Stand-Up Comedy

[the comedian approaches the stage in sunglasses
and a shiny black and green robe.]

Knock knock.
                        (Who’s there?)

I am.
There is no punchline.

Listen past your rush-hour heart.
I am up here breathing heavily.

Listen: I want you to laugh
and never stop. I am trying jokes
you did not know you wanted to hear.

I searched coast-to-coast for lands
who laugh with me, that tectonic shifting
from belly to chest.

Why did boys like me bring ladders to school?

We wanted to learn mountains and rarefied air.
To find reservoirs of laughter waiting.

What did 0 say to 8?
                       Nice belt!

                      (I don’t get that joke!)

But I want your holy, exhaled noise.
Relax.

What do you do if you see a spaceman?

You laugh. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here.
What he’s doing anywhere.
I offered myself to the ocean–
the entertainment industry.
She did not want.
The spotlight hungers for no one.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why wouldn’t the chicken cross the road
if the chicken intended to cross the road?

Most everyone I know crosses the road
without looking both ways these days.
I do not call them chickens– they are my more realistic friends.

I want to make them laugh.
If you’re not laughing for me, laugh for them.

We are haunted by too many things:
dead friends, dead family, dead love,
dead strangers, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.

You can be someone’s haunting sunlight.
Someone’s champion jester dispersing their marbles too good.

Look, a magic trick!
                                   [he throws two playing cards onto the floor]

How do you catch a unique rabbit?
U nique up on it.

How do you catch a tame rabbit?
Tame way– u nique up

on something enough to latch onto–
just a hinge’s creak
before the mouth’s swing open, closed.

Some of us never leave that darkness.
The silent divide.

Laughter will bring us close.

I mean it when I say let’s laugh until we die,
even when what we laugh about isn’t funny.

I mean it when I say if you see a space, man,
park your car, man.

It’s over.

 

(originally published in The Magnolia Review, Fall 2017)

The Kansas City Royals Cope With Loss

A river isn’t really blue. The Mississippi
has dried, and even love is transparent.

We adorn ourselves blue so loss
can be quantified in color. Such

is the brittle paintbrush, naked
and grieving, but we are not

the color of grieving,
nor tobacco spat in the dugout

in shame. We remember
the dirt, and who we loved,

long before we searched
clouds’ faces for ghosts,

her grays in the white
within eternal blue.

 

(originally published in ‘the vacant hinge of a song’, courtesy of Origami Poems Project)

Martian Waters

they found water there, so we can move to Mars–
red planet god of war never knew the need for mercy.

the milky way could use another arm,
another trillion, twinkling stars, a slow phase

pregnant with planets bearing
tall pines stabbing pink skies,

white mountaintops a cold heaven.
in America, communities die one tragedy at a time.

our rivers are rancid and oxygen is halitosis.
maybe we’re dreaming, drinking

through sunrise– that’d explain our inability
to reason, expecting god to save us

from a doctrine
more widespread than bullets.

maybe we trust too much– the way
we comfort the grieving, a surplus

of prayer, words passing the breeze.
there were clumps of dead leaves before autumn began.

it’ll be beautiful, what then.
the season will kill and kill.

we’ll mourn our addiction to mercy,
wonder if it’s worth it

to bring a child into the world,
shuttled from her innocent rest

to our blood, soil fresh and familiar.
what’ll autumn do, then,

with winter afraid
to enter a landscape

already dead?

 

(originally published in The Derails Review, 2016)

Because I Never Listened to Your Stories

Thirty-five years and fingernails
darken, blacken from walnuts
and the cracks of hammers, the coming
of dawn, clouds wrapped in thunder–

the fruiting spire, the pear-toned
light, the front lawn fire, charcoal
grass, green peels ripening– ripe–
soft–

red Helix stagnant, lonesome, remembering
the wet-leather thunderstorm days
cruisin’ seventy,
the human box of organs and history
holding rubber handles
treaded like hieroglyphics–

interpret me. Listen.

These are the words on the bathroom stall
fingernail-scratched and ignored

What Will You Remember?

Not the stories told in tones softer than television

 

(originally published in NEAT., Issue 7)