William, Pale and Trembling

heads will roll and tongues will lash
before words capitulate

posthaste pressed to the sea and isle
William, pale and trembling

sits on the obsequious throne of the West
and burning town

William, pale and trembling.
Let he who has understanding understand:

And he found a woman who likes country music
in the bow-legged line doubled over and curled

’round inside the sultry family court when
the bailiff told them to close their ranks and

he grabbed his belt buckle and made as if to
do the Electric Slide. William. Pale. Trembling.

And fifteen years later, back in the same
old kitchen of death, drips from cutting boards

and mouse traps into the fiddles and dandelions
of our far away countries ever under our feet

and William, pale and trembling, delights in
the fear, in the passages of Isaiah worn on

matching t-shirts in a shopping mall crosswalk
that he who has understanding may understand:

The Ramblers called it: In remembrance of things
to come. In expectation of old acquaintance.

William, pale and trembling, obsequious throne
of the West, the burning town. We all

cheated death. When will we
deserve it?

and up jumped the devil
up jumped the devil

A Chinese Military Parade

IMG-20191011-WA0019_2

Junkyard’s got more stories than
a battlefield.

What they wouldn’t tell us
is how the cost of towing in an Econoline
or any van for that matter
would be more than the value of the sum
of its parts.

Hop lil junkyard pup, not
gone ask for mo or less
baby could be a tangled wreck
and the vehicles be cute
“don’t touch it,” you warn.
I frown.

So since they wouldn’t tell us
they would pretend to check a spreadsheet
while scrolling through bills of lading
or they would ignore us and let us
stroll right through.

“Hey bossman, how much fer dis here
bit uh brain?” Ha. “I can get it off
with a screwdriver.” Ha ha
and boy, that kabob musta taken
a log off the back of a flatbed.

Junkyard’s got more stories than
a battlefield.

How many dirt daubers they got in that
wheel well? How many rattlesnakes in
that Tioga? What we gone piece tagether
newly minted?

“I don’t like the look of it.
I don’t like the man at the shop.
I don’t like the snakes in the grass.
More red flags than a Chinese military parade,”

It will be fine, I say.
It will be old before it is new,
and it will make old new again.
Old and new be the pieces in the overgrowth
and time itself become movement’s lubricant.

The Expatriate I

I never was public enemy number one
or dressed for success or
fastest on the draw

I sat in the bottoms of canyons
enveloped in red rock or Fulton Street
and the grandeurs filled me with
narrative

I sat on the tops of statueless villages
sweating buckets of pesos and mystery
meats, and the experience left me
uninspired

I never was worth the espionage
of a face database from a photo
filtering app

I never made the watchlists.

But I labored away at this terrain,
sometimes up and sometimes down,
where I only sometimes observed
the face of my motherland
sometimes observing me, but
more often not

more often the death mask,
its valleys and crests
couldn’t speak or console

and besides I often saw faces
of others. These human relations,
warm in their immediacy, cold in
their languages. The mother
she speaks a dust idiom,
and what is that?

She’d said, “this world is
not my home”. I’d registered
that phrase, at least.

I don’t know how I feel.
Canyons or villages.
Her delicate features replicated
in that hard death mask there.

I know one thing:
the true motherland is a delicate,
featureless
decay.

I’m waiting for you,
brothers and sisters,
to ween yourselves off
of those funerary fetishes.

Let’s break the clay and
churn it into soil,
let’s water the fields
with the impure blood
of traitors,
let’s wear our citizenships
like phrygian caps once more,
and find a woman a lot
like our mothers.

Salty Cross

IMG_20191023_160014

About an hour east of Salina Cruz
on the Pacific Gulf of Tehuantepec
down the peninsular that ends
at the mouth of the Laguna Superior
in about 650 square meters:
Santa María del Mar,
fourteen kilometers down the road
from San Mateo del Mar.

María, isolated, cut off,
no electricity, no fresh water,
no road out, no teachers in,
no police, no military;
The sadistic mateyanos
blocked the road, cut the
lines. Snip. Slap. Sizzle.
And a grito or a glare.
You could imagine either.

You could imagine Mateo sipping
on alternating currents,
corralling together trucks
full of Peñafiel and Bimbo,
Seguridad Regional. The
Apostle sat atop the
diverted riches of the
Virgin. And the sea, of course.

It’s an agrarian dispute.
A fight over salt fields.
A salty cross to bear,
the two saints of the sea,
the one with its hands ever
tightening, waiting for the
last quake, for the tide pools
to exhale, or for the maldito
mar to wash away the
bruises of brothers.

Goodbye Our Western Skies

IMG_20190110_131618

Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

What the Mormon Battalion stumbled upon
in the bones of Mountain Meadows unhitched
can’t see the frontier for the horizon
and the Marian apparitions of Felipe Espinosa,
staring closer into nopal spine until vision
goes viscous and the American Oedipus cries,
Indian grave robber pads his own cache,
Goodbye our Western skies.

assassinated governors, gubernatorial assassins,
and the buried alive, because you know there were,
in all the Boot Hills along the Chisholm Trail
what all we built on the campfires of DeSoto
and the cigarette butts of truckers dying anonymous,
tomb of the unknown temperance, child brides raised
in the sovereignty of the fundaments, mystery which
lanced the growth and pulled out the lie until
it walked itself brisk and wide abreast the Union
Pacific, its horrible rapidity and grotesque
animation a blur of the mind of someone’s time,
Goodbye our Western skies.

Goodbye our Western skies
Into the dark American night

And whatever you say we are still here,
and the painted arrows on the red rock canyons
they’re still here, and the Navajo are still
aware of the evil which they could commit, too,
and through it all I’m not sure where to place,
figuratively, the Western skies.
Goodbye.

Now I’m an old hand – I mean, indulge me in this
for the moment – and I am hanging up my hat and
moving into town and running up the rag that’ll
let them all know where I stand where I stand
and that I’m a man who knows my limits, in that sense,
but I’m a man consciously ignorant of the depth
of the mine shafts, filled with bodies. For they
go down farther in my heart than I ever
ever want to know.

Goodbye our Western skies

Peachtree Ballroom

IMG_20191001_084747

“Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlan-ta,
Imma gone down ta ol’ Atlanta some-a-these days
(Hallelujah)”

Ever’one I ever knew in Atlanta moved back to their
Southern hometowns. The city rings hollow of
Olympic days, obstinate Underground Atlanta
refusing to rejuvenate, always wearing its
party hat with a grimace.

Peachtree Ballroom, Ramada Plaza. Cracked
paint, ants in the elevators, hasn’t seen a fix
since 1996. Homeless passed out on the brick
sidewalk under sculptures evoking torches.
How much you chargin’? Sweet baby Jesus.
My name is Morgan, but it ain’t JP.

“You ask the judge to treat you well,
you offer a hundred dollars and he’ll send you to
Atlanta”

We watch you, our hope, our torch.
Atlanta. Who else would never understand.
It ain’t a good day. Hell, might not even be the worst.
But it’s good to get to know you again.
The Peachtree Ballroom with its dull brown
carpet, plastic dividing walls all pulled back,
stains and all. Alone in the ballroom,
alone on the roof, alone in Turner Field,
alone in the heart of Georgia. We’ll talk about
the I-85 collapse and why no one will use
MARTA. It’s a big empty ballroom today.
Oh, boy. Oh, boy.

“Went up on the Kennesaw Mountain
Gave my horn a blow,
Prettiest girl in Atlanter,
came a knockin’ at my do’…”

Dreams About Women, IV

IMG-20190316-WA0007_2

In this dream I died like my mother.
Lost control of the car.
Felt that weightless instant.
Stomach rising.
Saw it coming.
That long practiced moment.
That slow collision.
Lucid instant.
Knowing the next thing will be pain.

In this dream I died like my mother.
The slow collision of lifetimes
was around the bend in that dark road.
That I did not see.
I did not see the road I left behind.
I did not make it home that night.
I did not live anymore.
I did not see it coming.
I did not know pain.

The final instant is ambiguous.
Private, meaningless captivity of an instant.
And did they find me with Creedence
Clearwater still playing, suffocated in my
ribs and blood in the thick forested culvert
dripping humidity from the night before?
What came out to fill the road?
A Sweetgum ball. A feral peacock.
Squirrels stealing acorns from squirrels,
big trees grown from other, forgotten acorns.
And there I would be, dead.
Florida. Morning. After.

Dead. Dead, you say?
Why, my mother was dead.
I suppose that makes me
…half-dead?

A lively country road at the dewy dawn.