Imagine a beach where the waves fold into curls of damaged brightness and white houses
stretch down the hill to a kind of eternity. Iím there, a shape abstract enough to be all I
remember in this life. Hail thwacks on umbrellas. Hail rebounding off the street making long
skewed checkmarks.

Impressionistic swirls of daybreak through window screens. Noise pooled in the divots of
sand. A blackbird on the cleaning table lifts the skin of a walleye.

My mother washing lake-water off her hands with tap water. Cold and distant as herself on
evenings where each of the thousand lakes divines the vague blue of all things transitory, of
the history of emotion and she thinks she can work herself clean.

My dreams begin in an overgrown field in Indiana fireflies spark in staccato flashes. Then
the dark churns out FACES. In my dreams:

a diamond as big as a car.
Imagine a library if books were bats.

Noise shot from a finite point. The sky steers the earth. A hand emerges from the noise then
a silhouette then my jacket of cold. The waves broke into white static at the bar. Walking
down the beach we looked like quarter notes from a distance.

Raindrops hit our skin, undid the old photographs in their bellies on the cool sand. A gull
cried, space smells like a fired gun.

Something justifying about this beach, this lie, this hunger of gulls making strong
brushstrokes above the sailboatsí right triangles. The wind twined your hair into a lucent
shape.

Our footsteps trailed behind us then pushed their signatures out.

Itís almost as if Iím in a place not quite a place, heaven almost. When you turn on a lamp
stars are silent. Resting your head on the cold car window. Christmas trees in living rooms.
Smell of gasoline in the marina.

Imagine Chicago. The same ejaculating fountain in the same arc and the birds all hung with
feathers and the sky all hung with birds. Lives are silence. Only one light is on in death.

The crayon picture you drew of the two men carrying so many rifles up the hill they could
have been dying metaphorically.

The EL rattles pans from cheep studios. Go back to the beach. No donít. Rivers keep
flowing and some lesser-known fraction comes to dominate the future.

Dear Reader. One night when I was still becoming a man, the moon threw down its white
wet underclothes on the tree branches in my front yard.

and since then Iíve been shocked.

So I tried to forget. To float away. A hiss of dark liquid and Iíd join the sky.
I donít love myself.

Two lawn chairs so close theyíre kissing. Traveling cross-country I imagined the old Volvo
that passed had a bumper sticker that read, ďDeath Tastes Like Vanilla Wafers.Ē

In the heart of man is how he disappears, holds himself to fault and faults, and loves the
world too much. Locking up the store, smoking, the dumpster smoking in the winter air, the
factoriesí big cigarettes.

A Cheetos bag flung against my leg outside the Arbyís and I sat down right there and
thought about all the parking lots in the world.

The lake has layers of cold. Hook a leach through its head. My Bears jacket is flimsy. Half of
the pockets of water are filled with silver, others move in a darkness I must still be coming
to terms with.

The way an indoor pool opens like an orchid does with wavy blue light on the ceiling.
If itís not too much to ask, Iíd like to know something about you, something dark. What
motorcycle stunt would your heart be?

Easy. The woman in the sphere with the six cycles. Easy.
As you filed past me for the basketball game I could smell vanilla following you.

In the library is a book called The Third Treasury of the Familiar and nowhere in that book will
you find a charcoal sketch of your heart. Of the little, black, drunken skeleton flung again
and again against the wall of your ventricle. Listen closer.

In the courtyard of my friendís apartment in Hollywood while reading a book light fell on
the page of verse and I read what was underneath. Someone in their apartment was singing.

In an abandoned Sears parking lot I found a note, it read, I wish you were here but Iím glad youíre
not. And I continued watching the snow almost melt under the lot lights. I wrote one back it
read, somewhere far away from you is another you.

So I mistook the child by weight for the phonebook. So I left the cat on ďNapĒ all day.

The cup of coffee          (is)                             a bomb
The falling snow            (in actuality)              someone drowning
Sorrow                           (she forgot her)          red camelís hair coat on the chair.

If there are faces in the clouds theyíre cold and far away.

Tonight I stare into my blue eyes, at my ratty T-shirt, my uncut haircut, into the moving of
the water in that blue, that only someone else will come to understand as the moving of my
life.

Minnesota. Trees sound their alarms. I have dreams where Iím in a moving relief, the
foreground scenery pulled fast, the trees a little slower, the sky barely moves at all and these
are the times I feel stuck in narration. The nearness of nearness. Nightmares about riding on
a shrinking train.

A dog vomiting up red letters by a dead bush. No one understands a single night of their life
enough to carve the firework back from the explosion.

I mean you wash your hands but you donít call it a kind of glove. I mean, listen.
A woman runs a squeegee down the coffee shop window erasing the world from the
window and all you can do is go to the grocery store and puke your eyesight on an orange.

A crane lifts a blue box into the blue sky. Rain makes holy static on a lake. I had a long
conversation with the green, cubed, windshield glass on the street in the Bloomington
Winter moonlight until you came and touched my shoulder.

Head trauma and the smell of caged crickets in a bait shop.

Iím beginning to take the correct number of drags from my cigarette before I bend its body
in half and snuff out its hair. My dreams begin in an overgrown field in Indiana thousands of
lightning bugs rising.

For in the abdomen of a lightning bug is an old man who occasionally drops his lantern.
Accident nears prayer. This light rises

but does not leave the world, not quite. Night volleyball games in summer. You and me in
the corner of the party, suddenly the distance between our lips: so many ellipsis dots to
subtract. This light rises.

Wasp paranoia in campground restrooms. A wasp looks like an old woman pulling a black
jar across ice. In this stretch of lies and birds overhead where dandelions spark in cold fields.

Pressing wet handfuls of sand through my fingers, storm Clouds pulling apart in their tongue
and groove above Santa Monica Pier. Your smudged silhouette in the wind almost erased. In
the heart of man is how he disappears, flashes on this wide, wronged earth and lets his life
go up and out.

The ocean looked like us all, heaved together in a dark beyond thought. Look at me on
bicycle, hair tossed in scriptures mad and sick in brown moonlight. How do you die?

How do you write about failure at all?

 

 

  1.

Nobody will untie you. As the train falls over each rail and youíre jarred to sleep. When
you find that youíre the damsel tied to the tracks. As you walk down the long lines of
trees and lampposts

and wake on the same train. Hold on. Stop the poem.

We were both wearing white. The parade went by, pinwheels on fire. It was easy
to lean into each other.

The noise from the parade rose forever.

2.

The idea scared the shit out of me. That quite possibly the world, which I had heretofore
considered only a large and lovely hat

might be real.

My white sheet looked clear. The Floridians brought juice and pills to reduce the fever.
Dreams stood up, lit cigarettes, spoke a world or two
of French and left
the drapes slowly clucking about the wind.

When I was sleeping the moonless blue

ocean broke off rocks. When I was sleeping
three gold rings were drawn around
the sun at daybreak.

Beads of sweat on my forehead with small anchors in them.

3.

James, me, the Greek girl with mayonnaised hair and her strangely tranquil lap dog. Pay
campsites and a fiancé from India? I couldnít imagine her life.

I nursed my 7:00 AM beer and we watched
the ferry dock. And the ocean looked like us all. Free, except to exist. The ocean looked
like me. The ocean looked like a prison.

4.

Your eyes were blue like a Siberian Huskyís ó Frank, that is a Siberian Husky. Oh, but
it licked the back of my knee so gently it could have been a rag of moonlight!

5.

If youíre in Toledo clap your hands, in Houston, in San Diego and clap your heart
at night to stay alive. In history class, so many years ago, at the top of my skull was one
red bi-plane in an endless loft to my desire.

6.

Half my family is from the South. Itís rumored we bleed in the shape of Mississippi.
The only shame whispered is of great grandfather Trulove, who in the depression, knelt
in a field and took his life with a shotgun.

I hear the echo rolling across the fields and down to the river. A noise, a cloud of blood
that must have held itself intact before the wind marched the layers off.


Nobody etcÖ

 

 

 

If there was music in your life, on that beach, if the wind worked the sand into loops before
it pulled out the first stitch into the dark. We ran cords and portable heaters from the house
to warm our legs. Thereís a picture I remember somewhere east, a hook of trees around a
pond.

When I came home I expected to see snow, for things to be covered, for my age the passing
of years to be glorified by a gifted underneath that when the thaw comes would shine again.
The dilapidated garage, the alley baked in snow.

Baby trains cry in the distance.

Goldenrod bent to forward slashes. Sparrows thrown like handfuls of mud from one power
line to the next. What little I had.
Each gravel driveway frozen in its flow to the street.

Dick slow dancing with your right hand again?
Praying over a jar of Miracle Whip?

Iíll give you another option in a black cloak with a sickle, with a pension for chess who fogs
under cars whose shoulders are road snow; someone is painting you in their memory with no
objective craft at all.

The plane high above its cold comets tail. It could be the first plane. Leaves blown into large
curled hands. Imagine a movie from the seventies the Technicolor, the men wear corduroy
and beards are athletic in a lanky way, fall in love with girls who wear no bras, whose nipples
point through white blouses and whose hair falls straight. Faces mangled and attractive.

There are so many things I remember about this life. A case of bottled beer between us.
Poorly tended to fire. Draw an outline around your reflection in the mirror so someone
knows you died there. Uncoiled in alleyways, streetlights punished your hands.

The old brown dog in the industrial lot howls along with the sirens from a distant police car
or an ambulance, someone dying or wronged as I watched an emergency drain from the sky.
In your oven is a smaller warmer eternity. God in his pillar. The ubiquitous woman on a
lawn chair. History lesson number one. Each daybreak comes.

Youíll have children and theyíll seem too heavy even at birth to carry the weight of birth.
Youíll fill the bath on a cold night and sweat, sad to know there was a time in your life when
something was decided.

Leaning closer and closer

what is foreign
is wanted.

Iíd think someone had shot the stars
so fast they go toward
what needs death.

As if you were moving into the past leaves un-pile across the yard, back-flip through the air
lucky and mad and hook their leechís mouths on the trees, grow smaller. What appears to
move backwards is your failure to feel your life grow solid, your inability to simply reel.

Frost weighing down the blades of grass. A giant American flag over an outlet mall.

Reflected on my glasses, images of things starving and cold, high tension wires hiss and
divide the chalk blue winter sky into highways. The little dog looks out at the wires, trying to
pinpoint the sound. Youíd have to know it to understand it ó I should have pitied him, but
a sadness came over me, a long dull pain of some new muscle.

Who would love you if they knew that only something more refined remembers?

Sirens sound on this half of the city but nobody will turn out the lights in the other, though
some romance would be nice. Images hard to imagine, a square circle how storms buckle in
complex frenzies and elevators of cubic space. The taste of a white Russian on a stormy day.

We stood in the center of my room, each light from the small mirror ball was a ring of
desireís despotism. The room is spinning again.
Beware: the dubious patriotism of the baseball bat
Beware: the Devil and the rhubarb pie.

The way months halo around a babyís brain and darken the edges until twenty years later she
can watch a crow glide by the fifth story window and almost come to grips with the legend
of the failure of the great light producing machine.

A few old trailers sunk into the sides of hills.

Itís not easy to believe the world is real. A significant relationship problem: canít commit
metaphysically. Not afraid to cry, maybe cries too much, preheated to 98.7 degrees. Can see
the solution to a maze in a dog.

Strange the silence without the roar of cars and trains and planes, mating and fighting cats
corrugated roofs and midpoints of tumbleweeds, steam from sewer grates, steel that smiles,
sun through the windows in the state courthouse rotunda. Eventually Iíll strip down to my
bones.

Wonít I look funny then, wonít I be difficult to rob, to stab? Sometimes when Iím sleeping I
start falling through the bed through the night my clothes outstretched like flags, hair raised
like static.

Imagine a beach, someplace in your memory hazy enough for meaning, blurred enough to
be emotion itself, stretching into the curve of the horizon, your companion turning into your
shadow wavering in the rifts of sand, all that dark inside yourself lifted somehow into the
laugh lines of waves, the one or two logs bloating at the high tide mark, the sheen of the new
night sky, that when you look back at yourself, at your life, it seems there was almost nothing
there.

Leaning closer and closer

But you have something to do
be a core
to the world and time.

We were sixteen and pulled off on Southport Road because our song came on. It comes on
and on again, the memory loss, the days grayed and lost, the pit of tar in a glace the careful
art of revolution in a smile, one second that murders the one before with a candlestick in a
room thatís off the board.

Every time I think of that scene more appears, one more shadow of a raindrop on the dash,
a heaviness in the air, a square of skin on my arm at cold attention deep as a mistake. Did I
love you even when I knew we would become other people? Noise shot through the hands
of maple leaves. Over the dead cornfields.

One day, and this hurts to talk about, while waling through the long practice field to high
school I looked up at the gray winter Indiana sky

And I opened. And for the first time I knew Iíd never be myself again.
the something now a someone in me,

When we pulled off the road to kiss when our song came on, the sun was pulled under the
corn-field and the night came on and thin rain came down thick, and a helix of noise swung
around the TV tower. I almost stopped! I could see noise! Noise powered from the stereo
clockís blue bones. Hurtling my silver fillings, light from the utility trail lit the shadows on
the dash,

The windshield began to fog, I put my mouth to yours to move it into the shape of what I
had to say. There would be no end to our losing, our slipping away, to the changing
darkness. To the beach, to the gulls, to waking every morning into the same suit of skin.

In the great big book they keep somewhere up there and write it all down in shorthand the
words we spend our lives searching for, to feel our lives go by, let it be recorded, I would
have given it all back to keep just one moment uncorrupted, forever.

That night in the car I lost the world.

*******

Many years have passed since that night. And Iíve learned a rhythm to my days. That waking
up involves flipping the numerator over the denominator. That if I catch the sun at the right
angle it looks like Iíve been painted by an artist who canít sleep because the sound of pipes
at night makes him feel as if heís in the belly of a half-imaged animal. And he is.

God help me and forgive me. I was there and I wasnít there. Forgive me I was there and I
wasnít wholly there. Forgive me for being there. Lights of planes move across the sky, each
somnolent light drug slow.

Forgive the movement and the co-pilot and the flying. Forgive who turned up the volume of
the snow. Forgive the soldiers, who were told to fire when they saw the whites of eyes
because there was still some idea of heaven in war, of salvation. In Berlin a storm

of white seeds came down over the polished hoods of new Mercedes by Central Park. I
remember a rock club with a big metal dragon that shot fire over the heads of the crowd,
lighting their faces in an under-worldly gold, row upon row of their faces beautiful and
frightened, each lit from within by their own separate purgatories their separation from God
and the closure of themselves ó save me also,

that when I pray I whisper, so no one but You can hear me, for at times when I lace my
hands together to open the line it seems the biggest betrayal to ask

for another world,

another life.