In your universe, which is my universe,

We could have sat sandy on the beach

Like a pair of feet or climbed the tree jungle

That no one knows about. But we didn’t.

We could have done a coffee lap around the lake

And laughed at seersuckers old men sport

While swapping camp stories and dares. But we didn’t.

Your eyes and mouth would form an unruly triangle

I couldn’t measure. The wind and skirt and shuffle

Of the sky and moon above the timid water

Would make me collectively believe again

Like when, as a boy, I used to sign my forehead

And bow and genuflect in gold. The night shakes

The lake trees and swindles us out of

Proper conversation. We duck for the gym

In your universe, which is my universe,

Which dangles in precarious doom like your necklace

In a breezy evening tide. Shutter with me

At the altar of now and pretend

We are quiet jackals on the grass,

On the beach, on a tree limb,

On a meadow made of sky

And wash away with me as stabbing rain.

Killer Domestic: ‘Boy’

September 22, 2013

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

 

The muffler suggests impending explosion

As the car rolls past the new church on the left

Which oppositely suggests opulence and grandeur.

My folks call it the casino because it sprawls

And lights up like a mansion in the hills

They built it because the old one got too small,

Got too big too fast to hold the lifted wills

Of its patrons. Sundays and Wednesdays as

Holy football and household routines and God

Now that the new space is christened and planted

The newest fig tree to sit under

In a neighborhood that didn’t realize they wanted it.

 

A boy tries hard to be a man

His mother takes him by the hand

But he escapes, is pushed, falls out and tries to sleep

Alone and can’t. A woman is a god,

A woman is a blanket. Gorgeous protection.

Who else will set the table, set the wound

And set you up to never fail or fail

At least with grace and as a lesson

To scrape from the wafflemaker.

Tomato soup for the sore throat

Tea with liberal honey.

A backboard for your longshot pleas and schemes.

An appliance that never needs new batteries.

 

A boy grows taller and meets handfuls of girls

Tries his hand at love and even cooking

Then drugs and drinks and yelling at the television.

Maybe he breaks a string at open mic night

Maybe he finds new faith inside a car

Maybe someone tells him to lighten up

A leaky sink is not the apocalypse

To ease up on the gas and strap the carseat

To let a breeze in, become the wind and fly.

He opens his good books and folds back pages

But longs to find the best. He finds the best

In a row of kneeling grownups at the source

And becomes a boy again sitting on floors

Playing with trucks and believing all he hears

Because he is small and the world imposes.

He may shed his boyishness in the face,

In the chest, on the backsĀ  of his hands

But he is little and the world is large

And that’s the way it stays forever. Amen.

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

 

To the three-scoop cones that look like four

To old friendships suddenly becoming new

To car trips with Dad where I get to ride radio

And eat cookies and cream until I’m sugarsick

Hearing public radio spotlight old creaky bluesmen

And thinking how your steel dobro would chime

Like a masterclass and peel the paint off the dorm walls

As a stiff hurricane

Though tornado would be more geographically accurate

For the delta blood you got in you.

 

Phone calls now ain’t the real thing

As lightning’s no daylight despite how hard it tries

And the rural summer cone-and-dish stands now

Mean everything and nothing

Like voting or a empty notebook.

One, four, five is all we have, though separately

Like your black cherry vanilla

And my melting three-scoop cookie mess.

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

 

When the moon shines bright and bloated

Like an uncle at Thanksgiving, the tree line on the street

Becomes a ridge of waves, jagged and perfect.

The fullest moon on Ironstone tonight bathes

Cars in spotlight sheen and makes you wrench

And yearn as hot as heartbreak

For the swimming past, the 1 a.m. curfews

In your car idling in the slanted driveway

Talking until the motion light quits, then

Gesturing it on again as we sit

And disintegrate to ’80s guitars

Which, feather-light, begin to feather us

Into lovesick adults slowly crushed

And sprawled and piled until we eventually

Topple

And the jukebox moon inserts itself again

Into the evening sky. Just kids

To see the glow and hear the quiet roar.

Killer Domestic: ‘Zephyr’

September 17, 2013

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

 

Fingering the skinny paintbrushes like knives —

James in art class, aloof and innocent

A still life sets itself up near the window

As he begins to tell us how many guns he has

At home under the bed

And how he knows how to operate them.

 

The window is throwing beautiful afternoon light

On the corner still life, all fruit with thick skin

But bruised beyond. We gather our books for math

And I never see James again

Just sink into the weight of variables.

 

He’d had a fight with his grandmother

The principal later told me

And she’s the only family he’s got

Except a dad he rarely sees somewhere in Warsaw.

Sometimes they hunt. I think of James

As I ride the large bus wheels and float home

Heavy as a zephyr in the clouds that carry

Too much rain before their time.

Killer Domestic: ‘Backyard’

September 16, 2013

Note: This poem is part of a larger project entitled Killer Domestic, an examination of the unusual and unfounded perils of suburbia.

Dad walks on stiff stained wood out back

Tracing dotted lines in his head like art class

As scant finches slowly drown their chirps

In brown-treed leaves. The summer has fewer words

Now than ever.

 

We help, mom and I, like wedding tailors

Help a rattled bride, holding pins and clips

To keep the cover fixed to the dripping sides of the pool.

Dad sees the angles but can’t make dock. The great

Pines behind see it all. Their ridged cone fruit

Begins to drop.

 

Back on walking wood. Dad starts to fold the

Solar cover into itself. The back windows drop, too

At a rush of silent swans, begin to fold themselves

Overhead and melt into a smoky sky. The sun

Behind the clouds like forest hills, the plastic

Subdued, us retreating inside soon fetching

Our armor and disappearing like the loons.