Archive for the ‘Beth’s writing’ Category

First, My Clothes

First, my clothes
an assortment of cacky, tan
and black pants varying in size over the years.
Then my journals,
newspapers I’d published in,
magazines, old radio stands.
Finally, art pencils, watercolor brushes,
gels and printing inks.
I stopped at my poetry books,
then decided it wasn’t worth the chance.
The mold on Love Poems had already turned green.

They laugh when they’re terrified,
and mock when they’re apologizing.


My Father’s Shoe Polish Kit

Two pieces of hair cutting comb
so we wouldn’t get split ends.
Toenail clippers, a fingernail file,
one half-squeezed tube of Preparation H,
one full tube of toothpaste,
tampons and minipads to the side.

You can only keep some things so long.
My father’s shoe polish kit
sits in the top of my closet.
Griffin Allwite self-applicator bottle and brush,
the white liquid squeezed out on Easter morning.
Lanolize your shoes with
Esquire Boot Polish.
The Esquire Footman
has the same Kiwi horsehair bristle brush.

I sat on my mother’s bed
and he brushed his shoes back and forth
like a man playing a rough violin.
The smell of saddle soap and black tar still remind me of him.

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The Headless Horseman Lives in a Hallway

The headless horseman lives in a hallway,
with florescent lights
in a building behind Safelite Auto Glass.
He carries plastic bags to and from Krogers
and parks his Buick behind the building where he lives.
Tonight the moon is shining,
and I stand in a revolving door of headlights.
On the yellow caution signs on the sidewalk
my shadow shifts back and forth
as if I’m walking on a highway.
He takes his baseball cap off as he passes me
and looks like Doc Holliday.

The Headless Horseman Always Wears a Hat

The headless horseman always wears a hat,
no matter how he’s disguised.
First, as my brother
disgusted I must throw out my old clothes,
then as a young business man texting on his phone.
Today, he’s a thin skeletor woman squatting on the sidewalk
and tomorrow he’s a maintenance man removing gutters from a condo.
He wears an orange shirt and large white gloves
and blinks in the bright sun.
The gutters sag from years of wear
and lay beside his white truck,
black as the South
too many years of roof tar and soot
streaming through its mouth.

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404 Unfound

404 Unfound

We make sure people transfer back and forth
between visible and invisible,
usually in an airport.

So now we sit in the Grand Hotel
waiting for Garbo to fall in love.
I don’t want an accordion either

or a land of chewing gum machines
with triple turn knobs
that still take a nickel.

I could no more fly on a plane than a stranded Moses.
Me and Moses we stay home
and take care of our ten broken toes.

You can shake me up all you want
or ask me to buy a cigarette plant
with my pieces of plastic and filling station hands.

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Wedding Photos

Sometimes that’s all we have left–
even for those of us who realize it wasn’t a mistake.
I see a boy without the bruise,
and a girl without the grin.
There they are in all their ugliness
ready to begin and frozen in midair.
They breathe like they are surrounded by Bach.
Sometimes in the eyes, they don’t need to be young.
Their tuxes
loose attics
that could not wait another season,
and could have been more used.

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Neighborhood Watch

We’ve got Brits passing by on bikes
while I’m vomiting.

Boys play pin a tail on a donkey,
and dogs run free.

Intimidated or over chosen,
I always carry Scout there.

neighing — the action on the part of the house of saying no

neigh — to laugh loudly

neighbour hood — to live closely to someone, to border upon

neigh — the natural call or cry uttered by a horse

bor or bour

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Which War

Which War

There’s WW2
and Vietnam
the civil and the revolution
the protestants, the catholics, the constitution.
Were any of them real wars?

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Fake Merwins, Fat Dianes

The fat Dianes pray to child Buddhas
who sit at Whole Foods
eating sandwiches with fake Merwins.

Please save me, they say.
The Merwins are too old,
the Dianes too fat.

They walk down Broadway
past buildings
that are painted the wrong brown,

toward Asian women
with gray roots who ask,
“How old are you?”

She is turning in and out of herself
fat Diane
sitting alone in her bedroom

fat Diane,
a D.C. blonde caught in a power trap.
Never make a commitment,

never crack a smile.
You are a happy-go-lucky old lady
they are turning into a pedophile.

Diane is playing dodge ball,
Diane is having tea.
Diane has a lion face,
Diane is not the queen.

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Merwin, Merwin where are you

One day Andy Warhol will take a photo of all this
and turn it into a Marilyn Monroe triptych
with pink and purple dots
and cheshire cat smiles,
an island where washing machines
curl into smoke bombs
and little shoes wait to be worn

I don’t know if Merwin walked by tonight
Will you cut the wires
Will you show me the detonator
where Vietnam war Vets make games
of door stoops and step landings.

I might slip once winter settles in
I might find my car full of smoke
The dents in my front door might detonate too,
but Merwin, Merwin where are you?

Everybody went, I thought I was going too.
The audience only knows what it needs
She’s fat or she’s skinny or she shits,
She parrots what the tests have already shown.

Slate bombs and firecrackers and jugs full of percolite
little stones
cars in ghost lights beneath fake trees
and blue glazed vases that tell where the arsenal sits
in the condo between the ladders where nobody lives

That’s what keeps you on air
That’s what keeps you on ride
When I step from my house
Who’s on my side

Now my car has black fingerprint dust
and they’ll leave it alone

The first hour they taped my mouth
The second hour they shook my skull
The third hour they blistered my breasts
and now I sit all alone

Even the lover in you cannot bring her home
A performance keyed up that no one can see
an audience that takes to trader chatter
partly somewhat sloppy and partly somewhat whole

pieces of my life taped together in a dress
rehearsal to the death
full-hour programming
I work or I don’t

I cannot breathe
I’ll always be a little late
but no more headaches and no more colds
A fake cigarette in a fake mask mouth
might need a smoke

Once we run out of colors
we’ll know we’re through
the script looks like the rainbow
You got old people
but mostly young

Insiders or outsiders none have defects
She’s not too affectionate
He doesn’t use his paws
He’s a piece of paper
they like to laugh and touch

Keyed up cats and no food dogs
I can make this amount of dirt turn to diarrhea dog shit
Your vagina blood is sprayed on paint
Members of the cult, you know what I mean
The minute you become gods you work without cameras

the minute you put on sneakers
you’re part of the camera-and-sneaker clan
Where a nice old lady sits on a bench
looking for slaphappy rainbows and slicked on skin
The nice couple on the pedestal
has made a request
to cornhusk it and bubble it a likeable best

where humorizing and glamorizing are paid by the hour
I pretend this just isn’t happening
I pretend if I don’t talk it all
she won’t notice
I just stand here and pose
like I did on the slide
as a child in 1975

I don’t believe in ratings
I just shake my dick

Or play a gay boy sick
It’s obvious who’s queer
It’s obvious who’s upset
I’ve decided enough is enough but I still get paid
by third-seat writers who work on the slade

If the signatures aren’t authentic
is the independence real
Jefferson and Adams, they had their fakes

Dozens will view it
I would like to see the show
I’d like to look at my show everyday
I’d like to be a bit easier around people
I’ll calm down now if you’ll please sedate me.

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Old Hotels

I have a pair of opera glasses
gold rimmed in white ivory
that sit on a shelf in my bedroom
next to books I read as a child.
The glasses have a straight handle
long enough to fit in the hand of a delicate girl
who wears white gloves to the theater
to watch Rigoletto,
and has learned not to fidget.

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Aaron heard once in a sermon that people are like buildings. They have walls and windows and doors. Most people know where their walls are and where the windows and doors fit in, but Aaron no longer had any sense of that.

He had a photo in his wallet he kept pulling out of his family when his brother was still alive. The boys are about eight and ten years old and stand next to their parents on the front porch of their house dressed for Easter Sunday. His mother wears a blue hat that matches her dress, and the boys and their father wear suits and ties.

Aaron stares at his family wondering who took the photo. The light on the house was brightest early in the morning, and they squint as the photo is taken. Had a neighbor come over, who would be there that time of day? The question popped around in Aaron’s brain like a pinball inside a machine. He closed his eyes trying to remember who took the shot.

“Excuse me, ” a voice said.

Aaron turned to see John Mason, the teacher in the art class.

“I was wondering if these belong to you,” Mason said.

In his hands were the drawings Aaron had stashed beneath the couch. Aaron looked at the drawings, not knowing what to say.

“I don’t know why I’ve hung on to those,” Aaron said. “I hope you don’t mind. They aren’t even half finished. I sometimes draw in your class after I get off work.”

Mason looked from the drawings into Aaron’s face. It was as if two windows had been raised in two houses that had been standing next to each other for years. Aaron and Mason looked at each other wondering how they’d never met.

“One of the other teachers saw you leaving the classroom late one night. Do you have any more? Did you ever think of drawing larger?” Mason asked.

Mason’s students didn’t know how to fill a canvas or a page, but here was a man whose drawings ran off the edges of the paper.

“I was wondering who this is,” Mason said.

“That’s my father after we moved here, during the years he worked at the Tribune.”

Mason pulled out another drawing. “What would you have drawn in this corner if the paper had been wider?”

Aaron looked at a drawing of a room where clothes lay smoothed out on a dresser table.

“My mother,” Aaron said. “On the other side of the room was my mother.”

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