from Drowning in Something

Ode to the Sign Over Snack and Dine

What would Chicago be without
the scampering glitz of your
fifty starry lights?

They converge like coke
dealers around your
rectangular sheet of yellow plastic
then again on the bent silver
meters and limos
nail polish black
loitering beneath

How many evenings have you been
switched on by the same broken
stumps of that unshakable waitress who
like you maintains a sweetness
seldom drowned in muddy coffee?

You always keep your color
while Puerto Rican drag queens make you
referee to their purse-in-the-face bouts
with straight boyfriends who duck
under for a make-up donut

Rectangular sun of Clark and Diversey
you're the only idol still shining and
sober at four a.m.

Yet they mistrust you
these urban connoisseurs of ever open ovals
on bookstore walls
Just flicker your porno bulbs
and watch them scatter away

ode to aunt bea

oh, straight-pinned, high-pitched goddess
you are a beehive of small town terror
those short black heels clomping down main street u.s.a.
starched drapery dress stretched down
over girdle-stiff repression

you gossip in the impenetrable cushion code of suburban semantics
that fat ass stuck to those clear plastic chair covers
pulled tight over blanched floral fabrics

your manicured house is a sacrificial temple
where I bow my head at the well windexed altar of the kitchen table
waving autographed photos of andy griffith
at the television and toaster

but run, viewers, from the prolific stride
of bea's mountainous calves
she'll press you into her mythology
between the holy cards wedged in her spleen
ring you out like the dish rags she soaks
all night in lemon joy and lsd
let you fall down under the century of
hysteria bunned up in her hair

oh but she's never been to the big city
or let those sharpened shoes smack the ghetto
concrete her blanched mania shaped
stayed on main street working her voting booths
like a bouncer nun at a convent bordello
oh bea, your shining white morality blinds our intentions
your ratings leave us in awe
you're the sister of the grandfather of
the symbol of america

to derek in L fucking A

i'm pissed cause yer in L A
and i'm not never called me
on the payphone in the crumbling
hallway yeah i've slept in
transient hotels before believe
it or not will ya send me
a postcard with a photo of yer
latest trickjohnjakejoebuck i'll
pay ya fer it cause i miss yer
bad example bet ya got a million
dents by now drivin in circles
across unmapped desert bet ya ate
in every cake and stake in
the world too why didn't ya
bring me with ya know i love nasty
coffee in orange restaurants rather
leave me scratchin my nuts in
chicago figure i'll write more
poetry about ya that way well
thanks fer the inspiration fucker

from Things


Wanting to father you to movies and ice cream
with two dads. Blond blue perfection of little girl
mittens, pink ear muffs. You're quick on small feet,
though you fall asleep as I carry you down Fifth,
snot dribbling on my jacket.
Is this a future? You asked me,
"Who's your favorite character in
The Little Mermaid?" I told you,
"The Witch." You couldn't understand, having been
raised with plastic babies, lovingly diapered
like so many privileges. Your Raggedy Ann
makes "dinner" for Andy. Tonight, it's pink
and purple Breakfast with Barbie cereal.
Father lets you crawl into bed
when a lover sleeps over. You like
snuggling between men and will certainly
continue in this practice. Their smell,
rough hands, and white cotton underwear are
flashes of adulthood. When your father gave
me his black leather jacket, you said, "Don't
take Daddy's gerbil coat! He'll freeze!" For you
silver buttons were gerbils and that made us
laugh. But the fear was real,
putting me in place like a bookend stolen
from a child's room and propped.
How will you handle it when his AZT
stops working? When his lungs collapse,
his skin peels from the bone, his vision and
voice cut out? I wish I had the time, Sara, to
teach you about the fragility of our fathers.