Your ghost center
looks like a pineapple
with gray leaves for a crown
and deep scaly skin.
It breathes irregularly
and lives by remote sensing
of where your fear is hiding.
It sings when it’s closing in.
You feel the spines against
the inner walls of your chest.
It reminds you of how you once awaited
your father’s wrath after school.
Someday, you promise, you’ll cut it out
and core it. Eat the purple flesh
that’s been so cancerous inside
for so long, digest it, get rid of it.
Until then, until you do,
it grows without stopping.
Your ghost center claims to be
your friend, pretends it’s your heart
although you can’t feel it beating
all the time — only when you see yourself
in a mirror, in a photograph
everyone swears is you. You don’t know
that man. He’s got nothing in his eyes
except the growth from the ghost center
he cultivates without trying. You can feel it then,
riffing stop-time as it seethes and strangles within.
I never claimed to be a pacifist
believe there’s a time for a fist
and a time for an open hand
although it’s a belief
I’ve practiced mostly in theory
since I got big enough
and frowny enough
for people to believe I might
for no discernible reason
there was a time
that was more true
than it is now
hints of that history
to many years of relative calm
so I don’t think
that’s a bad thing
when I consider
how it’s served me
how far away people stand
how little I pretend to care
This drunken poem
was written to prove it can be done;
this crippled poem
comes limping into view
to spit into the face
of the Muse –
proof that the workshop
can always be opened
even if the spirit that opens it
is staggered by the task at hand
and the weight of living
carefully enough to open it
as needed, even if the hand
that holds the keys is unsteady, even if
the eyes are blurred with fatigue.
It can be done: a word at a time
laid into place. A thought
made available, work done
with language designed to surpass
the limits of language. A small set
of letters pressed into service here,
a longer string there, and all at once
it is permitted to fall asleep,
the energy expended, a labor
perhaps to be dismantled in the morning
but worth doing,
to make a boast about control and
the nature of art: it’s work,
it’s there for the doing
no matter your mood
or what myths you tell
about the need for inspiration
before you strike the first blow
of the hammer.