I met Ishmael with a bellows
to his flame.
His bindle slouched against a rock,
he looked up in the dark,
righted his squinting face,
He said you look like Esau,
and we sat,
and God frowned,
and the stars shut their mouths,
and I slept,
steaming like an upheaval of Hell,
laughing at the noise of my heart.
The preacher’s boy, in Sunday gingham, shoes untied, curbed untidy, sits on his heels with his palms each cupping half of his hind as a partition between shoe and body. He rocks on the gravel. Smoothed with brilliantine his hair still strays in fingerspread counts. Some commotion across the street. -I’m sure the Lord has plans as he has for all… a car and then a horn and stricken tumbleweeds shed thoughts of explosions; his fingers prickle like needlepoints. He removes and flexes them. Squinting, he looks up. The sun comes through trees wrong.
The little hollow of his chest dampens when she heels up, barefoot, her dress gathered in bunches in her balled fists. She in calico and already without the hair she issues a cough without a cover. Vivid outline of skull in the noontime fire. They stay and look at one another with God in the middle.
Wherefore these two met, none could say.
But the sun comes through trees wrong.
Like when it came in his shirt untucked one summer previous and he had only been nine then, the hair ahead penduling as she ran, him posterior, coughing on his runny nose and dawdling, a freshet of new memory ruining the stability of his chest. He went like all liquid, conforming to the container. -So let’s climb. And they did. Curses of bark in the summits of knees. Summer days and all swaying of their bodies when nocked in vees aboveground, touching the sky, trees are so what could be done.
-Have you napped in a tree?
-No. Scared I’ll slip.
He scarred his sleeve white with the runny nose.
-They cradle you.
-Things that rock you to sleep wouldn’t drop you.
Straddlelegged they held adjacent grafts and joined fingers zipper-wise. He sweated.
The width of hatbrims can determine morality. When the gaunt figure fell through into town, his shadow walking the man instead of the proper way, his hatbrim drove out knowledge from his face so no eyeful entry could be made as to the shape of his cheeks and the truth or color of his skin. From nomenclature only gods still knew, he hailed, 6000 years of harrying knucklework rendering his stride spiderlike. He passed beneath lights in the lapse of their illumination, whenever flickers confused the shape of things. He was not beholden to time as time is to man. His arrival would be when it would be without predication. His long limbs grazed hell as he sloped.
The bible’s pages blew by, leaves indifferently crinkling like some wizened fingerprints of corpses. Her father slept backturned to his wife in bed; dreamed his dreams of what might come after. But now his daughter in a wigwam coverlet supported by her head, read flashlit pulp. Not what comes after. What now could happen?
And so the hatbrim’s shadow fell at a door and dragooned that house into folded dark, where eyes madly trace their white spheres.
Of memories few without her. Her blouse was just draped depthlessly on her shoulders whenever she leaned. Of white and white and white. Shoulders can sigh. So could he. He neared and committed his chin to her collarbone, struck a nerve like a black key and they stomached paroxysms of laughter through cupped palmfuls guiding the noise back to their insides. They bloated as children do when restraining impulse, the first lesson to learn from those already grown. And the adults prayed in the next room. And it sounded funny.
The fat moon yawned and seemed to try the sash. Stew bubbled and fumed throughout, catching his brain, sense data of the way her bones smelled, like broth and carrots. She made him hungry. Other children in the room sneezed and fingered new cuts on their foreheads.
Bible studies always ended in languages of new kinds formed by lips testing glottal syllables and wetting the clefts of chins. Hands sewn to shoulders. They stitched together a circular aura of false hope, dubious intentions in their pleas, swaying like they meant to, inducing an effect. And the children, the children are burying themselves closer to Creation than any soft fist could demand. So forth step heels of shit and blood in a sashaying ignorance toward things that do not matter, no never have. Such a demarcation between old and new disregards preservation. Disruptions in the nature of boy and girl.
He closed his eyes on her sweater. She was healthy, then.
So all went the accusatory sense of religion and the backs of innocence were broken, so believers all remain hunched like philistines blindly sparking stones, hoping for the invention of fire.
The preacher’s boy had a god of hair and skin and dimples. Sometimes she grimaced when he meant her to laugh and sometimes he hated her. But it made her holy. The preacher’s boy never knew another Father.
Bones get kinked same as hoses but bones have bodies. She raised the livid alarm with sopped hair woven badly across the pillow. If superstition was a kind of stepping race, churchgoers won. But bad news of the devil’s kind never came at 3 am. It came at bright time and all was limned with gold just then like resurfacing smiles in war.
See there now the father with his daughter horizontally suspended by his equal arms. Her shoulders ringing his sternum he ran heavily, never had light feet. As a last gesture of restraint he laid her carefully in the backseat of the car, her eyes aloft brainwise, palms curled.
He connived at the wheel, plotted with white knuckles, tested the resolve of the steering. Gravel paths in small towns spare horses discomfort though pepper a car’s undercarriage. With that spasmodic soundtrack they sped, noises same as his brain. A father in exchange for his daughter’s life exercises no caution, the street people pointed and cursed. Traffic attempted to impede him but nothing could. He was late. Of course he was late. Numbers on a clock can’t matter with cancer. His yellowed shirt adhered to him in lieu of pleading, veins shaped him desperate atop the linoleum. Nurses rushed and relieved. In genuflection to whatever he lapsed and wept and bargained.
Trailing from her nose and wound down under the covers her tubes hid their ugliness as much as they could. In shut eyecover she retreated, minute breath of the sick from her open mouth faintly dimpling the gown on her chest. The preacher’s boy sat with his chin situated between his knees, them drawn tight, describing him cold. He hugged himself to himself, shuddered at a fluorescent flicker, posited a cough to one clutched fist.
The preacher and her father spoke just outside. Perhaps of God schematizing, renaming her father Abraham.
The preacher’s boy turned and unfolded himself and sat on the bed. The sun came through a winter-stricken tree and changed shapes on the bed’s dressing whenever wind so dictated. It was dented geometry and scattered black, furrows in the cloth overtaking light, notching it differently upon the return of the bowing tree. Sometimes it made the shape of a hat and its brim.
Her shuteyes wondered at the brain. Fanned beneath her outstretched arms were her customary pulps. Detectives and cowboys and archeologists; mummies and demons and homunculi. So what could thirteen years of hopeful strength measure up to. The preacher’s boy thought of strength. The preacher’s boy thought of his knuckles, iron or glass.
He went to the restroom and took off his shirt and flexed in the mirror, the skin lank and unfull and his ribs showy beneath his ringing chest. He prayed.
Upturned went his forehead to the wan light and he stared till his vision spotted and his eyes zagged and still there was nothing.
He takes and He takes and He takes.
The preacher’s boy, a paperthin frame, shoes untied, formed a hard expletive at the ceiling.
-What if I die?
-What if I do?
-Then you’ll be everywhere.
-What do you mean?
-You’ll be the wind.
-You think so?
-Yeah. I do.
-What’s the most you’ve ever lost?
-I can’t say. My teeth?
-I’m more than your teeth.
I am nothing more than an oscillation.
Fingertips at the thigh,
I return and go,
like rainwater to rivers
There is not a thought that can surround me.
Through cloth chance images are found
of my shape en route.
To where there is no explanation.
If you remember,
you’ll know me,
as a shiver in your clavicle,
as a bob in your throat,
as a wet sting in your eye.
It won’t hold me back.
I am become ubiquitous and shrill
like coiled bells.
The preacher shook his boy by the shoulders. Sopping wet he sobbed and his eyes dissented the search of his father’s. Outside curtains of water fell from the eaves unbroken showing the landscape beyond warped like the view through some bad glass. In shaded relief her own father contemplated his templed fingers five-on-five, couched beyond with landshapes of refracted raindrops dousing his hot face. A sourceless sobbing, muffled through the floor.
The preacher’s boy focused on a rivulet of water defining his forearm. Through water yelling is dulled.
-What were you two doing so late?
Just the water, now to his wrist.
-Boy, you answer me. It’s late and your ruinin the carpet so I’d tell me what I was fixing on, if I were you.
-You ain’t me. I ain’t you. There’s something to praise God for.
-What’d you say to me?
The preacher’s boy thought he almost touched her blouse. It being held taut as she outgrew it he quivered in remembrance. His neck retained a palimpsest of her lips. Complications she could do without.
A clash of a door rattling within an old frame. Just the twist of retreating fabric and the trailing pasta of her shoelaces, untied, chaotic, she ran out into the rain with her forehead addressing the firmament. With the clothes so married in their wetness to her skin no bravery could be put forth as all outward attempts to make herself look strong was now depressed in the drowning of the rainfall. The preacher’s boy was the first to emerge into all that mess and took to her and she said she was scared but he didn’t let go and in the downfall their tears couldn’t be distinguished from the rain and the two fathers were just shadows against the light in the doorway, yeah always were.
His knuckles resembled what they had before, with white peaks, again plotting at the wheel of his machine with the bible abandoned in the backseat. Her father sped, no noise excepting that rickety brainbeat of gravel in the undercarriage. His eyes expanded and his pupils dilated and his bones reduced, the man so small, shrinking, retreating, attempting the size of a fingersnap. Curves were driven into the receding path of the vehicle, tracing the movement of his cocked head, side-to-side, he leaned and gulped at the bottle, hot breath fuming.
The navy yard loomed triangular ahead, headlights shaping tangrams in their approach of cube and barrel, furious shadows casted like imaginings of perdition. The gravel to asphalt, the dock, the click of boards, a whine of wet wood, and silence, him apologetic in the suspension of moment, time wearied and turned its head to miss the crash.
The headlights failed slowly in the car’s descent, flickered, he sank into the water. The bible floated by his head, fanned like thought beside his saintly countenance.
And one funeral augurs another.
March 3. The man with the hatbrim found the preacher’s boy in the winter shade with all trees so hung low. And he scolded the boy as his father once had and the boy cried with his face shaking and then the man was gone and the boy awoke and thought the man was God and quit the lobby down endless hallways of chromium expanded by light and he once nearly fell as he stepped on a shoelace and slid to a stop at her room, where the curtains raged cold in the wind of the open window, only impeded by the screen.
One single breeze made toward the girl and played with the gown near her chest and for a second the boy thought that it was a heartbeat, rumoring a stubborn notion of life. But she was not breathing and the machines announced it and the nurse entered and held her little wrist and counted and when she knit her brows a cardinal hit the window.
And the preacher’s wife found her boy slumped at the doorframe amid the commotion. She held him, he bit her forearm as he cried and said he was sorry. But the preacher never came. The preacher never heard the noise.
The preacher’s boy, in outsized clothing, shoes untied, curbed untidy, waits for none as the black cortege wraps itself through the furcating grave plots. He sits on his hands but cannot feel them and he watches silently as sunlight comes through the trees.
Wake at dawn.
Doff a hat to the gospel
and kiss on the cheek
Noah’s nameless wife.
Lace your boots
if they have laces,
there are no hollow spots
to harry the heel.
See Pike’s Peak.
See the whole
of the Rocky Mountains,
the range looking like
the wrongful scapula
of a hundred hunched troglodytes.
Go about the day.
Expedite any work.
Do not rush.
Tap time to Marty Robbins
on the wheel
with your pointer finger.
Ensure your tongue
does not cotton to weightless things.
Ensure you speak when you need to,
and not otherwise.
If it comes to blows,
and offer tobacco to the loser.
Never touch a woman
in anger or haste.
Only widen your ears
They are smarter than you.
And if your sister
should ever come among wolves,
Cut conifers and lay amongst chokecherries.
the air so sharp it is metallic.
Always watch the sun ignite an aureole
over the holy monkheads of disappearing oak.
Smell smoke on Sundays.
Live with leatherbound volumes
and test the feel of them often in your open palm.
Do the same with guns,
but treat them as you would Ishmael,
the wild man.
But be an abstemious sort
that does not grin in vain.
And wait for the campfires,
the way they speckle the land,
ringed with frontiersmen,
literal or evoked,
gesticulating alongside story,
of man and God,
skies versus horizons,
in the blackened nostrils
of a shotgun’s barrel.
So goes the dialogue
between father and son.
Jonas and I were feeling oddly about today when it started hailing. We had awoken to an expansive desert sunrise atop a mountain and it was going as far in its magnificence as the white plateaus off in some otherworldly part of the country. The nether-mindedness of hiking and sleeping out of doors seems to have gotten to us so when the chunks started diming the roofshakes we wriggled out of our shirts and danced with newfound welts forming. No, I am not completely well now in terms of pneumatic stillness, but it’s a start. Ringing out our ragged bodies.
It’s a start.
If you’re beauty,
I must be sin,
because of what
I’ve asked of you.
The only sin,
beauty can commit,
because I’m not with you.
It’s odd being considered smart. Like, yeah I’m really glad people look to me to say things they haven’t thought of, or things they have thought of but said in a different way. I’m glad people value my opinions and seek me out for intelligent discussions. I’m glad I’m not just skating by with an empty head and a perennial smile. But, then again, I’ve never smiled perennially.
I think I’d rather be dumb. I think I’d rather do something flat and boring and totally graspable. Totally within reach. It’s great being smart but I’d rather be certain and unmarred by emotional exhaustion.
I think I’d rather be dumb.
But I can’t choose that. And so I’ll write and read and discern for myself even more flaws in the weft of existence. I wish the cosmos could right the misweave. Of me. Of her. Of all of us.
I wish too much.
I think too much.
So very low.
Strange patterings overhead.
Tickles like disturbed
Don’t tread on me.
The ice clinks in the glass
and there’s lightning in
My love was swamp bark.
It was knurled and twisted,
some peppered show of
sap and ants clinging to
Boles in hearts and chests
And grafted to my
temple is the untended,
where she still is,
where she still is.
I remember when we spoke of
Toronto and romped
like buoys against currents
and I remember when
the slightest parabolic
deviation in your bottom lip
meant this was all that
ever was needed.
And so I’m clicking my teeth
and making sounds like
dulled carillons with my shoesoles,
fidgeting till you’re back.
People ask me why I hate other writers. Mostly, it’s because no one writes anymore, everyone just talks about writing. Either that, or they’re posting inspirational writing typography gobbledygook to their tumblr pages about how writing is empowering and incites felicity or ecstasy. False. You’re all stupid. Writing sucks. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t do it. I can’t help but feel like half a human whenever I don’t write. So I do. I write letters and essays and poems and this damn book that makes me miserable on a daily basis because it is never good enough. There is no shining moment of divine intervention when my fingers meet the keys. There is no cessation of human misery in the creative process. There is never a montage sequence of me writing in various positions through jump-cuts with an unwavering look of determination on my face. There is only this strange feeling that I cannot do anything else. And sometimes, sometimes, I will forget where I am for at most ten seconds and think I am whatever I am writing. And that’s why I do it. But do not romanticize what I do or my contemporaries or even my predecessors. We are all arrogant, self-assuring sociopaths who only have a dreamy skillset that lends itself to heedless imagination and blind indulgence in substances. Just get real. You all sound foolish.
Also, people ask me what makes me better. Why I think I’ll do it and no one else will. Maybe it’s because I’m doing it. Maybe it’s because I’m almost finished and what I am doing is damn good. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been stifled by the forced diminutiveness of modern-day America. Maybe it’s because I’m confident in what I do and I know that no one else can write like me. Maybe it’s because I hate most books because they don’t have what I want. Maybe it’s because I’m the only person I know who thinks he has something to add.
There is no feeling
just like that.
When she comes home and
her face is looking a good
deal like someone whose
last form of pleasure
is a soft bed and a warm
When we grow close
I shudder still,
if she knows of what
Around my neck,
there is a star of David.
Sometimes she looks at it
and I briefly think on
that when we kiss.
Does this symbol mean more
to her than me?
Am I a religion?
Or am I bone?
Rest on me awhile.
My chest always retains
a palimpsest of