Commonly Challenged

Out from my uplifted hand,
I release my contraband of
blacklisted novels.

“This is no time to be making new enemies,”
Voltaire said, reclining in his deathbed,
asked by a priest to renounce Lucifer.
Here, I have to concur.

My books are picked up, one by one. The
librarian mutters thanks without conviction.
Tonight, the pages burn in my neighbors’
lanterns. I will not rise in the morning.

I will be asleep, under the darkness
of my sheets, years after my pages
were burning.

A Potomac Oneiric

Orange juice laps down Pennsylvania
Avenue, and people touch their lips
to the flood to lap up the pulp.

No one quite knows where
the juice flows from. All that people
know are clues murmured on
gusts of the autumn wind.

With all the townsfolk distracted,
the Pied Piper breaks into homes
and steals away baby photos in a sack.

With no one looking, Fatty Arbuckle
continues his one-man protest
outside the Supreme Court, praying
aloud for an appeal.

He smells citrus in the breeze,
hears the shatter of glass,
and still he stands,
as the townsfolk whisper
next to a river.

Street Seen

“These are the streets I live on,
bitch,” the homeless man says, raising
his first through the fog of his breath.

He speaks to no one in particular,
it seems. He looks out in the direction
of all of them: the businessman in his
parked car dialing his mistress’s number,
the two college students finding
each other’s hands as they walk out of
the abortion clinic, the third grader dumping
pit her pitcher of unsold lemonade into the snow.

Perhaps the man speaks to all of them.
Perhaps he speaks to me, the sixteen year old
down the street with his hands in his pockets,
showing nothing to see. But perhaps he really
does speak to no one, because he turns back
inside the shelter without waiting for a response.
Yet he never lowers his fist.

A Kid Whose Writing’s Off the Wall

A kid filled with a bunch of inside jokes and suicide notes
who goes in search of the author in himself
who can prove that anything can happen
and anyone can be affected by his own words
and by his own characters
and by his own emotions
by his own comedy
by his own likes
by his own fraternity
by his own masculinity
by his own want
and by his sheer desire to express himself

A kid who wants to author out of
his sheer desire to express himself

A kid who loses his notebook

This Poem Has No Beat

My heart is full of poetry,
you told me once, in some
writers’ workshop.¬†If I cut
my breast, my blood would
pool in the shapes of letters,
the forms of lines. You’d find
my dried-up body and verses
would have formed all around me.

When you did die, you hadn’t
lost a drop of blood. You didn’t
have a cut, and I didn’t find you
dead. I never saw you dead
because your casket door was
locked, and no one even uttered
a rhyme at your wake, your funeral,
or your graveside.

I do, sometimes, put my hand
across my chest and feel a rhythm,
buh-dum buh-dum buh-dum, and I
ignore it. This poem has no rhythm,
no beat. I shed no blood and I bare
no scars, like you.

Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

I sent you my phone number over the prison
email service and you never called me.

You must have run out of quarters. You could
have used nickels, you know, those pay phones
take them, too. So you could have always called.

I was going to congratulate you on beating
the rap and leaving yourself with just one life
sentence. I was going to congratulate you
on trying to beat the rap and appeal your one
life sentence. That showed commitment. That
showed you were committed on getting your
name clear, getting the names of those you
said you never killed cleared.

Now, all I want to say is I’m glad you ran out
of quarters. I’m glad you forgot about nickels.