Reading

It begins.  It ends.
The story goes on.
Footsteps on the ceiling,
toilet flush, water rinse,
softer not-fast feet
take time now that the rush
is over,
there’s room for words and maybe
a laugh
(he never laughs, but they do).
A crunch.  Munchy-crunchy. Fun.

He must have it —  women in 
a steady stream says stud, right?
They spend the night once or twice, 
seem sated, smile in the elevator next-day.
He must have it. Yes.

But the story has another side,
an aside, something in the margin:  
the crashing lasts but a paragraph,
sometimes two if the writer is good,
mark the start and mark the finish
and then the toilet and the water
and the softer feet
another paragraph another night
another woman smashing the headboard
into sentences that end
all
too
soon

measuring exposition and completion

line-by-line

as that steady stream
is suddenly understood.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


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Peephole

The dog that looked like a bear,
big and ruffled and angry like
hibernation was not going well
jumped against the wall of the hall
tore away ravenous down the way
pulling a too-small child, dragging that
child towards the elevator
but it couldn’t wait and squatted 
and pissed a lake when the
elevator doors opened so it ran
ran ran for the doors as the child
fell through the urine and shrieked
more angry than sad, and let
go of the leash and the dog/
bear jumped on Anush the 
woman in the elevator who lived
with the dog and the girl and then 
she screamed at the dog and the
girl covered in yellow urine, all
Armenian words now fighting in the
hallway so even the dog came slinking
back and the door of their apartment
opened and a fat fat man in black
velour pants and a chain around his
neck bellowed, walked out into the center,
bellowed some more until Anush 
screamed again, this time at him,
the contempt!  Oh wow the contempt!
She snarled and screamed and
two more children wandered dumbstruck
out of the door, no shoes on their feet,
shorts and t-shirts that didn’t look
real real clean, one eating cereal
out of the box until Anush screamed
at them and they ran with the unine-covered
girl into the apartment and the dog started to
quiver back on its hind legs behind the man,
started to strain and soon there was poop poop
on the floor but the man didn’t see it
and stepped backwards and stepped
right into the poop and swore:
“Shit Fuck!”
Anush backed up, he moved forward
to kill her and this is the way it
went until an even older woman
like grandmother-old came limping out of
the apartment and said something kind or
that sounded kind because the man stopped
in his shitty tracks and Anush took a 
breath and even the dog seemed better.
The old grandmother held out her arm and
her son came to her and gave her his hand
and called another name and another child,
a new one, came out of the apartment and
took the dog to the elevator and down and
they all walked inside the apartment and
closed the door and there was still piss
and shit on the floor but, finally, quiet.

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Garden

Plastic lights bobble along the patio wall.
Inside multi-colored paper clips and fabric boxes,
yarn and sequins stacked in cubbies,
child’s playroom for greeting-card guru,
red construction paper and computer screen
the size of a bed, fine stiff tulips
relaxed piano notes —
she found her Santa Barbara.

Bougainvillea spills over the view
framing sunset-valley eye-level
for short-grandmother-Mavis,
magenta thin-petals and 
lighted plastic bobbles and chimes
dance and dangle,
wise-woman hands inked and painted,
record of joy and death transformed
into keep-sake.

She sits with crafted memory,
a garden only a few square feet
visited every day.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


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Layover

Down from clouds
night-sky Atlanta/LAX
arriving not-home
beer for beer-bellies
tucked under flesh folds.
“Cleaning girl did a nice job.”
Two waters on counter
microwave popcorn.

Beasts circle fat and bald
thin black sock-hose in beige carpet
flight bags lean on table
beer cans crack.
Bald one experts TV
checks watch
enters Animal World.

“Text your daughter” says 
sweaty navigator leaning at table.
Bald now-greasy pilot nods 
drifts back to TV:  
what would win — alligator or lion?
“Alligator.”
Happy B-day text
phone slips inside couch
“Marjorie gonna bring chips?”

“Wishful thinking.”

Alligator kills lion
as sleepy-not sleepy drink
rolly fingers grip cans
no chips no attendant
no return-text.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


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Deal

His phone vibrates.  He looks at it.
His little girl tries to stay straight on a pink bike.
He hardens, hangs onto the pink seat.
“Fuck.” 
Undertoned
so his daughter doesn’t hear.
She peers at him, waits. She knows 
riding is over.  She holds the handle-bars.
They have plastic streamers.
“Just gonna be a minute, okay?”
He knows he’s hoping. She doesn’t care.
“Just a minute” as she puts her feet
permanently on the ground.

“Don’t got it.”
“Don’t know.  Comin’ clean wit-chu, man.”
“Don’t know whadda tell you.  Don’t got it.”
“What?  The fuck you say to me?”
“You threatening my family?”
“I’m gonna fuck you up!”
“You threatening my kid?”

The bike lays on the cement.  He spins around
desperate for his daughter.
She’s down the breezeway
talking to a baby palm tree
in a huge gray planter.
She waits for it to talk back.
He softens, turns:

“You get your fuckin’ money, okay?”
“Soon.”
“Not gonna happen, man.”
“Don’t got it, plain.”

Now he looks scared.  
It covers him like darkness.
He sweeps windows,
scours for signs.
Turning around and around
scanning, hurried,
stumbles toward his little girl,
touches her head,
she looks up at him,
she’s happy, points to the palm tree,
the gray planter,
tugs at his shorts.

“The tree wants Daddy.”
He says: “Yes, baby. It is.”
He keeps his hand on her head.

“I’ll get you your fucking money.”
The girl digs in the potted palm,
tries to climb in.
“Tomorrow.”
She’s looking for worms 
saying, “Here, worm, here, wormy-worm.”
“Tomorrow.  Stay away from my girl.”

It’s over.  The phone goes into his shorts.
He picks up his little girl.  He walks past the bike,
stops, looks at all the windows,
goes back, picks up the bike in his other hand,
leaves.

(from I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors)


In twelve years in Los Angeles, have you ever seen a neighbor?

Death Becomes Her

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Upstairs/Downstairs

Gamzat model Shayenne-dancer
adjust light, baby-talk doggie 
for moment, normal Insta-life dog

as

nameless packs fruit boxes
kids’ puppets and a jar of pennies
half-used and her mother feeds
a hapless baby — television 
behind heartbreak, some show...

as

strand of hair wet
pushed to place and eyeliner
draw more deep angle —
Gamzat make Shayenne 
laugh humping air with sexy

as

that stupid child starts crying
which makes Abuelita start
and nameless pushes back 
falling hair and looks out the
window and wants to 
throw a dead plant

as 

Gamzat pull shirt off
muscles and say Insta-girl:
“Couch — 2148 like!”
wait flash and go both to kitchen
no shirt for to put dish in washer
Shayenne-dancer swallow banana, 
look like monkey and laugh

as

why can’t they just close the blinds?

From I Can See You — A Collection of Neighbors

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Oxnard Street Poet

Older than the sidewalk cracks and
street, settled on his flaking porch,
he remembered the Valley when it was trees.

“I’m ready to not be old,”
he said as I passed by.
His eyes were uncommonly blue,
for an old man.
He said: “They published my poem.”
I was on my way to school,
about to not stop.
“Once I get the book,
I’ll read it to you.”

*

The book cost $49.95.
He held up the flyer they sent.
But he was proud, 
so I said nothing.

*

“Hallo,” he’d say,
waving from his chair.
“Hello,” I’d say,
not wanting to be rude.
Lovely day,
awesome morning,
top of the world,
hello, hallo,
have a good day.

Joe was great-uncle wrinkled,
and I had class to get to,
I was a Senior.
But everyone should talk
to a grandpa sitting on a porch.

*

He asked if I wanted to read his poem.
The book was thick with cheap paper.
I was late but said yes
and the poem was about apples
and I didn’t have to make something up.
It was worth more than the book.

“Do you like it?” he asked.
“I want to read it to my English class.”
Joe gave me his book.
He said to be careful with it.
“I never got published before.”

*

We sat watching cars
speed down Oxnard Street,
heads moving left to right
then back again, ready.

*

Joe made coffee
and I listened to stories.
He voted for Roosevelt
and Nixon, twice —

“bet you no one’ll ever tell you that!” —

He didn’t like his grand-daughter.
He said I wouldn’t either.
“Uppity.  Ugliness is inner.”
He said if you wanted to get 
a pothole fixed in LA,
put a movie-camera next to it
and the mayor would come fill it himself.

He so near the end
talked to me so near the beginning,
said we were bookends on God’s shelf.
His hands trembled, so I carried the cups.
“That’s what age does,
shakes us loose
from the inside out.”

*

The Oxnard Street poet and
an uppity kid who learned to listen
to words warmed by coffee
and care
and age.

More poetry here.

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For Now

The sun feels good in this world,
warm,
wide-windowed breeze
and your brown clone sunglasses
with golden wire frames.
I think I’m falling.

With you, my skin is tanned to sand,
porch-picnic-ready,
your mom asking “So is he
treating you good?”
When I say yes,
she gets that twinkle
so I know what she means.
I nod, shy; she smiles, 
proud of her son.

I sit in your world
and we all eat chicken and talk
about school and 
TV and
how you know when you’re in love.
(They had a lot of wine.)
Here, your parents are mine;
they don’t have to say 
I’m welcome.

Now I remember:
Mom hides fear in her smile
while dad tries hard to forget
me,
sewn up tight as he
feasts on fury.
I am a billion sand-pieces
waiting for glass.

“Come on,” you say.
“The road’s too cool
for that.”
So I wrench out of then, 
kiss this
forget that
for now.

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Victory

“Stand back, stand by.”

I am about to know

I have loam and rock for a back
and blue-grey sky for a head

honor an orange sun yellow
and gaze purple into ink

rest in love
as I have done all these years,
wake to heartbeats
and sleep with all sighs.

Then 

when unripe Boys rape in dirt
and shoot dark;

masturbate dry pricks
blood-smear voided genitals

kill this body
gorge on dull meat
eat our kind
burn our memory;

then

my arms Earth and Sky
my companion-Sun
my love this man

envelop me
pierce this hell
carry me home.

More poetry HERE.

FR-eee!

W-R-O-N-G
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
SoundMaker.
W-R -- do you feel the 
gravel in your chest?
Vibration?
O-N -- 
almost an OHMMMMM,
almost prayer,
right?

R-I-G-H-T
is a sound.
Go ahead and make it,
SoundMaker.
Different, eh?
Frequency rests
someplace else --
R-H-I, closer to 
my head.
Distant. BRI-ght.

Now say
P-O-O-P!
Or L-O-V-E.
OR...

SoundMaker,
SOUND!
Stop thinking
letters.
G-OH
into the FEE-lds
and FO-wrists
and BRIE-thhhh!
Sound FRE-eee to LoverSound.
I'll be waiting
to SOW-nd with you.

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