I want to sit in the dark and smoke and write poetry that makes promises about the world that can’t be kept.
I want to hold the beautiful things in but I give them away to strangers in the street wearing rags and holding rusty hands out for dimes and sometimes your cigarette butts, you asshole.
I want to hear your voice, like an angel, stretching its alien wings under our dusty sycamore tree.
I want to KNOW the things that made you leave and find a dank place in the dirt to hide from what we did with our childhoods and our raincoats and our afternoon cocktail dream boat.
I want to reach out and find you there all tangled up in your bones and half gone mad hoping that if you dug deep enough you’d find it but you’ll never find it.
What exactly happened to our bikes when you said the monster in the forest ate them up to make us pay for soil pollution?
Where did they go?
You picked all of these flowers for me but they died and isn’t that something to laugh about?
Maybe you’ll play your guitar in my bathtub again like an ancient tape player almost broken and running out of lungs to sing for me.
YOU forgot about the yellow lab and yoga at three, Benton MacKaye and all the things we were going to do with our life.
YOU ran down to the river and made a great splash and floated on top like a flower being swept up in something greater than itself, YOU sacrificed your infant words and line breaks and life-changing ideas to the gods of capitalism and correct punctuation.
I chew on my tongue and my inappropriate laughter.
When he gave me his number and I scribbled it into the flesh of my palm, what I really wrote was “everything flies south eventually.”
I wanted you to know that.
If I could only find the matches, I would burn this town around us; I would grab your hand and run to the top of the mountain where we’d have the perfect view.
We’d stand on top of the world and stare down into the valley full of lights and shining like a sea of sinking ships.
I will twirl in this fatal ballet forever, I know this, and so will my children.
“Wombat,” you said, “I want to know about compassion for humankind because I don’t think we deserve it; I want to know about patience.”
If we ever make it out, that is.
You wanted to know whether my shoes held me steady or if it was my grandmother’s hands or my heritage or my inflexible spine.
I said the earth holds me steady, somehow, even spinning at a thousand miles an hour in the atmosphere I don’t lose the dirt under my feet and I have to attribute that to something greater than myself.
But I welcome my grandmother’s hands and my heritage and you don’t understand yet what there is about a family to be proud of.
We don’t ever find what we’re looking for.
When I called you from that long distance number I wanted to make sure I would tell you that I want to raise sheep for a living but you asked me about the sushi here and we talked about Chattanooga for an hour at least and I thought that I would give up my sheep to come home to you there, beside the river.
We can’t get out of our boats because the water is dying.
But I want to get lost there, grow long seaweed hair and swim in the canals forever.
I rescue library books twenty-five cents each for their smell of vintage prose; I fall asleep reading and dream about my grandmother’s house.
If everything changed and the world shifted place then I might believe in a god that doesn’t chew on our bones.
In any case, I have such reverent curiosity.
I want to find a piece of you that does not crumble in the pew, that does not eat the holy sacrament with visions of a savior’s weeping feet, that does not prescribe so easily to the glistening things.
I want to find a peace beneath this threatening tide of disappearing bees, this swirling musical bedlam that leaves a film of incoherency even on my teeth and noble tongue.
You pressed my wings against your face, between your teeth, you slipped your tongue into my brain and ate my thoughts, you said my eyelashes are eyelashes but I know the truth.
I want to find a country of my own.
I want to find your dirty beaten animal child who lurks in the filth and the draperies of the bourgeois and calls at night to mate to a stronger force something hairy and warm with blood on its breath and in its unassuming hands.
I want to find a miracle shaman on all fours in the desert, moaning out a measured water song to save his blistered congregation.
Deep in a well in Mexico there is a girl with green eyes who clutches stolen letters sent from lovers to each other and rosary beads with jealous hands.
Every year we come back to this place as though rinsing sand from our toes were the same as rinsing away the stain of love and its consequences, but we leave together after orange slices and scrambled eggs with gigantic adjectives lodged firmly in our throats.
I think we know we are fooling our grandparents and the city council.
I stretched this wire out for you to walk above the city as though you were my Philippe Petit with weightless feet and I was your doomed Annie Allix, as though you were strong enough to deny Physics her order and fling yourself absurdly into thin air with my tinny voice cheering you ever on.
I don’t hang my hands up at the door and deny the persecution of others, I don’t breathe past the ash in my lungs.
This hollow spot here beneath my ribs is angry and tells me so.
“Do not starve for the children who are starving.”
“Do not suffer for those who suffer in place of you.”
But I prowl past the labels and chemical rations searching for something real.
Maybe I can find America in a dirty cabinet, behind the canned corn and cereal boxes.
Wherever I reach I come away with only empty skulls and the regurgitated memories of owls.
I hold each tiny leg bone between my fingers as though they were the legs of Yorick and I taste the despair of insignificant creatures–mice and my father and the pope.
I am a shell that wants to be rid of its snail.
I am the egg.
I am such a brittle army to hold your flood.
If we make it to Rancho Palos Verdes and find the Whore Who Took My Poems (who should point us in the right direction certainly) I hope I’ll still be lucid enough to remember how the grave of brilliance smells.
We came too far for dusty truck stop coffee and a few verses on another napkin for your floorboard and California wind storms.
I want love that does not hover after dark in dimly lit bars in Los Angeles drooling poetry into a seventh glass or stretch out smugly under six broad feet of sandy soil or define a generation of fledgling pens.
I will leave you where you’re sleeping it off Chuck and with luck I’ll catch a moldy Greyhound going east to meet the sun.
When I get home I’ll take the twisting country roads to my grandmother’s house.
I will sit quietly on the porch and hold an unlit cigarette between my teeth and make a study of the beech leaves that fall in their own time to feed the earth and feed the tree and feed my childish dreams of the Holy Hammerhead democracy that will save us, every one.
I will eat ham and biscuits in the garden with the squirrels and the bluebirds and chamomile tea.
I will go to sleep in a sunbeam and wake up and believe at least for a minute that I am new again with ribbons.
I will look for you in the rosebushes and in the library and in the shallow graves where we have buried thirty years of rabbits and dogs and one small Deer.
I will cry about the things that I have lost.
I will stand on the roof and look out across my five acre kingdom and beat my chest.
I will cover all the mirrors with white scarves.
And when the cool night comes I’ll open the windows and let my anger and resistance fly like a thousand white doves to somewhere freer and greener and growing.
There is nothing left for me in Michigan, or California, or in Georgia for that matter though my heart is buried there.
I have learned so quickly to accept these things with jaws cranked open and eyes wrenched shut.
I have also learned that I would sell my shoes and my degree for wells of ink and ears.
I have been gathering these things to bring to you, to lie out like so many flowers at your shifting feet but the wind blows through the place where you once lived and now dandelions force their unabashed way through the floor planks to lap up the spring every year.
I feel so much like a sunflower which scrambles always towards a smiling, inaccessible godhead.
Though you have chased the hilltops down to me and warred against those things which flung us hatefully apart, those things, they’ve swallowed you and they have won the war.
I have been ripped up by my roots and sent somewhere to become an alien with scarred eyes and wrinkled hands.
Chained and forced to create for a monster monarchy, a fumbling crown of thorns.
Strung out and left out in the gray and drizzling morning for the truck that never comes, nursing open wounds and old sores and the shakes from not enough of the things that keep me going.
Largely forgotten despite anthologies and legendary military tactics.
And the rain will come, as it does, every Tuesday and leave me wanting in my leaking, brightly painted paper mâché.
The sun comes out a little before it’s too late and drifts lazily through the mist to the hot asphalt and my upturned face, and there’s enough in the streets that I find my way home without wet knees.
Everything smells fresh and I think about the bluebirds and I think about the dandelions and their yearly struggle without you.
My fire is weak but persuasive, and everything dries out eventually.
Everything flies south eventually.
Rotten words, plucked too soon.
The soil is good enough, though, to build here and make a quiet world away from the things that I knew.
I draw water from a well that is filled with no metaphors and echoes only softly, and remembers my voice.
I do not take these things for granted anymore.
It’s a long walk on dirt roads to the market where I buy glass and books and other things that I cannot make for myself, but my feet sink into the soft earth and I know I am held steady and I walk slowly and enjoy it.
When you come for me I will be in my garden, I will be drinking chamomile tea and reading so many letters meant for you.
When you take my hand and we run like children through the wheat fields that stretch out as far as I can see from here, I will dig my toes into the earth and I will fly with you.