Thursday, May 17, 2018

Poems By Duncan Tierney

Poems by Duncan Tierney

Trip Home
Running a ship has never interested me,
but with the duty of privilege, and a penance to onlookers
I practiced a straight spine and proud chest, reminding myself
that complaints of excess do little but kick the teeth of the poor.

Once I brought this up to my superior, a man like me,
with a deep voice that he used for words that danced like mercury.
“Why am I captain? I don’t know where I’m going.”
knowing full well the question dripped greasily with ingratitude.

To my shock, he took it well,
baritone shouting a guffaw.
“It doesn’t matter if or where your ship goes” he said
“You are captain because you are captain”

And so I stood behind the wheel running the ship over rocks,
waiting, as it filled with water, for a beautiful mutiny,
and from the lifeboats I heard a crewman call my name,
asking with plastic, theist sincerity,
“What next, sir?”
Maintaining Curb Appeal
Working for Mr. Wailer, preserving the carefully curated sprawl
of the hoarder’s properties is like working as an assistant to an eccentric billionaire,
but without the refined manners or manicures of affluence.
With Mr. Wailer, his eccentricity is scrawled in dead languages and antiquated metaphors,
across tobacco stained teeth and a nicotine beard.
It sits, restless and unbounded, in cockeyed piles of warped plywood, and
misshapen sheds, filled with the red of Budweiser boxes and Folgers cans,
behind carefully placed walls of trees and hedges,
so the county supervisor doesn’t get to prosecute Mr. Wailer,
for the collection of treasures that he has chosen to fill his tomb with.

Today was a break from the broken reality of carefully restacking plywood in intricate patterns—
plywood that would be from the Reagan Era if Reagan or Nixon or politics or laws existed in this
green labyrinth of beautifully hidden nothings.

Today, I cleaned the yard of my employer’s brother. His brother
spent his time drinking, hidden away either behind his thick browed frown
or the broken door of his four-room ranch.
I had only seen him once, in passing, in the three years I had worked there,
he was an old man—
older somehow than his twin, Mr. Wailer,
and had shuffled away at the sight of my approaching Taurus.

Today was the last day the yard of Wailer’s brother could be cleaned,
according to the final written warning
taped in yellow across the peephole of the house.
And so we did, as his twin lay
visible through the window,
beer in hand, head cranked straight back like a Pez dispenser,
snoring in front of a TV that still blared the History Channel.

As we pulled heavy wet bags, that nobody had bothered to hide,
Mr. Wailer cursed his brother,
said he was a cancer he wouldn’t wish on a sick mutt,
a disease that had latched onto him two minutes into his life and hadn’t let go since.
But still he helps me, loading black into a plywood trailer, shaking with anger and age and cold,
but filling the trailer nonetheless.

It is easy to hate a cancer.
Still too, it is easy to let others in to hate it with you,
Mr. Wailer had had no trouble telling me, or his neighbors,
or the cashiers at our lunch break at McDonald’s,
about the plague of inadequacy that his brother provided.
But something that grinds your teeth and tugs at your spine for that long
becomes a part of you, like vines sometimes turn from parasites to tree branches.
Buzz Saw
Mechanoreceptors—the specialized nerve endings that feel pressure—don’t exist inside skulls.

Now, when I feel thoughts shooting hot and barbed like arrows
across from the right hemisphere,
over to tap dance fervently and arrhythmically as an atheist’s final prayer
on the inner left side of my pate,
I have the comforting knowledge that the noise is just noise.

So too, when I feel a noose tighten around my brainstem—
the part of me that lets me know things without ever thinking them,
like how to laugh or fear or yell.
As the twine brands despair into my reptile brain,
the rope burn is bandaged in misapprehension.

The heat and noise start to sound like a buzz-saw after a while,
whining and spitting and sparking hot splinters across grey matter,
and I cash in my restraint trying desperately to buy silence.

The other night I could, for the first time.
and I sat there, bored,
amid grey thoughts as properly spaced and punctuated as dialogue in porn,
devoid of the technicolor calligraphy that usually deafened silence.

An Unfortunate Typo
I didn’t mean to say “Fuck off”
and dismiss you to friends or tears or whatever you walked out into.
I didn’t mean to say “I hate you” either, because hate is what I use for onions and papercuts and people who grunt at the gym, so I don’t hate you.
What I meant to say is that I’ve had dreams of you fucking my friends in front of me every night since I deleted your number, what I meant to say is that if you would have asked or gestured I would have hung myself in front of my parents, what I meant to say was that you were so fucking charming in your confident stupidity, in your faith, that since you could read and run faster than me, I thought there was something that I didn’t understand, that I had a plotline to follow that you knew about and I couldn’t grasp onto.
What I meant to say was that I lost 15 pounds the week you left me and collapsed doing calf raises on a treadmill because I thought maybe if I repeated the same motion enough it would strangle the thoughts that had been bouncing off the inside of my head since you head left, as if I had forgotten.
What I meant to say is that I came to you in tears that I hadn’t had since I was a kid, trying to tell you my brain doesn’t work right, that my thoughts crack like sledgehammers or glide like pythons through, me hissing about how even an overdose would be meaningless, but you were so asphyxiated with jealousy that the only thing you would respond with was that you didn’t know why I don’t dance.
What I meant to say is that ever since you left, I have been praying to a God that I don’t believe, hoping that your father’s alcoholism and your mother’s depression were contagious or hereditary, praying so hard that even when I started hearing that they were, heard that you had unlocked your bedroom’s revolving door, that you were stealing and drinking; swimming in a pool of prerequisites for the life I had wished for you, it still wasn’t enough.

But when you came up and greeted me for the second first time in my life, my mouth didn’t work like it normally does.
So I told you to fuck off.

Sorry about that.

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