paint drying: a poem in 12 parts


these were once white overalls

now encrusted with the multi-hued

visage of progress. very rarely

do we remove before we cover up.


i remember when we painted my

childhood home. my grandparents

on ladders, everyone on old

metal ladders with paint rollers

on long handles.

this was decades ago; i was

too young to help.

they painted it green

and it remained that way

until all the paint

chipped off

and my parents moved.

so in a way i watched it dry

until i left to find

fresh paint.


there you are, in the garage,

your face a camouflage from

smears of earth tones as you

hastily wipe away sweat and

scratch itches. the canvas a

cacophony bent to your whim.

your pant legs rolled up,

the dark hairs bristly on

your shins from the cold,

the speck of white paint

on your glasses, david bowie

blaring like god's word from

an old boombox--it was all

i could do to keep from hoisting

you to the bedroom right then

and there.


in the shower you see swirls

dripping from your newly-minted

hair, maroon droplets of

watered pigment seated on your

collarbone and descending down the

valley between your breasts,

pooling in the vestige of your

belly button.

no man, new hair. new man,

new hair. you remember "south

pacific" and sing it loudly

to no one.


she wore a fordite pendant

that resembled an acid trip

bottled in a jewel. she wore it

during sex because it amused her

to watch him stare at it while

she rode him. like he forgot

she had great tits. like she was

hypnotizing him.


& then you remember—you are

made up of layers too.

& you count: how many layers

before i can be

polished & pretty?


i'm always disappointed

by the graffiti around my

neighborhood. one time

someone just wrote "what?"

on the wall of a mexican

boutique. as though

the wall caught me watching

it eat mayonnaise out

of the jar.


you said you hated needles,

except for the one that

pressed ink into your flesh,

splaying your mother's favorite

flowers down your arm

and a celtic knot on your right

shoulder blade. the one that

took blood made you faint;

the one that drew blood

made you horny, desperate for

soft warmth when you returned

from the parlor. this, i suppose,

is the essence of nuance.



i am staring at walls.


i am writhing out of

old snakeskin

eager to see the

color of the fresh

skin beneath.


every evening you

put on a new

youtube makeup tutorial.

contouring. highlights.

how to make your

plucked-thin 90s-era

eyebrows look like

actual eyebrows.

he tells you you're beautiful

and you don't need makeup,

his arms around your waist.

and when you answer: "it's

not for you, it's for me,"

sometimes at night you think 

why is it for me?


i miss your breath of onions after a big italian meal, & the lethargic stroke of your words when you've had too much to drink. you sitting at the dinner table, your elbow on the table & your hand up, index finger pointed droopily at the party to which you are making a point as you swirl spaghetti around a fork with your other hand. i miss when you got bronchitis & lost your voice, so i bought a bell that you could ring when you needed something. i'm like pavlov's hospitable dog when i hear a door chime now.


slowly you drag the sopping

paint brush down the canvas,

priming it, quelling the argument

in the recesses of your mind:

this is futile this is art

you're a failure no one fails

when they create.  no one


soon there is naught but thick red

where beige once waited.

you sit, catch your breath,

sip la croix,

waiting for the paint to dry.