Tuesday, September 18, 2018

When people are rewarded or punished

Looking east from her office there's a cement building which she places between 48th and 52nd, and a man there is standing on the balcony with an electronic cigarette and a book. She imagines the life of such a man, who is not sitting at a desk on a Thursday at eleven and who lives in midtown in a building surrounded by glass. She imagines him waking early in the day and watching the city sleepwalking towards his neighborhood, she imagines him watering a bamboo plant and kneading a pain in his lower back. But mostly she imagines him as she does all people: with you, at first as a person in your close orbit and then just as someone walking past you - the man puffing on his e-cigarette with his dog; you, looking down, with the wisps of vapor trailing behind you like delicate magic.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

new love stories (from a long time ago)

You pulled me onto the sand. We were drunk and you lay down and then grabbed my hand and pulled me on top of you. And you were wearing a dress, a black dress, and a new black sweater, and they got all sandy, the dress and the sweater. Even your hair got sandy, but you just lay there like you didn’t care at all.

I was so taken by you at that moment, the way you looked, the way you didn’t care. All I could say was, you’re so beautiful, and you laughed and said, please, I dated a writer before and did not care for it.

Or like when your roommate’s brother visited and we tried mushrooms and I freaked out. Do you remember that? I was sure I was going to die, and then you said, It’s okay, Mote. I’m here

The way you speak to strangers, fearlessly, like when we were in line behind that woman eating raw rhubarb and you said, excuse me, can I have a bite of that? And then she broke off a piece and you chewed it thoughtfully.

After the Christmas party I double-rode you down the hill to your apartment. The wind was coming so fast by the time we were at the bottom, and you pressed your nose against my back and kissed me on the shoulder.

The nights you are in the city and I am back home at East Greenbush, how you call me on the way home from the bar. You are drunk, and you tell me how your boots are not suitable for the icy conditions. Or that we should drive to California together. Or that you met a woman in the bathroom and gave her your sunglasses so no one could tell she had been crying.

When I sleep in your bed I can self-regulate perfectly. Your window is cold and you are warm, and when you fall asleep I can always situate myself so that I am at exactly the right temperature. Some nights I hold you closely. Others I can make myself very small against your window.

The time you made a passing joke about how Milton, my goldfish, was ugly, and then you could see that I was hurt. It was a little thing, too. It was a silly thing. But you still knelt down by his bowl and looked in at him and said, No, I'm only joking. Sorry, Milton.

Mornings in bed when I would have to get up, how you would climb on top of me and put your arms around me and say, I’ve died. I’m in rigor mordis.

The way you came to my concerts and would play tic-tac-toe with yourself in the margins of the programs.

How strange and wonderful your text was that night in December after I drove to Rennselaer by myself: mote. i called to see how you are. it was very cold today, and it made me miss you.

When my mom was sick and you came to the hospital and just sat there with me, only getting up that one time to buy me skittles from the vending machine.

This line, from the ending of your poem: “I still can’t believe there was a time I thought I’d never be able to tell you I love you.” I know it wasn’t about me, but I liked to pretend.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Dog with hat

On the plane I finally got connection and saw you tagged me in a meme of a man wearing too many coats, which said, tag your friend who is always cold. I stared at the picture too long and the man's face disappeared, it was my father for a second, or it was a person from a movie the name of which I couldn't remember. I was drunk because the flight attendant had asked if I wanted a double or a single, and I had never been asked that before. After - as we were approaching the airport - I looked down at our apartment. I was remembering the time I got home from work and the dog had knocked down the bromeliad, how the dirt had spilled onto the carpet and how you had taken a picture of him staring, with a dull shard of ceramic on his head. And you were laughing and said, what should we call it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Another Story About Frisbee

I noticed this when we were playing winter league on Tuesday night in the snow, the way you handle the disc when you catch it right outside the endzone. How you pivot up onto your left toe and step deep into the endzone, holding your arm out, wrist up, palm up - looking between your teammates as they form and disperse, offering it to them as if to say, look how close we are, kindly, with wide gestures and a thoughtful flat draw.

In the second half when the wind had died down I tried it myself, extending my whole body into scoring territory with the disc held out in front of me. Even as I looked from cutter to cutter, though, the stance felt inauthentic. I was not offering the disc, as you were - instead, I was trying to rid myself of it. It was an object whose presence I was imploring to be separated from. When I finally turned behind to drop it to you, I saw more clearly the difference. The way I stood wide and fearfully, and the way you extended the disc sensitively, as if it were something to be loved.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015


But that was the year we had an Indian Summer through November and our apartment was overrun by mosquitoes. They came in through the windows at night because we didn't have screens and we didn't have air conditioning. In the evening they were invisible to us. Our only proof that we were there was whining next to our ears and the raised red welts. We would sit on the couch sweating with our shirts off and feel them devour us. Or when we would go to sleep they would leave bites where we weren't covered, on our necks or our shoulders. Michael got a bite on his eyelid. In the mornings when they were fat and slow with our blood we would go on a rampage, crushing them with books against the wall, leaving the guts spattered there as if in warning against the others. They were still as we lined up the rolled magazine inches above them. They didn't care. They had already left their mark on us.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Reaper

I am the Reaper. I am drunk on sweet berry wine
and here to harvest the souls

of your pets. Dogs and cats mostly.
I was late on the day they were assigning jobs

so I got domestic animals – I fish the soul of Simba
the crustacean out of the toilet

or claim Boris the terrier,
run over by his owner in the driveway.

In death, as in life - your animals are playful
and irreverent, nipping at the angels

and slobbering out the window
of the carriage of death.

I come home late for dinner and my wife takes sympathetic note
of the pale indentations on my skeleton

where the ferrets have been knitting their claws.
She kisses the top of my skull and says, “oh, honey,"

and we eat noodles and butter
in front of the television.

When I first started
I would see the faces every night in my dreams,

The lizards that got and trapped
behind the furnace in the basement,

the old dogs, guileless, and with silver fur
around their eyes.

I thought it was to be permanent.
I thought these ghosts would be a mystical curse of the job

until one night I went to bed stoned
and dreamt that I could breathe underwater.

I lay down on the ocean floor and closed my eyes
and have not dreamt of animals since.

It is twilight at the veterinarian's office when you bring in Mittens,
fourteen and with a bad liver.

I wait in the corner. You put your hand on
her side, and she looks up at you with love

and with understanding. When the doctor takes out the needle,
Mittens does not make a sound.

She will come quietly, I can tell.
I am tired and she is tired. We have had long days.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

o to

o to be the kind of person who goes to the store to buy an onion, o to walk more quietly, o to be able to stop picking at my fingers and to stop whistling in the house, o to stop showing up to parties at people's apartments on the east side but then deciding to leave while i'm walking up the stairs, o to be able to say good morning to the receptionist like a normal person, o to be able to smoke a cigarette without coughing, o to walk to the river and jump in and breathe deeply in the water and sink to the bottom and live there forever, with my feet in the mud without worrying anymore about whether i have something stuck in my teeth or whether i should buy renter's insurance, o to stop drunk texting my sister things like "am i a sad person or do i just perform sadness" and later that night i borrowed michael's citibike key and you and i double rode up to van cortland park and lay in the of the cricket pitch and it was warm and i felt something new when we looked up at that orange sky and i realized i could walk as far as i wanted and you would keep your head down the whole time, or that i could assume some agency and be responsible for something small but significant

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Signal Problems On The JSQ-33rd Line

I attended a weekend seminar
in time management
in an effort to solve
the problem I have where
instead of working I sit
in front of my computer
picking at the skin under
my fingernails and thinking
about how you said to me
these years will be hard,
and how upset
I was with you because
I knew you were right.

Will I never learn to sleep
with the night sounds of
the street cleaner and the police?
Or with the orange glow
from across the river,
like a detonation frozen in crystal?
Could I not be the kind of person
for whom moving to a new
city could be a great and
wonderful adventure?
I will light a small fire
and then call
to say that we haven’t
talked in a while but you should
know I printed out the poem
you wrote for me and I read it
on the PATH train
whenever there are delays,
which is every day.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Letter From Milton The Goldfish Upon His Graduation From Life

The accident was your fault.
I forgive you. It is all okay.
You were very sad
and because you were very sad you became very drunk
and because you became very drunk you decided to practice your golf swing
in your bedroom next to the dresser.
It was a little thing.
I was a little thing.

Like all goldfish
I have been granted the power to see the future
now that I’m dead.
I can confirm that she will never love you again.
You are damaged now – affected permanently, like everyone.
While certainty is enough for most species
I know for you this is not of much comfort
and so I’m sorry I can’t offer you more – you were good to me,
in spite of everything. You fed me and kept my tank clean
and loved me as perfectly as you could.

There is no use standing there
looking down into the porcelain bowl.
In my buoyant repose I have no answers.
Just let me go. Push the lever now
and go look at yourself in the bathroom mirror blankly
in the way that you love to do when you have had too much to drink.
What you’re thinking is true:
that’s you, that’s really you, looking back,
physically manifest as the person
who has made a living manufacturing
your own brand of unique and terrible mistakes.

You’ve had a long day.
Go lie down now,
take off your socks,
plug your phone into the wall,
shut your eyes against the darkness.

Don’t be embarrassed to cry.
Things will change for you now.
Of course you are wrong to think of giving up,
but it is appropriate
to be fearful.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Unanswered Questions Following Rocket Explosion

WALLOPS ISLAND, VA - As scientists scrambled to explain what went wrong during the disastrous launch of the Antares rocket, an unmanned commercial supply spacecraft that exploded during its lift-off on Wednesday night, the public was asking their own questions, namely, "What rocket?"

"There was a rocket launch?" asked Bill Walsh, a local mattress salesman.

News of the explosion left many puzzled about the rocket's purpose or even its existence in the first place.

"I honestly did not know we were still launching rockets," said Amy Jacobs, a local business owner. "Where was the rocket going in the first place? Did anyone get hurt?"

Ms. Jacobs seemed as relieved as she was even more confused when she found out the rocket was unmanned. "We can, like, fly rockets without anyone in it?" she asked. "When did we start doing that?"

At press time, scientists were explaining that the rocket's payload was intended to be delivered to the International Space Station, and local residents were wondering aloud if "that was actually a thing."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Black Jellybeans Fucking Gross, Study Shows

DURHAM, NC - In a new study released Tuesday that challenges common ideas of candy flavor parity, researchers at Duke University found that black jellybeans are fucking gross.

"After examining the vast amount of data we gathered over the past several years, we confirmed that the suspicions we had from the beginning were indeed correct," lead researcher Harry Fisch said. "Black jellybeans taste like shit and no one likes them."

The experiment involved several rounds of scientifically rigorous double-blind trials. Fisch said that the results "determined once and for all" that the licorice-flavored gelatin treats are "super disgusting."

"Ugh," he added.

At press time, researchers were picking out the purple skittles from a bowl of candy and throwing them in the trash.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

How we were when we were here before

I moved back to the city. My new apartment is smaller than the one we shared but it is in a nice neighborhood, you'll be glad to know. It is less cluttered than how we were. I have fewer furnishings. There are things I no longer require.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Alternate Universe

The way you held my hand and led me into the party, the way you smiled at me as we danced together on the table, the way you pulled me close and the music was loud and we were surrounded by your friends. I knew it was too late for us then, but still - still, it was like this sudden glimpse into an alternate universe. A universe where I wouldn't have been afraid to touch your hand that night after we were together, or where I wouldn't have been afraid to wake you up in the morning to tell you I had to leave.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Edge of That Man's Affairs

Occasionally I returned to the edge of that man's affairs. The problem of his marriage had become clear to us immediately: she only knew how to depend on him and he had never learned to rely on her for anything. In his present state then - after he arrived where he arrived - she found herself at a loss for ways to be of assistance. All she knew how to do was to bake him cakes, which she did without fail every single week. And all he knew how to do in return was to eat them, the entire thing, in one sitting. He would cut off a slice and then stash the rest under his bed until he was done with what he had and then he would cut himself some more, promising with each additional bit that this would be his last for now until with some sense of desperate resignation he would realize he had finished the whole thing and now felt very sick. Each time one arrived he knew he should share it with those that were with him, and yet at the same time he knew he could not give any away because of what the cake represented to both of them: her love, her perfect love, which he could do nothing but consume.

Monday, April 28, 2014

new love stories

you pulled me onto the sand. i was drunk, and you were drunk, and you grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the sand. and you were wearing a dress, a black dress and a new black sweater, and they got all sandy, the dress and the sweater, and even your hair, but you just lay there like you didn't care at all.

i was so taken by you at that moment, i remember. all i could say was, you are so beautiful. and you said, please, i dated a writer before and did not care for it.