This didn’t start like this. There used to be
hair. I didn’t used to drop Do you know who I ams.
They didn’t tell me who I was yet, didn’t stare.
When I, I, when I was on the TV show, they laughed.
I was smart enough to play dumb. They cut my hair.
It receded like farms when the grain goes on trucks.
I poured the drinks, and the mugs stayed empty.
The live studio audience knows who I am.
That word when is the worst word. It means
we’re older than a minute ago. I never go
to Wyoming. I never go to gerunds because
they’re always happening before I get there.
I am not joking. I would use the past tense
joked, but why does everything have to be over?
When—ugh—during the TV show finale,
I poured real drinks until they made fools
of themselves. That was the first time
no one laughed at me. My real hair fell out.
White Men Can’t Jump
How could you look like that the same?
When we were introduced, you danced
for almost 4 minutes straight. Someone
kept changing your clothes: dress
to leotard to boxing gloves. The colors
couldn’t stay. I tried not to blink,
but the letters kept blocking, messy
letters that barely spelled out the words.
You acted like words couldn’t squeeze,
like the beats of hip-hop would bubble.
Why did you call me Billy when we ran away,
when you won that money for understanding
the letter Q? You never read the book of my losing.
Why must you do it—arch your back again--
when you said that last escape was for good?
Why do you have to bounce, shake like that
when you look at me with my hair not there?
You watch me wrap my hands around a ball of air,
see the court covered in condominium. I’ve learned
how to lose with class. Now I am nothing but class.
Now You See Me
The man who was locked up with the baseball
player has something to do with this, but he’s
he’s… I just fell asleep. What is he doing here?
And why did we all go to the misshapen place--
just because we got invited? The best at sneaking
are sneaked a trap. And the woman who married
the guy who is just a fake guy who just pretends.
And the police officer or FBI or special, the guy
who turns green a lot. He he he gets big and scares.
But I can see through it! Today I think I have power
to learn the truth about everybody by staring.
And sometimes I hypnotize, but that is not safe
because I forget what the magic wake-up word is.
I forget to wake up because my story is so so so boring.
Why do they really need to make me spill beans in chains?
They ask me about stealing about stealing when stealing.
I never ask them why they stole me, why no one
lets me remember what my name is, who mom is.
I don’t even know how this one ends, how I take
off shoes at night but wake up with where’s my feet.
When you can read people they get mad mad. They
want you to know the outside but I describe. Too. Much.
I am only outside only outside because my plot is holed.
How is the good guy bad just because the words tell him?
Someone put words there, made him scheme. I know
he wouldn’t scheme. Somewhere is a mean Cyrano,
an anti-Cyrano who doesn’t love anybody. He talks
bad words in our ears. He pokes us with his knife
nose when we don’t say the words. We just get stuck
and made fun of when his words don’t work. But I
don’t have a place to go. No one tells me to turn green,
to get big. I am all eyes, big big eyes. See them open?
Can you see my name in them, tell me where I live?
Maybe you can read me till the knife nose gouges me out.
The dark whimper of persona persona.
What else would explain sex so much
with those those when my wife she loves.
I don’t trust the man, the drawling man
who used to be a lawyer a stoner a dreamer,
who now just looks, just looks like a bum,
a bead. Don’t trust a man whose mustache
is longer than his lifeline, whose eye contact
hurts like the blunt force trauma we’re supposed
to put an end to. The persona whispers questions:
Are you killing them like you’re killing your wife?
The man, my partner, he writes it all in a notebook.
He won’t let me see his notes. Always have the back
of your partner, even when the words convict him.
Even if I am killing bad guys and not good girls,
I can’t sleep. The landscape slows like eulogies,
my eyes staying open in black swamps. Someday
we might find out we were never the giants, never
the arm that gropes down the dank hole. Even though
we might win, might bullet evil, we must stay in the hole.
Natural Born Killers
Do you do you think
someone just calls you up
someone says, “We think
you would be great in the role
of killer”? To end the daddy
who asks for no respect who
says no one hears the laugh track
when he leers at his daughter.
No one sees Mommy not seeing.
And and you get a cute girlfriend
cute girl friend cute as Caril.
This sounds fine but when
they make you sit in the car
when the car doesn’t work--
pointed off road, sky diagonal/
off color to black and white
to color to black and white/
words white words of hazard/
road signs: avoid hippopotamus;
dragon crossing next 2 miles--
the car doesn't work because
love puts doom in the gas tank.
Someone says, “If you are real
you will sit in the real electric
chair. Shake shake your head
when they ask for last words.”
We are under age. We must be buried
in the cemeteries of our victims.
Now everyone is laughing, laughing
at me because they see what’s missing:
gaps in time between hairs beneath hat,
cheap rubbery fingers to put in holes.
The holes they hold everything: gophers,
groundhogs, a whisper halfway around.
The holes they hold our misplaced DNA.
Once we put our father in the hole so we
didn’t have to see him. We didn’t have
to decide if he had killed. He already told.
Does he get a TV in there to watch us,
to compare the slicked-back mug shot
to our seven-figure pratfall in a fedora?
What they think they think is funny,
our mashed then cut-off hand. I bet
he wishes he hadn’t had any. Invisible
hands pull invisible triggers. Magic bullets
don’t work. He would’ve been our guest
at those awards, would’ve danced with us
during our turkey frames, would’ve ridden
shotgun over Pennsylvania hills while we steered.
We could’ve learned to laugh at the same time.
Behind the scenes. Behind the scenes,
it’s easy to pretend, to pretend it’s not
your fault. He picked me to run things,
to be a servant who runs things. But then
to teach the woman who used to be
surrounded by all the chatter, dialogue
of derailed trains. I had to teach her
about countries, about leaders, about
how to think past not wearing makeup.
We didn’t even know her, and now
she talks to me like I don’t know
every tell, every molecule of body
language that shrinks ahead of tongues.
And now the talking head pretends
to smirk at one thing but we both know
the smirk is for me, that he blames me
for loss. At least I didn’t cry this time,
didn’t get paralyzed this time, didn’t
let love get away this time. This time,
I got to write the next line in the speech,
the concession speech that will be made
by someone else another of the times I die.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Back when I had friends real friends
the need to to deceive was no need.
Why would I learn to spin a gun?
When you mentor an outlaw, you
you well you cease and desist, right
friendships? And the ship, metal
hunk for a hairy beast could fly,
more hair than it needed when
I had none. Hair that hurts
to look at like the surprise bullet
through a place that held friends.
The Hunger Games
They say I look the part, look the part
of post apocalypse because I survived
the 1980s or 1970s but maybe 2000s
but I look the part but they glue on hair.
Who favors the odds when we’re all
even, when we deliver wordplay but
never receive a tip like the tip of Texas,
like Brownsville, where I wasn’t allowed
to go because it practically falls into
the Gulf of Mexico the way shot beer
cans fall and scream, the way fathers
fall off maps, fathers who give you
your looks but never look the part.