for Karen Taylor

We cannot feel microbes in the palms of our hands
or hear nanoseconds—we can see the laser slice wind. But 
how it shaves beards remains mysterious.

This talk of science & biologicals & viral crowns  
make old mean men crawl into bowls of cotton 
waiting to be plucked at some point
by cadaver slaves humming Tin Pan Alley tunes.  

What’s a pandemic
but one more mortality wake up call. Tongue dulled by wine salted
and cabbage stews happily forgotten. Buffed shoes shining, not worn.
No more the perfect Windsor Knot because the definition for knot
has swerved from necks to bandages.

If ever we could color the subatomic particles and smash them up
would they look like a Ken Tisa Quarantine Drawing—how that 
could brighten the feet step by step in August air. The summer

feels like a heavy cough that starts in the chest, lingers
until it exhausts patience and runs up through the throat
out into the embracing air carrying all manner of microbes, some

of which or what could possibly infect a city or laugh pyrotechnic
4 p.m. along with feral snarls and cheap guns shooting, poor man
Falls—
Mercy walks down a different block.

Jim

You looked Texas today
road hard, scrubbed brush, blown tires
gasoline islands

But later California returned—fortune’s poster child
radiating. Truck full of gas,
cheap camera in the glove compartment
stuffed toys on the dashboard,
beads on the steering wheel,
a pretty girl’s picture—fatherly devotion.

What is lost when love ceases
is the power to forget

the early sweetness, the late bitter
talk, the longing for renewal—we all want
Spring, but

Spring does not want us.

Persevere, the skies murmur. Persevere
you weeping poets. You funny beasts.
Hopeful and hurting breathing dragons’

magic fire. Dry seasons last much too long
which is why deserts are vast. Floods don’t help,
but days of chilly showers make for blossoms pink,
blue, violet. A soft evasion.

Drink from the lake’s glacial cup. Hope for better
winters.

A pillow in the city

Ghostly falls from the fifteenth floor
Feathers leaking/ the pillow speaking

How the sleeper's nightly pounding
Made the pillow yelp and moan

Poor sleeper heard these comments
Angered threw said pillow into

An ugly summer night's air

The pillow had little choice
The sleeper's fists. The sleeper's mouth

Not kind, not soft, always angry
The sleeper always angry—even

Dreaming the sleeper could not
Stop rage, so the bed was a battlefield
The pillow, an enemy. And now

Said enemy slowly plunges towards
The courtyard deflated, a feral squirrel

Watches the fall, moves on towards
The overflowing garbage bins, nose open
Time to feast.

Dancer

The man with the black feather tattoo pares this space
Between fantasy and the memory of a man’s carved
Torso, designed for stroking and celebration.

Today the sun’s brightness is like that lover’s kiss,
Wonderful in the present and greater in memory.

A memory that brings me back to that black feather’s
Flutter. Stars dazzle in some other part of this world
Where the sun has set and the moon illuminates
Swans diving into voluminous waters.

Related Poems

Saturn’s Country

S for salt, for 
spoiling crops. S 
for worse or
no choice other 
than exodus or 
a territorial discourse.
S for stretched out
in a morgue, plastic 
bags like garbage 
you discard.  S 
for stinking hog, 
onions, frenetic 
maggots laying 
their baggage. S 
for still you're flesh, 
meat butchered, bootlegged
in the marketplace. S 
some might say
you're gas sloshed 
from a tank. Others 
that first blue 
God doused 
on a tarp, hated it
and left it to rot, or 
you’re that sound 
he loved so much, 
smaller than a 
cricket song.
S for scalp, for the soiled 
search of your god. S 
for complete 
utter darkness. S 
for success 
out of the carcass.
S for sloth, for 
sickle, for a solar system
beyond sable
incarceration. S 
for ES which is S
which is señor of a 
thousand choruses. 
S for savior, for
scavengers and sculptors
you throw out 
of the temple. S 
for so much white- 
noise pressure
even the cardinal 
won't canonize you.
No, not that bird, not 
that pontiff, nor your 
arsenal. S for still 
to this day in your
belly, in the dive 
of your mouth.

Skit: Sun Ra Welcomes the Fallen

Jupiter means anger. Sun Ra does not. Sun Ra dances the Cake Walk on Saturn’s pulpy eyes. If you believe that, I’ll tell you another one. The first is 13 and the next is 20. They were not good boys but they were boys. They were boys who died for this thing or that. The next was 16 and the last was 18. One had a cell phone. One had a gun. On earth, a goose opens its chest to a sound. The goose takes the bullet this way.  A sacrifice denied to the wind since there is no such thing as sacrifice anymore having succumbed to fever and the millennium. The bullet is all consequence. Sun Ra refuses red—long and high, low and deep. His arms are long enough to embrace them.

Pintura Negra

—After Francisco Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son"

We follow the porcelain
column of a child's arm

into time's mouth, desperate
Titan, runnel of inked tear

spilling from his eye.
This feels like the beginning

of knowing death. It digs
nails into the small

of a child's back, white-
knuckled grip of a father

arthritic from holding
dead things. The whole scene

weeps a blurred body,
brings a child into the world

embalmed by the deaf. Death
and artist, two skulking

lumps, billow canvas curtain.
These are the ghosts

that move marrow, fingers
that slip the knife point

into a notch of soft bone,
and lift the broken end

to our lips to drink
this dark paint that fills us.