Comes like breath, feeling the distance of
a heart you want, far away and fast asleep.
Pinpricks on light sleeping skin:
a restless stir and then forgotten.
This, a confident prison sonnet, made under
a bed in a black trash bag. Not a sonnet
a poet would construct, but sonnet-like enough
to leave you drunk.
Before last week I’d lose teeth in almost every dream:
Sometimes a front tooth would inexplicably fall away,
requiring expensive surgery:
Synthesizing a piece of plastic
into what was, once, entirely my own face.
Another: opening my mouth to introduce myself,
at some sort of business meeting. Teeth where they should be.
Then unable to speak as hundreds swelled, sprouted, fell
Trying to excuse myself to well-clad faceless men,
Blurred doll heads turned to the hostile hole in my face,
Flat planes of skin somehow emanating disgust and shame,
as yellowed little mouth bones spewed endlessly into the room,
and endlessly were replaced.
Months of these dreams built a muscle memory (that
life-affirming twitch we all have when we wake).
Alert suddenly in a cloud of cold sweat,
mouth open with hands clutching my face:
confirming tooth by tooth that each were in place.
I’m told we’re born with a visceral fear
of breaking something we can’t regrow.
She’s been here a week, and I no longer dream of teeth.
But I wake up just the same: wet and cold,
though my mouth is closed,
still reaching mindlessly for something to hold.
Remembering real change and knowing your voice:
That hearts care hard.
But can shift from heavy to sweet, and do so gently,
And do so while asleep.
A song to leave a thousand suns trembling.
Fingertips finally finding means.
Boys congregate, grow dense in your shadow:
always the odd. We, the tasteful insane:
who burn from both ends, so death
might spare us witness to the horrible
torture of slow decomposition, while
broken and weak we watch everyone we’ve
ever loved and all that was once good
grow colourless and succumb to the same slow decay,
until at last we crawl defeated into the grave.
We are selfish: we who want to never know.
We who want to be the first to go.
But your soft wet dreams left a taste that tied
nights to dawn. A single bruise. Window left open.
Someone clearly gone, yet careless with evidence.
In the bathroom, a faint honeysuckle scent.
Too sore, too tired, to comprehend what complex animal
could outdo and subdue, fiercely clawing, and teeth,
then leave such lingering sweetness when it went.
(In the kitchen there was a new vase,
in it a red chansonette: still curled into itself
in the cold of the pre-dawn house.
But as you approached, the rising sun touched
a gap between fence and garden gate,
and light reaching the flower,
like a lover, she stretched her arms to meet the day,
refracting the bright Santa Fe sun,
filling the whole room with the most delicate
And then the light was gone. The sun had climbed.
The next morning you raced downstairs but
the angle had changed, no light came through the gate.
It stayed closed, and soon after died.
Chansonette, the flower of faith.
A brilliant and cruel animal,
astronomer and botanist, master of optics,
violent with hands delicate as flower petals.
Chansonette, the flower of faith.
A year later you put a new flower in the old vase,
a pencil mark indicating the exact place.
Started the coffee ***, daylight broke.
And in it came.
I want your futures to be maddeningly
beautiful and terrifying like a wild animal
ready to want to destroy you.
I’ve never seen you make breakfast.
But who am I to say you never make breakfast alone?
Then an unexpected sadness. Probably from lack of sleep.
And then a tear.
And then tearing a poster from the wall
For a concert missed three weeks ago.
God woke and made the flower.
The flower cannot wake and play god.
So strong, finding you lying weak,
longing for anything to fall into place.
Hit by supposed fear, then lust, and
life ****** from impossible lungs.
Born with legs, made to run.
To take the time to count out
each unit of my spine.
To reach, and failing sink
into the slippery brass circles
of the self,
until the hundred metal lines are dry
and the hundred birds, so welcome, lift you back on high.
In focus: a bass-relief. Pale. Coppery.
Found in the British Museum, or similar mausoleum.
Miles of roads running beneath.
Goodbye sentences that may be pretended.
Always I, grasping at a shudder: choking
tremors into quieter worries.
Until I can grasp the right point on the spine,
the right vertebrae,
pressing it and the human frame that comes attached
deep into beds always-washed.
Dirt and clothes and everything fake no longer speaking.
A woman with a plan. Running steady stairs.
Wondering how to measure the ache that comes with longing.
Waiting awake, probably loved.
When once given sadness: dried the wide and beating
insignificant sayings, pencilling each
into small red notebooks.
Then silencing the sounds from every hurtful word:
out of the air and onto the page, transformed
into the arbitrary scratches of penlines we call words.
Into the fire with them:
to the fire with regrets.
With the ashes
spring a whole field of Chansonettes
Every line ends in silence.
Fill great books with great words.
Burn the rest.
In seas of ash, don’t swim: float.
There is a hunger you can’t forget:
it lives in the throat.