playing at death

it was like this: i hear five-year old footsteps
and drape myself off the edge of the bed
eyes rolled like white marbles for his discovery.
he walks into the room. first he says kiyoko
i know you are ok get up ‘yoko helloooo
then he says kiyoko? you okay?
and pokes me in the cheek. it is hard
not to laugh but that would ruin it, this joke
we are sharing. his voice rises
and i can hear the crying building
in his throat. ‘yoko stop it get up. please.
get up. it is amazing how young
children recognize death. it is just the two of us
in this big house and he can’t reach the phone.
i am still holding my breath. it hurts
but it is worth it. this is not a joke
this is about power, about being older
and smarter and able to be so still.
he is crying now, really crying
the kind that only little kids do. it takes
their whole bodies working at the grief.
suddenly it’s over, the thrill of the whole thing;
it’s just the two of us in this big house
and i ruined it. i unroll my eyes and get up,
hugging his boy shoulders saying sorry
i’m sorry i don’t know why i did that but i know
i’ll do it again and he isn’t mad.
he’s just happy that i am okay
and that is the worst part.

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(edit)

here is the situation: we are drunk walking
the dog, one a.m., vilas avenue.
neither quite naked, hot
from drinking and dancing and being near
each other. being young is funny that way:
it never takes much. stop at the intersection
to kiss and a middle aged couple catches
up to us. man says: we used to do that
when we were young. chuckles. the woman
is suddenly close—her face floats in
like a lantern. her hands are on my shoulders.
she tries to pull my gaze into focus.
are you okay. what are you guys doing out here.
do you live close by. do you need anything.
i don’t know why this is happening. of course
i am okay. i live at the green house on the corner.
i don’t think i need anything – i guess a pizza
sounds good but—
she looks hard at my boyfriend, peels away
his skin with her eyes. now i see.
the woman’s fingers take to my shirt buttons
i am all done up in a second. i want to tell her
this is a love you don’t worry for i have never
been safer. we are just being kids.
the man says: let’s stop bothering these two.
grabs her arm. she shakes her head but
leaves us, my buttons done tight to my throat.

(toward the light)

we have finally outdone ourselves.
when eye to eye i can tell
we both know it. it is better
just to hold hands. the mescaline stands
up inside me, paces like a caged animal.
it rubs its wrists together
i am rubbing my wrists together, now massaging
my eyes for the light show. there is nowhere
else to look. i laugh for minutes because
i bought this, these neurons firing
into each other,  crying and snotting
and unbridled awe using money grandma sent
for valentines day. she doesn’t even like me
having a drink with dinner. i can’t think
of a better way to use up
this celebration of love. i heard recently
that mostly rich kids do drugs heavy
anymore because it’s all too expensive.
it’s good to have grandmas
with underused checkbooks,
good to afford both dinner and psychedelics.
sad this is another bought pleasure but
it is a bad time to be sad. we know
we are through the thick of it
when we can look at each other again
and like it. ten hours in we lay on the limbs
of a bur oak like big cats, talking
about other times we were high
while hikers walk the ridge beneath us.
i want to grow into this tree:
a resting spot, a way to get closer
to sky.

(ongoing edits) – combination of two poems

i know i allow the wallowing to continue. i don’t know
how to shake it. yesterday i bought tea advertised as a “tension tamer”
and another that claimed “mood boosting effects.” both were terrible
without sugar but sugar makes me anxious. i drank them both thick
with honey and found myself fingers wrapped around the dog’s ears
like you’d yank a ponytail. i am not normally like this. it is the first day
of the season of snowmelt and i am walking home from a job
i don’t quite hate. there are people on the sidewalks again, their jackets
unbuttoned, hands without gloves. i just saw a person’s ears outside
for the first time in months. one of the many delights of spring.
the last light is touching the tops of houses and i have been walking
a long time. the key is don’t stop nobody gets away by being the fastest
they do it by stayingin motion. a man’s coat touches my arm as we pass
and instead of saying sorry i almost tell him i think i need help. how
do you say it’s the season we remember this city doesn’t suck, but i think
winter and i grew too close this year. it is only a feeling. maybe things
are going too well and i just need to be taken down
a notch. maybe my brain is forgetting to make the right stuff. a friend
tells me if my life was really as great as i say it is i wouldn’t feel
so shitty all the time. you are feeling how you are feeling for some reason,
she says. i want to smack her. my feet are soaked and i don’t have
the patience for this.
everything is wet even my face but the salt streaks
are not explained by this puddle season. if anyone asks, i will blame
the trees dripping their melt. it feels good to pretend someone might ask.
this is all so self indulgent, this drinking tea ’til sloshy, finding reasons
to punish the dog, staying sad. this staying at all.

(Valentines Day)

it is the first day of the season of snowmelt.
the water rises from the concrete and
slips in through boot seams. i am walking
home from a job i don’t quite hate
and there are people on the sidewalks again,
their jackets unbuttoned hands
without gloves—i see a person’s ears
outside for the first time in months. i know
this is supposed to make me happy.
i wonder if i should stop one of these people
bare faces still all cracked skin
and tell them i’m not doing well. how do you say
it’s the season we remember this city
doesn’t suck, but i think winter
and i grew too close this year. it is only
a feeling. maybe things are going
too well, i just need to be taken down
a notch. maybe my brain is forgetting
to make the right stuff. a friend tells me
if my life was really as great as i say it is
i wouldn’t feel so shitty all the time.
you are feeling how you are feeling
for some reason, she says. my boots
are soaked and i don’t have the patience
for this. my face is salt wet. if anyone asks,
i will blame the trees dripping their melt.
it feels good to pretend anyone might ask.

last light

i am tired of writing angry poems
but you are making it so hard.
i drank four cups of tension tamer tea
yesterday and still i found myself
with my fingers wrapped around
the dog’s ears like yanking a girl’s ponytail.

i am not normally like this. the last light
is still touching the tops of houses
and i have been walking a long time
the key is don’t stop nobody gets away
by being the fastest they do it by staying
in motion. my sweater is too warm
and the wool is drinking in the wet.

i don’t know if i’m punishing you
or myself or the dog trotting beside me.
the snow gets in between his toes
and he hobbles along on three legs
until it melts. imagine that, having no hands
to fix things. just waiting for it to stop.
the sunset i drank it i think because
it’s gone and i have been running a long time

the sweat freezes on the point
of my nose i am lost somewhere
the city buses don’t go. i hope
you missed the last light it tasted
delicious. another cup of tension
tamer tea down and this time i didn’t skimp
on the xanax. i hope you get snow
between your toes.

for a friend

it gets dark too quickly while a past-friend
talks at me over the phone. it is almost incomprehensible
but not quite. i know her girlfriend left her, i know
she has trouble keeping food down i know
i cannot be much help from this far away.
i am not even sure if i could help from across
the table. she says she is on the moon
and i believe her: she has no job no friends
in her city she just sits and thinks herself
into winter bed darkness. she accuses me

of keeping myself busy of keeping myself
to myself, of moving my hands enough
so i don’t have to think myself into anywhere.
i want to tell her it is not a defense mechanism.
i am not afraid to be beneath the blankets alone.
moving your hands makes heat and other bodies


like heat and that is how you find friends. i cannot
keep at it like this. this is the third call
today and my ear hangs from my head like
a corded telephone. she asks me what i would do
if i was in her place. what i can’t say is
i would never be in your place. you have to move
your hands. you have to dress yourself and leave
your bedroom leave your bedroom Amy

get out of there. there is a reason nobody stays
on the moon very long. this is not an avoidance
it is just what people do.