Oklahoma

there was a fire in my belly like bloody gold
the day Oklahoma receded into memory
like barbed wire to soldiers and prisoners both
like flaming whips of fire to speed me on
with Saturn as my guide –
and the moon shining overhead like a bloated queen
culling the sky and calling me through
burning tiny towns away in my wake
I traveled through desert
shrub
mountain
vale.
My boots moved one thousand miles from
chill to heat to chill again
as I lay my head in a mountain town
while the singer on the radio keeps singing-
“am I strong enough to start again?
all will be forgiven.”
And I sing along with perfect cadence
to serenade that bitter, bloated queen
to chase the better one that waits for me.

I hate you, Oklahoma.
I hate you for the friends you took from me
for the mentor that died in your arms
for the truth that I wanted to find
at the bottom of every whiskey bottle
but instead found vomit and piss as my bedsheets
head aching like a freight train rumbling through –
ribs aching like I fought a hundred men –
and I hate you for the pills –
all that valium, vicodin, xanax, oxycodin and worse.
But I love you, Oklahoma.
For the family you gave me unthinking
the ones you didn’t take away
that showed me a better way than a revolver
pressed straight above my ear
to paint the wall Navajo orange.
Am I strong enough to start again?
All will be forgiven.
I’ll sing it and believe it –

Because when that family who bears you
and the family you choose later
lifts you up to the sky and pushes you on
to better things
life isn’t going to let me down again.

Sediment

Never again but always ever is never enough.
There’s three crosses in a pattern on the wall
broken up by empty space and
in that space between are sixteen pieces
of sixteen stars
naked and cold and frostbitten.
It hasn’t lasted a day since August
came and went, came and went.
Heads or tails drove me west and east and west again
which brought me down a broken highway
bloodless and calm
with the rest of myself scattered to the winds —
cherry on a cigarette.
Each nightmare driven deeper like a passage
long since left alone to filter
and burn like scraps of paper caught in a marching breeze.
In a symphony of empty space
calls the clarion wild clarity that escapes
each quickened vein that pulses
with both agony and ecstasy
through sickness and in health
till death makes me part.

Aside

Lethe

I drove down to the river one day to watch it
and think those sullen thoughts
that seemed so outdated and made for yesterday.
Each varied attempt to disappear
makes it that much more difficult to return.
I waited for the water to trail past me
and imagined the water,
close enough to reach,
but too far out to see.

I waited there: alone, watching, silent, hiding.
There had been a time when I had attempted
so desperately to save my own soul
by professing a quiet prayer to a noble calling.
And from this, I received such congratulations
that perhaps were not my due;
why congratulate someone for saving themselves?
The world keeps spinning dizzy in the dark.
The only difference was
I wasn’t spinning along with it.

That river kept on, kept on, kept on.
It twisted and arched and turned and sighed
and I felt like a voyeur;
I watched something that I had no right to see.
Each unbidden, unwanted thought surged up
enough to make me wish that the Willamette
was the Lethe.

Expectations

The tide rose
and was a bloated harvest moon.
It swept in to push and ebb
at the quiet rock
seeking to etch its way in
inch by inch
foot by foot
until it dug a hole so deep
that it could live inside;
larva eating away
at the walls
that strained and struggled
to ignore the tide
and carry on.

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