LAUGH TRACK

by

The joke is only funny

when you don’t get it.

 

Today began like any day at the office—

an applause sign gone haywire

flashing before the punchline.

 

The second hand scraped the grime

the chimney sweep must have missed.

Hashtags filled our cups, their voices

rising like curses from wells.

 

Medusa was demoted to worms.

 

She slithered to the water cooler.

Put a drop in each little mouth.

Gave them names

like Jane from accounting did with the pencils

after the miscarriage.

 

Jerry wore his tie at half-mast

for the sprinklers leaking tears.

The hour hand crept and crept

like it had a throat to slit.

 

The police helicopter flew

as if guiding someone home

(a lost child or a couple new to the city)

its searchlight waving

long brush strokes over the east side.

TO SHADOWBOXING

by

I think about you when real life is filled with bad dialogue.

During work and couples’ therapy, my attention drifts to you.

Together we have learned how to give

exactly as much as we receive

I share balmy rooms with you

where we cut the air

as if we think something will bleed from it.

There is a way of fearing age and fading beauty

that only comes to men without children

on quiet nights when the rent is paid.

I am tired of spitting into the wind and feeling only air.

We may never know the results of our kind words.

Our masterpieces will float over the heads in the crowd.

But you travel at a certain speed,

repeat an exact number of times.

When we’re together, you comb laughter from the hills.

When we’re apart, I remember your burn

real as a wish in a fountain.

HYPNAGOGIA

by

I am a terrible chef,

but when I dream about cooking

every inch of my skin becomes a tongue.

This is exactly as problematic as it sounds,

but in the kitchen that I fashion out of night

and memory and borrowed will,

everything I do is delicious.

 

Sometimes I dream about music

and each pore is a sound channel

to a column of tiny drums

beating at my center.

 

All of this is to say,

if you want you can stop trying

and just hear the song into being.

You can speak, and the words

can leave your mouth

already in verse.

 

Some mornings I wake up so desperate

to remember the tune, I sing without listening.

At my best, I know why singing

without listening is the one great flaw,

a sin even for atheists.

 

Sometimes I wake up and submit to the voice

telling me to fill the gas tank at 3 a.m. and disappear

until dotted lines and a thousand discrete vibrations

think on my behalf.

 

You know the times in the kitchen

when your nose replaces your brain.

Or at the canvas when you are empty

and it’s just the stars reaching out.

When you’re not there. It’s just the forest

rubbing its thumb and forefinger together.

 

My favorite is when I sleep

like a pair of concrete shoes. Quiet and deep.

The dream bends every sound to its will,

and it’s like every taste bud is filled

with something sad and forgiving

and wise, the flavor of an animal

that someone once loved.