The Perfection of Loneliness

when I was very young, made of nothing but water,
waking up at three in the morning
and staring at the shivering orange digits of the digital alarm clock
was like being sheltered in the right hand of God,
and the air itself was a basket lined with cloth.
now I know all the memories that surge
of making love in hotel rooms in unnamed towns
while jet planes flew so close to the roof
that flecks of yellowed paint stuck to my back
and fell off like angry leaves when I went
to clean the bathroom mirror of its years
with a distant hand.
I wake up next to the scream of a girl
who generously includes me in her nightmares
and drive through the blonde twilight
to buy murderous condoms and chinese tea
in supermarkets that throb like the bellies of lizards
timid faces slaughtered by fluorescence
drifting like featureless rings of smoke
over the scuffed white tiles.
when I see the beautiful wrinkles
around the lunar eyes of human faces
when I see the shattered geometry of their smiles
as they line up in the noise of rain on endless airplane metal,
I to be in their midst like a smell of perfume
I want to sleep next to a coral reef
and wake up stretching limbs without gravity
caressed by the passing of electric eels
I am confronted by senseless paperwork
and wisecracking politicians with faces
made of burning newspaper
bloody thumbprints covering lost addresses
and windows that open into snow and silent birds
and I shudder when I see eternity flickering
behind the exhausted midnight face of the cashier.
I have sat across desks from senseless vampires
who would like to staple the sunset to a spreadsheet
and watched lines of jet exhaust streak
through the gentle rhythms of a girl’s red hair.
I slept on park benches at the foot of great cities
pushed past orgasm by twinkling blue lights
that transcended their architecture
and woke up to write scattershot psalms
on birch bark with an aching fingernail.
I wake up to find myself alone in a silent parking lot
shaving my cold face in a strip mall’s window
while the young faces at parties that have long ended
whirl around me like confetti, laughing at jokes that I’ve forgotten.
I am haunted by false expressions of old friends,
by the noise of useless flags whipping at the wind.
the landlord’s face like a whirlwind of thumbtacks
is blurred by perfect music from unseen bells
and my bed shines like a landscape of white beach sand
while her black eyes get lost in the coffee.
I am as happy as a toddler as long as there is music playing,
as long as I can sense the way the horizon crawls past everything
surrounded by the smell of growing moss.
I am a comedian trapped in the midst of winter,
a joker going toward on a tandem bicycle
while legislative branches sway in the ice wind above my head
with a pair of lace purple underwear
wrapped around my fertile headache.
I have laughed at the funerals of overripe relatives,
spilling punch into shallow graves
and been glad that those who died in car crashes
will never have to pay their phone bill or brush their teeth again.
not to mention the wars that streak by
like stripteasers hurriedly gathering their clothes
pretending to be prepared for the next greedy guest.
there are high cliff walls of television static
gleaming on mountainsides
that I have seen from the windows of a greyhound bus
and when the captain’s voice ricochets through the intercom
I am kissing the back of some girl’s neck
while time waits, shivering
perched on her marble shoulderblades like a nervous mouse,
and the other passengers let their countenances freeze shut
in the merciless air conditioning.
when I visit busstop restaurant bathrooms and prepare to go out
and greet my friends again
at a table that shines like a flattened sun
covered with weaponry
my face in the ancient mirror is a waterfall
and the lipstick on my cheek burns like a fresh tattoo.
my memory puts its nerveless rooster feet
into the motionless metallic dust of an airport floor,
the payphones laugh as canned sitcom audiences
and the runway glides with distant families that never arrive.
it is the dawning of a new era
and I have spent centuries searching for my carkeys
and a place to enter traffic
while the yellow lights blur like stars too close for observing
and the sunspots make all our radios flicker
and the red lights land on solitary faces
and pinpoint them at the center of gravity itself
pedestrians going always into the unknown
while strangers make love behind second floor windows
and scatter their impatient energy on the bald heads of bums
in the pulsating alleyways, searching for the remnants of other people’s joy,
searching for the scrap of metal that would make all the engines pause
searching for an oblivion that lasts under streetlights
that have been mapped by midget astronomers
with their lenses turned backward.
look at the way the fire ant crawls silent
on the long thin minute hand of the clock,
look at you lover’s tongue darting in and out of her mouth like a comma,
look at the exclamation points in your parent’s glistening eyes
as they retreat from your strange life,
their footsteps punctuated with millions of alien hip-hop rhythms
as your bones creak with urgent growing on a dance club floor
always completely alone
always completely surrounded.
now the joys and the horrors will line up like drunks at infinite barstools,
like heads in a barber’s mirror,
like rows of convenience store customers
who are patient only because they are so tired.
in this placid fog that settles on vacant parking lots
where hands clasp together like mating reptiles
in the place where time stutters before the next dawn
and the noise of the rushing air
is like an acoustic guitar falling over and gasping from its belly
we can hear too many frigid, painted fingers
pressing too many incomprehensible buttons,
and our kisses will have to press through the corners of the brain
just to shut out the hollow sounds of unfamiliar commerce.
and I have no complaint
there is always a sacred madman standing
on shingles that slant disguised as digital ocean waves
playing a lonely saxophone for me
whose throat that only I can hear
starves every star for oxygen
as his eyelashes are knocked off by the ecstatic violence of the moon.
there is always an angel of death with his friendly neon hand on my shoulder
as I shake the scent of sex out of my denim pants,
waiting patiently to see myself climb through the numb arms
of a roadside pine tree like a de-evolving missing link,
to call to God to erase the strains of terrible pop music
from the pages of my classical symphony
that gathers in its notes like sudden ferns
at my doorway every morning
and dies in the afternoon,
cradling the notes
like a meteorite crater
filled with cigarette ashes.
I have no complaint
for the ex-girlfriends and paralyzed telemarketers that pound
the womb of my telephone
or the president that winks like an octopus
from the eye of channel zero.
I have no complaint
for the robotic newscaster
who tells me that the milky way is bent out of shape
or the or the elderly woman who groped my legs
at one in the morning in an empty bus stop.
if we are to live on scraps, let us gather them.
I have no complaint
there is always a young girl with eyes brighter than quarters
her hands, gentle and dangerous spiders,
crawling the keys of a dusty, frail piano
in the wide-open garage
of my memory.

Luke Buckham is a prolific contributor to Spread.