you are blue-collar, earthen-toned, taciturn;
unassuming, uninspired. stagnant. leisurely,
you lace me on like a leather boot.
it is nine in the afternoon. “no more,” you say. i wait:
watch you washing dishes, watching me, washing me
away. soon enough, we are done for the day
on a lazy ride in a blood-red pickup,
snake eyes swinging from the rearview mirror.
i am not troubled in the least by the mingled tones
of smoke and booze you exhale; i know
i’ll cease to notice soon enough.
i think of sugar, syrup, screen door slams:
mainly, how it used to be.
tomorrow, we rise to do it again.
the song remains the same: “let us be
sharecroppers today,” you say. we drape
ourselves in torn tatters and weathered frowns.
i think of the wolf laying down with the lamb
and wonder which of the two i am.
i like your hair when it most needs cutting,
and i like the way your hands assume
the texture of sanded wood,
but understand that it’s not easy for me
to sift through the sawdust, dress myself in rags.
what i like most of all is when we step out the back
and all i see, for miles, is a plain so flat i could fall off.
i plant myself squarely in your comfortable silence.
i never want to be like you.
elegy for a dead girl
i am not afraid of anything, save
cars, tall buildings, large canines,
spaces both open and enclosed.
in many ways, i am regressing.
whenever something like this happens, it is
retrograde to my ability to make decisions
or operate a motor vehicle.
i am wondering how alike we were:
if she ever hoped she wouldn’t wake up tomorrow morning
because her alarm clock ceased to work,
or the precise number of times she said to herself, aloud,
the precise combination of words “the worst is over,”
or if she lived to see the irony in it.
if she pushed her food around on her plate, cutting it into small pieces,
or if anyone noticed that she did it.
if we wore the same ball and chain.
it’s woefully characteristic of me to make this about myself,
but please understand that i view it as
a mere divergence of fate, an alternate ending.
initially, my overwhelming thought was of my mother,
who never knows where i am or who i’m with
and waits for me with placid unconcern.
i recall an ancient writing prompt: “what is your
‘i was the one that got away’ story?”
i can’t say it made me a sadder, wiser man
because the next day i did it all again.
we are all static characters; there is no scared straight.
it’s horribly vain, a baser part of human nature,
but sometimes it occurs to me (in a lingering, semi-
subconscious sort of way)
that i have the time she was cheated out of.
maybe i’ll write my kubla khan.
i didn’t go to the funeral, but that’s who i am.
i don’t think i’d go to my own funeral, if i could.
something about a great price for a small vice;
the central impression of this tragedy is one of waste.