The worn wood splintered against our backs,
Skin itself splintering by overuse, restless labor.
Shoulders weighed down –
Sandbag upon sandbag of shameless hostility
And forced submission to restless sleep –
For the fragile, patched cotton against our backs
Did nothing to protect us from the splinters.
Shelved between two wooden sheets,
Insubstantial cuts of cardboard
Ridden with animosity,
And above these boards –
Between which we were stored, like cans of food –
Laid more flesh as splintered as our own.
We laid, but we could not sleep,
For we laid in panic of the parasitic beasts
That inhabited the earth three feet from our barracks.
And most of us could not sleep with open eyes.
We laid, we but we could not sleep,
For the numbers that have become our identity
Burned our arms as though carved into our skin
With molten iron pens.
A name tag, scalding our callused flesh,
To remind us of our perpetual insignificance
The numbers never leave.
They do not shed from our splintered arms,
Nor do they abandon our beaten consciences,
Tattooed to our memory as they are to our brothers’ and sisters’,
שלנו והאחיות האחים
And we will never sufficiently scrub the war from our skin.
We will never fully remove the mites of our barracks from our hair,
And we will never rectify the grief of six million
Stolen last breaths.
Information is fatal at a certain dosage.
Beneficial in its initial droplets,
Three teaspoons pooling at the barrel of a syringe,
Glowing bright green and laced with the brilliance
Of a more promising
Just the right amount
Irrevocable ownership of a substance
That may not be robbed
By probing hands.
Development of character
Blossoming of pride in thought.
Because knowledge is different than data
Pooled and injected between temples that
Three teaspoons upon every hour
Just enough neocortical stimulation;
To encourage comprehension
With a skeptic’s inquiry
Because curiosity is the sole professor
That cannot work to fall back upon a pension.
But knowledge is not data
And Information is fatal at a certain dosage.
And national service size has tripled
With fewer, lesser intervals to digest medication
(And appreciate result),
A decree passed down between
Branches of power
To the stems of our brain,
Mild intention morphed into negative thought
As we struggle to comprehend
In the wake of an overdose.
Thought processes paralyzed,
Victims feel curiosity evaporate
Into intangible steam,
Leaving consciousness hollow
And wrought with data
Only useful when kept damp.
Vividness in color fades with too much tension,
Soft palms callus with invasions of excessive graphite
Pricked behind skin,
Knowledge bleeds its purpose
Because what is the value in learning
If forcefully injected?
The growl of metal against brick
Drills the city into my consciousness,
Sews light into my hair,
Decorates my wrist with sawdust,
Awakened and alive by the backdrop of voices
Melting through the construction
And into my skin,
Where dust particles
Realign with the music in my blood,
Atoms of a soundtrack so phenomenally composed,
It brings Manhattan to tears.
Painted women pose between my eyelashes,
Catcalls of truck drivers
Gather at the nape of my neck,
Adding volume to my hair.
The carpet of sweat
And cigarette butts
Remark I am a poet
Among a city of poets,
Where my words mix with the words around me,
My emotions blend with those already regurgitated through prose,
¾’s of an inch below the cutoff,
In a city where “second chance”
Is a fantasy novel.
Individuality is established
Among a city of individuals.
My assumption’s most resonant reflection
Resides at the top left corner of my screen;
A face so exquisitely composed,
So flawless in its feminine glory,
That Bennett will never admit to photo shopping.
And the words that pour from behind
My radioactive fingernails
Like an overcompensating factory donating to the mute
Of their most valued product:
I’m a fucking model.
On the flat, color-contrasted screen
That can feign its third dimension,
Yet there’s no PSA that announces that
Every time we proofread our message before we hit send
We add another layer of pretension
To the perfection we try to portray.
I’m a philosopher
I’m a scholar
I’m a therapist
I’m an astronaut
With my keyboard I can paint myself a face
Of the most respected gardener in New Jersey
The most infamous vegan activist in the Tristate Area
Titles standing before faulty truth
Where my unanimated lips can argue,
“Well… sort of.”
Don’t believe me?
There is physical DIGITAL evidence
On display for all my friends
And friends of friends to admire;
Just take a look.
Devote another 45 seconds of your day
to that 3 by 5 inch box that encompasses a galaxy
more intrinsically captivating than our reality
will ever become.
Because we found time to.
Plus another six spare seconds to argue
That we work too much to start growing a garden in the fall.
Because you prefer the face captured on your wall
Over that which you try to avoid
When brushing your teeth in the morning.
Because you’d rather look down
Because you have the choice to look down,
And its so much harder to smile with
White foam on your lips
And #nofilter traced with pimples on your forehead.
Because what could you possibly catch by looking up?
The contagious recognition that the color spectrum
From your left peripheral view to your right
Is more diverse to the insignificant shade
Than the device in which you are enveloped.
That we are programmed to find beauty
In that which we can never truly obtain,
That we can never truly roll in our fingertips
And catch the scent of before the crosswalk turns green
But if we could just look up…
We could wipe from this faulty,
Exquisitely vibrant mechanism
The need for unattainable perfection
Or the fear of unedited communication
And find time to plant a lemon tree in August.
Grains of desert cling to my toes
As if obedient to my plea that my feet shall never leave this earth.
I see warmth.
Negligent to the rays lubricating the nape of my neck
With my own perspiration,
And the breath of the sea with its foam.
In the worn books on nomadic bookshelves;
In the multicolored metal upon which muscles are strained;
In the orange dust where I have walked
This time last year —
And the year before;
In the ripened hands that kneed the bread
That has risen with our prayer
And savored on the nights given leave to relax,
I see warmth.
Paradoxical – Diverse Unison
Hung before every door hinge
Each outlet interconnected with strings of the same brand,
Colors of sightly varied hues
Behind the blue of the sea
And the white of the sand
And the brilliance of the stars on the nights spent awake.
I ask only for warmth to embrace my toes
So they may not find reason
In winter socks.
Suspended in an altitude beyond comprehension
Space from four sides compresses to our heads
As if too lonesome miles above our homes
To survive without human contact.
Greedy intentions from a pitiful source,
It consumes the sound from our lips
But regurgitates the rumbles of the jet,
A justifiable reminder of the thousands of inches we pass per-second.
The neighborhoods filled with homes;
The playgrounds filled with children;
Piercing their territorial sky with nothing but a fleeting welcome
As the white metal inches
From the normalcy we’ll never counteract.
Time and I shook hands in accordance of priority,
And yet it slipped
As clay molded into the other.
Though priority seems irrelevant
As sketch finds friend in word
And paint aligns with ballpoint,
(Strange intermingling with the air between skin)
Innovation sculpted in the throat
And hung in rows of blank sheets under the shade cast by our tongue.
They rip by our words
And cough, then, the hues
Splattered into the space around our lips
That is freckled
As the art couches to fit between artists
How many bricks must creak loose from this temple
Before these hands begin a massacre
And beat it to dust?
The threat of this indiscriminate slaughter,
The battle cry rumbling from the base of my palm,
The anticipation for chaos to revoke chaos
Has infected my thoughts, as though parasitic to potential positivity,
Light not shown and yet welcoming the light.
Is obscurity not a label?
If anything, is it not a label of the unlabeled,
of the uncategorized or inexplicable?
My imagination streaks a picture of a presence in a fashion as idealistic as luminescent light illuminating this coffee shop. I chain myself to the acknowledgement that idealism is only oils coated behind biased perception, playing behind eyes that saw too much anyway.
I’d see intermingling branches when I’d peer above myself, not in the crude, harsh interaction of wood against wood, but instead the content, interweaving leaves of adjoining stagnancy. The energy emitted from those arms, trudging in equally submissive unison, interjects the preset tension of external qualms, gentle coating my hands and softening my fingertips. I do not see roses growing from the cracks in the pavement, nor do I see colors drenching the blown up advertisements crowing our heads. But, accepted obscurity, adjoined challenges, defaulted respect, I do see, and each hint of our positivity strips away the debris from my chest, the warmth melting the remaining grains of past ignorance.
Let fate set a gilded frame on the solidity before our roots into which we can rest, not for the world to perceive but instead, to lock us in place, to ensure us into a proximity in which you can see my every flaw, every imperfection to the stitch of my skin. Though that which makes me human looms like a blotch of ink on the corner of your glasses, our quarrels can be dismissed as imperfections as well. These marks that taint the space between us make us as human as we are.
But our humanity only catalyzes the rest, only prints the blank sheets of looseleaf upon which we will both drag the pen. Abandon predeterminations, misconstrued romanticism. Just speak, and let speak, as the birds that lie on our interwoven branches do the same.