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Jack of Many Trades

Vents

layers and layers of humming

white noise gone blinding

weighing down the noise

of a thousand thousand thoughts

that wouldn’t quiet themselves

pressing me down, curling

my spine, as I sink

down and pull the noise,

a blanket over my head

Business Trip

moonlight like a dropcloth over the landscape

blurring the shapes and throwing deep shadows

don’t look at the clock because it tells lies

saying you’re almost there when you’ll never

arrive. here in the high desert the roads flow

on, Möbius strips of tar over the scrub bushes

your foot pushes a little harder on the pedal

weighed down with the distance you’ve driven

and the emptiness ahead, valleys of pure void

with no well of light to welcome you home

Mixed Signals

her eyes were traffic lights

amber and glowing

daring me to go faster

to test my luck

why should I slow down

when I only need

to push a little harder

let her pull

then a flash of sun

on a bumper

at sunset, and after that

it’s only red

The Tenth Plague

when I cut the cord

the first rush of anxiety

cut through me in return,

other roads and possibilities

slowly beating to a stop,

crumbling to sand in shaking hands

I was bowed before the finality

of the obligation, with no

take-backs, no regrets,

refusing to run out into the sea

and being drowned regardless

I hold back the tide of fear

with faith and deep breaths

we have a precious burden

not to be lifted, for she will have

so much work to do

Hermitage

I keep the windows closed

so no one can see me looking out of them

tracking my corner of the world

by sound instead, the trains passing by

in the night with screeches

that leave me tense and waiting

for crashes that never come, car doors

slamming and greetings as neighbors

come and go to work or welcome friends,

the ambient brightness of

other peoples’ porch lights (never mine)

occasional sirens, garbage trucks,

all the shrieking thuds

of the industrial warehouses

across the tracks

I keep time by the roar

of airplanes on approach,

by the flicker of streetlamps,

by the morning and the evening commute

as they track across the sky

of my awareness, now sunrise,

now sunset, now the deepest of midnight,

now three in the morning

when it’s finally safe

to walk outside and breathe

and mark the winds

Skull and Crossroads

there’s a certain stiffness when I turn my neck

not the kind I’m used to, a different sense

of rubber bands rubbing against sharp corners,

elastic stretched too tight and knotted up.

when I reach up there’s a small blossom of pain

against my fingertips, a certain swelling

that isn’t supposed to be there, that I check

with both hands against the right side.

fear settles low inside my chest, beating

moths against a rib cage, circling a flame

that sputters, anxious, but never manages

to go out, never manages to burn brightly.

endless high-pitched echoes stretch ahead

one beep after another, bouncing around my head

as I struggle to hold my breath, to never move,

magnetic resonance drawing me back there again.

Miscalculation

the wind is like nothing

he’s fought off before, frost biting

as he pokes his head out

he wrestles a glance around

no answers blowing

no ride home, he ducks

back inside, discontent

but stranded in the ruins

Radioactive

copper wires pulse through vinyl skin.

do they taste like blood or does

the blood taste like them? I’ve lost

track. we’re all machines anyway, iron

and electronic pulses in the wires,

looking for someone to write the code.

in any programming class the teacher

will tell you that the computer has no

heart, no response, no ill will. if it

gives you garbage, you put your crumpled

receipts and taco wrappers in there.

it can do only what you’ve programmed

and no more.

on the train home I’m bent over my laptop,

cursing the compiler and my own weaknesses.

someone’s asking for change and I hand him

a dollar. the next guy complains about him,

about the poor, about society and why

doesn’t he just get a job anyway. I hesitate

and turn up my headphones.

when the program finally runs I laugh

under my breath, then look down, avoiding

the eyes of my fellow commuters.

at least my creation does what I tell it

and the bitter taste in my mouth is

probably blood and not copper at all.

Twilight

she stands under the corpse-grey sky

her heart insubstantial, nothing but

an illusion cast by her mind, the light

playing with her again.

she is the bone in the rabid dog’s mouth,

shaken, hair in her eyes, silk stitching

her mouth shut, ears closed against the horns.

none of it penetrates, none of it is real

least of all dying.

Horticulture

I grew up a plant

in the dark, overshadowed and unsure

what sunlight was, reaching

for it anyway, confused

when I found myself with a handful

of stardust or moon rocks or broken glass.

Not sunlight, as everyone

was quick to point out.

I’ve built myself a greenhouse

out of old windows and wire.

I get pretty good reception out here

and it’ll help gather up

all the sunlight that’s going to come

any day now,

when they all move out of the way.

I’m spending all this time, though,

with sparkling glass shards and stardust,

shiny rocks and bits of tin foil.

I’m not so worried anymore

about that sun I’ve never seen.

Memory

again with the crows

in the tree outside my apartment

on the line above the bus stop

circling over the building

where I work. they don’t speak

to me but I know they’re

keeping an eye out.

when I was a child

my father was an idea and not

personal, not like my mother

who wrapped me in blankets and guilt.

he was there, always,

if I talked, he talked back

but I was awkward

and he was awkward.

silence seemed the solution.

at the county fair, he came with me

on the ferris wheel, mom and tiny sister

left below. wind blew around me,

caught my hair, my imagination, my wings,

sent me flying with a hundred images

and nothing to say,

just circling around his silence.

I call for the holiday and when

I get silent, my mother hands him

the phone. we sit like that, breathing

at each other, still as strangers.

finally my mother thinks of

something else I should have done,

takes it back, and I realize

I prefer honest silence.

the morning when there are no crows

is too still.

As If

spiders crawling the web-shattered screen

music up too loud, black eyes daring anyone

to say something, to complain, to offer

to save her, and I’d swear she can see through me,

x-ray vision to the spandex under my jeans.

I watch her put on makeup, flawless hands

on a jerking train, the most graceful fly I’ve ever seen

caught, tied, twisting, a trapeze artist who’s far more

elegant than I’ve ever been in the air

as if you can save me, she glares.

I’ve been caught looking, I’m the one left twisting,

awkward. as if.

she walks away from the train into the sunset-night,

into the park across the street. I could follow her-

I’m not the fastest, but it wouldn’t be hard-

but the doors close and I let her go.

as if I could save her.

as if I could save anyone. as if.

Let It Go

the thing about ice is

you think it’s solid but it’s not,

it’s just slowed down, sometimes

waiting to break loose in the river,

sometimes on glacial time

but still moving

you can’t stay where you are.

the earth rotates, air cycles

through your lungs, and even a broken

heart still beats twice a day.

Slam

I see your hair blowing in the wind

well-shampooed, posed, perfectly poised

your emotions set just so

like a home decorator came through

and arranged your pain in neat vignettes

a broken mug, a lost ring, a gunshot

one set against the other for contrast

you drape yourself in red

drawing the curtain to protect yourself

even as you turn inside out

begging her to trip on your intestines

and fall into your arms

and wear your blood for a dress

but she persists in wearing white

crisp and bleached and insulting

taunting you with her starch

and her high heels

the way she never falls

the way you never have to catch her

the way she never lets you hold her up

she slaps you

when you try to remove her glasses

refusing to be blinded by you

she keeps her hair up tight

against your remodeling advances

and will not be your prom date

in a button-down white gown

lace peeking out from sleeves you will never push up

ruffles spreading into bleached-white wings

as she ascends

to heights too rarefied and towers too ivory

for your breath to catch

her hand does not slip from yours

she lets go, preferring the embrace of gravity

to your own halting attempts

to tie her to the earth in red silk and gold claws

you did not lose her

she was never yours to lose

To Scale

she climbed her own tower,

with hook and rope and fingertips

dug into the chinks in the stone.

she let the sounds of the forest

fade below her, only her heavy breath

and the blood rushing in her own ears.

through the window at the top,

she collapsed onto the cool stone floor

and pulled the rope up after her.

sweat mixed with salt tears,

drying together into a mask on her skin.

she relished the silence, her footfalls

deliberate clicks, the echoes fully

under her control. she kept herself

warm with her own fires on stone beds.

if she noticed when her footsteps

became claw-tipped and the mask

became scales and freedom burst

from her back in leather wings,

the tower become a mountain steeped

in magic and salt falls, she said nothing

but there was no one to speak to.

over time she forgot what she had been

before she wore scales.

when she heard heavy breathing

outside below her cave, she looked down

in confusion to see a young woman there.

“I am fleeing a marriage,” she confessed.

“May I…?” she didn’t finish, but

the dragon welcomed her in, fed her

and combed her hair as best she could

with claws that had long forgotten,

held her while she cried and waited

until she slept before enjoying

the sound of breathing around her.


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