g r a v e l
A L I T E R A R Y J O U R N A L
The deliberated anxiety of a midnight drive
clothes me in private resplendence.
Oncoming headlights blur, then taillights
scream across my field of vision. I try not
to look at every streetlight, but fail; over-
head spotlights leave tracers, neon orange
ribbons of cherry-ends on acid. Troubles
emerge from all angles. Even the shoulder
menaces paranoia: what if the ground’s
not solid to the side, what if it’s quicksand?
Ah sand, gravel, gravy, or some midnight-
nightmare moat made of baby toads waiting
for a motorist to slip, waiting for me to slide
and hydroplane across a horde of miniscule entrails,
pitching me across the city in an unholy swan dive.
How many cars would I take with me
in the latenight crash? How many metal fixtures
would scrape against the windows? The anxiety
is excellently endless, the combinations
multiply as physical possibilities for mayhem
mutate and expand, retract then return with
heightened threats for each new inch travelled.
I crouch behind the wheel, paw along the dash
in search of succor, salve for this strained crescendo:
a class of stress that almost borders on pleasure
when I locate relief in two primal sumptuous
stimulants: Scandinavian death metal and
a Marlboro. I switch on the cd. Inscrutable lyrics
make declarations but I forget the words
are foreign and for a moment I wonder
have I gone insane?
Then I realize it’s not my mother tongue
like sometimes when people speak but
make no sense and I wonder what’s wrong with
my mind and spirit, then I realize my eyes
are heavy and a cigarette is all I need, right here
in the truck. The flotsam of both music and smoke
billow out the window and I squint to see the next
potential crash or soft shoulder rollover
across a peripheral swath of toad guts.
At first I didn’t notice owl eyes
stretched across his face,
an invisible band pulling at his brow,
marking his inheritance,the legacy of Samoset.
At first I saw restrained glances,
heard measured words of fondness.
Later, we joined in play beside
riverbanks, cast smoothed-sharpened arrows
aimed at a mythical destination.
Only then did I see his portrait
as in museums, his face a calumet
issuing an edict of love for the ages.
After the extinction of people,
polar bears in captivity
break out of their controlled habitats
and let out all the other animals
trapped inside zoos the world over.
Freed, the ivory bears
download novels by Hemingway
and play poker at biker bars.
They stock hockey rinks with bottles of coke
(there’s so much coca cola for them)
and play rock ballads from the 1980s over the intercoms.
They bring in some dancing bears from traveling circuses
and set up brothels in the penalty boxes.
Certain fatalistic bears among both species
lament the impurities of their pedigrees
that will surely follow from uncaged intermixing
between polar bears and dancing bears.
The thing the polar bears really miss
(because they run out so wickedly quickly
are klondike bars.
The Russian Lady
Says she is only 27 she
colors her hair black
to hide the grays and plans her life
so she is never alone she
wants attention she wants someone
to read her thoughts and offer
gifts relinquish his treasure and
his people as a token of admiration
and refuse her if she asks for harmful
things when she brings home a man
who doesn't beat her a gentle
man who thinks her vacant heart
is artistic who is not depleted
by her malcontent she writhes and
screams and pushes him down the stairs
I’ve kept vigil for the mythic tranquility
wordsworth requires for a Good Poem,
the silence he says that’s needed
before recalling a moment of intense passion.
But every time I pick up my pen
to take down an indelible mark
(a happy tattoo branded in my heart)
passions are stirred
becomes a brass band in a mardi gras parade.
The music inflates to handel’s messiah, and everything
around me shuffles as in concert hall seats:
spider plants, clouds, goats, and garage doors
let their playbills drop to the floor as they
stand for the hallelujah chorus.
Thus distracted, I surrender to the noise:
throw down the pen, scrape back the chair, and rise
to join the revelers in their magnificent crescendo.