dan raphael

Big Day Months Early

is it overcast this dawn or is the sun late again
time as predictable as birds
doors close before anyone gets out
windows reflecting the sleep within them
crows on long thin leashes

would the house walk, the horse farting through the fenceless yard
where maybe another house, another limitation
like fresh underwear & the mirrors inevitable ambush
walls pressed so close together what is preserved—
morning paper,   daily bread,   
                                                     the shock of 98% stillness,   
98.6% of the way there, error never stops moving.
if we didn’t have 10 fingers 100 wouldn’t be so ominous,   invigorating
zero had to be invented:   

skull culture    head in my hands     heart on a plate
a cubic foot of macaroni for  a shoe
strolling through the bone yard, missing the wind’s music
as if the day hasn’t started—— a car before the keys turned is still yesterday’s car.
i wake with a start, confidently on cue
like a percussionist who never goes home

some think the freeway’s clotted with the sun’s bursting convoy
you don’t go back but around
once the hair’s all gone does something new grow
or something else begin to leave—more space for the bones to whistle
less marrow tomorrow
years within years, cloth rewoven by the bones 
a card file of tempos looking like a skeletal accordion
when the hand never leaves the page

as each exhale could be pushed a little harder
as a little of each breath remains
like a sneeze frozen in time and robbed of its momentum
drops to the ground like a thought balloon graying into desiccate sand
where i lost the spare key to begin cities 

Maps Apart

i learned to stand on a box to see over the fence
and soon didn’t need an actual box.
is a pull up analogous to jumping
limbs climb, legs allege, arms arrive 

                                             after a decade or two gone
                                             no matter what the gps says
                                             this isn’t the same place
                                             longitude,   latitude,   attitude,   time zone

what is the sun orbiting
who decided how long a second would be
we erase the days the sun doesn’t rise
the days the sun doesn’t set are either 
ecstatic or bleak

                                             the rivers’ angles alter my internal compass
                                             when below freezing was so what
                                             when shoes never lasted a year
                                             a day to do everything twice

more popular than biscuits
mysterious as gravy
what’s a kitchen without boiling
stomach clock, appestat, wait til
it stops moving, a fog of salt
the roar of potatoes on the freeway

                                             outside not my skin
                                             inside not my world
                                             a guidebook to me, suggested itineraries
                                             best times to visit, useful phrases
                                             in the body’s language

i won’t move til the clock does
screen door clouds, wind coming straight down
do i wedge or become porous
accelerate and get ready to roll
when the fire’s inside and can’t cook
wallet rasping with hunger


Thick with Light

car behind the ear, road in a finger drip
one with everything
just one apiece
don’t show your hand
compress your neck when the light bulb’s an egg

I expected delicious but almost threw up
‘cept for my hands tied inside me
at the corner of a traffic circle, inverted leaking bowl
gone to make a vacuum-like pause
as my feral breath doesn’t want to be contained

don’t know how I got here
clutching my side like a third story
elevator stopping halfway
an unfamiliar sponginess or the variable gravity
muscle’s fibers with differences of opinion or wattage
bipolar bio-magnetism

patching a sleeve from the inside, arms in pant legs
90% of my weight above my waist
street so bright, signs surging out like visceral slabs
I’m the distance dark goes through
assume solid until there’s no way around, the still point
as home approaches and closed doors roll to the underside
notes of positional tone shades with a more reptilian ear, 
resonating feathers not all native

the radio’s volume dial’s the accelerator
I steer with my breath, whether through mouth, nose or ears
quick construction where my hair was
whether impact or navigation
the curb pulls up to me, how many vertebra in this median
not potholes but severed nerves anesthetized with the promise of rain

I get paid 4 gallons an hour but where do I put it
navigating inside the mountain
the ocean doesn’t want me today
the ticket demands I use it, now
cause the fan doesn’t stop, indeterminate light
when shadow comes from all directions
mirror hovering wall-less
wouldn’t bump it if I knew

this roundhouse slap of a sparkling beverage
an edible visor, the shirt won’t come off without a rib or two
fed by stillness, robbed by wind, too certain to balance
cash in on the rise

in the same car going different places
I shouldn’t be here til tomorrow
I’m just borrowing this time zone
all along telephones have been faulty teleporters

want that so bad I could absorb it before dissecting
taking out the sides but leaving the connections
whistling like I had 3 lips and a split tongue
among buildings this tall this close am I echoing or eavesdropping
sharing half-conversations like unnoticed sneezes
too many to swat away, in no mood  to sample

behind below betides behemoth
plasmic street cape, skin allergic to neon
no light without fumes, agitation, impropriety necessary for variation
why not a deck with 5 suits, remote control snaps

rolling out the turf in the bedroom, the weight of travel
in the time it took me to build this car I could’ve walked
to another country or got an exclusive interview with the king tide
when the moon strikes its own match and sky begins to curl and ash, 
finally a new chapter confusing calendars with street maps
circle to remember, X marks what we don’t want

for every unknown a question, some ends are not beginnings
some means are cruel, sitting down, further down
determined to redefine horizontal the only parallel are mirrors
aneurysm trying to find level, caramelized blood
the value of vertigo in zero gravity
with so many possible directions one of me is never enough—
the driver, the shotgun, the squirrel under the hood. 
tarpaulin sky about to drop and take shape,
who the door opens for

No Meat     No Blessing     No Rhythm     No Fire

first the feet are warmed and wrapped, contact/friction scything from the earth
I would live like lamplight, lamb’s butter
sheening the mist above a nascent city, a city 95% asleep 
gurgles beneath my skin a 10 by 10 of hand woven percale 
too breathy to shade, like vegetables constantly recycling 
as light is friction til the wind concludes 

no light, no fins, no hemp or flax, no way but walking--
if the ground won’t melt, if the shoes aren’t thick enough 
where can the knees learn to look, observatories of strategy, 
1 millionth of every utterance, the task flint knaps

one more set of cabinets than I remember
when I wished I was small enough to go in them, where I could fold tomorrow
making myself modular, days I don’t need my brain, nights my hands go wireless
with some mornings hard to scrub and de-scent
so I don’t remember waking within bathrobes scented maroon

across the river for a nickel
to the dawn of shattered pottery
with nothing new to eat on
hands anointed with gravy, stained with what anonymous birds and squirrels 
have seeded on the back side of a lawn too homogenous to survive

no feather, no light, no admissible evidence
a 12 foot iron rod thrust in the middle of the street
to warn of lightning’s song, to remind the wind of breakfast
crashing into my rectangular flanks, ribs like shutters protecting lung windows
as sunlight fades all to grey 

sweet stump seething as three clouds break formation and lower themselves 
into the clear triangle of my wandering eyes, the six compass points 
almost bubbling a spectral sheen when the right hand of an afterthought, 
a bath not bacon, thin inundations of gravity washing down my skin 
as a curative erosion ,to stand straighter naked when  ceiling and doorways 
no longer a threat, night hovering outside the house’s skin
frayed wiring thatched to glow with all that throughs—
from wind to radio waves to memories evaporating in the attic, 
shining in a gesture, anvil slipping through sodden doorway, blink of an egg

i dance in two dimensions, parry in two others, seamed with hesitation, 
precipice in the freezer, lactation as the sun’s rise starts each sweet day 
flecked with gold where flesh slightly surrenders to friction 
while seeing all the windows and roofs shifting to reflect the floating solar commas 
the soured morse code of genes multiplied across a continent 
seeking the bars and staves of urban development rank with pinwheels.
on still days the sighs of the earth slow everything

take 20 strides and drill through the sixth possible wave
core-sample the seven possible results, antennas evenly spaced
on pottery skulls exhaling the candle trapped wickless inside them will flame 
when each can imagine a world of air,   circulating,   recycling through 
subtle solar machinery as plants turn their backs to metal and plastic 
respectfully rejecting til lambent bones sprout their subtle dance 
scented with almonds and curry, with ash and forgotten flesh

my head plunged into the sun while my feet dissolve into the mycelium 
of freezing night and shredding stars whose brilliant proclamations are 
complex fluxing yin-yang mirrors, how stars seduce each other with gravity—
let’s get closer,  we can merge, we can seep into it, we can surround the problem 
until it’s too weak to not surrender, cutting off inputs, turning up the heat or noise or niceness
whatever the problem abhors, whatever the next era, when a generation is less than 10 years
each tribe must be immediately distinguished, not the subtle variations of warbler or sparrow

what media left what stain on you, how retained, how incorporated or fought
like mutant snowflakes of silicon and intent, the architectures tells us volumes, 
the wind has dissolved ambiguity across generations who no longer speak 
through the same mouths, mistaking the coffee grinder for a telephone 
mistaking the shaver for a friend. knocking for the sound of nothing,
not hinged, pressure bubble rising as the edge gets fat as a destination
as horizons just a lunge away, having enough faith in the vacuum’s imperfections 
as if memories weren’t encoded in my dandruff

all singing, all dancing, all fed, all horny 
but shy or otherwise committed til glandular thunder 
drives us above the roof, ontologically precarious,
a select seed of light sliding down each hair til tingling roots’
bio-quantum entanglement—in half a blink we’re back 

dan raphael's 26th book, Out in the Wordshed, will be published around October by Last Word Press. More recent poems appear in Synchronized Chaos, S/Word, Oz Burp Eight, Nauseated Drive and Unlikely Stories.
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