Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Coming

So here it is
Sew my lips together
For I have come back
To the futility of words

Here it is
Living like it makes a difference
A shroud colored
With the self-importance of the wind

I open the doors
To a new balcony
Leaves falling down my throat
Rake the dust
That has crusted over my eyelids
And blow me a sliver from afar

I have not emerged unscathed
In the chaos I let your hand
Trail its angry wayward path
I have been where the river ended
And we began
But our ghosts have abandoned its banks

I am coming back
Like a thirsty tomorrow
Like a shadow that's been strained of life
For much too long
I am coming like an old bombastic verse
To ring, ever more, in hollower ears

(Originally posted on July 25, 2005)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Synthesize

When all is said and done,
what have I given
and have you taken?
When one day we sit across the room from each other,
legs crossed, the silence suspended in the air
like a ray of light on a late winter afternoon,
what will there be to say to each other?

When that day we look back, will it all
weave together in a sprawling
tapestry just coming to light?
Or will the strands and loose ends
clutter the room like dust bunnies
piling underneath the couches
and in the crevices in between?
Will we think, yes, that was
a good life we lived together?
Or will we despise one another
for having wasted each other's?

Now, late at night, as you
and the animals lie asleep around me,
I scramble for a coherent thought,
for meaning in your pattern of breath,
for something to sink my teeth into.
I wonder as I push sleep aside...
And then, exhausted,
I let it take over me.

(edited - originally posted on August 02, 2008)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Laguna Beach Breakdown" by Joe Bolton

You had come searching for a second chance,
But trying to break through, merely broke down,
Until at last any sense of purpose
Seemed nothing more than something else to lose.
You let it go and, seeing no reason to mourn
What you could no longer name, kept silence
Under the vast vacuum of heaven
Someone had nailed stars up to to hold in place.
You were hoping maybe a change of season
Might help, but there was none. You woke at dawn
Shuddering in the indifferent embrace
Of your own arms, unable to turn or return,
Dreaming of drowning, neutral as a seaweed in the war
The sea continually waged against the shore.

-from "The Last Nostalgia"


Friday, July 28, 2017

Silences

Tomorrow,
as I read my heart
out on the sidewalk,
you won't be listening.

The hunger you have sown in me
no one else could have.
How could hunger outgrow
the void it inhabits so?

In the white curve of imagined skin
I found my thirst staring me with a cleft lip,
lifted slightly at the corner,
eyes wilting above.

The rippled sinuousness of a childish gesture,
in red overalls parted right where it hurt,
was all I needed of summer.

And in their expectant faces, I saw my hunger—
but you still don't.

Here hunger is nameless—
only the slam of a door,
and an absence that lingers—

And here I lay your silence to rest,
step out,
and seek another...


(Edited; posted originally on 28 April 2007)

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Death Will Come" by Cesare Pavese

Death will come and will have your eyes—
this death that accompanies us
from morning till evening, unsleeping,
deaf, like an old remorse
or an absurd vice. Your eyes
will be a useless word,
a suppressed cry, a silence.
That’s what you see each morning
when alone with yourself you lean
toward the mirror. O precious hope,
that day we too will know
that you are life and you are nothingness. 
Death has a look for everyone.
Death will come and will have your eyes.
It will be like renouncing a vice,
like seeing a dead face reappear in the mirror,
like listening to a lip that’s shut.
We’ll go down into the maelstrom mute.

Cesare Pavese (1908-1950), a poet, novelist and critic, was a major Italian author of the 20th Century. "Death Will Come and Will Have Your Eyes" was among the poems found in his desk after his suicide. Considering the circumstances, it's strikingly haunting.

(Translated by Geoffrey Brock; reposted from Poem of the Week. You can find the original Italian text, "Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi," here.)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

"The Starlessness of the Fortieth Year" by Joe Bolton

"Maybe it's OK after all if you
Never write the great novel or make love
To the tan, oiled movie star in Rio.

Stretched out under an ordinary mauve
Sky, you count the stars that couldn't care less
About you. Blinded by their own cold light,

They've wheeled these forty years above your loss
And are little consolation tonight.
Even grand failures were beyond your reach:

Those heartbreak letters written and burned,
That Jewish girl who rode your hand so deep
Into orgasm she could not return.

What night requires, the singing dawn gives back,
Trustworthy as your inevitable heart attack."

- Joe Bolton, from "Bad Sonnets"

Monday, June 26, 2017

"Speak softly, for this is life" by Fernando Pessoa

"Speak softly, for this is life,
Life and my consciousness of it,
Because the night advances, I’m tired, I can’t sleep,
And if I go to the window
I see, beneath the eyelids of the beast, the stars’ many dwellings...
I wore out the day hoping I’d sleep at night.
Now it’s night, almost the next day. I’m sleepy. I can’t sleep.
I feel, in this weariness, that I’m all of humanity.
It’s a weariness that almost turns my bones into flesh...
We all share the same lot...
Flies with caught wings, we stagger
Through the world, a spider web spanning the chasm."

- Fernando Pessoa, from A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe: Selected Poems

Monday, June 12, 2017

In Their Shape

To Teta, once again...

We die, they say
But we never die, they say
We carry our dead in our hearts,
They live in us, they say

They say so much, they say so little…

She was here, they say
I remember her, they say
It was a long time ago, they say
It was like yesterday...

I hear so much, I say so little…

She’s somewhere, they say
Looking over you, they say
I look over my shoulder,
Still searching…

One day she’s at the beach
Collecting shells, they say
And years later I’m back here
Collecting my breath…

I won’t go back, I say
I’m done, I say
I moved on…

But moving on, a part of me snags
Dragging behind like a dead limb.
Is it me? I say
Is it her? I say

They say nothing; they only nod.
I guess that’s how we carry our dead, I say:
Our heart, dragging behind, looking like them…

(Originally posted on January 3, 2015)

Saturday, June 03, 2017

"Smoke and Gold: Cedar Key, 1988" by Joe Bolton

When a moon rises to moor the evening star,
The Gulf swells, making the distance to Texas
Irrevocable. . . .
                          There are ships out there
That say goodbye repeatedly in your sleep,
Ships that never arrived
Where someone might still stand waiting
On the far shore.

                          Meanwhile,
There is the magic Floridian hour
When the sea flashes with sunset,
When the sky becomes almost
Tangible in its painterliness, and memory
Rolls loaded dice across the waves. . . .

Still, in the soft metallic resonance of twilight,
The closest thing you have left to a soul
Is the smoke from your cigarette drifting out the window
Of a hotel room, number nine, and what little
You can remember of the little love you made.

And at night here there’s nothing to do
But lie down beside your lost self
And the lost selves of others you have lost . . .

—As the dark ghosts of ships
Sound their goodbyes, never arriving
                                                    at the far shore.

- Joe Bolton, from The Last Nostalgia

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Insistence of Being

And if I disappear, where would I go?
The silence left behind will not be heard
Amidst the noise. How long would it take
For anyone to notice the absence? And
Would it matter? Would any of it matter?

A church bell tolls, water gurgles,
A bird chimes another, as if in peace.
Life thrust upon us, an insistence of being,
An echoless voice in a chamber too full,
Is there any choice besides its negation?

I do not reject you, fellow prisoners,
I reject this, the sentence, the ruthlessness 
Of being, of time, of life, 
Of that essential loneliness that envelops us, 
That wraps us all like a shroud since birth.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Prison

We made of love a prison
To hold us both
Like we couldn't hold each other

We furnished it well
With all the love
We couldn't show one another

And in it we drowned
In a display of domesticity
Born of our fevered dreams

But we ended up forgetting
Where we started
Or what it was all about

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Smells

You'd think progress is a continuous forward motion, but it apparently meanders, loops on itself, and sometimes feels like it's going nowhere. Such is the case of gay rights in Lebanon apparently. Twelve years ago this poem was included in Helem's From Heart to Soul: A Feast on Poetry. The poem wasn't anything special: it's not anthemic, it's not heroic, but it is at times explicit in a casual manner. And it is this casual explicitness that feels revolutionary now. I repost it here, on the occasion of the first Beirut Pride and its continuing struggle against homophobia and religious intolerance, because it pisses some people off, those that need to be pissed off. #WhenWeRise #وصمة_عار

The clouds floated out the window
above their chatter;
it was the time when happiness was
capturing their radiant edges
in freshly discovered tempera.

The sea was stoic still in those days,
a giant ashtray for sunbeams.
I had just discovered Michelangelo:
David and Adam glowed
with the sheen of first porn.
And it was raining in Beirut.

My dad waited all evening for my call
and I stubbornly waited for his.
In the end, we didn’t speak.
When I spoke to him today
his voice sounded metallic
like the rain in Beirut.

In between spells of poetry
I cleaned my cum off the bathtub floor.
I awaited something to happen that night,
But nothing stirred.
So I taped myself jerking off
and jerked off to it.

Not knowing what to do next,
I poured my values into a large plastic yellow bowl
and popped it into the microwave,
hoping that in the patter
I may divine my answer.
But my values melted
with the smell of Styrofoam.

The hallway was growing longer,
sprouting doors as it went.
I just stood there,
scratching a carpeted post.
And for some reason,
if you came close enough,
you could smell the sadness, too.


(Originally posted on 23 November 2005)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Somewhere

Somewhere there’s a revolution, I hear,
Somewhere I used to know...
And here, in a darkening dusk,
In an expanse of grass
Turned purple by the silence,
I turn away...

This is life stripped of excesses:
No one else for days,
Voices all digitized,
The constant hum of a world
Churning itself.
I laugh just because
I miss the sound.

And they come
Seeking life;
They turn them away
Not knowing
It is life they bring.
Tell no one this,
I say it here in confidence,
Throw it to the dustbin of words.

There used to be someone
He wanted to be great
But forgot—
Where was I?

Ah, yes…

(Originally posted on Sep. 17, 2015)