Open Parenthesis(A very old young manhas no apologies, but, perhaps,many regrets, contained (rarelyvisits his mother) in parenthetical(did not keep up the gymnasticsregimen) asides (tossed the keysto his buddy and let him wreckhis ’78 Duster and his knee).The brackets of his shouldershold all the asides that forgea life – the periodic funeralsand silent ellipses followinghim across the map and down,here, to me, waiting with an openparenthesis.
TheotokosGod attended a Lamaze classwith a teenager too afraidof the judgmental looks to go alone,and quietly smiled at the instructor eyeballingthe strange pair – a barely-there slipof a girl and a gentleman with kindhands. He led her to a woman namedMary, who had her first childat thirteen in a less acceptingtime, when the condemnationwas worse than the morning sickness.
A Lesson in ForgivenessGod joined the KKKfor about three hours,long enough for a memberto spot the black fleshunder His sleeve and ripoff the hood to find a faceas white as a vampire.While the Grand Master stammeredapologies, He smiled geniallyand patted his shoulder,because God forgives everyone.Even dickheads.
Closed ParenthesisA very old young mantold me I belong in Pittsburgh,where it rains 200 daysof the year and all the peoplehave blue eyes. City bustlewould overwhelm my Southernsensibilities, but, perhaps,I could use a parentheticalof my own, a brief asidein a longer life where lazydashes become machine gunexclamation points.And when I hit Return,the tangent ends, foldedbetween those shouldersin a closed parenthesis.)
On marrying a workaholic.Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to lovesomething so much that you dedicatedtwenty-eight years of your life to doing it,overqualified and under-appreciated.Then I wonder how your wifefeels, knowing your first marriagewill always be fourteen years longerthan hers.
AsthmaHis apartment is an aquariumbut he needs a birdcage;his lungs are shivering,breath stuck like cold molassesin his lungs. Sheets ragged as hisbreathing tangle around the bed,white waves surging, cresting,drowning.His inhaler is in a shoeboxwith the other mementos of 1976;a bicentennial quarter, a flatcapfrom his paperboy days, and a letterfrom Sally Keepers, whose kissleft him so breathlesshe mistook it for an attack.He’s in that Chevroletagain, knees knocking the backseat,fighting to breathe, inhaler lostsomewhere on the floorboardand she’s kissing him, drowninghim, and he can’t get enough airbut he can’t get enough of her either,blonde locks lashing with electriccurrent like a defibrillatortrying to get his heartbeat back to normal.He rummages around the shoeboxuntil he finds the inhalerand presses the trigger,sighing to himself. It nevercould have worked; she tasted likecigarettes.
My conscience lives in the back of my throat.You know that unreachable back corner at the top of your throat, where the cavern of your mouth becomes a tunnel? That’s where my conscience lives. Every time I’m about to jump some poor, stupid, innocent sod, that little pocket back there starts itching and no matter how hard I try to reach with my tongue or jam my finger down my ear canal, I can’t stop it. Like fairy wings or angel down is brushing against your better judgment, messing up your shots.It gets so bad I can’t help but cough, and that’s bad for my line of work; you can’t have the target on the alert when you’re trying to murder them. My associates used to call me the Silent Raven – now they call me the Swooping Chough. It makes me want to wrap my hands around their throats, but then I start coughing all over again.
Transmission LostThe transmission doesn’t reachhere, past snaking gravel roads undermountainous shadows; the voicesin the static are corrupted, shortcircuiting in and out of focuswith each click of the dial.We are similar, you and I,nameless voice in the void –you, invisible, intangible, inaudible;and I, imperceptible, inarticulate,hibernating under mountainsuntil brain waves become words,and words become
BenedictionsGod joined a monasterysomewhere in Europe, wherethe churches are oldbut the people are olderstill, overlaid hands soddenwith faith and speckled with dust.He rose before the sun and prayedto Himself nine times a dayamong his brothers of the cloth,who mumbled psalms into their palmsand knew they were heard.
Turn my words against me.I want my words to takeroot in your stomach and growup your esophagus, the calyxof your tongue brushing the edgeof your teeth until the words blossomfrom your lips in a slowexplosion of elegance, jawlinetrickled with nectar, charminghummingbirds and honeybeeswith the promise of butterfly kisses.
.a sign reads:idle hands wanted
The PlaylistA group of us lying on the floorin a too-small apartmentthat can’t hold a fraction of our disorderssyndromes and symptomstucked under the kitchen sinkand in between self help booksand in the pages of love poetryonly half meant.A group of us lying on the floorwishing we could see the stars.but thats not how the architecturehas been set up for uswe have to live our lives blinkeredfrom the celestialbut at least we have each other.A group of us lying on the floorletting music replace our immune systemsnot caring if a misspent lyric saves us,not caring if a dropped note kills uswe don’t care about anything but the floor,these walls, these chains,that sound so familiar in an acoustic’s voice.A group of us lying on the floorcaring about nothing but the ceilingthats blocking out the light.
He doesn't write poetry anymore.He doesn’t write poetry anymore,even if he still collects it, reads it, saves it, treasuresfaded verses from his wife the way connoisseurssavor vinyl over metallic rainbows on disc.I don’t mind not knowing, but I can’t stand not asking.The record needle hits the groove wrong;he stumbles over words that aren’t there,rummaging for an answer he doesn’t really have.He doesn’t write poetry anymoreand his confusion is strangely endearing.But there’s a lyricism to his words that I love,poetic lines inserted between the daily grindof character names and who said what;voiceless boys in white and draymen carting the dead to saltwater lakes,elegiac undertones that haunt historians and forlorn painters.He doesn’t write poetry anymore –except when he does.
WhirlpoolGod splits the waterwhen He gets into Hisbathtub – cold in one half,boiling in the other – and letsthem crash together once Hehas leaned into the curveof the tub, relaxing in the eyeof a whirlpool.
Tasting ButterfliesThere’s a boy in my class whose name I can’t taste.I mean, I can taste it, but I don’t know what it is. His name is Oliver. His name is smooth, kinda buttery almost, but that’s not it. It’s sweet and thick, like a syrup. I’ve never been able to not place a taste before.I know the flavors of the rest of my classmates. Kat is wafers and chocolate; Melissa is dust and honey; Irving is grainy Parmesan; Ally is hot dogs and pickles. Every name has an essence on my tongue and I can name them all. Even the teacher, Ms. Fleming, has a flavor – spearmint toothpaste.Oliver has hair like the taste of his name – smooth, burnished copper. He has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. If his eyes had a name, I bet they would taste like seawater. Whatever his name tastes like, I’d probably never be able to eat it without also tasting butterflies.
SynestheticSometimes I taste test names;Anita – sharp citrusand lemongrassfor the ann-i,a tortilla for the taa.Brad – I likeits weight; a slabof marbled chocolatemelted on my tonguebefore the last letter.Charlotte – somethingsavory, but sweet; porkmarinated in honeyon sweet rolls.Doug – vanillatinged cheesecake;a dusting of grahamcracker shavings;an Oreo with no filling.Elena – spiceand heat radiate –eh-layne-ahh – a coronabursting fromthe second e.Fletcher – it’s syllablesmesh like mashedpotatoes, lumpy yetconsistent.Gladys – driedlemons and staleSpree candies, rattlinginside and empty pitcher.Hawthorne – brackish,the leftover remainsof a magnificent feast,the apple still stuckin the boar’s mouth.Imogen – leanand stringy. Greenbeans and chickenbroth at a small,weathered table.Jules – red velvetand hot peppers, a weekold cake with hardfrostin
Caramel and AshesI named my first child after my favorite breakfast; Nichole, oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and cashew pieces. Sensible, but sweet, she wore turtlenecks and flats all throughout high school. My second, James, was like the lunch I had every other day in college – provolone and turkey on sourdough. Sturdy, hardy, jack of all trades. James could build a new clock just as easily as fixing the old one.People keep asking me to taste their names. Like names are ice cream cones, and I’m the only one that gets a lick. Strangers in the hallways know about the girl who eats names like potato chips and aren’t shy about asking how do I taste, Willow? Like I haven’t heard that innuendo before.My third, Willow, inherited my gift. Willow was bittersweet; sea salt, caramel, a little rosemary. She’s a lot like her father. She named the cat Zion for being a combination of her favorite flavors – lemon-lime, vanilla, and grapefruit.I don’t know if the ta
Butterfly SundaeMr. Dipple runs the ice cream shop a few blocks from the school. I like going there because the words and flavors mash up in weird ways. The word strawberry tastes like peaches; chocolate is cashews; pistachio is vanilla, and vanilla is oddly floral. It’s like getting a double scoop for the price of a single.Mr. Dipple tastes like butterscotch. I like that, because butterscotch is the same color as his mustache and the stripes underneath his apron. He’s Oliver’s grandfather, so that’s where he took me. Out, I mean. Like, not really a date, but kind of a date, you know? No hand holding or anything, but he did open the door for me and that’s kinda embarrassing but kinda really sweet too.He asked his grandfather to whip us up a sundae; I didn’t realize until it got to the table that it was one to share and that’s also kinda embarrassing but really sweet in every way possible. Vanilla ice cream, chunks of brownie, whipped cream, and what I knew t
OsteophilicHe loved his bones.The way they never asked too much of himor protested his requests.There was nothing superfluous in their design;simple, sleek, and uncomplicated.They were spry, robustready to take on the world withsharp and fluid motions.His bones were not brittle like she was.Not so breakable or frail,not so expendable.They didn't bend under pressureor fracture under stress.He loved his bones -their ivory purity eased his soul -and he was proud of the waythey held everything togetherso effortlessly.She knew one day he'd stomp thisold flame out, long before 'death do us part.'Cremation had never been part of the plan.
NaPoWriMo: Day 2sometimes,i have thissudden urge to cutmy hair.most of the time,i just wish I were anythingother than me.a rocket ship, a bird-the sweet flavored smokeI promised my girlfriendthese briar patch lungswould not in.hale.instead,i have fallen in lovewith the strangest of things-eyes that intimidategodless boys.the way my scarsplay hide and seekwith her hands. -the love lettersthat start and endwith kissespressed against limbs.i make promisesi know i can not keep.but if i were a liari would say i was tiredof writing to the stars.
220 Thread CountShe wanted to sleep,to shut her sea-shell eyes and waituntil she was remembered; foundand prised open. Maybe then she would befinished - stable - contentwith eighty good years behind herand a few more gatheredsoft and pink on the horizon.They must have chosen a patterntoo small; she wasn't cut outfor all this confusion.Each day a patchwork of choices unfoldedbut her threadbare wisdomcouldn't keep her on course.She wanted to slip between the seams of timeand see what she was weaving toward.Then maybe she could graspthe phantom thread of her futurebefore it was lost in the grain.
slowly, and then all at onceand for once, he slips on his wedding ring, to cure the monotony. it slides over his knuckle, a perfect fit, and in the morning release of sunlight the silver gleams at him. it glares, calling him a liar: she is not a whorehouse and you are too broke to own her, you harlot, you. he buttons up, tucks in his shirt tail, and buckles his belt. the clinking of metal parts is the only sound in the room besides the dusting of her breathing beside him. and when he's gone, the only thing he leaves behind are the bruises on her collarbone.-you find him because you're lonely, (well, it's actually the opposite.) he finds you because his wardrobe is black and his shoes are scuffed and he asks you where your castle is. you're the only princess he sees 'round here. the rain soaks into his shirt and he curses it, grinning. and damn girl, you follow him, because you think you see some kinda warmth in his ice blue eyes.-it takes you days t
.i'll measure my lifein coffee grounds, in summerfreckles and you
a cure?they say Van Goghused to eat yellow paintso that he could getthe happiness inside of him.sometimes,especially on nights like this,I wonder if that would work.I wonder if the pigmentwould seep into my intestines:would spread through my veinslike an elixir:would curl and coil and castbrilliant lighton every angle, every aspectof my body.I wonder if endless trialsand retrials of drugscould be replaced by theoccasional dose of cadmium,lead-and-oil pick-me-up,liquid sunshine, intangible dreamI swear I can almosttaste.I wonder if it would donothing morethan make me sick,curled up on the bathroom floorand left choking on a lifethat I can never have.
.tiny heart drummingin your chest, i canhear youred gravy pumpingin your veins, i cansmell youyou are such a freshmeal, and i can almosttaste you
He Remembers 1961He always puts extra steaks on the grill,in case the neighbors stop by.It’s not that kind of world anymore.The wind was the only visitor that nightand it assumed an odor of burning leaves.He thought about all the funerals he hadattended and he thought about Hurricane Jenny.The sun’s last breath felt like thunder.A child yelled “Olly olly oxen free” butto him it sounded like “All your friends die in Spring.”
fathomand since you asked,yes, this is howI always see you:grinning, unchaste,eyes abright toxic viridian,like a bowlful ofMediterranean sky;like an oceansliced open at themeridian,baring its frigid depths,each tentacled squid,each sucker and fin andpoisonous thing,parted for meas if I were Moses,as if you were the Red Sea,as if I could seeevery wild thingthat teems within you
CarcinogensMy hands smelllike antiseptic solutionand cancer, becausethe peroxide won’tcleanse your cigaretteashes from my nails,and the cremationjar is still smoking.