Unknowing

My enlightenment began as a mute explosion of colors
but multiplied into the dazzling panes of a deck of mirrors;
what seemed transparent was in fact a reflection,
and what seemed lucid and safely defined
ripped itself into questions.

I kept discerning indistinct shapes:
a prismatic arc trembled under a sunbeam
and the last few cinders of an evaporated hell
split in the stratosphere. A smothered voice
spoke intimately. Torn loose blowing scraps
clung in the semblance of letters
to a bed of white sand
erased as it was read.

At last
I built my house in the fog,
fishing from windows
for the ununderstandable,
and with a shard of pure color
scrawled my stained illuminations
by light of an angel bulb;
and each night ended in an epiphany
that rose shining and redefined
this maze the size of the universe.

Spider Season

Eight-eyed airmen
parachuted at twilight
into our garden
of good evil.

It was spider season,
and he & I roamed fairytale streets,
conspiring to destroy reality
and weave a universe.

In real life
we were besieged
by centipedes,
burned girlfriends,
and worst of all,
ourselves,
but with his grubby bedroom
as HQ of Creation,
we freestyled scripts past sunsets,
and worlds hatched down the walls,
while episodes coalesced:
characters debated from cradle to ash,
civilizations tipped over
and smashed,
and an immortal celebrity
realized he was the Deity;
first one city filled all galaxies,
then one mind.

We
were in that place
we could only reach
together.

Spiders sewed potholes shut
and sheathed the city in lace;
it was the Year of the Weaving,
and the twenty-one years before
had been really fucking long:
I’d kept my hands in fists and
crossed bridges without reaching land;
but now I blared nonstop free jazz
on my throat-trumpet,
grew a threadbare beard
to embrace ugliness,
and believed in everything we did,
and nothing else,

but especially
in him.

Binging on books,
he lazed with a permanent smirk,
never endeavored
but always hit with instant wit,
ate like shit
yet had Botticelli ringlets
and cheekbones like knuckles
under ice-moon eyes,
and deep below sunrise
coolly composed razor-glass prose
magnitudes greater than mine
though I tried much harder;
and oh, how my envy
hurt me;

I thought about him
constantly.

And one insomniac afternoon
of a necessary day,
in the high summer of youth,
amid a fever symphony of dreams,
he sprawled on my ramshackle sofa,
scheming yet another killer scene;
and waking up in place I witnessed
loose light crown his crow angles,
and forbidden words jumped lips—
for after 30 hours awake,
I could see freely,
love without flinching,
worship without remembering
I needed to be king.

In a weightless metropolis
spiders spun silk fortresses
with firefly chandeliers;
and from our separate nests,
manic with happiness,
we stepwise unmasked
our secret past:
like, when mistaken for a couple,
how queerly we’d chuckled;
or the night we raced two girls
back to my place,
and just
ignored them
to talk to each other;
or when he ditched our city suddenly
and I stranded my damsel
and shadowed him
just to stay inside us.

Our love,
forced to rot in closets,
had tainted our relations
and poisoned all our toilings;
but now the dark stick stuck
in the spokes of our luck
broke,
and beaming like projectors
we wrote
of him and me as we,
two male mothers
unbent in unhoped heaven,
spinning mazes from air
in a constant conversation
that would itself be
an act of creation.

Toward the end of our universe,
in an unwritten script,
a cartoon spaceship pursued by God
absconds beyond all stars,
its crew of two
talking in the dark;
yet when the lights arc on,
the two are no longer characters
but people.

For us,
there would come an evening,
a room, a bed, an hour
in each other’s arms,
just
one evening
out of all we’d promised
to ourselves and each other,
one trip to a different world
that never really existed:
for in that crawling dark
we finally spoke
not of knitted cities
but of ourselves—
and nothing fit.
With one hand I invited,
with the other I pushed away,
teeth hit teeth,
and his silences grew darker,
the subtle fangs sharper,
the smiles slick & sicker,
and the hidden venom
fermented;
and the spiders
ate themselves;
or the spiders
caught each other,
just two flies in disguise
forced by fear
and propelled by pride
into absurd verbal brawling,
brisk back- & frontstabbing,
a bitter diabolic break-up,
and an aftermath of barren
horror,

and the wilting and wastage
of a universe.

There’s freedom in truth,
but I wanted the dream.

It was the Century of Hunger,
and we scaled night mountains;
spotlights painted spirals in mist,
and a high red light signaled above,
telling me to look up…

In Winter

In winter I shut the windows
and seal the bright noise;
I breathe old air, and the birds become strangers,
and my head a stifled womb in no mother.
Sweating, thoughts echoing all around,
one blue-white morning I tilt the pane
and the air is a song, and I suddenly remember
believing.

The Hairy Cross That Bears Itself

God and I broke up when I was eleven;
I didn’t like the way he talked to me.
Religion is the curse
laid on the living
by the dead.

So now it’s just me,
a puddle of pink shivers
laughed at by skulls,

and I flatten my ape hand
against mindless light
and watch blood feed flesh
through an aging machine
that built itself
and generated me
to pilot it,
its blueprints
encrypted in every cell,
DNA a four-letter word
scripted by a unifying explosion
inside a birth engine
whose own genes were born
through countless perishings
in a manifold lineage
in which every dictator,
lion and portobello,
linden and paramecium,
is my distant relative,
in the all-embracing
and self-braiding
planetary
fractal of life
among whose
billion-year branches
I’m just another tip
yearning through my excerpt,
every shooting second
slamming shut
behind me.

Eternity expired;
now time is a landscape
through which I bear the hairy cross
of my body, wagging my fist
at the bureaucratic sky,
begging nobody
for one
more

day.

The light sways,
frilling out like a cosmic king’s
shroud.

Every honeydew morning is stolen
from the saliva-jeweled jaws of death,

and the sparrows sing hallelujah,

and there isn’t even anybody
to thank.

Cookie Tin

Water snakes hiss in the walls.
The day ruffles its frigid blue pages
until I peel myself from bed
to harvest a few shards of light
from the horizons over my desk.
Hours fold up and vanish:
Every thought’s a landscape
I fall into; every line a ledge
I cling to. I climb a page
then plunge my hand
into a candy bowl
full of ticking clocks,
my ears exhaling
black-windowed trains.
The universe is a sublime torture chamber
inside which I am building a thrill park.
In a wasteland this bleak
only children play.
Up all night pulling fire from the sky,
I glance down at what the streets say about me:
Every supreme flight is also a cry of anguish.
Whatever. I stuff these few fancies in a cookie tin
and wait for salvation.

V,

I remember checking the schedule
to find when our shifts crossed,
and how you stayed late talking to me.

How it cost me
to approach you,
the circuitous routes
concealed even from myself.

I see your ex around;
he tries to be friendly
but
he hates me.

I remember May Day
as your profile against various backdrops.

I remember feeling safe with you,
wanting thunderstorms to bless us,
how we starved because
we didn’t want to get up.

We’d found something familiar in each other.

You sent me pictures
of your sunburn, all red,
mad at yourself.

I picked little curls of skin
from your nose.

When you needed help
I helped
but complained
and I’m sorry.

Now your head’s all new
and I won’t look
behind those eyes again.

After He Did What He Was Always Gonna Do

He pushes her away
just in time to save
himself, then flees sweating
onto the treadmill,
and room after room, city upon city,
sky atop sky, flower overhead,
and his shining glasses reflect
his favorite hallucinations.

Another close call,
he thinks cheerfully,
congratulating himself for his part
in this perfectly reasonable and mutually
correct break-up. What form! What
finesse! See how flawless the fracture,
how intellectual the incision: he appears
unhurt. It seems he’s drawn back
just as the teeth meshed closed,
before he felt too much
and toppled screaming
into twoness.

But when he gets home
it’s five a.m.
and he’s alone,
really alone,
with no way out. He prepares for bed
gravely, considering her bra:
how to return it
without disturbing her?
Should he mail it?

Listening to leaves conversing,
he recollects her rumpled silhouette
smoking an apologetic cigarette
after another ten-hour adventure
through their heads. They slept braided,
and in the morning she completed the room
with her puns and sly laughter. He remembers
the party they’d ignored for each other,
and the bookshelves in her brain.
Kneeling by her on the canal:
how she’d blushed so lightly.
No more kissing for too long,
or mouthfuls of wine
the morning after.
No more fun together, no
more fear. The last looks
have been exchanged;
first the wrenching,
now the estrangement.

He started another fire
and rescued only himself.

Wanting something he can’t name,
he seeks it outside in the warm morning
where wind bounces through streets
unburdened by other people,
and birdshouts slice a sky
juicy as cerulean melon
over haggard lindens swooning in a row
before the ghostly beauty of a sickly willow
draped in sequined swaths of sunlight.

Basking in the manic-
depressive shadows
of the dying trees,
in the all-encompassing shadow
of the dying world,
he can’t keep
his awful smile
away.

Black-Collar Worker

Hot evening in my pet rotting parkette:
I notate as chubby bugs buzz through foliage
above an impromptu bohemian jamboree
like a dystopian Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Facial steel and sitars, spliffs and beers abound;
and everyone beams slackly,
in happy decay.

Into this rambunctiously peaceful postcard
saunters the little god himself, Ol’ Hook-Smile,
the black-collar worker who haunts the church nearby.
He pretends to read his gilt-edged Book of Whatever
but really just mumbles that marmalade from memory
while his crafty little bat eyes only touch upon the page
as a base for long, fluttering sideways leaps
among the merry players. Upon his plum lips
prances an amused, tolerant, absolving smile,
a simper that says, O Lost Ones, gaze upon my beatitude,
I am outside although within the world of appearances,
for the way is known,
and I do amble it.
He smiles and smiles
and smiles for them,
and saunters his lonely way,
ignored.

Across

I may be too late. I shift in the cramped seat
and my neck creaks.

I’m cornered in the clear forehead of a bus clattering down the Autobahn.
It’s midnightish, but the passengers are fielding calls or eating loud smelly things
and my neighbor (ancient, monumental and disturbed) is oozing into my space.
Surrounded, I can escape only through the window,
into the phantasmagoria. There are quadriplegic godzillas with spinning heads.
There are constellations of red eyes over the highway, haghaired shadows staring in
as we drive between their legs. There is the pillared and arching night,
majestic as only the truly cold can be, and emptier than a dead mind,
so that only some reinforced glass divides me from infinity.

But underneath infinity,
somewhere in the earthly haze of drifting realities,
is the hospital where my grandmother is falling out of her body
amid the blurry, whispering forms of people she’s created.
I might not make it: I’d waited to leave
till she regained consciousness.
Between us still
are many mountains of purple light,
entire centuries gathered in glass domes,
and a movie-marathon
of bad dreams.

Finally my subconscious disgorges
a haunted central station, and I disembark
and search dawn lots for my uncle. He’s
smoking by his car, his scraped-handsome face
inflamed. We shake hands.
“She’s awake,” he says,
and smothers his cigarette.

On the long drive he makes small talk in the
dark, till it’s bright enough for us
to see each other.

We stop in for my grandfather. Their penthouse is eerily serene
before he shouts from the bathroom, and briefly I imagine
she’s in there too, like last time, when I’d arrived early
and glimpsed them naked by the shower,
he attending her, in pink animal light—
Eve and Adam at the end of time.
At that final breakfast over sky
she’d defended death with a white smile
that did not reach the carnage of her eyes,
told me she was used up
and ready to die
while I stared at a breakfast board knifetracked
with maplines of boroughs and harbors—
tiny visions of my far home.
Now the dining room is an exhibit of a gone life:
her crutches and pill calendar, the pulped pears
in glass bowls, the walls with clumsy cartoon murals
painted by children since grown old.
I’m peeling an out-of-season chocolate egg
when my grandfather limps in,
hiding his face,
and he, who had avoided all touch,
who had been distant as a portrait,
embraces me.

His papery warmth.
His fragile ribs.

In all, five family members accumulate in my uncle’s car,
everyone deformed and ill in the same ways, chatting about
anything but. There is a universal queasiness.
I stare out at the ruthless canola fields.

The hospital. In deference to my grandfather
we press into the elevator. The nurses trapped with us
laugh at my uncle’s jokes. I feel like I’m drawn in charcoal
on a burlap sack; I feel poorly animated and sick.
Sick. I expect every room to be hers. Elderly patients gape out
at us thundering past, led by my grim, unspeaking grandfather
galloping on his crutches. Suddenly he wheels right
and there she is,
in a sunny yellow room,
in the furthest of three beds,
under a fiery window,
my grandmother,
Oma
in an oxygen mask,
her eyelids disclosing two icecubes
with a sliver of my same blue.

I had hated and feared her.
She ranted over misplaced mugs,
berated the television, and hammered
and screeched at my gentle grandfather.
She was my enemy.

Now she grips his hand,
and the skin of her arm
looks like loose latex
over peeled blood oranges,
and she gives me
a sad sorry weak quarter-smile
that seems almost guilty,
as if I weren’t supposed to catch her
in the hospital.

She’d always done the talking
and from habit I wait for a greeting
that doesn’t come.

“I came on the night bus,”
I say, and describe it
trying to make her laugh,
but her snickers
are somehow pained,
and she glances at my uncle,
who leans in and whispers,
“She didn’t understand.”

I ask her about the hospital food,
but she just laughs strangely
from deep within
her sorry eyes.

I take her hand for the last
and first time,
smooth back her hair,
kiss her forehead.