Memory

Lightning is faster than thought,
I’ve learned. That bolts can erase
history as well as science-fiction.
And I don’t know whether a thing
that was only ever there for me
existed if I cannot remember it.

So it drowns me in guilt, over
the deaths of things that never
happened.

Woodstain

The stain is drying on the coffee table.
Fat baby fingers make first depressions,
and bigger ones grab him by the waist
to lift him away. Meanwhile, little
umber pockmarks craft bitesize scenes
of tragedy: ships swept up by rolling
waves, stranded sailors lamenting
their soon-to-be widows; oscillations
in the grain foretell the thin scratches
of quakes in the crusted earth; lightning
bolts the door of fate shut on sorry souls.
Baby is asleep now, dreaming of sailors
and quakes and lightning and godly
fingers pressing valleys in the sky.

Spades

I can feel my future leak
from my mind—not in-
to world or onto paper,
but void. Tarlogged and
sinking, it pools around
my run-rough ankles.
Rising through my thin-
ning capillaries, murky
sap drags me catatonic
and dumb into its half-
paced ocean of weight.
God, I swear—some day
ago, I wanted to live.

Midmorning Coffee With Rain on 3rd Street

It was at the coffee shop—the one over on 3rd Street. My shoulder leaned against the window to my right; my fingers woven in and around the ceramic loop; my knuckles pressed up against the steady warmth of the cup. Music playing just loud enough for me to know I recognized it and just quiet enough for me not to remember from where. My fingers grew tense as I strained to catch a word or phrase in the lyrics. I didn’t and the song ended and I let go of the cup and I leaned back and the leading tone still hanged in the air.

The electric lights shown down not quite white and not quite yellow. The door swung open with a soggy gust of wind and a girl. She couldn’t have been older than seventeen.  Grabbing a muffin, she moved to the counter and placed her order. The barista kept his head down as he reached over to hand the girl her change. He always kept his head down, which made his bifocal glasses slump down to the end of his nose. His hands looked soft, and his skin was a burnt umber. Turning away from the register with no less grace than a figure skater, he danced behind the counter, pulling levers and twisting knobs and blending and twirling. In that moment it felt I had never seen anything more beautiful. He drew a rippling leaf with the milk and handed it to the girl on a small dish. She thanked him and sat herself at the table in front of me, with her back turned away.

She didn’t drink her coffee, but she pushed it forward a few inches, then pulled it back one. Her hair looked stringy and unwashed, lapping in soft curls below her shoulders. It looked like she was waiting, and it’s true—she was. Her phone rang, and she answered it immediately; she was already holding it.

She said “hey, Mom.” She stuck her finger into the near-boiling coffee in front of her.

She said “are you doing alright?”

She said “I’m sorry.”

She said “yes.”

She said “no.”

She said “no.”

She said “we don’t have enough money.”

She said “I know.”

She said “no, you can’t come home yet.”

She said “I know.”

She said “I’m sorry.”

She said “I love you.”

She said “bye.”

She pulled her finger out of the coffee. It glowed bright red with steam billowing off of it. She held it in front of her face and stared at it for a moment, blistered and scarred from all the days before that she had done the same. She stuck it in her mouth and sucked off the last drops of coffee, before she stood and quickly left, leaving her muffin and the rest of the coffee untouched. I waved toward her absentmindedly as she pushed her way through the door. She was looking away and didn’t see me or anyone else.

The barista was preparing another order and performing his routine. It was just as beautiful.

The steam from my own cup rose and made foggy stains on the glass. The door swung open with a brush of bogged leaves and a woman. She couldn’t have been older. As she stepped herself inside, she sprung open her umbrella, spraying rain all over the shop and its faces and held it above her head. The barista took her order, now with a big drop of water rolling down the front of his glasses. The woman checked her wrist, which was wrapped in a watch. Her skin wrinkled around the strap. She must not have taken it off in years. The leather was faded and frayed and weathered. It was her mother’s watch. It had lived with them through a century. Its face saw the Great Depression and two world wars and a dozen and a half presidencies and the birth of a little girl and then another in turn who would soon throw the watch against the wall out of rage at the belief that some stupid watch could compensate for her grandmother and it would shatter like rain. She looked a bit like death, with her umbrella raised above her head like a scythe. She took her coffee, closed her umbrella, and went.

I followed her through the window as she walked away, down the street. She was made blurry in the glass. The people shuffled around expressionless. Their feet were fountains dragging lines on cement. I pressed my finger against the steamed glass and traced a smiling face.

Then, through its eyes I saw him. He was across the street, head up, walking intentioned. He was under no hood or sail. He looked happy—and not just a “yes, I’m good” kind of happy; he looked genuinely happy. Startled for a moment, he fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out his phone. He spoke for a moment then shoved it back. He looked straight at me. There was no mistaking it—he looked straight at me. He didn’t see me, though. He never sees me. There is no coffee shop on 3rd Street.

I Swallow the Seeds

I swallow the seeds in every bite; juice
floats down my chin. I run naked, screaming
toward a nest of honey bees. I relish—
the barbs embed my stomach, my arms,
my face and legs. The venom blitzes
through my blood, screeching in
my arteries. The bees, slower, flutter
around my rage and hope until they
drop—from the air—dead. I make
desperate angels in the corpses
begging every God I can invent
the names of. As the twitching stills
into silence, the Queen shuffles from
her home and, bearing a grief so profound
curls herself gently, her soft and fragile,
into the psalm of my hand. With great
effort, she unsheathes her weapon and
offers it to me with quiet dignity.
Understanding, I accept the blade and
hover it above her wrinkled fur. I wait
for a moment, for last words—
of which I know she has none; still
we breathe out in unison, and I
plunge this through her tensed body
and into mine. She writhes, wraiths—
no complaint, contempt, or spite
Tears and tears on my skin, I cry.
I swallow the seeds in every bite.

Threnody four: the morning

God died today. (By God, I mean
Myself, and by today I mean now)
that sun and plant and bed arenot.

God died in a fire today. (By fire
I mean a real fire, big with prickly
fingers) God died today. He really

did and he meant it. God died in
a Fire today. (By fire I mean God
and by fire I mean myself I mean
wait—
I mean the fire and by God and
by fire I mean myself and by—no
By God, I mean fire by fire-God
—                                      it’s not
I mean by myself I fire the God
—wait. God good Good god by
Fire I mean wait for me to come
please—
Home I mean by Fire the God is
a Gun and—no, think. The order
Is all wrong I think the Order is
———————————————)
First myself then fingers, the fin-
gers, then fire, then fire, then fire,
then gun, then God, (Oh god.)

A Bathroom-Shaped Closet

I was called a faggot today.
Then I was called a tranny—twice
actually, once by a stranger and once
by myself, alone, not lonely
in the bathroom I am locked in.

My eyes in the mirror are brown.
They have always looked that way.
My pupils are dilated, which means
I either hate myself or love myself.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.

My hands are large and my shoulders
are broad. My eyes sit deep in my skull.
My brow is hinged and sharp. My hair-
line is crooked. My voice sits in my chest.
My Adam’s apple makes the skin on my neck
look like a topographical map of Gibraltar.

It’s not love.

I want to be proud. So I say that I am, and
I try to say it often. I don’t feel proud.

People mostly say that I’m brave,
when they don’t know what else to say.
People don’t know what to say a lot.
I think they’re too afraid of saying the wrong thing,
so they don’t say anything at all.

I tried to use the public bathroom, earlier.
I first went into the women’s, but a woman
washing her hands at the sink scowled at me
and pointed to the door. Then I tried to go
into the men’s. There was a group of boys,
a couple years older than me; one of them
swatted the back of my head, a second kicked
my legs from under me. The third of them soaked
some paper towels in the sink and threw them
at my face. As they were leaving they called me
a fucking faggot and a fucking tranny.

I’ve never felt more like one.

Death makes the World soft

I died today.
It didn’t look like much. There was no life
flashing in my eyes or bright tunnels
to head towards.
It looked like nothing—it was quiet.
It was quiet, and I couldn’t feel anything
not in my fingers or anywhere
no 
temperature, no pressure. There was a smell
though, and it smelled dusty, and not saw-
dusty either. It was just dirt-dust.
If there was a taste, it would’ve been metallic, not blood-
iron metallic, just metallic. But
there was no taste.

I’m a ghost now, which is neat.
I get to visit the people I loved
but it’s hard to watch them mourn, unable to offer comfort.
And it feels lonely, sometimes,
being just inches from them
while knowing that they are still
decades
away from me.
It seemed like common sense before
that two objects are always the same distance apart
from one to the other
as other to the one
but it’s not true anymore.
I’m so much closer to people than people are to me.

I feel bad for saying it, but really
I want them all to die.
I guess it’s ironic that in life we would die
so that the people we loved could live, and in death
we would murder those same people
just to hold and be held by them again.

I’ll be able to watch my funeral. The veterans here say it can be hard
to see yourself just disappear like that
burned
or buried.
I don’t really believe them, though.
I don’t think I’m really gone, not yet at least.
I just changed shape.
Even in their world, I can see myself.
In their eyes and gaits,
their stutters and shakes,
I’ve become the people I left behind.

When you are raped

When you are raped, you will think thoughts like “I do not
remember what the sun looked like today.” You will not
remember what the sun looked like that day, but you will,
years later, find yourself wondering what the sun looked like
on the day that you were raped.

When his nails are sunk through your skin, and his hammer
through your flesh, you will think “my life is no longer mine.”
You will believe this for a long time, and even when you will
say that you have moved beyond that belief, you will still,
secretly, think it sometimes.

When you see his face contort itself to display a perfect
reflection of who you were, you will realize that you can
also feel your own face contort into a perfect reflection
of who he was. Do not worry—this is normal. His face
will show yours until he rapes another.

(Although, every time afterwards in which you look in
a mirror, you will see what used to be his face—it is
vitally important that you understand that you have not
become him. This is very important, and you must do
everything in your power to not forget.)

(You will forget this, though, and so when you feel
that burning hatred for yourself—you will feel a
burning hatred for yourself—at least remember that
it is not actually yourself that you hate, it is only the
imprint of him on yourself that you hate.)

When you are raped, you will be very, very afraid, and
you will feel confused and you will feel lonely and you
will feel dread and you will feel pain and you will feel
so many things, but you will feel like you feel nothing
because you have no words to describe a terror so pure.

(Neither do I)

After you are raped, when you are alone, you will
want nothing more than to feel the soft and warm
of an other person, and when you are surrounded
by others, you will want nothing more than to be
as alone as you were when you were raped.

When you are raped, it will already be over, even
though it never actually ends. When you are raped,
it will be so quiet. When you are raped, you will both
cry and not cry, sometimes at the same time. But mostly,
when you are raped, you will just feel so, so raped.