Raymond stretched his thumb and forefinger as far apart as he could.  His other fingers curled tight into his palm like he’d seen the big kids do.  Bang!, he said.  Raymond knew, the way a big person picks up that it’s going to rain simply by stepping outside and sniffing the air, that guns were bad.  He also knew that guns meant honor, respect, women, money.  He saw all this in his father, a man too young for rearing a young son, no time for walks, hand in hand, to share and teach and set paths for the future.

Kenny held us son up, make no mistake.  The child was ignored until he learned it was a son inside her.  He heard the legacy of his name, son, respect.  He’d teach him to hustle.  It was his right as a man to rear a son into his army.  Teach him to bite first and ask questions after.  The mother, a cherished vessel, had since been tossed away into a pile of women too smart, too demanding to scrape out a life from the muddy black waters that permeated everything he knew.

Kenny took him shooting, his son, handed him all that power and sleek metal and asked him to hold still, train his eyes on his target, pull the trigger, fire licking the muzzle.  Bang!

Now, Raymond eyed his work through the opening created by a stretched thumb and forefinger.  He waited, listening for coyotes and phantoms in the distance.  Waited to strike.


Try as I might, I can’t hold the rain and keep it here on this scorched earth.

Thick humidity is leveled, finally, by a cooler breeze than we have felt in months.

Billowing clouds hide the angry sun .  It is a landscape I hardly recognize.

The feel of rain in the air is languid, loopy.

Luxurious against crisp mountains, spiny-things and lizard mouths taste the air.

Longing to lay in bed all day with only the open window.

To watch the clouds marching across the sky in thick formation.

My mood is flecked in ions, and caverns that have long been dry teem with tears.

I smell rain in my hair, in my dog’s paws, in the soup I’m making in my mind.

I am emptier than usual, and I will fill it up with rainwater and insect parts.

My eyes the color of the rain, the clouds, the land renewed.

If only for today.


For Edson

Yesterday’s clock stopped at precisely 3:15. It said nothing of its resignation. No long sighs and goodbyes. It simply gave up its post and refused to tick even one more tock. Not one. Instead, it stood there and imagined life as a surfboard.

Cascading through azure waters, feeling nothing but the slim thong of a rider. No longer worried about chiming and turning hands one second at a time. No brassy mechanisms, its tall cherry design re-purposed to glide and surrender to tide and rhythm – the sea’s rhythm.

No second-chance cadence. Instead, time, which plays hopscotch sometimes; sometimes jumping, sometimes waiting for the right moment to float from seven to eleven with barely a care, used this thought as pretense. The big wooden burden ascended, and I was both elated and late.

The choice to stop and change direction at just the right moment is both celebrated and inconvenient for those to whom you matter. But that is not your matter; the matter is things and thongs and everything that makes time and the sea and a surfboard the same thing.

That is to say that the matter is moot. There is nothing the matter with change. It is the only constant. After all, even after the clock stops ticking and fails to chime, there is the matter of a thing disengaging, floating over to its next purpose. A pause and then a leap, from one to eleven, in a great game of time and hopscotch.

Picture Of Me (You)

Green stalks pull my focus in a photograph from years ago.  I don’t remember the hike being springtime, but it must have been.  I see your phantom features in the reflection of my sunglasses, my head craned back to look at you, nearly 6’5, and standing on a rock at that!  Your height, the day, the long walk makes me look shallow and reedy in the photo.  Or perhaps that’s the look of lean times spent feasting on empty lies, moving from one heartache to the next, migraines and not enough sleep, time spent wondering when we would finally break each other completely.

Distance didn’t cure our sickness, Miah, as we thought it would.  This place isolated our issues, separated them out into colors.  Red for your drinking and the color of your eyes.  Gold for my desire and the truth.  Blue for skinny dipping under the naked moon, and white for the lies that stitched us together.

Nothing left of that time now except a photo that doesn’t even show your face.  Just mine.  Determined to climb as high as I could with you and then suffer the fall back to Earth.  I’m lucky.  I was able to achieve one of those goals before the heat and color caught up with us.  There is no memory of early phoenix without you and the hole that remained after the sun burned you away.  What color should I paint that hole?  Dark in the abscess.  Strange in design.  Deep in tenor.


I had a silent moment in which I held onto my anger for longer than I should have.  The house was dark and cold, like a tomb, and in a moment I grabbed at that bruised eye, that overripe plum, and it coated my hands in purple juices and left a stain on my heart.

My feelings bruised and picked over, I stood in my own way, unable to sit in my anger and acknowledge it, greet it, remind myself where it comes from.  Just the opposite, I pitched that stone fruit, a square blow, between the eyes of zeroes and ones that cascade faster than the mind can see.  And still it was seen, or perhaps observed, overtaken by scavenger birds, picked at in pieces and parts.  One million eyes observing this deft throw of color through a window in the world.  Glass breaking in the panes and shards of regret like needles in my arms, drawing me out inch by inch until I was slick with shame.

It happens so quickly.  One moment you are bathed in cozy yellow evening light, and the next you are hidden beneath a veil, a fog, the twilight with no stars.  Deep and rich like blood in the vessels, the color of eggplants rotting in the sun; it is this bruise, this scab-picked-over, that stays with me now, like a shadow in the late day sun.

Thought And Feeling Walk Into A Bar…

Thought holds the door for Feeling as he races past, wondering why he let him talk him into this.  His usual MO is to head home after a long day, retreating to the dark solitude of his thoughts.  He thinks now of his cherry-walled study filled with pages and pages of text, and the image alone invokes both comfort and yearning.
He’s been standing, holding the door, trapped between sunny exit and the stale air of the bar on the other side for so long he’s lost track of time.  He pushes forward, letting the heavy door slam back into place, locking him away in the bar, the sound of the door latching solidifying his decision to stay.
Feeling is two shots in already.  He drinks Jamaican 10-speeds, and the sweet, syrupy liquid washes over his tongue and immediately transports him back to that bar on a Mexican beach where he danced the night away under the moon, spending money like water, and feeling vibrant and alive and like he could do anything.  Thought slides into the stool next to him, adopts his usual pose – chin in hand, eyes forward and slightly down, shoulders hunched with the weight of a million unresolved ideas.
The bartender approaches, and after a painful moment in which she worries that perhaps Thought has fallen into a coma, he places his order:  House Red.  Just as the words escape him he immediately thinks that he’s settled.  Still, the Red is on special, if he cautions himself he can effectively drive home, and he’s likely to avoid the thick-headed hangover if he drinks precisely four 6-oz glasses of water between now and…he looks at his watch…11:30.  (He sets a reminder on his watch for 11:30 – “confirm water intake”) The bartender slides the glass toward him, and he thinks for just a moment that her painted red nails are like talons digging into his heart…
Feeling is headed for sloppy, but he doesn’t know it yet.  He has a sneaking suspicion, but he pushes it away in favor of the uninhibited feeling of pleasure and release.  It’s been a long day for both of them.
Thought and Feeling write for the Times.  In the current climate, they both stay busy.  Feeling writes headline-grabbing stories that, more often than not, appear on the front page.  Thought spends hours pondering relevant data from various sources, often missing deadlines, and though his work has never graced the front page, it frankly contains the type of information that could save us all.  Only the select few, mostly those in positions of authority, scan the heavy tome, their fingers smudged with ink, drawn to a piece buried under the weather column and next to an ad for sweaters, with a headline so tiny most would have overlooked it immediately.  Inside the dry writing and the rows of data and percentages, Thought plainly shares a warning that few heed.  It depresses him, honestly, but he knows the importance of his work and so he persists.
The door to the bar swings open and for a moment the entire room is blinded by a blast of sunlight so intense that Feeling immediately begins to sweat.  Just as quickly, the door slams back into place, and as Feeling’s eyes adjust he can make out the silhouette of a woman in the doorway.  He knows nothing yet except that her curves would make a racetrack jealous.
She walks toward them, takes the only seat available, right next to Feeling, and greets the bartender in a voice that feels like honey.  They know each other, and after exchanging vitals, she places her order:  Goose, rocks, splash of lime.
It would be wrong to say Thought ignored her as she walked by him.  On the contrary, he took in her wavy blonde hair, her full lips, and the way her hips swayed beneath the thin fabric of her skirt.  He was simply more consumed suddenly by an urge to calculate the exact probability that he would choose the stool closest to the door, with Feeling on his right, and furthest from the only open stool available when a woman of this caliber graced the door of this tiny corner bar.  He’s never noticed her here before, and wonders what her name is.  In his mind he assigns her ridiculous names like Daffodil, Sunlight, Sparkle.  He nearly laughs but catches himself just in time, and as he does so he realizes Feeling and the woman are already engaged in conversation.  Having bounded by the small talk, the weather, what they’re drinking, Thought hones in just in time to catch her name.  It is Opportunity…

Which Came First?

Today I will pick through someone else’s things.  Because I know myself.

I know these people too; they are not strangers to me.  And yet, the “how we live” phenomenon is very clear and separatist.

It’s the reason why you should live with someone before you marry them.

What if they sing old 80’s love songs with their mouths filled with toothpaste, dripping and spewing a fine mist of milky-white bubbles all over the mirror and cabinets, every night, just before going to bed?  What if you can’t stand that?

What if it’s cute and funny at first, but eventually tears at your mind until you can no longer stand the pain of harnessing your rage?


It’s that simple.

Of course, it’s not about the toothpaste.  Or the song.  Any more than it was about the cake, or the kneeling, or the bus seat, or the hijab.

It’s about something so deep, your mind can’t identify it without a lot of help.  So it becomes about the thing we CAN talk about.  The thing that sometimes makes no sense at all.  And yet, it is the thing, the straw, that breaks the camel, the wedding, the lunch counter.

We are all breaking a little more each day.  We are all crying out for knowledge.

If I knew you sang 80’s songs every night before bed, if I had time to ingest that in my decision-making, and appropriate resources to help me use the knowledge constructively, I might not have had to set fire to your mosque.

Business, Darling

I heard myself saying it and was immediately annoyed.  As soon as it tumbled down my tongue.  “We want to be the head, not the tail, on this.”  Are you serious?  Did I really just rep this ridiculous metaphor?  THE BUSINESS METAPHOR.  The scourge of all creative tongues.  It’s like watching Shakespeare roll over in his grave.

I am gravely concerned by my use of this most recent darling of belabored business banter.  Dynamic, agile, robust, best-in-class brains all sitting around under the glare of fluorescent lighting, balancing the scales of justice in their tiny hands, and drinking from the same firehose.  It’s nauseating.

These things incise you, crawl around inside you, until they drive you to a place of unbridled lethargy.  And you spout off:  Do we have top-down buy-in?  Everyone in the room looks at you with the same face.  The face that says:  We know what you did there.  And we like it.

Because if you hadn’t, they would’ve been forced to drink the Kool-Aid, move the needle, or stand at the bleeding edge.  For the sake of all that is paper and holy, at least you weren’t compelled to mention that this problem has a lot of moving parts.

In all fairness, there’s no patient on the table.  Just a bunch of middle-aged dudes straining against designer neckwear.

Trick of the Light

This funny thing happened today. I was on my way home from a completely mundane trip to the grocery store, when my radio station played the song I heard yesterday, the one I ignored.

The DJ with the silky Kathleen Turner voice announced it by way of promoting the new album. And then she said The Shortlist would be up after that. And then she laughed. Just slightly.

There was something there, in that moment, in that laugh. Was it rueful? Sheepish? In that moment, I knew there was no one else in the world but she and me.

In that moment, a dark passageway opened up between us; her lips pressed against a faraway microphone became breath on my neck, and the laughter in my ear made my skin crawl.

The song starts. The bright, poppy, bouncy major-chord tones. And Florence Welch tells me when and where and why she stopped eating.

I’m driving, right there in the blazing morning sun, but a sinkhole is opening my chest and the pain and fear and loneliness and hate pours down my chest into my bowels.

I’m gulping the air, trying desperately to ignore the call of nothingness.

The song is 3 minutes and 20 seconds long, and in that time I’ve planned to eat crumbs, drink gallons of water, and hide my uneaten portions under witty conversation and sex and too much wine.

She says out loud what I always hid – that hunger is a pain you can DEFINE. And as she says this my heart breaks loose from its anchor in my chest.

My heart rolls down the hill of my body, like an empty shack on a windswept coast that comes down in a moment, into a sea of salt and tears. An erosion of my heart into a quicksand of feelings that have no name.

In 3 minutes and 20 seconds, I planned my escape, acknowledged my truth, pushed the mud out of my mouth, and resolved to never go back. It was done. I was safe.

The song was over. Here now was the voice of the other DJ, the one who announces the Short List, and in my horror my breath catches in my windpipe.

“Let’s start with Florence + The Machine. This is Hunger.”

This time the tinny pop opening was a gong echoing through a nightmare funhouse. Here again was the Angel, telling me to cheat death with beauty.

I’m hiding a flour tortilla in my apron pocket. It’s all I will eat today. An entire meal, flat as you please, sweet, buttery, easily torn into 5 bite-sized portions. The waning of a flour moon.

I’m on my bed in my efficiency apartment in Chicago. I haven’t eaten in two days, and the pita place just dropped me three full meals in plastic bags.

I’m on my bed and the TV is on, but it’s barely audible. It’s coming at me through a long, skinny tube. The bags are empty. Styrofoam cartons with half-eaten meals all around me.

I’m drifting, numb.

I wake up and it’s hours later. It’s dark and I’m lying on a heap of trash from a disappointing feast. The hunger gone, I realize I am weak, foolish, untrustworthy, soiled, broken. Full.

I clean up my mess. Push the bags down the trash chute. Bury the evidence. Tomorrow I will do better.


Pardon my perspective on moonshine, it’s not popular I know.  When the moon is full and the night birds wing their way through Orion’s tethered bow, Mamas say, “Hush!  SSsssh!  Don’t say a word!”  heads bowed against the night, quiet rockabyes escape narrowed lips, and tongue wagging takes a backseat to eyes sagging, hearts beating a snails pace.

Well! Night wears a different shade in my house!  Like a drunken rooster, I crow in the moonshine and ask Orion out to tea.  My loose garments catch on thorny business in my haste to feel the night lawn underneath my feet.  Did you know night crawlers love moonshine?  They do!  I can tell you they’re not as fond of dancing feet, grumpy worms!

Don’t “Hush Hush!”  Night is the best time of day for shouting!  Toss your voice at the moon and watch it ricochet around the world and back in hypersonic speed, blazing by bright Martian mountains and brokering for Saturn’s gilded rings.

Come and leap from your cozy bed and shout your visions from the center of the Milky Way!  When you do sleep at least, you will dream long and deep in the throes of life well lived, stinking of moonshine, and waking with more life inside you than you ever dreamed possible.

Ride the night and stamp your passport in stardust inked with nightshade; and grind meteor dust form the corner of your tourmaline eye.