August 22, 2009

Found poems from 1982

Synchronicity is maybe what it was. Jenna was restless weeks ago and looking for things to get into the night she found the old photos, her idea to make a scrapbook for our 23rd wedding anniversary out of pictures from the past. 

 I finally dug the plastic bin of photos out from beside my dresser, where it sat beneath other plastic bins of things I have no place for except to put on top of other plastic bins. It was two years ago that the plastic bin obsession seemed like a good idea. Now I wonder why I didn't opt for the dumpster. 

While Jenna scattered photos across the rug searching for just the right ones, I came across a notebook I hadn't seen in a decade-plus: my college poetry notebook, stuff I wrote when I was 20, when Gerald McCarthy was my professor. So I decided to type these up, for digital archiving, if not for your enjoyment. I hope maybe for both. 

A Poem for My Brother 

I sit on the basement stairway 
curl my fingers into fists 
my feet move as 
the veins on your arms rise 
your hair drops beads of sweat 
onto your knee 
the high-hat, the snare glisten 
under the single unshaded lightbulb 
hung from the wooden ceiling beam. 
I have never been able to touch you. 


You can talk to me now 
about writing I
spill my ashtray on the bed 
rub gray ashes into the cotton sheets 
my grandmother gave me 
so I can smell smoke in my sleep. 

You're growing even thinner 
When I touch you, you break 
into pieces so small. 

Who stole the meaning?


The living room is gold now
wall-to-wall carpet sprouts shag 
like those weeds behind the high school. 

Someone moved my copy of Lolita 
and the hell of leaving was easier 
than coming back 

Meditation on the Train Ride to Chicago 

The windows move us 
past the south side 
and I wish 
we were just leaving home. 

Glass shatters 
laughter leans against a street light 
an unseen hand shakes the clothesline 
torn t-shirts and diapers wave 
underwear sponges up 
the dirt from the city sky.


The road stays dark 
my feet disappear under me 
to lose my arms 
I stretch them forward 
they will not leave me.
I dig my fingers in
hold my eyes in my hand 
and squeeze until the pain stops. 

The Rain 

Against the tree 
arms behind my back 
I lean on my hands 
rubbing bitten finger tips 
up and down the bark.

Yesterday it was spring rain-smell 
memories of bicycles, porch lights, kickball
the quiet splash of sneakers 
down the path toward the mud hole 
grass gone 
maggots hungry with anticipation. 

Too young for the funeral, 
I stayed behind 
and wondered who would die next. 
On TV, the world turned round 
and everything that was supposed to be funny 
still was.