Notebook Poet

I am
a college-ruled
notebook
poet,
and that
means
desperation.

There’s nothing
sexy about
it.

There are no
turtlenecks;
no click.ity.
cl.ack.
snap.s
in wine bars;
no exposed brick
cigarette-leashed
smokers;
no whoops and cheers
or laughs
or jeers;
no dressed up
double-breasted
suits;
in fact,
no breasts
at
all.

My audience is
a silent swirl
of bourbon,
the vapors
eminently sweet;
the cars outside
sighing
by;
the pipes
whispering
in the walls
as water–
even
against gravity–
leaves me
too.

I hate you
more than
I love you
tonight.

Blankets

I want to make
a distinction.

I have these
knit
sheets,
and they’re
woven out
of
the universe,
and they _stretch_
just as wide.

They’re as soft as you
like,
but they have
an
otherness
to them—
like maybe
if you start
to believe in them
they might
suffocate you.

Anyhow,
I don’t use them
for much
except
to try
and keep
undercover.

Then there’s this
quilted
heavy sonuvabitch
and it sits
on its haunches
as.
.ke.
w.
like your smile,
and that’s the
ocean,
this quilt of
mine;
it has that
weightiness
that even
the universe
can’t compete
with.

And I know,
you will say
well, the
universe
contains the ocean
after all,
but
maybe
I might
take issue
with
that.

It takes a lifetime
to fall in love
and
no
time
at all.

A Man’s Garden

A man’s moral code
is like his garden.

He tends it and
cares
for it
at his leisure
and for his
pleasure,
and
he treats it
with insecticides
and churns in
rich soils—
little preventative
elixirs and nourishing
potentialities—and he guards it
against
decay.

There is always some small corner,
however,
which he leaves
in just the soil
available and in which
he does not
co-mingle
any superficial
delineation
or
order; he may
acknowledge it
or not; he may
be aware of it
or let it
prick
his subconscious
(usually suppressed
by a late-night glass
of water).

His garden may be marked by color,
by outgrowth,
by scent,
by chaos,
or by flow;
it matters not–
so long
as he may
breathe
deeply
in it
and of it.

And,
every
now and then,
someone may wander
close enough
to his
garden
and feel free
themselves
to comment upon it.

“What a lovely
sanctuary,”
they’ll say,
and he will
thank them with
a strange mixture
of pride
and
self-deprecation,
pointing out
some
aesthetic flaw
or other
(no doubt his inner eye
may then
.fl.ash. upon
the exquisitely
unmanicured
small corner
of wildness);
but,
when they have gone,
he will wonder
if any of this
is really
worth
any of
his trouble
at
all.

3 BRITA Water Pitchers

You used to live
in an apartment
with three other
girls
and I had to laugh
at the
multiple
BRITA
water pitchers
in your fridge.

Once, I did the dishes
while I waited for you to return from
an errand
and your roommate
was embarrassed
and you
were
mortified,
but I just enjoyed
using my elbows
and the way
the warm,
soapy water
slipped and
tumbled over
my
hands.

That was years ago,
now.

I wonder
how
that can be.

I have to say,
ya know,
guys I know—
they wonder
what a
girl
smells like;
what she does to make
herself
smile;
what color
panties
she’s wearing;
or, maybe
just what shade
of amber
her bedside
lamp
burns
before she
sighs,
turns it off,
and hums
herself
to sleep
(me, I know
that even you
drool on your pillow,
sometimes).

But I
wonder what your fridge looks
like
when it’s almost
empty—
what skeleton,
nearly empty
sauces and salad dressings
cling to the
frigid air—
then there’s that juice
you bought
that you’d thought
you would
like,
but
hadn’t.

I don’t know
why
I wonder
about
any of
that.

Maybe it’s
because
I’m getting
used
to
the quiet—
and
that
scares hell
out of
me.

Root Beer Float

I wrote you
a letter,
and I think it’s
long past
time
that I write
a different letter
that I can
actually
send.

So here it is:
your letter
letting
you
go.

Once,
I was in
a gas station
and my mom
and I
were having
Root Beer Floats
when,
just outside,
there was
a car crash.

It was so near where I
grew up—
where I
went to
school—
that it remained
a part of my life
for longer
afterward
than usual.

Stories about
the firemen
cutting the
tangled
seat belt
and
how young
the boy
had been.

D.O.A.

They used it as
an early warning
for us:
middle school
students;
children,
really.

They hadn’t heard
the screeching tires
like I had.

Or looked up so fast
from their
Root Beer Float
that
they’d pulled muscles
in their
necks.

They thought his life
was good
for a warning,
but
they hadn’t seen smoke
and plastic,
smelled burnt rubber,
heard
shearing metal,
or seen
the red
mist.

I lost
my innocence
at the A&W
just in front of
the fire station
and at the
site
of an auto
collision.

Things hurt
me;
always have.

It’s not fair,
but
being with you
was the only time
for me
when
nothing
hurt;

That’s not
your
fault.

I know
that the answer
can’t be
to hurt you
by trying to hang on
to you
after you’ve
let go
in order
to save
myself
some
hurt.

I
love you,
and I’m
sorry
that
the spark
didn’t catch.

I don’t think
I should be telling
you
all of this,
maybe I should just
smile
kind of sadly
as I always have
and say:

Someday,
life will be
less of a
heart-breaking
mystery
to me,
and I hope
one day
to hear from you
again,
and I hope
your
children
never leave
behind
a half-finished
Root Beer Float.

The Unsent Letter

I wrote you a letter
and in it
I said
the noble things.

I said that I had
always
loved you
and that
I always
would.

I said that I
forgave you
and that
I was still
learning
what that
meant.

I said that
I understood
what you meant
and that
I wished you well.

I said
I would only
ever
think of you
fondly
and that
J.S. Bach’s
Sarabandes
would forever
make me
smile.

I said
you would be
okay
without me.

I said
I would let you
walk away
and that I
would
walk away
too
since that
was what
you wanted.

I said
I would not
look
b
a
c
k.

I walked until
you could no longer
hear
my footsteps
and then
I turned around.

But, for every
__t
_r
__u
___d
__g
___i
__n
___g
footstep
I had
taken,
you had
lightly
taken
three,

and you were
so far
g
o
n
e
that I
did not
have the
chance
to say:

I wrote you two letters,
and this
is the
second
one;

I will never
be
what I could have been
with you,
and far from
blaming you
for that,
I simply
hate
myself.

I do not
understand
what you meant.

I cannot
say
“Goodbye”
without also
saying
“but why?”

And,
as for Bach,
the
sarabande
from Cello Suite No. 2
will always
sound like
what could have been;
what should have been.

Black cat, green eyes;

Black cat, green eyes;

Steady like a streetlamp.

Curled in my direction.

Cypress trees

And Lillies.

Cats are so quiet
you can hear
your breaths
evaporate.

Black eyes, green world;

Stardust footsteps and
grass bending.

Flickering streetlight;

Steady rain.

Irises
and Lotus flowers.

One day
there will be no more
walls
drenched in
beige.

Black world, green dies.

Narrow Chamber Music

I sit in the
n_a
_r_r_
_o_w
chamber
of your
heart
vibrantly
un
___f
____u
_____r
____l
___i
__n
___g
my soul’s
melody,
and,
while it is still
an interrogative
reverberating
in your
h_o_ll_o_w
bones,
I pack up
and go
trudging
away.

I mark
my departure
with a
determination
not to err
as Eurydice caused
Orpheus
to err,
and so
I wander on.

I strain my ears
to timpani
madness
to hear
the echo of
your refrain,
but
all I hear
e
_c
__h
_o
i
_n
__g
are
my torrid
footsteps.

Désespoir est la chose qui fleurit

Bright, vermilion blossoms
Bubble upward to branch tips,
Thirsting like old, parked ships,
Coaxed forward to bursting rush,
Until, like cold lips, they gush
Forth as melodious thrush
In white effervescent blush.

Softly down they float and whine
Whose interminable grasp
Overreaches that first Asp
Toward the fairest beacon.
Blooms fade; leaves fall; roots weaken;
And other sad stories leak in,
Yet no dusk the day seeks then.

&
if failure is the proof ‘gainst trying,
then let us all leave off from dying,
for here we lie and we’re not sighing
in reckless love; the sin was plying.

Grains which propose golden seascapes’ flow
Must gestate as they glow,
And sudden from the earth they’ll spring
That Vibrate as they Grow.

As, new-anchored in her lotus bloom,
His Venus curls in sleep,
The arbor aisle lies verdant while
Adonis gently weeps.

Writing Implements

“How do you write?”
the moderator
asks.

“Oh! With a
typewriter!”
says she.

Her fingernails clack
on the burnished
tray which
holds
our waters
and she laughs
a
lilting
laugh
along with
the audience.

Her breasts
are smothered
beneath her
burgundy
blazer–
after all
she is more than
simply
a woman;
she is an Artíst.

“It makes me feel
closer
to Hemingway,”
she says.

There it is:
the pretty bow
that constitutes
a writer.

An audience
will fall in love
with wit
like that.

I get my
proximety
to Hemingway
through a bottle of
Vermouth under the
bed
and one of
Rum next to
the cat’s dish.

“And how about you,
sir.
How do you write?”

I swallow hard
against the
implication.

“Different ways,”
I say.
“Whatever is handy
when
the heat
comes.
I’ve written on
grocery lists,
in book margins,
on pamphlets,
church programs,
music scores,
receipts for
cat food,
anything, really.

But I usually write using
my laptop…
or, if I can’t
get to it, then I’ll
use
my phone.

“A phone?”
she says.

“My goodness, what has
our craft
come
to?”

The audience laughs.

I’ve forgotten
how that goes.

I wish I’d told
the truth.

But people can never
forgive you
once you
tell them
the truth.

If I had
shown
more courage,
I would have said:

When that storm
.flashes. and
breaks on me
with its
silent thunder,
the only
implement
common
to all the
writing
I’ve ever
done
is
a chronic
desperation.