Winter Count

And so we begin our winter count.
A month of moons, so slowly she creeps.
Her replies are glacial.
Withering red, the hips of roses
Fall asleep in daytime.
The panes of windows begin to leak,
Letting her spiny fingers prick about the house.

I love her like the moon loves the stars—
Bright eyes in an empty room watching
My slow, fumbling waltz.
I hate her like the moon hates the sun,
Its brazen ego rising against my dim silhouette.

Slipping down hills,
Autumn’s mud cakes as cement to my shoes.
Purple leaves cling to emaciated branches,
Dark like bruises on my grandmother’s arms.
Tomatoes linger melancholy on the vine.

Uneasiness in this change of season,
In sleepless moments we churn.
The rooftops drip our apprehension.
Cupping our hands and running our sentences together,
We wake under the angry moon.
Soon the grass will be small, the wild roses will bloom.

Heart Thief

We were once timeless.
Standing arm-in-arm our shadows
smoothed memory like water shaping rock.
Love spilled from our tongues
announcing the end of drought.
Slick, we squirmed under each other’s grasp,
rounding corners, forming text.
A whitewash of nouns linked our calloused fingers.
In brows rendered smooth we carved each other’s initials,
muting any distance we carried.

We were once hysterical,
Our tongues tinged with steel.
We caged love, reduced it to dramatic preludes,
as if loving thirsty was not our fault.
Clanging the cage where our collective hearts once lived,
we furrowed our scarred brows, monolithic and dry.
Ripping limbs, clawing at shins, scattering skin about the yard,
We filled our lungs with bloody heartwreck,
Screaming: Heart. Thief.

We were once murderers,
Smoking breaths and chasing heartbeats.
Sneaking about the landscape to suffocate ghosts
who make love in the back of trucks just so they can watch
the sky merge with the mountaintops.
Chewing off tongues, collapsing lungs,
We screamed where is my fucking heart?
Only to find it savage, purple with memory,
caught in barbs, drying in the wide open plains of summer.

For Trey

Spring, this brassy procession from Winter to Summer
lingers like early morning rain on branches.
Quivering leaves drip apprehension,
uneasiness in this change of season.

Pale and drawn, Spring’s first pipers shed their cloaks.
They tease us with announcements of warmer days ahead,
rediscovering their voice with the songbirds of sunrise.
April’s cruelty will soon become a distant memory.

Yet there are some of us who return to Winter’s well-worn path,
wearing lockets with memory neatly contained.
For we are still in mourning;
The Boy Who is in Love has died.

The Amorist, one who is in love or writes of love, feared the forgetfulness of others.
He was unable to leave the consequence of his life on paper.
Rather through suffering he worked each day for joy.
Through every moment of immeasurable pain he continued to be in love–
In love with winter’s silent snows and the swagger of spring,
in love with the swelter of summer and the cool nights of routine,
each furthering an unappeasable cancer through his bones.
He loved every day’s demise, even while knowing it brought him closer to the dead.

In these parades from beauty to bleakness, darkness to warmth,
it’s hard to believe he was afraid we’d forget–
Forget his tussle of his hair each time it re-grew.
Forget the warmth of his presence and the rogue curve of his smile.
Forget the sound of his pain, the ebb of his disease,
taking pieces while he continued his love of living.

When The Amorist passed onto the invisible beyond,
into the whitewash of painless days,
His wave goodbye came with a promise:
That death is not an ending.
That he’d returned to the expanse of the sea.
Through the churning of sand and in ripples against the shore,
he built sandcastles to hold our fear.

Our scars dissolve slowly with the each breath of morning,
drifting like threads across placid skies.
Across each season’s tease I find The Boy Who is in Love.
He grows under our feet, tickling our bare toes in the revival of spring.
He cools us as the shade trees of summer,
and holds our hearts in the dead of winter
as roots holding the earth in place.

Flight

Painting by Sarah Morris

I should have been an airplane carcass,
Wing roots severed, tail cut away
Body resting upon the ground
An empty cavity, blue in death, is all that would remain.

My belly would heave the memory of flight:
Of archaic men neatly smoking,
dropping silver ash into armrests—
each shortened breath yellow.
Of seatbacks and upright tray tables
and glamour girls inserting a thousand metal buckles
into the disarray of delays and failed flights.

If I were an airplane carcass
I would have seen this western expanse,
towered over the wild west,
and skimmed across the Great Salt Lake.
I would have followed the glacial pace of the night sky
and awoke in white mornings, bringing the certainty of goodbye.
I would already know a stranger’s touch, a lover’s cry, a dead man’s weight.
Would be able to take this hollow core—
Paint it with the pain of everyone I’d sheltered
and wipe away the stench of loss with each passing day.

I should have been an airplane carcass,
then I would have been ready for you.
Ready to shelter your quietest pain, your creeping sickness,
hold you during the darkest flights.
I’d find us a home among the tiny squares of land that had passed below,
One parcel of possession where sand blows like snow across the roads
Where wind would rip our clothes, rain would seep beneath our skin
And gales would catch our fall.
As though levitating in the wind could remove all sorrow.

I would have been ready for every bad decision
Every trip that led to loneliness, to misery, to joy.
In time gained between layovers
I would have danced in all the oceans, filled my pockets with shells,
Homeward bound with soggy, sand-covered boots on my feet
I would have known my destruction was imminent
Long before I met you.

The Editor

In silence I place your memories—
Tiny paintings of melody
Onto page
It makes me calm.

I cut away the pieces of loss you carry,
hide them in a weathered music box
that becomes lost in a mess of paperwork and dishes,
in the distraction of late night stereo and sharing keys.

Clumsily we shuffle through winter;
Our hearts lie dormant as spring’s first blooms.
Flashy robins, their red breasts bright in the morning sun
bring us from hibernation.
The season’s first sunburn follows as tulips droop toward the ground,
their fragile necks bending slowly as the days grow longer.

We pretend the yellowing walls and arching sun
don’t contain us to memory, bind us to routine.
Yet our creeping sadness follows the span of sunlight
passing across rooftops as sunburns fade.
Heartbreak impends like the march of a million ants
trying to find their way indoors.

Amongst unpacked moving boxes,
I hear a tiny twang of that forgotten music box.
Its covering is shabby, soiled with fingerprints of youth.
I once as a child filled it with treasure
and buried it to later discover the contents remained unchanged;
Only the meaning had been lost in routine.

Our hearts, like music boxes, are opened so rarely
As if the melody would sour, as if heartache would spread like an infection
Become a gaping wound, ripped open by a peckish lover
who begins to lap at the tissue, chew on ventricles until
slowly we become a cavity void of the songs that made us love

In the first breaths of morning, when the songbirds are the loudest
I hear those pieces of loss I cut away
scratching on the music box’s insides
Clamoring to be let out.

Accident Prone

Upside down on a highway
Broken glass beneath my fingertips
I pull at my roots.

Between windy screams
I hear your voice splinter in zero degrees
Clouds cut sharply the mountains by half
I whisper, is there more?
I want so much more.

Like chunks of dish blond hair
golden weeds tumble through air so thick
it tastes of sandboxes.
It tastes of childhood.

Within our breathing bodies
this warm blood slows until touch
is remorse, collapse is sensation,
longing is the only feeling.

I reach for your cold hands
Break your legs and
cover you with dust.
With the cardboard bison I place you
between cracks in hills
and bury our fears in dirt as dark as night.

When you awaken from the swells of hibernation
I place my hand atop your mouth
Feed you dinner platters of sawdust and sage
Cover your casts with signatures from all your lovers
and we embrace like old friends.

In towns between towns
where forgotten dogs are buried
in beds of dirty drifting snow
You remember.
Cloudy skies catch in our throats,
shifting guts and freezing nerves.

Relentless winds heave memory like black ice—
The tangled wreckage ripping across
miles of lonely pavement.
The way your fingertips transcended skin,
transferring blood from limb to limb.
The sound you made when you said we were through.
The bits of me that stopped moving that day.

I wish to capture all those thousand little deaths,
Suspend them between the advancing dark
and the morning after.
Build sandcastles around us at the Interstate’s end.

The Yelling Season

In this yelling season we bare our teeth
Devour each other like bottles of wine

I could tell you were drunk
He said
By the way you phrased your words
It takes an ocean, love
I will drown on your floor

Liquor in my coffee
Broken dishes, overturned tables
Behind closed windows
I am wreckage and ruin, love

I am an empty room
Leftovers. Linear bruises
The hallways of late nights, the thud on the floor.
I am pain unconsidered.

You.
You are the splinter for which
I’ve torn back skin
Cut into tissue
Relocated bones to find

At my touch it shatters
I shout for Vodka, Advil, Sanity
I am stitches and wine glasses, garbage of bottles
I am walking a straight line in my head

This is not a problem.

After The Rain

After the rain humidity lingers
Warm on skin like summer sex
Dark, thick, it lures as temptation

Behind cracked blinds
Sunburned bodies press to wet sheets
Sweat pools in the curves of brow
Splattering like raindrops upon breasts

Glazed fingers run across the small of backs
Sticky palms reach for intimate moments
Tiny car crashes

On full moon hangovers we’re currents of blood
Vessels of ash, reaction, desire
We’re block parties and dance floors
New shoes and stitches, perfectly baked skin

Summer rain passes like strangers in hallways;
It does not linger

Chilled like air-conditioned sweat
Blood drains from fingertips
Gone is the rouge curve of summer smiles
Hands skimming skin like
Unfinished books scattered about the house

Behind red wine, in “No Time for Hobbies” t-shirts
In headless self portraits
Body realigns.

Anxious like 3,000 miles
Bitter like tongues bitten
Summer is a boat docked, bumping the sides
Its tethers a bit too loose.

In the Bedroom

I long to hold your arteries
and cradle your veins
To carry blood from your barren core
to your desperate limbs.
I long to leave pieces of me on your mattress,
my stain you could not forget.
I long to suck oxygen from your gray lungs
that held that devilish voice, dirty
like the dive bars where I would find
pieces of you—needles draped
from your beautiful arms.
Instead I discovered pieces of you sprinkled
on the mattress like bits of brain in starless corners.
And like birds I wept at the morning
shining on your corroded heartbreak.
Atop your stone tomb mattress
I placed your palm, cold like death
to the blood pulsing through my temple.
I traced my fingertips along your tracks.
Those beautiful arms black with contempt,
the bile and venom and hatred spilling
from your veins.