Explanation for Those Unafflicted

It's not a hot shard of steel
inhaled through the nose
sliding down the throat
and ending in the gut--
a spark that scalds
bright and pink and instant.

It's that bee stuck between
the windowpane and screen
and why helping it escape
is required-- damn the risk
if sleep is on the agenda.

Currently reading:
"House of Leaves" by Mark. Z. Danielewski.


Love Stumps

Vinny van Gogh
had victims, too.
Picasso used red.
He wasn't all blue.
Dali fulfilled
his prophets, like me.
They'd all break brushes
if asked to paint you.



He walks on the shady side
of the street; not because
it's darker, but because
he'll sweat less.

He types his fears into a box
and acts surprised when they
meet him on the sidewalk.

He laughs when others cringe.
The opposite is true.

Once he tried to off himself
and sees now his success.

You can eat every day
and still starve to death.
You can conjure a life
and recite it.
You can have gin for dinner
and tell them at coffee
about pretty voids
you've been filling.


It Doesn't Take Bobby Fischer

For eight dollars, plus tax, I could've been fossilized in a moment ripped from the pages of a long-gone literary hero's hopeful anecdotes. Instead I'm still shaking twenty-three minutes later, but not from nerves-- it's remorse at having been frozen during an opportunity granted by a Power who likes to push pawns off the edge of the board.

I stopped at a convenience store I rarely patronize for a pack of smokes that I didn't need. It was more of a means to break a hundred and avoid a scene at the deli the next morning when the cashier would look at me squarely and say she couldn't make change. Some men learn to be prepared for these catastrophes. Others continue to suffer the same fate. Most never realize they're happening and lead empty lives punctuated by meaningless deaths. I'm lingering somewhere in that equation, though it's not for me to specify. Recordists, you see, are limited to the facts. Allow me to relay them as purely as possible.

I recognized her voice first: that sassy snarl which used to grate my nerves late at night during drunken disputes over nothing. All of me stood still except for my eyes which scanned her presence for the familiar. The tattoo on her foot and a stud in the side of her nose which I could barely see confirmed the uncanny. I was standing behind one of the Great Ones, perhaps the woman who suited me most-- or would have, had I been ready.

Her hair was longer than I'd ever seen it. A flowery dress clung to her figure and was cut short at the knee where two legs protruded gracefully, milky and filled-out like a mother's-- since she is one now, God bless her.

"Declined?" she asked the clerk, equal parts confused and annoyed. The dark-skinned Arab man behind the counter looked my way as she rifled through her purse for another card to swipe. "Sorry," she said over her shoulder with half a glance in my direction. I wasn't sure if she didn't recognize me or was sticking to a strict regimen of damage control, but she said nothing to acknowledge that we'd been together for years back when things were simpler. My feet, sockless in old sneakers, wouldn't budge from the cheap tile floors. I felt new beads of sweat run from my neck down to my shoulders which were bare. A rare fashion sin in the form of a muggy-day Guinea tee and the uncombed, windblown poof adorning my head made me wonder if she mistook me for one of the local rough-and-tumble barrio boys. Part of me prayed it was so. I couldn't be crystallized like this. I'd left my smoking jacket and ascot at home.

Four tall boys of beer dripped condensation on the counter in front of her-- two imported, two domestic-- though the price tags all read the same: $1.99. I thumbed through my wallet and produced a twenty that'd cover both of our purchases, but no words came to my lips. "I've got that," or "Allow me," or "It's the least I can do for all those nights when I should've stopped playing the part so damn well." Any of these would've made up for eight years of slamming back gin and regret. Instead my tail spun as I yanked at the yoke, silent as church on Monday, but churning inside.

My moment passed. I'd missed it forever. The pawn rolled in a wasteful arc there on the cosmic table.

"Here, try this one," she said as she handed the cashier a different card. He rang her up, bagged the beer, and she left before I could congratulate her on doing what I still can't.

One of these days I'll admit that.


Reverse Birth

She plucked a pansy
from the window
spitting it out
when she tasted
the sidewalk smoke.

"You can eat them.
They're supposed
to be sweet
but these aren't."

Two bottles of white
a bookshelf inspection
and an eighty-point win
in Scrabble
is all it takes
to make two strangers
into fornicators.

"A little further.
Hold it there,"
she gasps, scratching brick.

The sun decides to rise
three hours later.

It's bad when you can't
say her last name
although she's naked
beside you.

"Will you walk me
to your door?"
she asks
shooting low.

Twist the locks.
Change the sheets.
Turn off the ringer
and go back to sleep

as a hangover with legs
squints her way home.

I've seen the face of love.
It's buried in my pillow
twice a week.


Menstrual Math

Black lacy things
that hide under furniture.
Mascara on the pillowcase
warm water will remove.
Long hairs in the shower drain
and short hairs in the razorblade.
These are more things
your mother shouldn't see.

All that may be so
but I felt like I was living.
The laundry list of evidence
tastes better than the void.
The last five were Italian.
I've got this new hypothesis:
It's easier to sabotage
than let yourself be wrong.

I'm standing on this sand bar
a mile from the beach
with a fist cast in wax
from where I've held her candle.
Blessings come in ruthless waves
unnoticed 'til they're gone.
If one stares at what's missing
one becomes that same abyss.



It must've looked suspicious: a sweaty man in boots and beard marching onto the wooded railroad tracks with a shovel in one hand and a cardboard box in the other. A stillborn? Blood money? He made it quick and found the spot where a younger man once played and buried friends: a hill in the forest behind his mother's house.

The moat was harder to cross than before, balance being a gift to the young. His longer stride made the incline a shorter bound, though. Once atop the crest he set down the coffin and spade in search of a spot he didn't pick fifteen years prior. The blade found moist earth never tilled by the likes of a mourner. He's changed, maybe grown, since the last time he chose a grave. He hacks at roots and clay with the folding army shovel he keeps in his truck for emergencies. It's the first time he's used it. It's the deepest grave he's dug, though not the deepest hole. He's proficient.

Once it's low enough to house her he wrestles the inevitable question. It's decided that to leave his friend without a parting pet would be heartless. His has always been too big. He stays true to form and opens the box for the first time. The rigid rabbit corpse takes a few last strokes that it sometimes almost tolerated.

She deserves a parting gift at this impromptu burial, aside from her freedom from captivity. He's come bearing only what his work garb includes. It dawns on him to dig through his black leather wallet-- the same one he's had for more than half his life-- in search of something worthy. The perfect token jumps out at him: his lucky two-dollar bill. He's been broke at bars in Manhattan and not used it. Stranded and thirsty and screwed. Trading it off seemed blasphemous. For the better part of a decade it's ridden on his hip. Now it's between the paws of a creature as rare as that currency. No boatman could stop her. It isn't superstition. She fancies good food and will need a means to purchase. Besides, he ponders, no luck can last forever.

The first tosses of dirt go slowly, the rest fill in like liquid. He lifts a larger rock than he could've in his prime and covers the fresh soil to protect the foxes and foragers from her wrath should they get curious. It occurs to scratch her uncreative name into the makeshift headstone, but he refrains in case kids come and wonder what's below.

He says a few words in his head about his strange friend who's given him lessons in both unrequited and unconditional love, making his descent back to the tracks that will lead him to his truck and reality. There, in the shadow of a wilderness still rampant as his memory, he lights a cigarette with fresh dirt under his fingernails and walks on in search of more.



he invited me into his office to tell me what i already knew by the tone of his voice over the phone earlier. it's been a year of deaths. i recognize the sound by now, even when it's masked.

"she survived the surgery, but went into arrest afterward," he said after shaking my steady hand. "we resuscitated her once, but two hours later she passed. i'm sorry."

i avoid eye contact and rub a tattoo high up on my left arm: bugs. he notices.

"she was happy today," the vet lies.

"she was never happy," i quickly correct him.

"well, she was active. when we fed her and took her out of her cage she attacked all of us. the staff couldn't believe it. we called more people into the room to see for themselves. it was like in 'monty python and the holy grail'."

a sick smile spreads across my sweaty face as i respond to the chrome lining of the toilet. "she went out like a champ. she stayed true to form." i'm not talking to him at this point. i'm mocking the gods who just lost to a creature without opposable thumbs.

the expected reaction to losing a friend of five-and-a-half years doesn't come until i'm back in my truck. it's tainted with laughter, or maybe the opposite is true. some emotions, like exotic cocktails, are bizarre when mixed.

"true to form," i mutter at the rear-view mirror, an oddly silent cardboard box on the passenger seat next to me. "it's more than most can say."

RIP bun bun.
you'll be missed, regardless of the lack of reciprocation.


For Those Who Claim To Not Piss In The Shower

Chomping into a deathburger
as my fries harden vessels
that once held clean blood
I watch while murky clouds
approach the carnival like a phalanx
in the lot across the street.

The mechanical merry-go-round
still spins the children blindly
and when the sky unleashes its deluge
the swings remain in motion
for long enough to tell me
that the operator is having his fun
for a change.

A poster on the nearest wall says
"Have it your way,"
but the carnie and I
know better than to falter.

Drenched parents corral soaked kids
in the downpour through the glass
while my fast food goes down slowly
one crow at a time.

"Preparation," I garble through a mouthful
to an unseen stranger
doing the youth justice.

The best favors go unacknowledged.