The Day the Sun Fails Us

What if I tell you I’ve seen the future and that
the sun forgets to come up tomorrow?
Who will call her from her grave in the sky?

Will it be you?
Will you stand on the mountains of the world
and call us all to mourning?
Or will you cry you are ready for morning?

We reach with greedy fingers
to clutch the universe like a blanket, to pull it back
and expose the soft stuff underneath.

The sun will run to the other side of the galaxy,
cowering in a corner, hugging her knees.
She will cry perfectionist tears of having disappointed everyone
this one day, one day of all days.
You’ll have to heave her onto your shoulders
and carry her back to us,
burning all the way.

Atlas, when he comes around,
will turn from you in disgust.

How entitled we are, to expect so much.
How rabid our need to be guaranteed
this sunrise, this turn of the axis,
this glass of ice water and
this peeled orange and
this hand over yours,

this fleck of dust suspended
in a single beam of light.

Anti-Vacation

I ran, but reality hunted me
all the way to a remote beach in North Carolina
where, in the widest water of the world,
a mother lost her child.

No, I was not safe even there
where I sank down into the sand,
a body yearning for early burial,
my hands swirling in the tide pool like
slow fish.

Peace and quiet.
These were the two words I held in my mind like a prayer,
a plea against gunfire and terrorists, trucks and Trump,
racial tension and the raping of women.
For a week, I wanted to be spared
the horrors of humans.

But the mother howled and howled like an animal,
fell to her knees in the surf and let loose
the ghosts in her throat.

There are no safe spaces left to us.
No movie theater, nightclub, city street,
no concert or lazy beach.

There is no vacation from our histories
and bodies and endless thoughtless
tragedies. They follow us everywhere,
like the eyes of a cat in the dark.

It became a story in my head then.
Where was the beginning, middle, end?
The narrative arc? The climax and resolution?
This woman could not stand on the shores of my mind
screaming forever.

I needed closure.
I needed the story.

So I turned back – because I had to know –
did she find her daughter?
Was this an ending I could live with?

How horribly selfish of me,
how innately artistic of me
to make this all about myself

but even the sun beat down like the eye of God,
because He too needed confirmation:
was this His fault?

There is no vacation from the horrors
that creep in every corner
like rats and fleas with black death
in their teeth.

The story goes like this:
she found her daughter.

But long after they were gone
I stood looking out into the dark water,
trying to make sense of its coming and going

and to find some word of comfort in the cries
of a single seagull circling
overhead.

What to Write Poems About

At fourteen I wrote them about glass and coffee
and self-identity. Like a bird I screeched my sentience
from telephone wires.

At fifteen I wrote poems about writing poems,
an embarrassing amount, really.
Like any honest teenage writer
I was more enthralled with the idea of art
than art itself.

“I’m a poet,” I announced to a world half-listening,
and roasted those words until they were overdone
and rough as leather. I admit, in those early days
I did not know how to be tender.

At sixteen I turned with a hardened heart
to the way of Plath, depression, darkness
and macabre feminine ballads.
That was no place to stay

so at seventeen, having passed through the
three levels of novice writer hell,
I dug in my nails and crucified myself
on paper.

And now at the ripe age of nearly-nineteen
I write them about spiders and alcoholics,
violins and violence, ocean waves and
wavering conviction

not to mention
feminism and France and sunflowers
and goodness and God
and you.

This is How to Live with Yourself

How do you live with yourself?
I don’t mean it like that.
What I mean is, how do you live with yourself
when your self gets up in the middle of the night,
leaving you alone with the ceiling
and all its chipping paint?

How do you live with your self
when she roams with a will of her own
and comes back to you from god-knows-where
smelling like beer and someone else’s body?

Each time she returns
she’s wearing a new face
and you have to peel your old one back
from the toothpaste-encrusted
mirror.

Do you charge your self rent?
Do you let her crash on your couch
for free?

You call her a beatnik and try living without her,
locking the doors and vacuuming the carpet
and pulling her hair from the sink.
You throw faces at the mirror
but none of them stick.

And after a while you grow lonely
and leave the kitchen window open
for her to climb through.

Like a stray cat, your self comes
and goes as she pleases. Forever leaving you
she finds her ways – miraculously, defiantly –
to return to you.

So you feed your self.
You hold her and warm her.
Otherwise her face looms in every window,
cheeks sunken in her skull
like some ravenous shadow.

And sometimes when you feel her emptiness
you panic
and turn on all the lights in the house

only to find her in the kitchen
pouring herself a glass of water.

I’m tired tonight, she explains,
after you ask why she isn’t off
on some new adventure.

Learn her name, then.
Call her what she is:

your gypsy,
your everything,
your midnight wanderess who digs around in dumpsters
and brings you back a personality.

And when she finds you in the bathroom
throwing faces, hurling them like baseballs,
she pins your arms to your sides
and tells you enough is enough.

This is how to live with your self.
Look at her, where it matters,

in those kaleidoscope eyes
which you have only now realized
seem too colorful and sad to be your own.

Laundry

You have ruined me, he says to you,
after he tosses your sweater onto the bed,
unfolded. You can see its wrinkles
from where you stand across the room.
I will never love anyone like
I loved you.

And you do not move to kiss him
or etch your nails into his face
or give him what he deserves.

Instead, you go down to the basement
and do laundry, watch your sweater spin around and around
the way these things do.

Then you carry it back in a wicker basket
to tuck into the dresser where
it best fits

and move throughout the rest of your day
lighter somehow. People notice the vague smell of detergent
on your fingers as you pass, as you tidy
and fix what you can

all while wondering if, in your whole long life,
you have cleaned more than
you have dirtied.

Today’s Date

Sometimes life is good to me,
showing up on my porch in a tuxedo
with a bouquet of fresh flowers and a sheepish grin
as if to say I’m sorry about the time I pushed you
and skinned your knees and how I broke
all my promises and forgot
to call you yesterday –
but I love you, we’re really beautiful together.
Forgive me?

And I can – this time,
every time,
I forgive life for its abuse and neglect

and when it throws stones at my window,
calling my name in some shitty
romantic gesture

I still put on my best dress
and let it take me
to the dance.

Jouissance

Seek to be full of the moment,
to be full in the moment,
to take the moment and pocket it
like a thief getting away with something.

You are enjoying this too much,
the birds seem to say.
Their songs are not for you
but listen anyway.

Woolf called this a
“moment of being”

so seek, now, to be more
than you have ever
been

and to ignore the chime
of the hours when they
come for you –

tell them no, thank you,
you are listening to the
birds today

like a child with her ear
against her parents’ door,
straining to hear something
secret and terribly
important.

Cinquain Chain: Link #36

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains at a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should not be thought, or so
we think

We think
we know what our
eyes are doing when our
ears are listening to the soft
tick, tick

tick, tick
of the bones as
they settle and soften
in their assigned places in the
mirror

mirror
yourself in the
same place Sylvia saw
terrible fish – grasp what you can
before

before
it leaves your hands
the way all wild things must.
Let it go before it gasps and
goes limp

goes limp,
slips through your last
frightened fingers into
the gas, into the last space left
to them

to them
that see the world
for what it is. They see
into the dark corners that we
do not

Do not
go wandering
or wondering where they
make their homes – those are unholy
waters

waters
where reflections
are more real than the
faces that cast them and move with
free will

free will
not be easy
and easy will never be
simple and the hardest things are
never

never
land is a far
away place where nothing
ever happens, no one dies and
we’re bored

we’re bored
of the same old
hero with his thousand
faces and nothing new to say
to us

to us
who take off our
rings, put on our mother’s
fur coat, pour ourselves a vodka
and sleep

the sleep
of the damned and
we’re all damned, aren’t we?
We’re all going to sleep. Some choose
not to.

Knot 2:
some don’t have a
choice. Some don’t have a chance.
None can choose to choose or not to.
We lie.

We lie
on beds of our
own making, knitting and
knotting the threads with arthritis
fingers

fingers
that yesterday
moved with conviction now
tremble to pull this thin string taut,
shaking

shaking
the earth beneath
us, angering the gods.
The Fates cannot trust us with their
scissors

scissors
we will abuse
like children who cut their
own hair and run forth with death in
their hands.

Cinquain Chain: Links #33, #34, and #35

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains at a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should not be thought, or so
we think

We think
we know what our
eyes are doing when our
ears are listening to the soft
tick, tick

tick, tick
of the bones as
they settle and soften
in their assigned places in the
mirror

mirror
yourself in the
same place Sylvia saw
terrible fish – grasp what you can
before

before
it leaves your hands
the way all wild things must.
Let it go before it gasps and
goes limp

goes limp,
slips through your last
frightened fingers into
the gas, into the last space left
to them

to them
that see the world
for what it is. They see
into the dark corners that we
do not

Do not
go wandering
or wondering where they
make their homes – those are unholy
waters

waters
where reflections
are more real than the
faces that cast them and move with
free will

free will
not be easy
and easy will never be
simple and the hardest things are
never

never
land is a far
away place where nothing
ever happens, no one dies and
we’re bored

we’re bored
of the same old
hero with his thousand
faces and nothing new to say
to us

to us
who take off our
rings, put on our mother’s
fur coat, pour ourselves a vodka
and sleep

the sleep
of the damned and
we’re all damned, aren’t we?
We’re all going to sleep. Some choose
not to.

Knot 2:
some don’t have a
choice. Some don’t have a chance.
None can choose to choose or not to.
We lie.

We lie
on beds of our
own making, knitting and
knotting the threads with arthritis
fingers

fingers
that yesterday
moved with conviction now
tremble to pull this thin string taut,
shaking

shaking
the earth beneath
us, angering the gods.
The Fates cannot trust us with their
scissors

Cinquain Chain: Link #29

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains at a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should not be thought, or so
we think

We think
we know what our
eyes are doing when our
ears are listening to the soft
tick, tick

tick, tick
of the bones as
they settle and soften
in their assigned places in the
mirror

mirror
yourself in the
same place Sylvia saw
terrible fish – grasp what you can
before

before
it leaves your hands
the way all wild things must.
Let it go before it gasps and
goes limp

goes limp,
slips through your last
frightened fingers into
the gas, into the last space left
to them

to them
that see the world
for what it is. They see
into the dark corners that we
do not.

Do not
go wandering
or wondering where they
make their homes – those are unholy
waters

waters
where reflections
are more real than the
faces that cast them and move with
free will

free will
not be easy
and easy will never be
simple and the hardest things are
never

never
land is a far
away place where nothing
ever happens, no one dies and
we’re bored

we’re bored
of the same old
hero with his thousand
faces and nothing new to say
to us

Cinquain Chain: Links #25 & #26

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains by a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should never be thought, or so
we think

We think
we know what our
eyes are doing when our
ears are listening to the soft
tick, tick

tick, tick
of the bones as
they settle and soften
in their assigned places in the
mirror

mirror
yourself in the
same place Sylvia saw
terrible fish – grasp what you can
before

before
it leaves your hands
the way all wild things must —
let it go before it gasps and
goes limp

goes limp,
slips through your last
frightened fingers into
the gas, into the last space left
to them

to them
that see the world
for what it is. They see
into the dark corners that we
do not

Do not
go wandering
or wondering where they
make their homes – those are unholy
waters

waters
where reflections
are more real than the
faces that cast them and move with
free will

Cinquain Chain: Links #22 & #23

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains by a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should never be thought, or so
we think

We think
we know what our
eyes are doing when our
ears are listening to the soft
tick, tick

tick, tick
of the bones as
they settle and soften
in their assigned places in the
mirror

mirror
yourself in the
same place Sylvia saw
terrible fish – grasp what you can
before

before
it leaves your hands
the way all wild things must —
let it go before it gasps and
goes limp

Cinquain Chain: Links #18 & #19

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny Crabcakes and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses.

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains at a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

and Po,
the old poet,
knew that life in the world
is just a big dream and not worth
spoiling,

spoiling
with nought but wine
since we ever know that
nothing will never be the same
again

again
I see my own
eyes peering out at me
from someone else’s face – I must
free them

free them
before they rot
the soft skull that holds them.
Some thoughts should not be thought, or so
we think

Cinquain Chain: Links #14 & #15

All aboard the cinquain train! Johnny and I are chugging along… 

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains by a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man.

one man
walks alone, as
kind as his dreams will
let him be, real eyes seeing more
and more

and more
than won men can
handle, more than bartered
men can bet on, until they close
their eyes.

Their eyes
flicker like light—
bulbs in dusty attics,
following him into the dark
places

places
no man should go
until he has learned the
way of the rat and the raven
and Poe

Cinquain Chain: Links #10 & #11

The continuation of a poetry exchange between Johnny Crabcakes and myself. We are forming a chain of cinquains in an effort to unchain our muses. 

Around
what dead thing are
the vultures circling?
There is always a corpse somewhere
nearby.

Nearby,
there are blossoms
breathing in the dark night.
Why is the air so empty in
our dreams?

Our dreams
where we descend
with stones in our pockets
like Virginia into the dark
water —

water
which bears the weight
and weeps to consume us
and delivers our bodies back
to land.

To land
in a place such
as this, to fall like bombs
into an abyss. Sky becomes
water.

Water
waits for what falls.
The bones of thoughts lie half-
remembered, settling, eaten
by time

by time
which wavers like
curtains by a window
devoured by moths, mice, and men
until –

until
time stands with a
backbone of its own and
says with breath from a distant wind:
enough.

Enough
of this wasteland
pantomime, this taste that
still waits on the edge of our tongue’s
desert,

desert
of the mind’s end,
end of the places where
we can offer our selves any
comfort.

Comfort
yourself knowing
there are seas beyond these
sand dunes, once you blink and open
your eyes

your “I”s
left behind like
so many broken shells
once you realize mankind is
one man.