VERBALLISTICS:

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San Francisco

Oh, you
City of Concrete
of bumstink
of bad traffic
and no parking
barking with laughter
the whole way home
from the bar,
City of Linking Arms
and hollering after midnight.

You
of constant wind
and cold summers -
late-harvest Autumn which wraps us
all in sweaters and slanted light -
falls on the golden glow
of a comfortable front stoop
ringing fate's doorbell
only to bail at the first chance.

Someone called
you
The City of Love
once,
but never again -
still, all the hopefuls
come back
to

You -

Goldrush of the West
your jasmine perpetually in bloom,
though its soft scent seems lost on
the hard-soled parade of your sidewalks -
all VC fanfare and ticker tape -
City of Step-on-your-Mother's-Back,
City of Slip Through the Cracks
City of Soup Kitchen
and Instantaneous Drone Delivery

City of Bright Bridge and
privilege and real money
conjured from thin air
you
no longer
wear flowers in your hair.

You
no longer
seem to care
for such trivial things
as this.


San Bernardino

The hills were on fire then
and they are burning again
all bluster and smoke
updrafting breeze which crumples
giants to knees, tumbles
mountains to foothills

And maybe it was all just timing -
a tidal wind broken on rocky cliffside
at just the right moment to carry a spark
from safety to circumstance,
chance blaze of one little cinder
fated to bring all this old growth to ash

But maybe it's better to ask
what might come of all this?
What fervent splendor might birth itself
from all these broken bows, resprout
from this newly fertilized path
on the route towards civilization?

Predictions

In one to five years
you will marry a woman
who is my photocopy -

a little less colorful, maybe
a little softer around the edges
a little less defined.

In one to five years,
the two of you will have a baby
who looks like me -
except printed on a finer piece of paper.

Your wife will love you
in a very ordinary way.
It will all be black and white
and you will like it, alright

It will be all right.

Everything will be fine.

Sonata to Solitude in Isolation Minor

1. I am sitting in a breakfast cafe, alone, as I am always alone, when sitting in cafes. The sun is shining on my back, etching the beach on my shoulders and you'd think that this is the setting to the perfect morning, but it's already one pm, and I am feeling ungrateful. My cup holds the slight taste of dirt, or salt, or something more sinister in it's brown depths, and I can't get over it - still keep on sipping. Chewing over and over on the fact that there is no apple pie today, that it is the anniversary of something dark, suffering immensely over my own minor indecisions, or moments that could be let go easily if I would only loosen my breath. Like the second when someone simply pauses, draws in, hesitates over whether to blow the fluff from a dandelion - to be loved, or loved not.

2. All of the best poems happen in the shower. Maybe I'm singing along to some old blues song, or getting high on the iridescent foam, but something strange spreads, like steam over my own obscured reflection, something in my stoppered ears triggers a waterfall of words, and I am repeating the title phrases, pressing the names of poetic zygotes into my palms, trying to capture their features until I can press pencil to forehead, and draw them to paper… An open reply to the wrong lover's letter. A missive from all the spurned suitors of Oedipus. I'll remember the first line, or last - never the whole thing. The phone always rings when I'm wrapped in a towel, scribbling with a finger in the mirror’s steam.

3. The last act is always the hardest. Curtain call on a lover's affections. She can always feel it coming - he is merely the harbinger of stories, chapter book of her own sorrows read out loud and backwards. He will help her sound out all her most egregious mispronunciations, but it will always be too late - the sentence now altered by the context, and she knows that honesty is always a soft heart's undoing. With all this bruise inside, she is still too slow to pull the punches back - she’s just a fraction of a second off, these days - but what an impact a well-aimed word can make, still...

4. All the best ideas are stillborn. They merely sail on the seas of romantic summer notions - brush by our world, never touching the shore with both feet; their toes always bare. The sand always sucked from beneath them at the last second, all contact ephemeral, dwindling to sea again. Backsliding into the fear of becoming, they submerge in primordial oceans, rejoining the subconscious mind. Here, they shed tears for our faults. They dissolve into salt.


just bleeding ink

I write when I have no one to talk to. When it’s late at night, and the wheeze of my own bones is keeping me awake. When there seems to be a lot at stake, but it’s really just my own insecurity tearing me down, crumbling my aspirations, mud-sliding my countryside into the wide plains of non-existence. There was never a fence around our circumstances. There was always that crushing weight of the lightness of being. There was always a fault in our stars, and while you’re in the bars and I am at home, I am lost in a book. Or at least, in a story. My grandma would say “only boring people are bored" and I pride myself on proving her right - but sometimes forget which one I am. I write at night. And whether its the soft shush of pages or just dribbling ink, I write when I need to think outloud to myself, because I am probably the only one who’ll get all the inside jokes, all the repeating thesis statements of my own emergency - you know, the urgency in my own voice still surprises me sometimes. It is the clanging bell of evacuation, breaking the vow of silence I make every time I cross my heart - hope to die - just not tonight, dear - just not tonight.

noble lies

PART ONE

Charles says
When you’re single beyond thirty,
all of the rules change.

Dating is no longer
about finding forever.
You have already met your soulmate
and lost them;
stared down the road to forever
and chosen
a different path -

realized that all paths,
eventually
lead back to your own heart,
in which lies the small dream
of a comfortable death.

Truly,
we are all alone,
says Alan.
And, every person we meet
simply exists
as a reflection of our inner selves -
so it’s best just to improve
your own insides, first.

So, I’ve spent the better half
of a decade
chasing my own flighty truth, dowsing
the watery sky for stars
while swallowing
feathery platitudes, when


Sofia says,
Once you’ve reached a certain age,
you realize that real love
is always enduring.

What she leaves out
is, eternity shifts
just as we do.

Forever’s face ages
alongside our own dubious features,
evolving to greet the undivinable
climate of human nature,
as if it had always
intended to do so.

So when he asks me
How do you love?

I tell him
Momentously.
Wholly.
With all that I am -
always.

Which is to say, truly -
Without ever needing
to believe
you will stay.

But I leave that part spare
to preserve his smile -
hoping
that I will have left him
in fairer weather
for holding him kindly,
because a wise meteorologist
once said,
We never know what might happen
next.


Picture Perfect

I can tell, immediately
by the photos of your friends.
They are all straight
proud smiles
and good bones -
clear
unlined brows
and smooth skin
and not a wrinkle
among them.

Not a single
blemished nose
or fatty - and
they have been smiling
for the camera
since birth;
bellies full
of good cheese
and organic beef - they

are red-blooded Americans,
born to wide horizons and sunshine
all amber waves and good breeding
all tanned legs and cheerleading.
There is nothing blue or bruised
about them.

I would never fit in.

Sure, I could slip
into the midst of them -
slide on my cigarette pants and
canvas slippers,
bind my wrists with thick bangles
and cut my hair in a proper angle
but I will still be
just a pretender.

I’ll still walk
everywhere. The way I move
will give me away.
I’ll still wear
the shifting slump
of a prisoner - even
on the other side of the wall.

You know,
you just can’t fake
that kind of upright.
It comes from a life
lived
with no weight.


Ironically

To reduce my suffering,
you will place finger and thumb carefully, lay
the strong crook of your hand
in the vulnerable valley below my windpipe
applying the same pressure
you would to the neck
of a champagne bottle - releasing
the stuck cork of my fear gracefully
a tiny flourish
in your final thrust,
before we both spill over, frothing
in sweet dissolution.

To reduce your anxiety,
I will cradle thick fingers between slender ones
guide your hand gently to the bottle -
because you don’t drink
anymore - but we both know that
you want to.
We both know
all the reasons why -
even if we do not speak of them.
We repeat our lines as often as needs be
memorizing roles, while slipping
into character; we don the costumes
of our past selves.

And, we can replay this scene
as often as needs be -
your hands, violent criminals
my throat, a helpless victim
this body: perpetual crime scene

and savior, both. Always
both. Always
reborn
in our own aftermath.

And, I will pretend death with you
as many times as needs be -
while you still refuse
to kill
the black widow, spinning
over your bed -

you said
she wasn’t hurting
anyone.

Your hands, no longer anvils
smoldering vise grips.
My glass backbone, molten
your blind fingers trailing
through braille history - stippled skin
beneath your calloused palms
while we relive the past
as darlings - ghosts
of all the little deaths which happen
but do not happen fully;
vessels which burst and bruise,
but also heal -

a dry toast
to our own survival.


A Woman Wants What A Woman Wants

The alarm goes off and I wake up
to perform my critically acclaimed
sentience in my morning posture
I seek to achieve the impossible angles of a bird
lying dead in the road - with its head and wings
folded down into the asphalt from the vantage point
of a crane shot.

To make direct eye contact
with the camera is to move the perspective from
the watched to the watcher or to present an emotion
as a publicly observable signifier,
a voyeuristic experience -
The Feel Good Movie of the Year
was my nickname in high school
and as is cinematically compelling,
I brush my teeth for he duration of sand
moving from the top of the blue plastic hourglass
to the bottom. “Look at this existence.
This pathetic, fallible, wonderful body,"
you can say rhetorically, sarcastically, or earnestly
and still achieve death.

Look at me falling in love with fallible bodies.
Look at me performing emotional labor,
my arms are strong enough
to work a tract of land:
The impatient man calls me
a bitch at my place of work
and the upward movement
of my facial muscles causes
my eyes to wrinkle, a smile.
This is a method of intention setting.

I seek a husband
with broad shoulders and a symmetrical face,
a hard worker, whose value is in the width
of his chest. I do not want
men that can teach me. There is nothing
more that I want to know; free of want,
I can’t use men in the same way
that they can use me. “Give up
on art and love," you can say rhetorically,
sarcastically, or earnestly, and still achieve death.
I wouldn’t be a good wife,
but I would be a wife
in a way that was cinematically compelling.

In my dream last night
there was a factory farm
that performed full body castration;
I went there
to lay with the women who wanted
to find a calm somewhere.
I became a body
and my sentience became someone else’s
problem as I awoke thinking,
“Where is my value?" as if I had misplaced
my lipstick again.


(from Gabby Bess, Alone with Other People. Read more here: http://gabbybess.com/selectedwriting)


Paper Face

here
is my unsubtle origami
all scrawled up
with the bent words
of feelings

incapable
of folding inward
a wide-winged, flapping
swan of sentiment

you are an envelope
of secrets
a private letter
inscribed to your own
insides

I am every postcard
ever written
a bold-faced book, left
flung open

my cover
so easily
catches fire