day 9: calligram

the honey bees are
still dying
by the             thousands
even in                     summer when
everything’s                in bloom and
the hundred                      year old
tree in                     front of
the library
stretches out wide

to welcome

them home

day 8: palinode

obviously everything i wrote
about you that time two years ago,
when i said you were an amazing
rapper and so romantic, when
i called you something like
fully realized and self aware,
was a lie, a layer cake of
sarcasm and air blown over
the dying embers of whatever
residual anger i had left,
with you, with myself, with
the concept of internet dating

i’m sure you’re still a terrible
person who thinks he’s doing
well in the world because you
know how to code or have developed
something of an acquaintanceship
with the man at the corner store
nearest your apartment, or maybe
you’re still somehow managing
to juggle several relationships
at varying degrees of shallowness,
none deeper than a wading pool in
a senior center kept purposefully
under-filled to maintain safety

and maybe you do it to feel safe
or there’s some thing with your dad
(who i always felt you had a strange
relationship with but never really
thought to press you for details
because i guess it didn’t matter) or
you just learned at some point
that your privilege would allow it
as long as you carefully selected
people who’d go along out of apathy
or greed for your attention, the
sharp edge of your jaw and your eyes
and how it is to fuck you, when it is

but i can see you clearly in another
forty years, sitting by the window of
some mid-century monastery in the
woods where you live alone between
the free-spirited twenty-somethings
you can sometimes convince to stay
for a night or a few weeks, and instead
of realizing you’ve been directing
your own life all along, cutting,
editing, blocking shots to always
frame your own good side, you’ll
continue looking up at the rain
drenching what’s left of your life
and curse the writers for giving you
such terrible lines.

day 6: aubade

stepping carefully over
still-drunk teenagers,
their gentle snores like
trip wires, bear traps
he’d easily be caught in,
stay another few hours,
drink another beer or five
instead of making it in
to open the bar (which
he had to do, or else) and
he almost made it to the
door when he saw her, one
green eye looking at him
from under a pile of
blankets on the couch
where they’d kind of slept,
tangled and jammed,
arms going numb and
waking sometimes to
the song of half-empty
cans and cigarette lighters,
and even after a long night
singing in alleys and
running through traffic,
kissing against dumpsters
full of hamburger wrappers
she was light, marble
statue and audrey hepburn,
a hundred past lives looking
for her and she’s here
in a beer-stained sweater
watching him leave, and
he smiles and his heart
floats like a balloon to
the ceiling so he decides
to leave it there with her
and mouths the word
“tonight?” at her green eye
and she nods as he’s
unlocking the door, still
smiling, slipping,
falling blinded into the
early afternoon sun.

day 5: dickinson, revisited

(in this short life), sometimes
the song you really need to hear
comes floating out into the street
from some market (that only) opens
when the owner feels like waking up
and unlocking the doors in the late
afternoon sun, occasionally staying
open until midnight but other times,
when he’s had a particularly long day
or there’s a baseball game on, the
sight of the OPEN sign (lasts an hour)
or two before it’s returned to the
sun-bleached CLOSED side far
more often seen, but

when you hear that song, the one
that somehow gets you through the
rest of an impossible thursday in may,
one of the really long days that leaves you
wondering (how much) more you can take,
you’re struck by (how little) you need
to come alive again in the spring,
the way her haunted voice (is) a balm
on the psychic wounds (within) you,
this one never (our) song with anyone,
just yours, reminding you of your (power),
your throne the park across the street,
the train that takes you anywhere, the
world you just remembered is yours

day 4: loveless

there’s less suburban culinary debauchery
since you’ve been gone;

late night sushi rolls replace early evening plates
of chicken strips, sides of barbecue sauce

hardly the glimmer of a papa john’s sign
or the sound of a voice asking if i’d like to
supersize my mountain dew for just fifty cents,

and oversized chicken burritos, the size of
babies we never even talked about having,
have become salad bowls, no rice, no cheese

kale and white bean stew standing in sheepishly
for lasagnas, tuna casseroles, enchiladas, and

even though i enjoy meals in relative peace now,
mindfully chewing and swallowing each bite and
noticing the flavor profiles, the temperature, spices

it wasn’t always bad to find myself halfway through
a turkey club, looking up to find you watching me,

all rabid wolf eyes and bones stripped clean, asking,
“are you gonna finish that?”

day 3: fourteener

the album’s called “love songs” but it seems almost ironic:
her voice, dark smoke and honey, nearly hopeful even though
every song seems to be about loss, the pain of always
wanting something that never arrives or wishing the things
you have and the visions from your dreams would somehow align,
and even though she says summer, sunshine, easy living
each one echoes sadness, darker and harder than the last

but maybe that’s what an album called “love songs” is supposed
to be, if we’re honest; a series of true confessions
about the things we settle for and the things we only
let in when we’ve loosened our hold on consciousness at night,
dusty old journal entries come to life, reconstructed
on a slight tilt, the details not quite right but the feelings
all forest fires burning through twilight hours until

we wake up, remembering then why we can only hear
billie holiday once in a while, that we can take
just so much before we stop wanting to wake up at all
each morning, deciding instead to go back to sleep for
a few hours that soon become days, her voice slipping in
to turn our memories into something more than they were,
love songs where there once lived a drift of half-finished poems.

day 2: stars

i’ve written a hundred thousand lines
about the moon, how it’s magic and
how it listens to us and about the
time the ocean fell in love and
found itself shipwrecked, a
victim of overwhelmed tidal sway,
and i think these poems really are
about the moon, how it owns us and
moves us, shifts our moods and
turns long drives into car chases,
following the spotlight along the
edges of mountains, across the surface
of lakes, how it saves us all
from the night’s otherwise dark

but when i write about the stars
how far away they are or
what it’s like to watch them
flash and shoot, come to life and
slowly burn out thousands of years ago
in front of us somehow,
those poems are always about you,
the everyday miracle of your head
on the next pillow, the galaxies i’ve
found in the deep of your thoughts,
how the sound of you humming
echoes from the bathtub is
a long gaze into the night skies
i can remember seeing above
the redwoods when i was small,
an ocean, a blanket, an airy smother
of light, the wild parts of you
lit up over everything and burning

you, the stars, the moon’s moon

day 1: negation

the end was quieter
than you’d imagined

not a spectacular
crash, just a sudden
landing too fast on
the runway, pulling
a little to the right;

the kind that makes
you grip your armrests
but just for a second
as you realize you’ve
stopped breathing,
need to start again,
and so you do

not the explosion of
a volcano, only the
soft blanket of ash
covering everything
that was you together
and leaving it still;

something a group
of archaeologists might
someday discover, study,
carefully unearth and
record and then display
in a dark museum

not an earthquake
collapsing buildings and
sinking cars, but the
low hum in an auditorium
just before the curtain rises,
the way voices carry
across full rooms with
only a few empty seats

the way you never
feel more alone now than
when you’re in a crowd

the way you remember
what it was like to have
a mirror held up for you
by steady hands

the way you thought
you were plane crashes,
volcanoes, earthquakes,
natural disasters and
large-scale tragedies
but in the end you both
went out like lambs
together, up the worn
wooden planks to
the way of everything
that came before you,

all the others who
thought they were
hurricanes uprooting
trees and tearing
through buildings,
instead only some rain
bringing a nearly
finished picnic to
an early end.