I wake up from a dream where

I am the skee ball
champion of the world, but I spend all my winnings on spider
rings and finger traps, and you still don’t call me back.
It is very lonely being the skee ball champion of the world,
it is very hard because being the best at anything means there is no
room for failure, and I am very good at the failing part.

Hello, it’s me, I won it all. I’m the champion of it all.
I get free reign of the whole lot, the whole arcade, I could get you
in for free, I could get you lots of scented pencils.

But the line goes dead, so I decide instead, I will move to Cape Canaveral,
where astronauts pretend they don’t get homesick. I am on the moon,
or I am circling around a satellite and I can still pick you out from the lights
on the planet, even when you are very far.

Los Angeles is very far, but it seems the moon is closer than
California, because at least I can see it. I would build one hundred thousand apiaries
for you, so you could hear the buzzing from New York. Do you hear the buzzing?
But all the bees die out, in the winter, in the summer. The association warned me of that, too much bad luck, it will all die out.

Your voice buzzes in my ear in the Skylark diner in Juneau,
the light makes your eyes squint at the three in the morning.
I can’t make out what you are saying, instead, I pick up the phone and I call you.
You are sitting next to me and you ignore my call. Your voicemail mocks me,
can’t pick up the phone, buddy.

It is the fourth of July at the end of June,
and your spirit guide has committed suicide
to a Kelly Clarkson song, the bad song, they’re
all the very bad song. She looked like Stephen Hawking
without the ALS, but now she’s gone.

The sky flashes upside down, I want to tell you that everyday
feels like taco tuesday when I am around you,
but it doesn’t feel like the right time,
so you mourn Miss. Hawking. I tell
you to not worry, we can use my skee ball
winnings to find you a new guide. One with a better
head on her shoulders, one that won’t choose an American
Idol winner to hang herself to,
and it is the first time you speak here, and I hear you clearly,
even with the sky cutting into coral-clementine and the moon hanging by its side–

no.

Answer Me

Q: are you in love.

The lady in the chair
smiles big like it is her birthday
when I say my head feels like a balloon
that can’t explode.
“cool,” she says.

I am stuck in a maze,
the smallest mouse searching for the cheese,
the ring of the bell, the skinner box, ivan and frederic have conned us both.
I am misled by the 8-ball,
our horoscope has lied to me again, you should not be mine.

I grab out my heart and tell her
my lady, I am so sorry. She doesn’t hurt,
but she is too occupied with me, buzzing
like something other than a bee, not hibernating like a bear,
swimming like a toucan, submerged like our mouse – my mouse.
We’re going to have to lose her, too.

*

I have cut the tip of my finger off
with the longest blade over an onion,
the blood drops on mom’s white floor
and it is the rain that had fallen
on Tuesday.

My finger eats cotton. I put cotton in my mouth to hear the rain.
The black cat is not afraid of the rain, but she runs off the porch when I call her
here, kitty, do you know what it means, the Tuesday rain?

I tell the lady with the chair that it rained
on Tuesday, they said it wouldn’t.

“You are a hard worker, too hard, too much, too fast” she says.

I say, unfortunately, it feels as if I am inside of a soup can.
Ha-ha. I want to make her laugh because it is
the one thing I have left that I haven’t thrown
in the garbage, out the window, in the fire, under the bed,
with the ghosts, with the rain. What do we think about trying
for an exorcism?

Her smile would look best upside down, I think, the knife.
why aren’t you sad, lady on the chair.

Art smells like an oven upside down, out of the ash,
the end of a rope, the fish line broke, the spring, the hammer,
the catch, the holding bar —
the lady on top of the chair
is The best when she is suffering.

 

Q: are you in love
with the way someone makes you feel
about yourself

B RHYMES WITH SHE

I. Brigitte thinks she loves him.

Brigitte cannot love anyone.

I love him very much, thinks Brigitte.

Brigitte shortens her name to b.
It is a stylistic choice, b rhymes with she.

B. is sewing bras because that is what girls named b. do.
Girls like b. are good at one thing and one thing only
which is sewing bras.

I will make a very good housewife to him, thinks b.
she does not make a very good housewife to him.

II. He does not see b.
He sees b. only when she is not sewing bras and is not wearing anything at all.

He cannot love anyone,
I do not love b., thinks he.

III. They are married now, b. has won!

She really has won! It is so great to be b.

I am terribly happy, thinks b.
She is not terribly happy.

She is waking up now in the hills, the quite beautiful hills, the rolling hills are quite beautiful. Do you see the hills? They are green, the brightest green.

He is waking up now in the hills, the quite beautiful hills, the rolling hills are quite beautiful. He sees the hills. They are green, the brightest green.

We are married now, says b.
She says this to him because she is afraid he will forget.

He does not forget, though he wishes he could forget.

The hills are so beautiful, thinks b.

Palindrome

I.

I would not have married you if you asked.
You did not ask, and that upset me.

II.

Do you remember where you were
in 1992?

III.

Arizona is hotter
than you expected. The heat
gets on your bad side, I get on your bad side.

IV.

I had an excessive reaction that pierced
the surface of things.

V.

It is so hard to see
where you are now.

VI.

It is the time
you have hung yourself.

VII.

I sit in that rented home
filled with your agates.

Our daughters have no pity,
they do not see you here
from the vantage point
of your nuclear clearing.

They sit on top of ant hills,
staring at the sun thinking you are
up there
somewhere.

Indian Summer

I. The only thing that has died because of me were dandelions

You look like my mother. The way her face would turn upside down
when I thought of her dying.
You don’t have to die here – you’ve already done it.
Mom will come shortly after, too. She’s given into things that are bad for us.
She doesn’t change the lightbulb in the kitchen, she still forgets my birthday.

When I am small, I think mom will live f o r e v e r is a word that is made up of time that cannot exist. I try to find the beginning point, then pray to someone else’s upstairs neighbor that it does not end while I am standing
in line at the grocery store.

Mom doesn’t want to live forever, but I am seven years old.
You do not want to live forever, but she is two years old.

II. We saw you clock out before you did

Someone saw you for the last time in downtown Binghamton, said things were getting better, life is good, it could be worse and I am not doing worse.

There is a joke, not a knockknock joke, but a joke that goes like this:

Q: How do you know a junkie is lying to you?
A: He is still speaking.

III. You have negotiated time

There is a picture of a waterfall that hangs on its left side above you. Someone painted your face on upside down. The pastor stands on his toes; his brown old suit black tie does not mention black tar or your year long sabbatical inside or how you died alone surrounded by people who resembled black birds.

He looks at you, he sighs,
he’s never met you before until now. But he sighs,
oh god, we will always remember you. He sighs,
AMEN.

IV. It is summer in November, but only here

Your daughter sits on your first wife’s lap in a white dress, messed with licks of glitter and her mother cries. But she dances up and down, waves her legs, her arms follow soon like carbonated water shaking in its bottle.

The manufactured curls in her hair spin when she spins,
She does not have to think about f o r e v e r now
or the lightbubs in the kitchen
or her up and coming vulnerability to crushed up or shot up tiny pieces
of extinction that disguise themselves in yellow, green, white dandelions.

It’s all spinning now.

Macrocosm Liability

You ruin your body in November, where insects begin to pay
rent somewhere else, where lightboxes rub their hands together in anticipation
of their consolidated return.

There is a police report inside mom’s grey lock box of secrets,
carbon copy dad followed mom to the grocery store. dad accused
mom of fucking someone else
because the firing off inside his arms fired off somewhere else.

Now you’ve reproduced yourself
in the face of a stranger who sits in the café
where I work, writing on his computer. The fern resembles
you, too. There is an upside down universe
where we get everything we want, bees don’t
vanish when we take things that aren’t ours.

Dad remembers cytology but multiplies it by 3,
but this time, he knows how to read a calendar
or the cicadas will trade their watch with his.
And you don’t move one million dollars in a year
selling fractions of evil.

You keep the rug underneath you,
or at least the birds vibrate closer
to earth to keep it spinning-
and smoke signals don’t mirror
motel rooms where the sparrow
cannot keep silent.

Surrogate Hell

 

A man calls
and asks if we have a book that will help him
stop beating his girlfriend.

I put it on hold for him,

he never picks it up.

*
Mom has worked in restaurants her entire life,
it is easier than the alternative.

The alternative is trying

harder.

*
There is a poetry book
girls continue to ask for.

“Excuse me, Miss?
Do you have that book? The one with the black cover?
The one about boys, heartbreak, orgasms?
The one with the poorly written poems?
The one that insults every writer who has ever tried hard?
The one that is the poetic equivalent of the Twilight novels?
The one with poems that go something like this?

 

I loved him on my knees.
Fiercely, he withdrew his gaze from mine
Now the bathtub listens to my lullabies.”
I am laughing at her- NYT bestselling ‘millionaire’ poet.
I am 25, still in undergrad, soon to graduate to ‘poet’ joke of the century.

*
I tell mom
I don’t want to end up like you,

As we sit in the basement on her brown couch,
third cigarette in thirty minutes.

I can’t tell by the formation of the wrinkles
deep in her face if she is glad I said this,
or upset that I recognize her faults.

*
A family of three
not donaldtrumpwhite, walk through
the glass doors.

The child sees a book [ghost]written by trump,
yells EW, donald trump is ugly!

The dad grabs the kids arm, looks at me,
looks around the bookstore,
says to his kid-
you can’t say things like that in public. he’s the president,
you don’t know who is listening.

 

*
There is a man that is looking
for a book,

Sir, can I help you with anything today?

He walks past me, he walks past my coworker
who is wearing a hijab, if that matters. Apparently it matters.

He walks over to colin, asks him for help, says he doesn’t
want help from
women or muslims or blacks, if that matters. Apparently it matters.

*

I am walking to my car
at 1145pm on a Friday
after working a 9 hour shift, and I am tired.

He pulls his car up to me, says
you’re so beautiful, really great, I love your tits, what’s your name? where are you going? you got a boyfriend? you must make your boyfriend really happy looking like that, don’t you?

Ok, great, I’m not interested in that, thanks, I’m going to go home now,
I say.

Fuck you, someone should rape you
and teach you how to take a compliment, he screams,
you’re a bitch, not that great looking anyway, bet your boyfriend beats you, and he should. I’d beat you if you were my girlfriend.

*
Mom says proudly
I VOTED FOR TRUMP
because hillary is a bitch,
wants women to have 9 month abortions,
she has a sex dungeon in the basement of the white house
with obama and bill, can you believe that?

I say
no, I can’t believe it. that is simply unbelievable!
have you fact checked this? snopes? where are you getting your information?
have you ever met a women who would want to have a 9 month abortion?

She says,
george soros owns snopes!
trump will solve it all! All of it.
the muslims will be banned for beheading our children.
america has been taken over by radical muslims, trump was right!

I say,
that is an interesting point, indeed.
do you have any factual evidence you could provide of any muslims beheading our children
on American soil, on any soil?

She says,
well, nana thinks michelle obama
is transgendered!

Girls were burned for less than this in Massachusetts

 


(one)

They carve upside down crosses on their foreheads; the unborns will build a biogenetic tower of babel.
(two)

They live off of antiquated cultural paradigms in the final dimension of hell; everything is an act god if they use a periscope.

(one)

SHE is deficient.

(two)

SHE is an evolutionary microwave.

(one)

GOD will pardon malefactors

(two)

to a fixed point.

(one)

SHE doesn’t meet our

(two)

arbitrary shotinthedark

(one)

guidelines

(one)

SHE will raise her stagnant darlings in hell.

Probability Distribution

 

I.

Your father was born
when the doctors told him
he was going to die.

His terminal existence
made him honest, forced him
to believe in habitable planets
where it would not have turned out
like this.

He was filled with faulty
wiring. It was a mistake with the mechanics
that forced him to give in
and believe in
higher-ups.

II.

You turned on the television
as your father’s body burned
in the background.

There, you had decided
it was not a cosmic
coincidence or an illusion of chance
that you had seen
the universe attempting to make sense
of itself
in the permanently repeating pattern
within the metallic, coarse
covering of the pangolin’s exterior.

Elephants

There are other pieces of land
where you don’t have to be this. The heat is the same
wherever you go, don’t blame the television for making you
a liar. You won’t find yourself in Los Angeles,
haven’t you seen their homelessness problem?
There’s nothing for you
in New York. I remember you
sitting across from me in the fluorescent diner
around one am. You said the waitress looked
like my mother. She did. Mom never left Philly,
look where it got her. Stuck in someone
else’s head.
I shouldn’t have left Philadelphia. Enough people died there,
but people die in New York too.
I find myself counting the miles between you and I, but I lose
count after the first 300.
I hear your voice enough that I think we can distort the time zones, outsmart
the sunset, but it doesn’t work.
Writers like to trick you into thinking words can change
your perception, but we have all said the same thing. Some of us don’t need
a kickstand. I think Brett could have fixed that, but we all have our limitations.
Now everyone knows someone who died
from something. You tell me of the time you found out that elephants
never forget. That’s why we take things that aren’t ours, at least then some body
will remember us.
But you stay three hours behind me, unable to catch up or tie up the difference.
You ask me what it’s like in future. Nine months is enough
to ruin someone’s life.
It feels safer this way.