Endeavors to lash the delicate; the poems that season were gamey. Sanguineous, their shades were the color of feverish mouths aflame with Irish whiskey. Discordant consonants upset white space on empty page.
Wanting dervish whirlwind words snaked sibilant across empty screen, these poems mosey, clumsy as Beefalo Bovine. The love poetry that year was mean as the vermillion moods that encouraged it ugly
Chipped like worn fingernail-polish that screams I’m not a waitress, not thirtyish: Announcing open season. Couplets didn’t stand a chance with borrowed gunrunner words ricocheting so close to hearts on imitation parchment.
I once read a poet god’s manual—instinctively plunging into trappings, falling for ground, field-dressing verse, a pitiless paring. Skinless sonnets confounded meter with my re-naming myself into existence.
I read myself raw. I flee into enjambments timed with the precision of a metronome whilst my lazy twined tongue trips over a trail of new words. My poesy limps along
shot full of red; empty fruit, target practice.
As we danced I was aware of his hands on my hips becoming gypsies tempting me to the four corners of a restroom stall. I was unsure until his mouth opened and he revealed himself to be an accidental prophet that sang in scat and spoke in parables. I was lured by Cosmopolitans, technobeats and the ripple of his Adam’s apple. I concentrated my attention to the dim lights and the ebb and flow of our chests. Deep gasps inhaled with each move on the dance floor. I slide my hands underneath his shirt to survey the unchartered territory of his muscles. He marries my lips to his. I divorce my body from my mind. Smoke and mirrors reflect the fragments of a night that will have to be recollected. A robust bouncer with a crew cut and an ape’s gait says: “If you would like to take your dancing outside…” I decided that if the swaying of my hips could be stopped there would be no need for me to keep seeking accidental prophets who preach to me about losing my religion.
How Many There Were
The underbelly of the moon.
The candle told me to do it; the candle compelled me
to do it—the candle said you must do it girl do it quick
She came to me through the screen and I accepted the will of all the souls.
When I met her her hair was blue
when I met her I met her it was a dazed circle
when I met her we spoke things like me too and yes but since it’s the story that everyone tells it might not be a story at all
water of mud up to our chins she sat to my right she kept saying it’s time to leave my darling it’s time to goand I knew that I wasn’t going to come with herthat I couldn’t she wouldn’t let methe water sat on my chestcrushed my breath the water came up to my nostrils I finally stood up the waternaked IcriedI looked around she woudn’t let me come with her !fuck! there was nothing I could do exceptkeep standing up in the water I looked at those around me, heads bobbing, I screamed I screamed I looked at her while I screamedher eyes had already a measure of goodbye and they were no longer blue I screamed again the water
open my eyes
I think what a dream remember that it was I that had the eyes no longer blue although I cannot tell if she was crushed by water
to kill a moonsnake you must pretend that it wanted to kill you first that it tried to kill youfirst that it slitherd its ears around your neck you couldn’t breath, so you must have lashed out to kill a moonsanke you must suggest to the moon the snake that it’s tired you must suggest that its not really your idea to kill a moonsnake you must say I only want what you want, snake, I only want to help the moonsnake will swirl around your toe for a minute, considering
it will peer up at you with both of its good eyes will smile, it will retreat and you will wait for the moonsanke to come back, though. You will wake in the morning, sweat on your pillow, a chill in your toe, wishing the moonsnake had argued a bit more, wishing wishing
- they will jar you awake to stillness. there are so many of them. they had so many hands—hands for grabbing, hands to suggest that laughter could be accomplished.
there were so many of them: they came at all angles; at times it seemed they were in corners, under chairs, under bottoms even while bottoms were in chairs, in places weird like my soup dish. I’d bring the spoon to my lips…and they came at all angles and they came from all times. there were so fucking many of them!—they came from the fourth dimension, the space only Picasso only could see, or tried to see.
there were so many of them… until she woke one morning unable to stretch her legs unable to bring her arm to her face to slip off the sleep mask
she could not not think of how many there were
A King without a Palace
Over in the decaying town of El Tule
was a man named War,
his real name was lost,
and nobody knew how he got his nickname.
A few of the elders said he once had a family,
the town gossip said he once shot his wife over false jealousy.
Nobody cared to ask him.
War would trudge along dirt roads,
holding out his hand for coins.
His sandals were rubber soles cut out of old tires,
leather straps tied them to his feet.
He always carried a plastic bottle filled with rubbing alcohol.
His expression was the same,
An old dog waiting for its dead master.
On a summer night
by the arroyo,
War stood on his favorite rock,
possessed by the spirits in his plastic bottle.
He pointed at invisible men, and thundered his sermon.
“I am the king of poverty
my heart has no pride
much less sadness
I am a king without a palace
tragedy is wealth.
If you see me crying in the streets
it’s because nobility runs in my blood.”
The Sound of Stone
The last farewell of Narcissus is engraved on her bones,
all that is left of a nymph’s body. Petrified words
died for his vanity, choked on a goddess’s revenge. Why
does his daffodil thrive? Echo’s decayed body left nothing
but a spectral voice. It is the sound of empty
desire, of faith fading into the dying light of day.
Have the gods forgiven water for drowning the day?
The faithful endlessly pray to saints and virgins’ bones,
begging that their supplications will not become an empty
homage. What do we know of the words
that will turn a god’s anger to love, to nothing?
Litanies heavier than mausoleum stones ask why
daffodil petals are anchored to dead ground, why
holy candles flicker and die. Late winter day
wanes as water erodes stone, leaving nothing
but bitter twilight. Darkness hollows the bones
of we who believed that our sanctified words
could rise. They mix with incense and burn our empty
hands. Baptismal water evaporated, vanished into empty
cradles, newborns who need early atonement. No one asks why
the hymnals are bare, why there are no words—
why there is no water. Liriope knew—the day
between birth and senescence is short, and small bones
cannot bear the weight of their beauty. There is nothing
colder than frozen grave ground, and Echo says nothing
but the words her goddess allows, each sound stripped, empty.
Sprawling roots are all that remains of Narcissus’s bones.
Baptized in his own image, he swallowed the water and asked why
the earth was dry. Echo’s stones are a curse, foretelling the day
the rock would gush with water at the words
of an angry God. The bare music of a nymph’s song, words
that need the breath of another. She can do nothing
but dance to a silent refrain and chase the day
she remembers. A thousand, thousand footprints cover the empty
woods. The sound of careful footsteps echoes falling leaves. Why
do the shadows of cowering gods shatter our indigent bones?
Questions, supplications rise from the pebbles and bones,
our mouths sealed shut. The lovely water speaks of day, reveals why
nothing is as hollow as our own words, ever empty.
in a moment, a minuscule shrimp had an epiphany somewhere that couldn’t drift into the atmosphere. the rest of the world was off on a tangent tending to the filtering kidney that is each individual life. this epiphany bloomed like a banana on a tree, but was a feeling that never radiated outside of his minuscule body, never left the sea, never reached me. an analytical peace in the cellar of the world framed by thousands of pounds of seawater entered a small pink entity of the class crustacea. this is the kind of epiphany that if had by you, i would respond “gezundheit”, that’s the only thing i’d do, and it would pass us both by on a wave of air, it would just go on through.
keep time on your watch but pay close attention to what you feel. can you actually feel your vocabulary growing or remaining just as it is? i ask you to pay attention to how you feel as you keep time on your watch and what it has to do with your vocabulary. i don’t mean the quips that pass between us as if they weren’t meant to be direct. i mean, thank goodness they’re not, right? the shape of it, of your vocabulary, not as a specific list but as a collection that represents your feelings. what shape is it. if you saw it could you snap it in a photograph and capture it because believe me by tomorrow it would change. even if your vocabulary is shaped like an octopus with eight different ways of feeling so you can have a different one tomorrow. an octopus in the water that moves by propelling itself by its vocabulary. i’m so sick of the quips. i’m done being a student so indirectly as if we’re in class discussing a novel that we’re supposedly in.
i’m going to articulate myself concisely. all the minnows, though. what’s a window. one or two snowshoes, know your route and go. all the little silver ones, though. what’s a mirror. i’m going. two of the artists i know like the idea of radio. one is me, quite conceivably, and so is the other one, on the other side of the radio. oh, i was told. i was told by me. i’m going but i’m not going to go nicely. all the sorrow, though, it doesn’t come up in a story or a poem the way it comes through on the radio. what’s a rainbow. what’s a double rainbow. oh, it’s too nice for a poem. all the other poems, though.
Is this my America? How about you
Is this me?
Tempus fugit, grasshopper. I don’t see
Nothing. Rain will follow the plow.
What they call progress is really profit.
Time can’t fly. It’s just cartwheeling Christmas
lights to entombed artillery.
Says the chaplain.
“Jesus Fucking Christ.”
He speaks misery
We speak American.
They must not get
New cartoons in Iraq. It’s real easy to leave.
Hard to get keep going.
But in the Army it’s backwards.
Nothing sees me.
Outside the Wire, where the world ends
Where the warfighter does his dirty work
Look far enough – past
That foolish gold Sunset – the New West
(As seen through bulletproof glass)?
On patrol in Baghdad, manifest
Falling brass orchestral swells
Snickers bars for 44 cents. Carbon-brown, shit-brown.
There’s nothing to see. We built it.
Am I interchangeable? A part
Of the factory system, whorehouses and
Horrified settlement fires.
Freckled fire-work ambushes
Red against ridgeline constituents. We billed it.
The Oracle at WiFi
I toss chicken bones in front of the TV but I can’t read them.
The language wasn’t offered in high school. My shrine
Is a pizza box. They’ll understand. Image search shrines –
Federal courthouses, office towers, skyscrapers, wallpapered
With brand name deities. A million miles was nothing
To Odysseus; Ithaca gets 4G. This Trojan horse is made
Of screaming metal shot up into television sets. My burnt offerings
Were delivered. I gave the quicksilver messenger a five dollar tip.
Satellite view Mt. Olympus – nothing but rock
And tourist trails. Zeus never left a forwarding address.
If that old fart could run from credit card companies – why
Can’t I? My pizza box smells of grease and says nothing.
Who is the God of pizza, the Goddess of telephone-ordered
Delivery? The Internet smells of altar and says nothing.
One way or another
Home: dreamlike world, it exists, unreal
The Lollipop is a nightmare place. It is very real. Upon its faded white marquee is scrawled, in swirling Arabic:
It’s a mile marker along aching miles. The road goes from Fallujah to Karmah. I feel like a hipster when I have to say,
You’ve probably never heard of it.”
I drive my up-armored chariot past that fucking sign so many times and so many times there’s a freshly buried roadside bomb waiting for me and I say
but that’s a media phrase, a bullshitter’s axiom, a slogan for worry, for anecdotal politicians, so I prefer – I am more used to – mantras like
“six-to-nine round burst” and “urgent-surgical;”
they sing the truth about brass necklaces and helicopter wings.
I know that upon the Lollipop it really says:
–Place Improvised Explosive Device Here–
If You Would Kindly Explain to Me
If you would kindly explain to me
then, I’ll tell you everything.
I wonder if you have ever
felt the inspiration of living, or
the uncertain eloquence of the newest.
Take from me what you’d like
I have enough to spare, and
it certainly salvaged my young life.
Your need to precisely pin point
the sacredness of my artistry, exhausting.
Those who can see must, imagine
what it could not be
and be what it would not be.
To live long the days, with
a life that is made up of long days
I cannot fully understand. If it was to mean
never composing a well-formed curve,
drawing a line to attempt meaning,
making purpose so as to define myself, denied
the welcomed burden of industry
the feet which once bore to task, lay still
the hands that once moved in a graceful dance, quiet.
it cascades solidly from a fluid source unknown,
grows in excessive, passionate amounts
to spew forth and rearrange itself
into something unimagined and calm.
Melissa Mullinax (2)
I wonder if one gains proficiency
in building fire in the same manner
one learns to navigate the internet:
so crucial to our
what some of the godless among us may call
so far removed from the day-to-day
of most North Americans within
a fistful of generations.
Toddlers place telephone calls on touch-screens,
babbling in an undocumented language
to an adoring ear, wireless and
a continent away; and we spend
forty minutes with wood and a lighter and crumpled training documents
coaxing a sustainable flame.
I wonder what we have gained
and what we have lost
in our manifested technological destiny,
methodically barreling toward an ever
more effective means of
while casinos bloom in the hills of Española,
ripe with heroin,
and Taos waits as an ancestral, bleeding dream of
a man, newly literate,
incarcerated 400 miles south of the
co-opted, corporatized, criminalized pueblo
he calls home.
But the campsite sure is pleasant,
hot showers and an outlet, too.
He represents the state of California
with its likeness tattooed
over his right eyebrow, stretching
almost to his nose.
Each cheek broadcasts
a Gothic-looking “S”— an
identifier to both his friends
and his enemies.
His mom grieves the insignia and
his disfigured grill, the broken
lateral incisor on the right
side of his wide mouth.
“Why’d you do this?
You had such a beautiful smile.”
“I don’t know, Mom.
This is just who I am.”
He won’t wear red, only
blue. A Sureño can deal
to a Crip as long as he
sells in his own neighborhood.
When he first cruised Albuquerque
and a stranger waved at him,
he waved back, awkward, unfamiliar,
expecting a pointed gun.
He earned a GED in February,
the last month of his third
self first castigated by justice.
Four days to the door, he
imagines Venezuela, growing
tomatoes and chilies, building
a house of hay. But no horse rides.
First he’ll have to remove
the pair of branded S’s else
the cartel might kill him. He wants
out. He wants a way forward
without a band of brothers
and their rivals ready to
lien his life on loyalty; he never
expected to live to twenty
yet he’s creeps into a third decade,
in need of a new face,
rather, his old one, before he can meet
thirty, the soil warm in the garden.
At Band Practice
from other 7th grade classmates,
Perry, Leon, and myself
get comfy in our cell-sized room;
the porous wall paneling
absorbs our brass sounds.
we don’t practice.
Two black guys and a white guy
trade stories about girls
who ignore our voices,
lukewarm school lunch,
mock Mr. Gail the rotund band teacher;
our brass stays
spit guards empty,
sheet music tucked neatly into folders.
We don’t do homework
Perry swears I’m his cousin
though I don’t look it
and through his small eyes
spies me, smiles, high fives me;
Leon adjusts his glasses
rims and frames look like mine
picks through his hair
and nods at our room’s rhythm.
Mr. Gail enters:
time for you to play.
Brought before the other
7th grade classmates
Perry, Leon, and I
wedge side by side in the second row
woodwinds and strings and percussion
circle us in harmony;
Perry puffs his cheeks
presses fingers against valves
but he don’t blow;
Leon points to our sheet music
runs a finger along the staff,
stops on a note, calls out
one nasty note.
People of earth, no matter what your instrument,
keep dancing. -Dave Chappelle
When moms cooks like grams
her small kitchen waves out AM radio
oom-pah-pah, oom-pah-pah voices:
Who stole the kishka
someone stole the kishka,
who stole the kishka
from the butcher shop.
When pops works his truck
his one speaker tape deck cranks out
six string, slow hand, slow spoken:
a boom boom boom boom
a how how how how
When brother picks me at school
hustle n’ flow with human beat-boxing:
brrrrlot, stick ‘em
ha ha ha, stick ‘em
brrrrlot, stick ‘em
ha ha ha, stick ‘em.
When sister cries out her deafness, alone,
on her bed with a small FM radio under her pillow,
hearing aids turned off, I imagine she hears: