Park Bench

Where’ve you gone?

The sun’s arc

Has traced my decline

Splintered thoughts

Paint worn reveals grain

Rusting wrought iron

The tears you shed

Long evaporated

Are now replaced

With frost’s steely touch

The part of me

That still holds chin high

Is patinated with jogger sweat

But the words stand testament

People still wondering to this day

What cornerstone of a community

What deeds did you do

To be immortalized on this bench

Looking out over this lake

But you were no luminary

You didn’t found any company

You were so much more than that

You were my father

You were my friend

And someday I’ll pass on

But it’ll still be you they think of

In moments of well needed rest

Grass brushing at ankles

Dragonflies darting to and fro

In loving memory

What can I say about Love?

What can I say about love

That hasn’t already been written

On the walls of gas station bathrooms?

Dispense with the regalities

Drop the pomp and window dressing

Love is nothing more than transactional

We trade time for promises of happiness

We give up pieces of ourselves

Hoping reciprocity makes us whole

All of this we do at great peril

There are no fucking guarantees

We diminish with every dance

We are decaying isotopes

You can calculate my age within seconds

Simply by measuring the holes in my heart

Love is just a painkiller

Heart holes grow larger

Euphoric you press ever onward

You’d think the dance would be aerobic

But there you’re farthest from the truth

Asphyxiating cells scream and die

Your lungs burn as if on fire

You claw at your throat

Hoping to taste youth’s freedoms

How far back do we need to go

To be before death stood at horizon?

When the time we could give was endless

It’s here where marrow no longer hums

Your body a tuning fork looking

For harmonic resonance in others

I know for certain that we die alone

This tragedy pervades everything we do

We hold hands just so there’s a letting go

But at least we don’t walk alone

The cadence of time marching

In lockstep with our decay

I know the gift of time is unrivaled

Except for the moments you are given

It’s not continuous but a string of tableaus

Those times you said you could die

Die in their arms, and you’d be happy

Or, when wishing a moment was infinite

These moments are the last to flicker out

The brain performing a fireworks finale

Fingers intertwined blazing in inky skies

Then denouement

And that is something

Perhaps everything

Charmed, I’m sure

Do you ever remember bits and pieces of books, movies or poems?

Not enough to string together an effective google search

But enough to feel the faint outlines of an emotion

Maybe it was a book you had to read in 5th grade

Something you skimmed just enough to barely pass a quiz

But had changed you in some unknown, imperceptible way

A pall you carried from a long forgotten poem

Which still shades the world a color, a tint 

One you’ve so long gotten used to, that you don’t even see it anymore

Having lived so long in a home that was licked by fire, that you no longer smell the ash

A pall you refuse to part with, because you find comfort hiding beneath it

You hold onto these pieces, like charms that once hung from a now broken bracelet 

Charms that symbolize something, a connection no longer made

A handwritten letter that references or alludes to things you know nothing of

A letter meant for the person who lived there before you, with no return address 

If you knew the sender of the letters, the purchaser of the charms

Maybe you could divine meaning from them

Like dream interpretation, but foolishly forgetting that you are all the participants in your dream

You are that book, that film, that poem…those letters. Those charms. One day I’ll have you figured out. 

She thinks

She thinks she’s the emotional one

Crying during sad movies

I adore her in those moments

Seeing beneath the bark for an instant

When the movie’s over she’s ironwood

She thinks I’m stoic—evergreen

She sees my smile at the death scene

I’m not making fun in those moments

I’m envious

I’m touched and I’m envious

I see her tender humanity then

But I’m jealous of those moments

As they are seldom

For me there is a tissue thin veneer

I am always on the verge

Always wounded and mourning

She is a mighty oak

Dripping seasonal rains

I am a weeping willow

Whose roots run six feet deep

Having weathered countless storms

Many branches haven’t budded in years

They are stiff and creak in the wind

I’ve a hollowed trove of nuts

For a squirrel that’s never returned

Rotten leaves serve as mulch

Feeding on my own decay

Giving me the energy to wax poetically

The parts of me that are green

They are green because of her

I try to shade her in a mad world

But I lean into her and she doesn’t know

I’m always afraid of the next big storm

That it will take me down

Uproot me

She’s a mighty oak

But, she thinks I’m the strong one

Overlay

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Would you believe me

If I told you

The song playing in the other room

Just faint enough to be imperceptible

Will color your entire day

That it’s set your head askew

It’s an overlay

The weather in the novel you’re reading

Is an outward projection

Of the main character’s inner turmoil

The howling wind

The driving rain

The rainbow that sometimes follows

Your subconscious will hum that song

As your own weather system moves in

An unwitting participant

An actor following stage directions

Every night the play is slightly different

Every day a different song plays

In the other room

Just out of earshot

Each day, unaware you hum these tunes

An ear worm

It burrows into the minds around you

They begin to weather parallel storms

Manifestation

Virus

Synaptic transference

Daisy chain

Bucket brigade

The buckets are filled with tears

Of joy

Of sorrow

Of acceptance

They taste like the song

If you want to be the change

Get up and go to that other room

Change the station

To a song that stokes your flame

Of hope

Of empathy

Of love

No amount of buckets could douse

Then go about your day

Humming

Until the whole world resonates with you

Until the ripples reach the darkest corners

Change the station and change the world

Stepping Stones

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These stepping stones that I jump to

Throughout the span of my life

Form an outline of a part of me

Balancing on one foot I look back

This set of stones is the story

Of me and women:

 

 

Her name was Patty

We met at the instruments closet

She told me I was her boyfriend

I obeyed and met her behind the curtain

Timing my days in kindergarten 

By these rendezvous 

 

 

I ran home from the neighbors’

My friend’s sister who was much older

French kissed me when I was like eight

I couldn’t wait to tell my mother 

 

 

At school a girl I did’t know

Who acted as though she knew me

Asked if I was drinking my chocolate milk 

I was going to, but I gladly handed it over

 

 

My first “girlfriend” 

I spent hours talking to her on the phone

I felt a connection

Then I told her about the changes

Of how my body was maturing

She broke it off

 

 

I went to a party

They played Spin the bottle 

A girl I liked spun the bottle to me

We went in the closet

The idea she might’ve actually wanted

To kiss me was so nonexistent 

That I thought I did her a favor

By making kissy noises through the door

So she wouldn’t have to

 

 

I sat out in the cold for hours

Scoring two tickets to Beastie Boys

I asked my crush if she’d like to go

I told her I’d score some weed

She agreed to go

After the concert she made up an excuse

Of why she needed to go

Taking the joint with her

Like a chocolate milk 

 

 

My first was with a girl who transferred 

Into our school to get away her reputation 

I later heard that she had taken on

The entire football team

I loved her enough to be so broken by her

When she dumped me for a guy with a car

That I blocked her name from memory

 

 

I made out with a girl

Who was really good at it

Her dad had taught her

After her mom had passed

I still wonder about how she finally

Made her escape

 

 

I had a one night stand with a girl

Who resembled the girl from the concert

That was all the reason I had needed

 

 

I was in a relationship with a woman

Who was old enough to be my mother

I was just happy to feel wanted

 

 

I married a woman who is strong

Who I’d gladly give my chocolate milk to

Who I’d meet behind the curtain with

Each and every day

Who loves reality tv, 

Is an extrovert, that drags me out…

Out of my head

Who doesn’t like public affection 

Who rarely likes private affection 

Who is very critical of me

But beneath all the hard exterior 

She loves me

She needs me

And I am happy

There are no stones to jump to from here

Chant

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I think that when I’m picking at self inflicted wounds, channeling the dead, dying and dishonored, feeling the full weight of the world’s apathy upon my chest, and bleeding it upon the page…that I’m at my most sane. In fact, I would say that it is during those periods when I sleepwalk through life, filling a role, swallowing back the acid at the rear of my throat with a smile, and become a living currency, an end to a means, that I’ve slipped into an oubliette of depravity. Sublimating the curses and tics of universal verity bubbling up from the magma of my bones is the original sin, that can only be abated by chanting a prayer older than any Hail Mary’s, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’s. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment. Allow me to love you, to be loved by you, and to be remembered. I am here for but a moment…

Symbiosis

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She strips me bare

My soft belly exposed 

Vulnerable 

This is where trust grows

From bud to bloom

Venerable

She straddles me

Maintaining deepest eye contact 

Inseparable 

She howls with her mother’s tongue 

I am immersed in matrilineal sorrow 

Utterable 

Crimson nails dance along my sternum

With speed and precision I’m splayed 

Sufferable

The cracking of ribs reverberates

Parts never meant to see light, exposed 

Discoverable 

And now she is inside of me

Her hands cradling my beating heart 

Containable 

She whispers in my ear her pain’s origin

Darkest demons vomited from soul’s well

Considerable 

I am drowning in her depths

The deeper, the colder, until heart freezes

Irrecoverable 

I begin to ebb beneath her…diminishing 

Her hands suddenly massaging my heart

Incomparable 

Resurrected by her touch

The fragility of my life in her hands

Amissible 

Speak your truth and purge your pain

I’m here as long as you hold my heart

Paradisiacal 

Learning to fly

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They hid it at first

He was so young

Only four

They’d call him a freak

Two little nubbins 

One on each shoulder blade

Loose shirts

Windbreaker jacket

Then the first event happened 

Fucking tuna fish can

Sliced his mom’s hand right open

Oh how the red scared him

Nerve damage

Limp fingers

She was struggling to dial

Goddamn rotary phone

She felt woozy 

Then two little hands reached out 

Gently taking hold of hers

As he placed his head against her 

The nubbins stretched out

Featherless little wings

His mother was dumbfounded 

She didn’t notice the bleeding 

Had stopped

He buried his face 

Into her stomach

I love you, mama

The next day they grew

Twice in size

More difficult to hide 

Homeschooling was the answer 

A couple years slipped by

His questions became more pointed 

His need to see the world deepened 

She began taking him on outings 

Planetarium, museum, theater, petting zoo

She worried so

Then the second event happened

During a long elevator ride down

To the underground caverns 

A middle aged man collapsed

An RN performed CPR until exhaustion 

She couldn’t save him

The little boy looked up at his mother

His eyes pleading

Her face twisting

She nodded once and turned away 

She could hear the gasps

Knowing life would never be the same 

The canopy of the tent fluttered 

With the wind blowing outside 

He missed the feeling of wind and sun

The revival would be starting soon 

His wings were the size of a condor’s

The tips dragging on the ground 

His mother gripping her rosary 

Muttered about the crowd gathering 

The 2:00 show

He looked so gaunt to her

The preacher’s sermon 

Was all fire

And brimstone 

Then the lines formed

With each passing touch

Each person given a new lease

He felt himself slipping further away 

The doctors and scientists tore him apart 

In the end they determined his wings

Were a cancer

And when he couldn’t give anymore 

Of himself 

He stretched his wings

For the final time

Slipping into oblivion 

Mandala

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I took my poems and pinned them to a giant cork board. Butterflies of every hue. Like a conspiracy theorist or a detective hunting a serial killer, I connected the poems with string. My crazy wall. I connected them by how old I was in the memory that spawned the poem, by themes of love and loss, by which of the two poles I steered towards, or away from, if the poem was looking in the past, thoughts of the future or grounding myself in the present. It started out looking like a spiderweb, and I plucked the strings of love and watched the poems thrum and give off chords of joy. Then I strummed the strings of loss and a mournful sound issued forth, making the room waver and dance. The strings of depression hung limply and could not be played, but the beauty of their draping form stood out amongst all the straight lines and angles, and the strings of anxiety were so tight they were shrill in the plucking…almost pulling the poems from the board. As my eyes moved about the board I found myself, simultaneously, smiling and teary-eyed.  As the web flowed about in waves from the welling tears, I had to wipe my eyes clear. To my astonishment, within what was to become my life’s dream catcher, was an outline of myself, arms outstretched to what could only be stars. Dumbfounded at how I didn’t see it sooner, I traced my fingertips about the edge of it. My hand eventually settling on a bare spot, a hole, at the center of this wondrous mandala, right where my outline’s heart should reside. I pondered whether this void represented the parts of me I’ve kept hidden or parts I’ve yet to discover. I vowed to fill this hole. To keep writing. To keep catching butterflies.