A Biography

A burst of light, and the world’s gone dead.

Only a dial tone and an exhale

as your lungs pack their bags and hit the road.

Your heart has had enough of the same old drumbeat.

Your brain throws down the microphone

and pushes you off the soapbox.

A body finally turns against its inhabitant

and coughs you out like phlegm

and you land on a railing somewhere

to infect the next person

who clutches at you for support.

The Empty House

“There’s no point now. No point.”
The lamp turns to face the clock, stunned as always by its declarations, but the window watches on from its home between the walls and the world without commenting. The clock goes on ticking.
“No, really,” it whines. “Really, it’s all over now. It’s already over. No point. No point.”
“Shut up!” The plants groan, their stalks bending, irritated by the reminder of their inevitable mortality, which would reveal itself much sooner than the others’. The clock falls quiet, but the words no point stay as the walls toss them around and take them in.
“Will they come back?” The window asks without turning around, its clear, lidless eyes peering out into the night. It never moves from its station, serving always as the boundary line between the In Here and the Out There. “They’ve turned Lamp out. We need Lamp. We always need Lamp. Are they coming back?”
“The family will come back,” the decorative rug sighs. “Back to walk over me.”
The ground’s muffled voice comes slipping out from underneath it to join in the conversation. “You know nothing of being walked over. That’s all I’m here for. At least you’re pretty.”
“Quiet,” the blank TV growls, stripped of its power and meaning. “Everybody quiet.”
“It hurts,” the lamp complained, straining against the darkness. “Oh, it hurts. Candles, help. Help me.”
“We can’t,” the three candles chime from the kitchen. “Fire’s dead.”
“Dead!”
“Nearly always dead. We’re just corpses.”
The paintings shudder, repulsed by the idea of sharing a house with the departed. The lamp suggests holding a funeral.
“We never give Garbage a funeral. It dies every week.”
“That’s because Garbage is garbage.”
“You’re quick to deal out judgment; you don’t even exist.”
“Light exists!” Lamp shrieks. “It’s been scientifically proven!”
“Everyone, listen!” The books cry out. “Something important, something important to say!” Their voices get lost in the chaos. Nobody ever listens to Books except when the family is in bed and there is nothing at all to talk about except Darkness.
No point. Shut up! Listen! Quiet! No, really! It HURTS, it HURTS. No point. Not now. Not ever!
“THEY’RE COMING.”
Silence.
All eyes – real, drawn-on, and imagined – turn to face the window. It repeats in its slow, measured tone: “They are coming.”
The plants shudder and straighten their stalks, giving their leaves a final shake before freezing again into reality. The portraits reassume the dead, far-off looks in their eyes and the chirps of the books fade again into distant whispers. Rug stretches itself out, sighs.
The lock clicks, and Door steps aside to reveal Family.
Everyone slips out of their coats and shoes and stumbles in from the cold, rubbing their arms and mumbling in primitive sounds no one quite understands. The ground lets out an oomph as it’s tread over once, twice, three times and then over again, with each footfall of each human.
Lamp’s flicked on. It breathes a sigh of relief as light goes shooting off into each corner of the room. Remote’s clicked and TV comes roaring to life. “Shop smart,” reminds the woman in the screen.
The father, the mother, and the child all sit together on the couch and stare at TV for an hour. It enjoys the family’s patient and dedicated attention (and never forgets to rub this in Mirror’s face).
The clock announces pointlessness until the family gets up and goes to bed.
After everyone’s upstairs, Books make a profound statement that is then instantly forgotten.
Instead, the objects listen to Silence talk, always impressed by what it has to say.

The Life We Got

I’m sorry this isn’t the one

we end up together in.

I felt that reality slip through my fingers

like kite string -

the wind might have caught it

had we run just a little bit faster.

Now the sky’s left without us

and we’re racing in separate directions

to catch it.

Origami

Folding. Smoothing out the edges.

Ideas aren’t so easily collapsible.

People don’t have perfect symmetry.

The world doesn’t cave in

when you tug at the right corner.

Someone teach me to be content

with a pigeon at the park.

Someone take this tissue paper away

before I make one more

paper bird.

I Saw Myself in an Ant

The ant scurried across my path,

hoisting objects onto its back that

weren’t bits of food, but small

sticks and chunks of rock.

I wanted to tell it

it couldn’t feed its family

with good intentions,

but instead

I watched in silence

as it carried those

worthless things

home.

Going Nowhere

You tell me you weren’t alive three days ago,

that you’ve learned to become unborn.

I want to ask you

how you did it – how you

made yourself clean again,

how you erased the ink smudge

from your right hand,

how I never could.

The literal meaning of Utopia is Nowhere.

You told me if I wanted to get there

I’d have to shed my stories.

I once tried to follow you,

but your lantern didn’t give off enough light

for the both of us

and I never washed that ink smudge from my hand,

never even tried.

A Candle Called Tree-Death

My mom says it smells like tree-death outside today.

An oak falls in the neighbor’s backyard,

I open my bedroom window and breathe in its suicide.

If trees had eyes they would be soft brown

like chocolate left sitting by a fire.

I think sometimes trees see too much.

~

Plastic. My hands are plastic

and my house reeks of lavender incense.

We burn what smells nice burning.

The oak outside my window has started

melting into the ground, its chocolate eyes

looking out at me as if from my old dog’s skull

and I’m reminded of an animal

that doesn’t know death exists.

I hope my death smells like pine needles.

~

 Nature is found in candles these days.

I bought one called “Autumn Glow”

and only light it in the summer.

I hope you understand where

I’m coming from when I say

that oak hasn’t left me,

but I’ve never found a candle

called Tree-Death

and wouldn’t burn it

even if I did.

Vibrations

I pick up a phone and the voice on the other side says

Stop needing your life to matter so much,

that these pieces of paper I crumple up and

toss at cave walls send no vibrations,

that the other side of the conversation

was only ever a mirror talking to itself.

Someone was shouting at me

from the end of this cavern

but all that’s left now is the echo of

my own yells seeping through the chasm

to promise me I’m not alone.

I sit with my back to the noise,

waiting for my pupils to dilate so

I can learn to live with this darkness.

Becoming Hands

I play violin outside because I like to feel grass under my feet

like the music I’m making will fall to the ground and plant itself there

the way nature falls silent to hear what Vivaldi thinks of it.

My arm unfolds in the air and it’s like my bow is an extension

of my body – a bone jutting from an open wound and

I become my hands.

I climb up onto a ladder in the bookstore and

my neck extends like a thumb and I think maybe my face

is an unreadable palm because I don’t have lines yet and

I’m terrified a fortuneteller in a smoke-filled tent will tell me

I’ve known nothing.

I write in my room because I like to feel the walls around me

like the stories I’m telling will drop to the carpet and stain it

the color of the day he left without saying goodbye

and I will paint those walls the red of unforgiveness.

I want to shed my limbs and be the kind of hand

that holds a flower and doesn’t crush it to a pulp.

I play violin outside because I think music notes could be fertilizer

and one day when I’m in a coffin in the ground I want my hands

to be the last part of me to decompose.

Thoughts from a Public School Student

They hand us a scan-tron and a

number two pencil and then wonder

why we can’t write stories.

They hold standardized tests over us

like swords above necks

then ask why we’re terrified

to open our mouths.

Think outside the box, they say,

but no writing outside of it -

the machines won’t register you.

This is the age of Sparknotes.

This is the age of Sharpee

on the bottom of your shoes

because your worst nightmare

is a wrong answer.

We are the middle of the rope

in a game of tug of war

between learning and testing,

between your thoughts and

the thoughts they’re looking for,

and we are unraveling – fraying – and it

won’t be long before we snap

and hang ourselves with

what’s left over -

but not before they approach

our jumping stool and hand us

an F in living.

You Fell in Love with The Girl in your English Class

You fell in love with the girl in your English class

and the way she read Shakespeare

and wore floral dresses even

when it wasn’t warm outside.

You were young and intellectual

so you fucked to classical music

in the backseat of a broken down car -

you touched her like a cello

and she moved like strings under your hands

and you finally understood Brahms

and all that music in his head.

You read poetry to each other

in the heat and after-sweat,

your arm draped over her thigh,

using words to touch her

in places your hands couldn’t

and as you both stumbled drunk

and groping out in the dark,

she turned to you and

said with her eyes what

Dickinson said in her letters:

that she was out with lanterns

looking for herself, and you said

that was fine, you could look together.

You fell in love with the girl in your English class

and the way her eyes told every story

and you could read novels just by

looking at her, how you could drink in

classics with your tongue on hers

how you could reach through her to

Austen and Bukowski and Wilde

and have conversations

with them through her skin.

You fell in love with the girl in your English class

and how she cried over finished stories

and how you resurrected them

by reading from the beginning

and together felt like God

and how you once made love to her

against her desk

as books rained down on your heads

attacked by an avalanche of fiction

and she screamed and

didn’t stop screaming

you fell in love with verse

and eating food raw,

leaving nothing but

bones on the plate

you fell in love with haiku

and seven-syllable lines lurking

behind eyelashes to fall at your touch

you fell in love with the girl in your English class

and you never stopped falling in love with her

and she scribbled your life down

like a sonnet onto a napkin

stained with her last meal

and you never grew tired hearing yourself told

through her 2 AM diner words.

Sweets

The moon from the fog like a breath

like a whisper from a passing fairy

a grain of sugar held in suspension

and all the tongues of the earth

raising to the sky to be

the first to lick it away.

if you could hold the universe

like a speck of salt between

your finger and your thumb

if you could taste stardust

like cinnamon on October apples

if you could climb up the ladder

of darkness and see it all beneath you

the size of a gumdrop

would you call it sweet

or would you tell me

your teeth are too rotten

for candy?

Falling of Bombs

I have had enough

of bombing children

humanity, have you finally run

your course?

I am behind every trigger

of every gun, killing myself

over and over

murderer and victim

I play every part

I am the mother at the border

and the guard turning me away

I am the woman in the dark alley

and the one raping me

I am the little girl shot down in school

and I am the gun advocate

I am everyone sometimes

encasing mankind, unable to snip away

the parts that don’t make sense

I die then go on living

and somewhere a child is told

that war is the only option

and that child will march

in an army on his father’s orders

and I can’t yell my love

across broken down countries

and fresh graveyards

I can’t braid a flower into the hair

of every dead body and

I can’t wipe the blood off

every baby’s lips

and I can’t block out the screaming of those

with deeper voices than mine

and I don’t know where to turn

when the world has turned its back

on the voiceless

I can’t read a poem

to those who have never heard one

while in the next room

a world leader is declaring that

some words are more valid than other words

and I can’t tell you life is worth it

while others are told they’re not worth life

I can’t sing to the beating of war drums

I can’t take you in my arms

and dance to the falling of bombs.