Wear & Tear

There's this pretty myth
that like all the best
comes from somewhere
I can't pin:
A wildlife show I watched
with my grandma as a kid.
A medicated science teacher's
overhead projector notes;
A paragraph in passing
while waiting for a train.

According to the legend
those migratory geese
you see in solemn pairs
flying low
as opposed to massive Vs
at stealth aircraft altitudes
have been conditioned by genetics.
One is sick or tired or wounded
and couldn't keep up the pace
so the other has broken formation
to guide it safely down.
The Canadian Samaritan
will stay with its struggling comrade
until it's healed or rested or dead.
If you see one flying solo
then the last fate is implied.

That selfless devotion
makes for cheerful fairy tales
and pint glass banter
at trivia night
but it's conjured
like your tax claims.

Nature ensures but two guarantees:
We're born and will die alone.


Everything's Bigger Where Stars Stand Alone

I should have asked sooner.
The corks had been popped.
A third wave of guests
invaded the party.
I ran out of tonic.
The ball had been dropped.
A New Year's Houdini.
An ex for a taxi.

My timing was awful.
That's nothing new.
She'll scout out the South
for something like home.
My fingers found letters.
My testicles grew.
She'll cackle out loud
and say I'm a prude.

She's promised to call
from a pay phone in Texas.
(I know what you're thinking
but she'll hunt one down.)
She's got far more nerve
than your solar plexus.
(I know I've been drinking
but not on the town.)


The Coriolis Effect

When I was 17
I totaled my mother's Toyota
burying the hood
under the rear bumper
of a parked sport utility vehicle.
I'd left my girlfriend's house at dusk
in too-perfect suburbia
re-reading a card she'd given me
not yet having mastered
the art of split attention
when that damn truck
snuck right up.

16 years later
no wrecks, but no wiser
I'm still most distracted
by the parting of lips
the parting of thighs
the parting of ways
with bright hopeful eyes--
If nothing more
in the search for a life
with no hyphenated names.


Of Leeches and Landmines

False fandom
in the form
of a toothbrush
left so subtly
next to yours--
A contract bound
for breaking
to the native grin's

The difference between
Geminis and harlots
is a twin
to join the strokes.

They feign humiliation
if confronted
with their snoring
though truthfully
it shows their peace
their comfort
in your sheets.

Mumbling hyperbole
through mastered
muscle memory:
The softest slap;
A whore's line like
"You never forget
your first."


Doubting Thomas Peeping Toms

You've finally used
that oversized coffee mug
she gave you as a gag
on a shimmering Sunday morning
you'd rather face with lead.
It held the whole contents
of your stained French press.
Currently it's filled with soapy water
as you rinse the grinds that linger.
Without a thought you scrub the bottom
with a sponge that's overdue
passing over the forgotten message
scrawled in pink pen.
Your hands freeze in tandem
like two burglars shocked by sudden spotlights
as if a lack of motion
will resurrect that damaged word.
Now it could say "Yule"
"Yale", or "Y'all"
its tail end convoluted by redundant
points of exclamation
distinctly feminine, supremely unbelievable.
Her heart goes out to someone
nondescript thanks to your cleaning.
The message rings more true this way.
It's set to dry in a rack rife with tumblers.
You wonder if any other
will someday find this subtle missive
tap her foot, and ask for answers.
Details unimportant
you wager zero chips.


A Magazine Goes in a Gun--A Clip Goes in Your Hair

Stars fail to muster
as an alibi with eyes
spoken like a Spartan
layers the wood and glass
thick with dust

hence my apprehension
on which poisons to pick.

I gave her all I had
left over from the last.
I tried to sate her thirst
like Jim fucking Jones.
I cupped that little lapdog's head
its prancing not knowing goodbye.

Lips wet with gin
drop the night's last smoke
on thighs that part for carpet
and a burn that's accidental.

I was made in May
yet December's always promised.


Mayhaps in the Next

They picked me as their husband
boyfriend, horizontally insatiable
Opener of Fresh Jars
and Reacher of High Things
Who Won't Kill Stalwart Spiders
in the alternate lives
confined to their minds
outweighed by the ones
currently lived
more merely survived
alongside beautiful men
with steady State jobs
or aspiring corporate demigods
with justified gym memberships

so on days like today
same as the rest
except Hallmark stock's higher
I salute their stolid choosing
of a life that comes easier
soaked in reality
than openly loving
a man drenched in dreams
and top-shelf gin.

You picked right, lovelies.
Don't offer to get the tip tonight.


Caligula Manipulae

Caked in cosmoline
your vagabond histrionics
and left-lane ergonomics
perpetuate a culture of complacency.

The hypotenuse cluttered
by nesting dolls
a generation of men
who kept rubbers in their wallets
for the sake of tonguing their toothaches
crossing paths with fellow suitors
who'd tap a midnight window
in case of episiotomy.

Much of it's like boxing:
They only remember
your last fight
and whether or not
you took the Government cheese
having lunch in a daytime bordello.

Refrigerate after opening.
Kill the messenger and its parents.
Don't shrug.
Look it up, you scoundrel.

Splitting the difference
won't squelch a braggart's lament.


A Children's Pome

Don't overcook my scramby eggs.
Burn my breakfast, break your legs.
Most important meal all day.
Don't overcook my scramby eggs.


Brotherhood on Coffee Break

Did you hear?
I heard.
Who hasn't?

I'll call him tonight.
Me too.
Me three.

I had him as a first-year apprentice.
I taught him how to solder a vertical joint.
He owes me six bucks for a cocktail ten year ago.

They did him dirty.
I can't believe it.
Everyone saw.

It sounds like a witch hunt.
They think he's conceited.
In two weeks he'll be thirty-three.

I'm going.
Me too.
Nothing good on TV tonight.

It shouldn't have come to that.
It did.
Who won the Super Bowl pot?

Currently reading:
"The Good Brother" by Chris Offutt.


Rattle-Can Hazarai

Half past midnight
she sings drunk jazz
in your shower
while you wait your turn
in orange glow
emanating from an end table
the sweet stench rising
from what has petered out
and you can't complain
of that layoff, man
with bartenders after hours--
snap snap
roll roll
snap snap.
New song.
Sugar and salt look the same.

Currently reading:
"Barrow Street" (Winter 2016/2017).


Cracking the Relief Valve

It used to aggravate me:
The sound of water spinning
through copper baseboard piping
in my third-floor apartment.

Air's trapped in the lines.
The boiler needs a purge
but I'm barred from the basement.
Heating these rooms
is loud and inefficient
much like trying to fill them.

A nap on the couch
gets interrupted
by a sudden call
for hydronic reinforcements
made by the thermostat
that I installed myself
to keep the landlords out.

This trickling clamor wasn't audible
when her laughter bounced from brick.
Now it's enough
to cease some Sunday slumber prematurely.

I haven't had a lease in three years.
though the semantics are of no concern.
Our stay is never permanent.
We're only selling hours
to whichever fools
are dumb enough to buy.