salt & ice

grasping at straws, the final fault your own undoing,
like a thread pulled slow enough to keep together while the rest frays.
the memories alive with a feeling long forgot,
the gullible future continuing to exist in vaporous fleet,
mercied not by the winds of change or time or guilt,
dispersed by a gust, spread to the arbitrary corners beyond the place less traveled.
freed by inclinations to be, take the last step into your first life apart,
now as one from the all, the last of the many,
the few of the rest of all of us, we tired and deceived.
the nonsensical whimsy that stems from gouging piercings lying
somewhere between your salivating acceptance of the unbelievable
and the germane remnants strewn threw the fingers
like a screen to mirrors previously unseen.
unseemly backlit daydrifts glitter
as perspiration on the mounds mounting higher
with each passing blade sparked at the slightest agitation
but never enough to light the way.
kindle be damned, gather the rest,
cup the ember before it groans, croaks, fades, and dies.
to your own lies be true.
to your own lies be always true.

(originally written: 02.10.16)

she wears the shore

Worship me.
She whispered to the bellowing Wreck.
The planks succumbed, her salty lips
twist and brine and break his decks.
He shuddered, his only wish to splinter and sink,
collapse amid the flow, her swirling undertow.
Worship me, the boundless wet dark.
Do not forsake me, you splinters, you sticks,
I welcome all who fall to my depths.
The Wreck takes his last breath, unable to savor
before lights dip, hiss, and bubble their last gasp.

analog

The last note fell flat, warbled by the old crooked vinyl. The needle tracked in the narrow circle, clicked and began humming analog static. With a soft hand, he brushed her hair back. The freckles around her eyes were black spots in the moonlight. Little drops of rusty water leaking onto a sheet. The record made its round and clicked, its warm crackle like fingers tearing open a delicate package. Like the sea, only far away, as if in a shell and misremembered as if it had never been heard before. Something in the way her head rested on his chest, going up and down, like waves matched to the rhythm of the shiny black disk spinning as absently as his breath.
He caught it like a fish between his hands-there for an instant before swimming away back into the black twisting leaves of wet weeds-the memory of this moment transfixed in his mind’s eye as another far far away. He often shut his eyes for fear of blinking away such rare vivid recreations of his own recollection. This time he lost his gaze somewhere between her chin and her lips and the cool air she exhaled onto his arm. The dunegrass rustling in the breeze, he found her then, while wishing for nothing else but to not be found. Her toes gripped the sand, feeling for shiny polished pebbles to be flung into the foam. Little cross-hatches marred the surf where she had stood. He recounted her steps back as far as he could tell, but he knew her tendency to pace in circles, it started and ended the same. Like it always had.
The record clicked and the waves reset the sands, white, solemn, and lonely. She paced in her pattern, edging nearer and nearer to the briny waters. The whispy brown thistles parted at the whisper, the question, the worry carried by the weight of her name said aloud. He expected no call, or any answer, just a peace left in the brush to be washed away by the tides. Experience, not the explanation. He wanted the other, but deep down he knew he was wrong.
Her eyes matched the clouds strewn across the sky, thick as soot–freckled as the rest of her. Never taking her gaze from the edge of the world. Everything held in place as she stood in the center of the mirror. Both sides offering their boundaries with hands overflowing. She saw the clouds break in the surf, the salt falling on her from above. Her timid slender toes found a stone grit against another and flung it to where the water retreated, pulled by the moon herself. She took a step into the damp. Bemused or perplexed at how it held her weight, scratching salt polish against her nails as they crept down into the tidal pools.
Breath flooded into her lungs as the brine washed under her soles. She gasped as it were her first breath as the stray sands loosed now scrambled back on cold receding fingers. The shiver tore up her spine and the bellows blew back her hair. Hands outstretched feeling every prickle and bite with welcome. Her jubilant squeal twinged with an unexpressed longing was lost to him as the waves broke again on the sand. The cacophony embraced her as the tide rolled in, clutching at her with every step, curling its clear, wet fingers. She beckoned and bellowed and danced as the sea splashed up to her thigh.
She had told him once how fearful of the sea she was. The expanse of nothing, while even resting on solid ground, it frightened her enough to avert her eyes and pretend she was somewhere else entirely. She had never told him about the day she embraced it with open arms, clattering teeth, tossing rocks into the drink to test the depth where her feet would eventually follow. She never said how she saw the horizon cut the sky and how she had never seen anything as beautiful as the maw gaping, frothing, twirling, spinning, breaking before her. She had never said, but he had seen it. Now alight in memory, soon to be lost again as it had been for decades. But someday, he knew, she would remember too.

a rainy walk to work

Puddle muddled pills, bottle obscured beneath the grime.
Sewer grate mainlines off the mainland into the deep end.
Fishes in the drink beat the heat with a hearty dose, strained through the streets.
Wet stones, blocked paths, both slow, two in a row, three blinks;
where did the trees go?

Overhang clutching at the clouded streaks. It creaks.
This crippled corrugate canopy. It leaks.
Empty tank below, its threaded spines are showing.
Cross the way, past chain link and paint spray,
walls where there were none.

missing you, wolf eyes

passion projects onto walls the scatterbrain shock of refined attention.
definite despair, the disrepair, a life unfair, wages learned, faces turned
round and around suiting whomever’s found.
liver liquidation, pornographic pacification, sideways semantics, incestual suicide.
pipes aplenty. dreams be few. too far to see you.

-owed to the place now home.

grand circus park, detroit

This is a true story.

It cost me all the money in my wallet-that is also true.

“You can’t parallel park the truth. It fits right in.”-that too is true.

I met a man with nine knuckles and nine bullet wounds.

He only showed me three.

“Despicable.”

52 in august.

Dad built bridges,

Mother was religious but oblivious.

Had three brothers,

Tall as the buildings.

Hyenas in the park,

Prowlin’ where we now sit.

“But my way didn’t work.”

Has keys, but no home.

“Eat dirt, sell it too.”

Had fifteen suits, lost it all in the fire of ’96.

“Do you need your computers to understand that?”

Guess I do.

Rain’s a-comin.

“I won’t melt, only rust.”

Traded over my bills.

“You never hear nobody speak so much bullshit, am I right?”

 

ronin

Unrecognizable electronic pounding screeched from a broken off-white speaker tacked to the fake wood ceiling tiles. Hot steam from the woks fogged over the windows both inside and out. Red and orange neon flickered between the string of characters for ‘cheap’ and ‘food’. The family mutt shivered by the door, almost blown into the street by every violent draft. The screens played the latest jumble of news and cartoon, whichever pirate signal was the strongest tonight.
The few sets of eyes inside haunted the cobwebbed corners, never plotting but always talking. The three in the corner wore black with bright neon piping stitched into spiderwebs. The frozen chunks of sweat in their hair had finally melted back down into grease. Their long spikes were now wilted into one slick mop that flapped against their heads when they looked around too fast. They watched the screens and scratched at the ports in their wrists, constantly babbling a drivel of tech-talk laced with thinly veiled drug and street-speak. It was all a mess, none of them listened anyway it was just another noise.
He had noticed them and sat down at the counter before the door chime stopped. They were too deep in their withdraw cycle to notice anything more than the jumble of static on the screens. The dog didn’t bark. If he had to guess, he would have said that its chords were slit when it was a puppy. The truth could have easily been that the mutt was just friendly, but that didn’t cross his mind.
He slumped against the counter, clenching his fists to keep his fingers from quivering. His bare legs were numb under his robe. His sword, no doubt, frozen inside its scabbard. He dared not touch the service bell while his teeth still chattered. The constant knocking inside his head helped to drown out at least some of the bleating from the corner booth. It also blocked out the sound of the door chime.
Her touch was delicate on his shoulder but the spasms in his muscles didn’t allow much feeling.
“Sir?” she whispered, muffled into his ear. He heard a hiss and he spun in his stool to face her, biting into his lip to stop his teeth from knocking. Her hood was down and she wore an old rebreather missing both cheek filters. She wore a tattered black  jacket two sizes too big. It glimmered under the light. It lit  red around her head like a haze when the neons hit it the right way. Her hands were wrapped in bright patterned rags like boxers’ fists.
Cocking her head, she peeked under her hood, wondering if the samurai still had his tongue. He cocked his head as well, staring at the shadows where her eyes were. He glimpsed a hint of a faded pink circle half-exposed under her mask. It hissed again as she cycled more unfiltered air. She waved her pale fingers across his face, alternately wondering if he was blind as well as mute.
The samurai flexed the shivers out of his hand and snatched her wrist as if it were a serpent. With a muffled shout she tried to pull away with no use, the samurai undid the bandage with one motion, the fake silk hung for seconds in the air like inkblots in water.
“Hey!” She pulled away finally, her forearm now completely exposed. The ports on her wrist were still swollen and fresh. A mark on the back of her hand confirmed what he had had already suspected.
“I don’t think I can afford you, geisha.” He turned back to the counter, ringing the service bell. Her eyes darted to the lot in the corner and she slunk down onto the stool next to him, swiftly wrapping up her wrist and hand under the counter.
“And why don’t you take off that mask? You look ridiculous. Almost as bad as the hoods over there.” He jerked his thumb to the corner. The geisha stared down, blocking them from view with his body, pretending to read the menu laminated into the counter, no doubt a true fossil trapped in amber.
“You were going to ask me something?” The samurai shifted his sling, letting his sword rest in the small of his back. The geisha glanced at the green and black hilt. The mask hissed through the steam.
“Would you be available for hire?”
“I could ask you the same thing.” He rang the service bell again.
“No?”
“Depends.”
“On what?”
“You available?”
“No.” She crossed her arms on the counter.
“Oh, really?” He scratched at the edges of his stubble.
He leaned close to her and whispered, “I’ve never met a retired geisha before.”
“It’s your lucky day.”
“I don’t believe in luck.”
“I have a job if you want it.”
“I don’t think I’d make a very good geisha, but thank you.”
The cook finally appeared at the kitchen doorway, a creased-faced woman brushing wisps of gray hairs back under a ripped hairnet. She screamed something into the back room and walked up onto the stool behind the counter.
“Fried urchin and noodles,” the samurai pointed down at the menu through the grubby laminate, “and some tea.”
The cook rubbed blood onto her already stained apron and looked to the hooded geisha who only shook her head. Her mask hissed sharply as she coughed. The cook walked through the plastic sheeting, screaming again into the back room. She returned moments later with a cup of steaming tea before disappearing into the kitchen again. The samurai warmed his fingertips against the blue-etched porcelain.
“You’re one of Mistress Yuki’s girls?”
Was.”
“Right.”
“I need help.”
“You and me both.”
“I’ll pay you.”
The samurai smiled and shook his head. “Never heard a geisha say that before.”
Her face was flush under her mask. He couldn’t tell.
“Do you want the job or not?”
“What’s the job?”
“Bodyguard.”
“Ahh” He rolled his eyes, “Of course.”
“So you’ll do it?”
He rubbed his fingers against his thumb and looked dead into her eyes.
“Money rules this cold sword, darlin’. And I don’t believe you have any.”
The geisha reached back into her hood and unclipped her mask, letting it hang limp against her chest. Her pale skin was tattooed pink at the dimples, her lips modified with red ink that never fades.
“I can offer my services in return for your own, samurai.” She slid her hand under the counter to his thigh.
The samurai leaned in close, he could smell her artificial pheromones hanging heavy in the steam. She pursed her bright red lips.
“If I wanted the service of a geisha I would be at a brothel.”
Her mouth drooped to a scowl and then to a frown, the corners of her mouth quivered and she snatched his hand and held it against her cheek.
“Please,” She whispered, “I have nothing else.”
He could see her eyes start to glisten.
“I don’t believe you, but tears were a nice touch.” He snapped his hand back and rested it back on the counter.
The corners of her mouth turned up into a smirk.
“What ever happened to chivalry among samurai?”
“You’re thinking of knights, and knights weren’t homeless.”
“You don’t smell half bad for being homeless.”
“That’s because I bathe in brothels every night.”
There was a clatter and more shouting from the kitchen at the cook appeared again, with fresh bloodstains on her apron and a bowl of noodles in her hands. She tossed it on the counter in front of the samurai and stood looking down at him as he poked at the fried lumps of urchin. She snapped her fingers and said something in Cantonese.
“I’ll take your job, geisha.”
She cocked her eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Just… uh, pay the lady and I’m all yours.”
“Unbelievable.” She rolled her eyes, digging through her baggy coat pockets and slapping a few crumpled notes in the cook’s hand. She said something else in a harsh, unrecognizable tone and walked back into the kitchen.
“Is the way to a samurai always through his stomach?”
Between slurps of noodles and urchin he gurgled out a definitive ‘yes.’

cold

They woke up, just as they did every morning: him staring at the locks of her hair as they cascaded across the pillow, her brown curls lit in stripes by the blinds. He watched as she breathed, her chest rose and fell like the tide.

She watched the fan spin, counting the seconds in her head.

She crawled out of bed and put the coffee on in the kitchen. She moved a box off the stool and sat down watching the coffee boil and hiss.
He walked into the kitchen, as if drawn by the scent. He opened the cabinet and pulled down a mug, and then stared into the open cabinet.
He furrowed his brow, looking over his shoulder at her.
She raised her eyebrow just enough to be noticeable.
He wandered out into the sea of cardboard, his hands deep in his pockets. Peeling back a few folds, he uncovered a box of books, and another of kitchen utensils and placemats. He started in on a third before he felt her gaze on his back.
He caught her eye and opened the box anyway.
Ah ha, he nodded.
What?
You took my mug.
No, I didn’t.
He dug it out and held it up. He resisted the urge to say I told you so, but the look he gave her was enough.
Oh.
He looked it over as if it he were seeing it for the first time.
You know where I got this mug?
Here we go.
She sighed. He didn’t speak.
Where did you get it?
I don’t remember, I was asking if you did.
Oh. I don’t remember either.
I don’t know, it’s just been a long time since I had to think about it… It’s just always been, you know?
I know. I guess I just didn’t think about it when I packed it.
Wasn’t this a gift?
She shrugged.
Hmm. He took it back into the kitchen and set it near the coffee pot.
Silence stirred in the air. She absently picked at her nails. He poured two mugs and set one on the counter in front of her amid the boxes scattered next to her.
He held the mug to warm his hands. She traced the steaming rim with her finger.
Do you have any plans?
Like tonight?
No, like, she waved her hand around trying to think of a better word, at all.
I haven’t really thought about it.
I’m not saying this to force you into anything….
He raised the mug to his lips and blew. Yeah?
But, she continued, if you want to help me move some of this stuff we could go eat or something after.
Why?
Well it’d be easier to move…
No, why dinner?
I just thought it’d be a good, you know, final send-off, or goodbye, I guess.
I thought yesterday was the final goodbye. To be honest, I thought you would have moved out already.
I’m just saying, it’s an idea.
I’ll think about it later.

She took a sip from her mug and he did the same.
It’s weird.
She looked up, thinking he meant the coffee.
It’s weird to think about what I haven’t had to think about in a long time. It’s like everything’s new again.
It’s just like it was a long time ago.
Too long ago. It’s like I have to learn how to walk again.
Not that long ago.
He smiled, but just for one fleeting second.
She took a drink.
New doesn’t always mean bad.
He bit his lip.
Doesn’t always mean good, either.

Don’t be like that.
Don’t be like what?
So fucking pessimistic. All the time.
He threw his hands in the air.
No.
She squinted her eyes.
What do you mean, no?
No, I’m going to be as fucking pessimistic as I want. I suddenly have the freedom to do so.
Fine, I wont stop you.
No, you can’t stop me.
She held her face in her hand, feeling herself breathe.
Not anymore.

 

He wanted to say it but wouldn’t.
She did too, but couldn’t.

She left her mug on the counter when she went. The coffee was cold. It stayed there for days.
He hid his in a box with her books. When he carried it to her car, he made sure to put it on the bottom.

neck

She had always been an unremarkable girl. Quiet, though not shy, friendly, but not popular, cute in her own way, sure, but not beautiful. She was just ordinary.  But today the halls were silent as she walked through. Hushes and whispers floated in the air behind her half-slumped shuffle. Her shrug and sigh as she adjusted her backpack echoed louder than her steps. They watched like hawks to see if her eyes spied any boys with her incriminating little looks, but she refused to look anywhere but at her own feet.

The rumors had circulated, reaching further than she could have imagined, suggesting the most sinister and most vile. Word got to the principal through a few “concerned” classmates, and it spread its roots across the rest of the faculty. It had been announced privately that there would be nothing done about “the situation” publicly, but rather to let her approach any member of the staff on her own terms. Both the counselor and the nurse protested, the decision was final.

The room was empty when she walked in. Taking her place near the front, she dropped her backpack and tried to hide her neck. Others walked inside laughing and talking but they all fell quiet when they saw her–sitting there so sheepishly, delicate like a wilting flower, like a lost puppy with a quivering tail.  The lecture started in unaccustomed silence, and as the scraping chalk started to dust the blackboard she began  to stir in her seat.

She slunk to the bathroom without so much as a word, all it took was a little welling in her eyes and Mr. Newhouse nodded without breaking his sentence. All the boys watched her as she left, she could feel it. The bathroom stalls were inked in curvy black letters half scratched out. She had checked the halls and had checked the stalls and now found herself alone. She splashed some water on her face to muddy and streak her eyeliner, careful not to disturb the fake bruises wrapped around her neck like a medal.