A few hours after Des Moines the toilet overflowed. This wasn't the adventure it sounds. I sat with a man whose tattoos weighed more than I did. He played Hendrix on mouth guitar. His Electric Ladyland lips weren't fast enough and if pitch and melody are the rudiments of music, this was just memory, a body nostalgic for the touch of adored sound. Hope's a smaller thing on a bus. You hope a forgotten smoke consorts with lint in the pocket of last resort to be upwind of the human condition, that the baby sleeps and when this never happens, that she cries with the lullaby meter of the sea. We were swallowed by rhythm. The ultra blond who removed her wig and applied fresh loops of duct tape to her skull, her companion who held a mirror and popped his dentures in and out of place, the boy who cut stuffing from the seat where his mother should have been— there was a little more sleep in our thoughts, it was easier to yield. To what, exactly— the suspicion that what we watch watches back, cornfields that stare at our hands, downtowns that hold us in their windows through the night? Or faith, strange to feel in that zoo of manners. I had drool on my shirt and breath of the undead, a guy dropped empty Buds on the floor like gravity was born to provide this service, we were white and black trash who'd come in an outhouse on wheels and still some had grown— in touching the spirited shirts on clotheslines, after watching a sky of starlings flow like cursive over wheat—back into creatures capable of a wish. As we entered Arizona I thought I smelled the ocean, liked the lie of this and closed my eyes as shadows puppeted against my lids. We brought our failures with us, their taste, their smell. But the kid who threw up in the back pushed to the window anyway, opened it and let the wind clean his face, screamed something I couldn't make out but agreed with in shape, a sound I recognized as everything I'd come so far to give away.
The river is high. I'd love to smoke pot
with the river. I'd love it if rain
sat at my table and told me what it's like
to lick Edith Piaf's grave. I go along thinking
I'm separate from trash day
and the weird hairdo my cat wakes up with
but I am of the avalanche
as much as I am its tambourine.
The river is crashing against my sleep
like it took applause apart and put it back together
as a riot of wet mouths
adoring my ears, is over my head
when it explains string theory
and affection to me,
when it tells me to be the code breaker,
not the code. What does that mean?
Why does lyric poetry exist?
When will water open its mouth
and tell us how to be clouds, how to rise
and morph and die and flourish and be reborn
all at the same time, all without caring
if we have food in our teeth or teeth in our eyes
or hair in our soup or a piano in our pockets,
just play the damned tune. The river is bipolar
but has flushed its meds, I'm dead
but someone has to finish all the cheese
in the fridge, we're a failed species
if suction cups are important, if intelligence
isn't graded on a curve,
but if desperation counts, if thunderstorms
are the noise in our heads given a hall pass
and rivers swell because orchestras
aren't always there when we need them, well then,
I still don't know a thing.