After the self-induced ecstasy
dissolves into emptiness,
I think about my uncle,
how the family used to say
I was just like him as a boy –
enjoying my long showers,
taking my sweet time on the toilet,
always keeping tissues on the nightstand.
My grandmother was a woman of God –
Ave Maria cast in concrete lorded over her home.
She must’ve known about my uncle’s porn
stashed childishly under his mattress
throughout his adulthood under her roof.
She had to have heard the morning moanings
of VHS vixens through thin walls.
Maybe she thought it grace
to afford him this one pleasure
since the heavens had cursed him
with a slow mind, a quick temper, and endless allergies.
After she died, my uncle grew bolder about it.
Out on his father’s boat, he used to joke
with my older brother and cousin about his habit – Some people collect stamps. Others collect butterflies. But I collect fuck tapes! –
which I learned, a decade later,
is a bastardized quote from the movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne,
one of my uncle’s classic, misogynistic idols.
But it’s hard to chastise a man for loving himself
when others find it difficult to love him
and so many have already abandoned him.
Back when he still took pride in his body,
he was engaged once to a slim Italian girl
from around his childhood neighborhood.
He loved the fact that she loved to fuck, like him,
and that he could bounce a quarter off that ass.
But one day she awoke from his bed and found Jesus
wrist-deep in a cult that prayed fiercely to Saint Ponzi.
And the only thing my uncle loved more than
getting deep-throated was his hard money,
and he swore then that no stupid-fuckin-crazy-Christian,
no woman was ever going to bankrupt him for salvation.
I wonder if he imagines himself
jizzing in Jesus’ eye every time he jacks off,
payback for taking from him the one woman
who could have tamed his demon obsession.
Years later, he bought an oyster boat of his own
and named it after his former fiancé.
For fishermen, that’s normally an honor
reserved for beloved, faithful wives or the children
for whom the vessel was sailing to support.
But this woman, whom had nicked his iron heart
with her golden trap, still kept something of himself
from him. He’s never been able to get it back,
and this was his last tactic to keep
riding the motions of the ocean atop her.
My uncle still refers to the boat by its legal name,
but the rest of the family and the fishermen
have thought it more fitting to call it
by its resemblance to its captain:
The Blue One –
too hurt, too broken, too scared
to ever grip another’s love again.
From the minarets where former Ottoman
emperors often paid their respects,
cries to Allah lurch out five times a day,
stop you and make you reflect,
even if you’re not reclined to pray.
They give off the feeling that we’re living in a movie,
and time seems to slow down – every small movement
taking on an unprecedented greatness of meaning.
The incessant background sounds of the honking horns
are muted and drowned out by the overlaid music
calling for a savior to save them from this city caked
in salty simits and human grime that becomes
a river of toxins whenever it rains,
coating cobblestone and concrete
as it returns south to the sea.
Blind gypsy women selling wilting flowers
for compassionate lovers as they tap
down the streets with their walking sticks
are now silenced.
Their garbled cries for purchase
have been replaced by bellows more beautiful,
even if equally imposing and unintelligible
to my un-ripened ears and in-able tongue.
The Turkish children practicing their futbol
passes and trick shots know better
than to challenge the quiet.
Their new game becomes one of stillness,
a competition of abstinence and inhibition,
for which the victor gets showered
with maternal approval and affection.
One day, they’ll understand
the power of a peaceful moment,
the courage of calming the raging storms of their souls,
the wisdom of harnessing their ferocity for greater ends.
Poetry found me as we wept
for the death of my grandmother.
She walked straight into our house of mourning,
wrapped her wise arms around my 11-year old frame,
and kissed my mind because she knew that my
grandmother’s body was
too riddled with cancer and chemo
to pick me up from school anymore.
Poetry held my hand as I learned how to take
those emotions, those tears,
those incomprehensible tragedies,
and fuse them into something
that made some sort of sense,
something that I could
beautifully wield with some relation
of logic, of understanding, of coping.
After the coroner rolled her body away,
I stayed up all night and wrote.
I didn’t know what I was writing.
I didn’t know where it was coming from.
I didn’t know what poetry was then;
those words were for my grandmother.
A few days later at her funeral –
the most morbid open mic no one plans to attend –
I read the first poem I had ever written,
dedicated it to her life.
I’d made my grandmother
into the metaphor of a yellow rose,
her favorite flower,
because it was something that I could understand then,
something that I could always hold onto,
something that would let me remember
The people are eroding within
like their coast
ever crumbling into the gulf.
My first birthday gift was a small town,
where the ratio of human to chemical hazard
is still as imbalanced as a peg-legged man.
I grew up thinking smokestacks
were where clouds came from.
You had beaten my little lungs
into believing that this was what
air was supposed to taste like.
My allergies pay your punches
homage every winter.
You muscled my maturing brain
into thinking that this was all
in the name of industry –
creating jobs for the barely-educated
roughnecking it to feed their
My friends’ parents you employed
were too simple and trusting
to acknowledge the deathly particulates
hunting them through sparse trees.
You bribed my politicians
to turn every blind eye.
They happily prioritized our lives
as worth less than that of our
northern and western brothers,
just as long as they got their cut
of black gold.
We became your country’s southern cesspool,
swirling colorfully in chemical run-off,
but not wise enough
to make them mitigate the toxic waste.
We suffer with our deformities and cancers
so they can have cheaper gas
and non-stick frying pans.
We slip from their memories
until the crude stops flowing in
and rolling out again for their consumption.
They said that we weren’t worth
the cost of rebuilding
whenever nature washed us out
after man’s neglect to do it himself.
But when we were pasting our own
broken pieces back together again,
all the new-strung power-lines
seemed to stop at the refineries.
The surrounding neighborhoods
waited and festered three months
longer to receive the benefits
of the same utilities they were dying for
(others to have).
Drill until you’ve killed
No pill can rebuild
this flood wall
or stop the siren’s call.
Growing up in boiling marshes
and under burning sunbeams,
my body has mastered regulating
its own temperature well.
It has learned to expel and avoid
what’s too hot –
what’s been known to hurt
more than it heats.
But your love’s like warmth –
inviting, comforting, un-burdensome –
a Goldilocks in knee-socks
that’s just right for me.
You lay your body on mine
and my muscles unclench
for the first time in weeks,
I remember how to breathe,
and to see our wintered world
as more than bleak.
You remind me that spring is coming
back for us soon;
we just have to spin the world a little more first.
But I don’t want our dance
to dangle too close to the sun,
drying us out before we have
the chance to take root.
So I slide slowly,
bringing the seed and water with us
in controlled, stoic fashion,
always searching for a safe place
to plant them –
one where your warmth
will complete the alchemy,
bear the shared fruit
born of our scars.
When I was a kid –
a whole three months deep into puberty –
I always thought that I’d be as
sexually proficient as a porn star.
I’d have silver-screen dreams of me
with three women,
all of whom couldn’t help
but hunger for what I was offering.
They had tied me up
to all four bedposts
and took turns doing
sexy things to me.
(I couldn’t really tell what
because I was twelve),
but, in my head, it seemed like it’d feel good,
and I was a smug fuck because
I’d pleased all three
and was still going strong hours in.
Five years of fantasies later,
when I finally had a solo, ropeless woman
in my dorm room bed,
my first concern was
how I was going to please my girl
without her moaning waking
my RA next door.
But my directorial debut was a quiet affair,
filled only with soft breathing and flushed skin –
the work of an inexperienced child
who’d only before fucked women
to submission in his mind.
The feature-length film I’d imagined
quickly became a short,
and at its end,
she gave me a kind smile –
grateful for my trying,
my blind groping,
my arrhythmic thrusting.
She spent the remainder of the movie
softly patting my back,
silently hoping that I’ll be able
to unknot her the next time
we choose to unfurl our sails.