Memorial War

faceless list of stark remembrance

etched into black stone

standing immortal,

contrasting the names of those

who realized too soon

they were not made for lasting

down the years.

Tomblines for cause!

for ponder…

in hope of a compassionate

defining of “in vain.”


Still water runs deep

Enough undertow to drown you

In invisible tides that at a glance seem so kind.

Children play in a haven of family strength

Unknowing, they charge across the dirty sand

Like soldiers with a war to wage.

Determination set in the eyes of one spring treasure

Sure that this time, she’ll reach the bottom

Even if she drowns,

She’ll be the first to find it.


The faint blue smog of a conglomerate sky


Another Victory is won for the Big Boss.

Clone voices of all shapes and

sizes rally hard for

the Senseless Slaughter.

Born of false pretense and

the great American Dream.

Graffiti River Boy

The caddy stowaway

And no one knew your name

The sandy foldaway

A kiss of dewdrop swing

Jazz-rataz and glitz of fame

Dummy up or be wasted

Raz-bataz and let that brass play

Until the blues turn faded


Reserved and not disturbed

A cigarette chews your silhouette

Piano percussion soul to fold

And trombones to play grass roulette

Fumble da raz, I wish you’d spoken

Dance, cat, dance

Fritz la blitz, we were holding

Trance, man, fence


The lost river boy

And no one knew your name

Bayou fever toy

Have a mosquito Christmas

Dame the game to ambiance

You were so alone, there

Lame and drab to conceive

Lost but always found, there


To the graffiti stowaway

I always knew your name

To the rickety river boy

Your beat was stronger than your fame

You’re alone now, so smoke on the water

The humidity will steal away the pain

You can’t get tired now, so walk on further

It wouldn’t be worth it without the pain

And the jazz man slipped again


He catches the “no” as it tumbles from my mouth

Shoves it back into my throat

I’m choking


He is made of granite, of marble: Stonehenge

Stone-boy makes the floor swallow me


I descend from Irish Chieftains

Recite Shakespeare

Love Vivaldi

It doesn’t matter

My head pounds on the bathroom door

And he hurts me

And hurts me

And hurts me


I am a child of rape, now I am its slave

I leave my life in the shower drain

I throw up and he laughs


Two hours of solitude

I cry as I look for my pants

He took my cigarettes, too

I am not my own

A Tragedy in Two Parts

I’m still sitting on this wall, the brick chill cutting through my jeans. I take a swig of beer, wipe the condensation from my hand onto the dark denim, watch the smoke from my cigarette curl into the dark woods before disappearing into the sky. I am aware of the club behind me in the same way that I am aware of the seven foot drop under my dangling feet; it’s there but I’m not going to fall.

Footsteps on the patio behind me. It’s probably just another couple come to take advantage of one of the picnic tables. I place my beer down on the wall next to me ignoring them with a forceful drag on the cigarette. I don’t smoke.

She’s suddenly there, on the wall with me, and for a moment I’m afraid she’s upset the beer can, precariously balanced on the old, crumbly bricks. But no, there it is, safe on my other side. We sit in silence for a moment as she contemplates her intertwined fingers and I continue to watch the dark woods in front of me. I finish my cigarette, stub it out, light another. I don’t smoke.

She’s looking at me now. I can feel her eyes on the side of my head.

“I’m sorry about… I’m sorry.” I do not respond. What response is there? I could tell her I’m sorry too, or that I’m not sorry and neither is he, so why should she be? Or that he was… is… a bastard, or that inside I’m crying but I don’t cry so… but she’s speaking again. The cigarette is shaking; highlighted by my apparent verbal incapacity, I can feel her attention focused on it. I don’t smoke.

“I hate men.” This said quietly, but with a strange, lightning vehemence that captures my full attention instantly. I glance at her sideways with a laugh that might have passed for a cough. It could have been a cough. I don’t smoke.

She’s looking at me again, but I’m back in the woods. If I turn my head I will be able to see her eyes and then I will know what she means. But it’s her move in this strange game we’ve been playing, and I remain still. I feel her look away again. Pass. Her disappointment is palpable, and I wonder what she wants from me, why she cares about my reaction, or lack thereof. I wonder how much she knows. I make my own move with a quick flick of the cigarette. I don’t smoke.

“I don’t like men,” she says again, even more quietly, if that’s possible. I grunt noncommittally before inhaling another lungful of smoke. The red embers glow violently in the night before fading to dull gray ash. I don’t smoke.

“No, I mean it. I really don’t like men.” Louder. She gets her desired response. I take the cigarette out of my mouth with the hand previously reserved for beer and look at her. It’s her turn to look at the woods now. When she turns her head, too suddenly for me to pretend not to notice, to look away quickly. Our eyes meet, green on more green. We both know that I know what she means. The next move is mine.

I should say, me neither, and pretend not to know what she means, turn back to the forest and my cigarette. I should say, me neither, and lean in, close my eyes, close the shallow distance between us, close this game. I should leap down seven feet and she should follow, and whatever happened then would be between our self-control and our fate.

But I don’t believe in fate, and I don’t smoke.

I look away from her. “Don’t we all,” I say ruefully as I stub my cigarette out. I swing my legs over the wall, start to leave and turn back. I do not look at her as I collect my beer from its ledge, down it, and crush the can. The metal crumples easily against my hand. I leave her sitting on the wall as I return to the glaring lights and pervasive bass booster, to my drunk and currently–conspicuously-cheating-in-a-corner boyfriend. Without taking my eyes off the unabashed gratification in front of my eyes, I sit down on a stool, take out another cigarette, and ask the bartender for a light. I don’t smoke.

Walking in a Shadow’s Wake

Remnants of My Brother

In the night, my brother stood.

If I have children one day, I will tell them the story of James, and I will begin it this way. I will want them to see what I saw that night, and what I saw most clearly was my brother standing, bare-chested and barefoot, at the foot of my mother’s bed, which almost touched the door frame of that small room. Never did the room seem smaller than the night my brother stood there. The mid-July night was thick and dense. Our mobile home was cooled only by the spinning fans in the windows, turned on low because they were loud and rattled the windows, which in turn rattled the walls, which vengefully rattled the room. Lying asleep, I had been dreaming. The very event that occurred that night, the one that woke me from my dream, would be the one that has continued to shake me awake during the dense night of my lifetime. In order to tell this story correctly, though, perhaps I should start at the very moment I opened my eyes and saw.

In the night, my brother stood. He was so pale that the blue light of the summer’s midnight reflected off his pale chest and pale face and pale arms, giving him an otherworldly appearance, not quite alien but strangely angelic. Most frightening were his eyes, blue as the blue night that splashed about the room, as if it had been thrown from a child’s bucket. The two blues melded, and for a moment, I thought I was looking through his sockets, past his brain to the wall behind him. He glanced in my direction, saw nothing of interest there, and padded to my mother’s sleeping form, leaning towards her face. Staring at her, he took a deep breath and shook her. She awoke with a gasp, the kind one emits when a child is about to pull a pot of boiling water onto its head, and whispered fiercely, “What is it?” She had gone, in that instant, from being concerned about the pot of water, to becoming the pot of water: Her usually loving voice turned dangerous, and I am sure my brother, being astute, saw the imminent explosion in her eyes. Her tone reminded James that his reason for startling her better be good, or he was about to taste some serious pain. She was angry, and why not? James had been fired from his job that day for theft of services: giving away toys at his game stand at the local amusement park to those who had not necessarily earned them, and my mother had been livid. He and she have had many grievances before, over school, issues at home, in life, but always he managed to bring a smile to her scowling lips and the two reconciled for a time. But now, she spoke again, and the sultry room seemed cool, stiff with her words, and I could almost see the “What?” hovering between them. His reply, which was simple and calm, made me feel my soul scratching at my ribcage and pounding the walls of my body, rushing to leave me at its utterance:

“Mom, I took all of my sleeping pills. There were 43. I think I’m going to die.” As an afterthought, a realization: “I tried to kill myself.” And now a justification: “I didn’t want to go to Shaffner.” I almost shuddered at the thought myself. My brother had been to the juvenile detention facility previously, and when he returned, his spirit was violently shaken and ragged. At times, a glance in his face would reveal that some thing, some element of his whole being was lost and somehow tossed away.

My mother rises from her bed with the quickness of a bewildered child and pulls on shoes. Her thick rope-like braid swings in her face and she glances in my direction without seeing me. I must have been invisible that night, because neither my mother nor my brother seemed to acknowledge my presence. I can only imagine what happened after that; the door to the house gave a final dry click and the slam of car doors told me that they were gone. Did she shove a finger down his throat? Did she scream at him and ask him to justify, to explain? Did she cry? Did he? I imagine some country song with sappy lyrics about a boy about to die on his way to the hospital. They would call it “Tears in the Minivan,” I suppose.

Suddenly alone in our small home, I rolled onto my back and looked through the ceiling at a sky all blue and black. The sky was a curtain of bruises, the stars a million shimmering pills, and behind the sky, a godless universe was expanding like the poison in my brother’s bowels. I counted the stars and swallowed each one in turn. “God is dead, dead, dead, says Nietzsche. Dead like my brain, dead like my brother in 99, 98, 97…” Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I let them roll into my ears, where they melted my brain and put me to sleep.

The next morning I awake, and think that it was all a dream, a strange dream that is now just a flickering remnant, a torn ribbon fluttering in the breeze. My mother is in the kitchen, and I imagine that shortly, I will make breakfast, and we will sit around the table sipping orange juice from glasses with swirled bottoms and speak of our dreams. I have a dream to tell them about. Lucid yet forgotten, how upsetting, how absurd. I brush my hair: 97, 98, 99… My mother walks into the bathroom and begins to brush her teeth. Looking at her ragged braid, my mind flashes for an instant back to my brother hovering in the doorframe and I slowly lower my brush. “Was James in our room last night?” I ask, choosing just the right inflections in my voice at just the right spots, my tone inquisitive and not demanding. She turns to me, and I see her eyes are red and shadowed. She spits out some water and wipes her mouth with the towel. “James tried to kill himself last night. (pause) I drove him to the hospital. (long pause) He’s going to live. (short pause) We need eggs.” And she’s gone. I stare at my reflection for a long time and then I sit on the floor for a while. After that I bite my lip until it bleeds, and finally I kick the tub and start to swear between my sobs. Sob-gasp, sob-gasp, sob-gasp. Slowly, I stand and finish brushing: 97, 98, 99, 100, just like Marcia Brady.

What does one say about a loved one’s attempted suicide? You fear that you are nothing. You must be. You must be so inadequate that the very brother who used to lift you up at the orchard to choose that perfect apple does not regard you as a reason to remain upon the earth any longer. Your love is not great enough to bind him to life, and your hope not enough to inspire him to live. You are, quite simply, not a thing in a world. Eventually, that feeling fades. But wisps of it stay with you always, though. He does live! Huzzah! Rejoice and be glad! Eventually, though, the Hallelujah chorus draws to a close, and as the last notes dwindle, something is not right; you take a closer look. He is living, but he lives on in pain, and before long, the cuts that he makes on his arm deepen to his soul, his core, begins to fester. “I reek of weakness, of cruelty, of imperfection,” he says. To this I say nothing: He has pushed at my heart time and time again, pushing it closer to some kind of intangible limit. Finally, he has succeeded in tipping my heart all the way over and when he did, all of the comforting words fell out and disappeared, leaving it empty; all the words of strength on my lips melted away.

Once upon a time, the two of us walked in life’s labyrinth together, connected by a string of shimmering hope, so as not to lose each other. That night, however, he severed it and journeyed alone toward the Minotaur that is Death, so he could learn its cruelty and isolation. Who knows when and if he will return? This is no hero, no brave Theseus. Once my brother had hope, but now he has little more than the frayed ends of a love that was supposed to be unending; he is left with shards of a life that stick in his heart and cut at his dreams.

The memory of my changeling brother is the memory of the dead, though he lives. He has tattooed on his chest, “Nemo Me Impune Lacesset”: No one hurts me unpunished. It is why he punishes himself. When I miss him, it is like a breeze that sweeps my face and moves my hair; it is like a revelation. I reach for that moment, to grab it and bottle it and keep it close, but in the very moments that I realize it is there, it is gone again. My brother James comes and goes in the chambers of my mind, with a smile on his face. “To sleep… perchance to die,” he says. I find it hard to sleep. But when I do, I dream of him. And how, in the night, my brother stood.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—Diamonds, throned

upon a golden stud, glitter beneath

chandelier over red carpet, illuminate the

mesmeric azul of her irises, scintillate

supplication O lord look over here,

O my, how lovely you are tonight, dear.

I never knew you were so beautiful. Diamonds.


Diamonds are girl’s best friend, and

there they are—eighteen carat diamond

studded bronze/gold bracelet on

Home Shopping Network. Slouched,

faded blue velvet, glimmer/shimmer under

studio glare. Thousands of women all over the world

sigh with bored envy at $239.99

that tightwad husbands would never spend on them. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—earth-dusted diamonds

wheelbarrowed out from the yawn of crepuscular chasms

in South Africa, to be cleaned and sorted

by sooted, callused palms, rough

from handling heavy stones. The sun

hammers merciless rays upon strong backs

lifting sacks of jewels into thundering trucks. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—diamond stippled

petroleum probe masticates the

somber depths of everything forgotten. Diamond

molars grind the unfathomable recesses

beneath our feet for blackness to inject unsanitary

needles into the pulse of the world. Diamond jowls

swirl the earth around in their mouth, spit into

sink. Diamonds.


Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and

there they are—murky, embryonic diamond’s

swelling umbilical cord one deep mile

beneath the infinitesimal womb of

the world. They are restless,

one day they shall grow strong

and white, and kick themselves up

to the surface, stillborn, screaming, smiling, eager

to please. Diamonds.

An Exceptional Tree

Shimmering, flowing tinsel heavily drapes the small tree, filling the big holes in the sides where it had been held, or tied down.

Brilliantly colored bulbs give silly, fun-house–mirror reflections of red, yellow, green, and blue.

Little toy soldiers and sugarplum fairies dangle fancifully from green, prickly branches.

It stands as an array of colors.

And atop, a beautiful porcelain angel stares down upon the room, gorgeous and strong.

What a proud sight.


Would a fetus still want to be

born if he

knew that one day

he would go to see a movie

instead of a sunset,


Could he

still be forced alive

from his watery cocoon

if he

somehow foresaw one day

he is wasting away

behind traffic lights,


Would he spit back out his first breath

if he

knew about acid rain

and how plastic grocery bags

blanket trees outside of town

like first snow,


Yes he would. He wants to make

the world his own: a better place.

Somewhere without want, without waste.

Sans hatred, less haste.


He will be,

as Ghandi wrote,

the change that he

wants to see

in the world.

Begin with screaming

wrinkled fist unfurled.