the poem starts

something like
[i]but they came back
for him[/i]

[i]dragged him out
to the sidewalk and
beat him into a coma then
walked away[/i]
and what more do
you need?

this is the event
spelled out as
simply as possible

it happens

not for
the sake of art
and not to reveal some
deeper truth but
because violence is
as effortless as

because it needs
no reason

imagine a
rusted spike driven
through the eye
of god

a man buried

a man buried
beneath a faded
stretch of sidewalk

another man
shot to death
by a pay phone

this is the wasteland
i’ve been looking for

crows in empty fields
and deer mangled
by the highway

your sister raped by all
of her friends

her fingers
pulled off like
flowers petals

if i were
a better person
i’d hold you

if i had the guts i’d
make you smile

twenty nine years in
the nation of addicts
and all i’ve planted
are my father’s bones

i never expected
anything to grow

self portrait on burnt hill road

i am defining
nothing but myself here
beneath this cold white sun

i am placing my right hand
over the eyes
of a child i never had and
only one of us casts
a shadow

it’s not an
admission of guilt
it’s an act of salvation

look at this land

a grey stretch of valley between
defeated hills
and all of these burning houses
that people call home

all of the pain stored away
but never forgotten

more than enough to bring
de chirico to his knees
and still none of us leave

i know these roads

i understand
that they all go somewhere
but i have been losing my way
for the past twenty years

i have outlived
the burning girl and the
drowning boy and any number
of anonymous women
beaten to death by the
fists of love

and there are those who
tell me that every action holds
the potential for beauty
and i give them the memory
of my father digging his
own grave with a coffee spoon
and a broken bottle

i give them
the minister’s wife raped

and thrown naked
from a bridge

and the weight isn’t in
the words
but in the events they

it’s in the color of the sky
as it hangs
like a brilliant shroud

nothing is so beautiful
that it can never be

between seasons

ten years spent in
light blue rooms with the
vague forms of women always
walking out the door

with this image of children in
barren villages
burning the american flag and
dancing on the graves of crack babies
always hovering at the
edge of my sight

maybe the taste of a stranger’s
pale luminous skin
when the phone rings at three
in the morning and a voice
that i can’t immediately place says
[i]i left him[/i]

[i]i love you[/i]
and it’s always at a point
where one season is giving way
to the next

where the boyfriend
has been arrested and the
daughter is screaming and the
president says that the first bombs
have been dropped

explains how the deaths of our enemies
are all victories for freedom
and i am hungover on the morning
of the abortion

i move slowly through the lines of protesters
with my hands balled into fists

with the phone number of
an old lover tucked into my wallet
and i am thinking of
her laugh

i am drinking someone’s blood

there is no chance for
any of us to
walk away from this unscarred

notes from a man who has given up on sleep

a headache
just after midnight
as i try to remember why
i ever started writing
at all

a day spent walking
empty streets from a
forgotten part of my life

and i am tired of the past
and of my job like an
impossible weight
and i am tired

the house is old
the windows distorted
and i’m afraid of the day
my son begins to build a wall
between us

i’m afraid he will not be
able to
escape being my son

and this scorched taste
in my mouth is all i’ve kept of
the five thousand wasted days
spent trying to save the
woman who loved pain
from herself

or maybe i can finally
be honest
in this dark room
and admit that i was
worried about no one
but me

maybe i should mention
how i walked away
without hesitation when
her needs threatened
to smother the person
i was hoping to

maybe all of the
can still be saved

small self-portrait against a bitter landscape

the boy is possibly
dead already and almost
certainly dying and still
the box that holds his body
is thrown into the water

ten years old
you understand
and drugged and bound and raped
and i am spitting in the
face of god

i am sitting next to my son’s bed
and listening to his
gentle breathing

i am finding the point
at which i would
kill without regret

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