poems

Winter Star

Last night I spent hours watching people jump from burning buildings. Winter left me thinking about plane crashes, explosions, the number of days we’ve gone without an incident in the workplace, fingers that don’t bend the way they’re supposed to, legs that are a bit too short for even tiny bodies and can’t be made to cooperate. The Hangman card neglects to address the cost of self-inflicted funeral arrangements, and the power of choosing death instead of suffering it unexpected and terrible, flames and cannon-fired water doing nothing to slow the inferno.

*

Winter is crafted for hibernation. Every activated limb requests rest, only to be tested again and again. Unrealistic demands are made of checking accounts and credit cards. Ovens are used with greased determination. Relatives are contacted to commemorate entangled threads of DNA. Gift lists are exchanged, and people look forward to working.

*

Wikipedia is unfair to conspiracy theorists, reporting findings on actual X-Files of everyday bumbling CIA investigations in snide tones reserved for college freshmen making snappy retorts to tenured professors. A pet theory coaxed to life with fermented anxiety and selected video viewing is debunkt courtesy of a source-free Popular Mechanics opinion piece, and I wonder if that magazine has ever been cited before a Wikipedia contributor had his condescending druthers. I don’t know the line between truth and conspiracy. What I know is that each president prematurely greys, and switches up statements once complex reality crashes through the front gates of town hall debates and lands in lap, unchanged.

*

I think my relationship will survive another winter, even if it is murder and feelings.

*

Winter changed somewhere and managers started hating their workers. Paying them a reasonable wage is the stuff of unions of yore. Benefits are things the government should supply (once properly paid and then paid again). Workers respond in kind, showing up when they feel like it, yawning away mornings when they don’t, escaping for smoke breaks without habits, monitoring windows and wondering what the point of hard work might be in an era when it goes unrewarded. The people who jumped? They arrived early.

Maybe someone will cure cancer. Maybe someone will play violin on the train home. Maybe someone will hand out juice boxes on the street corner. Maybe tattoos will start to leak. Maybe Sunday will come twice. Maybe.

*

Aisles blocked by people making desperate phone calls home to determine whether or not grandpa is allergic to wheat and eggs. A woman wearing a pink surgical mask asking me where to find the shopping carts. A bagger giving himself a crude haircut in the breakroom with a bowie knife. A man holding one container of premade flour-thickened gravy, and one container of cornstarch gravy, looking around before stating: “I don’t know what to do.” Another, in the midst of shoulder-to-shoulder turkey requests: “What is the fat content of this sausage, exactly?” Then someone rolls out a cart of wine samples, and the workers start circling.

Motivation. Result. Hard work. Windows.

*

Somewhere, in the morning, a warehouse will be warmed by the sweat of a thousand laborers racing to stuff things into boxes. Somewhere, far away, a wrist grows thick with button clicks. In the morning, the lines outside of doors will snake around stores and I will swallow the tail. Before this there will be eating, gratitude skimmed from the surface. Cynicism sends me back for seconds.

*

The Hanged Man on fading screens no longer knows the light of spring. I’ll ask him to stoke coal from the parts of me diamond-pressed. To show me three windows that don’t have such a drop. To show me what happens, after all that burning. I’ll ask him. This winter. I will.

Dangling by the ankle, falling.

 

Observation Station: Bus #20, 3:45PM

I fold myself into invisible spaces. Like a cat, my tail forgotten.

The man next to me is foam packed, bloated with winter. A crooked old man hand escapes his sleeve and pulls me from my hiding space. He points: “I want to murder those birds.”

Other men who are never not drunk barely hold themselves erect and have lived in these seats forever. Each wears flannel shirt and wool knit cap and missing teeth from intentions and accidents. Each has never been young, ghost locked at forty and remembering.

The bus stops and the smell of whisky and crackers staggers upright to challenge his prison. He yells at the door, neglecting to note the gesture required to opensaysme. Resting his forehead against the glass he yells DRIVER again and again until one man holds his jacket to keep the marionette from earning his mouth more empty spaces, while another holds open the door. He doesn’t recognize this crack team responsible for another day without a head injury. Waiting for him is a woman bright orange and shit talking and far away from her own AA coin, waving a giant pillowtop mattress sign, half turned to her drive-by audience.

I can’t picture this man drinking from a straw, or wrapping a present, or repotting a plant. I can’t imagine him looking at the lines in my hand and comparing them to his own, wondering if they overlap and if they do will they click to key so we can both remap. I can’t imagine him having questions for the pharmacist, asking for more foam on his latte, coloring as a way to relax.

He probably can’t imagine me at all.

Teenagers travel in packs, wearing insides out, congested with canned laughter. Heart shapes drawn on cheeks and decorating tights and desperation, while others announcing the discomforts of business casual balance tupperware containers emptied of sugary treats a little too close to my head.

Valentine’s Day helps women hate each other. Velour balloons announce confections and give my face another something to dodge. Fat wads of fast dying flowers peek out of backpacks and wink at the downcast face of the sour-anointed someone who might just fatten her social network with ruminations on being alone. She adjusts hairclips cast as flowers that resemble stars. If such devices were used to puncture, she’d be left with wind spun hair.

Evidence that meth remains a problem despite the state-wide ban on effective allergy medication locks us all in place. It reeks of impatience and is sponsored by Apple. Some fucking fuck filled rant about whether or not a transfer is still valid, yells to move back move back, the snap of a plastic container being pried apart for a taste of cake and a guilty grin. Unwashed hair in front of me. Bleached hair beside me. All of us are itchy.

We pass strippers arranging themselves outside of clubs to smile at those looking for love. The unmarked graves of Chinese men and women who built this city in secret. Two elderly women with careful grey curls, holding a soup bowl between them. A pack of people dressed as sharks with paper hearts glued all over their bodies, twirling red gift bags and giggling. A sign that reads: “The really dangerous power lines don’t spark or slither. They just lay there.”

Arms arranged in triangles clutch poles and trap sounds. A single seat remains unclaimed, no matter the claustrophobia of passengers. Wrist tattoos drawn with hands sloppy or steady snake away from skin. Me, hoping to claim them. Me, slapped alive by earphones gone wild, the mortified wielder of the whip apologizing more and more. A pant leg hides something yellow. A sneak at something pink. Four rolling can of ceremony.

My stomach is in my hands.

Scenes from November

Paw firmly pressed against glass window, hanging on with the force of his fingerprints. Wishing the glass fuller, the rain less cold and furious, his scarf less tight around his ears and the woman next to him some other someone with more interesting ideas and a shorter shopping list and a clothing style that solicited envy.

Yelled conversation into cell phone, a soulful request to download some of the worst music 1988 offered spit through braces and bouncing off bright blue hat. Someone says fuck it and starts smoking right on the bus, sucking down two full hits before the driver barks orders against him. Nicotine flowers my brain’s fire.

Challenged to remember what I did before this month shallow-graved me, what swashbuckled, patched and arg-barked my ship pirate before all slowed to standing water. Were my hands warm?

If I can wait out wet solstice sun will slow-banish dark and full moon will burn without veils through plastic. If I can wrestle my way up to snow level and stare at god-perch peaks or escape short-sleeved into desert orange, November could choke on her turkey. December could mistletoe drown.

Weaving love-me-nots with grandmother memory, a single stitch summoned again and again, winding uneven path to warm. Outside rain continues while I wither, alarm beeps to deepen sleep and funnel sorrow into dream.

recording of a fallen star

ghost of some other’s fortune.

the recording of a fallen star.

captured reflection reflected (neglected) ripple trick till the stomach’s sick. sliding high from the other side a self (not quite the self), lady in red (covered head), clucking from beneath her covering:

don’t go away stranger. stay a little longer, I’ve a daisy, another daisy twisted to crown and twirled tight around and begging beats for five-petal song. what are you doing with all this waiting, this tail-chasing, this mask-making? isn’t there some something-or-other called to uncover (discover), isn’t the sum some something-or-other, and you the only one with any math?

head shakes her shape away and if tongue were split I’d call beyond caw, summon sounds to draw moon to living room for midnight illumination. hunt for similar equations reveals heads turned into neighboring stations, blinking through bars at prisoners poisoned, and me translucent, cobweb hand, erasing all the almost i am.

still i waited (fated).

hallucinated.

armor-plated.

ghost of some other’s fortune.

the recording of a fallen star.

brown paper bag and purple crayon map, oh here’s another star and another, connected by three lines of triangle trick, location tagged throat-lump bagged, colored lines, colored confines. water-logged in winter showers doors locked and concrete blocked. just give me a minute, just one fucking minute. let me call the colors down.

scrying lump scanned by grandmother hands, handkerchief’d, initials stitched, there’s too much shouting (under the lines) escaped from triangle confines, there’s too much shouting and finger pointing and me hiding in the nowhere to hide. tucked into paper head into book there’s too much shouting too many voices each stumbling over another scrambling to surface, scratching for surface and there’s only one scratch to this paper one pen to trick one note to slip there’s only one message for this paper, all mine and passed through time.

asking a question that shouldn’t be asked – has anyone been witness? curse to break, hid from rage, too good at hiding, invisible cloak. too good at hiding, spell to be broke.

staring into nothing muttering some-something to counter the nothing to try again to try and blend to try and never the never-again.

outstretch paw to waiting claw and waiting caw slip into night under judging eyes and hope to be heard at once and again. song unsung, unsplit tongue.

reflected true and reflections of you, uncolored (covered) masked and detached. you never asked.

braided and fated (still I waited)

calling light in, illuminated.

moon colors (so revealing) what were you meaning?

small child’s song gone on too long

and yet I waited (fated)

still through it all I waited.

ghost of some other’s fortune.

the recording of a fallen star.

if this tongue were loving-crafted i’d summon you from distant blue, mouth ocean-filled and undistilled and only one survives the drowning. carcasses capturing the coast line one seal maggot-eyed blind. voice chasing waves away (this way) over the sky’s unstitched border against all orders and the sun spits salt in counter assault, wringing outcry dry. need to be wrung, eye of the sun, eye to the son. done.

sitting on the wire (expired) scavenger, carcass chaser, dark invader. tail fanned and plans unplanned diaphanous wings (no hands) pecking dumb at the lump sum. even black there’s no going back, one eye recording (hoarding) chorus shuddering from beneath my covering, map and math, there’s no going back. greatest fear (i was never here). never heard and never here.

ghost of some other’s fortune.

the recording of a fallen star.