ABOVE ALL THINGS He loved his whiskey, his cigar, his dog, and the river. From his porch at twilight he watched it flow and imagined the fish following the current or gathering in pools. Never did he fish anymore, but instead simply remembered wading the river as a boy, casting his lure and following with his eyes the riverâ€™s bend and disappearance into all that green.
FIRST MARRIAGE Danville, Illinois 1946 At twilight— while our parents chat on the porch— Jean Anne and I are collecting fireflies. We carry flickering Mason jars of lightning bugs. She calls me to her side, takes my ring finger between her thumb and forefinger, and smears a firefly across it where its guts— for the moment— shine bright yellow. She applies another to her finger as well. Now—she says— You and I are married— forever.
New Adventures of Supermoon Did you see the moon? The largest of the year! I would like to write a poem about it, about how it followed us from New York to Ontario as if it knew how long we would have to wait to look at it together again, how it appeared to me without my glasses as a great bright blob, a future-shaped hole in the empty sky. But I don’t know how to put the moon in a poem without saying the same things everyone has already said. What if I put in a word such as “perigee”— Will its scientific precision redeem my poem from sentimentality? Or will science only discover the problem is the poem doesn’t want to be about the moon? It wants to be about how it felt to hold you naked in my arms and wonder if this was the last time, how your breath synched up with mine, how your heartbeat felt like mine, a rhythm as primal as the phases of the moon, our bodies at perigee, our blood made of the same substance as the salty tides that rise and fall like breathing at the moon’s command.
The poem wants to be about waking up next to you into my real life at last, about the joy and the suffering of the world. But there’s even less that’s new to say about that than there is about the moon.
Stack Overflow at Line 1 Light fills my page. The Good Tasha Yar and the Evil Tasha Yar sit at a table in Ten Forward. The lipstick of the Good Tasha Yar glows with a supernatural ardor. Why is air in despair? A serial killer washes his copâ€™s uniform in a laundromat. I remember boarding a galleon and laughing with glee as my cutlass slashed a fat belly and guts came pouring out. Sherlock Holmes hides the God particle inside a snuff box. He slips the snuff box into a pocket of his waistcoat, strides from his flat, and disappears down a fog-haunted street. I philosophize with a sledgehammer. The elf is eight feet tall. He wields a sword in each hand, whirls through the foot soldiers, and lops off their heads. The knights know fear. The dead love the battered black van of the Door + Way Church.
Death in Hampden I want to be impaled on a pink flamingo. I want to be trampled over by stiletto heels sticking out from beneath leopard print miniskirts. I want to be smothered by velvet Elvises while wearing fluffy bunny slippers. I want to be pummeled with antique furniture falling from the roofs of art galleries. I want to be smashed in the face with Rosie the Riveter lunch boxes. I want to have my eardrums busted by bad karaoke turned up so loud it shatters the windows of quirky restaurants and dive bars. I want to bash my head into a giant Christmas tree made of shiny silver hubcaps, wrap myself in Christmas lights, and jump into a bathtub full of Natty Boh, expiring in a puff of rainbow-colored smoke. Then, I want to be buried beneath scores of beehive hairdos under a fluorescent pink tombstone with a glowing neon Jesus fish flashing gaudy light into the smoggy sky.
Just Another Love Poem I love you like a spent gas tank, like sickle cell anemia, like the raspy voice of a good blues singer, like the imperfections in a diamond, like the foam on the edge of breakers crashing against a rocky shoreline. I love you like a gentle brook caressing pebbles. I love you like an avalanche, like a slow dance. I love you like crack cocaine, like a hurricane. I love you like broken iron chains lying in the dust on a prison cell floor, like the steel beams in a skyscraper towering over the relentless city. I love you like a dinosaur fossil, hidden beneath the earth for millennia, dug up and displayed in a museum. I love you like a child playing with his favorite toy beneath the Christmas tree, like the cracked concrete sidewalk, like extra sharp cheddar cheese. I love you like a samurai sword slicing through your enemies with steel precision. I love you like a fire burning unburdened, passion igniting the sky red, orange, and yellow. I love you like the sun blazing infinity into the vacuum of space. I love you like the chill of death spreading through the crisp winter city, desperate, inevitable, and eternal. I love you like a worker ant carrying a potato chip crumb, several times the size of his tiny body, to feed his colony and his queen. I love you like bitter dark chocolate. I love you like a couple stopping to share a kiss as the bombs flash in the sky above the war-torn desert. I love you like mouthwash, leaving your breath minty fresh, like fireworks cracking explosive blossoms of color. I love you like a prisoner etching the hash-mark days into the grey wall. I love you like a car wreck, mangled metal and bodies, blood blossoming like roses on a thorn bush. I love you like a poet waiting for the lines to come, like a monk waiting for enlightenment. I love you like a coffee-stained greeting card, like a dying man waiting for the end. I love you like the sunset spreading pastel colors across the horizon, like a dog chewing on his bone in the corner of the room. I love you like a church steeple pointing at the infinite gray sky. I love you like a young bird, pushed out of a tree, learning to fly.
After Swimming Painted words on the bathhouse wall make it clear who goes where, but we are our mothers children, each throwing an elfin arm around the scent of an oiled calf. Our bellies are filled with mouthfuls of sunrays having laid our backs on a mattress of ocean. I am aware at five years old, on a public beach I could be a boy just as easily as my brother. Our mothers know this, we are only pairs of sand encrusted toes, faces dried tight with the salt of other childrenâ€™s splashes.
Seagulls perch atop a bathhouse labyrinth lit with open sky. Greeted by wet headed toddlersa chorus of small voices crash against the walls of an open shower, begging to return to a watery playground.
I listen as they become their own waves, their mothers speak to them as if trying to reason with the tide, washing the oceans froth into a trickle around the drain until the waves have stopped, until they are their children once again. Two round faced two year olds peek from the stall over, I shape the lather on my face into a beard, standing proud beside my brother with the same naked chest.
Mary Elizabeth Mays