Kill the Carrier

Something else that I can't do
is pull a smoke from my pack
that's mostly full
using only my lips
like in the movies
and conversations
with men who've got more talent.

One of them closes my knife
before handing it back;
says it would've been bad luck
otherwise, which neither can afford.
I take a proper gander
as he explains the lore.

On the ride home
I open the driver's side window
on the highway
to release a bouncing fly
that doesn't want to leave.
Are there creature comforts left?
I'm asking for a friend.

In my bedroom before rest
I listen hard enough
through the air conditioner
propped in the window
to almost hear those katydids
that she swears New York
is lacking.



We hadn't spoken
since I'd asked her to move out
a month into the experiment.
I chose an irrelevant alibi
about what to do
with her mail
mostly stock statements
from the various jobs she'd had
across the country
where I'd driven her
to bedsides of dying strangers
both parties dressed in white.

I was gone at the time
but more likely than not
what I really sought to know
was if it had been real
if another's touch had meant more
than the mutual comfort it's become
in this age of humbled delinquency.

Her answer was curt and pragmatic
words made of steel
that sobered a fool:
"What have you been doing
with it
for the last six years?"

I looked around
our apartment.

Currently reading:
"Deadeye Dick" by Kurt Vonnegut.


Same Disclaimer

Her naked shoulder's blue
with the glow of the TV screen
that she can't sleep without
as she tells me on her mattress
that lately she's considered
taking the whole bottle.
The laugh track misses its cue.

I know it's only
the wine-chased tequila talking
since bedhead blather's less seaworthy
than a decade of rejection
but it's enough to cancel Father's Day plans.

With all that's made her how she is
she'd never fuck in a gun museum.
I missed the bid and lost the auction.
There is no final line.

Currently reading:
"Out of the Woods" by Chris Offutt.


Pugmill Knives in Play

There's a slow leak in my tire
that makes me do my part
keep up my end of the bargain
for continued transportation.
When the warning light comes on
gentleman that it is
a race ensues to the nearest gas station
in hopes that there's an air pump.

Inside I interact with foreign men
to get four quarters
always having to purchase an item
mostly chocolate or a ginger ale
so they can open the register.
No gauge is true, I judge by eye.
Once the curve is straightened out
I verify with the absence of the yellow indicator.

I've done it thrice in two weeks now
perception trained to scan for air signs
that pop up like blue cars
the opposite of liquor stores and mailboxes
when needed.
I find a compressor tucked next to a dumpster
where I didn't look hard enough last week
and note my steady progress.
Oh, if they could see me now...

I'll keep it this way for awhile
though my mechanic owes me a favor.
The structure, the routine
the diligence of duty
and presence of the pugmill
as timeless as a woman
in a navy dress, white polka dots.
All around are knives in play.


Jerk Flow

GodDAMN you
colored reservist old friend:
you don't know what it's like
you don't know what it's like.

Hot-box the beat-down
take her to Pound Town.
This is what occurs
when left to your devices.
Running sneaks
worn like a joke and it's over.

Words are dead
if they don't rip at you
from the page.
Tell me everything
all at once
but take your time.
I'm all ears.

Sweat it out.
I'm down
for straight-down.


Promises Made from the Windows of Fast-Moving Cars

Park benches.
Sun showers.
Never having been so jealous of denim.
The ground is lava
but no one's heading for higher terrain.

Daughters born of rape
pose for zealous photographers.
Left-handed books
are plastered to the alleyway's asphalt
by stale rain
returning to the white pulp
they came from
while women who reek of ashtrays
turn off honest men.
It's accepted since it runs in the blood.

Last-known coordinates
get swallowed for safekeeping.
"See, that's where
you would have failed anyway,"
a stranger mumbles to his collar on the sidewalk
before vanishing around a corner.

To share wisdom
is to sacrifice power.
The latter is the meaning of love.

Currently reading:
"Poetry East (Number 87, Spring 2016):  London".


Quotient Marginalia

I was three or four and five steps down the sidewalk
walking from my grandmother's apartment
while my mother completed her Spanish goodbyes
rooted in Catholicism that our family had abandoned.
Something shiny caught my eye so I picked it up
to learn its nature as any child would have done.

My mother came screaming down the cement
once she saw what I'd found and grabbed.
I remember how she wrestled it
frantically from my hand.
The blood only came
when she tried to wrench it free
from the grasp that I so firmly
had placed upon my quarry
unwilling to let go of what right or wrong
felt mine.

The aptly named safety razor's
been mastered since then
though the principle holds true
as far as the taking and bleeding--
a lesson etched in fingerprints
for a payment other than cash.

Currently reading:
"Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy.



You come.
You come, you come. I come.
You come. I come.
You come.
I come.
You go.


Winner's Guilt and Buckshot

I'd been watching the auction
for a week from my computer.
No one had touched the starting price.
I thought of where to hang the piece--
a relic of a shotgun built in 1896.

An hour before it was programmed to close
a faceless stranger from the Internet
tried to stake his claim.
I chewed on the rim of my coffee mug
and refrained from chiming in.
I'd let him get comfortable
and swoop in at the end.
If bidding was like battle
then the idea was to win
with as little loss as possible.

With 18 minutes left
I fired off my offer.
The adversary must not have noticed.
He didn't counter once.
The clock ran out and I won
for half of what I'd paid
for the same item two weeks prior.
Though I'd technically done better
I felt like I had cheated.

I'd be an awful general.
I'd sacrifice to earn.
I know my favorite of the two
will be the one I fought for.



Whenever I inadvertently hurt myself I spew racial slurs combined with homophobic accusations. Do the math. Don't make me say it. I don't know why, it just happens. I hate stubbing my toe while stomping around my apartment because a remarkably nice black gentleman lives across the hall from me with his pleasantly thick white girlfriend. I don't resent the physical pain of my infraction, but the offense I might cause if my neighbor or his beloved overhears my shameful reaction is appalling. I also regret that I forget his name--though he always refers to me by mine while passing in the stairwell--and have relegated his being to a description of his character that subtly implies surprise due to his appearance, as well as a latent need to drag his old lady into it. What's wrong with me? Not enough years in the building trades to know better. The perfect amount to succumb to its crass trappings. In my defense, however, I bet none of the boys have analyzed their verbal shortcomings to this extent and aired them for catharsis. Clap for me. I'm worthy. Did I mention I'm 33?

And that's the rub:  I do that. Observe, transcribe, process, compile, compose, repeat. Is it the mechanism a mostly only child's developed to fit the Universe into neat boxes arranged at his feet, or a way to fill time that's not as self-destructive? I won't pretend to know the answer. That's not my job. It's yours, but don't remind me. There's a glass of Pinot noir at my right and a dwindling clove cigarette at my left, but the notes aren't laid out before me for a change. I'm winging it. I'm typing. When I punch the keys they form words, sentences, thoughts, implications. I can control them, if nothing else. Maybe that's where the gun fascination's derived. When the trigger is pulled--if nothing is rotten in Denmark--then the cartridge will consistently fire. Steel is reliable. Lead runs its course. There are definites and absolutes in the world still. Most people will let you down, though Samuel Colt was not one of them.

The funny part is that I'm no better. There are good souls in my corner whom I constantly let down. I wonder how they go about defending my actions to naysayers on a daily basis while managing to call me and check up as seen needed. Maybe they recognize something that I don't, or maybe they've been duped like my parents. Can someone be called a narcissist if he readily admits that he's wrong? Pleading for mercy equates not to sainthood. If I had it figured out I'd share the winning numbers. In the meantime there's transparency. That's the point of my modus operandi. If the cards are laid out then how can you be angry? If everyone said exactly where they were then we'd all be better off. I'm terrible at guessing. I'm worse at pulling triggers. The guarantee is there, though the outcome remains a mystery.

With one life to live among many possibilities it's terrifying to know that we're only given a single chance. That was my second-to-last tattoo:  a revolver cylinder with one round in a chamber. Have I squandered it yet? It's too soon to tell. The choices have varied in their merit and yields, but I accept the responsibility. That's where many veer incorrectly in their assumptions. Accountability is paramount. "Be impeccable with your word," a wise book given by my ex's therapist said. I read it and it stuck, like when my eleventh-grade English teacher wrote "Keep writing!" in red ink at the top of an assignment. I have. I will. Tonight it wasn't poetry so it's not quite as convincing. I won't hear from any unavailable women I'm courting after this mess is aimlessly consumed. The paragraph, the stanza, the way I still can't come up with a title to punch at the top of this meandering diatribe; they're all just as guilty as my right and left hands, my mind for forgetting the name of my neighbor.

I'm grinning into the hell-hot filter now. Honey, there's always tomorrow. Fish on.