This cannot be a poem
There is nothing here that can become a poem
It has lain dormant over a decade
Refusing to sprout in this barren
And even today it causes me to wonder
About the pain of the people who lived
In that house
About any pain I might consider because
At least they…
What gave them the right?
The things that can happen
While the sun is shining
While the grass is refusing to grow
While the chickens are scratching
In a dusty front yard
Who can say what these things are
Or how insignificant?
So much of my morning is going on
Behind my eyelids
Behind my back
Because I face the window
As I work.
The workmen at the office used to classify
Us as facesitters, doorsitters, and so on.
To them we were an oriented head on
A chart of oriented heads.
My son leaves for work and I
Wish him well,
“May the farce be with you.”
“And with you.”
He is gone now and I have
No face time there only
With the mortal LCD
And the VOIP
I call another student
And pull the sun up over the hill.
We came on long legs
I remember the feel
Of the ground,
The growth dense
And lush beneath our
I remember passing
As if given passage by
The gods by great silent
Beings that stood shoulder
To shoulder as far as
One could could see.
We came into their cities
And took their lives:
Billions of them
In a single night.
And we left.
We were never
There are nights
I think of that distant place
And the feel of the soft
Lush growth beneath my feet.
The cool air on my face.
Things happened. I left a message on my sister’s phone this morning to please call me. I needed medical advice. I had been sick for over two months and while I didn’t want to play the man flu card, I didn’t seem to be getting any better. I wasn’t dying or anything, but I was deteriorating. Very slowly of course. At this rate I might last only another fifty years or so. Sistah called back. She knew the history. Specifically my parents had been complaining to her about the fact that I had not yet visited for Christmas, or Thanksgiving.
I have finished breakfast.
I have not gone on
because stuff inside me
has reached the
soup on the bare burner point.
I have to take the pot
off the stove,
the lid off the pot,
or turn the heat off,
or stir the damn mess,
or get in my car and drive into the next town for lunch.
I paw around for my Ativan,
but I can’t find it.
It is on that dangly silver bottle on my car keys.
But I have lost it.
This means that later
I will not be able to find my car keys.
There are so many rules.
So many birds chirping
so many songs
from so many perches.
I close my eyes and
the dark birds flutter,
their wings scraping
the insides of my belly,
chest, and head.
I can feel them scraping at my throat.
Hooking flesh eager to get out.
If I lift my head and open
my mouth they will come
flying out in a great cloud
of fluttering, scratching claws
and bird shit,
a dark vortex burning a hole
through the ceiling,
into the sky and
the neighbors will lift their eyes to say,
“He is screaming again.”
I hit the Write button.
A command is returned:
I am coloring outside the lines.
I have been here before,
wavered here before.
Wandered chicken-shit all over the road,
but I don’t think I have been
particular road before.
Yet it looks familiar.
I stop the car and get out.
I can hear the door closing,
crisp behind me,
the clatter of the engine at idle.
I can hear my boots on the blacktop
as I walk across the bright
A bird cries from a fence row
and swoops off across the field.
I could not find my Ativan,
the noon dose.
I keep it on my car keys so I can find it
but I couldn’t find it
even though I had a clear memory
of dropping the keys on my pants
before I went to bed.
But that memory,
as clear as it was,
or at the very lease superseded,
or old, or useless,
and I was again climbing the stairs
looking for the stock bottle,
again taking the Noon dose with Root Beer
with a sense that something
important had come apart.
This is when they start fluttering.
This is when the migration started,
when it finally broke loose.
I remember seeing briefly
in the mirror
than I had remembered.
The last time I had seen someone
he had been older and he
had come to that point
where there is nothing left
for him to do but wait
quietly for his time to die.
There are some who have thoughts
of retiring to Florida, Spain,
or Northern France,
while their bodies decay
and their brains
slowly sublimate into the clear air.
But it doesn’t matter.
The process is the same.
The only uniquity is what
comes out of you,
if anything at all.
Now I feel the Ativan working,
putting the dark flock slowly back to sleep.
Each time there are more of them.
I know that one time a silly Ativan
be enough to stop them.
A whole bottle of Ativan
will not stop them.
They will burst bloody
out of my body
taking the roof off,
blowing out windows and
what will the neighbors say
because they will
barely have time
to register surprise
before the dark mass of wings
lifts them off their own feet
and the scream
they might have heard
would have been their own.
All kinds of things pop up as the wave washes over me. It is dark, yet in the moonlight I see thousands of critters washing up on the beach and skittering off across the sand. There is a restaurant or bar of some kind up the beach where a party is going on. The critters, covered with salt and sand slip up beneath the building, disappearing as if sucked in by a vacuum. I feel this nasty lump in my gut. I hear the heat coming on, wrapping itself around the house. The bottoms of my feet begin to burn.
Another day is almost over. I am wrestling with the implication of another day lost. Yet I sense that without the wrestling there would be no implication; there would be no loss of a day. I close my eyes. There is a metallic taste in my mouth. I remember my laundry.
The laundry is not dry. I re-start the dryer and go to the store. I come home to words crawling across the page. These words fascinate me. They move in various combinations and have different meanings. They continue to move and rearrange themselves until they point to new meanings.
It’s my birthday, you wrote. Send me a poem. And I did. I would have anyway, holding you in place like some bright fairy, hand feeding you poem after poem. Wondering when you might grow tired. Today you surprised me by returning me one of your own and, I so wanted to dip my pen in that liquid luminosity and play with those words. As I read, it split into a half dozen children, reformed, and grew…but…that sounds so sexual. Yet what I really wanted, taking liberties with one another’s poems, was probably much more intimate than any bed thing.
You know there are too many places to begin. And even that does not approach infinity. The combinations from say two to twenty-five, given oh a five hundred thousand word vocabulary yields a limited number of first sentences. Indeed, the formula for the number of 100-word entries possible given a similar vocabulary and sentence lengths varying from one to 100 words yields a limited number of 100-word entries. One could write a computer program to generate all possible 100-word entries. One could blat a dinner plate to foam enrich frequently used foul mops. But then, only some would have meaning.
It is 3:40 AM and darkness fills the hole in the window. I cannot sleep. It may be that I will not sleep—that I have not been designed to sleep or given permission to sleep. It’s not clear to me. Things that are being kept from me. I am only a character in a fiction subject to the whims of someone who considers him or herself an author, (It feels like a him.) This is someone who may or may not even let me live, someone who may cast the idea aside before the end of the first page.
All I know is that I am not sleeping, that it is early morning, and darkness fills the hole in the window. I wonder if this story is being written or has been completed and I merely am at this point. Has it all been laid out already? Neatly typed? Printed and bound? Am I scooting along to some ending that has already been, determined, that even a casual reader can discover by leafing to the end of a manuscript? I get to slog word by word through this pointless mess. You’d think I’d be given a little more consideration.
I am not sleeping. I know that. I can feel my body sweating, my eyelids heavy, my mouth dry, my body aching for sleep. It is clearly not my idea to not be sleeping. I should lie down in the bed, turn off the light, but something is rattling around in my head. It won’t let me go. It is the author. The author will not let me sleep. The author is playing with me. I am his little game, his bright idea. This is not right. It is inhuman. I should be allowed to sleep. I should have rights.
I walk over to the window, to the darkness in the wall. It is hung with heavy curtains that don’t touch in the middle. Looking out I can see a light off in the distance. There is also a light on the side of the building. The window is one of those door walls that open onto a balcony, and I can make out that I am fairly high off the ground. I can’t tell how high. The ground itself is swallowed in darkness below. I seem to have memories of this place. They must have been given to me.
The light is a city I suppose. A city in a valley, or I am on a hill or mountain. As I look out, I realize the sky is cut off in the distance by a tree line and then more darkness. Another mountain. I seem to be on the side of one. Or maybe I am a pimple on the ass of an elephant. I don’t know anything about this writer. I don’t know if he is an honorable man or woman. I don’t know what he might do to me. I already know he won’t let me sleep.
I lie down on the bed. My eyes hurt. I can see the ceiling, some kind of dappled plaster thing. Why do they do that? Acoustics. It is to make the place not so echoey. I wonder if the people who do that even know it will have that effect. I reach over to turn off the lamp. I have to search for the switch. The writer has not given me a memory of the lamp, of the switch, of where it is. Fumbling around the lamp, I cannot find it. Is another one of the writer’s cute intellectual jokes?
I get up and look at the lamp. There is no switch. I look for a switch on the wall. No luck. I follow the cord into the base of the lamp. No switch. I unscrew the bulb. The lamp swims in the darkness before my face and is replaced by the window, the black window. I remember the city below and wonder about the elevation. My head hurts. I breathe with difficulty. Is he going to strangle me now? I turn on my side, opening my mouth to breathe. The pillow pokes my eye. I can see the clock. It is 3:40 AM.
In the heavy palm of my hand.
It is my hand
Where this beauty is compelled
I can feel the wings tearing at the skin behind my hand
where the powder is wearing its way out
Her gentle wing laced with bone
And stiff web
Locked in joints of chitinous armor,
Rowing the summer air.
Remembering the worm
Crawling into the velvet padded cockpit
Of some sailing machine,
Whispering the drive train to life,
Laden with sun jewels
And acres of fabric,
In the heavy palm of my hand
I wake up suddenly. From that dream. Words are falling out of my ear still, and I am already trying to remember who put them there. “…plenty of time.” You’ve got? We’ve got? And then boom they are gone? He, she, it? Some sense of being in one of those outdoor elevator shafts with wind blowing leaves around, of being slowly lifted to street level. And then I am waking up, fighting for consciousness like a man fighting for air after popping to the surface of a lake. Struggling to understand where I am now, this time. Where am I?
I do read most of you nearly every day and I am frequently left with a sense I am in an appliance store, in the TV section, with all the sets tuned in to different channels. You are all coming from a different place, singing a different song. You are all so you. Wonder what it would be like if we were a little more organized. If we wrote in the same direction, about the same thing, or perhaps bounced the same idea around. How would we do that? Every entry starts with the last sentence from the previous entry?
After taking the first dose of my new antibiotic I fell asleep for
about two hours and woke up feeling better than I had in weeks--until I started
on phase II of the treatment. The Netti bottle isn't completely unlike
drowning. You have a valved squirt bottle you use to shoot a special solution
up one nostril until it comes out the other. The trick is to breathe through
your mouth as you do this. The problem is that at unanticipated intervals
afterward, water will gush out of your nose for no apparent reason. The dog was
What I have isn't the pot;
it is more of a mustard bottle, a squeeze bottle. I could put different colors
of dye in it to change it up for the dog. I could try a dark green or a purple.
It is amazing how much water you have to pour into your head before any of it
begins to come out. Of course mine was clogged shut and it didn't WANT to come
out. I had to squeeze really hard. And you expect all sorts of creepy crawlies,
but all you get is water. It must be microscopic shit.
At least the dog was enjoying the Netti bottle
experience. Somebody needed too. She did
not want to clean up the mess though. Her
reaction was more of a point and “Look what he just did,” like she’d never seen
anybody puke outta their nose before. "Look!
He’s doing it again! Is there
somebody here to take a picture? Are
those dishes clean?”
It's not that bad except for the "hidden pockets,"
which are surprising. I had to squirt a
good cup of water into my head before anything came out. I was beginning to
wonder where it was going.
It seems best to start at the beginning, yet that is not
possible, as you will eventually understand.
There is, however a place. It may
even be useful. I choose a place: August 1, 2004. The barking dog. The barking dog was at it again that
morning. A barking dog. Michael was in bed thinking of a toy he had
gotten one Christmas, a stiff, stuffed, battery-operated thing with a little
red switch. It barked and bounced when he
turned it on. Within a few days the
batteries wore out, and he subsequently lost the dog in the toy box.
It seemed the neighbors had been waiting for the barking
dog’s batteries to wear out. Michael
knew about dogs. He knew the batteries
would not wear out. He knew about
barking dogs, about biting dogs, about dogs you lay your head on during sunny
days. This was not one of those dogs.
This was a barking dog. The barks would continue to echo through his
thick skull for years. His batteries would
not wear out; they would wear a hole of shame through his owners who would then
take him to the dog pound because he was a bad dog.
Frog nose high from the slush
Of the pond
He must have been barely asleep
To have waken so soon.
Some mystic sign
Looking at me
Sent to speak to me
Crossing fields of time
Popping over generations
I look at him
What is it you have to say?
You amphibian too large
Who doesn’t belong?
Will your mouth open with a roar?
What will you say?
What do I hear now?
I heard notions
I hear a whisper
A voice saying
I am bound to them
Michael’s body is covered with dense hair. He likes to float his palm over it, and set things on it. He enjoys the luxuriant feel of it, its softness. Lately, it has been getting brittle. He wonders if it is the weather. He worries about it. His personality tends to anxiety. His body aches as the days run into December. His brain is falling into dark dances and bad thoughts that rob him of strength. He wants to fall back into sleep, to fall back into sleep, to embrace sleep and to take it as his lover for a week.