VERBALLISTICS:

Even super heroes succumb to weather.

At 165 miles per hour, I closed my eyes
Relaxed my belly against your backbone, took a deep breath
Thighs pressed taut against your hipbones,
Felt the tight curl of my fingers against your ribcage, loosen
unfurling in your jacket pockets
Released it all to trust -
Surrendered.

When I opened my eyes next, I saw the ground sideways
Asphalt black and slick with mist, slipping past
Inches from my lowered lashes
But it held no fear for me -
All was peaceful.

This memory resurfaces, years later
On the slow descent from his funeral service
When the turbulence takes me.
My sweat-crowded brow battling the surge of nausea
I close my eyes, and relax into it
Swallow bitter fear and pain with the stale tang of coffee
Surrendering to something greater than myself.

These are the moments
I've learned
to let go.

Fair to Middling



When you are forty
you will smile graciously
on another first date
you will have good posture
and impeccable table manners
nibble arugula like a well-nourished rabbit
and measure each bite.

You will still eat roast chicken
at one am, hunched over
the kitchen sink like a wild beast
feasting
stripping the meat from the bone
with your carnivore teeth
inner scavenger, slipping.

You will learn to walk gracefully
you will wear high heels
to the board room, or
special occasions
only
dance barefoot
solo
in the living room
in front of the silent, judgmental ficus
your tree pose, reflective
and effortless.

You'll choose public words
wisely
still spout irreverent poetry,
occasionally
at inappropriate times
unsolicited
in the midst of a party, perhaps

where attendees
will simply assume
you are drunk.
You will let them.
You are not drunk -
but sometimes
you’ll wish you were.

When walking home alone
you will often recite
your favorite song lyrics
out loud
and passersby will believe
you have lost your mind, entirely
you’ll think it’s funny

And, maybe that’s crazy -
or maybe
it’s strategic forcefield
deflecting
unwanted eye contact
and West Oakland’s frequent muggings.

It’s probably both.

You might still imagine yourself
as a rockstar - but
you'll only sing in the shower.
You'll look at your line-less face
in the foggy mirror
and swear you will start using sunscreen
tomorrow -
then forget.

Your home will be organized perfectly,
but you’ll lose your voice
for no good reason.
Your bones will ache
even in milder seasons.
In winter, you’ll consider getting a cat
to keep you company, instead
find a new fur coat.

Your best friends
will have babies.
You will dream
of giving them candy
then handing them back, all hopped up
to go home and watch Netflix documentaries
and, for once
sleep peacefully.

It will not happen.

You will find yourself
lying, often
prone on a pristine beach
while weathering waves of dysphasia.
Your face will be an unsettled seascape
of honest dimple and confused brow

the tide of contentment
always turning.
Each day,
your mind will waver.

You'll tell yourself
to give up
on writing.
You’ll hear yourself
refuse.

You'll think back nostalgically
to your days of waiting tables.
You’ll remember the hard ache of shinbones
less than the trim waist, or the tips
or the ease

At this age,
you’ll be unsure
if your life
is courageous anthem
to living one’s dream
or merely an endless catcall
to unheeding sacrifice

the answer
is more gray hair
and contrast.
Your perspective
will never be
black or white

Welcome to the soft plight
of middle age.

The Craftsman

He was renowned for his facades - his soaring minarets, and demitasse scrolling - his gingerbread trim - so detailed and delicately colored, a delicacy of frosted-wood glory.

His attention to detail was flawless - each feature carefully researched and represented in its full glory - but with an artist’s flair for design - the most well-considered placement of flourishes - the creator’s subtle fingerprint. A Cape Cod’s hand-carved cedar shingles, for example - each smaller than the pinky nail of a tiny child named Violet, for whom it was crafted in honor of her mother’s favorite childhood vacation spot. He had weathered these on his own humble kitchen counter - using a mixture of sea salt and substances he would not reveal, though he insisted they were all as natural as time's progression.

Nothing creates the look of nature like nature herself, he would say - and he was the kind of man you were sure to believe, when he spoke like this - confident and firm, wholly dedicated to this craft. It was his passion - his life’s pursuit.

He won award after award, commission after commission, until he began to turn most away. His time was limited, though he filled the days. He did not raise his prices or form a factory to fulfill these new requests - simply continued to accept the ones he could; those concepts which struck his fancy. Those which pushed him to learn a new aspect of the trade, or hone a particular skill to perfection.

That is what he crafted - perfection. The most exacting, minuscule replica of some doting parent’s dream - a diminutive Edinburgh castle, a minute Edelweiss chalet, a petite pagoda, an infinitesimal ivy-covered brownstone, a Lilliputian island. Still, he merely maintained his own simple standard of living, despite spending his days crafting the microscopic mansions attainable only in other’s dreams.

The Craftsman grew old. His sight failed, his hair faded, and his lean, sturdy frame became stooped with age. He remained alone, always - and though his hands slowed, he continued to carve out a steady existence. He chose away from wealth, and fortune, and fame - and maintained his quiet existence. Eventually, he took on an apprentice, in preparation for the inevitable.

The young man, one day, grew bold, and asked his master why he continued to live such a meager existence. A bachelor, still, in his spare, tiny flat - he spent all of his waning days in the workshop, dawn to dark, crafting one impeccable, bijou masterpiece after the next - these immaculate models of the superb. The Craftsman said, simply, I design perfection, it’s true... but inside of this perfection, these flawless rooms, there is space only for the imagination - the semblance of family. The idea of life. The essence of happiness. The dream of love.

le coeur veut ce que le coeur veut


The heart wants what the heart wants
and tonight, it is coyote howling the moon
all bared teeth and bloodlust
and taking no prisoners -
howling hollow on glass claws
chewing doorframes
to splinters;

The heart wants what the heart wants,
cannot be sated -
growling belly prowling
veins twitching for a fix
that cannot be needled
any
more.

The heart wants what the heart wants
but cannot find it,
so it crawls the barren night
lonely nose to broken cobblestone,
searching for a wafting scent -
a counterfeit whiff
of nostalgic familiar.

The heart wants what the heart wants -
palms down
and ain’t taking any shit from anyone
tonight - just
pumping bloody reckless
all hard thump and feckless
and just what the fuck
do you think you’re looking at,
punkass?

The heart wants what the heart wants
has no problem taking it
still
doesn’t want to

The heart
wants
what
the heart
wants
what
the heart
wants
is
you.





Love poem for the Moon

We have been staring
across this night sky
for so long

I am unsure
if I have imagined this light
creeping
across your face
rising reflection of my own
fierce, bright horizon

I am no longer
convinced it matters
so long
as our gazes turn
to each other

I believe
this blossoming
gravitational pull
will
hold our hearts
in close orbit.

what I will do, what I would do


Spin the bottle

When the bottle points in your direction
I lick my lips
anticipation pricking hips and thighs
quiet reprise to hasty handprints
and you rise
to your feet, eager
and unsteady
sweaty palms, dead giveaway
to virgin nervousness.
And we meet
nose to nose
and toe the line
before the dream stops.

I wake
to view the body
of a middle-aged man
who snores with abandonment -
who drinks the same way.
And I fuck like he drinks
but I don't feel terrible
in the morning.
I'll leave
before he joins
the living.

He won't remember me.

You
are the only one
who does.

When you ask why
I don't come
why
I refuse
to leave with you
why
I will not sleep beside you
why
I will not point
to you.

This is the truth:

the bottle always spins
in your direction. I lock my lips
when I realize
I love you
too much
to rub two addictions together
just to see what sparks.
I know
what smolders
already.

You
are a molotov cocktail,
doused and unlit - glass
still barely intact -
just moments from impact.

My thighs,
these drought-licked limbs
are thirsty tinder,
still
left unstoked
will burn to quiet
by sunrise.

When the bottle tips -
I will not sip. I'll settle
for smoking coals

and friendship.

You'll wake
to view good intentions
snoring beside you.
Her trust, crumpled
and tossed to the floor.
You'll rise
unsteady and blinking and eager
to pass the crown of blame,
throbbing head, waypoint
to last night's transgression -
while I remain woke
alone in my own bed
this threadbare integrity
thin consolation.

I will regret everything
you can't remember -
grip this handful of ashes
and sift it for treasure.
I'll wait for the story's spin -
one more revolution.

Just meet me
in the middle,
please -
sometime.

Realignment

It starts
with snapping the bone
into the right position.
Abrupt reintroduction
of blunt breakage
and sinew.
Soft tissue
reknitting itself, now
to swaddle the vulnerable -
calcium and phosphorus
swarming
to bring reinforcements,
fortifying
the breach points.
New layers
of fossilized mineral -
sifting sediment shifting
to ossein form,
skeletal plaster
which hardens
in time
to supportive frame -
old injuries become
something new,
stronger than ever
before.


The TSA line

We queue for the next opportunity
to sacrifice
pay alms to the small gods
of false security
offering benefaction of pocket knives
and lithium batteries -
travel-sized spray cans
of dry shampoo
and bottled rage
laying our laptops and rights down, neatly
zakat for the widow's mite of security
endless oblation on the rumbling conveyor belt
of the American dream,
of freedom and fortune,
and all this
to protect us from harm
from the trauma of extremism
and/or the burden of differing perspectives
from the shock of being blown into the unknown
or lying,
restless
in a new time zone
asking
if all this sublimation
is worth it.


Definition

Aerie:
habitation at high altitude
lofty ambition of flocking birds
home of raptor,
abode to wise bird of prey
breezy shelter, crafted of kindling
twig, paperwhite feather
drifting down -
subtle pinnacle of this homecoming
rising aria
of flight.

Aer, she said
the Latin root, meaning
Of the air
when what she meant
was
your love.