never

an unwritten letter to a person

never there

could it be random

that splintered pavement squares

unravel manufactured gravel

can you feel it?

in any period

give me a color

and I will paint

a coffin

in time

blurred paper filled

I had a cut on my finger

in the subway with nothing better

to conceal a dirty wound

and viral madness

I wrapped a poem around

it naturally but as I lost ink

like blood spreading

through fabric and me

there was too much

in the words and the red

bits falling out

of myself made me think

“this feels like the old days

waiting for another poem to die”

Feed the Piranhas

the shooters are invisible

supposedly firemen light

the fuses that cause colorful explosions

above the beach and boardwalk filled

with herds of tourists sparks spread

in predicted paths towards the abstracted above

ash rains on wood and even eyes aimed upwards

in arcs traced thousands of miles east

the holy land erupts again the chosen

play master over women and children

consumed by fire indiscriminate flames

blood pours and lies brew

a lover asks repeatedly “what’s wrong?”

there’s no answer fireworks disturb

too few Americans everything out of context

everything commoditized

young men in blue uniforms and holstered death

machines and boyish faces pimples and crew cuts

or even mohawks in mockery of the extinguished natives

laugh and flirt with teenage girls

a few feet away in a makeshift aquarium

more teens gather a boy dumps the contents of a plastic cup

down a pipe as two girls film the scene with smart phones

they gaze waiting at the tank now clouding

under a sign that states

“Feed the Piranhas

a live goldfish!!!

$3.00 each

Or 2 for $5.00”

projects projecting

sitting on a metal bench with hands clenched
without anything inside on the speeding SEPTA
train Broad street line traveling north destination
Dauphin Susquehanna Station there’s something about the old pale man
shaking his cane across from me mumbling about the weather
reciting incantations in order to halt the impending snowstorm
my stomach is an empty shell
my head a cauldron
my chest deflated
“this journey can only end badly” I think
the disembodied female voice names my stop
I get out and even the station is falling apart puddles of rusty water
decaying walls slowly dying trudging humans inanimate death
everywhere and above ground
is no better I’m not used to this land
I walk up Broad two blocks while chewing gum and looking back
trying to find the skyline it’s not the same
I’m in a different world North Philly I’m fine with being
the only white person around got nothing to hide not even my skin
once I get to Cumberland I make a right and pass the auto body shop
filled with broken cars and only two men fixing them they look at me vacantly
most are abandoned get ready for everything abandoned
razor-wire on all fences dark red row-houses not homes
dark red decaying spaces
the corner of 13th street is oppressive w/ 4 story toppling warehouses empty
like everything else
a man walks toward me diagonally with a trash bag
now I’m afraid I’m not used to human contact
he stares and somehow sees me thru the wasteland
a man picking up bottles there are too many to pick up
too many punctured mattresses and plastic bags in vacant lots
piles and mounds of trash where does it come from there are so little humans
only trash
I only look back for so long now I’m underneath an overpass it’s dark and the hill is ominous
the bridge is green and I can’t hear any traffic there’s ice and black snow from weeks ago
all around and it’s nowhere else in the city only here with all the trash
how long is this gray wall
more abandoned lots and vacant buildings why am I here I should turn back I will turn back I’m lost
no I can only go ahead
tall boarded up buildings but now in different colors it’s beautiful a cat leaps down
the steep front stoop and stairs and comes toward me it’s pure white and it’s an omen it disappears underneath
another block I look down the street it’s taped off
there is a big dark stain in the asphalt only 20 feet away
nothing else
I walk faster a parked car there’s parked cars around now I walk and now I hear people
I’m happy to hear people but when I look
they see me as something else and I don’t want to intrude I’m sorry
I’ll just keep my head down
I see the high rises many stories tall brown and uniform there are two of them
parallel buildings I know exactly what they are at first sight
the projects projecting oppression
looming over me now but also over everyone else living here on every other day
I’m afraid but I don’t show it
I wish I could peer into this desolate landscape

but I can feel the stares

I want to hide my skin so I just keep walking eyes down seeing broken

pavement all of a sudden out of my peripheral there are children speaking violently with pre-pubescent and adolescent voices

they’re saying that they’re strapped are they talking to me I keep my pace

I feel the bullet pierce my back in microseconds
don’t look

am I dead it’s only imaginary why is it imaginary am I imaginary why
I don’t belong here no one does

Poetry Incarnate

At night we drank

like we always have, by the river,

along the eastern bank of the Schuylkill,

which may mean hidden, and may be appropriate

now in the present, with gray architecture

consuming confluence.

At night we drank,

but not anything domestic, as you think

it’s all swill. The tide never

reversed although you said it will.

I looked at you for an instant,

(I would like to say it was infinite,

but I would be lying because it isn’t)

then into you

through your obsidian eyes,

which were even darker than your charcoal

complexion. And inside your body I still saw

strength.

 

You read me a poem.

You were speaking to cellular attackers.

The ones that are trying to destroy you.

You called it an inside job, but it’s not.

 

Agent Orange. Viet Nam.

 

I am dying.

At least that’s what you say now,

after a year of denial.

 

I will be employed by poetry (a bond)

to carry a poem, a man, up flights

of decaying wooden stairs.

I’ll try not to trip.