Day 20 – Refineries’ Bycatch

(Photo Credit: Flickr / -POD-)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / -POD-)

 

I

The people are eroding within
like their coast
ever crumbling into the gulf.

II

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
unexpected children.
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.

III

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).

IV

Drill, baby.
Drill until you’ve killed
us all.
No pill can rebuild
this flood wall
or stop the siren’s call.

Day 19 – The Planting of Warmth

(Photo Credit: Flickr / CIMMYT)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / CIMMYT)

 

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.

Day 18 – Porn on Puberty

(Photo Credit: Flickr / luckygirllefty)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / luckygirllefty)

 

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.

Day 17 – The Pregnancy Stage

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Joanna Sweeny)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Joanna Sweeny)

 

There’s a homeless lady
on the side of the interstate off-ramp
selling the homeless paper for a dollar.

She has her sweatshirt
rolled up like a bikini top,
unveiling her large stomach
with the pomp of a premiering vaudeville show.
The letters spelling
PREGNANT – Baby Inside
are scrawled on her distended skin
in block print and black sharpie,
as though the child were already a star.

As our procession of trapped cars
indulges her as a captive audience,
I feel almost nothing for the woman herself.
Her character could have
chosen to refrain from sex,
or at least been smarter about it,
and now here she is
attempting to guilt-trip
the unpaying patrons
with the repercussions
of her own actions.

But then all I can think about is her child,
and the life it’s bound to have.
I question the casting and directing
of an inconsiderate parent
who would do that to her own offspring –
curtains just opening for his number
and already he’s left stumbling
out onto the stage.

When the light turns green,
I drive off and into work
for a meeting that has nothing
to do with anything life-saving,
and the mother’s performance
just feels like a sad denouement
for such an unnecessary tragedy.

Day 16 – To the College Kids Who Only Came for Course Credit

(Photo Credit: Flickr / ISCTE-IUL)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / ISCTE-IUL)

 

You’re not hiding it very well.

I can see it, you pretending
that you’re ready and willing
to be washed over
with the poetics and rhetoric
of some of humanity’s literary giants.

But all you can talk about is
this weekend’s copied rager –
Facebook trolling to see which hussies
also clicked attending
so you may stack your game
cards just right and score.

I bet your piss-water
tastes especially exquisite
this time of year.

You showed up 5 minutes before the readings began
(which is to say 15 minutes late
because these things never start on time),
chivalrously offered to stand
in the back of the auditorium
(since all the seats were already taken
by the time you signed in),
and then disturbed the attentive masses
(when you clambered out the back door
after only the opening reader).

Your professor bribed you with extra points
in her introductory English course, didn’t she?
Don’t answer, I can already tell.

Maybe, if you’d glanced at the book once
and didn’t last-second the mid-term paper,
you wouldn’t have to be so desperate –
groveling and sleuthing
for academic scraps,
another warm body
just there to fill a hole
that never needed filling.

I hope your children grow up to be poets
so you’re never able to understand them.

They’ll pour their hearts out for you
on pages and stages,
longing for any connection
with their detached father,
but the only thing you’ll know
how to do in response
is slam doors.

A karmic punishment for someone
who’d never really tried
to understand anyone
not already exactly like himself.

Day 15 – Oh Little Town of Brookhaven

(Photo Credit: Flickr / JayPerk)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / JayPerk)

 

The mean old railroad
has used you and abused you,
told you you were beautiful
and then left you out to rot.

You’ve been forgotten and forlorn,
a run-down ghost town
whose people left you long ago
in heart
before you lost them
to industry.

The Mississippi mocks your ineptitude,
your inability to adapt in utility
and your refusal to evolve
just enough to clutch on to a populace.

Your buildings are dalmatian rusted,
and the tall weeds are mounting a revolution
against every piece of your aged construction.

Your rail yard lies in disarray,
wooden beam and iron track
strewn about like toothpicks
spit out of Amtrak’s mouth.

And now the train
only pulls in here out of tradition –
a seven-minute stopover
to pay respects to a dead relic
of a time bygone
and a town
no longer relevant.

Day 14 – The Darknesses Within

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Joaquin Villaverde)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Joaquin Villaverde)

 

We humans are such fragile things.
The darknesses we hold inside us –
deep and consuming enough to digest galaxies –
have somehow found homes
in our foreign bodies.

We try to contain them with our weak minds,
pretending to comprehend their depths.
We camouflage them beneath our thinning flesh,
hoping the emptiness doesn’t leak out
or our false colors seep in.

But their escapes are inevitable.
Whether as a flashflood or an erected mountain,
our darknesses will make themselves known,
will have their ways with us,
will break us up to tear us down.

They’ll hold our hands as we climb higher
just to watch us fall for longer,
always waiting until we falter
near an edge to shove us over.

Then our black holes will eat us –
chew bite stab slice and swallow
until our insides are fecal and fallow –
and they will walk around
in our leftover skins,
smug shit-bags who thought we were
too good to be seized by what we hide inside.

They’ll go on pretending they’re us
until they can get close enough with someone else.
And once our decaying corpses
become too troublesome,
they’ll jump ship to their next hosts,
leaving us to rot and fester –
flailing as we fall to the ground –
slumped in a heap of ourselves:

the wasted snack of something
incomprehensibly stronger than all
our mental wrestling could ever grapple
or years of denial could ever outpace.

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau

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