THIRD CLASS  POETIC POP MUSIC OF OHIO

ESTABLISHED

Now that I am smart, now that I am
a clever guy who pretends to waltz, uncaring
and cozy, toward death with a suit
jacket and a well-tied tie, now that
I have a podium to speak from,
authority that creases your folded mind,
now that I am older, dressing better,
more impatient, important, more
out-loud with sharp opinions, now
that people must respect me, now
that I demand them to, now that
I have grey rivers of hair, maroon,
pressed collars, shiny, black shoes, my
own house and wife, my own publications,
solely on talent, not a plethora of titles,
degrees, certificates, years of being alive,
academic rewards, etc, now that I have
been detached, arrogant, mismatched,
introverted, extraverted, in the in-crowd,
systematic, submissive, traditional, rebellious,
conforming, angry, accepting, ambiguous,
ambitious, and have given it all away,
won it all back, given it all away,
now that others have defined what’s good,
what’s not, now that I grew up and still
don’t understand, now that I blaze, giant torch
at the blackboard, as little matches sit
at desks and flicker, now that I stand
before you and you sit before me,
now that I am established…


THROUGH NYLON (CREATURE OF PORTLAND, MAINE)
The dock is a big, wooden centipede,
unearthed and toppling
the carnival grounds
to drag across the beach
for a sip of seawater.
Sky stretches like a
pink-streaked parachute.
I have to pay a dollar
to change in the restroom
on the centipede and a
father and son walk in
on me anyhow. But,
I will still ride in the car, passing
glinting pools, untamed
grass sprouting out
of them, to lay in
the tent and look up
at the faint moon
through nylon.
 
ANATOMY OF PITTSBURGH
Boards, rails, nailed to the mountain,
Washington’s mountain, the mounting of
Mount Washington’s bridges on its dredged
shoulders, edging out boulders, marching tunnels
through its stomach and out its back.
It’s back shakes from the break of its
bones for more houses. Flowering, sprouting
groups, gardened colony homes, the incline
climbs, testing the spine, ripping it towards
erosion since exploding the dirt of roads of rivers
and kidneys, livers replaced with seeds,
planted to grow into porches on places
with chimneys, antennas, telephone poles,
and lines line the cluttered incline, inclined
to sit diagonally like the steep, staggering
alleys, I stare at them from the valleys
of Carson Street. Cars on streets and
Mexican-food heat and the mountain’s ridges
are lost under balconies with nailed, postured
televisions on moving stands like houses
nailed to the mountain’s hands. 

CEILING GOD
If god lived in the ceiling, like I thought
when I was young, he was probably spying
on me that time when I laid on the neon
green floor in my apartment in Washingtonville.
I was 21. He must have silently chuckled
as my brother and I, mesmerized, gazed
up at the ceiling fan, watching it spin
until it looked like it was reversed, like
a wheel, or until we felt like we were
spinning, like we were watching the fan
from above as it sat below, connected to
the floor, deeming us the new ceiling gods,
the new spies, spying on a propeller-like
creature from our mysterious green perch in
a carpeted heaven. I wonder if god played
along on another day, further in the past,
when I was even younger, when my same
brother and I did half-headstands, 3 and
5 years old, straining our legs toward the
ceiling tiles as our bent necks angled our
heads at a view of a ceiling which looked like
a floor, a new world of tiled ground. And,
we were the place’s odd inhabitants who
never got to touch the dusty planet’s land,
cursed to remain a hovering species in our
sky, our carpeted ceiling which magnetized
our backs to it, our bodies like burrs
in faded foliage of a red-carpeted sky.
 
MAGIC DADS
When you were a baby,
grocery store doors opened
to a wave of your father’s
hand. Traffic lights went
green at his command. And,
tonight, I, sitting at a red
light on my way home from
Youngstown, looked up to see
the ghost of my dad. He
must have been whisked away
from wherever he usually is to
see me on this night. Maybe
he was dancing to songs from
our old stereo while making
breakfast in some heaven-version
of our kitchen when he got the
call. Maybe he was flying around
in the clouds and got pulled down
into the sky’s root cellar only
to land on this traffic light and
see me sitting there. Then, when
he saw the look on my face, he
knew to change the light to green
so I could get home to type
this poem to my imagination of
his face and spirit which flapped
down to cling, exhaustedly happy,
to the bobbing traffic light. Smiling
with dark rings around his eyes, he
waved at me to drive on ahead.
 
EVERY SINGLE DAY
Pink and blue
blotches dance
on the surface
of warm waves.
Fish-gutting
stations light
up the pier.
Youngsters
splash dark
water and
look like they’re
running right at
us. Their parents
are carefree.
Heat lightening
at the corner
of our eyes,
I ask you to
help me up
and I roll onto
both knees,
hold your hand
tight, and I find
no unique words
because it has
occured to me
that we say
things like this
to each other,
every single
day: Will you
marry me?
 

HOME MOVIES
The screen flickers; the camera rises;
the pink baby room spills in; Karen
changes Steve and smiles. I jump
on the bed, veing as the lense pans
to Jack, green clay fashioned over
his scalp. A soft chuckle from
Wade, behind the view, chipped-office
yellow, the master bedroom’s sheep-dog
carpet, a poster of Earth in Jack’s
peripheral, it all comes together.
 
HOW TO BE HAPPY
Drive down to Negley Creek in summer,
where the cornfield gives way. You’ll see
vines and ropes, waiting to be strengthened.
People will float by, drinking and smoking
in giant tubes on lazy currents.
Back your car up to the bank’s edge
so you can swing from higher up. It was
even better, a couple years ago, back when
people spent the night there all the time,
beer bottles and butts in the mud. You’d
have made new friends for every time
you went. Stay for a couple hours, towels
on the trees. The Beach Boys on the stereo,
you’ll realize how little you’ll really need, your
heart drowning in the brown waves, love renewed
in you as you splash into the flow.
 
THE LAUGHING GAME
We played a game once,
at summer camp; we tried
to make each other
laugh; the person who held
out longest was the winner.
We ran at each other, sticking out
tongues, crossing
eyes and screaming until
I remained.
I was on the ground;
they crowded over me. The sky
was full of flapping arms, widened
eyelids, wild stares.
They eventually gave
up on me.
I took the game
too seriously.
From that point,
we all lost
our sense
of humor
until night when
we were
supposed
to be
quiet.
 
HALLOWEEN LOVE
Braced for the fight,
stomping through
Halloween, why
hasn’t terror hit
me yet? I’m not
taoking about the
theatrical terror
of this holiday, but
I’m scared I’m going
to piss someone off.
My loved ones will
realize I’m not good
enough and push
me away forever.
But, it hasn’t yet
happened; will it
ever happen? Am
I silly? Up in the
air for the night,
a gust of relief,
getting through
without a fight,
crossing thresholds
on social occasions,
I welcome the
creeks of tears,
trickling out of me
when I finally land
on the couch and
know you’re mine.
 
COUNTER
I’m at the counter. You
are the customer. Leave
anytime you’d like. I
feel your eyes gaze
into mine. Your wisdom
surpasses me. I am
here to make you feel
real. The fever breaks
with your entrance.
Dead husbands, cancer,
Any small ideas you’d
like, I am here for you.
Even remain silent
and I’ll be content
with the disgusting,
gooey love of the
goddamn world,
oozing out of my
face. Come in. Stay. 
 
POINT A
America is a driving country.
Roads jockey until every
bite is taken out of a 
mountain. California lanes
shoulder roadkill graveyards
into the Pacific Ocean. Merge
points slice together at
crazy angles in Washington,
D.C. Farms race by your 
window in the Midwest. 
Florida’s blocks get 
over-cruised while New York 
is at a crawl. Arizona’s sky
will vacuum you up,
into it’s blue. Barrel to the
edge of Maine; get out of
the car; take in the view;
jump back on the highway.
You get in line at the
toll booth; the person
in front of you has the
same radio station on;
you both notice it and,
for one moment, no one
is thinking. For a few 
instances, America may 
make sense, feel practical,
possibly gleeful, but
it’s always then time
to go back to driving.
 
CITY COMING
East rumbles; sticks shift in spruces.
Infinite office towers store cabinets
of cabinets. Car snouts dig road.
Tunnels snuff smoke through bridge
frills and antenna webs. Red sky
dabs windshields on stony long-hauls
across endless maps. A thousand motors
buzz behind fuel-drink torches; tires
sling trek pebbles into darkness. 
 
BEING FOURTEEN
Emerge from blank
houses, cross nowhere
neighborhoods, stone
alleys over nameless
creeks, to hidden
liquor shops. Dig
out your pennies
for a brown bag of
blue sharks, green worms. Escape
to sewer tunnels under
railroads, factories, collar-less
dog corpses rotting above
on vibrating tracks. 
 
YOUNGSTOWN HEALTH FOOD
Chinese soda bottles clank;
rummage in dry trash
yellow labels, brown glass,
white print. Stale
breezes trip cans.
Soft gravel sinks
dumpster legs. Sift
through straws, wrappers
under heavy gloves,
sharp, stabbing antlers.
The rest of the deer
wait in a dark field,
clusters of stars above,
blue-green clovers
in a boulevard of grass. 

DEEPER
Bucking against me
in the morning,
you have a fluidity
to you, whether it’s
your crater-lake eyes,
your small tongue,
darting out to lick
your pink lips, your
forehead’s sweat
after I get on top
if you and hold 
you down; there
is something watery,
always, about you,
timid with what
you can’t say. I’ll
say it for you
for we both know:
The ecstasy of
pining over the
unconquered pales
in comparison to
crossing the finish line
and continuing further
down the road. You
and I would have
forever been wondering
and now we much only
sink deeper
into joy. 

UDON NOODLE, HAWAII
History yammered in my ears, I examined jagged rocks as I lunged at salty waves, my stomach rumbling with peaceful broth, pine trees clotting together on distant beaches. All I really wanted to do was go back to the mall and eat a million bowls of udon noodle soup. 

OHIO EXPLORATIONS
Here is our shared mind, journeyers’ collaged
sets. We are not cooler-troughed
sandwiches at mammoth gas stations, greyed
dandelions on winding hills navigated, the
swarming campus’ night spirit,
graveyards on bricked fringes of college
towns. We are not them, but have consumed all, grappling at mysteries
in alley cracks, mugs briefly gleaming
from tavern panes, as we pass. 

SUGGESTION
Write a poem about
V-shaped dogwoods which
sit next to gazebos
where you went to lay
down in cold grass
on Halloween night,
reading while leaves
scampered by, fleeing
from ghosts with
lanterns, haunting
the woods. 
 
TOURIST FREEDOM
Break off
from your tour
group, scamper
up a little mountain.
Peer over the other
side, a steep cliff.
See curvy rivers,
cottage clusters,
tiny churches,
the wind swooping
into your ears’ caverns,
a roaring quietude,
drooping skies;
your lonely fog. 
 
MY DEFINITION OF LOVE
Love, these days, opens vastly
in me, star colanders in wintry sky,
a rough breeze’s introduction 
to hillside meadows,
grass blades flipping, shining,
parting my hair
a million different ways. 
 
THE ROCKS
Ages ago, schools ago, grades ago,
drawn behind a tan house on Taggart Street,
we climbed the rocks, walked the corpse-strewn railroads, slept under stars of our small lives. 
 
PINE CHILDREN
Brother, do you remember our backyard’s teal
treehouse, old sandbox on roots? Do you
see my blood from rusty swing set cuts, taste
rabbit ears and clovers from the garden, feel
vibrations of splintered bridges as we stomp
to the field, stream trickling, wood growing?
We saw foxes, once in a while. We
deemed pine trees as forts; needles
were carpets; twigs were swords. Fallen
trunks on the trail were our balance beams.1 note
 

BLACK SHEEP DAYS
In the right light, everyone
is a black sheep. You
can rotate through the traits
of relatives, friends, peers,
colleagues, lovers, and even
people who have been gone
for years, and you’ll always
be able to find a way to make
yourself the odd one out,
the one who doesn’t get
it, who doesn’t fit in, who
didn’t have enough time, who
had too much time, who couldn’t
make sense that everyone else
understood. Then, little surges might
hit you; you might understand that
they’re all scared like you and
that confidence comes and goes
when it’s needed. Another piece
of your life will surely come
along and you’ll find yourself
missing the black sheep days,
nostalgic for that old you who
was just good enough at
worrying to want to fix
a few things so that you
could thank yourself for taking
the time to feel instead of
pretending to be okay like
so many others.


SECOND YOUTH
I feel younger than when I was
young, darkness sucked out of the night
by my wide eyes. I feel a second
chance come alive. A buzz dances
through me. For anyone who has
given up too soon, for anyone who
gets easily depressed or hopeless, for
anyone who thinks they deserve pain
when they want to feel good:
I wish you could be in this room
with me, in this bed, curled up
next to me, tonight, inhaling the sounds
of your second youth, barreling through you, alive,
far beyond anything you’ve been before.
 
CHASE HAPPINESS FOREVER
Getting out of the car, I couldn’t
believe it was me, moving of my
own accord, free-willed, pursuing
my own joy for the first time in my
life, my nerves bubbling in Morse
code, “chase happiness forever.”
 
AGE
That night, I saw twenty-somethings
looking forlorn and confused, all the
fifty-somethings trying to hide their
innocent smiles, all the elderly
with their eyes closed, swaying to
music, seeing colors in their minds.
 
GENTLE STALKER
Pass my house, dry summer midnight,
curtains opened, windows shut. Faint
melodies hum from my basement like
a soft song playing on your car radio.
Through darkness, dwell in dusty air. Pull
through parking lots, closed-down stores.
Telephone lines droop and tighten over you.
5 am, town turns groggy and blue. Go
by my home again, dawn’s wet fog; you
can’t see in. I am buried somewhere.
In afternoon, lay in front of a static
television at home; slump into a nervous nap.
 
SLEEPWALKING KID
Once, I dreamt
my father back to life.
Sea green robes
around him, he met
me at my bus stop. He
smiled, muttered somEthing,
and walked with me, up
the street, to home. His
eyes still sunk into black
rings on his face from when
he was sick. I once sleepwalked
to that same bus stop when
he was still alive,
practicing for when
he died.
 
SWAY
Don’t dance but sway; don’t die
but sleep; don’t scratch at a closed
door but feel no shame in holding
on tight to each breath of love left
in your winded soul. Branches in a storm
wait to snap off of trees, onto the
highway. Sway until flying free, glittering
rain consuming you until it’s all over
in one quiet drop.

SET YOUR SIGHTS
Across from an old
ice cream place,
graves cower from
the moon. God has
not been here for
years. Transforming
energy vibrates the
soil. East Palestine
tempers a sawdust
breeze that cleanses
the hardware stores.
Flickering taverns,
guarded by deep
puddles, blur by
as you cross into
Pennsylvania and
look for love, look
for dinner, look for
broken headlights
and deer through
wrinkly squints. Is
is magic or asbestos,
waiting in the wings
of your old elementary
school, waiting to
take you into another
dimension where
you’ll look back
and finally miss
this one? If anything
around here is
cosmic, it’s probably
you. Hurry up and
get told off so you
can join the rest of
us. Stop writing down
the beauty of this
town and live it up;
learn your true way
and put your coat
on, in the kitchen,
before you go. Glisten
with the ice, burn
with the stars, go
blind with the blizzard, 
set your sights on
the railroad bridge,
cross over with me.
Never look down again.

SECONDHAND LOVE STORIES
I saw you, out
there, gliding.
You were small
and grey and
dressed in
some dazzling
costume; you
beamed at
the stands,
had survived
through the
unknown for
as long as you
could, your
young eyes
smart behind
those glasses.
I didn’t know
you very well
but I heard
secondhand
love stories
from you
that I could
feel in my
bones; you
played it
down, I bet,
but, year
ago, you
were wild
and now
you’re gone.
I’m glad I got
to see you
skate. It wasn’t
really about the
show; it was
that you were
there and
happy; all
moments
should be
that.

COMING INTO IT
On the camcorder,
623 Neely Manor,
East Palestine is
the star, glow in my
face, sweating out
of a pink-striped
blue winter hat,
behind a tan drum
set, in the living room.
Dad would’ve never
let us have house
shows, but Mom was
lenient and we are
now modern artists
whether we like it
or not, but we do
like it a lot. People
sometimes look at
old videos and think
of themselves as
happy, young, free,
but I’m just coming
into it now.

SOULS SHOOTING
We are two fish
in a puddle in a
random backyard
of our Midwestern
America, watching
comedy movies,
perking up when
the other gets an
idea or a text, a
number of secret
smiles per day, a
beauty of our own
accords that won’t
make sense but
to us, everything
moving forever, we
hold on for as long
as we possibly can,
our souls shooting
through power lines
above roads we will
travel, over and over.

TO NOT REMEMBER
When we’re on the couch,
we lean towards each other.
When we’re on a plane, we
drink little vodkas and tell
each other jokes. When we
pass pastures, we look for
goats. When we meet new
people, we hit it off. When
we stand near each other,
we kiss with our eyes open.
When we are falling asleep,
we giggle and sing. When
we are working, quietly, in
an office, a tension sits
between our rolling chairs.
When we are in the bathroom,
I stand above you while you
pee or sit on the rug while
you bathe. When we are,
one day, dust, I’m happy
that we won’t ever have
to remember our lights in the
backyard, the dog’s nuzzles
in the morning, the calls on
lunch breaks, the bar patios,
the antique stores in small
towns, eating ice cream in
the car while it rained, for
I would miss us too much.

FLYING MOM
My life would be
nothing without
realizing life is
nothing because
of how freeing
your total love
has made me
feel. I am high
into the storm
clouds and
hugging the
birds and it
is all because
of the woman
you are who
has made me
love women
who are flying
beside me and
knowing that
every moment
of every life
is the present.
You are the mom
that every kid
knows they
should have.
When you are
flying, I will
always be up
there with you.


FINALLY
We return to East Palestine,
Ohio, to the meadows where
I picked blackberries with my
dad, to the railroad tracks
which run behind an old porch
you used to hang out on. The
swimming pool we swam in
behind your house is now
green. A fox scampers across
the road in front of our car. Pop
songs play on the stereo as we
drive. Every yard on Carbon Hill
Rd is plunging into the next,
chemical greens, the woods so
quiet around their edges. We
think of street fairs, high school
dances, the diner where we met.
We remember when we lived
in a small apartment in Leetonia
and were boyfriend and girlfriend
for one day. This small town
looks good now. This is where
you and I were kids who felt a
very strong connection. This is
where I gave you piggyback
rides by my garage. This is
where I knew. I road-tripped 
to see you in New York, you
came back for my wedding.
There was so much write.
You were always there.
This is our town and I have
fallen in love with you,
finally. Everywhere I am
with you is where I was
always meant to be.

SWEEP
Treeless nurseries, bare scenes
of railroad cars bouncing, cars
crawling over country routes,
dogs’ barks carry across the
sky and mix with coyote howls,
countless corn stalks file by 
and I permeate myself to the world.
 
DEAD WRITERS
Dusk of existence, dry economies’
rattling halts, midnight winters,
forlorn worlds, I see your footprints.
Eyes to the wind, grave facing 
off of the bluff, where are you?
Where is your immortality hidden? I
want statues, biographies, schools
erected in your name. Fly out
of your cave, brush my face,
spread your pages across the floor;
give yourself to me.

APRIL 25, 2010
Never have I seen a day more beautiful.
The wind slugs the American flags
at car dealerships; the hills and trees
glow dark green. I cannot press myself
to put up the windows as I drive.
The rain is fresh. The sky rolls out
just for me in Columbiana, Ohio.

ONLY
I want only your legs
entwined with mine, only
your hair against my face, only
your scent upon my fingers,
only the sweet music of
your breath in my ear.

CHAUTAUQUA: NIGHTS ON THE BEACH
Chautauqua’s tiny hills, stone steps,
branches arch over a child’s chapel,
meditative exploration is sacred in
me, my small figure carrying an
inflatable raft towards a big clock.
I like when darkness starts in,
views hard, I scamper over 
distant grass in my parents’
squint. Always, I submit, running
back to them. I compare my
raft to a cloud. The sky
dims as my little fingers point
at it, striped sleeves stretching.
Bathroom under the looming clock,
I drop my new stuffed bear 
in a toilet by accident. Pull
him out; run away.

HOMELESS CHRISTMAS
Cold scotch in fog,
an uneven gait, a
man scrapes across
sidewalk. Grass tufts
turn blue, die brown.
Shoelaces drape and
snag drunken feet.
He slaps to the pavement.
Grey sky unfolds.
Tears dance into
his lips.

ALWAYS BE YOU
Each room I enter with you
is a cave to explore.
I lay down on the porch
and look up at your warm
breath, blowing through 
clouds. Floorboards creak 
in the same key as your 
voice. You are part of the 
house. Your sigh is the 
hiss in the stereo. You
are a fridge magnet. You are
boiling in a pot in the kitchen.
You drip down my body in
the shower. You glow in the
sparkle lights that line the 
mirror on the dresser. Turn
off the switch. Forever sleeping
in me will always be you.


BLUE CLOUDS IN SUNNY
Every morning, my dog, Sunny
wakes up, rainy fur, dry tongue.
His eyes turn bluer and bluer.
His back legs shake more and more.
His white stomach plumps, his breathing
sounds more and more like a groan.
He is ragged, traipsing across worn
grass. It looks like someone poured
food coloring in Sunny’s eyes; it
looks like there are clouds, swirling
in him, hazing his vision, he is
filled to the brim and now must go. 
 
FIX
There is a woman I met who made sure to tell me that I cannot fix her. She had bad cancer and wanted to make sure people knew life was sustained for her, but little improved. She still seemed happy. There is a painful swelling of love in my heart for everyone who is part of my life; with her, that feeling came too. I have complained and been so hurt by such little things done by those who feel that same swell for me. I feel ashamed. I hold her in my mind and think of her when I’m sad, not to make my problems small, but to know that, like her, anyone can be hit hard and still scrape the joy out of life, and that’s what needs done at all times, no matter what comes along.