love tick, love tock
Hickory ashes from back lot fires
lick at corner walls
and tick the time away,
casting speckled shadows
on sidewalk calendars.
Waking dreams lit by glowering lamplight,
lit as on the moon’s shores.
We crawl disguised, bellies swollen
through the cracks of the City’s retreat,
marking time that separates and
pulls apart our talk,
stretching our conversations into
fruitless walks, slowly chewing
burnt steak ends, downing sudsy draught
in shanty cragged coveys
in the yellow light past 6 o’clock
and into morning dew stains,
telling signs on silken blouses and cotton twill
signs that smell and linger still.
Separation is fine if savored
–walk softly to fetch the morning paper–
averted eyes, downcast thoughts to
the trampled boutonniere rose beacon.
Stay plugged into the yawning green computer screen
submerged in cable television interstellar dreams
that segues to the radio squawk,
the automaton hero noise of motor chatter rot.
You called for no reason,
as the day drones past us
in melancholy, in total familiarity .
Take a look at my e-mail and tell me what you see…
Wasting time to the timing of the day,
secretaries legs making the only
waves in the void, the eyeless puppets show.
We’ll get off early if it would only snow.
Take me down to numbing electrostatic river waters,
—your pouting test pattern guise—
and save me from the dullest sting
of the ticking clock.
Let your breasts and lips heal
my crippled, hollow walk
—my groping senses numbed from
parking lot cold, the spare heat
gone from smokers legs,
possessed now only by the endless,
of the office wall clock.
Finer still I seek this course of
ruddy action, sniffing firebrand
fumes and further medieval dangers,
our arms are ringed together,
throbbing and taught,
as we scamper across the hall to
vacant lot to stairs and walkways
covered in dustings of early afternoon snow.
I seek this to my satisfaction,
seek it both willing and obliging,
fleeing from the endless lights,
the sounds of rent past due,
of the computer screen’s carnivorous, hungry hue.
Fumble until I see that euphoric,
pink glow beneath your still summer
shade, until I see you forget
the time, forget the place
and each of our names.
Later, ceiling fans turn stale loft air,
exhaled to wipe away the stare,
I know I am getting as I watch the news,
modeling my cable television noose.
Confession; Knoxville, Tennessee 1991
Ancient reds of chalky storied bricks,
and mustard hues of paneled wood
alerted to my presence call,
rushing to with thoughts of all
the thoughts I might have given life to,
that tried to be true.
Riper days brought beery, sunshine kisses
full of possibilities and droning time
to plan offensives not retreats
on August days, on knotted docks,
with brownie, freckled arms I held
but never tried to touch.
In these fading days Fall brown memories
fall on me with the scent
of smoldering outdoor Autumn pyres
as Coltrane passes swollen strains
to ringing, rebel ears on fire,
as grinning holiday whippoorwills
dominate the clogged wet streets,
as ghosts of small East Tennessee towns
continue their haunting of me.
In the small, cool hours,
the ones that play these Autumn standards,
I often ask,
“Was it all too much?
Or, could I return again
to chasing Carolina mountains,
to chasing freckled specter skin,
to seek deliberate walks
through those spacious, Knoxville alleys?”
Holding on now to unbearable freckles,
certainly a familiar brown,
like sloppy spent leaves
shirking their November responsibilities.
Sometimes you take your cues,
unless they take you.
Unless Coltrane howls in whiskey tones
to vanquished ears on fire.
“A Restless Symphony”
The City makes me wait.
The carnal bump of car stereos,
reality show flitting
of weekday partiers, screaming gesticulations,
spilled lemmings on beaten sidewalks,
the constant, the kinetic urge.
Whip through alleys, around downtown corners,
lightning pulse but steady hands,
the wheels grind pavement,
they soothe and taunt,
muscled forearms smooth and taut.
The sky dotted with ancient suns
pushes and pulls like a tide –
smell of leather and starch –
eyes sweeping the cityscape
Demonbreun to Church,
ears piqued for a pulse,
the unfound heartbeat,
knowing this city holds somewhere
the music of that secret sun kingdom,
It is a devastating melody,
stripping away useless notes.
It moves time, modulates freedom without ambiguity,
just sincere and direct purpose,
daring a listener to hear the words,
to discern the meaning behind the lilt of laughter,
the joyous staccato triumph,
a song of centuries that imprisons while it emancipates,
bringing decisions amid derision,
presenting treasure but offering the slab.
Seeing into being, recognize
and be realized amid this
froth of feet and smoke.
Check your image to the beat
of Lower Broadway in the
bricks that record residue,
that mark an undead history,
the singing heart of the City.
It withholds everything but a whisper
and its siren song.