The New San Francisco Poetry Underground:
Nic Alea


Nic Alea

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 125 in December, 2010.

ix of swords
glazed coral

my father said
that the reason for living 
was getting ready to stay dead

and william faulkner said 
some things boring as a motherfucker
straight out of text
where we all lay dying

and i’ve seen a garden 
where an urn of glazed coral
holds the crushed bones 
of a 19 year old boy I never knew
and you said 
that when you found him
his fingertips were black
like the noose bruise around his neck
and the pictures pouring out his pockets
has visions of the scratched out faces
of all the people who never spent the time
to know him.
you said that you left him
hanging from the cedar rafters
until his family came back 
from england
and the house
stayed cold enough 
to preserve his body
stayed cold enough 
to keep ghosts wandering around
the floor boards,
shoving suicide notes
down their throats
and you said his hands
and you said his hands
and the way you moved your hands
was me reading an obituary 
of every heart i’ve ever seen
pumping through thin skin
progressing a way to give in.

and i was just a child 
in a stillborn costume 
kneeling on the carpet
examining my bic wounds
penciling cursive quotes
onto the wall 
about trying to resurrect friendships
out of fault lines
but instead swimming circles
in blood stains
too scared to feel the heat 
of my own body,
and there is a gangland
of violence under this skin
where a 6.7 earthquake
shook the foundation
of my childhood
and ruptured into 
pulling up daisies from
the bedroom carpet
exposing lies like rosebushes,
shaking hands with rat poison,
petal pushing the canyon, 
writing the word “hate”
on the crown molding inside of my closet
and i should have known then,
but in retrospect
no bright eyes sing songs
can channel a pigeon
to keep its wings out of hell 
and i’m sorry 
about the phone call
and waking you,
i guess it’s just like breathing 
but not wanting to
some decisions you don’t make

some choices can’t even be faked
sometimes money is all you need
for two feet of rope 
and a kick in the gut,
i don’t care if you deny it, 
we’re all so obsessed
with death 
as we lay dying.

i saw a man 
cross the street in north beach
dressed in mourning
carrying white calla lilies
balancing on raven’s feet
persuading the vultures
to save face
so he could cast a death mask
out of post mortem reflection
and a suicide is not worth
more than bus fare in this city 
and i’ve swung each one of 
my own corpses
out of apartment windows
just to watch my body crumble
but i’ve never seen a body die,
but i know when i do
his hands will look
like ostrich feathers curling
against a gust from the santa ana’s
and enough tears of holy water and oil
will tumble down these stone steps
where you told me 
about a memory 
of a lifeless teenager
that had exhausted
his connection with the earth,
so he wrapped a noose 
around the birth of his death
and stroked his skin with chalk outlines
deep enough to say
that the reason for living is 
getting ready to stay dead
getting ready to plant calla lilies 
and get back in the water.