The Coming Generation

As children we embrace
the early stages of infinity,
not anchored by responsibility,
or old age, that penultimate resting place.

We’re perfect little icons
though hellish and harrowing,
made out of what you cannot
afford to lose,

running at random,
lost to anything thrown
anything broken.
We bear your name

but not your undertow.
We’re the carefree heirs.
It says it there
in your DNA’s last will and testament.

And we’re light as dawn,
not hardened with memory
nor fool enough
to tread in other’s footsteps.

Why should we?
They lead to dying.
We prefer to be what kills you,
one happy breath at a time.


Blistered out by heat rays
from this emasculating sun,
what do I know from mirage
and the beguiling face in the adobe window?
The world is a testament to exhaustion.
It’s where terminal logic meets seared skin.
I occupy the flat ground
in the middle of the wilderness.
She only is what I think I see.

I’m sent out to scorch in rugged terrain
like a poor man’s Jesus,
tempted by a searing sea of fake fluids,
purple mountains shimmering to death,
still trusting my imagination
to what used to be—
a woman as familiar as breath,
appearing where she cannot.

I’ll start to crawl soon.
I’ll look like a cartoon of some guy
lost in the desert.
Yeah, that’s me, the one who’s not a bullock’s skull.
Or a solitary cactus.
Or a poison water hole that’s dried up anyhow.
But there’s survival on the horizon.
Or, at least, my eyes are getting strange ideas.

The name is Peggy.
Short for Margaret not Death Valley.
The image is real enough
to have me holding out a little longer.
Meanwhile, the buzzards are circling overhead.
They must figure me for dead meat
or I wouldn’t be so in love.

Drive-By Shooting on Pine

It happened right here,
equidistant from the playground,
a boarded up convenience store
and a bar.
I can still hear the ghosts of cell phones,
voices relating news of the shooting
to as many ears as the network will allow.
Some knew the kid.
Others saw his mother around.
He was reckless, they all said,
a bubble they knew would someday burst.
If a rival gang didn’t get him,
the cops would.
It was bound to end in bloodshed.
It happens all the time here.
Just look at the faces
crying behind the tenement windows.
It’s cither sadness for the boy
or fear for their own.
Both are as prevalent as garbage in a vacant lot.
Someone rolled out that cliché
about how he was turning his life around,
going to school, not the cemetery.
A bullet burst clean through that pretense.
He was dealing.
He’d been involved in a gas station stickup.
A big man in a kid’s body
but a gunshot brought him to his knees –
a brief surprise, a shriek of pain,
and then his face hit sidewalk.
One day later and some cop’s
playing archaeologist in the weeds.
Another’s going door to door,
trying to find someone home
in near-deserted faces.
The stain is still visible.
Everything else has to be felt.

I Never Did Follow You Down

Maybe it was the unwillingness
of my arm to slip out of its sleeve
when the needle was pointed my way.
Certainly, I saw no need
to tighten the cord
so that my veins stood up like jail bars.

And I preferred something a little less seedy
for living quarters.
They say that rooms find a way
of sinking to the levels of our bodies.
That’s why 1 threw out the empty pizza boxes.
And why you finally became one.

As with apartments, so it is for neighborhoods.
And like with neighborhoods,
the same applies to the company you keep.
I kept clear of what I hoped you never would become.
They hung with you
but you were never their fix.

And I did my best to keep my own death at a distance.
You embraced yours,
even wished it could come sooner.

The last I saw of you,
you were standing on a traffic island,
waving a cup and a sign that read, “Homeless.”
Cups? Yes, I’ve got plenty of those.
But homeless?
I’ve always feared the word
that says all anyone need know.

Dancing Lady

You sought his body
but only on the dance floor.
You searched for music
in the rubbing of knees and hips,
answers in the way he led
and you followed.
But, for him, your breasts
against his chest.
your swivel
inside his firm grip,
was but a prelude.
To you it was the event itself,
your life as expressed
in smart footwork.
a wiggle of your behind.
He whispered in your ear.
“Why don’t we go somewhere
where we can be alone.”
But you were alone
even then,
in everything you did.
His solitude was his own business.

The Drunks

The blue eyes of those
who matched the daylight sky
are now black and invisible.
There are no blue-eyed shadows,
no blue-eyed rain-washed city streets.
It’s late night.
Everything’s closed.
The stragglers drift toward
the darkness on all sides,
on every low-lit sidewalk.
every eye-less shop window—
stumble, trudge—
there is no rest.
They haunt whatever happens
between the low cloud
and their clomping steps.
They are not dead
and yet their feet feel like shovels
pouring more dirt atop themselves.
Wind rattles a distant door,
ruffles the fur of a mangy cat.
Cops take some prisoners.
The ones they don’t want
have a hard time remembering
when their eyes were blue,
when they could even see to begin with.
Some will make it home.
Some will fall down in the gutter.
One will wake up with one black eye,
throw up all over the blue one.