Some poems cannot
 be written for fun.

You do it because you
 can’t be quiet about it.

All you can do is grab on to
 something stable before

getting crushed by
 the missed opportunity.


When I Knew

When I knew
that I was saved

I stared at my
reflection as
the milkweed
at the rising dew.

I did not know
how. I just knew.

The way a bonobo
 studies teeth, or how

a nine-week-old
falls asleep.


A Way Out

Today, the cloth of the cosmos
came undone at the seams—undone
like a bootleg Gucci handbag.

Today, entire continental coasts
were consumed in a New York minute,
the Pope declared heaven is not real and
Saturn was sucked into the belly of a black hole.

Today, all semblance of order evaporated into
the organic air of an American Spirit cigarette—
the bright yellow pack with that mild, additive-free taste.

Today, the ice caps melted, capitalism collapsed and
nothing will ever be the same again, as all Hell broke loose.

Today, for the first time, my son climbed out of his crib.


Set Forth in the Blood

This love for my children hatches in seconds and
is more powerful than famines and wars.

Entire continents could be swept away in a deluge of divine
retribution, but this embryonic necessity sweeps over me—

a towering burst of protective rage overlapping every square
inch, like hippos lurking under the infinite emptiness of a river.

Let’s face it, we are set forth in the blood.


Staying Up

There are hours
past midnight when
sleep won’t do.

Lou Reed’s
“Romeo Had Juliet”
playing on
the computer, and a
tumbler of bourbon.

There are hours
that cannot be boxed in
on a calendar—
those moments when I am
not and I am all the same,

When I fall for promises
and lies, the crowded
loneliness of staying up.


Dishes in the Earth

We are dug out
 of ourselves
like dishes in the Earth,
and looked at by anthropologists
with curving, symmetrical smiles,
 the way a daffodil
blooms in a radiograph.

Do you ever question if everything
must be seen after all?

Sometimes I do.

And I think my mind is a reflection
of demolition. Rare and dangerous.
 Like a meteorite
 of emptiness streaking on fire.

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image: George Payne