All I have left of my grandfather
is his hands,
his way of standing
Of my grandmother, I have her
the smoke curling upward
in the dark of the night.
Of my aunt, the
nickname she called me–
And my uncle,
the sound of his laughter,
his tipsy stumble the last Christmas,
his nap with socks on
in the bedroom in the corner.
How long is left
until I’ve lost
all the pieces
of the people I love?
I took a tour through my father’s childhood–
the house on Coles Boulevard,
the hill where his elementary used to be.
We drove down main street and
he told me all the names
of stores no longer there.
We stopped by the church
where my grandmother misheard
that Hare Krishnas were in the sanctuary
instead of hairy creatures.
I asked the questions I never had,
learned things I never knew.
No one still alive knows how my
My grandfather ran the motor pool
in World War II.
How my great-grandmother, my namesake
put up with my raving lunatic
of a great-grandfather.
I can never marry
a man named Frank.)
Sweet blood, tobacco in the air
lifts conversation to a plane so rare
that I can see the Indian red tobacco grow
at the overflow end of the chicken row
and feel the sanctity of an inner office
where a friend hides in authority.
Trust takes me back to certainty
in even my meanderings.
I sit again at the melamine surface
of the trailer’s fold-out table where
I was given license to know.
I praise the providence my parents
gave me, setting me out underneath
the stars. Grandparents, teachers,
suspicious friends, I thank you all.
I witness glory in consumption,
the poets’ feeding frenzy,
floating their identities past Mars.
The two of us
hung our underwear out to dry
on the balcony,
unprepared for rain, for luggage gone astray,
for foreign buses,
thieving teenagers on the subway,
and women begging in the market
with their nipples hanging over
The two of us stood in the rain
to see the Sistine Chapel,
Accidentally heard the Pope
give mass on New Year’s Day,
Ate coconut fresh from the hull
after dropping our coins in
The two of us
stood in the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus,
put our hands in the Mouth of Truth,
Saw holy relics, famous sculptures,
and gilded ceilings.
The two of us
made memories to last
Slide this syllable and that one together and you
Get the light fading from blue through orange, purple and pink.
Put that syllable with another,
And you get laughter,
Toes dangling in the air,
Falling through the air
To thump back to the ground.
Even then, these syllables together
To the Italian or the German,
The Chinese or African.
All these syllables floating around,
waiting to be scooped up by tongue
or pen to paint the pictures
in our minds.
If my words could shake time,
oceans of mistakes bearing ill tidings until morning breaks,
perhaps things would be different.
I’ve watched the static of silence scrawl itself across your skin,
a life in flames watching a torrent of wandering days lose themselves
in the cataclysmic arms of eternity.
(Seven years old, searching for miracles in plastic eggs.
Each minute a new discovery etches itself out in smiles and
dyes the day in hues of laughter.)
Flash forward; a young man now, Ben stands by his grandfather’s coffin,
eight days away from lying in one of his own.
Tears sear tracks in a face of cracking stone, hesitating for but a moment
on trembling lips.
He will go from being a pallbearer to being buried in just over a week.
The songs held within his chest weave spiderweb fissures
into the fabric of perfection.
You’re not old enough to sleep yet.
There were white horses under the hood of that truck-
three tons of shattered tomorrows ensure
you don’t come back from things like this.
The harp of your voice has no place in a call to dispatch, kid.
I know, I’ve read your story enough times to understand
your brightest desire was to leave behind the love
you held within every breath.
There ain’t a prize inside that box.
Hours spent peeling away a tin lid
looking for an answer we already know.
The last picture of you tattooed on my retinas:
tear-stained, cigarette eternally planted between your lips
Somewhere, I hope you’re still dancing.
One more day to write a poem –
Can I salvage some elusive thoughts
That never made it to paper?
Like finally fundamentally understanding why Elvis was shocking?
Or how it is hard to put flowers on only one side of a grave –
How some days the way the light hits the barns is profound
and I am moved to tears
but not for you.
I. they say eatin’ pussy
is the devil’s work
so i go down
II. you suck
in noah’s ark
at the bible themed
putt putt course
like it’s the only hope
In the rock garden, orange day lilies
rest their heads on pillows of clover,
gazing up at the torn cotton
that creeps across the sky.
Yesterday they stood with their colors
wrapped tight against the stinging rain;
then, straining toward the first slant
of yellow morning light, they opened.
Now they rest, reclining like prima
ballerinas across the garden floor,
stretched out in their morning drama,
exhausted from the bloom.
Your blue, run down van is in the middle of an unknown road
Crying by yourself very low
All alone in the wind
You didn’t figure out
How to start again
How to make it on your own
You could’ve called me on the telephone
But you didn’t really wanna know
What’s goin on
You said your goodbyes
You hung up on yourself
A little black buggy
Came speeding around the corner
He didn’t have time to warn ya
But you didn’t need it
Cause you always knew
You’d end up black and blue
I tried calling you on the telephone
To see how life was goin
Do I really wanna know?
You’re unconscious on a road