You Can’t Take Her Picture

A fast stroke of red soot
smeared in haste
across white fences

simmer over low heat
to bring out her natural sugars
or she leaves a bitter coating in your mouth
like an unripe persimmon

she’s the burnt out ends of cloudy skies

she’s laced up and ready to fight

she’s deerskin wrapped tight
around sharp flint

she’s a thin cymbal crashing far away
like a dusty moth you’re not sure is there

you can shout
but in a room full of wounded soldiers,
why should she care?

Facit txt. msg.

Those large eyes
and little voice
make you dance in your kitchen
(she has that power)

she can slip under a fence
like a cat
or bite through speaker wire
if you don’t tape it down

she is dangerous
in her innocence
and cuts unnoticed
like a well sharpened knife

she travels past
a thousand oaks
and neon deserts
yet won’t leave your thoughts

even when
you delete her from your phone
when she doesn’t call you back
for the last time.

Clear Skies and Summer

You said i crushed you
and rubbed you out
your tired eyes drowning
i couldn’t stop laughing

they say
you left by thunder
using the clouds as cover

now the buildings sag together
like soggy fingers
groping the burnt sky
for the hem of your dress

at work i think i see you
i run out
in the middle of negotiations
thinking of your funny faces

its summer now
during lazy sundays
when the dry heat
splits pomegranates
i almost hear you
jingle faintly
behind the cupboards

since you left
everything is chaos –
the cat jumps on the counter
and licks the butter.

London is flooded

Lets
do it again
do it again
with the rain
with the rain
seven days of rain

London is flooded

we blow through its hallowed steel
like dirty little secrets
we slip down
far down
we’re the town

for a time
seven days past November

London is flooded

the damn is broke
were in the fall
like timbers
swollen with sound
scattered and found

we scream and shake
thrash up
like windfall
or shore break

we all cry out
London is flooded!
London is flooded!

On Almond Street

First,
our nervous hand holds – shaking voices
then,
the warm smashing of our soft bodies
birthed from thin shells
left to drag our tender bellies across the sand

back when you scared me beautiful
like high cliffs or wild oceans

before the cold came
the frosted streets
your wet breath – twisting the air
thin legs, big jacket
biting your lip
left behind

did you fall behind the stove
and rot like an old grape?
or stick to the window
like a wet leaf?

you’re the black pain in my fingers
when I wade through old photos
or icy waters
to capture you in a pickle jar
and wonder why your light went out

now,
i walk the moon and wonder
(the beasts eye me carefully)
would your dark eyes spill from our children?
would you keep your mysteries closer to god?

it’s morning now
red birds scatter like hot beads
and sizzle in the wet sky

Rosemary
i’m waiting for you on almond street.

Sleeping in the Sun

Your first word
was my secret name
smeared in margins
of old books

on hot june days
i pour down shelves
drip through floor boards
and stain your thighs

in frayed edges
torn from sleep
through silver waters
you return
scorched and sparkling
pouring your fingers
through my hair
into my stomach
filling me
until you
sear my lungs
coughed up by morning
licked raw by your light

i thought i saw you
while i slept
but it was just the city
glowing through the trees

when i woke
i thought i had a red haired wife
but i was sleeping in the sun.

Beneath the Brook

A swallows call
led us into the reeds
where old letters and sad songs
stain the waters
the night we buried our names
beneath the brook

we bled ourselves in promise
sharpened each others teeth
stole into barns
and tore through lambs
frenzied by their meat
we stumbled down rabbit holes
and laid in repose
slowly stroking moral dilemmas
with the tips of our fingers
taking sips from each other
until the salt and lime cut our lips
and the rumble of far away storms
shook the windows

frightened
and hungry to be swallowed
you slipped pale and raw
into my dark innocence
our bodies poured down sweaty walls
while cracked windows rattled in dry frames
so we were
(dry to the bone but wet to the touch)

now in the silent decay of night
the thin hiss of my charred body
calls you with a small voice
but you left
with a twist of laughter
and a handful of sharp angles

i try to sleep
through the confused flashes of panic
between my sensible mind
and aching body
that never destroyed me for the better.

Feathers in Smoke

Our feathers wet with smoke
heat about our necks
bobbing shoulder blades
muffled muscles strain
peeling flesh yawning
wet shudders sinking
heavy inside
burned and buried
beneath you
hushed and smothered
beneath you
our pale shadows stare
into silence daring
all i know
and don’t see
i can’t see
we could try a little harder
but why should we bother?

At Arm’s Length

Remembered with sharp discomfort
after a world record of not thinking of you

my affections your burden
braced against me at arm’s length

we misinterpret each other correctly
between countries that connect in an instant
but not really

we’re not who we want or what we need
but we’re something
aren’t we

following apart
we expect the worst
but hope for the best

we delight in details
our faces pressed too close to understand

a little longer
to see what happens.

Still Remaking

Hurried into your clothes
i quietly broke
between your sharp hips and fingertips
swirling in the half light
just before the bend

and if you know
(though i doubt you do)
the hurried up past before we flew
was all i had
and all i knew

in smothered moments
too shallow to swim through
all you stole from me
when i begged you to

we were the shameful tolerance
of my sincerity
i remember only
because i have nothing better
than scraped knees and shaking
still remaking
the sense you never.

Songs in Sleep

You found me under an apple tree
set my wing with a twig
and some kitchen twine
eyes clenched, quick shallow breaths
i struggled in your shoe box
until you laid me in your bed
your sugar face, my belly aches
the scattered hands across my dusty face
until you burnt my hazel bones
with the details of your voice
you whispered in sleep:
“All the king’s horses, and all the king’s men.”
then held me with a strength i could hardly believe

when i remember you it’s always the same
legs dangling in the water
eyes hidden from the sun
of course we never went swimming
we never did a lot of things
but there you are
wiggling your toes into glassy ripples
looking at me from under noon shadowed eyes
with salty lips and sandy hair
is how i’ll forget you
as soon as i can afford to

you kept a small bird
trained him to sing
you would start, and he would follow
always in key
then you would look over
satisfied and smiling
as if to say:
“See, I told you. You shouldn’t have doubted me.”
of course i never doubted you

you were the muffled sizzle of rainy streets
the sudden creek of furniture in the dark
the embarrassed snicker
when it’s time to be serious
and all the faces i’ll never see again

i was explaining myself to a group of friends
when feeling around in my pocket, i found a key
i pulled it out confused, stopping mid sentence
starring at it, i thought of you
and something twisted inside me
i felt sick and excused myself
there is a door somewhere closed to me forever
it doesn’t matter that i have the key
it never mattered that i have the key.

The Ugliness of Effort

Reflecting each other
in the loneliness of our dark waters
we chose to ignore the placid ripples
distorting the refreshing vanity
of our inverted symmetry
until we had to reach arms deep
into each other
to anchor from the storm
that whipped our images
into grotesque forms
we could no longer recognize
or recognize too well

how humbling to discover
it was me staring up
from beneath your reality
servant to your movement
twisted by your storm

i can say it now without wincing
beneath the full dizzy melting
and curved hollow swooping
we were two touches falling
insides echoing
what would always last
if it ever had
pretending not to notice
all the shadowed hands
upon our sinking
slowly surrounding
my forced forgetting
those times i couldn’t keep
ourselves to myself
or had to substitute memories
for the unregarded of me
until it became the want of exit
despite ourselves
or to spite ourselves
(never an easy distinction with us)

in the end
what was between us
was between us
pressed against our best wishes
until i left us
openly buried in our borrowed home
to return myself
and leave behind
the favor you never gave me

you thought i held you too tight
that i would break apart the wings
i knew you never had
your lightness my weight to lift
so high you could fly
if you closed your eyes tight enough
to pretend the strain of my muscles
was the blow dried wind in your hair
those nights you stranded me
on the island you had me build for us
while you
innocent and untouched
blew through the streets
leaving me scattered
among your cluttered dinner table
with the rest of your neglected responsibilities
waiting for the generous outpouring
of your unforced hand
in that forever tomorrow
that richly saturated future
you borrowed against at my expense

you thought in time i could be trained
to join your exclusive stable of janitors
dressed as magicians
each taking a corner of your palanquin
with curtains drawn to the reality you expel
though sometimes you see too clearly
through those thinning muslin clouds
and sneer in confusion at the strain
because being close to someone
means you can magically float above
the ugliness of effort
and just maybe
you’ll never need to understand
magicians are not real.

Little Pieces

Your sugar lips i never bit
are liquid bells fluttering
in this quiet place
smuggled past closed eyes
sighs and goodbyes
where i lay you in grace
embarrassed and steaming
scorched thighs dawning
luscious and fawning
clenched and howling
through shadows shattering
the sublime loneliness of night

until morning piously unfolds
my smothered refusal
of your absence gaping
bright and sharp
in the silver chill of dawn
a telephone wire strung with birds
quietly lifts into the half light
when i call out to you in quiet panic
each desperate prayer
a negation of the exhausting farce
we both coolly decline
for the infinite warmth
of our pressed bodies
if not for the delinquency
of your non existence
throughout my days clamoring
vulgar barking
shrewd silences
and ignoble suspicions

that you were the unquestioned calm
after those long bike rides
mouth sticky with stolen loquots
young and small
yet already too big for the world
that unlabored clarity
now fading with mistrust

are you
the remembering what i’ve always known?
or am i
stumbling into the forgotten conclusion
that you never really existed?
at least not in any practical sense
and really
what sense is that?

hello?
are you sleeping?
i don’t want to be a bother-
(the best you ever had)
have you ever belonged so strongly
you knew you could never break
into all those little pieces
worn soft as forgetfulness
that you swore didn’t exist
while you picked yourself up
taking far too much time

or was that me?

Pretending Otherwise

Haven’t you forgotten something
take a moment to remind yourself

is it enough to decide against who you were
to fit into who you are
when pretending otherwise
strains your ability to pretend otherwise
and lets be honest
you’re much too old for that

has it been so long
since you could trust everything
you told yourself you were
when you didn’t look too closely
at what you were becoming

have you got it now little soldier?
or do you need more time to forget it all
before you lay your precious little head down to sleep?

Behind Those Hills

When the sun rests between those branches
to catch its breath,
i’ll ask it to stay longer today
so we can have time
to swim in the lake we found
behind those hills.

before then,
run home and get your white dress
so you have something
dry to change into for the walk back

there is a full moon tonight
so we shouldn’t get lost coming home.

Red Smoke

You’re a sweet smelling red smoke
curling and laughing playfully

a sneaky little thing
flashing your silly smile

but your play is wise
filling your life with meaning.


Post Cards

Hey Ana

It’s Ali, from high school. Do you remember me?
We ate lunch together behind the theater
and sneaked notes during independent reading.
Anyway, I was going through some stuff while moving
and found the photos I developed
from that time we went kite flying at Farren Road,
and remembered I promised to send them.

Sorry we lost touch. I actually had a dream about you last night
where we were trying to wash this little brown dog together,
but it got loose and ran through your parent’s house knocking stuff over…
I woke up missing you. Hope you get this.

Running out of space,

-Ali
PS. Write back on postcard.

Ali!!!

Of course I remember you! It’s great to hear from you again.
Please excuse the late reply, but I don’t live in SB anymore,
I live in Middlesbrough England now. (Crazy I know!).
So your postcard/photo forwarded here just yesterday.

I love the photo!
I keep staring at it. It kind of makes me sad, in a good way.
I have so much to ask you but I’m running out of space also;
what are you up to now?
Still painting? Why postcards? And not e-mail, phone, etc?

Seems you’re still weird. That’s good.

-Ana

Ana,

*Read this somewhere warm.
May I suggest lying in a duffel bag full of dryer fresh clothes?*

England = You’re cool. But why? Torrid love affair go wrong?
Left you stranded, turning out your knickers for quid’s and shillings?

I still paint. I work as a 3D artist for games/animation.
Artsy-fartsy plus nerdyness basically, emphasis on the fartsy.

What’s with the building on your postcard?
Some obvious English monument I should know about?
Are you trying to say I’m an uncouth savage?
How dare you.

-Ali

Ali,

Haha!
Oh yea! I totally forgot to mention.
That building is a concert hall I played.
Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not a traumatized prostitute,
I play viola for the Smithton Orchestra now.

Knickers? Shillings? Your British vernacular needs help… hehe.

You work in video games! Awesome for you,
that’s what you always wanted right? Way to go!

No more space = Sad Ana. 🙁 Write back soon.

-Ana
PS. I love this photo as well!
PPS. I read your card after I got out of a warm shower. Mission complete!

Ana,

You’re a viola-ist playing concert halls?
Ana = Un-precedented level of coolness.

You’ve inspired me to change my daughter’s name to “Ana”.
…Then my wife would be upset,
because the name “Maya” is important to her
and her fundamentalist half baked hippy belief system.
We would get into an extended argument
and grow ever more bitter and distant…

I’m going to think about you and do a stream of consciousness
word association thingee………. “Ana”:

Roller coaster pie
Systematic abbreviation
Cornish game hen
Bunchy sac
…Results are inconclusive. Possibly I’m hungry?

-Ali

Ali,

Wow… Back up mister…
I had trouble decoding your weirdness on the last card…
Are you married!?? With child!?
You said you moved, and I see these cards are coming from LA,
when and why did that happen?
What’s your wife do? How old is Maya?
Do you have any other children?
I remember you as the hopeless virgin,
too involved with his art to care about the dating world…

Please put your deft linguistic trickery on hold and fill me in!

-Ana
PS. Sorry for the authoritative tone in this card,
but I just burned some popcorn
and writing this letter in a smoky foul smelling apartment has me miffed.

PPS. I am not a bunchy sac!

Ana,

“PS”, more like “PMS”…
(Crass puns are just the height of comedy wouldn’t you agree?)

Ok, judging by the record number
of exclamation marks on your last card I see you mean business.
I promise to be on my best behavior.

First off, no I’m not married, nor do I have any children.
I’m still just as stupid and clueless about women as ever.

That was a hypothetical hippy wife and child tangent
to illustrate how impressed I was
with you being a professional musician.

-Ali

Ali,

Okay my feet are back on solid ground,
I really believed you were a husband and father for a second there.
To be honest I was worried your “wife” would see the post card
and wonder what business you have with a woman in England.

These cards are making me impatient!
I want to know more than a paragraph at a time!

So yea, Los Angeles? What’s up with that?
Do you live with anyone? Do you just work all the time?
Dating? Travel? Free time? Etc.

No space left,

-Ana
PS. I’ll be in Wales for a few weeks for a performance,
I want a juicy card waiting when I get back!

Ana,

I emerged from my art college cocoon
and spread wings of geekyness, to fly to LA for work.

I live alone, and spend most of my free time cooking and painting
I go out with friends sometimes,
but nothing comes of it dating wise.

What about you? Besides the Athenian style young boy orgies
im sure you regularly throw; what’s your living situation?
Do you have a Cambodian lover who comes over
in the middle of the night smelling of gin and gun smoke,
ravishing you while screaming war cries?

-Ali

Ali,

Cambodian lover? Who told you about Muhenbai?!
Just kidding. No orgies or violent lovers on my end.
I live in a studio at the back of a small side road
in south Middlesbrough and don’t have any flat mates.
I used to, but no one wants to hear me working through
a tough passage in a Bach concerto at two in the morning…
So now I live alone, and can practice to my heart’s content.

I want to see some of your art and writing!
I still have the yearbook,
with all those obscene bird drawings you did in it.
I wonder how different you look from high school?

-Ana

Ana,

Your poignant self description
gives me hope that you’re still the lonely girl,
focused, and pensive. With the frighteningly bright eyes,
I couldn’t look into without embarrassment.

Remember all those times we ate lunch together as kids
when I didn’t have the guts to say
the words I rehearsed the night before
until we both left for college
and I pretended to myself it was all for the best?
of course you don’t, but I do

I don’t want to be guilty of that again,
I hope I’m not stepping out of line
but I was thinking about you earlier today and wrote this:

Like an Ocean

Your less like a star
and more like an ocean

only the sky knows to cover your naked surface
tremoring in want for firm press
while below a strained secret
lies as still as innocence

you’re less like a star
and more like an ocean

heavenly clamor is too shrill and high minded
for an ocean of want
forgotten at the end of this world

blurred to sleep
by the quite rhythms
of a lost rain.

Ali,

Sorry for breaking the post card rule,
but I wanted you to have this.

Make sure you open the package in private.
My number’s on the back,
please call me.

-Ana


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