My Fifteenth Year

I remember the schools
of dead carp on the riverbank,

the bonfires, the first booze
and the first smoke

rolling through me like buffalo.
I remember the novelty

of let-downs, the tilt
of my reflection

which I looked for everywhere.
I remember the way a friend forgave

his father and mother,
how we were told to smile

for pictures, the murder in our eyes
when we were betrayed

or thought we were betrayed,
the stabbing green shoots

of new emotions. I remember growth spurts
and how my genitalia

ruled the timid logic of my brain
like a little general with a red face

and a tight grip.
I remember snickering at suicides,

rolling my eyes at old age
and at what I considered stupid and banal

which was almost everything
except the future

and strange foreign places.
I remember thinking

the world was mine
and that I would live

as no one ever had lived before,
and as no one ever would live again.

Done to Death

I’m watching a poetry program
on YouTube.

At a round wooden table
with their glasses of water
3 poets snicker
at the idea of death
because in poetry death
has been done to death,
frankly everyone is sick and tired of death
and it is time for a revolution

and at this moment I swear to God
I get an email
from an old friend who tells me
he wants to kill himself.

He’s told me this a few times.

How tiresomely the poets make
their suffering macramé,
how stern and serious their devout replies
to clown questions,
how they wave sanctimony and sass
like lassos
over the necks of plastic ponies.

The last time we emailed each other
he was sober,
getting married and having a kid.
I had just got out of prison
and he kept asking me questions about it,
kept telling me I should write about it.
We grew up together
and he remembers
the dumb stories I used to write
in study hall, those dreams
and long-gone days.

These poets
are brave souls,
they’ve been to Vienna,
they’ve been to Bangladesh
and Disneyland.
They fell in love with language
at an early age,
words are all
they ever needed.
Well, words
and round tables
and cameras and microphones
and reading gigs and applause and grants and sabbaticals
and hair dye and nose rings and nice houses
and health insurance and easy jobs
and the purest safety.

He doesn’t tell me any details
about why this is happening.
He wants me to write him back.

Next up is a woke gangstress
with tats and a full ride
to Berkeley.
She explains her pronouns and recites a medley
of middle-school quatrains
about how powerful love is
and how whites must die in the fires of hell.

She tells us, “Language can save you”
as if she’s ladling soup
in a Gulag.

I turn it off,

sit looking at his email.

I am sorry
but I don’t know what to say
to people who keep talking
about death,

it’s just so much more
bad poetry
and frankly everybody’s sick of it.

Notes from Hermosillo

These are my poems
and I will put into them
the things that please me


I flatten empty beer cans
in the morning
wipe the slate clean


My hand shakes
as I draw my mother
from memory


Mexican clown juggles limes on a unicycle
in front of my car at the red light
coins in the console burn my fingers


Sushi delivery guy
curls his motorcycle between cars
jumps onto the sidewalk like a dolphin


Spider webs in the ceiling corners
hammocks for exhausted moths


Book of Mexican history
on my table
shrouded in the ash of menthols


Last night’s dreams are lost
my mind keeps secrets from me


Hum of the fan in the dire heat
I dream of tires on the road
wind in my hair


I can’t remember the last time it rained
in the morning my pillow
soaked with sweat


There’s a Royal wedding in England
hot damn
break out the China


I walk through the dump
stand in the smoldering garbage
cleaning my eyeglasses


The street, the soccer goal net,
your eyes
all empty on Sunday morning


I dream my head is split open
there’s a hole right on top
and it is raining


I take a shot of Bacanora
and an emerald tablet
to rise above the miseries


Listening to The Art of War audiobook
narrator’s voice so soothing
I fall asleep


A bird lazily flaps its wings and lifts
melancholy as a Blaze Foley ballad


I do jumping-jacks in the yard
like when I was in jail long ago
the world goes up and down


I do jumping-jacks in the yard
like I’m on a deserted island
trying to signal a boat on the horizon


I water the squash
try not to worry


Is there humor
in an untroubled life?


I’m not a germaphobe
I’m the opposite of a germaphobe
I’m a germ that’s afraid of people


People who live in sea towns
rarely go to the sea
unless it is their job to go


I walk circles in my yard
to sweat out the impurities
everything that happens has happened before