10 September 2015

going back for the boy

[originally published August 14, 2008]
"The photo reflects just how threatened I grew to be by my husband's animal appetites, by the very maleness of him. I forgot that his natural lusts and longings were bound by an equally natural sense of love and loyalty. But it was inevitable, I had come to fear the corresponding aspects in myself."
— Amy Irvine
"And he's got no disguise in his eyes for his love
as she nears

He spreads her a shelter
She takes the tall skies
As they helter-skelter
Along the same sighs"
— Roy Harper
"but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you"
— WB Yeats

Some people dream in black and white, some in foreign languages. i dream in touch, and as my dream opens, my right cheek is smooshed into the worn black t-shirt clothing my friend's shoulder. i am breathing evenly against the rise and fall of her chest, dark strands of her hair stick to my cheek. When we pull apart to hold each other at arm's length, we're both smiling, and her lover, my friend, sits behind her. i lean over to embrace him too, but awkwardly. My knees brush his inner thighs, and he tips over backwards, slowly enough to catch himself, but he doesn't: his legs lift into the air, and his face shapes a faraway, still sadness, staring directly upward. Everything around the three of us turns from warm to white.

Then I am squatting over the toilet of a women's restroom in a mall, but when i leave the stall, a boy asks What you doin in here?, and i turn to see an older boy in pissing stance at a urinal. There are mirrors everywhere, fogged with grit, slimy wet paper on the floor. Through the door, i hear a man talking. i open to the shadowed hallway that leads to the separate restrooms, where a man wearing a red polo shirt is coaxing, shudderingly sweet, a small blonde girl to come with him. His hand wraps her wrist as she trembles, tearfully resisting and mute. His other arm headlocks an even smaller boy, who sobs and pulls with both hands at the man's clamped arm. The little boy's shaggy brown hair falls into his eyes, and i can only see the top of his head.

i say to the little girl Do you know him?, and she shakes her head no, eyes huge. To the man, i command Leave her alone. He sneers, hunched toward his prey, blocking the exit, then leans away from the girl and into the little boy as he steers him, struggling meekly, out into the crowd.

The people surging through the food court swallow the little girl into their mass, and i watch her light-haired head fade into their shadows, knowing she is okay, though she's searching for her family who isn't there. i look around the atrium, that, for its domed glass ceiling and plate glass walls, is stormy-dark. People move, headfirst and too fast, along fixed paths, over-dressed in black coats. They barely have faces.

Still calm, I look for a security guard who can help me get the boy, but they aren't wearing uniforms, and even the woman working behind a counter, switching food for money, points to a man who spins around and lifts his knees and flails in a crane dance. All the men at the posts are shabbily dressed, slouching and weaker than me. At last, I find one, a man a few years younger. I tell him There's a man I think kidnapped a little boy, but the guard shows no interest. Before he left, i heard him trying to make a little girl come with him, and he rouses.

We walk down the endless, airport-like hallways while he talks and brags, posturing to impress me. We haven't locked the doors so no one can leave until we find the boy. We aren't running to the parking lot to make sure the man isn't driving away. He hasn't radioed the other guards, he isn't even looking at the people all around us. Finally, i interrupt What about the boy?, and the shock in his face tells me he wasn't listening. He never heard.

. . .

As i compose this, walking through my neighborhood, my city, a man straddles his rumbling engine, horsepower, and leers down at me. In his wake waft sharp diesel fumes, and i hope that's not the only way he feels the earth: extracted, refined, toxified. i hope he loves a woman whose flesh parts tectonically when he presses into her fissure, and the friction at their fault line quakes with seismic love that collapses them.

I also pass a mother who clasps her hands around her child, steadily eyeing every passerby. Others walk straight lines in tight-collared shirts, and their bodies' lines warp and sag, and their hairs wisp from their scalps years sooner than their fathers' did. Or maybe i am getting older and my father's hair is thinning and we go days without speaking while nothing holds still as i surface deeper into a world that continually resolves into focus only to avert its gaze from its own unbelievable reflection.

i've met the wounded man in some men--and loved him fiercely, to the edge
of his own black hole, where he is still under
his uncle on a dirty mattress on the floor of a one-
room Iowan apartment; hauling
his drunken father up the stairs at 4 am, the last one
awake in the world; begging
forgiveness from his stepmother's misfired anger;
staring bewildered and hurt at me,
my body locked at the hinges
with grudge, cold and all jaw.

All scorning those whose approval they so desperately seek.

They are the same men, who, even though we barely spoke then, knew what to say when i called with nothing to say after Frank, hooded grinning bodhisattva, got shot off his bike on his way home from the bar, and was dead, no matter how many times i glimpsed his shaded face smiling in my periphery; he talked about his friend from school, how the one with the knife in his gut was his friend and the one with the knife in his hand was his brother's. When i call because i can't hold the vision, he tells me It's like opening the dam, more water in the same river. Hold more flow, though he doesn't know that i am actually crossing the Monongahela when says it. He leaves me when i am five, butt still asks my sister about me when he meets her secretly behind his new wife's back.  When i come home from college, defeated and crying, he tells me If you never do another thing your entire life, you have already done enough. When he holds my singing bowl, mistaking it for mortar and pestle, he palms it and clangs out rhythm, strikes the rim at more than the ceremonial cardinal points and grinds the mallet into the center to mute the tone. He turns it into the instrument i have never recognized it as. He touches everything so fearlessly and joyfully, like nothing could break in his hand. He shields his eyes from the spotlight, fist closed around a microphone, lungs clean out of air but still singing. He leans over his guitar like he's coaxing prayer from it, playing out the silent song he hears. They always lean over a guitar, eyes closed, loosing their muted prayers. i have known a few altar boys. They know when god is out of earshot.

All perfectly innocent in the moments they forget to guard, when their burqas lift away from their hot mouths and they gulp cool air.

So i have a friend who is going through some shit.  My lover is going through some shit.  i am going through some shit. In the shadowy alcove of gender we impose so strictly, we forget our equally vulnerable innocence, the fragile candles we harbor as children and as speaking, conditioned animals. But in our dreams, the boundaries between skin dissolve, and we witness the scene where we act every character--where the thread of who i am with my mother splits from who i am with my boss from who i am among strangers to who i am when i'm on top, and we dispense with gravity while we we navigate the web of our overlapping appetites and defenses.

i saved the girl, i left the boy. i assumed he could take care of himself while i arranged to come for him. i assumed he knew i was coming for him. But i am as much the man in the red shirt with the vice grip as i am the crying frightened child as i am the hero as i am impotent authority as i am the handsome rapist and the shadow people and the falling friend and the strong, loyal lover and the saved and the fronting.
And we are more alike than not.
And we are going back.

09 March 2013

loot for animoon

the church rummage sale gods were good to animoon today

08 March 2013

maker: custom order

labradorite, smoky grey sea glass, and sterling silver necklace. custom order for animoon workshop.

11 November 2012

scorpio dusk

scorpio dusk

half dead birthday lilies
twins on a stalk
half live petal spiral
on a live thigh
look up
and the crows fly away from sunset

20 July 2012

the live feed

Obsessively checking the live news feed of the shooting,
 i realize i am waiting for the update reporting 
that all the victims have come back to life.

26 June 2012

shifting graves

a graveyard is a park
where the dead underground
are still named

(photos, november 1, 2011)

12 June 2012

* summer poetry readings *

Come show off your summer vibe and your lit love and your fancy sandals at two upcoming readings. Both are organized by true heroes of our poetry community and include fellow writer's I'm excited to split mic time with. I hope to see you!
Thursday, June 21 | 7 pm | $0
Equanimity: The Peacemakers Poetry Series - Third Night: Gene Hirsch, Renée Alberts, Nikki Allen, & Ed Murray
The Big Idea Book Store | 4812 Liberty Ave | Pittsburgh 15224 (Bloomfield)

Part of a three-part pop-up June reading series, organized by poet Romella Kitchens.
For info on the readers and the sister event on June 14th (with Angele Ellis, Liane Norman, Jill Khoury and Roberta Hatcher), visit Romella's website White Gardenia Poetry Press.

Tuesday, July 24 | 8 pm | $0
Hemingway's Summer Poetry Series: Renée Alberts, Elizabeth Hoover, Marc Jampole, & Sankar Roy 
Hemingway's Cafe | 3911 Forbes Ave | Pittsburgh 15213 (Oakland)

Part of the weekly Hemingway's Summer Poetry Series, organized by poets Joan Bauer and Jimmy Cvetic.

For info on the series' other featured readers, visit the Pittsburgh Literary Calendar, where you can see Pittsburgh readings of all stripes (and add your own)!

07 April 2012

"Palm Sunday" on Black Saturday and upcoming readings

Today's Saturday Poem in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features my seasonally-appropo "Palm Sunday." It's so exciting to be included in this column that has for years put poetry opposite the op-eds. I'm glad those inks are mixing.

Upcoming readings:
On April 15th, I read with my inksister Nikki Allen at the new, ferocious Strange Animals Reading Series.
Hambone's Pub | 7 pm | free

On April 19, we'll celebrate the release of The Doomy Poems by Jonathan Moody with readings from the poet, Kristofer Collins, and myself at Awesome Books Downtown--a fierce little bookshop that lives up to its its name.
8 - 9 pm | free

In the distant future, on July 24th, I read with Elizabeth Hoover, Marc Jampole, and Sankar Roy at the revered and adored Hemingway's Summer Reading Series.
Hemingway's Cafe | 8 pm | free

 For more on these and other Pittsburgh readings and lit happenings (and to list your own), visit the Pittsburgh Literary Calendar.

21 March 2012

Detail a Day: The Collection

Last year, I undertook what I thought was a simple writing exercise: notice one thing every day. Instead, my task became a study of attention, presence and precision, syllable counting and storytelling. I learned more from the Detail a Day project than I expected, and was surprised by people's interest. Family and friends, some of whom I didn't even know read this blog, would ask when we were hanging out, "Is this going to be today's detail?"

Well, now a selection of the details are collected in print in as they fall, a Lilliput Broadside. A few of the  details are also featured in Lilliput Review #184.

Lilliput Review, who publishes the Broadsides, is a giant among litmags, collecting the tiniest of poems. If you haven't immersed yourself in its micromoments of surprise enlightenment, exquisite strangeness, and beauty, take a deep breath and prepare to bliss: http://lilliputreview.blogspot.com/

Want a copy of as they fall for your own hot little palms? $2 to mail, $1 if you can find me in the flesh. Comment or contact, and I'll pick one fresh of the tree for you. Happy Spring!

23 November 2011

04 November 2011

detail a day 364

i look for god like i look for my glasses,
patting surfaces blindly, careful
not to snap the fragile frame

02 November 2011

detail a day 363

lightning flicks its forked tongue

01 November 2011

detail a day 362

caskets on a flatbed:
somewhere to be

30 October 2011

detail a day 361

fog so thick, if we didn't
know these streets by heart
we'd be blind

28 October 2011

detail a day 360

7 billion and counting
our umbilical an exhaust pipe,


25 October 2011

detail a day 358

illegible skywriting

detail a day 357

like the cat who, let out,
turns her face to the sun
to feel through her fur
the light on her skin

detail a day 356

it took years to learn how to read, and much longer
to interpret the space on the page

18 October 2011

detail a day 355

they painted the smokestack white
but the cloud it spouts stayed grey

15 October 2011

detail a day 354

the memory is grainy blown out hues

13 October 2011

detail a day 353

Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.
--Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad-Gita, after the Trinity test

detail a day 352

The light that shattered the predawn darkness was greater than that of 500 suns.

Aim is perfect. Deeds, not words.
Cloud moves to open ocean,
precise nature.

Although no one said so outright.

It is a team capable of destroying any city in the world,
a firecracker compared to today's monster.
Exactly as expected.

By the year 2000 they believe man
will be extracting fuel from common rocks
and food from wheat stalks, roots
and plantlife that today is discarded as worthless.

coral dust, Russia,
mammoth, radio, butter,
paving on Tuesday.

(found poem via The Altus Times-Democrat, Monday May 21, 1956)

detail a day 351

my father's ferlinghetti,
mom's jazz, her neruda