Monday, April 16, 2012

Oklahoma Poems

I've been including these in readings lately.


Sex is in the eyes and the smell and the past. The hint
of sweat from straw-colored hair. The taste
of a smile. The lilting voice. The slow catch of silk
on nipples. Delilah, I miss you. I miss
Tulsa dying in the rearview, the sickly linger
of your cigarettes. But I’m not humping the passenger seat
anymore. Remember the time we got stuck in a ditch chasing
a field fire? A farmer called a sheriff, refused to tow us,
and kept his snake-rifle on us while we scrambled
to find wood to shove under the tires. He was afraid
we’d steal the night, the fire, the slow death of not knowing
what to believe that choked his heart. But we were
all first sons, whistle-britches, all looking for a place
to stick our hearts for safe-keeping. The boarded- over windows
of our mothers’ eyes watched from graves half dug
but not full yet. We were forever looking back, saying:
we will stand tall when the winds die down.

* * *

The Rye*

Where is that white camper of my youth? The old
Ford that only drove in third? Horses painted
on the side as we circled the back roads
out by Summer Sweet then back home, stoned boys
hanging from the back bumper. When did I begin
to consider Holden Caulfield’s student loan debt?
The rank smell of feet in his unchanged socks?
We drank Cisco, vodka, whatever our already graying
hair could get us across the tracks. We didn’t have
to worry if the music we made was too good, only
if it was real. Now, there is so little room left in the closet
to store my old drum set. Holden didn’t know the cliff’s edge
was protected by a guardrail. We never grew and yet
we’re grown. These knees, blown from humble living—
if I could climb, I’d be over that edge, falling, falling.

*"Tulsa" and "The Rye" originally appeared in Blast Furnace.

* * *

Kilgore Trout in Oklahoma**

There were donuts in those days,
and commodities spaghetti. Phones
lived on walls, and they waited
at home to be called.

Kilgore was a tall man,
but you wouldn’t know unless he stood
up. He had a dog once. And a wife. Sometimes
he misses the dog.

His father lived in a trailer in his mom’s yard.
They were working on their third
divorce. The neighbors were aliens, waiting
for something good on the satellite dish.

His fans are vermin. He lives
in a basement apartment
in Muskogee. He is an olive
in a world of cherries.

** "Kilgore Trout in Oklahoma originally appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, which also nominated it for a Pushcart Prize.

* * *


1. I fell asleep waiting for you to return, not realizing you were dozing downstairs.
2. Foxes mate outside; we can hear them scream when we mute the TV during commercials.
3. Last night, you rolled over, threw your arm out, and slapped me in the face without waking.
4. You wanted to dance and I wanted to set the table on fire, but neither of us liked the band.
5. You might think you love desolation, but you’ve never been to Oklahoma.
6. “Talk to me,” she said, “Share.” “Okay,” I said; “How are you holding up?”
7. I’m thinking it’s all been a waste, but then the light changes and I ease forward.
8. It’s not okay to cry on the interstate.
9. Clutter eventually becomes d├ęcor.
10. When I was a child, there were coyotes howling in the night. Now?
11. The waiting room thermostat says I’m not cold, so why do I shiver?
12. Somehow, it’s worse that the doctor is attractive.
13. When I close my eyes, I hear commercials.
14. The smell of onions and ice cream remind me of my mother.
15. Someday, it will snow like this in Oklahoma.
16. I wake and you’re holding my hand. I shake you, but you won’t let go.
17. I open the door, snow already blanketing the mangled oak and broken glass in my kitchen.

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