The cat bumped an encyclopedia and it fell to the ground, cover first.
The CLAP as twenty-thousand words kissed the hardwood sounded like a gun-shot, and we both turned bullet.
She dropped to the ground and had fired three toward the bookshelf before she hit the floor.
We’ll get a new cat this week.
We’ve gone through three during Obama’s terms-to-date. She leads on the scoreboard, 2-1, but honestly it’s because I just plain missed last time.
And no matter how many funerals we wake, each morning she smiles like sunrise.
One of the rarest sights in America is a black person who doesn’t suffer from post-racial traumatic stress disorder (PRTSD). Our whip, and hose, and rope, and bite-mark-scars have grown over. Black don’t crack, and we believe in Shea butter. Our memories have not re-built so cleanly. A cultural topography covered in fault-lines and abandoned homes. We are refugees in our own country. We are a walking messy-bundles of nerves. A ticking time-bomb.
We have seen terrible things, and done terrible things, and been treated like terrible things, and learned to call ourselves terrible things just to try to somehow make terrible things something that we could find love in inside of our homes.
We have become so used to gunfire. But no one quite knows how to react. They tell us, every day, that the bullets aren’t real. But everybody has watched someone fall dead after one hit them in the stomach. We’ve held people as they bled out. How do you combat an enemy who claims not to be fighting you?
1) coil, strike — v. a refusal to cower in the face of incessant danger of stray-and-well-aimed bullets, often characterized by bullet proof vests, disregard for authorities we did not appoint, and a high murder rate. celebrate those risen before their time. A response marked by a quick reaction time. Sometimes inappropriately forceful. High-risk of mistaking falling plates, and books, and doors slamming, and balloons popping at celebrations for gun-shots and reacting instinctively. Stray bullets are likely.
2) cover, pray — v. hide in the bathtub. teach your children to do the same. wait until the bullets stop flying. cry for the dead. cry again that your tears didn’t bring your brother back. your son back. your daughter back. Reconsider option 1, where at least you didn’t die with your eyes closed.
everybody loves the sunshine. we just all have different ways of ensuring that we get to dance again.
When he stood in line for so many hours that they counted into days; taking one step (writing one word, every two minutes like clockwork) towards a destination unknown and in a direction that no one returned from; west — toward sunsets, and his-or-maybe-just-every lonely face reflecting in the moon at night:
When the head-or-tail of the line (I can never remember which is which) opened to a set of parallel and disparate cliff faces and fanned out along it forming a delta, fertile with a belly full of hopes and fears and panting and stomach grumbling, “shores” lined by squinting eyes, dry and desperate:
When he couldn’t hear the questions (“what would happen if they saw the person they came here to find on the opposite cliff?”) and when he never joined us in questioning a God (“who would lead us to a place triangle-wedged between a return journey, a fall, and a hunger we might not have sole enough to walk, or wing enough to fly, or faith enough to stave off?”):
When he stood so close to cliff-edge he teetered back and forth — the only thing holding him upright the tension from being wedged-snug-shoulder-to-shoulder with the other dreamers, each of them looking across a faulted crust (cracked deep enough that they could still hear echoes of heartbreaks they weren’t here or maybe even alive to witness), each seeking a smile worth trying to become a miracle for:
When he locked eyes with her cross-fault: and they each, without thinking or speaking or looking back to let us know how it felt, smiled (if her’s was any indication) one of those unburdened smiles at each other — the kind that we all got in line and chased sunsets and moon risings, and strafed cliff-edges for — before they stepped out into nothing, and never broke eye contact on their way down:
When he was gone, I knew that he loved her, because I wanted to follow him, and taste whatever freedom was on his tongue before he swallowed and became insatiable. I almost chased him over the edge to ask him, but I looked up and saw your face across forever.
We walked past a large canvas in the living room that I’ve spent years covering and priming and recovering and re-priming, releaving, reliving, re-again-ing.
The surface of it is thick, at this point, with years of layers spread across it like farm-hand callouses. Covered in my failed attempts at self-potraits and self-love and self-proclamation and self-determination; painted-by-the-numbers of times I’ve failed before this moment. I pointed out all of the missed brush strokes and shaky lines and indecision and all of the places the palette slant-blended two colors that didn’t match.
She stepped back and smiled and turned her head sideways as if the angle might help her decipher me. She walked up, close enough to hug it, and couldn’t figure out how to, because it was so much more than was fair to expect her to hold, and then she turned to face me, and for a moment compared my face to its and hers and every other one she had seen before asking what it was called, like she thought I was some kind of new art.
I have never loved more.
I looked down across my chest at her. Couldn’t tell how long we were there, because I failed trying to count time watching the frequency with which she blinked. Smirked for all of the times she had feigned anger at me because my eyelashes were longer than hers.
I watched her trace whatever cut or contour she could find south of my collarbones. Thought about how lucky I was that she wasn’t the type who needed me to be in shape. Maybe she thought a fat guy would be easier to chase.
I watched her drown out the noise we always tried to fill the room with; watched her press her right ear against my left lung like Martin was inside of it preaching about his dreams, or maybe Stevie was singing about ribbons or bad math affirmations. I watched her try to learn new rhythm, like she only knew how to translate love into a movement or a song. She struggled trying to hear my life for melodies that had bounced enough off of soft things that they were little more than heavy air.
I wondered if she thought less of me when all she could hear was the aftermath of a rally, my insides home to little more than tumbleweed blowing across the feet of the Lincoln Memorial — when I was more clean-up crew than concert.
But she stayed, listened to my heartbeats strike and kick-drum through my ribs — echoing like her high heels in long empty hallways. I watched her try to calm them silently, like she could hear ventricular wings growing, like she hear from flutter that I’d fly away soon.
She says she wants to be caught;
that she’s tired of running faster than
the men chasing her with nets and rings.
what have you been training for?
Why have you spent your entire life
photosynthesizing and blossoming and
uprooting yourself into such beautiful freedom,
if getting caught and plowed and
planted was your end game all along
because to see her running — to see her in bloom
is to learn why we should never thumb our noses at roses or
toward heaven, and why we should scream and cry the sky for joy
that we were given legs
and not wings.
and yet i’ve never been her even for a day of my life;
I’ve never been a Monarch,
so I can’t tell her that she should not reminisce over cocoon
faith drip down cheeks,
watched tears grow shoulders
and learn how to carry
along with their sadness
trace amounts of make-up
that spread across the surface
of the pool she was filling.
Couldn’t tell if my voice helped,
or just sounded like my father,
but just kept the count
and promised myself I would find
a way to put each drop back behind her eyes
where my soul belonged.
i looked in the mirror yesterday and recognized nothing / in truth / i haven’t know what / to do / for weeks…
since your stains / washed off my hands clean that tuesday / and I couldn’t wipe you / spread you / pull you / into poems knee deep in the sunlight that used to creep through your blinds…
i keep trying to finger paint / surprised that you aren’t falling from my palms like / you used to
and wondering / how long I will draw blank pages / before
friction pulls calloused apart as it wanders across parchment / and I can bleed / all / by / my / own / again.
I poured myself thirsty —
missed every glass on the table…
the promises and to-do-betters
I’d piggybanked into my mirror;
watched all of the me I had
been saving up tumble grace across the table’s face
and stain it’s silhouette on the floor
like it already knew it was a memory,
like a moat around a castle with a strong bluff
in place of a defensive strategy
like the tears than turn track star at cheekbone starting lines
when they hear footstep starter pistols ring out and
be okay, be okay
someone’s coming around the corner
it’s time to act like yesterday can’t be tomorrowed
because you can’t afford to lose another afternoon
explaining that you’re fine
without admitting the only way you know how to name better.
… this was going to by my year…
i looked into those eyes
the ones that couldn’t
see me and asked
how much I would need
for a refill.
her breath filled my beard —
whispers got stuck in my ears
like ‘maybe-tomorrows’ in dreamcatchers;
if only for a moment, I forgot that
shooting stars are just
plots of land
that could have been homes
under different hands,
burning to death
as they try to land at our feet
and open their doors.
for us; mile-markers in darkness
for us: they lost themselves in light.
I’ve chased you for years;
blood hounding back and forth:
barking memories down the throats
of bottles who just wanted
to be my friend.
I’ve written books of confessions and revelations,
drunk and sloppy as me,
on dive bar napkins
iron-tied them to my torso like my chest was a billboard
and they were prison tattoos or
underground railroad directions,
a vandal’s shackled attempts at a dream
that might escape me back to alive
scribbled fast as my hands and
fingers could run
margin to margin
with pens I borrowed and
didn’t return to the
waitresses I asked “how do you spell that?”
but didn’t ever call
on the nights that I wouldn’t
have even remembered
were it not for the ink stains on my jeans
from pens that exploded when I washed them in high tide,
and the staple marks
on my chest that I
claim as amateur suture scars
while trying to convince my
company to move away from the mirror
so I don’t have to see you
every time I look at myself
looking at her.
I always know The Fall:
One day I wake up,
and all the words that
I dreamed of writing
come up short when they
touch the paper like
my childhood heroes
when I didn’t stop
She loved me enough to fill
three hours of a day
in a life full of sunsets
moments we lost track of while
we were too busy making tally marks
on each other’s backs, naming the fire-brush strokes
that painted the bottom of our sky;
we were forever,
if only for five minutes;
counting the smiles running out of us
pit bulls after mailmen and we never
latched our front yard gates —
she made it exciting to feel tongues and
hot breath chasing the backs of teeth,
the gates of our mouths
if only for that five minute forever were
we marvelled at
the world above us
wondering things like: “what
if we caught fire ourselves,” and
all of the other else that we only
ever learned to remember
when we parse our pasts, binary
into boxes of:
or not (0).
I get excited when master
and I see the asphalt flowing
under your feet.
I’ve spent my whole life
from heel to toe.
praying we never get
too old for us.
Is it only
that bipedal push you follow,
that causes you to chainpull me,
over myself constantly
into your new past
and into my next adventure?
miles of watching your soul
spin on axle
inside jokes we never laugh about
even though we know we could
too caught up in journey to worry about punchlines;
when I know
these brakes are for love
as my stomach crosses my balance
and my sole catches me before
these spokes spill out
across a tongue I’ve never
told you I had.
I wonder if you
will love my voice,
or if my grip is all you can hear.