dresses and mud; lilting finality; Cagliari before a storm

dresses and mud

A still-beating blood-ink pen sits on my bookshelf
without remorse.

the rain outside under my fingernails nips like 
a stinging nettle.

the cars,
driving in the rain, forget to call home,
while I wither away, crust covering 
my sandpaper face.

my shoes are underneath the bedpan
where they belong,

I never held the key to the coffeepot.

Usurping sleep and tour-de-force snapshot poetry 
from nerve sparks 
at the beginning of
and nervous endings.

I wrote a Preface
for the refrigerator,
which she never
got around to reading.

I honored the quiet lighting bugs of autumn.

I dreamt of clouds on sunny days
and thunder in the summer,
caramel-colored calm in 
false-flavored liquor glasses.

two tomes left unread 
on the bathroom floor,
words swirling 
in the bottom
of the bidet.
lilting finality

There’s a yellow cloud above my head.

there are secret windows and leathered scalps
waiting to be introduced, 
just beyond a moonlit nothing.

each breath a quaint reminder
as it all crashes down,
like ambivalence naked to the sun,
breezing by,
afraid of something I can’t quite 
put my fingers

gliding through liquid gratitude,
sifting through waves of pirated
twelve-inch candles on the hearth, 
still standing,
still burning.

the smell of ripening plums,
of visceral realism,
of water crashing,
of another unsalted bath,
the smell of melting wax,
of the wick softly dying,

velvet fingers on the pillowcase.

ashes in the ashtray look like the Sierra Nevadas,
backdropped by an imperfect note
straddling another cigarette butt.

the smell of greasy motorcycles
and the quiet whir of crickets,

a faint  p u r r r r
and a sad sweetness take hold, 

I can’t imagine anything,
can’t imagine 
anywhere else
Cagliari before a storm

A hair on the page,
the warm wind of tomorrow,

chainsaw mopeds 
and clanging ambulances
falling away.

a dark violet sky,
the violent sounds
and my smokey breath
coming from another
goddamn radio somewhere.

the midnight sounds slithering
through the cracks of streets,
in between marble façades.

the trash can cats in heat,
murring and peowing
later and later
as autumn sinks further
into darker evenings.

only me and the cats
awake at this hour,
orange-lit in the 
streetlight’s shine.

my aching, burning throat,
bare feet cool to the tile’s touch.

my hair falling out
onto blank pages.

a pitter-patter rhythm
beginning to beat the rooftop
as the first raindrops
wet my pages.


Stephen Kieninger is writer and teacher currently living in Cagliari, Italy. He is the former music director at KFJC, a freeform radio station in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he continues to volunteer his time from abroad. His poetry can be found in Cocktail Napkin Thoughts and Open Doors review.