Monday, November 11, 2013


Decoration Left Behind 

I knocked off, hands 
roughened with plaster. 
Crayons had captured the outline 
of light cast from signs outside, 
tropes of capital penetrating 
the window for hours, as smells 
saturated the sink again, 
the toilet leaked, the systems 
of residuum moaned, each smell 
and sound finally recognizable. 
The coolest guy left 
a butcher knife and gaping 
holes in the bedroom walls. 
His wife had taken everything 
but the mattress, wilting sheets, 
and crayons. The family 
had danced at the window, 
not caring who watched, 
while colors emerged 
in fragments, the names 
quickly filling and emptying.
I've restored the plaster
for other names, clocks, faces, 
the past still stinking 
and groaning in things.
The glass untouched. 
The street a stain 
of violet bile--
the light falling 
on the walls. 
With white hands, I surrender 
to the mattress on the floor. 
Crayons and plaster darken 
on the bewildered carpet. 


Boat Left Behind

They leave what can't be carried 
and more: cushionless 
couches, with wounds 
like mouths from which faint 
odors rise; sad toilet soups; 
and the tiny survivors-- 
ants, cockroaches, thriving 
on the stench, crawling 
through every crevice, 
following the command to pillage 
whatever's left, the shoe dark 
as a theater, the bottles 
translucent spires. Recently 
I've found an old man's handkerchief 
(he now has less weight 
than his book of ancestry); 
a stained sheet (the flag 
of dominion); and a sticky knife 
covered with crumbs. 
I've dismantled a palatial estate 
built with popsicle sticks
and dried chicken bones, 
decorated with bright foil 
from small luxuries, 
and I've trashed a shrine 
with wildflowers, the dried petals 
mingling with bug legs 
on the windowsill. All morning 
I've dumped cast-offs, all morning 
cleaning and emptying, until bare, 
the rooms finally gleam, 
good enough for others. 


Workers come all day 
to fix perverse parts. 
Pipes knock, dripping
flop sweat; stoves 
pop and smoke; carpets rot 
from endless spills and shuffling: 
Nothing is exempt. This kingdom 
commands that its piths
be replaced, the rooms 
at evening 
holding their breath
as I carefully 
lock money 
in the essential 
metal desk.


Filled-in Pool

Last week I discovered a hanging plant
in the pool, the surface ripples 
slightly perturbing the wire hook, 
a sign of something, I suppose.
Copies of keys to every room 
hang on the board above my desk,
which makes me think 
that I should know. One day 
I gave the copy of a key 
to a tenant before I could see
the butcher knife cupped 
in his hand, the blade resting 
along the inside of his arm. 
I waited until a stranger leapt,
screaming and naked, down 
the stairs, before I called
the cops. The same day, checking 
the circuit breakers in back, 
I surprised a tenant's boyfriend 
loading rifles into a van 
and said nothing. The next day, cops
moved in, a detective plopping 
his notepad on my desk before 
phoning in the description 
of a tenant: Fumanchu mustache, 
ponytail, no chin, the perfect 
account of a burglary suspect. 
And last night I called the cops
to deal with a man floating
face down in the pool, the water 
cloudy with blood. 
That was a big help. 


Parking Garage

A year after the new owner 
raised the rent thirty percent, 
a defacto eviction of us all,
I still remember them, 
even though I didn't know them--
the one I sheltered from an abusive
boyfriend, the one I gave a few bucks,
the tenants I evicted, and the ones
who just kept bugging me
to fix one thing or another-- 
the fingerprints on glass, slivers 
in the carpet, holes in the walls 
remaining long after they'd left;
no matter how hard I cleaned, 
something remained--they
were worse than ghosts, more 
timeless than ooze or earth. 
Besides that, I remember 
only the waiting, day after day, 
for another knock, dreaming 
of hidden passageways linking 
rooms I've never seen, where
tenants lead secret lives
too wonderful to brag about,
the eternal appearing in dirty
windows when I wasn't
looking, the veil of exhausted
surfaces lifted--and heaven
filling the rooms with wholeness
while I dozed--waking always
to blank walls--
and I'll never forget
that small sign on the front door 
which showed them 
where to find me.

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