Hearing Voices

[no title: p. 304] 1970 by Tom Phillips born 1937

Surely it is not art. She pulls her phone from her pocket and steps to the stage. Her first time. Tapping the screen, she balances it on the ancient music stand. Grips the mic with both hands. Through ums and mumbles, she describes a man who called it love before the girl learned the proper name for abuse.

Surely this is not poetry, nowhere close to art.

Art you know. You saw Gipsy Kings at the Barns and walked Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn. You can recite Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” by heart.

You know art.

Surely this falls short. Yet…

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Kill the Babysitter

newlove

Here comes the babysitter. You’re pumped. His appearance promises a night of board games, TV, living room dance parties. He’ll make mac & cheese for dinner and skip the broccoli entirely. Turn up the volume on bands you’ve never heard of. Dress up like a Sith Lord and let you annihilate him after a protracted battle that covers every floor of the house.

You may pass several hours draped in sequins and spiked on sugar. Playing, yes. But for show, not for keeps. Playing for this night only. Playing with the door closed.

The babysitter has one job: keeping you safe until your parents get home.

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In Defiance of Morning

Wangechi Mutu, Riding Death in my Sleep

You catalogue the early shames,
a tattoo on the lining of your lungs.
The mural leaves its stain despite the stretch
and growth you chart first on door frames
then belt notches
then monthly statements,
each unit of measure distorting the fresco
as much as the measurement taken.
Recognizable no matter the eons intervening,
the arcs of those stories.
Petroglyphs,
kaleidoscopes,
crime scenes,
autopsies.

All tales have tongues.
They scour the natal down
from your heart. They leave a taste
like pennies and char.

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Like Riding

Valenti VeloTykes

How to write a poem
is one thing you thought you’d never forget
but after a while even the wobble escapes you.
Wheels warp, refuse to align.
Months of days passing the place you stashed it
before you notice it’s gone.
Stolen? At first it seems so, a ragged hole
the size of your fist
in the door just below the lock.

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Sometimes The Owls Are Exactly What They Seem: The Banality of David Lynch

black lodge 2

I loved it. Identified with it. Bought the soundtrack and made copies for all my friends.

Even so, something about it turned me off.

Every few weeks, my fellow freaks and I gathered in a friend’s living room to marathon-watch taped episodes of Twin Peaks on Betamax. We buzzed over Laura Palmer’s diary and even tossed around the idea of dressing up as the show’s characters for Halloween.

When they tapped me to wrap myself in a plastic drop-cloth, I balked.

Because something about it turned me off.

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