Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I had trouble holding my lane on the highway this morning. The rain had come on during the night. It fell hard through dawn and by the time I drove to work, the lines on the road were awash. They faded entirely just this side of Liverpool. Then the road gave out beneath me. The car went next, fading slowly around me. My seat gently lifted me before disappearing and I was running through the rain. The path was no longer a road next to the most polluted lake in the state. It was a dirt trail, through thick woods, next to sacred water. My Iroquois brothers ran beside me. We were on the hunt. There was nothing noble about our desire. We found a small settlement of French fools and slaughtered them. Pure murder. I chopped the neck of a woman looking up to the heavens. She screamed a fountain of blood. The face of her God came to me. He spoke in my own voice. I closed my eyes. My hands passed over my face like wiper blades. Switching to and fro as I hurled down the parkway driving to work. I sped under the bridge, past the French Fort, toward the hot dog stand. Wondering how to keep myself on the road, out of the drowning waters. My brothers ran ghostlike beside the car. Their arms raised in fury, their fists stained in blood unwashed by the storm of rain.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Helping a Girl Drown

She called for help. Asked me to swim out to her. She thrashed in the deep water. I stripped naked and stepped in. The water was cold and restless. She called my name. Told me to hurry I waded out to my waist, breathed deep. I dove forward thinking of a man who dove into a rock and broke his spine. I surfaced. She called me names without enthusiasm. She was on the verge of giving up. I swam to her. She said she couldn’t do it. She was failing to drown. The water, she said, wouldn’t pull her down. She asked again for help. I was reluctant, of course. I have my own problems. But I told her to hold her breath. She nodded. Inhaled deeply. Sank just below the surface. I watch her face through the waves. I was so tired. When she was about to burst, her body demanding air, she blew out her lungs. I pushed her head down as the bubbles rose. I held her down and she breathed in the darkness. Struggled. But I was strong and her eyes were so grateful. And she was gone. I treaded water. We had drifted far out to sea. How long, I wondered, will I have to swim if I am ever to find land?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Campaign Song of the Parasite

I was lying on the couch listening to acoustic music when it became clear that I had an invasive parasite in my intestines. How I knew this is no subject for a poem (though it makes a good PBS documentary). I wanted to blame someone. Preferably one of the Republican candidates for president. But I couldn’t make the charge stick. Each had a prepared statement. A byte of sound. They made the rounds of the Sunday talk shows. Their denials were believable. Even to a man suffering from a gut ache. Democrats worked to heal me but their solutions were tangled. I couldn’t follow. Arguments ensued between Republicans and Democrats. Then a slim hand reached out of the radio speaker. A woman’s hand. It touched my cheek. Traced the curve of my ear. She whispered, listen. Republicans bowed their heads to pray. Democrats stood barefoot and still in the grass. She sang of tracks being erased, wood smoke, a snake, and disappearing. It was beautiful. But, truth to tell, it did nothing for my digestion. Soon enough, I excused myself to use the bathroom. In grand compromise, both parties looked askance at me as I shuffled quickly from the room hoping for relief.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I collect notes in bottles. The notes are everywhere but I have to bring my own bottles. “For the love of God, I need tickets!” blew across the sidewalk yesterday. I put it in a ketchup bottle. Two days ago, a wish list in crayon outside a bathroom. It said please five times. Each a different color. I put it in a miniature Coca-Cola bottle. Directions to a house in Liverpool. A love letter that fell from a garbage truck. Half a gas receipt saying, “Mike, don’t forget to g-”. Inside a pickle jar, I’ve wedged a scrap of sheetrock that says, “I need a woman. And a fish sandwich.” I’m going on a road trip next week. Packing the bottles in boxes. I’ll throw some in rivers. One is meant for a creek outside Roanoke. Most I’ll sail on the ocean's receding tide. But I’ll place three specially. I wrote the notes myself. I haven’t signed them. One, in a flat plastic bottle, goes inside a cairn I’ll pass on Mount Washington when I’m fifteen. The second, inside an empty root beer can from the fish and chips shop, will sit at the base of a tree on Hill Island until I chop it down with Chris when we are twelve. Finally, a glass ink bottle, wedged under the porch steps of the house where my godfather and I will sit when I’m only two and he’s years from the grave. Just the cap of it will show, catching the sun. I’ll return from vacation a new man. By then, I hope the bottles will have all found their way back to me. Their notes preserved and clear. Their messages all received.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Way

I was raking leaves into the street. The city picks them up. I don’t know where they take them. The dog watched me work. He raised his head as a car pulled to a stop near me. A woman inside needed directions. My knowledge of the streets and avenues is encyclopedic. A cigarette dangled from her red lips. She spoke through it. Smoke rolled out the window. She asked, Do you know where God lives? I leaned on my rake to think about it. The dog walked up behind me. He growled. Dogs know. I imagined the streets. Unfolded a paper map inside my mind. The woman waited. She took the cigarette from her lips. It was stained with lipstick. I pointed down the street. Without understanding any of it, I explained the way. It sounded very nearby. She put the cigarette back in her mouth. Put the car in gear. She thanked me. I made a strange motion with my hand, saying, you can’t miss it. I’m sure I won’t, she said, and drove away. I stood in the street. Held the rake. A few more leaves fell at my feet. Her car disappeared around the corner. I stared after it for a long time. The dog whimpered. Or maybe that was me.