They Bob in a Nice Neat Row
I’m tired of unfair accusations
against rap music. By that I mean
it’s unfair for a violent, misogynist society
to level accusations
of violence and misogyny. By that I mean I’m a little uncomfortable
with my own violence.
I would rather be uncomfortable than dead–God, it’s Friday
and I’m sitting in the courtyard of a little cafe
in Charleston, South Carolina, thinking about death.
There’s an Apple store across the street.
The workers there wear red, collared shirts. Maybe I’ll
buy something expensive. I can’t stand people
who view sex as a test of validation not a spiritual
experience. By that I mean I don’t get laid
but am mildly content. People used to “lay”
with one another. By that I mean there’s more than one
way to say a thing. By that I mean certain obsessions
are lodged so deeply in our psyches that avoiding them seems
hopeless. It’s “model week” in Charleston.
Last night lots of models walked these streets. It’s raining
now and no more beautiful people
ushered into taxis. Traveling brings you closer to the truth
by forcing you out of your routine. By that I mean
we get too comfortable with how we view ourselves
and should be disillusioned. Wherever you go
there you are, is the title of a book someone
gave me about Zen meditation. By that I mean
I’m a victim of Western thought and need new views
about the self. By that I mean I’m treating someone badly
and would rather ruminate than face her. I scatter
some crumbs from my blueberry scone
and a few birds bounce to them. “They bob
in a nice neat row” is how a poem I once read
ends about the dead. But the poet was describing
ducks. By that I mean
the speaker. By that I mean I’m not
the person in this poem who’s afraid to face
someone I won’t name. Bob is both
an action and a name. Maybe names
are actions, the opposite of stillness.
By that I mean Western thought
can’t comprehend opposites.
By that I mean my actions
make no sense. By that I mean I’m sorry.
By that I mean I love you.
His father kept transforming. We tried
inhaling the garage sometimes. The baptism
did not last long. The incline steeper
in that state. The flashlight’s beam
crawled across the gravel to reveal more gravel.
Especially clear the errands with his mother.
Not at all what was expected: a pool
encased in glass, with the heads of children
occluding the view. We secretly knew
he wore a uniform. So his father kept
taking the pills. My friends saw me see
myself on the bathroom floor, where I
apologized to Jesus. Don’t talk to him.
Don’t touch that. There’s a reason
they wear those tags. Finally
they fought, in the middle of the living room.
We let it happen. It was like the path
had been there. But the view transformed
to something unrecognizable. The pastor
dipped her again, having pronounced her
name wrong. Weird, even that
could ruin the whole ordeal.
There Is a Way Into If We Want
He could not go back. They had
to lug him over the chain link fence.
His shirt caught. It was obvious why.
He had no parents anyone could see.
The collar tore. His father kept taking
the pills. But not enough to care. The water
lashing the boat so it’s impossible to tell
whether you or it moves. Can you catch
a cold by getting cold? He bought a bag of
crickets to feed to the iguana. Inside
the bag they scurried like the bag
burned. He hit his brother. He learned
he had no brother. All that time,
whom had he been fighting? He had no parents.
Anyone could see. It was obvious why.
He dropped them into the tank. I don’t
know why but the damn thing wouldn’t
eat, so they chirped all night. He set his shirt
on fire in the driveway. I remember
that chapter. But not enough to care.