Mario hits it with the sounds
of bodies hitting plexiglass.
My horses hit it without a sound. They want to escape it.
And I am trying to drive this dune buggy
off this cliff, but the clipping is strong here.
In Pac-Man, the tunnels were circular. I don’t know
if people realized that they were trapped in a sphere.
In Asteroids when you get to the edge of the universe,
you begin again.
And that Snake. His body could stretch all over his world
looping, but he could never eat his tail.
If all your electrons were in the right place, and all the wall’s
electrons were in the right place. You could feasibly walk through
What would you do while in the wall? Think. Fear.
The superposition could rip your body into ragdoll parts.
When I turned clipping off, I expected the freedom to walk through
the wall and suddenly the floor
fell out from under me.
Every time I respawn I feel like my inventory is heavier,
and my flamethrower burns colder.
I thought about leaving you today
while spackling a bathtub.
Melissa’s patches were smooth and shined
in the husky light of rotting bathroom windows,
mine were rough, and sagged like a skin
on face in months before death.
My favorite part of that job was cleaning up afterward,
putting everything back in its place,
sweeping up the dust and closing the door behind you.
Your favorite part was tearing down the old,
digging your chisel into the wall,
and watching the pieces rain down on the painter’s paper.
They would fall with thwacks
thwack thwack like rain on umbrellas
heard through a second story window.
Rather the clouds were a motorcycle,
Jesus rides up, lowers his sunglasses.
You ride off with him into the sun
not setting, but crashing violently
into the ocean. Rather, you receive
an inconspicuous e-mail, that you write
off as spam. “Save Your Soul Pls Read”
in the subject header was easy to ignore,
easy to delete. Jesus on the other end
of the illuminated screen was trying to reach
you. Even now his hand comes out of the
screen like a cartoon odor, beckoning.
Rather, you hear three thuds on your door
and Jesus bursts through, shattering
the components of your door-knob. He is dressed
in fine clothing, soft, his ass looks great.
“Come on. We are getting you the fuck out
of here.” He still has his sunglasses on.
Rather, a firefighter runs down the stairs, turns
the iron on, starts the dryers, and hits the circuit
breaker with his axe. You are on your belly, gripping
smoke in between knuckles, fingers. Emerging
into daylight, Jesus rides your pet Rottweiler,
like a horse, out your front door.
Rather, a 1995 Honda Civic sputters
towards you. A boy in plaid stumbles
out with a briefcase that stumbles
open. Cassette tapes stumble
out. “Would you want to go
for a ride?” There is a moment
where the road disappears over an arc.
You two are falling together.
Rather, it is raining walls of white
foam. Jesus is in a bright yellow poncho
laughing heartily. He throws your body into salt
waves. At first, the shock of cold muted
the harpoon in your gut. Jesus is dragging you
as you spin the harpoon inside you
first horizontal then vertical.
If a flower
in the first act. The rule is
someone must use it
the whorls curtain off.
In the second act,
holds the flower
into the stamen,
The flower goes off.
socks, shoes, morning,
“I’m sorry, we don’t believe in ghosts”
work, briefcase, pens, documents,
“I’m sorry, we don’t believe in ghosts”
bus, “I’m sorry,
driver, briefcase, we don’t believe in ghosts.”
taps, brakes, stop, “I’m
stop, stop, sorry,
security guard, elevator, we don’t
floor fifteen, office, believe
briefcase, clasps, in ghosts.”
lunch, small-talk, briefcase, “I’m
gun, registered, sorry, we don’t believe
fifteen floor, in ghosts.”
water-cooler, pulses, torrents, “I’m sorry,
we don’t believe in ghosts” “I’m sorry,
water-cooler, breathes, trickles, we don’t
fourteenth floor, ceiling, believe in ghosts”
“I’m sorry, we don’t
Today it was putting
the shaving cream in my left hand
that reminded me of the time
in my basement bedroom,
prompted by Mighty Ducks
or some episode of Salute Your Shorts,
we filled Eric’s hand with shaving cream
and brushed his nose with some equivalent
to a feather. There was no way he slept
through it. Rather, he played his part,
that this was the way he saw to fit
in. That moment, we didn’t know how shaving
cream felt on your face, or looked on a woman’s
legs in the shower. We weren’t aware yet
of the hair that would crawl out from us, the scariest
armpits and ass, frightening
our sense of normal. Or your friend
telling you the embarrassment of her boyfriend’s
mother walking in on him shaving,
you didn’t know that men shaved any embarrassing place,
but she tells you right then (not knowing you loved her)
that it is better when his dick’s in her mouth.
The women drag razors
over their legs every morning for a sense of clean
and then the people who dig the razors
into their arms, legs. We weren’t ready. Hearing
about the couple whose marriage counselor advised
them to have the husband shave the woman’s genitals,
her cuts, her sense of emptiness, his wild-eyes. Who do you love
The woman in the peace-corps with legs-
unshaven 16 months.
The shaved teen naked on your computer monitor
or the woman shaving
in the shower next to you, legs, then armpits
The world was never going to end
It was never thought to.
Now. Thunder comes on.
The raincoat boleros around the street.
One two slow slow one two. Earth splits
/ an avocado, molten core discarded.
In the southern hemisphere they are waving flags.
Complimentary colors crawl up the sky tiding in.
They are dancing.
Their hemisphere Charybidises,
Quiet. The puddles are sleeping.
In the north. The hemisphere has run aground.
It capsizes. All the bands are going
Rain panics off the timpani
The brass cherubs in the clouds.
The strings red shift.
At the equator,
an umbrella floats:
1 bird inside it.
She prays in single syllables. Help.
When the surgeon closes the blinds
When the plane shakes
When your kid is late
When another voice answers your lover’s phone
When you wake up and can’t move
When your team is losing
When you can’t reach their hand
When the baby has a fever
When the train rattles
When the doctor talks to your family
When entering a dark room
When your lover forgets
When class won’t end
When someone falls
When you can’t afford milk
When class won’t end
When the car slides
When breath slides
at a poetry reading.
I thought of coming up behind you
we were in your kitchen.
My hands slip up your shirt
you dropped a turquoise plate in the sink
it bounced once.
I slide my hands down
no one turned off the faucet,
my sweater ripped a string
onto my finger
I slid it off and on
if you had been next to me
I would have asked you to marry me
of losing this fabric.
I’ve gotten better
at eating the wafer
doesn’t get stuck in the metal.
I still haven’t bought gloves,
though I had steel-toe boots for awhile.
Callouses are waiting for you to lay hands bare
to everything you own. You can go years without feeling
the bottom of your own table.
I moved Dad into his new house.
This brings the total to 18 moves in 10
years. Mostly in 20 hour windows.
You were around
for 7 or 8 of them
I read once that most of dust is actually stardust
from micro-meteorites. It’s not true.
It is actually dead pieces of you.
I’ve inhaled more of us than anyone.
250 lb. End table with hidden safe inside
Garbage bag with mom’s clothes
and one Phillips-head screwdiver
Four landline phones tangled
with their cords in a laundry hamper
Seven phonebooks in a neat cardboard box
Madalyn: Dad still has the small wooden sign you made him
the one that says “Dad’s Workshop” in blue glitter-paint.
Steve: Dad has recently bought a toaster oven, and he loves it
as much as you love yours. He gave me the same speech
about the difference in the taste of hot-dogs.
You are both still in the pictures at his house. It startles
me when your faces appear on the screensaver.
was growing to the south of the town
every spring the men would go down
marching in their robes to burn each stalk
but the fire would enter their walk
they rid themselves of the leaden weight
of their robes the mens wild gait
was pagan animalistic
their whole life had been running from this
easy in those robes but now naked
they touched each others bodies taken
with the attar of the fire fucking
in ashes on their knees sucking
not praying but swallowing then the robes
left to burn from the ash the field left to grow
Elegy to Val’s Husband
I knew she was not a rose
was never sharp enough, and she didn’t believe
in snapdragons. She grew tomatoes.
How pretty they would be,
touching the stems
but I don’t know if he will get to see them.
I wish she would grow morning glories
and sleep through the night.
I can’t decide: the temple
or the mouth. In my mouth
it reminds me of holding a spoon
on my tongue, or when I leaned pennies against
my gums. It is like licking the key to the shed, 1999.
The temple reminds me of my mother’s thumb
Pressing against circularly, circularly.
I wake up in front of a computer screen.
The air crashes together rippling
like a snake digests small rodents. I wake up next
to a beautiful woman. The explosion comes in
layers of jagged red and parallel yellow, like a cartoon.
Don’t notice the figure lowering himself
onto the tracks, pausing to consider lying down
then the light comes, and I turn toward it
letting my bag slide from me. My jackets molt.
The only sound is the plank rattles of feet
running south. The only feeling is the space
between a cloud and the crack of lightning.
The birth. Light envelopes the figure.
because (Bernoulli’s Principle) not
wanting to be sucked back
against the side of the build
ing, like examples:
I realize every time
I argued(lied) airplanes were safe.
This is when (building) I hit.
I am with you,
Jenny. I couldn’t do this
without you. I hold your hand
and realize I have never touched your
skin until this moment. Neither of our hands
are cold. The fumes coming from the siphon hose
are warm. I smell the dirtbike from the time,
9 years old, I topped the hill. Beyond,
are wildflowers. I cannot remember if this
is a dream. Waking up, Jenny,
our hands are
falling apart. Jenny,
your hand has not gone limp,
but it has lifted like a jellyfish.
The thing about running into your house
after it has been on
fire is the amount of cinder and ash.
Something I didn’t know
was after the fire department puts all of the fire out,
the family goes back in.
I was afraid to go in-
-side. I thought the house
would collapse. The idea was to pick out
everything I wanted cleaned and put it on
“the pile.” Photo-albums, Baptism gowns, no-
tes from the war. All covered in ash.
I don’t remember what I picked, but I remember the ash
For some reason I open-
-ed my particle-board nightstand. No
valuables, but books, and a CD. How is
that I remember that it was a Rugrats Computer game lying on
a stack of Goosebumps books, but I can’t pick out
anything but the out-
line of an ash-
-free cd-shape on
my whole family, how is
it that no
one else knows,
no one else figured out
that my mother got everyone out of the house
and was so desperate for cash
that she went back in
and turned the iron
-thing was accidental. The en-
-tirety of my childhood smoked out
by sheets of ash.
Coming out of the house
That day I learned some things: When you clean ash out and when
you leave it in, when lies go on and up and build a house of lies to live in.
when to say “I love you” and when to say, “No Mom, I don’t”
with apologies to Aaron Sorkin
The atheist starts off with,
“this is silly.” I think I see
him sense the abrupt change
of atmosphere walking through
the threshold into a chapel like
plunging into lake water naked.
When the actress kneels, the atheist explains
how God shouldn’t be so vain, I think of
the actress and whether or not, with her real
kneeling in the fake chapel, she actually prays.
She says, “You don’t kneel for Him; you kneel for you.”
The atheist storms out saying that “This just doesn’t
feel right,” The atheist is outraged that a mother is bleeding
to death, her baby may have no father, and someone’s
little brother is being held hostage by Islamic fundamentalists.
I remember two conversations:
Courtney telling me that God wasn’t saving me
when my brake lines rusted out in the TGI Fridays
parking lot instead of on the 74 bridge.
River telling me that she feels blessed that God has watched
over all the people in her life who have attempted
suicide, because they failed. She hastily tries to add
that God was also watching over Jenny, but is too
worried that she hurt me. Right before the scene switches
The actress looks upand tells God
that the atheist “made some good points.”
Customers have torn open the Christmas
chocolates. Shoving it in mouths,
shopping bags, children’s eyes.
Quiet. We are shopping. as. a. family.
Smoke accordions out of Santa’s mailbox. The sprinkler system
hisses stale air. Custodians ride by on their metal cart laughing,
sanitation chemicals flickering out of buckets.
The 80 year-old piano player is hammering out Schoenberg.
Customers shove lamps into their shopping bags, shove children
Turn on the light Jimmy.
The ninth floor is barricaded off by old woman. They
have turned the clearance divans on their sides
and are throwing toasters. Down in the basement,
the security staff have locked themselves into 2’ by 2’
cells. Fetally-positioned, their panting echoes off stone walls. Static
sizzles on the array of sixteen camera screens. Customers
have begin to bow in the reinforced door next to the two-way mirror.
A fat man is leaning against it. He has been dead
for over an hour. Restaurant staff are tearing
down the great tree. Ornaments funnel down pop-crashing
upwards from the floor. Three pound ceramic dinnerware crashes
into the walnut bar The customers are putting mattresses in their bags,
they are putting the offices in their bags. Human resources
are backed into the employee orientation computer lab. Customers
have poured Starbucks on the circuit-breakers. The lights are dimming,
Escalators are jamming. Children scream
I want to see Santa.
Santa is dead. Employees calmly walk over his protruding
belly. The velvet and fat feels good on tired
feet. An inhuman voice garbles
The store will be closing.
Families grab onto shelves, racks, other
families. Employees pick up the registers and slam
them on granite counters. Coins explode out like bells. The rotating
doors are not spinning. They are stuck, crunching on limbs.
You don’t know what it means to feel my sense of absence. You don’t know what it
means to have this phantom cavity. You don’t know what it’s like to walk around with synthetic rubber pushing against where my left breast used to be.
You don’t stand in the closet looking at old bras. You don’t remember the orange one that you managed to bend the hook on. You don’t remember repairing it with a pair of needle-nose pliers while your reading glasses slipped down your face.
You never read the Hass poem, the one with the dead bees. You never guessed, but sending it to you was my way of saying goodbye, It was my way of telling you how your claws felt on my chest.
I saw the news in obituary black and
alabaster-chamber white. Women mulled about
in shining dresses, all pinwheel-galaxy black.
The men’s suits: darkness-between-
The pastor wore a Cosmopolitan’s-table-of-contents
white stock in the non-air-conditioned
church. His sermon dripped on the bereaved
like hardening wax. A portly woman wheezed
in the second row. A first-roadkill-of-summer
red paper fan swayed idly in her left hand.
The coffin creaked, 4am-grandpa‘s-coffee brown
the procession moved outside slowly. The moment
was like when two trains are idle and one begins
to drift forward. From inside the other,
it feels as if we are drifting backward.
Backward to days before with the namer in his study.
He has on his 1862-edition-Les-Misérables tan
blazer. His wrists crawl out the undersized sleeves.
Above his roof, the sky milks over
to 4th- grader’s-scratched-locker blue.
A wine glass full of just-waking-up-seeing-steam-
waft-from-under- the-bathroom-door white wine
rests on his particle board desk. I want a 70s B movie villain
to bust through the door yelling, "I’m not sorry" and shoot him
with a chipping-paint-bike-rack-next-to-the-library¬ grey revolver.
I want the namer to be speechless, knock over the wine glass
and die with grandma’s-new-couch red pooling on his blazer.
The truth is my grandma’s new couch is this ugly
brown-yellow color. I don’t really know how to describe it.
I am watching our life together,
on some old movie film.
It is happening in clips.
Now that I know the ending,
the clips are different. The music
we danced to all night has changed.
Rather, I am hearing it for the first time.
The time we baked chocolate chip cookies at 1:00am
The time we played chess at 1:15am
The time we touched each other until our bodies didn’t ache
The letter you wrote me. Every song you sent me.
I fold the moments –corners in– and put them in my pockets.
I want to teach you how to touch a body slowly. I want to learn how
to kiss again. This time with you. I want forget that feeling
of learning the valleys of someone’s hands, so I can fall into yours.
There are so many things I want to tell you.
That is a lie
There is only one:
I wish you were here,
Written 2010 during the MFA program at Columbia College Chicago