Poem-a-day #2: The Only Waltz

The only waltz

Worth a listen

Are the ones

That are played

After the party

Is finally over

 

The only waltz

That brings tears

Makes me walk

Down the hole

In my heart

 

The only waltz

I could learn

Is on strings,

With my voice,

Twinkling and sighs

 

The only waltz

Fit for dancing

Happens in rooms

Lit by candles

And your shadow

 

There’s a waltz

Purring inside me

Wanting to show

How to glide

How to swing

 

The only waltz

I can play

The only waltz

I can hear

The only waltz

I can dance

Never ever ends

But sometimes appears.

Poem-a-day #1: How to Escape a Tsunami

Capture

How can I let go of you now? You’ve seen my panic stricken face.

You know the sharp stone that vibrates in my belly.

I don’t know what it is, or where it came from. But you have one too.

I dream of scooping out the rock from my body  like an avocado pit. I carve it into a bookend and offer to do yours, too. The pain in our guts could be bookends shaped like funny monkeys covering their eyes. They each have a fez and wicked little smiles.

“Don’t read these books,” I imagine them saying.

And I invite you over and unveil our pain which is holding up a strange book called How to Escape a Tsunami. We’d scratch our heads and talk about how we would do it, even though our town is landlocked.

We would sit a long time.

We would discuss whether we should pick up the book and read it, despite the monkeys implied warnings. You say, “Yes.”

There is nothing inside this book except the word, “RUN” and then hundreds of drawings. Sweeping bits of landscapes and a beacon of light on a mysterious mountaintop all painted in gold. Dozens of pages filled with tree roots, twisted and gorgeous– thirsty and thrilling. Still.

“Is that real gold?” I ask.

“Are these real places?” you ask.

We can barely make out the world in this strange book that tells us to run and shows us what the world could be, and how it is. It is a map that shows a way out of terror. It doesn’t matter which direction you go. Everywhere is safe, as long as you’re not alone.

I don’t know what love is anymore. And that is beautiful.

When Worlds Fall Apart

cave-drawing.jpg

When the world falls apart, and all that is left behind are charred bushes and ironic, blown over street signs and cats catapulting off of slumped over rooftops, it will be bearable if we are together. We would tackle the urban terrain like modern day Survivors and you would gather Pringles and dried fruit and keep me away from dangerous others—like gun-crazy hillbillies and politicians and bears. You will have a trusty survival guide and will teach us both how to siphon gas and live peacefully in the wilderness. It will be hard, but fun because the joy of life is in your music and my words and all the stories between us.

I wake up from scraped up dreams all ice ages and cavemen and poodle-sized mosquitoes and wonder if we were sent to that time and place, would our love survive or would we succumb to tribal roles and vicious meat battles? I think you would amaze the cavepeople with your not-so-cavelike drawings, and tell them about the future and all of the history that lies between them and us—Roman intrigue and Chinese dynasties and Hollywood. They will think you are God or the Devil or least an Alien— in any case, they will be scared and give us pelts and whatever kind of jerky there is and we will leave and be together. And on their cave walls are cartoon strips and recipes and poetry and reasons why women should not be dragged.

The world is a fragile place, and for all of our sensitivities and causes, you would think that it would chew up and spit out people like us. But we are the ones who will survive. We are not Rooms-to-Go and 401Ks and Outback Steakhouse. Home is where we are, with our dog and cat pack, which we will have to protect because they can’t fend for themselves. Perhaps we think we are like them—once wolves and bobcats, now soft and finicky. No. We are not “once human.” Our love makes us strong—Oscar-winning, best-scene-ever strong. If we were POWs and were separated, I would not betray you. I would not believe their lies or their chocolates or their moment-of-weakness humanity. Whoever believes that our bodies are all there is has never believed love of God or person.

And if our injured country goes the way of Hoovervilles and soggy socked misery, our joys will be found in candlelight moments, and the sudden release– like humanity’s smile– in the need to hug and cling more than usual. Funny thing is, you give yourself to me, every single day, as though the world may very well fall apart.

Random Word Generator: New

New

The tide has come and gone. Again. As ever.  I live four hours from a beach, but I know this is true. It is not new. Neither is this poem. It has been written a thousand trillion times plus one in the minds of sleepy children uncertain whether or not their dreams were real or imagined. It was written by my10th grade English teacher one night after his girlfriend left him. It was written by my older sister in that hateful note she left me before she moved out for good. It was written by my neighbor who keeps her house dark on Halloween because she is scared of any sort of mask. It was written in every half-baked business plan, roads to fortune, that ever was. It was written when I fell out of my old self and into screaming love for the first time, and then it was gone.

There was one grown up without normal manners who told me once that everything that ever was has already been thought, written, sung, danced, painted and cried over.

We twisted spoons together with our minds, and drew pictures of heroic horses and their unaffordable, fine black carriages as though recalling a personal memory and not something from last Sunday’s movie at the empty theater with sticky carpets.

I wrote the perfect title for the book I will never write. I sang the first goose-pimpling chorus to the song that will never been sung. I stretched my tired, inflexible body in a modern arch I mastered long ago when happening upon harmless grass snakes in the woods behind my house. They summoned me, or perhaps the other way. But it was a dance always crouching in the silent anxiety of my days.

The drywall in this new house is textured and rough, but sanctimoniously uniform. For an hour, I grip an orange and green glass marble in a tight fist convinced that my best idea is trapped inside of it. I fantasize that I might be able to throw it so hard it will pass through the drywall without a scratch, the universe reassembling itself in honor of the only new thought to come about in five thousand years.

Instead, it is legitimately cold under a vast Texas sky. I find a scarf, but keep my flip flops on. The summer was a living hell, I say out loud to something without breath. The wind pushes leaves into my face, and I swat them away like fruit flies. I should be grabbing them like million dollar bills or kisses. I steer my head toward the stars and know this has been done before. I remember now. I bury the marble next to the dead Peruvian Lemon tree that died in last year’s freak snow storm.

I don’t long for the stars out of reach. Instead, I survey the leaves at my feet, gather them quickly and release them to the wind like wishes. Now, they are in my neighbor’s yard.

———————–

(Words in bold were gathered from a random word generator. )

 

 

Random Word Generator: Selective Memory

Run, Misery, Photographic, Flew, Julius

Crawl carefully in the mystical place of the heart– it is the most free you might be. This is the diary of a masterful claw. A song strung out serene, empty and without light has all the lure of a photgraphic journey flashed furiously on a wall at dinnertime. I have never been there, I will never go there, it was not my dream. Why, then, do we repeat the silly misery? It flew away from us once, now pesky and righteous, dripping in a heartless tapping that defeats our senses. Now, there is the cat to consider. Julius doesn’t smile or jump or cower. He never did– we made him up from day to day. We do that. Bending in time, stretching beyond our psychic means is very dangerous and fattening and overall quite bad for the heart.

Pop Candy – Episode 4

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The first time Alex saw Ava it was in an ad for a Co-op Radio benefit. There was a photo of her and three guys– all hosts of the most popular shows. The foursome looked very bummed out because it was a benefit for the station which had burned to the ground just a week before. No one knew the hows or the whys of why it went up in flames. It was a mystery. Co-op was still was sharing space with the college radio station for the time being, and they had cut their programming by almost seventy per cent until they could raise enough money to buy a new, small studio.

When Alex saw Ava, he felt as though he had hit the mother lode. She was petite with light-haired pony tails. She had perfect, straight Bettie Page bangs and wore black-framed glasses with rhinestones. The photo was in black and white, and he wished he knew what the true color of her eyes and hair really were. In the picture, Ava wore an argyle cardigan over a concert t-shirt which Alex finally made out to be from U2’s Joshua Tree tour. He wondered where she scored the shirt since she must have been in kindergarten at the time. Maybe she had a cool aunt or uncle who passed it down to her. Or maybe she had bought it online. She didn’t seem like the kind of person who buy something like that online, so Alex concluded that it came to her in some wonderful, serendipitous way– like she had come to him. And although she was frowning for the camera, her eyes had a hint of a smile that calmed Alex to the bones.

With the cutback in the schedule, Alex had temporarily panicked thinking that “Pop Candy” would be off the air indefinitely. But Ava wasn’t cut. She was popular. Alex was relieved and disturbed by this fact. “Hey,” he thought. “Who else is listening to her? There can’t be someone out there who loves the show as much as I do.”

Alex had been doing pretty well since discovering “Pop Candy” and he looked forward to it every night. On the weekends, when Ava wasn’t on air, he would line up one album for Sat. night and one for Sun. night– recordings that Ava had talked about or recommended on air. He would sink into his bean bag, put on his garage sale headphones that made him look like a rusty robot and would listen to the entire CD from beginning to end, eyes closed. Sometimes he didn’t have any pot or beer, so it would take him nearly three songs before his mind would stop racing. But for the nights that he did score some weed or had enough for a twelve pack, he would barely make it halfway through before falling into a deep, dreamproof sleep.

He would imagine Ava sitting in a bean bag right next to him, her headphones plugged into the same stereo. Every now and then they would look up at each other, smiling and nodding to the music. Their hands would be clasped and they would tap rhythms on the back of them to keep time. Maybe she would squeeze his hand every now and then at some particularly sentimental lyric.

Tonight, he was listening to The Bends by Radiohead. When Fake Plastic Trees came on, tears began to quietly flow down his face in a torrent of salty, stinging pain. Soon, his face was hot and soaked through like a sponge. He ran the palms of his hands roughly over his eyes and pulled the tears through his dirty hair making it shine in the moonlight streaming in. He could feel the wounds of the years bursting through his skin, ravaging his body with the bold, ruthless pain of regret and fear. He didn’t quite understand what the song meant, but he cared about the person who could write something like that and lamented his own lack of ingenuity when it came to expressing such longing for something better.

At that moment, Alex’s father burst into the room, flung on the lights and took what looked to Alex like a war stance.

“Enough is enough, Alex,” Mr. Whitney said. “You’ve drained the liquor cabinet and you haven’t been out of this house for two weeks. Now you’re sitting in the dark crying like a little girl. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“What? Nothing. What?” Alex’s tears dried up like drops of water on a 400 degree skillet in summertime.

“Tomorrow, I’m locking you out of the house. And there’s nothing you or your mother can do about it. When you get a plan, a job, anything, you let me know and you can get the rest of your things. I’ll pay your first month’s rent, and then you are on your own.”

Before Alex could jump up and say “Hey, Dad. I do have a plan. I mean I have an idea, and it’s slowly getting better. I mean, I’m getting better– just give me some more time…” Mr. Whitney slammed the door shut so hard, Alex’s shelves came crashing down and his CDs fell like tarot cards across the dusty rug. His heart began to race and his eyes darted toward all of his belongings as though he had to make a split second decision on what to keep and what to let burn. He felt his world had suddenly exploded into flames and he had no idea where he was going to go once the sun came up.

Pop Candy – Episode 3

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The only things that had really ever changed in Alex’s room were the color of the walls which had gotten darker over the years like dried blood, his posters and a black computer desk he had stolen from the neighbor’s bulk garbage pickup five years earlier. He had meticulously steam cleaned the exterior and used an exacto to remove stickers bearing the likenesses of Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Usher. He lay in his twin bed gazing out the screened window and listened to the whoosh of maple leaves that signaled a coming storm. He could not see the stars anymore. They had cleared the wild meadows near his house to put up a new subdivision – “Whispering Willows”- and the street lights, along with the ever growing population of outdoor shopping plazas (strip malls) had stained the night sky that he grew up with. It was black now. And that made him nervous.

It annoyed him that he knew there were stars in the sky, but he couldn’t see them. Though he had spent most every night with eyes squeezed shut listening to wind and crickets and the sound of Nightline blaring from his father’s office, he had suddenly realized that he absolutely must see the stars… or he would do something drastic. It slowly became a compulsion, but he did not realize how severe the itch to see the stars had grown until one night he burst out of his room, ran to the car and started the ignition all with the intention to drive far into the countryside until he could see the Big Dipper. That was the plan. But once he put the car into reverse, Alex blacked out and awoke to paramedics slapping his face. In the corner of his eye he saw his Dad’s car neatly tucked into  the side of the neighbor’s Suburban. The white steam slid into the night air and he thought how nice it would be to go to a sauna tomorrow. Just get all the toxins out, sweat out the pain and the chemicals and the crap he had been breathing in that disgusting room over the garage.

The next day, he had forgotten all about his night terror. He had blocked out all conversation with others throughout the day until it seemed he had only been awake for an hour or two. He was a stoic genius waiting. He knew that he had been born for a reason, and that all was not lost for his lack of work, ambition or focus these last few years. He discovered, during his blackout, that he was waiting for an idea. Just one, simple, exquisite idea that would shoot him out of this house forever. Maybe it was a household invention. Or a mathematical equation. Or an engineering breakthrough. Or something to help babies or dogs. He didn’t know. But he felt good knowing that it was just a matter of time until something happened.

Alex’s confidence soared while he shaved, clipped his toenails, washed his face and applied his topical ointment to the eczema on his feet. But for all the fantasizing about getting his due someday soon, his anxieties returned once the lights were out. He tried to focus on the crickets, but they would not chirp to the rhythm that was in his mind playing over and over. Ode to Joy. He had to quickly abandon the crickets. The trees were no better. Where there was wind last night, tonight it was as still as death. It seemed everything he wanted wasn’t there.

Alex felt his heart racing. His body was one large itch that could not be scratched. If he didn’t hear the crickets play Beethoven or see the hidden stars or hear the song of the trees that was soothing and sweet, he didn’t know quite what he would do. His mother had the only key to the liquor cabinet, and he was fresh out of the two liter plastic bottle of vodka he had finished the day before yesterday.

Alex reached over to his clock radio and looked at the time. It was 10:33 p.m. He tried to hold his breath for a full two minutes. If he could do that, he could do anything and everything would be OK. After 45 seconds, he let out a deep gasp followed by an alarming squeal and burst into tears. Alex’s hands darted toward the clock radio to hurl it against his bathroom door. It fell to the floor and the crackling volume pierced the air. He went to grab and adjust it, but he inadvertently tuned to the Co-op station. He heard the unmistakable voice of Kate Bush and felt that at least he had been thrown a piece of driftwood tied to an old boat on a tumultuous sea.

Alex pulled himself together, crawled into bed and tuned the station in so it was clear and uncluttered by static. He adjusted the volume. Not too soft so he couldn’t hear it, but not too loud that he couldn’t go to sleep. He lay flat on his back, palms up and spread out, face relaxed and he listened. He couldn’t remember when or if he had ever heard a Kate Bush song on the radio. Her voice was an instrument. He wished that Kate was actually his sister or cousin or aunt. Mostly, he let her birdly voice sing of a lonely woman waiting for her long lost love to return from the sea. It was haunting, and he fell asleep just as Ava’s voice pushed him into a dream… “thank God for Kate Bush. I’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, I’m Ava and this has been Pop Candy.”

Random Word Generator: Meditation on Ice Cream

Pensive

Crust

Dandelion

Tug

Clouds

I sit still for five minutes fixating on the tinny sound of a rusty ice cream van willing itself down the street. There are banana bombers and nutty buddies in their protective ice crusts waiting to be freed from the sad, humiliating parade. But I can not move. I am sitting zazen, watching my thoughts like clouds, pensive and hopeful that this time I can cast my eyes forty-five degrees down exacting a concentration toward the knot on the perfectly shiny cherrywood floor, like cutting the Hope Diamond when there is nothing left to do. I see faces in the boards now, and they are not urging me along, only trapped expessions presenting a possible future ripe with worry and clock watching and a wink. Perhaps my thoughts are not clouds. They are not rain and pollution, bunnies and fire engines– and the sun can break them apart at will. My thoughts are dandelions. When they are attacked with the swift stroke of possession, they spread like ashes over a field of brown grass and shoot toward the sky. My thoughts are free and unprotected. But on the floor, they tug at me, and I am tucking them away, at least until the ice cream is gone.

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