Ghosts among the Living

Raised by the South to smile and nod

when strangers pass

but in this scene

the twenty-something blonde in business slacks stares past my ear and crosses

to the other side.

Can’t be too safe I guess

or maybe it’s a game I didn’t know that we were playing

and these concrete squares of sidewalk

are just lava she can’t step on.

And I want to tell her that she’s safe…

as if she were in on the joke.

And most days…

I just wish my neighbors knew I lived here.

Too many days I feel their eyes

asking what I’m up to,

why I’m parked here,

who I’m staying with and if they realize just how much I’ve made myself at home

because

I am.

And I’ve shouted my good mornings from my doorstep

but it only reached the screen doors

slamming shut behind them

but I guess that’s how it is to be a ghost among the living

and I don’t know when I died,

only that I was born….

black.

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Rare Glimpses

Never the poet when it counts…

Today the sky was like…an event I got to witness

but my words just weren’t worthy of it.

Like having the perfect shot and no more bullets left to fire,

this afternoon crescendo of red and purple light

that felt like staring at the threads where night and day are sewn together.

and when the light was spent we few on benches became silhouettes among

leftover shadows.

Walking back I felt like God had wasted front row seats

to the rarest glimpse of heaven.

an honest season

Some mornings it seems

I come back to my senses

when the hot water runs out,

whispering to God against the vinyl, shower wall.

I’d gladly lose this language of years called 35

and never measure Life in arbitrary seasons

or the forgotten dynasties of Spring.

Every strand of gray is just another winter that I didn’t crack like porcelin

or one more month’s rent barely paid.

And all my “crazy college friends”

are drowning me in baby showers

as I find wedding invitations

underneath the Geico bills.

Now I look tired every day

and it really isn’t like me..

or at least it wasn’t always,

evaluating my reflection in one-sided mirror conversations

already in my head before the toast has had a chance to brown.

or maybe this is where my stress goes now,

staring into space at stop lights,

drifting in my mind into the trees along I-64

as if they’d lead me to some wilderness where

all my calls would go to voicemail.

and the irony…

that growing up has been

the  most I’ve ever daydreamed

Perhaps it would be better to be lonely

than to always want to be alone

because “no man is an island”

we’re all just stranded here together

as..paradox as human

but nothing is more useless than a puzzle that’s been solved

maybe all my flaws

just form the edges where I fit in.

 

 

 

weathered edges

I suppose I am a man.

I couldn’t tell you when that happened.

Like a dream that starts right in the middle,

the details fade the longer you’re awake.

There’s stubble on my face today like cracked black pepper

with solitary gray hairs mixed in, standing firm like monuments.

No one daydreams more than an adult.

I’ve set a place at the table for Nostalgia

saving happy thoughts for rainy days like pills we take to manage pain

but Time has a feeling, a temperature a texture you can rub between your fingers and pick out with your eyes closed. I suppose the rough edges of a decade weather over time like anything else

And when all the pebbles of my years are rounded off like pearls inside my hand, indistinguishable…

when seasons begin to flicker on and off like light switches

perhaps then you’ll call me “old”

or maybe all my wounds have healed.

eulogy of dawn

I’ve had mornings start with headaches
weeks where Rest felt like a far-off place
a souvenir of years, a dream with blurred details always mis-remembered.
We have it backwards I think, spending waking hours as a kind of currency
in exchange for sleep whose price inflates each day like gas
moving through the miles of waking hours
testing just how far we’ll go on half a tank
but I can still remember Morning was a pure thing once
the dancing ghost of fog who drifts above the trees and power lines
flaunting her perfume of grass and clovers.
At dawn the shadows are surrounded by all sides
like kittens terrified to let paws touch the snow
and we would watch the sunlight from our bedrooms
creep along the clay-red rooftops of the Boulevard, illuminating puddles in the alleyways
as if some great tide were building with no cliff-face tall enough to hold it back
I remember Morning had dominion then
a kind of fairy tale that hid its secrets in the slender threads of light escaping through our blinds
in every thread a promise whispered against our skin by a new day’s sun
and the world…was so enormous, waiting for us just outside
as if we weren’t really a part of it
just stepping in and out of it like tourists for the day
But we got older didn’t we
transported at light speed to a time when waking hours
soon became the prey our worries fed upon, a casualty of age
sometimes I try to picture the morning I woke as a man
as if the ones before it were old relatives that passed
when I was too young to remember them.

 

 

 

just passing through

And there I was, identifying gray hairs in my bathroom mirror

slinder bristles rising through the shaving cream

but just then the razor hesitated…

How many of these fragile hairs were days well spent?

It seems like all of my Todays are turning into Yesterdays that pile up like unopened mail

Perhaps I’ve spent too many days moving from one building to another

where wallpaper peels from restless sighs

-same empty box of cigarettes

for faking smoke breaks just to see the sun.

I mourn the years I burned through calendars like lit matches

only counting paydays, numb each week til Friday

sacrificing days like pawns just to save one chess piece

and I thought about the countless sunsets that I’ve missed

when I was only 5 feet from the door

locked inside a prison with no bars called Choice

and all the while forgetting there are stars that fill the sky on clear nights

homesick for a time when I remembered to look up at them.

Time is like a sickness we come down with,

a kind of trance that pulls you hard in one direction

the seduction of new sunrises

addicted to Tomorrows

I really couldn’t tell you what it was that made me step outside

to walk into the cold and let the tiny hairs along my arm move with the friggid air

to feel connected to the sky as if my feet were fingertips just barely touching

not just the view I see from windows

lined with potted philadendrons like young wolves raised in captivity

who’ve never tasted rain before.

I watched a ravenous horizon swallow every drop of sunset

as the starlings plucked their shadows from the wires one by one

a blue, denser than memories, filled in the sky.

Objects in the distance surrendered their reflections to the silent tyranny of Night

who left her sweet perfume of freedom everywhere she walked

and a porcelain moon with perferct imperfections flaunted its marble finish.

It was just another night you know but somehow it invited me to be a part of it

as if all this time it had been like a town I only ever drove past.

Waking from my trance..

“I wonder what direction I was headed in so fast?”

Just enough Christmas for now

When did we grow up I wonder? Christmas eve my brother and I would sneak downstairs with sleeping bags late at night so that we could wake up by the tree as soon as the sun came up. This year no one in my house slid out of bed before 10:30. We all just ate breakfast, sipped our coffee half asleep. No one even mentioned gifts just “Who’s going to go get Grandma?” I volunteered for the task. My mom needs a break from constantly worrying and I’m pretty used to working with patients who reach this point even if it is my Grandmother. Even now she doesn’t worry about much “where are we going?” she asks, “To spend Christmas with us. Everyone is waiting for the guest of honor.” She thinks it over a second as I help her to the passenger seat. “Well that should be nice.” In no time the faithful crowd collects around the dinner table. Twelve different conversations and my mom’s somehow in all of them, armed with a porcelain bowl “more gravy Uncle Nate?” My brother and I slip away to spike our eggnog in the room where he grew up, our laughter nearly tipping over his old highschool tennis trophy. My bedroom’s just an office now where Dad finishes his Sci-fi novels on nights when my mother snores. Another Christmas passes like a summer storm that barely wakes you. Again I find myself sneaking downstairs with a sleeping bag in case Grandma wakes up confused I can tell her that everyone is where they need to be. Not a bad Christmas to be honest.

A familiar tune

There’s just so much sky today

it has a feel to it you know

an imposing texture that brushes

on the tiny hairs along your skin

a weight of things unspoken that it hesitates to say

you can almost hear it

the light is filled with noise

that bounces off the bricks

and sings it’s lullabies of traffic lights from the

oil-slicked puddles of the parking lots

shimmering like broken mirrors

haunted by the sky’s reflection.

Everywhere you stand feels like the last dance

or the ride home

the place where thoughts wander to

the tempo of the dry screech of your wiper blades

when the clouds ran out of rain somewhere along Rt. 5

One more day dream slips in somehow

like a quiet passenger that taps you on the shoulder

when this is where they get off

because just then the puddles changed to blue

a song only the Sun knows how to play

but it never sounds the same to me

Sycamore Dreams

I even have one picked out, the tree I would’ve liked to be. It has a nice spot by the river bank where the locals trespass every Summer. Then a rope will dangle from my branch for some wild kid to fling himself off of into the water while friends cheer him on. In the Fall cars passing will slow down to watch my leaves burn in their rust tinted pastels, like July 4th sparklers…only to lose them when the frost forms and the day light thins one ounce at a time. Even then, with barren limbs I’ll know to grip my roots into the limestone so that no wind can bend me..until enough July cicadas have played their mob concertos hidden in my shade..until the lightening storms have claimed too many of my branches as their souvenirs. When October sends her icy sighs against the ivy vines along my neck and with that last exhale releases my last leaf…let it fall softly with a hero’s pride, not in surrender, but as the offering that I would gladly give.

Palaces

There are palaces

constructed by those memories.

Each marble stone has its own shimmer.

I’ve held them all at some point, felt their hard polished surface,

cut hands on their rough edges

and I’m sure that anyone would think

that the echo through the halls

was just their voice reflecting back at them

but I know the sound of empty space

the cayenne sting of “some day” on your tongue

that never lost its taste for sweet forgiveness

And over time it wears on you to lift old stones.

So I no longer construct monuments

wandering homeless through my mind

ashamed of all the palaces

I can’t step foot inside of.