If you stare at an alligator for too long they can read your mind.

I find my poems in pieces, the same way they find me. Every poem, okay, almost every poem starts as a scribble in a notebook.

I consider my unresolved poems as longish notes. If the poem is resolved, it’s no longer a note. The opposite of note is memory. Note is reliable. Memory is not. Writing a note is a joy in a way we hoped writing a poem would be. Then we became poets.

When all else fails and I’m desperate for a sense of completion I rummage through my notebook for notes that I can assemble and fool myself into thinking they hold together with some sort of poetic ¬– or language – logic. Occasionally, it works†. Occasionally.

Her tongue in my mouth, could taste every word she ever said. On a napkin? No. A bank deposit slip? Many times.

The best place for notes is in a notebook. Browsing is not only possible, but pleasurable. You can’t browse a computer. Sitting in a coffee shop with nothing to write I find myself writing about the strangers surrounding me. Even makes notes of their conversation.

“She’s afraid to say she never loved him, married over a year.” How do you reply to that? “I need a haircut.”

The envelope my paycheck comes in? Twice.

Notes made on random scraps of paper must be transcribed in a notebook as soon as possible. Before long they disappear. They always do.

The dead walk through the world with their hands over their eyes. I was sitting in my car. The only paper was in the glove compartment. On the back of an insurance certificate from State Farm is where I wrote this note. Something about that feels fitting.

My girlfriend* was buying shoes. We were walking through a mall and something red and pretty in a window caught her attention. I didn’t need shoes, and since the stop was unplanned didn’t have a notebook or anything to read with me. “Yes, they look great on you” is what I said about each pair she tried on. Though she had beautiful feet and no shoes could do them justice. A line occurred to me. Lines do happen this way if you keep your mind in wander-mode.

She was standing in front of the mirror a little longer in a pair of open-toed brown shoes, a canvas texture of some sort, if I remember correctly. Needing a place to write the line that occurred to I wrote it on the inside top of the shoe box from which the open-toed brown shoes that she was admiring came from. These, of course, were the pair she would buy, none of the other trials in front of the mirror lasted so long.

At home I looked for the line on the inside of the box. It wasn’t there. She bought a different pair, a fancy sort of athletic shoe, and I hadn’t noticed.

Someone, eventually, bought the other shoes. I wonder what they thought when they opened the box and saw my note. It’s simply a coincidence that every woman I’ve ever loved kept anteaters as pets.

(Originally published in the Hawaii Pacific Review, Hawaii Pacific University, Vol. 14,
The Week of Harsh Holidays On Orthodox Island

Sunday/ The Weatherman’s Holiday

In the old days this holiday is why a season
changed or men consummated a threat.
Bitter men call this Revenge Day.
Greeting cards are expected.

Monday/ The Day of The Atoned Rock

Candles burn. Prayers ends
with a name. Young girls secretly
relish this day: the trumpet’s
sour notes, the possibility of aftermath.

Tuesday/ Adulteress’s Day

Who wears a blindfold?
Who’s ear is cut off? Anonymous gifts.

Wednesday/ The Festival of Catastrophe

Windows are covered with red crepe paper.
Babies born this day are named after hurricanes.
Lavish parties and dances are held.
Only fast music is played. When this holiday falls
on an even date people buy expensive blankets.

Thursday/The Assassin’s Carnival

Parties and dances are also held,
though the music is louder. Gifts are exchanged.
Promises are made. Imagination
is under siege. Doors must remain open after
dark, even if no one is home.

Friday/ Electrician’s Birthday

Only two traditions are practiced.
From midnight to midnight sleeping
is not allowed. What people do to stay awake
is unique. Written confessions
are sealed and left with relatives.

Saturday/The Biographer’s Sabbath.

Nothing to do with memoirs or survivors.
Families eat breakfast together. By noon,
a sigh of pity. Men are given a chance
to change their names. The lambs
are slaughtered for dinner.

It sounds so immature to say “girlfriend” but it accurately describes the relationship and explains why I would be there while she was buying shoes.