On gin nights
when I fade from awareness
like a dial turned
slowly to the left,
the dreams shake me.
Our limbs separate
from us, and go hard
like widow children
throwing rocks into
In bed we make a Civil War
portrait, pale and damp
with blue-gray jackets
to protect us from the rain
that falls sideways across
as if it were wax
dripping off communion lights.
The admirals give us
so that we can return
from the long battle
to sit drunken through
an absent mass, singing
praise for those foreign daughters
we worship when
we fear the price of true faith,
or the weight of years
we have yet to live.
For half a night we drift
in and out on cracked pews
and wake when the morning sun
pierces Saint Sebastian’s mosaic
with happy arrows.
There is a sudden prism
invading the stained windows,
and the dark with all
its precarious pinions,
so that it is impossible to tell
whether this thing is moving
nearer, or getting farther away.
When all the dead dogs trot in
from their divine alleyways
to impregnate the room
with naive light, the hands
on your brow are not your own.
Worry flutters crookedly
at your bare feet
like a tiny mechanical bird.
How many more days
should we wake to
the piles of baby teeth
that collect on the floor
beside our sodden boots?
Why is she giving them
all back to us now?
Sebastian, with the stink
of old gin heavy
on his flaccid tongue,
reminds me that every hero
must grant the evil admittance
if they ever intend
to put it down for good.
Sebastian, with the water-
whistle of chapel breath
blowing through the
cavity in his breast—the closer
I get to you, the more
immeasurable the distances
I tug on your blood sleeve,
ask that we return
to that empathetic bed,
and let the sheets armor us
for the well-intentioned war
that we will start.
Toy soldier, I think it’s
high time we trade in
this pink kid-skin
for a costume
far more dastardly.
s o o
s o o o
s o o o o o
s o o o
s o o
y b o
Sunday mornings, she’d stand
in the lighted doorway and ask me
how I’d take my coffee.
I remember this, like
many things that haven’t happened;
the image is yellow, and curls
at the edges, like a burned
scrap of paper.
In the spring she was afraid
to drop in on me far enough
that I could see beyond the silhouette
that teetered on the wall like
an open flame, beside the hutch
with the porcelain elephants
and the photographs of fathers
that we never knew.
They were soldiers. Some of
their raiment was green, but the others
were brown and wet
with the liquor that spilled out
through their open flasks, as they slept
in concrete trenches, the soot
tattooed on their listless mugs—bastards.
All of them.
I saw the black ceramic shake
from her hand
on the wall like a stuffed canary
fresh from the coal mine,
when she asked me, Milk? Sugar?
and counted the length of each breath,
waiting for her to slink back
into the other room. Confused
because the kitchen was the shower
was the bathroom was the mausoleum
where I had lain in bed
and watched her washing herself
the morning before.
Intimacy, then, was the off-white down
and the curve of her sex shifting
under her panties, as she scrubbed
the rouge from her cheeks
until the skin chaffed off
in pale, wintered flakes.
The snow on the windowsill
that morning was ash, though
it was April, and I knew
that I had never really been
in love with her.
I kept thinking that all lies
are really just promises
that somewhere went wrong.
But since she painted
the window in the bedroom shut,
a thought has never been
more than a suggestion.
It’s too stuffy in here for that.
So I tortured myself instead
considering sunny days
in the suburbs, when the cages
where stucco but smelled
just like home, and we spent our summers
dodging traffic and vomiting
our government rations in
the busy street for a laugh.
Our faces had already crooked
from perpetually settling on
the next best thing. Everything was
gawdamn this and gawdamn that.
The whites of her eyes were never
quite as fluorescent as they were
back then, when she’d crawl in
through my busted window and
move over me in the dark.
The first couple of times, I tried
to put a light on, but
she always stayed my hand.
It was much easier not to see
the bruises, even when we knew
they were right there, splayed
over our baby fat
like poorly hatched Rorschachs
teaching us all the things
that we never wanted to know.
They taught me that
I had always really been
In love with her.
I got up to open the window
just enough to let the dark out.
It was night and then it was day,
and then it was some strange memory
in between, and I replied,
Just the sugar, baby, but
she had already gone.
We don’t own
what we have—
just an unnatural
in the singular
to a future
Our direction is not
ordained by any sort of
dogmatic credo, but
of the salacious movements
of our undressing.
I was raised on finite
I didn’t know a horizon
existed until I really
knew what it meant
to be touched—not
in the way a mother or
a father, or a teacher
might touch, but in
the way a little wind
might touch your cheek
as it skitters from the
a passing bird.
when every hand becomes
the hand of god,
when in the tip of
every finger is a
silent, shifting cosmos.
When it touches me
I explode, because
the cosmos is
in me, too, climbing
into a fluid continuum
that transmutes past
and pending futures
in constant evolution.
(I want to make
you see stars.)
It is 11:58 pm.
I tell myself to memorize the time,
the gentle writhing curve of your shoulders,
and the way the frost bites the windowpane
as you stand next to the kitchen counter
fumbling to drive a corkscrew
into a fresh bottle of Cabernet.
I smile only when you stop
to wipe the sweat of your palms
onto your pant legs
attempting to find purchase
with a would-be poison.
It is at this moment precisely
that you turn,
rubbing three fingers into the crook of your neck
and say to me, “I’m sorry.
I should’ve done this earlier.”
Fitting that you would close the year
with an apology stuffed
into the wordless cessation of my opened mouth
like a pillow you could lay your head upon
to forget the world for a while.
Well, I’m sorry, that’s just
not who I am anymore.
Trying to find a way to tell you
that it’s okay, it’s perfectly fine
makes my stomach feel sick.
The minute affectations of our scenery
conclude, like white noise
to fill me up—the soft pop of a cork releasing
at 1:01 am; the dry pitter of red wine
hitting the bottom of an old milk cup;
and the final chink of a glass, like keys
at a door unlocking the quiet surprise
in your meeting gaze
as you are taken completely off guard
by something I’ve been warning you of for months.
My guts are in a bad state
as of late, I wake up with fire roiling
in the deepest, squelching pit of me,
the heat coiling about my intestines like a snake.
I pass blood and sit on the bathroom floor
in a cold sweat, legs warbling rubber
waiting for the acid
to ebb away into tomorrow.
I should’ve stopped drinking
last spring, when the spasm kicked
and my skin started shedding;
but our eyes meet like these glasses
clinking from hand to hand,
and I don’t feel I’ve much of a choice.
My crushing awareness of each year passing
only serves to remind me
that I am too young for this shit.
Your eyes shutter twice, a hair
too slow, I think you know
there’s a language in the way
I turn towards the window just to stare
into the deep gray night, watching the icicles
shimmer upon the neighbor’s barn
with the passing of every vehicle.
It’s quieter here than it used to be.
The outline of the grandfather clock,
now yellowed into the wallpaper,
mocks the silent turn of every hour
with an absent minute hand.
I down three-fourths of my drink
in one poet’s swallow, and set the glass
on the dish rack with a dull clatter.
Each dragging motion,
each rise and rumination becomes
the nascent requiem of a child overgrown,
one too palely steeped in the disuse of solitude
to actually know what it means
to be lonely.
I should’ve told you the truth
I suppose, but it seemed more honest of me
just to keep on lying—
not about anything important, I told you,
only about the way I was feeling.
I draw my nostalgia into the window’s frost
in holy, star-shaped patterns
thinking on New Year’s past:
At 14 when I sat at the very top
of the cellar with all the lights turned off,
sober and celibate, but unwilling on both accounts,
sobbing into my sweater sleeve
as Dick Clark smiled brightly on the television
with an entire city cheering behind him,
lights glittering and lovers laughing,
only for a quiet girl in a stairwell
to wipe her weeping-snot on the cuff of a denim jacket
as her father slept peacefully alone upstairs;
or maybe at 17, when we got stoned in the garage
off your sister’s prescription
and fucked each other standing up
in a pile of dust and old winter clothes.
I wonder now what this thing is inside of me
that makes me so sick (every year
on December 31st
and the anniversary of my birth).
I make easy work of the last of my glass,
and without prompt, you begin pouring again.
“You need more”—
it is not a question.
I wish I knew how to tell you,
without proposition or preamble, that I am,
quite simply, very afraid
of very many things, the cardinal of which
I love you too much to let you go
or to even wonder on why I ought to.
“I’ll be better,” I say, without provocation
and your only reply is a hard swallow,
something cold and unpleasant
stuck in the back of your throat,
With a simple touch of my hand
to your wrist, my faithlessness
compartmentalizes into a thing less predictable,
a thing worth its salt in hoping.
It is 1:13 am, and I am telling you
it is going to be a good year
it is going to be good, just so long
as you put down that denial
and pour me another stiff one
right here, right now.
I wish I could draw you a picture
but I’m not a painter.
I wish I could draw you a landscape
of my garage
where the poems manifest themselves
under the old boombox
and the pale, effervescent light
near the screwdrivers.
I wish I could draw you a sketch
of my patio
where I talk to bugs and raccoons
about breaking news
while the ashtray fills up
dirt near the window.
I wish I could draw you a portrait
of my father
with his crooked mustache
praying I don’t end up like
choking down the air
while I pray along with him.
I wish I could draw you a picture
but I’m not a painter.
my parents requested that I see a shrink when i was twenty-four. it was the last chance they said. they’d said that before. but something in their eyes told me that this time really was the last chance.
so i agreed to see the shrink.
she was a middle aged woman with a nice set of tits but her face was nothing to look at. bending her over her desk was probably the only option.
interrupting my day dream, she asked me when the last time i used was.
“i don’t know.”
“you don’t remember?”
“not what i said.”
“what are you saying?”
i noticed the picture on her sky blue walls. it was a family picture. typical family. a husband who looked like a pencil pusher. belly sticking out and a gray mustache, no beard. probably beat her when they were younger but after he got laid off the first time and she finally got through school and started making the money he took his position as the taker. i could tell his ass was sore from the face he was making in that picture.
three kids. one boy, two girls.
“i’m saying i don’t know.”
“so you don’t remember?”
“lady, i don’t know.”
“was it yesterday?”
“yeah, i used yesterday.”
“was that that last time?”
“i don’t know.”
her oldest daughter looked like a goer. maybe if i bent this bitch over on the chair i’d be able to stare at the daughters face. no, that wouldn’t work. her dildo taking husband is sitting next to her. i wouldn’t be able to maintain my erection … i don’t think.
she was getting annoyed, but it wasn’t my fault that she was a fucking idiot.
how could i tell her that i didn’t know the last time i used when i hadn’t quit. the next time is the next time but it’s never been the last time. plus, i was amused. i saw her son giving a blow job to my dealer last night.