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I’m with you in Tulsa,
also watching the best
minds of my generation
drown in a thirst trap.
I’m with you in Tulsa,
at the pool on the roof,
under sun, under flash.
Where, what war? we ask.
I’m with you in Tulsa,
near the Arkansas River,
where a man found a 2nd
century stone with images
of cult rituals, us drinking
all the water’s history in
these habitual intervals.
I knew you in Tulsa,
thanks for liking me after
I explicitly liked you first.
I’m with you in Tulsa,
the selfie, ourselves, us all.
I’m with you in Tulsa,
and I knew you before
anyone else got here.
Every country is a city is
a road is a road is a road –
until it’s your own. Until
you know the lines leading
home better than you know
where to step over the
whiny give of your own
hardwoods. You’ve come to
need the silence that a long
highway offers. But that
singing you hear on highway
64 into downtown isn’t your
own voice after all. You heard
the story once that the concrete
was raked, the striations made
to suck the rain, to keep us from
hydroplaning. The details aren’t
details they’re the full effect.
Without tragedy or history,
cars climb interchange over
interchange. Around and around
this Inner Dispersal Loop we go.
You thought silence was an extra
page for yourself and the road
was just white space moving.
But circles show traveling only
goes so far as an image. Clouds
rolled as if they were going to break,
but didn’t. By now you knew this
ending wasn’t going to write itself.
Most of the time we act like kings--
choosing rubbery fruit imitations
from grocery store bins, regardless
of the season. But it wasn’t summer
unless you took advantage of what
could be unearthed, so we drove to
the farm in Porter to pick peaches like
peasants. Some kings gather time quickly
for convenience while others find extra
time ripening in a torrent of tree limbs,
watching time fall with pink flowers and
replace itself with red peaches, jeweling
and iridescent, hand raising in a thoughtful
act, freeze-framing an instant of awe, juice
caught, transparently. Regal and wasteful as
pure sugar, us peasants tear through the skin
of time. We could taste that we were all
subjects to the season’s tyranny.
Working the glass at the studio was like having an opinion,
no two exactly the same. Chemical bonds twisting as I twist.
Seems to have a wish to grow out of control. Likes magic.
Has the order of solidity and randomness of liquidity. Likes
everything as it is, then as it is, then as it is. This attempt is
all I can give to you.
California Impressionism was on tour at the museum
with skies in perfect phases before the light changes:
summer’s deep blue veil, oranges baking and burning
beyond the horizon, green beaches. With the boys who
now wanted to be wed, I watched the sun set under
the Osage Hills at Gilcrease. The beauty and blood
of this scene gave us some kind of spirituality without
forcing us to marry into religious formality. This morning
we watched a curtain open over the Supreme Court where
noncelestial light was shed for those who were unblind
enough to see it. This evening we watched a rainbow
illuminate the White House, reflecting what has been
en plein air for a long time now. The boys wanted me
to take their picture like an Impressionist might— by
capturing an ordinary subject in ceremony with momentum
and natural sprite – quickly, before the light changed.
No one in the world is at home tonight,
they’re all here, at the Hard Rock Casino.
Fingers wrestle the glass for the body of
the maraschino. Everyone is alone but
at least they’re sitting close together. What
is spinning is supposed to rest in linear
measure. Everyone is more interested in
what might happen than the one who
already won, went home, came back again.
Everyone thumbed chips like their best
rosary. Everyone was both restless and
wanting rest. Everyone gets a little hit
off the citrus oil leaking from the ceiling.
Everyone had dopamine in spades, gushing,
hit me, hit me, hit me. As the losers leave our
table, every one of us share a look of possibility
dropping like fruit from a poisonous tree.
Everyone was hungry enough to eat our
Jean Baudrillard was right.
When things dominate us
we become thing like. This
golf cart rides slow around
Southern Hills like the Bradley
Fighting Vehicles, lugging
their weight to the Baltics.
We moved slow in small talk
surrounding breaking news,
the heat, and hoping we are
the maniacs with the perfect
reason to storm. At least we
could agree we had the best
equipment in our corner.
Fancy and borrowed, the
1-wood makes contact with
the meek ball. It takes no
courage to crack the head off
the tee. Momentum gathers
green over green. The yellow
line of June evening falls
beneath the lawn. The thing
we become – walking the
fairways with our heads down,
looking for the errant things
Branches kiss my cheek until
tenderness misses its mark
and breaks me from the habit
of recalculating: why those
words, what now has been
left undone. There’s nothing
efficient in vegetation’s path
up Turkey Mountain, but this
waywardness brings me closer
to real time. I couldn’t tell you
what type of berries rattled wildly
in my closed fist. As far as the
details of the panorama, now
didn’t seem like the time to be
You can usually tell what is out there by an animal’s gaze,
not anymore. The whimsical penguin on parade sculptures
were getting older. Some had been stolen, smashed. The
money for the zoo had been raised, spent. One foot off
the ground ready for transport but the other is stuck to its
pedestal. How fortunate to be spared from one’s instincts
and also, how horrible. You, too, will have to stop asking
what’s out there, when life will begin.
I don’t know if I know what prayer is exactly
but I do know when it’s best to keep the eyes
open, to watch the children kneel and fall down
with the grass, to let them show how blessed
moments of grappling have been when they’re
followed by stillness. When we drive past the
praying hands, it seems best to keep the eyes
open to watch what has gone unaddressed. I
always want to tell the story of my friend who
was shot in a drive-by at the Christian school.
The position of the summer solstice is five fists
higher than sun in December. Something about
the fast way the heat makes us move. But it wasn’t
my friend and it was old news. There’s no O
in Amen but it can sound like making an omen
makes a beginning.
Some say the Golden Driller should be made
less lusty. But it’s his red-blooded bravado
that makes him the most photographed and
builds the brand. The view of him from the
parking lot is steep and startling. Handsome
as a young republican. And through his chiseled
eyes, the driller sees the ocean of oil pouring
down to Texas.
He wanted to build something kitschy
and nostalgic for his wife on their old
pond facing route 66, and when he
chose the paint for the 80-foot long
metal whale, she said it was electric -
the size of a Melville masterpiece with
a look-out even Jonah would feel at
home in. Long after his death she would
listen to children scream as they walked
through the mouth of the mammal and
slid down the misplaced blowhole from
its side. The fish were catch and release.
The boardwalk from one side of the whale
to the other didn’t seem to have much give
and our tempers had been hot and humid.
It was a good place to stretch the legs, to
see that design is complicated but joy feels
pretty simple. The whale lured us in and fed
us with a simple yet epic thing, like swimming
followed by drying off again.
Stimulation. Stimulation. Stimulation.
Leave it to theorist to develop the cause
of this phenomenon: why sound will echo
when you’re standing at the center of the
universe but not outside of the center’s
circle. We just call it haunted, or a way into
another dimension. But it still couldn’t shock
us out of only hearing our own perspective.
The acoustics they shout that you can’t hear,
empathy. Empathy. Empathy.
When water levels down riverside drive
are barely enough to drown in, I can’t
help but think of compartmentalization –
life in piles of dirt, keeping clarity out. It
doesn’t take much water for the bird to
straighten and clean feathers with her beak.
There are designs that seem like chaos when
we’re too close. As we navigate around
construction cones I try not to grab him
with two hands and tell him, what’s wrong
here is well organized, slow down.
The boys at Cain’s ballroom
align their fists to the remnants
of a hole Sid Vicious gave the
drywall, nearly 40 years ago. So,
if you’re asking if these walls could
talk… they’re doubled over,
passing the microphone to the
rafters, but the rafters are too
high to remember. Watching
the girls pass, my friend can’t
stop laughing about what a bitch
it was having her tramp stamp
removed. We laugh about how
foresight sometimes still seems
so far away, and how we cast
meaning aside – like the t-shirts
after the show. We laugh less
about the remnants of evidence
there is to remove from the dreams
we had, when we could give up
on reality to become real. When
we wanted anywhere or anything.
Even if it was bandaging someone’s
wounded hand. Shit if I can even
remember the name of the band.
A happy life gives no warning.
It pops from an air cell, arrives
unexpectedly as we touch down
at TUL. My happiness is off, on.
It comes over me with a small
sense of hurry, an air of entitle-
ment, the way I navigate home
through minimal traffic. The
weather is like tomorrow, partly
here, but very much still up in
the hot pink happiness air. My
happiness is humid. Older and
also not. Changed and maybe
too much the same. My happiness
is the condition pilots suffer
when they see the same color
too long. My happiness keeps
me landlocked. But it’s stretching
at the margins of out there,
whining and, and, and and, where –
My grandmother and I tour the art deco,
savoring them like a cocktail should be
savored while the cocktail is laughing
at you. All that jazz of luxury and leisure
playing in her head. Snapping her fingers
as we walk, as if, at any moment, a hand-
some man might take her hand, and dance
her through a cascade of champagne. As if
the world were beneath her pretty feet again.
Her eyes follow the streamline’s horizontal
lines with speed. She’s so fancy – the zig
zagging wrinkles around her eyes, pointing
and squinting to whatever it is that she
would have constructed differently.
It was summer, I had a passport.
What was I doing staring into
something like a magic 8 ball
at the aquarium? Why do I ask
the captured ocean, after it keeps
giving the same error of hazy,
try later. Vagabonds of sea stars
and urchins show how unfair
aquatic life can be. Not every fish
can breathe above and below
the surface, not every turtle gets
hand fed. The stingray shows us
that practicing a specific skill with
consistency is how to accumulate
the most shrimp. Adaptation is
the ebb of survival. Stop obsessing
over the flow. It’s a long time until
the next vacation.
The county was bursting
from her plot. Fortunes
flourished with humanities
weed: house by house by
gas station by Applebee’s.
The realtor at the Parade
of Homes relates a used
house to an old, hand held
mixer from a mother-in-law.
She asks why buy used when you
can have this beauty brand new?
She sold us on the idea that
beauty could be everywhere,
and was best reflected in
our faces – stumbling upon
two oxeye daisies blowing
into pond water on the
other side of French doors.
Something we could look
forward to. Something to
grow into, and then out of.
Fireworks at the Drillers game set
the sky of Greenwood Avenue to
flame, and I try not to think of the
black men I’ve kissed. The sound
of bombs gives us a rapid release
of safety only after the small twist
of fear. This red summer: the colors,
the light traveling much faster than
sound, into another similar year.
Faster than Dick falling on Sarah’s
arm in an elevator. How sensational
to think love started a race war.
How selfish to think there was
anything else we were fighting for.
Silence taunted when she asked,
do we know our land better when we
eat from it? The countryside had
been turning into acquaintance.
Nubile but distant. She takes me
just out of town, weaves into 400
acres, where we try to unearth
the answer. The grass bending,
and learning to stand again under
the weight a goat; an eyed potato
for a lazy llama; the smell of rain
drying off the heirlooms at the
Living Kitchen – Didn’t we both
know what couldn’t be said better
than lifting a fork, wide eyed, mute,
a baby, taking a teat to his mouth.
They tore down the dark
trucking depo and built
a building like a park.
Covered the floor with
green earth and traded
tree-lined paths for walls.
Real, even, the ants in
the grass. You know man
can’t exist in isolation,
as they all try to carry
the whole grain of rice
themselves. The details
are the details are the
product. How’d they
get the photovoltaic
cells to pull the clouds
in, hang them perfectly
symmetrical to sight,
to world outside.
I learn what I’m thinking
only when you force me
to depict the image to you.
If the setting feels flat and
the story sounds distant,
I know the wires in the mind
have twisted. Thoughts
become knots that drop
down a winding green slide
at Big Splash. Where my
thoughts will be spit out is
anyone’s guess. But we’re
more taken with do. Look
here, the words melting
around me in the water.
It’s easier to be alone in
the painting in the making
Under the streets we walk the streets
of Tulsa. Our heels make tiny echoes
of phantom traffic in the tunnels.
The empty bank vault waits to be filled
with a metaphor about void that we
won’t design – something we can’t put
a finger on, something like a life we
are always about to discover. All of us
know something about history being
a bleak shade following us around.
If only they could see how the city
is mushrooming above us, bursting
in a constellation of dandelion flowers,
until a new city blows up behind us,
and in a hurry. It was not the season
to stay silent.
New black dress, but,
no one is looking at you,
I remind myself. Except
for me. Everyone else just
at themselves through their
black mirror. I mean it as
tribute to the fullness of
the universe: A guy sitting
at the table next to us, at
Stonehorse café, taking
the picture of a girl at the
bar who is taking a selfie.
Lyric lights off every edge
from flash and wine glass.
The light, a little hit of
we asked for absorption
we didn’t ask for specifies.
The white grapes sunning
and alive. Just in case any-
one wants to take a look
at nature and see and how
pretty this imitation is.
You can’t have the best day
of your life all day. Even
at the sunflowers peak you
see under the gold to the end
they’ll come to. Soon splendor
is just seeds to the birds. You
wonder what the next big event
of summer will be, before your
fragile footing into utopia falls.
It’d be better to have sensible
shoes for days like these than
a good memory. Some things
clearer in their absence: no
birds above Woodward park,
indifference of a perfect sky.
Dawn, the virgin.
comes fast in a
of sunrise. Takes
your hand and
waist for a climb.
Sure, a cardinal
is busy, showing
her ass, red like
a swollen baboon.
But busy for what?
Beauty wasn’t ever
a savings bond to
cash in if things
got worse. Yet, I do
appreciate the wink
I get leaving Topeca
with my tea, I see
you sunrise, I’m
looking right back
If the self is the man,
the selfie is his lover.
Lights heavy in the
no weather outside of
a burning air conditioner.
She knows where the pit
of your stomach is and
how to prod it. Sometimes
she’s the light in your
dark eyes, a past you don’t
deny. The business coach
tells us decide means to cut
off all other options.
And all the muscles in the
brain tear as they separate
but fortify as they mend.
Sometimes acting as a
better self made you decide
to be her. As if looking
outward we reveal the self
within. I think Jung said that.
Or, it’s in the PowerPoint.
Even if the light in the room
is artificial, it gives us the same
amount of sight. You’ve
even managed a true smile.
On the 18th year since
conviction, the children
wash each other’s feet
in the splash pad with
a kind of honesty
Everyone at our table
will pretend not to notice
a green flash injected
into a pocketed pink sky.
We walk separately
to our cars and into
On Hey Mambo’s patio
we drink a cheap white
blend for happy hour
and invite strangers from
the cigar store next door
to join. Julien’s in town
from Canada to mine
the land for oil. During
a break in the storm of a
workweek he explains
the French use two words
for umbrella: one for
blocking the sun & one
for stopping the rain.
All the girls go, oh, say it
again. Around here it’s been
drought followed by
as if negligence wants
The rain is at once
private and also a public
activity. And suddenly,
the parasol becomes para-
pluie and we knot together
under the umbrella of
the land’s language.
Held sun. Pulled rain,
carrying the conversation.
We never tire of its rants
and raves. Oh, say it again.
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