May 11, 2012

Seven Minutes In Heaven

It's a tilt of a head or an eyebrow,
and, hey, somebody, watch my drink.
There's something I got to take care of,
be back soon, don't worry about me.

& the jukebox is singing addiction,
& I hear him follow behind
& I swing like I'm working a strip joint
& the lock on the door works just fine

& the tumblers click like a snicker
& the slam of the door is a cry
& the fluorescent hiss is a whisper
& the knob's digging into my spine

& the tiles are cool as forgiveness
& the light is unblinking as greed
& his mouth is hot as a furnace
& my mouth is hungry as God

& he's watching my face in the mirror
& I'm watching his hands on my thighs
& he's taking me like a prisoner
& I'm taking him like a prize

& my breath is a broken hosanna
& his growl is a groveling beast
& his truth is in every profanity
& my hair is a snarl in his fists

& his skin is my cant and my canvas
& my limbs are his wreath and his ring

& his bones are my cage and my castle

& my flesh is his kill and his king

& my teeth are deep in his shoulder
& his fingers sink in where they're splayed
& I know I'll find bruises tomorrow
& I'll want them back when they fade

Then, we make our way back to normal,
with his echo still combing my blood,
and I wonder if anyone heard us,
but the juke is still playing. Real loud.

May 4, 2012

Penitential

I run my hands blindly over
the rosaries you left behind.
They click together softly, whispering
of loss, remembrance and regret.
They seem to fall into
the Braille of your name,
then tangle, like a necklace twisted
by an impatient hand.

I lose count again. I am on my knees
here in the dark, where nobody can touch me
in pity or violence. I am on my knees.
I pray to the master.
I count again, my lips
moving silently, my mouth
dry as my nights.
*     *     *
I still think I had no choice.
If we carried pieces of one another,
it was not all we carried, and those pieces
were not all we lacked.

We built ourselves from spare
parts we found in junkyards, or stole
from the nightstands of the few
we fooled. We held ourselves together
with glue we made by boiling bones
that were much too broken
to be of any other use.
The cloaks we wore were old, stained,
and old-fashioned. We
would have taken them off, but
we had long ago lost our skin.

We were two teetering spectacles
of fabulous catastrophe,
and people came to look at us, believing
there were great truths in our ugliness.
Maybe there were. But how
could two wrecks lean on one another
without falling apart?
*     *     *
I close my eyes. I huddle deeper
into darkness. I earned this ache.

I do not seek escape. I never really did.

I count the beads again. My punishment
is always to lose count before I find the one
you wrote my name on.

I Am/I Miss You

I am the smoke of your secret
cigarette, curling around your
fingers in the dark.

I am the blue of
a hundred country love songs.
I am the silver of
a million wasted coins.
I am the pallor of
a thousand disappointments.

*     *     *

I am the possibility of your sleepless
night, opening somewhere
beyond your vision.

I am the black of
too many scotch-and-sodas.
I am the scream of
somebody's laughter or somebody's brakes.
I am the length of
your hopelessness and your hope.

*     *     *

I am the restlessness of your idle
hands, itching and empty with
nothing to break.

I am the strength
of your willpower.
I am the agility
of your desire.
I am the tenderness
of your brutality.

*     *     *

I am smoking a cigarette.
It is 2:30 in the morning.
I am touching myself.

I miss you.

April 29, 2012

The Siren's Lament

The first time I saw you,
they had tied you to the mast,
and you were raving like a sun-struck lunatic.
Your face was red, and you were sweating,
stripped to the waist,
like a slave or a lover.

I called out to you.
I couldn't help it,
I cried loneliness.
I cried longing.
I cried lust.

I sang,
as though I'd sing you free,
sing you safe,
sing you to me.

You strained against the ropes
like a madman. The ropes knew better, biting
indifferently into your flesh.
I saw the red drops welling up
on your slick, sunburnt skin.
You roared in pain, and frustrated desire
and I was almost close enough to touch you
but I could only watch

from my sexless perch
on the salty cliffs of solitude.

It was not my choice
to sing such deadly love songs,
such final lullabies.

It is not my fault
that I was made this way,
that every time I weep,
or speak a wish,
men die before
I've finished talking.

I'd rather have a conversation
than a conquest.
I'd rather have a courtship
than another corpse.
All those beautiful boys
made beautiful bones.

None made
a decent lover.

I hear you made it home.
I hear your woman wove you back to her
like a patient spider.
I am patient too.
I sit upon my rocky throne.
I braid my hair and unbraid it.
I claim a kill, still,
now and then.

I wait for you
You will return.




Pearl Grotto v. 3

Our mouths are oysters,
pearls growing inside
as quickly as they can drop from our lips,

catching on our clavicles,
nestling in our navels,
pooling in the gully where we join,
studding our sexes sweetly,
as currants in a cake,
richly as jewels encrusting
a sybarite's crown.

We arc against one another
like tangling stalagmites.
We make a grotto
filled with such
dripping extravagance.

The passage is narrow,
but we are swift
silver fishcreatures, streaking,
flicking, slippery slick & silken
bubble-baubled fingerfins
along the louvering quiver
of opening shells.
We reach the mouth,

and I
am a waterfall,
plummeting,
plunging deep,
exploding hard,
swirling mindless, scattering breathless spume,

and you
are a shuddering precipice,
your knees are mountains,
crushing tectonic, crumbling
around me, a howling
apocalypse of triumph
raining rock and sand,

endless grains of sand.
Each one will become a pearl.

April 25, 2012

Diagnosis

I think I hoped for absolution
Some kind of last-minute reprieve
A strategy or a solution
An exit sign I hadn't seen

I think I wanted affirmation
Or an irrefutable proof
Of one last glorious ovation
For my version of the truth

I think I needed one more morning
Of glory, triumph and success
Or maybe just a word of warning
That this one was to be my last

It took a smile. It took a whisper.
It all took just under a week.
And it was years ago. It's history.
So tell me why the cut still stings.

April 23, 2012

Prelude

I bargained with God
once, curled tight
as a bud, on the bottom
bunk of a dorm room.

making an offering
rashly - my voice -
a flailing, flippering fish-girl
begging to get my tail split.

God came through for
a while, for once.
I kept my promise,
kept away from
buzzy mics and vibrating
audition rooms. Anyway,

I tore it all up later,
screaming on floors,
smoking in the dark,
holding my breath.

That was many years ago.
It is springtime.
I've been filling my lungs.

Spring 2010

April 22, 2012

Come to Pass

Things come to pass.

You find yourself grown,
groaning for the wasted time,
the suddenlys, the almosts.

You thumb old diaries,
old aches, old conquests,
old stories, all
fireflies dying in a jar
with only memories of fire.

Things come to pass.

You trade last call
for the smell of his sleeping back.
Secretly, you love
the ball and chain, the simplicity
of grocery lists and laundromats,
chopping vegetables and polishing counters.

You wonder if this is all there is,
or was, and in your coward's heart,
your lover's heart, you choose it.
And you wonder,
what else you might have done,
if you had not.

But everyone wonders. Don't they?

Things come to pass.
It isn't always fun.
It isn't always failure.

Truth in advertising

Some may swear their love by the sun,
the stars, the moon, the earth.
But I have loved enough to know
how little love is worth.

How cleanly fever breaks in time,
how lightly one sleeps off the wine
of passion. And when that day comes,
how clear the morning. "It is done,"

they'll whisper. It's the truth. But more
than that, it will have never happened.
"I have not loved like this before,"
they'll say - and mean it - later.

Others will pledge their heart and soul.
I am not one of those who will.
My heart is muscle, mine alone.
My soul is mortgaged to the gills.

So if I say, "I'll always stay,"
it means, I won't stop trying.
But if I say, "I'll always love,"
you'll know that I am lying.

The Madman In The Eyes

For Pamela and "Amber."

You look the madman in the eyes,
you see the madness there, you hope
he sees the madness in your eyes. You know
there's madness there. You hope

he'll dignify it with his choice. Legitimize
it, like a bastard, with words spoken
out in public. You hope
he'll make it mean something -

the bruising of your hands against a door
that no one else can see, the rage,
the constant loneliness,
the impotence of passing
for sane, for same

as everybody else, who looks
the madman in the eyes
and prays for intercession.
For meaning. For a moment. For attention.

The empty room

In all of us, there was an incompleteness,
a space unfilled, unfinished,
like a room inside a house
that has not yet been painted or furnished.

We closed it up, that room,
we locked it,
folded it into a suitcase
and took it with us.

Some nights, we invited one another in.
Some nights, we only left the door ajar.
Some nights, we were distracted and forgot to lock it.
Some nights, the lock was picked.

We left our traces,
dust, and keepsakes,
and trails of evidence behind,
while we chased a caravan.

We figured, given time,
we'd figure out
how to fill a space
that never stands still.

Legend

You were the man, the legend
to my maps.
With you gone, they are

only a collection
of tangled lines & worthless icons.

I shuffle to look busy,
stupefied. I wrote these routes, I
charted the topography,
sprained ankles on the hills,
foundered in the rivers,
found and founded
fortresses and forts and nothing
makes sense anymore.

I'm lost.
The only solution
is to do it all again.

Old Man

His hands on me
were, undeniably,
an old man's hands.

Curious to see that difference,
his hands and my body.
I never thought of my body
as young before.

How old are you? he asked
again. I think he liked the answer
and hated himself liking it.

Well, he'd been kissing
as long as I'd been walking,
so I didn't complain.

And he'd been lying
longer than I'd been talking.
Just one more thing you had on me,
old man.

February 4, 2012

I said I'd never stop loving you

I said I’d never stop loving you.
Of course I did.

I drank a muddy wine from
a paper pauper’s cup
and called it sacramental.

I woke up in a gutter, gutted,
calling it redemption,

and, mumbling dirty mantras
on clean sheets, I fingered
rosaries of longing
and wore them for a leash.

I gave it all I had,
and mortgaged
what wasn’t mine to give.
I lost my shirt.

I ate my heart out,
took the bitter, sweetly
for a just dessert.

I said I’d never stop loving you
enough
to make it real. To make it
hurt.
It didn’t work. Not even
when it worked.

I said I’d never stop loving you.
Only, of course, I did.

September 18, 2011

My Last Willing Testament

Now I have begun unraveling
the yard I spun on moonish nights,
all woven through with threads of summer gold,
worn softly, and worn soft
with all the touching.

Now I have begun giving away,
piecemeal, my collections,
tokens, and bits, and sacred scraps of
value beyond rubies.

(Or, they were, before
I took them to the bank.)

Now I have knelt, thick of bone,
awkward of muscle, there
by the river where I gathered
lilies once, and later, watered
armored horses.

Now I wash
my banners and my ball gowns
in a machine, mixed
with socks and dish towels,
and occupy myself with
lining bins, and clearing space.

The Roast's Soliloquy (a eulogy to my twenties)

The timer dings,
the door clangs open. Clattering,
I am dragged out, spitting
and hissing and suddenly cold.

No! - put me back! -
I am not finished, put me back
until I'm hard and golden on the outside,
until I'm rich
and mellow on the inside,
until my juices run clear,
gleaming and unctuous around a prick.

I have not been there
long enough, I tell you -
yes, I've been seasoned,
stuffed and brined,
and complemented well
by what you've got there
on the side, and by that wine
you bought, but all of that will be wasted -
it's too soon!

Put me back! You'll regret it, you will
think me good and fine and finished,
till you cut too deep and hit too red,
and make a face - "Uck!" - and spit me out.
Well, it won't be my fault,

I told you I wasn't ready.

April 25, 2011

Skydance

Inspired by this photograph.

When the bonfire of drunken gods
rose, unattended, past their control
& burned a heart-shaped breach in black velvet,
gaping immodestly, carelessly
exposing an intimate decimal of sky
that contorted, naked & furious
at the imposition,
the invasion, the rudeness, the cheek of it,

you were there. You saw it all
and didn't compound the violation
by averting your eyes.

Politeness nothing -
when the universe cracks open,
when the cards tumble into a yes,
when the seventh veil hits the floor,
politeness is an insult.

But morning slammed
a bright blue boudoir door,
all pretty priggish prudishness,
white lace & cotton. Cotton-mouthed,
hung-over, groggy and ashamed, the erstwhile

savages pretended it never happened.
No one saw it.
Until it never happened.
Until no one saw it,

in all its flame-framed glory
but you. So let them walk
beneath boudoir blue skies,
daylight-glazed eyed and all.
You know what's there,

behind black velvet.
You know what's waiting.

April 24, 2011

Joni Mitchell, Coffee & the Rain

It's been a long time
since I've gone out,
casting lines & fishnet
stockings, stocking up
on stories, taking stock
of what I've lived,

and where I've gone,
and what I've done -

- long time -

well, maybe someday
I'll be able
to listen to a slow sad song
without the ghosts of werewolves
forever creeping up motel steps,
and suspended bridges
dangling between places
no one visits anymore,
and husbands who were never
where they should have been -

- maybe someday -

but I don't know that I'd want to.

I lived my early years
as a thirty-year-old woman,
cautious, routine-oriented, just a little bit
desperate. I found youth late, was late
to the party, was grateful
the bar was open still,
overdid it a bit.
I'm pushing thirty now, hard
like a door in heavy wind,

and I don't mind, I know
it swings both ways
if you push hard enough -

- but I don't want to, now -

I'm listening to Joni Mitchell,
who's looked at life from both sides now,
31 years apart, and drinking

coffee on a rainy day,
and for now, it all makes sense,
even to the ghosts.

April 11, 2011

Right Kind of Man (lyric)

It's the wrong time
It's the wrong place
Wrong thing on your mind
Wrong look on your face
There's nothing to do here
You're just waiting around
Nothing to stand for
So you'll sit this one out

In another time,
In another age
You might have been a soldier,
Might have been a saint
And you'd die for a cause
If there were any left
But all the causes are lost now,
All that's left is effects

Lip-servicing leaders
On flickering screens
Rabble-backed rebels
In designer jeans
And they all look the same
They all sound alike
They're all giving hand-outs
And they're all taking bribes

Wrong time,
Wrong place
Wrong thing on your mind
Wrong look on your face,
There's no chance
And there's no plan
For the right kind of man

Tried falling in love
Just landed in bed
She left her face on your pillow
And a noise in your head
By the light of the morning,
There was nothing to say
Yeah, the morning came early
though the light came late

But you'd climb her tower
Like a storybook knight
If it ever felt real
If it ever felt right
Sing by her window
Find a dragon to slay
And you'd even be faithful
If you still had any faith

But it's the wrong time,
it's the wrong place
Wrong thing on your mind,
wrong look on your face
Nowhere left to go,
No room left to pretend
For the right kind of man

Nothing to do here,
Just sitting around
On a stool in a bar
On a therapist's couch
Yeah, nothing to stand for.
You just sit this one out.

April 10, 2011

Dorian (lyric)

The day that you were born,
your mama held you in her arms
and said you were as perfect as an angel

And all of heaven's blessings,
they flew to fill your room
and the stars came down to decorate your cradle

Everybody said,
when you became a man,
oh, you would be a man like no other

That everything you wanted
would fall into your hands
and every girl would want you for her lover

They all said,
Dorian, Dorian
glamour and glory and
victory's waiting wherever you go
Golden one, chosen one
Fate-favored favorite son
Don't disappoint us, now
Give us a show

When you and I first met,
I was still a girl
Stars in my eyes and clouds in my head

I belonged to you,
but you belonged to the world
How could I believe it wouldn't end

So many years have passed
and everything has changed
but how could I not recognize you

Though your beauty's faded
and all that remains now
Is a conqueror's smile and a suicide's eyes

Dorian, Dorian
Wrote your whole story on
Used cocktail napkins from bars long closed down
Older and slowing down
But still making the rounds
Of all your old haunts and your old hunting grounds

Dorian, Dorian
Could have been anyone
But you were the one I thought of
all this time
Wish you could have been the one
Wish I could have been the one
It's done, my darling,
the knots all untied.