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


the elasticity of love (window pane)

i am too anxious for us
i am too anxious for you

i am a heaping bundle of anxiety in fact
masquerading as something like a human

as a high school english teacher i used to begin each academic year by asking students a question: which is more elastic – i would pause – a rubber band or a pane of glass in a window? – they always picked rubber band because they thought “elastic” meant the ability to stretch – “elastic” however is the ability of a material to return to its original shape – glass either remains intact when deflected or it shatters across the floor like tears –

think about it – i would stress to them – we say that rubber bands and waist bands in our clothes lose their elasticity over time right? – but teenagers tend to think about only one direction – stretching and not the importance of returning – i thought this was a lesson in word meaning and the need to be careful with our diction – i realize now i was teaching them about rubber bands and window panes and the elasticity of love

i am too anxious for us
i am too anxious for you

but it will not be what we have feared
age and taboos and everyone else

you will stretch like a rubber band again and again
eventually unable to return to my anxious love

or you will hold fast like a window pane flexing slightly
until finally you shatter across the floor like tears

—P.L. Thomas

window pane

white folk (switchblade)

But all agon eventually reduces itself to human violence….
But then the world has always made violent use of children.
The Book of Joan, Lidia Yuknavitch

to apologists for Bill Maher

white folk carry “nigger” in their throats

like switchblades secreted in designer boots

there are no excuses for such dormant violences

like white men with slick-backed hair and dark suits

who will slit your throat in a white-hot second

like a volcano spewing lava swallowing barefoot children sleeping

beware these smiling white folk clearing their throats

like an engine cold cranking before plowing over you

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

the politics of lumber

Danny Noonan: I haven’t even told my father about the scholarship I didn’t get. I’m gonna end up working in a lumberyard the rest of my life.
Ty Webb: What’s wrong with lumber? I own two lumberyards.
Danny: I notice you don’t spend too much time there.
Ty: I’m not quite sure where they are. …

Danny: Where’d it go?
Ty: Right into the lumberyard.



sun after moon after sun after moon after sun
each watched over trees rising and covering acre after acre

sun and moon have no words of course for “forest”

purchased and surveyed trees rising and covering acre after acre
transformed into a tree farm for lumber and profit

sun after moon after sun after moon after sun
continued as if nothing at all had occurred since time flies

sun and moon have no words of course for “commerce”


Earth Day 2017

“Deforestation! You are raping the earth!”

“These are our jobs! Lumber is feeding our families!”


she had a perfectly symmetrical face
& whitened teeth righted by braces

her hair blonde & styled as if a helmet
as she explained the Top Story Tonight:

“A man wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ red ball cap
struck and killed a Mexican-American at Home Depot
earlier this afternoon with a 2×4 in the lumber section.”

Behind her a large orange image of the Home Depot logo appeared
while scrolling beneath her in redband: “Witnesses said the man in the hat
yelled ‘Speak English!’ leading to a fight and Mr. Garcia’s death.”

“Our own Beth Yu spoke with an officer at the scene. Beth.”
“Police Officer Ben White said there is no reason at this time
to suspect this was anything other than an argument, nothing racial.”

“Thank you, Beth. Witnesses also said the deceased was accompanied
by his three children but his remaining immediate family has not yet been notified.
Now, Steve, seems like spring is in the air. How does it look outside?”

—P.L. Thomas