We lived where the
in a horizon of terraces
where among three generations
I steeped in patterns
of twitching lips
and silent looks between eyes
that ricocheted a language fluent
known only by them
and that grandads and daddies
seemed not to hear.
The lady from number 6 crying
and cradling her cup
was helped out by Aunt Edie who
had just read her tea leaves
in the front parlour
where heavy drapes
newly hung and drawn
served only to thicken the odour
of polish and mothballs
And there-in the carved sideboard cupboards
I would delight in the odds and ends,
learning even then
about the process of finding
and how that which I sought most
would more than often emerge
from the bottom of a difficult pile.
as I fumble
as I stumble
Sitting on the sand
where I watch the tide,
I'm sitting on the sand
where I syllogise;
sunshine and sugar pills,
of which I am comprised.
if I'm a bum,
it's because you made me one.
"What is your name?"
, "What is your name?"
, "What is your name?"
I should meet new people but my name is Bernadette,
in the corner where I like to be. Peeling a Yuengling
label slowly, while Mayfield tells me he's gonna lose
half his ass by summer
at a pre-New Year's eve eve eve party. Not every head
turns, but I spun the ones I wanted to. You enter the
room and there's a wind due east. I've got a bitten
bottom lip and an elevated heart rate. As of late, you're
back on my mind. The year switches a digit from 4 to 5
and suddenly I can't seem to shake that time I kissed
your pelvic bones in Jonah's closet.
"We probably shouldn't do that again."
You grab my Yuengling
"Do you think we finally have to grow up this year?"
and chug it.
All of my friends were there
and their friends, too
and the friends of my friends'
cousins and their dogs
and their all-seeing aunts crammed into
ill-fitting blouses with
their husbands in New York or L.A.
and their inbetweens sending them
dirty texts and someone, I think it was
my mother, she said, Why don't you
lay in the river
And I said, Of course
The leaves fell
The birds sang a four-note phrase
and all my friends, the best ones,
they tossed half-empty packs
of gum, flower petals, quarters, pens--
anything they had in their pockets
As I passed by them I said, Remember
when we ate the poison berries and
said our goodbyes. Remember when
I played pitcher on our t-ball team.
Remember when Drew took the electric
fence to his crotch. Remember when
we threw Josh's library book into the rain.
Remember when I learned to ride a bike in
sixth grade. Remember when I kissed
you on the backseat of the school bus.
And they said, Yes. And they laughed.
Those were good times.
My brother, he was there too, he hopped
in the river and gave me a push, said,
I'll see you around the next bend.
Life number two, I said.
Life number two.
I barely finished the introduction
a boy or maybe a man
I read Vietnam, monsoon rains, how he watched the dead ascend to heaven from the helipad...
I felt sad
this boy or man
pelvis deep in the muck
trying to connect the dots, trying to figure out when he went from being Tommy to just plain Tom and if the Tommy part of him was gone for good
I felt sad
not for his life but mine
I read jungle, napalm
in the muck
hell, and I'm connecting my own dots
how my voice feels hoarse,
how I feel like I aged a decade in one night's sleep,
how I fell in love with the shadow of a man
worried the church won't take me back
that the man or boy won't either
I go out for an easy stroll to think on it some more
he binges on carotene for the night-watch,
plays hopscotch over land mines,
I go out for an easy stroll
while Tommy and Tom wade through the muck
this morning spring blew kisses to me in my bed
but the internet forecasts all say winter's far from dead
and the weatherman on the television said we're reaching record lows
so spring, unyielding sent a missionary breeze
that promised I would hear the neighbors playing with their kids
and smell the hyacinths, that I would see magnolia trees and feel like
rolling up my sleeves soon enough
though the streets are still lined with snow,
I looked outside my window and saw the sun
January, The Queen of Tragedies,
changed her name to Mae
Mae, Countess of the Fire Escape
watches the city get colder while mulling over
problems decades older than she--
because their undertones are sweet,
their answers guaranteed
because the present's too difficult to understand
and the future's too impossible to conceive
Mae, Midtown's Mistress, habitually begs the sun
for the moon's forgiveness
"It's much easier to sin after 6pm," she says
with a wink so well-placed and practiced
it fools the masses, corralling clientele
into her tiny apartment flat
re-lighting cigarettes, re-filling drinks
Rosemary Clooney croons
while the men swoon at her feet
And though she knows some day they'll up and leave,
She doesn't pay any mind to time
atop her throne made from flattery received
and the vanity youthful beauty brings
embellished with declined engagement rings
Mae, An Heirloom Posing As The Next Big Thing