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Jan 2 · 71
Your Father
Ira Desmond Jan 2
When you were eleven
and shy and shuffled your feet

from classroom to classroom
in that middle school, eyes downcast,

avoiding bullies like a midge fly
zipping away from the hungry maws of

rainbow trout lurking in
a mountain stream,

your father sat you down
at the dinner table on a cold Monday

night, over a steaming plate
of meatloaf and a baked

potato and some type of microwaved
canned vegetable

(the same meal that he served
every Monday night),

and he lectured you about the
importance of direct eye contact,

always making
direct eye contact,

while he held the fork in his left hand
and pointed it at you,

its tines coated
in starches and ketchup,

like he was jamming
his index finger straight into your forehead.

“Never look away when someone is
staring at you,” he said. “It

shows that you are afraid. It
shows that you are weaker than they are.”

Then, to make his point, he held his
eye contact—an aggressive, primal stare—

with you, an introverted child,
for as long as he could,

knowing that it would hurt you,
that it would make you wince and cringe,

but hoping that it would strengthen you,
solidify some resolve deep

within you, foster the germination
of some thorny plant there

beneath your sternum, which
over time would grow into

a gnarled cuirass designed to
protect you against the world

and make you into a Man—a true Man’s Man,
the kind of Man who uses his hairy

knuckles to smash his problems—the kind
of Man who eats red meat and drives

a truck, and never backs down
from a ******* contest, even with

an introverted eleven-year-old boy.
Of course,

no such hardness ever germinated
within you, and whatever bond it was

that existed between you
and your father there beneath

your sternum simply frayed
in that moment—a sacred rope

spanning generations
suddenly transmuted into dust.

And of course
you looked away ashamed,

and your father was ashamed, too,
not for his own abhorrent behavior,

but because you were his child.
But he was also proud of himself

in that moment for showing
what a Man he was now,

for finally having proved his own father,
your grandfather,

wrong,
even after all of those years had passed.
Dec 2019 · 108
A Clock
Ira Desmond Dec 2019
A clock
is not a thing
that shows us the passage of time;

a clock
is a primitive device that moves
at a fixed rate while time passes all around it.

Time
was drawn and quartered
by the clock. It used to be an endless horizon in all directions,

but it was violently
partitioned into a grid system
in order to make it easier for those with power

to control
those without power. Clocks are
perverse. Clocks are capitalism. Clocks

**** nature
without nature’s consent. We rightly complain
about the partitioning and deforestation of wild lands,

of the Amazon,
and yet we are not outraged
at the partitioning and deforestation of time. There is

a reason
why one feels out of sync
with the natural Earth. There is a reason why one

cannot sleep
through the night. There is
a reason why the years feel like they are

slipping away
from us. Time is not
sand in an hourglass. Nor is it an etching demarcating

the position
of a shadow cast by a cone. Nor is it
the rate at which an electrified quartz crystal oscillates.

Rather,
time moves at the speed
of experience. There is simply nothing more

to it:

A morning fog lifts.
A bird lands on a dying tree on the far side of a river.

A frog leaps from a rock and disappears with a quiet splash.
A child dozes off while reading.

The world becomes dark.
A white-hot meteor streaks all the way across a frozen winter sky.
Oct 2019 · 350
Benediction
Ira Desmond Oct 2019
Do not ever allow yourself
to reduce the incomprehensible miracle
of your very existence

to basic questions of self-worth.
Do not ever allow your boss to write you off
as nothing more than a worker

who is failing to meet
some arbitrary set of expectations.
Do not ever allow a bully to tell you
that you are nothing more than a child

lacking in physical strength.
Do not ever allow a politician
to boil your being

down to a cheap distillation
of inside jokes and snickering, racist
circumlocutions.

The fact that you are here,
today,
alive and present
and reading these words
is a stentorian, staggering miracle.

We are,
all of us,
perhaps guilty
of occasionally forgetting
this fundamental fact.

But we must remember,
you and I,
and every other being with us,
that we sprang forth from nothing—
absolute oblivion—
into awareness and consciousness
and individuality, and personality
in this gargantuan, freezing, largely empty universe.

Allow me to remind you
that that idea
is entirely incredible—
the purest void was somehow spun into
the totality of your being—
into the infinity of the present moment—
a Möbius-strip mindfuck
expanding outward in space and time
reaching toward all directions simultaneously.

The fact that you and I are here is miraculous.
And the fact that you exist is a miracle.

Do not ever let
our sickly civilization
try to tell you anything to the contrary.
Aug 2019 · 950
The Curtain
Ira Desmond Aug 2019
Saturn’s rings
are disintegrating

and Jupiter’s great red spot
is shrinking

and the ice caps on Mars
are sublimating

and our very own Moon
is slowly untethering itself
from Earth’s gravity.

In eight billion years,
the Sun will turn red and swell up

like a toddler on the verge of tears,
and incinerate

Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—
all of our histories and fossils,

our legends and loves,
our monuments and our ruins.

You and I will be long gone by then, of course—
nonexistent to the extent

that we’re not even aware of our own
nonexistence.

Some people may think of death
as an inky void,

but it must be far more final than that—
an inky void would be copious by comparison.

What if there is simply nothing
on the other side of the curtain?

Perhaps it would be for the best.

For I never was able to avert my gaze
while driving past a smoldering wreck,

and you never could build up the courage to take a look.
Apr 2019 · 208
The Walrus
Ira Desmond Apr 2019
The walrus lacks
a rudimentary understanding

of the relationship
between seasonal temperatures

and the amount of sea ice
generated annually

in the northern hemisphere,
and cannot formulate

even a basic hypothesis
that might draw a link between

a lack of sea ice and
a massive surge in coastal overcrowding

among walrus populations.
Nor could we expect the walrus

to comprehend that
this overcrowding has become so severe that

many walruses are continually driven
to seek out higher and higher ground,

and may suddenly find themselves
precariously perched atop the tall, frozen, rocky cliffs

of the Russian arctic coast,
hundreds of meters above the sea,

as their pinniped flippers
lose traction, and the rocks and gravel

beneath them give way
under their considerable bulk.

It would be a bridge too far
for us to expect

that the walrus might understand
the anatomy of even his own eye

such that he would know
that the curvature of its lens

is well-suited for underwater vision,
but is, in fact, maladapted

for making spatial judgements
while on land.

And yet,
we are aware of all of these things,

of this horrifying confluence of circumstances
for which we’re at least partly to blame,

and in which the walrus
now finds himself entrapped.

And we watch it all unfold silently,
so passively:

those hulking ruins

as they tumble down
the cliff faces,

one by one,

wild-eyed,
terrified,

bewildered and breaking
in their final moments.
Dec 2018 · 1.7k
Lattice
Ira Desmond Dec 2018
Last night,
I dreamt that the friend of a friend had died.

His body floated lifeless on the surface of the Pacific,
tossed about between the Bering Sea whitecaps

like an orca’s seal-pup plaything
while the Arctic wind whipped

and beat the freezing cold water
across his pallid face and through his chestnut hair.

Then his body
began to sink,

its silhouette appearing
against various monotone

canvases of blue
on its trip downward:

a vivid cornflower,
a pelagic cerulean,

a chasm of cold cobalt,
a starless twilight,

a forest of indigo,
a velvet curtain of navy.

Finally,
as it reached the deepest possible shade of midnight—

only a quantum away from black—
it stopped sinking.

There, in that void,
where daylight and color are considered but outlandish theories,

strange fish of all and shapes and sizes
began to surround the decomposing corpse:

Greenland sharks hailing from the frozen arctic,
mantis shrimp from the mangrove labyrinths,

eyeless electric eels from undersea caves near the Galápagos,
vampire squid rising cautiously up out of their World War One trenches,

scores of spindly ***** and pale worms that had ventured far beyond
the safe familiarity of their alien geothermal worlds.

At first, they approached the corpse gingerly,
nibbling only the tips of its hair and fingernails,

and then suddenly, voraciously,
they consumed it—until not even a skeleton remained.

Now, only a single point of light was left
there floating in the void.

And from this single point of light,
where just a moment before the corpse had floated,

a brilliant white lattice structure emerged,
unfurling as would a fern across a forest floor.

It fanned out onto the seabed
and then swept upward, upward

back toward those reaches of sea
where color is known

and fresh air gleefully permeates
that foamy outer membrane that skirts the base of the sky.

Scores of familiar fish began to lift up the crystalline structure—
schools of shimmering sardines,

stately, dignified manta rays,
skipjacks, bluefins, and white-tips,

brilliant cuttlefish, humble pufferfish,
shifty barracuda, gargantuan whale sharks,

all of them
beating their tails in concert

to carry this lattice away,
this measure of a life,

this husk of a soul
at last freed from its earthly bindings.

The fish were carrying it somewhere deeper,
somewhere darker,

to a place that I understood—
even from the inky depths

of my dreaming mind—
that I could not enter.

But then again,
I knew that someday

I would.
Nov 2018 · 18.3k
If I Knew How
Ira Desmond Nov 2018
The downward momentum is clear to me now.
The engine has built up a full head of steam.
I’d try to stop it, if I knew how.

The fires of industry must burn on somehow;
they tend to burn brightest when fuel is extreme.
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

When currents are surging, we shouldn’t allow
the jingoist fringe to swim in the mainstream.
I’d try to stop them, if I knew how.

Civility means more than I can avow,
but poems can only allude to a theme:
The downward momentum is clear to me now.

Each click of a mouse that shouts holier than thou
is a cog in a treacherous clockmaker’s scheme.
I’d try to stop him, if I knew how.

We worshipped the circuit and forsook the plow
in search of a false technological dream.
Our downward momentum is clear to me now.
I’d try to stop us, if I knew how.
Aug 2018 · 215
A Crucial Distinction
Ira Desmond Aug 2018
Being able to wield
the lexicon
of morality

is not the same
as being
a moral person.
Ira Desmond Jul 2018
I do not think
my mind will hold

out much longer.
I forget basic

details of conversations. I
walk into the kitchen

and forget my reason
for having walked

into the kitchen. I can
discern now when

people are being
polite by not

mentioning the fact that
it is the third

or fourth time I've
told that story again.

I am thirty-four
years of age.

Thirty-four
years of age. Thirty-

four years
of age.

I love baseball perhaps
now more than

ever before. It
requires no

memory, no cohesive
narrative, each

moment when the
pitcher releases the

ball its own
microcosm—

its own tick
in an atemporal clockwork

flush with gears but
lacking cogs entirely,

a moment savored
and then quickly

forgotten, like
the taste of a

perfectly ripe summer
strawberry, smothered

by the sweltering haze
of a mid-July afternoon.
Mar 2018 · 366
Flower
Ira Desmond Mar 2018
A trumpet muted—
an indigo umbrella
of the spring storms' hail.
Feb 2018 · 413
The Betrayal
Ira Desmond Feb 2018
The goat didn’t understand
the significance of the bell around

his neck,
smelled

the sunlight hitting
the dewy grass

as he opened his eyes each morning,
looked

at his handlers, the humans,
and thought of them

as his protectors,
took

a kinetic joy
in bounding through open fields

among sage and purple wildflowers,
kicking

up dirt,
and taking naps

in the shade of thick cypress trees
on hot, dry afternoons.

One day,
a rope was tied

around his neck,
and he was led

to a place he had never
been before, and

into a situation
he had never

considered
before.

The goat was tied
to a tree

in a sunken, gray,
muddy place.

He was surrounded by
a throng of faces.

He recognized
some of them—

humans he had known
and smelled,

sometimes kicked,
sometimes licked.

Some of the faces
smoked cigarettes

and sat in silence.
Others talked excitedly.

Others drank
and sang.

All of them were waiting
for something,

but the goat did not
understand what.

And then he
felt a hand

grab onto one of his
horns. Its grip was firmer

than the goat remembered
the grip of a human hand could be.

And then he felt an arm
around his back,

it was almost a hug,
but more resolute in its

intentionality—
wholly,

horrifyingly,
out of character

from what the goat had
understood about

his handlers.
The goat now

realized that
something was wrong.

He did not
want to be in this position

any longer. He
began struggling,

kicking more
and more violently,

but still he felt more arms
and hands

restraining him—
pinning him down

in spite of
his protestations.

The goat began to
cry out

for help, for God,
for one of his humans—

a final plea
to the universe

to come and rectify
the situation.

And then the goat felt
a cold, hard edge

pressed against his throat.
Wild-eyed,

he looked up,
and there he saw

his human,
the one who had

fed him
and cared for him

for as long as
he could remember.

The man ******
his arm

and yanked the goat’s head
back,

and the goat felt a shocking,
slicing pain.

He could sense that warm fluid was
draining

down his neck, could
tell something

irreparable had happened
to his body. His

eyes darted around,
looking at all of

the unflinching, cold faces
surrounding him.

Up until
this moment,

the goat hadn’t
considered

the possibility
that the ones whom he

loved
so dearly

and who loved
him

so dearly
could

betray him
like

this.
Jan 2018 · 251
The Bear
Ira Desmond Jan 2018
The Bear emerged
from the wildfire

a smoldering, wheezing ruin.
His paws had been

nearly completely seared off
by the superheated

forest floor
of the Sierra Nevada foothills.

His coat was singed and maimed
by ash and ember.

His eyes and nostrils burned
from the unsparing smoke he had breathed.

The Bear felt
the slightest pinch

behind his shoulder,
and his eyes grew heavy.

When he opened them again,
he was in a new place—

an incomprehensible place—
a place of straight lines

and unfathomable
mathematical precision and artificiality.

He had heard rumor
that such places existed—

the forest spoke of them
hurriedly but indirectly.

He had seen other bears return
with foreign things

inserted through their ears or ringing
their necks, inescapable and alien signifiers

of having encountered
an otherworldly form of existence.

The Bear had lost his strength and could
no longer walk. His paws were wrapped

in linen. He smelled fish skin
just beneath it.

Apes
came and went—just like

the ones he had
seen and smelled before in the woods.

But these apes were much quieter,
and less afraid.

They only visited when he was
half-asleep or having trouble breathing.

The Bear drifted in and out
of consciousness like this

until he lost track of day
and night and time.

After one long but fitful sleep
he came to.

He smelled the forest again
before he had even opened his eyes.

His paws were no longer wrapped,
although they still smelled of fish.

He braced his massive frame
against the warm, dry earth and pushed.

His strength had returned
at last.

Three of the apes were standing
just a short distance away.

The Bear did not fully understand
why they had intervened,

or why they abducted him as he was making
peace with his own death.

He thought that they could be divine.
But he decided to stay wary of them, as bears do.

The Bear walked back into the forest,
scorched but now healing.

He wondered who or what would intervene
to help the ones who had saved him,

wondered whether they, too,
have some incomprehensible celestial stewards

that wait to rescue them
as they themselves wheeze and smolder

and shamble, unknowingly,
toward death’s door.
Based off of a photo published in the New York times after the California wildfires of 2017.
Jan 2018 · 776
Summer
Ira Desmond Jan 2018
I hope I die in summer

on a humid night
when the grass is yawning and stretching out
toward the moon,

and the frogs are croaking on
like a chorus of metronomes
as the last curls of life wisp away from my body,

a final reminder
that things and time
will continue beautifully,

harmoniously,

without me.
Nov 2017 · 307
Feed
Ira Desmond Nov 2017
This Time-Lapse Video of
Disneyland Transforming for the
Holidays Is Truly Magical

The Deepest Fish Ever
Captured Is So Ugly I Want
to Throw It Back in the Sea

Sounds Like Ant-Man and
the Wasp May Have a Major
Impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Watch Amputee Monkeys Control
Robotic Arms by
Changing Brains

The White House's Christmas
Decor Looks Straight Out
of a Horror Film

An Asteroid Will Pass
Near Earth Next Month But
No, You Don't Have to Worry

Hold Up, the New
Jumanji Movie Is
Actually... Good?

Over 75,000 Evacuated in
Bali as Mount Agung Spews
Gigantic Clouds of Ash

Your Dark Side Shrine Needs
This Burnt Darth
Vader Helmet Replica

The End Credits
Scene of Justice League Has
Been Bugging Me
Nov 2017 · 345
Timid Dog
Ira Desmond Nov 2017
As the day
slumps on

and the afternoon
sun

is at last
harpooned

and reeled
toward

the horizon,
I,

sitting in my cubicle,
feel

my neck begin
to

list windward,
like

a sinking
sailboat,

its sheets
torn,

naked mast
shuddering,

its heedless final heading
being

that white fog
bank

that rolls over
the

coastal range
to

my west out
the

third floor
window.

The fog
cranes

its neck
ever

so slightly
upward

to meet my
gaze,

like a timid
dog

just pulled
awake

after a short, fitful
nap.
Ira Desmond Sep 2017
Words are like sharks’ teeth—
rows upon rows of them
sitting like pews in an empty cathedral—
the light playing through the stained-glass windows of the gill slits—
glinting through the busy, flitting motes
of plankton dust.

Words are like sharks’ teeth—
endlessly guarded,
but easily discarded,
flipping like coins in an Italian fountain—
sinking into the cerulean abyss
of the Adriatic Sea.

Words are like sharks’ teeth—
a fatal phalanx
oft dismembered,
seldom remembered
except as but an evolutionary assemblage—
a prehistoric assembly line.

O, but
words are like sharks’ teeth!

The edge takes,
the point drives home—
the carnal hunger of the gums
resonates throughout the jaw,
compelling the incisors
to test their power
against the defenseless tautness
of the prey’s flesh.

The eyes roll back,
the neck jerks.
The water fills with a crimson miasma—
a hemoglobin ecstasy—

a feeling of God
flowing through the machine.

Words are like sharks’ teeth.
Sep 2017 · 232
Reality II
Ira Desmond Sep 2017
The the only real differences
between this reality

and dystopia

that I can discern now

are set design and lighting.
Sep 2017 · 273
Nightmare
Ira Desmond Sep 2017
Wind howling through trees
outside my bedroom window.
Hands. Childhood fears.
Aug 2017 · 381
Quiet White Boys
Ira Desmond Aug 2017
Quiet White Boys
wearing awkward glasses
sporting clean haircuts
and boring polo shirts

keep to themselves,
don’t know how to draw boundaries,
don’t know how to reach out,
and don't know how to reach inward.

They eschew the material world
in favor of a false digital one,

and there, in the simulacrum,
they find a modicum of validation—
a reinforcement of a kernel
of a horribly flawed idea:

that they have somehow been more victimized
than the victims all around them—

the women,
the racial minorities,
the people afraid to practice their own religion,
the people afraid to live as their true gender,
the people suffering with mental illness,
the people suffering with domestic violence,
the girls who were sexually molested,
the girls who were *****,
and so on,
and so forth.

The Quiet White Boys
learn that they are victims
from other Quiet White Boys,

and together they conclude
that, because they have been victimized,
they may therefore
act heedlessly, aggressively,

hatefully, mercilessly

in furtherance of
what they view to be justice.

But it is a distorted, fractured
version of justice
that they seek—
fetishized by the red, screaming faces
with loud megaphones
and debilitated, sickly hearts
in the digital basement
where the Quiet White Boys have chosen
to live.

A torch-carrying mob
has never delivered real justice—

not once in the entire history of human civilization, in fact—

and a slate gray Dodge Challenger
barreling into a crowd at fifty miles per hour
is not an instrument of justice, either—

it is just a reflection
seen through a shattered mirror.

And shattered mirrors
don’t come unshattered
simply because other
Quiet White Boys
are gazing into them with you.
for Heather Heyer and the other victims at Charlottesville
Jul 2017 · 474
The Ghost of Noah Joad
Ira Desmond Jul 2017
On

my

deathbed,

I hope that I am visited by
what I think are angels

or demons
(it doesn’t really matter which)

and,

as I wheeze out my last breath,
they reveal to me

that I was actually an alien
from another world

trapped
in the misshapen body of a human

for the entirety
of my existence—

all 28,000-or-so

days of it.

Because
then,

my role in
this whole charade

would finally make sense:

all of the mind-numbing

awkwardness

and suffering

and bullying

and incomprehensibility

of the world

laid out before me—

a picnic for a malnourished soul
to finally feast upon,

a glistening Colorado River to drink from

and,

at long last,
to rest beside.
May 2017 · 715
Love Poem
Ira Desmond May 2017
In retrospect,

the nicest part
of that whole afternoon—

what with that summer sunlight,
cascading down onto the sward

where you and I
sat in the deep shade of a noble oak tree—

the nicest part
of that whole afternoon—

what with that dignified roar from Yosemite Falls
resounding throughout the valley

and those songbirds chirping out a perfect counterpoint
in the immediate foreground,

the nicest part
of that whole afternoon—

what with the dry dirt of that flawlessly unkempt
softball field warming our bare toes,

and those children playing—
their shadows ever lengthening—
in that eternal Eden…

In retrospect,

the nicest part
of that

entire

afternoon

was getting to spend it
with you.
for Lisa
May 2017 · 4.0k
America Anymore
Ira Desmond May 2017
We have many ideals,
but we do not seem to have idealists anymore.

We have droves of problem solvers,
but we do not seem to have solutions anymore.

We have endless media discourse,
but we do not seem to have dialogue anymore.

We have unrestrained capitalism,
but we do not seem to have money anymore.

We have innumerable drugs,
but we do not seem to have treatment anymore.

We have scores of Baby Boomers,
but we do not seem to have elders anymore.

We have unlimited vacation days,
but we do not seem to have days off anymore.

We have incalculable amounts of information,
but we do not seem to have facts anymore.

We have regular, established elections,
but we do not seem to have elected officials anymore.

We have America,
but we do not seem to have a nation anymore.
Apr 2017 · 611
Reality
Ira Desmond Apr 2017
My eyes

are sinking back into

my skull.

They leave two gaunt

craters

in the skin beneath each lower

eyeflap,

each which now darkens and

dissociates itself

from

a healthy pigmentation—

much in the same

fashion

as that in which I

myself

have darkened

and dissociated

from reality
Apr 2017 · 5.9k
Two Recurring Dreams
Ira Desmond Apr 2017
I:

In which
I

amid the
whirring lights

and emerald
felt

drift
through a

raucous
flashing casino

searching

for a
table

with an open
chair

so I can
finally start

to play
the game


II:

In which all of us
are together again at last

for a family gathering—
Thanksgiving supper, perhaps—

and, as we greet each other,
I happen to glance skyward,

unthinking,
and notice that clouds

of a turbid
cumulonimbus gray

are beginning to coalesce overhead.

I look up again and notice
that they have spun

into dozens of funnel shapes,
each of them

starting to reach down for us
like the ashen fingers of Death.

We huddle down in the cellar,
praying the storm will pass.
Ira Desmond Jan 2017
Avert your eyes
from looking directly
at the monster.

Look only through
that reflective shield,
that glowing rectangle

that parades a
distorted vision of
the objective self,

that which in
dark moments may
suddenly shut off,

revealing one’s face:
inverted, expressionless, petrified—
like when the

mirror of Perseus
at last revealed
Medusa’s horrifying visage.
Ira Desmond Jan 2017
I check the weather
several times every day,

type the same URL
several times every day,

and click on the
Ten-Day Forecast several times

every day,
but nothing ever changes.

Fifty degrees and sunny,
all throughout January

and into February
and March after that.

There was a time
when I was a child

when snow fell from the sky
as though heaven’s railroad workers

were laboring day and night
to shovel it over their shoulders

and down through the clouds it would cascade,
its flakes as big and light as down feathers,

falling onto my tongue
and melting into a spot of singular cold.

But anymore,
the weather never changes.

The muted sunlight
simply cuts through the sky

in a flaccid, dull gesture
that mingles with car exhaust

and factory fumes
in a bizarre ritual

that burns my eyes
and singes my lungs.

Somewhere deep
between my navel and my sternum,

I understand that those old days
will never return,

and that those railroad workers,
their skins caked with dirt and moisture,

have long since slung their shovels
over their shoulders,

and wiped the sweat
from their foreheads,

and boarded that train

as it slowly, steadily,
mercilessly chugs

toward some destination
where I am not allowed to be.
Sep 2016 · 505
Insects
Ira Desmond Sep 2016
It may be that all
that some are delegated
is tragic ambition.

And it may be that a
mercantile exchange system
shouldn't be the arbiter
of who lives
and who dies.

And it may be that you
and I have noticed
diminishing returns
on all our investments
in Someday.

And it may be that things
continue to happen to my body
that I wasn't planning
to have happen.

And it may be that Time
has only small plans
for us:

that we are ants carrying our green burdens
skyward

endlessly,

up that precarious

impassive

furrowed

murderous

tree.
Jan 2016 · 749
Where We May
Ira Desmond Jan 2016
You and me, sweetheart,
we need to stop thinking of ourselves
as *****-ups,

and I need to stop thinking
that writing poems for a loved one
is for *****-ups.

I need to smell your hair
in the morning,
to press against you

in the cold of the night
and not have that anvil of guilt,
that Herculean weight in the room,

crushing me, crushing you,
cracking the foundations
of what we are, and have become, and will become.

Atlas may have carried
the weight of the world

on his shoulders,
but Atlas wanted no part in it.

Let us set the weight of the world down.
Let us seek folly where we may,
and live.

Let us find
our golden apples.

Let us find them
together.

Let us find them where we may.
for Lisa
Mar 2015 · 2.7k
Stimulus/Response
Ira Desmond Mar 2015
As I close my laptop
and it snaps shut

my dog sits up
ears perked,
chest puffed, and

at the ready for
me to stand up
and grab a leash
and a plastic bag

for his ****.

And he knows this routine
because it has been seared
into his brain with the white-hot
branding iron
of repetition.

A force of nature.
A category-five hurricane.

We laugh at them
for chasing their tails
when the microwave dings,
for salivating at bells,
but
I am no better than they are.

The same routines
are seared into my brain, too—

stimulus, response
stimulus, response
eat, sleep, ****, walk, ****,

love, reproduce, etc.

and I will continue to do so
aimlessly
just like Ivan Pavlov said I would.

One day I’ll find myself
like he’ll find himself—
lying on a cold slab
in a sterile room
only half alive
aghast at how quickly youth slipped away
but otherwise numb

as loved ones circle around,
hands over their mouths,

horrified
to press the button.
For Pongo.
Aug 2014 · 7.6k
On being an Introvert
Ira Desmond Aug 2014
The comic convention
has cardboard cutouts of
all of the main characters of
Harry Potter.

Harry,
Ron,
Hermione,
etc.
All motionless in a river of people,
glossy but worn down,
bathed in cold white halogen.

And one by one,
the cosplayers—
the Harrys
Rons
Hermiones,
etc.

Have their pictures taken
with the cutouts,
one cardboard cutout cut out
and replaced with a real human being.

Being human, we
crave companionship,
fear solitude,
crave solitude,
fear companionship.

We try to avoid becoming cardboard
cutouts of ourselves, but sometimes
a retreat into inanimacy
is what the animus needs.

The cosplayers continue to shuffle forward in line
each waiting to pose for a selfie.  Each
politely smiling at the living Harry Potter characters around them,

but not striking up a conversation.
Jul 2013 · 1.1k
Digital Jesus
Ira Desmond Jul 2013
Consider for a moment
the Great Library of Alexandria,
a wonder of the ancient world
a pinnacle of human achievement,
a locus of human knowledge,
what with its endless papyrus scrolls
and torch-lit hallways
and hunched, bearded, sagacious men.

Consider now whether or not it
only contained about eighty gigabytes of data.

Consider Jesus.

Consider the thousands of Bible apps
(most of them free)
that are available for download onto your phone.

Consider the different translations that are available
at your fingertips,
each telling a divergent story,
each version of the messiah slightly different
in terms of humanity,
miraculous deeds,
skin tone—
and all of this distilled
into a single, trivial
press of a handheld device.

Consider yourself as you lie in bed
in the dark
trying to pray to God,
but too distracted by the fact
that a text message you sent earlier
never got a reply.
Jul 2012 · 970
Kirk Gibson
Ira Desmond Jul 2012
My friend has stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
and is barely three decades old.

He is part of my generation.
He updates everybody about his cancer

on Facebook.
He posts pictures on his blog

of the sterile beige plastic machines
that take pictures of him

and scorch his insides with radiation
and burn all but the strongest of his cells

with chemotherapy.

I haven’t actually heard his voice in eight years
but it was just nine years ago

that he and I both sat in a booth in a ***** Greek restaurant
in Downers Grove, Illinois, just off of Ogden Avenue,

and smoked cigarette after cigarette
and talked about god knows what—

stupid ****, probably.  **** that only young, invincible people
would concern themselves with.

The truth is, I don’t know what we’d talk about if I saw him today.
Maybe we’d talk about how he is dying of cancer

and I am not, in spite of the fact
that I have smoked more than he has,

exercised less than he has,
eaten worse than he has,

and made all the wrong decisions,
while he’s made all the right ones.

We could talk about the cruel irony
or the cold indifference of life

or how plans never go according to plan,
but my guess is that he wouldn’t care.

He is in another place.  A focused place:
He is in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs,

and is one run behind the opposition.
The treatments haven’t worked yet, but he knows the stakes of giving up.

“I am Kirk Gibson,” he writes to everybody online.
“I am Kirk Gibson.”
Mar 2011 · 940
How Could They Have Known?
Ira Desmond Mar 2011
How could those photons have known—
shot forth forty-five hundred years ago
from the incandescent belly of that giant
red star—

that after a trillion-mile
odyssey, their final
destination would
be the infinite
blackness at
the back
of my
eye?
Oct 2010 · 896
Death is Always in the Room
Ira Desmond Oct 2010
Death is always in the room.

Death was there when you were born,
patiently standing behind the doctor
as he first held you up
and presented you to your mother,
covered in filth and choking for air.
Waiting.

Death was there when you took your first steps,
in case a truck
were to go careening
across your front lawn,
in a freak accident,
slamming through the front window
and into the living room,
ruining the kodak moment.

Death was there for all the important events,
and all the mundane ones:
Looking on with your father
while you learned to ride a bicycle.
Hovering over midfield
during every soccer practice.
One row down from you
in the orchard
during the rainstorm
when you had your first kiss.

And death is still there now,
one instant away from you,
always prepared
for that driver asleep at the wheel,
for that blood clot come unstuck
from the wall of your femoral artery,
for that gunman
suddenly bursting through your door.

But that’s really the beautiful part of it all.

Everything that's ever happened in your life,
everything that mankind has ever accomplished,
every crying newborn baby,
every impossible feat of exploration achieved,
Death was just an instant away—
a shroud around the entire planet
constantly abided and never
broken through

until the very end.

Death is always in the room.
For Jeremy Izzo
Aug 2010 · 599
What Else is There to Say?
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
What else is there to say
but
I like how the sunlight
hits your eyes
late in the afternoon
in May
as we sit on a park bench
talking
Aug 2010 · 1.1k
Lunar Eclipse
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
And the strangest part is,
sadness is just a voice inside your head.
At three in the morning,
arriving to work at the bakery,
it can be the only one—
blathering in grumbles,
writing in scrawls,
citing the bed
every twist of the bread.
It can be the cold, white hum of the halogen lights—

although sometimes at that hour,
especially during the winter,
the baker works solely by the light of his oven.
Then, things become different.
Then, there is the sound of fire,
the smell of heat,
the casting of a warm glow
onto the empty metal sheets dusted with flour.
It is during these precious few moments
that the baker realizes
that he is standing on the surface of the moon
during a lunar eclipse.
Aug 2010 · 637
Invitation
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
I can feel the throb
of the bellows in my chest

within the crest of my clenched
left hand.  The red sun

of my diaphragm is perpetually
stuck traversing my horizon line,

rising a bit, then setting some,
and so on.  My ears stare outward

like the dead eyes of a fish,
a gateway to the inky blackness

both outside and within.
But I digress!  Now is not a time for such thoughts, friend!

Come!  Let us sit near this hearth,
and I will tell you about how

consciousness is being spackled
to the insides of our skulls

in this house where you and I live.
I will tell you about the memories you lost

when you were injured in the war.
They are filled with gorgeous women

on motorcycles, and handsome men
in leather jackets with fine-toothed combs in their hands

or t-shirt pockets.  I will show you
a tornado and a rock garden,

side by side.  We will walk
down this one-way street, together.
Aug 2010 · 842
On Losing a Loved One
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
I anticipate that on some distant roof
there must be a man waving two distinct flags,

so as to direct the flock of birds flying above me.  Crossing
his arms, the fabric folding and slipping against itself

in the wind, making a noise of snaps
and swooshes and billowing.

This thought suddenly makes my jacket
seem oversized; the sleeves feel lengthened,

drooping over my hands, as though
I were still a child at play,

putting on father's army jacket on Sunday morning
before church; him in a dress shirt

and black suspenders, shaving in front of the steamy
bathroom mirror.

And I notice that I can see my breath
as it escapes the sauna of my insides.

It disperses into the February air—
no man waving flags on a distant roof somewhere

to keep its molecules from scattering
in every direction.
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
I reckon that
if'n you can't see beauty

in things abnormal,
I should slap ye for

seein' otherwise.  Like if
all of the different

tongues of the world
were up'n snatched and

tied together and
then everybody with their tongues all twisted

would try and pull back
at the same time.  And finally

we'd all be speaking the same language:
Pain.

But the knot would tighten.
Aug 2010 · 960
Yellow
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
That morning,
I smelled something cooking
so I stumbled down the stairs.

My mother
stood in the kitchen, apron adorned,
frosting a chocolate cake in the sunlight.

Her hands
were stained with dyes,
the frosting was yellow.

Her daughter
loved yellow.  My mother had decided
to plant marigolds by her grave.

She looked
over in my direction.
"I figured we could still celebrate this year."

My head
shook without me thinking about it.
It took a second, but soon she was bawling.

The counter
only supported her grief
for so long.

Soon enough,
she was on the floor,
her unanswered questions

had spilled
all over the kitchen.
I did my best to clean them up.

We sat
at the table, the third chair empty,
my mother's mistake in front of us.

It said,
"Happy Birthday, Love Always,"
she took out two plates,

and my mother and I sat there,
silent in the yellow sunlight.
Aug 2010 · 542
History is a Moment.
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
I live
long, awkward silences in the moonlight
on the surface of another planet.

History is our theme song.

You live
with demons in your brain, in the country home
that is the back of your mind.

It lives
like a dog without hind legs
pulling itself along in its own chariot car.

We live
five miles from the waterfall
at the edge of the Mercator Projection.

They live
as a herd of emotions
stampeding out of control.

History is our theme song.
Aug 2010 · 986
The Pilgrimage
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
as you turn away
your face wanes
like the face of the moon

hair, billowing black
and white shades
enlace from east to west

love tastes like
the vastness of the
starred space above

and below
it is sound ceaselessly echoing
off the walls of a canyon

the galaxies careen
outward in the endless dark
like spores, searching
Aug 2010 · 555
The 25th of July
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
We smear red clay on our faces,
under our eyes and along our cheekbones,

across the forehead and down the nose.
It is something like war paint.

The noon sun watches intently
as we sharpen our spearheads.

Our naked backs begin to sweat
and glisten in the light:  hunched,

preparing.
Aug 2010 · 1.5k
Function at First Sight II
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
To craft a poem
is to carve a small wooden figurine
of an Arabian horse
out of a redwood tree—
a trinket
whose sole purpose is to gather dust.

And when comes
the boa constrictor of slow sleep,
you, young author, will have this poem
as the great pharaohs of ancient Egypt
had their treasures—
beads, idols, canopic jars—
accompanying them in their tombs
like a crowd of onlookers
surrounding the silent scene of a car crash.

Novelty items, family members, memories—
words to be whittled down
into useless artifacts.
Aug 2010 · 1.1k
Peephole
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
Between the hours of twelve and one
sleep comes upon my head

and should I not doze off outright
I make prepared for bed

and every night I do the same
with flossed and brushèd teeth

the coffee *** is timed to brew,
sleep setting on T.V.

There's little more a man could do
inside so small a space

with front door locked, and lights turned out
I tend to end my days.

Yet there's one thing I leave unchecked
and do so knowingly:

The Peephole in my ten'ment door
does seem to stare at me.

But never shall I look again,
not through that small inlet,

because one fateful night I did,
and now I can't forget.

It was a night without a mark
to make it stand apart—

I thought about the coming day
while walking through the dark.

And without thought, I stole a glance
outside onto the street

and through the peephole, there it stood
just staring right at me.

If somehow it could sense my gaze,
I really could not say—

with heart in mouth, I held my breath
and tried to slink away.

I crept in bed and pulled the sheets
around my trembling frame

and sat upright, until the night
did give way to the day.

A knock upon my door at nine
aroused me from my state

"Delivery!" a voice called out—
no longer could I wait.

I sprang from bed, my nightclothes on
and toward the door I ran

and without looking, opened
hoping I would see a friend.

Instead I looked around in shock,
for nobody was there—

no package left upon my stoop,
and silence in the air.

And as I went to close the door,
a wind began to blow,

a wind that whispered secrets that
no man should ever know.

I went inside, and horrified,
I knew I'd paid a toll,

and nevermore could I feel safe
to look from my peephole.
Aug 2010 · 485
Moment II
Ira Desmond Aug 2010
It’s funny how addiction brings
us to a place so many times—

an alleyway, a bathroom stall,
a lonely nighttime balcony.

Outside I stand in winter snows
all blowing in with violence,

and smoke my cigarettes alone
and sip the whiskey from my cup.

It’s here I think about the past—
regrets resounding in my brain,

the loved ones lost to death and chance
and all the chances come and gone.

And every time, it’s all the same—
the muted horns in foggy night,

the couples walking, huddled close,
the taxicabs all chugging by.

As close as this whole world might seem,
my habits send it far away,

and snow builds up upon my coat
as I am left with just my mind.

A bottle clasped inside one hand,
I search for ways to leave this life.

The sirens echo off the walls
of buildings fading into night.

— The End —