Piano on Fire

There is a piano on fire across the street.
We watch the flames grow and spread toward us.
Across the phone wires, and the power lines,
to the roof, walls and edges of our home.
The house burns around us,
the smoke is thick and runs across our skin like a kitten tongues
and stabs our lungs like knitting needles.

“Is your cup full darling?”
“isn’t it though?”
“What agony, this thing. This love.”
“But full cups though.”

Our couch burns and our clothes and hair.
Our eyeballs explode and sizzle and drool down our faces
and fill the corners of our mouths.
We are alone, but together
drunk on the prospect of living forever
but settings fires to make sure we dont.

Déja Vu Train

An overnight train ride,
filled with retired bankers/bank robbers.
There’s an air of familiarity between them,
but no one can quite pin it down.
This déjà vu train car winds its way between white mountains
and my newspaper dutifully reports:
train accidents on the rise.

My coffee cup rattles and clanks in time
with the trains rusty wheels.
I wonder if they ever invented a rattle-less train,
if it would lose it’s charm,
if the driver would have to compensate
by playing it a little looser at the wheel,
I wonder if this explains airplane turbulence.
I wonder if trains have steering wheels.

The attendant is making her way down the aisle,
stopping at each seat,
she stops by my side and asks me if everything is ok,
and I tell her it is.
She has a face that you immediately want to be very close to for a long time.
I don’t mean that she’s a kitten,
but I don’t mean she isn’t one either.

The falling snow presses down on the sides of the train
and I stare out into the black.
Loneliness is thick on a ride like this, and you can almost touch it,
as if it’s there to keep you company.
I look around at the oriental carpeting lining the floors;
everybody’s waiting for the drummer to set up,
but none ever does.

The bankers and the robbers,
still unable to fully recognize each other
have agreed to sleep on it for now,
and I decide to join them.

Dogtooth

She places a small, red apple
on the wooden dresser to her immediate left.

She says that, for the rest of the day,
that apple will be called a toothpick.

later that day in the garden,
we are burying the second mailman of the week.

She tells me that mailmen are sent to us occasionally
to help us fertilize the soil, and grow healthier flowers.

That we must use every part of the mailman
and she hands me another pair of blue cargo shorts.

Inside, after supper we’re sitting at the table
eating freshly baked toothpick pie.

She tells me I will start school tomorrow
and that the classroom will be in the den.

My teacher will look and sound exactly like her
but will not actually be her.

I lay awake that night, staring at the ceiling
Thinking about what school will be like

wondering what things I will learn,
and if my teacher will like my cargo shorts.

The Very Worst Time to Talk About Pencils

She has a mouth full of cereal
and her hair up with a pencil.

The pencil has a lot of eraser left
and I want to tell her that the pencil

would be a very good pencil
to use as a pencil, and not as a hair thing.

This strikes me as a strictly asshole thing to say
but it’s just that we have better pencils for such things

ones with little to no eraser,
or crummy leads that are always broken.

Pencils made in China or Korea
or other countries where they don’t always make pencils so well.

She asks what we’re going to do today
and I can’t concentrate, and I want to tell her

that we should probably buy some hair clips
or at the very least some chinese pencils.

But now I’ve taken too long to answer
and she’s giving me the look.

And I recognize this as the very worst time
to talk about pencils.

Beginnings or Ends

And then, as quickly as it began, it stops.
And you wake on the beach, your ear an open tunnel
for the lapping ocean waves to press against your brain.
The engines deep inside you start, skip, stop and start again.
The fans whirr, and everything comes slowly to life.
The world as you’ve always known it stops spinning, and turning and being two-fold
and focuses in front of your glassy half-open eyes.

*

You’re 26, Lunch with your wife in a neighbouring country,
and because you hadn’t called Visa and told them you were travelling,
your card was frozen and declined.
You hadn’t told them you were going to drive 6.5 hours to a beach town
and eat at Jimmy the Greek’s pizza house, and so they didn’t like the sound of all that.
The part you remember is the waiter wanting to tell you that your card was declined,
but he really didn’t want to do it in front of your wife.
He didn’t want to embarrass you, in front of what, for all he knew, was a first date.
You were humbled and grateful for that kindness, as unnecessary as it was.
You took that with you and put it in your front pocket
and used it to guide you for the rest of your life,
or the rest of the week,
as these things go.

*

The sky is such a perfect flat blue you can’t decide how much is sky, or ocean.
Your skin matches the beach, and you can’t figure that out either, what’s skin or sand.
And it goes on like that for a while.
Struggling, and stumbling, uncertain about beginnings or ends.

*

14 now, and you’re in the garage of your youth.
Your dad is making something, but failing.
Making something out of nothing the way some people can, but he can’t.
He’s struggling and the struggle brings an anger and the anger brings a rage.
He’s making something for his golf bag,
something that people normally just buy but he can’t afford. And that adds to his rage.
You want to tell him it will be ok.
You don’t.
But you want to.

*

Around you, you can see the remains of a small boat, or a raft.
Whatever it is that got you to the beach in the first place.
Off the shore you can see a very large boat, anchored, lazily cresting the waves.
You can also see a smaller boat with people coming toward you.
You imagine you’ve died and gone to a place
where you just watch boats of various sizes forever and ever.
You think this a rather meek hell.
You’d have done more selfish things had you known.
Then you’re struck by the notion, not of death, but of quite the opposite:
They’re coming to rescue you.

*

6 years old and rolling lawnmower wheels and bicycle rims down a giant green back lawn,
crashing into the leaning woodpile below.
Over and over. Racing.
Crushing blades of green grass and leaning towers of pink flower.
A bee, taking offence, stings in retaliation.
And the end has come.
And you wail, the sun beating down on your open mouth,
the air lapping at your young, crying ears the way the ocean does now.
Your father’s terrible rusty pickup soothes into the babysitter’s driveway
and he scoops you in his arms and applies cucumber and removes the stinger.
Rescue.

*

The small boat is larger now.
(we’re talking about perspective here).
and they’re climbing out.
You want to tell them to be careful.
That the ocean will lap their brains and fill their heads and they will fall over, top heavy, and will sink.
They seem concerned though, only for you.
Faces forward, ears dry.
Things are darkening,
Your head crashes back down into the soft sand.

*

5 now
The classroom is dark and enormous.
It’s like a dream or a movie, the ceiling, somewhere above in the dark.
It’s like a giant, carpeted gymnasium.
Desks are lined against the far wall,
chairs stacked on top, their legs pointing to the ceiling like dying bugs.
A small table in the corner is lit by a small light and a small woman sits,
surrounded by small briefcases of glass.
They’re checking your eyes now.
Testing you.
Better or worse she says.
You can’t decide but are very concerned about answering incorrectly.
You need glasses.
You will need them for the rest of your life.
The first time you wear them, the floor is uneven,
It moves and sways like…

*

Strong arms lift you into a boat and the wooden floorboards are surprisingly welcome.
Dry, despite the surrounding ocean.
The water can’t hurt you here.
Your rescuers speak French and talk among themselves
about Paris and berets and umbrellas and baguettes, you guess.
You imagine they’re saying very important things.
You imagine they’re naming delicious food.
Warm places.

The sky is the sea and your ear is a tunnel and your brain is alive