Pond Tree

Many shadows of leaves
fall on the goldfish
in our weird pond

On their flightier school
fall shadows of yellow
leaves flighty in wind

Neurotic school of leaves
shaped like the fish
lanceolate leaves

These fish are spooked
by the sense of shadows
on their orange backs

On their sides, a weird
dappling of themselves
over themselves

They can never know
but seem to sense
how nature ghosts to selves

 

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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.”

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

For F.

Sometimes your poems sound more like notes
for poems than actual poems to me. But wait,
I mean that nicely. They are notes that militate for the unfinished,
and the dishevelment of scattered lines,
so alive, affect me (paradoxically) in a way
that finished poems, brought home to the station,
for some reason often don’t. Your scattered
lines from a scattered life are delivered with scatted emotion.
You appear and sing and no one knows what the hell
it was we just heard or read, except real
and alive and hey, thanks for the trip to Jupiter, pal.
This reminds me of the Japanese ghost story
of a tunnel with ghosts inside which a young couple
drives through one night. They hear this terrible thudding
against the windshield and their windows, but see nothing
but their headlights. When they get to a gas station,
they notice these ghostly handprints, all sizes, on every window,
as if many somethings tried frantically to get in.
They ask the gas station attendant there to wipe the windows
with a squeegee and he tries, but tells them he can’t.
All the prints are on the inside of the car. I think
that’s the best explanation for how your poems
and their ghosts work on me. I think I’m hearing
those desperate sounds from the outside, but realize
shortly afterwards your hungry ghosts have made it
all the way in.

Erik and I Got Stoned

Erik and I got stoned down by the the golden field where you are supposed to be able to see the ghosts of the two horses that got shot. We got stoned and we waited at the edge of the golden field, leaning on the golden field’s split-rail fence. That’s all going to pieces. It’s going to shit.

The golden field was even even golder tonight, later on this July evening. The grass is nearly as tall as the fence. Nobody really mows it anymore, except the township sometimes, now that the house has been abandoned so long.

The pipe we were sharing had a broken stem. You had to hold the stem in place with your mouth while you sucked the smoke. If you didn’t do it right, you could lose some of the sweet smoke to the gap where everything else was, air and sky and universe. It made you aware of something. It was hard to say.

The horses were supposed to be ghosts, well, just because they were dead, but also because they were shot, I guess. Remember The Amityville Horror? Like that. Except it happened local. This dude had killed his entire family right before Christmas. Guns to their foreheads. They all died in bed. The weird thing is that some of them had their shoes on when they were found dead. Like they wanted to be ready to run if they suddenly woke up to something horrible. Poor bastards. They must have seen it coming. Then he shot the two horses. I used to see him shopping in Giant all the time. Mass Murder Dad pushing his grocery cart just like everybody else. Remembering just what everyone liked best to eat. Buying it for them like a good dad. Was he thinking “final meal” even then, one of those times I saw him, and made eye contact with him?

Where we are now isn’t that far from my house. I went to school with those kids. Now I have dreams of him buying things that should be steak, but in the dream they aren’t. They aren’t steak. They’re his family. The white forms bleeding under the clear plastic in my dreams. As he puts them on the black belt for the cashier’s pretty elf hands to pick up and read. Well, people think he shot his horses after he slaughtered his family. Maybe the horses were first. Who knows. I guess the horses do.

“What did he have against the fuckin horses?” Erik asks. It’s the only question anybody really cares about. We understand that people can drive you crazy. They just will. But horses are like medicine. They’re like calming medicine.

“I don’t know,” Erik said. “I bet horses can be assholes too. Or the money. Feeding them, taking care of them. Vet bills. Whatever. Plus, he was just batshit scrapings-insane.”

What was weird, and really it all was, was that the one horse had died on top of the other horse who must have been dying at that point or already dead. How ‘eckin romantic. Like it was looking down at the other horse, mourning it, which I’m sure a horse could do, and then fell on it. Like in a movie. Romeo and Juliet type doomed horses. Drama queen horses. I wouldn’t want some dead horse lying on top of me if I was dead or dying. Even if I was a horse myself. They seem pretty intelligent, horses. They’ve been warriors for centuries, going right into death with us. I guess they have personalities. I bet some horses hate other horses. I bet they wish they could talk about other horses behind their backs. But they stay noble. Because they can’t talk shit about horses. They can only run their bodies into them to say fuckoff without using words. Sometimes nature gets things right.

We lean on the fence and talk about who’s getting it and who isn’t in our circle of jerkoff frenemies, about Nascar and a little bit about vampire sex, how we think vampire sex really is. Then I rest my right elbow on the fence and stick my hand in my hair, it’s long again, now that Asshole got out of my mom’s house, the deadbeat pedobear. I stare as hard as I can and try to see the ghost horses. They’ve gotta be there. It’s not about the dead family anymore. They’re…the people, they’re just…gone.

Maybe the horses are just more poetic, even if they’re dead in the same way their family is.

It’s now about the horses, this little overgrown yard next to the cabin style house where the two horses seemed to be all the time, mostly just chillin, chewing grass, looking down at the earth, as we drove past, as we often did for so many years, they’re right on the intersection of these useful country roads, and no, I don’t know what kind of horses they goddamn were, if they were Missouri Fox Trotters or Florida Crackers whatever the hell. Probably they were just  the horse equivalent of mutt.

Because I’m stoned, I’m feeling great and don’t really care if the horses appear or not. It would be nice though. I stare at Erik staring into the pen of golden grass, waiting for the horses who took bullets to their brains to jump around, cavort, whinny their supernatural shit in our faces.

Then I jump over the fence and I throw my body down to the ground, right in the middle of those thick grasses and it feels like a mattress store. It feels warm and good. Erik can’t believe I did it like an asshole and says, “Snakes!” and laughs and I say, “Don’t. gib. a. fuck.”

And I don’t. I lie there and feel the ghosts of the horses running all over me. The pit-a-pat of their metal horseshoes, which I wonder if they buried them with. Do horses get buried with shoes? Do people? I lie there and feel the horses running across my stomach. I am just some pervert who gets off on horses running over his body, back and forth. I can almost feel them now and believe they are here, horse ghosts. They are all the sensation in the world, the best sensation in the world, and it is like a second skin you can shed, but somebody else will just pick it up and wear it. Somebody who doesn’t care about how gross it feels. And you will miss it. Because after the feeling of the gross starts to wear off, it starts to feel good. And then you’re a freak, at last. Thank God or the flying spaghetti monster Cthulhu. And I know that’s what I want to be. What I always wanted to be. I want to be a real man who is not afraid to be a freak. This world is full of pipsqueak freaks who hide in the shadows and I just don’t want to be one of them. I’m not vain but I do a little enjoy being on display. Even when girls or guys I like recoil from me it makes me feel sexy. That stank of me. I just want to learn to wear it well and then I know I will get good and hella laid.