D. Phillip Clifford
The Moon That Lights My Dead Father
The moon might rest
satisfied the coroner could eat his lunch
and not feel odd
doesnt actually wrinkle
under a mat of hair and head,
and thirty-eight degrees is not too cold to smoke,
if there is reason enough,
that coffin-wise, a man looks greased like catfish.
Men got laid with that look,
crying Agnes! Agnes! Damn, Agnes!
And the moon could rest,
be a river or a lover
or a jukebox or a sire,
blue and sheared of the mortality
that could teach a boy
light does play tricks,
and all of Whitmans preaching could not
make this body sing anything
but a womans name during orgasm.
How You Stumbled Through
Sometimes the first snow in this city is not white.
Nor is it unique and infinite in its hopeful patterning.
It divides itself, doubles itself,
becomes crunch under heel, toe, heel toe...
Sometimes its form can gradually change
as it whirls in on itself to become mortar
between the red bricks and arsenical mood
of a washed out Eden-space in the suburbs.
It is dusky and muscled and common,
like the forearms that got you going in bars,
or riding electric down the tumble of alleyways
for the grope and scratching of a goodbye hum.
In a city of a million perspectives only yours counted.
Scavenged and shawled from the cold.
I want to believe
this is what I miss about you--
the sensation that the city is not still an image
of cast iron branches, leafless and hushed.
I want you to tell me of your mistakes,
but I am wrecking myself, jacking off in dark places.
I am not ashamed that you may see me,
May smell that sour floating scent,
and say, Something is dead.
I am relieved something haunts me.
Tell me of your desire for a black man, for any black man.
Tell me while your ass was propped up on pillows
and your legs sprawled like oakwood,
making it all up as you went along.
Make me believe that it was the sixties
and thats just what we did back then.
Help me stop seeing your stockings around your ankles,
that look of fear and sacrifice on your face.
then I can stop honking this goddamed horn.
Tell me again how you stumbled through
a drunken husband, three kids, and a good Catholic life
to find me.
Dancing Away into the Orphanage
And I know
how I exhausted
the brown Pinto you
stumbling around in the garage.
the fluttering of my hands
to get your attention,
to practice this long series of goodbyes.
In this poem,
themed in ratchets,
and an old jar of joints,
I know exactly what I should tell you.
To salt the places
as a little boy,
you never returned.
you were dancing
into the orphanage,
the corner of your sheets, drunk.
So I insult you
to mourn you.
to the same music.
You did all the wrong steps.
That dirt-buzzing sound you made
like a 1978 Pinto,
or an old jar of joints.
Brothers Trying to Get Up
Jesus smoked Parliaments,
all the cool brothers did.
Probably talked shit too,
of brothers trying to get up off their asses
and move on...