls. Count the ribs. Notch the long days.
Look up for blue sky through the spout. Make small fires
with the broken hulls of fishing boats. Practice smoke signals.
Call old friends, and listen for echoes of distant voices.
Organize your calendar. Dream of the beach. Look each way
for the dim glow of light. Work on your reports. Review
each of your life’s ten million choices. Endure moments
of self-loathing. Find the evidence of those before you.
Destroy it. Try to be very quiet, and listen for the sound
of gears and moving water. Listen for the sound of your heart.
Be thankful that you are here, swallowed with all hope,
where you can rest and wait. Be nostalgic. Think of all
the things you did and could have done. Remember
treading water in the center of the still night sea, your toes
pointing again and again down, down into the black depths
body

Sunday Night

Make use of the things around you.
This light rain
Outside the window, for one.
This cigarette between my fingers,
These feet on the couch.
The faint sound of rock-and-roll,
The red Ferrari in my head.
The woman bumping
Drunkenly around in the kitchen . . .
Put it all in,
Make use.
body

Poem Beginning With a Retweet

If you drive past horses and don’t say horses
you’re a psychopath
. If you see an airplane
but don’t point it out. A rainbow,
a cardinal, a butterfly. If you don’t
whisper-shout albino squirrel! Deer!
Red fox!
If you hear a woodpecker
and don’t shush everyone around you
into silence. If you find an unbroken
sand dollar in a tide pool. If you see
a dorsal fin breaking the water.
If you see the moon and don’t say
oh my god look at the moon. If you smell
smoke and don’t search for fire.
If you feel yourself receding, receding,
and don’t tell anyone until you’re gone.
body

The Conditional

Say tomorrow doesn't come.
Say the moon becomes an icy pit.
Say the sweet-gum tree is petrified.
Say the sun's a foul black tire fire.
Say the owl's eyes are pinpricks.
Say the raccoon's a hot tar stain.
Say the shirt's plastic ditch-litter.
Say the kitchen's a cow's corpse.
Say we never get to see it: bright
future, stuck like a bum star, never
coming close, never dazzling.
Say we never meet her. Never him.
Say we spend our last moments staring
at each other, hands knotted together,
clutching the dog, watching the sky burn.
Say, It doesn't matter. Say, That would be
enough
. Say you'd still want this: us alive,
right here, feeling lucky.