Tuesday, November 16, 2010

difficult kind

This house. This bed. This blood. This loss. This street. This sun. This song and pavement. This printed ache. This book of signs.

This mattress is a tourniquet. This pain is a psalm. These are the women I loved, these my promises of remission, my badges of burden.

The symphonies that survived the night: Sibelius 6, Mahler 4, "Eroica." Remember me a moment before you turn on the lights, remember these dreams of mine, I hang from your words.

These are the sheets I drift across. These are the stoplights at which I spent countless moments in consideration of choice. This is my regret, this, my gentlest laugh; this is the worst of myself that can never be excised.

This beating heart. This ancient muscle. This ceaseless talk of going, this gift of mine, this ancestor of calamity.

This is my soul of shreds, my self of scraps. The tiring fights. The amber joy. The oceans of night draped over an age of orphan wonder.

This, and all of myself: this heartache of glory, this endless surrender.

Monday, August 23, 2010

beautiful girls

Disasters of the heart.
I keep forgetting about them as I get older,
I who fill my time with work
and books and empty sex,
having chased out all the demons
from my bygone life of need.
I had needed to be saved
and then hadn’t,
adulthood’s nifty trick,
though sometimes I lie in bed
and stare at the ceiling
wondering if life now lacks
some essential desperation
to bring it purpose.
What happens when a woman
stands between you and oblivion?
Is it love? Before,
I’d lived off infatuation,
satisfied somehow with desire
and desire and desire and
always looking to others for salvation,
love all tied up in death,
drifting out on choppy waters
a madman copacetic—

But then I got older.
And sometimes lovers are merely lovers,
and the cars simply pass,
and work is something you do for money.
Grounded and needless and satisfied,
it’s a quiet life,
so quiet that I lie in bed and think:
Does no one else tire
of the way they always feel?
I could use a little more calamity,
blood of my fathers and blood of my sons;
I no longer need to be saved
but long for a little disaster,
hungering for suffering still,
I the ex-fanatic,
I who beg you to break me,
break me up.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

gods and monsters

There are paths across this violent planet
I’d like to see but can only find when
terrified and confused and alone,
carried across by a fancy or ego
or incompetence otherwise impossible to achieve
while on my best behavior.
Why? Blame the soul.
The thing about souls
is that sometimes they choose
loneliness or vanity or ambition
the way frigates choose the open water.
They're the moral organization of chaos;
the impractical part of us
whose identity can never be
modified, shaved down, faked,
carrying us onward even when hobbled,
staying broken even when fixed,
bearing weights and loves and grudges forever.
And the soul is there
the way mistakes are always there,
inhabiting every atom
of our imperfectible little lives,
always impractical,
always emerging unbidden,
sometimes on a Tuesday,
sometimes when you’re standing along the curb
with the paper and a sandwich,
standing there thinking about a commercial and
staring at a girl across the street like an idiot,
and the soul either hits you or you just kind of remember
that not every single day
is the most meaningful day of your life,
so please god
do not let this be the day
I get hit by a fucking car.
And there it comes,
that animal velocity in us,
breaking our bodies across a dozen muscles
to funnel this tempest of a life
into a meaning we’d never intended
with a force we’d never fathomed,
and we are insane for this, no?
and murderous, and in love,
all us gods,
gods all and monsters.

Monday, July 26, 2010


When someone prods a weakness
the personality coils around it.
This is why secrets are scarved in anger,
especially among those like me,
men whose hearts are built from ancient tissue,
whose worst vanities become ringed
by arrogance or silence or laughter.
To hurt is to remember
the unambiguous tyrant
your manners and intuition
had costumed in amity,
to be a body built of mirrors
facing inward;
to be yourself
without regard for being yourself,
casting off from Elba
with a map
and a favorable wind.


I don't think I'd wanted to be someone else,
just myself, except better,
except better meant something
other than myself,
a muscle-and-bone matrix
of finite mass and mutability.
Sit down and have a beer;
let us speak of the ridiculous people
who think about these sorts of things
as I do, whose dreams become
the preferred altar of worship,
because only dreams exist without
the connective tissue
that keeps us on a loop
between the house
and the office
and the grocery store.
"But I just want to love," you cry,
"a family, a place to eat!" No matter.
You will remember you are fine soon
and soon forget.


This is the life of memory
in a time of decay,
a half-remembered world
buried in misshapen grabs
of motion and color,
whose emotional content
lay just as much in those
fanatical teenaged vows
as they do in the mundane glimpse
of a stroke of light
on a cream-colored ceiling,
or a snatch of congas
against the fleeting April rain.

This is the topography
of an emotional era
slowly flattening beneath
the lifetime being heaped upon it—
and this being a human geology,
emotions, buried, do not emerge as diamonds;
they become our sand, our oceans,
our soil.


Sometimes when I feel this
it's like being attack by saran wrap
and existentialism
listening to windy breakups
across a well-lit cafe
"I'm glad it works for you — dick"
and such meanness
fun for a while
but I am disposed
to sympathy
and casual relationships

tell me, what color is the dresser
in your bedroom?
I do this to myself
and choose to corrupt
who knows how many of my socks
will be in your closet

the life before

When I think of you
I fall into various stages of panic,
never knowing how I felt then but uncertain
or maybe just ephemeral,
plotted on a course for loss or love—

But a very different time, that year,
insane with desire and ambition,
addicted to all things an inch
beyond my reach;
love beyond love,
light beyond light,
some life more full and complete
than life would allow;
twenty years in
on loveless abject poverty,
the life before shrugs
and recovery—

The time is barely mine anymore,
either forgotten, or understood,
and I risk being dreamless
at the expense of pleasant company.


The way we lived out the summer,
slouched in chairs, legs out,
on some patio or another.
In the sun, at night.
Enjoying the days
before they collected into months
and ran away, like children.

Like children we lived out the summer:
with motion, without direction.
Somewhere there was music, or a movie,
or another picnic,
until there wasn't,
until summer ended,
when like children
we stole away,
in the sun,
in the night.


No poems today. Just lines
issued from a dull mind
uninspired by the raindrops
drumming on the window A/C unit.
It is strange to have magic

and then not have magic

but souls exist whether creative or not,
though perhaps creativity
is the merit
that makes us want some to survive
more than others

when we live in a place
where form exists but
lacks something essential;
a place where we hope for
the ghost ars in the shell poetica,
that hidden soul of words
to emerge and rescue us
from a terrible cosmic glitch
of unimagination.

But no imagination today, nor dreams,
just the words and sounds
that used to be their ferry.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

notes from chicago, july 2010

I think of this painted waste,
of the blight-on-white
brick-walled bodegas
where we used to meet,
still bleeding beats
from all those anthems
that now seem written
to remind me of you,

and I remember those notes from a life
when I spent only the good words
on the lengths and bends of your body,
when, less a feeling than a universe,
such love was something somehow different,
a moral combustion
and a glorious sum
of backseats, movies;

life after life
it ambled away,
and I still think of this waste
the way I first wished
it would think of me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Another cramped summer on the Left Bank,
though I guess the problem's in every arrondissement:
buskers clogging Châtelet and Les Halles
and pesky men at the gelato shop
polishing their disdain for your accent.
We all know God hates the fucking tourists but
sometimes it takes a squall of fanny packs to remind us
something is always beautiful
and not just there on the days
we choose to see it,
because even in Paris
the soul stays mostly at rest,
unprovoked by music
or poetry
or combustible love
or maybe some implacable, dapper-looking fellow
who seems mostly right when he says
we have the right to beauty
but no right to comprehend it.
Je cherche la région cruciale de l'âme
well, what do you dream about?
I'd always imagined falling in love
to classical music, the better Debussy,
though I guess if I were a different person
it could have been anything:
old movies, gardens, cars.
In our dream lives we
are always dallying about
with certain set pieces
plus the leading lady, and
in mine there was always
a grand piano casually left about,
plus maybe some snow.
When I was a musician
they taught us to bound the world
in elegant leaps,
but those were big words for such crippled lives
spent lurching to practice rooms
in tiny, exhausted steps.
It's there I learned how much practiced dreams
are good for practical lives,
and affection's as real as a dream, anyway,
because dreams are real,
they're just our rented selves.
So when wandering the Rue Mouffetard
with a lover
and barely a care,
except for maybe later
when I go to lay another rose
on Debussy's grave,
how much should we ask what it all means?
In the worst scenario
I find out that mine's a rented life,
where I need nothing,
own nothing,
and can only be turned out.


teased by the onset of depression
always needing to be at home
with a crossword puzzle
and a bottle of rye
protected from angels
by the ceiling fan
and rye
and decent television
sending one's self dangerously close
to a laugh
a sordid latitude
a quiet sight

to never be alone
o, never to be with my sweet thoughts
at home sharing dishes with madness
watching game shows and the weather channel with suspicion
o, to have people! what do they think
when I stare off into soup
in public
and murmur
these lines
what a world
when all is wicker-backed chairs
and TV movies
maybe I needed this
maybe I needed
to grip
terrible beauty
body radiant

crime life

In the spring there is hardly time
for our double lives, which can
comfortably take up the winter.
Now, there is too much ice cream
and too many easygoing girls in dresses
to leave room for death in my day,
which statistics say will happen
more frequently now anyway.
Maybe I'll go outside and buy a Coke
but just in case
I'll still have my guns and grieving mothers.
If I drink beer on a patio at twilight
I know there is a man somewhere who has
a bullet for every line in this poem.
No? The sunlight just seems brittle
to those of us with fantasies of disaster,
and even on rainy days
I am always dwelling over some
lost life or another, names swallowed
by drugs or love or government service.
Everything is tolerable but silence, because
those of us chasing lives of self-destruction
are appetized by madness, I guess because it
makes us still inside. And it's so quiet now.
Let's grab a Coke and talk about it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

the years

A kitchen light, an off-color floorboard.
A bra dangling from a Japanese folding screen.
It’s spring again, I’m twenty-three again;
I ache and feel wonder again.
The strains of Schubert from the morning radio
carve grooves too deep to be smoothed.
Three apartment buildings outside your window
climb skyward in a cubist frenzy
as a frieze of eighth notes descend
like stoplights over Harlem.
Yeah, so we’re young again, or old,
or whatever it is we say when re-gripped
by our best, most terrible desires—

And why the hell are we always on the set
of some opera every time we’re falling
in or out of love? With a flourish,
this is how to remember being twenty-two: lovesick
and cold, I’m waiting outside your building
on a street obliterated by snow.
My hands, your hands, and yet it’s
the voices of strangers that cut through
the one o’clock dark of a dying December.
Let’s go wither on that balcony of yours
with its snow-sheathed balustrades
and bathe in some Wagner for a change.
Why should stillness
always have to fall over everything?
Why not hollow out the dark this time?
These, questions for the gods,
who know everything, see everything—

While we mortals sit on the sides
of county roads, like bugs,
pretending to look at maps
against the failing autumn sun.
It’s warm and you’re splayed across the hood
of the weathered two-door your papa
bequeathed you. That shirt, those cutoffs,
the endless ribbon of skin around your waist.
My arms, my eyes, this helix-strand of highway,
this golden waste of wheatfields.
Being crushed by desire is a god
great enough for twenty-one,
but the hills and the trees there
seem painted now in watercolor,
the landscape swollen with silence.
The world ashes its cigarette and asks,
was that really it? Everything is forgotten now,
and quiet, and equal—

So maybe all I had I lost in a gasp
some summers back. Sun hanging low
in the window again, sumptuous as a tangerine.
A pair of heels. A row of eyeliner.
A boombox with a broken volume knob.
And then, the dark.
It’s not so easy to do this again,
but on we go, at least to remember
what was lost
of our better selves—

And on we go,
'til we are forgot.