I’d like to say
it was her mind, first,
but you told me that lies
are slips into sin.
I’ve been thinking about it a lot
(a lot a lot),
and I think it might even be better
if I could say
it was her hair, or her lips,
or her curves (please
pardon me Father Johnson),
because beauty is good,
from the hand of God,
and is admiring art sin?
But the truth is, Father…
this is very hard…
but the truth is, Father,
mind was third and body second,
because as she stood next
to me at the party in that
tight red sweater,
the first thing that got me was
the perfect knot she tied into that
cherry stem with her tongue.
Lines, on the occasion of a vendor erring on a video call with the assembled faculty
The glasses are gone, like
the shirt and professional
pretense, for one ephemeral
flicker of the presenter’s avatar:
himself, bare-chested and sleek,
hard like the brick wall setting
off his sun-bronzed skin,
so I wonder, long after he
has hastily clicked away, who
this man is elsewhere,
beyond this Google Meet, beyond
this sales pitch for edu software,
beyond this dim and narrow
room: a man, who meets.
Searching (five haiku)
We and the sun, high
as lords, as our frisbee, white,
whirling to my hand—
cake, pavilion, dogs, friends, a
my grandparents and me, one
final time. Happy.
Photographs are leaves:
colorful and aged, what was,
pressed into a book.
Through my window, snow
frames cardinals, searching bare
vines for frozen grapes.
literal, if you wish it to be
we found her broken
on the pavement: small, still. most
leave the nest. she fell
She smoothed the blanket down his legs and rubbed oil onto her palms. Delicate fingers massaged his scalp. She moved to his back, professional hands gliding over, then firmly pressing aging muscles. Ocean waves rolled within the white noise machine, covering his tears beneath the towel.
He felt touch.
drunk missteps include
acts during, also before:
*writer disavows claims of actual events that could have inspired this haiku
When in Rome
It’s the guitar you’ll remember, the lightly strummed chords rising above the murmuring groups. The people are patchy, not packed, a few friends here or there beneath the soft lights and stars. You sit on the travertine steps to listen and see. A church rises behind you; at the bottom of the steps ahead, water flows through the Bernini fountain. Later, you will think you heard it, though the ambient noise makes this impossible. The fountain belongs in a scene of such quiet and peace, so it must have been, and in your mind, it was.
The scene is more construction than fact, now, twenty years after I last set foot in Rome. Still, the Piazza di Spagna remains one of my favorite places.
It shocked me to learn that not everyone has an internal monologue because my own surges so relentlessly. My brain seeks or churns, swirls or spreads, but it’s only the shape of the movement that changes and not the motion itself. I think.
I lean into this aspect of myself. I seek fresh materials that can alter the texture my mind flows over, or I pursue new channels of thought. I cannot relax by deadening thought; watching bad TV calms my wife, but for me, grinding through something mindless will elicit only a mental scream. I unwind best by following a course someone else has dug and charting it for myself. My wife and daughter don't understand how intellectual challenge can calm me, but it does. I cannot enforce internal quiet. It can only happen, and my mind quiets very, very rarely.
The Piazza di Spagna quieted it. Everything was at once peaceful and alive, unified. And it was beautiful.
"They said Al Capone owned the boat."
(It's a short story projected for 3K and not a novel, but since months will pass before I can share anything more...)
In the history of Prose, has there ever been a challenge more perfectly suited for procrastination?
When the levee breaks, I put a spell on you. You, proud Mary, down in it… who’ll stop the rain?
Don’t cry. The end is the beginning is the end, Mary Anne with the shaky hand. God’s gonna cut you down.
“When the Levee Breaks,” Led Zeppelin
“I Put a Spell On You,” CCR
“Proud Mary,” CCR
“Down In It,” Nine Inch Nails
“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” CCR
“Don’t Cry,” Guns n Roses
“The End is the Beginning is the End,” The Smashing Pumpkins
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand,” The Who
“God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” Johnny Cash
Natural woodgrain, smoothly shaped into
the form of the thing it will be.
“It’s a good line,” he says of the boat,
running his hand along the raw gunwale before
eyeing it once more from the stern.
The sawdusted floor dwarfs his house, and that’s
room one. He’s reorganizing his tools, and we
walk among their groups to the door and gravel path.
He almost died on his fortieth birthday.
He was not, luckily, in this cabin, where pain would have
rendered the phone bric-a-brac among the books.
His mother had said he needed a doctor, and
his father had helped him off the floor.
“Forty-two is time for a partner,” he says, a
second tumbler of fine scotch in his head.
Another friend has another someone
to meet, he says, strumming a few chords.
But what would he do in Wilmington, he laughs.
He has an open-air bath tub, a reloading table,
a coop with three chickens, DVDs from the library,
a whiteboard wall with three dozen recommendations
of books and poets and conversations and films.
Tomorrow someone will pay him a few grand for
new molding, and three more word-of-mouth jobs await.
For now, he sleeps in his loft next to books from seminary,
dreaming perhaps of a boat that will wend toward
in-season geese, maybe soon.