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.
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 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.
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,
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
fractal of life
I’m just another tip
yearning through my excerpt,
every shooting second
now time is a landscape
through which I bear the hairy cross
of my body, wagging my fist
at the bureaucratic sky,
The light sways, frilling out like a cosmic king’s shroud.
Every honeydew morning is stolen from the saliva-jeweled jaws of death,
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
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.
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
But when he gets home
it’s five a.m.
and he’s 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-
of the dying trees,
in the all-encompassing shadow
of the dying world,
he can’t keep
his awful smile
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,
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,
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,
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.
I exhale galaxies in my sleep.
Behold my right hand:
its fingers are light years apart,
five pale towers
clothed in gulls and clouds.
On each fingertip sit many cities,
and in every city
I hold a minimum-wage job
where mini lords rant
about mini mistakes,
where money laughs at me,
and I trudge in no direction,
afraid that my anxiety shows.
Brushing my teeth,
I spit colors.
Behold my left hand: its fingers are scraped red,
ragged at the nails, ruby-knuckled in dishwater,
grasping, wandering lost through leg forests,
positioning tomatoes and throats.
In bed I ride my body like an airship over the past.
My legs cast long shadows over rotting continents,
sprawling kingdoms populated by pet ghosts,
distant memories drawing ever closer
to my thousand-sided eyes.
I float through music
and cleanse myself with storms.
Mountains shuffle aside
that I may view the sunrise,
then dismiss it.
The sight of our tiny, wind-slapped lives
fills me with pity.