Bridges

it’s 9 degrees in Philadelphia
normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees
hypothermia sets in
when the body reaches 95 degrees
91 degrees brings amnesia
but not the kind of forgetfulness
perhaps wished
when asked
how one arrived
at this place
in life
82 degrees brings unconsciousness
though appearing to be sleeping
and a body temperature of 70 degrees
brings death

steel subway grates piss history’s whispers
of steam into the night
the city started using tall steam pipes instead
because people were sleeping on the grates

if you build it carefully
a disassembled cardboard box
wrapped in plastic
or a nylon tarp
can keep the wind and rain at bay
of course, you can’t see who’s coming
once inside — and there’s always someone coming
and you have to rebuild it each night
because someone else
will steal the best parts
the tarp or the plastic
within minutes, if you leave
or the police will cut it to ribbons with box cutters
so you have to take it apart and take it with you
in the suburbs, people live in nylon tents
in the wooded seclusion of public parks
in Camden, across the river
near the Ben Franklin Bridge
and its new red-brick river view condos
mostly vacant
they bulldozed the tent city
dropped the smeary tents and scraps of miscellany
into green dumpsters, dented from the inside
and then put up white signs with black letters
that read, “State Property – No Trespassing”

the average weight of a man is 196 pounds
the Golden Gate Bridge is 220 feet above the water
the Walt Whitman Bridge is 153 feet above the water
and the Ben Franklin Bridge is only 130
it’ll take 3.14 seconds to hit the shimmer
from the Whitman
with a speed of 63 mph at impact
if you go down spread eagle
arms outstretched
like a man embracing divinity’s grace
for the first time
or maybe just meeting the winged angel
above the chromed grill of a Rolls Royce
they say it’s like being hit by a car
you’ll break all your ribs in the fall
and if your course is swift, and your aim, true —
half the vertebrae in your back
your organs will still have momentum
after your body stops
abruptly
mincing your innards against shards of bones
and if you survive the fall, you’ll probably drown
unable to swim — assuming you’ve had a change of heart
of course, that particular height may not be enough
to get the job done
it’s on the margin between success and failure
unless the Delaware River is frozen
but that usually only happens further north
because the salt line is creeping up the river
from the Delaware Bay
aye, the Golden Gate is a better bet
70 feet higher — and the view is sublime
at least in pictures
it’s 60 degrees and sunny in San Fransisco today
and everyone has a tan
I’ve always wanted to see California
someday

a perilous evening’s provocation

do you remember
dancing– I didn’t mind
when you returned a glance
cast your way
you’d been born
to be admired
tho, they’d never understand
and those moments
in which
the silence
held us
to this day
to this day
I think upon a perilous evening’s provocation
the sinuous twirl of your linen’s soft rough
aye, a fistful of sepia tresses
as cicadas craw outside the window
bleating, until the frantic cacophony
gathers into asynchronous rhythm–
as once did
the silence

souls once more

if we’d be
again just
souls
once more
neither a man
nor a woman
neither templar
nor maiden
neither promised
nor beholden
neither noble
nor despised
but just
souls
once more
flawed, and aimless
unsymmetrical
and blameless
golden
as is the amber
of the dawn
we’d be, love–
aye
we’d shine–
warm
through the
evenings’ wither

a bow-tied gentleman’s smiling introduction

Anger is sadness. It’s sorrow with a switchblade and it burns in a heart as deep as love doth as it stabs through the moil. Anger is our sadness that has not been heard, but which shall now be known even if its sound is stoic silence where once laughter trailed the whispering sea-breeze of crimson summer evenings. Our anger is an affirmation of self, a mountaintop declaration of being as was Whitman’s barbaric yawp, and it is as misunderstood as the black-pit pain that’d birthed its red-winged vengeance. With many years passed since its damning recrimination, uncovered in a new life that is the old life forgotten, its silver steel still gleams, reflecting in the pupils as does lost-youth’s memory; decades-old blood pools on its surface, wet and shining. If love is the medallion saint of fools, then anger is our god, able to grant forgiveness and in forgiveness’s tall-walled absence, a penance to be paid. It is anger and love, both, that make us complete, exposing our undisguised humanness, each teaching us of the other, a bow-tied gentleman’s smiling introduction and an open-arm invitation to the hooded hangman’s razor-rope gallows. It is here, when twisting in grisly silhouette ‘neath the crimson’s last return, that we know– hatred does not exist, has never lived, but in the minds of those who’d give lesser notions deity.

amber and ash

’twas my father
who’d first taught me
a heart’s quiet disdain
of yester-love’s disloyalty
’tis the singular truth
of a life’s trivial divinity
that a man might survive
’til his fiery horizons, breached
crossing over that slim divide
‘tween amber and ash
of his own accord
neither forgiven
nor known

a cardinal in the garden

it happens so quickly
all things prior
through the months
and thin-shadow years
forgiven
overlooked
some– even reconciled
tho fewer than wished
until, one day
perhaps– a day in May
it isn’t viable
anymore
everything– changed
in a single instant
and the sunshine
might be warm on your cheek
that day
or the sky might be a thick gray
meeting your gaze above
and there might be a red cardinal
‘a craw-crawin’ in the garden

young vagabonds

It was then, when we’d been tussled young vagabonds– that I’d learned of words, their promises, and their treason. I remember the first beige-paper letter I ever wrote to you and the stark room– where a crimson-glow sun bled out inside a narrow window that didn’t open and the walls stood tall and blank beside me. I’d only wanted you to be where I was then, or I with you– both of us rescued from this world, every detail shared.

I didn’t love you yet.

I mailed the letter from somewhere in Kansas; on the road, there ain’t nothin’ but nothin’, and more of it over the horizon that never arrives, only changes– nothin’ but screaming thoughts and haunted voices, and whispers– your song and your laughter gave solace between the rumble-thump of tires and the red needle dropping low.

Finally home, four dark walls made me miss the horizon, its rising hem that teases our wishfulness as we give chase, right foot to the floor. Each letter was several pages longer than the last. I wrote to you for hours every night by the heat of a yellowed bulb. Oh, the places we traveled, in my mind– we danced again, but this time sober, aware, inside the moment’s fire.

I still have your letters here, somewhere; I know better than to read them now.

love’s cherishment

Poetry is too impersonal to convey love’s cherishment. The trouble is in the words themselves. Each would wish to be a god, but there are no gods. There is only seduction, shouted into the soul’s echoing well, when we’d wish’d compassion’s whisper.

Can you remember– the lake’s shimmer? Aye, the way the water held the sky above us, and kept us from the darkness below– Our conversations, our silence, both brimming, and entwined, each a continuation of the other, seeming never to end. To the east, there was a fence, broken by vandals, its opening wide enough to crawl through. I’d ventured inside once, finding another lake beyond the tree line, but without you there, after you’d left, all I could hear was the calls of the birds. I’d watched a swirling-purple sky yield to night’s cruel obsidian, and I spoke to you, without speaking. I’d whispered your true name, that which’d been known only to me, that which’d been told only in silence. Nothing stays the same.

red-painted letters

Love stays in our shadow, never far behind, tho silent, as are a poet’s deepest poems, those never written.

Morning had come and mostly gone when she’d arrived. Haughty, pleasantries’ fraudulence danced between white wisps of smoke drifting upward from my cigarette like lovers whose fingers never brush against the skin of the other anymore; a double entendre leaped through a shivering silver-haze ring, as graceful as a dancer, tho unnoticed. If you listened closely, all you could hear was the distance, the mumbled muddle that fills the days.

“Words are the worst invention yet,” I thought to myself, perhaps saying it aloud, “never able to tame a thought, unable to hear a soul’s symphony, deaf and useless, never able to love. Death is not the end of sentience; our words shall end us.”

I’d spent the morning writing poems.

We knew before we knew– where this rendezvous of retrospection was going, careening toward our only honesty, headlong into wrist-bound surrender, the silence between gasps of pleasure screaming all our secrets in red-painted letters that reach the sky.

When it was over, and it always ends– leaving us to the echo-voices of our solitude’s madness, she asked, “When did you start drinking again?”

Karōshi

Karōshi, they call it
such a lovely name
for working ourselves
to death

you can feel it–
a diminishment
as the days fall over
piled upon those prior
flattened, like a folded hand
all the mass
removed

tho, perhaps–
a redemption
another soul
taken notice
this one moment
saved
from the gray
savored
like a poem

young trouble
talking on the phone
yellow-straw hair
tied haphazardly
intentionally random
head tilting
and the thinnest wisp
of a smile
softens a stone resolve

keep on walking, brother
it just ain’t worth
the pain
for something
strange

she was wearing
those big sunglasses
like all the girls
are wearing these days
and like the movie stars
used to wear
last year
a slim white cigarette held
between her middle
and ring finger
sizzles and crackles
when drawn
a slow exhale
lips pursed
and she’s
gone

keep on walking, brother
the time just ain’t right
and it ain’t ever gonna be
right
she’s for another
but you know

she’ll

make you feel

alive

like a woman
who screams at you
swearing
red, and sweating

and then claws at your back
until you’re hearing bells
and the taunts of angels
who cackle, spread their wings
and depart, leaving you there
panting, and bleeding
but most certainly
not dead

tho, how
can we ever be
certain?