Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 16, 2012


December 16, 2012
    
I’ll only be a week,
                Five days up north for work,
Astray from home this trip.
At this time of year-       
                Greeting Winter’s solstice-         
My expectations are mired
In uncertainty
                About the weather
                And its fickle swings
                Between cool and cold,
                Between damp and dry,
                Snow and wet slush.
Crisp azure,
Cumulus-speckled,
                Or sticky gloomy skies?
 
So I stuff my big bag,
                The one I have to check:
Five pinpoint oxfords,
Four pair of lined slacks-
                Plain front, breathable wool-
A pair of shined  black Cole Haans
For client meetings.
                Twenty underthings,
                Jeans, short-sleeved Polos,
                Hoodies, three belts, shorts,
                Thirty vintage tees,
                Pounds of black socks,
Nike Shox,
Toiletries for months,
                Two versatile blazers.
 
I’ve booked my return flight
                Out of Philly, Friday,
Not sure that I’ll make it.
Something could arise-
                Mayan Armageddon-
Weather holds, rescheduled trysts,
Lifelong delays.
                Best to over-plan,
                And cram the bag
                And carry-ons too
                For unexpected
                Contingencies.
Well-equipped,
                Prepared:  neat, tight-packed
                For the Apocalypse.       
               

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Leftovers

Leftovers


 Writhing recollection,
                Through my blind stomach’s lens
When all I knew was hunger—
Always just short of just enough—

Of crusts consumed, goulash,
                Cabbage soup, rationed meat.
With a still un-succored soul,
Stomach-panged:  in dreams, I feasted.

Anymore anything
                Would have ever sufficed.
Prayers were starving wishes.
Grace was mythic luxury.

                I loathed an empty plate.

I have since made habit
                Of throwing away food
At the end of every meal,
Consuming comfort from excess.

Not enough to wrap up
                (or feed  needy  others):
Dainty icons to surplus,
Perfectly portioned acts of waste:

An ounce of veal,
                A spot of boursin mash,
Two spears of asparagus,
Chunks of parmesan ciabatta.

I hand back my current castoffs,
                With b├ęchamel’d grace,
                With truffle’d arrogance,
                With umami’d reckoning,
My exuberant extras—
                My leftovers—
                On a loathing emptied plate,
Through re-collected dreams,
                Where hope yields to grace,
To a writhing, cakeless boy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two O'Clock in Houghton


Two  O’Clock in Houghton

 Having reached that point in the day,
When the customary morning gatherings
Are  persistent reminiscence;
When the sun glints between the buildings
Across the manicured square;
When the shadows grow long and crawl
Into my un-blinded window--
            Nearer days end
            Than beginning;
When the brook of visitors and callers
Has thinned to a listless trickle:

When my lids grow heavy,
When my chin bends toward my chest,
When my breath achieves the
            Rhythmic pulse of a
            Cloud falling apart
            into an otherwise spotless sky.

Contemplating crumbs,
From stolen lunch,
On just-cracked spines:
Speckled pillow.
I’ll move that pile,
            I promise
Those large boxes,
            I hope,
To make some room
For that sofa
Later.

Having reached that point in the day,
When the words have overwhelmed me
With their congenital failures;
When the whispers from the past float by
Toward unrequited beckoning;
When the work ahead is stacked higher still
Than any effort might relieve;
            Two zeds til    
            Two fifteen
When the new day’s promise sits removed  
From morning’s matted memories:
 
My distraction sits upon the
Consternation of yesterday’s rest,
The fifteen minutes spent in slumber,
            When well-served effort
            Would have cleared  the space
            For sofa: chunky napping place.
                                               
Having reached that point,
I can’t but daydream,
Downed, counting moments
As they beat, beat, beat,
Lucidly, fleeing,
             I yawn,
Toward that bigger couch,
            (I’ll sleep)
Where the lounge, the chaise,
Has been always,       
Already,
Always.

Past the point,
Again awake,
            Uncouched,
Unrecharged,
Slouching on,
Sleepy still,
Walking home,
Round the lake,
Fifth and Elm,
Again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Archaeologists

Archaeologists

 
We collected bones,
                You and me,
A couple of archaeologists,
Comparing pasts against
                Origins,
Placing them on mantles,
Or shelves as trophies.
                Naming them,
Stripped of humanity,
Denuded of skin:  relics.

We collected bones,
                Then I stopped.
Erasing them from history,
Forgetting some were my own,
                Still in me.
I crammed them into closets,
In crates and boxes, piles,
                Skeletons.
Bedpost notches—calcified
Knots worn—sanded smooth.

We collected bones,
                You and me,
You kept digging and dig still,
For some future from the past,
                Fecklessly.
Excavating yet, the same site,
Leaving little for the future’s
                Bone-diggers.
You tunnel vertically, deeper,
Chipping chisels and
                Diamond tips,
Until the bones—heaped high
By your hovel—faceless, nameless
                And skinless,
In veins without blood,
Are naught but broth:
                Black soup:
                                   oil.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Hop Away


A Hop Away

See,
Just three feet off the path,
                A Ruddy Dadderwing land and flit
                On a storm-felled, dry rotted cypress branch,
                Or an ivory millipede soft-scrunch,
                Over a patch of bared  and sandy soil,            
                Or a White-breasted Nuthatch’s nest,
                Formed of holly twigs and Spanish moss,
                A snake slither overfoot,
                A tailless lizard scamper,
                Deer tracks,
                Duck dung,
                Life.

See,
Just three feet off the path,
                An aged homeless man up close,
                His fetid breath formed on pained whispers,
                Or a shopkeeper opening doors,
                Or just-ripe peaches piled high,
                Or vibrant, cut Crinum Lily buds
                Waiting for vases by foyer divans,
                Stacks of damp newspapers,
                Kids fallen from bicycles,
                Gardens,
                Litter,
                Life.

 
Just three feet off the path,
                Off the sidewalk or the trail,
                Just a hop—a lunge—away from civil safety,
                (Nevermind roads less traveled,
                Nevermind trailblazing the cosmos):
                Disrupt with steps from trodden ways,
                In claiming others’ nearness—
                In staking out the parallel—
                In stalking periphery:
                                                Walk in mud; dirty shoes.
                                               Shake branches; callous hands,
                                                Feed hungry; taste need,
                                                Drop dollars intentionally.
                                                Stand in traffic,
                                                Stack garbage,
                                                Smudge mirrors,
                                                Strip naked,
                                                Sully nests,           
                                                Scream,
                                                Stop.
                Re-path,
                Then see
                Life.       

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Third Half

Third Half


First,
There was me,
And there was you.

Before there was us,
                There was me and I was whole.
Before there was us,
                I did not need for anything or anyone.
Before there was us,
                I was sated and filled.
Before there was us,
                There was me and there was you:
                                Two perfect halves.
Before there was us,
                I did not know I required you.

I was a viscous, bonded fluid:
Valent, hungry Hydrogen
And Oxygen-formed.

Then there was us,
                And together, made a whole.
                And we did not need for anything or anyone.
Then there was us,
                And we were sated and filled.
                And there was you-and-me:
                                A Perfect-Perfect.
Then there was us,
                And we knew we were essential.
 
Our waters swirled and merged:
Splashing, waving, vesseled,
And completed.
 
And now,
                We are more than whole,
                We are exponential.
                We are more than companions.
And now,
                We are everything and everyone,
                We are more than fulfilled,
                We are drunk and fatted.
And now,
                We are more than a clan:
                                We are Third Half.
                We are more than co-vital,
                We are a utopian megalopolis.
And now we are luxuriant,
                                copious,
                                                excessive,
                                                                diluvian.

Swollen beyond our banks:
Uncontained and overflowing,
Bursting, tsunami'd.

And, I love you.
And, I love
us.



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unbounded

Unbounded



Eighty two thousand three hundred hands,
Raised high and sky-chopping,
Cutting the Tallahassee wind—
Seminole Wind—together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred voices,
Chanting, battle-ready,
Summoning Osceola’s force:
Triumphant breath, together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred minds,
Shaped, molded and made strong,
Forged in chieftains’ glowing wisdom,
Spreading brilliance, together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred heroes,
Bowdens, Wards and Stroziers,
Sligers, us, and our progeny:
Legacies bound, together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred souls,
Climbing among fallen
Brothers and fathers, buoyantly
Rise still higher, together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred warriors,
Victories shared—wrought spoils—
Doak’s village of millions rumbles:
Unconquered land, together.

Eighty two thousand three hundred,
          Champions,
On sacred battlegrounds,
Unbounded by cosmic frontiers:
Seminole Nation, together.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Depending on the Fold

Depending on the Fold

If symmetry is best, then what are you,
With your skinny jeans and muffin top?

If symmetry is best, then what am I,
With my tennis shoes and bulbous calves?

If symmetry is best, then what is she,
With her moo moo and Susan Powter hair?

If symmetry is best, then what is he,
With his man-tits and salt and pepper?

If symmetry is best, then what are they,
With their upturned eyes and furrowed brows?

If symmetry is best, then what are we,
With our Audis and bombs and Wii

And symmetry?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My First Best Friend

My First Best Friend



After the war—the Second Great one—
And after laboring some time up North,
In Long Island, in a town where folk
From his clan had toiled for centuries,
Odd jobs and carpentering, building,
He set out for this hill.

Before there was a me—or even a glistening—
And barely before there was a pre-me,
It was just a them, four pale blue eyes
Together, Navy veteran and mother, with boundless hope,
Vast vision, and a pair, wee, at their knees.
He wandered toward this hill.

And on this hill—a rarity in these flats—
He saw a cellar he could pack with onion bulbs
Between seasons, and tools to build upward
And an aquifer he could tap with his well,
And trees he could fell for short-Winter’s warmth:
Upon this sandy, weeded hill.

With bricks and boards—with two-inched two by fours—
When wood was straight and measured true,
He built a house, a jaunty ranch,
With blistered hands and tanned shoulders,
And built a home above that cellar,
Upon the sprawling, treasured hill.

He left some trees—saw palmetto, scrubby pines—
That nature planted first, and added more that
They would need: limes and oranges, and saplings
For shade one day, and shrubs and annuals for her,
A practical garden, and the blue hydrangea
On this lush and lively hill.

Four bright blue eyes—sparkling with strength—
Grew to eight and then ten (grandfather at last)
In short time, and nieces and nephews and friends,
And work every day, ninety minutes each way,
And work every weekend, tending his home
All came, yet, purposed differently--before me--on this hill:
     Corkwood floors not yet for sliding,
     A cellar not yet for play or tinkering,
     Trees not yet for climbing,
     A garden not yet for learning
          How to work and subsist,
          Or how to till and sow,
          Or how to tend and reap,
     A box fan in the garage not yet whirring
          To transform voices into robot,
     A wood pile not yet for stacking
          The wood I’d chop myself
          With an axe, a sledge,
          And three rusty wedges,
     A timeworn beaten up, louse-ridden, rusted out pickup
          Not yet for teaching
          Me how to drive,
          Or what a carburetor was,
          Or how to change a tire,
               Or not fear rats,
     Fruit not yet for eating off the branch,
     Berries not yet for snatching from the vine,
     Potatoes not yet for digging from the earth,
     Palm fronds not yet for building forts,
     Fallen oak leaves not yet for piling high
          And jumping round in,
     Old, iced-tea stained,
          Holey, v-necked, t-shirts
          Not yet made for pajamas
          And sleepovers,
     An old shotgun not yet for not knowing
          That guns aren’t for me,
     Ham and cheese and white bread
          not yet for cultivating
          simple purity in tastes,
     Ballcaps not yet for pretending
          That the one he’d just unwrapped
          This Christmas morning or
          That birthday was his favorite ever,
     Hand-rolled cigarettes not yet for not smoking
          But for the fun of rolling,
     Hard-earned dollars not yet for slipping
          Quietly into my hand
          When home visiting from college,
          On long weekends,
     Bravery not yet perfected
          In the face of going on
          When other eyes had flickered
          And dimmed and extinguished,
     Giant footsteps--deep in the layers of
          Time-blackened soil—
          Not yet for filling two to one,
          Not for ever filling, or
          Ever even coming close.

When my bright round russet eyes first spied this hill,
     And bound upon it and joined
Among the sea of blue—his and his girls’—
Wide and taken with all of this, not built for me,
But given in the spirit which built it,
     The promise of yet,
By my first best friend,
     Who built this place for me,
     Before he knew I’d come,
     From cellar floor to hearth to chimney top,
     Planting seeds and shaping lawns,
     With calloused fingers and leathered shoulders,
          And congested heart and lungs,
     For them—the girls—too, I suppose,
     Never a single thing for himself,
     Except maybe the cigarette roller,
     Never ever a single thing for himself
          Except me, his little him,
          His shadow,
I fixed my stake and stare forever on this hill,
     Forever from this hill,
With my forever first best friend.

Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Decentralization

Decentralization


Accounting for rounding,
Amongst such data as
The star’s circumference
And its distance from our Earth,
And the exact speed of light:
Eight minutes and seventeen
Seconds, maybe twenty.

If God should pluck the Sun
From the smack center of
Our system—no longer
“Solar”—we would not know it
Until such time had elapsed:
Blissfully prevailing,
Eyes blind to doom’s approach.

Working on flawless abs,
A minute per each pack;
Creating two perfect
Soft-boiled eggs in succession,
With yolks ideal for sloshing
Fingers of hoppy, whole-grained
Wheat toast into, just twice.

Eight minutes, seventeen:
A densely-packed short film;
Reading Whitman’s, “Song of
The Exposition,” aloud;
Indulging in Beethoven’s
Fifth Symphony, Movement one,
Andante non troppo.

Sex, nap, stroll,
Chat, Scowl, love
Smile, grow, fill,
Stir, spoil, live,
Tick, tock, tick.

Past the rising action,
Beyond its climaxed crest,
In fifteen’s second half,
Approaching fame’s denouement,
In early-ending spotlight,
Yet unfinished cosmic script,
Lectus interruptus.

Seventeen or twenty
Short seconds after eight
Minutes, some, now matter.
Only then, now, day darkness—
Forever night—consumes us
     (a last three second gasp)
Sending Earth from orbit’s flight.
Uncentered, God-whimsied
     ended light.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

American Jericho

American Jericho


Trumpets blast!
Walls fall and the demons escape
From the crumbled, pebbled stone
And powdered mortar
That contained them since
     The first day.

The walls fell on
     The first day too.
They didn’t even notice,
They didn’t even try to leave.

On the first day, they
     Didn’t know which was
In and which
Was out and which
Which was the preferred.

Sirens wail!
Walls fall and the demons enter
Through the celebrated ruins
Past the scorched libraries
That kept them out since
     The first day.

The walls fell on
     The first day too.
So they just
Rebuilt them and
Forgot about inside.

On the first day, they
     Defined which which was
Out and which
Was in; denied
Self-serving preference.



Sunday, September 2, 2012

Football

Football




After criss-crossing the road four times and hitting every convenience store within a mile, we finally found the rolling papers. Of course, neither of us had a lighter so I had to go back in. Besides being mildly intoxicated from the couple Budweisers we drank en route, we were both unmanageably nervous. We needed to smoke to settle our nerves and our anxieties. In the name of bravado, neither of us could come to voice our anxieties. Both of us knew that after this event we would be inextricably changed. He rolled the joint like a pro, I chugged another beer. The searing February morning sun beat down on us from a crisp blue sky painted with wisps of whimsical cirrus as we sat in the parking lot at the intramural fields. We smoked. I finally relaxed. He finally relaxed.



A sudden pounding on the hood of his pickup truck announced the arrival of one of his brothers. They were all brothers and all the brothers brought their girlfriends, most of whom were sisters. This was their Sunday ritual. It predated me. “We” were not yet a ritual, and I really never expected that we would become one. Nonetheless, that he took me along meant something, just what I was not ready to contemplate. He was making a statement that I didn’t ask him to make. He, who usually just came to play with his brothers, who usually never brought anybody along, wanted me to come. He wanted me, who was neither brother nor sister, to watch him interact in his world. I, who was out of school and decidedly not Greek, looked the part alright even if I didn’t strut the strut. Before the echo from the hood-slapping ended, we were opening our respective doors. A rush of smoke filled the vicinity as he handed off the joint to the noisemaker. They laughed and shook hands—it was actually more of an elaborate handoff—as I cracked open a beer for our joiner. I introduced myself to whatever his name was, we shook hands—handed off and back—and they walked ahead of me. I grabbed the cooler from the bed of the truck as we moved through the clearing toward the football fields. They extinguished the roach and disposed of it. It became part of the scenery.



Within minutes, the worn brown and lightly greening expanse of fields was teeming with shirtless, glistening frat boys and uncountable dainty blonde Barbie girls whose pink lipstick matched their pink flip flops which matched their pink bathing suit tops. The football was flying all around and then to me. Instinctively, I threw one deep to another of the boys whose name was, I believe, Matty or maybe Matt E. For each pink and tan girl there was a chair, and for every fourth girl there was a dog. There were dogs on leashes, dogs off leashes chasing Frisbees, dogs running after the football, and dogs slurping up water out of stainless steel bowls.



The girls spread out their blankets, some even brought umbrellas. They had chairs. I had my backpack and a cooler. He didn’t think to tell me I’d need something to sit on. By now, he was out on the field in scrimmage mode. The four fields were being marked off as other people’s brothers continued to arrive in droves. Today’s games would determine the intramural champion. We had a three to four hour afternoon ahead of us, assuming his team kept on winning. It would really, I posited, come down to which team was least stoned and most sober. They fidgited with their flags and he showed his teammates how to tear the sleeves off of their shirts in such a way that they could get maximum muscle effect. They donned their uniforms and began to play. Knowing that it was my duty to take off my shirt, I conformed and—at least in appearance—fit in with tanned and tight bare-chested boys that I resembled. The winter sun was hot on my shoulders. I squinted.



I was, in this morass of people, suddenly and frighteningly all alone. The ball was no longer being thrown towards me. The games had begun. I was there as mere spectator, afterall. The usual thing to do would be to go over and hang out with my friends who were also there to watch. I had no friends there. These were all his friends, and his friends’ girlfriends. They were all related with roots reaching back to a lush and mountainous island in the Mediterranean. These were all sisters and brothers, and I was (at best) a second cousin from and in some distant place. My “half the distance to the goal” seemed more like a penalty than field placement. I sat off by myself for a while, self-consciously wondering how I could break into the sea of pink and tan 15 yards down field. I wondered if I should. I brooded and I watched. I pounded another beer and was feeling full.



My liquid courage arrived as I picked up the cooler, picked up my backpack and slowly moved towards the spectator’s area. I caught the unsunglassed eye of one of the girls who smiled at me. I watched her eyes wander down my tan and pinking body, then back up with a pause at my shorts and the muscular V that sprouted upward into my stomach, toward my chest. She asked me to confirm that I was his friend which I did. Barbie and I chatted a little. She introduced me to a few other girls who also politely smiled, flashing whitened white teeth surrounded by that same pepto pink I’d noted was the unofficial uniform. Lots of brown roots showed through yellow hair while lots of bikini bottoms peaked out through unzipped, bottoms-fraying jean shorts. The first girl offered some pink mixed drink concoction she had prepared before coming and which she had poured into one of several emptied out pink-labeled jugs. I declined in favor of my Red, White and Blue. I should have taken the drink.



Exposing the only completely bare chest in a sea of pink unnerved me. I self-consciously—in an attempt to move the gaze of my new acquaintances from my body to my face—put my shirt back on as we all chatted mindlessly a little more before the question about how I knew him came up. I froze—the fear paralyzed me in a way that I hadn’t felt since the time my mother caught me reading her red-covered romance novels when I was ten. Not even the unobstructed Florida sun could warm the chill that seized my entire body. I goose-pimpled, I could feel my nipples harden against the cotton of my t-shirt. I blinked, attempting to think of just how this should be answered.



I certainly couldn’t tell her that he and I met through a friend at that place where we’d met. I couldn’t tell her that he’d spent the last fourteen nights in my bed with me. I couldn’t tell her that, after playing one on one basketball 22 days before, we had taken a not-so-innocent shower together, mutually agreeing to our mastery of the art of soap- dropping. I couldn’t tell her about the planned tennis matches that never even made it to the courts. I couldn’t tell her that we had made a habit of taking long lunches together that did not include lunch. I couldn’t tell her that he was the topic of 53 sappy poems that I’d written in 30 days. I couldn’t tell her that he was the reason that I smile and sweat and—still in that smitten stage—breathe. Between nervous blinks, all I could think of was what I couldn’t tell her.



With a whistle came the thaw and there he was beside me. They had won their first game and saved me from having to answer the question. He asked if I had gone to the library yet, and in the process provided the out that I needed. “I’m gonna go now.” I reached deep into the cooler and pulled out a water and handed it to him. I smiled at my new girlfriends as I pulled on both straps of my backpack and started off. I’m still not sure if my non-answer was implicating or vindicating, but at least it was liberating. I waved myself off as I set off on my quest for the cooler library.



As I reached the three year old scrub pine shrubbery that marked the beginning of the path out of the football field area, I paused. I looked back and saw, running back and forth and around in a chaotic frenzy, the boys and girls of my consternation. I could make out pectorals and belly buttons, shoulders and sweaty tufts of dark underarm hair. Briefly, they were all the same: perfect in form, mere bodies. In varying states of undress and almost uniformly Davidian and Hellenic, the interplay between these distant and now faceless moving statues reminded me of the civilization that I had escaped. I had long ago walked away from the footballs and the blankets, knowing that I could—at best—visit each in short spurts; that my real place was between them or off watching from fifteen feet away. The fact that I was ripping him from this civilization, this carefree existence of sweat and play, chilled me anew. The fifteen feet became a football field’s length and then I was on the pine-needled path with a new and unpopulated clearing ahead of me.



I watched my feet for a bit. I contemplated walking, not so much the theory of walking or its metaphysical implications as the process of walking. I watched one foot go before the other and just as quickly be overtaken. I thought about how gravity is being both fought and used with each step. Perhaps it did grow into the metaphysical.



Suddenly deciding to eschew the library for a clearing by a retention pond called—in this manicured and planned nature—a lake, I plopped down on the ground. Once again, I removed my shirt and embraced the earth, bare-bellied. I reached into the backpack and found my solace, my journal. I caught the moment:



The grass is still wet,
     The blades upstretched
     And glistening…
And, now, so too
     Are my shorts
     And now my back.
The sun is still low
     In the sky
     And cirrus splatter
Wispy paint across
     Mellow blue’d and
     Hazy morning.
The breeze is still soft,
     Supple as it dances
     Around my arms
And hints at tickling…
     The as yet undaunted
     Promise of today.



I yawned and could feel the swirl of alcohol and marijuana acting upon my now inactive body. The flying oblongata, the pinks and Greeks, the penalty yardage, the anxieties that had less to do with winning or losing than they did with being accepted into the game all faded away. I super extended my toes and fingers and flexed my calves and then balled into one giant fist and released. The journal sat by my head as I rolled onto my back and felt no chill. I felt no heat. The promise of today was being realized in this moment as my eyes fluttered into shutness and I could see the pink of the sun in my eyelids. Critters, microscopic and some a little larger, danced upon my legs and chest and underarms and head in a rhythm that both tickled and soothed. The morning sun crept in the sky and only his presence could complete this near-completion.



Not knowing how long he had been there nor how long I’d slumbered, and not caring to ask, I leaned up on my elbows and saw him: chin on fist, elbows on knees, sitting on the cooler and holding a beer.



“We lost.”



Summing up our mutual love for sport, and the acknowledgment that we, in the face of our anxieties, were consciously forming a new team—for our own game—I responded: “I love…football.”



“Let’s go.”


Read more of my poetry, essays, and stories at Momentitiousness.com