A Hearty Bowl of Cincinnati Chili

“You’re from Ohio. Have you had

Cincinnati chili?”

 

“Cincinnati chili tastes 

like gunpowder and blood in an alley,

And the rapidity of the heart 

before it stills;

The crunch of white onions 

and the burn of bitter formaldehyde. 

It smells like sliced brown beef

And beans

And the flowers poised like offerings

Around a young person who became

The Body.

In truth I remember little of the chili

Only the people there eating it, too. 

There was a man hunched over his bowl

Spoon clutched tight in his hand

I imagined it was the hand that 

Ripped the life from him

And I hoped it might be

So that I might hope he

This man

Would choke. 

A life for a life. 

He was just a man

Tasting his chili 

And I was a girl

Eating salty tears and ashes.”

 

Instead of this I say

“I tasted it once.

I didn’t like it.”

not my own.

I watch you leave.
I imagine the scent you have left on the pillow
Your toothbrush beside the sink
and your tie on the floor,
The lights on and the slow
Steady
Drip of the tap.
It is just like you to linger.

After long breaths I enter the space.
It still smells of you and, greedy,
I drink the last of you in.
You will not return
And I will not call you back.
I sink deep into the cracks you have made
And for a moment, I think I could live there.

In the space that you just left, the
Perfect negative.
I imagine you better. Wholly mine.
I do not have to share you:
Not with who you thought you would be’
The brokenness of who you are.
Not with the family you made
While you were—you said—looking for me.

I am a shell, hollowed out, but not broken.
Press me against you and you can hear
Wave upon wave
Of empty remembrances,
Of sea salted nothing,
Ruinous and vast.
I think of your words, equally vast. And ruinous.

How I waited for you,
To be,
And to be mine.
You would take me with you and we
Would begin again. You, with your art
And me.
Perhaps I was this empty and lost, always,
But more likely I was waiting and you poisoned my well.

I hear your voice on the line
That you promised to never ring again.
You miss me,
You are nothing without me,
I am responsible for who you are
I have to finish what I’ve started.
I have to unmake what I have made.

For me you paint a portrait
Us.
A warm someone to press against
Kisses that draw me to the brink
Lovemaking that pushes me over.
The push and pull of
Together, a voice to fill
The silence.

Were I stronger I might hang up
Or not answer at all.
I might say you don’t respect me
But I respect myself.
I do not need to be complemented
Or complimented.
Myself, I am enough.

I say none of these.
The picture you painted was in vain:
I do not have to imagine
The empty bed,
The splitting ache of loneliness,
And the silence of my house;
And I welcome the ruinous ache of you
And with you, the only arms to hold me not my own.

 

America

You suckle at her teat though you’ve had your fill. You are engorged to the point of aching, but you 

Must have all of her. 

She is weakened under your weight. 

And under the weight of your father before you. 

She must have been beautiful once, you muse. 

You’ve never seen her, though. Not really. 

You’ve always looked past her and imagined

What she could be. 

You’ve done this for as long as she has been and now

You can’t see what she never was. 

Still, you have ruined her. Perhaps she had promise. Once, before your fingers grazed her

Body–already claimed but belonging to her–she was free and she was beauty. Only for a moment. 

From the moment you saw her you knew she must

Submit. 

You wrecked her. Now she bears your children–hungry, tired, huddled together. Their voices are weak–you have taken yours and left them nothing. 

You sneer at them. They should find their own way. But she is their mother. They see her scars–the holes you have made in her–but they love her. 

Her heart is skidding to a halt. You can hear it. She exudes an odor that she didn’t have before. Oily and sweet. 

You will drink yourself to death. You know it. They know it, too. But you keep at her anyway. 

You will go. They will to, too. No one will be left to bear witness to the mess you made. 

rooms.

Waiting rooms.

Dusted with the echoes of those gone before

The lagging whisper of time.

Carpets printed with faded patterns of nothing,

Footprints flecking the floor like blood.

Emergency rooms.

Shrills shrieks of silence, assessing

The common brokenness.

Crisp bedclothes betraying nothing,

Every sound a death knell.

Classrooms.

Sticky hot with the exhaustive efforts to

Think/do/be nothing.

Chalk dust and pressed granite replaced by the tapping of keys

Jingling their way to a muffled end.

Family rooms.

They are not for sitting: do not go in there.

Bedrooms.

Laced with the strain of too little space

Arguments misremembered.

Walls of want crumble and rebuild themselves,

Ghosts of fingers reach through, but clasp nothing.

Motel rooms.

Scented with loneliness and the musk of

Desperation and dying.

Beds hard and stiff and not for sleeping, but for

The nothing that follows the too-brief ecstasy.

Hotel rooms.

Clouded with pretending and breaking smiles

Candle wicks burned down to nothing.

Salted tears arrive with room service,

Charges for the stains that will not out.

Crowded rooms.

Suffocating loneliness, the terror of being seen

And unseen.

Throats parched and closed, voice useless, legs tired

Mouth open—then nothing.

Light at the Intersection of Bitter and Sweet

The morning distorts and fragments

The light

It appears, for a moment, to change

Brief, anointed, unified, delight

So we walk, without looking

Trusting as we were told

Blindly seeing tasting feeling

The sight we were to behold

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Stretched out vast and endless

Before

Darkness, but we dare not look behind

They promised, we would find ourselves in this

Before we could think, they broke promises in our minds

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

You failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it–and then

Graying in our brittle bones, the marrow in us

Sour

We lay our friends to rest, the stones

Where young hearts once beat

Thumping bitter in our chests

And the time

The time comes faster than we can know

And we are whisked away before our hour

Nothing to show for us when we go,

Empty words without their power

We do not make it

They never do

On broken bones keep crawling

Towards the unseen

The vision of you

Still hearing the voices, not yet faded

Keep moving

We failed, but we are not yet jaded

Keep moving

We are better men

Keep moving

We will make it-

We will make it

And

Then…

Sound

Today I exited the house
Ready to begin the world anew
And there was nothing.
No sounds of truckers
Towing their wares
Exhausting children
Yawning away the cobwebs of night
Frantic mothers scraping on
Makeup and a dash of
Happiness
Bored fathers sliding on the drive
late
For work and play
And late
Whippoorwills trilling the climax of
Their epics
Brilliant maids of yesterday, their feet padding
As the sound of wings on air, catching on
The spine crooked sidewalk.
No sound.
I was the world entire.
I exhaled a sparse breath
And the moment passed
And I was safe in sound once more.

Those We Cannot See

Lured closer

trapped in its gravity,

Dazzling Luminescence,

(It will kill them)

Touch between them

and It will be 

brief

restricted

Less than temporary.

Even as they are

Borne closer

they feel the Void,

yet their existence

brief

restricted

Is spent

Fixed on the brevity

of light that

their eyes–limited–

can discern.

It, the Dazzling Luminescence

The Light

It will kill them,

But the need for greater, if only

Brief

Is greater than 

the Nothing and

They brave

Eternally temporary pain

for the euphoria of

Knowing–choosing.

They are alive, but

only at the touch

But alive, are they?

At the moment

At The Moment

It burns sweet.

And then outs. 

in pursuit of something beautiful

She has never been beautiful to me. I don’t mean to say she isn’t pretty. She’s top heavy, to be certain. Like she spent so much time staring into the mirror perfecting what was already gorgeous that she let the rest of her go to seed.
Parts of her are breathtaking, and seeing them is always breathing for the first time.
Parts of her are grotesque, rotten and soft in too many places. You learn to ignore these parts, even though you stand the risk of catching what festers there.
People say she’s beautiful. They say it and they set their mouths and narrow their eyes and you are to agree with them or you are to go elsewhere.
“Sure,” you say. “She’s beautiful.” They proclaim her lovelier than the rest, with more. That’s why the others hate her, they say. She is more than they are.
But she says this looking into the mirror, and the mirror smiles back, and she forgets that beauty is not created in a vacuum and she is not the world. She takes up a great deal of room, and even the spaces that aren’t hers have her name on it.
She doesn’t see how beautiful the others are.
You wonder about them, but you dare not avert your eyes. You wonder if it was ever okay to question her aloud. Not now, but you think once. Once upon a time.
Not for you, of course. Never for you.
You long to be alive within her, though you will never be a part of her.
You’ve spent so much time staring up at the possibility of her you can’t see past her otherness. The things that fade her and ruin her.
You want to leave. You should.
But where to go? What beautiful brilliant splendid things are there? You spent so much time trying to make her beautiful to you, you forgot what beauty was.
You are afraid to leave her. How to say it?
I want to leave.
What to say? They will ask why. Why? It’s perfect. She’s not perfect, but we know her.
There must be beauty here, you insist. Just not here.
You leave. You don’t completely abandon her, if it would indeed be abandonment. You don’t think anyone would miss you if you left her, but you can’t completely let go. You want to see another side of her.
You want to see what they see when they pledge to her and die for her and dare you to question her. You want to know what they know when they tell you she is better.
Surely they know something you don’t?
Surely there is beauty in her?
Surely the decay that ruminates within her, the desolation that you see, surely that is only in the part that you see.
You leave in search for something beautiful. You hope you don’t have to travel too long. You’ve been without a home for long enough already.

all the little broken things

I’ve lost it,
My mind.
Gone, through one of those cracks–
A hairline fracture,
Invisible to the naked eye–
That company isn’t allowed to see.
I left it caged, gave it instructions
“Don’t think.”

If I kept it caged,
Only gave it minute amounts of
Attention (don’t want to spoil it)
If ignored it–
“I said don’t think about that”
Maybe not it, but rather,
That shameful thing it does. . .

the wandering.
Focusing for too long on
Dark places,
Wondering about its own existence.
Fretting, stewing,
Descending
Breaking free from its cage,
Shattering the cracks so often
They are made holes on the surface now.

I’ve lost it.
My mind.
In spite of the cage,
And chains,
The instructions!
It broke through
And left me.

I’ll wait, but I doubt that that
Beautiful
Brilliant
Broken thing
Should ever return.