(after DBZ Volume 19: Vegeta (pages 84-87, 119-124)
ok im standing alone in the part of the city where the street signs
rust off their posts and crumble like wood, rotting. ok im standing
alone in the part of the city where the songbirds are all engines
turning over, where kickback emphysema black lung black lung,
shower irish, rot a day, repeat.
ok in this part of the city, the busses always seem late, four
minutes never seems to mean four minutes and i look up from my
phone to see the clouds part only to realize that the sky is the
sea- the ink in the water, the tumult. ok this world is so big that
somewhere upon it a father is late to his own daughter’s wedding.
they hold back the ceremony with fresh manicure, verse, a
widow’s teeth till the priest’s stomach growls over the organ. ok
priestwolf howls scripture at parishionermoon, o’ conduit of
unhinged jaw, o’ giant monster, where is the ‘good’ in your book,
and when did it leave? it’s as if fists birthed us and here we are,
worshipping in front of the tv — again, its dull glow, a radiant
cancer. the bride learns for the second time today that ‘late’
doesn’t always mean ‘coming,’ so we wallow in this hopelessness
like a child in a tidepool on a closeby beach; their parents make a
last attempt at resuscitating a failing marriage while another
bursts forth ever-so-slowly from the ash, and a phoenix wears her
newness like brass knuckles as she walks down the aisle. ok
troubled is the new black. ok troubled is so i n right now. ok
trouble is this life and in this life love feels like an impossible
mistake; a key locked inside a car, a car parked between lanes
on a highway. it’s hard to believe that heart and a dishrag are the
reason for this kissable weapon’s shine, this body, this faulty
parachute. ok there’s a jackknifecanopenerpencildivecannonball
outside my window, the splash, the rain, the coiling humid
tightens round throat till it’s all red and raw. ok it’s summer and
guilt is a coffin. im sweating through the wood and new year’s
day boils through the fog. ok i remember waking up next to you,
before you grew too thin for new england autumn’s funeral,
before it and the pallbearers began to hang from you, when we
were a house whose cracked foundation i had not yet noticed,
before we collapsed into rubble. ok i inhaled hangover. ok i read
‘murder’ with a dry throat and the tears never came. ok jon died
last night and i flash back to sophomore year, the football locker
room, where the salt of his fist walked my mouth down the aisle
and the flowergirl threw fistfuls of my teeth down the hallway. ok
last i heard jon pulled a gun on jake for an ounce of new york
indoor but jake’s parents are loaded and he only calls to ask me
for money even though we aren’t really friends anymore so i tell
him i dont care over the phone and he fades into colorado. ok i
never believed in the legend but my mattress hides a landfill’s
worth of wine bottles and the ghosts haunt me so it must be true.
ok they keep me up at night so i try to keep myself busy. save
yourself. go away. ok so i cant move. get away. go home. ok go
home. it’s true jon rises every night and chokes me in my
not-sleep and every night i dont die, it only feels like it and ok i
dont stand a chance and ok the marriage bells go all night. ok the
priestwolf howls. ok. let him do what he wants.
A Prayer (or, the American Recordings)
I took the Hotelier record off of my turntable and
blew the dust off of my grandfather’s old bible.
I, Abraham took the holy book in my arms
like a child
and lowered it onto a stone slab.
When the needle kissed its worn leather cheek,
the voice of god came out my speakers
like an old drunk,
turning in its sleep
I heard its hiss,
I heard its shake,
a levee –
gravel in his throat,
honey in his teeth,
and so much Hurt in his heart.
When he says,
“Don’t take your guns to town,”
“You fidget too much
to hold a life between your fingers.
Kid, you shiver
like a wet sparrow.
You are as nervous
as your garden is bare.
You wring your hands
‘till your dry skin cracks
and falls like rose petals.”
God’s hands feel like my baseball glove after I kept it under my mattress,
just like grandpa told me to.
like a really sad parking lot,
with tired hair sprouting out the tired lines in his knuckles like crabgrass.
You’d grow tired hair on the sighs in your hands if you too, grew up poor in
Dyess, Arkansas, and watched your big brother split in two every time you
closed your eyes.
Johnny, teach me how to sleep again,
the night is dark and full of terrors,
each one of them is my guilt.
I wear only black but still, they find me.
Two nights ago I saw my sisters cross the street holding hands with a
I get my smile so big with clothespins and a Phillips head screwdriver,
teach me how to get the lead out of my bedsheets.
JC, is this what it means to be crucified?
I feel like I am threading my own veins back up into my arm,
like guitar strings that don’t need to be changed.
You put pills on your tongue, because you too, were shaking.
You nervous cowboy of a god,
everything we take in, we do for a feeling,
and on our own, we do not feel all that much.
I can’t figure out how to say “velour”, “vodka”, or “I miss you” without opening
I don’t know how late it is.
Teach me how to look at the clock without trying to swallow it.
Johnny, you’ve sung us quite a bible.
I’ve read the whole thing,
and it is thick,
unlike the soles of your boots,
worn thin from all of this pacing.
They buried my grandpa in one of your footprints, Johnny,
hands folded like he was waiting to hear God sing.
The bruise on his head
painted over so it barely looked like the night sky was trying to claw out of
I wake up every morning, hungover.
My hands are six-shot pistols,
they are heavy,
and I am –
very bad at amputations.
I sit in bed past noon and stare at the unwashed jeans folded neatly on my
They are cold and out of place,
like the marker for a grave
too fresh for a headstone.
– Mark Bouchard