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

listless (an upright life)

you wrote me
to say
you are “listless”

so i did the only
thing i could—
i made you this list. . .


is it order
that you need—
to arrange this or that
every item sacred

as i shape these words
into poetry
to fill this space—
less than everything

but more than nothing?


you pull me

as the moon the waves
as the tide a ship

to one side—you
my magnetic north

i can tell you this—
there is no joy

in an upright life


i am no carpenter
no tailor or farmer

but if it is framing you need
to adjust this picture of your life

i am bound to offer furrows
left by my fingers

ground carved and treasured
where your feet brush grass

whispering kindness


the universe is humming
the fabric softly rubbing together

wisping and shushing—calling
to anyone who will listen

to anyone who can hear
the soft and silent momentum lifting

where we dance eyes closed



what have your bones chosen?

what wish winds your blood
through your veins day and night?

can numbered things
ignite these embers of craving

that i offer to you with my mouth

rapt like paper smoldering?

because my list is always you

every item numbered one

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

callipygian (silhouette)

i love you in silhouette
my primordial response
to the curves defining you

fingertips and palms eager
to trace and hold onto you
corporeal and sighing near

i close my eyes in darkness
alone with your smell lingering
and your memory in my hands

recreating in sacred calligraphy
these incantations and prayers
offered in return for this gift

—P.L. Thomas


i bought boxes of sequins and glitter
because you fill me near to bursting
and if i explode
when i explode
it might as well be a party

it is spring
i am driving just at dawn
a full moon ahead
the sun rising gigantic and orange behind
the asphalt black beneath me

covering my mouth
i cough
and then wipe glitter from my palm
across the thigh of my pants
as i hum “happy birthday”

—P.L. Thomas

you were there when they were wounds

I cannot explain it
Any other, any other way
“The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” The National

it was not the birds (but of course it was)
birds chiming to prime the night for dawn

it was not the sunrise (but of course it was)
sunrise nudging through the darkness to reveal the sky

it was not the coffee (but of course it was)
coffee cut with honey and swirled with cream

i could tell you i lost everything in the fire
but you smelled no smoke and saw no soot marking my face

i could tell you everyone i loved disappeared in a black hole
but you witnessed their faces and heard their voices

i could tell you i want to dance dance dance with you
because i listened to this song on repeat 5 times 12 times

i could tell you i am 12 again and again and again and again
holding onto anything that could anchor me approaching that abyss

i let go i have let go i will let go i cannot hold on tight enough
to come again to another day with this body covered in hieroglyphs

but you know the scars and have traced them with your fingertip
because you were there when they were wounds

—P.L. Thomas