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I’m standing here holding
The note you gave me
Telling me to read it in
Secret, spilling out your
Feelings to me, about our
Past our present even our
But a short couple weeks later
The future dissolved, never to
Happen, now I’m walking rereading
The last couple lines, staring into
The page even though I have it
I finally stop, holding the note
Looking at the last bit of memories
As I pull out the old lighter from
My pocket. As I flick it on having the
Small flame poke out, I put it against
The paper watching the note catch
On fire. I watch it as slowly inch by
Inch the note turns to ash
I look up at the sky looking back
At everything that’s happened,
Maybe now the heart that was
Shattered can slowly start healing
And maybe after all this time I can
Move on
I painted the bedposts and bedside whiteboard
beside the baseboard, the outlet occupied
by a power cord, the bookshelf, both coffeemakers,
the power strip duct-taped to the brick wall,
the bush outside, the sidewalks, the brick,
the steel fences separating traffic
babble from pedestrian small talk,
then filled the wall in, gave the oak posts
enough depth to hold up four coats,
a backpack, and a shoe lace, swirled
in the condoms and coffee rings
inside the microwave, sketched a Sears
Apple-Jack-colored record player plugged
in, turning dusted Beatles records
like the cosmos, like the snow, squirrel-
hair, and leather-leaf bush outside.
I masked off the concrete, the asphalt,
and construction yard sidewalks,
penciling dead mosquitoes in the cracks
and $2.39 Rock Salt Slush along the edges.
I measured the fence, so each stake hit
the vanishing point like cigarette butts
in cement cereal bowls of cat litter.

But I ran out of paint before I could fill
the mouths of motorist **** yous,
the car barks chasing dogs
to the chain-link guard rail,
doorbells and mailbox flags
being flipped up, pay phones
clashing on metal receivers,
church bells, footsteps,
some guy breathing,
and a red-light button Wait.

Maybe it’s for the best.
Third floor psych ward window lookout,
second from the right on the east side.
Best seat available, padded, from 1934.
Backrest Swingline-stapled to the faux-
Maple leg support 2 x 4s. Beige bedspread,
white walls blend into the door threshold
that people are honeymoon'd
through kicking the aids, clawing at their eyes.

But Téa sat there watching the overcast
shadows sweep the sky heavily
like the watercolor paintings on the group
room plastic table where ******-off
preteens paint Dad beating them,
or Sis dying in a car crash.

Téa just sat there while the stagnant Valley
tumbled dry low outside, tuning out
a black patient behind her riling-up
another fight with a plastic-hinged
particleboard door.

8:30 A.M.

She wakes him up with breakfast
on the night stand.
Two eggs over-easy and lightly burnt
on the bottom so the yolks don't run,
two pieces of sourdough toast cut
diagonally, and a cup of coffee /
no sugar, no cream / brewed
at 8:15, two hours after
she got up to clean the house.
She mopped the floors twice,
tied the trash bags and set
them at the curb. She tested, dusted,
and retested the stagnant ceiling fans.
She vacuumed the rugs and wiped
down all wood, granite, and steel

She lemon Pledges allegiance to him.

While he's at work, she cleans his laundry.
She clean-presses his button-ups, making
sure to cut any stray threads and neatly
mend any loose seams. She irons a firm
crease in his pants and shines his all-black
wingtips.     She doesn't use Kiwi. Something high-class
                      that I've never heard of.
When he comes home and sets his briefcase
near the furnace vent to sulk in his leather
chair, she consoles him. She pulls the lace hem
of her sundress to her waist and ***** his ****
until he comes to his senses.
You look like a billion-dollar, gold-plated
monument feeding the world rosegold birdseed
from your immaculate palm binding my hair
like a Dutch Warmblood's tail, darling.

She dabs the corners of her mouth trying
not to smudge her lipstick, straightens
her dress, and hurries off to wash
his car.
This can be read two ways. Choose wisely which.
Do you ever wonder what we were?
Wonder about the first time we realized
Our feelings, or the first time
We kissed...
Do you think about the times we spent?
Think about the times we laid watching
TV on the couch pressed together like
A sculptor shaping clay into a masterpiece
Or the stupid Nicknames given to tease
You but made me fall deeper in love
Do you dream about the amazing memories?
Going to prom in that beautiful dress, or the
Dates where we stayed in and never left
Do you hold it over me for leaving?
Hate me for the fact I left for a college
So far from you, and saying I don’t want
To hurt you...
Do you recall these memories?
Or did you throw them away and
Steal my heart in the process?
Leaving me with no heart, swirling
Emotions, no sense of direction
And only a handful of heartfelt
My hands died slowly,
with blood vessels surrendering
to the chill.  They turned grey, yellow, lavender,
dusky. Dusky, like the sun had been setting
for hours and I only just realized it.
Pills made them pink again,
but I can’t help but notice
you flex your fingers after we shake.
A cold grip doesn’t suit you

yet. Gloves on, or else I’ll hold the
palm over a light bulb in the bathroom
before running it along his spine.
Blood thinned out to
water, bouquets of nerve

endings wilted.  I lost a piece
of each pinky promise, the weight
of a wedding-band.  Flipping the bird
at the catcallers carries one joint less
meaning, and I have trouble
getting to the point. As I
brush my thumb along my lover’s
wrist, back and forth and back
and forth, I only feel the holes.
Sometimes on the way out of Giant,
I’ll spend time freeing change
from the receipt paper
bindle in my coat pocket
for one two-twist mystery prize
from a Folz machine.

Two quarters:
just enough for a plastic, sapphire ring and a cheap
laugh while I juggle coffee cream cartons in both arms.

I strap them in the passenger seat,
sharing it as my sister
and I had just to sit up straight
and marvel at the maple branches
washing the windshield in green,
leaving helicopters and dew trails.

We watched slug trails glisten
like Berger Lake water
beneath the incandescent streetlight.
Bright like the last cigarette my grandma snuffed out
in a smokeless ash tray.
Bright like the first halogen headlights that stung my retinas.
Bright like the quarter my grandpa gave me for the Folz machine
in the Sylvania.
And bright like the plastic, emerald ring I showed him.
I borrowed the first and second stanzas from "Prom in '96," reworked them for clarity, and added more personal details at the end to add more depth to the poem. "Prom in '69," looking at it now, feels really stagnant and impersonal like I had no idea what I was talking about. I'm much happier with this, or at least happy enough to workshop it in my poetry class.
Man, if there was ever a time
where those two hands mattered
more than just pointing
out the obvious or tracing vague
memories on paper in swoops,
zig-zags, draw-backs, or the capital
cursive "Q" that still eludes me, it's
now. 6:26 A.M., and I haven't slowed
down since 9:20 yesterday
when my girlfriend gallivanted
about her room, her ******* perked
before me.
*******, she looked so good.
We, my friends and I,—the ones
I wrapped in cellophane and tissue
paper two years ago to take
out, reminisce, and put back
whenever I forgot their faces—
got in my boat of a car / bathroom
tile white / and drove through
thick I-80 fog to search South
Side for Santa's front rotor biplane
dropping Christmas joy mustard
gas down molded-brick, soot-caked
chimneys to get people in the mood
for a day or two before the egg nog's
spiced *** negligee stopped feeding
their stocking stuffer lungs and the blisters
that decked the halls like boughs of death.
Then we sat—I, uncomfortably on my car
keys,—by the bar, drinking refills that filled
the IBM-print bill $60 worth of Sprite Pepsi
Huckleberry Lemonade. My one friend
leaned over our cornucopia of unfinished
wings and said that he and the bartender
had been exchanging loaded gun glances.

Neither would ease the trigger,
or even aim well.

She could've been eyeing the waitresses
working the floor like a dart game.
Sharp when your drink's low and feathered
by pathetic tips. We stopped by Lyco. Lynn—
softly steeled—still sung her circular saw blues.
Baby, don't cut me so deep. Just let my girders
meet the street. Let me feel small trees and admire
nice cars signing their makes in last week's thin snow.
We took away two cups of coffee, some Modernist talk,
and a salt & pepper flannel past Market, Maynard,
and slowly spoiling milk to the Mansfield exit.
Over the occasional window defrosting,
we talked premature families, North Carolina
classmates, prison sentences, and that MU
***** who hates my guts. They're out there,
and we're here in this box going seventy-five
and skipping exits like rope.
Double-dutch dual-enrollment college credit
transfers, losing Foundation money talks
****, but can't leave her grudges on the rock
salt steps we sulked up. Hallways with
carpets and our cars parked poolside,
but we chose air conditioning over breast-
strokes. My God, would some lonely preteens
**** for that. Metal detectors to detect
our insecurities and greasy faces full
of acne acne potential. Potential some
didn't use. Potential that went wasted.
Potential that could've gotten them out
of this miserable hole, but instead rented
them out a sad shack on the outskirts—
nowhere near suburbs—of town
where they could inhale
the Ox Yoke's smoke stack laying fog
down to the county line.
Galeton High School, regrettably,
here's to you.
The longest poem I've ever written. Hopefully the last about this town.
I used to think in numbers.
1: There’s one of me. Alone. Plus
4: my family. Still 1, but 5, or
4 plus 1; that’s me, alone.
I used to think in numbers.
36: That’s weeks of school;
That’s weeks of math class,
math class, calculator;
Father, Son, and Calculator.
Trinity: the holy three, the three, the
3 times 36: that’s 108.
I used to think in numbers.
Math class, algebra, room 108.
I hate, I hate, I love, I hate,
I hate the way they look at me.
They look at me like man at dog,
like planet hogs,
throw books at me like cannons cogged
at ninety-minute intervals at cinder walls
until I fault and cringe and fall, and fall
like London Bridge and crash, and fall like
Blown-out glass gone back to class. I pass the
tests and cash regrets like rent checks
bounced across the bridge that they knocked down.
Because I used to think in numbers, yeah,
but now?

        Well, sure. Abrasions hurt.
And yeah, we all want friends.
But at least equations work
and keep their balance on both ends.
So I will rock this scatter-plot of
social contract to its peak until
my hands are red meat.
I am no dead beat;
I hold the world record for blood lost
to a summer camp spread sheet.

But then,
but then somewhere along that number line,
a 6 stared down its stage fright when just
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 days before the show,
I met a girl who barred my better judgment
like a cage fight,
and thank God she did,
because for once, I put away the calculator,
and I listened to her voice,
and it sounded like…
well, it sounded like it sounded.
And for once, I sat and wrote about the things
that can’t be counted.
I surrendered to the cage fight,
and I fell into a deep hole.
And to be honest,

I don’t miss spreadsheet summers,
‘cause it’s easier to keep cool.
I used to think in numbers,
but now I think in people.
I walked into the laundry room
to a couple folding into each other.
Her chartreuse camisole and his
evergreen boxers pined for a bough
break in the noise of twenty-something
cents rattling in the dryers.  
They talked about peeling off
and sorting each other's skin layers
by darks and lights, trying to find
a neutral blush they could blend on.  

My towels had three minutes
left on the spin cycle, so I walked past them into the dim-lit room, took
a seat on a dryer, and turned around
to face the cream brick wall and
pipes cutting on a diagonal, dividing
it into lights and darks.
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