Poetry doesn’t exist to give you prose. It’s this other thing. It is something that has to do with the sound of words, the sound of letters, the spaces between words, letters, how words connect to the mind and to the throat at the same time.
Caught between Kerouac and Marilyn spawned in me the language, fearless pain as my mother, wrapped in mink, walked the edge then past as I watched then ducked smashed shards and men wanting to be sucked, degenerating the innocence of life and saints and promises made;
and where is Christ, the Buddha, ohm mani padme ohm when thousands of children die each year in America alone at the hands of their parents caretakers life-takers, when fathers teach their daughters the art of Kama Sutra, how in all this to distinguish any act as wrong, when killing millions in moments preserves the American way and what of generations born in winds of mushroom clouds,born without limbs or eyes to napalm women,what harm in being sucked by unlined skin—
the brain numb too short a time, too soon the blackout ends, too soon Marilyn raises her skirt, her breasts, her legendary grin, too soon barbiturates and lithium and caffeine caffeine—can’t sleep, won’t sleep, bring in the kid—she won’t remember anyway the feel of heels and calloused palms, slip between her unfledged lips like snow, like angel wings, then retreat to the oblivion of drink. What’s sex in this rhythm of hate and fear, in the mutual acceptability of mutual destruction? The Buddha uncrucified cannot exist.
And I know these people, this violence spawned of invisibility, sexuality hiding fungal lingams of death, sublimating the need to think of consequence when consequences surround us not of our own making—why control ourselves when we ourselves have no control in this atomic-Ku Klux Klan-raping world of sawed-off shotguns in the hands of eight-year-olds who need a fix, a blow, enough to know they are alive, enough to dull the tense despair of being alive
but this is my world too and the bombs of mutual annihilation have not yet dropped and I do remember the jazz-nuanced hipster world that spawned me behind Marilyn’s angel grin concealing desperate dreams turned nightmare horrible, and I
we carry these in symbols of anorexic models and crucifixions to bars and steaming baths and schoolyards filled with meth and smack, bliss only in the mind, the body sharp-edged and clutching.
Yet under these streets flow fresh-water streams—chip away with hammer and nail, dig through phlegm-stained concrete with fingers till whitened bone shows through, dig for water to wash us clean, past wanting more cars, more clothes, more love than we feel, dig for truth beyond lies that tell us drugs and sex, shaved heads and tattoos, fast tech will save us for only we can save ourselves yet if each self is saved we will save the world.
Thank you to the editors of Squaw Valley Review Poetry Anthology 2012 for first publishing this poem and to the community and poets who make Squaw Valley Community of Writers such a rich and fulfilling experience.
I’m not super pro-tattoo or anti-tattoo. I’ve debated getting one in the past but never that seriously. But my mother is vehemently anti-tattoo. Listed below are the reasons my mother has always given me for why I shouldn’t get a tattoo.
And I understand that she’s from a different generation. And I love my mother very much. She’s a really wonderful person and I’m not saying none of them is a legitimate reason, but I’m saying that after having a child, I find it really hard to take any of them seriously.
And so in case you were headed out to the tattoo parlor as we speak, here are:
Yes, a tattoo is forever. Totally forever! Except that a tattoo can, if needed, be erased with a laser.
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My 84-year-old mom holding her 9-year-old self
and two weeks before she passed, my father-in-law also did along with his pocketful of index cards and pens so he’d never lose an important thought
A week at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers
and the crescent shadows during the solar eclipse
The Joyous Victories:
Peace to all of you throughout the New Year!
How she watched him turn me on the stairs, force his tongue in my nine year old mouth as she basked in the warmth of fire and merlot, and left me for weekends with his Marine Corps son though I cried, begged her not to, his crew cut head telling me to lie down, stop crying, spread my legs. And the Mother’s Day when she slapped my face, kicked my ribs, ripped the head off my doll because I was still making her gift when she woke—she screamed you worthless shit after all I’ve done these seven years. Even now I would forgive the nights from the time I was five that I pressed the cold glass of her bedroom window against my cheek while he beat her, waiting for her to tell me to run next door, call the police, forbidden to run before ordered, forced to listen to her pleas, his fist, the breaking chair. Forgive if she didn’t wish me dead or could engage in dialogue, but instead she remains three, six, twelve years old simultaneously, unwilling to approach maturity or sanity. I too have crawled the edge of madness, felt its sweet vortex as if cauterizing pain, but I keep stepping back from her outstretched arms, reaching always to pull me beside her.
Thank you to the editor of Writing Our Way Out of the Dark for first publishing this poem.