Soap Song

“The life I live,
The one I hoped
To live—
How seldom
They coincide.

Sometimes, briefly,
They do;
Sometimes, in the city.”
—Gregory Orr, from The City of Poetry

And after all
that commotion
attraction betrayal
ecstasy memory
loss anarchy sexual
tension breaking
open night by night.

And after all
that walking waiting
crowding into a small
room sipping and spilling
coffee onto an unfinished
factory wood floor watching
it run

down the sloped boards
into seams
between checking
to see if the dark
river has dried up
smiling at the man
who asks

how are you

when he sits next to me.

This seat
will do.

And after all that
the reader

who is a writer
who was a punk musician
who stands on
an invisible stage
before us

is shorter
with a much warmer smile
than I imagined the founder
of the Blank Generation
to have.

This ragged sometimes damp
sometimes arid line I walk along
separates the punks
and rockers from the poets
and storytellers DJs and
critics from spoken word
artists and the rest of us.

And after all that
I see the line
wasn’t really there.
I’m just rambling
through it. Imaginary
borders don’t dissolve
till we outgrow them.

How To Define Punk to a 12 Year Old (or, Richard Hell at the Soap Factory)

Who lives
in this post-post-modern polyphonic
blitz? Blitz—not
bliss. I love

that anarchy—murder
of the omniscient
narrator. Reliable, or
not. Or,

is it an assassination? Did she
(or he) hold
political office? Or, at least
run? I could be running

to go to Hell
on time. I have a VIP seat, but
I should get
going. Don’t want

to miss a word. Think
of all those voices shouting
out of turn

their individual versions
of what it means
to burn in, burn on,
burn out.

Third Person Polyphonic

Narratives flood the garden
of sound. Why does rocking
a cradle calm them—shake
trebling from all those voices?

She can only hear two
knocking about
in her head now.
When it comes down

to a single
deepening whisper,
she’ll know she’s arrived
home for the night.

It Will Bend

A big, bold-faced metal paper
clip causes a bump
in her writing. It affixes
a lost father’s
face to a daughter’s
daily desire to become attached

to just the right
image. A reminder—like the callus
on her left
middle finger. Not a gesture
of defiance, but a gentle nod
to left-handed beauty

and respect. And a big black
bird scrapes the sky overhead.

Seven Months

No ode—pastoral
or urban
myth—will do. No
flag raising
in any pattern or
color. No parades—though
he loved them.

It’s an odd.
A prime.
The current count:

7 days to make a week.
7 notes on a musical scale.
7 attributes of physicality.
7 words to Step 7 begins humbly.
7 home states plus one.
7 children and grandchildren.
7 months to make a preemie.

Some say seven is
this world.
What comes next? I might ask him.

To listen for an answer
in night-falling murmurs
of an otherworldly pulse becomes
the point—not the answer itself.

Color Mnemonics

Fear is the only four letter word
I need to say
to be free. Another season begins

to break
without him. A patch of sidewalk
ice melts

into a small lake, freezes again
overnight. Spring
can’t get any traction. Somewhere

an empty suitcase, an empty raincoat,
an empty tomb. Don’t forget (a parent
or sister might say)
to snap

a mental picture
of those ocean waves breaking
open another calm
after a late winter storm.

Open Channel Loading

“Love’s a Spanish word to be sung.”
—Jay Farrar (Son Volt, from the song “Brick Walls”)

He would live in a pop-up
hotel, watch water
drain from a claw
foot tub, walk
the length of his own city
without a license. Not

to speak
a single word
for ten days and use
that vacant space
to recall each
and every train

he’s boarded. In English,
it all hinges

on a Rio Red 747.