Joggers in Cemeteries

Sometimes, on the final memorial
The stone so white it glows at night
We find a pair of praying hands
Closed like lobster claws
Against the world, a game of peekaboo
A game of fox and grapes
You want to put your real hands
Over the rainsmooth ones

You rarely see chiseled hands doing anything
Other than this       they have made peace
Or a pretend peace     for the lightning above
Lightning angrier even than ours

Partial we are to the hands threading a needle
Or trying on a golden ring as the last form
Doves might be alighting on them
In an ancient form of television program
Or they may be getting the turn-down service from heaven
It may be two doves descending carrying a green wreath of air
If it is a tiny creation        it may be a lamb
Then there are not even hands
No faces         not even knowing Janus
Just the representation of a beast we often eat

Emblem of innocence      a thing hands cannot even hold

I Don’t Think You Will Ever Fly Because I Don’t Think You Believe in Wings, But That’s Okay

Oh, I read your poetry
and like it and then learn
you are eighty-three-years-old.
Your poetry is a fine nest.
I see you in black and white.
You have a giant head
like a baby bird, a nestling
with white tufts.
I only just discovered you.
I worry soon you will
be pushed out of the nest
of your poetry and die
there on the sidewalk,
prematurely scrambled,
if there is such a thing
as being “prematurely scrambled”
at eighty-three.
I think there is.
I hope you stay in there.
I hope your eggshells
keep you warm.

The Cashier

In the Dollar Tree located right across the small street from the rather deadly housing projects, there is an interesting cashier.

She is young enough to be a natural artist. She is old enough to feel death crowning in her. In other words, she’s an aging kid.

Whenever she gets a customer all by himself or herself, young or old, when there’s no one else in line, no one else in the store, she pauses before handing them their merchandise in those depressingly bright cellophane bags with the store’s name printed on them.

She clears her throat in an almost undetectable way, and then she launches into this fantasia: “You are standing in your grave. This is as good as it’s going to get. The happiest days, all the most oblivious ones, are well behind you. It will not get better. It will get worse. At first, it will be like a record skipping. It will happen subtly, it will happen slowly. You’ll have little dips, little trips to the emergency room, little jaunts to the psychiatrists. Then it will increase. The aftershocks will outdo the earthquake. You will spurn friendships as nothing more than shared miseries. You won’t even possess the imagination or willpower to cheat on your spouse. Parts of you will begin to turn to Playdoh and other parts to steel. Your pubic hair will look like a dead ferret. And then you will realize, near the end, self-stripped of all friends and family, that someone is standing on your head. Someone is standing on your head as you stand in your grave and you begin to sink. You can’t even tell who it is. You can’t look up. But they’re there for sure, and you have the pain of those constantly shifting shoes on the top of your skull to prove it. Because the floor of your grave is wet mud, it’s quicksand, and you’re just going down into it. Like dogshit. Inch by inch. And your hands are tied up. Your hands are holding these cellophane bags full of shit from the dollar store. Your cat food and batteries and off-brand pudding boxes are causing you to sink deeper into the final quagmire, which will probably be a struggle for breath and a prayer to a nonexistent deity, beseeching him for merciful help in stabilizing your skipping heart, which is now like a stone sent skittering over a rain pond in an auto graveyard. Your fate is ricocheting off other’s people’s faces, they’re talking behind your back in your hospital room, and your sinking blood pressure won’t let you even argue with them. You will no longer be able to even do the basic things a body must do to remain a viable blood balloon floating around this planet. That’s it. The earth like a too-thick chocolate milkshake closes over your head and then the top of your head, which is bald anyway, already showing your skull through its skin, and you begin drinking that milkshake of death through all the holes in your face and skull. You sink down into nothingness It’s the best day you ever had. The End.”

And she always ends with “Thank You. Have a nice day.”

The respectable thing is that she delivers this in a really dead monotone. It’s like she doesn’t even care whether you’re listening.

Most of the people just say, “Thank You” back like being dead is no big deal. Probably most of them already knew all this shit. She did cause a few to go into deep depressions. But probably she thinks that is good for them. Maybe she’s right. Who knows.

One day, she will be gone from that Dollar Tree. In her place will be a man who has all the spirit of a broken calculator on a card table at a yard sale.

And that cashier will attempt to smile, and it will feel as though someone has just stapled your body. It will feel as though someone has just stapled your body somewhere very unpleasant to be stapled.