On our first date, she talks about her trauma

featured in the poetry forum April 15, 2024  :: 1 comment

and she says, “You’re not saying anything”
and I tell her I’ve said a hundred things,
maybe a thousand words
since we sat down here
in this bar where everything is blood-red pitch-black

and we’re stuffed into chairs for kindergarteners
and she says, “Tell me something interesting”
and I think of all of the facts stuffed in my skull,
how much I hate the fucking ads online and
offline and supermarket apples can be up to

a year old and how you can’t hum if you hold
your nose and how the coworkers when I worked
in China all told me the moon landing was fake and
there’s an ant species that’s only found in Manhattan,
but here comes her trauma again, like leaves, and my V.A.

PTSD counselor told me not to share what happened
with anyone except therapists, because the world
doesn’t want to hear about certain traumas and this
poem would never get accepted if I told you what
happened, so instead all I will give you is fake

chandeliers and overpriced drinks with fruit carved
into umbrellas and this woman who has eyes the color
of ants I stepped on one time, a pile of them, in Arizona,
where they climbed up my leg and stung me with
the intent that they were going to do it for a million years.

editors note:

Nothing stings worse than indifference. – mh clay

The Ten Greatest Love Poems Ever Written

featured in the poetry forum January 27, 2024  :: 1 comment

sit in front of me. They don’t look nervous.
They look a bit exhausted. It’s been centuries
for some of them where they’ve been
one of The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written, so they’re a bit bored with it
at this point. One poem looks at me, though,
with an expression like, What am I doing here?
I want to hug that poem, try to say some words
of encouragement, how, in fact, it just might be
The Greatest of The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written. But I worry about that word Great.
It reminds me of political jingoism. It reminds me
of grate. And even the word Poem is weird too.
It comes from the Greek for fiction. It’d be funny
if the word fiction comes from the Greek for poem.
I’m Greek. I’m weird. I look at the poems and

they’re all English. The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written all live not too far from London.
I don’t believe it. I’m wondering if the critic
who made the list is from London. I call up
the critic for The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written and he says, “Hello?” with a tone
of accusation. I say, “Hi, my name’s Ron.”
And the critic for The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written says, “I don’t like that name.
I think we should switch that name. How about
Drayton?” I try to explain that my name’s not
Drayton and the critic for The Ten Greatest Love
Poems Ever Written tells me I should also say
“Hi” with much more enthusiasm. He tells me
to start again from the beginning. I say that,
no, “I’m just trying to find out if you’re from

London.” And the critic tells me that is an
atrocious sentence, an awful sentence, that
the English language wasn’t discovered in order
to be brutalized, that it wasn’t unearthed from
the catacombs just so that people like me could
bury it. And I interrupt and say that I think
the critic might give a more accurate list of
The Ten Greatest Hate Poems Ever Written
and I hang up. The Ten Greatest Love Poems
Ever Written, of course, heard all of this, so
“How Do I Love Thee,” by Elizabeth Barrett
Browning comes up to me and puts her arms
around me and starts crying. I ask her where
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is and the poem
tells me, “Why, she’s dead. She died in 1806
of what they think might’ve been hypokalemic

periodic paralysis.” That’s awful, I say. “Well,
it’s going to happen to you too, one day, maybe
not that, but something else. It’s inevitable.”
And that’s when “Love’s Philosophy,” by
Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “Come now, we
are not The Ten Greatest Death Poems Ever
Written, let’s not be so morbid.” And Elizabeth
Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee,”
said, “What kind of a name is Bysshe? It sounds
like the sound a tire makes when it’s punctured.”
That’s when “Annabel Lee,” by Edgar Allan Poe
came over, a bit tipsy, and I said, “Poe? I didn’t
know you were here. I love Poe.” “Annabel
Lee” blushed. I could hear the sea the closer
they came—her, and the sea, and, yes, Poe, too,
emerging from the fog, and I hugged him, long.

editors note:

Proof that lists are totally subjective constructs and poems have a lot more to say if we listen. – mh clay

The People Who Say Halloween is Better Than Christmas

featured in the poetry forum October 31, 2023  :: 0 comments

are sexier. But the people who say Christmas
is better than Halloween are nicer. Except for
the people who are angry about it. The people
who think Halloween is better than Christmas
like to listen to punk, sometimes. The people
who think Christmas is better than Halloween
tend to make more money. They also own
more guns. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing
makes sense. At least that’s what the people
who like Halloween better than Christmas say.
I know. I’m one of them. Here comes a ghost!

editors note:

How many guns do you own? – mh clay

My Hometown Writes Me a Letter Asking Me If I Will Please Consider Suicide

featured in the poetry forum May 18, 2023  :: 0 comments

for their sake.
The hometown tells me
it has grown tired
of my exhaustion.
The hometown has stolen
all the ideas I have ever had.
The hometown tells me that it is awarding
a medal to everyone who didn’t grow up in the hometown.
The hometown says that my family’s restaurant
has burned down, but, it says, it makes for some wonderful pictures.
The hometown says that it is no longer my home
and barely is a town.
The hometown erases my name

from my birth certificate.
The hometown says that my new name is
The Book of the Dead.
The hometown says there is a No Trespassing sign
where I used to like to walk.
The hometown remembers when it would get so cold
that cows’ ears would freeze and break off.
The hometown teaches me a new word: hown,
which means you own the hell out of someone.
The hometown is a large heavy book, a tome, and it forces me to carry it to its cemetery
where my uncle used to light dynamite and throw it into the nearby swamps.
The hometown has a bluff where at least six people have either thrown themselves off
in desperation or tripped and fell, which it is, it’s hard to tell.

editors note:

Hometowns are for hightailing it, posthaste. – mh clay

I know a kid who got killed by the police.

featured in the poetry forum December 3, 2022  :: 0 comments

He was a kid. His wife was pregnant, but
he was a kid. Just out of high school.
He looked like a kid. He was white.

Most of the people I know are either white
or indigenous or a mix of white
and indigenous or mostly white
but identify as indigenous or mostly
indigenous but identify as white,
and this poet laureate I know who
is mixed said that mixed indigenous
have the same killed-by-police rates
as indigenous who aren’t mixed.

I remember when the cops pulled me
over and I was moving, so my car was packed
to the hilt, where I made sure that the windows
weren’t blocked, but other than that every nook
and cranny was filled with everything I owned
in the world and it was a barren street so it was just
me and the cops and the sun and the day was hot
and it was noon so the sun was ready for a full
day of cooking us slowly and the cops asked if I had
any drugs in the car and I said no and they asked
if I had any drugs in the car and I said no and they
asked if I had any drugs in the car for a third time
and I said no and they told me to step out of the car
and it was a barren street and the sun wouldn’t be
able to do anything and there were no drugs in the car
and the sun was in the car and they told me to empty my car
and I said I couldn’t do that and they said they could arrest me
and I said for? and they asked if I had any drugs in the car
and I said no and they asked if I had any guns in the car
and I didn’t know why they changed it to guns all of a sudden
and they told me they could bring me to the station and
I said there wasn’t anything in the car and they said they weren’t
so sure of that, that the car looked pretty full to them,
but there weren’t any guns in the car or any drugs in the car
and they made me take everything out and I mean everything,
all my property—pillows and photos and books and scrapbooks
and paper that got loose and up and flew away in the wind
and my bedsheets were in the dirt on the side of the road and
a fan was on the side of the road and all my clothes, right there,
my underwear right there, my toothbrush and toothpaste in the dirt
and a car went by and its driver looked at me and I looked at her
and there was nothing I could do and then when the trunk was empty,
the car was empty, they took flashlights and they found no drugs
and they found no guns and they told me to drive more carefully,
when I had been driving perfectly and everything was on the side
of the road, this bizarre sight of a car with all its doors open, the trunk
open, and a lamp in the grass and a mirror up against a rock showing all
of this in duplicate and I put everything back in the car, slowly, them
standing there, watching.

And I had a friend who was killed
by the police. And his wife was pregnant. And he looked like a kid.
Because he was.

editors note:

A search for drugs, guns, life; but no seizure. – mh clay

Everywhere

May 3, 2022  :: 0 comments

I clean psych wards. That’s my job.  Once a week, I depill. For four separate wards in the county. I go from room to room and look for pills. They’re everywhere. The patients hide them in plants, behind the toilet, under the toilet cover, in gum stuck under the toilet rim, in every single crevice of their mattress. I’ve shaken …

Putain

featured in the poetry forum March 7, 2022  :: 0 comments

“You can’t imagine how stupid the whole world has grown nowadays.”
―Nikolai Gogol
born Apr 1, 1809, Ukraine
died Feb 21, 1852, Russia

No, through all my tears I still shall laugh,
Sing songs despite my troubles;
Have hope despite all odds,
I want to live!”
—Lesya Ukrainka
“Contra Spem Spero!” [I hope against hope!] born Feb 25, 1871, Ukraine

It’s raining in Ukraine today, now, raining
rain and bombs. Ex-Pres Donald Trump

calls this an act of “genius.” Disingenuous.
The art of whore. Excuse me, I meant to say

Putain, in French, means ‘whore.’ It’s spelled
Tee-are-you-em-pee. That’s P. Like urine.

Gee, are you empty-headed? Showers today
in Kyiv. Echoes of “I was put in a narrow

cell with a concrete floor.” And sanctions
will be softened by China. Dedovshchina

sanctioned by Russia, internal violence
that’ll be spread to the world. The way

that the 1918 influenza pandemic and
World War I were wed. The way that

Covid-19 and Cold War have gnawed
on the world. Watch how Russia will

infect us, this world, with viruses, both
biological and technological. And all

illogical. Stress ill. Sick. “How stupid
the whole world.” The world holed.

Whored. Bodies soon wheelbarrowed.
Helled. How the dies in bodies was

always right there. All you have to do
is open your eyes. This will go beyond

Ukraine. A reign. In blood. Crimea crime.
A ruse. A rush. What’s next? Belarus?

Finland? My home? Villages seized. And
this means epilepsy. Diseased. Destroyed.

I woke to find a world of smoke. Night-
mared. Vladimired. Vlad the Empirer–

another actual Big Brother. If you
have a camera, then film. If you are

a writer, then write. If you’re a fighter,
then fight. Wake up. The world is

at war again. Guerre. Beware. Be
aware. I want to live. I want to live.

I want to live! I want to live! I want
to live! I want to live! I want to live!

editors note:

Just cuz it’s “over there” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t beware! – mh clay

In This Poem, My Body is Viewed as Perfect for Guarding Things and My Hands are Viewed as Perfect for Giving Direct Pressure for Spurting and My Writing is Not Viewed at All

featured in the poetry forum May 15, 2021  :: 0 comments

At the job interview, they ask me if I am good with working at night.
They hire me for nights.
At the job interview, they ask me if I am good at working in bad neighborhoods.

They hire me to work in my neighborhood.
At the job interview, they ask me if I am good at working alone.
They hire me to work with a boss who practices all of the different forms of hostile environment on me. He is exceptionally good at it.

At the job interview, they ask me if I am OK with being exposed to radiation.
They hire me to be exposed to radiation, refusing to give me a dosimeter, even though the hiring paperwork said they would give me a dosimeter. My boss tells me one night, Radiation never hurt anyone.
At the job interview, they ask me if I am OK with having my fingers broken.

They hire me to have my fingers broken and what I didn’t realize is that this would be done by myself, on a monthly basis, in front of a board who would critique each break with a sheet that I would have to sign with pen in my mouth.
At the job interview, they ask me if I like elevator music.
I say I do not and then they place me inside of an elevator and play me a tape of a Cadillac being crushed in a pig-slaughter room, explaining to me that any music played in an elevator is ‘elevator music,’ and I try to explain to them that these sounds are not music and they explain to me that I am being filmed.

editors note:

For playback at breaktime. – mh clay

Fear / Police / More Fear / More Police

featured in the poetry forum July 4, 2020  :: 0 comments

i

and I am afraid of the police and thankful for the police and afraid
of the police and I rode with the police and one cop was a racist
but another cop was a real cop and we can only focus on the racist cop
as if only he exists when that good cop exists that I rode along with
and maybe he was only good for those 8 hours I was with him
and maybe the racist was only racist for the ∞ hours I was with him
or maybe we use statistics in any way that we want and maybe I’m so lonely
that I ride along with police or maybe it’s a way for me to get over my fear,
capiophobia, how I was in class and a kid said, You know nothing about fear,
because he thought he owned fear and I remember the smoking of pain,
the world running down, how when I was an ambulance driver, a guy
having a heart attack in back, and this cop gave us a police escort
all the way to the hospital and I cried because I hated cops at the time,
fear of the cops at the time, watching this fear try to help save lives
and I remember driving with that good cop and driving down the street
and five people flipped him off, not five people together, but spread apart,
so that the fingers came, the night came, the strange moment, me asking him
if that happens all the time and the cop saying that they’re not flipping him off
but flipping off the uniform, the vehicle, the gun hanging, hidden, above his head,
and I asked if that affects him, the fingers, and he didn’t say anything, the city ugly,
like a disillusion, a fallout, a macro-aggression, a microphone on his chest,
the graffiti on fire, like fire, is fire, destroying a window, destroying a wall, destroying
a mailbox, destroying a mural, a train, a house, a sidewalk, a fire hydrant, a sewer,
destroying a sewer, except you can’t, and they can’t, and I can’t, because the police
are there, and maybe that’s a good thing and maybe that’s hell, but the way we talk
about things in this country’s with the gloves on, one-sided, false, or, worse,
two-sided, as if that’s all that exists, as if no one exists, as if we replace discrimination
with discrimination, as if the end is the beginning, as if we should hate hate, as if
I told my wife, The summer’s coming. We have to get ready for the fires.

ii

a neighbor upstairs says through the thin walls, America’s flag should just be bullet holes . . .

iii

We need you to
paint the bottom of the stairs again
take out the garbage
clean up this shit
clean up this vomit
help with the blood
pick all these dead rabbits out of the barbed wire
commit suicide
take off your pants
put your hands behind your back
shut your fucking mouth
do what I tell you
tell us if this hurts
go back to where you came from
take off your thong
help us with the body
find his finger
get on your knees
tell us what happened
report to human resources
bag up all your clothing
get tested
stand where those footprints are
pretend like you didn’t see this
sit there
kill these birds
find the exit wound
disconnect
search for any UXOs
fill out these forms
paint the bottom of the stairs again

iv

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editors note:

All the feelings, find your UXOs (unexploded ordinance). Read this again… – mh clay

How to Prepare to Watch The Lighthouse

April 11, 2020  :: 0 comments

Don’t be alarmed if alarms alarm in your head. Remember, the lighthouse of your body is in your head. The island of your head. I have a head. It alarmed during the film. But this is because I am a horror fan and this was horror is horror and I got in an argument with a Poet Laureate from Minnesota …