The Purge

Round them up like derelicts
prisoners of war
to eliminate the risk
of wishing for the miracle.
A spine compresses
from ceiling weight
and clouds above a world of ants
while shaking hands burn 
en route to closet corners
with real-life Kryptonite 
in the form of left belongings.
Reduced to Mr. Kent again
dreaming through alarms.
The rent's been paid to Caesar
though home has driven south.


Still We Let It Choke Us

"Which hurt more? The first or the last?"

You have a lot of time to think about it afterward, not that it's a question that anyone would ask you. It's the type of debate you have with yourself in front of a mirror at three in the morning, often under the influence of an overserved evening. The hangdog look of confusion in your eyes betrays the truth hiding behind your lips. Five of your front teeth are missing and you know that neither option is correct.

The first you barely felt due to the adrenaline. The last were not as bad because the shock had numbed your mouth. The ones that bastard yanked in the middle are what inflicted the most pain, though not for the reason expected. With enough time to think between threats made by the loan shark you'd crossed and the chemicals coursing through your bloodstream you managed to decipher the true source of the suffering:  a human being, by definition only, is capable of torturing another individual over money, for revenge. That is what struck you the hardest. That is what made you curse birth. Duct-taped to that basement chair you found a reason for heartache.

Your physical affliction was gruesome and acute, but the psychological damage done by those rusty pliers lasted longer than the ache in your gumline. There's no phantom limb syndrome for teeth. You learn to live without them, eating foods more appropriate, smiling with your eyes instead; but the fruit from Eve's tree cannot be spat out. You know what man is capable of now. Feel free to throw that accusation at the fairer sex as well.

If you had insurance--the type with dental coverage--then you wouldn't be reminded every time you take a bite. But hey, if you could pay, then you wouldn't need Albanians. He must've gotten his rocks off. He never called you back.

Amateur Oncology

It's not the first time
she's rubbed it discreetly;
a fifty says it won't be the last.
"How long has this been here?"
she asks of the small mark on his forehead.
"As long as I can remember," he blurts.

It's one speck of the spatter
that flecked his skin at birth--
an external flaw doled as counterpoint
by God the Father's left hand.
There are hundreds on his body
but this one catches her eye.
She would know.
She's an expert.
She doesn't like its color.
He fears her mistrust
of his faulted epidermis.
He'll never tell her this
but the irony seems right.

It's a year since her mother
was eaten alive by cancer.
Her own skin that betrayed her
was washed and clothed
by her daughter until the end.
He quit fifteen years of nicotine
the weekend that they met
though there was no ultimatum.
There can't be
if it's to last.

Scrolling back through years of pictures
zooming in to check his head
would seem like cheating fate.
Who needs reassurance with a memory like his?
That brown spot's been there forever.


Key West Blues in C#

In the back of his throat
there's a gallows
where he hangs himself
with the wrong words.
None of it will matter
in his own private Idaho
when celebrities die
to be quoted.

It isn't how the rules are rigged
but why a ghost would abide.

The service is lacking.
The liquor is watered.
Regardless, they come for the brass.

Currently reading:
"Sunlight Here I Am" by Charles Bukowski.


Isis, Cease to Weep

The sincerest of greetings
from an aerated chauvinist
comes after nightmares
of standard transmissions
guns without bullets
botching escape.
The fortunate wake with their teeth
still intact.

It's Shangri-La versus Valhalla.
All day long
stuck in your rhythm
with better places to be.

Good god
I see women from my father's hometown
and wonder why he ever left.
Springing to your assumption
is the part begged to play.
Mistaken for a misogynist
with only a weakness for women.

New wine fills the skin.
A pack of year-old cigarettes
medicates this latest retreat
after meeting the same bird
with a different wounded wing.

It's not the best Sunday for breathing.


Ride the Mattress

The State Department regrets to inform you that Mr. David Vargas has become a parody of himself. Like rape, it's worse than death; but there are no made-for-TV movies about this crippled fate. He'll, you'll, however the Royal We shall choose to address Itself this time--will only fade into oblivion, another silent casualty of apathy; though in your case, Dave, the sinking isn't silent. You're a writer, or so you think since you wave your arms and throw words at the shore. There will be a record for whatever fouls you commit. There has been for a decade, and it's cost you friends and family. It's cost you love. It's sentenced you to lust, to the search for a gourmet meal in the soup kitchens of Skid Row. And still you let it choke you.

That's what you're supposed to do. This laying in bed until four is expected. While others are returning from work you are still basking in the self-pity of your sex-stained sheets, a mouth unwashed and hair uncommitted to any compass points. Your back is so sore from laying on your weight that the rolling and switching of postures does nothing. You swallow anti-inflammatories, careful not to call them painkillers, and medicate the sore reminder of your syndrome. It's not the first time you've gone that route, though no one's around who remembers such an old yarn.

But this is how they did it, right? You are the quintessential. Congratulations on your complimentary toaster oven. The Network regrets that you've missed the Grand Prize, fallen barely short of its omnipresent glory. The image fades to a laugh in your bathroom. There is no Network, no network, but there certainly is an audience: schools of sharks swarming since your first release of blood. It came as unintentional then. It felt right to allow that slice. When it was over your smile was less crooked. You read it three times in your hovel of a bedroom, foolishly proud of what any sap could accomplish. And so began the cycle that has hounded you ever since: the creative recounting of fallacies, the abhorrent rehashing of crimes, a revisionist history so drenched in self-pity that even the meek must cringe in disgust. You claim it's all cathartic, but you don't learn from the lessons. You type them out and ship them out and now sometimes they're published. Here we are in the wide world that credits a fool for his folly. There's no money in the lines they print, though once in awhile some fresh thighs spread for you. Nothing you have entered in these last years has been sacred. No one's felt the overwhelming urge to stay, yourself included in that spiny accusation. You are the man you loathe inside, and lately it's been easier for the sharks to see straight through. The taste of copper rides high in whichever seas you navigate.

Once you tried to cook with a pot you had just washed. The water had to boil for the process to commence. Something didn't seem right minutes later on your couch. You could smell the looming danger. The moisture on the pot had extinguished the stove's flame. Another twenty minutes and the whole place would be poison. It would have been a headline. They would've all assumed. You ordered out instead, newly grateful for the menu.

You're unsure of what you're doing. That's no secret, friend or foe. The women you've made tender did it more to spare the world. "In a scrape", they used to call it, though it hurts much more than that. Karmic justice triumphs in your recent lack of life. There was once a line of women who would save you at your door. Now the line's retreating, pouring shots for bullets dodged.

Instead of seeing sunlight, calling day a chance, you pull the blinds tighter before covering your head with a blanket that's only smelled of yourself for far too long.

You'll be skipping Happy Hour. There isn't room for acting. The only wings you want adorn some angel out of reach.

Currently reading:
"The Hunt for Red October" by Tom Clancy.


For a Shoebox in a Closet

So strange, these clumps we deify.
Golden-hour lighting yields saints with vulvodynia
while the scrotal exfoliation of senators
determines the outcomes of our lives.
Lou Reed is dead and Seeger's dead
and we're supposed to feel awful
for that Seymour Hoffman junkie.
We dump wine atop our cereal
to slurp down liquid dinner
smoking cloves instead of menthol
since mint's a faster kill.

There's wet work for rapists in prisons
where all our best felons are made.
The horror of dating has not been the bar tab
but how many women were robbed in the dark.
A truer use of lead and steel
would put fathers and Fathers
coaches and confidants
with the monsters their hormones
have burned underground.
Right as rain, sworn on a stack of Gideon Bibles
their silent equalizer should be praised
with union scale.

Somewhere in his chest
there's a bullet you can't catch
bouncing off his ribcage
breaking bits of bone
and they say that when it stops
or he ships those hidden letters
then the tide will shift accordingly
to hail the highest bidder.

Right as rain
but still the village fool.

Currently reading:
"The Breathing Method" by Stephen King.