the glittering cleanliness of new is tempting.
when the gun-shot explosions mark the year-beginning
it’s a relief, all sighs and promises.
and if a train leaves 11:30 that night
it chuffs through time unwavering
with shivering black metal
and one coal-pit heart. Who’s on that train,
I wonder, do they sleep it through?
antiseptic snow is stark white sparkling
in a spanking new shuffle of order
when the deck is dealt out.
January First is true.
it’s the stamp of artificial rebirth,
blinking wide and branded.
Blue Dim Summer Night
wonderment on the faces of those I love, this is what I see first.
illuminated pale and shadowy nose for a half second,
the flickering bodies I knew as a six-year-old,
baby fat and sticky hands. these people
with names I memorized in a song at recess
grew muscles, opinions, marble jaws.
I came back in autumn to unfamiliar deep voices
and hair and hair in the hallways
sharing embarrassing stories,
jokes at football games,
the awkward days in between,
and summer nights like right now, together.
then a screaming pop of explosion in the sky.
the sparks wheeze and drop forward, almost too close
to us dumb kids on top the hill, the wrong side, with the carnival
tucked below. the blue-green shades darken
our clothes, make this a secret. Everything
is holier now somehow, when I look back and see
my best friend lying with a faint smile, eyes closed,
head tilted on the stomach of some boy,
nodding slowly as he breathes, in, out, up, down,
when you lean forward and whisper, breath hot and happy,
the colored bursts reflecting in the gleamed films of your eyes where I watch them,
when the silhouette of an old friend hikes over the curve of Earth and everyone
calls her name like a memory, so she sits,
elbows resting on knees with the legs propped up, as we all were,
when the finale crescendoes sharply, drumming the ground and our ears,
thrumming wildly, cracking fast until the grand final strike,
a bellowed note shaking inky trees
and we sit there in silence for a while after it ends,
so I lay down completely with a flat back bare to dirt, grass poking all over
in the blackness with everyone else,
holding our breath and
- skeleton boys with honey-brown skin run naked in the holy hot springs of Sri Lanka, giggling with innocence like bubbles, and their fathers pour hot water buckets over their heads. the water falls, crashing against the stony floor of the temple in the middle of the desert.
- golden light lay speckled atop grass. the pattern twirls kaleidoscopically as the tree leaves blink in the breeze, and my swing sways too, with an antique wooden groan. inhalation is sweet and fresh; newly cut grass stains the air. individual rays of sun stroke my skin, the glowing touch sinks softly to bone.
- stomach as a bowling ball after a feast of Thai food, laying lazily on the couch, all black except for the faint kitchen light glow, one movie after another, Winona and Marlon and Audrey, until the plit plit plit of rain rapping glass drums me to sleep, heavy and dull in the dark early morning.
- the accordion player draws a breath and exhales, producing a nasally hum which flows over the heads of parkgoers, past a line of proud trees, around the spillings of hot colored flowers, and fills the space between marble sculpted fingers, expensive and grand like the country itself.
- a mechanical whir as we slide down the tracks near Pennsylvania’s endless rock mountains, sewage ravings, poverty sheds, and back lots of wispy burnt grass. gray windows, gray air, gray voice-din. the vast drabness of it all lulls sleep, melancholy and nostalgic as we trundle away from home through cities of muddy snow.
Half A Story
I was walking home from the library when I saw him, twenty feet ahead of me. His hair was almost longer than recognition. Almost. I swallowed hard and quieted my steps, but the papery crackling of a leaf under my sneaker gave me away. He turned and waved, “Oh hey.”
I waved back with a cold damp palm. Suddenly my heart was vibrating numb, ears full of the frantic beating. He slowed to let me catch up until we were walking stride with stride and our swinging hands only inches away. The silence was everything, until he casually asked, “So what have you been up to?”
I thought about this while staring at the spidery cracks of the sidewalk, then replied with my eyes still focused downward, “Same as I used to be, I haven’t changed. Have you?”
He laughed and said, “Well, of course. I’m entirely new.”
“I don’t even know you, then. Don’t know you now.”
In his nonchalant finality, I realized my full irrelevance, which hurt all over. I turned, hard, and looked him straight, saying, “I know that confession you gave me was fake, for attention or something. Do you even remember that, that day you were absent from school? You had me tricked, when you cried that did it.”
I had more to say but it was all so tangled and I wanted to say it all at once and couldn’t, so I said nothing at all and turned to speed home, leaving him silent under the stop sign. I wish I could have seen his face when I told him, though; my stinging eyes had blurred over by then, so he was reduced to a runny watercolor, like the ones we used to see at the museums we ran away to, dripping with a washed-out sadness.