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What Medford Taught Me

“e canterò di quel secondo regno
dove l’umano spirito si purga
e di salire al ciel diventa degno.

Ma qui la morta poesì resurga,
o sante Muse, poi che vostro sono;
e qui Calïopè alquanto surga…”
Purgatorio, Canto I, Dante

"And of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy.
let dead Poesy here rise again,
O holy Muses, since that I am yours..."
- English Translation


I don’t want to live through memory, I need
to feel a moment. To wake knowing the undertow
of a mountain falling down on a chest and, being afraid, 
asks for some purple token of friendship to remind
that while some ideas change, most get stuck in our throat.

I don’t want to sit perched on a hill,
away from the human din and ardor of toil,
surveying the sentimental grasp and major Cs
that could or may yet be a fallen wasp’s nest.

I want my hands dirty, brown armpits of my white
shirts. I don’t want anything to be or not be other
than how it is now, or when tomorrow’s tomorrow, 
how it is then - and know that difference as the moisture
evaporates. I don’t want anything to be perfect except
the enjoyment of light, curled in a weak hand, picking up 
the rollicking strand and starting again without hope, but purpose.

I don’t want to see electronic yellow billboards
flashing “Boston Terror Updates” in pixelated violence
as if fear needs a reminder to come again when conjured
illusions, unbidden, do enough speaking to mute our color.

I want to remember names by seeing
the shape of their skin, not reading symbols
and painting an allegory to war or space travel or history books.

When I think of the Red Sox I want us to sing
Bruce Springsteen and Van Morrison with a friend,
the ones who claim tomorrow will never be better,
unless we try harder not to die or make things
more complicated than a knot to untie, making
each day its own meritocracy of sometimes valleyed peaks
over in Charlestown, that balled fist, or ambling to Cambridge, 
that look of knowing, and down into Needham and Newton
with the Jews, where the hills roll into a cultured apogee
of hand-spun revolution.

I don’t want to think of Variteks or Ortizes.
I want to grin with Walter Wrights, Kettlewells, Gingles,
Morans, Butlers, and Murphys. I want to walk through Mass Ave,
a stranger amongst unknown royalty, admire and know
exaltation so that it may be repeated, not preserved.
Let’s eat sushi down Brookline, a nice spot in Jamaica Plain,
enjoy a sake and talk about the unknowable past and 
how young it is to be living. I want us to touch the Newbury Street
cobblestone, watch the pigeons from the faded violet brick 
of footsteps, sip a cool drink, smoke, and think 
of home: what home? Here, now. 

I don’t want Medford to be some half dreamt
idea forged in a Somerville garage between a pair
of broken overalls and a pastel paint job,
an elephant laid to rest along the hedges
that children only whisper about when the grown
and undreaming have gone to bed for a day. No,
I want tufts of hair and a jazz band to play
my funeral, be damned. My conscience sees the trees,
but forgets how wet the blue handicap sign appears
when I’ve stopped looking in the woods for what was
or wasn’t there, when looking didn’t change how things were.
The dingy bus in Chinatown never looked a more immaculate
chariot to another adventure in Yonkers. Let’s dance again
at Davis Square and throw coins to the musicians who breathe still.


I want us to live among the townies, crowned with brass or
High Life aluminum siding, strong houses as bodies
filled with a present day story that loops around itself like
a Borgesian play and starts again in a spoken-word mythology
culled from this instant now and here and here again until
the next one comes that inevitably follows. The next pigeon to black out
on the T, finding the red line a suitable home for student vagabonds,
programmers, and brokers, if they’re not all the same person in the end.
The commotion, and it’s truer than desire, never ceases or apologizes 
for being petty, or stops loving its own movement toward that something.

Let’s not be pattern seekers anymore. I want to blend in,
make stripes of scars, not losing the strand that separates,
makes new, and comes to something altogether different and maybe
holy. No grey shadows where the sunlight was just yesterday,
and still is, if only the shades were not so heavy today and we
rushed toward the sirens because they call on us to save
each other, without knowing how exactly, but to try with grace
and fail, because, an animal is only a dying animal after all.

I want to try, even as this hand is my own,
to be a mowed skyscraper rising in jeweled smog sunset,
because one day I won’t want to or have too little
blood to run for today and tomorrow. Then,
I’ll prefer to dream of things that once were,
wishing to have created something out of things
that were not yet. There is still time I want,
there was a marriage I heard, despite the mourners.
I want to hear again and shake your salty hand,
congratulations for your name and your ruddy face,
drift off to Cape Cod in August with a dream
and some incubated intent. I want the wind
to flag through the warm SUV windows,
deep in our conversations about the future,
and the unseen whispers of young people who,
knowing the irascible beauty of newness, shall
wake a drowsy half opened-eye and remind us the way,
breathing and wanting and talking and looking.

Let us go then, carry the etherized to the nearest triage of words, 
and make haste to open our throats and make it worth the spoons
we counted after all the tired days. The moment does not flicker,
it pauses and waits, a homegrown tiger ready in our kind steady grip.

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He Spoke

We need to remember that we’re insignificant,
Sometimes we try to be—
try to exist, but that is the fault in humanity.
We’re nothing.

Look at the trees. They’re just there, 
for many years they’re there,
existing the way we need to learn how. 
They don’t complain—they can, 
but they don’t.

And humanity needs to learn;
humanity needs to remember,
we’re nothing.

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Bunny Baby

The day her father broke her bunny’s back was the day Meggie knew that she had been born into a world where if she loved something she must teach it to stay close and when all else failed, run. Meggie had the reddest, curliest hair of anybody in the entire world. At least, that’s what her mother told her, before she went missing, and her father said, “Sssshhh.” Meggie preferred the red and blue flashing lights of a police car to the stars. The lights meant she was safe, for a little while. Stars meant she was outside, running, again. Once a boy in Meggie’s class asked where she got her bruises from. She told him that was heavyweight boxing champion, just like the men on her father’s favorite TV shows. He said that a girl couldn’t do that. She gave him a black eye and two missing teeth. When the principle found out he did not say, “Sssshhh.”

Meggie’s first girlfriend came along when she was 14; she tasted like bubblegum and coffee. She would dump Meggie underneath an overpass for a boy with better cigarettes. Meggie thought about giving him a black eye, but instead settled for one of his cigarettes. Her father beat her until she could feel the bruises on her soul. When he spit, she saw stars. When Meggie turned 18 she insisted upon being called Meg, and gave black eyes to anybody who decided otherwise. She’d inherited her father’s temper, and gained her sense of mercy from running. Meg moved in with a girl in a state far enough away that she couldn’t feel the bruises on her soul anymore, except on rainy days, but not so far away that she couldn’t bail her father out of jail or attend his funeral at the last minute. She learned to love the things that had hurt her, because they’d break her if she didn’t. Her girlfriend’s named was Lila, and they built a rabbit hutch in the backyard.

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All hail, Big Mac(beth)!

The weird mascots, burger in bun,
Slurpers of the milkshakespeares spun,
Thus do go pig out, pig out:
Thrice to fries and thrice to pies
And thrice again, to bring out flies.
Ding! the burger is done.

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i want to live —

in a burned book, a book suffered side by side with its identical siblings, caught aflame by those who tasted not ink but poison upon its pages —

debauchery, sin after sin after delectable sin and desire, all the things that paint temptation as the complex beast it is.  the nights are meant to be long, the weather is meant to be hot, and the drinks are meant to be utterly destroying, transformative elixirs that promise three different personalities in but one debasing evening —

me —

what i want —

is to dance with adventure and sleep with death, and to live my life by the pen of someone much more worldly than i —

la personnage principale

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Scars

Prance about nonchalantly

Wearing short sleeves unaware of the scars on my wrist

I’ve grown used to them

They came to me whilst I was in pain 

And they stayed through my happiness, as a point of reference

As a reminder

Never again stoop this low

All I worry about is the answer I’ll give little Tommy when he asks

Daddy, where did you get those scars?

Maybe I’ll tell him I used to be a bear wrestler

He loves stories

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On Nights That Are Silent, He Still Hears the Snow

Christmas does not occur during May. This fact did little to deter Benjamin from keeping the tree up in the front room, a wreath on the door, and the lights on his house cheerfully lit. Sometimes when you have find one happy moment all you can do is cling to it. Benjamin clung to Christmas in much the same way that a wet newspaper would cling to whatever it could plaster itself against. The imprint of Christmas wasn’t just seen on Benjamin’s house. When it was 99 degrees outside he’d set the air conditioning to 25 degrees, put on his best reindeer sweater, and huddle on the couch clutching a cup of cocoa. The children in the neighborhood called him weird. The adults called him eccentric, which is a kinder way of saying weird, but everybody figured that he wasn’t hurting anybody by sabotaging his own electric bills and giving candy canes to the postman. They did, however, put their foot down when he tried to import live reindeer to live in his backyard. The house fire of 1954 was remembered by only a few lonely newspapers tucked away in the town’s library, and an ailing retired fireman who lives in Florida now instead of New Jersey. Benjamin’s wife had been expecting their first child, so he would continue to buy toys and baby items to wrap and put under the tree as soon as he was out of intensive care. Sometimes, if he was too slow putting on his reindeer sweater, he’d catch a glimpse of his scars, but Christmas would be here 8 months, so he didn’t have much time to worry about such things.

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Please forgive me,

I do not want you mad,

Offending you is never in my plans,

If I did something wrong,

I want to be able to right it,

So please give me the chance,

To again bring you a smile.

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The Depressed Waitress

Her eyes move quickly across the room, though, she hardly looks up, from the coffee cups, the billfolds, the floorboards she treads from the counter to my table. Her arms are thin, her elbows and fingers raw with eczema. She wears a pinafore with sneakers. She is beautiful in sneakers. If she speaks one foot will hide behind the other, like an infant behind a mother. Her nails are black and her hair is ash and carbon. She bites her bottom lip when she is thinking. She smells the bag of coffee beans when she thinks no one is looking. Her stockings are always black. Her makeup is always thin and wispy. And her freckles, thankfully, she never manages to hide them. Her hands are worried. Her shoulders are heavy. Her voice is hushed and running through long grass. What are you reading today? she always asks. I smile and show her the cover. One foot hides behind the other. Who reads Hermann Hesse? she asks. Someone wanting to impress, let's say, girls with Latin tattooed on their wrist. A laugh escapes her petite anatomy, sudden like a firecracker.

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The Virgin

I feel a wanting in the strangest parts of myself now. If I am left alone it grows. I stroke my wrist against my check. The arch of my foot I rub along the back of my leg. The webs of my fingers I pull up and through the hair at the back of my neck. My outside, my edges, has become magnetized to touch. When I was little I never felt this, and it scares me now. My body wants to feel itself. It tells me things. It asks. It begs. Rebecca, take our clothes off, lay down in the forest, naked in the wet, dead leaves. Let us feel what the humid air does to our skin. Rub the leaves over our breasts.

He sits with the boys at the shaded end of the field. They burn piles of sun burnt grass with matches. It is hot in the gloomy sunlight. A film of sweat gathers along my spine. It is sticky in the folds of my knees. He doesn't ever look my way; playing with fire. I wish we were swimming. I wish he would find me before the bell rings and sneak us out of school and take me to the river. We would swim in our underwear. We would be pulled together in the rapids. We would lay together on the hot riverbed stones and our skin would dry and I would touch the delicate furrow of his philtrum above his paper thin lips. I would tell him how the angels pressed that groove before he was born and he forgot what it was to be a soul.

In the mornings my body is clammy with dream melt and wanting. Echoes of the desires I ran with through the night whisper from behind my bedroom curtains. Touch us, Rebecca. Use your fingers. Feel the cotton. Moan quietly into the pillows so your mother and father can't hear you.

The long grass feels like an invisible cloak. I lay down in it and I am gone from the world of things and people. There is only myself and the vertigo sky. There is only the grass and gravity. There is only my wanting; wanting to be touched. Touched by myself. Touched by him. I have become dizzy and unravelled by my own skin. It calls out to the elements and the boys with scraped knees and sunburn. Touched by him. Rebecca, touch your stomach. Feel us inside there, wrought and frantic. Our skin is like peach fur, it wants to be eaten. It wants to be swallowed deep into the salt of this world.