Mark Dennis Anderson
To the Addict Named James
When the man from California asked
if you were alive, I was thrilled
to be the one to answer yes. I didn’t tell him
I named a candle after you, how
hours after the wick went out, you called,
left a message, I called back, left a message,
and by noon you were safe again.
I didn’t tell him I washed and folded
your clothes, tried on that shirt, the red,
white, and black plaid flannel – the one
your mother gave you – and took pictures
of myself in the mirror. I didn’t tell him
it took less than three seconds
to fall in love with your legs. The man
from California didn’t believe me
when I said you were clean.
Now, almost a year since I didn’t tell
the man from California
these things, months after your latest
disappearance, I name every candle, star,
tree, and bus stop James.
This time, if you don’t call, if
you don’t leave a message, after I throw up
one of my ribs, I’ll tell the man
from California it’s your voice I hear
every morning, whispering
never is a long time.
Déjà vu is just tired neurons firing
into that part of the brain obsessed
with the past. Would any of us
be surprised if astronomers
discover that the universe is sealed,
shaped like a manila envelope?
Dusk is a minor second resolving
to a minor third, dissonance to sadness
but relief nevertheless. I am obsessed
with headphone jacks, deadbolts,
and sterile nail clippers. What if
what we fear isn’t that we’ll never
change but that we keep missing it?
Blinking sometimes skips scenes,
sometimes entire chapters. They say
human mouth cells replace themselves
every twenty-four hours, so kiss me
every morning as if for the first time.
At the bottom of a blue pool,
in the middle of a desert,
a palm frond casts a shadow
like a scar in the firmament.
The water tastes of bromide,
unlike the usual sanitized
chlorine graveyard of binders
and bandaids. Men in locker rooms
talk of rattlesnake and fire.
My father points to a small shed,
a public restroom at the edge
of the fairway, tells of a man
who called the police to report
his suicide, finger-gun to head.
Tomorrow, I’ll swim an extra ten
laps in this bromide oasis, call it
front crawl gratitude, surface
to the sun above the jagged horizon.
To the Woman Drinking a Protein Shake
That Thing About Inner Life ☊
The clouds this morning are doing that thing
where they roll along the horizon
blacking out the sunrise
like some ominous distant mountain
range like I'm out west not stuck
in this flat middle and this run
to the gas station is a wilderness
expedition and this fear in my chest
is fear for my life
because beyond that tree (street
corner) or across that river (stop
light intersection) a mountain lion (tan
sedan) or grizzly (black
SUV) might be doing their thing
minding their business until their business
is my business and all this business
of living crashes and collides
like galaxies or atoms or lovers
doing their thing that looks like destruction
but is actually creation until all the things
quivering with relief
lay trembling on the floor
Your lips, coastal –
open to me.
I want to sweat you out.
All that is stepped over.
Weeds in a vacant lot,
in an asphalt desert.
For every action,
there is reaction.
oil spill, an empty
box of sparklers,
a discarded lighter
of debris. At the edge
of the curb, a butterfly
in dawn’s early light.
Look at These Altars