Downers Grove

By my calculations,
One whole bottle of wine
And a half of champagne,
Had each passed between us
As we let the night drain,
In your basement, drunk, laughing
At tapes you had made.

You will-o’-the-wisp –
I had driven for miles,
And crossed two state lines,
To visit a stranger
And be by her side,
With no expectations
And nothing to hide.

  I was your guest
  it was your wine
  where’d you go?

Down the block, by a school,
We staggered, you pushed
Me down to the ground.
Pixie traveler, I should have
Known then what I know now.
You swigged from the bottle
And then set it down.

You were warm for the weather
As we shuddered together.
In those autumn leaves folded
Great plans. I was drunk with
Your idea — I was loaded.
When you finally kissed me
The future exploded.

  I was your guest
  I needed more
  where’d you go?

It was a test: the board was set.
You moved your queen against me
Once you had me in check.
Ready to move,
I was ready to risk,
But you pulled away laughing
Before it progressed.

Pretty wise, woman stopped it
Just over the border
That we had just crossed;
Still deep in her drunkenness
Weighing the cost.
But the future lay wounded
And heaving, and lost.

  I was your guest
  long ago
  so let go

What is History?

The sound of metal on metal.
The sound of metal on bone.
Goat-trails on Judean hills.
Crowds surging against a gate.

    A grudge passed down from father to son.
    Buzzing on the radio.
    The struggle to cooperate.
    A bite of camphor in the air.

Rolling fields of rice, endless rows of corn.
A sacred cow’s swaying fat.
Red wine at the victory feast.
Brown water sloshing from a bucket.

    Rumors of the city.
    The music of the desert.
    Shanty towns and mausoleums.
    Skyscrapers and pain medication.

A child playing in an orchard.
The wail of sirens.
A sigh of violins.
The splash at the bottom of the well.

    Warehouses full of paper.
    Neighbors screaming through the wall.
    A bottle smashed on brick.
    A broken promise.

Sweat on the parchment.
A gathering of friends.
A man dying in a valley.
A woman sobbing in an empty room.

first kiss

yes i remember the place
and the taste of your throat
down the tracks through a hole in the fence
in the warehouse though an empty window frame

a mass-grave of books
sloughing towards the rafters
half rotted in the leaking rain
with the occasional treasure:
black-letter geometry — 1696,
latin novella — 1705.
forgotten books, their flaking secrets
now my charge and purpose

aluminum cigar tubes, polished black stones inside: inexplicable
a rodent flattened by some vanished weight, matted to paper and bones
bucket of pellets in a room with chains and hooks: cyanide
and everywhere the sunlight streaming from high windows
cars passing outside
pigeons in the rafters
the fear of getting caught

this place was planted
beyond the borders of control —
a forgotten corner of an institution
where we crawled in our time
now long torn down

in a storage room with half a chair
we dropped our bags and learned
the gentle lessons
of lips and breath
and saying nothing
amid the book-rot
and debris

now i punch my fist through the window
now i rescue this tragedy
i will pull a railroad spike from its hole
when there is nothing left to say
when words have crumbled into dust
and pin this memory to the world
in a spray of rust and rot and sun

TANTAMOUNT

This photo has an overlay
In the dimension of flow
In which strangers
Give birth to one another, and die

It is a wave of flesh
Chunking tubes of waste
Squeezing themselves through holes
Too small to follow

Crashes over me
Washes through me
Pauses awkwardly in moments
Saying,

Goodbye.

I see you go by
Smiling with an oar in your hand
As doomed and unforgiving
As a lobster

Glaring from its tank.

Benefits Waived

it begins angry
a ghost
gold around the edges
rotten at the core
gold of yesterday’s sunsets
benefits waived

i remember the wind’s sound in trees
free on my bike, as a child
uncorrupted
unscarred
not yet afraid

  • but war is coming

the trenches blacken with gore
angry holes slicken
with mud
tramped underfoot
by the legion’s boot

  • war is coming

sprung from my own breast
and fear
ugly, tooth and nail

  • i will be replaced
  • my body will be covered with lime
  • brought by the day’s reinforcements