chicag in wintr

coffee, cream and crusted piss soaked into frozen pavement
ambiguous outlines of anguish, drunken discards
clothed in the fog of unsleep
search the clean spots, nowhere left to fall
pick the dirt from out the windy teeth
feeling a little, and all the rough fangs of gusty wolves
old Chicago, built and swallowed by the pulseless lake
all are climbing, drowning as they go
dying by exhalations of ghosts below


i laid flat, heavy as an empty sack
on molar flats of the toothy divide.
steady the ugly houses and the lake
swum green and grey to each side, staggering
in slow and foamy swells behind my eyes.

while nearer me, the nearer elements
fixed each to each, spit-swapping molecules:
neuronic ones, in generous display
hung raw-baked; locked in liquid heat
were giving over golden summer coats
that still decayed in drifts against the rocks.

the lake is stirred in primordial thirst,
licks-lashes at the tumbled prison walls
and drinking in the silt and salt of now,
erodes by moment those intemporal stones.

still dancing over jealous michigan,
dust webs and young storms court the governors
of light, a pageant cycle without end,
and whose great judges favor like old cats,
here playing, then indifferent, then cruel
but never passing sentence in the last.

i am ambassador here from a place
no less mighty, though better understood,
whose task without task is to chronicle
moods of forces i cannot comprehend.

lightning takes umbrage at my whim, and i
subject to death, take shelter from the sky

Sometimes on thin stilts, skinlight touching
All points of predetermined whisky-glow
All joints unfolding starship ramp
The nervous decoil of a shy proboscis
Half-sheltered in a petal cup
Sometimes avalanche
Comet screaming in a frozen instance of forever
For forever
And then the strangled shriek
Afterthought run-on’s period of explosion touching down
Here I roll
Shoulder shells at battle
Hopsack belly at rumble
Saddle hips at heft
On to whimsied goals and dead end paths
Distracting the machine for any bee or leaf or cryptid
Cloud, or mysterious moon,
Thin idiot’s adventure, rubbed and bumpered
To harbor or to rocks
Tinker toy or hurricane
Will you keep me to the path?

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The gremlins in my spine are pulling panels

The vertebral shelves
veiled in dried gutcord
easy dens for small and fearsome creatures

The gremlins in my spine are wrenching bolts

A knot of evil rolls in up the back
sticky-watered in half wet rattles

The gremlins in my spine are tearing wires

Sun bleach my bones and tilt my jaw and stare and document each shallow pit and spider canyon all the splinter and decay

I’ll split into a grin

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Winter’s melting into the apartment

In the misty light, my insides warm and brassy
She and I lay in a heartbeat’s hibernation

She exists in telegraph bursts,
The moments between a switched flip and a bulb exploding to life.
From time before time, the question and the echo,
Ribbons and a kindling spark, heat and smoke and everything

The very zipper-teeth of her tumble over everywhen,
A hundred thousand backbone dice cast into the pit
Some lost to history, more stuck between the pages, others now

I’m rattling in the cup of the future, waiting to roll
I’m learning to be less present

I dreamed my mother’s eyes were taffy-stretched
Woven in forever knots through the skeleton beams of our unfinished house
I’m tangling more and more

The frayed ends of me wander, winding, riverlike
Crossing, curling, turning ever away toward her
Vibrating to her pulse–the waves and the warped

Winter is lifting

My breath rolls in like a stranger, and the heart wakes

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How I got Up there

Once by the sunflowers I was afraid to jump.

I had a home in a dusty box
Hammered out in cheap words and wood
On another edge of the world
In dresses, mothballs, needles and blown pipe ash
The brown bag refuge in the pines

Once I flew over the library in the pink cold sunset.

Somewhere there’s sandy clapboards and the shells in the rock
Smoke and mattresses
Delirium and stolen breath
Rolling cartwheels down cobbleways
There’s a drag on your coat tails
And a bishop behind the gate

Once I tread on thin shingles and plastic ghosts.

I had a canvas jacket
I had a brown patch coat
I had a long black number
I was all sandglass and brick

Once I simply opened a door and climbed up.

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Drunk hammered piano
Porch idle picked guitar
And you’re scraping dust
From the cracked old elegant tile
Up on those gummy rubber treads
Them kickers and stompers, yeah
She’s there with her hair fine like sand
Honey brown and deep as old cork
Are you looking old?
Hating every sentence in your head
Ready to give this one up
There’s a kink in the hose
Nothing coming, bone dry

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Helen’s Scene

Helen came bouncing through the glass doors, overcoated by brilliant frosty air. She was big, gray and nested comfortably in life like an old cat on an overstuffed chair.

In a second of bad news, Helen’s buoyant face with all its oak-bark creases could drop to a taut mask of fear and vulnerability that made her look young and heartbroken.  Most of the time, though, her cheeks and wide mouth and bubble chin lifted high and hugged together in a great warm smile.  Standing before that smile was like standing before a great oven moments before fresh bread came out to cool.

Flighty and breathless, Helen never settled on a table or chair.  In her daily hours spent at the shop she would rise half a dozen times from one perch to flap quickly to a new decided-on roost.  An hour might be spent humming long, tuneless notes watching carefully out of a picture window onto the empty street.  Sudden as the wind, she would change to a conspicuous seat at the large central table, bowed in fierce concentration over old puzzles in old newspapers.  When a friend pushed quietly into the shop, Helen would bowl aside young laptoppers in their private worlds to make room.

As the sun descended over the town on its way to new westward purchases, Helen left as quickly and decisively as she did anything.  In the middle of a puzzle, conversation or observation, she glanced up as if called, excused herself with a hearty throat-clearing, and floated out the door to drift like a dandelion down the windy street.

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there, here

Now, we are grown older.
A discarded pair of glasses, eye, shade or costume, is not ours for the trying-on.
We have come to the park not to chase across the grass, nor to examine worlds and kingdoms at trees’ feet, but for still and silent council with colder, quieter elements: rock, restless water, the sun in its jewels and brocade taking survey of its limitless empire.
Here the seconds widen.
A minute is gulf enough to inhabit oneself, small, complete and simple; to locate this unusual, unremarkable corner of space and enjoy, for sixty seconds, the terrifying brook of murmuring time.
In the random span of our living rope, here we might choose to exist, reserved and serene on a gray and stony shore.
In our age there is no madness, neither pain, but only shores of faces, hands and hair and fingers, whose high watermarks make up our passing time.

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Blind shoots and wooden bones

Blind shoots and wooden bones
through the slow, sandy strata of time
wove through hidden mineral years and split trunks
searching arms to skeletons.

Twig and claw from a distance
the dime portrait of a great neuron
frozen forks of lightning in the blue clouds
soft cotton colors in the early evening.

Gentle and warm behind the bisection, no aid in illumination
the light breathed slow and bright around them.

A tin-can grey train
battled with inertia like a great bear, grumpy and afraid
from its long hibernation
rolling, limb by limb, back into the waking world.

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Death, The Life Story

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