Like so many before, he shoulders
out of the doctor’s office, his heart
heavy as a stool
sample in the gaping mouth
of its container, its lips
cool as the stethoscope
moments ago. He sinks his head
to the steering wheel of his car,
a restored AMC Gremlin
clicking its own steady heartbeat,
the door ajar. Last week
he routinely backed it out
of the garage, changed its oil,
degreased the engine bay,
vacuumed up stale french fries.
He tossed soda cups quarter-filled
with Diet Coke and balled up
hamburger wrappers into the trash,
scoured stains from burst mayo packets.
He washed off the white inkblots
of pigeon droppings, then polished
and waxed the new ebony paint job
as black as the feeling one gets
when the doctor shares the bad news:
He’s shitting blood, his colon
a beat-up automobile leaking fuel
the driver brushes off as trivial,
as something he can get fixed later
when he has the time. He tears
out of the hospital parking lot,
windows rolled down
so the wind could frisk through his hair
like the slim fingers of a prostitute—
so he could forget—
and into the nearest drive-thru,
cranks Born To Be Wild to 10
after he orders. Pulling to the window—
before they could hand him his #2,
no onions or tomato, extra salt
on the fries—his car sputters,
flatlines to a stop,
Study of Barbara
In the easy heave
and lazy reclination
of their cashmere lake,
Barbara’s buoy. Yet
despite the talc
daubed on at dawn,
beneath both eyes by noon
the scar of night
burns Barbara through.
Relative to Separate
Atop found documentation: antiquated
gnarled oak skin calm to the touch
touched because curiosity jabs and
hooks the pliable soft mind. Swirls
many curvatures close and distant
to its widened body: butterflies, damselflies,
hummingbirds, bluebirds all within circular
haze blur mathematical triumph
solving the unseen categories of triangular
tribulations birthed to the air
meant for the unmeant eyes of
The Meaning of Bats
With a groggy head Rhys opens the door; a cup of coffee in hand and an unsteady mind. We share a smoke and pass the afternoon watching the freak show on parade just outside her window.
“How do people know where to go?” Rhys whispers.
Rhys has been sitting on her window ledge since she was born; never been any good making up her mind. So, she perches on her sill, drinking coffee and smoking cigs.
We sit in silence waiting – waiting for something.
The next moment there’s a bat – in the room. It sailed through the window and hit the opposite wall. Stunned, its heaving sides make its wings tremble. Neither of us moves. We stare at the flying rat, watching its gaping mouth gasp.
The bat scuffles on the hardwood floor and I look at Rhys looking at the bat looking at Rhys. She reads this as a riddle from the gods and determines to decode the meaning of this fierce wounded thing. Don’t ask me how I know that, we just have that kind of relationship; you know, the mindreading kind.
“Get a Tupperware bowl – under the sink.”
“You can’t keep a bat, Rhys.”
“Just get me the bowl.”
“Do you know what bats eat?”
“Necks. Blood. Just get me the damn bowl.”
The next afternoon Rhys opens the door; a cup of coffee in hand and an unsteady mind. We share a smoke and pass the afternoon listening to the bat in the next room scratch around in his Tupperware bowl.
“It’s like my mind took a catnap and never woke up.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
And then we sat in silence waiting – napping.
With vacant eyes Rhys opens the door; a cup of coffee in hand and an unsteady mind. We share a smoke and pass the afternoon planning how to bury the bat.
Rhys sits on the sill watching the freak show on parade just outside her window.
“I get it.”
“Everything. I finally get everything.”
“Life is a single skip for joy.”
And then we sit in silence waiting – waiting for something.
The Day They Stole My Vote
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 10:00 a.m.
Her nose begins to run. She is crying. Her sobs go from silent to racking as she abandons rationality and indulges in dramatic self-pity that quickly turns to rage.
Crack! She hurls her pink Motorola Razr. It collides with a metal coffee table and lies in three pieces.
“Good, maybe it’s broken,” she says to herself. “Then I won’t have to hear that bitch’s voice again. Four times is enough.”
She thinks what she would do to the woman from the Albany County Board of Elections if she weren’t attending college in New Paltz, an hour from home and her polling location. How dare she be so uncaring. Didn’t the woman realize not sending an absentee ballot for the primary elections was contradicting what the board of elections stood for? If she could just smack some sense into her. . . .
The pink cell phone is back together. As she Googles the number for the New York State Board of Elections, she takes deep breaths, tries to stop crying.
Got it! She punches in the numbers, hears a ring and gears up for another battle in the fight to retain one of her basic human rights as an American citizen: the right to vote.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 11 a.m.
She blows her nose and adds the crumpled tissue to the growing pile beside her. Disbelief mixes with rage, brewing a dangerous concoction that overflows—what the fuck?!—this is fuckin’ unbelievable!—I can’t believe this shit is happening.
She replays the last 33 minutes in her head. Why is it nearly impossible to speak to anybody in authority? Once she had trampled through the Voter Info department and argued her way to the Public Information department to finally reach somebody important-sounding in the Executive department, she’d heard enough classical music to write an entire symphony herself. And all she got was corrupt indifference and, “If you want, you can write a letter of complaint.” She was starting to understand how the 2000 presidential election turned out the way it did.
Crack! This time the pink Razr crashes into the radiator and splits in three.
“Good,” she thinks. “I can’t handle one more conversation with another incompetent person, I don’t want to write a fuckin’ letter and no, I will not be put on hold.”
Apparently, her phone is invincible. She Googles the number for the Ulster County Board of Elections, takes a sip of water, tries to subdue her sobs.
Got it! She hears a ring and prepares for another relentless fight in her mission to be a part of American democracy.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 12 p.m.
Her nose burns from blowing it so much; the pile of tissues could fill half a trash can. She had reached her breaking point, could hardly even grasp her fury herself.
The 28 minutes she spent negotiating her way through the Ulster County Board of Elections was a waste of time. Attempting to see if there was a way she could emergency transfer her voter registration had gotten her hopes up, only to hear “No, there is nothing we can do. Sorry.”
“Stop lying bitch, you’re not sorry,” she had thought. “Nobody is sorry and nobody cares.” SHE STILL COULDN’T VOTE! Right now, she wasn’t proud to be an American, she was absolutely disgusted.
Crack! It’s in three pieces again as the pink cell phone takes another flight across the room, making a crash landing into the bathroom door.
“Whatever,” she thinks, sighing. “Who’s left to call anyways?”
She’d been in this nightmare for three hours. Between each futile phone call, her poor mother received her own hysterical call—even she was out of ideas and sick of hearing, “I’ve wanted to vote since before I was even eligible! I’ve been waiting to see my vote actually count for something that means a lot to me and now my chance is here and it’s stolen?! I refuse to settle for that, I’m not giving up this fight, yet.”
Her phone wouldn’t die, so she Googles the number for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s New York City campaign office. She fights to gain control of her frustration and stop the crying.
Got it! She was going to make one last attempt at saving her vote.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 1 p.m.
The tissue box is empty. Shit. She uses her sleeve and wades through the sea of snot rags to her bed.
The war was over,and she had lost. She wasn’t used to losing anything that required arguing, it was something she was particularly good at. Even though Hillary’s campaign team was absolutely no help, Phil Spector was her new favorite person. He was part of her legal team and, aside from her mother, had been the only person to show genuine concern. Hell, he was downright sympathetic. He listened to her story, pretended not to hear her sniffles, gave her his personal cell phone number in case she needed him again and offered her an internship. What a guy!
The pink Razr was in one piece under her pillow. She lay in total darkness with a roll of toilet paper and her cure-all, Luther Vandross, blasting. “I’m definitely not going to class,” she thought. “I hate those fuckin’ classes anyway.”
Six months later. Thursday, July, 24, 2008, mid-afternoon
“Ahhhhhhhhhh!” Her heart stopped, just for a moment. At first she thought she was seeing things – it was pretty hot out. The return address read:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Senate, Washington, DC.
“Please don’t faint, be careful opening it,” she said to herself as she sliced open the envelope. Her hands were shaking.
At the end of June, she had written a letter to Hillary. It expressed her support and admiration, how she’d been waiting to vote for her since the age of 11. Phil Spector had returned her call and given her his personal fax number. He promised to pass along the letter and seemed thrilled with her request, but people make promises all the time. They don’t have to keep them.
More than a month had passed with no response and she had started to give up. Good thing she didn’t. “Phil Spector is really my favorite person,” she thought. “I can’t believe I ever doubted him!”
The letter came amid the loss of a childhood dream, but fulfilled another. She knew it was personal because it mentioned good ol’ Phil, referenced things she had written in her letter, even wished her luck in her pursuit of journalism. “I’m going to put it in a shadow box with the rest of my Hillary gear, so it won’t get ruined,” she told her mom.
She would always be bitter about getting her vote stolen in the primary election, but this letter, signed Hillary in bright blue ink, made the nightmare a little less frightening. She was even ready to abandon her spiteful attitude and proudly vote for Obama.
the cement has already dried
it is time now
or a life.
The Disappearance of a Pop Star
She lost her face in the mirror,
holding a magnified reflection
closer than the recommended distance -
where objects appear bigger than they are:
pointillism blackheads, cross-eyed examination,
This is how it started, when she was thirteen.
Puberty shifted her telescopic vision,
zoomed in on tiny-breast-planets:
morphed into national geographic sagging tribal utters,
balloons filled with greasy yellow fat
affixed to her chest like leeches sucking her heart out.
Farther down the landscape,
imaginary marshmallow thighs
molded into one big Pillsbury Dough blob,
when tooth-pick-legs clinched like her jaw.
The more weight lost, the heavier the burden
to hide a candy mountain monster under her bed
and muffle moans as she masturbated by tickling her uvula.
Eulogy for the Comfortable Life
Origami families fold out their creases
whenever they pass a beggar planting
seeds in a mush of yellowed newspapers
and day old McJunk. O how they stare
mouths the man on the front cover
of a magazine advertising predictions
and happiness. Pay the fare and Madame
will be beautiful as a gypsy without teeth.
Refuse to hand over the cash and listen
to the tick-tock of the inevitable crashing
into their daily lives. Stare at the granite-grey
clouds and never pray.