Telling it Plain

The old pipes in this house
scream in the middle of the night.
Not as lovers scream
in motel or wedding bed.
Not as ghosts scream,
as oracle or agony of injustice.
They scream only as old, rusted
things scream
when they have been buried
within walls too many
run-on years.

Still, you taste
the weird tang,
the poetry
of rust,

and will spend it
somewhere
like a quarter
you found

on a winter street.

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There is no way to talk about it without sounding like witches. Their toys are still found in the forest. Sometimes, you come upon a stuffed animal sitting under a tree, moss growing nearby but the plush pet unmolested by this green fur. The animal will look so fresh, seemingly set down only a moment before, untouched by the weather, the long time they have been there in the woods.  You might believe the child’s hand had just let go, it looks that warm. If things can look warm. You might believe that the child hides behind the trunk of the tree against which the furry pink elephant rests his back. For perhaps obvious reasons of mojo, of superstition, with an eye to good cess, the country folk talk about the children in a thinly-veiled code. For example, they drop off the first letters of their names. Bess becomes “Ess” and Tara becomes “Ara.” Sometimes, they merely use the children’s initials. Everyone remembers how the daughter buried the cat in the box. How the younger boy discovered this, returned with the cat in the box, put it on the dining room table in the house, an offering to his parents. She wept, was confessed. The cat became a religious symbol in their household. Feline martyr. The white cat glowed. Her siblings drew and painted it. Had it been the medieval period, there would have been a stained glass window in which the cat figured prominently, heroically. She forgave the little brother who condemned her. Who outed the witch in her.  And then she took him for a walk deep into the woods one day and he was never seen or held again. She wept. She “lost” him. He was never found. She was very clever. She could roll her spirit shut the way a pill bug rolls its body shut, the way it becomes a little armored pill. The young father (so young he looked more like her brother) saw when she went for the next boy; it was a close call with a snowstorm, a wicked game. A grandfather’s boat was involved. And then the father took her for a walk deep in the woods and “lost” her. He said it wasn’t as easy as all that. He came back with strange marks on him.  Later, he woke up with a tattoo on his body that he had never seen applied. Then the rest of the family disappeared and their house remains empty to this day. The forest remains empty. The trees are still hung, here and there, with little photographs in frames. That is her work. There is always a cool breeze, even in the warmer months. Even in the swamping heat of July. The forest keeps this cool space and its blue shadows. People blame it on a cave, but there is no cave exhaling this cool air. Children who come through know not to touch the little icons of the photographs. Not to touch the trees even. But you can see her entire family in the photographs. And other long-dead people who are mysteries. Which ones are hers? Who knows. The animals sit under the trees. Old stuffed animals with strange eyes of sorts you don’t see anymore on the animal dolls we give our children. Icon eyes. Terror and amusement at once in those old plastic eyes. Strange ecstasy.  Maybe it’s the way the eyes are when one sees a human circus. One knows the horror. A dark part of one might be titillated. She is close. She is listening to us. It cannot be otherwise, for that is what the story tells us. The trees feel compassionate and invite us in. There may be a child’s tea party, the tea laid and waiting for us. Plastic tea set aping porcelain. Teacups steaming. Miniature table. Tiny chairs where tiny witches sit. But they are not what we imagine. We know better. One child walking barefoot encountered a lobster in the middle of the woods. It was crawling along the forest floor, though the ocean is more than an hour’s drive away . Sometimes a cloud will descend on a clear blue day and fill the space between the trees. And some days there are elephants. They seem lost. They cry as they wander through the fog and a girl’s laugh curdles your listening. Some unwise children leave her notes. These she reads. And sometimes she responds. Sometimes she comes to “help.”

Fresh Ghost

You appear now
must know    the bell’s image
is broken     a glass eye
Your lips are white    smeared with memory
I mean mercy
As you talk in a low whisper
I study the bridge in the window
I think of those chalky fronds
pressed in slate fossils
perfumed letters of dying girls
wrapped with lavender ribbon
in a deceitful country
It is good you came,   fruit trees say
through me suddenly
an interruption
a politesse
blossoms on your suit jacket’s
square shoulders

It could have meant so much
had you come had you
meant I could have
much sooner I
had you
I   I   I
I sense
it took a lot to be here

You turns on itself
as an ammonite, I suppose
Nacre and pi:   pure things

You want me to thank you
for your apparition
Let me just give you these fruits
these stones I have been saving
Savor them as I did
My mouth made them round
It is with time,      to be
Then my ghost shall return to you
As the living paper falls    in November
We will be natural      again

 

Ghost Story

We had come out of the ghetto to sit
in the heaven of a Thai restaurant
           just once
        at the edge of the gunfire
Little canal decorations on the table lit up
The waitress had red tassel earrings like a goddess
It must have been Christmas       or something like
We were young for nearly eighty
We had glass noodles, existentialist soup
Halfway through our meal, a young man came bleeding through the door
and shot us all to death
Now the restaurant is gone these many years
It’s a car dealership that we haunt
You can hear our tongues      wagging romance
sometimes,     still,      nearly eighty years old
in the tongues       of the little tinsel metallic flags
used to sell cars

Lakeside

Panicked bubbles come from fish
down under a sheet of ice.
Screams will come from rabbits
taken by talons or fangs
in the winter, go into bones.
The moon comes into your bedroom
through that same opening,
as you sleep. And you bolt up
to see yourself in a dark mirror
across the room. But in the image
you are lying back, deeply asleep,
amused at what the moon’s fingers
are doing to you. You have apparently
fallen out of your own dream.
Separations like these routinely happen
to those who sleep around
a winter lake.

The Moon Has a Lie in its Mouth

The moon
has a big mouth
and loses it
over time.
The cycle
of the amusement park
is the cycle
of many loves.
In winter,
the skeleton stands
out on the pier,
in the pier’s wind,
greyly before the sea
which is bluer then,
louder. The seagulls
left to organic food,
organic screams,
the natural murders
of the sea
that wash up,
shriek louder then,
more insistently.
They are as children
when they feel
a thoughtless leash.
That cacchination
comes of a
winter gull nihilism.
They are all
triggering each other
in a gunfight
of “who’s starving?”
What sounds laughter
at first
is actually hunger
poking a hole
in them, riddling sky.
All the summer people
have dissolved away
into air. The food
in their fat hands
cruel phantoms now.
The ghosts of french fries
and sugared donuts
are cruel, cruel.
When snow comes
one night,
there’s always a human ghost,
a single one,
down under the boardwalk
like a lonely figure
in a centuries old woodcut
staring at the white storm
taking the sand
before the blue storm
still roaring
waves ashore
through white
invisibility.
It is a lion
made of ice water.
There is white
laid down over
whiteness.
The beach
is a billion
minimalists
talking at once.
This place
that is not made
to be heard
or seen.
Inhumanly strong.
Let’s just go.
The moon
could be anywhere
by now.
Big mouth.
Little mouth.
No different.
The moon is no politician.
If it wants
to destroy you,
it will just do it.
It will just
flood your lover
with the fluid dynamics
of moonlight.
There are textbooks
from the middle ages
you can read
about the process.
Your lover will dash
towards the ocean,
swim in the ice
of otherness,
a piece
in a game of pieces.
You will be
left holding
the erotic bag
like a gladiator’s wife,
like a chump,
reduced beef
at 3 a.m.
in the all-night supermarket
where crab legs
tell their autobiography
on beds of ice
to eighty-year-old widows
counting the calories
of death.
Oh, the naturals wonders
of the sea
pulled by the moon,
but let’s be honest
as the horrible people
on television,
the moon is only
after itself.
The moon
shapes the earth
through being
insidious
as vegetation,
old mapmakers
or the police.
It leaves
the horizon
of the ocean
feeling beaten.
It slips the earth
come morning.
Leaves it here
for another night,
for it has
a night
to attend
in Tokyo,
among all those
dissatisifed
roof gardens.

A Grocery Cart

A grocery cart
is a constructive use
of metal holes
made small enough
to hold things in.

Our minds are probably
no different.
It’s just the holes
are much smaller,
and so is the merchandise.

Sometimes, it’s people
who push the carts,
and sometimes it’s nobody:
the wind. A ghostly cart
just rolls across a parking lot

all by itself, like this poem

on its little haunted wheels

squeaking.  bitching.