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these things are all we we we have.

emji spero 2011 1


these things are all we we we have.



book one



these are the facts. this wall will span. if there were hands could reach eleven feet. & eight & one eighth inches. these are the units of measure. apart. divided. divisible. we used & we use. some we’s born in america. because we were born here & here & here & anywhere else is there to us now. because we were born here & here & here. there are we’s say things like cool & weird. or we say things like things that are said in other places but with long a’s or fuckin a’s. this is how. we were born. we say things. we was here. we write these things on bathroom stalls. things like, julia was here shaniqua was here ramiro was here paul was here emma was here. jamie was here. i was here. i was here. i was here. this is how. our abandoned buildings. john was here jesse was here eamon was here. these days. these days there are more & more. these days there are less & less for more & more. we believe this. there is we say not enough of here. one of these days. we say this too. inside our abandoned: emergency candle. fox families. sometimes fear. asbestos. history. outside: fences keep you. there & passing by. there are too many. we have had enough. we have not had enough. there is one spoke in tongues. there is one nearly drowned three times. there is one made sandwiches. there is one believed. there is one writes manifestos & never shows no ones. samwiches are things sealed in plastic bags. samwiches are just in case. sometimes a father & two kids that live at the dump & just maybe they too were hungry. 7

there was one far from home. there was one & all these ones. there were so many we were once. once we said things & sometimes sometimes. we meant it. these are the facts: if the skin will keep this body in. if the skin. if the hands. if we hold on. we are splitting at the seams. our bleach white bones. there are the ones who lack. i am these ones too. there are those tied together. these tiedtogetherthings are everything. i am giving you a white moth. i am giving it to you the best i can. these are my hands held up to your face. cupped. and this is how i take it away. we put our fingers in our ears. sirens pass us by. we wait. we wait to speak. it passes us by. we are not asked to identify ourselves. we do not have to name our names. our names have no rolling r’s. we have no here to go back to. we stay right


toward is a thing that notyous do. away is a thing that notyous do also. the fingers will sometimes go numb. there is a numb that lasts too long. if the first two knuckles go bloodless pinch below the base of the third knuckle. transplant. water. neglect. if one could reach out. if one could touch. somewhere a sky above you. there is one with a hand tied to a hot stove. there is not flinching. a detention center twelve floors above fifth avenue. are walls let in no light. sometimes i am not enough to keep you. there is one hung by the neck from a noose. there is one weighed down with water. there is one filled their pockets with rocks. one gave themselves to the wind. one leaned too far. one slept. one smoked. one tried. one tries. if the jaws become too heavy unhinge. gnash at night knowing no one else will hear. soreness upon waking. the only sign. lay on your back. press your shoulder blades into hardwood floor. into the carpet. tiles. dirt. the desert sand will hold you. whatever it is that you have. press yourselves against it.


at the intersection. we came to the edge of this small town. everything we said ends right? at the end of it all it just kept on going. we looked out. two red lights moving across. two white lights toward. this wall that cuts. the endless pipeline. you said maybe if we shout. you said maybe if we whisper. at the end of it all. we asked anyone if they had any questions. Do You we said Have Any Questions?


“the teeth are safe” “no mother saved” “come” “a first a final word” “open” “dust clouds disuse” “all this gravity” “the lid is heavy” “dear” “the key turned tighter” “their flight” “their distance” “jealous of ” “some still clip the ears of ” “the fire forgotten” “but no one has yet” “what was written” “there was still the empty air” “will wallpaper your memory” “the pages of old notebooks” “stories glued under carpets” “sounds stored in walls or boxes” “secrets safe with” “the hard wood floor” “what is given” “a straw to drink through” “a straw to breathe through” “a clamped tight throat” “achilles and cartillage” “the vocal cords removed” “arches and tips” “turned in the crux of the jaw” “but there are others” “kept together” “wires strung across a body” “kept together” “just waiting to be plucked” “the head flops on the neck”


there is nothing left to wrap in brown paper bags. the hands won’t hold. the cruelty to plants overwhelming. “it was plucked out.” “the unendurable nature of plaid.” it’s hard to tell from the snapshot.


a place defined by desperation. we leave our families. we go to work. we come home from work. we send things home to our families. we are killed or we are not killed. one of the safest countries. prescribed silence overtakes us. new orleans is burning. oakland is burning. tokyo is burning. paris is burning, too. queens is burning. bali is burning & is backlit. haiti is burning. tripoli is burning. detroit is burning. we burn above the floodline. until we find it strange. we still find it strange. temperatures are rising. i still find it strange. the fire in my belly won’t be put out. when we open our mouths: great clouds pour out. when we open our eyes: enough. one of these days you come home. your things disappearing around you. this can be so slow. everyday more things missing. gap tooth spaces. you don’t say. there are people walking around here inside of your body. they leave the front door open. they come in. they look around at what’s hanging up there on the walls. they do not open the drawers shelves cabinets. some- times they pick up a notepad or a trinket. then place it back down. this is not the same place as they found it. they enter. they look around. could i they say live here? they look around. they touch things. they leave the way they came in. you wonder how you came to be here. it is so small here.


we build dams to route water to lands which can’t sustain us. this all happened before you were born. you can not catch up. you can fail. thirty glasses of water a day it is said is too many. you will flood the spaces between your cells. water seeks the cracks the spaces between the things we say. these run deep. the things you do not say can kill you.


we would not eat so tubes were pushed down our throats. we would not speak. when you do not speak you will be held upside down. you will drink water so fast. you can not keep up. your hands go numb. my hands also go numb. if you were to reach out. this room is filling up with bottles. my car is filling up with bot- tles. these bottles clack against one another when i make right turns. energy levels are dropping. we are running on empty. blood pressure dropping or rising. depending. yellow. orange. red. and rising. i will build you a desert with these words. the water in my stomach will fall out. you will see them there beside the partially digested apple. if you are thirsty you may have some. i do not own the water. we do not own the water. what does not come out i keep in my body. these vessels kept falling out while walking. this would happen in the city. the first time this happened be both just stared. we are leaing over. we are leaning & we are looking & we are not speaking. we are speaking & i am you are saying sorry & these things are hap- pening. there are intersections between eyes. sometimes one will come to an intersection & pass right on through & will feel a sudden stab. and this is how things are in cities & this is how things could be.


there is a lump there on the sidewalk. i am leaving these lying there & there & there. this trail will follow me home. you could find or follow me by the things i leave behind. but you are you say not gretel & i am not hansel & there is no there to go back to & wicked witches are just a story people tell one another o disempower women who live alone or women who grow old & what do you have to fear that you are leaving all these things behind you are leaving you are leaving you are leaving.


there are water wars on the horizon so i am stocking up. i will keep it all dammed up i say but it keeps on & keeps on & my eyes are also saying sorry but on 44th & linden the backpacks are piling up. & i have walked up out of the underground into this riot & am staying right here. there are strangers still who will give you a white rose to hold. this they say will be your weapon against the wall. some four are pass around their last cigarette partaking in the passing together. and there are stranger things still.


we do not speak of such things. these are the things we speak of: being tired. home repair. the weather. we tell jokes. we make no attempt to speak of politics. these things we call conspiracy. we leave our jaws unhinged at night. we take them off & leave them lying beside our glasses on bedside tables. it is not until after the first cup of coffee that we begin again. to speak.


book two



the seams splitting. lost or losing these walls called homes. one. then two. three. already four. this one shits on the sidewalk. here. this pile of newspapers. there’s two are tourists. standing at distance. there is clapping. we are the tourists & we are laughing. we watch & watch ourselves. we are shitting. we are the newspapers. we are shit.


these are the symptoms. unable to hold down. white below the wrist. a closing of the closing of the. the lips that crack. the deserts kept at the back of our mouths. these earthquake arms. our arms. are grave injustices. are or barely noticed. these are small our daily things. soft. subtle. the closing of eyes. too much of anything. we are worn down. drainclogged. the seam in the ceiling. we are melting in this heat. a full body xray scan. we cross the border. we shed our skins. we came across. and what if. we could have done these things differently. and if still we could. we are oil pipelines & we are rivers. at night we fall & fall into the sea. fomenting. in this even carpet pushed forth shoots. even a bicycle can be a weapon. i can not even make a fist. there’s too much blood gets in the way.


forgive this removal. could speak before. the fire above. this house a cold glass bottle. held up eye-height to see things more distorted. this wish for words. these mouths too full of saltwater. sometimes will say sweetmeat things. sometimes swallow ink charcoal or glue. one will say unhinge me. when you die, i will bury you with the things you could not keep. one day we painted over all the outlets in the house & sealed the chinks where wind crept in. there are ones live glass houses. there are ones never clean their windows. there are ones insulate with cardboard boxes. we keep our innards sponge & pink. shut out all sound. you are doors are gaping mouths. will close these eyelids with those lips. might see a thing more true. my smooth red inside. a clear white light.


these rumpled sometimes sheets. these morningnight faces. the croach of the window. slices us. awake. these things do not belong to us. we built them. hours of. we scrape we sand we screw. we wrinkle our hands or chap them. i could have been some- one new by now. beneath the tile: glue beneath it: plywood be- neath the ply: the hardwood floor beneath this a hollow sound is someone other’s ceiling. “i wish i could give up” “too soon” “it’s quiet here” “& over there a gaping” “they made enough” “all of us” “some mornings” “i had such hopes.” i did not notice when the record had stopped. the static. a wall removed itself from conversation. i built another wall. this time. you noticed.


we are thin & thinner still. if sounds would go right through you. once the gap between these eyes & lids. are hinges rusted dry. then & only then we caulk. some days i play inside your skull. for pleasure. inside are things i do not understand. the last thing we are to lose. the first of these things. teeth. dignity. we sense here this place becomes less & less ours daily. one of these days here too will go. another day will find you leaving. it will be dirtier, there. then & slower. there too the hus- tle. there too, are ones wear shoes with soles to keep the ground out. when asked. can you see yourself in it. only others.


nothing here to hold to nothing to hold onto only scrap heaped up & burning left piled things these things keep filling up & over there is no one left can pay anyone else to take it from us. we leave it in lots on corners we leave it at piers & by night we leave. it will be taken from us by someone else. will be taken care of. will be taken away in black bags. we still believe. will leave it on the lush lawns of wealthy neighborhoods. in the marble atriums of banks. the rest has gone. we’ll rest our heads in safe deposit boxes. the lump at the cleft of the breastbone. these are sound come only at night. there are spaces here for you & you. come closer.


the hands frap against the glass. the outside ones lean in. do some one says live in there. “we wallpapered every window” “we went there just to be disappointed.” “were two sheets deep” “translucent still” “tell us what the new things look like” some born & some were built. some made it or made it west. some were here. & then were not here. one day we whitewashed it all.


bile will surface. fizzy & purpled. cupped our hands beneath. to keep it we says close. raised to lips & lap it up. we could not waste even this. there was not enough of us to give. this is not love & the sky will not save you. lets pretend we are astronauts. save our urine. sell it to craigslisters in the morning. meet at cafes. piss on each other in public. drink up darling. what towns turn to deserts. what towns sliced through. the rerouting. the dammed. the dryest of throats. with cotton in the ear holes. we can get by. these days the salmon swim upstream. these days the salmon swim in circles in clear glass cases. in museums. we pump wa- ter round & round. we emulate the river. we stand at distance. we watch. its funny. their hurry home. their going nowhere.


below stories standing. two feet. these two feet & those. there. below the great white weight. below us stories. two cities. above & below cities. meet at the mirror. sometimes we see through & through. at the stitch of the linen. at the seam. in the fringe. between the sheets. we are & are inhabited. we are over, come. come & come closer. lets lie here flat bellied arms to the sky. these draping mouths. could still. speak. saying secrets kept for. we’s do not stand. still. we’s do not say pause. if pause, please. press wind stepside & skirt. please i am saying do not be afraid. we’s just standing here. it is only stillness. there is no threat. only a dead one lying. only one sitting in a corner. only a move- ment of fur. is just sitting. no source we could identify. we were once warm. the hands then they did not shake. we are only watching & the dead ones we only lie. the living ones. we lie too.


it could be like this: will lie & lie here. palmsplayed. armlegs out. will cover & cover. this earth. our resting your head. when i grow up. there is nothing of landscape. all this growing up. there is much of belief. of the unlimited ceiling. & this much of the elevator or taking the stairs in case of. much of looking. down upon or up at. or looking back. at & under. these sixstory fourstory dotted lines. say









solider still to sign. a name upon. our debts stack higher. each of these days. the unseen landscape: bone. a bit of bone. beads. baskets. shell. bone on bone. bone at the surface & can’t be kept under. every few years. this too will go. the hard surface of things. some we’s have built & built upon. not fully buried. these ones’ bones. envelopes stacked for forgetting. on this surface or that one. cut open the upper edge. the calls that go unanswered. for being swept under. we are bridges. we are bridges. we groan. a great weight settles low upon the land. a great white weight. we buy above the bodies.


these the things lie beneath. surface. shell mounds made flat. were unwilling to forgo. we are mostly destroyed. covered up. we are getting carried away. we were once. sitting vacant. warehoused. the factory closed. we were dominating & were the landscape. moved on. once made. small. once the use of. we were disturbed. finally leveled. we have been studied. lovingly. excavated. systematically. we came & came into conflict. we take & are taken. with interest deconstructed. we have been rifle range. amusement park. home. sold. subdivided. resold. there was once a slaughterhouse–here–at the base of the sternum. where we built corrals. there are ones used. part & parted. some fell under. some already abandoned.


book three



one day walking. one day running. all running. pushing. our or someone else’s pushing. will stop. will for once be clear. be forward with all the speed. muster a moments. pause. kick back.


writings left on hands daily. frame by frame. a record daily. will align. bound at the crux of the elbow. at spines. the hands. pass through. at night crawl under the skin. lay a leg upon. & over. the weight of it. the need for the weight of it. & sleep. at arms reach these days. held up these blank books. climb up to enter. pay someone to ask questions of you. stranged seeking. confess the need. for other ways to speak. we do not care for the color. but the hows of ripping down. the hows of weight & bearings. we do not count the number of times. say sorry. would accumulate. must open to let in. sometimes. one will hit the window. there is no window. one coll- apses. we blink. it is late in the day. it is evening. ones emerge from the bellies. seek close hollows. there is one walks back. turns. walks back. these other ways to. wide eyed ones without ears. one building boxes to keep the stars in. one sits at the foot. the outside staircase. a heavy handed sky. low above the browline. we do not know why these things. if i am to. will not be face down. hands behind the back. will be kicking.


keep history in lengths of hair. well maintained toxins. genetic information. regrets. brittled. these our vulnerable ends. the very first time cut. could not then be saved. for you: not lovingly wrapped. no envelope in drawers. with teeth. with ribbons. will not get it back. we’ll not get it back. ￟


forever be standing on these necks. step off. from here to one other. drawn lines. you see how they cry. where the water meets the land. those mov- ing ones. now slightly breathing. now is needed. these bottles. were you. used to be. you remember. this the path across us. a louder human silence. en another langua. divides. us. connects these. a vein tapped. we are culpable in this. there is no in. or out. will cut our. source. will cut. our funding. cut our clits our bellies open. our eyes. our open. this one with the rope. are pulling the rope. & inch by inch. aims at the sky. a helicopter. whether one falls to the ground. one reining in another throwing threads. we watching imagine the lasso snap tight. one by one hand over hand. one taut. tied. to each one’s neck. we all fall-


“one finds one self foiled” “one finds one self fallen” “one is exhausted” “doesn’t know why” “something is taking” “hold of ” “what claims us” “to what” “we are tied” “who am i” “without you” 1

1Butler, Judith. “Violence, Mourning, Politics.” 41

this long mourning. for fought & killed others. for others. will come to a monday. a gathering of sorts. i knew one once. could fill in any they. could not be ready & could not wait. slip cover. turn stile. boot strap. what we owe before. a thing gets set- tled. & sometimes you can still stand up. there. keep us calm & well fed. sometimes. this ceiling is so low. pipes cut widely the room. we are hunched & we are bending. the insufficient what’s left over. take these. again. & again we are in corporated. beside ourselves. we stand.

ďżź 42

are there one says deficiencies. are there places left. are we one says places yet. we’s are taking place. one so rarely gets to keep. a while. winding down. a usual way passes by. there are other ways. remember. other ones with refusal & untils. they are as yours. their look as yours. as inhabited. these ones come in. thronging. blankets & bed- frames strung across. a bridge. a teller window. repeat each others phrases. so that the ones. the ones. there in the back. in the back. might hear this. hear this. will sleep here. we’ll not eat. will share food. we’ll one day. in the coming. in the back. the others sleeping breathing light. with cushions to rest upon. will sleep inside of yous. will be taken. surging. still. we make demands. will make only maybes. stay here. just sit. right here. every block. boarded. for keeps. a chemical removal. the hair bristles the up- per lip. lie here. sit here. we are staying. a bone worn between the breasts. we are here. could help carry. right here. could block this bridge. could say


we are beside ourselves. this mourning call. keen- ing chance. ad packed mouths. complicates our. a lack of metal. in the water a lack. of metal in the blood. steeped. saturated. we’s looking down at we’s. craning our necks. our once glass wall we’s. take the stairs. i’ll be a body. will be a bloody there. is nowhere is every fire. is no one elsewhere burning. the farfrom yous can’t hear. taken all we still have our throats. still have our burning out. deaths kept in our pockets. keep close. tap twice. the chest. the nose. or wink.


a second glance at a softer something. raked over. a fall out ground. fault lines. what no longer sounds here. a self setting fire. over turned vegetables or governments. over the lack of vegetables. more or boiling over. the point of all this or pointing at. a self medicated baseline. to keep from. the sense that it will be O.K. burst forth from the skull seal. these are the things we would kill for.



writing in the dark looks like writing in the dark looks like nothing. here the lights that go on & then off & then on are something more like comfort.


dear ones, there feels to be a point of a long railing toward. the shouts of. many together or the horizon. there is not living to see it. here is a hope for after. if one could do it right it would mean something. the body of a body hung from the curve of the staircase. other bodies miniature & descending in a spiral. a scream to burst through. the usual hush. how all that’s needed. instructions to scream from the belly. the fire in the belly. could burn down this silence. ￟


book four



and i was trying to hold the hive. in my hands or. i was trying to hold. the hive in my hands. or i was trying. to hold the hive. in my hands. go lower. did you forget half a suggestion. of human. how we are not so many onlies. in the room.


is it brave to say i've never been so scared. somewhere are people marching. somewhere are shouts at & together are chanting. somewhere trees breathing softer. somewhere still coughing or quitting. purring & the hum. somewhere a whirring. are filling up or folding. there are acres lost to grandfathered interests. we still feel it in our lungs. a hardly sigh for. i will say that i don't care anymore. this is the shape of a day: check the fridge. i'm tired. all this checking & checking the fridge. this waiting to watch. for ones to say leave. to say instead come. say: we need you. come. and what could any one do. and what could any ones watching do. and any watching ones could any ten thousand ones sitting up with loves in soft beds perched on couches a huddle of blankets watching. could with curled fetal ones with wooden desk heavy on hardback chairs watching. heavy with coulds and shoulds and watching ones go under. how ten thousand ones or one could leave. one could come. could do something. still. could something. could need. any one could.

and there is the going toward & the not quite knowing what there is the discomfort of the not quite knowing & the no longer going quietly. there is the hastening of information & the weight in the chest while watching.


there is the tapping fingers for connection & the ache in the chest in conversation.

one lays down on the tracks. remains awhile. gets up moves on. one lassos at helicopters. reigns one crashing. others watch. another plaza emptied. one pries open the coffin lid & nothing inside, laughs. one covers one's eyes. seeps through.


Alameda. Hayward. San Leandro. 15. Young. C. Alpert. A. Morgan. T. Degrano. D. Pasut. B Anthony. J Bouillerce. Foster City. Daly City. Pacifica. South San Francisco. T. Lopez. B. Reed. W. Hunter. McGiffert. Broadmoor. San Mateo. Burlingame. Oakland.


dear ones, about what you asked of me. maybe just a cup of tea instead. a little sugar. just this once. why not. round words above round tables. at the last. at the least this. this slow moment coming. the taste of it on the tongue. spoons replaced by chemical bitten smiles. for now lean in. we don't know how to speak yet of other things. again. soon. soon. it will all be over soon. we tell ourselves.


inventory: a mask to see through. a mask to breathe through. three cotton shirts. a water bottle. a camera. a lens. memory. teal rain coat. mom's old sneakers. a pen. a pad of paper. a number on the forearm. these are the only weapons: black ripped jeans. copper soldered glasses. chapped lips. a pen. a pad of paper. extra battery. sweater. harmonica. a friend.


P. Tran. L. Sanchez. T. Pena. E. Milin. M. Hackengurg. D. Davis.


an incredible vertical pressure. our closed down throats won't. too close pressed breath to breathe. see through our masks. we'll not wear any more of you. unzip these you-suits. we'll all stand naked. all stand here bone to bone. don't open your window darling. don't open your mouth your eyes. shut tight. sit tight. tight ring around the esophagus. hands bound behind you. zip tied. media tied. by a commitment to what. bound behind or together. bound together.


a whole body. what is trying to get across. people come. theys leave. time passes. the recycling bin labelled fragile. i was they. tried to pull me. in two. like put my hands. my hands. behind my. yous have always had them. in your hands. asking theys like. i am resisting. i am kneeded. on head. on forearms. not just hands just asking. it is simple really. we don't i'd rather be somewhere some one where else where theys is believing. i am keeping my self out of this. seven billion. it's likely to continue. are telling us leave. are boxing us in. these nothings left. are what else could we do. since day one. this i is yours. this is nothing. could do with the fall. up wailing. bruised shins. blood blisters. there is one says don't cry. stand up straight. it's only the shock speaking.


we are taking in through the slats in our sides. these many lost to. the plastic wars surface. unloosed these many move on. the inland upward staircase. the why. we do not know but the wayback blocked. say only push onwards. the place where. we will shudder. our last. press the soft part of your skull against the oxygen ceiling. one day were rainbows. some days deeper. never yet made it all the way to the end. sometimes one must wait at the foot of the staircase. long enough. one walks on by. there are a lot of not enough of us asking. we are inconvenient. "we do not live in the best possible world."


the person is not considered. the person is not considered a person. in the picture. the sanitary picture of the person. masked. medicalized. the neutralized person. one who wears a mask. the international outcry. the faceless and sedated persons. the standing & standing still persons. the eye-blind still persons. theys not held. theys not being held. theys will not be released. you can no longer expect that a camera can save you. you can no longer expect. you can say. i did everything i was was supposed to. i followed all the rules. i did everything right.

the game. has changed. i'm sorry. the old rules. do not apply. believing then won't save yous. maybe no ones. theys hide theys faces. we are many reasons. theys have been found to be people. found to be by someone. theys is finding we have found them to be potential. people. bound to bes.


what a





these things are all we have was written by Emji Spero in 2011 using a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution license in Oakland, California. This book was designed by Emji Spero using Adobe Garamond Pro for body text and Gotham for titling.

these things are all we have  

poetry by emji spero, 2011

these things are all we have  

poetry by emji spero, 2011