Jamaal As Target Ad

Since what ends up as fable so often starts
in a rapture, since my cat performs a Jubilate

Agno as I lay my son to sleep, since Venus
shines hot and distant in the distance of his nightly window,

moving; not twinkling: distant
fireball—ok, understand, I’m using distant

here to mean more than its flat twin lines, I’m wanting it
to discourse on its own, I’m wanting

its echos, its hall of mirrors, I’m wanting it to self-immolate, burn
the motherfucker to the ground, please, please, close the distance

between the rapture and the rapture’s distance: vamoose.

I cannot get the phrase I do so love you
from my head, or into this poem—I do so

love you, I hear, stalking the halls, stacking
the dishes. Woolfian. Circular. Infantile. Assonant.

All those hard Ks stacked. Rapturous. Some
little. Some love. Some language. I do. You do. I do so. Ach.

Do. It’s true: every night, the morning star comes out, and I am
in a rapture over you & you: you two. Tarfia. Jamaal. This single

posted Facebook pic. This clue: he’s perched on a couch, back-lit. Who knew

this couch—any couch!?—could couch such light, could clutch
such plush still life, such luscious thunderclaps, such snapshots, picture

perfect? The camera used to be a crapshoot. Now, we filter out
the crap. We filter in the light you never knew

was there—Vesuvian, this light!—a crater, shocked, a man
preserved, it holds you up, it keeps you in your place, surrounds

your light, sheds light you didn’t know
you had around a chic loft you dreamt up sometime back

in 1995—here, the Turkish rug with braided fringe, the inlay
grins, the white threads gleam, here, the hardwood floor

exalted in its best imitation of a hardwood floor, there
the wainscoting, existing independent of one’s knowledge

of the word wainscoting—all by itself! Just like that! An image
able to survive free of naming, free of language, free and full

with light, light, light in practical danger of becoming a draft
of a poem about Monet’s Water Lilies also from 1995, that someone

Kobe!’d into the wire mesh waste bin that does not appear
in this pic, Insta, edged out, instead, of course, as a matter

of lucidity and hot-white fact, by a shelf of exquisitely chosen,
exquisitely loved books: Tolstoy, Baldwin, Plath. And centered

like math: Jamaal, beloved, be-laughing, be-snapped, we presume
by the woman with the green eyes, the gold ring in her nose.

Distant poets. Distant planets. Pin-up lives. My life—your life—
in all its prose: at least six fat fruit flies going ham on the dried

up bbq sauce on the plate stacked on the five other plates stacked
in the leaky sink in the house I rent in my hometown with the vinyl

siding. And meanwhile, my son sleeps beneath Venus–
and meanwhile, I’m riding the horse of this otherness

out into an open field of glamours I have yet to meet
and meanwhile, Tarfia’s doing the same, as she vacuums

the brand-new paisley print rug from Target with a pleasant, seamless hum.

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In Praise of Clean Panties, My Mother

Who even now might walk
through my front door with my own son
in tow, having kept him
for the night, having schlepped him
to church to praise the small ways
he points at the blood-tipped palms of Christ
and tells her “Jesus lives here, Mom-mom.”
Who even now might interrupt this chain
of thought, continue on the path of interrupted
chains of women linking word to airy word,
taking the much of misty thought
to make the word the thing itself. Oh holy absent
Father, oh Dad who even now drops coats and socks and Coors Light
tops along the halls she cleaned again before the sun
was all the way into the sky, I could ignore this
urge, once more immerse myself in making lines of absence, steeped
in theory, steeped in everything I’ve crammed
into the chains of cells still crammed
between my years, but

this morning ,that poem is a lie. This morning
I have folded 30-something pairs
of splashy, splotchy cotton, tinged with lace
or stamped with Superman’s bright S, the black
of Batman’s calling card, my lover’s daughter’s Monday,
Tuesday, Friday
, her father’s undies, weird
with prints of French fries, scrambled eggs, the folds
belie the cock and ass I love to squeeze
before the children scamper in each blessed, living day.
I fold. I put away. Every other person in the house
relaxes, plays. My mother’s blessings rise
like daily bread, like how I might begin, somehow
to pray: Oh Temporary, Holy Bodies’ detritus, the faded stains
of those I love between my wifely hands– may I fold
another load of crumpled clothes
before I dare to bitch or moan
about my mother, my lover, my children, my life.

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There Is A God I’ve Wanted All My Life

The way you feel describing objective truth.

The way the shadow
of two bald blue branches
on your son’s pale nighttime
wall creak in and out
Like pincers, like rusted tweezers
Like a wishbone, like a horror

Like the dreams when you try to dial
a number, always the misfire
stupid little fuck, like your brain
has fingertips, come on

It’s Disneyworld in 1985: the 3-D glasses
your face is white cardstock
red cellophane, facing a witch’s
black mask coming at you, off
the screen– and who knew something
that wasn’t there could be there and possess
such trajectory; like that dream:

Two teen girls laughing & laughing, you can’t believe
the laughing, you can’t believe your life
went on with you hardly there at all:

It’s like you were objective truth, out there, someone
Was stabbing at you, grabbing at a mask that came for you, empty
Of all matter & resolve; the only reason

to believe in any of this is you believe in none of it at all.

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Hang In There, Baby

It’s hard sometimes, not being the king
of France, or even of a smaller, more tropical space, it’s hard
not having the whitest house, or whatever we’re all fighting for.

Like feminism.
I’m sorry to take this turn, especially in a poem
that began with such fierce comic promise, such
absurdity. Absurdity! Hahaha. It’s hard to make a joke and see it
to its pithy end, easier, for instance, to ask
What’s the ethos, in this poem, of the color blue? And you
would have two choices: wrack your brain for an answer
that doesn’t exist or admit you don’t know. And then
I’m forced to choose, too. Listen. We don’t have
to have that conversation. We don’t need to fake it
all the time. Because we have to do it, anyway, and here,
in this open space, leaving me and drawing me out, a magnetic field
of hope in a hopeless cosmos, I’d like the opportunity
to be both the able body and the theory-heavy mind, I’d like
to be Virginia Woolf tethered to her desk, hand moving
across the paper, and the idea she’s after in the ether, just barely
getting nailed down. I’d like to be the single breathing woman.
I do not want to be the trend.
I do not want to be the woman who acted according
to the norms of the way women acted then. Because no one
is equal. Because I will be boiled
down to my essentials. The early bird gets the worm, but no one
gives a fuck about the worm, coiled dead on the asphalt
like a length of forgotten garden hose, or falling from my nose
like some ghost, like the one who keeps pulling my hair and fetching
my breath at night, like that smiling gaggle of fools who don’t know
what they need, who know what they do, who, smiling, chat at length
on the verandah about the azure drapes, sip something
lovely, full of rose hips and poison darts.

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Imperatives

Send us your best ephemera, your mouse bones, your numbers seventeen, your wrap-around boyfriend wrapped around that other girl, the sweater he left at your house, make it sing, that sweater, make it recall the single glass of water you wanted but never got, when there was still hope for water, send us the time you yelled HALT to your son as he approached the bed with chocolate on his hands, the time you fell asleep thinking how that was a metaphor for the human need to classify and divide, the human belief in walls, which aren’t walls at all, since everything, if you think about it, touches everything else, submit that other time, when you still held faith in limits, not liminalities, send us your spaces, open and digital, crunching someone else’s numbers, a Pop tart between the teeth, the lone cricket leg on the bathroom floor, your pregnancy round as a harvest moon shedding light on a corn field full of your engaging ghost, your empty host, your very best, which will be certified upon arrival, sent back unopened, unafraid, left for dead, and pure.

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Now & at the hour of our death

Nearly 5 am–the Sylvia-Plath-before-the-milkman’s- rattling-bottles light barely glimpsed through the cracks in your blinds, your 3-year old’s foot crammed in your throat– Hail Mary, full of grace, your brain repeats, to try and pray itself, if not to silence, then to harrowed sleep. I’m so tired of her, you hear back. Some nasty man’s voice. You think, are you dreaming, did you really hear that? Did you “hear” it? Have you finally gone mad? What constitutes hearing? What should you believe? Does it matter how the dreams kicked in again– She left her carrots on the bed, another strange voice said, or said, or “said” and woke you up enough to make you plot a poem out in bed,

Hail Mary, full of grace
I’m so tired of her! he said
The Lord is with thee
She left her carrots on the bed, again!

Would that man even talk to you? Why imply a relationship? Why assume anyone loves you at all? You had another poem you were plotting called “Comp Lit” about the ideas that live in the ether above us, about what two things share when they appear to share nothing. You are dying for the day when the whole world stops addressing you at once, from every schizophrenic corner that you know, you know are meant only for you, this double poem, these dreams, these cloudy webs of bullshit meaning dragging you out of yourself until the world’s a constant wedding, a constant funeral, a bitterly drawn-out divorce, love, love, love all the time and beneath it, fucking nothing.

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I See The Face of Christ

for Pam Cross

In every face
the nun says
as a train barrels
as The Beast barrels
down tracks like twin tick marks
down tracks like a to-do list
this Honduran woman
clutching her 1-year old son
on its top–
not the belly–
on the top
of this beast
this is a list
she never gets to make
a clock that never stops
its tick, a list she never gets
to cross off
with a flourish
no flourish
like the flourish
we use to clutch
the baby we once held
in our belly
to our tit
trembling with the roar
of the beast

the car I drive to work
hums quietly
at no point today
will the lights go out
for good
no one wielding
a machete
will pull me by the hair
from the knit corners
of my office
that nun’s voice so clear & weighted
it’s like she clutches
that woman
her boy—she sees
the face of Christ
in every face she sees
the face—

some days it’s like
I can open my mouth
and inhale the whole of history
be full with it, release,
weep tears of blood
on stone, be Mary, be Mary
weep for the face
of Christ      I clutch
my son at night while he sleeps
he will never know: in every face
I see,
she says, her voice
a sharp thing: an arrow
to pierce my heart, some masked man’s
knife to my baby’s neck.

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