Photo Credit: Peter Dressel
FOR MY MOTHER
I can't see what you say inside your head.
Behind your eyes, I can't hear what you mean.
And through your throats, I can't touch threads of me.
I can't begin to fathom who you are
now that you're not the you I thought you were.
You speak in single words that struggle from
a voice that isn't yours, and you describe
a past that clearly harbors none of you
and none of me. I can't reach what you've lost
and all of what you've lost is what I need
to hold, to say and say and say again
until that match head glitters just behind
the two of us, just long enough for us
to see a touch, and we won't need our names
or yesterdays, just that—a chance to say
goodbye, goodbye, in words, from throats we know.
LET THE CHURCH SAY AMEN
I admit now, in a voice I believe to be mine, that all music is balanced on a drum, a sinful instrument of skin and stick, and that hearts are tuned this way. Amen to all the girls, their scalps greased to shimmer, snapped proper in pinafore and mary janes, whose first song was this song, backed up by an organ wail and a better-sit-still glare from mama, whose first song was marked by the spittle of sick old women, women who would be touched by God soon enough, and amen to all the girls who spent their lives searching for men who would set their collapsing bodies upright, men with electric haloes and one huge blue eye. Here's to the gospel that taught us the intricacies of heartbreak, the ritual of waking alone, the mumbled hallelujahs of three deadlocks on a door, dusty 45s spinning in darkness, sons who don't come home, the stark beauty of whiskey in a Dixie cup, daddies who mispronounce our names, slow dances with dead men, hair that won't stay straight, telling lies to stay alive, scribbled poetry melting into a cocktail napkin, writhing under too many blankets, the cold blue light of a TV screen, any fuck against any wall, a backbone carved of silk, a back tooth that so slowly rots, a war like a giant mouth, glass crackling inward, white men telling black women that the lord ain't there, ain't nothing but air, he ain't there, ain't nothing but air, he ain't there, ain't nothing but air, and if you're not careful, the electric current of question will wither you to a nothing without location, to a nothing searching for knees.
and your life will come differently to your throat
And now the news: Tonight the soldiers
dropped their guns to dance. The sight
of spinning starlit men, their arms
around such waiting waists, alarmed
those paid to blare the sexy words
of war. And how did these hard men
decide on just this time to twirl
in bloodied dust, and how do we
explain the skin to skin, their hips
aligned, dramatic dips---was that
a kiss? Some rumba, others throw
a soundtrack down—they pound deep drums,
they twang imagined strings, they blow
notes blasted blue through sandy winds,
they dream a stout pianos weight.
They spark the dance--the bop and twist,
the tango, yes, the trot and stroll,
the slither, slow, unmanly grind
within a brothers brazen arms.
And so analysis begins.
The talking heads cant spit enough.
The cameras catch the swirling men,
their thrown-back heads and bended backs,
the rhythm of their rite, the ways
they steam. The toothy anchors chant
their numbers and their names, to shame
them into still. But still the music
blows, the soldiers pivot, swing,
unleash their languid limbs, caress.
They dont slow down to weep or stop
to grieve their new-gone guns. The public
bray begins, the song of killers
killing must resume!, but then
the mirthful moon illuminates
the ball, our boys in dip and glide
and woo. We see the dancers dangling
eyes and oddly open sores,
shattered shoulders, earlobes gone,
the halves of heads, the limp, the drag
of not quite legs. Tonight they dropped
their guns, and snagged a nasty bass
to roughride home. You hear the stomp,
the weary wheeze and grunt, the ragged
nudge of notes on air? You see
the whirling soldiers spin, the love
they braved, and oh my god, that kiss?