I am a round rock
Laying in a river bed
Many days I tumbled
The ice and sand-my home,
I cracked Against others like me-
Wayward, heavy, stones.
Pushed without cease
I suffered the rivers errant way,
Thrown without mercy
My edges were all shorn away.
Every corner - ground to nothing
Wondering what next could be in store,
Every cracked appendage
Wore me down a little more.
I knew myself to be shrinking,
And As I became smaller
I buckled down and I tightened my belt
but I loosened up my collar.
I am a round rock
Laying in a river bed
Countless angry, thrashing waves
Have crashed upon my head
The under tow picks at my feet-
Inviting me to sink-
Her embrace is tempting,
But the current denies me peace.
If I am smooth
It is because the rough was beaten from me
My prickling skin, battered down
But I am smooth because I fought back
And I refused to drown.
I am a round rock
Laying in a river bed
There is always something left to polish,
I have not seen the rivers end.
But when I reach that delta fan
I'll be smooth
Finally allowed some peace
Laying in its quiet sand.
The hulking, burnt out husks,
Of rusting semi trucks-
Sleep here in dead grass
The putrid, wafting smell,
Of bloated, hot soul-shells-
Caress cars from the road side
The lean frames and hungry eyes,
Of feral cats go slipping by-
Over oil stains and empty cans
Darkness settles in on us,
Inside our tiny mini bus-
We're on our way to meet a man
We check the ties on our wax wings,
We've heard its bright but worth the sting-
Inside the City of Angels
She said aloud to no one
Watching the shuffling patients file
Through whispering doors
To hallowed floors
Once spattered with blood and bile
Her mind is at ease in mountains
In forests, meadows, and glades
She longs to breathe the sea in
On these hot dense concrete days
Her aching heart is pattering
A slower sadder pace
Having in the smaller hours
Been made to feel displaced
The clotted, jerking flow
Of the hospital's sad parade
Seems a constant sorrow
Of the life that she has made.
The King of Sunken Treasures
My working man,
Has soiled hands,
His nails are lined with grease.
His calf brown eyes,
go flicking by,
the ghosts of things he's seen.
The hush hush whispered echoing,
Of the ocean, ever beckoning,
His sailing heart from home.
My working man,
Has softer hands,
Than you'd think of a sailor.
His wolffish grin,
is broader in,
Comparison to his rancor.
His Hours now are spent,
At ease with strong back bent,
Over keys instead of Pistons.
My working man,
At age 18 gave up civilian pleasures,
To sail the world,
And keep up ships,
The king of sunken treasures.
The dull ache of a familiar pain fingers its way through cracked and remodeled ribs
Your strained voice lets the suffering ooze out in small bursts
I am not sure if I am helping or not
but I try.
In between the shuddering tremors I can feel you go limp and heavy with a numbness like the crackling fuzz of a broken TV
My body responds with muscle memory
I imagine the invisible wounds you carry, untreated
Stuffed with gauze and wrapped quickly and carelessly
The burden of the yolk on your neck
Yet you stand upright
Your bones crack and your muscles ache with the weight
Yet you stand straight
Shoulders back, chest out, head up
Yesterday a little girl smiled at me
I thought of you
And I smiled back
The perpetual twilight of the city blots out the stars and blinds me with its arrogant glow. The dull static panic of sitting still begins to squeeze in on me. My seatbelt is a serpent, restricting ever tighter. My feet ache to feel the damp tight coils of moss on a fallen log. My lungs scream for the crisp bite of fresh mountain air as they circulate the grime and filth of this cracked asphalt purgatory. I am increasingly repulsed by the cool glare of linoleum under fluorescent lights, by the crumbling concrete barrier of a disheveled traffic island, by the ceaseless whine of cars. An unsavory wind blows the slick oil and grease smell of the Chinese restaurant across the street against me and my stomach turns. How do I survive in the city.
Patrolling the Stockyard.
"Betty," I called out softly. The pale, watery moons of her glazed eyes slowly made their way to my face, darting here and there in their effort to keep track. She blinked slowly twice, her partially toothless mouth half open. "Yes?" She managed. "Who was that man who came to visit you last night?" I asked. "Man?" She said reaching for her medication. Her trembling hands worked at the cap. I watched her struggle. What a cruel joke, to put Parkinson's medication in a child proof bottle. "Yes," I insisted,"he was standing in the doorway watching TV with you." "Mmmmdid he say anything?" She asked shaking out pill after pill from her endless supply. "No, he was just standing here, I almost ran into him in the hallway, I thought he was visiting you and Chris." "Hmmm what did he look like?" She asked without interest. The flickering candle light made the living room feel hot and close. Her makeshift bedroom was dark even though it was almost three in the afternoon. "He was a big guy, thick arms, kind of barrel chested, big guy, white shirt, denim jeans, I dunno, looked like a workin man I guess." "Oh," she said offhandedly, "did he look like this?" She held up a grainy photo of a burly man with a little girl. The cheap dollar store frame was coming apart at one corner and her wrinkled thumb was straining a running crack coming from it. "Yeah, that's the guy." "Oh," she chirped cheerfully, "that's my dad. He was here? I wish I had seen him." I returned to the attic where I had spent the night with her roommate/tenant, a girl I was seeing. "Remember the guy I told you I saw last night?" Her head lolled toward me lazily. "I asked Betty, she said it was her dad." "No it wasn't." she countered back curtly. I bit back my irritation as she took another drag off her menthol cigarette. "Well I described him to her and she showed me a photo of him so..."
The weight of her head tilting in my direction made her eyes roll before finding my face. Her mouth twisted to one side as she raised an eyebrow in a look that implied saint-like patience. "Hailee, Her dad has been dead for two years."
The smell stung my eyes. I turned away from the plastic bag and exhaled every molecule of oxygen from my lungs in a startled huff. Blinking away the tears I raised the back of a gloved hand to my nose. He had been dead for too long. I gently brushed the pad of my thumb over his toes admiring their distinct,endearing swirls. The nails were fairly clean and for a moment I marveled at the beauty of his fragile anatomy. A gentle breeze meandered through the unseasonably warm day and,caressing him briefly, carried his scent up to me again. I coughed and screwed my eyes shut. Every muscle in my torso crunched inward at the center, ejecting the foul air from my nose and mouth. Under furrowed brows I forced out a disgruntled huff, he was gorgeous but the smell was killing me, time to get to work. With a gentle touch I located the terminal point of the proximal tibia/fibula juncture and pulled the leg taut. Preparing to make the incision I tightened the skin with two fingers and watched it gently part under the tension. With dismay I realized he was too far gone to save any soft parts. His hands and feet were already de-gloving which meant nothing else would be much good. Disappointed I set my blade aside to examine the burst seam of his abdominal wall. As I rolled him onto his side, the rotted, copper green sludge of intestinal sepsis oozed out, leisurely. Some of his organs were still pink, save for the post mortem bruising of pooling blood. Pulling his legs straight, I steadied his upper back and shook him gently. The slippery, discolored intestines that had been peeking out slid onto my work surface with a pleased squelch. Like a trick at a birthday party I pulled the rubbery, knotted balloons of his large and small intestine out hand over hand. Mid way into the descending colon I snipped the squeaky, resistant tube. Unceremoniously I scooped his pulpy innards into a plastic bag to be disposed of separately. Lacking the bolt cutters necessary to access the heart I turned my attention to his face. I grabbed the back of his neck to turn his face to me. Under my hand the vertebrae were so badly damaged I could feel them crunching, grinding against each other. It felt like squishing a ziploc bag full of ground beef and broken glass. I grabbed a handful of hair at the back of the head only to have it pull completely off with the greatest of ease. Irritated, my hooded eyes slid from the thick tuft in my hand to the bald patch I had just created. I grasped the moist, separating skin at the back of the head firmly (not without a little grumbling.) Finally comfortable with my hold I turned his face to me and gazed down at the nightmarish maw of spattered death. The impact had split his skull into quarters with the facial bones on the right and left sides standing up and out, independent of his skin, like the mouth of the Predator. I could not find his eyes in the wreckage but I could distinguish some of his nose. As the remaining organs in his chest cavity began sliding into his (now, much roomier) abdominal cavity his head lolled back, his shattered mandible made a slight clicking as the bones rubbed together. His throat made a disgruntled glk-pop sound as the still wet and bloody soft tissue Of his esophagus parted with a sticky complaint. His visage was horrific. Part of his tongue had been protruding for some time and had dried out. The first third of it was crispy and black, the line where it met the rest of his pale pink tongue contrasted sharply. Some of his teeth were intact but it took some digging to find the bones of his lower jaw that had migrated closer to his ears to seek better opportunities. Cutting out a few portions of his maxilla and mandible I dropped them into a jar full of tap water and thought eagerly about the new teeth I'd have in a week. Stripping off my bloody and putrid gloves I looked over him again, although I knew I could do nothing else and I'd have to wait for the rest. I picked him up, with some difficulty, and lowered him into the shallow grave that would be his home until I could harvest his bones more easily. I covered him up and liberally sprinkled a desiccant over the site to trap any adventurous odors. I paused and looked down at the grave, mulling over my disappointment. I would have liked to keep one of his feet, just as a keepsake, shame he was in such a state of decay. I shrugged, maybe I'd get another chance soon, after all, it was getting to be that season. I slid the door open much more at ease, maybe I'd even get lucky and find a fox or a raccoon instead of a 'possum. You just never can tell.
"Let me give you some advice," she spat out like an angry cat. Her face was streaked with tears, red eyes burning with malice and the fiery will to destroy anything she saw unfit.
We were at the tail end of another four hour fight. I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, uncomfortable, feet aching. I stared,unfeeling, into her watery swollen eyes, her nose was red, arms crossed, chest wet with her streaming tears. Her face was contorted with anger, her features bloated. Her plump skin softly folded over itself again and again, lazy epidermal origami.I struggled to recognize her, could this really be the person I had spent the last five years with? Is this my wife? How could it be? I loved her so dearly once, I knew that much, but looking at her now....
My mind was blank as I took in her body language, facial expressions, the angry,distraught, trembling of her lip as she sucked in air. I tilted my head, eyes empty. When we met she was barely surviving on the generosity of others. Working full tilt - long, difficult hours for a theater company, being paid in a stipend three or four months after the job was completed. She was living in the attic of a friends house, paying a little rent when she could, half starved but still able to buy cigarettes. She had maybe one meal a day but she was never without a pack of pall malls. I wrinkled my nose at the memory of the acrid smoke drifting into my nasal cavity, sinking into my hair and clothes. When I found out most of her diet came as care packages from her mother or the unwanted portions of food bank supplies left by the other tenants of the house I started feeding her. It was shit food, Taco Bell and Giant's pizza, but it was enough to keep full. Yet here she was, angry with our new roommate, my best friend who found himself without a home to go to after five and a half years of Navy service.
I had offered him our second bedroom without hesitation and at the time she was fine with it, until he moved in and she saw how close we were. "Why don't you go hang out with your fuckin boyfriend?" She'd hiss at me. She never tired of her clever quip when faced with my pleading eyes. "Why don't you put a band aid on that bleeding heart." This was her pattern though, every time I brought home feral kittens or abandoned puppies to foster she was supportive, loving, and involved until the novelty wore off. Then she was explosively angry, constantly fuming, hateful. "Get that fuckin rat out of my house." I bore the brunt of it as best I could, what was I going to do, put them back in the street? I always managed to get each lost soul I took in situated in a good home with caring hands and hearts.
When Leo came home we picked him up at the Sacramento airport. We stood under the massive red jack rabbit suspended from the ceiling and I stared at its expanse of geometric planes. A hundred thousand angles working toward a rounded edge. He slept at least 16 hours a day for the first week or so,but we found that if we let him be, he'd cook us spectacular dinners. But the night I knew we'd be stuck with each other until one of us died wasn't for about two weeks after he came home. She had work in the morning so she went to bed early. Leo and I ran down to Tower Liquor and bought Fireball, Jameson and Ginger Ale. We came home, made up a Mythbusters drinking game and got to work getting shitty. An hour in we were discussing sublimation and laughing at how drunk the other was. Through cheerfully teary eyes I looked up at him on the couch in a black wife beater, drunk and smiling, and thought to myself , "I'll keep this one." He looked down at me, his eyes lazily following the movement of his head, one eyelid slightly more drooped than the other, "whut?" He murmured. I laughed, "I like you man," he cocked his head "no homo." I added. He screwed up his face and laughed, swaying a little. When he smiles- really smiles- his genuine grin spreads over his face like a sunrise. Long playful talons of crows feet crease the corners under his hooded lids and he flashes those wolf teeth under the mischief sparkling in the vibrant honey-sienna of his eyes- "WELL I'M GLAD YOU FIND THIS SO FUNNY, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT KIND OF-" I must have been smiling. I regained my composure, checked out again and watched the wet, grotesque rage gushing from her as she waxed her cross.
I think she could feel the distance in her own way, and her way of dealing with that was to be big and loud and scary, like the mock warnings of small prey animals. Perhaps she felt capable of closing the gap if she could just fill it full of sound and tears and hurt feelings. I wondered how she could be so sensitive, yet so callous, so desperate for love yet so neglectful in its care. Watching her like that the gears churning in my head slowed, time seemed to congeal around me as I reached the climax of my epiphany. Suddenly everything lay sprawled before me, the root of her anger, the reason behind her complacency, the solutions to all our problems, everything I had driven myself into the ground fighting for, digging and working and breaking my back in search of, pointless. None of it mattered anymore, because looking at her there was like seeing her for the first time. The last five years blew away in the blink of an eye, in the microsecond it took the synapse to fire that shot of her image all over my throbbing brain, beating against the walls of my pounding head. The deepest, warmest sensation permeated every pore of me, soaked into every nerve bundle, every cell, every fiber of my being. The tight ball of agony in my chest relaxed and I was filled with a warmth I hadn't known in years. Relief filled every bit of me, I was drowning in it, waiting for my second coming, for my new life. None of it mattered,
I did not love her anymore.
"Let me give you some advice," she spat at me,
"stop taking in strays."
I am made of disappointment
Flesh and bone and aching
I am made from agony
Pain in every angle
I am made from tragedy
Shaping me bent and crooked
I am made from hunger
From fear in the night
Suspicion, anger, self loathing,
But what you are made from does not make you
The same thing that makes pencil lead also makes a diamond.
I am strong
I am bright
I am wanted
I am loving
I am loved
I am kind
I am capable
I am a pessimist with a good heart
I am not broken
Even if I am crooked