Category Archives: Poetry

All-Nighter

Sleep doesn’t come when I call anymore.

Maybe I’ll rub the tired from my eyes,

And write another thousand words before the sun rises.

I’ll let myself lose a dozen hours in a back-lit screen.

Just because it feels meaningful when compared with the alternative:

Lying in the cloying silence,

Inventing patterns on the off-white ceiling.

 

There is no heartbreak this time,

No creeping anxiety that drags at the back of my mind.

The weight of the cosmos is no heavier than it ever is.

Nothing to fix, nothing to blame.

These words may be the only meaning I ever find in it,

And even they won’t come easy.

night sky
“I’ll pretend every waking hour had been my decision So I can wear the dark circles under my eyes like some badge of honor.” Photo from: https://pixabay.com

Another all-nighter?” he asks,

And I return his well-intentioned smile.

I’ll pretend every waking hour had been my decision

So I can wear the dark circles under my eyes like some badge of honor,

As though my bone-deep exhaustion was a marker of academic fortitude.

But there is no significance or triumph in the reality

That rest has become some unruly beast,

And sleep doesn’t come when I call anymore.

15 Minutes

On one hand, a couple chuckles and mutters to themselves;

They’re lost in their own world, unconcerned with the rest of us.

On the other hand, two girls type away at their laptops;

One giggles and grins at something only she can see.

 

Time passes, the smell of pizza lingers in the air.

The couple have untangled themselves.

The giggling girl and the girl from the couple are chatting and laughing across the room.

Others chime in and the room buzzes with conversation.

clock
“Time passes, the smell of pizza lingers in the air.” Photo from: www.duratimeclocks.com

The couple eats ice cream while the two girls talk about the dog wandering through the room.

One takes the dog out for a walk, the room wishes her luck and fun.

Silence has descended about the room.

Finally, the girl from the couple turns to me and speaks.

Sunny Day

I am hiding outside

In the sun.

 

My black flats are worn –

The heels torn to the sole.

I am wearing the shirt

Your mother bought me –

The blue floral print

That falls off the shoulders

And exposes my bare back

Beneath crisscross strips of thin fabric.

 

I don’t like it –

It reveals the freckled maps

On each shoulder –

My essence.

 

girl
“It reveals the freckled maps On each shoulder.” Photo from: thenletitbe.tumblr.com

 

People glance at me

As they pass on the sidewalk.

 

I could be an Armadillo

Or a Turtle

Or poke my head out

Of this hardened shell.

I can choose to be an Emu

Or a Donkey

Or keep my mouth shut firm

In solitary silence.

 

You would be angry –

I did not wear my jacket.

My back is ice

And I don’t care.

I am a rebel without

A flag to wave –

All eyes on me

And mine on them.

Life-Drawing

Behind a locked door,

I can only think about

Simple compass circles,

And I am forced to steady my mind.

 

Your forest eyes follow me –

Will she? Will she really do this?

Slowly, I pull off one sleeve and then another.

You take me at my word,

Settling on a pose.

“Are you sure you can stay still?”

Are you sure? Are you sure you want this?

I nod, lounging across your pillow.

 

Every curve and crease

Drifts onto blank paper.

It’s the first you’ve worked me out

In pencil lines and ebony charcoal –

I couldn’t draw as you do.

You’d laugh at my sloppy lines

And squiggled fingers.

Artists scrutinize every motion,

But it’s better to lie here, still,

Soaking in sun through the cracks in your blinds.

IMG_20170129_154933_processed
The Burial, Photo from http://alexandra-sophie.fr/the-burial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You capture the feel of my skin,

The light that strikes my eyes,

And the thump of my heart.

I am merely lines and shadows

To a cross-hatched world in your mind.

 

Finally, work ceases.

You move to me

With shaking hands.

I grasp hold of each,

Pulling you to me,

And close my eyes to feeling.

Rain and Ramen Noodles

It rains.
I wake up,
Roll over and see
Class has been over
An hour or more.
I have no guilt.

I pull myself up slowly
And move across the room
On legs that could collapse
Beneath me.
I’m ill today
And it rains.

window
“I pull myself up slowly And move across the room.” Photo from: mediacache.pinimg.com

It rains,
And I am hungry.
I pull on my jacket
And stumble outside.
Somehow,
I have not fallen.
Make my way across a flooded plain;

Reach my destination.
Inside
My treasure sits upon the shelf:
Beef, Shrimp, Chicken.
I make my choices –
Head back.

I wait:
A boiling hot cup of
Ramen.

In The Dark

Silence hangs in the air like an axe.

The clock tick-tick-ticking closer toward the witching hour.

Gradients of darkness give shape to the room.

A black mass in the corner waits, quiet and knowing.

 

A face with two sets of eyes stare,

One a ghastly green, the other a blazing blue,

Never blinking, always watching.

High above it waits, eternal.

clock
“Never blinking, always watching.” Photo from: media4.giphy.com

The axe falls by degrees, a slow draining drip of dread.

Whispers, voices, leak through the wall,

Crawling along the ceiling and echoing,

Loud enough to hear, muffled enough to hide.

 

Scratches dig deep into the door,

Claws dragging long grooves.

Just wait, wait until the night ends

And the blood red light leaks in.

Floating

Ripped cellophane drifting in the wind,

Covering my childhood spot.

 

A habit of harmony and wonder

Turned resting place for all creativity.

 

Sleeping dog, covered in careful spots,

Striped with innocence.

 

I come here to dream

Drab and crass thoughts.

forest
“This place is mine.” Photo from: www.pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never have I shared this place,

Not even as a curious child.

 

False impression of ignorance,

This place is mine.

 

My place of sin,

Shaded by fading memories.

Waiting Room Blues

We’re all sitting in a makeshift waiting room.

A drug treatment facility masquerading as a fidcus emporium

The doctor is late

It’s as if having a medical degree comes with a broken watch

All of us are here for the same reason

Our brains flood us with that feel-good chemical

Get my heart racin’ baby

We shift uncomfortably

Unsure as to whether or not we’ll get our fix

waiting room
“The doctor is late. It’s as if having a medical degree comes with a broken watch.” Photo from: www.juiceforskin.com

 

 

 

 

 

They leave us in twos

Some cross the threshold and never come back

Gone into the zone of white lab coats and Zoloft

‘Not I’ said the bipolar

‘Not me’ said the schizophrenic

We shift and stare

Trying to find the drug addict among us

Only to find that we’re all addicts,

Getting high off serotonin.

Anxiety

Fluttering, falling, fading,

Once green leaves stained yellow with groundless fears,

Buffeted and shaken by rains that once

Wouldn’t have even been noticed.

One by one the leaves die of terror,

And the branches are left bare.

But instead of doing anything,

The tree lets it happen.

The more the leaves fall,

The less strength there is to hold on to the ones left.

The wind tries to help,

Tickling branches in ways the tree once loved.

But without leaves, the wind feels harsh and exhausting.

tree

“One by one the leaves die of terror, And the branches are left bare.” Photo from: www.staticflickr.com

 

 

Branches snicker, snap, and groan

At the innocent wind.

The bare bony fingers reach towards the sky,

Scraping against the blue in desperation.

But the sky never says anything,

And only the rain that was already coming

Responds to the cries.

Soon there is nothing

To protect from the coming ice,

And all that remains

Is to do

Nothing.

Hazel Eyes

The touch, the feel,

The heat, the sweat.

A hand running along the hip,

Feeling of rose petal lips against the heart.

 

Dark, spiraled hair of ebony,

The golden-green hazel eyes framed so well.

The soft, pale pink lips,

Often mistaken for a cloud.

hazel-eyes
“Those hazel eyes see horror and pain.” Photo from: www.muscledudelife.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Those hazel eyes see horror and pain.

Her pale lips are lowered.

These curls hide the face of a girl.

 

Those who passed her over,

Who didn’t bother to look beyond her skin,

Far too self-centered to see the damage,

Unable to see the women she would become.

Blind Ed’s Tavern and Crematorium

When winter ceases stalking,

Takes you from the flank,

And your bloodied coat is in the bag at your side

With the body, I know a joint on the edge of town

Where the hearth always glows.

 

Drop your bag in the back with the rest,

Then slip through the blizzard’s claws at the door.

Pick a stool—Ed will know what you need.

Take a glass to thaw your throat

While the drifting embers lick snow from your shoulders.

 

When your color returns and your breathing eases,

tavernEd shakes your hand, pressing a warm key in your palm.

Upstairs, slip off your shoes, sink into the bed,

Let the rumbling roar of the furnace roll you

Deep into a dream of summer.

 

Ed can’t help with ghosts—

He deals in miracles, not magic—

But thank him on your way out,

And tip well.  Blind Ed knows

He’ll see you again soon enough.

Cabin Boy

Each ounce of daylight he’d earned

He spent in the throes of a mad ship

Named Delilah.  Her crooked masts hung

Inches above the rumbling sea,

Her sheets slave only to the gale.

 

A cannonball hole to starboard

Ushered storm-spray into his quarters.

ship
“Her crooked masts hung inches above the rumbling sea.”

His hammock swayed between the drops

Plucking his creased forehead like a mandolin.

Neither storm nor Hell on deck could wake him.

 

Within his fragile, rounded skull

He lay nestled in the grass by a waterfall—

Its earthly place swallowed by the labyrinth of memory.

A blanket of mist rolled over him on the breeze

As the soft crashing rocked his head

 

Side to side, starboard to port,

Beneath the crackling thunder of boots.

Delilah listed toward the smothered sunset—

Pitching him through the wound in the hull,

Still cradled in the arms of the riverbank.

Time: The Sleepless God

Resigned to the embrace of an oak or an elm

Nestled on a knoll as the knell from the church

Hummed its farewell for a stranger,

I settled with a stack of worn letters

And read them by the starlight.

 

When the bell clamped its jaw,

Time—the sleepless god with bloodshot eyes—

Heaved me to my feet, spun me around,

Nudged me down an overgrown path

Headed east through a forest of firs.

 

The sun crawled up behind a rotten stable

Filled with cracked horse bones.

I touched their splintered ribs,

Whispered their names,

Damned them again for dying.

stables
“The sun crawled up behind a rotten stable.”

Stomping a pelvis to powder,

I headed west, though the path was gone.

I charged into the troop of trees,

Fell over a root wrapped around a headstone

Scarred with the name of a freckled farm girl.

 

Three more tombs with names like wide-eyed cattle

Bruised my eye, broke my teeth, and stole my shoes.

I pushed through the steel needles, back to the hill,

As the sun set behind the town,

Outshone by the strobing casino.

 

The letters, scattered once more,

Will find me as they do.

I step over an empty grave under the elm or the oak,

Throw open the casino gates hoping to turn a profit—

Or at least break even.

Sad Rock

Hunchback of Whogivesadamn

In a room flooded with paper

Covered in dots, dashes, and scrawlings,

Perched on a crate, bent over his telegraph.

 

“Lunch plans, dinner plans, sex,

Woke up too late for breakfast, sex,

Does your back hurt? Mine does.

I bet they put something in the water.”

 

So the reams read as they roll

‘Round and ’round the room,

The cobra closing on another kill.

Hunch doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

 

Just outside, the lane overgrown,

A crow lands on a wire, squawks unheard,

Looks down the street towards the edge of the world—

Only little houses and wires in a withering grassland.

 

He calls again, the air swallows the sound,

Like everywhere else on this sad rock.

Bristling, he snaps the wire; it sparks,

Writhes in false agony, drops to the ground—

 

And so does Hunch, like fresh lumber,

A brief thud as he strikes the floor.

He whimpers as he dies alone,

Never thinking to walk next door.

Steel River

A glittering scar tears apart a meadow;

On either side, trees black with death

Haul the burden of the steel-wool sky.

A mile deep and fifty long, a river rolls:

 

River of riches, stream of steel,

Dazzling the eyes which crave it!

They plunge their toes into the earth

Where then—now roots—they drink.

 

New blood surges through them,

Sending their limbs skyward.

Their hands contort into spidery frames

As their backs collapse beneath the sky.

 

Eyes and teeth drop into the river,

Fingernails split, sprouting branches,

The gaping holes are plugged with knots

Of rotting, fetid oak.

 

A glittering scar shreds the heart of a meadow;

On either side, anguished trees

Haul the burden of the gunmetal sky.

A mile deep and sixty long, a river rolls.

Where You’re Going, You Won’t Need Sunglasses

What if you got into your car,

Turned off the stereo,

And just kept driving—

Like the spark in your skull

That crawled into its neuron Studebaker years ago,

Hit the on-ramp, and never looked back?

 

The smooth, broad hiss of asphalt

Carries you over the road

As the sun rises in the rear-view,

Sets over the dash.

On an empty highway,

Buildings blossom ahead and vanish behind.

 

A playground bathed in pastel paints

Where a girl with a voice tries to teach a boy to sing.

A high school with a fault line in its wall

Where hollow kisses ride full lips.

A parking lot where the head—

Not the hand—finds love.

 

A cobbled walk melting

Under the Georgia sun and street jazz,

Where trembling fingers reach for a switch

To cut off glittering hazel eyes

Deserving, not wanting, an answer.

The switch takes out the lights.

 

The sun disappears,

The moon quits,

The stars leave without a proper goodbye

Or even a strained “Talk to you later.”

The horizon hides far beyond

The stunted reach of your headlights.

 

You count the stripes in the road,

Hear the dull roar of the asphalt again,

And barely see the edge of the grass

On either side of the road.

There might be buildings and people.

There might not be.

 

A corrugated shed ends the road.

Your brakes don’t squeal—

They only sigh when your head strikes the steering wheel.

The engine stutters through its last drop of gas,

The battery slips out with a whimper.

The slam of the door stops at your ears.

 

The empty air stands close,

Follows you inside.

Rusted bits sting your hands

And blood creeps down your wrists

As your aching fingers fret and fumble

For a light switch.

The 7:30

Knock, and the door will be opened,

But knocking can be dreadfully rude.

 

One, two, three—one, two, three,

I’m standing under the 7:30

While she pushes her hands through the sky

And the moon pours through her steel-toed eyes.

 

The door cracks, a shepherd pup

Slips into the night, looks me up—

A stiletto—screwdriver-orange—crashes down,

Spooks the dog clear out of town.

 

I peel through the waving door,

Find myself on the upper floor.

A murder of crows in her viscous wig

Pecks at the window with olive twigs.

 

In the basement a paper desk resides.

Her thunderous coughs stir the tides

In a whiskey barrel loaded with ink

As each word written turns sunflower pink.

 

The desk crumbles under my stare,

Lays the poem’s scaffolding bare.

A dust bunny raids the gore,

Walks away with the metaphor.

 

The 7:30 vanishes like a lady,

But the crows stand sure and stately—

Knocking, like I had before,

Knocking at my open door.

 

I round the corner, breathe in the lane.

Forget the growing, bloody stain

Across my snowy shirt of lamb

And drink my way to Amsterdam.

 

As starlight swirls above the bay,

A tramp with gloves stoops toward the fray.

“Chocolate?” he offers, but drops it.

A familiar crow arrives to profit.

 

“Something wrong?” the tramp’s brow cocks.

My shoulders tremble and knees knock.

I confess as I faint on a two-story shoe.

 

“Across my snowy shirt of lamb . . . and drink my way to Amsterdam.”

Trainmaker

“A dimming bulb clings to the ceiling . . .”

 

A dimming bulb clings to the ceiling

By a fraying wire while she nudges

A thimble smokestack into place.

Her fingers waltz across the placid headlamps

Arrayed on the shelves, untouched by dust.

 

Some cracked, some hazy,

Some clear and crisp as the night outside.

Soup cans, clock hands,

Toothpicks and cufflinks bound tighter

Than anything bought in a box.

 

She bends a spoon around the left wheels,

Matching the watch chain on the other side.

She fastens the lens from a pair of glasses

Abandoned in a public restroom.

She gives it a mother’s grin.

 

A room full of crowded people,

Their painted plastic on pedestals.

She brings her own table,

Displays her latest, beaming.

They spit acid when she speaks.

 

She walks out with it

Swaddled in her arms,

Clutched against her bosom,

Marches home with the dignity of war,