Momentum

It’s easy to lose the momentum of the day if you stop to think about it; the space between going to the bank and waiting for your dealer, for example, can leave a yawning open time without some music to listen to, some TV to watch.

It’s easier to lose the momentum of your person if you stop to think too much; everyone knows that you look at other people more often than a mirror, and a mirror can make you doubt so much about yourself without some hair to comb, some shirt to straighten.

It’s easier still, to lose the momentum of purpose, if you stop to think at all about why you’re doing things, in the grand scheme of things, because everyone who graduated junior college knows about existentialism, about Jesus forsaken on the cross, about market research sneaking into your most intimate beliefs.

It requires the deepest concentration, you see, to get the speed and direction, the bolt into the grey-white skies, the rush of wind as you finally take flight and as you climb atop your climbing.

And when you finally summit the sky, when you equalize yourself between the ground and the evening stars, somewhere in the back of your throat or in the tingle of your body like just before a fever, you feel free…

A Space Cadet’s Coloring Book

I sat among the stars at night, as a child; I soaked up from the air that impression of a manifest destiny: our every day reshaped, reborn a million times over among a billion potential suns swimming in the blackness.

Fevered, I searched my imagination for access—a way—and found, of course, television: each Saturday morning I enlisted, munching fruit loop rations. Through those animated frames shimmered a clue, a thought, a vision of a deeper world realized.

And sometimes all alone I admit to myself that I sometimes still behold the night sky and—like a child—allow wonder and terror to fill me with the possibilities of all creation:

These poems I write like thick wax lines drawn in a space cadet’s coloring book.

This Song Always Makes Me Think About Zach

With lyrics like, “I won’t let you let me down so easily,” I can see how someone might feel this song unwittingly plays into rape-culture.

That’s part of my weird love of it, though: it makes me think of Zach, and that gay re-contextualization tends to remove all the “rape-y” vibes.

P.S. it makes me think of him because of the line, “you gotta spend some time with me”—I invited him over a bunch of times, but I guess the ONE time I snubbed him in photography class (I was ultra-swamped with work), it ruined my chances in perpetuity.

Decades’ Serenade

Imagine my grandmother dancing…

Alice Chambers, daughter of a mother tough and so severe,

my grandmother, my mother’s mother,

born 1917—her 25 would be 1942; also imagine

“A. J. Sylvester”, the name my mom only vaguely recounts to me.

Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” straining through a vacuum tube radio…

Somehow, I think of him as Sylvester,

maybe Mr. Sylvester: I’ve never seen him;

I’ve seen his handwriting.

He died in Pearl Harbor; the Navy named a ship after him.

Imagine the swell and sway of the clarinets as he held her…

After she married—Garnel Poppleton, a nice boy from church—

Sylvester kept writing, but that mother of hers so severe

hid every letter until after he was dead,

and it was too late, and that broke Alice apart.

***

Imagine the white on a mountain, framed by a kitchen window…

I remember her from her garden’s raspberries:

frozen, fresh and crisp; I remember the bite

of sweet and ice (she’d often pour milk over);

Alice Poppleton, my co-conspirator to decadence.

Imagine my grandmother folding laundry alone in the kitchen, in

front of the fridge with only a radio playing…

I remember her from her letters;

she’d always tuck a dollar bill stiff from the bank,

and I didn’t mind when mom made me write back

because that meant yet another letter would come.

Imagine my grandmother’s face, deadpan, calling out for me as

Brian David Thedell Luke Skywalker throughout my fifth Summer…

I remember her—in the house down from the mountain

with her own private garden of berries

as she smouldered through life with that

nice boy from church, the radio, and

the pile of letters in the back of the guest closet.

***

Imagine hands, soft with Rose Milk lotion and a lifetime of work,

finally at rest on a quilt…

I can’t help but feel a kinship with Sylvester,

and I wonder what I’d call myself today

if a certain Japanese pilot had failed his mission,

had left someone alive to write back to.

Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” remastered on CD, ringing through the nursing home bedroom…

By 2001 I was 25; I called her sometimes, in spite

of all the awkward, confused pauses, the mumbling of aging.

Then I learned that the nurses read my emails aloud

for her; it hurt me less to write than to talk.

Imagine my grandmother, dancing across all those decades…

I didn’t visit my grandmother’s death bed;

I’d grown unforgiving at her for her daughter so severe.

Now, as I sit with my regret, I wonder if hers tasted as frozen and crisp

that day she changed from Alice Chambers to Alice Poppleton.

Hello There

(for Zach)

My room orders despite its mess, it confines

these walls, these walls;

I’ve had the song on repeat all day,

I think the neighbors are sick of you

(I know my best-friend was, until—)

I’ve read so many poems

celebrating photographs and records;

But you know what? It’s okay, though:

a cellphone snapshot and your favorite mp3

off a pirate Russian website

fit you perfectly: digital phantoms,

a script of pulses like a heartbeat

that drums out from my fissured chest.

And I don’t even have that receipt

from when we went to lunch;

I’ve kept you in the breast pocket

of that coat that’s too heavy to wear,

and it’s okay, though,

I’ll mix vodka into sherbet and

I’ll wash it down with Sprite:

a more adult incarnation

of a picnic elixir; Summertime, and I remember

being twenty, and you might as well have been Dan

from back when I was the one too young to understand love’s end.

You suggested a road trip to Los Angeles

a heavy dose of freeway spaces and

we could find our own rhythm

along the sun-bleached guardrails,

the heavy green signs

that sag along the roadside.

You’ve been stuck in reverse so long

I guess you’re used to driving like that;

it’s okay, though;

then you squeezed the trigger,

and hit your mark,

and me already bleeding,

red drips from my hands and all I do is

sigh instead of scream.

It’s only because I’m so numb;

I wish you were here to kiss

my sunburned back, red from

being out all day in California sun…

I think I’ll finally pick up my room

and take a road trip in that coat, too

thick for any but your mountain regions;

I’ll leave at midnight with a CD that

plays just one track and sometime

before dawn

I’ll find you.