war in the time of commas

so many of the wars
seemed senseless in retrospect

all of them in fact

but it was the war eliminating commas
that proved to be most ridiculous

all the lives and limbs lost
to settle a matter of mechanics

who manufactured all those land mines
who manufactured this maze of rules

do you recognize me standing here
like an oxford comma hidden in a fist

this one-armed human trying to pause
our never-ending apocalypse of grammar

—P.L. Thomas


obelisks (dreams & memories)

“How much loneliness the truth can cause sometimes.”
Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

the first night you are away
i dream about you

excitedly you are telling everyone
you are going on study away

for a year

you speak to others as if i am not there
as i would not be while you are away

once before there was us
and i was the one leaving

you startled me sitting in my car
you out of breath from chasing me

just to wish me a safe trip
just to let me know you would miss me

this was well before us or any hope of us
so i could not step out of the car to hug you

i am not sure what to do with dreams
i am not sure what to do with memories

they rise sometimes like monuments
on the horizon of our minds and regrets

giant human-made spires reaching to heaven
telling us where to turn our eyes in hope

tekhenu you whispered in my ear

but i could not tell if this was a dream
i could not tell if this was some dim memory

because it stood so tall and so heavy
i could not move for hours

—P.L. Thomas

arid (alone together)

we wake in the desert
alone together

we have nothing to do
alone together

let’s do something (i say)
that looks like nothing

and then it is evening
the sun dropping to horizon

we have found an old couch
to sit alone together

you swing legs and feet into my lap
and i dust off your soles

we sit in the desert
alone together

the light of day filtering
into darkness

the air softly cooling
just us palm to sole

we do not speak but breath
alone together

a full moon blankets the desert
silently arcing the night

we will sleep in the desert
alone together

—P.L. Thomas

i don’t belong here

in the dream
i have a thick black beard and hair

in real life
i have a greying beard and shaved head

in the dream
i trim too much of the beard and then shave everything

in real life
i wake anxious as always but check the mirror any way

a couple mornings a week
i transfer my grandchildren
from their mother to daycare

these children only about 2 and 4
live a life on constant shuffle
that my granddaughter rebels against

she begs for the brick house where i live
each time i strap her into the car seat
destined to another home that loves her

the morning after the black hair dream
she begins to scream and cry as i carry her
“i don’t belong here” reaching back to my car

i am much too old and anxious
for a four-year-old in existential crisis
on this spinning planet always in orbit

as i drive away with her crying on the couch
i check the rearview mirror again just in case
the person i was in the dream looks back at me

—P.L. Thomas

everything (redux)

they wanted everything
of each other

first she professed wanting everything
and he was afraid

eventually too he wanted everything
and she was overwhelmed

everything they discovered left no room
for anything else even oxygen

everything was heavier than anything
they had ever held before

everything is too hard she said it shouldn’t
be this hard she shook her head

everything he had ever wanted in her voice
and her face like infinity

everything had enveloped them like time
theirs to give without demand

he typed out the entire poem for her
because he became suddenly certain
that she must have these words
like those on the scrap of paper he found
in her handwriting just for him

he smoothed and centered the scrap
on a large index card taping it in place
this his bookmark in everything he read


—P.L. Thomas