Equinox

So begins another Autumn,
Its rubicund bearings
Loudly reflected in the car window,
Its bracing winds surging onto the porch
And in through the door screen, how
I have barely slept in anticipation,
Wondering what kind of death the trees
Will have this year:

Be it slow and deep with romance,
Be it a violent undoing,
Quick as the burning of books.

I think often of our histories,
But now they seem to be budding
From their graves and floating upwards
Into the rooms where we gather
In candlelight and wait for night
To still our hands.

I am frightened by reverie
So real it seems to loop
Across the television screen:
What I abandoned in the copper hills
Of Maryland, in my childhood bedroom,
Or in your parent’s house,
A summer that never grew back
Like it was, the wilting
And the separation, easier
Or harder
Depending on the hour.

What proceeds loss?
All I can see is a thick, snowy static
Fizzing in the dark.
And beyond it, perhaps
The home we are building
From the few things carried
With us, what we failed
To leave behind.

The early sunset sends
A shiver over the valley,
All of us are changing.

Let me keep just this
Delicate, singular moment.
Let me cradle it, before it goes.

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The Dump

Perhaps the possible beauty
Of the old county landfill
Is precluded by its stark baldness
Against the jungly mountain heads;

The morning sun is harshly fluorescent
Over its flower-less doldrums,
And a maze of plastic piping
Ripples methane gas into the air.

But I don’t mind the sweet rotten smell,
Or the flooding light that forces my eyes
To shut, or the nearby highway
Grumbling with machine ambulation,

For you have unfolded a blanket
On top of the wide and rolling crater,
And what boils beneath is covered
By your body pressed against

June’s most verdant hatchlings,
The rye grass and the clover bud,
Our skins almost touching, the punchdrunk
Miasma of plant pulp and gasoline

And the sweat which dampens your blouse.
There is nobody else here to survey
Summer’s ascent, save for the robins
And the curbside cigarette butts.

We sit alone, thrilled speechless
And stupefied by the holiness
Of empty space, how it curves
So urgently against us, willing us

To lean nearer, so close you might
Have kissed me, and so I forget
The politics of beauty.

Transitional Objects

Summer came and went,
But the ground never thought to soften;
All my felt-tipped dreams are leaving,
So I resign to being left.

This is the same chilly blue opulence,
Indifferent as a stone in the riverbed.
These are the same mountains,
Wilting under panes of early frost.

I don’t know which one is easier,
Going or being made to stay behind.
Many years ago, I watched planes take off
From a plastic bench in the airport lobby.

I couldn’t tell which one was yours,
From the ground they all seemed
Impossibly small and far away;
To call would have been futile.

But leaving is just as fraught.
In houses caulked with moving boxes,
I fall forever forward into coffee cups
And vacuous filing drawers,

Writing notes to my animal instincts:
Love fails to fill an empty space.
And autumn is heady with emptiness,
Dried leaves eddy in vacant parking lots

As the naked forest rattles its birds away;
I yearn to become just as good
As my lovers thought I was,
As resplendent and as strong.

What is left in the derivative?
Removed from the other we forget ourselves;
Perhaps it was a mistake that you chose me,
A momentary lapse of cynicism,

The blushing dusk as it seemed
Immortalized in laundered shop windows,
The clever lines I took
From people cleverer than me.

There is always something missing
From these grand Victorian living rooms,
It doesn’t matter where I go,
I carry the absence with me

And it shivers just as I do,
In the early winter rain that smells of snow.
Have you seen it there
In your austere and lonely offices?

Clinging to the corners of the wall,
Vast and black and frankly starless.

Approximations

 

1.

In the flames you looked
bone-white and
Molten soft, the heat was
Good enough but it left me
Wanting.

You turned your neck,
A crack
And there you were again

On the highway’s edge, in
The daylight moon, straddling
The chicken wire as I shook dirt
Out of my mother’s boots.

We are 200 miles from anything
And everywhere, tell me
Why do the mountains look so wan,
The Columbine so bloodless
Weighed against you?

2.

In the lexicon of miracle
And catastrophe, we have
Only approximation;
Of natural disaster they say:
Like nothing we’ve ever seen before.
Of love, I’ve written:
There is a hole in my chest, metastasizing.

I want to steal parts of you
And take them for myself:
Your books, your longest fingers,
Your tufts of hair falling sloppily
Over the comforter.
I am selfish and animal-hasty
As I bite your hand and grip
Coldly into your shoulders, groping
Your back as if looking for the stumps
Of wings.

But you are ordinary
After all, and what does it matter?
How you sweat and slump against
The dingy wallpaper,
Like only you could do.

Outside, a city of trees
Mirrors the way your body
Shakes in laughter,
An imitation piteous
As all the rest.

Struck

Summer’s death is easiest
In the morning, when not even
The iron bars over my windows
Can keep out the sun.
At night, we acclimate to electric light
And coconut candles.
Mock coconut, a saccharine
Tropical reverie;
Electric light, a pulsing
Haloed fever.

Outside, the ghost of back-to-school season looms
In blue and yellow clouds.
You throw your backpack on the coffee table
And cry into your hands;
The shadows are darker than they were
Last June, I remember them
Pressing against us as we huddled
On your couch, the heat choked me;
I almost kissed you.

Now I’m leaving in the morning
Wearing yesterday’s boots,
The concrete stings with the promise
Of gelid air, thin and glasslike
Beneath my fingernails.
I feel it still, last winter’s
Slow thaw deep inside my stomach
Like a stone, waiting.
When you hand me a coffee mug,
I disappear behind the steam.

In the South, Autumn conceals itself
Between quotidian heatwaves,
It’s onslaught furtive, cruel.
But it clings to common signs:
A burgeoning silence in the forest;
Pumpkin candies in supermarket aisles;
And singular people in the streets,
Freshly left alone.

On my best days, I insist
We are not ordinary animals.
I will unpack my sweaters from their queer
Perch beneath the kitchen sink,
And write my poems by lamplight.
You will finish your books and book
Your flights and remember
To call me.

But the season I praised as “ours”
Wilts with pale exuberance,
It is difficult not to mourn
Every dimming blade of grass.

What comes next?
The early flakes of snow,
The hardening dirt,
The branches bare as dusty
Cupboards.
And something else
I cannot predict.

For each time you say
I love you,
All but the skeleton of the world
Shifts.

Specter

Something heavy teases
The morning light as it falls
Into the wallpaper, something
Fluttering, suspended, fluid as electricity.
It runs its furs across the floorboards
And climbs atop the radiator,
I’ve felt it
Like a body in bed,
Like a pair of eyes against the window
Watching me.

I look back, in fact
I stare hard into those empty spaces
And hope it will seem like an accident
When, at last, I see.

If I am too tired to stay looking,
I use my hands to prod
Thick pockets of empty space
For the faults in emptiness,
The silence that, when pressed,
Erupts into sound.
My body grows stiff from searching,
I mollify myself with scalding water
And steam, my skin softening
Into cool shoulders of linoleum.
Once, I thought I heard laughter
Taunting up the staircase.
Then, I was afraid it would find me
Naked, trembling, and
Wild in my weakness,
Too human for a miracle.

In truth, I cannot count
The time I’ve exhausted
Searching for some God
Moving inside of sooty reflections,
Or crouched beneath a shadow,
Or oscillating between fingers
Of late summer light.

It feels like a childhood,
An adolescence,
A lifetime
Lost.

But this world cannot be
Both senseless and abandoned,
Both violent and abandoned,
Both lonely and left alone.

There must be something
Cresting above the chaos,
Perhaps, an answer that has
No language to bind to,
An expiation so alien,
Most turn their heads away.

Social Commentary: On White Male Victimhood and “Meninism.”

I write critical essays frequently but rarely share them. However, I’ve been wanting to write something on the concept of white male victimhood for a while now. Last week, I watched the documentary “The Red Pill,” which details the ideas behind the polemical “meninist” movement, and I figured it was time. Here’s my brief take on what white male victimhood is fundamentally about and how it relates to “meninism:”

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String Theory

This is an updated, edited version of “Baltimore in Storm.” 

Rain renders buildings
Delicate as charcoal
Against the steamed glass sky,
Brick melts like candle wax,
Metal bodies wade in a great
Asphalt lake.

There are the roads we see, and then
There are the other roads:

The ones buried in conversation, or
Jutting out from torrents of water
Like grass growing through sidewalk fissures.

There is this world, and then
There is the deeper world:

Where time moves kaleidoscopically,
And every choice is laid out
Like fresh linens on cotton bedsheets.

A world devoid of parallel lines,
Where the past perches forever,
Where the future uncloaks itself
And stands naked in the rain.

I feel it growing from every cornered
And shadowed place,
Incipient and sure.
When I strain to reach it, my fingers
Cut messily into the open air
Like a thread frayed;
Above me, the sky
Throngs with fresh light, below
A crosswalk sparkles
As if to say
Soon.

Settlers

In the flatlands, a train burns
Into its manifest destiny, dreaming
Of desert ghosts and alien graveyards
Sprouting from the alkaline dreamscape
Like flagpoles flitting over the surface
Of a hunter’s moon.

In front of you, night’s silvery wings
Crouch towards the West,
Where you will fall backwards into time;
Shut your eyes
And you’ve missed it, the way
It slipped under the wheels and erupted
Into steam.

I wonder
Can it travel over
Mountains, be caught
By the palm
Of an outstretched hand?

Is it here now
In this room, pressed into
The window,
Like the pale face
Of a child, listening?

While you were waking up,
Somewhere past and unfamiliar,
I was thinking of the world
As a thin sheet of paper
Folded lengthwise:

When torn there is a tunnel
That reaches through everything,
And all of time bends about our silhouettes,
And all of space wilts beneath our fingers.

Up

The grid world, smooth
As felt, its Kelly green and sienna
Placards held fixed
Against the rolling earth
By silo thumbtacks.

Through these fishbowl windows
Human life is free of crags,
Of car accidents and traffic jams,
Of spilt ice cream and all words meaning
Closure.

Earth, hallowed and studded
By light and memory,
And you somewhere in it,
A needle sunk below the sea.

I catch the eyes
Of your city glow
As is from embers;
Every TV set a candle stick
Laid out upon the velvety, pithless
Sweep.

Did you call out for me?
I heard nothing
But the drone of airplane turbines,
And the howling of the wind streams.

All other noise and longing
Crystallizes, falls like snow
Upon the tin roof of your apartment,
Where I have seen you sit and contemplate the ground.

There, I am rootless.
In dreams, you feel me as a fume
That wafts through open windows,
But this is not a dream.

Once I imagined
The heavens as filled
With the lilt of harps and laughter,
But it is empty here,
And deathly still.

I have thought to tell you,
But now there’s no way
How.