All is stillness in Kentucky woods
where fireflies flicker, earthen stars,
one, then another and another.
With my son, we get to sit and stare
together into glowing darkness,
watch floating journeys. He clicks our
flashlight to say hello, then asks me
to stay close before summer slumber.
Breathing softens, he falls asleep.
I lie next to him for many minutes,
let life be at ease. With dawn there
will be another day, but for now this
is all, this is everything.
This was published in California Quarterly back in 2006.
Oh yes, I am pretentious with my MFA and
I love to string esoteric
words together, as they anguish abstractly with
misunderstood longing mixed in moonlight.
This, this, and this, you see what I mean?
Of course you do, because you’re reading my
perfect poetry, does it not remind you of an
eigenvector, my precocious linear transformation
word that you pretend to know, but don’t,
because you are not me, you see, that is the
whole point of so much of this, divide, separate
me from you and all the rest, who shall and should
BIG thanks to WestWard Quarterly for publishing Wait for the Rain.
12am, my usual quitting time, when the
Cherry Coke has run out and I’m done
munching on plain M&M’S, and whatever
I’m writing or reading starts to repeat over
and over, telling me the night is complete.
But sometimes I have to push the clock back,
mix water in with the caffeine and sugar, stay
hydrated, which leads to bathroom, me walking
empty hallway corridors after 2am, maze of fluorescent
lit academia, everyone else sleeping, sleeping.
I turn off my ghosts are real imagination
and focus on whatever I’m thinking about,
Ambrose O’Higgins or some other obscure figure
from South America’s past, when turning the corner
on my way back to study, he screams, I scream.
A freaked out bearded janitor and me like looking into a
mirror seeing myself older with blotchy skin, but same
expression of holy mother of, until we both figure it out and
smile, laugh in fright, then wordlessly walk past each other
into the building’s vacant night.
he always wanted to
tell people how obsessed
he was with music
piano like mozart endless
dreams before sleep, he
heard his mother in
this sound night after
night, and the doo
wop voices on street
corners like his father
snapping fingers in a
tight white t-shirt, could
have been the fonz
it all surrounds him
these memories of morrissey
sweetness, he was only
joking, gosh that was
poetry when poetry was
supposed to be just
robert frost, maybe dickinson
and these memories are
just his, his ventura
highway in the seventies
summer of bushy hair
and bee gee bearded
angels, like endless youth
living in the air
state of grace, country faith
Miley, Dolly, Shiloh, and all that
Civil War remembrance of rocking
chairs, old hickory, days of yore
and what of it? might find out
let late southern June, smell
of mowed lawn, magnolia trees
warm air breeze fill me please
they usually know
what they want
the gum or
shiny People Magazine
others walk the
aisles, an activity
to pass the
time in fluorescent
lights, examine lipsticks
red and pink,
most days there
is a man
sometimes a woman
who sits out
front, any help?
it is both
question and statement
they are usually
ignored except for
those few who
drop quarters in
the old coffee
cup, thank you
they say, and
customers smile before
looking for cuticle
scissors or deodorant
to smell better
this is all
normal at Walgreens
in San Francisco
maybe other places
They sport cowboy boots and We Love Elvis t-shirts holding iPads, wearing headphones for the tour. I sang Blue Suede Shoes karaoke once, but that wasn’t enough to keep me walking around his Graceland estate with the rest of the ducks, waddling from room to room taking photos of the King’s white TV set and blue curtains.
Not sure how we got here, Memphis sweat and people twanging about how it was Grandma who liked him, not Grandpa. I wanted to love this little slice of my country, even woke up listening to Paul Simon’s tune, but ten minutes in I knew I was a goner. To say I don’t really care is an understatement, the man was a man, sang songs, acted, died of drugs and bodily neglect, his health wrecked by fame and addiction.
But the pre-tour film left all that out, as generation after generation venerates the get rich success, crash and burn failure of his jumpsuit days and private plane, and I suppose I’m the curmudgeon, sitting watching them all, waiting for the shuttle to take me back, away from America’s celebration of this glorious excess.
polka-dotted white shirt collar
in the rain, little black bits of
sulphur dioxide and nitrogen
oxide, liquid smog clears the
Andean air, never knew the
mountains were there before
storms of winter, when all
is pure again, I wait for the
micro (bus), slicked hair under
umbrella, leather jacket like
a Russian made man to hustle
on these Spanish speaking streets
in transit to work for finance
power company, electricity and me
daydreaming of Neruda in dirty drips
of sky just asking, why? why?