I lost my first tooth at 23,
a long time coming,
a black stone whenever I spoke.
There were aches in my knees and knobs on my back,
knots curdled and sick in my belly’s pit.
Cancer? Tuberculosis? Liver failure?
All three. Sweating profusely,
interviews and meetings,
executive discourse turning to my sins:
Masturbating in the neighbor’s bushes,
stealing mother’s pills,
not staying late and not raising my voice
when I saw that the spreadsheets were wrong.
Chimney a pack each day unfiltered and raw
and wither in disparaging looks:
Who pays this man?! Who hired him?
What is he doing here.
A soiled coat for cover
beneath bushes in upscale LA.
In his townhome or supermarket or liquor store,
quiet alone in a dark car,
dormitory purgatory blackened sores on his forearms.
morning bombs of genetic pot and the knees giving out,
call in later for work.
For payments and plans and commitments
that weakened your heart valves to sit any longer
packaged in a carton of gel.
And the knees giving out:
forehead giving – like an egg – crack.
An inability to count.
A drool a leak another tooth coming out.
A toe that won’t bend,
an arm that won’t move,
a bank account automatically closed.
And a cave where the gods choose your ear.