She just won her son’s happiness with a new toy. But we’re riding this bus together so I can see in the way she wears her face that her happiness is in debt. She carries grocery bags beneath her eyes—full of wants she can’t afford, but that doesn’t stop them from keeping her awake at night. The bus keeps this moment honest and brief and bumpy. But I can tell, this woman has rubbed the dull side of her last penny against some pretty mean scratch tickets while reciting Frank Sinatra lyrics hoping that this time will be different than last time, that this time will be better than last time. She teaches her son that money can’t buy happiness but he then has a lot trouble understanding the smile on his own face. I want to hug her. I want to take back every time my childhood drew that face on my mother. I want to reach across the aisle, acknowledge that this bus was built for strangers, I want to say, “Lady, I know I don’t know you but we just spent several miles of the same road together and I couldn’t help but notice our eyes did similar dances looking for the same distractions to occupy this void. Just know that if I could win you happiness, I would. And If I could carry those grocery bags for you I would, for both of us,” because I can tell we’re both going to lose sleep tonight.
I thought about Newt’s completely feasible moon colony and the first moon-born human. I thought about illegal aliens and inalienable rights. But I didn’t say anything. We just sat there in perfect silence like two ukuleles wanting to be acoustic guitars, perfectly tuned, painted in moon reflection. I said, what are we doing? And you didn’t have to ask. You knew. When I said we, I meant the species.
Three times in my life I failed to peel back my Band-Aids fast enough.
Offer up my wounds for healing.
Yes, there is blood beneath these words,
there’s a man on the other side of this voice, clutching
on a stone he soon realizes- his heart.
He’s done slain the last of the dragons,
come back to a vacant cave, weeping
he talks to the skeleton that surrounds him,
swears the sky is as thin as his flesh,
swears he hears a voice on the other side
talking in terms of confession.
[a man sits alone in his room talking to himself inaudibly]
The first thing I have to understand
is what the word means to me
before I can ever understand
what it’s gonna mean to somebody else.
We defined them for a reason-
to avoid confusion
but, man, some of us took to writing our own dictionaries.
We aren’t angels.
We are not angels.
I need you to really hear that.
We speak in clichés too often.
The metaphors aren’t helping.
My entire life has led up to this moment.
No shit. That’s always been true.
If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here.
So, can I please leave my closet doors open
in front of you
without you judging the contents or
the way they’re arranged?
And, yes, mother, in this instance
the closet is a metaphor.
That’s where we hide our skeletons
like trees hide their roots,
we can’t see the pattern
but we know where they’re coming from.
[inaudible humming fades out]
I made it past the slack in my pastor’s voice,
past the guilty stitch of the heavy robes,
past the thickest of incense storm clouds
with enough sense to recognize a statue when I see one.
But I still have trouble recognizing gods.
Though my spine knows the exact prayer angle
at which to pivot my neck, tilt cranium
in the precise direction of their pedestal height,
turn my skeleton-covered-in-skin toward them
in waiting for their judgement with river mouth and deflatable raft heart.
I have trouble recognizing my belief in gods
because their rejection- the most beautiful thing I have ever seen-
their rejection is a plastic bag and my confidence is a curious child.
I know nothing about elliptical galaxy Messier M49,
other than knowing that it exists in the constellation Virgo.
But I don’t even know what that means.
These facts mean nothing but these numbers and these words
prove that there’s coincidence at work in the universe.
I don’t even believe in coincidence,
I just don’t know what else to call it.
Sometimes I call it love.
Don’t ever call it love.
At any given moment I’m a fraction of the whole of myself.
When my mother’s God broke me at my birth he was drafting one of two blueprints.
Neither was fully realized.
So I’m open to interpretation.
I don’t know if I belong in the gallery,
my maker may not have been a painter,
he might have been an architect.
Which means that some of us- construction sites,
some of us- landfills.
I am a Virgo and somewhere in my astrology there is a galaxy
named after your birthday-
which could only mean one thing:
Sometimes the last thing we need is a reasonable explanation.
Subtle as an airport control tower.
We carry checked baggage, claimed.
Sure as the runway only gets us to the end of another runway.
I landed like a Kennedy in Boston.
You landed face first in a hotel bed.
Neither of us has ever been any good at departure.
Honesty is a naked truth standing
in the middle of a clear desert
on a pale moon night
with skin the color of temperature,
eyes the depth of oceans,
a glass of whisky in one hand
and an invitation to forgiveness in the other.
Let’s be honest.
I’m your Get Well card.
I musta got lost in the mail but I’m here now.
Follow my instructions.
Now it’s your turn-
be my acceptance letter.
Be my eleventh birthday wish.
Be my lifetime supply of ego boosts.
Be my church bell, be my armor,
be my porn.
I’ve got a few decades left
and I was kinda lookin’ for somebody to spend ‘em with.
Let’s burn calendars like the universe burns stars.
You’ll find a lot of objects in this galaxy get struck by meteors.
Lucky for you, all my ugly’s on the surface.
Get past that
and you’re good.
The whisky is for celebration.
The invitation is BYOB.
I don’t know how to talk to you
without feeling like neon red siren screaming ambulance
with bad brakes and a blown tire
hauling through a busy intersection
where the crosswalks are full of children
And you’re a pedestrian
soon to be in need of my stretcher.
We stain our shirts with oil
as we ash our cigarettes
into the mouths of blue whales
and pretend that we don’t choke
when we say,
“The world is our oyster.”
We should pry her, unwillingly
and utilize her
most intimate resources
to better our-slick-selves.
There’s always somebody, willing
to cross the line.
Teach a man to fish
and he’ll learn to kill dolphins.
We aren’t the painters or the paintings,
we’re the products;
oil, rigs, and watercolors
There’s a typewriter furnace tucked into my gut. Its ink seeps from my heart. The backspace key is a missing rib juxtaposed to return. Put your fingers to the letters that spell your name in the present tense; draw a sentence from the intrigue holster in your heart; break the paper white face of my letter head with the honesty of your everything. Inspire me.
There’s a still image of you alive in my prefrontal cortex. I know it’s only an idea, vivid, like the sky, untouchable. There’s a church in my brain where my memories gather to give thanks to all the ways you changed me. Still. There are nights when I breakdown at the truck stop in my sleep wishing I still knew how to tie the highways back into the knot that led us here. Before you, there was gravity. After you, I’m a bashful astronaut plummeting to Earth without a parachute. Still. Sky. Moon. You. Reflections.
More and more my heart has no vacancy and my cranium is a manger for pregnant pauses.