Like the gunman in the front row
as the ranks stop and sight,
heart pounding when the smoke clears out
Chunks of meat left to rot in the night.
Keep it in.
Keep the tears locked in your eye.
You’ll need to see clearly now.
Someday there will be time to cry-
But not now.
At your grand-mother’s bedside,
The doctor says a week or less
She doesn’t remember your name anymore.
The walls tumble when the foundation’s a wreck-
Keep it in.
Don’t let her see what’s underneath.
She needs you to be strong today.
Hold in the tears until you leave-
But not now.
And there’s a child in the driveway
who doesn’t understand why the dog is on its back,
And it doesn’t matter what you say,
it seems like all the world can see the tire-tracks-
Keep it in.
Lock the doors and pull the blinds,
Be alone with your forgotten self,
cry tears at last, and try-
try to be kind,
kind to yourself,
Bomb the dam and let out everything behind.
Just let it out,
Your eyes had no light, your mouth had no love,
and words sped across your teeth like the throwing of a glove.
You did not want forgiveness. you did not want my time.
The only thing left was to enlist me in your crime.
You begged me then to hurt you, to kill any hope we might sustain,
to beat the angels bloody until myths alone remain.
I spoke without feeling, with words dredged from the muck
“Maybe I never loved you.
maybe I just wanted to fuck.
wouldn’t that be less embarrassing?”
I left there, shattering, like the glass thrown in the sink,
now the words I never tried to say are the only thoughts I think.
Some photographs develop into bruises;
some meanings only become clear after
digging up the bones; some
lessons lurk in papercuts, and
some passions are contained until your hands touch
on angry glass and burn, and burn. And if this
does not drive fear through your heart, then
you will learn more, much more
than I will ever know.
Drinking in the gray limbs of the city
where the smokestacks puff like cigarettes in the wind
and the flame is always burning at the steel mill,
Heat drifting softly up against the hard chill-
we’re all just dreaming of the summer,
of swing-sets flung behind when we were younger,
the grass prickling away at our toes,
how lightning bugs set everything aglow, but-
The sun glints cold off the snowy highway,
the Cleveland bustle hums along the byways,
the towers haunt the skyline in the frost-storm,
In what thoughts we find, everything was warm.
Now we’re getting lost thinking about the old days,
thinking what we’d lose to walk the old ways, thinking
remembrance is the strangest sort of fear,
but anywhere is better than here.
The plush purple pillow you were holding to your mouth
didn’t keep the words in, and so it all spilled out,
How you thought every problem would be solved if you were dead,
and how a lost bullet should be found in your head.
The bands plastered on the walls, the scraps of old boyfriends,
the guitars sitting in a heap with strings frayed at the ends,
the clothes strangling the floor, the bottles by bedside,
should’ve warned away my help, but somehow I still tried-
I should have left that minute, should have made the call
let the sirens take you to the ward;
It might have saved us all.
I woke up one morning as a dreamless sleeper,
In a bed warm as firelight, in air that seemed much sweeter.
Moved some weights around the basement just like the doctor said,
and I had no thoughts of you – I didn’t feel the dread.
Didn’t think of your eyes as I brewed a pot of coffee, and
Fed worms to the aquarium without thinking of how you dropped me.
The color of the thickening eggs didn’t bring to mind your hair,
And I caught myself smiling like a child called to dare,
Then I went onto the back deck, stretched out in the fresh frost,
I found you hiding in my thoughts, realized nothing’s ever lost,
Except the people we choose to forget, nothing’s ever lost.
He has a picture of a woman tacked
to his cubicle wall,
and two photographs of a dog,
and the hair stands up on his forearms
When I greet him with a wave,
And we are all just slipping to our grave,
some slowly, some with no qualms at all,
But at least he’ll remember the woman in that photograph
beneath the shiba, tacked to a cork wall.
Thoughts of self drowning in the crimson hood and mask,
With a blade curved like a spine he sets out at the task,
A forest of faces at his feet, a body bound at hand,
One cut, a sticky pull, a heart offered at the land,
Red hot worms wriggling down from his fingers
Before we fall, we feel that rising always lingers.
That broken heart has gone to waste,
Too dull the pain to spur my haste.
On guttered flames the forge lays cold,
And hurt alone can earn no gold.
Bare are the woods splaying out in the frost
Shallow-dug graves full to burst from the loss,
Haunted old farmhouses, Century barns,
Their ghouls, gone to slaughter, can do no more harm
Needles have dug far too deep in the land
Thickened the blood that once surged to our hands,
Overripe Melrose are crowding the tree
Waiting to drop, to rot and be free.