Spring Light

radiant waves,

an endless hymn:

I am drenched

in the very first song

 

inside me,

a timid refrain

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The Smell of Your Dreams

I have never felt

Love before lust,

Which means I have never

Dreamed of a man

I did not already want

To own.

 

I care more for your

Bones than your dreams,

Which is why we can

Lie here like friends –

And we both know this

Quietly.

 

When I look at your

Locked frame I grin,

And I think that’s what

Kept you till now

From allowing me into

Your bed.

 

I have never felt

Love before lust,

But the smell of your dreams

On your pillow

Is just how I thought it

Would be.

The Exodus of the Dreams

I’m tired; I blink in the drowsy air. But sleep won’t come. The longer I wait, the further afield it floats. I sigh. The facts can no longer be ignored: sleep has made itself scarce. So I hulk on my newly strange bed, feeling expectant and bereft. Like a boat on the sand at low tide, or a wheezing beached whale, flapping my appendages with dwindling zeal. The world is reduced to a dim slit. Life makes itself small, occupying the cramped spaces beneath my eyelids with understandable reluctance. I am apprehensive; life gets mean when it has to tie itself in knots like this. So I try my best to entertain, to make up for the pinched quarters. If my mouth were a dreamcatcher, I declare with passable mirth, I’d grow fat on juicy neon slumbers. I say it out loud, hoping for a laugh. But hosting is a tough job. Life turns away, cringing, and there’s an uncomfortable pause. I can tell I’ve said something uncouth. My pillow snorts, breaking the silence. In a scornful voice, he rebukes me: even dreams have to give consent. You can’t just force them into it. Dreamcatchers are barbaric, he tells me. Life nods in agreement. The pillow carries on: primitive, ghastly things, dreamcatchers – they should’ve been outlawed long ago. And a pillow would know; he’s seen what those things can do and let him tell you it is not pretty. Usually muffled and soft, my accuser’s voice is replete with the leaden sobriety of judgment. His tirade descends like a gavel and the air between us hums with its sonic afterimage. I’m embarrassed. I’ve never thought of it that way, I stammer. I should have known better. Don’t apologize to me, the pillow says. Apologize to them. I realize the dreams have overheard us. They have witnessed my blunder, and they are rightly offended. My face grows prickly and hot. It turns out they’ve been here all along, waiting politely in the corners of my eyes. Waiting for me to invite them in. But now they are marching away. Disgusted, they leave my sockets and ducts behind, returning to their outposts on the moon or melting into the darkness of local attics. They hide themselves there for storage, sometimes. For the moment, I’m too ashamed to ask them back. I blink in the smog of their departure – disgrace is an effective irritant. My eyelids feel looser than before, my eyes drier. Far away, a man whistles in his sleep. It’s a sailor’s tune: the tide is coming in.

A Tortoise Prayer

Tinker, tortoise, chip away

The darkest night yields a bright new day

Let every fall peal truth like a bell

Let every wound spill psalms to sell

 

The shameful slip sounds pause like a gong

The silent scar sings a mending song

 

Spin, shrewd spider, layer threads

A life is a weave of words and webs

Sew them sturdy, stretch them tight

But leave your loom to rest at night

 

Knit strand by strand, with measured care

Then hang them to dry in the drowsy air

 

Patience, boundless, you are young

Old age will come, and wisdom won

Deep the roots and black the soil

Honor the sun with gentlest toil

 

Growing is slow and wishing is fast

The nuts and the bolts make spring wishes last

February 23, 2017

Texting you made me feel better, my sister told me, her face a soft, pixeled glow. Once you’ve told somebody what happened, you forget how it actually was. But Elise is in Durham right now, and I – I have always wanted to be practical, a quick study who knows what he wants and does what is necessary to have it, no hang-ups along the way. The process, I imagine, should be simple: look around, decide, take the first step and then the second, a few each day. Spend the rest of your time having adventures, preferably with the people you love or want to love, or reading a book you’d like to be seen reading, maybe in some unconventional spot. A study Bible, anywhere, even in a church, or The Communist Manifesto at a country club, or an obviously pornographic romance in the stateliest university library. (You know the sort of romance I mean, because the bare chests on their covers have caught your eye and you’ve regretted that but wished you could bring yourself to buy one all the same.) I have also wished I were touchable, the kind of person who loves to cuddle and doesn’t mind sleeping in his friends’ beds when he stays over too late or drinks too much, or both. But I find that even on the most comfortable first dates, after battering at some stranger’s walls with the usual arsenal of tireless prying questions – or, if that doesn’t work, demolishing my own with a spectacularly self-sabotaging confession – part of me hopes they will forget to kiss me goodbye. I almost dread the feeling of their hand on mine. Would it cause him more or less distress, I wonder, if I were to flash him instead of divulging over calamari that last night – a Monday night – I stared at the wall for three uninterrupted hours before turning off my phone, eating an entire bag of Bugles, and then going to sleep on the floor to avoid my too-short bed? (Yes, they have Bugles here, and if they didn’t I would probably have ordered them on Amazon because they are perfect for devouring in large quantities at inappropriate times.) I often say things like this in a rush – even the part in parenthesis – after just a few sips of wine. My logic is not clear. Possibly, I hope that if I am able to prove right away my incredible openness through frank, lawless conversation and a stubborn commitment to ugly (but never pretty or unexciting) truths, these men will fail to notice later on that I am not open and in fact have trouble being held.