Friday, November 7, 2008

Metal Strings

Metal Strings

rosin dusts the wood beneath the bridge
bookended by F holes and crowned with
a quartet of strings

pegs burrow beneath the scroll
stretching taut the catgut core,
the winding sheath of nickel, aluminum, or silver

chin rest clamps to rib, sprouting tailpiece
tuner and beneath the shoulder rest
crossroad of musician-and-instrument

the sweet swell of sound, discharged
by horsehair bow, strung from tip to
frog, held tight by tension screw

fingers lashed by metal strings
calloused while extracting staccato
bariolage legato jete

harmonic notes coaxed out and
cajoled by tips of hands, trilling
sweetly to an undertone of slur

the buzzing whir of rattling fine
tuners, one prolonged largo played
arco than shattered into plunks of

pizzicato pianissimo. The allegro
has ended, ritard—the—decrescendo—until

the E string splits

Jungle Juice

Carpet patterned with oriental swirls and dips
dancing idly with small and clumsy feet
“Gracefully dear” I hear my mother chide

Now I struggle with the same demons
clawing at my back, whispering criticisms in my ears

The clock would strike ten and she would look over disdainfully
six-foot-tall glamazon with pencils for legs and Gucci handbags,
poison dripping from her lips as she commented
“Isn’t it disgusting how girls indulge themselves at night

and I would nod, mouth full of sticky sweet chocolate crumbs
a child caught with her mother’s lipstick smeared across her face

With new shoes that blister my feet when I walk
I slink across campus,
always striving for dainty, but feeling
like I have more in common

with a small herd of pachyderms
than the lovely grazing gazelles before me


Rough denim chafes a chill,
hopping from each vertebrate to the
next like a child skipping stones

Shakes and shivers encased in white
silk shawls, the fringe tickling out a
sneeze and finally a shudder

Throat blast apart by sandpaper spit, each
swallow a reminder of
sweat soaked sports bras and gym socks

I dance to the tinkling chime of silver spoons holding hands with sun tea
The ice cubes clanking out a rhythm of slamming doors

Where your fingerprints have left
branded sooty evidence of the criminal-kind
And my feet burn rash-red, swollen and heavy, clad in iron shoes

But this is my midnight ball
So move to the shrieks of young-women
Scorned by the eye-picking jackdraws before them

Collect obsidian feathers from a burlap
Ground before you’re bloated
Where second-hand kid gloves and pearls provide
Shelter from hungover headaches,
And the chills run steady like trains on a schedule

Chocolate Milkshake

Chocolate Milkshake

Sweating metal canister,
beading liquid drops that
meld with the water from my hands,
your eyes, that … oh you spilled a little there

Fluid food the flow sublime,
sucking lumpy first kisses
where I leaned and you
learned. Only to — well,
maybe a little less tongue?

Half- full, rock salt canister of
hand -holding—dribbles that
cranked out urgency. So
that is the sex they talk about

Brain freeze, eyes freeze, heart froze
over with your eyes on her
hair, (why are you holding her
in all those pictures?)

Chunks of you promised and
how can I trust you, swirl
the flavors of copper and chocolate—
Choke on the slide

Last drop, your turn, my taste
I always loved the way you chewed
your straw
but hated how you slurped.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nothing like the Smell of Napalm in the Morning

Nothing like the smell of Napalm in the Morning

Ceila’s closet. Home to moth-balls
and stirrup pants in blue
and magenta and gold—

Not cerulean. But most
importantly. Home to
her Skinny Jeans. Perhaps

the most trying piece in
a girl’s wardrobe. A piece
that requires diets that

inspires dreams of glamour
and romance. Skinny Jeans,
You are my Everest.

Mind over Mud

Lilting and lovely the music poured forth
From the instruments, from the mouths of the performers
And standing there, beneath a starless sky
I created my own Oasis and drank up the gush of sound

The notes whispered promises in my ears
They curled around my body to remind me of things I once had understood
And with their caress still fresh upon my face
I tilted back my head to embrace the temptation of letting go

I thought back to the nights that
Like the fireworks that exploded with their red, white, and blue
We quenched our thirst with rocket popsicles
And licked the melted remains from our sticky fingers

So I danced on and wrapped my arms around myself
And cast away for another set of summer nights
And sought to forget how the camp fire had reflected in your eyes
And how the smell of smoke had lingered on my sweater for weeks

Little children curled up in their parents arms
And dreamt of things deemed impossible by Reason and Experience
While their parents sat around in circles
Talking of “once weres” and “long agos”

Lilting and lovely the music poured forth
While bare feet pounded flat the dark earth
And the sky threatened to open up upon the crowd
And there in my Oasis, I tried to erase you

Sanity is in the Eye of the Beholder

You told me once I would never be alone
the same place I had first kissed you.
We were on our backs, stretched out on the grass arms splayed
fingertips almost touching

That night, I didn’t want to remember
how your hands would turn blue when it was cold
outside; I wanted us to succeed in
friendship where we had failed in romance

Underneath a spatter-painted sky
I watched you breathe, flannel breasted chest slowly rising
and I escaped from the sound of my father yelling
and you reminded me of how
I had once saved an ant from drowning

The grass was damp, kissed with dew
the park was deserted as it was so many of our nights
and the river rushed on,
tumbling when it had been still

When I tell our story,
I’ll blame the stars for their false luminescence
and cast myself in a better light,

but that night,
I believed you
because I needed to that night

Midnight Pumpkin

Midnight Pumpkins

Tweed woven rug splayed across the floor
like a frog ripe for dissection,
fragile heart beating under translucent skin,
clad in cloven combat boots.

Foreheads plowed in swiggly rows of
alternating trenches, alight upon
black-bean eyes. “It’s harvest time
my dear, and it’s not looking good.”

But she clomps on, grasping for the carrot at
the end of the hedonic treadmill,
adapting to three dollar long islands and
leaving a trail of lip-stick smudges like breadcrumbs

to follow back to gingerbread houses and
the warm, sweet sight of welcome mats and
the look on her mother’s face when she brought home
crayon-colored tales of happily ever after.

A pity though—the doorbell’s wrung
and it was the milkman not Prince Charming
while the fluorescent lighting reveals a dance
floor swathed in strewn cigarettes

where the clock has already struck midnight.

Now all she can do is stay in of Friday night and smile
while the townspeople grab their pitchforks and
start setting up the noose. Because,

as her daughter told her,
“It’s a Tuesday and everyone knows you’re supposed to wear pink.”

Driving by Braille

Driving by Braille

The CB crackles as a voice pipes through on the airwaves
“teenage girl”… “Mercedes”… “the makeup applicator went straight through her eye”…
shards of information filter through like brewing coffee

broken fragments piece themselves together, a puzzle
Percolating, drip by drip. She probably spent her mornings
flipping through the funnies, pausing at the classifieds

Straight, single, responsible mother in her early forties
Seeking someone to spend lazy Saturdays with
Enjoys bottles of raspberry ice wine

Hands clench the steering wheel, white-
knuckled and smoke stained, flipping stubs of cigarettes
onto the highway. You would have given it all up for them.

There could have been a little girl, all bright
eyed, bouncing curls, pudgy fingers, skinned knees
the television blaring the food network which

your wife would claim is the word of God himself
“Alton Brown, now that’s a man I would run away with”
she would sigh, and you would have laughed, while your

Fingers hold a chipped ceramic mug instead of a steering wheel,
a Cigarette. The road stretches forward, a treadmill to Ohio,
and you drive by the Braille of the road, rumble strips pointing the way

Lids hanging low, drooping like sun smothered plants
and there is no TV, no little girl, no loving wife
but at least you drive an 18-wheeler instead of a Mercedes

Thank God for small favors.

Q and A

Q and A

“Because relationships are a series of compromises
and my life is a series of relationships
and sometimes I don't feel like compromising"

She said, when asked why she went to the movies alone.
I pictured her sitting solitary in the yawning maw of a theater
Huddled in on herself and swathed in lint-adorned hoodies,
presiding over a kingdom of Frescatta pizza and hot cheesy nachos

“But why wouldn’t you want me to come with you?”
I asked. Words tumbling in on themselves like puppies scrambling for the teat.
Supple, soft, and clumsy.

My palms itched, provoked by grass blades and claimed by conquistadoring ants
and I wished right then that I had remembered deodorant that morning,
as I shifted and rearranged to pick at the scab on my left knee.

She sighed, clenching and unclenching her fist
Leaving half-mooned trenches in her palms
And I was surprised when I had to squint to see the scars
That had once danced like Puckish rogues across her wrists

“Can’t we just enjoy the night?” she said,
eyes already roving, smoke synchronized swimming through
the Autumn air, being born from cherry-red embers
that hung suspended from her lips.

Meanwhile the moon, swollen and golden pregnant,
battled for possession of the sky
And we sat, Converses swinging, taking bets.