My life these days is what the business folks would call “diversified.” I continue to practice law on Miami Beach, teach writing in Florida state prisons, and sub for yoga classes. I received my MFA from Columbia and my PhD from Brandeis. My poems have been most recently published in Salamander, Matter, Scalawag, Sheila-Na-Gig, Gulf Stream, The Ghazal Page, and Vending Machine Press, have been translated in a dual-language format in Alastor, and are forthcoming in Rumble Fish.
I’d lived there long enough to be sad
At leaving. The mangoes I planted
Were bearing heavy fruit. The devil
Tree towered over the house, its thorns
The size of my fist, its pink blossoms
Carpeting the bricks. Hibiscus blooms,
Deep red, startled the eye. I’d gotten
Used to my footsteps on hallway tile.
I knew the cabinets and the drawers.
Even my disorderly bookshelves
Were at home there. (Writers were not
Placed next to the colleagues they despised.)
The new place would be smaller, with less
Room for echoes, missing furniture
And other voices besides my own.
I’d still have a desk, stacks of papers,
Photographs. After a while the rooms
Would even smell the same: incense, old
Books, cleaning fluid, onions frying
In the kitchen, the dog when he comes
In from the rain, laundry freshly washed.
It would be the same but not the same.
Months earlier, I planted a tree,
An ylang-ylang, by the walkway.
I knew then I was leaving, so I
Don’t know why I bothered. Still, it did
Please me to imagine the scented
Yellow blossoms hanging in front of
That ranch-style house on that random street.
Because of all that he saw, seeing it all
Was unbearable. He moved to The House
Of the Deaf Man, already deaf himself.
In a black mood, he painted on the walls,
In oil, the Black Paintings. If he could paint
Subjects more grotesque than what he had seen,
Then what he had seen might seem less grotesque.
He lived surrounded by monstrosity:
Saturn devouring his son, crucifix-
Like torso and legs, decapitated
By the huge black mouth, torn by the bloody
Grip of his hands, startled eyes, black nostrils.
If he could paint away madness, madness
Might vanish. Mock the inquisitors, and
They might vanish too. Turn them to witches
Surrounding the great he-goat of evil,
And they might rise up in the air, weightless.
Before he slept, he thought of Pepita
Naked, clothed, her wicked smile taunting him—
Before he lived surrounded by monsters.
There’s a leak in the roof I don’t have money to fix.
That’s because when you fix one thing, there’s always
Two others that need fixing, that have to be done now
Before the rain starts, a steady stream of things—not
Just the drip of a leak only noticed when you glance
At darkened plaster and see the shape of Argentina
On the ceiling. If you touched it, the Andes
Would crumble into the sink. The coils
Of the air conditioning are just as bad—rusted
Through, the man said. They too could crumble.
The carpets have stains of someone else’s life.
What did they spill in the bedroom? And from a bacchanalia,
Which the dictionary tells me is drunken revelry? Or was it
Diet Coke spilled while watching television, when someone
Scored a goal? Does this stain commemorate a victory,
Or just an accident? And then, there’s the glass door
With a crack concealed by clear tape. I imagine a crime scene—
The tape a different color. If I looked hard enough,
There’d be other things to fix as well. A responsible man
Would begin somewhere, but that’s not me. Each repair
Opens a door to others, a process that while not infinite
Is still consuming. “What did you do with your life, Mr. Franklin?”
“Don’t worry, I fixed everything.”