I shimmy up the flaky gray eucalyptus bark to the
wooden platform and its leaf-shrouded box of delights.
I lower a hand to help you with the climbing.
My treasure is some pilfered cigarettes, a five year
old Playboy, a few coins and some fireworks.
We spend hours fantasizing that the cigarettes
taste good, the centerfold women are real and available,
the silver is notes and we have enough explosive power
to lift the school off its foundation.
It is hot and insects buzz around.
We spotted a snake in the upper branches once
and, since then, are constantly on watch
for an unwelcome viper.
And you have cuts and bruises from your heavier climb
and a splinter in your toe from the side of a crate
that provides our creaky, uncomfortable floor.
I’d bought an actual book up here once.
sat with back against tree, and read it for hours.
But not with you as my companion.
My solitude somehow found enough smarts
to offset the loneliness.
When we talk, it’s like another book.
Just one that doesn’t get written down.
In our conversations, people live to the fullest,
they fight, they win, sometimes they even die,
and they love, yes they love, this year especially,
but certainly not last year.
And they ride horses or tanks or fast cars
or rocket ships.
They go to the stars or the mean streets of the city.
They battle aliens or super villains.
And they love.. .did I already say that? They love.
And here comes Jenny. Did I tell you she was joining us.
Hide the “Playboy”. The rest of it can stay.
You can even stay for now.
TO A COP FOUND HANGING
When the fire spoke, it was in the language of a crackling toy train,
not a small boy. His toy train crackled. The caboose exploded,
bits of metal flying everywhere. I held a hot sliver in my hand
when it occurred to me. I don’t speak burning metal.
The ashes couldn’t tell me anything but that’s ashes all over.
Couldn’t find the corpse, but by the sound of
the blood’s conversation, I could tell that
the witnesses were lying to me – it wasn’t some tart
but delicate, demure, pursed lips, a nose, a freckle –
a young woman surely -DNA lifted its skirts
to reveal a long, lithe brown leg.
But despite the bludgeoning he gave her, she didn’t know
the guy. Then she dried into a stain and said no more.
Guys had to dig and dig just to get
a word out of those basement bones.
Mostly, it was me putting words into their mouths –
we take the blame, we were foolish, we thought he was a kind man –
I tap-tapped on the skull for good measure. No tap-tap back.
Skulls are useless with Morse code.
My problem is I figure victims want nothing more
than to set their stories straight.
But rope scars look up at me with such a puzzled look.
A hanging? This neck? That ceiling beam? You’re joking, right?
I’ve placed a severed human finger to my ear just like a shell –
nothing – likewise, the dismembered leg and the liver
that came gift-wrapped.
Talk to a body encased inside a cement block –
you may as well be talking to a cement block.
Friends tell me maybe I should hang out with the living for a while.
I can see through them. They just want to know who did this to me.
TO THE BRONZING MAN
Lengthways on a towel,
letting some sun into my life
in its guise as a naked white chest,
I’m reading a book,
one page every ten minutes,
the rest of the time observing
the out-of shape, middle-aged man
dripping wet, red-faced,
struggling out of the sea
or his freckled wife
in wide-brimmed hat,
sitting on a rock,
inured to the lousy shape he’s in,
ignoring his slow, bent-back,
laborious walk up the sand toward her.
Three of us,
none as young as we were,
thinking the cure is
a tan or quick dip
or even indifference.
They pack up their stuff
Maybe it’s back to the motel
and miserable sex.
Or dinner at an expensive restaurant,
wasting money on their lousy appetites.
Alone, I watch the ocean roll in,
unfathomably old but always new.
You don’t get that with people.
And, in between,
they bronze a little.