The Poems

Plug into the Faithless

From the Summer, 2007, issue 

(No. 18)

When you blow

your nose it’s like

machine-gun rounds

going off, you know? And then

everybody knows, from the

corner store to

Room 109 in the hospital,

you’ve been crying.

God knows I don’t wanna make

you cry,

but I ain’t got much else to do,

except collect and preserve things: coffee

grounds and change, bus transfers, and

moist Ziploc bags, Super 7 lotto tickets.

And certain things, like tears, well,

you should keep to yourself.

Everyone here knows

which girls’re

prepared to drink too much, are future-

obsessed, always talking about

their time, coming. Not like some folk—

waiting for Jesus is enough.

But not even Jesus would just sit around,

you’re fond of saying.

Through Mum’s curtainless window,

trees do nothing but sag brown tears,

dry in my hand when I

try to touch them. You laugh,

say, “You’re a funny one,”

kiss my cheek,

would I take you out of here,

stop carrying so many dry tears?

“You’ve got to lay it all out,” you said,

one time.

“Everything on a card, baby.”

“She’s a gambling kinda lady,”

Mum says,

whenever I mention seeing you in town,

at work where you

shovel men into hazy graves.

“A poker habit. Not your kind, boy.”

But I know your kind. My kind.

Certain things I keep to myself.

You will wait out the stars,

plug into faithless psychic hotlines and

newspaper horoscopes, a daily cross-

reference of

information: “Expect a bad-luck

stretch, gossipy co-workers, a secret

revealed.” Ten years of a life

defined by Wal-Mart,

the perimeter of aisle shadows.

“Don’t press your luck,” is all I know

to say to

you these days, though you do not hear,

are empty going in

and out of elevators, my arms, and

office doors,

dreams that shift on tectonic plates.

Like everyone else here, you shift

between award shows

and murders, union strikes and spring.

And the stars, they don’t move—

just sometimes, disappear.