The way you can’t swallow, a thick throat, swollen with the need for a wet drop, that was their country. The hunter left his family to gather supper, a hog to slaughter. The kill would happen early, while the woman and children would pick cotton. The hunter would return with blood on his hands, food for bellies. With death, there’s …
We owe everything to those we love
but are indebted to hate, like heat.
Santa and snow both work for Jesus, seasonally,
so the gifts come in mysterious ways, occasionally.
How will snow fall? Slowly, or devouring year-around beauty,
only noticing a bland white world on the way to work.
How will gifts arrive? One-by-one, or all through the roof?
How will I die? In a million pieces, or in a one old shell?
You wait for Santa, or salvation, or snow, just to wait
until you’re old enough to know waiting is all we want.
But you can always laugh at butthole-shaped snowflakes.
And if they never fall, you can die knowing
with luck, we’ve lived to when we can remember
what never was—
What we never were: things of beauty,
angels singing to the newborn king.
Oh, ho-ho, what’s that, poet, you hate Christmas? It’s capitalism
with the heart of cannibalism as Coca-Cola Santa blows
sharp frozen snot rockets over sleeping Afghan children?
You want to slap the smile off Walmart’s mascot because
you survived the Black Friday plague but carry disease:
a Claymation childhood and a craving for hot cocoa.
You’ll use Red Rider to assassinate neighbor’s ornaments,
shooting down stars and couples in accidental mistletoe moments?
You’ll survive the Yule times, you’ll see, not by a king’s birth,
Ho-ho-ho! No! But by one good Christmas blockbuster.
Muppets and Griswalds can bring cleansing artificial snow.
Even Grinches and Scrooges are due for a 38th
no matter if the North Pole is run on slave labor,
no matter how many buy bravery by daring to want or desire.
All art is pursued bliss, and some will hate this, but all I wish
is for all poets to have a Mad Merry Christmas.
We desire death in bookstores. Devour us for all time,
like a paperback Prometheus. But poetry? That’s what people
hope you don’t write when they hear of your scribbling.
Art by hand comes hard, then sells for nothing but a body’s
destruction. There’s love, but there’s no difference when you end used.
Surely, I spent too much time on my bio, back page blurb, seeking
a bestselling author’s photo: unblemished cheeks and bleached teeth.
Don’t work hard for bad art, it comes naturally, ecstatically. Know
you will be used: shelved to resell to loveless strangers browsing
for bargains: bushmen living on safari, hunting for a buck. Hasn’t
someone told them if they want to live, don’t do it off of books—
especially in the desert of writers no one knows—I am obscure, half price
but still worthless, sharing shelves, paper smell, set text on decayed trees.
Stiff but broken spines, I find myself for the first time, two for one, far
from Dr. Seuss, too close to Shakespeare.
Dance through tunes of a hopeless world, impressed only when
shoes are strained of toenails, broken ankles, and when ginormous
pulled groins are censored. We clap for final productions only;
we reserve cheers, like gold, for anything but hopeful failures:
uncooked golden nuggets of bulbous teenage bellies.
The smell of travel bagged chips collapses in seat cracks as
the collected audience shifts to complain to phone screens
so they won’t look up to see strobe-lit dazzle: tasseled sequin shame
as form-fitting as latex gloves over gasping human heads.
There are no sweat beads, but they wear never-weary smiles.
To work would be to stop smiling, and that’s all they have.
There is nothing noble in so many things, certainly bad dancing.
They are each perpetual failures in slippers moving in missteps with misshapen
thick hips before anyone screams that dancing is a bad decision.
The audience does not connect eyes, same as any first time,
ensuring at least one of us is having a good time. Young dazzled girls
should be anywhere else, on top of anything but a stage:
under their first boyfriend, under headphones, under the influence
Our self-portraits are warning labels on cigarette packets.
Bones burn as white wedding chapels afire, alone among desert dunes;
as smoke stains heaven’s floorboards, we use angel’s halos as toilet bowls.
There is more than deviancy in our beautified bodies and emptying glasses.
We’re the boys and girls next door—you can hear our fucking
through walls. When it stops, we write about yesterday
for tomorrow’s sake because we won’t remember tonight.
And you’ll hate us, because we’ll love you for what you don’t—
We want your dull bones, chilled blood; we’ll bring you fire as
we move mountains to drain oceans. We don’t sleep, but we dream
for all who live to sleep. For them, we’ll see mankind’s monumental end.
We can’t tell you how to live—all writers write is how to live lost.
All we want isn’t fifteen-minutes of fame, we seek failure:
to write false starts, to stand at the sidelines sucking Gatorade
as people play atop a lop-sided slant believing all the world is level.
Say speaking up is the devil, we’ll just call it our nightly hobby.
Earth dry gulps but breathes a sigh of relief as we banish paper asteroids
to waste bins, but dies during billion dollar summer blockbusters.
Earth lives for Big Gulps and telling art to shut the fuck up! It’s trying
to sleep. But we keep the bed hot, sheets sweaty, the swirled world burning.
Pancakes on holiday plates affirm life as
the children scramble around eggs to eat
all the bacon they can as puppy dog licks soaked socks,
thanking us for no fleas and plenty to chew.
Be kind, kids. Be the kind of rain
that makes construction workers pay for cocaine.
Don’t be sad too often, be happy and open to
being an island, making others safe. Be in love. Give.
We gave to the young generation’s rage
against the remains of the Greatest Generation,
when she screamed, “Save the wrapping paper!”
It wasn’t the act of giving. It was seeing
finger-pressed, perfectly taped paper
fully destroyed by little beastly fingers.
Stubbed toes from stared at cell phones, stitched struggling shoes,
a mixer of well-off wanderers and commoners off on Wednesday,
planning Black Friday blues, but not grandmothers wielding
baseball bats for canes to beat teenage girls like eggs to delights
in store: cotton confections–You know?
Frayed knot. A person is their shoes, their pace,
the smell of new shoes on old feet: wild grown nails,
telling themselves they’re adorable in everything, including
a grave, including another line, tapping toes until another
coffee cup, standing how their husbands do at urinals.
This is what happens when one counts shoes, eight hundred pair,
journeying to stores like handless ships to fabric store shores.
Some clack, some shuffle, some struggle with high mileage strollers
towards chocolates or candied pee-cans, the bookstore, though,
is closed, making the mall as ridiculous as socks in flip-flops,
off-brand tapered jeans, truncated ankles, leading to expensive
stores with quick refund methods:
in minutes your money is back
in someone else’s bank, but only after you’re thanked in a
foreign dialect, elegant, but I hope they’re regional rednecks from
a place that holds hands, prays thanks and that nothing changes.
City folk wanted to be country folk on small acreage for a high price,
no longer so close to circumstantial good neighbors.
A retirement town with the heart of sandwich shops, wineries,
safe school syllabi. The open range land deal closed in November,
motivating an elder to be sick of her family’s turkey day apathy.
She needed nature. Obsessively inconveniencing offspring
looking like a smiling stranger in alley shadows, she planned ill
with a family outing no one wanted to face.
“The land should be celebrated. Blessings need thanks.”
Then she appealed to the insanity of family: “This could be my last.”
None of the generations she mothered and grandmothered pitied.
“You like the outdoors. That character you like is always outside,”
she said to her grandson who always had a book in hand.
“Another Thanksgiving, but on new land, outside on a blanket,
on even ground, just like Nick Adams? Why can’t we be like
the character’s author and eat shotgun pellet stuffing.
That would be a blessing.”
On Thanksgiving, a family of four opened their doors,
toilet seats, and oven for another four-member family.
The visitors normally hid from society; the only time they
left their property was for a John Birch Society meeting.
An enticing Thanksgiving invite sent them to a dangerous world.
Two visiting children stared at the Thanksgiving spread like voyagers
horrified at an endless ocean ahead. Their father was honored
to say grace. He gave thanks for hospitality, Plymouth Rock, the food
and asked for the doom of the looming New World Order soon.
He sent God requests to save his hosts from the world police,
and to stay successful no matter what the global banks planned.
His sons nodded, his wife’s mouth muttered an affirmed amen.
The sons of hosts lost curiosity when sweet potatoes passed.
During dessert, the line between insanity and stability widened.
The table dynamics would never overlap in a Venn Diagram.
Damning demographics, the hosts sent their children away to
Thanksgiving television, along with the two young guests.
“Please,” the visiting mother petitioned, “no parades today.”
Twelve-year-old temptation didn’t need to taste, just a whiff
of what not to do. Visitors lost their reflections in charcoal television.
Before images, they searched the black, seeing faces look back.
The older gawker, jealous of TV, bragged he could carry one of these—
a knife teemed with attachments, sharp solutions for circumstances.
Television played to jealousy. The shine of a knife layered in lint;
the oldest said he hid it under an upturned coffee cup in a cupboard.
There weren’t many places to hide possessions in their immobile RV.
Their world was small so Communists had nowhere to hide.
Except under coffee cups.
Static cling covered the screen. The visiting sons were asked
what they did for fun. They said shoot guns, and at night,
reload rounds by a campfire as their mother hummed hymns.
Their literature was John Birch newsletters—
they quit processes when the parade procession played.
Turkey tryptophan and seasonal carbohydrates
sent each boy to sleep, to dream
of sharp objects hiding like
hymn humming Communist spiders
under coffee cups.