exit wound

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings

awake at two
with nothing to do
blue without you

i’ve been drinking
while you’ve been thinking
about how to leave without leaving scars

we feel nothing properly inebriated
staring dispassionately at the exit wound
where a heart used to beat

risking a heart
is only the start
the hardest part

like waking after surgery

—P.L. Thomas


functioning (falling)

I’ve been tapping the table
I’ve been hoping to drink
“Empire Line,” The National

Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon
“The Geese of Beverly Road,” The National

i drank enough to be okay but not so much
that you would notice i drank enough to be okay

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

“sometimes you have to step off the ledge
before you realize you have always been falling”

i say to you when you tell me
you cannot do this any longer

this sitting for hours and hours
at bars taphouses and breweries

this kindness of waitstaff on autopilot
bringing seemingly endless pints of beer

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

“falling in love is like being in love
like catching your breath is breathing”

but i have never been swayed by the testaments
of sober people teetotalers and the converted

do you hear it do you hear it do you hear it
i think but never say aloud with you near

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

i am falling i have fallen and i will hit the ground
relaxed as a drunk man on his favorite barstool

as long as i am somewhere i am not just there
everything is about this sanctuary you

but habits die hard even when drowning
like sitting here forever or slipping quietly out the door

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

you knew some things when you pulled up a chair to my table
but you didn’t know everything you couldn’t know everything

don’t play Rummy Scrabble ® or Monopoly ® with a drinker
because your eyes remain focused on the game

and before you know it you have been sitting there for hours
lubricated by the kindness of waitstaff on autopilot

and the background music softly lulling you
into singing the refrain to yourself with a smile

“Brick” rhymes with “click”
but “Tennessee” doesn’t rhyme with “Williams”

—P.L. Thomas

crow dream (time)

I’m no holiday
“Guilty Party,” The National


he dreamed of

an aging crow not quite yet old
with two much younger sparrows
one younger still than the other

in this crow dream for the first time
the two much younger sparrows met
sharing life with the crow in different times

the aging crow not quite yet old
felt his earlier and later lives draw him
to spill his guts and bare his soul:

“i used time badly once
and by ‘once’ i mean
all the time, all the time

“i have no fucking idea
how i got here now
in the meaty part of middle age

“and mostly unbelievably fortunate
despite all the weight of obligation
and the unpredictable expected

“i hope you are well [to the older sparrow]
and i am glad you have met each other
so that i can say to you together

“i wish i had been better always
because i realize the emptiness of good intentions
that cannot warm a body sleeping alone”

the aging crow not quite yet old
said nothing further as he felt time
[even in a crow dream] left him regretting


he woke from the dream

disoriented as dreaming often left him
unable to distinguish birds chirping outside
from a human voice saying “love, love, love”

haunted throughout the day by the crow dream
he believed in his clenched fist across his palm
he had a tattoo like her handwriting that read

i would tell you
in all the languages
how much i ache for you

setting aside his lingering sense of impending doom
the fear that soon a hurricane would make landfall
and strip him of everything he had ever loved

if he could take the time he would learn to fly
and until he could no longer flap his wings
he would fly with her forever if she desired

—P.L. Thomas

accidental monuments to their shame

when they finally grew tired of it

really exhausted to the bone & marrow

the police handed over their weapons

& the military dismantled their arsenals

intricate explosives tanks fighter jets & bombers

lying there before them in great piles of truth

they stared in horror at a legacy of wasted metal

accidental monuments to their shame

& this is what they began to teach their children

—P.L. Thomas

determined by blood (history and not her story)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?

Emily Dickinson

the thing itself and not the myth

“Diving into the Wreck,” Adrienne Rich

a cock is mostly blood i say

as i stand trailside urinating
masking for a cock in retreat
although you watch affectionately

better stated and unselfconsciously
i should have explained more precisely
cock size is mostly determined by blood

and then i consider that we are mostly water
we humans kept alive by a pumping heart
like cocks we are mostly determined by blood

you silly man you reply i love your cock

your face does not flush with blood
your words are sincere as the sunshine
blocked by the trees surrounding us

then i fall into your voice and eyes
slipping back to the younger me
drawn to Lawrence’s blood consciousness

before spiraling even further through history
the blood spilled and the blood lettings
at the hands of the awfully named mankind

going to hold it all day your voice jars me or ride

i am shallow as a hasty grave abandoned
filled too often and to bursting with myself
a man nothing more and nothing less

as i recover myself and turn back to you
i am less than i should be and more than ever
because you are patient and kind and willing

i resist the long explanation back through history
and reach out to touch your arm sweaty and warm
then nod as we roll again you leading the way

—P.L. Thomas

my mother has returned to where she began

my mother has returned to where she began
to where she has always been

rising from a stroke leaving her comatose and mute
both child and mother of children

we marvel at her lifting a hand an arm a leg
nodding yes or no

we clear the room so nurses can bathe her
or guide her to the bathroom

a therapist patiently tells us to count to her
or read her nursery rhymes

we marvel as she feeds herself applesauce
on a spoon in her shaking left hand

as she wrestles herself back toward independence
earned once before many decades ago

my mother has returned to where she began
to where she has always been

—P.L. Thomas

fragility (and then i realize)

for Rose, my mother, and Keith, my father

i have been preparing for weeks and weeks
it may be months (it may have been forever)
for the death of my father swollen

bent over and barely able to stand or walk
without the hand and arm of someone else
he has become both smaller and larger than ever

the embodiment of a man having carried
for far too long the weight of the world
on shoulders that could bear only so long

and then the early morning phone call
with his voice imploring me “son, i need you”
my mother unconscious in my childhood bedroom floor

a day that becomes a blur of attending to fragile parents
a mother struck unable to speak and my infirm father
carted by wheel chair through two hospitals in her wake

my nephew and i begin reaching out to my aunts and uncle
although we struggle to reach my sister who seems a ghost
reminding us all that everything human is instant fragility

at each pause in the day i do my mental check
to be sure i am the responsible son doing all i can
but i have a nagging feeling i haven’t told someone

and then i realize

i want to call my mother and make sure she knows
where we all are and what we are doing and just maybe
just maybe i can tell her everything will be all right

—P.L. Thomas