man's shoulder with bridge behind him in fog

A Dark and Bottomless Pool

There are times when
you will miss the fever
and the madness it brought
like placing a marble in a jar
and calling it the moon,
a knotted rope tugged
on the other side of a padlocked door,
and some nights you will lean against that door
and hear laughter and wonder if they are laughing
at you, hear the clack of billiard balls smacked and gulped
by green felt pockets smeared with blue chalk dust and you will feel
for a key you don’t have.

And that’s what it’s like, mourning the loss
of a world to which I no longer belong,
to him, I no longer belong, but I sit here
in this vinyl diner booth and pick at the chips
in bone white mugs I once rattled by the handle
a hundred artless figure-eights
each night he, to whom I no longer belong,
thrummed his instrument over the southwest.

This spring the ivory flowers
on the Callery Pear trees in bloom
smell like semen and everyone knows it!
The tiny blossoms drift down onto my face
like a dervish spinning on a pinhead
and I am in the mood to make something with anyone.
To demonstrate their power,
popes built fountains and obelisks.
I pray to anticipate novelty in place of killing myself,
see the amber swilling inside the pint glass
and choose everything else.
I can’t change
the way I look at a photograph of you,
who I loved painfully,
without the urge to ponder
some lame-as-fuck existential malady
like how to quantify want,
as if it is a dark and bottomless pool,
as if the indelicate eye of a man in Albany
squinting over his 10 am tall boy of Genesee
who asserted himself patron saint of hard living, said
It’s not good or bad, just different.

This spring, someone crashed a car
into the church basement
at the corner of Conklin and Hayes.
The meetings went on
anyway, a prayer for serenity
indifferent to yellow tape streams
that flapped in a cool breeze
from the hole where the window once was.
It is better. It is worse. It is different, and strange
the way you persist on my periphery, though
I can recall a time when poems were stuck in my head
more often than songs. Even yours.
A little concentration and I can still taste rose tea with
turmeric and whiskey, a moon or a marble,
a speeding car improvising sanity, from the stereo
comes a poem that I’ve never read
in a voice like my own:

There are times I think it possible
to love something without being in thrall to it

It’s true, darling, the photos I return to most
Are the ones where you are
just out of frame