artifact of lost love

i can never find the books i own

but it is valentines day
and i need my copy of e.e. cummings
selected poems bearing sticky notes

to send you a text message picture
of the first book of poems i gave you
the us before either could more than hope

finding there marking one poem
a piece of copper the size of a business card
stamped with “SNOWFLAKE” and “LOVE”

an artifact of lost love
once carefully made just for me
hoping metal would not melt like snow

i can never find the books i own

fearing loss is almost as bad as loss
as i scanned the bookshelves over and over
like waking from a dream about a lost love

i have surrounded myself
with so many books i will not organize
barricading myself against that which must pass

i have not yet collected enough objects of you
always joking all you want is everything
although we know there is nothing funny about that

so i spent valentines day chasing books
and memories of the us before us
like feeling the rough edges of a copper rectangle

an artifact of lost love

i can never find the books i own
but i found you

i found you

—P.L. Thomas

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the water (we could die)

the water is so cold we could die in it
the same way we could die
just driving home innocently enough

you remind me of all the things i won’t do
drowning as i would while refusing to move
never lifting a muscle to risk this living

at night water appears black and white at distance
and night driving is performed with tunnel vision
as if any living is something other than illusion

your hands and feet offer bare palms and soles
like invitations to everything that could matter
unlike cold riverbeds or barren blacktop highways

this diving in driven to risk and happiness
cannot be muted by mere water or asphalt
cold and lifeless unlike your hands and feet

instead you take my hand leading me through darkness
stepping softly toward warm dry light whispering
the water is so cold we could die in it

—P.L. Thomas

the things we talk around when we talk about a broken heart

And no ones in your head
‘Cause you’re too smart to remember

“Lucky You,” The National

i wasn’t there beside you
or even in your thoughts

when you decided you’d rather be somewhere else
without me and with someone else

instead of here with me (and i wasn’t there
beside you excited about somewhere else without me)

the things we talk around
when we talk about a broken heart

and you unlike anyone else
you are the one who can break my heart

because my heart is where you remain
even when we are not side by side

because my heart is where i carry my fear
that the ease of temporary parting is an omen

because my heart is the only thing i can give completely
against all the other ways i am bound to slip

because my heart once broken scars to remind me
about the thin line between temporary and permanent

i wish i had been there beside you
i wish i had been in your thoughts and heart

the things we talk around
when we talk about a broken heart

because my heart will stop someday
scarred and holding tight to you only you

—P.L. Thomas

the philosophy of gerunds (my mother is dying)

let this be the healing
& if not   let it be

“little prayer,” Danez Smith

my mother is dying

this is what the doctors have told us
first with qualifiers—“likely” and “probably”

later in hushed tones and ominous language
punctuated with “untreatable” and “stage 4”

if she were younger or healthier (they add)
maybe treatment could gain her another year or two

in hospitals we play these very human verbal games
ignoring the philosophy of gerunds in our living and dying

my mother has a timetable now but hers is no different
than the fact of being human that is living as dying

her cancer and two to six months come in the wake
of a stroke that doctors said could happen to anyone any time

my mother has been reduced to a macabre real-life allegory
about living and dying as two sides of the same human coin

the price we pay for living is the inevitable dying of course
and we have no way to know how much or how long

but we are living always aware of the dying on the other end
dancing and wrestling as we are with living in parentheses

my mother is dying

i sit beside her in my living as dying smiling
and offering soothing words against her incoherence
words any reasonable person would recognize as lying

—P.L. Thomas

‘Merica (Charles Manson is dead)

“to watch the TV screen for any length of time is to learn some really frightening things about the American sense of reality”

James Baldwin

Charles Manson is dead.

Michael Brown is in the ground, found guilty and sentenced to death in three minutes by Officer Darren Wilson.

In ‘Merica where “Atticus was right” because Atticus Finch is white.

College quarterback Baker Mayfield is being punished for grabbing his own crotch while playing football.

In ‘Merica where voters elected Donald Trump:

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything….Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

In ‘Merica where Roy Moore can’t go to the mall but may go the Senate, carried on the shoulders of white evangelical Christians.

Who believe some 14-year-old girls can look 20.

Charles Manson is dead. Allowed 83 years to die of natural causes.

In ‘Merica where Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Tamir Rice were executed like Brown in the ground for living while young, black, and male.

This browning of ‘Merica, drowning of ‘Merica.

O say, can you see: ‘Merica is browning. But the oven is overheated.

‘Merica is blacking out from the smoke because the kitchen is on fire.

While the man-child emperor is Tweeting.

Charles Manson is dead.

Like ‘Merica.

—P.L. Thomas