After realizing all the references to Christmas in my poems and prose, I decided to put together an online holiday EP of spoken word pieces–set to music and ambient sound–that include at least one allusion to the season. Below the tracks are the words for anyone interested in reading along.
Thanks for listening and Happy Holidays!
On New Year’s Day he decided to disappear.
He drove past the neighborhoods
with lonely Christmas lights lingering
like a drunken holiday thought.
He drove past his hometown and Memphis
and Econo Lodge river ghosts.
He drove through Texas, where he remembered
Austin and late millennial punk-a-billy scenes
and a mosh pit rescue.
He was dizzy in the suburban desert
where overpasses framed him
like a lost missionary.
He drove up and down Highway One
until the ocean tasted like Whiskey Sours,
the sky opened up to a terra-cotta neon carnival
and tilt-a-whirl helicopter ride to river pagodas
where he caught a cyclo through a Cao Đài portal
that landed him at a bar in Tennessee,
staring at an empty glass of Japanese whisky.
Nothing but Khmer pop songs
from ’67 to soak a Holiday Inn memory:
four days before Christmas and west
of yesterday, “Cracklin’ Rosie”
and the 1-5-4-1 carousel songs
that bring us around and down,
to the floor
“That’s Cambodia, Captain.”
“The little black egg’s gonna tell on you.”
This river runs with asphalt;
there’s no rest at the rocket,
only a reminder of where
to look for a shuttered moon
who collects the lost breaths
of long kisses and saves them
for the novel he’s not writing,
one pretty drink at a time.
The city draped in thousands
of Christmas lights, all the houses
like hipster bars on the reincarnated side
of town, I saw your face in the halo
of a runaway color-wheel.
Glitter speckled your hair
and your lips found the rim
of a martini glass over-poured
with some neon cocktail
that made me smile
until a Magnetic Fields
song made me weep
into my beer, like syrup.
Let’s kiss under the speaker; it’s better
than mistletoe because, if you cross your eyes,
we might get stuck like this during a song
we’ve never heard but have loved
since God started the band.
For every song you’ve heard,
there are 127 you haven’t
that already vibrate
at your frequency.
For every kiss we skip,
there are three storefront Santas
doing sake bombs
with stripper elves.
For every Happy X-mas
lie you whisper,
I live another day.
No Misery Left for the Gin
No misery left for the gin,
only the memory of a girl
and her hair with maraschino ambitions
that make me think of you,
the months you had the blond
highlights. That was my favorite
look: Eurasian features, hair mostly dark
and straight with a hint of sunlight
framing your face.
Plenty of gin left for the complacency.
My forehead no longer goes numb
when I drink. Maybe this should worry me,
but it doesn’t; it just makes drinking
less fun. Gone is the opportunity
to tap my brow and exclaim,
“My forehead is numb!”
Instead, I dream of snow
and Christmas lights along Le Loi Street
and decorated hotel lobbies.
It’s not December and there’s no chill,
but District 1 is dressed for a holiday
and the sugar cookies are sprinkled
with Saigon cinnamon.
This is the place I return, with its
wrong weather and rogue seasons,
between gin nights and vertigo
During my mother’s MRI, after the spot
was spotted on her lung, she returned
to Florida vacations, thirty years past.
As the machine clicked, she waded
white sand surf, watched me float
in alien salt water to a breaker’s
white noise soundtrack.
Maybe I’ll remember dinner music
on the Perfume River, or a Choco cone
melting in my hand as I stood on a corner,
staring at the back of the Saigon Opera House
across a muffler and handlebar carousel
of headlights and sidesaddle evening dresses.
Maybe I’ll breathe the incense breaths
of Marble Mountain pagodas and hum
the melody of a Carpenters song
heard on a Vietnam Summer Sour rooftop.
Maybe I’ll think of this beer and guitar dusk,
Brown’s trailer pub with its own off-season
Christmas lights and no misery
in the singer’s voice. He’s happier
than us, judging by his songs
and the ones we write.
Still I smile and wish
this place served gin,
misery or neat.
I lost Santa Claus.
Let me keep