90 Proof Sky

Drink this sunset with me.
I know it’s not much;
winter has drained most of the colors
the reds are weaker and there’s
a tone of finality in the blues
like barbed wire.

But sip on the song of this waning light
anyway, a toast and a funeral for
the warmth we used to have in abundance
and the intensity we had co-opted
for our own anthem and gotten
so drunk off of in each other’s presence
the laughter that sweetened the four walls
as if we had out of thin air created love
of enough quantities to convince
impressionism to make a comeback
in the digital age just to rain down
ones and zeroes on our constellated bodies
in bursts of amethyst purple and
sparks of emerald green
and that unnamed and elusive
mad brushstroke of the divine

I still feel like an unfinished
canvas every time I think of you

and to be honest I didn’t think
I’d still be here in December
watching the changing sky and wondering
about stars, wondering if they had
also written our paths crossing
a second time as they had ordained
and orchestrated the perfection
of our first encounter
but they are silent and keep their secrets well
no matter how hard I beg for answers

but later, as twilight moves to claim
your consciousness and you slip
into the softness as you would
if you had my eyes to drown in,
drink that haze that toes the line
between tomorrow and today

as if you are kissing me again
as if you are getting lost in me again

if this changing sky is all we have
make your thirst all about that
slowly fracturing dusk

After the Polar Vortex

The city broke its fever

shedding the sweat-stained spell
of restless sleep and
coming back into itself

the river tore asunder its
stifled shifting, roars choked
by murderous hands of ice
prison of stars
cauldron of last breaths
visible from space, more
ominous than premonitions
of Armageddon.

The bullet,
it only grazed us.
Humanity crosses the threshold
ready to be hurt
by the elements again,
welcoming this lesser cruelty
like a dear old friend.
It’s interesting, the shapes
we become after we get pulled
past our limit, then released.
Knuckles feel soft as kisses now,
kindness is a vision
of an inconceivable spring.

A friend of mine Instagrammed
a picture of herself in a bikini,
flaunting her tan at a perfect
La Union beach. I told her
it looked like the place
I would someday go to
after I died and went to heaven.

I listened to another friend
repeat for the millionth time
the joke about zero degrees
being the perfect time
for Chicagoans to hold
a backyard barbecue.
As if self-harm were
a virtue, and we throw
parties in its honor.
I laughed politely and
grabbed more siling turô
for my sinigang.

The cars on Western
wore faces of salt and
grime, like a ravaged armor.
I saw her through the window,
standing in the fog.
A stranger looking up to read
the signage at the bus stop.
Her violet hair swallowed
the dusty light, as if
it were passion
becoming a poem.
It made me notice all
the parts of me that are
still devoted to the cold,
waiting to feel.

Twenty-seven Below

Don’t go to sleep.
Put your ear to that heartbeat
but don’t lose yours, please
be vigilant about that river wind.
Your attention so arrested
by the slow-motion spectacle,
ice crystals on her lashes,
galaxies trapped and humming
inside a pane of glass
under the bridge,
your commonplace hungers
and miseries brittle on each
suspended breath,
vulnerable and staring
at that exquisitely adorned
face of death
prettier than usual
a mere few steps away
from the hearth, from everything
that you don’t notice it unraveling
our tangle of warmths
into small, fatal solitudes.

* * *
The polar vortex of 2019 has been linked to at least 21 deaths.
Some of the Chicago homeless were among them.

Vacant, Celestial

It’s almost two-dimensional,
that winter sky before a snowfall.
Sheet of stifled light hangs
over our heads, paper tacked
onto a gray ceiling, a lonely page
asking for a poem.
It forfeits all other possibilities
in favor of one; it mourns
in its sleep, the cold more
an insinuation than memory.
Those icy hands have previously
brutalized me;
doesn’t mean we are intimate.
The wind that carries its alto
stabs requiems into my flesh,
purple dirges on my skin
for whom touch had never
been enough despite the lies,
always claiming otherwise
to the lover, to the hunger,
and the wait,

that wait for the sky’s descent
as divined by meteorologists,
modern oracles with instruments
almost down to the half minute,
like a drumbeat of frozen seconds,
a funeral of mornings,
denouements, erasures

The Last Days of Winter

I have to stop looking for that
cross-shaped shadow cast
on bare brick, reclaimed
architecture changing
as the light changes.

I have to stop falling for that
peripheral purpose
enigmas that don’t take root
and actually say something
even if it means defending
a flaw I would like to
pretend isn’t there.

I have to stop disturbing that
where home is not compromised
by a borrowed hour being
given back on the spring forward.

I have to stop calling it
looking at my own intentions
with an outsider’s eyes
the closest to confrontation
being a casual gaze
settling on the shell,
melody with no lyrics
skimming everything
the melancholy touches,
envying what it doesn’t.

The Weight of Beginnings

Solemnly the cold feasts on the leveling chaos,
peaks of emotion in a glittery heap, teeth of ice
picking clean the bones of songs played on loop
yesterday and sang along to so feverishly every
time but today are suddenly passé, old news.
Curve of the road dipping into a view, twelve-
color sunset sky to the left; sweep of raven
black to the right, perforated by a grid of
windows, flickering lives. The winter speaks
only in extravagance, stranger to moderation,
art of erasure calligraphized across streetscapes
in white ink and shiver. There are no politically
correct headlines among the salt-encrusted cars
and lonely park benches.

The old year pulled away from the port like a
Viking ship, taste of ash and dirges speckling the
ocean while a birth is forced with ritual dances
and confetti. Morning slithers in past the dime-
a-dozen weary, looking for ways to carry
possessions and prized griefs over the cold
and find none. All the deserted bus stops and
huddled strangers invoking both longing and
forgetting. It’s not the snow, but what is
snow-like about it: six-sided, beautiful,
unconditionally bound to the locus of the
wind, that makes that first day an irony and a
microcosm, by superstition, of what the future
has in store.

December in Cambridge

“There’s something people didn’t
tell me about snow,” he said
that morning, blanketed in white,
his first winter in Massachusetts
as a Fulbright student. “It has
a sound, a soft patter like rain,
only smaller and more quiet.”

I thought it was less a sound
than the act of deleting
a sound, purple feather
balanced between catching
your breath and the next slow
exhale. Rustle of velvet
drapes in a theater, alive,
crouched in wait for the world
to begin. Cast of
a yearned-for love
in a plaster of bright and
blinding before it hardened.
Nano-currencies of sky
on installment. The unraveling
of virginity, in reverse.

Aleph, full wingspan,
muse preoccupied on
a speck of light,
right before thought
touches paper.

* * *
(From a Facebook conversation with Timothy James Dimacali.)