BY JOHN CHORAZY
DROWN IN PALE LIGHT
(shadows turn white)
Tangled in the rain of your hair,
it all comes down to this.
Potpourri of teardrop and jellybean heroics,
the not so distant thunder-tones begging
happy... happy... I know you could be happy
in a place
where almond eyes tighten, squint
and giggle softly into little smiling faces.
Bare feet through wet grass
and an early morning saunter back
across hardwood floor while the downpour
splits sky like open legs,
clouds shaped as familiar breasts,
the air with vague reminders of licorice, and honey.
Has been, will be,
no more I love you,
chant to pangs of aromatherapy
and hints of mortality.
Rabbits carved of lapis will tango tonight
and you might be moist enough to wiggle
to the rattle and roll
of a fragrant candle that licks its own
reflection in the beveled mirror bathroom
where you coax yourself to come
in the warm and buoyant tub of bubbles
if you're careful, and patient.
The window is open just enough,
old man willow will lean soft fingers
near the wooden sill
and whisper in -
what is your name, little girl ?
and maybe you will sleep.
one day I will be beautiful
just like you
and will wear many silver rings.
I'll have long and flowing hair
that catches breezes
and its tint may seem quite similar to yours.
one day when I'm beautiful
you'll stare me up and down,
secretly devouring my perfect silhouette
with a hunger
that seeks to see beneath
the cover of my expensive clothes.
I may be far too beautiful to bear,
you might find warm desires to meet me,
whisper that you love me,
make me slave
to whimsical passions and positions.
one day I will become so beautiful
the sun may cast no shadow behind me
or before me.
I will shine brighter than moonlight
and the fourth of July
and might have to break
the pallet of your heart.
when I'm beautiful
you can say goodbye
and bury me.
Days continue quickly past moments by the lake.
Drunk at 10am you fell into the water off the rocks
where we had cast long fishing lines and down
you went to your neck in less than a blink
and the crash interrupted the silence of the lake
and our eyes watched one another wordless
in eternity as you pressed your body up attempting
to walk again above the water and maybe on it like
Christ but instead sunk deep into the softness of
the earth beneath the late summer lake and then
your eyes became serious and afraid for
a moment we both thought you'd be lost
in the darkness of the rotten lake among the pickerel
and the reeds and lily pads and minnows swimming
there in the warm murk that had you by the feet until
our hands reached in mid air like planes refueling
and I pulled you out, pulled you up again to solid
shoreline, to lose you five years later in a lake of death
cells that swam inside your body all along.
WHAT IT IS
to be more folded leaf
than rock, made more of jasmine breath
than stone, shard of lemongrass instead of mountain
with its mind made up of thunder.
to be the thrown-down plastic bag
pushed around by wind,
humid soil in place of slate, vernal
pond instead of noisy deep green sea
that reaches always to the moon with hands
made out of tides and waves.
a drop of rain instead of storm, silence
removed from sound,
warm sunlight glowing
on the far side of a russet world
while everyone is sleeping.
PINK BIKE SKIRT MAXIMS
when pink bike skirts arrive
spring soon follows
pink bike skirts flip-furling like flags
over strong legs, riding high
above knees and ankles, tight
shrink wrap polyester clinging onto muscle
bike skirts, pink as hibiscus bloom,
soft color of love
through the cavernous dead silence of wall street
on sunday nights, bike skirts
bike skirts! bike skirts! let my eyes rest down on images
of Eve in gardens of pink cloud-puff! dance like heaven,
legs in winter, secret kisses in pink mansions!
cherry blossom pink skirt on peach thighs pink flavor of
harken yonder bike skirt, what dear pinkness goes there
under cotton cover?
japanese mimosa took all its floral breath from a woman
in a thin pink bike skirt
In the warmth and emptiness
of another afternoon
all things I see breathe as one
in the motions of an earth that rolls
inside a wide open sky.
If I were mindful of one thing
left to hold
in the broad scope of universal realms
it would be this image -
black ants searching
across gray slate stones
as tired leaves fall among them
from up above like tiny broken angels.
There isn't a single man bigger than this.
The leaves are falling down around me
with crisp whispers in the sun
and I am taking in the same air
that swallows everything.
It is a picture worth eternity
and yet I have paid nothing,
for this given life is cost-less,
a price so much beyond measure.
The young man pouring gas at the Mobil station
pronounced thank you. The sun bled color
close to golden. Call it amber just for now.
All across the sky it's summer.
Someone is praying hard enough to drop down
bombs and already I'm weeping like lamb.
Don't be so surprised by this.
I'm trying to make you feel something
close to pathos. Like a crumble of sage
burned to smudge devils from a closet,
green smoke clean enough to eat. But
that's not what I'm really thinking
all thoughts aren't collections of brilliant lights.
Because I'm imagining someone who
chewed a morning sandwich
and see the bread still there between their teeth.
I'm sorry. I'm making a comment
or something like that
on the human condition. Next
I'll say a coffin is a deep blue chair
of one's own, always a perfect fit,
a room with a view of the sea
and you know already
what's been said about the love of money.
JAMES & MOLLY
James was puking in the first floor bathroom when Molly
came in, and she was much more mad this time than last.
"What the hell is wrong with you James? What is with
you?" Her yelling only added pain to his head pointed into
the toilet. He coughed between heaves. He knew she wanted to
kick his ass.
"So what is it? What is it this time? I'm sick of this
crap for good, James. It's too much."
He barfed whiskey and beer into the porcelain john.
Molly stood in the bathroom
doorway with her hands on her hips, the chastising position
again. Her summer dress was unbuttoned three buttons down
and four buttons up. She was sweating.
"I just came from Billy's and they told me. They told me
everything. How could you
James? How could you?" Her tone changed from anger to
semi-pity and disgust. "You promised, remember? You said
'never again', and I believed you. I really thought ..."
"Shut up, Moll, just shut up." He hugged the bowl. His
white tee-shirt was filthy. "Get me a towel, will you?"
She didn't move.
"Can you get me a goddamn towel, please?" He got up on
one knee, head leaning on one hand.
"You're an asshole James." Molly stepped out of her
sandals and picked them up. She placed her foot onto his
back and pushed him down to the floor. He fell easily.
"A real asshole."
She sat on the porch outside for a long time and he
didn't come out. The phone rang a few times but James didn't
answer, and she didn't care. The humidity made her long hair
curlier than it already was, and it stuck to her face and
clung to her shoulders. It was nearly eight p.m., just
getting dark. It was hot.
Every window in the house was wide open, no
air-conditioners, and several lights were on. The old
Victorian was badly in need of painting.
James' 1972 Impala sat in the driveway, rusted, dented.
She heard the shower go on upstairs. The stray kitten
she'd been feeding for a few days was rolling on the grass
in the yard. No one was driving down the street, and no one
else was outside. She threw a pebble at the cat, and missed.
"Asshole," she muttered towards it.
The cat was chasing after the stone.
Molly's legs were tan and showing through the opened
buttons of her dress. Her bare feet weren't dirty. A few
toenails remained painted with red polish, and several
The shower went off.
The pink scent of Japanese Mimosa filled the air, coming
down heavily in the stagnant twilight.
Last year James got so drunk he fell off the trestle
bridge at the end of town. He broke three ribs and his left
arm. Molly yelled at him every day in the hospital until
they asked her to stay away. But she still went, every day.
James came out onto the porch wearing old blue jeans and
a clean white tee-shirt. His short hair was still wet,
uncombed. He had a beer in his hand. "There's nothing to
eat, Molly. I'm hungry. What do we have to eat?" He sucked
on the can of Bud.
"Eat crap, Jimmy. You can't live this one down. Do you
know what you did? Do you care to know?"
" I'm hungry. Come and make me something." He finished
the beer and went inside. The screen door with holes in it
slammed behind him. Molly was surprised he could even stand.
She slapped at a mosquito trying to pierce her arm. Blood
splattered on her hand.
When they were twelve Molly and James tried to run away.
They lasted one night. She got her period for the first time
and was so scared James brought her to the hospital. When
the cops brought them home, Molly's father beat them both.
The kitten was gone. Molly heard pans and dishes
knocking around inside. The radio went on. She looked at the
beat up car in the driveway. She knew the keys were in it.
They were always left there, or else James would lose them.
"Molly!" James was calling from the kitchen.
The sun was gone. It was still hot.
"Hey Moll!" The refrigerator door closed hard and a few
empty jars rattled.
The keys were in the car. She stood up.
Molly had left a dozen times before. Sometimes for an
hour, sometimes a day. She always came back. They would cry
and roll in bed like strangers, and laugh. James never hit
her. He knew she always came back.
The screen door to the porch swung open. It was quiet
outside except for crickets.
"Molly! Where in the hell are you?"
The car was in the driveway. Molly sat in the front
seat, her dress more unbuttoned.
She smoked a menthol cigarette. She was crying a little.
James walked across the grass to her.
"Where are we going?"
The car was still running. He went to the passenger door
and got in. Molly shut the car off. She had only gone around
James sat close to her. He placed his hand between her
bare legs and kissed her. She didn't stop him. She pushed
the seat all the way back. James took his tee-shirt off. He
knew she always came back.
She opened up her dress for him.
"You're an asshole, James."
PERSEPHONE IS DREAMING
The moment I turned thirty-five I realized that every
bet was off. The lights had all changed colors in the corner
of one night. I lost the grip on words and the heaviness of
syllables... consonant crunch. crush. crash.
Now people are making fun of me, I know. It's
understood. They see that I can't speak. Drunk with blood,
flood in the temple. Persephone is dreaming, ducking out of
Every night I walk alone across town admiring the scent
of selfishness. It's written in every one-by-one inch marble
tile that lays the hallways of the building where I live,
every manhole cover in the street, the sidewalk, the
telephone wires stretched like veins. Every tree learns new
names spoken in the wind.
Especially last night, when I swallowed mousse alone.
There is treason borne in the minds of children. It's
like this sometimes.
I used to work with metal, sometimes still wake up
smelling smoke and cellulose flux and the burnt-up aluminum
oxide grinding wheels that screech across an ugly, unholy
room. I welded steel together. I used to.
There's a U-haul truck across the street and I'm so very
glad it isn't me who's moving. There's nowhere left to go. I
don't care. 9 dollars and 14 cents for pie and coffee, two
cups named Francesca. Coffee is so much better in the
morning when eyes are barely opened and birds are lifting
feathers. I'll take it when I can.
I've already said that last night I walked across simple
streets admiring the tone of magic music draped by shadows.
Every gallery window was alive with my reflection.
Refraction. I counted rock over stone like babies in a
nursery. Leaning on my shoulder? The movie theatre exhaled a
wave of people blind to the history of film in western
culture. Say goodbye to Hollywood. No one smiles. No
blown-up cars. I walk by, a slow step behind snail pace
breathing heavy carbon, accompanied by subtitle. I'm an
Ingmar Bergman joint inside the making, under taken, never
made. Unmade beds.
Some folk adore the letter I much more than I.
It's never comfortable when someone comes so close to
bumping into you that you can feel their heat and feel their
thoughts and breathe their breath and come so close to
bumping you can feel their thoughts.
You come so close you feel like bumping. It might be
better off to simply get it over, knocking shoulders.
Challenge, almost rage. The confrontation coming down the
street settling territory freedom walk. You feel like
staking claim. Taking aim. It could happen.
I was near the theatre and a stick-thin kid wants to bump
me, comes so close I could smell his blood. No one says
hello anymore. You'd rather hit each other hard. Feed
blatant aggression and it goes swimming in the streets. Go
ahead and try it, ask around.
I have a few dollars left inside my pocket and the bills
are brand new, clean and crispy folded $50 bills creased
perfect down the middle. Sharp. I could buy something new,
but who knows for how much longer? This is the thing, I
think about this - I'm in the road (in) and part of the
scenery blending like a moving sign always straight up on
the corner. Someone might smell money on me, breathe the
green. They might bump me. But I won't let them, not
tonight, not if I can help it. For now. I know one day I'll
give it all away in handfuls, dixiecups. They'll come
knocking on the door. They'll touch me in my home. In the
streets. Sidewalks rolling like moveable beltways rolling
and the turnpike. People have their hands out asking. There
are plastic bags everywhere.
Tension is brilliant, like caffeine. Stay up all night
reading the clock. Drink plenty of water and flush the
toilet. Watch TV. Touch and go again alone, I don't know,
I always wait for night to fall. She does too. Falls,
she falls. Sleeps inside the day. Persephone is dreaming of
the boys of summer, an all-star home run derby. She said
that she likes women too.
I came so close to bumping a kid inside the street that
I could feel his shirt brush over me, almost leaning into.
Yes, I believe that I was leaning too. A perfect lean-to.
Was I looking? Don't blame me, he saw me coming. I can walk
the way I want to. Won't too. I can stroll forward, march.
His swinging prick won't scare me, and I don't care. This is
a stickup. It's gonna be a mighty ground grinder. Battle of
attrition. Nutrition. The right to stay alive and curse. Say
those words that sound so pretty beneath your tongue when
someone passes by. I step up to the plate and swing batter
batter with all I've got - flaying midair.
I always think of fucking in the street. Lay. Lie. Low.
Persephone is bleeding. She's a girl in black of course.
Small tattoos. Piercings. Love notes, platform shoes. I
scurry up her skirt. Pull aside, drink. Cook, eat. I smell
the scent of lilac. Padre Pio. This isn't really happening.
Bi-location. My vocation.
I wanted to hit him, let him strike me, take the shot. I
've never been hit before. Once, drunk. Good. Not this time.
He's taller, much, than me, and I don't care. Let him try to
break me. Glue for the broken man is not faith in future.
Last night the moon was shining like a halo. 89 degrees
at 10pm. Thick as skin and the girl next door took her
breasts out (nice) to sleep and I could see her in the
window, she doesn't know, or does she? Cicadas bother me,
they always have, such noisy things and I believe that they
are here for no good reason except to plague.
Now what? The sun will go away again tonight and I'll be
nowhere. None the brighter.
This is brilliant! The shoeshine streetcorner leaps at
me with greed. She knows me well by now. Persephone is an
acid-tripping alley cat. She's a poem posed in couplets. She
is cacophony of sound ringing gently in my head. In my mind
I still have somewhere left to go, but Thomas Wolfe is
right, it isn't home. There's no one home. There is no home
and no one wants to go. She'll hold my hand and smile at me
If I lived in Brahmaputra this would not have happened.
Yamzho Yumco, Saikhoa Ghat, Tanggula Shan. It just doesn't
happen. If I leaned in a little more I would've knocked his
shoulder sending shockwaves in the headlines. Man bumps boy,
read all about it, someone call the cops. Tangled up like
spider webs we'd dance like sumo wrestlers.
I listen to the sounds of night. A helicopter motors by,
too low. It makes me cry. Air conditioners rattling inside
windows. Someone slams a car door shut. I can hardly stand
it all, the magma of existence. Exit stance. X its dance.
Extended hand. I am losing all control.
I have caller identification, stop calling, stop hanging
up. I know you now.
I walk past (passed) him and I wonder why his attitude
adjustment leans in my direction. Altitude erection. I could
be a priest, or law, or president, a scientologist, maybe a
wanted man. I could just play games with him like chess and
checkers, sell him dope. It could be anything tonight. He
sees me coming, wants to rape my walk. Take me. He thinks he
steals my place in life. There is connection. This is
correction. I have this feeling, lurking like mosquitoes in
the tall grass back behind my building, watching, breathing
cryptic bloodlines. He is craving confrontation.
Penetration. I won't give in. I won't give him. I am never
safer than at this moment, walking slow to Chinese soup and
Persephone is watching from a phone booth, giggling,
dropping dimes and nickels in the sexy slot for fun.
EVERY GOOD RETURN
possibilities of aging
return with reference points
of toy parts and legs of insects
frogs kept alive in buckets
with grass and water
in the backyard
tomatoes eaten from the vine
splashed with salt
seedy wet acidic bites
behind curves of sunlight
bent upon white shingles
of the house
possibilities of greying
stem from midnights
drunk behind the wheel
possibilities of turning 20
turn to 40
turn to warm sweaters
turns to soup burning on the stove
turns seasons into newspaper clippings
folded in squares of certain
and specific histories
there is perfection in the light of this
that no one sees
possibilities of darkness become blinding
and names always return
what the world would be
a veil of shadows
perpetual through the air
I grieve for all
that would be lost
all of it
in quiet blue repose
and every star
as black as rock
strung from endless nothing
what the world would be
and who would miss it
anymore than now
when men love darkness more
TOWN AND COUNTRY
to bells ringing
singing on clouds
whispers to me
of blue air
holds me close
leaning into light