Poetry: Selections from Jay Sizemore
I am Unkillable
~after Saul Bellow
Everything is an accident.
the scar below my left eye,
bumping into the love of my life
in the apparel section of Walmart
folding a pair of silk panties,
and feeling like an arrow
fired through the ribs
of the last American buffalo.
It's an accident I wasn't born
a buffalo, that instead of emerging
from that dark tunnel
into a brightness that erupted
like an exploding star,
waking in a time
where cowboys were paid
to pile bloody hides into mountains
while rotting carcasses
attracted flies in the fields.
I woke up here,
where every day is another kind
of mass shooting,
and yet, all the bullets ricochet
around my head,
criss-crossing into the shapes
of pentagrams and other glyphs
that hold no power of protection,
just more accidents in the cosmos,
different types of collisions
or near collisions,
where just the wind
of a passing chunk of debris
changes its target trajectory,
altering all foreseeable events
for all of future history.
The dark shadows move with the breeze,
they brush against my spirit,
reminding me: I want, I want, I want.
I want to burn like the brightest colors
bursting from the roses
planted along the fence row.
I want to scream, I'll blow my brains out!
rather than admit my frailty,
that I've faded like the elbows in an old jacket.
I want to taste my grandmother's cooking
one more time, just one more time,
that corn, yellow glistening with butter,
beans freckled with pepper and fragrantly
steeped in a pot of ham hock,
and so many potatoes, more than any man
could ever rightly consume. God,
how I miss it. How I miss those Sundays
after my weekly indoctrination,
teaching me that the dead
are never truly dead,
but they'll never make you breakfast.
I want to learn every instrument,
to create music as easily as breath,
to have the ability to express myself
in a way that surpasses language,
whether I'm busking in a subway
or standing on the polished stage
of the opera house in Sydney,
I'm reaching out across all barriers,
touching that place without words
and saying, this is what it means,
this is what it means to be alive,
and if you want to know
what the dead are singing
from just beyond their graves,
remember this, this song that was you.
My heart is like an unfinished church,
strengthened by grief
and unanswered prayers
I am a raincoat worn in the desert,
while nurturing a kinship
with every living thing.
The truth comes in blows
that turn the world into a drum,
my skin the surface, stretched
over that resonant hollow
emitting the thunder of hurt,
incessant as a night bird
calling for a mate that doesn't come.
You're either content to be,
or perpetually becoming,
in a constant state of renewal,
discovery, unfolding like a crumpled page
set to a flame.
Death licks his postage stamps
and mails all his packages
to the center of the universe,
envelopes filled with dust and dirt,
that no one ever opens directly,
rather it's another hand
clasping weakly at the loose soil
to drop in on your grave.
In the meantime we wait,
convinced every rain drop
is somehow guided by the winds of fate,
and those arrows that keep missing
the heart by breadths
no wider than an inch,
keep emboldening our belief
that Death keeps his watch
from considerable distance,
when just the opposite is true.
He's always there, the whisperer,
chanting, I want, I want, I want,
barely disturbing the hairs
of the hidden inner ear,
convincing the body
of its own distraction,
to waltz fearless into the lion's den
and lay a hand flat on its tongue.
Nothing is an accident.
From the stars to the tiniest gnats
buzzing around the eyes,
change is as inevitable
as it is necessary,
so when the arrow finally hits true
to stop the gears of time,
become the roar of the beast
that would tear your throat out
rather than live its days
shackled to the totems
of false gods.
The Werewolf Does the Foxtrot
~after Hermann Hesse
You either go home and hang yourself,
or you hang your shirt up,
knowing that suicide's allure
is a mirage, a silver bullet
slotted beneath its hammer, gleaming.
But it's not an escape hatch,
it's just a condemnation
to repeat the whole damned game.
It's the mistake of time
to believe you can outsmart the werewolf.
This self-seriousness avoids
the cosmic joke of it all,
The self is not the self,
but a conflagration of selves,
competing to hear the music.
This reality is not your home,
it is simply a way station,
a temporary dance hall,
a battlefield where both sides know
the war will never resolve.
You will always fear death,
even if you find yourself dancing
and drunk in the arms of a girl
whose eyes hold the light
of a billion cathedrals on fire.
You think you're an artist,
that you deserve to hear
your own thoughts recited
in classrooms, behind lecterns,
your messages heavy as mountains,
when Mozart died a pauper,
his liver swollen with wine,
and his body tossed in a pit
sprinkled with shovels of lime.
Who the fuck are you?
The great sea of written words
swallows your poems
and absorbs them, churns them
within its amorphous and deitous mass,
never bothering to request your name.
Don't be ashamed. Love waits
somewhere beyond the blood raw
promise of the razor. Let the wolf
learn to dance all the steps of all the days,
until one night it finds itself
smiling for no reason at all,
lost in the moment
of a sky gifting its kisses
like messages in bottles
from all the wolves who came before.
The Business of Love
~after D. H. Lawrence
You can't hitch your horse
to the shadow of a fence post,
the heart tugs at the reins
of such fecund darkness,
a bull rushing
among the bulrushes.
The clanging torment
of passion is a fire eater,
a millstone rolling,
heavy sky upon the earth
pressing down, relentless
in its gravity, its need.
What am I but fruit
to be crushed
and fermented for wine,
a body meant for drinking
and exhilarating the senses
until repetition numbs the nerves,
leaves the tongue lonely
in its bicuspid cage,
wanting for the taste
of something new,
a mouthful of salty pennies
pulled from a fish's stomach,
or a tangerine
soaked in tequila sunrise.
Love flashes bright,
like a punch to the nose,
but then it fades
to a dull ache
just before it's gone.
You can spend so many years
trying to duplicate it,
that first blush,
the first crimson drunkenness
of a heart's hymen torn,
but you always end up
just waiting to be born.
Jay Sizemore is a poet and author of 18 collections of poetry along with one collection of short fiction. He writes poems then wonders where they come from, like a coma patient constantly waking up having written himself a memoir of another life. He doesn't question the muse, though lately he's asking the muse to use complete sentences.