What It’s Like to Be Human
I wake each morning with a painful thrill.
High voltage lines, a thousand stinging scorpions,
every articulation of burning in the Bible.
Some days, there is cake.
No one protects me, soothes me.
They think I concoct things. They think
they can decide how much I can take.
They want to move me. To give me
medicine that dulls me. They say
Books are my solace. The smooth paper
white with tiny pores. I dissolve into
those pores like blood down the abattoir drain.
I say it hurts me— I can feel it
They say I’m imagining things.
So I imagine
cake and books.
both at once.
I keep myself
tucked between a few walls.
It’s not for lack
of wanting but I have
barely left the house
in eleven months.
The radio keeps playing
and the sun usually streams in
blindingly between cracks
in the navy curtains
and I wonder
what is happening
in offices, on the subway.
must jostle together.
Friction and talking.
The etiquette of coffee.
I go out.
The man at the coffee shop
on my corner
doesn’t recognize me.
I know his mother’s
first name (Agnes),
(4th and Baltic),
he’s been single (3 weeks) and
where he likes to buy pants (the Gap).
The days run together
like wet paint. I lift my arms up
and dance in the living
room, radio voices startle
the dogs into barks and sneezes.
Trying to find some spark,
to jumpstart my heart.
It is the absence
I fear most. The lack
The Last Ignominy
He turns when I arrive, jostling his heart
catheter. A machine gasps for him. Cruel
these instruments of salvation;
few of us can stand the intervention
of such props and substitutes.
His heart, my heart,
is broken. Non-functional.
Relocated needles damage
flesh no longer blood-flush.
The tracks, tiny tunnels to his heart,
gape gray. Sweet
heart. How much of medicine
hurts you worse?
Metal railings push me from his gaze.
Do you see me? Can you
see? I stroke his hand
watch his chest flutter, his heart
beating five, ten times
too fast. I think
of how his hands once touched me,
careful inquisitive fingers. His hand
inert in mine.
Now Nurse’s porky hands
lather his limp hair,
sponge unresponsive skin.
She chats comfortably, blandly
about the weather. As she washes
nobody in this room
is connecting. The water
into rumpled sheets.
Upright bass stands in the corner
all plugs connected to the socket
the switch controls. Everything
ready for an acoustic night
at the theater. You would never
admit it but you have sickened
of the mechanical beep, artificial
gasp of respirator. The doctor
pauses at the ready, turns to offer
you the switch.
Your finger rests
there, your eyes anywhere
but the bed. You think about bulbs,
blenders, the sound of a turntable
as it winds down to sleep. The switch
has about a three-pound pull. You
exert two and a half, agonize.
Hole 18 Maintenance at North Forty Mini Golf
After close, I sneak onto the dark course
like a guilty grave robber to retrieve
the balls from the cold underground; I un-
lock the copper padlock to the trapdoor,
collect the yellow, red, blue, orange, and green
balls from the plastic basket. I bring them
into the warm clubhouse where I scrub them
with a dirty thirty-year-old brush framed
with curled bristles. I count, record, and sort.
I don’t know the daily winners, or if
one got lost in the pond along the way.
It floats in the dark the misguided lamb.
LOBO, KILLER WOLF OF THE NORTH
On family vacation, we see Lobo, who left fawns for dead in his day. Lobo now rests in a display case outside of Morell’s Chippewa Trading Post, left with Made-in-China keepsakes like plastic tomahawks, and GENUINE INDIAN HAND-MADE necklaces where the colors bleed onto the customer’s skin. Lobo’s skin peels like a make-shift cast on his arm, while fawning children pose for photographs by him. The art of taxidermy trying to honor his past: setting the loose skin around his now-glass eyes to resemble a living predator and not prey.
The glass eyes ready to drop out; fearful of fate.
(“Lobo ranged the territory from Itasca Park to Red Lake. Wardens and professional hunters tried for 12 years to catch him with traps and snares. It is estimated that during the 12 years that he roamed, he killed over 1,200 deer. Lobo was never known to return to a kill. He weighed 140 pounds and was over 3 feet tall.” –NMN, Authentic Minnesota Scene)
The Albino Deer
The repeating repetition of routine
stapled my responsibilities to the earth
like a dead dragonfly pinned
to the black felt of a shadow box
Steel pins piercing pellucid wings
And then an albino deer pranced
through my Facebook feed
Its hoary antlers and pink eyes
left indentations in my imagination
Like hoof prints piercing the snow
So, I headed to Pepin County, WI
for a five-day escape
to find the enigmatic beast
And after three days
of futile searching
I broke down and paid
a guide to help
And on the afternoon
of day four we found it
Our warm breath hung
heavy in the clean cold
And there in the farmer’s field
reality hit me
and I became angry
all seemed so silly
I took a photo and like primitive tribes
believed a camera could capture a soul
so too do I desperately want to believe
that I’d entangled the soul of the ghost deer
in my digital web of ones and zeros
And then I imagined shooting it
Red blood splattered on its white fur
I piled the boys into the car
and drove to the doctor’s office
and he eventually saw us
and examined my son
who had strep throat
He wrote a prescription
So we drove to the pharmacy
and my son cried
while sitting in the red plastic chair
because he couldn’t get comfortable
because he couldn’t swallow
and an old woman stared at me
like I didn’t know my son was crying
on the red plastic chair
And we waited in line forever
and I sat the baby’s car seat
on Walgreen’s floor
and rocked him with my foot
I looked around and
saw a diabetic wall display
I saw sugar-free candy
and foot lotion
for diabetics with dry feet
and I thought, I have dry feet,
I wonder if I have diabetes?
And I looked it up on my phone
while rocking the baby with my foot
and the symptoms didn’t quite match
but I bought the lotion anyway
because my foot
Poem I Might Have Written But Have Since Lost
I drank the two rolling rocks
my father left behind when
he violated his parole
blasting Fiona Apple
Frank Zappa and
the Mothers of
out of the psych ward
after an emotional
a new high school
friends now treated
him like an unbalanced
weirdo. But not Ruby,
our class Salutatorian
on her way to study
at Yale. We hung out,
she introduced me
to her beloved Morrisey
and I shared my folder
of poems and plays
i hid from everyone.
then our group of
friends split up
on my way
Ruby and her
to me into their
a time when
I'd never felt
to run off into
world in my
life and I'd
me not to
be afraid to
just not so
sad for warm
her to worry
and i brood
the angry water which harasses the celestial
let me show you madness in a coffee cup
the black pools of fate
contrasting egg shell fragility containment units
OMAC was the one man army corp of a kirby-esque pacifism
can you imagine a violent peace
reigned in by murky four colored cubism?
death on a fading flame of horse-
where ordinary men go to die
amid the greatest of expectations least likely to manifest
this is the madness in the coffee cup
scattered sugar packets
and packets of white crystal neurological agents of sweetness
used in civilian warfare
the "healthy" alternative, feel like treading foreign lands for rubber and oil, yet?
where desert sands turn to glass
and rice paddies to feed the lands, a sour dark mess
it's eternity and rejuvenation
in which we live on the way to death
those black pools of fate
sitting and being swallowed
the madness in a coffee cup
communicating the holes within us
CONSUMED, JACKED-UP and CRASHING
pepper the fire with iron dust
a void is a space waiting to be filled,
with remembrance of the lost, miserable and otherwise
this is the madness in a coffee cup
an egg shell fragile containment unit
much like a skull of stars lighting up the cosmic void,
where the fallen men come to shelter from crime.