Tonight’s my final fling with fast food:
thirteen mini-burgers nested in a pile of fries
between two apple pies. There’s one night of sleep
between me and the new me, you’ll see,
as the supersize gets dropped from my diet.
I’ll raise papayas and peppermint house-side,
six bushes of sage. Tonight, I allow
cheap beer and celeb tv. Tomorrow, I’ll start to run
three hours each day. I’ll learn Latin,
Swahili, enroll in an online course
in Australian. I’ll take up parasailing, teach myself
the harp. The spider webs can stay one more day,
since soon I’ll cast a spell to banish them and dirt
from my doorstep. Then I think I’ll bronze the bathtub.
Around the day-calendar’s corner each letter
will get three notarized replies, I’ll read
four books daily, memorize the star signs
and movie-star résumés so I can win games of Trivial
Pursuit. In a few hours tomorrow comes to flip
my switch. No longer will I have to walk, scared of a spill
at full-sprint. Tomorrow my plastic wrapper comes off,
and my wings will unfold to grasp the power
of the sun, which will somehow shed warmer light.
English and I are best pals.
He often completes my sentences
before I know what I think,
but hearing this Spanish phrase sail
through the cacophony of sidewalk
vendors on a summer afternoon makes me feel more
Cuban, shakes a drowsy lineage inside
me buried under a blanket of hamburgers
and twenty-four-hour cable that sometimes runs
out of programs but never out of things to sell.
Hasta siempre: until always, reads as a better
expression of forever. Forever feels distant
the way space stretches endless
and sparse with stars that dwarf my rambling
experience with their combustion of basic elements.
Stars remind me that this planet’s tethered
to a ball of burning gas not too hot or cold,
not too close or far—the galactic devouring of luck
at Earth’s inception. For the stars, forever
lasts until a time beyond us, but not
eternally as they burn out and implode.
Hasta siempre is my desire, prayer
condensed to two words. The phrase opens with the Ahs
of epiphany, tells me sí , yes, to begin the next word,
and whole, it says: Please make this moment
linger, not until some gassy giant blows
its engine. Instead, infuse this feeling in the world—
oil soaked into the dark fabric of the universe
leaving a supernova-hued stain. I offer it up,
a summons: Hasta Siempre, Amen.
—A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.
Even in translation, his grammar is cruel, uses
a semi-colon to deny tragedy a full breath, but to him,
this is polite. A tragedy would be his own
death, in the papers, tearful riots at the memorial, but Joe
doesn’t want to make this about himself;
it’s not about his end. The subject is you.
You wrote the play, handled the pamphlet,
drew the cartoon…doesn’t really matter who
snitched. The investigation is over. There will be no parade
for you, though gathered with your comrade
criminals, there would more than enough marchers.
Watch his good hand, free from trembling
as he pulls it from his coat to give you
his version of a spanking. Freed, the hand expands
into a granite cliff, and though you know
it’s still growing, the distance to the top
starts to look the same—fifty feet,
fifty meters, fifty miles, just goddamned far.
Joe wants you to know you’re a speck among dirt
so start thinking small. Think leaf of an oak
felled in summer. Think krill filtered through the mouth
of a whale. Think grain of salt dissolving
in the first-course soup of the King’s feast.
Poem as a Gateway Drug
I remember my days using back in high school,
avoiding eye contact as I rushed upstairs
with a chapbook stowed inside my coat.
My bedroom door locked, I’d tear into the package,
eating pages so fast my vision would blur
when the work unhinged a valve in my head.
An electric tremble would hit my hands and feet,
push my arms and legs into a stretch.
I smashed my first car into another’s bumper
at a red light while inhaling lines of verse.
I stashed the book under a seat as I talked
to the cops. I tip-toe around my habit
when meeting new folks. I find that I get
a crush-faced no thanks from most when I offer
up a greatest hit. It’s my secret: how much I pay
for these tiny bags of books.
The high school teachers talked about poetry
like it was sex-ed, enveloped in mystery and danger.
Instead of diseased penises projected
on a pull-down screen, we were taught tales of heartbreak,
obscurity, never of the pleasure that could be released.
They squeamishly offered the wrong techniques, squeezed
the poem so hard it would turn blue and wilt,
cut from its supply of blood.
When a guy standing in a concert-side lot
opens his hand to reveal a couple confetti squares
tucked in tinfoil, I’m ready to experiment.
I’ve rolled whole tomes across my tongue, so what
could these wordless scraps do? Go ahead, I tell him,
drop some into my mouth, slide one into my ear.