humLight

1.
The Bureau of Firefly Safety had instituted a catch-and-release program. They began promoting the use of eco-friendly mason jars, made of clay. We all used to go out to the jungle and catch fireflies in these big clay mason jars. Inside the jars, the fireflies would develop small societies, hierarchical mainly although a few rudimentary democracies as well. At first rain, the clay would melt, and the fireflies would carry their modern ideals to more savage orchards. Thus, the firefly population expanded in a way the Bureau approved as “mostly natural.”

2.
A blindfold comes off like a starter pistol and I am running through the jungle, kicking clay pots as I go, my legs are the space after an ellipsis, SMASH a pot shatters- clay shards- an assembly of fireflies SMASH blinding SMASH a million tiny voices cry out, I am carrying a glass thimble and lid, behind me the jungle goes galaxy out of control, clay dust cakes to my nostrils as I pull for breath, SMASH my legs demand this even as the jungle begins to run out, trees thinning, SMASH I leap into the air, swing from a vine very jaguar, there it is, the last firefly, I scoop her into the glass thimble, screw on the lid, press it into my wrist until the skin opens, press harder, sting and pulp SMASH veins out of the way and sew up the wound, blood gone, jungle gone, jars gone, wrist pulsing dimly, leading me home.

3.
We broke into
a Theatre so
I could read You
all my poems.
The Lights were off.
Between Us,
a pixieKnife,
smashembrace,
one wrist open,
firefly out
heartpulseLight.

4.
After the fireflies. You are a back pocket flashlight. I am a jungle a jaguar. We are in this big clay mason jar, rebuilding society. More savage orchards on the other side.

last desperate act of

I hurtle myself against the subway door because
the pressure of trying to get out of Williamsburg goddamnit
is too much for me and the whole train rattles and the water
comes bursting in and everyone is taking out their phones
because they want to take selfies about it and then maybe
they will finally be famous online and everyone will love them
or whatever and I’m finding the last blank page in a notebook,
past doodles of cats, past your address, past shit attempts at irony,
and I’m clicking my pen over and over as the water makes it
high enough that I have to hang from the handrails like one of those
subway performers and there is not even enough time to be surprised,
I write a letter to you, tie it to a fish using a torn out cowlick
and think “west” and I drown, the note reads

you make me want to
vomit. just so you
will take care of me

Reelection rally

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

I start the chant, hoping others will join in

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

I caste my eyes now from person to person, encouraging them to pick it up

“More budget transparency!” wails an old man, clenching a list of receipts and cover letters and my work history, while my landlord shakes his fist

A single pearl of sweat arcs down the nape of my neck as I clench my ass cheeks

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

I drown the old man out

A baby is passed in a basket down a stream of upturned hands, landing at my feet. Its eyes begin to water, and just as it lets out that first terrible shriek, a woman screams

“Kiss the baby!”

I shudder without meaning it. I lift the baby up and the thing stares at me. I try not to think it does so with malice but still my hands tremble, and before I can drop it I

toss

the baby back into the crowd and watch it float away

“Schaffer doesn’t care about the future!”
“He doesn’t know how!”

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

I begin pounding the podium in rhythm with myself. The baby might be crying, but I can’t hear it. I reach down to drink my water, but to do so would mean to stop chanting. My throat goes dry as a mess of high school girls begin to giggle and cut me open

“Look at the way he’s dressed.”
“He doesn’t even want this.”
“Hey mister, have you ever worn that suit before?”

I tug at my collar and tighten the knot of my tie. I take an earring out and secretly swallow it, and it hurts going down. More sweat begins to burst out of my forehead, back, armpits. My hands clench the podium and rattle it hard

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

My voice cracks for the first time but I keep going. A news team dressed as a SWAT team breaks through a window and begins to ask about my marital status. Before I can explain, they begin harassing me for attacking the American family unit. I fell them I have loved before and they try to call witnesses but no one will show.

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

A pit opens up in the ground and the entire US Congress is there. They have long lists of promises I’ve broken and immediately indite me on 5,000 counts of perjury. Each one bangs a gavel as a mastiff in a bailiff’s uniform pulls handcuffs out from under its tail. The audience can no longer hold back. Their screams fall down on me. One side questions and the other shouts answers in unison:

religious affiliations
UNSURE
his relationship with his parents
HE DOESNT CALL HOME
his sexual performance
MEDIOCRE

The podium rips off the stage and I realize it is because I am trembling so hard. My entire suit is drenched in sweat. The audience is jacklefaced

FOUR MORE YEARS OF SCHAFFER
FOUR MORE YEARS OF SCHAFFER

A woman in black firebombs the stage. I leap, and with surprising grace twirl in the air, ready now to land in the hungry arms of the audience and be devoured. I close my eyes and try to remember the Kaddish. But their hands are open. They catch me. They bring me safely to my feet. I hug those nearest me and begin working my way out, hugging everyone. I kiss the baby. I am told my wife is on her way, the car service was late. The woman in black, mysteriously, cannot be found. I open my mouth to thank them all but overpowering me they chant, not in unison but loudly,

Four more years of Schaffer
Four more years of Schaffer

I do not check the polls the next day.

One week later,

I go down to the docks and join the Byrd Gang. They put a patch
on my back pocket and it’s official. We vandalize every brownstone.
We know where to buy the cheapest cigarettes. We throw rocks
through all the pretty girls’ windows and hope that one of them
will come out and show one of us her panties.

A month later, Josue from the Byrd Gang starts going steady
with Christine. He let’s us watch him feel her up. Their mouths
are squidknots. Arms, tongues buried. I tell the other boys
I want to fuck her so hard she forgets his name. It is the only way
I can think to protect what might someday become our child,
currently coughing up its lung in the corner. I do not tell them
how I want to firebomb an ice cream truck alongside
a woman in black and lick the wreckage off her face. And I especially
do not tell them that I want to put my arm around her
and get brunch in Park Slope after.

A year later, Josue and Christine get married, and the rest
of the Byrd Gang plans to try with the women again, this time
forming a doo-wop group. I quit. My tongue is a black cat,
and all the women I loved so far were superstitious.
I never sing out loud.

So I go buy new jeans, without patches, which I try on by myself.
I start avoiding Pennsylvania license plates. I forget how to talk to kids.
I start getting turned on by Jewish names. The phone does
or does not ring. It not being the Byrd Gang sounds the same
as it not being the woman in black. I want to move in
behind her ear and vacation on her neck. I hope we haven’t met yet,
because I no longer throw rocks through windows.

the truth is Helen. poetry is the wooden horse.

I feel like I am tip-toeing a tightrope.

Be more specific.

I feel like I am dangling from a tightrope, strung between Troy and the SitCo where I buy beer.

Are you Odysseus?

I am his heel. Not even weak enough to be notable.

But part of a greater whole.

No, I am not part of it.

Then you are a ghost.

But I do not feel like a ghost. A ghost is loved but does not love back. I am-

You are a vampire. You take but do not give back.

Yes. I am a vampire.

And the tightrope?

There is no tightrope. And Troy has been sacked. There are a lot of banks. There is a silent conch shell.

This means?

That I am worried about money. And that there is little poetry in worrying about money.

Thus the conch shell.

Yes. The conch shell is not a metaphor. But it is not actually there.

So it is a lie?

Yes.

Do you lie often?

Yes.

Why?

When I want it to be beautiful, I lie.

You find lies to be beautiful?

I find silence to be terrible.

And truth?

That I do not yet know.

Were you lying when you said you were Odysseus heel?

Yes. I am Calypso. I have few guests, and I take everything from them, and I give nothing back.

Like a vampire.

Yes. Like a vampire.

hashtag, selfie (working title)

your shoes, more expensive than anything else you wore,
still ended up crushed beneath the bed
with your aunt’s old denim jacket,

a shirt from a friend’s missing father,
every pair of jeans with the same hole in the right pocket,
knees turning white, cuffs still in place after a wash.
you forgot to shave for so long, everyone knew it was on purpose.

you grew out your hair and lost the teeth to your comb,
learning it could be a political statement
if that’s what you told them.

you got a little worse at falling in love,
or maybe a little better at shutting up,
you heard the refrigerator buzz a few more times.

you cooked green peppers more than red ones,
added hot sauce to a lot of things, kept
adding garlic to most things, kept on
with the peanut butter sandwiches.

because you couldn’t drink coffee,
your teas kicked the tupperware down to another shelf.
you used her mug until it wasn’t anymore.

you wrote a lot on the good days, lied a lot on the bad.
Honesty turned you on more than allegory,
but you hadn’t learned how to spot which was which yet.

drinking was reserved for weekends, but on Fridays,
you did it furious. yelled sometimes.
wanted to kiss your friends sometimes.
didn’t.

Pennsylvania license plates made your heart feel funny.
taxis made you carsick. you felt like you could swim to Manhattan
if the water was warm.

it was a good year.
you sat outside and finally loved Spring.
you kicked off your expensive shoes
and let them get lost in the grass.
you saw a bright blue light,
which someone had told you would
years ago…

Strongest of the Litter

I tried so genuinely hard to like James Franco’s poetry,
sneaking verses at the warehouse
while my manager took phone calls,
pulling meat from his thin chapbook,
his full length,
the back of his art book.

he played such a pretty Ginsberg,
read Howl on screen better
than any of my friends in my living room,
even better than me,
drunk on Ginsberg’s birthday,
yelling to the Brooklyn Bridge.

so I tried very hard to like it.
And he slung high school sex around
like the Hercules of cock I already assumed of him
and packed weed smoke tight into his verse,
and knew how to curse like an adult,
writing “pussy” and “cunt” without flinching.

and it all amounted to very pretty
drivel, and this poem too, and anyways,
no one is writing hate mail these days and he
didn’t respond when I mailed him my best
work, so maybe he’ll read this, and tell me
it’s very good, and never of us will ever
get a bigger break than this, because

at least the hate is raw and he caused it,
and I’ll take all the approval I can get,
even on the drivel,
from anyone at all.