what it’s like

when you break a glass
and for months, years afterwards
you find those sharp-edged shards
in the most unexpected places?
it’s like that.

that bread you forgot about,
there’s only a hard crust left
and it looks so lonely that
you eat it anyway, and then
it cuts up your mouth?
like that.

that little table clock,
the one that sits high
up on the bookshelf,
the one that lies constantly,
the one that doesn’t want to
work any more, the one that’s given up
for want of a new battery?
the one that no one notices
in its beatless silent solitude
but you? the one that
if you did try to fix it,
would be sure to spitefully fall
right on your foot?
it’s like that.

but even that dead clock is right
twice a day. too bad I can’t
say the same for the thing
(a wounded, wounding, icy
shard that rankles;
a churlish, shriveled crust
that rots and plots revenge;
a wind-up toy that won’t perform
its only purpose)
inside my chest.


time seems to fly
when I’m talking to him.
when I’m alone it crawls
like a broken insect
from which someone
has removed the wings. my father
did that as a child, so
I know a little bit
about wanton cruelty.

left to my own devices
I limp around lying
to myself, lie around limply,
longingly let loose
my languishing love
in languid dreams
and hazy, dimly lit reveries
about something I know
can never be. these surreal hours
are of time but not in it;
they don’t count.

I’m just
for real time to resume,
dying for the second
the clock is resuscitated
so my heart, too,
can beat again.


I walk down the street,
my hair half
damp from the shower
because I’m late
as usual
and didn’t have time
to dry it properly. I feel
the wind drying it for me, the air
touching me all over, tiny
loving caresses, remember
the sky earlier when the clouds
seemed to sway and dance lightly
in place for my amusement,
and wonder at how
nature loves me so
and is not afraid
to touch me,
finds nothing wrong
with me
or heart
and why it is that you
can’t just be
more natural.

the wish

the host said
if we put money in the tip jar,
we would each
get a wish. I thought
that I would concentrate
on my wish as I put the money in,
but when the time came
I forgot. I was too busy talking
to you.

I wondered
if my lack of focus
would prevent my wish
from coming true.
but then I remembered
that I’m always wishing
for the same thing, with
absolutely zero hope
of it ever coming true.
my whole being
is one big wish
these days. I’ll just have to hope
the wish-granting genie
will accept the purity
of my desire
in lieu of a momentary spurt
of attention.

constant reader

there once was a girl
in your life
that meant something.
I don’t know if you dated her
or slept with her
or even just
wrote poems about her
but I do know one thing.
dear constant reader,
you married her.
unsuccessfully, as it turned out,
though I’m sure that was
no fault of yours.

she asked you
to drive to a southern city,
and put you up
in a hotel, and finally
to officiate
at her wedding.
in unrelated news,
she’s now divorced.
which I guess could be good
for you, if she was the one
that got away. you’ve got
another chance.
maybe this time
you can make it stick.

the secret of my prolificity

“You’ve been writing a lot
of poems lately,”
he says to me. “Yeah,” comes my
suspicious reply.
“Are they all about
the same person?”
“No,” I say, and give a harmless example
of one I wrote recently
to a different ex on the subject of
the dissolution of his marriage.
(nothing nostalgic
or lovelorn vis-a-vis him, per se,
just advice I wish
someone had given me
before I wasted nine years of my life
on yet another man.)

the question he’s really asking
is whether there’s someone new
in my life who has
inspired me. I dare not say
the bald and/or naked truth,
which is that there is,
because it’s you and I
have no right to claim inspiration
where love does not dare
to speak its name.

I’d far rather pretend
that this sudden burst
of creativity has nothing to do
with you, just like you will
have nothing to do –
at least in any romantic context –
with me.

just in case

if you’re wondering
why I’m asking the whole world
for help, but not you,
it’s because
you can’t help me. well,
in theory you could,
but you don’t want to.
the help I need
seems to be beyond your power
to give me.

someone else
will have to step up
and take over
when all I want is to be held
and told that I’ll be okay,
that I’m not going to die alone,
that someone loves me.

even if it’s not true.
sometimes, late at night
I’m alone enough
to long for the comfort
of a heartfelt lie.

the cage 2.0

as a natural predator,
you must be able
to detect
how my heart flings itself
like a finch, near
suicidal with fear
against the curves of my rib
cage when I see you.

I see you
lying there in the grass
trying to look
like an innocent thing,
but we both know
what you really are.

we both know how
easily you can scent
my tiny mouse’s heart
racing, my cowering blood
lively and delicious
with terror, all you have
to do is taste the air
with your forked tongue.

the science of saying goodbye

you don’t want
to let go. you’ve held on
for this long, it’s got to be worth it
in the end. you think if you
can only rewrite history,
invent a time machine,
just go *back* and fix
what you did wrong, and
maybe by some miracle she
will hear the light,
see the error
of her ways, she’ll just
love you enough, in
the right way
to be the person
you wanted her
so much to be.

this can’t be
the end; your side wasn’t heard
enough, the story
didn’t give you a chance. if only
you could make her
understand your point
of view, everything would
be okay. you think
about what you would say,
rehearse the conversation
in your head
over and over, argue it
so many different ways
like a lawyer before a judge
or a rabbi debating
the Talmud. you know
in your heart
if she would only listen,
you could talk her around.

the person you’re talking to
in your head never existed.
it’s not her, and the real girl
is gone. talking to ghosts
and creating thought forms
to fill your loneliness with avatars
never did anyone
any good.

you took on her problems
as your own, because if
whatever was wrong was
your fault, your responsibility, your burden
or you could have done more
then you can try again, you can
mend the fences, and somehow
make it right. but here’s the thing:
you can’t.
you couldn’t. sure you
could probably have
tried harder. but in the end
you were still only half
the equation. if you
could have fixed things,
they wouldn’t still be broken.

the scariest thing
about letting go
is admitting that
there is nothing you can do
to make the other person
or feel
the way you want them to.

if you want a proof against God,
there it is. no one is coming
to magically fix things,
to make life fair.
you can’t change her mind.
nothing you do
can make her other
than she is. stop hoping.
stop praying. cut off
all the ties
of thought and energy and love
that are pouring out of you
every second you spend dreaming
about things being
other than they are.

leave her be.
maybe she’ll find
her way back to you
someday. but no force
of God or man
will make that happen.
it’s beyond your control.
save yourself before
the dead child that is
your relationship
drags you down to the
bottom of the ocean. cut
yourself loose.

you’ll find that eventually
it gets a little easier
to breathe, your burden becomes
a little lighter,
without that albatross
around your neck. or you could
dance with her ghost for the next
ten years. the choice is yours;
I know what I’ve done, and I don’t
recommend it. you too
can learn the science
of saying goodbye.

arm candy

I get it now. you want a girl
that looks pretty
on your arm, that does art
but only insofar as it doesn’t
compete with yours.
you want a girl
that you can write poems about –
about her beauty and about
what it’s like to have sex with her,
that’ll make all the dudes jealous, for sure –
but who definitely won’t
write any back.
the last thing you want
is a girl who will write an ode
to the back of your neck
at the drop of a hat, a girl
who isn’t always
perfectly coiffed or styled or
perfumed, a girl
who talks too much
and too loudly, a girl who might
take attention away from you.

whereas I want a boy
that will write poems about me but
also appreciate it
when I reciprocate,
who will have a show with me
where we both read the poems
we wrote
in competition and in collaboration
via correspondence.
I want a boy
who will encourage my art almost
as much as his own, who will celebrate
me as much as I celebrate him.
I want a boy who
likes me for me and likes himself
enough to let me love him.

I guess you’ll have to look
somewhere else
for your arm candy, and I’ll
have to look elsewhere
for my Real Boy.