My Own Beethoven

His fingers won’t tell me
how he lost his voice
as if the words piling up
and struggling on his tongue
are not that important.

When he taps his right ear
with the measured lightness
of his hunched forefinger,
he’s not really saying
how he lost the sound.

I’ve never misunderstood
the fast language of his hands;
his eyes quietly explain
anything that baffles me,
and he uses his lips to agree.

Now it’s my turn to be mum
about the loss of light,
so he won’t silently worry;
I’m getting blinder each day
from something without cure.

Before we go to bed at night,
I close my eyes to study him:
the shaking of his throat,
his mouth attempting to move,
and the hush of his skin.

On the Road with Jack

Not his prose
or his poetry
or malt liquor
but his spontaneity
that drew me
towards him.

When they asked
why I quit
my tech job
and left San Francisco,
I said:
freedom on the road.

They questioned me
about my vagrancy
and wandering,
and I did answer;
I was excited
with life.

From the west coast
to the east,
we drove,
then slept
and rested
in his secondhand Chevy.

We relied on thick espresso
at truck stops
and on laughing
and ate Mexican bananas
to avoid falling asleep
at the wheel.

We talked about Orpheus
and pretty Tristessa,
Big Sur,
visions and dharma,
and the desolations
of angels.

We traversed
the old towns
of Marlboro cowboys
and the cities
of leathered whores
under the neon lights.

We would stop
when he had the urge
to wet his feet,
smoke weed,
sketch twin hills,
or write.

It was in New Orleans
where he met
these two men
in their 20’s
who showed him
the sweetness of youth.

I was not really his sea
to catch him
when he was drowning;
I was a lonely traveler
half-buried
in the subterranean.

While he was naked
and asleep
in the hotel
that gave us a discount,
I was arguing
with myself.

In the end,
I was done
looking for God
and had finally found
what was lost,
so I left him.

On the Greyhound bus
going west,
alone at the back,
I thought how everything
between us
was unconsummated.

I could only smile,
hoping he would have
a good time
with his Sal and Dean
so he could finally
rewrite them.

Becoming a Pornstar

When the spotlight was angled
to heat up and burn,
I let the kisses
wet my back and bite.

The sound of skin
drowning the elevator music
was a breathless struggle
paid by sweat and by ounce.

I forced myself
to remember the taste of plums
I picked to be voracious,
so I would not choke on my vomit.

The stench of lilies
souring into chlorine
ended the push
and pull I resisted and sighed.

When everything stopped,
I curled to hug myself
but felt nothing,
so I dropped the idea and slept.

Dining Out Alone

The bouquet you bought lost
a bud, a branch, a few petals.
 
Did you sit on it by accident
or toss it into your smoky car?
Did it collapse in your hands
or was it your anxious thumb? 
 
Where were you an hour ago
or two or three hours before?
Were you parked by the alley
or by the lake with someone?
Should I believe your squints,
your smirk, your glazed eyes?
 
Why did you grind your teeth
then chew your burnt tongue? 
Was it love that you confessed
or another lie I should doubt?
 
I said no because of the white
blossoms struck by the shards.

Ethnography of Disappearance

The morning crows are nothing 
to me now
but alarms that more lies
are thrown up
by the potty mouth 
of the madman to spoil my day.

Before, I would wake up slowly
like a mime,
counting my movements
so I would not
disrupt his snores, 
to ignite the stove for hot water.

I have no more grit for patience 
even to wait 
for the bubbles to steam,
the sugar brown,
not enough, too weak 
to sweeten, my bitter coffee dark.

Previously, I would swing open 
the windows
to let in the hint of sunrise
the elders said
was for life or luck 
but seemed a spiteful curse to us. 

Even the distant sun is merciless
to my eyelids
that cannot close for long,
the lazy chatters
of the longest daylight,
his absence visible everywhere. 

Not long ago, breakfast was set
around six,
his work starting at eight,
garlic fried rice,
thick omelet, eggplant,
dried fish soaked in spicy vinegar.

I have no stomach for the taste 
of sea salt,
my garden a graveyard
of vegetables,
the sight of oil a wish, 
if only I could fry myself in a pan.

Back then, I would idly sit outside
to kill time, 
listening to wild tales
I did not invite,
greeting the veiled
women on their way to the church.

My ears can no longer stand with
street gossips,
the suicide of a mistress,
a young prostitute 
shot twice in the chest,
my own story, the grief of a widow.

 

Scent of Detergent

The bucket you made
from the scrap sheet of iron
still catches rain,
too long to fill now.

It’s the citrus season,
but it seems only this soap
smells of lemons,
the bubbles teasing.

The basin you bought
still holds suds inside well,
no crack to worry
even with the paddle.

It’s my second time
to wash the Levi’s you had
on that weekend,
at the surplus store.

The jeans will still go
to your son when he grows,
those bucket, basin,
and paddle for his wife.

Patchouli

The same rituals
each bedtime,
taking off my clothes,
turning the faucet.

The mirror foggy,
my ring finger
lingering on the dull
curve of my lips.

The white chemise
loosened now,
the laces snuggling
tight as a clasp.

But out of the scent,
the last he gave.

The Fallen Chair

Who are
you to twist
the quiet
of her scream?

Her feet
hang loose
as if he
cuddles them.

The rope
muffles like
her gasp
before the calm.

And who
am I to say
it is far
from orgasm?

The Comfort of My Hand

Since then,
the day you were gone,
I’ve been burning
slothful nights.

A box full
of smokes not enough,
the butane lighter
isn’t a bonfire.

Always still,
the noises of the world
in the moon’s vigil,
the lamps taunt. 

Skin’s quiver
is my lingering plague,
going to bed again
jilted, unclothed.

Damselfly Effect

Had I only asked
you to stay,
spend the night,
sleep with me,
not to go,
you would still
have been around.

Was it the cotton
bed cover
you stained
that I didn’t wash
because its stench
did assure
you were mine?

Was it my qualm
about asking
you to fire up
the cold night,
inflame my hands,
ignite the tips
of my stiff toes?

Had I only said it
with no shame
that I wanted
to wilt breathless
in your arms,
you wouldn’t have
gone so soon.