Tattoos

there are white lines
on the skin of my forearms
the involuntary tattoos
of her fingernails and once
a chef’s knife
 
those days where my mind
wants to trick me
into thinking it wasn’t so bad
I look at them
 
Someday I will sit
and have ink pierced into my skin
an easily visible design
that is about joy and not anguish
 
and I will never
have a tattoo placed as cover
over the ones I dare not forget
the reminders I survived

Things that make me go mmmm

dripping ripe slabs of watermelon
finding the solution to a design problem
the feel of cool breeze on sweat
warm, but not hot, beach sand under my toes
peeling a mandarin orange
the way impossibly thin shavings curl from the cabinet scraper blade
the taste of your pussy

Place

Is there any relationship
between the idea of a place
and the actual place?
Sunflowers bend in the breeze
in the small bit of dirt
they inhabit at your curb.
Standing, on my way away,
seeing them for the first time again
inexplicable minute variations in each.
A bee lands on one, unconfused,
it’s place and idea
inseparably congruent.

Leaks

The edge of my porch ceiling
is dripping, slowly.
Not enough to warrant
a bucket on the red tile.

I’m really good

There one thing I’m really good at:
Low self esteem.
My girlfriend said:
you’re the king of low self-esteem;
you’re the best at low self esteem I’ve ever met.
I relish the taste, the scent.
Give me an afternoon of sinking in shame
over a bouncy happy day anytime.
I have a Spotify playlist
called: sad; it’s made for these kind of times.
Crying and me are old friends.
The only problem here
is that self-put-downs
just aren’t sexy.

Grudges

Lots of people can hold a grudge.
I’m pretty good at putting one in a drawer,
where it slowly gets looser, bits of fluff separating
from the main body of memory, becoming less urgent with time.
My ex-wife, though, didn’t just hold grudges.
She planted and watered her grudges
until they were room sized vines,
luxuriant foliage of resentment,
long clasping tendrils of insinuation.
Her grudges were of the old school
Dutch masters of projection, Goyas of  misunderstanding
Raphaels of things made up from whole bolts of cloth.
She nursed her grudges
held them close to her chest like a holy child laid in a manger
wrapped in cloth strips of sullen meanness.
What a joy it was to tear that babe from her breast
and smash it’s head against the stones
to take a spray can and deface her carefully-crafted art,
sealing her grudges in a layer of rainbow colored graffiti,
 to wield my machete in that room,
slicing through the trunks of twining ugliness,
letting the hacked up bits slide to the floor,
never again to strangle my joy.

I wanted to be more

I wanted to have an important life,
to help people, to change things,
to be part of the solution
and all that crap.
Somehow, I gave too much credence
to what other people thought
and spent years chasing routines,
self-discipline, appearances
I never actually examined.
If only I could let myself be ordinary.
If only I could not compare myself
to the handsome, fit, sexy men
I see all around me.
I’m too heavy, which leads to diabetes
and sleep apnea and sore muscles.
I could, but don’t, do yoga every day
or walk, or eat only healthy food.
Then I began loving you
and you told me I was enough
just how I am right now
and that I am enough
the way I was yesterday
and how I will be tomorrow.
You told me I am not what I accomplish.
You told me I am a kind person,
that I am sexy to you, that you
love being with me.
Keep saying that,
maybe someday I will believe you.

Knitting

Needle tip under this stitch, pull yarn between
from behind, then needle tip pulling stitch off
onto the other needle, repeat
the slow repeating calms my mind
lets me sit in your presence without fluttering
this could go on forever
You look at me, your eyes beautiful and shining
you touch me on the back of my hand
peace flowing between us, impossible to encompass
outside, slow rain all day, grey and drab
we eat leftovers from my separate holiday table
last night shared a glass of old Tokay, sweet and tart
the memory of your skin against mine,
your arms around me, looking in my eyes,
this memory is a weekly stitch, added to the long slow
playing out of yarn, tying our lives together

Ditto

I.
one morning in my second year of teaching
from under the sports equipment trailer
a pale cream streak of fluff
shot out and climbed my leg
mewing
I put him in a box
he mewed all day non stop
I’m not sure what the children learned that day
except maybe to be kind to strays
II.  when you are part of a couple
and have pets
most of them are both of yours
Ditto was always mine alone
in older age he was diabetic
I gave him his insulin shot daily
he always turned his head back
to look at me
and opened his mouth
in a silent mew
III. dogs are not the only beings
to recognize the sound
of their master’s approach
Ditto would, if outside, come running
when I drove down the street
and so one day, when I was stressed
tired
lonely
coming home to an abusive wife
none of which is an excuse
I was in my head and not paying attention
and pulled fast into the driveway
when I couldn’t find him a couple of hours later
I went outside and heard him mewing
from under the car
with a dislocated hip
for which there is no real recovery for felines
from there he declined quickly
I knew that night I had hit him coming home
and told no one for years
I have been haunted by shame and sorrow
this poem is my exorcism
IV.
Ditto died long before I left my marriage
for several years
there was a ghost cat
that felt like him jumping on the bed
every few nights
His ghost is gone, or maybe
he jumps on my ex-wife’s bed
emerging from the urn in her closet
that I gave her back when I left
I am only occasionally sorry
I did not fight her
for more money, or more accountability
but I miss my ghost cat
few people understand
when I say I regret not fighting
for my cat’s ashes
but those that do
have deep space in my heart

What more is there

She told me
she would stay with me.
I guess now
we don’t have anything else
to ever say
except the little things
that make each day one more
stretching out
to the end
where she still sits
beside me, taking my hand,
beyond speech.

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