Territory of Ladders
Who were you before ships
became your shoes? Now you sway
on mesozoic legs wondering why
there’s no stability inside. I heard you pierced
ears with knives and severed free thinking
on every continent before.
Here you find dissolution sung by virgins and bird-god
voices, often dressed like men to make you listen.
When you arrived, you raised a flag
ensigned with the last heart you ate
just to let us know you were in the harbor.
Next you make a crown that resembles it
and tell everyone to stay put for a body count.
You say, Drink and be merry!, offering barrel-aged tears
from a lost pleasure shore, calling casualties saviors,
only so long as their names serve as snares.
When the last remaining bridges have been burned
and the rivers run dry, then you’ll beg:
But wait, see how beautiful your heart would look on a stick?
You could be the next flag stake on my territory of ladders!
I revisit the mark where you once lied,
slow moving eyes, creasing like an aerial riverbed.
Dream walks along that mother river,
in and out of hotels with peeling walls.
I end up in other countries,
listening to country boys run on dirt roads.
My friends are all there in small boats,
they are seeing the sky but they don’t see me.
Lighting fires for reflections in water,
humming into hands,
I don’t know if it’s shock or cold
they are trying to avoid.
Priests once led us in processions
where we drank fermented flowers,
washed bodies of lost ones.
I would have washed you,
even of the pain I painted with,
had you given me a chance.
We forgot to tie our fingers tightly with red string
and cut it with an axe.
We forgot to mix the ashes with food,
or wrap them in fresh muslin
so we could dance around the tomb to live music.
I covered my eyes and felt my hands becoming marigolds.
It will never be time to turn my bones
with the bones of others you left behind.
Hold me skyward and shout,
I give you back to your life!
We should have held these things first,
like elephants do, unflinching fascination,
mulling over dead selves, recognizing
what it was we killed in one another.
I’ll keep a lace of your hair around my neck for a year.
Say my name — then don’t say it anymore.
Smear cliffs you visit, river stones &
the inside of natural caves bright cinnabar red,
serve intoxicating drinks when you say
that you once loved me — otherwise don’t say it at all.
Unlike elephants, most animals don’t hesitate
to leave the weak behind.
But elephant herds take good care,
they search among fronds for dropped flowers
and never let their loved ones suffer
a thoughtless goodbye.
The way they have to hover
over insurmountable streets,
tarmac their river, living rooms
of briny cafes, a basement
on Telegraph, beetlejuice vista
on Stanford, an underground
passageway (rabbit hole
only mused about).
The bathroom is anywhere
two doors can be opened,
a shower is hands clasped
around hands under the freeway.
Those naked wear mist
lit orange by too much city.
Once admired for their grace
and humility, they blinked
and became circadian fighters.
New people with new money
took their places, forced them to make homes
of odd things, trash finds: boards, carts,
barber pole rings, red tights, trash bags
their round eyes rely on openness at night.
They are the last who fling themselves
upon the obtuse of our proliferating
ignorance, arms and legs flung wide,
wider holding our greedy
streets in their teeth,
but considered weeds.