Sickly Bedtime Approaches / new poems by Matthew Milia

Inside the Larynx Metaphor

I could have guessed you’d cook the asparagus for dinner—
the spears popping in oil
as if the night
and ventless kitchen inside the night
and even the droplets
of your own after-work breath
were somehow fiercely carbonated

reminding me for some reason
of the Pepsi I’d suck from warm cans
through Twizzlers for straws
on Nana’s davenport.

I could have guessed.

And if I try hard enough
I can also predict
how tomorrow will go—

(it’s just that I like to keep all wonder
and disappointment
a perfect surprise)

but what the heck—

tomorrow I will park an ailing car
in various parking lots of gourmet grocery stores
and survey for free samples;

I will count the pay-by-hour motels
and grandparent boneyards
skirting Woodward Avenue;

I will notice the beautiful
bone structures of unkempt
bus-stoppers displaced
at the first outposts of affluent suburbs,
the bus-stops themselves displaced in the sun’s
inescapable fever and

I called it.

Asparagus and licorice—
my metaphors are slipping

but why shouldn’t they

with everything else?, as

sheet cakes in the station wagon’s rear
shift wildly to the swerving course,

as the world
slips off-kilter
whether aged in dog years
or milk carton

Hey, listen—
the larynx of the late-day June dog
soupy and ferocious,
mechanically no different than the waxy blade of grass
rushed with a flatulence of breath,
affixed between two childhood thumbs

like goal posts pinched together,
a conduit between the power plug tines:

that’s what a bark is and that is the trick
with the grass. One in the same.

Or what do I know?

Perhaps I’ve lost too much in approximated simile.

Conflating this and that to force the sense
that a clearly defined one thing
can perfectly conjure another
thing altogether,
naked in the doorway.

It’s just—
I only wanna taste the beer
as it is
hot and sweetly stale inside your mouth

and see the TV
as it was

bounced a sickly blue
from the surface of your cheek
when the night is carbonated
with the immense singular pressure of what was, 
is, and will be


Retired dads
walk the end-stage family dogs
through the early afternoon
post-rain neighborhood


you drink the coffee
of the present tense
from the

re-gifted to you
his final sip.

Your dad's having his gallbladder
removed tomorrow
and you have to Google how serious
of a thing
that is.

The coffee—
and the mugs or bladders
it warms in its
course, it seems—

is all simply borrowed.

And then not so much dispossessed
as it is

Is there any point in asking anymore:
where to?

I once believed in the sacred map
smeared by paper cuts—
wetted by the dreamy breaths
of early-life yawns

to help relocate these things
once they've strayed.


Turns out that gallstones are made
mostly of cholesterol and I wonder
if my dad will get to keep his—
in some junk-drawer of his workbench
next to a souvenir baseball
we brought back
from Cooperstown

When the phone has not rung for months
and even the sounds of summer birds
have a distancing effect—

like a spinning ambulance whir
endless goodbye—

there is only a half-hope that remains:

that, like our old cocker spaniel
tuckered-out hours after
his escape,

these things shall return to us
in small
almost unnoticed miracles

like the mug—
like the galaxy of stones
calcified through our processes of

It all wanders back
by its own dumb

Soccer Storm

In the wind tunnel of your orgasm
my world deafens between the cushy tornadoes
of your calves and thighs.

This isn’t so much a poem about sex.

It’s just where I happened to be, gratefully,
at the moment when I realized
things’ll probably be alright.

Whose mind doesn’t drift a little during it—
with so many half-thoughts and hot feelings
bubbling up like a very specific
coffee pot?

In the thick of it I shot back to soccer tryouts,
with all my bowl-cut competition sitting on different models
of heavy-duty plastic water thermoses.

I remembered how terrifying it was to live
in that early collision of confused masculinity,
with teeth like a bunny rabbit, and nothing short of
the world’s entire purpose at stake.

In my dreams I kept showing up to practices
fully dressed and eager to give it my all—
despite having been cut from the team
and the coach staring down my unnecessary presence
so quizzically and cruelly.

In my dreams I still arrive
with everything to prove
as if mom and dad are always watching,
desperately, from some parked automobile
of make and year
I am ashamed.

In this coffeepot, pity and redemption steam
at the exact same terrible

But the fact remains:
the specifics we fret over most
matter the least,

the coaches die in car accidents
or as broken old men
and we are still pre-teens in a meaningless sprint

but then again, that’s not completely true—is it?

As the mind wanders back across drunkenly-sprayed goal lines
of the endless tournament
we squint something welcoming and raw
in the gathering storm.

Face Time

On a shattered iPhone 5 I left behind who-knows-when
my mother FaceTimes me the lilacs
growing in my father’s backyard
like an entrance to their own museum.

They say lilacs are not overly aggressive
in their spread—they tend to grow mainly
where human settlements are
or were.

Bless them to pieces
for remaining
where we lost all heart to remain

Bless their beauteous stubbornness—
their oversexed showiness
their resilience to the quiet traumas in the homes
they shadow.

My mother was briefly a journalist before having me
and she now reports the world’s sex drive
to me solely via direct feed, live on location but
unaware that she is tethered
to the Wi-Fi in the house
so as she deepens in the yard
nearing the blossoms
pixelating in dusk—
in a chalky nectar
I can virtually

I lose her right before
she reaches the bush.

This is a sufficiently futuristic
future from where we began,
I think.

The future should feel like a splintered screen
looking in on all the world once

Poem Written Next to You in a Van Out West

Heaven's no longer the greased-up slide
chuting me into
cloud reenactments of
early overbite comfort

no, I think heaven is

discussing with you
what we should fix for dinner
through humid smiles
in our near-future kitchen
covered in Wednesday and

and then a walk to the corner for beer
past all the loitering galaxies
of summer dusk

and I know this exact scenario
has yet to occur precisely
but give it a week or two
and then
after that
give it our two lifetimes combined
and I promise the potentiality
will contain nothing short
of the world's very purpose:

your fingertips like door-keys.

In the freckles and inky pinpricks
of night—
in the codes of your muscular twists
and the wet constancy
of your dark grinning pupils—
each night presenting our home
in a new shape
of the same unalterable material.

Trouble eaten down
to a silly pit and kicked
into the garden.

The miracle of your love's
constant looping return

finding me at the sink
and pinching my waist

in the only moment we'll ever

Constant Bedtime


In the cellular phone showrooms now gutted into cubbyholes
summer retires—

for summer is now a system of holes
waiting to be stuffed with travel soccer newsletters, phone numbers for guitar lessons
torn like hangnails, parishioner donation envelopes with windows of smeared vellum,
pizza coupons announcing two-for-ones that never arrive,
instructional pamphlets on how not to
readjust one’s own

on how to check one’s breasts monthly
in a circular

in these storefronts of the semi-modern plazas
summer hopes to
suck the night clean
though cinder block burnt like toast.

I saw the children in the vestibule,
cross-legged around the bottle return,
attempting to count the number of nights
spinning sickly above us in broken durations

not noticing the crazed bagger
fingering the light switch
with nothing to lose.

Have you seen the entrances to these chambers
strung up in uncoiled wires of orthodontic retainers,
caved in by 3-ring binders
that flicker loose leaf like horny tongues?

Did you crawl beside me,
into the budget motel banquet hall
where the marooned wedding DJ
took requests for every sadness
birthed by some mother or another—

that is to say, one for all of us,
of course. Yes, no one
is aging well and
rent is due.


Some things ride
the drop in temperature
back to this place
every year
like a vehicle—

perhaps a station wagon we were proud of
before the babysitter’s boyfriend
had his way with it.

I cannot hear the wind tonight—
somersaulting blankly through elms,
fresh from liquor lotto stores
primed to land in any congregation—

without picturing a mouth
without feeling a stomach
pitted and turning over
like the only muffler on the road
at this hour.

At 2:45 AM
I heard the woman’s maniacal sandals clacking,
opened the drape to find her tipping over
below me—

frozen in her tipping,
devastated by lamplight,
perplexed by an intersection of streets

blowing into the night
as if wishing to challenge
September’s return in

a race to fill the empty pop cans
of the world
with cold air whether
from lungs or river.


He’s a wreck without his full 8 hours,
without several inland lakes of coffee;

he’s a wreck if his mother has called too many times, too early—
and even more so if she hasn't called at all.

Something is looping like a DVD menu—
some feeling
like the emergence of egg shells
in the birthday cake batter.

A perfection that is just barely at fingertips,
at tongue tips
and pencil tips.

There was, for so long, a sweet rubbery stench
of back-to-school supplies
always in the janitor closets
of my internal organs,

in my armpits and
sock drawer.

But now
in constant bedtime, a dog is barking
at all hours. From where
can such ceaseless aggression find its source—
puttering in and out
again and again like a dial-up modem?

Today the wedding DJ was a different man,
but the same? Lurking in a long stretch limo, the color
of eggshells beneath fingernails, the color
of addresses smeared opaque in the waxy windows of student loan envelopes—
the uncanny rotation of life’s extras,
bit characters screeching brakes of sadly semi-dated rides
in orbits around my dad and I, where we hid

in sunflowers, ice cubes, and the smoke
of summer’s final

Is there a shame in still feeling protected by one’s father?
I go inside.

I grow turgid within the incessant barking,
in cars passing by forever, revving violently—half of me
apparently always doubled over in dishwater.
But I wilt in my mother’s voice, the opposite
of barking—as she
starts up again to summarize Greek dances at Ms. Radio Shack pageants, or
the way Pappou would char the edges of ground meat
purposely, or informercial hacks to miraculously clean a pan
blackened by ungodly heat
like the burnt cinder blocks through which the summer sucks
its breath in storefronts of

There is a sweetness here,
a stickiness of cottonwood fiber gooping windshields
and crabapple holes mealy and agape to be stuffed
by yellow-jackets and fingertips; there is
a sweetness in my mother’s missing tooth and
the holes of parental stories—something so close to perfect
in how they humor my motions and strange age
that by the time they are gone,
my father of smoke and
my mother of syrup,
it holds me over. The murderers conspiring in
lamplight corners bark and bark
but can’t get


I was born with cheap
plastic-mold Little League trophies
for bones. The flimsy
tee-ball bats and figurines
stretched my skin into delicate

They branched out and splintered
in tendons of Scotch tape and
dental floss.

Praying that consuming parental coffee all day
was some alter-universe form of immense hydration,

I’d wake sensing all my problems
cobbled together in two-by-fours,
wrapped by the wires of old orthodontic retainers—

easily undone
but a nuisance nonetheless.

I’d think,
I’ll manually adjust my vertebrae
until the world seems a bit more
correctly on course.

When the world reveals its nature
bit by bit
to you in your youth—
in warm foreign surges in your bloodstream or
the way you smell a color
before knowing the neighbor is burning leaves
in the yard behind
at dusk—
you don’t know whether
to celebrate
or mourn
the news.

The worst part about trophies
is the year being engraved
right there on it
and as the year distances
the accomplishment
ages pitifully. All monuments,
whether of accomplishment
or disaster,
take on eventual
twisted meaning.

The only black kid on the street’s
dad invested in an etching machine
and made a business in his basement
customizing the little metal plates
for tee-ball banquets and bowling leagues
up at Sylvan Lanes.

in the trophy engraver’s driveway
I made a free-throw on the cockeyed hoop
and the trophy engraver’s son,
teasingly surprised, said
somebody ate their Wheaties this morning—
he was
at one point
my only friend.


I've cried trying to pin the origin story
of a certain item of food in the fridge—
how it wasn’t from the most recent trip to the store
or even the one before that
but some other one, somehow months ago now
on a pitifully specific day that seemed absolute
in its sense of permanence,
in the way the sky was like dark hair upon exiting,
in all its ways that return, laughably, now
vacuumed into that little tub from the olive bar. 

Sometimes I cry in the vague remembrance
of my dad coming to teach my Boy Scout troop
how to tie sailing knots in the empty cafeteria after school.

He had prepared by tying different lengths of rope to a board
and I can’t remember what grade or year it was
or in which run-down car of ours he drove us home—

but whatever love is
I know I harnessed it, wholly,
in the age of knowing
without knowing.

Sometimes I cry because I can’t cry
when I feel I should cry most.


The guitar teacher would make house calls
for our lessons
after the local shop closed.

He smelled the way clothes smell worn by
people who’ve just smoked a cigarette
and though I knew the smell
I didn’t associate it with cigarettes
because it doesn’t smell quite like an
actively lit cigarette
but kind of sweet
like grandfather breath
or off-limit rooms
or other things I only sort of

Mom would offer him a Rolling Rock
and he said it was his
favorite beer.

What are the chances?

He followed me into my room once
to hear some songs I wanted to learn
from my new CDs
through my new stereo—

these things that reminded me of Christmas
all-year round,

of feeling embarrassed by only-child bounty
with mom’s threadbare

Like clots through the happy vein
guitar teachers and cocker spaniels
and mom in her housecoat
we all swished through
the slender hallways of that

The moderately more well-off friend
opening a coat closet,
expecting a basement,
and inquiring

this is it?

he later found a drug habit,
car accidents and

but he never found
our secret basement—

the machine in which
sickly bedtime


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

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

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

You rate the performance
by monstrous systems
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

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
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

their invisibility was located by

and in the joy of my brand new
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
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

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

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.

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
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
TV terror

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

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

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

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
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

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

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.


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

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

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
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—
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
because you asked me to

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
of all our good times

sneaking and scheming
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
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

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

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

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

Wrappers Remain

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


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

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

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
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
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

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.


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
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
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
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

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

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

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

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
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

powder sifting down into
hefty accumulation.

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

the memorized distances
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

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
streetlamp beam
stretching near
larger and larger.

Leaving Our Houses Late at Night

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
even if you do not
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
grated metal.

The patio furniture
animated into an amplifier
of lazy
good-humor voices
speculating sonorously
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
of summer green
semi-sick with over-brilliance
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

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
as it always goes
much smaller—

the property lines
clearly defined

the grass
not so bright

the multiple patios
by footsteps.


Woodlawn Cemetery borders on
being too bright—

each blade of grass
or metal
radiates at a maximum
to suggest that afterlives
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
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

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

wallets and discontinued cosmetics
and sadly decontextualized

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
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
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

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.


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

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

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
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
to document the neighborhood there
to which I've been

Sucking in golfballs from the nearby
driving range like Hungry Hungry
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
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

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
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
my mother is never
not on the phone with customer service

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

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

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

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

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
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

Past the boat-storage backstreets
of Keego Harbor
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
can look like rain—

pulsing static
in eye-tricking diagonals.

The wind in the uncut
fat grass
can give color:

to the white then silver

to the lilac's bounce.

The lilac breath has taken on
a violence

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

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

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'

everything we sniffed
left us caked in pollen and