Cheated

the first move of life:
brush the dead aside

dried leaves of last year

rub your eyes in the morning
before the sun gets them

you may somehow feel cheated

the words they say
don’t realign
don’t fix the way
but only remind you

you may somehow feel cheated

and perhaps your celebration is premature
maybe there is not great overcoming
maybe the next step is not more
than just the last step repeated

Destruction

35 mm black and white film

35 mm black and white film

“everybody got something in their life
they need to set free,” he sang
I looked out the window
hooked to the machine

singe the wood with a torch

“everybody got a spark a flame
they need to shine out,” he sang
I reached for his hand
across the table

cut deeper through the corners
and reduce the edge to ash

did you know the destruction of life?

“everybody got something to break
somewhere in their mind,” he sang
I felt the air grow cold
and the wind blow

once there was a tree to climb
now there’s only smoke

Have Mercy on Me

blue train

I railed this road
through hard time
poor and hungry
sore and angry
but I stayed alive

and stumbled forth
the whole messiah
torn and bruised
alone and used
to a promised land

see how I failed
my patience broke down
truth and lies
fruit with flies
foul my own ground

have mercy on me
I’m a fragile being
just a weak thing fleeing
just a moment fleeting
Have mercy on me
I’m a full dead man

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Peggy Doesn’t Live Here, Anymore

have you seen her around?
I’ve been looking for her all over town
but I know that she won’t be found
cause Peggy doesn’t live here anymore

did you see her today?
she used to walk around the world a certain way
I checked all the places she used to stay
but Peggy doesn’t live here anymore

turn around turn around
Look behind you and see what you found
just the leaves are laying laying on the ground
and Peggy doesn’t live here anymore

did you see her walk by?
I watched her point her finger at the sky
she said don’t ever wonder why
that Peggy doesn’t live here anymore

turn around turn around
Look behind you and see what you found
just the wind blowing blowing leaves around
and Peggy doesn’t live here anymore

Cherrie and Maggie

ceiling

So. I’ve been trying to count the lumps of plaster on the ceiling. And I’ve come to a conclusion: nothing makes a bed more uncomfortable.
I remember being young and trapped in here before. That was before I had a tv or computer of my own, but my father had brought in the old tv from the basement and set it up on my dresser. So that was at the foot of my bed and I at least had Oprah Winfrey and Classic Concentration to keep my mind occupied.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to entertain myself. For the most part, I can do that. I can usually leave the room and go wander the house or the yard or the street. I’ve even been as daring as to go to the mall, although I sometimes see people from school that I’d rather avoid.
Of course, there’s the melodrama, again.

“Do you have a geometry set?”
“What?”
Georgie’s voice was quiet from the other side of the door. “Mom said to ask if you have one.”
“If I have what?”
“A geometry set.”
“What?”
He said nothing for a moment and then knocked on the door. “What do you want?” I called out from the bed. I didn’t want to lose count, so I was careful not to move my eyes.
I heard the door knob rattle as he tried to turn it, but I had it locked. “Do you have a geometry set?”
“Go away!”

“Mr. Roberts is the volleyball coach this year. Miss Wong is pregnant, you know. You could see it in there by the end of last year. Right through her shirt.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Are you doing volleyball this year? I wasn’t going to because of basketball but I think I can do both.”
I took a bite of my sandwich. The meat looked grey.
“I was going to join cross-country.”
“Really? Oh, you’d be so good at it!”
“What? Oh, uh, no. I’m kidding, you idiot.”
“Oh.”

The second week of school and it rains every day. I don’t have money for the bus and I don’t have an umbrella. The words in my binders are starting to run. Running words. I wonder where they’ll go? Probably just to the bottom of the backpack.
“Isn’t it nice?”
“What?”
“The rain? It’s so warm! It’s like being in the shower.”
“I’d prefer being dry.” Why is she walking with me?
“It’s easy enough to get dry. Being wet is nothing.”
I closed my mouth and tried to walk a little faster. She kept pace easily, though. I should be able to get away from her and her short legs but she seems to have no shortage of energy.
“Were you going to join debate this year? You were so funny last year!” She laughed girlishly.
I’ve always wanted to say a girl laughed girlishly.
“Funny?”
“Oh, you know, the whole nuclear disarmament thing. You argued they should be kept in case the Vatican tries to take over the world.” She laughed again.
“That was a serious argument, you know.”
“Oh, haha!” Her laugh was less girlish. “Right. Like that could happen.”
“It’s happened before.”

There are more than one thousand, two hundred lumps of plaster on my ceiling.
“Do you have a geometry set?” My door was open and he was standing just in the hall.
“I don’t know.”
“Ok.”
He wasn’t moving. I stared back at him. Maybe he’ll disappear if I look hard enough.
“What do you want?”
“Are you coming downstairs?”
“What for?”
He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

In the morning, she was waiting on the sidewalk when I left the house. Georgie was right behind me coming out and stopped when he saw her. “Oh, hi Georgie!”
“Hi, Maggie.”
“Who’s your teacher this year?”
“Mrs. Nadia Hester.”
“Wow.”
“Wow.”
“How old are you, Maggie?” Georgie asked.
“That’s funny!” she said loudly. My ears folded over in response. “Today is my birthday. I’m fifteen.”
“What?” I heard myself say. “You mean you were fourteen yesterday?”
“Of course. If today’s my-”
“How can you be two full years younger than me?”
“Uh. I don’t know?”
“Happy birthday,” said Georgie. Then he walked away.

I’m getting tired of looking at the same things all the time. I know it’s a world full of wonders and all that but even wonders get boring after a while. There are only so many angles. I think maybe my math teacher would disagree but my feet are only ever just plodding on the ground. Everything looks the same after a while.
There are over 3650 lumps of plaster on my ceiling. I don’t think I’ll count any higher.
There are over 600 tiny holes in half of a ceiling tile. That should be how I count these things. I should divide the space into some much smaller fraction and then multiply my count out. Or maybe I should not do it at all.
The new boy is sitting in front of me. His hair is longer than mine. His ponytail gives a little flick when he bobs his head down to write in his notebook. I suddenly find myself pushing the ponytail from side to side gently with the eraser end of my pencil.
He sits very still for a moment and then glances over his shoulder at me. I quickly shove the end of the pencil in my mouth and try to look like I’m watching the teacher.

“You should definitely try this. It’s super.”
“I don’t like carrots.”
“The dressing! Oh, it’s so good!”
“But I don’t like salad.”
“I’m serious. I can have this every day.”
“I don’t like pepper, either.”

Some people take the bus home, the actual school bus. I don’t know where they could live, because it takes me twenty minutes to walk home and there’s no big yellow bus available for me. If I don’t want to walk, I need to get a city bus with all the creepy weirdoes.
“Do you know what I really like?”
“You like most things, don’t you?”
She stopped walking. I stopped, too. She kicked at the concrete of the sidewalk and looked at her shadow.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she said.
I took a couple of steps and then turned to see she was still standing in the same spot. She suddenly looked very small and I once again wondered how she could be so much younger than me and in the same class.
‘What is it?”
“Nothing. You go on. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I stepped up to her and bent to look at her face. She wasn’t crying or anything.
“Aren’t we walking home together?”

Based on a little bit of math that I think I may have got wrong, I have determined there are seven-hundred and fifty-two million blobs of plaster on my ceiling.
“Mom says you have a geometry set.” He was standing in my doorway again.
“Get out of the way, I need to use the bathroom.” I pushed him aside and stepped into the hall. I really wanted a shower.
“What did Maggie get for her birthday?”
“What? Uh, I don’t know.”
“Where is the geometry set?”
“Goddamn it, will you give up?”
He shrugged his shoulders and walked past me and back down the stairs.

Miss Nellie Lee

wood stove - 35mm black and white

wood stove – 35mm black and white

I carry the water up the stairs
carefully

miss nellie lee, mine
oh oh
I miss your lovely shine
your bright bandannas
that curb your hair
and the look in your eyes
when I push you hard

it’s so beautiful
how you move
it’s delightfully
mind numbing
but my body calls faithfully
like I felled the tree

I carry the water up the stairs
no drop spills

miss nellie lee, my
you look
so divinely serpentine
your green eyes, blind
and hollow and divine
bite through this soul of mine

it’s so beautiful
how you love
it’s wonderfully
malignant
but my hands crawl faithfully
high between your knees

I carry the water up the stairs
and then down