It’s not a porcelain act:
when our bodies lie they are not so pretty.
They shudder, and try to collect crossings of skin,
to savor drops of sweat that fall from her puddled eyes,
but it’s a not-quite art that dries while they are busy
It’s not a porcelain act:
we do not break so quickly.
rather slowly, instead:
the soft bend in the hardwood floor,
the shape of her hips,
creaks a little louder
The death-knell’s cringe
is not a porcelain sound;
we are rusted to its mouth,
The newspaper skips
across the road, eager
to spread her words contagious:
the grayish residue of worry
stains the reader’s fingers.
The eulogy lets slip
a gospel-choir wail
for his greattimeonthisearth,
but the dirt squirms
between the reader’s toes.
i’m not sorry
down the reader’s cheeks.
If my marriage were a woman
We slept ear to ear
and dreams flitted between our heads
like lightning bugs singing to each other
in Morse code
and we awoke.
You asked, again: You always dream of her.
and as i brushed my teeth i said to it,
to you, yes.
Who is she?
She is sick.
She is sick? you frowned and i, yes,
from lugging suitcases full of unridden trains
and half-written thank you letters that
spit contagious bitterness, silvery
sludge that hisses you have not given back what i let you borrow
but isn’t that love? taking things that cannot be given
—sick! she is sick
with a moth-eaten fever,
scabby holes ripping
through her forehead and chest,
all the thingsthatcannotbegivenback dripping
from her fingers, clinging
to her eyelashes—
Home Sweet España
Las amapolas like little blood-tears
que dicen adios desde la tierra,
whispering between the Spanish-loud train chatter
while the song in my head hums,
jazzy English clumsy
like three suitcases in two hands,
dragging along words
que luchan para huir de la oscuridad de despedirse
¿y qué? Could i montage all my little selves
and speak in labored chords,
or cough them up
para que, entre las amapolas, duerman?
The poison crashed in through her lips
like a boy after a misbehaved puppy:
a skittish memory off its leash;
if he dares not chase it
the memory will laugh
from the pits of pathetic eyes
in lost-dog posters;
if he tugs too hard he will break its matted,
collared neck and the memory
will be buried in a shoebox
in the garden next to the cheap vinyl
Words crash out from the windows
of paper airplanes
crafted from choked-down, spit-up memories;
i try to catch them with the drop of flame
that trickles from the plastic yellow cigarette lighter
and they scatter in ashen mess on the white carpet.
I am so terrified of the crawl into the next hour
Where is the door out
of time? I never heard
that bones were made of cheap, rusty nickel
but i hear the ticking in the back of my throat
and i feel the flutter in my hands,
the quiver of my eyelashes,
all slowly dying for the tiny heartbeat
that scratches at my ribcage
like the bent second-hand scratches
at the face of my ten-dollar watch
and i hear it
the space between my skin and bones is filled with it the tick-ticking the small-death dying the sick surrender of a few grains of dust a few more grains of dust a few more
unstill sufficing tick-
I slept on the edge of I-75
on a pillow wrapped up in that old t-shirt
from the fake Southern barbecue shop on Twelfth,
and it smells like crude kitchen Spanish
and stale tea that was never Alabama sweet.
The cars trip over my renegade feet,
but it doesn’t hurt.
Only that t-shirt stings my cheeks,
it whips my eyes and nose
with the fury of each rush-hour victim
dying to see time go (if only
they knew how slow
it is not, they would die
on this highway forever).
Nobody else is you; this seems
fairly simple but
why isn’t it,
wasn’t it?Easy to
peel off your skin
and tell you
you were anyeverysomebody else
—wasn’t it easy?Don’t
be stripped away anymore, i say
but some more times we will first
remember that velcro sound of
you leaving you,
that simple torn sound of saying
you are not who you are.
It peels skin from the body
like a man lures a dress off a woman.
Its needles probe through the muscles
with a bite that dribbles blood,
inking birds and moons
and clocks without hands
onto the linings of scattered organs.
A skirt flowers from crumbling hips
around legs misshapen by the veins
untangling themselves from gravity’s will;
a tick, tick, tick breathes from within:
the hollow, creaking tick, tick, tock
of bone, specks of bone sighing
tick tick tick,
drifting from the body
to the sidewalk before the market
where women drape babies across their backs
to carry bright bags of oranges,
blindly tracking through the bone-crumbs
that have dropped to sleep.
Their time-bomb babies tick away, too; mothers trudge past
the concrete wall lined with garbage bins
while birds and moons slip from the sticky tatters of a flowered skirt
and scurry from the gaze of an army
of clocks without hands, licking its lips.
The mirror thought
i was a window, didn’t know
from my toes, didn’t know
i wasn’t a pinkish sky
or a toddler on tiptoe, didn’t know
about the photograph of you
inside its frame, didn’t know
that any photograph of you
is a photograph of me, too,
but it knows
about the photograph of me
what if the thing that i feel is stronger than all the other things that i feel
what if my hands pulse because of it
and my eyelids give up because of it
and my chest is a bomb because of it
will it eat up all the other things
what sort of (brick, stone, quilts hung from clothespins) walls will it build
what sort of (letter-sized, moth-nested, bullet-shaped) holes will it gnaw
in the walls i already built
(it’s time we remind ourselves
things are made of walls,
skin bones coffee mugs guitars
are all things between i
and that other i
it’s time we wonder why
things are not made of skies
imagine steadying yourself on a cloud’s thin frame,
slumping against a little sunfall of light,
catching the eye of another slump
and stepping through the not-wall
your soul would come out from the rib-shadows
your ghost would go have a beer with the other ghosts
your hands could be doorknobs to which your fingers were the keys
and, opening your palms you would say
please, come in.
There is a trench carved into the ground
between a land called Life and another called Death,
a scar dragged across the arms of a world
that doesn’t know how to live and doesn’t know how to die.
It is a tunnel of safety,
filled with the blood of a dream that laid himself down
for the sake of the crown, for we are kings of hypocrisy,
sitting on thrones of freedom but clinging to our chains.
We have the night to blame,
marching across the sky like a warrior who doesn’t know what he is fighting for,
and we cower against the walls of our broken reflections
like stars without light,
our souls lying limp across the palms of our hands,
awaiting a day when we are no longer travesties
but thieves of the night:
heroes, stealing darkness
and bringing the dream back to life.
I dreamt about a suitcase.
Fabric torn at the zipper.
I dreamt of black high heels,
just like mine,
resting on the white stripe
on the highway’s edge.
I dreamed that i looked out the window
but it was gone; i turned
to my sister to say, “What
the hell happened to
and she was gone.
I dreamt that the sun blinked at me
from the piles of dust at my feet;
i leaned down to touch it,
to touch the sun, because it was a dream
and you can do that sort of thing.
My fingers came away, suitcase-red.
I thought then that i would
wake up, because in movies
the girl pinches herself and she wakes up
but i did not wake up,
i could not
I dreamt that i was smothered in black ink
and my body was torn
Your Careless Elbow
“I am made of glass”
—have you heard it before?
—but, i am. Maybe not
fragile, not a vase of ballpoint pens perched
on the edge, waiting
to cry inky tears on the tile floor.
Maybe not see-through, not
a window stained with the fingerprints
of question marks gawking
at wild answers. Maybe not.
But maybe, if you knocked me from the table
with your careless elbow,
i’d boom hit
and maybe shards of words
would strike you in the forehead
and you’d cry inky tears,
and perhaps they would catch fire
on your cigarette, and you’d shrivel
up except for your ears,
and you’d still hear the ring
of laughing bits of glass,
The rocks are so tired of being thrown around
and the sand is so tired of being crashed upon
by the waves
day after day after day
and the sea is so tired of being tugged upon
—a bully with puppeteered fists,
whose strings are tied to the moon
and are always being yank-
and the rain is so tired of being
unwelcomed by the clouds,
and my arms are so
but the heaviness of my bones
as the moon’s grip on the sea.