If It's The Faith That's Important...

let there be fight.

Send a prayer up for the hunted,
prey for the predator; all mass to the enemy,
amen. Will you offer your boys to the clergy?

Light a candle, confessions feed flame.
Wafers, wine, penitential suits;
dinner for two behind stained glass curtains.

Hail Mary, full of grace
let us blow this goddamned

place your money in a tin plate.
Increase the tithe until sin ceases, Sunday mothers iron
perfect creases, all god's chilluns' wear Baptist blue.

Songs sung blue, everybody knows
one hallelujah chorus

sing it for us while we burn crosses, burn Jews,
burn the bush; soldiers of Golgotha in faceless diorama.
Dead deities shop for attention, sell lightning rods

door to door; frightened neighbors at the blinds
sneak peeks for celestial signs and wonder why
martyrs make mistakes of sacrifice over and over.


After Gods, The Floods

In the hour that I first knew
Jesus built new and improved voids
to measure his levels of devotion,
I called him and we got high
in ways our bodies couldn’t atone.
A portent pressed so close
to the backs of our eyes
all we could see spilled out,
trickled down to our toes buried
in saw-grass swaying like prayer-fans
stapled to popsicle sticks.

I made him black coffee before noon,
Jamaican Blue Mountain, 8.95 a pound
at the strip mall on South Avenue.
His upper lip tried not to crimp,
his hands tried not to shake and I smiled

because my days are cherry days,
mostly. He called me apathetic,
said I drank through a war and slept
through a revolution once.
I know it must be true, I know there was one
because when I wake up after drinking
it feels the same as when I don’t.
He said that he wakes up every morning
and throbs and sometimes, so do I;
but I know they are not the same aches,
so when he said that I set my face
and pretended to look empathetic

when all I really want is winter-
the time back spent in an unfinished attic
with Rachel, our lips ringed with her mother’s
kosher salt and drinking margaritas;
our grace unlaced, a white flag shaped
like a pillowcase defining our surrender,
our silhouettes blushed behind the pulled shade.


Canning Lessons 1961

There was a colored woman
who came most summer days
to help my old mam
shell peas or shuck corn
or snap beans for canning.
Every third Tuesday
they washed sheets in big tubs,
then hung them to dry
on twine strung between canted poles;
the flat smacks of their hands
carried staccato across the fields.

She had a niece named Sookie
that came along those days;
we would play until our bones hurt
in the fields where old pa's
colored men walked endless rows of tobacco,
popping bright yellow flowers from each plant
with fingers always sticky,
always sore and when the field boss
looked away, they would turn up water
from jute jugs suspended
on straps at their waists.

Sookie and me plucked
fat tobacco worms from their leaves,
saved them in jars with punctured lids;
old pa gave us a nickle for each full jar
because there was nothing
like a greenhorn worm
to attract big cats
cruising the river bottom
while the sun beat its surface
until you saw the heat waver and roll.
We spent our nickles
on RC colas and Moonpies, side by side
and knee to knee eating them
in the shade of a high row.

The woman never came
when the days turned short.
Summer would end, school start
and Sookie sat in a different classroom
at the end of the hall.
When lunch came,
she stood against a back wall
with the colored kids and the white trash
and they all wore bright yellow tags
pinned to their shirts
that said FREE LUNCH in big letters;
they always ate last
because that's the way things were
when seasons changed
worm money and Moonpies
into days sealed like summer jars.



This is how it happened:

It's 1964, John F. Kennedy has been dead
a year and two weeks come Monday
and here I am, laid up in some bar
so dive I'm shooting mescal in dixie cups

listening to Clifford Brown blow
his brilliant trumpet through speakers
that crack and bleed and now there's a girl
on the stool next to mine; she wears

a flesh-colored sweater like it's skin,
tells me she's from downstate somewhere without
me asking and now she's brushing her tits
against my arm, talking about jazz and Benny Waters

and don't I just love a good sax when it rains;
then we're outside, steam lifting from the concrete
because it has rained, been raining all day and next
thing I know, she's peeling off the skin-toned

sweater in a ten dollar room while I untie my shoes,
wonder if she's going to taste like the Camels
she's been burning all night and she does;
but it's alright, it's ok, because it might not be

good sax but it's a decent lay for a Thursday night
and somewhere between the push and the grind and
the sweat-wet valleys I am transformed; jolted out
of time, yanked up and carried away just like that

magic bullet yanked JFK from his black continental,
his ideas strewn across a pink chenille suit-
no transition, no time to bide, no reflections
in a half-shut eye; just the taste of smoke then

I am here.
Someplace else.

It's 1966, John F. Kennedy has been dead
forever, fucked over by a Texan and here I am;
sacked out in some bamboo bar, drinking ruou from
a tin cup while women shred dog meat in a back room.


Dog Story

There's a three-legged dog
that roams the back alleys of town.
Some days find him brave along main street,
dodging traffic on three scarred pads
and a counter-weight shaped like a thigh.

He has no name that I ever knew,
but I call him untitled; a shambling draft
filled with page after page of stories
no one will ever hear, or get to read
within the bindings of a worn and dusty book.

He doesn't eat well but he eats-
a scrap here and a morsel there, sometimes
I see the butcher's boy lay bones unwrapped
outside the rear door; strings of meat and sinew
reflect an act of grace beneath the sheen
of summer blowflies.

I often wonder if he dreams of Rin Tin Tin,
if he envies the great shepherd and his celluloid flock;
or if he knows that had fate only made him aesthetic
and born him in a different circumstance, that it might
have been him poised stalwart on a Hollywood cliff?

I know that one day I'll come into town,
find him bloated beside some curb; sides fat at last.
And when the road crews shovel him up, he'll spill
volumes across their boots; an untitled tide of words
riding gutter-waves to an nameless sea.