I would love (I think)
to know why I am here
stuck in the craw of the yachting elite
hundreds of miles from the gritty streets,
the fumbling managers,
the mumbling bastards of my home.

It seems unfair to be away from home,
and yet so obviously fair to travel.
To be in motion is to live and to slow time at once.
And to see the situation as such is to believe that only
benefits are fair,
and only obligations un-.
But how am I obliged?
I can travel. I am free to live and to slow time.
And were I to take that choice,
my time would be accelerated.
So my time now is slowed,
but how am I traveling?
Is it only through time?
Or is “only” too harsh?
I should not devalue my journey
through time, merely because my journey is involuntary,
and proceeds while I sleep.
A train, after all, does not stop for my fears.

Having traveled, I may also return.
These same rails may remember me
(albeit on a different train)
to those stations of my journey’s infancy,
though I must sacrifice my experience of those passengers
that have joined me to this point,
and abandon them to points forward.

If I were to point my bow backward and venture
to make a life out of stations passed,
how responsible am I to myself?
Not as I write, but as I read,
I may feel slighted by myself
for my retreat. I pay dividends
on each investment backward
that impoverishes my present path,
which truly lies before me only.
I steal from my own pockets and dull my sword,
I drain my flask and steal my rations,
Cleave my tongue to the roof of my mouth
and make myself dumb
when I fly backwards
to a port whose stamp I know.

And yet I find more and more
I have forgotten stores or supplies
at earlier stops. My mind ejected
concern for some sacred thing I require
at this station, as much as at my start.

The quandary, of course, being

Born in plastic
Light in hard times and soft
Light times and heavy
and sometimes just strung across
an empty space for no reason
Oh, you saw him. Stood in line
to endure your place into history.
Got lost wondering about what someone else’s deal was,
Ticket No. 402.
Last night I saw where your v-back might have began.
The dull, endangered remnants of the herds
that shot their blanks for a million damn years,
if it was one, into the dull unflinching ash of a fire
on a 45-minute wait–
Two drinks on the patio, darling;
wave to your friends when the table’s ready.
For most of the rush, totally uninterrupted,
polishing classes, adjusting forks,
until the first all-star walked in
and forgot how to order.
*sigh*
“Hey! Enough with the stage direction; how ya doin’?!”
Grabbing the hand a little too closely–
“Good to be here– is there any way
we can do anything about the heat.”
with a period instead of a question mark.
And in defiance of all odds, there was!
Manager turned it down — with the herd’s help —
and here we were, in defiance of all odds.
Meals went out, metaphors iced it off and applied a knee-brace.
From there to here the ash received
Impact winters, rocket summers,
and the pools of an electric bond.
Big gray piles of buffalo
Making glass of every premature Roman candle
Static and socks, static and socks, static and socks–
For years! Until finally–
Sweat!
And suddenly the fireworks were so much better.
You would go down to the gray, dusty buffalo shop–
lime-infused beer and ice; for some reason there were
never any ice trays in the mini-fridges —
and the man behind the counter would ask you if you were
goin’ down to the Square tonight,
and you just knew he capitalized it.
And no, you would say, no; you seen one you seen ’em all.
But no, no, he would say, this here’s new.
And so you’d wait on a wind to carry you down to the water
and hey, nothing you’d say in front of mixed company,
but yeah, a little different.
But then after too long, of course, it was everywhere and
you were nothing. You were the soup they swam in.
And fair play, for awhile.

Slowly. Like the moon rounding a corner
to light a cigarette against the wind.
Slow, and inevitable as a train on train tracks. Or as
evitable as a train in Wyoming–
Slowly, dumb and immobile,
naked and desperate useable,
the purest charity.
And then,
man.
I mean, man, it was so long before any of them
became Christmas lights. The waiting, O Lord,
the waiting.
But here we are. The moon has rounded the corner,
squared the circle, all on its own.
And dying in our beds, many years from then…
there is no after-hours bar.
There is too much sugar in my drink. There is a crew girl here.
There is music, jagged and incomprehensible
trumpet noise, upstroked guitar, loud and lifeless
energy, dicking around at the corners of my ears.
I’m surrounded by bamboo from the far corners of the Earth,
Christmas lights from before, when the fireworks
were different, and the pregnant memory of a herd of water
buffaloes charging towards me at the speed of
dust, eyes blazing.
And yet here the purest charity is the plastic shell
surrounding Christmas lights, and all the light inside
them. And why bother with the bamboo if it bothers you.
Here, in time and space, it’s inevitable as a train on
train tracks, or a crowd leaving. Yet even as you
collect yourself, it’s hard not to notice that it’s only
five to close, and two o’clock in Buffalo.

Untitled (for now)

July 20, 2011

A sweaty fevered boredom
Whispered prayers and mumbled songs
(Did I say that out loud? Is that okay?
No one cares.)
Through half-closed slats I see
the highway, almost,
and almost,
the water.
Warm summer Saturday night mischief
Novelty car horns and tricked-out bikes
Shouted taunts of fun and squeals of ecstasy
Silence here, almost
Just enough noise to bring out the silence:
A piece of sheet metal warps, bangs
Water thunders into nowhere
out of nowhere
Coughs and curses
The hum of some distant machinery
Muffled shouts through the vents or the windows–
Angry? Triumphant? Boasting? Defending?
Sweaty fever prayers
The need for a drug
The need to need the drug more than to have the drug
The need for sleep like the need for
a gun in a dark foxhole, surrounded
by unseen menace and whispered movement
Whispered prayer
The Lord’s and Hail Mary
“Our father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name…”

Fumbled words, out of order
Put the “evil” where the “temptation” belongs
Words that don’t matter
Memories
Unspecified, emotional
The nightly rituals of a child in darkness
The proclamations of a man in daylight
Repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat
Until the words are sleep
Sleeping, the words repeat themselves
Back to neon: “…pray for our
sinners, now and at the hour of our–“

–Sleep.
Neon again,
sweating like a wool blanket in July
Sweating like a 5-sided cube
atop a mound of seething flesh
Sweating like a light bulb that cannot dim

Out the window, through the slats
The highway roars on like sleepless America
Bright lights that cannot dim but only flash
intermittently
before they are– suddenly, it always seems —
empty and without purpose
Something to be put away or recycled
“…blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

Words,
lacking meaning or substance
that isn’t gray and dark and veined with electricity
from nowhere
Into nowhere
“…deliver us from evil…”
The same sounds
Repeated and repeated and repeated
Emphasizing the same silence
The same sweaty boredom
Like bad attitudes and boring poems,
the tone never changes
Demands to be dealt with
with active verbs and passive stares

“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on Earth, as it is in Heaven…”

In existence
someplace, always
the five-sided cube
All that is out must come in
To be digested, by force, if need be
Stare through the slats
at the life
at the night
at the life
at your walls
the walls behind you
Digest, in free will or forced
’til the fever takes hold of the words
in a sudden instant
“…now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

When The Bough Breaks

September 6, 2010

Tired beyond counting
Throat wracked with sores and
choked with phlegm
I’m looking out East
from the edge of America
and I still can’t lose this
restless beat
my heart has made
still can’t lose the feel of
last night’s heartburn
still can’t shake the feeling
that we are not men
and our time and the
time of others who support
and inherit ours is wasted
and the wealth of millions
stretched from here to San
Jose, where I may never go,
is wasted
and the salt that dries the air
and cuts the stones apart
and quenches the fires
and keeps the town alive
is the most effective player
I can see.

The wind that rustles these woods
carries my thoughts elsewhere.
I cannot remain or focus here
in my present state:
the mental tempest of post-breakfast coffee.
But I am calm, I am at peace.
Time to let the storm out of her cage of cloud and sea,
to let her rise and find the peak stride of her wail,
as her voice breaks upon the land.

She will first be heard in the sandal-ed bungalows
of San Juan, over the clink of glass
and quash the stench of Citronella
with the pungence of her sea-stink.
Next she will make the run-up to her legal berth,
the land she is owed to.
A fateful jet of Azatlan spares
the black waters of the Gulf,
out of mercy or boredom or nothing.
My voice gathers speed persistently
like a jogger’s legs gaining comfort
with motion and impact.

At the end of dusk she sees it.
A blistering target in the darkness,
all gaudy trees and stucco,
outfits screaming louder than my voice
beg for destruction at her hands:
Miami.
She drools over this prey,
and as the wind begins to whip tree-perched geckos
into the concrete pools on South Beach—
naked, trembling, jets grounded—
it appears the neon nightmare is over,
and the sugar-free wetlands to the north
will awake to comb their hair in primal quiet.
But, seconds from landfall,
she pulls back in abject revulsion
and rolls out into the Atlantic to brood and
pick off hunting-ships as she wonders why.
My voice roves towards Titanic and Bismarck’s Lusitania,
stealing stories from the dark waters as she goes.
She hears of Blackbeard and his face of candles,
the hubris of Jim and James,
of the Ver E. Best taken
by that damned hill
and that odd idiot from Maine—
she falls desperately into hate.
If she tacks hard, she can make it to Norfolk
by next dawn and take the treasured Outer Banks
with her southern spiral arm.
And here she comes,
thumping along like a floor drum.
Keep moving. Go for speed.
Raise the wind-speed and blast through Richmond,
sweep the tail across Atlanta and don’t stop
until you hit the Ohio border,
where the bolt-work is more selective
and requires precision.
Leave absolutely everyone alive and homeless.

She reaches the banks.
No beach house she touches survives.
Even the homes she grazes
panic and flood their basements,
cowering,
destroying priceless relics of a bygone era they never belonged to,
like a dough-boy soiling his uniform.
But as she prepares to march blue flame
across the flattened South,
my voice hears the call of a fantastic white flute,
the tremble of a broken drum.
Spin-move.
She shifts north with the rising tide,
booming across shocked bays and flooded canals.
This is the black heart of the matter.
Deep up the river into the continent,
where the ivory lies
piled into obelisks and great mounds of bone.
There are too many banks.
Too many wild evasions of course.
The port is too well-placed,
it forces her to think too much.
Thoughts of other voices,
of fields and rivers where a wind may flow easily
through the unscathed brush and flirt with peace.
And when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
She turns back— yet again confused
—to gain strength.

Right now she is milling around
the waters off northern Maine,
dunking otters and twiddling
with her favored osprey.
Get up off the mat, you little punk.
She contemplates circling down
past Rio de Janeiro,
keeping warm,
almost to the edge of Ghana,
then whipping back, south of the Jet Stream,
to slam full bore through the Black Gulf —
because why let guilt be a factor at this stage?
Pick up as much oil as you can and
coat their braying throats with it—
right up the Mississippi, losing steam,
clouds tearing off at the shoulders
as she destroys herself with the land,
muscle up as far as St. Louis,
swan-dive into the Great Lakes
for one last burst of low pressure and
stab the Mayor of Chicago in the heart
with a bolt of lightning and her final breath.
No, she thinks. Too personal.
Too many would feel excluded. And what of the West?

She begins idling down the coast,
officially pissed,
picking up water into mean-looking
gray-green clouds that just hang low and menace the beaches.
Occasionally she stirs up a waterspout
or snaps lightning at a passing ship,
but only to keep low, and black.
Low, and black.

Amble through the Boston piers.
Fuck with the traffic on 93
as the rubber-neckers gawk
at huge, towering evil blackness
that does nothing but drift past and ignore them.
Creep through the naval bases and party boats.
Cancel plans.
Death march into the crotch at Long Island.
Ignore everything. Put your head down and appear to sulk,
plant one foot at Wall Street and the other on Mermaid Avenue,
open your many scabbed mouths with a clap of energy.
Feel out for the bricks, the rust, the dirty gum,
the boredom, the angst, the irrepressible dissatisfaction,
become a mute wrath
Reach out for the dry earth, the hot skin and dying gardens,
dying for you,
open up and rain, rain, rain, and just… stay.
Flood everything old
Drown it all and start again
Never lose your strength, just let it out
and when the bough finally breaks
fall apart, find a northbound train,
get a meal at the meeting of the rivers
and hop the next barge west,
packing nothing.

In The Attic At Dawn

August 27, 2010

This is where we live:
Rubbing exposed gaunt ribs on the floor
giving ourselves to cigarettes and drink
watching the tide roll away from us.

There is evil in the world and we can feel it,
I think, as I flick away a spider and
seethe in my worsted wool.
But what I know of evil is mostly
itchy wool and spiders.
And what I’ve seen of evil is mostly
negligence and weak stomachs.
Spinalectomies. Unbalanced idiots
in need of a mother or a father
or a shower, not a babysitter.

Elsewhere there are flames, death,
the dusty dead. Here there are
unlit candles, repressed memories,
boxes of nothing that nobody wants–
but whose loss rips holes in
young mouths.

And what a bare floor we are on.
So many lines, cracks and boards,
aging scuffed wood.
All this disappears in my thought
and rearranges in my hope.
Such functional garbage, such
virile decay.
It creaks and moans at my thought,
it fidgets and whispers in my hope.

What beautiful sounds!
Gasoline explodes. Ridges
in a rubber tube stick
to the ridges in the road
and the night purrs with slick confusion
and the morning gasps its first breath.

And nothing works and we are treated
to such beautiful sounds.
The city awakes as I end my day.
What a lullaby! The wheeze of old activity
returning to its grooves, like rain
in dry river-beds. Such cozy beds.
They rumble and shake the foundations
but fit like tongues and never seem to age or change.
How long has it been since I have heard these groans,
these shrill rhythmic cries at the dying of night?

Each day begins with a funeral–
a wake, really.
A celebration of our lost life
and the dispersal of what’s left:
our waste that is us. Our husks.
The body-shell returning whence it came.
Who would trade this for silence, for crickets?
I wallow in it like a dumb pig this morning.

And quite suddenly sleep comes on
like an unheeded chaperone.
But I want to stay, my child mumbles.
I can make it, she offers,
voice falling.
I have found a battle in this.
It is personal and exists in so few places
that few can find it to win.
But we fight,
more from confusion than valor.
What’s next, the battle hymn.
What now, the march.
Yes but no, the waltz.
And ah, but ah, yes–
sleep has found me.

Untitled

August 26, 2010

I dreamed I saw my
brother talking to himself
I dreamed I saw Chicago
from a twisting bridge above the sea
I dreamed your amber purple badlands
and a dusty gravel lot
filled with semi-trucks
circled like wagons against a wall of fire
too close to the mountains of up-kicked dust–
were the last things I saw
before I just gave up.

I dreamed of a buck-toothed minstrel
who controlled the world’s machines
I dreamed I saw the congressman spike his own Ovaltine
and the drummer boy science-ing his keys
and the loud man standing next to me
on Elmwood where the second rounds are free
but you pay for things with hope and dignity
and I saw you there, too,
yelling at me for rhyming words.

Please buy this light of mine
and wear it all the time
and share it with your generations
so that I might meet them
Please take these flowers I stole
and pin them to your clothes
and share them with brave people
I’ll never see
‘Cause in the end this job is
all about me

I dreamed of proud men on aging bikes
who became something else as they rode
I dreamed of shepherd-warriors
defined by what they stole
I dreamed dark impressions
made by bluish glares and yells
I dreamed efficiency was called
the straightest path to hell
I dreamed a lot
that will never come to pass
I slept a lot
and I forgot
to say many things I meant

The View From The Porch

August 26, 2010

It’s too cold here.
It’s too gray and cold.
Look at that motherfucker
spit on my front lawn.
Hey fuck you, man.
No one respects anything on
this block– not the laws,
not the homes,
not their friends,
and certainly not themselves.
Fuck these bro’s.
You are parked illegally!
Get back in that goddamn
car and move it into a
legal space, you jackass!
You boy, Eli, you BOY!
Last night I took the dog
out and let him shit on
the front steps. I didn’t
even pick it up. What
the hell is the matter with
me? What kind of life is
this? Why is it so fucking COLD?
Somebody fucked up somewhere
and now I have to LIVE
with this goddamn climate.
STOP WIND-ING!
STOP ALL THE WIND-ING
IMMEDIATELY!
God damn it I gotta go
to the store. Fucking wind.
GET A JOB! Go put
out candles in a Mexican
church and make everyone get
scared. Something! Get outta here!
Every day with this fucking
wind. The FOG moves in
this town.
Oh God, now it’s you.
Thank you, person-with-a-nice-car,
for reminding me how poor
I am. Every damn day with
this. I GET IT! Leave me
alone.
God, it’s cold.
Was that a snowflake?
God, damn it. It’s snowing.
It’s fucking snowing again.
It’s goddamn April and here
we are with the snowing again.
God, this town sucks. I have
18,000 things to do right now
that I could get done easily
like a regular person if I could
just get on a goddamn train
and go downtown and do them
and be done with it, but as
it is I’m going to spend all
day walking to get to one of
them, maybe, and now I got
snow on my hands.
I’m moving. Seriously. This is it.
This is my last winter in
this goddamn town. Does it
snow in Brooklyn? Who cares;
at least there’s vegan tacos.
Why can’t I get a good taco?
Now I want a taco.
Damn it.