Tag Archives: love

Never much liked Erykah Badu

until I heard her out of speakers on a Sunday morning

with my wife just eyes

now and then

peering out over a desktop screen

across a granite tabletop at me.

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The Gift

Gram sits beside me in the stationary elephant-gray Camry that used to belong to her. It’s her 85th birthday.

“Do you know where you are and who I am?” I ask, checking in.

“Of course, we’re in a vacant parking lot. And you’re my grandson, Josh.”

Josh is my older brother. Close enough.

She grins.

“I’m going to drive.”

Trading in her grin for a look of jaw-clenched concentration, Gram then gives the car a little too much gas and we fly off about fifteen feet before she applies the brake.

“Just nudge the pedal Gram, and press more lightly than you think you should,” is my advice, and I can hear my father in my voice.

“Are you ready to try again?”


This time, it’s a smooth departure. We pick up a little speed, avoiding the empty parking spaces, and the Camry remains on the cruising path. Gram’s expression softens some.

After we cruise the entirety of the parking lot a handful of times, I check in again.

“Grandma, how’s it going?”

“Fine, Josh, but would you like to go anywhere?” she queries, eyes still on the vanishing concrete in front of her.

“No sense in driving around here all day.”

“Well, we really shouldn’t leave,” I answer, avoiding eye contact.

“Nonsense. I insist, boy. Let’s go somewhere.”

I don’t have the heart to speak the word “no,” but I stay firm.

Gram slows the car to a stop. Puts it in park without glancing down at the gear shifter. She looks square at me. Her ears are glowing red.

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Can I borrow your astonishment?

if you promise to keep it out of water, hum to it regularly, carry it around in silk, construct toys with it by your own hand, feed it anxiety medicine if it asks, fuel it with new ideas and images, never show it the same thing twice, keep the cats away from it, only surround it with interesting people, never let it rest, introduce it to your parents eventually, then yes.


(The question up top was posed by the poet Michael Schmeltzer  on Twitter. Just wanted to clarify — hehe — I only wrote the stuff that comes after!)

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when I die

When I die I want everyone to own a piece of me. I don’t care if you think it’s disgusting. Deal with it. I’m the one dead here. You know what’s worse than having my right arm on the mantel? Being dead. But who to give my head? My friend Tom who writes horror stories in his spare time? No, even he wouldn’t have the stomach. Maybe my uncle — yeah he’d enjoy the company. I always assumed he had a few lying around the house anyway.

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we never sorted anything out
things just happened
and then more things
until there was a great pile
like stratum
until the only thing left to say was “I think it’s over”

we cried like infants not because we thought it was the wrong thing to do
but because after all of these years, it felt like we were siamese twins being torn apart

in time, I began to excavate
the things we piled
when I’d had two more beers than usual
and the shovel was handy

but the earth is always hard when you need it to be soft
and soft when you need it to be hard
and even when you do come across something
nothing will make sense anymore
I promise you that.

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A submarine at the bottom of the ocean told me something about love

A submarine at the bottom of the ocean told me something about love. We will all end up alone is what it said. Whether you are buried beside love or a thousand miles away. Time is infinite, but our lives and loves are but brief. Upon arrival, postwar, I left you and found somebody else, but the sub kept whispering to me in weaker moments. And so I left that one too. I settled on permanent bachelorhood. The boat stopped talking to me. After many, many years, I found myself in love again. The boat never said anything about it. I think it noticed my famished eyes as I lay next to her, observing her freckles. I think it realized I was out of the current at long last.

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Rascal the cat, one of my better muses

Rascal the cat, one of my better muses

Here’s Rascal, my cat. He’s one of my better muses, having inspired a number of stories and poems I’ve written, including “The Third Leroy,” which you can read here: http://www.foliateoak.com/ian-sands.html. Our other cat, Kaia, (the one not in the bag) is lovely, but not as good a muse as Rascal. Rascal is a dog wearing a cat’s body, which is to say he craves attention and gets jealous when you give attention anywhere else, including computers, television, books, but mostly his sister Kaia. He is fond of knocking expensive things over, sending back platefuls of food after they’ve sat for too long, lounging in shopping bags, stringy things of all colors and materials, defying older cat stereotypes (he’s way more athletic than our other younger, fatter cat), asking deep, probing questions with only his eyes, and going outside with his sister. My wife and I adopted him when he was already 10 years old (he’s now 14 or so), when one of her former housemates was looking for a new home for him. He has been a constant source of entertainment and affection ever since.

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I am able to love you

Every other Sunday we visit the ocean, and you run toward it

like you’ve never seen it before

every time

Meanwhile, I take it upon myself to make sure our personal items

are well hidden

every time

I envy you

and your eyes-bulging, tongue-out, little kid runs

and so I

purposely do a bad job of hiding your valuables

In this way, I am able to love you

(the way you deserve to be loved).

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Punx in Love

On the train the night after we saw Minor Threat in the city, my shirt was so filthy. I thought I’d never smell right again. When a woman sitting next to me moved away seats, you giggled. Later, you launched into a horrid rendition of “Young Till I Die,” and I leapt up and down, applauding your efforts.

On our way out of the train, the same woman who had moved away from me earlier called out cruelly, “Fat Martha over there your girlfriend, Romeo?” 

You took a step to reenter the car, but I grabbed your arm and pulled you off again.

“Get the fuck out of here, Fat Martha,” someone else yelled.

By then, the train doors were nearly closed and I wasn’t sure you heard the second heckler.

“Fuckers! FUCKERS!” you screamed – the second epithet drowned out as the train roared back to life.

When we got back to my house and shut my bedroom door, you took off my shirt – the first time a girl ever did that.

“You smell like shit,” you told me, frowning.

“Yeah I should shower,” I said, looking around for a clean shirt in the closet.

“Noooo. Stay here. Pretty please?”



“Do you mind if I finish off this forty?” you then asked, too sweetly.


Putting bottle to lips, you announced “I’m gonna be straightedge for life.”

I laughed.

“Why did you go with me to Minor Threat — you’re constantly making fun of straightedgers?”

“Because Ian MacKaye’s hot and I like to slam dance.”

“Ian MacKaye is not hot, unless you’re into big ears.”

At that, you charged toward me, and I could feel my manhood growing in my pants. A few moments later, I was in a headlock, and I had to tickle you to get you off of me. You let go, exploding into a fit of girly laughs.

“Shut the fuck up, my parents are light sleepers,” I appealed.

You shrugged, and went to sit on the bed.

Still shirtless, I walked over and kneeled in front of you, taking hold of your face in my hands. I placed my lips gently on your own. As we kissed, I grabbed your ponytail in my hand.

“That hurts,” you said, breaking free of my lips.


Then you took my head in your own hands, and I felt your tongue, dry and rugged, searching for my own.

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I Wish I Was in a Band

On a cramped stage, the rangy bassist looks at his shirtless, stringy-haired drummer

with such satisfaction and reverence

and I think there has never been a love quite like the one that rears on a stage

between musicians

who have found with each other

a worthy groove.

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