Cafe Pantoum

The bell rings, another customer.
Smile plastered in place, I look up;
another hour, another dollar.
The things we do for love.

I look up, smile plastered in place,
How was your weekend?
The things we do for love
aren’t always comfortable.

How was your weekend?
“Mostly we just slept.”
–something not always comfortable
to admit, with your lover working beside you.

Mostly we just slept,
but there’s still tiredness under my eyes,
even with my lover working beside me;
it’s like a forced march into tomorrow

with today’s tiredness still in my eyes;
another eternity, another dollar.
Like a forced march into forever:
the bell rings, another customer.

augury for the beginning of one of the coldest januaries in living record

the day we left dad’s, snow
ghosted down across the back deck,
slowly painting the grey wood
white. swaying heavy
on skinny limbs overhead, vulture after
vulture fixed a black stare out
into the yard at some death,
some dying we couldn’t see.
no thrashing of a creature in pain,
no blood, no movement:
all we saw was the rust of dead leaves,
the bony outlines of oaks at the end
of another long year. and still
they sat, and still more came, and sat,
and waited. at least 20, 30, their backs to us
as we looked up, and wondered,
as we loaded the car and drove away slow.

In the unkindness of the mirror, I think I want to kill myself but instead decide to dye my hair

Because our hearts weren’t
big enough to be wombs, we worked
on making them hard
enough to be fists : weapons
to strangle our ghosts,

the ones we thought
we had left in the last life,
or at the bar, or sunk
straightjacketed
brick-to-pedal
in the bed of the James.

but we didn’t leave them :
we carried them; being
ghosts, they weighed
so little we could pretend
we didn’t mind. and maybe

we didn’t– because maybe
we half wished
to become ghosts ourselves,
see the air squeeze
from our bodies, live
a little too close to the edge;

feel the rush, then the plunge,
then the dark // but we didn’t.
we stepped back, took up
our day jobs, ran fingertips
over the callus of our hearts and settled

back into the hum, feeling
for the next cut to spread
ourselves open
& up to the light, seeking
applause for our brokenness,
a new way in, a new outlook, our next ghost.