I tell the doctor it’s the bison.
The herd’s now climbing up my lungs like smoke,
stumbling over one another, until my chest
is blooming mountains of their muscle and hooves,
my god, when they grunt. I mistake the ballad
for gallows, but I know the first time people
heard jazz the hair on their neck rose too,
that they thought it mad, now their hips shake
like my chest does some mornings. When the film
of my x-rays are held up to the light, you can see
them, leaping over one another, their beards
married to their music, swaying, the bison, their
battling bellows and the galaxy they built inside me.
The doctor’s eyes widen. I thought they’d
gone extinct, he says. I shake my head
and open my mouth wide. The walls of the office topple,
every beast storms out, they chase the sunlight.
The doctor gasps, I tell him, Nothing, held so close
to my heart will ever die out. The thunder in their
running shakes the ground beneath our feet.
for F. Scott Fitzgerald
The legend of Jazz Age will never show
every night you spent in the bar, believe me,
Francis, the empty bottles, your liver, all are a
story mostly forgotten. You are still a hero,
in libraries and lectures, both Eliot’s and
Salinger’s. Someday, with children of my own, I’ll
share your work and the love I found to write
through it and they will hold that pen because of you,
exactly as I did, and they will mourn your history, too, a
chapter ended too soon, a marvel marred by tragedy.
Blue, a Monosonnet, Interrupted
The nursing staff moved her to the 3rd floor before our last visit, the level where you no longer have a bathroom and stove of your own, only a bed. The floor that you only leave when you die. Maybe this is why it’s the highest floor in the building, because it’s closest to heaven. I do not know. My mother asks her how she is feeling and she tells us that you can buy rifles at Montgomery Ward. The Alzheimer’s usually answers before she can. But tonight, she recognizes us, it’s all harder when she can’t. I am wearing an old blue shirt, it brings out the eyes we share. She will die in her sleep hours later. I tell her I love her and wear a blue collared shirt at the funeral.
Doctors’ orders: nothing spicy, no taco,
Tapatio, curry, everything that I love. But mash
potatoes, bread, oatmeal? Safe. The magic most
suited for the alchemy of my abdomen, a gracious host
for a painless evening, the unofficial mascot
of belly bliss, the only quiet in the chaos
of my small intestine – the bland. They cast
a scope into the soft, maddened chasm
of my bowels and nothing adds up, the math
used to make my body flawed. Every aching atom
in my organs, found, looking for a better match.
How Could I Forget
that buried between
the bones of my body
are rockets aimed
at the sun,
that this sun can
never harm me
when I am this big,
when I am billions
of light years tall
and my wings bigger yet,
that there are moons
orbiting the space
between my arms,
and how could I forget
that this is devastating
too, that I kissed her
before I knew what
I was capable of.
And remember that I love you even at my worst.
now i can show this to everyone who’s like “you’re kinda quiet today what’s wrong”
and they can finally leave me the fuck alone
Oh wow, this is better explained than anyway I could ever put it.
We chased girls from swing sets
and spit at their feet, every grain
of sand on the playground ours.
The park benches we used to
sharpen our nails into claws,
we drug them through the grass
when we walked. Our manes
came next, thick over our shoulders,
we started growling at everything.
We were hungry, terrible beasts,
boys growing into men.
The girls were soft, breakable
beauties, small things we’d
try to crush beneath the thunder
clumped beneath our paws.
Some boys got wise to the awful
ways we wore our wild.
The others stretched their teeth
to their ankles, the cat callers
and pussy hunters.
The rest, we try to quiet
all the nasty of our nature,
knowing the folly of man
is men. We fear what we sow.
Every inch of our Wal-Mart cart crowded,
me and my brother’s stuff was all held
in the corner, beneath my mother’s
purse. A few folders and pencils ours, she
told us everything at the front belonged
to her students. That year 12, but each year
it changes. It will be 18 students the next year.
She will buy more supplies then, crowding
her trunk. Both her time and money belong
to the elementary school. The annual budget is held
back as it always is. As she knows it will be, she
chose a profession of passion, to mother
more than just her own two boys. My mother
has never had a day off. She has spent 30 years
on the clock, filling page after page of lesson plans, she
has no time for sleep, all the hours of her day crowd
into the next. But tomorrow a book read and held
in my mother’s hands, will forever belong
to a young girl’s imagination. It won’t be long
after that this girl asks her own mother
to read her the next book in the series, holding
each close to her heart. This love stretches years,
the girl will have children of her own, they will crowd
into the same desks, and they will read as quickly as she
did, and this is why. Why my mother stays, how she
can love her work so much. Every child’s future belongs
to her. One year to shape a lifetime. Crowd
the classroom, share the books, my mother
will not give in. She cares, simple as that. Year
after year. No matter how hard the state tries to hold
her efforts back. Now grown, I watch the protesters hold
signs revolting against another cut to education on TV. She
watches too, my mother, wanting to be there this year,
as she often does, but knowing that she belongs
to her desk tonight, a spelling test to write. My mother
sits alone, the last to leave school, the 5 o’clock crowd
all home. Our Congress holds session over finance long
into the night, she watches the evening news, my mother,
as the year’s budget is made final, she hears the crowd silenced.