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 made love, 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.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Adventures of Conor & Muffin and Other Exciting Stories

Meanwhile, Conor meets his friend Jesse for lunch at Panera. It is an old friend, from high school. Conor has driven a long way but he does not mind. He has nowhere to be in particular. His cat, Muffin, waits in the car with the windows cracked.

Jesse and Conor reconnect in a way Conor did not think was possible. They talk at length about their friendship in high school and the individual lives they have led since, the way their trajectories have diverged, the way they’ve changed for the better or worse. They bring up old jokes and lost loves. They laugh and sigh and remember.

When they are done eating, Jesse walks Conor out to his car and hugs him and says, what a wonderful lunch, you have become a reminder of what I once was and so I’d like this to be the last time we see one another. And then he walks away and Conor just stands there, staring at his cat through the car window, like, what can you say to that.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Your Middlebury Self

In the afternoon my ex-girlfriend Anna and I hike up the hill behind the art museum to the North of campus. At the top you can see the whole valley, which on this day in March looks muddy and gray.

“I have something to tell you,” she says. “I imagine it might be important to say. We broke up in September.”

We dated for two and a half years, and so I remember our break-up very clearly. We were outside the coffee shop. As she explained why the relationship was unsalvageable I had the familiar and troubling feeling that I was a few feet above myself watching it all unfold. All I could say was “Okay.” Then I went home and drew the curtains and lay down.

“Okay,” I say. “Yes. We broke up in September. I know.”

“I know you know,” she says, “I wasn’t done. I wanted to say that we broke up in September and now I’m seeing someone new. Eric. From our poetry class. You remember Eric?”

I remember Eric. His poetry was dark and beautiful. He always seemed very sad.

“Yes,” I say. “I remember Eric. He always seemed very sad.”

“Yes,” Anna says. “He did. And he is. He’s very sad. And I’m seeing him.”

I don’t really know what to say to this. I don’t say anything.

“Are you okay?” she says. “I never know with you.”

“Yes, I’m okay,” I say, because I guess I am. It is hard to know. I make a concerted effort to feel upset but all I can manage is a muted contempt for Eric’s poetry. I say, “He seems nice.”

She says, “Yes, maybe.” She does not look sure.

We stand there quietly. I think of whether or not to put my hands in my pockets. I think of the time we went to see the monochromes at the modern art museum and she said, what do you think, and I said, it’s a lot to take in – how bothered I was that I could only think of that to say.

“There was a hill like this at Middlebury,” Anna says after a minute. “At the program this summer we went up there after dinner all the time. Except it was closer to campus.”

“Yes, this was a bit of a hike,” I say. “But look at the view.”

“The view was better at Middlebury,” she says in an almost sudden way. Then after a pause, she adds, “Everything was better at Middlebury.”

I’ve never been to Middlebury. I didn’t even visit it. “Everything was better at Middlebury,” I repeat. I look at her blankly.

She looks back at me and says, “I mean, everything is better at Middlebury.”

“Everything is better,” I say. Am I agreeing, I wonder. Why can’t I know.

She says, “The food is better.”

I say, “The food.”

She says, “Yes, the food is better. And the dining halls are less crowded. And also the weather is better.”

“It’s farther North than here, though, isn’t it?” I try. “Isn’t it just as cold?”

She says, “Yes, but the cold is crisper. It is a more perfect cold.” She is pleased with this, I can tell. “At Middlebury,” she continues, “Everything is a more perfect version of what it is here.”

I say, “What about the people?” Maybe I am trying to joke.

“Ha, that’s funny,” she says, not smiling. “I like that. Like if Eric went to Middlebury he would not be so sad. Or if you went to Middlebury you would be more open.”

We are still looking at each other levelly. “I would be more open?” I say.

“Yes,” she says. “Your Middlebury self would be able to better communicate his emotions, I mean. That’s what I mean by open.”

This is where I turn away and look out over the valley again. “Okay,” I say.

I can feel her staring at me still. I can feel her about to say something terrible. “Ha,” she says again, which is a sure sign she is only pretending to be joking. “See? Your Middlebury self would have had some answers. Maybe if I could have dated him we would still be together.”

“Okay!” I say loudly. I realize I snapped. “Okay. Yes.” I say, and then without warning I am yelling again: “How can you say that? I worked, I really worked! I tried to be honest! I tried to share myself!”

“Right,” she says. “What you would share was, ‘I don’t know,’ or, ‘It’s hard to say.’”

“I didn’t know!” I say. “It was hard to say! I was confused and that was me being honest!” I realize how feeble this sounds. I find myself upset that I am even getting angry about this – about her.

She looks right at me. “If that’s true,” she says, “that’s even worse.”

And then she leaves. She just walks down the hill by herself, and I’m left standing there.

Without meaning to – hating myself for it – I suddenly find myself thinking about what my Middlebury self would do in this situation. What exacting thing he might call to her as she’s walking away from him; the way he might feel, precisely upset, precisely devastated. He would experience his emotions so presently, I’m sure of it. Instead I’m left wondering why my anger can only flare up now. Even now, watching her walk away, I feel it fading into the usual confused resignation. I imagine my Middlebury self might be able to cry about this. Instead I sit on a rock and say out loud as if to try to do so some regulation, “Okay.”