upon discovering an old polaroid that should have burned (20170913)

i stare out
of the instant photo grinning
in a dove gray tux
a formal high school event
one of two that i can recall

it is hard to look at myself
the me inside recoils
at all of that youth
at that smile

as with many old photos
this one has faded
in a dramatic fashion
along with most of my memory
of that night

my chest
alreadybleached white
is now a blistering snowstorm
a blizzard over my heart
that makes me doubt
that foolish cockeyed grin
plastered on another me’s face

was being happy that easy?
or was that the beginning
that moment when the damage began
the frostbite in the bones?

dove feathers drift down
and i am moving softly, slowly
practicing a display of teeth

how to write a poem (20170902)

hide and seek is a fine
game when you are ten
and it is summer and hours
after lunch
and before dinner

if you are hiding
you have to decide if you’ll
be the ass who holes up
in a closet in the house
because it’s cooler inside
or go and get a snack
–screw those morons–
while everyone roasts
in backyards
crouching in flowerbeds
or lying under trucks avoiding
black oil stains
and smelling gas
until the world spins

but if you’re it
there is no slacking off
everyone knows if you’re not
doing your job when no one yells
free after four minutes

and those days
when you can’t find anyone
or you’re too slow or too fat
to tag them as they run for
safety
those are long, hot days

shoulders squared, back curved (20170726)

never meant to be atlas

never willingly carried the world
on my shoulders

never wished
to be weighed down
by anything

but that candy you liked
–pecans wrapped around
caramel and brown sugar fudge–
weighs on me

wrigley’s double mint gum
always always in your jaw
even while you smoked

your favorite cigarettes
stain my fingers
linger in my hair
and my shirt

even your horrible taste
in music
your delight in department
store nachos with plastic
looking cheese
your willingness to
eat anything
and then diet for weeks

your utter obsession with
keeping secrets
so many
that you emptied out
and filled the house
with things and piles
of things

some days
the world seems like
a lighter weight to bear

the illusion of memory (20170614)

what is this place–
some kind of dorm
prep school, college?

filled with debris of an old life
this place is unfamiliar in ways that
reveal the lie
of the illusion of memory

here, a set of tibetan prayer flags
piles of books without titles
and so many toys
all things i have never
specifically handled
touched or
loved

the room buzzes with people
a handful of them long dead
every one interested
in helping me clean
scavenging things they want
from my old life
in a rush to get this room ready
for the next inhabitant
dragging objects packed or not
down concrete stairs
to where a moving truck
already stuffed full
awaits

shoppers draw near the scene
–a cosmic garage sale–
offering money
or just taking what they want

impossibly in the room
and on the ground
at the same time
the more i pack the more i discover
items still unclaimed
a box full of glass eyes
coins from foreign lands
an old handheld game

i should feel some kind
of attachment
yet only the dead give me pause

an overwhelming sense
of futility mixed with exhaustion
washes over me

i peel back carpet
and find a rotted wood floor
i have never seen

iron heart (20170316)

your name catches in my throat
i try to say it under my breath
but i have no lungs–you’ve withered
those organs with the aversion
of your eyes

make no mistake–i have felt my heart
stop beating, felt the sudden lump
of inert iron sitting lifeless
in my chest, as cold as the furthest
edge of space

a watched pot never boils
but an unwatched pot bursts into flames
my fingerprints are invisible ashes
and i have left them on your
skin like doomed freckles

wet sidewalks (20170118)

in the rain a cyclist passes
unprepared for the sudden showers
an orange ember glowing
at the end of his cigarette

petrichor and marlboro lights
and i am ten
and the streets are wet
and black except for the
sodium cyclops eyes of streetlamps
home has that familiar smell
and nicotine-stained curtains