In the end the motel eats us
but I'm busy in room 208,
stabbing the little white flag of my attention
into continents as I discover them in the faux
stucco ceiling, founding new countries,
giving them names.
I'm the president, for instance,
of Coreverica, where it's always warm
due to its proximity to the lighting fixture,
and the people are generally happy enough
to forget they are
Through the wall I can hear
an elderly woman dismantling
her dentures with a pen, peeling
away the wire, thumbing
the teeth clean, loading them
one by one into the yawning
magazine of a Glock.
A businessman on the other side
is stacking furniture against the door, a necktie
wrapped around his fist. Now it seems a sofa bed
won't quite close around him–– you can hear
the springs trying.
I should probably be getting ready, too.
The air conditioning has gone warm. Do Not
Disturb signs sway in the emptiness, tap the metal
locks like the beginning of rain.
A bead of shadow
slides back and forth along the abacus of purple
light beneath my door.
Above, children yell,
run into each other, fall down––
my country trembles,
and all the tiny people
fall off into the sky.
A long day unbuckles its belt and drops
mud caked denim in a pile along Keyser ridge.
Fireflies swim into the new dark at its feet.
Kill the porch light.
I've asked too much of light and now
it's tired. The field
puts a barefoot woman in its mouth
where she spins the sadness from a borrowed sweater
with an elaborate series of pirouettes.
I count them,
The dead moon climbs into an oak
like a thought.
Smoke-Break in the Key of FFFFFFFFFF
you'd rather be inhaling the neon belch of an
old motel sign as it bursts against the floor
of a dumpster beneath the new
Management / rather be swimming into the
paper sea lining the back of this aquarium /
at least live in a town whose charm doesn't
involve Bruce Springsteen glockenspiels /
it's always nights like this you end up
calling what's-her-couch and asking how
she's been / it's been 6:30pm for five years
straight and everyone already has a partner /
even the partners / even the seagulls at the
mall that only circle the occupied parking
spots / though you've been going out at
night to the empty spaces and drawing
sidewalk-chalk cars in their open arms /
checking back each morning / but no gulls /
no shit / just the usual tacky cummerbund of
wet dog sky between the planned forest and
Town Storm again / a thing you find
amusement in considering a horizon / a
thing that leads you to start blaming things
like restaurants and phone companies for
why it was you who got stuck here / gets you
believing the little voices you've been
collecting: / you shame / you forgotten heap
of lawn debris / you bummer / you sun-
bleached and dead-eyed plastic owl nailed to
the aluminum corner of a bank roof / you
lifeless bank / you vast, unfurnished acreage
of Berber carpet in a bank / you should've
never made it past being a doodle of an
enormous, oblong breast on your father's OJ
Simpson binder in '79 / what have you
done / where have you gone / Jeffrey
climbed a mountain / Jenny bought a house /
you spent fast food cup with the beverage
identifier buttons all pressed-in / you don't
even know what you are / where to begin /
and you've been out here too long / you're
What I'm Up To
Watching, from the hood of my car,
the day's current finally run to ground,
a few airport acres of snow bruise and cool
beyond a chain-link fence. Above,
departing flights are zipping
closed the vague District dusk,
each of them painted gold by sunsets
belonging to towns further west,
and I'm fingering a circle of light skin
on my arm where a fentanyl patch
once blocked the sun.
Before I ask you the same,
give me five guesses. You are
Dramatic Spotlight No. 27A, performing
a silent reading of Nausea for the orange
spills of city matching you below. You are
Dramatic Spotlight No. 27C, awaiting
an apology for your elbow.
You want bigger whiskeys.
That was one guess,
You are marking your territory
on the armrests of the world.
You are staring into the aisle, waiting
for the pilot to announce you are dreaming. You are
sitting next to me.
Queen Nicotina Crowning Ceremony, Port Tobacco, Maryland
The two pirouettes your green gown expresses
in frills, climbing air like a smoke ring
a portal into local history,
your town made relevant again, as if it weren't
a simple motor mile for commuters
collapsed curing barn roots
swimming dead crop fields like shark fins.
Bless the bleachers with your scepter.
Be adorned now by the County Fair MC
in the ceremonial cloak embroidered with three
gold braid leaves for good grades, behavior,
There she is––
Walking on air, she is––
Queen of the Golden Leaf––
will look great on your résumé, someday
when you're in need of a good line or two.