To Die is Different than Anyone Supposed It Would Be
You could taste the fire that night
That is what we expected.
Flying low pressed down this way.
Although we thought our nostrils.
would be burned by ammonia of it.
There was only our own smell.
We became fuel, burning up,
Lignin vita black, and fallen heavy
on the flames of life.
Legs lumbering down the hall of the ICU
Hearing the roar of death’s wind.
Ever so patient, slowly, gravity pressed,
dressed in pale blue with white cotton booties.
So slowly blue, so slowly, like sun tea brewed in,
a red pot on the windowsill in July.
Setting among the interior ferns—
blue-green like Alabama mint taste on her lips.
lips impossible to touch beyond the respirator
She went out, yes, but not like we thought,
not like the sun moving down through the thicket,
Disappearing in the oceans mouth.
No heat lighting—not like we expected.
No magnesium flash, or emotional weapons grade
phosphorus flare, streaking long healing red scars across us.
Stunning—leaving a burned shadow up the wall to
be photographed later for life magazine.
It was much more mundane in its horror.
Our bodies were shocked bland white.
Witnessing foam emanating from her lungs.
We tear glistened, and waited for, the IC nurse to wipe it clear.
My nose bled
I wait for the courtesy phone of
reprieve to ring.
Bring some sign of how to survive the multiplying
atmospheres of G force.
Seeking some sign—some sign of how to stop the
blood from exploding out of my pulsing finger tips,
or a way to replace my bitten off tongue.
I am sure, on a divebomb roll over like this,
jet pilots black out.
I considered the meat of all the others like
firewood beeping and clicking, in the many filled beds nearby.
Fuel for the death furnace.
Stored in an industrialized bleak landscape.
Stunned again, I watched, flying eyed,
line mountain form on the monitors of her electronic metal uterus.
I talked on the same radio frequency
we used for 23 years--rubbed her feet,
sang old do wop songs the only way I knew how,
just some of the words over and again.
She on the other hand, lay smileless,
smoldering slow, foaming like wet logs in a hot fire. Making steam over this.
I signed there on the bottom of the clip boarded page.
My signature read,
go now it’s ok I’ll take care of it all!
One by one each hypocritical switched plug pulled, while Un oiled wheels squeaked in this Hippocratic malpractice insurance morality play.
All surrounds Baushus, right angled, plastic and
stainless wired and electric.
They might just as well have
beat her to death with all this alien metal to
soft flesh—in this earthbound delivery room hanger.
“And deliver me from evil” they all said
standing up, then kneeling down.
All it took was a ten-letter scrawl of my name
to fend off the violence.
Bringing Peace, that all the faith in love
in the world couldn’t.
“She’s going to a better place” they mouthed not knowing a Goddamned thing!
As the last rip cord was pulled.
I wanted to eject with her
out through the metal rafters smashing my skull.
I wanted to explode into a Seurat painting of blood and guts on the walls.
I just needed to see--something.
I don’t think I can ever sign my name again!
White forms, black ink.
There must be something to witness!
I want flames flinging off
winged creatures, a slip of soul’s smoke
There were no goodbye glances.
No, final dances
No, here’s lookin’ at you kid
In my heart ached eye view
Where are you?
As we crossed the last horizon
Orange electronic hills smoothed to
Other People’s Families
Yes, we are all gathered here at the table speaking, demotic, no one mentions Herodotus. All a little drunk and disguised as ordinary folks. Camouflaged to hide the growing shame of what we will have already acquiesced to.
The bare wired hanging lights are dim and there are no mirrors. No garish, cirrhotic neon sign alerts all those passing through. No Rosetta stone. Moms in alcoholic recovery.
Pride in not owning “no books.” Speaking in halfbacks and forward passes. Making remarks about Brazil nuts being; you know, whose toes.
“Pass the cranberry sauce will Ya!”
It leaves the same color family stain on the living and the dead.
“My sons a junkie; do you know his history?”
Even if there is a vacancy sign when he sits at the long dinner table.
“He did some time in San Quentin.”
Perhaps that is why food is piled so surprisingly high on his plate?
Albeit, the family won’t admit it—it takes some mathematical and architectural skills to make it all stack that way at Thanksgiving Dinner.
When your plate is already so empty.
My Consiglieri in Overalls
Paint spattered coveralls hide
her archetypal femaleness and artist soul.
She glows despite the dusk gathering
in the window and the dark red orange
smudges of paint in a field of denim.
“You are doing so well.”, she says;
blue, stone flecked, black centered eyes.
“I’m so proud of how far you’ve come.
You are actually considering yourself,
and not putting up with people using you.”
Twenty years my junior,
my ancient consigliere in coveralls
is striding forth in our smallish kitchen.
She moves like a Russian ballerina and
gesticulates like Isadora Duncan.
Her eyes twinkling like centuries of wry Irish women before her.
Although her Italian dangled long from
her ears and hid under her coveralls.
In the last lights of the day I see small brown freckles on her nose.
“Fairy footprints,” she told our daughter, who carries their tracks as well.
I begin to believe.
For the first time.
For the first time in my life.
I bring blue iced cakes
with my prayers attached to them by multicolored flowing ribbons.
I place them at the foot of the grand eucalyptus tree,
so the fairies can feast.
I believe it.
I am doing well!
For the first time I am taking care of my self,
My consigliere in coveralls comes to me smiling.
“You are so lucky you found me.”
I believe her.
Sadly most men are satiated by standing
ankle deep at the waters edge.
Or perhaps with short swims,
In clear cerulean water under warm golden weather,
with feet still firm to the dark earth.
True, some learned men swim great distances,
but never would they loose sight of land,
or break too deep below the tense surface.
Although occasionally there are men
who learn to control their breath,
dive deep, despite a fear of drowning.
Chanting, praying, like they were trying
to get fire from a stone.
Entering other worlds, other
lives, smelling of white peonies
and tasting of figs.
They are learning strange languages,
suckling dark nipple, breasts and
collecting crumpled artifacts
on the shoal of their collaged souls.
Gorging themselves on the wisdom of those before them,
struggling through viscous blue water,
like they were trying to establish
a frenzied friendship with a fragrant death.
They breech the surface just in time
breathe in all things known and unknown
again and again.
Much later in life,
they return to the shore.
They sit in circles
tattooed and buried in the sand
up to their waists for warmth
calling out for God
in the night skies
pin holed with light.
They sing sublime songs.
It is then marked by scars.
Hearts filled with the mystery
They scratch in the sand
symbols of eternity.
That young men find indecipherable
As they are running willy-nilly by
bearded fatigued elder men
with salted lips longing for water.
Swimming in their memories
Who chant and pray that perhaps one of the boys
will be moved by these symbols
before the tides rise and erase it all.
Like all fathers to sons, they take deep breaths
And sing, etching the truth into the sand,
only to have it lost in the tide’s swirls.
Like good fathers to sons,
giving swimming lessons.
How to Tie a Full Windsor Knot in Five Steps
1: Lay the wide end over the narrow end,
Tying in reverse.
He turned to the funeral director, said,"
Can you do this for me? My dad always tied my ties."
There Are 85 Ways to Tie A Tie,
screamed the cover of Yong Mao’s book
seen through his grief swollen eyes
while his mind reversed the day’s events.
There are so many knots, snarls, spirals,
hitches, kinks, snags, tangles,
warps, contortions, ties
to be tied and untied still back there behind.
He could not bring himself to pick the book up.
2: Bring the wide end up through the gap
between the layover and your neck.
Intimacy was standing there, smelling after shave,
looking into his father’s chest,
at his neck, his chin, bent nose
but never to his eyes.
He pulled the narrow end of the tie around.
It was their time together,
his hands weaving a full Windsor knot,
brushing against my neck.
A fat calloused thumbed
"Full or half?" as if there was a choice,
while he conducted.
"I’ll just do a Full Windsor for you--
that’ll do best.”
He’d answer himself as usual.
3: Take the wide end to the right
behind the layover, then forward and up,
then down into the gap
between the layover and your neck.
"You're 26 now. It's 'bout time
you learned this, wouldn’t ya’ say?”
Nimble lifting, like a spider's threads,
Slippery sounds of the silks nap
whipping past each other,
sounds of secrets never shown in the movements.
Entire centuries of history
tied in 85 possible ways,
our wind blowing the silk
in all of life’s directions.
We conspired. I always liked that word, its meaning:
"to breath the same air."
When we breathed, my heart brimmed.
It kept rhythm
with his rough hands, self-assured,
The heart-drum taking me
to the far-off places of his untold travel.
The movements were like shaman hand-sign
or turn signals when the blinkers were on the blink—
La Bruja rituals of things beyond my knowledge,
A series of elbows-tucked kung fu moves,
by the Mandarin Sifu of Windsor,
so smooth--like nothing else he said or did.
4: Make a bridge and then bring the wide end up through the back and then down through the knot in front.
angles flew like random particles of stars,
moving around some vague dream of them
colliding, creating a super particle of our DNA.
Not a hint, insinuation, intimation,
nor iota, lead, or mention, notice, notion,
no not one clandestine emotional release came forth.
Grandfather weaved billions of yards of silk,
As many as the stars in the entire universe,
Sitting at the looms in Paterson, New Jersey,
the endless chukka chukka—chukka—chukka sounds
of the intertwining apparatuses.
Deafening spools, falling silk, cloth weaving:
Perhaps his father wove the very silk
of this tie, making too much noise
for father and son to speak through.
5: Hold the narrow end and tighten the finished knot by pulling it gently up to center it on your collar.
His beer breath hardly held forth
Prevarications as he had expected—
No revelations, not even of the bar-fight curved scar that he carried on his chin,
Despite his father's knowing
he had always sought the truth of its origin.
He wanted to hear something from his dad
something about its crescent-moon whiteness
in stubble starred nap of his chin.