elizabeth and bob

bob

Elizabeth (not your real name)
we were kissing
by the blanched light of a cheap floor lamp.
three-way bulb dialed down to nearly useless number one
i say nearly useless
the room was lit as if by candlelight
so, useless but for kissing by candlelight
you call that kissing
sprawled on a bean bag chair
faces dulled with rapture
no sale all purchase
wee hours.
through the window
occasionally glimpsed stars
shimmied in a desert sky
wavery lights arrayed over an oleander hedge
and glowing backyard pool
my parent’s house
my house and my parent’s house
in truth more their house than mine
I didn’t know from amortized
but its stucco and wood
surrounded and held me
cast a spell on me
in my unreliable memory
every room and every hour
are suffused with midday sunshine
people places and things
i can’t hold any more
though i didn’t care
to hold them then.

this tv room in near-dark
a display diorama at the Smithsonian
my teen feeling
of surreal gravity
wondrous and unrecognizable
is this happening?
our first dislocations
always at the behest
of sexual fumbling and half-light
you were on top
my 1977 shorty-shorts
working overtime
this was our first kiss
and would be one of our last
fueled by stars
in science class they’d said
we’re made of stars
or ‘star-stuff’
shut tf up we’re not ‘made of stars’.
well.
your hard breathing
made me breathe hard, and so on
the feedback loop
had my heart flopping wildly
i could picture it ululating in there
i had concern
is this a heart attack?
is it supposed to vibrate like that?
can it be moving any blood in this state?
will this tear my heart muscle?
i actually wondered these things
through feverish
shorty-shorts tenting
chambered slosh-muscle
crazily on the move
in its little calcium cage
making of the moment
an oven I felt
would consume me.
is it possible
to feel ones heart
abrading the sternum?

My dad walked into the room.
I’d heard him approaching
but like the startled
watchman on the Titanic
couldn’t believe my senses
nor the abject, impossible horror
of the immediate
and unavoidable cataclysm
my systems at full boil
registered movement in the periphery
is my father coming down the hall
at this hour?
Right now?
iceberg
iceberg
I said iceberg
iceberg. iceberg.
full astern godammit oh my god full astern
iceberg godammit oh godammit
this can’t be
it freezes the blood
iceberg
iceberg
oh no
what an emergency
it freezes the mind
and the blood.
strips the gears
i had feared an unchoreographed
burst of telling semen
now I fear I’ll vomit
where shall I turn my head
I can’t lie here
and turn my head and vomit
Elizabeth and I freeze
like sparrows
she clutches my forearm to signal.
‘I know’, I clutch back
iceberg
iceberg
‘oh fuck don’t you think I know?’ I clutch back
dread-clutching
‘oh my good god’ I clutch back
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in from the hallway
elizabeth, let go of my arm
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in the room with us
he’s in the room with us
what’s he doing
he’s looking right at us
he’s stopped in the murky lamplight
looking right at us
elizabeth let go of my arm
oh good god almighty oh my dear god
he’s in from the hallway and in the room with us
he’s in the dimly lit room with us
elizabeth let go of my arm
elizabeth you are cutting my arm
don’t make me cry out
oh god he’s standing right there
he’s like a golem in the room
and us on the bean bag chair,
frozen and clawing forearms

i see him in the very dim light
he is an indistinct
unmistakable figure
shirtless and out of shape
in baggy boxers
that tell a lifelong tale
two lifelong tales
my laissez faire dad
my vaguely loving but feckless dad
my orphaned unwanted dad
my dad in the next room like a kindly uncle
my dad who never threw ball with me
my dad who played cowboys with me once in 1966
my dad who couldn’t say i love you
my dad who secretly drank
my dad who feared much
my dad who never took us on vacation
my dad who was scarcely a dad
my dad with his prematurely gray hair
my dad with his easy smile
and this adored young girl in my arms
a juxtaposition that compels vomit
I love her I adore her
so this is how one grows love
so this is that heat
heat like a sauna
so this is where sex and love intersect
now I believe it
clothed bodies throwing heat
my tiny 70s shorts struggling.

dad looked at us
a vaguely visible silhouette
in really baggy boxers
in my memory
a talking cat, a specter
a man alone in the other room
watching sports
wanna sit and watch sports with me Jeffry?
no thanks
wanna sit with me and watch this?
no thanks, I gotta go
you sure? come sit with me
no thanks, I gotta go, dad
come on, just sit with me
naw, I gotta go
ok, Jeffry
always Jeffry with him
a helpful distancing formalism
disguised thinly as bemusement
now in his enormous boxers
by phony candlelight
I see the boy in my dad
I see the boy in my dad
iceberg iceberg

‘what’re you doing out here?’ dad said
I remained frozen and silent
why? why? why? silent again
in five more seconds he said
‘oh!’ in a tone I’d never heard come from him
revelation
he walked on to the kitchen
turned right into the family room
went back to his bed.
i saw the boy in my dad
as if all the lights were on.
it struck me and then it left me
Elizabeth said
‘i’d better get home’
yeah. let’s go.

Zeus or Apollo
whatever titan runs this place
take me back
i won’t ask again
when dad comes into the room
i’ll run to him this time
throw my arms around him in the dim light
all the way around him
the man in his oversized boxers
will see a startled kid jump up
his skinny kid-arms thrown wide
it’ll really surprise my dad
just take me the fuck back.

exodus

birds march grandly

bright blue-breasted bird
with a laughable mohawk
jumps from branch to branch
to branch to branch to branch
to branch to branch to branch
to branch to branch.
stopityouidiotcantyouseewhatyouredoing!!
up the worn steps i go
as mechanically as the jumping bird.
i carry an outsized valise
that worsens the climb.
gears turn
a breeze dutifully blows
trees waver and rustle.
not fooling me!
Minutes are on the march,
a dusty endless column of the dispossessed,
they trudge along with their carpets and pans
one turns to me in passing
and says matter-of-factly
“your village is emptying
and there is naught to do.”

forgive my politics

calgontakemeawayaway

We mobilized early.
I’ve learned, though.
my bible study leader
has been diagnosed.
the headaches are a tumor.
Krishnamurti,
who taught us to see
through the veil
and lectured musically
and at length
on our embrace
of the infinite,
parted his hair
straight sideways.
this morning
you are an insufferable
happy-mouth
and tempt the cosmos.
the toaster
is so full of crumbs
it may combust,
and that would be of a piece
with the sublime. so be careful.

I was thinking about my last hour in the world

uplifted_sidewalk_omniverse

“If confirmed, the predictions would indeed be stunning. They would mean the universe is relatively small, something like 70 billion light years across.”
-New Scientist

I was thinking about my last hour in the world
because that is a real thing up ahead.
A chair. The sidewalk.
A bouncing rubber ball or a chain link fence. Plain.
Recent reports of the demure limits
of our Omniverse? Unhelpful.
Just another expanse
beyond the sunken living room.
Shag carpet as far as the mind can see.
And I’m all “There go my atoms.”
Not tomorrow but the usual Day After That.
I’ve always known it.

Sitting at this bus stop Tuesday,
my heart fluttered with the first hard-edged sadness
the Occasion has ever occasioned.
The incongruity of Sadness briefly trebled the sadness,
and I was scared to think,
but had to think of all the analog
particulate minutes
the bread crumbs in sunlit relief
on their maddeningly unswept kitchen counter
and tears for absent friends, arguments over movies
and concern for our kids,
the yelling at the kids to please help
keep the place clean,
and those uniquely awful hours
that I sometimes couldn’t hurry along
for the life of me.
We’re on our knees and shuffling
into the important-sounding Omniverse
with shoes on our knees so we look very short.
Our arms, as we leave the room,
are outstretched and aloft.
Pure vaudeville, but the tears are real, more or less

It was a quick sadness at the bus stop
but it was ordinary sadness.
Plain as a pillow.
It came and went;
Jungian mayonnaise sandwich. No meat.
Or it was a flashing cramp.
The inexplicable flashing cramps and stabs we feel in our guts
with no physiological cause
and finally no consequence.
“Oh those are growing pains.” wtf? Since when?
I thought “growing pains”
were allegorical,
the manageable torment of a first kiss
or the humiliation by the swingset after math.
The flash was like that. A growing pain. It shook me.

What do I make of it?
You’re not asking but I’ll tell you anyway.
The abstract is surfacing
and behemoth, ascending from pineal depth,
preceded by its shimmering curtain of air
the shimmering curtain beautiful
to see from this unlikely angle.
Then a glimpse of undersea flesh
rubberized and black
humping out of the water’s vastness
to briefly take and test the homely glint of sunlight.

There’ll be a room and I’ll be in it
and it’ll be my last time in any room
save the shag-carpeted room
of the previously infinite Omniverse
through which my component quanta
will soon waft like a cheap plume.
Again, the Thornton Wilder.
Not tomorrow but tomorrow.
I think of my last stand as an afternoon
but it doesn’t have to be an afternoon.
It could and will likely
happen at some idiot hour,
inconvenient and crushing,
lit by a crummy government-issue lamp.
Will I look into the air
and appear to my few visitors to be
seeing something?
They’ll follow my gaze, just in case,
but there’ll be, like, nothing.
In a billion years the dice
that drove Einstein to such distraction
may (MAY) reconstitute me as a flower,
but a space flower.
Aw. What’s the use.

changeling

dime is like a river
I’ve found my place in the cosmic order
marked it with a pen
content with my apprehension
of the eternal.
But in the all-too-temporal process of
peeling off my tight trousers
doing the helpless
suburban man-dance
in the previous quietude
of my room
a couple shiny dimes noisily fell
from a momentarily inverted pocket
and I shouted “oh screw you!”
The dimes rang accusingly
on the wood laminate floor.
Such small coins,
but commandeered
by mathematics and Gravity.
Mysterious and inexplicable Gravity;
unknowable energy field
into which the large bodies nestle
quantum thorn in the side
of the Grand Unified Theory.
We know this much –
the Mystery wants to see a dropped coin
perform an eviscerating hula,
each point of the milled edge
in its turn contacting the floor
in a round-robin rejection
of our race, our opposable thumbs,
our dreams of flight.
Thanks, Big Bang.
These goddamned coins!
They rang and rang and rang
and rang!
“Aaaaaahh! screw YOU!”
I had time to say it again
as the dimes whirled their lil’ dervish
for what seemed five full minutes.
I said it loud,
hissed it with meaning,
one aging chicken leg
yet ensconsed
in Tom Jones sale trousers.
Another scalding victory
of the inanimate.
I so want to live.

what if he’d known

crespuscular Gotham

He struck out in the direction of home
the hushed scuffed aisles of the grocery store
first he pulled his red car out of his colorless garage
the grey junk hung and jumbled there
said he was going for cereal and a razor
there is no depth to plumb nor glyph to puzzle over
he really was going there for cereal and a razor
Raisin Bran Crunch and a Schick with aloe
he started up his dumb red car and sailed away
heart-racing, unbridled, stars a-twinkle
and switched on the little radio

How to explain and why to explain
it’s been years since he needed the company of men, or man
years uncounted (about 20) since he could endure
the vibrant chatter, the cutting blank
the bright self-ignorant line right down the middle of everything
commercial jingles and artistic gestures
Lichtenstein-dumb and warm with the glow
of puny self-satisfaction, an ossified frieze
ecclesiastical complaining gets one nowhere fast
that there is nothing new under the sun goes unmentioned
he just wants the puppets to see the strings
and say a word or two not hauled up from a khaki past

One afternoon he stares through a streaked windshield
and longs. California sun strikes the glass like a match.
wind-blown families people a littered seaside lawn
mingle easily as phantoms, and as without form
picnic tables, happy summer sun, bovine cliques and claques
a beachfront birthday party for another tween
his untenable terror of the other grown-ups there
roots him to the bucket seat
all this tired glow, all this roseate gift, the dizzying chances lost
look at the fools, what news can they bring
professional guys with graying temples drape their arms and laugh
seen through an arc of wiper smear opaque and bright as frost.