DEATH RATTLE

always the bridesmaid, never the bride
he dresses in your sister’s clothes
and sneaks up behind you
with piano wire
he strangles you
just when things were beginning
to go so well.

lies. lies. lies. lies.

it’s life that’s the killer;
so dramatic, so whiny
callin you at two in the morning
when you gotta work the early shift.
calling lonely and horny
when you gotta work the graveyard shift
and shit, man
you know you gotta call in
because seize the day
carpe diem-
am i right?

but no-
death is the asshole.
the one who punches you
in the kidneys,
makes you piss blood
not true!
not true in the fucking least
life has just perfected
her death costumer.

but life is the day
and death is the night
right?
wrong.
if life is the day
and death is the night
then why do you crave
a little more two a.m.
and a little less
six thirty in the godless
morning?

death is your ally.
your friend
who just wants
to get you drunk.
tell you
to dump that bitch.
she’s just playing games
with your head, man.

life.
shit, man.
life is your friend
sometimes.
death is always waiting
by the phone
for you to call and
hear me, you:

when life stabs you in the back,
when she
sleeps with your best friend
and turns off your alarm
so you’re late for work.

when life cancels your insurance
just before driving your car
into the first brick wall
she finds.

when she strikes you
with sodium penethol,
truth serum,
just before
your lifetime achievement speech
and calls your mom
and tells her you murdered someone
and the cops catch on
and they break into your house
in the middle of the night
and arrest you for the crime
that life committed,

hear me, you, brothers and sisters.

death will be the friend
who takes a taxi
to the penitentiary
to try and bail
your sorry ass out.

life is the terrorist who hijacks the plane.
death is the friend who is waiting
on the other side
with a sign
with your name on it.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2013

READ “BEAUTIFUL HOUR”

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I AM AN APARTMENT BUILDING

i am an apartment building
way too new to look so old
the grass in my front yard
grows ancient and unkempt
it is manic vicious refuses to be cut
it climbs my stoop
where angry looking children
play dice games and punch each other
as hard as they can

my front door is red
you can see it from down the street
it sings like it wants something
it is trying to fill the unoccupied spaces
in my body

there are plenty of vacant spaces left within me
squatters decorate the rooms with their presence,
their knick knacks their petty sentimental garbage
and i’ve grown to cherish what they leave inside of me
if only temporarily

in the room of my head
there is a jazz club with a roof garden
the walls are rich thick wood
and the view is spectacular
the whole city is technicolor after a rainstorm from there

the jazz club is always kickin busy on the weekends
women in breathing black dresses sway to the wind blowing through
pulled along by men in nice suits with fancy hats
who know how to swing dance
they all appreciate the bass player
the way he tugs at his strings in the shadows
unseen but resonating in the blood of the party
the music is rarely driven by the words
it is all just tasteful chaos in here
on the best weekends the ghost of charlie parker comes
and plays his saxophone like he died doing that

the weekdays at the jazz club are hungover and dreary
the tables are messy, the help keep their hands full
clearing off the half full half empty wine glasses
they scrub the scuff marks out of the floors
they water the plants and they see the city around me
in the morning, when its ugly birthmarks are exposed
but they all find it beautiful and it is, just the same

in apartment number 303
there is a mad man, a painter, an artist
pacing like he, pacing like he, pacing like he
can’t finish his painting, he’s stuck, he can’t do it
he cringes in the empty corners, he holds his shins
he inspects the flecks of color on his denim jeans
he is neurotic, useless, talking to his easel and he
is lost, distant, unavailable, phone turned off, mailbox full
he has learned the art of not calling back credit card companies
he stares out windows like the world is staring in at him
he looks around paranoid for the telescopes and the spies
that probably aren’t there, but you can’t be too sure
he heard a crackle on the phone line, he keeps his chain lock on
and he has been known to play music to drown out the madness
of his babblings from the twisted ear listening in
he still hasn’t thought about his painting

in apartment 207
there’s a mother and a father with a brand new baby girl
and a jealous little boy who had to realize
there is a small possibility he is not the center of it all
they rock the little girl asleep and the boy goes out to the patio a lot
he watches the woman draining her soaked sheets the floor below
sometimes he’ll catch the rambling painter creating smoke above him
he looks out at the city like it isn’t real
like it’s something he made up to pass the time between now and then

the mother and father put the kids to bed at nine
the boy just lays awake restless in his dark bed
while the father puts a record on, gently places the needle
and him and the mother dance on yesterday’s newspaper
so they don’t spill wine on the rented carpet
they are careful not to wake their children with their need to love

the architect who designed this building must have been on drugs
there are staircases that don’t go anywhere
and there are attics where there should be basements
there are furnace rooms where there should be janitor closets
and there is this constant creaking
like the floors aren’t going to last much longer

in apartment 808
the bass bumps at inappropriate hours of the night
there is a black poet who lives there
who hums om to the radio until the frequencies pour through him
and he releases onto the white page of america
a cataclysmic inspired verse of devastating honesty
a drum beat manufactured from pieces of the artist soul
and held together with the glue of audacity
he carves his letters deep into the paper
in all caps with the taste of jaeger biting the ink

sometimes in the middle of the night
ghosts bang on his door, claw at the wood, moan in anger
but he never answers them, he just puts his headphones on
and sinks into the weight of horn-honking reality

in apartment 102
there is a 17 year old girl who ran away from home and lives alone
her boxes are half-unpacked and the rancid air is half-baked
as absurd as it sounds, she is building a tree in her windowless apartment
she is teaching it how to not need to be watered
but how to drink what is within you
she has a doll that she is teaching how to be a lady with your legs uncrossed
and how to love yourself more than anyone else ever could
because nothing is ever as unpredictable as someone else’s heart
she drew a painting of a window to hang on her wall
to feel like she can see what is outside of her room
there are mirrors all over her apartment, though she never looks in them

this building is not young
it has its history
there are plenty of people
who have been buried
beneath the floorboards
there is not really anything
to get bloodstains out of carpet

the ghosts they meander where and when they want to
they have no conception of daylight moonlight
they are not being afraid of being seen
they have learned that there is a beauty to be invisible
there is a certain power that comes with being dead
they mostly dance with one another
the hard part for them is always letting go
when the music stops, when that great something
evicts them from my apartment building

the wallpaper in the halls is peeling
the tenants take their hands and try to push it back up
but it wants to fall
reveal that beneath repetitive floral patterns
is porous walls that haven’t breathed in centuries

there is a great coat rack in the foyer
that will hold the hats of strange male guests
and the secrets of lonely old-fashioned women
it will hold the hands of crying honesty
and it will put your coat on your shoulders when you’re cold

in apartment 719
there is a couple that only leaves to let out the dog
to fetch the paper that they never read and to
buy the groceries that they’re so sick of buying
and they fight like the room had poisoned them
and they yell like they hoped someone would hear
the floor is broken dishes, the living room
is an out-of-business wedding chapel where they
look through old photographs that are starting
to not look like them anymore

in apartment 117
there is a back door that a tenant leaves unlocked
and on cold city nights, a couple sneaks in
and they lay on the bed that doesn’t have any sheets
and they take each other’s clothes off with their teeth
and they stare at each other naked and the talk to each other naked
and they find that after the roar of the heat of their sex
after they roll around on someone else’s bed
they find that they only want to stare at each other’s eyes
blinking and watching them dilate like ecstatic black holes
they leave scratches on each other’s backs
sometimes they write things in each other’s skin
“i would have kissed you while the twin towers fell”

sometimes they lay on their backs and watch the fan blades turn
in the heat of the summer they let open the back door
and they don’t worry about getting caught
because they haven’t really done anything wrong

the tenants change, the rooms get better then worse
the landlord mostly keeps out of the building
except for an occasional late night call
where he shows up with a flashlight and a wrench
and a midnight hangover to fix the frozen pipes

everyone shares the same washer and dryer there
everyone pays the rent as late as they possibly can
everyone knocks on someone else’s door at some point

i am not a model home
filled with hypnotic real estate agents
thick wallets yapping their mouths up and down
and little pieces of cheese pierced by toothpicks

i am not a suburban ranch style home
with sparkling floors and one family that i hold dearly

one of these nights
one of my tenants will be drunk and reckless
passed out in oblivion on some shitty couch
they will forget they turned the burner on
the hot stove will set fire to the walls
i will burn down and those who occupy me
will flee in quick fast lines
but once they are safe
they will turn and watch me go
taking with them what they can

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO

READ “WAKA”

SAID THE GUEST BED

The Lamp always sat on top of the Desk and it made the Wardrobe incredibly jealous. The way she oozed heat onto him. The Wardrobe knew it was because the Lamp thought the Desk was “wise”. She told him every day. She said the Desk made her shine brighter. Told the Wardrobe he was made of cheap wood. Told him he probably couldn’t handle her heat if he wanted to. The Wardrobe was older than the Desk; his skin splintered and his innards were a bit disheveled. He was a bit of a fire waiting to happen. Though, to be fair, the whole room was picking up dust. They all lived in an attic that had been fashioned into a guest bedroom. Apparently, the owners of the home were not too fond of guests.
The group of furniture was not stupid. They knew downstairs they had all sorts of fancy Cutlery hoarded in upper class China Cabinets. China Cabinets were always so arrogant. The Cutlery did nothing. Everybody knew the Tea Cups were a bunch of whores. Tea Cups were always around, but they never got used, at least not here in the States. They often became restless and reliant on social games to feel useful. The Wardrobe always told the Desk and the Lamp that he was beyond glad that he wasn’t fashioned into a China Cabinet, but the Desk was usually too busy pending on some conundrum and the Lamp was far too busy clinging to the Desk. The Wardrobe did have a good friend in the Guest Bed, but the Guest Bed was always asleep, or simply too comforting, like a mother. The Wardrobe never could tell if the Guest Bed was just being kind or meant what she said. The Guest Bed was even older than the Wardrobe and hummed old songs a lot. Love songs. She told the other’s funny stories about the golden age, how guests in the house used to try to quietly do things to each other. How they whispered, and how they probably wouldn’t have been so bold had they known she heard every quiet moan that they tried to hold in.
There was a Window in the room. Positioned at the window a Telescope, but he never spoke a word. He just stared, longingly, at the world outside.
The Guest Bed and the Wardrobe went way back. The Guest Bed was like a mother to him. She saw him through the hard times. The Wardrobe used to have a love, you see. The Candlestick. Ages ago, the Guest Bed and the Wardrobe would tell you. But they were definitely and madly in love with each other. The Candlestick was humble and she had that flicker about her that drove the Wardrobe mad. They talked for countless days without stop. There wasn’t much to do, but they were lost in each other and the Guest Bed saw the whole thing. Downstairs, in the master bedroom, they were the envy of the rest of the house. The Wardrobe was filled with the most astonishing of suits beyond organized. They were alphabetized by designer, cross-categorized by stitch and color. Navy blues separated from dark blues. The Candle loved him because he was such a gentleman.
They knew from the start that the Candlestick had a dwindling battle with death. Each day they spent together she grew closer and closer. I love you, the Wardrobe would say, you look so beautiful, especially in the darkness. Do you not see how this flame you adore so much is bringing me closer to the end of my days, said the Candlestick.
She began to drip on him, more and more each day. The scars still remain; puddles of wax like drops of blood that stained his skin.
One day, the Wardrobe awoke to the sound of the Guest Bed screaming. An earthquake. The room filled with trepidation. The tremors scooted the Guest Bed, who was the Master Bed then, around the floor, like a dog on ice. The Windows screamed like a banshee. The Wardrobe called to the Candlestick his love, above his head, but she did not respond. In a flash, the shaking room, began filling with smoke. You’re on fire, said the Master Bed. The Wardrobe felt as if he was having a stroke. He called out to the Candle, but he didn’t even hear a flicker. Strange red and yellow men rushed in and put out the Wardrobe. The room fell as silent as a wake. The Master Bed said to the Wardrobe, the Candlestick, she’s dead.
Wardrobe was beyond shaken. For days he said nothing. His head charred and scarred, remnant wax of his love still remaining. The ceiling received third degree burns all over its skin too, and though the ceiling never spoke, it spoke to the Wardrobe in other ways.
A family came into the Master Bedroom. Stepping on the Carpet, lying down on the entry way they looked around at the Paintings, the Master Bed, the Ottoman and finally they rested their eyes, stared directly at the Wardrobe, and he stared back.
“It’s ruined,” they said, “It’s ugly,” the Wardrobe felt as if he could cry.
They put him in isolation. The attic was sparkling then, yes, but he was beyond alone up there. No Ottoman, no Painting, they hadn’t even put in the Window at that point yet. The House was new, he hadn’t even Rats running through his veins yet. The Wardrobe was separated from the ones he loved, stationary and unwanted. For a night, he cried. The Walls were there, but they could not see him, they could not hear him, they could not tell him that in the end everything would be okay. The blind, deaf, mute Walls might as well have not been there.
It was then the world weighed down on the Wardrobe and its hanger bar buckled and snapped. The suits were gone, his friends were gone, the love of his life, gone. He didn’t rest one minute that night alone in the attic.
The next morning, sounds of jilted heavy steps filtered in from the stairway. They brought up a frame and a box spring, a mattress and a comforter, all the pieces and they assembled them. The sun shining through the cracks of the attic, the Wardrobe had been reunited with the Master Bed.
Now, the Guest Bed.
Won’t you miss it down there, asked the Wardrobe.
No, you’re up here, said the Guest Bed, in that comforting way she did.
Over time, others joined forming the guest bedroom it had become. The Desk, quoting Nietzsche, like no one had ever quoted Nietzsche before. The quiet telescope, staring and staring at the new window. The young Lamp. She reminded the Wardrobe of the Candlestick and the day they set her in the room, he thought maybe, just maybe, she could fill the emptiness within.
She burned bright, yes she was younger, but time is such a fleeting thing, and opportunity even more fleeting. The Wardrobe made her laugh. The Guest Bed saw the way his frame over the years leaned more and more her direction, but the Guest Bed saw the way the Lamp stuck by that Desk’s side. The Guest Bed had always been alone. She was gorgeous, yes. The dresses that wrapped her were the most beautiful and detailed you’d ever see but she was a Queen. Men feared her size and knew they would look small beside her. She had nothing to give but comfort, warmth and patience, but sadly it was strange couples who only took her up on her offers.
Someone ascended the stairs. Strange men filtered in. Stared at the Wardrobe, and taller than them both, he stared back.
“That’s the one,” they said, and they pulled him downstairs, carelessly, his sides scraping, scratching the walls, his charred head bumping the ceiling. A woman followed, grabbed the Lamp like a trophy. The Wardrobe was in pain, but he saw the Lamp, thrown in a bin, with other small items. But they continued outward with him.
The strange men threw him in the street. He shattered into pieces of wood. Bones breaking. They liberally poured kerosene on him like they were drowning something out. The strange man took a Match, those poor short-lived beings, and he scraped its head against the ground. The Wardrobe tried to relax. The man threw the Match, burning bright, into the mess that was the Wardrobe. The Wardrobe tried to relax. He could feel fire. He could feel his memories of the Candlestick, burning inside of him. In his last breath, he could do nothing but burn.
Upstairs, in the attic, the telescope saw it all, but he could not say a word. The Guest Bed and the Desk knew what was happening.
Wardrobe, said the Desk, he’s in Hell out there.
No, said the Guest Bed, it is us who are in Hell.

COPYRIGHT BRICE MAIURRO 2012

READ “WENDOVER, UTAH”, A POEM

READ “THE OBNOXIOUS SOUND OF MUSIC UPSTAIRS” , A SHORT STORY