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

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