Like you, I was coerced into crafting my own
Head from a bundle of sky, clouds of perception.
Like an onion, my head, I am peeling it plum
Down to the center where my crisp intentions
& my harsh attention & latent vague memory
Dangling by my fingers in a silver chain net
All meet, noticing now how attempt & succumb
Live on the same haunted block. Like you, I feel so
Terrible for the guy or gal whose phone number
Gets cropped as the fake digits on this one program
Some made-up line interjected crossways right through
The episode where one cousin buys a handgun
As the other cousin remains still shivering
In a hospital gown, like the drooped branch outside
My bedroom window shakes, periodically
Aroused by the wind, the same over & again.
The phone number owner finds himself or herself
Every half-hour or so rising up from what is
Considered a most-prized comfort, pastel blue
Chair, & shuffles across the stained linoleum
To end the ring-ring-ring. This mess is all because
An intern did not check the number to ensure
It was not the least bit occupied & now
We, each in our own homes, spend all day attempting
To be present in what gifts us charm & some joy
As the forgetful intern chews some bubble gum
Oblivious to what trouble he delivered
Unto others, mainly the one mid-waddle now
Drawn ever-loyal up & towards the ringing
Coming from the kitchen, neatly right on schedule
& on the other end, you guessed it, me craving
A voice, a good bit flustered, every bit as kind.
Do not blame me for this
Despite its appearance
In the front yard, it is
Not Spring. Winter begins.
A man hollers “fuck you”
Over again, pointing
At each of his nine cats.
Car passing, passing thought.
Too close to my parka.
I am relieved lately
Knowing my head is not
Some felt satchel cupping
The metallic orb of
Consciousness, but rather
It is yet another
Object in the litany
Of existence. The toilet
Overflows to the hall.
Brown river of muck, yuck.
A pic slips from my clutch.
A girl on some bleachers
Leaning forward, knowing
Nothing that will come. Just
When I think I forgot
The thought occurs to change
Myself with a jelly
Bean or two, the heart of this
It is beating so fast.
These thoughts rush in & fade.
A hiccup causes pain.
Leave it to me to be blathering on.
Your advantage, though who needs a record
Of any of this anymore. I can’t
Read my own mind, let alone yours, far-off
Far-out blue fantasy, um, galaxy
Away. I hear the ding of the doorbell
Pulled from its white plug way back in the year
1999, a year some others
Remember with much more clarity &
Fondness than I. I tend to remember
I wrapped my nipples in cheap cellophane.
I could not let you witness what I was
Becoming—part aardvark, part back-up third
Baseman, one-part optical illusion
Covered in soot. This was before I knew
You but also before I did lose you.
“And that is how I have cherished you—deep inside
the mirror, where you put yourself, far away
From all the world.” -- Rainer Maria Rilke
A self-portrait is hardest to locate in a place.
Otherwise difficult to render.
Be it Beijing or the Smoothie King Center.
Your charming local deli or a dark corner.
I am prone to distraction.
Often via the beautiful or the gruesome or the disappointment.
Often a thing covered in fur.
A frame cannot contain it.
The reverberation of the aluminum reflection forced upon me here.
I am chased by a sense of deterioration.
I am a half-filled human mask.
As in, the person I encounter each day will not, has not, will not always be me.
Or I melt away.
That old dull argument against the ordinary, the opposite of fear.
The mirror calls me out of myself.
Or perhaps it beckons me towards the deepest pit of myself.
Induces a sort of trance.
I peel off the layers of my apparent dome.
Like the rinds tossed into the trashcan.
A symbol of the poverty of a great raw longing.
I know I shouldn’t look, but I do.
Up against the embarrassing nakedness of living.
I am smudged with makeshift habits & blurred desires.
I stare into my fish eyes, my little nose, my antiquated teeth, the dent.
O to translate my radical deficiency into something else.
To swap ordinary living for the spiritual quest.
To jot down my dreams each morning.
Otherwise, I witness & then it is gone.
The boundaries of the dream contain an image & whatever else might coincide.
Conscious, self-conscious, subconscious, unconscious.
Knitting socks out of the hair of the dogs.
Attempting to capture the lesser-known qualities of light.
Drowning myself in the tub my grandmother died beside.
My grandmother & I shared more than the genes for diabetes.
I am distracted by human relationships.
Even with the dead, even with myself.
Badly handled objects scrubbed anew, fresh granola in the cupboard.
Till the age of three, I was a perfect little girl
& then the family discovered my ragged inner emptiness
Which I would like nothing more than to fill.
Yesterday I strolled out
To the barn to get something, the drill
Or maybe that pink putty, it turns white
When it dries, & the window was black, buzzed.
Overnight, two hundred
Or more flies birthed in the barn
& then the swarm swarmed the window.
Thoughts, these flies, headaches, pandemics--they sweep
The psyche, the window, this noggin, this nation.
I woke to a nuisance I didn't earn.
When I flushed the toilet, the sewage rose.
This is what I've become, squatting, shitting
On paper towel in the garage.
Suddenly it begins to snow.
I don’t know how to say it, but
The cashier at the grocery has begun
To harass me, comments on
The length of my cucumbers, the girth
Of the chicken breast I buy
For homemade dog food.
Today she called me a skank, in question
Form & even worse, the shelves were still
Bare of toilet paper, matches.
Still I can’t blame her, remembering what
I said here earlier
About thoughts flying, the headache
Of a pandemic, unknown
Accident or incident prior.
I zip up my coat & move on.
Once outside of an alehouse
In Muncie, Indiana, someone mentioned
Last night’s Sugarland concert.
I said, “I heard they really brought the house down,”
A stupid joke, my goof-timed cheeking
At the tragic collapse of the stage.
A guy said, “My cousin died in that collapse.”
“O fuck,” I said, “Punch me.
Free of charge,” but he refused.
Surely, countless other accidents
& incidents I have forgotten, folks
I have disrespected.
I have lived a long time, made many moronic maneuvers.
Thomas Edison originally believed
The phonograph a tool
For recording voices, memos to mother, meanderings best
Kept secret, though necessary to let
Fly from the snout.
Not songs, no, he argued.
Songs are already recorded elsewhere, have to be found.
Here’s how dumb & pathetic I am!
I still take one of my wife's hairpins
To clean my earwax, though I know
Lee Gerstenzang invented the q-tip in 1923.
Hi, you must be a robust person.
Self-worth is something,
Grasshoppers elsewhere in the tall grass.
I like myself. I
Continue being just as nimble
& punctual as I
Can be, one who never dares leave
My home without hands
& feet. Last night I dreamt about The
Jerry Springer Show.
Specifically two memories.
In one, a dwarf leaves
Her husband for a guy named Hambone.
In the other, Gwar,
That messy metal band finds itself
Confronted by parents
Whose kids keep ruining the laundry
Insisting on fake blood
For customizing their t-shirts.
This morn, I remembered
Jerry Springer was once mayor of
Recorded a country album, earned
A law degree. Some
Things always change, are possible.
This string of seashells on display illuminates
Life. Look how delightfully it resists being
Interpreted, interrupted, relegated.
Slippery, was merely pieces once, haven’t cinched
To maintain a singular space. We can all see
The friction invested in their surfaces over
The centuries. Much bounces off my string of seashells.
Humor, agony, ecstasy, boredom, doubt, self-
Referentiality. Say God put these shells
Here. You would be wrong, interesting premise, but
You would be wrong. One cannot glance upon these shells
Without maintaining his or her own preference.
We all misbehave for our own purpose. A kind
Of collection of what I was thinking at each
Given moment. This one for when grandmother died.
This one for the envelopes I dropped beneath
The tires of the tractor. This one for the snake
The redneck kid pulled out of Lukens’ Lake. This one
For my first dislocated shoulder, my seventh.
This one belonged to Matthew’s dead hermit crab. I
Never cared if a seashell signaled a thing, more
Interested in the next seashell I will happen
Upon. You can feel this sort of energy grow.
I was thirty-one & I thought to myself:
This is a nice way of making something, a way
To remember what I’ve seen in the crashing waves.
Two unanswerable questions rose to the surface.
Are we ever beyond the pulling? Do you think?
Always seemed harder to surf without a surfboard.
Failures of reference, shifty variables
Near the equator. You & I both know I am
Talking about something without saying exactly
What it is, a fairly recent concern. I hope
This will take my string of seashells to impossible
Limits. On the other hand, it might just be this.
First day on the bus, I couldn’t have been
More than six years old, yes, mother dropped me
Off each day of kindergarten, baked in
The loaf of her brown sedan, no A/C.
A single seatbelt, mine. But then she flipped
Jobs, from the Crisco plant to the psych ward
& no way she was rising so early.
So thus take the bus I did. Anyhow
That first ride, no seats are left, & yes, scared
I am halfway to hell. My little sack
Of bones, my little sack of ham sandwich.
My little sack shriveled upward inside
Till the dang kindest cowboy to this day
I ever met, a high schooler named Jude
He lifted me without a word onto
His lap, & no, not in a way creepy
Sexual, or uncomfortable, no.
It just was & I rode there like he must
Atop his horse & my heart sequestered
Its mighty pitter & my blue eyes brushed
Off its patter. I saw it right there out
The dusty window—the fattest turkey
In the whole county. Knew it to be true.
It ducked behind the truck Dad left behind.
I spent today insulting him.
He had to argue.
I banged on the wall with my bell.
I entertained the thought.
He ran into the road.
I carried the smell of whiskey.
He wondered aloud if the law had been broken.
I distrusted the government, only briefly.
He sympathized with the bug on my windshield.
I sliced his thigh, got it over with.
He misses driving calmly together.
I developed a new tick.
He wiped his hands on my pants.
I was defeated by time.
I've decided no more traveling
To the future, which was far
Easier than shifting to the past
Which was chock full of problems
& trees. Personally I would love
To catch up with the present.
These gadgets I can’t properly swipe.
These words can’t help but lead to
Stark, untimely death. “No more dying,”
Replied Frank O’Hara, who
After saying did a bit of his
Own dying, squeezed from the tooth-
Paste container of life by what I
Assumed for nine years was called
“A doom buggy,” a mistake Frank might
Return a nod, slight giggle. My mom
She once demanded I eat as much
As craved & act terribly.
We arrived at Daytona Beach
& I learned if a family
Listens to a sad sack yap for some
Thirty or so long minutes
About a condo, or seven if
Your pale child behaves poorly
Enough, they’ll let you grab freely from
Their rack of donuts, Slurpee®
Machine, plus you will receive
A coupon for a free dune buggy
Rental. Of course, this happened after
Someone done ran over Frank
O’Hara on Fire Island, but
Before it was said “Uh...no
More dune buggies on the beach.” Simpler
Times, my hair was thick like sand.
You can call me a project-oriented poet. A big beam of obsession & confusion & delight shines down & I'm hooked for a bit. My two full-length collections of poems are WHAT IS WHO (my self-published MFA thesis at the Michener Center For Writers, 2018) & More Wreck More Wreck (published by Coconut Books in 2014). My most recently-released poem-project is FUTURE BARN, available for FREE both in PDF & audio form.
I'll post new poems every Friday from my forthcoming collection, I ONCE WAS SOMEONE ELSE & OFTEN STILL AM. I'd be honored if you gave it a read, a possible share. Thanks!