Ode to the Dead: Madison St. in Ann Arbor

i saw the other side—the walking dead
lingering in Suburbia:

fresh-cut grass is the smell of embalming fluid
that dampens the concrete trails to the grave;
the odor overtakes my nostrils
and keeps my feet moving away from
ghostly faces. strollers are coffins
where the dead dreams of lovers lie:
a plastic rattle is more chilling
than the shaking of bare bones
and the chattering of timid teeth—
the mouths that cry for walked dogs,
the beat-beat-beat of pick-up hoops in the driveway
when sweat pants are the suit in which
you will be buried. take this minivan
(a Hearst) to greet your final maker—wearing an apron
or khakis while thinking of ways
to make room in your ranch-style burial plot.

And the Needles Leapt Up

the sputtering of the engine
kicked my ribs with a thump
and leaves my lungs flattened,
tattered, draped over my bones.

the exhaust—S.O.S. signals from
Central Station and the Crysler Building—
jetted from the rear of your father’s Buick
through the evergreen bushes;

and the needles leapt up
on their sturdy sappy branches,
inhaling the putrid smog
from the tailpipe.

the breeze was peculiar:
it lifted up the needles and kissed them
then made the gaseous concoction
taper down my throat

where it made me choke.
my only breath swiped from me
like that kick of the ignition
from the Buick.

i guess it’s sometimes harder
to watch a car drive away
than to be in that car
where you cannot see

the hastened bellows of one’s chest
from the rear windshield
and how, so softly,
the needles leapt up.

20 October 2009

i remember October sweetly—i remember the sights of fallen leaves
and sprouting lust that sprang up from the cracks in the sidewalks
where we moved into the breeze. autumn’s insignia puts its lips
onto our foreheads; we let the moisture drip down over our eyes
so that we are blinded from pooling from our blown eyelashes.

i knew the feeling of stepping on marble columns, of going through the woods
carrying golden apples and pears in my hand to feed her parched mouth—
then dry and brittle like the leaves that feel crisply at our feet
while the moon crept above us, indistinguishable from the street lamps
that marked our nervous path.

i recall our breath, hastened and dear with the hint of awkward meters
slant rhymes and broken images: the steps are spondees upon the ground
and my muddled words are dactyls—soft, paced, paced and nothing
when compared to the beating of our feet on the asphalt.

* * * * *

next to you
i bred
nothings
from Caesar
to make you
pool yourself onto the ground
to feed the earth
with your loveliness.

* * * * *

if God did take my fingers, make them bear
upon your clutching hands and shaking skin,
i wonder how you’d take me, how you’d stare
and hold me from your face within my sin.

if God did take my eyes to make them wide
upon your body, turning hips so firm,
i wonder how you’d make my gazes hide
themselves and make my visions softly burn.

if God did take my lips and make them wet
with pleasures, dreams, and beauty walking by,
i wonder how you’d make my lips forget
trangressions made as they await and pine.

if God did take my love and make it yours,
i wonder how you would become abhorred.

A POEM REVISITED

mother, keep your think black
lion-maned hair and your bronze
off of me:

i am not a Latino poet.
i am not a voice for your
revolution.
i am not the Chicano Savior.
i am not a wind from the Yucatan.
i am not a migrant pen
to be used when my father
is held
down to pick up
little sweetnesses for
Gringo mouths.
i am not a samba or a salsa
with rhythms
that make you sway
blindly to tribal
beats.
i am not a caramel wonder—
a surprise to all as
some success that made
it from oppression
that you allow to happen
in your own house.
i am not a cry of conquistadors
with thunderous cannons
to rape some supple
fertile woman called
Tenochtitlan
(whom i have never
known)
i am not ln love with Texas:
to be bigger is a thing
that makes me smaller
in my mind.
i am not my grandfather's grandson:
a generation after
generations after generations
of labor.
i am not this eagle
perched upon a cactus between
fields and blood that
drip as darkness dies
and whiteness rides.
i am not your Hispanic wish
to dig you out
of your hole you've dug
with slurs
and puffs and rides
and chains.
i am not your Catholic child—
a slave to a rosary;
a mindless follower of
a vengeful God spread by
vengeful men.

mother, keep your thick black
lion-maned hair and your bronze
off of me: i am not a latino poet.

For Madison

[class of 2007]

i wonder if you see my photographs
as you ponder your glowing
computer screens:

wondering "whatever happened
to him? where did he
end up?"

and "why did he grow
a beard? doesn't he look
weird now?"

i know likely this
is untrue—that i (or anyone)
haunt you.

i've uprooted my ghosts
here to Ann Arbor;
i've sprinkled holy water

on my childhood bedroom
and in the chilling white halls
of that place.

i've moved in, moved on,
moved up and moved out—
my beard has grown up and out.

i look at you every now and again
as my MacBook breathes its
very last whizzing breaths:

i see lips pursed and bellies gleaming
with sweat and oil;
i see so many arms around so many things.

i see diamond rings and baby names;
i see family photos and nights out
where i know you will never find me.

i see you without me
and it's all bitter sweet.
i had my fill, thanks

but maybe one for the road.
i never had one before we left—
before i said goodbye

and you said "see you later."

AN ACROSTIC POEM

a

light through the window into the
evening sky—the tapestry
into which the sunlight is woven—
growing silent and still as the birds
hasten to the trees

perfect little beams in the
eternal haze
through which my
eyes
revere your
sweetness

In My Bed

the blankets trace the shape
of your sleeping body—the mound of your hips
moves high and low like ocean's tides.

behind the pale:

behind the pale:

a honed blackness amounts to greedy
intangible pores from which
your muster cries—
i've seen the phases of the moon in your eyes
through the foam of your hard cider

two decades of tinkering and one year
of settling culminate into a twenty-first century
state of mind: where men can be men and
women can be greater-than-or-equal-to,
where dollar bills keep the wheels turning
in your brain

the two deep portals melting in your eyes

the two deep portals melting in your eyes
are the signs of your remorse:
the depths which break the seals on two lost years
when you hid yourself in shame.

with a gush and a hiss you cracked time open
and let the air within gush out
so that the world could see what you hid under your cap
for those two grueling years.

you had lullabies and a unicorn painted
on a plaster wall—they were all in your head
as you though of the blanket you were going to learn how to knit
before those two years passed so slowly.

under a single bulb i see the sinking
of those two lost years on your neck
shoulders and back—the simple pain in your hips
from 31 months of nothing:

the first nine were the hardest, i'm sure.

Oneness

the thick twisted branches
of this solitary
maple tree
reach out
to nothing
on the side of this
dead-grassy hill

her fingers—small, thin, golden—curled around

her fingers—small, thin, golden—curled around
the chain-link fence, the rust rubbing off
on her yellow dress blowing in the breeze:
the leaves behind her rustling as her eyes widened
as her hair was tossed about:

goodbye.

For Adrian

there are no sparrows;
only crows.

the vastness between us

the vastness between us
is a galaxy where planets form
to hinder our celestial rush
for swirling lips
around the vortex
of motion
with our two
bodies
as the arms
and our love
as the buldge

un / der

un
      der

the lights

where we tread
the      sky looks
so
cold

your lips
                  (in the
                  light)

            look so

      warm

CASUS NOSTER

[our fall]

For Allison L. Peters:
I would have eaten the Fruit from your hand.

Prelude
ex poeta

Long before this poet sang
the words of Israel rang through
to the West, where they were met
with praises—how men would come to know the plight
of their wives came from Israel,
its stories, its strains,its native tongue
telling them that wives were alway
sat fault, since that fateful day.

Long before this poet sang
a man over oceans cried to make
something that no one's eyes read before—
a chance to tell the world
the story behind the story
of Israel,a chance to tell the world
that he (blinded) could seethe Muses of Homer, of Virgil,
and make them his own
in a language much more vulgar—
vulgar so that he could
faithfully blame (yet again)the wives.

Long before this poet sang
a woman rose from the slumbering
body of a man,
a master who kept her
under him, who kept his arms taught
around her moist flesh,
keeping her down in body
and mind.

This woman is hailed
as the mother of all;
this woman is condemned
as the damnation of us all—
though what man
in all his right mind
could damn his mother
for eternity?

When man wrote of man
and woman
he made the cunning of the Tempter
something
that was soft,
weak,
dying to be bolted down
by the hands of man.

Though she had not been given a voice.

This poet—a man—now sings
of such harshness,
of such ease of temptation
through any sort—
especially that of
demonic notions.

The unfair trial of Eve
breeds remorse for fallen woman.

But woman is very much alive.

But woman is very much here.

But man takes woman and makes her
temptress in our Fall—
when woman only did it
for love,
for being,
for man.

This is for her,
by her,
through this unworthy poet’s hand.

To my fellow men
remember:

You would have eaten the Fruit from her hands.


CREATION

Frankly, I don't think that I made you
(as women do)
but you made me:

Not from His hands, but from your
rib He molded me and breathed
into me this sweetness of
living with you.

His fingers sculpted my body
(perhaps the least amazing
and wondrous of His
hands' workings) to make it
this thing for you—
frail,
smooth,
wide at the hip
and soft at the breasts;
locks of yellow streaming down
over my too-pale shoulders.

You knew strangely how you wanted me:
you lay there, helpless, nothing but slumber,
numb,
while I was made.

Your desires culminated in
this unholy form—
but I suppose you saw
something that my un-
divine eyes could not
when you wished for
aid in your
holy calling.

You awoke,
stood back and looked
at this to wonder
what, if who, it
would be—your servant
or your equal or
more
and you knew that the
only way to find out
if this form could
be anything was ask Him to take
the imperative and
make it indicative.

When His breath swept my eyelids
and made them flicker open,
I saw the heavens and Earth
on your forehead
and sea and sky
in your lips and eyes,
which God gave to us—
to me
who is now yours.

You gazed at me thinking
of what to make of this thing—
an equal,
a friend,
a more;
and in my first breath
I smelled the air
that brushed over my face,
through my thick
swooping hair.

This is what life is.

You are what life is.

You grabbed my soft bony hands
and took me as yours
while God took His place
to watch us be.


GARDEN

You walked me around
this place, this lush greenness
of desire and more
and more supple lands
that we take with our hands—
in our mouths, to let it all
crunch in our teeth and we tasted
the waters of the crisp rivers
down our throats,
already drenched
with loveliness.

The beasts crawled to our feet
and the birds perched themselves
on our shoulders,
where you took them
and lifted them up up
then we called to them
with names you made
and taught me
well.

You told me of things that you made,
things that you saw that God made
for you.

I thought of nothing better.

Under trees we laid our heads,
twisting them with the roots
until our thighs
squirmed over each others.

Your hands nestled under
my shoulders
and my hands
pressed against
the stiff lush grass.

You told me that all of this
was ours—that you would let me
reap this land
with you.

From atop the hill we could
see the gates
where God kept the nothings out
with His men, with their
wings and blades, hands
clenched against the
sands outside that
make mortal throats
parched.
We knew nothing of such nothings.

All we knew was the aliveness
of this Garden.


BE

And then we went and bathed in the river
to forget that those guards were keeping something
(about which we did not know)
a secret
until the sun pulled itself
down
and you grinned.

As night fell
you
lay upon me,
I was submitting my hows
(I still don't understand
how Lilith could not want
to be covered by your
firm body) before God and
everything else—how they (the
others) became envious
(but there is
no envy
as
envy
is
a sin).

We took command of the land
and of the beasts and birds
and now
for once
for always
you commanded
and my body
obeyed.

The hushing sounds of the
river and the stiffness
of the ground beneath
made this such a bed
for two, for thousands
and for everything in
this place.

Above God could see us
firmly in each others arms
and entangled in each others
thighs and all.

I'm certain that He gave us
the moon to light up your skin
while we lay there
so that I could see your face
when you were on me.

The stars are candles
that kept our frigid bodies warm
with something other than our
breath and sweat and hips.

We were only doing such things
because God commanded.


TREE

You took me over the vast plains
of this place,
through brush and under temperate
suns moons and stars.

We found it,

The Tree:
gleaming lushly with leaves.

Its roots firm, twisting
(like our thighs last
night), standing tall rightly
within the most supple ground.

It looks so familiar
(“Did we sleep under it last night?
I have seen this Tree before
It reminds me of
your breath”).

Its bark smooth, unblemished,
and waiting for us to seize it
and take it.

I wanted
to bite it, oddly enough (I can't
say why), but I was afraid
to seize it in my mouth
as I saw velvet fruit
in the curling branches
jostling in the wind
that God blew over us.

It glistened and shimmered
as we waited for its
moistness dripping succulantness
just out of reach of our
aching
tongues.

Our eyes grew as wide
as the Fruit, watered more so
and yearned for our teeth
to pierce that violet flesh (like
a rose) but much more moist.

We knew it had to be ours.

We knew it had to be ours.

I knew it had to be mine.


COMMAND

Then God came down and His face burned
mine (yours was brighter than
His, and you were left
unphased).

His voice boomed through the Garden.

The birds flew up to the heavens
and the trees
shook violently until
their leaves trembled In the
echoes.

Simply then Adoshem looked at us—
His creations, His children—to firmly
take His white hands to grasp the
bark of the Tree.

He took a piece off, the crisping
noise echoing boldly through
the Garden, and He
sniffed.

The fragrance made Him
flutter His eyes
and the Lord became one with
that Tree.

He took our shoulders in His arms
and held us tightly—
I feared Him but you
looked him in the eyes
and smiled nervously and said
“What do You command of us,
Adoshem?”

He looked at you then at me (still
quivering) and said in His boomingness:
“My likenesses, I bless you.
I have given you everything you
would ever need, and you now
have control over My Earth
and for that I must admit that I
am pleased with you both
for you have inherited My creation
and made it your own
with the beasts and the birds
and the lands and seas
and plants and trees—
all yours.

“You have even obeyed My command and
I see at night when I
look down upon you to see
you within each other—
I think you fruitful
and o! how you shall multiply!
(though I reckon that you do not mind
because I made it such a sweetness
for you).

“But I must command just one more thing:
I know that you of human
breed can keep, as you are in
the likeness of My
Self.

“Refrain, My likenesses, from eating
from this Tree that you
marvel
and keep your mouths
from the Fruit

“I will not tempt you
with the sweetness contained
in the violet flesh,
but most of all
I wish not to tempt you with what
this Fruit holds within its seeds
and its core and its
crisp crisp flesh
for you cannot bear such things
in this garden,
My darlings.

“Does this fit In your mind?”

I was left without words
but you looked at Adoshem
saying, “Of course, my Lord.”

“Good.”

And He ascended into Heaven again
the beasts crawling back to us,
the birds returning to the trees
and the Garden left alone, as if He
were never there.

SERPENT

The sun was hot that day.

The trees were all scalded
as the sun blazed down
and our mouths were parched,
aching for something to bathe our throats.

That Tree . . .

At least its shade was something Adoshem
had forgotten to forbid.

As we lay, the branches were cooling;
so much so that I could feel the shivers
running down our backs,
though we lay in each other,
waiting for the sun
to fall and for the moon
to rise and light up our night
for lust.

Then lo!

A gliding so soft that only our skin
could crawl as such,
and when that hiss rang from the branches
o how did our fingers tremble!

The beast climbed down, a charming thing:

His grand chest out above us,
his only feature—he walked
not on legs but seemed to
float
gracefully
on his long, emerald tail.

His skin gleaming (like the flesh of the Fruit;
in fact, I could see the redness reflected
in his skin).

His tongue was smooth in his mouth
and his eyes wide
red (like the Fruit)—
I wondered how all this red
could be allowed in a land
so green.

As he drew
closer
you grabbed my fleshy arm
and pulled.

“Come, I must till.”

I nodded
meekly (as commanded)
as my eyes fell
once again
at the near-floating
Serpent
and his charming.


TEMPTATION

Your tilling done, my hands
on your back, sweat-laced
drenched in stinging warmness
of your hard day's work.

I asked you to rest
under that Tree
as you buried your face
in our Earth—
your eyes drifted off
down
to closing.

Then the force of your breathing
left me alone.

I took my hands off of your back
and wiped them in the grass:
its greenness was something strange—
the greenness that I had seen before
only more lush
and not as dead-looking.

You were drifting, I was stagnant
through the Sun's creeping hours.

Then I lay down next to you,
my arms gently grazing your back
(now dry):

My eyes were dry.

My eyes were tired.

My eyes were now closed.

The startling came, that noise—
that hiss of a narrow tongue;
a smoothness that swayed through my ears
bolting.

My eyes jolting,
my arms stiffening
until I arose
with sweat of my own.

All I saw was green.

I looked over, saw you
(on your stomach still)
in deep
heavy
breath.

You did not even jostle.

I looked around—no beasts—
only the rush of the river
which lulled me before.

My eyes shifting,
my arms shaking,
solely until I heard
the sounds of his own.

A look down at my feet caked in earth
and he was crawling
up
up
over me,
taking my feet in his coils,
taking my calves in his firmness.

I was left squirming.

He was there taking.

His eyes met mine—
red can do so many things.

He took the tip of his tail
and his mouth hissed—
his belly was smooth
over my pale thighs—
then slowly
gently
touched it
on me—
nearly in me—
as you had done
before.

One touch.

My voice wanted
to shriek,
my eyes wanted to
cry out in tears,
yet my body liked the feeling
of being wrapped up
as it liked being wrapped up
in you.

With my body stiff,
he slowly moved up,
grazing my belly with his scales
(strange how he moved so well
with no limbs in which
to entangle me)
and moving up toward
my soft
pale
stiff breasts
(my teeth clenched
and my jaw stiffened
as my breath drew in deeper
deeper).

I arched my head back
as his belly slithered over my neck,
tense and strewn
with veins
and blood rushing through
the pillar of my throat.

I saw him daringly move up
to my mouth, his fangs dripping
and his eyes widening—
his tongue slipping in and out
of his thin, hard mouth,
pulsing.

His body became more taught.

My body became more tense.

I ached to scream,
to wake you from your slumber,
but I could not move,
I could not speak.

He grasped tighter
tighter
tighter
tighter—

then let go.

I was left breathless.

I was left speechless.

I was left.

He slithered off of me
and arose (again, so strangely)
and stood over me;
his eyes softened
and his fangs stopped dripping.

I crept up, looking to you
(still sleeping),
my body sitting up in the grass,
now wet from my sweat.

My throat was parched.

“What do you want?”

He moved your head slowly around
and opened his wide mouth—
his voice was soft, yet harsh:

“My dear, I think not
of what I want, for I know what
you want.”

He laid those charmings on me again.
I was trembling, puzzled.

“How do you mean?”

He strode up to the Tree
and began to grasp it tightly
(as he did me)
and he slithered up
up
up
over to a thick branch
(as he did me).

“Sadly, I see you here,
taking in all those wishes
from God and Adam;
and I know that you
cannot bear to be submissive as such.”

My forehead crinkled
and my heart raced—
more than when he grasped me
and stuck his tail within me.

He continued:
“Dear, your time has come
and I know how you can grasp
all that they have.
“They have more than you—
you are a product, a making,
the result of their need
for subordination.”

My voice came back to me.

“You lie!”

I bolted my head over to see
if you had awoken.

Nothing.

“I praise God, I adore Adam
but I do not obey Adam—
I am his equal,
his wife.”

He slithered over that branch
and came upon one piece
of the Fruit.

With his thick tail
he reached over
and
plucked
it
from the branch,
its ripping seeming to
echo throughout the Garden.

Still, you did not even jostle.

“You adore Adam,
but do
you
love
him?”


CASUS MEUS

“What is love?”

I had to know.

No word had ever crossed my lips
or mind.
No such thing I had ever felt
uttered from any mouth,
God’s or Adam’s;
but this Serpent thin unwarming lips
spouted such a word.


He smirked and looked at me
deeply;
his red eyes set on me, his visions
leaving my stomach churning
yet my mind yearning
to know of this feat of which
he spoke.

You (still sleeping) did not hear a word.

The Serpent loosened his coils
from around the branch, his tail still grasped
the Fruit; then his head turned back
and he began to slither down
the thick sturdy trunk
until he was once again up
above the ground
and his eyes were (once again)
back in mine.

“Love” he began,
“is what God does not want you
to know of—love is what would keep
Adam
with you
and your body
forever.”

I looked over at you, still sleeping.

How, I imagined, could you ever
leave me? leave this place?
leave this Garden which we have made
our own?

“What is it?”

“It, my dear, is more than
is confined in the gates
of this Garden;
it is far beyond any and all
things you know in this place
and it is what will keep Adam
bound to you forever.”

My eyes began to water—
a phenomenon Adam nor I had seen
in the Garden.

“Why would he not be bound to me
forever? Why do you speak such
despicable things? We rule over this Garden
together—we obey Adoshem
and keep this Garden for Him—
we make the beasts ours
and the flora is ours for our mouths;
Adam tills the land for Adoshem
and I keep him rested and fed
so that God remains pleased with His creations.
We are bound to this Garden;
Adam is bound to me.”

The water on my face was warm—
the salinity ran into my mouth
and my breath became harsh,
unsteady.

“He is bound to you in body
and body alone—his labors are not
for your sake or his: they are for God’s.
He does only what Adoshem tells him:
he lies with you because Adoshem tells him to do so—
for that and nothing more.
But with this succulantness,
he would be bound to you forever
and you would be bound to him
in a manner beyond the confines of this Garden.”

“How do you know?”

“My dear, I know things of love,
and this is a thing of love.”

He turned his head back to the branch
where one ruby Fruit hung
from the end and it dangled
in the gentle breeze of the Garden—
a drop of water trickled over
the thick ripe flesh
and onto the grass below where it
disappeared.

“He will stay with me
forever?”

“Forever.”

I reached up,
my eyes still streaming,
and with my pale fragile hand
I plucked.

I slowly put the Fruit
up to my moistened lips,
looked over at the Serpent,
who moved his head toward
you.

I saw you there sleeping:
your back still glistening
from your sweat, your body
moving with each inhalation.

How badly I wanted to feel that breath.

I grazed my teeth against the flesh
and slowly yet fiercely
took a sweet
supple
daring
bite.


CASUS TUUS

The bite boomed
throughout the entire Garden;
I would have leapt back
from the shock, had it not been
for the sweet delectable taste
in my (now aching) mouth.

You startled awake upon hearing the flesh rip
from inside my teeth.

Your head jolted up
and your body flipped over
letting the stiff grass pierce the still-moist skin
on your back;
your face agape and your mouth
wide in fear;
your eyes began to water
(something still strange to me)
and your eyebrows curved in—
I had only seen them do as such
when you were on top of me.

Your eyes jolted over to the Serpent,
still next to me;
I looked over and saw him
grinning.

“Beast!” you cried,
“I am to command you
and Adoshem is to command me;
thus any command given by God
is of all in this Garden!
No one is to eat of the Fruit,
Man or Beast!
Adoshem will banish you
from this place!”

The Serpent crept up to you,
seemingly floating,
until his face was almost against yours,
and he stuck out his tongue;
in his sly squirming he moved away,
never taking his eyes off of
us.

He moved farther and farther away,
his thin unloving lips still curled
in that maniacal grin.
You looked at me,
blankness in your stern face;
your eyes red as they gazed upon
the bitten Fruit
in my hand.

With passion in body
(not like the passion we had
the night before) you swatted
the Fruit from my hand.
It fell down to the Earth
with a THUD that boomed
throughout the Garden—
still that booming was nothing
compared to your voice
as I looked down in shame:

“What unholy thing have you done
in tasting the forbidden?
How have you, my Partner,
betrayed the trust of Adoshem—
the One who gave us this place
and commanded so little of us?
What were you in mind hoping
to do with the Fruit?
How could you let such
a diabolical
insignificant
beast seduce you
and tempt you to disobey
the command of Adoshem?”

I looked up to you,
into your raging eyes
which were gleaming red
like the Fruit’s tender sweet flesh
and I finally put my hand
upon your sticky smooth
face.

“Adam, do you love me?”

You looked at me;
startled, confused,
unsure of how to take
my (now) simple question.

“What do you speak of?”

You reached up with your
rough firm hand
and tore mine from your face;
your eyes widened
and your lips firmed up
in questioning.

“When my lips
tore the flesh from that Fruit,
I knew that I loved you.”

You grabbed my face
and shook me lightly—
your hands were stiff.

“What is this that you speak of?”

Your voice was now aching to know;
all signs of rage had passed.
I sat down, my bare body now somewhat covered
by the grass below—
strangely it felt right—
and pulled you down with me;
my face beaming as I grabbed you.

“You must know this feeling:
I wish to be with you
forever.”

You plopped down on the grass
with me, your face now
somewhat calm.

“We would have been together
forever,
had you not doomed yourself with
such disobedience.”

“But the confines of this Garden
are nothing to me now;
I want to be with you
whether or not our bodies
lie in these gates—
I wish only to be with you
in this feeling—
this love.”

You looked at me
and then at the Fruit,
still on the ground,
then you looked over to the Gates
where we saw God’s winged men,
now scrambling in a panic.

“What is there outside of this Garden?”

I picked up the Fruit
from the ground
and held it out to you.

“What lies beyond
is something that I now feel
inside.
What is inside this body
and soul
is much more splendid
than what is inside this Garden.”

You slowly reached out,
your fingers curving over
the bitten Fruit
until you lifted it
and looked at me again.

“What is it like?”

“Like knowing what is right.”

You put the Fruit
up to your mouth
and slowly yet fiercely
took a sweet
supple
daring
bite.
CASUS NOSTER

The bite boomed
throughout the entire Garden;
You would have leapt back
from the shock, had it not been
for the sweet delectable taste
in your (now aching) mouth.

You held the Fruit up to your mouth
and looked at me with wondering eyes.

But somehow still
You were not wondering
but I could tell that dearly
you knew:

You knew the bounds of the heart
that I had felt
when my teeth sank into
that gleaming Flesh;
you were able to feel a thing
outside of the bounds
of this Garden—
a longing known only by
me
after I tasted that
firm, supple flesh
of the Fruit.

Your breath quickened
and your lips watered,
dreaming of more flesh
of the Fruit
or mine.

You said nothing.

I grabbed your shoulder
softly
and shook you gently.

“Adam:
What has befallen you,
Husband?”

You turned and looked at the gates
and your face was blank.

“What have I done,”
you asked,
“since my creation?
I have tilled this Garden
and cared for it
on command alone.
But now,
I know not how command
is meaningful
when this new
impassioned inclining
lingers deeply within
my being.”

Our eyes looked over this land
that God gave to us:
The greenness
and the liveliness
all seemed like nothing
now that this love
was deep within ourselves.

I turned to you
and you to me;
you grabbed my shoulders
and I your hips
and we pulled each other
closer
closer
closer
until our moist lips met
in a manner never seen
in this Garden.

After,
we pulled away,
our eyes still locked within one another’s
as our lips were before.

“Adam.”

“Eve.”

“My Love.”

“My Love.”

Suddenly our hands met
and we rushed from atop the hill
and down to the bushes
by the hushing river
where we spent our nights—
our breath was quicker
and my heart
was pounding deeply
as it never had before.

We moved into the clearing
by that soothing river
and quickly took to the ground
as we had before—

Only now
this was not from any command.

We entangled ourselves
about each other
and let our flesh graze over
each other’s lips—
again and again
our lips met
in moistness,
dripping of something much more sweet
than that Fruit.

Your voice grunted
and mine ached
higher
and higher
until for once I felt
my body tense
and yours heavy with its pushing—
warmed in the cusp of daylight.

Then,
in a move so unheard of,
I grabbed your wrists
and pulled you down
to the ground,
and I climbed upon you
to (for once)
push.

Your body was still moving,
your breath was still heavy.

I had broken you
with my body.

Time passed
and our bodies grew limp,
strained from that pushing,
that love
in the daylight
and without command.

We lay on the ground
together,
you held me dearly
in your tired arms.

Our lips met again
and again
and again.

We knew we were no longer
among the Beasts:
we had our pleasures
and they had their command—
we evolved beyond command
and simply took our pleasures.

But with those pleasures
came something
uneasy
within our bodies.

This thing we had never felt—
like love
only much more unsettling.

We looked down at our naked bodies—
still soaked with our pleasure’s sweat—
and felt unright.
You and I scurried over
to the nearest
thickest
bush
and hid within its lush leaves
until we heard that booming
coming down from above.


BANISHMENT

We looked up and saw the sky above turned
grey—something neither you nor I had seen
in the Garden.

The booming we heard cracked in our ears
and left us nearly deaf—
the ringing over and over again
until our ears were left dripping with blood—
a redness that you and I had never seen
inside this Garden.

I reached for you next to me in the bush,
but you had already risen
and stepped out into the clearing,
unafraid of what form we would see
Adoshem.

I curled up on the ground, my arms grasping my aching belly,
my hands gripping my back and my knees
pushed up against my breasts—
I was rocking;
I was weeping.

I looked over to you, saw only your feet
standing uneasily upon the grass—
you were silent as I wept.

The thundering continued and you stood
still; what seems like forever passed on,
my eyes had dried
and you kept standing.

I arose
slowly—
my hands were
shaking—
my breath was
heavy.

I pursed one arm up against my breasts
and the other hand over my nakedness—
the wind was cold, as there was no sun
with which to heat the Garden’s thermals.

My skin crawled with each blistering gust.

You stood there, letting the wind entrap your face.

I looked over at you:
your hands were placed gently over
your nakedness, your eyes were firm on the darkened sky—
your mouth made no movements.

I moved my arm from my breasts
and reached over to your hand,
which was calmer than mine.

You entangled my fingers within yours,
then we both clenched each other’s
tighter
as the sky opened up
and a blinding light came beaming down.

We ran back into the bush
and hid, peering through to the clearing—
still shaking.

Adoshem appeared from the beam—
his face was stern,
but his voice remained unraised.

“Adam, Eve:
Where are you?”

You began to step forward
but I pushed you back with an uneasy hand.

“We are here, Adoshem.”

He looked me over as you emerged from the bush;
His eyes still on me.

“Why were you hiding?”

I could tell that He knew;
He just wanted us to admit
our shame.

“We were hiding because we are naked, my Lord.”

He looked over at you,
now standing next to me.

“How did you know you were naked?”

I looked over at you, covering yourself still—
my hands were doing the same on myself—
and we both looked down until you lifted your head
to Adoshem.

“My Lord . . . ”

“I know what you have done.”

We both fell to our knees
and began to weep bitterly.

Our mouths inhaled the grass
as our breath pushed harshly from our chests;
our fingered curled around the earth
in our last attempt to stay a part
of this Garden.

You lifted your eyes back up to Adoshem.

“The Serpent—he was here and he spoke . . . ”

His voice raised and boomed over the Garden;
the leaves shook on the trees and the birds
took to the sky in fright.

“The Serpent is none of you concern!
He has been dealt with—
he is now the lowest of all of the beasts
as I have forced him to crawl on his belly
for all of time.

“But you, my Creations,
have failed me!
I gave you all in this Garden
and all of the pleasures that you could take in
while asking only one thing from you—
and you failed me!”

I arose quickly as you stayed on the ground,
weeping;
I ran up to Adoshem
and looked at Him in his deep
entrancing eyes—
He reminded me of the Serpent,
only I feared Him more.

“My Lord,
think not Adam responsible for this,
for I tempted him—
I am the one who gave him the Fruit
and I am the one who first fell
to the Serpent’s advances.

“I am the one who fell.”

“You both fell!”

His words burned my face harshly.

“You both disobeyed me,
you both betrayed me,
and you both let your temptations
rule over your reason;
for this, I must banish you
from the Garden.”

You looked up at me next to Adoshem
and I looked back at you
as our eyes watered again.

This place—
our home—
gone from our grasps.

Our bodies would never again feel
the grass below
and our throats would never again be quenched
by the cooling rivers which flow softly
in the Garden.

Adoshem looked over to the gates
and they opened,
showing us the bleakness of life
outside of our sheltering walls.

God’s voice calmed itself again
but remained firm.

“Go.”

So you rose, still sobbing
and came up to me.

We bowed our heads to Adoshem
then began the
slow
grueling
trek
toward the gate.

As we walked side by side
you reached over
and grabbed my hand.

The angels guarding the gate shook their heads in shame.

Our hands remained locked in one another’s
until the gate closed behind us.


MUNDUS NOSTER
ex poeta

Look at this world—
our world—
to what our Begetters made
all those years ago:

The lushness of the green that they knew
so very well
has been replaced by dryness—
grey, brown, black—
and the air they breathed so crisply
has been tainted with smog and thick
blinding smoke—
our eyes can only take so much
of the haze
before they close for all time.

Upon their Fall Adoshem took His fist
and struck the Garden down,
for if His creations could not
no one could;
the walls crumbled and the Gate collapsed
into the ground, causing dust to burst in the air
blocking Man’s sights.

We only know what they have told us
of the Garden
and the Fall—
only what they wish for us to learn
about obeying.

Still, this poet sings of disorder
in the name of love:

Take away the dire shifting of love
from Mother Eve—her Fall the embodiment
of a bond to Adam, more alive than any bond
to Adoshem, than any bond to a Garden
(now ruined).

Though they write her as weak,
but she was the strongest of all:

She led us out of a tawdry place
where pleasures of the eye and lips reined
over feelings, emotion,
and love;

She grabbed our wrists and led us to something beyond divine—
something with a greater force than
any of the horrid things
we have made since.

Look now:
the reason for the Fall has been lost
and we will Fall again—
how God can rip them from their home
but keep us here with our greatest disobedience
terrifies this poet;
what will He do to our souls
when He has them in His grasp
after our demise?

Look now:
see the visions of Mother Eve
lost as so many other Fruits sprouted
from so many other Trees—
each one a little tempting
to pluck and sink our teeth
into them;

We cannot taste what sweetness
lies within these Temptations—
for there is none to be had.

Look now:
look at what causes our Falls,
what will cause our Banishments from any Garden,
any Heaven found somewhere on this Earth
or beyond:

Greed.
Lust.
Envy.
Wrath.
Sloth.
Gluttony.
Vanity.

Seven: beyond seven.

These Falls are nothing
in the eyes of the Begetters—
they left hand-in-hand
but we just crush the bones of others
with our clenching fists.

Look at what we have made ourselves.

Look at what our world has become.

Look at how we let it fall.

Look:
now remember Eve
and the means of her Fall—
love.

Earth itself was an Eden
when she and Adam had their love.

We took the Earth from them in time
and tore their pleasures from them
with every future passing
of the Human name.

We have no riverside by which to lay.

We have no brush in which to hide.

We can see our sins.

God can see our sins.

Adam and Eve can see our sins
in their perches above
and (strangely) I can hear them weep:
“How did they Fall?”

Dear Man, we have Fallen
but not upon the bed of sweetness that they did.

Let us rise
again;
let us make
this Earth an Eden;
let us make
our Mother and Father see
that their Fall was not in vein
but in love.

Let us rise up again
so that we may Fall.

FINIS.



GRATIAS


I would like to thank those who aided me in this effort:

To L. Hernandez, for encouraging me to write a work of fiction.
To Professor Trevor, for introducing me to half of the story.
To Professor Koch, for teaching me more of that half of the story.
To L. Watkins, for putting that half of the story into context.
To S. Linwick, for challenging that half of the story.

Finally,
To J. Milton, for only telling half of the story
and leaving this poet
with the most lovely part
for telling.

Unromantic Poem

our date nights have the television on
while we nestle on the sofa—
Arrested Development reruns are our fireplace
and Diet Coke is our bubbly;

our love-making is singing the kids to sleep
(all those songs we sang together in college
will finally come in handy: Who's seen Jezebel?)
our cuddling afterward
has become paying our bills online.

our sporadic kisses are slices of pepperoni
from last-minute pizza runs because we got too caught up
to make a real dinner;

i will whisk you away in a minivan
to our romantic destination of the State Fair
where our bottle of red wine is a corndog
with just a dollop of mustard.

i want to complain about my prostate to you.

Teasers from Two Essays-in-Progress

From “The Poetic Paradox”

A poem is not a means of presenting a solution to the problems with Humanity; a poem is only a manner of presenting an image, moment, or emotion that may or may not present a problem. We are not politicians; we are only messengers on behalf of the Self, which may or may not be embedded in the Collective.

* * * * *

The only concern a poet must have in his or her personal connection with their verse is the modification of the Saying—a poet in his or her own right cannot change what to say, only the manner in which to say it. The markings of a red pen can only change the means of Expression—not the Expression itself.


From “The Duality of Being”

The ideal condition of the Collective, of course, is to meld itself in such a manner to allow the Individual to Be—to allow for the satisfaction of those basic primal Needs to let the Individual become a true Self without concern for simply Living—only for Being.

my sister—

my sister—
six months along,
twenty-five years old—
leave the house in tattered maternity clothes
and her womb protruding from her
boney frame

her steps are wide,
her swelling feet treading-
stomping on the driveway
with her daughter's girth:
glass footprints penetrate the earth
and her toes dig into the soil—
burrow deeper
deeper

her belly sways and lulls
her daughter to sleep,
her popping darkly eyes finally give way to the sounds of
her mother's heavy breath

this luke-warm bitter coffee

this luke-warm bitter coffee
does not a breakfast make—
each drop on my tongue makes my stomach wince
and it pools into my belly
making it ache from emptiness:
some sweetener, fake sugar: cancer-causing calories
of nothing—i'm still hungry with every sip
because my gluttonies are never satisfied

like this morning—our bodies flopped down
from the strains of love-making, but still
our bellies yearned for more: your belly ached
for my cancer-causing calories:

sweet, bitter, luke-warm—
this does not a romance make.

A POEM REVISITED

the concrete
was where thy fingers bled:

i caught thee in my mouth—
too thick and unseen to taste,
yet i swallowed thee.

i saw thee through day,
for hour and hour in time:
lost and unheard,
thou drifted closer and closer to the door
where a song driped into mine ears—

we swayed
back and forth, no man lost
no man taken:

and i taste thee with mouth closed tight

will i never learn?

your eyes can no longer take on the world

your eyes can no longer take on the world
like pomegranates dangling, ready to fall
from a twisted branch; they are not filled
with coriander seeds and knowledge
but are instead teaming with wine glasses—
crystal, smudged with oily fingerprints
and cigarette ashes from the night before;
they are onion bulbs who leave those around them
in tears; they are scissors snipping little hairs from my head
bit by bit: each blink is a crunch of an acorn
sewn into my torso—every lash a licorice whip,
leaving my mouth red and thick with sugar—

a vice my face must only endure
every time my stomach growls.

Untitled Short Story in Progress

“I wish people watching was as socially acceptable here as it is in Europe,” she said.

I rolled over from the blanket upon the grass and squinted from the sudden brightness of the sun. “What do you mean?”

She sat up on her elbows and flipped her hair. She tilted her sunglasses down so that I could see her deep brown eyes, darker than the patches of soil exposed in the grass. “People in Europe think people-watching is normal. They do it all the time. But here, people think you’re weird for staring at them. I’m not really staring at them, I’m just trying to get to know them from afar.”

“It’s like you’re trying to learn their story without really knowing anything about them?” I asked.

“Yeah.” She flipped over on her back, exposing her soft body on her homemade violet blanket. “Like, those people over there.”

She pointed her pale, slightly sun burnt hand toward a young couple about twenty meters ahead of us, a tall, lanky white man and a shorter, thin Asian girl. They were sitting back to back, supporting each other with a blanket underneath them, each enthralled in their own textbook. They spoke no words or turned to look at each other.

I turned my neck discreetly, as to not expose the fact that I was spying on the young couple from afar. “You mean them?”

“Yeah,” she said with a high inflection in her voice. “I mean, are they friends? Are they lovers? Are they former lovers who are now friends? Are they friends who want to be lovers?”

I chuckled under my breath. “Hell if I know.”

“Exactly!” She shot straight up. She was now sitting face to face with me, her hands resting in her crossed legs covered by her flowing yellow skirt. “We may never know. All we know is what we can learn from them, and what we learn from them, we take and make up something in our heads! That’s totally fine in Europe! But in America, people think you’re a creep for trying to figure our their story.”

“Not to mention staring at them for long periods of time.”

“Well, I’m not staring to stare. I’m staring to figure out their story.”
I laughed subtly. “What do you think people think our story is?”

She placed herself facedown upon the blanket again. “What do you want it to be?”

I was shocked by the question, then realized that it was totally appropriate for the circumstance.

We had met not two hours before, and thus had yet to create our story.

* * * * *

The day began earlier than usual on that Saturday afternoon. The sun beamed through my window, warming that empty spot on my all-too-large bed. The beams warmed my skin slightly, and the light kept past my eyelids, which I was forcibly keeping closed.

“It’s too early to be awake on a Saturday,” I mumbled to myself. I found myself talking to no one in particular in those days. I would come home from work to my empty apartment, make dinner, read a little, do some writing, go out for a quiet cup of coffee, if I was so daring. Not saying much of a word to anyone else. The silence drove me crazy, so I began to strike up conversations with the only person around – Myself.

I looked over at my alarm clock perched upon my dresser: 9:14. “This is too damn early. Normal people sleep in ‘til noon on Saturday.” My body was used to being up around 7:30 every morning for work at Lamphard Publishing Company. It was not what I thought it would be: Authors patrolling the halls, poets diligently editing their masterpieces in desks, all of that. As a Junior Editor for this miniscule company, I was lucky if a menu from a Thai restaurant came across my desk for editing. That was partially why I wanted to stay in bed.

I tried to force my eyes closed again, but to no avail. I finally threw my covers off of my bed and muttered an expletive or two under my breath. I grabbed a fresh pair of boxers from a dwindling drawer (I skipped my last laundry day for the sake of breaking monotony, and now it was coming back in the form of having almost no clean underwear) and hopped in the shower. After a battle with the showerhead to give me a good, hard shower, I hopped out, brushed my teeth and neglected to shave, as I was not going anywhere or doing anything exciting enough to look my best.

I decided to treat myself by making a mushroom and Swiss omelet. I usually skipped breakfast, but I decided to break the monotony again by indulging myself. Still in my boxers, I walked to my tiny kitchen, nothing to be exuberant about. I pulled out everything I needed: A pan, a fork, spatula, bowl, salt, a can of mushrooms. All I needed was eggs, butter, and cheese. I walked to the refrigerator, opened the door, and began to curse loudly at the sight.

“Dammit! Where the fuck did all my eggs go?”

Not remembering that I had boiled all of the eggs I had to take to work for lunch, I began to search my refrigerator frantically, but found nothing. After debating whether or not it was worth it to go out and buy some more eggs, I decided it was because I now had the brilliant idea of boiling the leftovers and taking them to work for lunch.

I ran into my bedroom and threw on a pair of jeans and a black sweater, and capped it off with a pair of black flip-flops. It looked rather warm, but the wind was something of a concern. I ran outside.

The sun was bright, or perhaps my eyes had yet to adjust to the light. I immediately realized that I had forgotten my sunglasses. The start of another amazing day in the city.

Folly

a new screenplay

age twelve: when all those feelings blossom and devour
the pit of a boy's stomach;

when mom & dad become more than givers
& you realize that they are takers;

when the body becomes a travesty
as it overtakes the insides which you were taught were more important;

when one set of legs clacking down a hallway
can break your neck from so many turns;

when the urge to ram a fist through a wall or a skull
is too much for tiny bones to handle;

when a certain four-letter word becomes more
than a cutesy saying for relatives;

when we all begin to falter,
to slip, to fall

in love.

Adrian—28 March 2010

that BB gun resting on my closet shelf
was nothing then
but it's something now:

the helicopters shine spotlights on a farmhouse
and the neighbors stay in their homes
while television screens blare in the background—
the mother says to turn it to channel six.

across town my nephews sit and watch TV
and sing along to whatever Dora says:
Vamanos! let's go, my boys and see the land where you were born!—
i thank God you know nothing outside of those wood-panel walls.

the guns unblaring—the photos of Jesus and Washington
hang side-by-side next to a deer head,
there's a light that hangs from the ceiling
swining back and forth—tugging on loose tiles
and morphing shadows small-to-tall;
men in black armor storm the place
while a little boy hides in his bedroom
clutching a .22.

my mother and father go out for pints
of ice cream—my mother clutches her spoon
as my father storms the carton.

death is just a step

death is just a step
toward something else—

i hope it is something more
the just one foot in the grave.

Crise de la Vingtaine

I

the bitter grind of the sun's turning crank
spins 'round to sourness on my thick tongue
where rocky-flick language falls not from my mouth—
my eyes are wide upon a black-ash desert
where even the birds are afraid to fly
because their wings become entangled in the enormous grey;
my sights become entangled in their wings.

i back up, my feet reaching behind,
hoping to make the grayscale photograph shrink
smaller and smaller until a silver frame (a lining) appears
around the land and the grey sky fades out
into a white plaster wall—
but the desert gust expands farther and farther
and my eyes grow wider and wider
until the ash overtakes them:

columns of temples where a faceless statue stands,
the shape of supple breasts, twisting thighs
and a swollen belly—her hands caress her sweeping curves.

i reach out mine and place them on her
and when my fingers touch her unborn babe
the columns crumble, a swarm of black ash and dust
boom around me. the statue's belly breaks apart
while a smooth stern face appears
with closed eyes and firm lips; a clenched jaw.

the ash settles, the grey returns in my sights,
her body still there—once again i back away
slowly
until a silver frame and white plaster walls appear
and i can close my eyes.

II

a cup of Columbia and a roll of Drum—
a leather-bound notebook and a dying pen
resting on a white saucer; a sip
and a puff, fire in my lungs and on my tongue
but none upon this glaring page.

i straighten my necktie, sit up straight,
run my smoke-stained fingers through my oil-smooth hair;
my ticking silver watch should be my meter and rhyme—the band is tight
so i can feel the blood pulse through my fingers
as they run over my neck and down to the table.

i have a sonnet made of coffee spoons
and a terza rima of rolling papers—
if blankness made verse i would have an epic by now.

III

i've heard my sisters giving birth
outside of hospital doors:
my father sternly watched a television screen
while i cringed with every howl
from my sisters' protruding lips (which we share)—
i watched my father, still unmoving;
for he has seen it all already:

three times he heard my mother wail
under a haze from a needle—
i heard stories of others remembering their births
but mine was lost in a swirl of colors
and sounds: not of my mother's shrieks
but of the winter whirling in the room.

i was born in whiteness, inside and out—
my father drenched my birth
in white noise.

my nephews were born in wailing
and i wonder if it causes their own—
i was born in white noise
and i wonder if that causes my silence.

IV

i am not Prufrock—i am not half-dead
with rolled-up pants and thinning hair on my head.
i am still too young to face the dread of tea
sipped out of flowered porcelain cups; i am free
for i have only lived for half as long
as the man who Thomas depicted in his song.

i know not of beaches, i know more of sleet;
and mermaids were not the visions would keep
my lusting wincing through to the hells and tomes
of a series of ranch-style homes;
my visions of beauty were tinted by the rains
from ugly smog from flames of jobless pains
so any girl that could take the water
was one that flamed my poetic fodder.

i do not scuttle—i tread where i walk;
but still i seem to prance more when i talk.
i am here—i cannot come and go
for if i go, my grave will let you know.

because i've got a mane so thick upon my head,
i am not Prufrock—i am only quarter-dead.

V

for you, God, i give a face and voice
because i was told you have none.

how sad, truly, that i can see Mary or Christ
on the engravings above the door to my childhood bedroom
but i can only speak to You through a German
in gaudy silk robes—

i would hope that You would not want a Youth
to speak for You—for Your sake i do not listen:
i am an archaic leman and i want to hold
only You in regard—i'd kiss Your face if You had one,
but my mother said i'll have to kiss my grandfather's cheeks instead.

she told me Your face appears in the blue sky
and Your voice in the flowing streams—
but in the winter the sky is grey
and the streams are frozen over.

i see You in the faces of certain men
and i hear You from the same—
i sacrifice my words to them
because i have no lambs or sons.

i wished for You not to be a specter:
my Father cannot be a ghost
because i do not believe in them.

VI

my heaven (if alive) will be fourfold—
a quadruple outlay of my new and old
within my mind, the culmination
of my boyhood dreams that maturation
decimated in its bursting wake—
i hope this four-pronged heaven lives for my own sake.

first, a heaven full of sprouts and buds
of grasses laced with differing muds
from Spring—a blooming tree atop a hill
and through my acts of playful will
i shall climb that mound,
close my eyes, listen to the ground
take its pregnant canto and begin a birth
to awaken the newly-infant Earth.

then i stand atop the hill, look out and see
my second heaven, another realm for me.

i trek across the plains of lively Spring,
approach the sands where i hear the tides sing—
a crisp-blue chorus with soothing song
upon the shore—so warm, so white, so long.
i see the horizon, the sun is bright, unbland,
and rises and falls with word of my command.

across the beach, i gaze and rise again,
approach a wood, untouched by hands of men.

a beaten path, the axis of my third space
where a gentle breeze shall kiss my face;
each branch above sheds itself so bare
as each little leaf rides upon the air.
the path is dry, leavened not with life,
but i can thrive in Autumn's brutal strife.

i tread along the beaten path, unbright
until i see the bricks covered in white.

alas! the fourth begins with pav├ęd streets—
so slick and black with ice on my uncovered feet.
the lights from windows illuminate each flake
as it falls to the ground for winter's sake.
in the middle of the town, a Christmas tree stands
that i reach out and kiss with chilling hands.

i trek the streets with every note i sing
and walk around until i re-enter Spring.

VII

i'll pay my debt to the earth in lilacs
that sprout from my buried body—
i shall let my self be carried in their stems
and through the leaves until my body sees the sun
yet again.

i want to be buried without a coffin so that my flesh
can be fed right to the soil
and each little flower around my grave
will have a bit of me
within its core:

i want to give the little worms a place to play.

For Countee Cullen

i, like Hughes, found a history by a river—
this one flows below the South, where my grandfather
built an invible bridge to cross—he built an adobe hut
but the sun's rays on the desert sand
were too hot on my feet;
i fled North
hoping to shed the sun from my skin
before i picked up my pen
to write my name.

CASUS NOSTER [XII] [A POEM REVISITED]

MUNDUS NOSTER

ex poeta

Look at this world—
our world—
to what our Begetters made
all those years ago:

The lushness of the green that they knew
so very well
has been replaced by dryness—
grey, brown, black—
and the air they breathed so crisply
has been tainted with smog and thick
blinding smoke—
our eyes can only take so much
of the haze
before they close for all time.

Upon their Fall Adoshem took His fist
and struck the Garden down,
for if His creations could not
no one could;
the walls crumbled and the Gate collapsed
into the ground, causing dust to burst in the air
blocking Man’s sights.

We only know what they have told us
of the Garden
and the Fall—
only what they wish for us to learn
about obeying.

Still, this poet sings of disorder
in the name of love:

Take away the dire shifting of love
from Mother Eve—her Fall the embodiment
of a bond to Adam, more alive than any bond
to Adoshem, than any bond to a Garden
(now ruined).

Though they write her as weak,
but she was the strongest of all:

She led us out of a tawdry place
where pleasures of the eye and lips reined
over feelings, emotion,
and love;

She grabbed our wrists and led us to something beyond divine—
something with a greater force than
any of the horrid things
we have made since.

Look now:
the reason for the Fall has been lost
and we will Fall again—
how God can rip them from their home
but keep us here with our greatest disobedience
terrifies this poet;
what will He do to our souls
when He has them in His grasp
after our demise?

Look now:
see the visions of Mother Eve
lost as so many other Fruits sprouted
from so many other Trees—
each one a little tempting
to pluck and sink our teeth
into them;

We cannot taste what sweetness
lies within these Temptations—
for there is none to be had.

Look now:
look at what causes our Falls,
what will cause our Banishments from any Garden,
any Heaven found somewhere on this Earth
or beyond:

Greed.
Lust.
Envy.
Wrath.
Sloth.
Gluttony.
Vanity.

Seven: beyond seven.

These Falls are nothing
in the eyes of the Begetters—
they left hand-in-hand
but we just crush the bones of others
with our clenching fists.

Look at what we have made ourselves.

Look at what our world has become.

Look at how we let it fall.

Look:
now remember Eve
and the means of her Fall—
love.

Earth itself was an Eden
when she and Adam had their love.

We took the Earth from them in time
and tore their pleasures from them
with every future passing
of the Human name.

We have no riverside by which to lay.

We have no brush in which to hide.

We can see our sins.

God can see our sins.

Adam and Eve can see our sins
in their perches above
and (strangely) I can hear them weep:
“How did they Fall?”

Dear Man, we have Fallen
but not upon the bed of sweetness that they did.

Let us rise
again;
let us make
this Earth an Eden;
let us make
our Mother and Father see
that their Fall was not in vein
but in love.

Let us rise up again
so that we may Fall.

FINIS.

Aylee learned young

Aylee learned young
not to cry
over life's little troubles
like blisters
cuts
babies
or blood

you go i go. [A RESPONSE-ish]

ONE

hand-in-hand we will let our blood mix
at our fingertips, your bruises from my boney shoulders
will be nothing compared to the scars that hide under
the crimson pools, brighter than the horizon
behind the grey and mist in the sky today.

TWO

i knew your plan, i knew it all along
(give me some credit):
part of me hoped to keep you talking because speaking
means aliveness—despite what my mother thinks
no one can speak from beyond the grave
and i feel like i at least deserve some final words.

THREE

i probably could have gotten a poem or two
from your scheme, really—
maybe a screenplay because Hollywood eats this stuff up—
but then where would i get my other fourteenthousand poems
for the rest of my life?
twenty-one is too young for a magnum opus
(perhaps i should have told you that).

FOUR

thou dost creep over all thou may'st be

remember that?—
that poem sitting in your drawer
in 9-point Times New Roman (because i know how much
you like to save paper)?
that is not my blank note, in fact i like to think
it's rather full—

maybe if my poems were clearer they could help.

FIVE

you just bought me this lovely watch
and i would hate to see it stained red
over its darling silver;

but if that's what it takes then i'll burry it like Richard's wife's cross.

SIX

i imagined ripping the death from your hand
and puilling it over myself—
just to see your face
so that you would know what it does.

i am no Jesus
but i would have died
para your resurrection.

SEVEN [rhymes with "HEAVEN"]

we said forever
even if forever is only
45 more minutes.

[EIGHT

click here.]

Untitled

a song

now these fluorescent lights are coping
with scars they left upon your skin
you can't keep down the stares of all those wondering
if you are of sin—a sin, their sin

there's no word of one who can stop you
there's no one that can slap you with their pen
reach out deep and keep the keeping from your blood
let it drench your hand again—again again

i can reach out to try and catch her
but o, my hands are just too cold,
your fingers curl while mine are shaking
what can i hold? nothing to hold

Elegy for Michigan

as much as i would love to believe
that you can conjure up dreams beyond
those of leaving your lands, i have seen
or dreamt none myself.

* * * * *

i heard of times when people like my grandfather
saw you as Moses—leading him from the fields
where his fingers were pricked up stems
as Hebrews were whipped and bound—

my grandfather was bound by roots as fetters
but you gave him a Drinking Gourd
shining through the dusty darkness
with steal and welding sparks;

but, like Moses wandering through the barren trials,
you died right before he reached the Land
of Milk and Honey—to him, a paycheck
and a gazing upon his skin with blind eyes.

* * * * *

i see your babes whirring down the highway
over broken beer bottles, paying no regard
to the grasses your exhaust blows upon
those once-firm stems.

* * * * *

winter is a span from the falling of teeth,
worn out from chattering—
thighs are sore from attempts
to remind us all that not all is barren.

i pity you but i pity the children
born into your frigidness, who see nothing
but blinding flakes and reflections of sunlight
which leave them squinting, unable to open their eyes—

they enter not seeing the darkness,
thy grey slipped into the sky from smoke stacks;
their first breaths are clogged by soot
and they will never know the meaning of a breeze.

it breaks my heart, really:
they emerge in a burst of aliveness, writhing pulls
only to find no light, no sun, no breath—
only gusts that tear our flying flags in two.

* * * * *

i pray for every deer i see in the road:
i hope they are alone, we'll end their suffering
but their ends, i hope, will not bring morbid misery to more
by our engines or our fingers on a trigger.

* * * * *

my uncle stayed with us one Thanksgiving
as his wife threw his belongings out on their lawn—
he was out of work and i was out of room,
exiled to the sofa for weeks.

he left before i was awake, i never saw him
though i heard he slept downstairs, in my room,
in my bed—this shameful things lay where i
found my own shame with my hands nights before.

when he left i found my room distraught:
the smell of tobacco and a flannel hunting jacket
left on the floor
next to a discarded shotgun shell—

i could not touch it, i could not let my fingers
make it blow; i could not feel the metal in my hands
nor could i see the spot on the floor where it lay
until my father came to pick it up for me.

Camilla in Ikea

i imagined you in the $89.99 crib,
lying there, cooing away until i cannot fight
the urge to pick you up, your legs kicking
(more forceful than the casual observer could imagine)

and your mother standing next to me
in our 591 sq. ft. efficiency apartment
where we (miraculously) found a little nook
for your books and shelves, and that chair you mother loves.

we picked up little kitchen sets that we imagined
you would use to make us invisible potatoes and chicken
with tea and cookies for desert—i would love to sit and sip
portions of clear Earl Gray in a too-small chair.

i don't wish to push you to be a little daisy
because if you at all end up like your mother,
you will be a darling rose, but with thorns that can make
those who don't know any better bleed.

on the car ride home we thought of that 591 sq. ft. display
and your little nook—i placed my hand over my love's stomach
knowing that someday (when we can afford a little nook)
that would be your little nook.