You Will Never Get to the Next Level Until You Stop Doing This One Thing
Autumn light, mute in the bell of a trumpet, soft as junk
when it's good, decorating the shallows we see
but can't quite ford. No one is more
Massachusetts than us, not even childhood,
but I knew I was an adult
when I started washing my hands past the wrists,
several kinds of hysterical
among one or two people
reliably strung out in the food bank.
So what? These are just facts
like a lanyard describes a neck as low-level official
or a chain tethered to a pen
produces a name on a line like a halo hammered flat.
So what? A sufficiently compact mass
can deform spacetime. Maybe you've seen it all,
but see that girl with the capri pants
that don't quite cover
the constellation she is making of herself?
Is she scared crying, withdrawal crying,
or crying like a bird to pierce
the Protestant silence that surrounds us?
Because empire must have everything—
even falling apart—it falls apart.
How many levels is that?
What's more beautiful than standing in someone's room wondering where they are?
A few things. Turning an empty pill bottle on its side
and erecting a tiny ship inside it. Discovering after many years a switch
on a wall in your home that seems to do nothing. Leaving
a third thing to the imagination. There's a point at which I can't go back
to watching people open expensive packages on the internet.
Remember when we were kids, how much quicksand there used to be
on television? This feels like that. It feels as if a new center has opened beneath us,
and even our breathing is pulling us down. The ship that isn't real
inside of the bottle that is lists in its ocean of medicinal dust.
And now I am really beginning to notice the effects
of whatever that switch turned off or on. What's interesting about quicksand
is that you have to be so still, have to struggle not to struggle.
What's not interesting about quicksand is that you have to be rescued,
or have to rescue yourself. It's hard to remember
sometimes being left alone is a kind of rescue.
It's come to this: a made bed; a placid sea;
a bedside lamp waiting like a dim lighthouse
on a bluff above dreams.
What kind of animal is anger?
Is it when you don't answer
because that question is an order
shaped like a request, gilded like light?
Is it that person
who always has to know who
the "you" is specifically?
What kind of animal is it
when you get mad
at yourself for eating something
or for doing a bad job
you are having a good time?
I prefer memory,
the variable gravity in dreams,
and these pills
like small orbs of sunlight, necessary
to replace the diffuse efforts
of this our dying star.
You can encourage the animal
to chill out. Put it on a treadmill.
Pet it. Say: sexier.
In the midst of self-improvement, the animal is less
likely to kill. It's like seeing your boss
at the gym, but your boss doesn't see you
because of the animal.
Three more sets. Two more.
What is the animal when it is many
naked octogenarians in the locker room
falling away from their bones?
In the future we get thin
enough in places, almost winged,
the animal light of the afterlife
shines right through.
These endorphins are like being in a very tall tree
after climbing, near the lightning,
and below so small everything
light can touch.
Caravaggio's Medusa Shield Will Be My Last Tattoo
Painted on an actual shield, his lover in anger and horror screams
for the last time, screams forever: face the disk of a flower,
each petal a snake. The bottom teeth are a little row of tombstones.
Today we might wonder which pronoun the lover prefers.
Stupid hero, How do you know you're not already frozen?
I stood on the Uffizi Museum line in Florence for hours.
Stood among however many people who were only there
to see Venus on a clam shell. Stupid heroine,
Your luxurious hair cannot save us.
I wouldn't have waited, for example, for my favorite sculpture,
Michelangelo's Pieta in Saint Peter's, though I love it, too:
the colossal Madonna I always imagine gently laying down Christ
like an exhausted child and walking away,
part Madonna, part Godzilla, a never ending fuck this
on her lips. Maybe it's just too sad to wait for,
too much like everything already is.
But I would wait on line every day of my life
to see what I love rendered as protection.
In defiance of my enemies, especially the imaginary ones,
I offer you the emptiness of my forearm
between the deteriorating hinges of elbow and wrist.
The spoils of reflection, the culpability of reflection,
the insignificant difference between men
and what we do. I have been practicing my hiss.
My Brother Buys a Satellite
It's an antenna, actually, but I don't correct him
because it's an aspirational purchase
like when I buy hiking boots or fenugreek.
After a week he returns it. This is how it goes
when you try to haul an idea
over the liminal hills of sleep
and into the visible world.
Let's say the universe is a simulation.
Let's say that when my brother seizes
there are many of him
like bodies in strobe light, the chase scene
in a recurring dream.
He catches and catches and catches
himself: guttural hum and force shut down.
Let's say the universe is benign,
and all the ciphers for love's circular logic
not what we call provenance, not what we deem luck,
not how we parse wish from curse.
Ether, earth, and in-between,
we are these erasures spinning above our names
in slightly desperate orbit.