Friday, December 08, 2017

Naked on the Inside

It’s on nights like this
that the wall of smiles crumbles,
dimple by sparkling squint,
with a only a faint sigh to be heard
as it crashes.
How is it that things so labored
falter so quietly?

As the roads spread ahead of us,
vast and dim,
lit half-heartedly and glistening
with the sheen of a promised storm...
The night, worn out of shopping
late at resoundingly vacant stores,
hung lifeless and limp,
an expanse of exhaustion,
over our worn out being.

Nothing was left for us--
not the effort of pretense,
not the thrill of acquisition,
not even the recurrent name of a friend...
There we were, naked on the inside,
bereft of even the comfort of joy.
We had only for company,
on that unforgiving night,
the loneliness of each other.

(Originally posted on June 10, 2007)

Thursday, December 07, 2017

"Tropical Watercolor: Sarasota"

Summer sings not far away, and we both know
The errors we've made. The sloped shoulders
Of those palms in the middle distance
Darken; the palms stand solitary as guards.

Summer sings, and against those walls
The late May light has sweetened, the palms
Sigh a little, fronds swaying in the breeze,
Making a sad watercolor of the square.

A mackerel sky frames the square, the square
We dreamed failed us in this place we'd come to
To find ourselves again as in a mirror.
Love, this is the square that failed.

I broke myself trying to make myself strong
For you. Dusk gilds white buildings, and smoke
From my cigarette floats toward the stars
That aren't there yet, the stars we used to desire.

They are a vast absence, reminding me
I don't believe in anything anymore except
The difficulty of everything for men and women.
Your remembered ghost is the ghost of my grandmother

Walking here endlessly in a black dress,
Shadow lost among the shadows of palms
On this square that failed, blocks from the sea.
I have run out of life, for what?

I have run out of life from the repetition
Of our moving only from mirror to mirror,
Catching our reflections in shop windows
And finding them less real than mannequins.

- by Joe Bolton, from "The Last Nostalgia"

Monday, November 27, 2017

Reasons

      Because in the distance between
when we die and when we forget about it
is where our happiness is pitted;

      Because in the intensity of the green
I seek respite from your drenched words and
pretend that your life doesn't trudge along elsewhere;

      Because in the middle of the woods you only grunted
when I told you that I love you, and I took that to mean
"Yes, me too, very much," and smiled to myself;

      Because the comfort of thinking that this is all there is
is seeping back in, and that the world begins with
my mud-crusted shoes and ends with the jargon in my head;

      Because the possibilities of all the faces passing me by
passes along with them, and their beaming eyes bore through me
holes as big and blue as the sky, that they don't even look through;

      Because I promised, if given another chance, I would grab on to it
though I don't know what that means; and I made a vow of goodness
to a God I don't believe in--and I wonder if He believes in me.

(Originally posted on July 6th, 2006)

Friday, November 24, 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)

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Tired

To my mother

You're tired, I know
From dancing barefoot
On shattered graves
From lifting the sun
Onto the ground
From pulling the days
One after the other
From your mouth...
You're tired, I know
From bearing the weight
Of your own breath
From breaking your word
Once more, in silence
From letting the dust grow
At the crevices of your lungs
And in between your toes...
You're tired, I know
From my weight
From the bird that's pecked
Its own feathers
Until it's coughed a furball
Rounder than itself...
You are tired
From the sounds of the same promises
From the dawns lying into the light
From the way your face looked
From the corner of her eye...
From his grey hair, you're tired
From another winter scaling off the back of his hand
From his smile, waning and unwavering
From the eyes that glow into the dusk
Like embers at the end of the talk
Like the night when she peeled off the mandarin
And squeezed it into his eyes...


(originally posted on November 01, 2005)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

I’ll Be (Nothing)

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the limbs breaking on the ice,
I’ll be desire melting onto itself,
I’ll be the longing that possesses me
That I’ll never possess.

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the vicious hope that rides me to death,
I’ll be just another breath, another step
To nowhere...

(originally posted on December 06, 2004)

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smallness of Life

(To Katy)

This,
the smallness of my life, I said,
can you see it?
But she said nothing,
she just wrote
a series of details
and small spaces.
My life used to spread, I said,
over pot-holed streets and easy laughter,
a time when youth was
just another smell in the air.
But she said nothing,
she just sniffed;
from where she stood,
she could smell it still.
But my life has stretched so thin, I said,
it has shrunk into this square mile
between where I sleep and where I yawn.
This corner of the world, I said,
that I call my own;
this bit of the earth
I staked as home.

This piece of life, I said,
that I squander at will;
this circle of friends
I ignore to call.

This head resting on my hip,
this hour of the day when the sky
looks like Mary in front of the cross.

This hollow in my heart
where they used to be;
this cat, this breath, this,
this smallness of my life...
But she said nothing,
she just blinked.
Her life wasn't any bigger.

(Originally post on January 30, 2006)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Holes

Time punches holes in my being
With each passing loss
I am emptier
Till nothing remains there
But a big gaping void
That reminds of me

(Originally posted on April 15, 2003)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"We Are All Dead At Twenty"

"We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

The earth rotates for children
Those who grow up too bad for them
It will swell the regiment
Of the officials of boredom

With days that resemble
Habits and grimaces
And migraines, trembling hands
From wrinkle to wrinkle, from ice to ice

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off of the sick flower
Of an agonizing ideal
Of a barricaded spring

I who detests war
Sometimes envy
The dead child a spot of earth
Without having time to cry

Without seeing the sad smile
Without listening to the bird lying
Twenty years is to learn to live
The rest to learn how to die

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of dreams
In a station or on a bench
Where the first love ends

Why prolong its youth
Why play at being still
Love is dead and tenderness
Committed suicide from body to body

We're all ghosts
Of a certain sex, of a certain age
With words for feelings
With masks for faces

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

La la la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la...

We are all dead at twenty..."
Original text in French: "Nous sommes tous morts à vingt ans" (Dalida)

Monday, October 23, 2017

"One World" by Joe Bolton

I have a photograph:
It is the green of a Kentucky summer,
A few skinny sycamores
Gone white with afternoon light,
A shadowed dirt road
Curving off who knows where in the distance.
You are leaning against a blue fence,
Legs tan and hair bleached a little from the sun,
My T-shirt tenting your breast.
Years later and a thousand miles removed.
A waiter named Rico lifts his sad eyebrows.
I nod.
I've been drinking at this crummy bar
In the spring dusk of Florida,
Watching the cars go by
With their headlights just on,
Hearing a siren wail.
I don't remember how it was
We came to live in cities.
But I think that somewhere this evening
A man has checked into a cheap motel
And shot himself in the head.
His driver's license and an empty bottle
Laid on the bedside table
For explanation.
Maybe he had a photograph
He couldn't reconcile his life with anymore
And wondered, at the end,
What he had come here hoping to find.
Soon enough now,
I'll be either drunk or out of money.
And there will be nothing to do
But walk back home in the first dark.
I can see on the television
It’s cold where you are,
And the sky is failing all across America.
Why were you smiling
That afternoon so long ago?
I can only think we must have been happy.
Somehow that helps.
We are still here, after all,
And it is the same world.

-from "The Last Nostalgia"

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tragedy

Like pieces of a puzzle, we fit into tragedy
Nice and easy,
We fill the background with our little lives.

In your absence I have perfected my loneliness,
I have strung it like a clothesline between us.
On it I drape fragments of my being:
A lunchbox, a cyclamen, and a sigh.

By the greasy glass of the diner
We sat with our dreams in our laps
Staring at what could have been.
My hopes were too big for me, you said
No wonder they were sagging.
It is too much to ask of life, you said
Happiness...
But the streets I painted still glow
With the sheen of autumn drizzle,
And the laughs I imagined are frozen agape.
My place at the table is vacant still,
And that city that doesn't know me
Misses me already.

(Originally posted on June 08, 2005)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Palimpsest

We stopped celebrating
it
was irrelevant now.
Anniversaries can survive
the things they celebrate
only for so long.
And then the date goes back
to being itself,
only itself,
and nothing more...
And we to being strangers again.

But the slate is never clean;
the pressure lines remain
there, in the paper
where the writing once was.

(Originally posted on October 26, 2006)

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)