Reverse Charge

river stars

The moon is up
and laughing loud tonight,
at all the lonely trees
whispering at her feet
like homely chambermaids.

Her twinkling stars,
suspended and bright,
pine for a sun that
exiled them to the night.

But it’s my own remorse
that ripples their reflection
on the riverbank where I lie.

It was here
when you first told me
of your wanton affection.
We danced bare-skinned by firelight,
our shadows frolicking over the hills,
like a pair of star-crossed ghosts.

The only dancing I do these days
is with the devil at midnight’s chime.
We do a little glide-step in ¾’s time.
It’s ring around the rosy cheeks,
a pocket full of lonely weeks,
fix a little hit by and by,
demons learn to fly so high.

His butane lips
whisper in my ear,
kerosene thoughts,
setting ablaze
the autumn of my life.

When the ash settles,
on the blunder of
our temporal alignment,
I’ll come crawling
through shame and squalor,
back to the feet
of my desires.

Winter may call upon me then,
with her cold smile and false finality.
I will accept her collect.
Eyes to close.
Thoughts to cease,
on all that was
and all that could have been.

Dear Clare,

Do you remember that coffee house out on Cleveland Heights? Birchtree, I think it was. They served the Wet Chihuahua to us every Friday night at closing. Well, it shut down a few years back. The building still stands. An art café is scheduled to move in, I think. Soon the piano and kazoos will be replaced by paints and brushes.

I ran into the owner of Birchtree a few months back. He was managing a new restaurant off Harden Blvd. He remembered you. Said he never thanked you for turning him on to that Social Distortion record. He said it ended up shaping a year of his life. I told him you were special that way.

Do you remember Hollis Gardens? The concrete barriers still stand like grenadier guards. Remember those days? Our backs wet from the condensation on the cool grass. We lay there watching the stars and listening to the trains pull through the station. I’m not sure if you feel the same, but I’m glad we misplaced so many hours in such a beautiful way.

Our shared memories stand like skyscrapers in this city. Their antennas outstretched, grasping for Orion, and Cassiopeia. Your DNA is spliced with that of our city streets and hot spots. We’re reciting poetry in Munn Park. I watched us just last week. You’re still spilling coffee on me outside of Mitchell’s, and I’m giving pocket change to those who ask kindly. Last Thursday we had dinner at Fat Jack’s and watched Legends of Rodeo play Evolution Records.

I’m working downtown now. All of our memories within walking distance of one another. Inside of a lunch hour I can visit Palace Pizza and the ghost of you and me. This city is as much a part of me now as you are. Lakeland is home.

In closing, I’m sorry for the trip down memory lane. It happens every time I visit you out on Oak Hill. I guess I am writing tonight to let you know that I have finally learned what you were trying to teach me all those years ago. I see now, how Love beckons with a holler and dismisses with a whimper. I realize it is both the parachute in a falling dream and the faulty airbag in a fatal crash. Love knows no limitations. You can never bridle, lead, or command it. All you can do is smile and let it be.


A Sailor Went to Sea

Art by: Graham Grecken

I know it’s not easy being alone.
Your little girl heart hopscotching solo,
trying to gather her scattered pieces
from the compartments you’ve made.

You’re muddled with self-doubt,
and a constant nagging voice,
comfort-nestled in the back of your mind,
whispering: this is my fault,
at least he loves me in his own way.

Temptation to return may be too great,
when he finally drops to bended knee.
So you will go back to him and
time will swell like water in a lock,
unfurling its complacency
beneath the surface of your seasons.
Why can you not see?
He’ll always be your sailor at sea,
never fully loving you
through his own duplicity.

But I know your beacon.
The one you no longer see.
It shines bright
along the shoreline
of my surrender.