Friday, December 19, 2014

B. Diehl- Three Poems

Harold Picked a Winner

Standing in line at a Starbucks with you
after a night of uncharacteristically heavy drinking ­­––
scotch on the rocks and

Your friends are with us and keep talking about
how your one sorority-sister has a big nose
and looks a bit like Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants.

But with you by my side, I don't mind the gossip.
I don't even mind that the cashier is openly picking his nose;
I don't imagine brownish-green boogers, floating in my
So long as you're laughing, I feel just fine.

There's just something about you, sweetheart.
I saw it last night, and even now, when I'm sober.
It's like your smile has a sound
that fills my inner-demons' ears ––
and they can't even hear when the summoner calls.

While standing in this line, I don't mind it's slow pace.
I'll stand here all day long, listening to you laugh
at your friends' cheesy jokes (stolen from Twitter
or some popular movie about college partygoers).

The line moves up; it's almost our turn.
And the cashier –– "Harold," according to his nametag ––
is still digging for gold (or maybe itching his brain).

I look back at your face ––
such little makeup, such natural charm ––
and I take out my wallet, happy to pay
(despite my usual reluctance to spending).


At the register, Harold just picked a winner.

And I'm starting to think
that for once in my life,

so did I.

Voodoo Doll

When the secret sprouted from
his throat like a jet-black rose,
my own mouth tasted of chlorophyll for weeks.
I couldn’t sleep, reading was useless,
and everything on television
seemed to be in a foreign language.

Fourteen years prior,
I witnessed his mother beat him ––
all because he begged her for
some two-dollar Spider-Man toy.
That nutjob wailed on him until his
head was a pink, pulpy grapefruit.
(He did not fight back, only waited.)

Before I knew it, I was listening
to anarcho-punk bands and getting
concerned looks from schoolteachers.
(I was only nine years old.)

At the age of twelve,
I watched him pick a half-smoked cigarette
from my father’s ashtray, light it up.
“Mitch,” I said, “you’re smoking?”
He shrugged, coughed, took another puff.

By the time I was fourteen,
my lungs were a chemical waste dump.

Within the next four years,
I became his personal first aid kit ––
answered his calls before the second ring.
But when his soulmate left him in 2010,
my quarter-life crisis began:

Nicholas Sparks novels became my bibles;
the sight of old men sitting alone in
diners made me throw temper tantrums
until I was escorted out by Security.

Months passed; snow fell and melted.
He showed up one day –– unemployed,
drunk as Ireland –– on my doorstep
at four forty-five in the morning.
“Mitch…what are you doing here?”
“I found my purpose, B. I’m at peace.”

And when the secret sprouted from
his throat like a jet-black rose,
I tried to pinch myself awake ––
from a truth too greasy to grip.
Anxiety dwelled; my flesh was unfazed.

But when he pulled out that thirty-gauge needle
and stuck it into his arm,

I felt everything.

Dementia, the Savior

“I’m really glad we decided to do this.
Look at her! She’s just as she’s always been: loving.”
That was all I could say when you,
sitting there at the breakfast table in your Mickey Mouse pj’s,
considerately offered me a bite of your napkin.

“I don’t know if today is the right day”
was your granddaughter’s response  ––
watching you stir your coffee with a peppershaker.

“It’s the perfect day, sis. … Come on, Nana,” I said,
helping you to your feet and leading you out
to the patio. “I know what you need.”

As far back as I can remember, that patio
has been your spot: a birdwatcher’s heaven.
Cardinals bathing in tap water,
robins belting out your favorite song,
woodpeckers hammering away at that
stone-dead pear tree, proving to you
that there is life after death:
this –– all of this –– has always been
the light that protected you,
warding off the darkness to a coma of fear.
Needless to say, things have changed.
But when my sister tapped me on the shoulder,
suggesting, for the second time,
that it “wasn't the right day,”
somehow, your words made more sense to me than hers:
“Oh, look at the monkey!
Oh! Look [at] that elephant [in] her nest.
Do you think she [has] enough pineapples to feed [her] babies?”

It will always be a mystery to me ––
whether you've simply been a fanatic for the birds,
or if you've idolized their strength to rebel against gravity.

Either way, Nana, I can assure you of this:
there is no longer anything beneath you;
there is no longer any need for you to rise.

You have no remembrance of your
maxed out credit cards or your best friend’s funeral.
You have no awareness of the wars or corrupt governments.
(Let's face it: sorrow can't get through a knobless, locked door.)

Just this morning, I read in the paper that three little girls were found ­­––
naked, bloody, and bruised ––
in an abandoned warehouse just a few miles south of here.
But I bet you don’t know about that.

Just this morning, I read in the paper that the Holy Ghost
has been trapped in the trunk of Hitler’s Mercedes-Benz since 1939.
But I bet you don’t know about that, either.

Look at the monkey, Nana. Look at the elephant.
They know that you have pried yourself
loose from the death-grip of a cancerous knowing.
They know this; they fear this. Can you smell their jealousy?
Can you hear their prayers on the nights you still dream in color?

Compared to you, Nana, the birds are enslaved.

Your jailed mind has made bail.
And I couldn't possibly be happier for you.

B. Diehl is a free-verse poet, recluse, and cat enthusiast from Phillipsburg, NJ. When he is not writing, you can usually find him reading an obscure novel or listening to some indie-label band that most people would find untalented. 

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