billboard

(You! Driver) “Come to MARLBORO COUNTRY”:
a cowboy’s face looming over passing
cars with passengers racing, just lighting
like the cowboy’s massive fist; flat, paltry,
and weather-beaten, the billboard stands tall
and proud—a god-head begging for money,
promising a land of milk and honey.
He pushes both regular and menthol.

MARLBORO COUNTRY: Do come. Cough and gag
in the blackened swirling smoke, walk on low,
lifeless plains where tobacco once would grow
and light your decorated cancer fag.
Go ahead! Read the big words and inhale
the clear, clean manhood—the photographed smell.

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“it shouldn’t have to be this hard” (terroir)

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
—e.e. cummings

you speak to me in declarative sentences
as if words can shape the world
as if words can reshape the world

you take it into your mouth
a tongue like sandpaper
to polish everything beautiful

cooperative as river stones
patient as water rendering rock smooth

you’ll hear nothing of sticks stones and broken bones
because you have so much invested in the power of language
books degrees and hours alone with Faulkner Foucault and wine

we talk in circles like english majors gods or sorcerers
rounding up everything we can imagine about fairness
in a world that refuses to be fair or even a river stone

what if i told you i will love you forever
is that the same thing as me loving you forever

should we shout over each other or simply repeat ourselves
until this fermenting thing becomes something entirely different
a burnished stone spit against the rising tide drowning us

or would we be better off holding hands and chanting incantations
as we circumnavigate the globe with the conviction of a river
the sort of determination that makes a parent’s bones shutter

you speak to me in declarative sentences
a tongue like sandpaper to polish everything beautiful

spent we ask for silence like a glass of Cabernet breathing
space to be filled with kissing spooning feet against feet
and the faint whisper of our inhaling exhaling just so

—P.L. Thomas

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

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