FIRST KISS ON THE LIPS
angels were banished
into neutral corners
when your wet lips
lazed up into mine
and the thick scarves
of our grandmothers
itself with each other’s
expectations of chaste
squinting our eyes
into the surprise
angels pulled down
the curtain of discretion
while our lips
their extreme zoom
on each other
target direct hit
lingering to be certain
of bullseye benefits
angels may have even
lay in snow and spread
their wings and flown
we’ll never know
busy with our own
Former students are dying this summer—
cancer arriving or back again. I imagine
a tone arm wobbling over the end
of a record, waiting to be lifted.
I re-read my letters of recommendation,
clichéd and dusty with vague praise,
inadequate as eulogies: Sincere,
motivated, talented. Mature.
Oh, I could crank them out, help
get them in, get hired, promoted.
What are they doing, letting
their parents outlive them?
I still play records. Scratched oldies.
Vinyl’s making a comeback. Why not them?
Who can I say the real good things to now?
Recommendations for the afterlife?
Cold coffee. Their partners I never met.
Their children. A girl group of the dead
harmonizing into gauzy disappearance—
they all walked down this hallway
echoing today with their final bows.
Caps and gowns, smug professors:
Don’t forget us, we always say. One,
perpetual mischief, took pictures
of classmates’ privates for a project,
struck a pose as the bold speaker
of secret desires. Another joined
then left a convent. Another—
former students are dying
this summer. All the bravery
in the face of. Bad jokes. Borrowed
time. Borrowed jokes. Bad time.
I didn’t mention my wife had it
this year—cancer. She’s more
than fine. Perfect. I couldn’t
recommend her highly enough.
Waiting for balm on a breeze
this summer. One more email
with the sad news heading. Delete.
Expunge. Permanently delete.
Not found. Did you hear? Yes, I heard.
The girl group of death this summer,
and not even August yet.
They’re singing all their old hits,
but I can’t hear the words.
My pleasure. My honor to. Great
promise. My highest praise.
In my __ years of teaching.
Don’t falling asleep in class.
Stay up forever. Share your notes.
I’m dying. What’s for dinner?
The tone arm hisses it’s over.
THE SADNESS OF HOUSEHOLD PETS
Pat their heads. Their eyes cringe in bliss.
They lick themselves in self-defense.
They fetch, or don’t fetch, depending.
Where’s the damn treat? The dog’s life
bites the cat’s meow. Call them embarrassing
nicknames in high-pitched sing-song,
but we cannot ignore their genitals
or turn them into children despite
including them in prayers. We let them
out, we let them in. We make them swallow
pills. Where’s the damn treat? We clean up
their messes. They don’t consider their messes.
They lie at our feet and on our laps
and wait for us to put them to sleep.