O O

way back at the beginning of time
all reality except us was a cold corporate hallway
and her body was my daily bread

we made the trees shout

before her I’d been doomed to write
what had never happened

then she smashed in through my windows

and suddenly
everything we touched
turned to history

and mostly we touched each other.
in sheets of ice, under bloody rainbows,
we embraced around our hipbone campfire
and fashioned our own myths:
I was her favourite villain,
Snake kissing Eve after the Fall

but to me

she was the one who slithered
and reflected in her eyes,
a thousand times bigger than life,
was all the flaming 21st century

Death’s Daughter

I pilgrimaged to see her titanic head
floating against a skyline of shampoo bottles,
then swam up through black hair
and climbed into her ear.

A poetess,
a flaming thing who lived in soundwaves,
she wore cigarettes—
and oh! I thought,
how entropy became her!

Then her brain broke.
She mumbled to animals, saw faces in furniture,
and turned fearful toward the summoning light.
In her fever she forgave the rooftops,
and I, Sir Savior Worldhero,
drove deep into her madness.
I pled her down from sense precipices
and battled badge-eyed police with uniforms as skin.

It was October, and the cold wind cleaned my face.

“This is the afterlife,” she whispered,
“or the beforelife, with Stef Serpent from Eden.”

I stilled her skull
in the shadow
of the church
on the hill.

And she pulled me out of myself.

I had had other plans.
I wanted to become world dictator of words.
Trapped in the smallest of all rooms with myself,
I had been eking out a thousand-word novel,
and I had fed my mind to the clockwork of syntax,
and crucified myself on semi-colon and em-dash,
building the ruins of an idea I could live inside.

Now a new idea took me.
I had to rescue her,
I would take her over all borders,
personal and national,
up immigration mountain,
to my hermitage…
and she would give me a heart,
I guess.

II

I married my favourite audience,
a Victorian ghost with charcoaled eyes,
all black skirts and sad classical music,

and put her to bed for a year.

I had been working part time,
now I sliced my life into shift strips,
groveled in garbage jars
and waded hipdeep in greasepits.

And hiked home to tidy her head.
And ate her paranoia for supper.

Grappling in sheets,
long-shadowed in red rainstreets,
we talked the ten thousand miles of the trail to her childhood,
probed her cranial catacombs and dusted under her brainstem,
and found there three hundred of her father’s vodka flasks,
and a Bible with a thick black cover, and no words.

Then, sleepless, full of her, sore and penless,
I biked black windways under cinder skies to factory cities,
to erect sixty smokestacks in a clock circle,
every minute dribbling smoke from drabbest inferno;
I patrolled the fortresses of my enemies and masters,
jingling magic keys to the Land of Boredom,
where the hours crawled on thirty-six hundred legs
past binders and sticky notes, duplicated space,
and bosses’ nests. All my meanings rotting inside,

I went to bed to erase myself.
I limped in circles in a sphere of light.

Years died.

III

It seemed she’d outsmarted madness,
then one twilight she disrobed to greet the Lord—
as a favor to me, she did not look into His ravening face.
But I harangued her: so it began.
I jumped on her brain. I deflected her hungry touch.
I instructed her in all she shouldn’t be,
yet stopped permitting her into my alternative reality.

At work I obeyed a conveyor that carried autoparts,
that never slowed though an aged comrade cramped,
coughed up his heart, and waned into the roar…

At home I shouted from the privy,
gnawing cold day-old rat,
sobbing that I was born in Eden
and that she took it from me.

Night after night,
I vomited a piece of my mind.
She spoke of love and I spoke of time,
and it snowed thirty seasons straight
on the spattered stageboards
of our kitchenettes.
Finally she grounded her knees,
warped her fist through the window,
and declared herself the most sane agent of angels,
servant of the Plan and loud speaker of the Word.

This happens:
people turn 30,
regard the flaming ruins of their twenties,
and this one, manic and lost, retreats to her parents’ god.
and that one, tired and angry,
asks himself why he ever needed to save her.

Was it ever even possible?

I began to have my doubts.

And when she told me that she prayed for my poor lost soul,
that she feared for me if I didn’t repent before judgment,

I left.

Dust Keys (2010)

she hung right over there, boneless and clear,
a sky-thing strung up on cloud gallows of hair,
in that gristly winter,
in those last shots before the old unending black,
where the white jungle scribbled on the high blue night,
and the trumpet swayed between hothouse shrieks of paradise,
and the infinity of the pen fell to the oblivion of the page,
crumpled words floating ill-shaped in the sunlight.
I broke until I could understand what I was breaking
and I took,
and am taking,
and now, on this melting rim of morning,
light comes in like an endless fist,
and snow speaks and flames bang and
only a soiled path leads back through the sucking splash,
past the hustle of rash bells, past the smashed clocks
of our baroque history chiming like built birds rising

into the memory of our first night:
we sat by the graveyard gates.
(And there a clarity if just these lines would obey)
In that particular darkness, then
with the headlights moving so low below,
our awkwardness was a bright scratch on death’s strongbox.
O’s rebel jaw, her long brown arms
and claws, her piñata skull scattering wet candy;
that chopped hair forced back behind one ear. That feral stare.
Planning to be sad she had packed only black, soon unsuitable—
at times. Taller than I but in the way she defied
my loom was implied
as realities were passed through and left behind,
death murmuring from the radio sky:
death, in her bouts of déjà vu like bubbles of terror boiling,
bobbing up from the unknown, unaccounted-for past;
death, in skin janglings that summoned up old crimes
and their twilight-filled bootprints on her brain;
death, in how she spoke with such love of mania,
tugged out a chain of questions in final despair,
laughed dust. She came trusting me
like a knowing toe trusts cold ocean, O …

Oh whatever – it was my fault.
I said to her, come, rest with me awhile
I’ll take care of you I’ll garden your head;
but when it wasn’t easy,
and since she couldn’t wait until I wasn’t busy,
I whinged and stormed and finally made her leave.
Now I sit here, in my precious privacy,
weaving my spit-lace of words,
knowing she’s worse off than before me,
crazier and lonelier, re-shattered and cast out.

O?

O

O,
where are you? sleeper,
where do those fingers walk?
On the roofs of Soho retoned rainbow?
On the glowing-howl cell walls of psychic jail, part two?
On the minor keys of a cold polyphonal brightness,
The keys of motion, mood and ocean,
The keys of air?
Are you—
Are your songs speaking to you, dear? They never cease,
I know, and these questions make no sense
and I have no right to ask them
but it’s this silence,
that’s all;
this silence in here,
and those sirens outside,
and this February rain,
and a looping vision of your slain bliss:
you out dancing, all ruffles and eyelets,
your cheeks gleaming with mutating green,
your sweet hot breath briefly in my ear,
your whispers lost in the throbbing air,
in the woofing booms you spun away into,
the blade peak of you
floating back across
the gulfs of light,
of hard and heavy days,
the gulfs of night.

Listen, I—

No, forget it.