like a YA thriller, the animal gods trample my offerings

Notes Towards an Autobiography

1.

Last night, the moon was a limping fox
whining at my door and trampling my offerings:
blue bowls of newspapers, burnt pencils and curdled milk.

I fear the purple lips of my father after wine.

I miss the breath of my horse, how he would tear at my blonde hair.

I love the unhemmed edges, the broken tooth, the self wallowing
in its own pink jail cell.

2.

In my dreams, I ride my mother’s cow over a cliff and learn to fly.

Most of the time, I am climbing the walls of my tree house.

I fear the wasps drown my voice.

My childhood was a boat unbuilt each night
above a marsh of beer and old blood.

I learned to read by the light of the villagers’ torches,
ignoring the pitchfork tines as they tickled my ribs, my spine.

more arguments with ghosts

You Visit as a Bird, a Hat

 

I am dreaming or remembering.

 

In the backyard, a flaming hysterical cardinal (or your red cashmere cap) kneads my scalp with tiny sharp claws, as if to burrow inside.

 

You tell me your hair didn’t “dissolve” – you shaved it first.

 

And the restapled fabric of the brim fills the air with the sound of someone’s questions, and seizes my knuckle with a greedy, peanut-shaped beak.

 

You are making that face again but you don’t quite have a “face”.

 

Knit circles in the shape of roses glued above the left ear, throat pulsing with melancholy whistles, a black riding cap slops about your skull, loose after chemo dissolved your hair.

 

I start to ask if this is the “ghost you” or the” real you,” then stop myself.

 

Sometimes I type, “you are I” when I mean something else.

 

Beside a two-dollar beret the pink of self-pity, a redwing blackbird lifts and swings into mist.

in cheap motel rooms

Shadow Hobbies

Somebody signing the motel registry

left-handed, someone

else pretending to be my dad or brother. The vodka

from my father’s boot

in the pocket of my jeans jacket.

Kneeling, a new kind of cardboard angel.

Bending, and falling

out of windows.

Here’s where the rupture in my ear

holes started, God’s dead music:

a piano playing underwater.

directions to my place

Exits/Entrances 

Stop at a turnstile.  Get out a book. No, not that

one. Starlings whistle, old hinges. Instead of a bird,

think “spray” or “eyeliner”. Doors open and close,

a sound like falling wind chimes. Men try to light

their cigarettes on the platform. Wind blows through

their hands, slaps at matches. You never. Instead of fire,

imagine “damp”, think “underneath.” Write, “everyone

can tell that’s a wig.” This time the announcer is a man.  He

apologizes again. The cat in the carrying case cries

like an emasculated wolf, full of miniature fury.  Pretend

not to hear him. In each part of this small night, the night

has been lightening. Your clothes radiate and flutter,

the Gatorade freezes your hands. Neon fathers, small,

disappearing lights. “What’s wrong with your feet?”

More “make” believe, a shopping bag promises. A girl

removes a spray paint can from her back pack, rattles it with

a muscular wrist.   The opposite of girl is “bottle cap”.

Starlings whistle like hinges. An organ held tight.

You never finish anything well, there’s always threads

hanging, bones unmended. The opposite of stars is neon.

“What are you writing?”  “Nothing.” (The opposite of

cloud is mud.) Her spotless tan coat spread around her,

a woman vomits quietly by the trash bin. She crouches down –

soft, fawn volumes arch out, a cloud.  The opposite of hoof is engine.

the invisible tour guide

The Long Vacation

1.

We stand next to each other at a shallow trough full of muddy water, sifting for gems with our fingers.

You find a large white stone in the shape of a peacock feather and slip it into my pocket, so we won’t have to pay.

On the way out, we are short a dollar, and I have to make up the difference in dimes.

The small boy following us hides rocks in his cheeks, sucking on the stones like popsicle sticks.

We load his backpack with semi-precious pieces to take back to his mother.

2.

You have yet to buy the right shampoo, so I can’t wash my hair and I wear the same t-shirt for five days.

As we sit down to dinner, your cat throws herself at my face.

You refuse to give me my own key, so I draw on your cheeks when you’re unconscious.

When I try to touch you as you sleep, you shove me until I tip off the mattress.

The windows won’t open, the walls hum and heat up, and the freezer won’t hold ice. We can hear the neighbor’s air conditioner working next door.

The stones from the gift shop scatter from the nightstand, hiding and winking like thieves: somehow the chain lock got ripped from the wall.

We have that argument again, about whether this is, or is not, a dream.

more about girls and fire

Extinguish

We tried to get high in the bathroom. I tried to cut your bangs again, missed and hit an eye.

I still remember the smell of your arms, my ex-sis, your hair like flammable paper dolls.

Water isn’t always the answer.

We fell to the bed, a thin tangle of limbs: the dog jumped on but we were thirteen, too tired to push him off, though he sweated and his breath burned.

I chewed the tips of your braids while you flicked your father’s lighter. You called me an animal.

“It’s a sign, It’s a sign,” the furniture sang.

Piles of hay in the stable, dry and crisp as paper, handy tinder.

You liked to gush like a stewardess, “You will find the exits here and here.” We floated together until they separated us.

In the tv shows, horses run back into the fire unless they’re blindfolded.

You made me close my eyes and guess what you were doing, your room moist from the leaking water bed.

You said you were training it to talk. I said it was not yet housebroken.

You were the pauses, the gazes, the mascara that never washed off.

You ask when I’ll be finished with you.

Were you always trying to put me out?

Prevent Widfires

Only You Can

You’re in the form of a redwood hunched and weeping in the corner. You forgot your lunch pail and none of the other trees will share with you. “Isn’t this a great sunny day?” I whisper to you. You sniff wetly, but I’m hoping you’ll still discuss the weather with me – redwoods are great predictors of rain and I’m planning an outdoor encounter group this weekend.

You teleport to the other side of the river, then stagger and throw up.  Trees do that sometimes when they’re upset; they can’t really control it.  I offer you some newspaper to cover up the mess.

“Are you the literal queen?” you say.  I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic.  I think of the matches in my pocket, then feel guilty for thinking of matches.

Smokey the bear appears by the river, scooping sand into his pail.  He is shirtless, as usual.

“Mr. Smokey,” I say as I bend next to him, “Are the woods on fire?”

“It’s Smokey,” he growls, “just Smokey.”

my childhood, as directed by David Lynch

Subdivision

 

Under the mattress

in the guestroom, I couldn’t find the word

for “enough”. The word for

 

“born animal”.

The what kind, the what kind.  Police whispering, entering

the kitchen, slipping out my bedroom

 

window.

The crackle of deer picking through bottles in the backyard.

A room rustling with my party

 

dresses, the hems

undone, dangling: a roomful of staircases, colored like a dog’s

mouth. The weather pulled from my

 

brother’s ear,

the rain in a soup bowl, in a tureen. The tea kettle always pacing,

turning.  Without warning, a stove,

 

a hidden panel

full of lettuce, full of sugar packets.  My boots lined up by the door,

their tongues torn. The drawer full of parts,

 

full of nail

parings and teeth. “Someone touches a part, they control your heart!”

Someone shouting, someone muffling

 

a shout.

Singing by the fireplace at breakfast, but not after dusk. All

the frosting tastes of furniture polish, all the curtains

 

taste like tires,

or the bottom of his foot. Trees bowing until they break, the shards

weeping yellow, sharp as the wrong word

 

for “electricity”,

for “please,” not, “pleases”. Miniature steam rollers made of metal,

used for discipline. Someone

 

losing

his footing every night around the half-full pool,

no one startled by the splash.

colonize this!

Empire of Ghosts

And you, I keep you all in a mason jar with some cotton, a maple stick or two, some pine needles; no need to poke air holes in the lid.

All the cats, tails bobbing like lovesick meat hooks — all the horses, whickering Neil Diamond melodies.

No touching, just manipulation with tweezers and toothpicks.

And you, your chin tucked beside my ear, mumbling your telephone number or address — I can never remember – your drone a soft palmful of bees.

No air needed.

And you, in that red silk jacket you wear in dreams, your hands tucked in pockets.

And you say, I want you to feel like.

No need to poke holes.

And with you, not touching hands, we compare fingernail polish the color of cooked shrimp or baby ears.

And you say, don’t you think that pink’s, like, altogether too happy?

not the millions

Minus

Where I sit, the landscape flutters, composed
mainly of tiles and pipes. “No safety.” Sounds

like the missing part of a gun. Remember how
You held my hair when I vomited up the gun? My seat

is orange; most are orange or yellow, soft as
ice or your uncle’s rotten teeth. Now you’re

in Staten Island, I’m in Brooklyn, both of us
underground but only one of us moving. Nothing

connects. Numbers increase, recede. This grey
tube is over one hundred and fifty years old.

A different man’s voice garbles through the loud-
speakers each time. “Doors” repeats. (I do not

think there are doors for you, or perhaps there
are only doors.) You’re sitting barefoot on my last

pony, swinging your long blonde toes with their
black nailpolish. Next stop 135. At least, that’s

what I like to tell myself. Over 20 thousand windows,
looking out at nothing but shadow, sparks, and the

occasional missing star. Next to your old place,
a streetlight hummed like an almost perfect sphere,

remember? Still, it was nothing like the moon. 775
miles of tracks. I liked to lean over the fence and touch

the hot glass, like I liked to touch your green velvet
couch, right next to where your blue cat was sleeping.
Remember, you used to tell me, there is no safety in numbers.

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