Monday, January 17, 2011

Laundry List of Frogs

One kissed me like fast food
Impatience and hunger
trademarkedly forgettable
driving off quickly
feeling sick later

Another kissed me like Halloween
masquerading in the dark
for something he wasn’t, I wasn’t
planting sweetness upon sweetness
comfortably scary, exciting
our mouths moved together with
thick sap-like sugar
each kiss like knocking on a strangers door
We kissed until I had cavities, and the sugar-rush wore off
I’ve never had much of a sweet-tooth

Still another kissed me like a snow day
seasonal and fleeting
long-awaited, spontaneous
the element of surprise, an unexpected occurrence
something I’d hoped for endlessly
but eventually, the heavy cold got to me
and I remembered that snow days aren’t always
what you expect them to be
so I took off my mittens
and returned home to warm my bones
and make up the work I’d neglected

One kissed me like a child
soft and gentle
knowing and sweet
condescending, arrogant
and in charge.
I raised an eyebrow, from time-out
I built a wall of my building blocks
to protect my child’s heart
and, like the day a son’s stature
reaches above that of his father
I out-grew these kisses
exchanged them for freedom
and blazed my own path

One kissed me like a lion cub,
predatory and fierce
not yet understanding his own strength
he sunk in his teeth and tried for my jugular
thinking this to be romantic,
the fastest way to (stop) my heart
I’m not sure he knew
I’m no gazelle
but a wild jackal
and I, finding he being groomed for king
bounded off towards the red African sun

There have been others
like cotton candy and like licorice
like saltwater and like mud puddles

I’ve yet to be kissed
like cursive letters,
or a sunrise-soaked walk,
like a summer rain
or like piano keys

I’m young
there’s time
to keep trying.

Healing With Disease


Knobby and rounded
the bones of his shoulders show,
pointed up, reaching skyward
exultation under weathered skin.

Arms fully extended
he continually dips his cupped hands in the water
long narrow fingers forming a diamond

then separates his palms
trap-door release
(surprising the water
who had planned to trickle out slowly
nearly imperceptibly)
and a million jewels shatter to the river
returning to her continual pulsing flow

He seems to be somewhere else
eyes contentedly shut
seemingly unaware
as the water breaks and falls
again and again through his hands

A younger man
further down
(browned broad shoulders
shining with water
pointed outwards
seizing presence, commanding)
is chest deep
throwing his arms out at the elbow
and pulling water in
up over his face
down his eyes
tracing the patterns of his lips
as he prays
cleansing and rhythmic


The low hum of a projector
buzzes familiar
and the warm dust specks
illuminated by the white light
waltz before glaringly red text
font size 72

mug shot of the Ganges
she’s greenbrown with disease, human waste, pollution
looking sickly and vile
the horror, the horror

oh, that’s just uncalled for
pictures she’d hoped
would never be shared in polite company
a dead cat floats by, bloated belly up
while the sewage sinks to the bottom
my darling, you’re a wretch
sorry and stinking and putrid

like a gun clicking through its chamber
searching for the bullet(point)
to really hit home
and with a deafening crack(click)
we’ve found it
stark silence, sorrowful and sweet
as a man’s image is flashed across the screen
with knobby rounded shoulders
the bones pointing up to the sky
holiest of horrors, healing with disease
purifying his soul with filth
washing away his sins with excrement
he is finally clean

Uncle Sam
he knows better
he would laugh at the absurdity
if that weren’t so uncouth

and he shakes his head
and puts his hand warmly
on the back of the neck of the televangelist
whose open mouth spews flecks of hot spit,
(this being among the less revolting things
to come from that tongue)
as he covers sinners eyes with his hands
and runs his fingers over their praying lips
Cured! Pure!
They are finally clean
Thank god

And when ye pray,
ye shall not be as the hypocrites:
for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues
and in the corners of the streets,
that they may be seen of men

Uncle, Uncle
turn off your engine and stay awhile
See there, the glacial glow
watch that glacier go
she’s melting from your hell-fires
Uncle, Oh uncle
raping the sweetness from the land
Don't try and cover my eyes with your filthy hands

my dear sweet Ganges!
I thought I heard Philomel's cry
guttural and raw
echoing from the himalayas
She's doubled over
dying, drying

but watch!
With the glacier's last gasp
and in Ganges croaking final hour
See now, how clean the water flows
rushing down
it’s fresh as an altar boy
clean as a Sunday
holy, holy
purified, at last


I sit up for an extra second
after hitting my alarm
just to make the collapse
back to pillow
that much more enjoyable
curling under
burying deeper and deeper
until I simply vanish
into a whispered word
left to dream away the next three months
returning with the sun
to kiss the earth and coax the seeds
up from their warm beds
(at this point, as if reading my thoughts
the shrill piercing dream-shattering beep
reminds me that I am only permitted 5 minutes to snooze
and damn well better start my day.)

It’s days like these that call for
tucking myself away
hiding from
greetings begging to be returned
phones crying to be answered
Hellos and Thank Yous and Of Courses
lock the doors and pull the curtains shut
feeding on brush strokes
drunk on sweet lingering piano notes
greedily devouring poem after poem
romanced by the kiss of an exceptionally striking phrase
burying myself in waking dreams
conscious escapes

I’ve been losing all insubstantial substance
it started with small talk
then went pleasantries
(I’ve never been good at lying)
patience soon wandered away
explanation tragically tumbled from a window
(but that was years ago, and we rarely mention it)

unburdened by these false friends
I’m lighter than air, drifting drifting
wandering through hallways of thought
begging silently to each window and wall
for an adventure
an escape

I live until it hurts
laughing til my lips crack and bleed
weathered by winter wind
idly pulling at my nails edge
til the skin submits and peels
reveals tiny specks of red
walking till my ankles rub bare
rouge enraged blisters

and I love my heart raw
always exposed to the elements
on display, sorry and weathered
battered but resilient
I’m always stumbling and dropping it
tissue tearing
forming and reforming
stronger and new

I’m hopelessly careless
don’t trust me with your breakables

limited visibility

Limited Visibility

I come here,
tongue, wits, pen
all sharpened, ready to
slice down my center
watch my insides spill out
across the stark page
trying to get at that infernal internal pounding
driving me through this dreary wednesday

Hopefully I can pick through the mess
and find the weight laying heavy inside me
in one “Aha!” moment
(perhaps it will be shaped like a
butterfly, like the popular childrens game
and maybe I can duplicate the ease with which
it is extracted;
tiny careful hands,
steady now…)

There’s something steadily working through me
like a fog drifting in from over the horizon
and soon the buildings of my thoughts are obscured
only their pointed black tops visible
cutting through the thick mist
the shiny wet streets of possibility
twist into the distance and vanish,
fuzzy before my strained eyes
If a car were to come at this moment
by the time I saw its headlights
I’d already be breathless against the ground


Elegy for familiar strangers

Elegy for Familiar Strangers

How comforting is it
as I drive home on a rainy Wednesday
to see the same tired dogged man
and his mainly tired dog
trudging through the puddle-soaked streets?
This one’s for you,
man in the brown detective’s coat
walking your sleepy basset hound day after day
I’ll probably never know your name
you probably never notice my car
swooshing past you on the side of the road

When you die, I surely won’t be at your funeral
and I may not even perceive your absence
but it’s comforting to pass you on the same winding street
at the same time, rain or shine
and marvel at the way our schedules intertwine.

Coming home after being away for awhile
I stop at my favorite grocery store:
the one less than a mile from my childhood home
where my friends and I would spend countless hours
having bike races through the parking lot
and conquering the towering mountains of snow
the plows left behind.
The familiarity is vastly comforting
after having been a foreigner in someone else’s town
and I see a certain boy
with his thick dark eyebrows and beady black eyes
his stride proud and managerial
despite his diminutive stature
I think he might have worked there since the dawn of time
swaddled in a green stop and shop shirt from his birth
which was, coincidentally, somewhere between produce and dairy.
This one is for you, permanent resident of my market
A swift nod and a curt smile
is the only way I know to express my undying gratitude
for the service you’ve provided to me year after year
Sometimes I wonder if you’ll ever leave here

And as I prepare to leave
this tiny cape cod town
I’m sure I won’t miss these locals
familiar strangers, faces of my streets
and I doubt I’ll ever think of them
But when I feel like something is missing
for a brief second as I’m walking to class
it will be the comfort in the same cast and crew
that I’ve found my life running parallel to
the warm reassurance
that I, for some reason, feel
every time I swerve to miss them in the road
or avoid making eye contact with
as I buy a few last minute items
before my long journey.

Time to Fucking Party

There should be rapturous gyrations;
dancing, barefoot and wild
in the streets.
ecstatic vibrations pulsing through every household
confetti pouring out from windows into the sidewalks
thick, deep kisses ; fat, heavy tears
A jubilant sensory overload

from your pseudo-leather, saran-wrapped, sanitizer-dipped banality
from your micro-waved, fluorescent-lit, plasticized ennui
wrench from your veins
the lies pumped by a talk show host through a vanilla IV
Forget the platitudes, the small talk, hollow questions
Forget your remote control, your white bread, your apathy
There is a celebration to be had.

Today we will celebrate the war
against the crushing depression
printed in bold face type with an exclamation point
on page one, two, three, four, five, seven, and eight
(page six is the comics
and by god, we will celebrate the way that
no matter what
charlie brown still keeps trying to kick that football)

We're hosting a celebration for
the things that are never celebrated:
for mornings when you wake up
and, for once, your first thought isn't crawling back into bed
for mornings when your sheets feel extra cool and crisp
and the light spills over your windowsill at an atypical
and startling angle
that illuminates your curtains with a warm yellow light
pours across your ceiling in beams and strips
glitters off of the empty bottles lining the sill
that by noon will look depressing.

A celebration for silent communications with strangers,
unspoken conversations over a shared experience
like that time you dropped your entire bag of trailmix
into the subway rail tracks
and the guy across the way saw
your eyes met
and he gave you a look that was both empathetic and amused
and you both laughed

A celebration for the way a whisper tickles your ear a little
for unexpected hugs and catching people off guard

for the way your stomach drops when you go too high on the swing
and the bubbly nervous excitement when you kiss someone for the first time
and how these are essentially the same feeling

Celebrate your body
it is an incredible and radiant machines
celebrate your contours, the way your muscles move so fluidly
the soft skin behind your ear, that single curl on the nape of your neck
your smooth pink nail beds, the sloping arch of your foot
the elegance of your spine, the neatness of your shoulder blades
you are fucking beautiful.

Celebrate the lyricism of your own name
and the bizarre sensation of saying it to yourself

Celebrate falling asleep listening to someone's heart beat
good-luck pennies and winding staircases,
fresh-cut grass and thunder storms
dandelions when they are fluffy and white
sliding on wood floors in socks and the screwed up faces babies make

Just count the little things that get you through the endless parade of mondays,
because I desperately want to know
What will you celebrate for?