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.
I tell the doctor it’s the bison.
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.
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.
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.
Captain Anemia and the Assault of Ails
My origin was simple, 9 lbs. no ounces,
the mark of the forceps across my forehead.
A chosen one. The fatigue fighting muscle
weak marvel, Captain Anemia.
My first bout a battle with Judge Jaundice,
the yellow bellier of bilirubin himself,
the iron fist of the infant infirmary.
His thin smile curling over his cheeks
at the sight of new flesh rolling over
my arms and legs. Bathed in sunlight,
I unleashed the alchemy of my immune
system, shattering the Judge into splinters,
the shadow walking man, swallowed
in the beams pulsing through the pores
of my skin. My hero was born, this body,
and all the terrible it welcomes.
Allergy came next, the ragweed
wrangler of red eye and nostril ruin.
The terror that tortures my father,
the monster that wakes him at night.
Here I stood, a man now, armed
with inhalers and over-the-counters.
A pharmacy of fucking phlegm up,
wheezing, but willing. I outlast it.
And when all seems well, as it never has,
I feel my stomach boil, the acid inflaming,
Gang GERD approaching on the horizon.
I steady myself for a new cycle of sick.
And this body, this aching anomaly, still
will not break. My hero, these battered
bones that build me, the man behind
the medications, they keep me here, still.
The billing clerk of a Catholic
hospital, a chaplain leads me
in prayer each morning. Her
hallelujahs hum over the intercom.
When she calls us children
of God, I never question
the size of my growth.
I am still only a boy.
I am not certain that there
is a god who claims me,
but today, I do not question it.
Whether he is or is not
cannot outweigh my need
to belong some days.
I am still only a boy. Always,
the chaplain speaks of heaven.
I do not know this place.
My grandmother lives here now,
I have been told. She left one
night in her sleep, soft
as mercy. I would chase
her if I knew the way. If
this heaven is a hallway
that leads me back to her,
I will run, hands combing the spirals
of gold velvet that covered the walls
of her living room, until I see her
again. I am still only a boy.
I will find her inside,
in her chair once more
and tell her what
I never can.
I am still your little boy.
The nurse asks for a list of my medications
and I hand her the copy from my pocket,
chronologically ordered, doses listed too.
I watch her key my response to her
every question into the computer.
I cannot be stumped by the confusion
of my own body. She says I am
her favorite patient for this. I smile
and nod, tell her how much practice
I’ve had. How I’ve spent a childhood
between the bone colored walls of exam
rooms. When they take my blood,
my arm welcomes the needle,
these two have never been strangers.
I am comfortable here. Each time.
Every test contradicts another,
the doctor says I am a mystery,
that my body does not know
why it wars with itself. But I do.
Because my father does not sleep
at night. Because the house shakes
when he coughs, because I shake
when he coughs, because I hold
my breath when he holds his chest.
The doctor says it’s the asthma,
or the acid in my stomach,
or both. But it is my worry most.
I am my father’s son. His body
is my own. His body is weaker
than my own. Still, I will smile.
I will nod. I am okay.
I hope that he will be okay.
I hope that he understands
how quiet my love can be.
Commissioner Gordon: Year One
Hard to believe the sun still rises
in this city; struggle to find
the will to myself most mornings.
Gotham’s no place for tired men.
No place for children, a wife.
I can’t sleep while they don’t,
the drug lords, the pimps, the thieves,
the officers. My own men, any one
of them would shoot me dead
if the bounty was high enough.
This is the life I chose. This city,
all her dark, her mayhem, is mine.
My only ally, a batman, another
monster made from these streets.
His grief, I carry too. I am so tired.
They say there is a man
made of steel in Metropolis,
that bullets bounce off his chest.
I wonder if he knows a burden
this piercing. I wonder if his back
is as stiff when he lies awake at night.
My Student Loans Meet Me In A Dark Alley
First of the month, empty those pockets,
Mr. College Grad, Mr. Dollar Menu,
Mr. Nothin’ To Show For None of It.
Don’t you ball your fists when you talk to me.
That English degree you got don’t step that hard.
The Bard never boxed, bud, and neither do…
My poem, “My Student Loans Meet Me In A Dark Alley,” in the newest issue of Borderline!
“I hope she grows up to be a pretty little fool. That’s about the best a girl can hope for these days, to be a pretty little fool.”
They always ask
how I got so many men
to love me, to line up
like I was the only
speakeasy for miles.
It was simple.
I knew a parlor trick.
Taught the men how to be
ventriloquists, to throw
their voice from another room
and force it out of my own
I loved you. I love you.
Yes. You, you, you.
I heard Gatsby was shot down
in his swimming pool—the one
built with me in mind:
my white suit, my hair
tucked into a swim cap, splashing
around like his little bird.
I heard when he was shot
it looked like Valentine roses
scattered about the chlorine
and this, too, was for me.
How wretched, and how divine
to love two men and have one
so you won’t have
Oh, simple flower,
you know you would have
Megan Falley’s Poem “Fool” from the voice of The Great Gatsby’s Daisy. TOO GOOD.
Favorite love poems, part 4. Jeremy Radin
Michael Mlekoday - “Prayer for the Destruction of Justin Bieber”
“The elevator music in my spine is Ani DiFranco cocking a pistol. I crack my knuckles like Biggie, drumming the roof of his casket. Even Anne Frank got more music than you, motherfucker.”
Rustbelt 2013 finals.
THE ALMIGHTY MLEKODAY
IN THE BOOK ABOUT THE BRITISH SPY WHO IS ALSO A WEREWOLF THE SPY & A LADY WEREWOLF FROM THE PACK MAKE LOVE & IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LOVEMAKING THEY TURN INTO WOLVES & THE LOVEMAKING TURNS INTO FUCKING & THEN THEY ARE TWO WOLVES FUCKING IN A RIVER
after Robert R. McCammon
If you think this poem is about anything other than wanting
to make love to you until we are wolves & fucking in a river
then I just don’t know what to say to you other than
I want to make love to you until we are wolves
& fucking in a river.
This is not a metaphor. I am bored with metaphors.
My body is a metaphor for a body, a thing
that is not a body that I use to describe a body.
But enough about me.
This poem is about one thing & that is how when I think
of that book about the British spy I just really want to be a werewolf
& I want you to be one too & I want there to be a big river for us to fuck in.
That’s what I want.
The kind of all day long fucking that leaves us
gloriously ruined, our minds
a tundra, snow-buried, clean & twinkling & empty,
maybe a snowshoe rabbit milling about that we are
finally too tired to hunt.
So let’s break this down chronologically:
1) I want to make love to you
our skin blurred by sweat & snow, our muscles replaced by moonlight & our breath
a thousand fast sheets of winter, until bristling fur pushes
like gray grass through our flesh & our gums give way to bandoliers
& then 2) we turn to wolves
which is just what it is, us as wolves
finally finally finally finally o sweet finally
& then 3) we fuck in the river
as wolves with soft ears & miracle eyes, bending our lightning around each
others’ lightning & if God is something you’re into, God is everywhere, shaking
& bellowing, & if god is not something you’re into, Science is everywhere,
bewildered & blaspheming, I mean
let’s really delve into this. Let’s be clear because I don’t want to lose you
again: we are no longer human. We are two wolves fucking
in a brisk, cold river but our fur is keeping us warm & our hot animal
blood is keeping us warm, but for real, mostly the fucking
is keeping us warm & your body is a sky I want to sing into forever
& my body is the answering song
& your body is a long, long throat erupting with night language
& my body is a wolf’s body of speed & certainty & decision
& your body is a wolf’s body of unbuckling & ferocity & claiming
& our bodies are together let’s not forget
for the purposes of this poem they are together & in a river
& that day we went on the picnic & spoke of fucking
other people is gone & so too the months & months
of emotional exorcism, gone, gone, gone, we see now
a new kind of science, we can call the National
Geographic & tell them we have proven that time
turns to steam & leaves the body when two people make
love good enough to turn to wolves & end up fucking
in a river that is nothing but a tidal wave of forgetting
or perhaps all the doubts we’ve ever had
trying to reclaim us, but how they pass desperate & helpless
around the shape of our wolf-fucking. That’s what I want.
O that that that that that is what I want.
Do you know how soft my ears are, love? How soft
you make my ears by saying into them yes. By saying
into them I believe you. I believe in your body.
Odarling, the moon is full & this river is rising, is rushing
vertical, a tree of water, the song the wolf earth
sings to the sky.
Come let us fuck in it. Come let us drown in it.
Let me be carried at last to the moon
& over & over & over
Turning the long night tender
Let us all howl a hell yes to the moon together for Jeremy Radin.
This is for the little brothers
For the girls with the brothers who are going crazy,
For the kid who’s always late to class because he forgets the combination to his lockers,
Shake the dust.
This is for the hard men who want love,
but know it won’t come.
For the ones who are told to speak only when you are spoken to and then are never spoken to.