In this one small act
-- miniscule, undetected by almost
there is the end of the world
A heartbeat steady and sure, stopped
by an unseen hand
the silence echoing through
a suddenly empty skull
I wish that I could hear what some might say should pass
for reasons why.
In this, there is no vast beyond, no other side;
the existence thereof is inconsequential
when one is there
and one is here
In the night sounds, I sit waiting
to hear the low thud of a string plucked,
Just the high-pitched sounds of ignorant, lucky things
We are reduced in this to nothing more than the first thing that we knew
I am three years old and watching
my father melt into my mother
the universe closed in around them
I could feel it then, the nothing
the curtain coming down, closing off the reality
the shape of letting go.
I killed my aloe.
Everyone says you can't do that;
That aloe is impossible to kill.
I can kill damn near anything.
Pert near, my grandma Fox used to say:
"Supper's pert near ready."
She was the softest person I've ever known
And probably the toughest
I remember the apple tree in her yard.
I wonder how she walked and talked and breathed when her little ones were gone.
I want to make apple butter,
sit in the kitchen and watch it cook down to thick, brown
Feel the autumn forcing its brittle way into the heat.
I want to reconstruct the farmhouse
Stack it plank by plank, haphazard
Crawl back up into its lap, settle deep into the sawdust and woodsmoke and the crumbling edges
Of the floorboards
and the softened stairs, sagging in the center
Find the places where the ghosts are huddled
Whispering to me that the aloe can live
pert near anywhere.
Find a place
Cover your ears with thoughts
of escape plans
and tiny spiders crawling
up your arms
Cover your mind with things that used to work but now
only make you real.
Find a place and know
it isn't yours
sit down in the grass
Cover your eyes with
indifference and giant shades
Cover the holes in your mind with bandages made of memories
And lyrics from the songs you used to sing your kids
Find a place to hide and don't come out
In case you missed it, here’s my coverage of FloydFest 21 for Glide Magazine; it’s essentially my highlights reel. Spoiler alert: Billy Strings and the Avett Bros aren’t here, man.
It’s not like I thought you didn’t
fit in here, or whatever
Not that you seemed out of place, exactly
Although it’s the universal lament, isn’t it?
“I don’t belong here,” although Thom Yorke
(to his credit) sings like
he invented the idea
It was more like you were the only native and all the rest of us
(by which I mean me) some sort of
invasive creeping shrub you allowed and cultivated
for the flowers
and the scent
And at night I start these thoughts, and travel off along some strange tangential road and midway through
a sentence, you step away
“Hang on a second, there’s a thing…
I’m still listening”
But by then, my thoughts have settled in
Cozy in a den of softly played forgetfulness and by the time you turn
your face around, again
they’re fast asleep
And we go through the motions
of our day.
In the darkest part of the night, restless from your footsteps and your weight
against the mattress, I begin
“But like, that’s not all he was, Thom Yorke”
And you walk with me along the winding path of thought
The resident leading the visitor
the alien following blind.
They flatten themselves against
the walls, as I walk past
trying to make themselves
holding the breath
they never had
to remain unheard and I
flex my fingers
feel the cracks in my knuckles and my
as I breathe for them.
They are not shrinking back in fear
but in relief
heads bowed, ghosts
in awe of the living
hiding from the light.
It never comes
and still they stand there, waiting
flattened paper sculptures
where the spectres used to hide.
Every crack was a stolen breath
every smile an act of defiance, every
act of rage, every fast, illicit
a testament to life
where the ghosts were meant to be.
Every smile now
a fair exchange
every slow, deep breath at night
a token like the precious
bits of treasure taken from a child’s
A smooth stone, a penny, a tattered wing from a broken moth
their worth unknown except to those
who picked them up
The ghosts are watching from behind their paper eyes and I am
staring back with matches
set to light.
You don’t have to be gentle
You don’t owe it to the boot that stomps your face to smile
through broken teeth.
You don’t have to prove yourself again and again
worthy of the praise of those who aim
to crush your larynx closed; you don’t
stanch your rage to be accepted in
Manners are for tea time
and waiting in line for the sink.
You don’t have to look away avert your eyes pretend that you don’t see
Just because you can
Just because you get to.
You don’t have to be the one to plug the flowers into
the mouths of the guns while the bullets fly
and the bodies fly
and the flags fly
and the buzzards fly and wait
to pluck your eyes out
as they melt into the ground.
You don’t have to be gentle, but you are
because it’s counter what they’re doing
and so you’re not like them, but understand
You are the teeth
Or you’re the boot
Or you’re the laces
tied up tight.
Look at us, scorched and scornful
black-burnt stick-limbs scratching messages on the walls,
pencil scrawled profanity to make you
stutter and avert your eyes
like you never thought those words
in pleasant company,
gloves stretched tight white painful across your knuckles
buried deep behind your teeth, tasting
blood at the back of your tongue, fighting
not to swallow. Look at
us, small and sinful
brains gone flaccid, atrophied from
lack of use and no desire
they tell us
TAKE A BATH!
like you can’t even
make a spark
to light the way
Look at us, sunken-eyed and dark below
so goddamn depression-beautiful
we’ll let you know if we need anything
thanks so much for reaching out
the platitudes drip dirty water
down our chins
“If only we had known” and in truth
is all that separates us.
I am not
to look at the place
you left your shoes
(I see them at night, behind
my shuttered eyelids, I picture
side by side, one laid over sideways
discarded with the laces
struggling to catch up)
I have a towel, here
I have hot coffee
you can have my robe.
The waves creep in and I know it’s not the ocean
you never made it there, and still
(They tell us)
Real women have cuuuurrrrrrrvesssss
-Gotta draw that out real slow, let the word trace along the edge of the
Fat thighs, round hips, breasts like balloons every little boy
want to die in
Real women look after themselves,
legs like stilts that hold up the pedestal balanced there,
low flat belly, chest like a smooth wave in the ocean
sharp cheekbones cut like ice if you aren’t
Perfect(ly made; don’t tell me
that’s a real woman)
Anorexic overeater tell you hormones make the lady
but that facial hair they say to shave says otherwise,
now don’t it?
(They tell us)
Real women take care of their own, work hard, bring that money home and
ain’t no real women go away all day and leave her kids.
Real women stand up for themselves, don’t take no shit
get that dinner ready on the table when your man gets home
Keep him fed
Feed him good.
(They tell us)
Real women don’t belong HERE in this restroom
Real as the ache of not being seen,
real as the ache of being questioned every day, from the inside,
Who am I, and why am I here?
Real as the knowledge that power comes from the pocketbook
and that your breasts are weapons to be feared
they haven’t started yet.
Real as the leaves in the hair, the rocks in the knees on a dark dirt road cause you need
a place to stay that night
and when you’re fifteen,
nothing feels like home.
Real as the blood on the sheets, the blood on the arms, the blood on your face
waking up in tears
Real as the day long hours wondering why you weren’t made
like all the other
with their fat flat asses and their sharp smooth hips and their
curves worn damp with time
Real like knowledge
Real like the mirror, waiting to look back
And feel complete.