Criteria

Criteria for establishing criteria in
the judgement of
criteria— fuck it all to
Indiana.

What I value greater
is my mother's Princess Diana
commemorative plate—
the infomercial commemoration
of pathos and

fresh towels for a hot shower
in a mansion of grandparent comfort
that no longer
receives the lotto
results.

In the porn star's right eye
you saw flash
a bad review for your
latest record
and a recent post
with zero
likes.

You rate the performance
by monstrous systems
performing
embarrassingly, themselves.

What I value greater
is my father groaning to sleep
above the racket
of enjoyable sitcoms
universally hated
and therefore miraculously exempt
from critique
and ding-dong contempt.

Defanged are the darlings.

Glorious are my cousin's orthodontics
transported to my Trapper Keeper
mouth.

I followed the red carpet into autumn
and in the urine musk terminus
of its unraveling
I played empty Cool Whip tubs
like babies
on the basement drums
daddy hid away.

On the red carpet grave
I stripped to my naked layer
of snappy elastic bands
in the candy corn of staunch
October
and plucked at the abundance of
my own flesh
with fingers and thumbs meeting
like beaks.

And by their criteria
my teeth are sliding back tectonically and
the blues of my particular Catholic school
uniform are unbecoming
and they called my mother overweight
and over-made-up
and my father underpaid
and my nasality harsh
and my toenails self-bitten

but according to the criteria
for establishing criteria in
the judgment of
criteria

their invisibility was located by
halitosis

and in the joy of my brand new
perfect
autumn day
the gauge is well-broken.

Ice Cream Truck

The ice cream truck
is really a broken record
of smoky summer grandmotherly larynx
or a mobile Gravitron carnival spinner—
later rebranded as the Starship 400 at the St. Mary's fair—
cycling in a cheek-sucking
momentum
of sound.

The ice cream man
saunters through the
roughest neighborhoods
without reluctance
for foppery
or backlash.

The ice cream
is a drive-by shooting
of desperate stickiness—

never not breaking down
imperceptibly.

Pine Knob in Winter and Summer

The creamy hue of
potato salad with celery
mayonnaise and egg whites
ruddily smeared at the borderline
of baked beans
can connect
with the color there beneath the chairlift's sway
over the local
landfill ski-hill's artificially icy
hazard

if the line is long enough.

The line for heat lamp pizza in the lodge
is long
and the crust tastes too sugary
in a way.

Pine Knob and Alpine Valley
pass for resorts in these parts
and that is no knock—

they are holy ground:
the bunny hills of concussions dressed
in embarrassingly cutting-edge equipment
worn by amateurs
waking groggy and
tethered to a snowmobile's pull.

Some
men from Waterford and Sterling Heights slice down
a frigid wall
in 90s neon and
tucked-in jeans
cigarettes dangling
Bavarian architectural approximation spanning psychedelically
in their goggles' polarization.

in June
the nation's top touring acts
as of 1988 load into Pine Knob's amphitheater
early in the day to set up for the show—

the same men from the fringes arrive
in the same jeans
perhaps cut and frayed at mid-thigh
by now.

High-schoolers are dropped off with their dad's Top-Siders
and fleeces and rum
spiked into large Coke
screw tops
that taste too sugary
in a way.

Late that night
after forty-two recognizable hits
it is cold
relatively for the season and

gazing above
upward to the hill
but beneath the dizzy stars
all breezily grassy there now

where the smudged black figures
ride down:

the first date night-ride
blazing floodlights
the towrope
the glimpse of hunched-over back-skin
sliver—
her bronze skin on creamy snow.

The next day is with a sweet-natured hangover:
the Fourth of July
and its memory explosions
pulsing in Nana's
potato salad.

The Spring Has a Nausea I Love Come Back Again

The spring has a nausea I love
come back again.

My mother
crawling for laundry quarters
and long coupons like scrolls
and fast food receipts
and the slick layers
of my dad's newly demoted
handyman invoices
and nagging nagging
sweetly nagging
are these your socks
your gray socks
to the terrible TV noise
soundtrack of the daytime
TV noise voices of
overdubbed
TV terror
soundtrack.

The spring has a nausea I need
come back again.

In the fast food smells
the spring drags itself
through the indecision
of its own identity.

I need to rest today.
Don't you have anymore coffee to make?
The little one was $6. The big one was $16.
Use the gold tablecloth
so I don't have to worry about Yia Yia's
getting stained.
Do you need me to take you home, Matt?
I'll need $10 for gas. I have no income.
We gonna go?
Do you want the turtleneck here? Huh?
Chris, do I look like I lost weight? YEAH.
Like I lost it from stress or diet?
Nobody says anything about the weight I lost.
The way you eat. You eat for four.
Take this. I want to clean it first.

Have you seen what you want to sell
for the garage sale?
You're not gonna be at that job too much longer
huh? Hope not. You don't like that guy.
Gotta go back and clean that basement tomorrow.
Huh? You gonna use the computer?
Oh God I'm sore from cleaning that house
yesterday. Did you see the chase they had
on 696 today? Huh.
It was on Channel 2. We watched it unfold.
Big white Escalade. They catch him?
Finally on Mound Road. Thank god
for
potholes.

The spring has a nausea I cling to
come back again.

In the soggy tentativeness of our
home's incompletion
I revolve half-formed
forever
draped in the sweatpants
material.

You know what. Can't make this shit up.
Use that coupon. $4 off.
Heartshapes in everything. Burnt toast
is a chemical reaction. Heartshapes in the
jelly.
Are you confident they'll maybe call you
for an interview? Do you want these?
Throat clear throat clear throat
clearance. Clearance clearance.

The spring has a nausea I have maybe caused
come back again.

Travel Soccer

I wish I'd done better at soccer
as a fuck-off to my hard-ass coaches
who were then new adults
with apartments and hatchbacks.

Each singer I'd hear
on the alternative rock radio station
in Doug's mom's minivan
on the way to practice
took form in my ears as attractively
adult soccer coaches
with sexy problems and a petrifying
callousness.

I had some slick moves and all the vision
but as in most things
they just didn't really get me—

I now dream of travel soccer perhaps every other night:
mid-game on an oversized field
like mowed vast meadows
at times rife
with pack animals
can collectors
vivd fanfare
and eruptive
fire hydrants
under a stormy milling sky
of curdled chocolate milk

where I always score important goals
repeatedly
until waking
lest be murdered
and buried in the shucked husks
of orange slice quarters.

No one really knew what they were doing
or where they were
in the world
at that age
in the era
of school-night practices.

In the winter we'd move
to enormous vacuumized
white domes

and for one season
to some small Christian college in the area
with a hardwood gymnasium
adjacent to a science laboratory by a
Dr. Pepper machine in the hall—

entering scared in wintry night
passing the dark after-hours lab
with tanks and cages aglow
where I'd linger for long
reluctant moments
before lacing up for
failure and inferiority.

One night I wore a southwestern-style vest
on top of my Umbro t-shirt
to exhibit some individualistic style
or maybe to foreshadow my lead role in
St. Hugo's eighth-grade production of
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Received by playful meanness
it was the means by which I was fastened to a hook on the wall
by suggestion of the virile-bodied coach
(the somehow sadly fit body which in scrimmage he would place upon all others with
unchecked and self-satisfied force—

I recall triangularly-toned calf muscles stirring ambiguous
pity and inadequacy in their furious kicking
an awkward intimacy with out-of-place
adult sweat
after-game arcade boasting
unnecessary bravado
and lake party roughhoused submersion).

Ostensibly fraternal gags
sure
but such men
in the company of children
were real horrors
and they now cruise the school districts of my
dreams circuitously
in proud Asian-manufactured cherry red compacts
circa 1997

where I preserve them
no doubt inside more malice
than the actuality of their current middle-aged
whiskery stubble.

When I was cut most cruelly
a part of me went back and hid in the blacked-out
nothingness of the mystery lab
with the mice and the fishes.

The door was open
and
with cold Dr. Pepper
and immense phobia
it was to be locked from the inside
safely.

So sometimes
it's the places and ages we've only known in minimal passing
where we can linger
with any sustained meaning or time.

Twenty-Seven

This is drafty modernity—
where our bike trails
are scabs and icy gravel

where my credit cards have been strewn
to freeze and brittle
in the van
stranded frantically
after nervous scatological
moment visible to no one
at the Gottfredson
exit.

No one sees me now.

I never smoke when I am in love—
I get fat and sleep late
in the twin beds of my feeders
as they go to work their jobs
in the mornings

where the rolling pin of my body
revolved hot
in the elastic snapping of
sentenced sexed fitted sheet corners.

Your roommate had one eye
and perhaps an envy for our love
but even she can not see me
now—

one cigarette a day now and
a wimp even in self-destruction.

The four athletic balls
of various shape
from 8th grade bazaar and cereal
promotion
invariably brittling in the heavy
yard of November cliches
still persist
in skin and temperature
but I will never
gather them.

I wrote a few poems
in our summer
with the walls of Indian buffet
between us—
waiting daily for you and
the fray of your
jean shorts to rise and dissolve
higher and higher
as the dry cleaners spun
for a purpose in days
and nights around the alarm clock
of the sun slinging us
for one year only.

I snuck them in greasy black wires
through the crabapple blossoms
and only now can I sense
all that I snuck
with no notion of any need
for sneaking.

Remember the silly constructs I toiled on
in the carport—
bathed in coffee and the heat rash

just nervous and nonchalant
for your presence again?

You should see how bare
all the outstretching reaches now.

One night in the beginning:
in the attic's pinnacle
from where we started
from which we descended
with your wild smell and pubis
and delirious grinning
you confessed the demonic things
that knocked you out
asleep and hot atop me.

I think then is when I closed my eyes
but still so awake
in love—
off-put
by love.

I cannot recall being cold once
last winter

it took the knife and the nightmare
and the disposable cameras
impossible to develop or destroy
labeled pornographic with
Scotch tape

it took the mental collapse
of your grandpa's north
billboard barn
with the sad lone stallion
and billy goat marriage
where we fucked in the field
of loud motor paranoia
and paradise
that exist solely in the sun's
tendency for blinking

it took Lake Huron and the circles
of ankle bones
of flea market coins
of nipples in swimsuits
and circles in circles
in circles.

I burned it all with friction
of paper cuts

of safety pins and dry cleaning
tags
because you asked me to
terribly.

It took all that to open again
my eyes from the attic:

how I'd piss blindly in the night
toward the sink with the dishes
and fruit fly
fermentation
of all our good times

sneaking and scheming
amateurishly
in the dark
but always to return
underpants or not
to our
naked sleeping fusion
off-put but horribly safe
and lucky
I thought.

You should see how bare
and high
the outstretching reaches now.

I turn 27 in two days
my father feeds me and
the election and the NFL
and the shooter on 96

the hurricane and the veering
distance
of dying apart
from your darling girlishness
and darkness and precise
pin location
dusked over
like the thinnest crabapple twigs
that impale darkness out of thirst

like the sweet bristles of your pretty mole
before you'd shave it
sneakily in the shower
when soap was in my eyes.

No leaves and no eyelids left
but I hope you're having fun

before it all shuts down for good.

Apple Blossom Milk

The apple blossom buds
this April
have been suspended in infancy
for a great while—

like nipples with droplets of milk
hardened to crust
in the openings.

I can still juggle a soccer ball
using both feet and thighs
a hundred times without
involving the ground.

All the balls in the shed
are child-size and flat—
the door finally came unhinged

leaving dead hives
and the comas of crowbars and
waterlogged skateboards
unguarded.

My father's bicycle leaned in front of the house
all winter
and nobody stole it

but the back tire is airless
and there is no functional pump.

The escapes of certain things
like air
are at once sneaky
and yet unsurprising—

when we bought a new refrigerator
my mother spent an entire
roll of disposable camera film on
the old one's
color

its special shelves
and contents

and she's done so similarly
with old washing machines
station wagons
and threadbare pairs
of soccer-ball patterned boxers
before tearing them
with a great satisfaction
defiantly

upon caving

admitting these things had
finally succeeded in their sneaky escapes.

I have pimples on my adult face
for some reason
that feel akin
to the apple blossom buds

or nipple milk
that will not arouse
from its sockets fully
and whose purpose
is at most times
obscured.

Wrappers Remain

Sugar—
I wrapped you in the cheap crinkled foil
of a small chocolate egg
and let the sweet yellow puss inside
ferment then
rot away at all that naturally and
miraculously once was.

I take pisses in the backyard
in semi-night
and wonder what the foliage
around and above once
must have been.

I don't say "remember"
as it is impossible now.

In the shed
in some random utility buckets
are the crushed orphans of musty
Top-Siders my dad once wore as a crewman
on the decks of sailboats
bought by other people's old Detroit money—

the glory days contained many shoes
and roughly half of them uselessly
remain.

Unelectric

Very conveniently the houses are wired
as cluttered electrocution chambers
if the world should so capriciously
decide.

Violence
fully realized
will be the intermittently pulsing telecast
of a major golf tournament
on Easter Sunday—

shocking on and off
generators cranking into gear.

The old neighbor across
comes halfway to confirm that ours is out too—

turns and ignites a cigarette
by his trashcan
back-facing.

Early evening sun and smoke
consume his white
hair like a vanilla-iced
birthday cake
on nana's picnic table

left to burn forever.

And yes it is beauteous
but untenably so
and he's gone.

The world has plugged us in and
its electricity is ferociously grounded—

up through the toilet throne's porcelain
and ceramic foot webs of decorative swans
migrating with our family's dying generations
from split-level mansion to condominium

up through the goal posts and
power line crucifixes and geranium bulbs.

We all know that this is what a flower's momentum is made of—

why leaves sputter madly
when chlorophyll circuitry scorches with current

fatally surly with gorgeous display.

The world has plugged us in to a network
of uneasy ecstasy—

I have always heard a young girl's scream
blindly
from two yards over and one back

perhaps beneath trampoline or plastic play fort
akin to mine of wood
where I once found bunnies in a hole
motionless and piled as if
shocked to death.

The world unplugged has caused
the refrigerator water
chilled by
the sun's reverse
to leave us too.

I think I'll bike around Sylvan Manor
and count the minnows spontaneously generated
in the spring thaw ditches
with the sliced tennis balls
and whipped cream tubs—

my rubber wheels accumulating the stinging charge and whipping
it all around in sparkling circles
foreshadowing great summery patriotism.

At this hour the light dilutes as if
dabbed with a rag

and whatever the consistency of that energy is
it is rung into the wind
so that wild air channels itself between houses
hungrily
as stray ungrounded voltage
in growing darkness.

Dusk is a beauty whose classification as a cliche
must be made aesthetically illegal
in respect to the glad fright indisputable to its nature
and the endlessness of its recurrence.

Dusk is
a locked elementary school at 12-years-old
with a public school friend from soccer
and his foreign subdivision sector
and the hungry dark current
and his two female friends
and the first sick feeling of poisoned electricity of
nervous potential and
windy twilight and
some other boy with a backpack pyro kit of
househeld items aggregated to divert attention
and successfully so

one of the girl's select playful touch and
the promise of everything strange and
opportunity felt wet and watery and mine
and every element possible
met upon the
playground—

danger and pleasure crossed like wires and

I have never known that brand of eagerness again—
to meet them the next night
to experience awful older things
in emphasis of my youth

but my friend got sick
and I had to go home

and I have now done it all
a million ways
and the power
won't come back
on again.

Sweetbread

The saucer orbits of Greek Easter
and Catholic Easter
clanked into alignment to share a calendar Sunday—
2011, but days ago.

Maybe the same as when I was ten.
It was Yia Yia and the nightgown fastidiousness
stringing out and cleaning the tubular lamb tripe
for the Greek Easter soup.
The last parts of the lamb—dregs.
God—what infinitude and young life sodden there in a
feast's discarded squishiness.
Taboos salt a child's tongue by odd meat,
luscious texture. Uncandied and raw.
Mothers pleat only-children in silky dress slacks
so loose in their brushing sensuality
that the blushing comes in uneven chafing strokes
of awkward age, erection.
Tubular pant legs, sparkling intestine,
minuscule pushpin globes of watery blood
on the outer slope of the diabetic fingertip—
all tubes engorge in the young red-faced strangeness
like towheads thrust through
a turtleneck.

And while
Yia Yia and her daughter-mothers and
the tender-bickers make the soup
the oxygen tanks hiss, the furniture squeaks
encased in lamination, gameshows
click audibly from the crossword room as
waterwheels turn powered by spring-lamb blood
where
in my grandparents' end-stage apartment
under awnings of pastel green or polo shirt teal or
the aquablue cassette tape ribbon of
candybasket grass
facial capillaries grow bloodier in color—
in perishable love—
than the pure red Easter egg.

The afterlife is modern and bizarre. In Greektown
Easter is a black man commissioned to
caricatures of pastry puffed cheeks.

Mobile billboards motor through antique intersections
stupidly pronouncing an expiration date.
In the casino the slots are metallic plastic
shaped by clunky molds and board-game themed. Cartoonish cloud
figures in the chinging coughs of cigarette mouths pitching
with escalating registers.
Sticky coins, oversized promotional cups.
But the mother and son are playful in exaggerations
of their ethnicity
in the hopeful resurrection of
that recollected love.

Across the street at Papou's Cafe
every old waiter is newsprint putty molded or
sweetened dough kneaded
into noble
Easter royalty—each an old family friend
of course
or
a memorywashed dance coach mom had
in her youth as the Golden Greek Girl
prepping for the Miss Detroit pageant—
blonde Greekness and the
burden of
familial tenderness
for her overlooked competition talent.

The lamb arrives. Where the toughened
heart-meat is chopped into the soup of modern replication
the meat of tenderized intentions browns
and slips from its
bones, slinking into saucers of light rosy wine.

The soup is better across the street, she says.
We'll get some to take home, she says.

We find floating bits of heaven where we can—
delighting in the reminiscence of its texture.

And the plurality of it all
develops
into a single retina—
phototricked a sickly red
in the flashbulb
of the tennis-court tables
or the collapsable poker tables
encircled by kiddies in a green-tiled basement:

sick red
like bright clean blood
or the egg
undented in the cracking game
dyed so blood red
maybe a sick animal laid it—
embedded in the loaf
of sweet Easter bread
or glandular sweetbread
like a ruby in a candy
crown discarded.

Origins of the Back Bedroom

Could you trace the anatomy
of your lifelong bathtub
beneath you in the shower—
in steam and wetness
without looking

or
the exact curvature
of your father's bathtub
belly
by heart?

Interior decoration
from just earlier this decade
can look pitifully
dated
in the background
of home video footage.

Nonetheless—
from discarded mixtures
of Home Depot paint

could you match that carpeting
(whose gnarly hue
you loved so much)
the day it was stapled?

When the room in back was empty
and new
we invented games to fill it

and
once deserted

the room will reinvent us
and the way we smelled:

young and prime
in chemical newnessand primer.

I am a back bedroom as well—
where a pressboard Office Max
student desk pins
a carpet unchanging.

The doorknob is missing but
inside my father sneaks his smokes
and my child fingers cannot
access the foreign mechanism
locking me out
of my own body.

Rides Home from White Lake

The most effective lullabies
I ever heard
were
Red Wings games announced
in emphatic punctuation
on the radio
riding from White Lake
back to Sylvan Lake
down M-59
in my mom's Chevy Cavalier—

a sort of backwards elongated 'E' displayed in the formation of
those stereo button lights
that were illuminated.

It is the heaviness of night
and a soft blackness
that I can recollect as tucking me in
on sleepy night rides.

Very few realizations stay with us
but that of the heaviness of night
pins me still
as if its weight
compressed my small frame with a certain softness

like
powder sifting down into
hefty accumulation.

The paradox is this:
the thinness of
childhood eyelid skin
simultaneously so heavy with sleep

the memorized distances
unseen
detected by telltale turns
and the rolling track of distinct spots of brightness
across those folds.

The Big Boy
and McDonald's
the airport

each dealership—
fields of light that shift across the roof
in maps of powder beam
frequencies.

Therefore I knew when we'd arrived home
before halting
and without looking—

running in to show my dad
the goodie bag Yia Yia had given me
to bring home:
brown paper and
Little Debbie snack cakes

the heaviness having found him as well
in his recliner.

Heaven is a circuit
weaving between the inland lakes

connecting the dots
and back again.

I will fall awake and wake asleep
in reverse
as the light
pulls in retrograde age across slit eyes—

between my tonight
and a porch somewhere before
where my grandparents' living permanence
is still marked by
a throaty 'goodnight'
a 'drive safe'
the charred Greek hamburger meat and onions
blending within the fine grain emulsion of night's kingdom
a beetle scorched to the walkway
a husk in the nighttime
and a fantastical explanation.

Every moonlight locale within our distances
has obtained new sentimentalities
with each age I've known

but all along
the announcer's voice has on some wavelength
existed in galloping volume
each time the puck nears the crease
or the car skates toward
another
streetlamp beam
stretching near
larger and larger.

Leaving Our Houses Late at Night

Sometimes
when my mom has left
my father's house
after cleaning it with such diligence

even if the flares of volatility
were particularly bad
this visit

it starts to resemble quite a lot
the house as it looked
years ago

at the start
when she lived here
as well.

When my mother leaves
my father's house
late at night

she asks me
to watch out the window
to see her to her car
as if threats are lurking

the way her father watched over her
and I walking to our old Cavalier
when we'd leave his house
late at night.

So I do.

Piano-Shaped Radio

The Tigers game on the radio
is a particular
music
and
song
even if you do not
listen
to the words
or care in the least
about baseball.

Pappou had a small radio
in the perfect shape
of a miniature
upright piano:

tan wood
of skinny legs
on
grated metal.

The patio furniture
animated into an amplifier
of lazy
good-humor voices
speculating sonorously
patiently
with the occasional statistic
when we'd play gin rummy

taking a new card
each time
Pappou would say
too casually

I'll speculate with that
oh hey
I'll speculate with that—

the good-natured hustle.

The good nature of an impossible
expanse
of summer green
semi-sick with over-brilliance
over-heaven
over-sweetness
and love
is a thing of uneasy balance

wafting in and out of the property lines
of perfection
and illness

sun-poisoned smoke
of burning radiators
of their first shop
somewhere deep in Detroit
near the old stadium

or the sweet living breath
of their hottest-day-of-the-year
cigarettes that killed them in the end
but decked the good-time Junes
of their day
in flowerbeds and watermelon slices
garnished in
ash.

A ballpark
a backyard
more like a field
with a long slope to the
pond where as in dreams
unthreatened deer came to kneel
visibly on the close-by bank
of the small island across—

their bodies
gliding to rest
in the pneumatic slow motion
of playing cards sliding down
cushioned by air.

We went back
to the split-level mansion
as we remembered it
of course

and the backyard field
was
as it always goes
much smaller—

the property lines
clearly defined

the grass
not so bright

the multiple patios
pulverized
by footsteps.

*

Woodlawn Cemetery borders on
being too bright—

each blade of grass
or metal
radiates at a maximum
to suggest that afterlives
exist
at least
in the glinting of mirrors.

The Greek section
is vaguely defined
but apparent in the distinct clusters
of last names—

words holding smaller
telling clusters of all the right letters
from the alphabet.

Woodlawn Cemetery borders on
the State Fairgrounds
across Woodward Avenue.

Were it not for Woodward Avenue
and its splitting agents
of
pained buses approaching combustion

and murderers
with unbalanced checkbooks
and housewives
with cuts on summer feet

Woodlawn Cemetery and the State Fairgrounds
would blend together strangely
without mediation
in conflicting modes of
desolate visitation—

different styles entirely
of pomp
and pulse
and preference
of floral arrangement.

The State Fairgrounds
in empty day
shine evenly—

the nothingness
reflects backward
like infinite rows of
aluminum cans
whose returnable deposits
have long since
expired

and the cemetery
matches this energy
or charged-up lack
with an infinite assortment of buried

wallets and discontinued cosmetics
and sadly decontextualized
vogues.

I could experience this transaction
every single night
if I so desired
in the middle of the road
like a conduit
holy and broken

and some nights I do.

Though most nights I just stay home
with the April windows open
after dinner
attracting the night birds
and news anchors

but tell me
who
from time to time
doesn't enjoy just to
sit in a room that's
burning its brightest
and let it all pull away
strand by strand
until
darkness is
visibly growing
inside the glassy lamp
beside you

like chocolate
settling in milk?

The Sun, Reversed

When your summer world expires—
if you die
go blind
or mad—

your memory of the neighbor's shed
the sneaky lash of your grandfather's tongue
the particular trash in the gully moating
the Lutheran church
as the AA meeting
lets out

will seep with profound anticlimax
from your earholes
and nostrils

like mercury
or whatever it is
in a battery
that corrodes on gravel
when run over or
burst.

Meanwhile the sun—
with sad infinity
heavenlike indifference—
will still radiate
no matter
all the things it always has:

vague beachy childhood headache
light the same color as Jackie's organ sounded
bike trail whiteness
night tryst blackness
and all the living love
you could possibly want

brilliant as ever
without second thought.

It will be the sun
that glimmers dancingly on the liquid
of your memory

pooling there in La Rosa's
parking lot.

Believe it or not
but the sun really does not mind
if the world turns it cool
then frigid
in the shadows
of building's corners.

The sun, reversed, is what makes
the water cold
in the drinking fountain
behind the Dairy Queen.

By now
it is not a tightrope shadow
that twitches shimmery and green in the April grass

but the cord that brings us the cable television
wobblingly aloft.

Neckholes

In the diameters
of your de-elasticized neckholes
where the hangers leave
stretch marks
there are secret
mathematics.

In broken ratios
cordless telephones
still loop with translucent
jump rope force
the orb gerbil-caging
your exact
present tense
body.

In that same bank account
I still drip—
forged in my mother's name
at the end of the
internet's awkward age—
numerals and vowels
and decimally
dimpled
chins approaching
a new angle
each birthday.

I am lousy at math
but this fall:

our apple tree is heavier
with addition
than can possibly be

and after a subtractive year
the Animal Planet still
scurries and decomposes
in and out of reception

where the groundhog
is so fat now with the apples.

Paralyzed by my own
glottal stops
I suddenly hear the
television of the world
at the ungodly volume
of grandparental sonics.

And I see the weary machines
of my nana's ears
working through the neckholes
of novelty sweatshirts
I've gifted her at Christmas

and amen for love that does not
stretch out
like our rubber band muscles
or shit-talking apparatuses—

love that intimates for eternity:

Nana Rocks
Nana Rocks.

Men Talking in Hamtramck

I believed in the permanence of after-school nightfall.
I baked myself into the sweater-vest adulthood
of bedtime sitcom.
I am still waiting in a TV dinner—
to be picked up for indoor soccer practice
inside some white light dome that's
inside some pitch black vacuum
of midwinter night.

The six allotted ravioli have burnt the mouth
and singed a top layer of leaves
below which a toddler swims.

Over the minivan radio
I imagined the young adult voice
of my soccer coach
singing an alternative rock number
about bachelor pad apartments
in Waterford
and questionable 20-something love
affairs from Clarkston
to Shelby.

I have climbed out of grandparent
bodies
to document the neighborhood there
to which I've been
born.

Sucking in golfballs from the nearby
driving range like Hungry Hungry
Hippos
and toppling down the landfill
bunny hill of Alpine Valley
in concussed recollections of
computer lab SkiFree.

I believed in the frozen moment of Sam Malone's
after-work evening.
I prayed to the imagined bedrooms of sitcom
characters
where childhood recharges then
replays in deliberate fashions
for them
and for me.

Now it's just men talking in Hamtramck
of the latest fire
and arms creased behind their backs.

Two blacked out TVs pin the corner of
my room and the heartburn is
unbearable.

Repurposed Silverware

There are forks and knives
in the microwave
of the sky—
flashing heat
above Sylvan Lanes
at 2 a.m.

A kid in pretend-adulthood
has thrown silverware into the
gigantic microwave above the Mobile station
where I am walking for cigarettes
tonight—
out from my father's house

where the bats
and the robins are flashing
as one.

The muggiest early-summer storm is
tantruming in adolescent pre-cum
above my life.

Everything wet
and dry flashing
as one.

There are childhood zits
on adult stomachs
where the skin is too taut
and thickened there now
to release any achy pressure.

There are dripping multiplicities
of drinking coffee at the same time
as urinating simultaneous
to a rain determined to get going
outside the bathrooms of gas-stations
retrofitted into buildings
exactly the same as the rest of the
one-story houses around here
where
my mother is never
not on the phone with customer service
somewhere—
loudly.

T like in Tom
D as in dog.
No—E as in ELEPHANT.

Where I love-hate hangers facing
opposite directions or
the staticky cackle
of a cell phone sitting inanimately
too near a computer speaker
or clock radio.

But tonight I am through watching every episode
of Cheers
and fetishizing 80s sweater-vest-Boston.

Sam and Cliff were good pals
but my dad doesn't even lie on the couch
with me like he used to, for me
to peak over his body before bedtime

so
tonight I am walking out
from his house
to the Mobil Station
where the menacing wind
is a heavy smoker
in tropical clothing.

I wonder if going out in this
was such a sharp idea after all
and that danger is exciting
and the pleasure becomes all mine—
to meet myself as a child
who has thrown some silverware
into the microwave
of the sky.

The wind of the world
will smoke your cigarette for you
if you let him—
dressed like a let-loose dad
in non-indigenous palm prints and khaki shorts.

The Little Caesars playhouse where I
had a birthday
is now a carpet store retrofitted
into the unchanged
wacky-arcade
infrastructure.

I have been gladly repurposed too—
a window display chamber of childhood
guitar lessons
filled now with computer repair parts and
surveillance equipment
that records me
sharing a cigarette with a
flashing night.

I'd be OK writing about wet parking lots
and municipal bike trails
forever

and the way they sleep blackly comatose
in the sputtering of
an early-summer storm
that can't quite get going
and just wants to play

but there's more to it than that—
I suppose.

With $135 cash in my jeans
from selling widowed chairs
from my great-aunt's basement
I pass the mannequin guards of my
lights-out optometrist
and a boulder in the sidewalk grass
the shape of a curled-up
doe.

With a zit on my stomach
and sharp silverware in all of my pockets
I flash through each window pane
on the houses and strip-malls around here—
looking for sneaky
thieving action.

With something sweetly rank
and washed fresh and fragrant
by a pre-cum drizzle
rattling
with cigarette scabs
in my adult nostrils

I pass my local Dairy Queen
immortalized in chapters 2 through 5
of my failed novel

and in passing it
I pass also a baggy sagging boy a bit younger—
also stuffed with butter knives and
wet-sky sparklers smuggled from out-of-state
for the coming 4th
perhaps.

Past the boat-storage backstreets
of Keego Harbor
out-of-season
nativity scene magi
escaping lopsided from ajar
tool-sheds spook me
like the bats and the robins
that cannot detect their own kin
in the flashing.

And looping home
through the whiteness
flashing in blackness of holy
Sylvan Lake I am blinded by the cop-car spotlight
where the microwave has been opened
in the pitch-black kitchen of
the world.

There has been a "B & E" somewhere in this
kingdom of trespasses
and I am the only one on these streets
at this hour
at this age
in this storm that can't get going.

I am just a writer
with obnoxious fluorescent shoelaces
and a dead-end chapter 6
and scabs in my adult nostrils—
out for a walk
while my father sleeps
I say.

And in patting my ankles
as I palm the unblemished belly that is
the smoothness of his cop-car
he asks if he'll come across anything sharp
that could possibly prick him

and I say there's maybe some salad forks
or the little ones for shrimp cocktail
and that maybe the burglar was the boy I passed—
making a getaway under a timid
flashing sky.

Keep the Receipt

We have seen only what we've been allowed
and it's been too much

but the receipt for each allowance
is kept someplace—

a dumpster behind Sylvan Lanes
that only I may access.

The dark grainy
air
can look like rain—

pulsing static
and
streaking
in eye-tricking diagonals.

The wind in the uncut
fat grass
can give color:

to the white then silver
blades

to the lilac's bounce.

The lilac breath has taken on
a violence

a roughness thrown around
recklessly by a hushed motor
like
the seizures of dads
burning knees
on the rough TV room carpet
and
the biting of tongues.

The crabapple tree is full of bees
and full of blossoms:

all of them—
the bees and the blossoms—
hovering in its total churning
when night is falling and
the world will not settle.

Then
the infants have black eyes
full of tornados
and all of that blackness
there before birth
and there to be had
after death.

Meanwhile
the world starts to milk its way in
with slow whiteness waking
so that the blackness
fuzzes to blue—

the grass takes on so much color.

We went for a late walk
after a full day
and stuck our faces into all of the blossoms
and peered into the rosy makeup
of the night girls'
cheeks:

everything we sniffed
left us caked in pollen and
powder.

Smears Made by the Mailbox Dusk Boys

I am still learning the physics
of this neighborhood
to which I've woke—
burned into the ink of dusk.

I own the mailbox made to
swallow the endless arm.

They tried to crush it
in a drive-by
but it broke
their
baseball bat.

A star
and the universe receiving its
hyped-up postage
will not outlive
the complimentary coffee cups
draining themselves at the entrance
of my temple.

And furthermore:
that night you asked me
what it was I saw in death—
I must confess
I was actually wide awake
and heard you well.

I just had no way of detaching for you
the death before birth or the sleepy birth
I know to be
dully aglow
thereafter.

I had no way of depicting for you
aisle five of La Rosa Market.