Sunday, December 29, 2019

Not Even Not Zen 192: My Allegiance

My Allegiance

Come, fill your pillowcase with bricks
and pillow fight with me
while my head is unbreakable.
Fill your arrowheads with poison
and jab between my ribs.
My heart cannot be stopped.

After all the good you have done
there is no way to unmake me your friend.

Encase my feet in cement,
toss me into the bay,
watch me swim back.
You cannot hurt me, cannot lose me.
For you, I am resting
on a bed of needles.
Come, lie down on me.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Not Even Not Zen 191: Second Date

Second Date

When she steps through the front door
and wrinkles her nose, I know it's the smell
of all the old diapers hitting her.
Naturally, the house is a disaster.
It’s never been clean since the breakup.
Her eyes widen at the pile of bills,
porn magazines, and spit rags.  I guess
she realizes I'm having trouble
with all these things at once.

The guest chair crinkles with dried baby vomit.
There must have been a spot still wet
because when she sits down, she squeals
and rises, wiping her skirt.

And look, there’s that pacifier
I've been searching for, down behind the desk.
It’s been missing two months and of course
she finds it in the first two minutes.
She wipes off the dust, a sour look on her face
like she just got a taste
of something she won't swallow.

“At least he seems well-behaved,” she says,
bending to the crook of my arm,
the head of my child.

“Oh yes.  Sometimes.”

Last night, gone drinking with friends,
I had her in a grove of trees behind the bar.
She just bent over and we did it,
me with this woman I'd known for about an hour.
It was romantic and sexy.  She yelled like crazy,
then she laughed as we dressed.
Over the next glass of wine, seated at the bar,
she insisted on a second date.
Now, she holds out her arms stiffly
and gives me the face of fear
as I offer her a baby.

“Are you sure?” I ask.  She nods.
Naturally, my son cries and she tries
to smile, on the edge of tears herself.

“I guess I should get used to it.”
And I think, hey, she's nearly right
but still, she’s getting cocky, assuming I'm in love,
that I want her to stay
just because she's pretty.

“You know, we didn't use any protection
last night.”  She hands him back.

“Hah.  That's sort of how I got this one.”

We both laugh.  But I am holding a baby
over my shoulder and, for the moment,
she is studying me
and holding her one hand in the other.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Not Even Not Zen 190: On the Circuit

On the Circuit

When I'm running in bleak-white afternoon,
sweat glowing on my chest,
love-handles flopping over my shorts,
I remember Moon Pies.

Up the steep hill next to a dairy field,
pickup trucks screaming past,
gusts flapping against my back,
I think of peaceful moments with chocolate and tea.

It's those quiet times in the office,
vending machine lunches at my desk,
three-for-a-dollar peanut-butter bars,
boxes of crullers with soda,
that bring me here;
it's the cinnamon buns, choco-cookies,
peanut brittle, chips, and beer.

Yesterday, my boss said,
"A journey of a thousand laps
begins with a single donut,"
and we laughed over our midday meal
of three pastries each.

But now I run this ribbon of road,
sprinting, fast and fat,
up the winding, white line to my door
past my neighbors, who shake their heads
and laugh at the paradox
of girth and speed.

Then it's collapse in the shower,
satisfied by penance, and later,
I lounge late-night in my comfy chair
staring glassy-eyed at the computer,
slice of pizza in one hand, beer in another,
memory of the circuit behind me,
another thousand laps to go.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Not Even Not Zen 189: Fatty


Hard hands on your soft stomach,
dirt and grease on your shirt
as I pummeled you in the elementary school hall,
not letting you catch a breath,
pistons-in until you were red in the face
and grasping at my fists,
clutching at your stomach
whining for air, for a chance to cry.

Everyone called you Fatty,
even girls teased you,
fifth grader of a hundred-fifty pounds.
But you sat on my brother until he screamed,
made him twist and cry,
wouldn't let him breathe.

The feel of my hands in your stomach,
it was like pushing into foam rubber
in a good, white shirt
and I knocked you to the floor
and jumped on you as you screamed,
snot coming from your nose,
tears from your piggy eyes,
a whine from your lips, a cough,
punched you until I felt
the floor through your huge stomach.

You cried there, face on the dirty tile,
flushed with rage and humiliation
because I had been one of your only friends
and even now I can't say I'm sorry.
You were bigger than my brother, bigger than me.
but failed as a bully and everyone called you Fatty.

Everyone called you Fatty,
even I called you that
and now I can't remember any other name.
I was supposed to be your friend
but I'd never thought about why
you sat on younger kids.
It was only fifth grade and I didn't think.
For that and for not remembering your name,
Fatty -- for those things, I'm sorry.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Not Even Not Zen 188: Imposter


On a pool deck I wandered,
late at night, in a crowd with other swimmers.
We stood, laughing, splashing ourselves
with water that stank
faintly of sweat and chemicals.
I glanced past a red-haired friend
to watch sixty reflections in the glass.

In the black mirror of the shelter wall
it was hard to make out faces
and yet I knew us by our bodies,
our sometimes-awkward motions, strained postures,
and I was startled to see,
among the apollonian figures,
an intruder, a misfit.

"Who is that stump?" I thought,
"that goat, that dwarf,
that bulldog half the height of others,
torso twice as wide?"
I slapped my forhead, amused.
and the reflection slapped itself.