There was a girl who lived
down the block
but she isn’t there anymore
So young that we were
still the same
still little kids
almost identical bodies
well before the time of sex.
I used to walk home with her.
And when we did
she would tell me
about how she didn’t believe in God
but this was a trend
See, I didn’t believe first.
We went to church with
our church mothers
and I scoffed
too loudly once, I guess
because she listened really… well
and she thought maybe I was
on to something.
It made sense enough
and she even told her mom
Mom I have no eternal soul
and Mom there will be
No more church.
But still I went
willing to stare through space
or taunt the pastor
with eye contact
because he knows I’m droning
tolerable at best.
And today the same
to sort me
from the crowd
and smokes the words.
You put the devils in the herd
and sent it to sea, yourself
Let me speak
for the town of God
that exile is next.
And this I feel,
caught by the wink
of a church lady
as if to say
You destroyed a soul once.
You know how it feels __ to be __
safe inside, yet stir at work
or elsewhere, when leaving,
arriving, murk, transit fare, all the
__ free __ time spent on none
other than the others of other’s
Having moments to yourself, see,
that’s a dangerous thing
That thinker of yours retracts,
we’re watching light bulbs go off
and you think
“I __ would __ come here again”
to tinker while away
On the outside beyond the shell
staring into a contorted face
in a toaster, breakfast
Day soon to begin, again, again
oh well, oh well
If only this life could
____ show and tell ____.
I threw a party and my neighbor came.
He’s in the fifties and worn
with a bandana on the temple,
a softpack in the pocket, a mustache,
the cough. He’s asked I call him Uncle Ben,
and sits with guys at my table,
and I’m not at the table,
and he smiles.
They laugh at the way
he talks, the Chong of it.
Good ol’ boys gather round
and they’re not my friends.
Friends of friends, and daring,
ass-bad creatures and What has he done?
They ask he match their mischief,
Show and tell. So he told
that he was powerful man,
And he knew things man
And you see this man? This knife is my prize.
You see, man? The blade is serrated,
It’s like a steak knife man.
I’ve had this fifteen years man.
I am grabbed –
hey your neighbor has a knife –
and turned to face
the table. Five finger roulette.
Knife goes to the dude and
cheers erupt from the table
and I wade through elbows with cups
and Ben has the prize and
And he smiles.
We’re in the car.
Ben is kindof giggling and wrapping
the bandana around his hand
and ranting about how good my parties are
and Hey man I’m gonna put my phone
in the glove box so I can’t hear
if my wife calls man. She’s gon’ be pissed.
Closing on the emergency room
Ben hiccups and burps and I think
I don’t even know
how to clean vomit off a floorboard
but we make it to the spot.
Two men with a gurney approach
and I wonder what they’ll ask
but Ben roars with a laugh.
His hand is blue even under the orange lights
of the emergency bay, even while he’s prying
fingers down to flip me the bird
A cackle later, he’s outside looking in
through the crack where he ashed
with his better hand, and he says
Don’t wait for me man,
I’ll come home when I’m ready.
You did your part,
But you gotta go man
cause I’ll hear if my phone rings.
Once I found Uncle Ben
in mine own yard burying bottles
in the dirt up to the necks.
Knelt beside the planted recyclables
blowing into the tops, they whistle.
A hand on my head for the yard.
This is for the ants.
The music that lures them in man. Sends ‘em out.
It drives them crazy man. They leave inspired.
Pack up and run. But we’ll be okay, see.
He points down the block
and smiles. It’s evident
someone loves something very much,
for all the neighbors drink beer
and not an ant goes without.
Today I dealt with the freeway.
Skipped the bar in favor
of rest in my quiet suburb.
if my neighbors exist,
well I would never know.
Less than never is there a party
when no one comes in who isn’t family
and if I leave I come back home.
My gem for the afternoon:
Late in from work
up the driveway my phone rings.
I’m set to screen but then I see
the area code. And I think
this is from another town
older and far away, when
answered yields an Uncle Ben.
Hey man. I found you man.
Man I have gotta change man.
I want to give you a prize.
Is it serrated?
Laughs and laughs and
Hey man, you outside?
Well look up man.
See all them stars?
Well that’s how much I love you.
And I smile.
What have I done,
brought to the table
for this charming man.
it must have been something, but
Don’t be loco, esé,
You don’t know how to use a knife.
I’ve had bad hair my whole life,
except at the end.
We were lounging.
Her with the hair behind the ears
and the sleeves rolled up.
She was smiling and crying,
telling me all these
things-things-things and how
she knew me well enough
and ought to be where she is
touching my temple.
My hair, there, but barely,
curling, and she said
she wouldn’t send me away
without them. Just a few curls,
a few things I had
but never had for myself.
There was a bit of chill
sent my feet ice cold,
but I did not look at them.
I knew they were just there
and Billie, opposite
the icy tips of these toes,
cutting my hair.
All my life,
Would my eyes were open,
I look up
and I thank her
For all the things-things-things
Thanks again, Billie,
though it’s likely my hair will still grow.
Didn’t paint the walls that shade, but LIVE
under them, my salvaged Wurlitzer
and that bench. Noteworthy notions
worthy of motion – on the bed and the floor
and the speaker – and off, natural, andando.
She loves someone to stay up with her!
To feed a stray in the morning,
to serenade the stray by night,
eventually to pay for shots (I think we’ll keep her) –
and I have to ask –
Where did that luster come from?
Because I can see it with my eyes!
It is music, condensed on walls
that lovers sleep between
and against. It is the wow and
The flutter. It is a revolution per minute.
It is biased noise. It is awake.
I want it for reasons
that it should work.
Can’t give you why it might
warble or skip. That stylus
still sharp, that vinyl still slick.
This table still wobbles
and coos and pops every
Fourth Time Around, and
we all know it’s because it will not be – still,
gaudy and old-fashioned-
rid of problems you can hear
and a sound-
What a sound-
that you see.
How we dance in this,
the sheen of beating hearts.
It is life, maestoso
and the oldest known vegetable is the pea,
but you still eat it up.
A long time ago (__ ____ __ __ _______).