Murder Three, Summer 2016
The artist's space.
Crow Hollow 19
About the poems:
When it comes to art, process is a hard thing for me to explain, or even define. Each piece is its own process, however it finds me, without being something that can be captured and bottled to use again next time. For example, “Selective Lies” was written in deliberate response to a couple of incidents with people who heard me read, and it’s a poem that has now evolved into a signature statement. Conversely, I have no memory of writing “Great White Shark/Serial Killer Totemic Studies,” no clue where it came from, except to say that I spend a lot of time wondering what makes serial killers tick. As for “The Poet, Her Knife, and Their Keeper,” all I can say is, shit happens, and here’s a pen.
Art is its own reality, regardless of any material or spiritual truth or lie that triggers it.
It’s not a lie, it’s a gift for fiction.
- David Mamet
I will tell you stories grabbed
from scraps of wind
twisting through the back alleys
of someone else’s mind
as if they were my own
as if they were not stolen
from the unwise experience
of those who are prisoners
of their own selective lies
I will make you believe
that I lived and bled
these scraps that were discarded
without being mined for their art
left behind in family tales and photographs
and eavesdroppings from strangers
you may see the smile on my outer skin
and believe you know I am happy
or see the tears of my poet’s heart
and believe you can trust what you see
But I steal from other people’s lives
and I tell other people’s lies
and I will open your windows
and turn your heart inside out
mix the best of it with pieces of my own
cook it up in an unholy stew
and serve it without disclaimer.
Don’t think you know me
just because you heard me read a poem.
Great White Shark / Serial Killer Totemic Studies
It’s easier to breathe in those fluid
worlds when you can bend your breath
around someone else’s
Breathe, rebreathe, take it in, until you
breathe for them instead of
counting on them to breathe for you
As the current flows, so does the population,
and that tells you all you need to know. The
scent locks onto itself.
A smooth driver never grinds his gears.
Roads are to glide, not grind.
In the silence of a clear highway, the
senses are alive in ways the road cannot
obscure. Signs delegate your share, the
numbers roll by and you know what is
yours to take
License plates tell the tales: castouts,
runaways, ghosts and other stragglers.
The current swells and depletes but days and
nights run on the same.
When it rains, the trenches fill with
muddy elemental stew, the rot seeps up
from the ground
In your scrapbook, are there memories of
the rows you have sown with murdered
bones and slashed flesh and do any of
these memories dream about you?
Down on this farm, growth is the opposite.
Rock of ages, split for me, split these
seasons into uniform days, split these
repeated notes until the rotten refrain
What the water has worn smooth, sleek and
singular, the road will refine. What the
rain will erode, time will compact.
Then it goes *click* and there is
instinct, only instinct, to save you.
The Poet, Her Knife, and Their Keeper
I keep my knife
under my tongue, most days
where it is readily flashed
He knows to look
for it there
and when he finds it,
he uses it
to elinguate himself
but he’s easily disarmed
The knife is resheathed
behind my teeth
the fugitive bits
and stored for resurrection
on a sweeter day
Later, in secret,
I carve the words
he will use
to hang me
what he doesn’t know
are the ways
my knife cuts the cloth
I will sew and wear,
the cloth we will
he doesn’t know
the ways I hold it,
cradled, handle worn
to fit my hand,
sometimes I get cut, too
but that is the
risk of art
under the words,
there are the scars
there are the hidden pieces
of my own lacerated tongue
He would bury it
in dead-leaf bonfires
disguising the true
color of its blood
He sees how I use it
to cut herbs and harvest fruits
and he will not eat
from my plate
instead, he repaints the doors
pretends to choose
the colors himself
and builds a shrine
for the knife
You can’t keep it there,
I tell him,
it will grow old.
Out here, with me,
the blade stays warm and pliable.
He would use it
to frost cakes,
and turn screws,
but it would fade
in such a belated hand
When the knife is dipped
in his paint,
he is blinded by
the color change
I repaint his eyes
but he wipes them away
staggers under the weight
but it is not me
and it is not the knife