To the Goodwill Warehouse off Queens Boulevard

To the Goodwill Warehouse off Queens Boulevard

I’ve been in many a thrift store,
but none as calamitous,
as alive, as you.

The others, they all
charge so much that the
fun in them is in laughing
at the price tags, not walking
out with a jacket worn and dusted
that probably covered the back of
someone much stronger, much
harder working, than you.

Your prices, still, are laughable,
but hardly in the same fashion.

You charge for clothes
as the butcher does for meat; 
the only price tags to be found
are on the odd jacket, or shirt,
or pair of pin-striped trousers
from some other store, long forgotten, 
charging as much for a hat as you would
for four and a half pounds
of assorted memories.

And the way your patrons flock and gather
like sheep waiting to be let out to pasture,
like bulls waiting to run,
like waves waiting to crest,
is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

So excited and so human, like
the woman who translated into Spanish
the English words of your employee
who hushed the masses with a filthy hand,
and warned mothers and fathers
of the immense, child-crushing weight
of the bins and the shoes and shirts
and glass and wood within them,
“¡Agarran la mano del niño!”

All swept up in the frenzy,
we searched and searched, through
bin after bin for nothing in particular
hoping to find in the haystacks a needle
or maybe a nice t-shirt celebrating the
Kraus Family Bocci Tournament of 2012,
but only ever finding a
glove with three fingers cut off
or a shirt that reads, in letters white on black:
“HOMELESS WITH A MORTGAGE”.

Through pound after pound we searched
until by the blue shirted shepherds
we were corralled back into
our pen, and paying in pennies for our
plunder, we walked, 
happily, 
into the rain.

4.10 - 4.11.16

Humans Being Humans

It took another very uncomfortable train ride for this one to finish itself tonight after I began writing it on a mild and rainy day in February.

Humans Being Humans

I don’t know why
it took so long,
but only after
being tossed and

tumbled by the
whim of the trains,
only after waiting
wet and wondering

if any should arrive,
standing among the
damp throng, and
only once I slid

into the crowded car
after watching another
stagger forth slick
like a new fawn

did I realize
that for all the wet
and waiting and
jerking and sweating

we’re just humans
being humans,
desperately trying
to go home.

2.1 - 4.10.16

Amble

This a favorite from February, edited and touched up just for you.

Amble

I’ve been wondering
if you’ve been wondering
about wandering
and what it means
to miss someone
when you taste an
unripe apple
or catch a waft
of gasoline
walking home.

Wherever your mind
may find itself,
mine will only ever amble
towards memories
of you.

2.1 - 4.9.16
 

Humanity Explained

Humanity Explained

There’s a reason
suns set so quickly.

If they didn’t,
catching one
out the window
with a beautiful stranger
in the back of a library
would last long enough
for you to say
something stupid.

2.16 - 4.8.16

Sleep

Sleep

You’re sleeping on hot air.
You’re sleeping on a steam vent.
Please don’t roll in your sleep.
No one would blame you.
It happens all the time here.
But the city will freeze tonight, and
you’re sleeping on a steam vent.

I know it’s cold, that’s why I’m saying
please don’t roll in your sleep.
You won’t feel a thing,
but you might have a nightmare.
Not that you’re not already living one.
I’m just saying it’s cold out.
I’m just saying I love you.
Please don’t roll in your sleep.

4.7.16

Unceasing Laughter

Unceasing Laughter

I don’t know

how

to get you to

                    understand 

                                        in words alone 

what it’s like in

 

            my head;

 

perhaps, however,                                                      if you filled all the gaps in this sentence 

 

        with color and sound, 

        yearning and high wind, 

        crow’s feet and the bark of a young dog, 

 

you might come close.

 

4.6.16

Our Youth

Our Youth

I don't know.
Maybe.
Do you want any?
Sure.
Do you want him?
I guess.
Do you want her?
More than
literally
anything.


I lo-
ou.


What does that mean?
What are you talking about?
What happened to your parents?
What's happening to your sisters?
What are you doing?
Where are you going?


I don't know.
I don't know. I don't
know. I don't know. I
don't know. I don't know.

4.5.16

Ode To Hyper Light Drifter

Ode To Hyper Light Drifter

Here in the hyper light of high noon
we drift
across wading pools
and among the denizens of disease and ruin
searching for something we know nothing of
hoping that some day soon
we may fire the last round
in this roundabout sojourn
to a land of light and color.

Through puzzle and mystery,
sea and sky,
clear water and
blind conflict,
after the flash of red
and the drop of the sword,
and until a cure
for ourselves
for our friends
for our world is found,
we drift.

4.4-5.16

Earth-Bound

This one was originally written on 3.11.16 for a seminar titled: "The Poetry and Politics of Decolonization". It is (very) loosely based on Aime Césair's Notebook of a return to the Native Land. It has been significantly edited and reformatted since then.

Earth-Bound

I see my life flash before my eyes, but not in the way that happens before you die but in the way that happens when you realize you’ll never go to the moon
Here, the student, earth-bound
Here, the young professional, earth-bound
Here the husband
Here the father
Here the mentor
Here the “sage”
the “sage” who’s never been to the moon
Who tells stories of the earth and the earth he’s lived but never once spins a yarn of outer-space         because he can’t
Who can’t answer questions about the stars because he’s never seen their flares without a                     telescope
Who nods his gray head and bounces a knee that’s grown perfectly in earth’s gravity never
        been warped by the lack thereof
never bloodied on moon rocks
never bent on lunar sand
And they all know it, the professors, the colleagues, the wife, the daughters, the pupils
the future, his legacy
will all ignore his stories
will all nod their heads without even the desire to remember any of his mud-caked earth-bound             life

I can see it all
The blisters on shoulders sloped from burden
and the calluses that form quickly after
I can see the tears on my face, year after year,
and the wall soon built between head and heart, the men laying square stone and their bare                   burnt backs, breaking and breaking under their burden under my burden under nothing
I can see failure
I can see disappointment
I can see tolerance
I can see complacency
How does this happen?
Every time
every generation
in every life
and in every nation
Heads all nod
and moonshoes sit unlaced, still in their boxes on store shelves
they gather the dust of my skin, the flesh of my scalp clawed off in my sleep from the guilt
and the fear
and the abyssal wonder
of watching my our future(s) dissipate in a cloud of smoke exhaled from her lungs out my mouth past his tongue through our teeth

Why bother?
When all of us just want to exhale before we cough
When all of us just want to save ourselves the pain and chase some sweet sacrificial high
There it goes
All of it in smoke
All of it in earthly dust and knots of oily hair waiting under the sofa, the chair, in the                               corners of the kitchen and sprouting from under my nails, coughed up from the lungs of no           one in particular laughing at the wall, pretending the future won’t exist
When the future is all that does when the future is all we own
When the future is covered in bursting pustules too ugly to accept as real but too tempting to an         empty stomach to forget about

Why bother? 
I’ve never been in a rocket but I can still tell you what they look like
I’ve seen others hit the stars and I can tell you who they love
earth-bound and content to watch the takeoff on TV
earth-bound and never in fear of oxygen
earth-bound and constantly choking on entitlement
earth-bound and wiping shit from my great uncle’s legs

I’ve never touched a ball of fire, but I can tell you that it burns

Writhing with jealously or maybe anger or maybe lust
but altogether too anxious to do anything other than cry or break my hand or write someone a             poem that they say they’ll love and that maybe they actually will but who’s praise still                     leaves me searching for fulfillment from people I don’t know sitting on their phones                       pressing buttons they’ll forget about in two minutes

All in the time it takes me to breathe
do I see these lives heading out into the world, slowly wearing down pairs and pairs of brown or           black shoes
All in the time it takes to spread the blueprint
to heft the screwdriver
to swing the hammer
do I spin in a head on this spinning ball of living dirt and wonder why I’ve never built a                            spaceship

So I hunt down the moonmen and moonwomen and I talk to them and I spread my words around them thick and warm, still steaming from their place in me, and I ask them why and I ask them how and they tell me why and they sing to me how and I remember what it was like to sing for myself and how it felt to kiss my future on its supple golden forehead every night

And it’s grace
and it’s mercy
and it’s forgiveness
and it’s a cracked plaster Jesus bleeding on me from the hole in his side
and it’s the gum under the pew
and it’s me
and it’s you
and it’s all that saves me from myself

Now when I hunt for tomorrow I find it waiting, the shape of my lips still on it’s weathered skin but it’s knees do not bend for me and it’s pace only quickens, but the moonmen and the moonwomen gave me some dusted-off moonshoes the other day and they even laced them up for me nice and tight and perhaps this time I won’t trip and fall inside myself, perhaps this time I’ll make it to the launchpad, to beyond this earthly bubble, to nothing, to everything

3.11.16

Departure

Departure

Early suburban morning.
A carmine station wagon rolling through mist,
stopping in front of a house.
Just like all the rest.
A girl shambling out.
A cloud of smoke following her.
A kiss.
A sigh.
A shiver.
The close of the door,
and the sound of tires on dewy asphalt.

4.2.16

Head Up, Eyes Down

Head Up, Eyes Down

I saw you in the park yesterday.
You didn’t see me.

I caught you only by the sound of your voice,
and even now I don’t know if you were laughing,

or crying,
or both.

4.1.16