When the last bead falls,
when the masks come off and the floats
sink once more into depths of warehouses,
you will question the wreckage.
Bicycle weave through seas
of unclaimed throws; driftwood in Zulu’s
wake. Plastic only valued between the hand
that throws and the hand that receives. Falling
to the ground renders treasure worthless.
Orleans Ave a graveyard of hardened petrol,
holy ground outside Leah Chase’s place
desecrated till evening cleanup, and like miracle
Ash Wednesday leaves no recollection.
City wearies, halts around 3. Streets gleaming
in costume and revelry now just concrete again.
Tequila gone, victim of a cold day’s metabolism.
A million livers groan together.
Time now for a vacation. Maybe a place with blue
laws where you’ll spend a week in church dining
on regret and communion wafers.
Tomorrow, all this a sad, sour dream. No trace, save for
the palace of sparkle you’ll wake up in. No, don’t bother.
It’ll never come out of the rug, the couch, the bed,
the bathtub. It will linger, a thousand sad puppies,
till next year,
if not forever.
When the last bead falls,
Hey world. This poem took me a long time to write. It’s trying to capture some big feelings. I’ve started referring to New Orleans as “home,” and that’s come with some guilt about what I’m disowning. I am at once totally connected to and gradually disconnecting from what I once thought of as “home.” This is me trying to own some of that, trying to confront myself for leaving the place and people that grew me. Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.
It’s coming from beneath me. That steady train track rattle. Low hiss,
rhythmic shuffle. Late night Hudson River Line lullaby. It has rocked me
to sleep so many times. Not tonight.
Too many thoughts on this boy’s mind. 24 not quite boy
anymore but time freezes in between trips to New York so tonight,
I’m 18 again. I still have a girlfriend. Am not yet the man
who brushes his teeth at least five days a week. Who knows
how to blacken a catfish and clean the cast iron skillet
after. Still straddling the ledge between East Coast
comfort and West Coast adventure. All future
tense and no present tension. This train
pulls me backward. Like flipping through a scrapbook of speeding
tickets and polaroids. Cap and gown in the park when the rain held.
After dark in the cars in the lot, first kiss, first drink, first love,
I want to know what he was thinking. That 18-year old.
Did he wonder if Los Angeles could warm a northern soul?
If New Orleans needed another set of quivering fingers?
Why couldn’t he stay? Here, aboard this train. Why did growing
up have to mean running away? Why am I still running away?
I should have been dad’s extra set of hands. Grandma’s spare hip.
If I am here when she dies, it is only by coincidence.
I will flee sooner than I will ask for help. If I’m going to
ride this train I want to lay the tracks myself. I want to
roll by my own rhythms. Call it pride
I can’t risk falling asleep 24
and waking up 43.
I will not let this village Rip
Van Winkle me.
I will always be a child
in its eyes. The unfinished clay
escaped its maker.
This train will always bring me back to 18. A compass
still learning its North. Too much coward
to make a home in my father’s record collection;
in my mother’s ecliptic shadow. Quivering fingers
fumbling everything sacred.
Tomorrow I’m leaving. And I will leave again,
and again, and again… My mother
still makes pancakes on Saturdays.
There is no place in the world I sleep better
than beneath my navy blue comforter covered
The bones I buried beneath boots, birthdays and baseball bats.
The bedframe chalk line I’ve left behind. A breadcrumb
trail of biography lifted into the wind
Summer thunder rumbles, knocks on Hudson Valley’s
door. Sucks sunlight from the season, drips melancholy
like melted butter onto morning. School’s out, but today
you’re stuck inside. Television unplugged just in case.
Can’t look at a book so soon after June, can’t nap when
it’s noon and you awoke at 11.
So eat. Pace the living room. Dream of baseball and
binge drinking in fields. Pray next time no one wakes
up in a hospital. One thing rain will do, it’ll keep you
safe. Bored alone a low-risk compared to boredom
shared. None of you have learned to use time wisely.
So begin. Begin settling in to yourself. Stay at home. Pace.
Watch clocks. Take the nothing you’ve been given.
Thunder speaks for a reason.
Nibbling bits of things when our eyes meet through kitchen window,
she pauses, perhaps wondering my intentions. My only thought,
to watch her, spindly limbs pawing the wind,
nose bending towards soil, searching. A hunger
unknown to me, the one eating mouthfuls
of chocolate almonds. She, stranger to a full
belly’s guarantee, settling instead for
December’s withering grass.
In July we’ll compete for wineberries. I’ll collect them, waxy,
in bins and freeze them; she’ll select mouthfuls and save
the rest for siblings and friends. The slope in the backyard
become slow turf war. A bubbling conflict since
the town outlawed hunting. Her stock
proliferates, our stocks plummet.
We’ve backed ourselves into
She bides her time
waiting again to call this home.
Till her progeny outlast us all.
Mornings before school mom would walk me to the bus stop;
a five-minute tree-lined concrete trudge - pleasant in spring,
sometimes icy in winter. She didn’t go out of her way; the train
she’d take into Manhattan was only a few blocks past. But she did it,
every morning for five years, until I was old enough to insist that
I could walk to school and not take the bus.
This was my first act of rebellion, made possible by
her constant, diligent presence. When I think back to
why I’ve never doubted that my mother loves me, I find
the answer in small, daily gestures. A great temple
built of the tiniest blocks.
Spend the morning in bed with
thunder and Netflix. Open blinds
around 11. Breakfast of leftovers,
side of bacon.
Afternoon, clean the room. Discard
crap from closet. Collect all the house’s
trash into one bag. It will almost break
on the way downstairs but will change
its mind at the last minute because
it’s that kind of day.
The rain holds. Must be telling you
something. Don’t move. More Netflix.
Shave then shower. Table for one at
Juan’s. Fatty burrito with a side of
human contact; first in 26 hours.
Food in hand, lethargy in eyelids.
No work for the next two Mondays.
Spend the next few days in sweatpants.