And now at the climax of a life,
All is calm that will be.
This radio clock is reliable,
Alive with crickets,
With this bed that grumbles.
With a naked woman,
On my bathroom floor,
A St. Louis export,
Snoring and scratching.
I found her broken,
A diamond in the rough type-of-woman.
Mascara trickles type-of-woman,
She invents a problem with the big man type-of-woman,
She cursed him from time to time.
Spat in his face from time to time,
Her mind, a thing to tend.
Like many of us,
She had become his agony.
We share common interests,
This woman and I.
She swore at above-the-fray passer-by’s too,
Baring her fangs, smacking her big stomach,
Grabbing a chunk of that well-earned fat with her fingers.
What? What? You want some of this, punk?
Chewing on the ice from her cup helped little,
A novelty wig with colored buttons crowned her.
A diamond in the rough, this one.
But I am kind like that.
I too have come out tonight to kill enemies.
On the walk home, her shoes are biting,
But talk she must,
Of things and people she plans to wrinkle in her palms.
Her Southern Baptist roots,
Choking her life, she says.
Of black people,
Her black boyfriend,
Yes, she had a black boyfriend.
He is a man of spectacularly Nubian anatomy.
She regales of her father and his luciferous temper,
Her dog he had killed with a punch to the head,
The poor thing housed demons for free, he claimed.
And so we do it on the trunk of another man’s car,
He is dead or asleep inside,
I am very alive outside – small miracles and all.
A cellphone rings on his chest.
Wet slobbery kisses, we trade,
A deadly hunger,
An uneasy comfort,
This is not my best work,
But I lack that fine poise from the movies,
My legs, hanging from the sides,
And she, my fulcrum,
A rotten setup, I know, I know.
A chimpanzee on a race horse kind of setup.
Opposites that attract kind of setup.
I know, I know.
They whistle and howl,
We hunt down steps to my blue door,
Missing some, staggering,
Laughing, shushing, touching.
Hanging on to each other for dear life.
Like fruit bats in that almost darkness,
Or for the sake of poetry — pigeons.
Oh, we are pigeons.
Dying and living without skill,
Too dead inside to smell another’s death.
All is calm that is calm.
I light one after it is done,
And hold in that precious venom
in my oily face for long,
My eyes water,
I foreknow a cancer in my future,
But I have time — I imagine.
My cancer will be deadly, popular
It will make the local news,
Tiny nuns will bless my poor heart,
There will not a dry eye be in the city.
I will sip the soup rinsed of a chicken from a tiny straw.
Cancer of the ears or something as powerful,
It will eat clean into my pristine brain,
Because I had a healthy mind,
Or because I once smoked dried pawpaw leaves behind Papa’s farm,
and loved fat women that hated god,
the doctor will diagnose powerful things.
The radio plays an arrangement of
Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.
Those strings cook audacity,
They confer wings.
I plan to send her away,
My snoring woman.
“Woman, you are too good for me”, I will start.
This — this thing will never be.
I plan a going away speech,
With a heavy heart, of course.
Still I could never hurt a fly,
But after one or two nights,
After eleven beers,
And a sardine split two ways,
The magic spirits away,
Our breath is sated and stale,
New disgusts form.
The stench finds the bones.
she moseyed to the bathroom,
And stumbled there,
This tickles a schoolboy giggle.
She was crying too, and giggling.
Now snoring and farting and scratching,
there is nothing metaphorical about this woman.
Splayed behind the bathroom door like a lead shoe,
So I pee in a peanut bowl,
My aim is impressive.
She could not for the life of her, rise off that wet floor.
I could not for the life of me roll out of bed.
Moments later she awakes,
Love — love is for fools, she cries, from the floor.
I would die before you make me another fool.
I want you — but only for today and tomorrow, she agrees.
Don’t get used to this,
She drives a hard bargain,
We lay quiet, everything else is in a mad frenzy.
I just want a good man, she whispers
I want a Pulitzer”, I mumble.
By God, I had forgotten her name.
It began with a K.
One day we would make a fine couple, don’t you think? She says.
Or a suicide murder,I say.
You must go by daybreak. I am not into all that love nonsense.
No! I want you. Why don’t you want me?
Because I don’t know who the fuck you are, that’s why.
You could be that Babushka Lady for all I know.
Or the sick woman who killed Marcus Grady with a hair brush
Beer fashions such intelligent dialog,
I have come to learn.
With great mechanical discomfort,
we had done it again and again – the long tiring misadventure,
Sex with a large woman was no small matter,
It was not for cowards.
But I had little to prove,
Little to lose.
My sweat was all over her hair.
Too wasted to be polished.
She held this here waist in place and tried hard.
Nothing. But it was a labor of love.
Now I lay nude in bed,
A dream-killer contraption,
Impressed by my own memories,
My better women,
And the extent of my very very big heart.
I am alive –
Now I am starting to like the smell of Fall nights,
The shape of the half-bitten moon,
The plop sounds of frogs jumping into the pond below.
People have paired up in twos now,
And arrived small bright doors,
Paired up in twos, I tell you.
Some with allies,
Some with capsules,
Some with bibles,
Some with bottles,
And some terrible human being
Is making bacon at midnight.
Some terrible barking dog from hell,
I will poison with said bacon,
Just as soon as I get out of this bed.
I have time on my hands,
and little sleep in my eyes.
There are now things I aspire for.
I want to take the world by surprise,
Run to the Northernmost North,
Paint the town red,
Tend an olden bonsai,
Out stare a Picasso till I discover it truth,
Write a New York Times Bestseller,
Make babies with a Mongolian woman,
I want to write confusing poetry too – all before morning.
Harvard — Harvard is where I want to go. I scream this part.
My voice is foolish and hopeful.
I would give a thumb and a damn toe for good measure — to be a Harvard man.
I know idiots who go to Harvard. She says.
Nothing special about that dump.
Outside a loud storm that will never be — is clapping behind frozen trees.
You will never get into Harvard — never.
She wakes up to tell me this.
Then turns to snore.
The heavens spit what would be white spirits that come in from under the door.
What makes a real man, I ask?
As wisdom ripens at midnight,
As bygone lovers call you to your respectable death,
As a new lover,
With a Balkan twang,
Rears your Lazarus from the dead,
and then slumps in your bathroom.
We have made our little yellow bush flowerbeds and called it paradise,
Hope was painful,
It took away your audacity to fault another man for loving his pain,
And there were some ambitious men like me,
Who hungered after the most voluminous of Eves,
Women like deities,
Women like hour glasses,
Hope was a painful thing.
There were no guidebooks,
No bright neon signs,
No heroes to imitate.
You learned of your own death as you fail,
and fail very well in this business.
What makes a real man, I ask?
It was not the kind of thing you gather
by osmosis from a passer-by father,
Or his unread books.
They refused to teach this in schools,
So we got it in church pews,
Only here, you had to pay for it,
Or pretend well for it, it was sickening.
In any case, I know the stuff that I was made of,
And the things I pretended well at,
I knew the taste of my own blood.
For I had kissed many sharp lips,
Loved my share of demons,
Eaten my share of hairy truths,
Many of them: skinny or thick or lost,
All of them perfectly broken,
All of them shadows of rotten pasts.
It was for this ability,
This core of my moral fiber,
That I had come to be:
A lover of broken women.
It was my labor of love.
For in this syndicate of tolerable oddballs,
And disagreeable ewers.
These spectacles of humanity
These freaks of love;
It was with these unprecious ones
I had found the utmost well-being,
As real as a real man could really be,
Let the truth fall where it may.
It was with these ones I had made history,
Perhaps it takes a private brokenness
to enjoy another’s disease.
But again, I ask:
What makes a real man?