Here’s to the generation
of daisies yanked from ground left to
rot behind waxy ears overloaded with
whispers of I, you, them. Ornamented,
punctured with peace signs.
Disco balls that spin and sparkle above
boys and girls summoning each other
with sunken eyes.
Alarms that siren our bodies for morning
class. Mind stuck between 3 and 4 A.M. Caressing
bellbottom dreams that hug and flair out
past thighs. Angel sleeved blouses, marshmallow
heels and Candies that dress innocence in labels.
Clogs clacking down Bowery streets delivering
in soles next minute’s fix for junkies who
shiver and shake for a packet of pure white.
Tie die shirts streaked with blues, reds, yellows that
bleed into each other. No room for blacks or whites.
British flag shirts protesting stars and stripes in favor of
crowns and queens. We hide behind
horn rimmed glasses, because
we cannot trust our eyes to see.
in bloodshot eyes that avoid graffiti glaring at us
as violence sprayed in pinks and greens. Braided hair
intertwined with Marlboro Lights and secrets. Last night’s
mascara that drips and sticks to skin like leggings. Begging
for Little Red Corvettes zooming down Fifth Avenue
fast enough for us to forget who we are. Snorted from
mirrors lined with cocaine. All that remains are reflections.
Painted lips, blue eyes and pink cheeks make us statues.
We do not see the homeless babbling to strangers
about life inside of paper bags and vodka handles.
People thrown out of homes like rotting apples.
Streets blanket them with their rocky coldness.
We are warm inside.
The elite is immune to AIDS. Reganomics.
Fucking family values.
as searing lattes whose steam clings to air
like ghosts held in hands that strum black
guitars until they splinter and bleed.
Raspy miseries trapped in blue
eyes. Unwashed hair greasy with the memories of
Hamptons getaways, overdoses, nirvana.
Traffic lights blink red, yellow, green, green, green.
Bohemia clings to skin in peasant shirts that
hug and dangle like semicolons.
Stomachs grumble for bagels and boredom.
Feet stomp on dreams tucked in pavement’s cracks.
Lips tuck romance away in storybooks that rot
in attics. Addicts of burning lights, benzene drips, blurry truths.
Hipsters parade down Bowery streets in
tight flannel shirts exposing midriffs and bones. We see
the world through vintage Aviator glasses, as if
flying away is a fashion statement.
We have been to Tokyo, Milan, Barcelona, Rio and Paris, but
how far do we have to travel to escape ourselves?
At 7 AM every morning,
when she diffused her hair,
the dryer hissed and crackled with electricity.
She’d turn it off and inch toward him.
Place her mouth lightly against
his forehead. Forcing her lips to do the kissing
At 7 PM every night,
when he watched television,
he slurped down last night’s leftovers.
His paunch bulged like a bowling ball.
The dog knocked over the cable box, but
he didn’t like moving or fixing things, so he waited
Today she didn’t come home,
so he stared at static.
THE MAD GIRL FEELS LIKE A PRAYING MANTIS
about to leap, bite
the neck of her prey,
put everything she has
into him. She is wild to
paralyze him, keep
him as her slave.
Don’t call her Jezebel
or Medea, don’t
look at her with a
sneer. She’s been
waiting, his body a
taunt, a lure. It’s
nature, it’s not fair.
And even if she has
to die soon after,
she will have him
on the sheets
Gail D. Kelley
I sit here trying not to drown
in this last pile of bones and
listening to your mundane conversation
while that star dangles from her throat and
the words roll from her tongue
I want to slip a Viagra
in your decaf Americano
because she has more to teach you than words
throw that dictionary in the trash
if you want to learn
Paris is Dark
Even Paris is dark to-
ing pitch, soot and
; Geneva is dark too—
rough : burlap
We began by reading
about the Italian guy’s trip
whacked on Medieval Acid
guided by a Roman ghost
in the high style
through the intestines
of sweaty smoky HELL
packed with crazy stuff
the lovers in the whirlwind
the Boiling River of Blood
and jerkoff Satan’s Tears.
Then Dr. Moriarty’s plot foiled
the cursed Scot and the invisible dagger
and Mary Shelley got the Monster
in a dream and kept Shelley’s
heart in a box for thirty years.
After fishing with Hem
we smoked with Spade
and chased the Black Bird.
Then Deckard fell in love
his beautiful toaster
and slammed her against the wall
to kiss her.
I am Deckard
and you are quite a reading list.
Beautification Efforts on the 605
The dolls were dead.
And their button eyes
And calico limbs
Congested the freeway
Woven entrails chic,
Rubber neck disbelief.
And those incredulous cars
Made them scatter
Like foggy recollections
To be savoured
On tips of impatient tongues.
Perhaps fallen from a tractor trailer
Someone forgot to lock;
You don’t see that everyday.
The dolls were dead.
The Other Side of Town
It’s 1 a.m. in September.
Three witches walk towards me
Down Artesia Boulevard
Armed with eyebrows like
My father’s temper.
I become uneasy.
I fear witches more than heights,
Clowns, and spiteful waiters.
And they’re a month early.
I’ll tell them it was an accident.
I simply forgot to wash the dishes.
And I pulled out all the whiskers of
The black cat in the alley
Because he bragged of his many lives.
My father had one.
Death and poetry
Are related in life.
Bloodlines of realism so exaggerated,
It makes sense.
I decide to cut across the street,
Pushing too real reveries
To the side,
Like yucky vegetables.
I drive my taxi to Mr. Cooper’s house. 1436 N. Olsen. Mr. Cooper takes my taxi once a week. The difficult thing about Mr. Cooper is the fact that he’s 98 years old. He’s about 5 feet 3 and narrow as a bird in his gray cotton pants and blue flannel. He uses an aluminum walker and watching him move is like watching the seasons change.
I can’t believe it’s October already.
In tired agony Mr. Cooper climbs into the front seat of the cab and gets as comfortable as possible on his frail old bones. His hands are twisted red claws and his left twitches sometimes and when it does he brings it up to his breast pocket. In his pocket lives a bottle of prescription medication and when he feels the bottle he is reassured and his hand lowers calmly back to his lap.
It’s 11 a.m. and the Tucson skies are blue and warm.
“Morning Mr. Cooper,” I say. “How are you?”
“Fair to middlin,” he says. “Nice weather isn’t it?”
“Better than Minnesota?” I say.
Mr. Cooper was a high school math teacher in Minnesota in his younger days. His wife died many years ago.
“I lived in Minnesota for 65 years,” he says.
I pull out of the driveway and tool through the old man’s neighborhood. It’s one of those rare Tucson neighborhoods that doesn’t pretend to care for the typical architecture and color scheme of a desert town. There is no puppy-shit stucco, no lonely cacti, no rock gardens, no ocotillo fences, no terra cotta tiles, no courtyards. Instead, simple red brick houses ho-hum along gently curving streets. The houses have small tidy yards covered in real honest-to-goodness grass, bordered by miniature white painted fences and decorated with an American flag, a fake deer and a birdbath.
I stop the cab at a stop sign and Mr. Cooper and I watch a toddler walking down the side of the road. All he has on is a pair of diapers. The road is otherwise deserted. The fact that he’s a boy is apparent in the square wobble of his strut, the tousled hair, the fat little arms at the ready.
I pull up slowly beside him. He scowls at me through the sun.
“Hello there,” I say.
He keeps walking. He’s determined to get somewhere. I slowly inch along hanging my arm out the window. Mr. Cooper strains to look.
“What’s your name?”
“Ranny,” he says in a little boy voice, growling with irritation.
“Where’s your mom, Randy?”
“Don’t know,” he says.
“Where’s your dad?”
He looks at me as if I’m wasting his time.
“Don’t know,” he says.
“Aren’t you scared to be out here by yourself?” I say.
“Where do you live?” I say, looking around for any sign of a parent. He narrows his eyes.
“Don’t know,” he says. He’s wise to me. It’s taken him an hour to break out of the house and he isn’t about to be taken back home so easy.
Mr. Cooper leans toward me, listening to every word. He has a huge grin on his wrinkled face.
“Where are you going?” I say to the kid.
“Goin’ bear huntin,” he says.
“What?” Mr. Cooper says. “What’s he doing?”
“He’s going bear hunting,” I say.
“I think you forgot your gun,” I say. “What are you going to kill the bears with?”
He stops walking. I stop the cab. He looks at me as if he’s studying the theory of relativity. Then he shrugs and keeps walking.
“Widda a rock,” he says.
“A rock?” I say. “How far can you throw a rock?”
He leans down and with his tiny chubby hand picks up a small rock from the side of the road. He rears back and with the whole of his 40 pound, 3 foot tall frame, hurls it toward the horizon. The rock sails about 5 feet and lands quietly. He looks at me to judge my astonishment.
“Good one,” I say. He dusts his hands together in satisfaction and keeps walking.
“You know,” I say. “I think I saw a bear up around this next corner, so you better be careful.”
He stops again and looks up at me. His eyes are wide as an animal’s and his mouth is hanging open. Mr. Cooper laughs his old man’s tenor laugh and thumps his skinny knee. I wink at him.
Then we hear a woman shrieking.
“RANDY! RANDY! RAAANDYY!!”
She runs into the road, feathers flying, and swoops him off his feet. She glares at me.
“What are you doing out here, honey?” she says to him, hugging him and rocking him side to side. He looks at me as if I was responsible for everything.
“He was going bear hunting,” I say.
She doesn’t respond, just turns and races back to her house with Randy in her arms.
I drive on.
Mr. Cooper has a smile on his face all the way to the grocery store. The grocery store is the only place Mr. Cooper ever goes.
“You ever hunt any bear up there in Minnesota?” I say.
“No, no,” he says.
When I pull up to the grocery store I get out and get Mr. Cooper’s walker out of the back seat and open his door and stand the walker there for him. He grips the walker with his gnarled red hands and stands up and slowly heads for the store’s front door.
“Watch out for bears,” I say.
“Will do,” he says.
One time a few weeks ago I was waiting for Mr. Cooper to come out of the store, and I had to go to the bathroom, and so I left the cab and went inside. Inside I saw him standing with his walker which had a little basket hooked onto it; he was gazing at the deli with its hot yellow lights and good greasy smells. He looked carefully and happily at all the foods, the brown and crispy fried chicken and the pink ham and black and pink roast beef and the red and orange and green salads. He stood there and watched all the people pick out their favorites, nodding in affirmation each time. Mr. Cooper always spends at least 30 minutes in the store, and he always comes out with the same thing: a small sack containing a box of saltine crackers and a quart of skim milk.
Today I watch him inch across the walkway and finally disappear inside the grocery store. The meter clicks higher as I wait in the sun. Somewhere out there is a bear with Mr. Cooper’s name on it, and one with my name too. Another cab comes up behind me, so I turn my hazard lights on. The lights blink and blink until he gets the message and drives around me.
Breakfast with Her
I grew accustom to the smile she made when the smell of freshly fried hash browns carried her out of bed. I’d kiss her on the cheek and tell her, “Coffee will be ready in a minute.” I’d call her sleepyhead, giving her a hard time for sleeping in.
We always listened to music while we ate. I’d leave my IPod on shuffle and tell her interesting facts about the songs that played. I use to come up with clever alliterations for the menu. Mike’s Mushroom Mozzarella Melt was her favorite.
In the beginning I had only one frying pan. I’d be a nervous wreck trying to get all the food on the table while it was still warm. “These damn potatoes take so long. My biscuits are burning and I’ve not even started the eggs.”
Eventually she grew tired of my neurotic behavior and bought me a second frying pan. I became proficient at timing everything just right. The alarm on the oven, signaling the completion of the biscuits, would ring just as the potatoes turned a perfect light brown and the eggs became fluffy.
“Breakfast is served.” I divided the eggs, half on each plate. She was sitting on the balcony with her cup of coffee. “Could you please grab the potatoes? I can only carry so much. I’m not an octopus you know.”
“Take it easy. I’m coming.” She stood up. “Do you have any Advil? My head is killing me.”
“I’m not feeling that well either. Nickel beers at The Tavern will do it to you. Do you want orange or apple juice?”
The night before we met a few of her friends for nickel beers. Five dollars at the door got you a souvenir plastic mug with the name of the bar printed on the side.
The place always filled out on nickel beer night. Waitresses in sexy outfits maneuvered around a packed house with pitchers of Miller High Life, the champagne of beers. From six to eight, if you had a souvenir mug, you were treated to unlimited refills.
I hated hanging out with her friends. Most of them were, like her, marine biologists working at Sea World. It was easy enough for me to fake interest when it was just the two of us. But a dozen marine life fanatics sharing their war stories was unbearable. I sat by her side, my face buried in my mug, unable to add anything to a drunken discussion on the mating rituals of Indo-Pacific Humpbacks.
At eight o’clock, when the free beer came to a depressing halt, the aquatic group decided to head to the basement where there was a D.J. spinning records. She wanted to join her friends. I wanted to go home. I was drunk and it was getting late. She could sense how grumpy I was.
She gave in. We headed back to my apartment. It was a five-block walk. I was filled with guilt.
“I feel bad,” I said. We were walking hand in hand.
“You wanted to go dancing with your friends but I made you leave.”
“You didn’t make me do anything.” She tickled my palm with her index finger.
“I still feel bad.”
“Don’t feel bad.”
“I’m holding you back.”
“Don’t be silly.” She kissed me on the cheek.
I wanted to say more but I was afraid if I opened my mouth to talk I’d start to cry.
“Everything on my goddamn IPod is slow and depressing.” I headed over to the IPod, determined to find a better record for us to eat breakfast to.
“Would you just sit down?” She swallowed three Advil with her apple juice. “I don’t wanna have to listen to you bitching about your eggs being cold.”
“We need an up tempo song, something to set the tone for the entire day. This is important.”
“What are we doing today anyway?” She spoke through a mouthful of eggs.
“I’m not sure. Do you want ketchup for those? I have ketchup.”
“I’m fine. What about the Bob Dylan album you were talking about last night?”
“Blood on the Tracks? That’s a breakup album. It’s one of the best breakup albums of all time. But, still, it’s a breakup album.”
“These potatoes are good.” She ignored me.
“Of course they are. I’m a genius in the kitchen.”
“You’re full of shit.” She rolled her eyes.
“I know,” I declared, pointing up to the ceiling, my eyebrows reaching for my hairline.
“You’re crazy.” She laughed.
“You like Van Morrison? I don’t mean ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ or ‘Moondance’ or any of that greatest hits bullshit. I’m talking about real Van Morrison.” I took a forkful of eggs. They were icy cold. I spit them into my napkin.
“I’m not sure I know what real Van Morrison is.” She gave me a dirty look for spitting out the eggs. I felt the biscuits with my hand. They were just as cold. I placed the entire basket in the microwave.
I put on the ‘The Smile You Smile’ from Van Morrison’s Bang Masters.
“What’s wrong with ‘Brown Eyed Girl’? I love that song.” She asked.
“You’ve got to really listen to the lyrics. They’re the greatest.” I closed my eyes and began dancing around the living room.
“Last night you refused to go dancing and now look at you.” She threw her arms up.
“Listen, listen, this is my favorite line.” He sang about how his girl’s laughing eyes were a whirlpool where he could be in paradise. “Did you hear that? Let me rewind that part.”
“Are you going to eat your breakfast or can I clean it up?” She started the dishes.
“Just listen to this part.” I rewound to the beginning of the verse and sang along.
“Mike,” she shouted. I turned up the music and continued dancing. “Would you please turn that down?” She stopped the IPod. The room became quiet. I felt silly.
“Sorry.” I was winded. I brushed past her to get to the fridge for a bottle of water. “I just really love that song.”
“Listen, I need to go to Target today. Do you want to come with me? Maybe afterwards we can go to the lake, take a walk or something.”
I was sulking on the couch, my IPod in my hand. I refused to acknowledge her.
“I’m going to hop in the shower. I’ll be ready in a minute.” She kissed me on my lips. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Go take a shower. I’ll finish cleaning up.”
“We’ll have a nice day. It’s perfect weather for a walk.”
“Yeah.” I spoke without taking my eyes off the IPod.
“I liked that song.”
“No you didn’t.”
“How do you know what I like?” She went into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
I was, all of a sudden, in the mood to listen to Blood on the Tracks. I unplugged the speakers, attached the headphones my mother had bought me the previous year for Christmas and laid back on the couch.
My favorite song off that album is ‘You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go’. In one verse Dylan sings, “You’re gonna make me wonder what I’m doing. You’re gonna make me wonder what I’m saying. You’re gonna make me give myself a good talking to.”
In-between songs I heard her getting out of the shower. I turned the record up as loud as it would go. I closed my eyes, laid my head down and pretended to be asleep.
I really enjoyed the play
Yeah, me too
Dinner was great, thanks
I had a good evening
I did too
I’d like to kiss you
I’d like that
We Keep Starting Over
And no resolution ever comes
except the act of giving up
and creating another beginning
We have yet to make a choice
that leads us to stability
just another city,
another apartment, another job,
another set of strangers
who take their time
enfolding us in their history
until they are almost too late
until it is almost time for us
to quit and try our hands at
a different story.
Perhaps the error is in
assigning significance to
each changing, in expecting
new movements to create meaning.
Perhaps we should just be
content as urban nomads,
drifting, and let go of these
intentions, the seeds we
keep expecting to take root.
Making awkward conversation and avoiding eye contact with my boss while dining at a breakfast-served-all-day French-Texan fusion restaurant in a double-wide trailer, I theorize about video games because we don’t have anything in common so I might as well keep myself entertained. Every time we eat together it’s a bad first date. Her fish tastes microwaved. My omelette does not have cheese, but I am grateful to have found a restaurant here that has any vegetarian option at all. She is not amused by my analysis of Guitar Hero as a method of artistic oppression. I am not amused by her lack of opinions. I am homesick for conversation. She says she hates being out here but she’s so bland that really, she belongs. I think I would starve here, and I don’t just mean in terms of nutrition. She orders a second glass of wine, I show my northern roots by requesting unsweetened iced tea. She tries to sound like she’s still in college and tells me there isn’t a story to this place. I chuckle and nod because disagreeing would make this business trip even more unpleasant. But how can she not read the story? A rancher married a French woman (how did she get here?) and they managed to save enough to open a restaurant in their retirement, and they’ve somehow kept it open for over a year. That in and of itself must be worth a minute of history.
the financial district
we laced the city hall fountain with morphine and grew concentric from the navels of each other. we moved in moon waltzes in a petroleum-filled swimming pool. we grew older with milkier breath. keyholes of vision blending as one blur. everyone we had ever known was a passerby. everyone we had ever known licked a postage stamp and pressed it onto our bodies. dressed us in saliva and little paper squares. the little paper squares meant we were outbound. later i lay on my ear and slept. a spaceship hummed through the bed coils.
the last headline before print news media dies
with newspaper shards i have made
a carpet of things in decay
a papier-mâché mountain
cracked like an egg
whose summit is hatching