Monday, August 31, 2009


Not that I am the authority or anything
but we were talking about it
and I said that yes, I think I know a thing or two
about confessional poetry
about slipping out from behind the curtain,
clothed in only my hands,
pink and voyeuristic
but I don’t pretend to be an authority.

No those Kings and Queens
and sleepy Princes, have their thrones
in the canon. They have turned themselves
inside out.
I’m just saying that I have at time,
ripped out the still beating heart
of me
and my sisters,
my parents,
my lovers
and thrown it down for you to see.
I have smeared the blood on the table top.
I have traced my name in the mud and crushed snail shells.
I have sat naked and shivering, hating all that flesh
in the bare board Catholic confessional
and whispered my secrets through the mesh
to all of you, dressed in priest’s white
with thick fingers and clean clipped nails.

And here is tonight’s:

Last night,
after talking about new jeans,
and my father’s health
and my parents vacation
and movies and weather
and everything was winding down
the phone hot against the side of my face
when she said,
“Honey are you still getting mammograms?
You know you should still get them.
I’m going tomorrow. When was your last one?”

and I wonder why now,
at the end does this have to come up?
There will never be an end to the things we are forced to talk about.

So I tell her “yes, of course,”
even though it is a lie and I tell her I have a fall appointment,
even though I don’t
because I want to get off the phone
because I have nothing left to say about this
and because I also want to tell her what she wants to hear
so that she can believe we can hold back this tidal wave
of deterioration by doing the things we are supposed to do.
As if by locking the front door and making sure the range is off
before we go to bed, we will all be sure to wake up into the next day.

I tell her “yes” also because I am tired
and I want to get back to my glass of wine
my book
and my Sunday night.

Forgive me,
for I have sinned.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Throwing Bones

And there we were, finally
after what felt like years of separation
and Dan was telling tales of Morocco and
Venice and Korea
and I watched my husband sit on the balcony
his legs propped up, the wine in his hand,
each time he blinked he fell in love with this city all over again,

just as I fall in love with both of you all over again,
my boys,
my oldest of friends, my deepest of loves.

We are the bone throwers,
we are the magi
we circled the chairs so we were near the
cool breeze blowing off Houston Street
and we let the music play and play
in the darkening studio.
We chased away the bad feelings.
We chased away bloody ex-lovers
with stolen keys.
We chased away chastising family.
We chased away work and
brought out the spell books,
the sketches,
the wine,
the rum,
the poetry,
the Arabic line,
the music,
the bones,
the rings,
the Korean fans, the snail shells,
the Pink Life, the translucency,
the glasses all in a circle as proof that we were here,
like a still life of art imitating life imitating art.

We are the Fauves, the wild things with our terrible
roars and our terrible claws.
We are the tricksters.
We are the tide,
we come together and come apart
and come together. And this is the way it will always be.

And when we left that night, all howls and laughter,
we carried beers in our back pockets
as if the world and their silly rules
were inches below us,
just as the concrete was still inches
below our floating feet.
Just as the dawn was still hours away,
frozen and still
and we knew it would come,
the night would end,
but not yet.
Not just yet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Do You

He’s yelling into the phone.
He already called her a bitch,
and a fucking bitch just to add clarity.

I’m trying to read my book
and failing
and I can hear her voice on the other end,
hollow and reedy
like a bird’s bones, splintered
after listening to this noise for so long
and she’s pleading with him, shrill,
frantic, her panic beating just outside her skin.

He tells her
“Do you”
and he means for her to stop worrying about him
and start worrying about herself. To Do Herself. You Do You.
Like it’s that simple.
And I feel the weight of every woman
trapped inside these men,
flood into this subway car as the doors close.
Do You.
What a horrible phrase
as if her life weren’t her own
and I want to smack that phone out of his hand
and remind him of the prison he has built
out of his screaming
out of his jealousy and madness.
I want to remind him that Men
like him, help create Women like her.
I want to remind him that need is a two way street.

And he’s threatening to hang up.
And I just wish he would,
because somewhere she is strangling herself
locked in his room like another decoration,
her fingers trembling,
her mouth slack.
And if he hangs up maybe she'll open the door
and keep walking till she reaches the water,
where she can start over.

But she doesn’t.
They never do.

“Do you,”
he cries and stomps down the subway car
and I feel myself shake with anger at both of them
and I feel the helplessness
the kind of nakedness I once had,
but don’t anymore.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tiny Kitchen

It’s like a battlefield
or an operating table
or a stage.
Yes, a stage,
and we do this little intimate dance
and sometimes we get it right, and you pass
with the hot pan in your oven-mitted hands
right as I close the refrigerator door
and it’s a fluid ballet. The audience claps
And sometimes we get it wrong
and something gets dropped
or someone get burned
or the someone’s toes get stepped on.
The audience boos.

I make us another drink.
I set the table.

By now we have stopped talking about work
for the most part
and writing
for the most part
and it’s only
Monday and we are already planning our weekend.

Our whole 12 years we have had
tiny kitchens, where we bump into one another.
And we have filled the white cabinets
and the freezer.
When the cabinets are bare, you worry.
You tell me,
“Don’t worry, I’m going to the store.”
You tell me,
“There will be food. I promise.”

Because food is important.
And what we have for dinner each night is important.
It has a way of taking away what went wrong that day.
The bad day at work.
The bad writing morning.
The bad week ahead.

We still make whole meals,
like our mothers did,
before they got old,
caring for and cleaning up after their men.

We still cook, like America used cook,
as a solvent,
as a release,
to prove that we can build something real
and nourishing.

I cut tomatoes,
and you tell me to be careful
because you think I hold the knife too close to my fingers.
You stir the chicken in the pan.

For now, we stopped worrying so much
about money.
About how it comes and how it goes
and how it settles.
Now we dance around tiny kitchens
in the heat,
with the Beatles on,
and I turn on the fan for dinner
and we eat
in the heat
and you make us another drink after
and we keep the blinds closed
till the sun goes down,
full bellied
and sleepy.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kangaroo Song

They don’t say kangaroo,
I realized that now,
it’s a mantra,
jai guru dava
but back then it sounded just like kangaroo dava.

Back when I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of my dorm.
Back when I took enough pills to keep my eyes open all night
because when they closed I couldn’t stop thinking of his slender back,
the smell of his dorm, the corner of his desk so terribly close to my eye,
like a threat.
The sound of him locking the door.

But here on the floor,
I was untouchable,
the small cd player right next to me
the door bolted
and re-bolted
my roommate away for the weekend,
my veins jittering
hitting repeat
for the 17th time
for the 18th time,

just to hear
that “nothing’s gonna change my world.”
Played over and over again,
my own mantra,
until it started to feel true
and I dug a big hole
and dumped my fear down it.

And nothing was fixed,
I still jump at shadows
and I still worry about the door,
I still get scared in the dark
14 years later,
but I’m still here aren’t I?
That part, if nothing else, didn’t change.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Muse

Daniel sends me one last little letter
that he is between nowhere and here
between the past and the present.
That he has left behind the sinking city
and on his last night as the Artist
at his show,
he asked the question that he asked me
months ago.

Does the muse choose the artist or does the artist
choose the muse?

And he was writing me to tell me that
the painters said it was a little of both,
a partnership
but that all the other writers,
at his table,
they all agreed with me.

That we wait patiently for them,
and they come and go like fickle little leprechauns
That we have all known so many in our lives,
all our old heartbreak, scars, laughter recorded on a 6 inch.

And I think to myself, of course the other writers said that too.
None of us are original.
Not any more.

We run around telling people “I love you”
when we mean “turn out the light,”
so says one writer.
We cower at the terrible beauty of lighting
when it hits the mountains and rocks our little boat.
We feel the things that happen to us with a distance,
like looking through the wrong end of a spyglass
so that later we’ll know exactly how it felt
and get it down in ink.

We drink and we fuck
and we fight about high art and low art
and we are all jealous of painters
with their thick fingers and their stained cheeks.
but Original,
is a Muse that left a long time ago
and now lives out her days,
aboard a cruise ship
just south of Fiji
sipping orange drinks and doing nothing at all.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Am Choosing Engagement

- Underneath all proclivities and responses to life however is a substratum of fear and suffering. It can be engaged with or it can be ignored, but it is there nonetheless.
-Deborah Barlow

It’s empty
stubbornly, violently empty,
this hole I keep tossing
myself into,
parts of me,
hair, fingers especially
eyelids, nails,
my tongue
the things I think I can
do without and still
get by on the street without jeers.
I have a whole bucket of parts here,
slopping around the slaughterhouse floor.
But that hole,
that whole hole,
isn’t filling.
I’m ripping out the narrative
and laying it to dry,
next to my skin,
flipped inside out
so you can see the words backwards here,
on this beach
where I’ve lost my way.

And the part of my brain
that is still working
in cool starts and stutters
has finally figured out what
this is,
these marks on my skin,
this black under my nails,
this spasm from the wrist,

It is the discomfort of being,
an existence that some of us
are disused to,
that cannot be tempered
by toys, or travel.
A voice that is always
there, telling us,
(not you of course,
this doesn’t apply to everyone),
but telling those of us,
who eat our hair,
or carve little messages
in our skin,
that our choice,
our only choice
is engagement or ignorance
and that all the bits of you
you leave behind,
in vain,
aren’t making any difference at all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Francis Bacon Told the Truth

It’s all teeth and fangs at first,
then there is the bone,
snatches of white against the blood,
that goes on for too long
and comes right out the back
and then finally the glass boxes
that you have got them all trapped in
so that their screams are echoed back at
them for a thousand years.

This is the song.
This is the only song you sung.

And I’m here, trying to scour
the eyeless heads
and the bent bodies
for the story you are telling
cause it feels like a dream
I forgot to have
like a daymare that I live some days
especially in the heat

and then it happened.
The whining child,
the bitchy mother,
the disgruntled father.
And then it escalated,
the stern docent,
the irate father,
the crowd parting
and their fangs came out.
Someone used the word asshole,
which echoed in the hushed museum walls
and someone used the word civil.
Someone said “it’s a museum, sir, please act decent.”

And I almost had to laugh out loud, Frankie
cause there it was,
come to life,
the human as animal
and nothing more,
the screeching, fang bearing,
chest thumping animal.
The baboon you made human
The pope you animalized.

This was everything you were painting.
As if the madness of you was possessive.

This was the chorus of your song.
And I stretched,
and moved into the next room
the one where you painted
your dead friend
over and over again,
his skin tacked to the wall.

The Theif.
The cruelty you knew he lived with,
desperate for you, desperate enough to do whatever you wanted.

My back cracked,
sore from wandering through your life,
and I felt my spine, come through my skin,
felt my teeth grow,
felt this glass box I was in
and shuddered.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Francis Bacon, 1909 - 1992

“the man who paints those dreadful pictures”
-Margaret Thatcher

Oscar, today I wish you lived here,
more than other days, when we are just
chatting about the heat and wine,
because today,
was the kind of day you would have liked,

and I didn’t know before I went,
that was it all teeth,
empty vacant eyes,
upside mouths,
skin flung to the floor,
or that Bacon would make these little
pen thin strokes, making cages
around his victims,
that he trapped in soundless glass boxes,
with nothing but their own screams,

and Oscar, it was one room after another,
it just kept going,
and in each space, you felt your stomach
flip like a rollercoaster,
except Bacon made this coaster out of the
spines of your loved ones,
and it was a nightmare brought to life,
but not the kind you run away from,
the kind that just stops you for a moment, in awe.
The kind you can’t look away from. Ever.

And then in the end it was just poor Frankie
all alone,
prostrate in grief,
his head in his hands.
Prometheus was gone,
the Furies were gone,
Dyer was gone.
It was one man alone with his head on a sink
locked in the space his love died in,
with no one left to paint but himself,

and I left the museum thinking
that the word “artist” gets thrown around a little too much
is used a little too loosely by people with nothing to lose,
and that I should work a little harder
that we should all be working a little harder,
at being butchers,
pulling out our vertebrae,
peeling muscle from bone,
unpacking the physical,
and therefore undoing the ethereal,
one by one
tacking them to the canvas
and never looking back.