He collects his friends’ broken walkmans
and builds a flying machine out of them. Straps in
and launches from his rooftop in the fading light,
just after the crows have passed. These are the controls:
rewind, fast-forward, play, and stop. All other variables
are left to the music on the cassettes, old mixes
he has received from friends. One of the tapes
ribbon is wrinkled in places from a recent unspooling.
It murmurs and crackles, but it still works,
still lifts the rickety machine. Another tape contains,
in the last empty minutes, rainfall, a train in the distance.
Someone says something he strains to hear.
At this particular height, the landscape below
seems toy-like, a miniature model, despite what all hell
he has been through down there. The blue eyes
of backyard swimming pools. A soccer field
like a green diary, locked. What all hell. When you return,
return with the strength gathered here, a charged
battery, a wheel inside a wheel.
An Online Friend Dies Somewhere Outside The Internet
Freezes, goes blue screen, shuts down. Dead pixel, dark.
Ghost echoes, lossy in the source code. Time-zones away
people who have actually shaken hands with my online friend
stand around a box of his remains. I’m left to click through data,
two-dimensional and without decay, in multiple windows. Close all
until I’m left by the one that renders birds, sky,
and keep-moving-nothing-to-see-here clouds. Nothing
to see here. I go for a walk to the edge of town, daydream
a closed-loop whirlwind in a field of tall grass.
Cast a rock into the dark old sea.
White Noise Generator
for Amanda Todd
The autumn air feels guilt, the trees feel guilt, the cables and the pixels, the birds and the ditch. A tornado forms, tries to suck a ghost back down from its slow lift. Fails, then roars through the town then toward the next town over. Makes a point to hit every billboard on the way.
Horses run through sea-foam, white horses running through a calendar. The cold chemical smell of a permanent marker squeaking over rectangles of paper. A mood-ring on her hand rotating through the spectrum. All the strength needed in the narration, the thorn that digs deeper with the telling. What happened and is happening and the strength needed still.
Friend request like a conch shell left on your doorstep. Friend request like devil-horning every face in my old yearbook while on the phone into the wee hours. Friend request like would you like to see the portal I found in the school’s darkroom? Friend request like lets cover ourselves in wet leaves and mud before math class. Friend request like I’ll be your white noise generator.
An ocean is a good listener. An ocean works the teen suicide hotline 24-7 throughout the year. A conch shell (stay with me) is a telephone.
Friend request like a poem typed in an empty chat-room at the end of the night. Friend request like I got a rooftop, a joint, and a handful of stars with your name on it. Friend request like what is difficult is what is necessary is what is actually listening to another human speaking.
Picture a pear tree in the middle of a wasteland where the pear tree is you and the wasteland is the comment section.
Never interrupt a girl while she is trying to draw a horse. Never laugh when she whisper-sings under her breath walking across the soccer field. She may be summoning dragons, she may be summoning them against you.
Flashcards held in front of a window. Another then another. Trust and we shall be the receiver, love and we shall be the amplifier. Until the amplifier short circuits, the windows blow out, and silence splashes everywhere.
Let leaping embers burn through the open journal,
the shoes, the army surplus jacket, the skin.
Let the driftwood fire converse
with something in your chest
as if you weren’t there. Let it continue
until the police come down and instruct you
to kick sand over the flames. And before that
someone always hefts a log, burning at one end,
into the low tide. It hisses darkly. Nobody knows
what it means, but it’s not like we are in the business
of meaning things. You take off your grey-green jacket
and offer it to a shivering girl but she shakes her head.
You set the jacket down and it crawls into the ocean,
starts swimming out. Swims back an hour later, dripping
What we feared: spiders, snakes, ourselves, drowning,
embarrassment, girls, ourselves. A chord fumbled
at a crucial moment, killing the song.
Later, outside a 7-11, a man says watch out
for the bombs tonight and I don’t get it.
Later, in a car window reflection,
I do. We pretend we are so gentle, so gentle
we are not capable of a fist in a face,
until we are, and then we are
frightened by our own wolf eyes in mirrors,
shivering at a breakfast table in the early dawn
after the long what-have-I-done-night. Or the
Your jacket still smells of driftwood smoke
after a few washes. Even after
you get it together, move out, get a job
wearing a staticky headset, receiving
calls from strangers miles away.
Let the ember burn through.
Set your jacket down and it crawls
into the ocean and doesn’t come back.
Let it stay there. In her way,
she’s wearing it and while
she’s wearing it, thinking of you.