Entries in 1. Poems (25)
Poem for Wednesday
the rogue amusement of last Wednesday is not enough
to withstand what happens tomorrow like someone’s
brother who loves to believe in things you are terrible
with covers my Christopher Reeves song is a weightless
body and scratched the whole time I was in Cincinnati
I thought I had a brain tumor I remember thinking
the cars behind me do not exist yet I closed my eyes
when the world moved around me
I in bed with noises
In Mexico City so lush always above the purr
The tips of lashes flicker like the tips of lakes
A discussion on Earth torn among discussions on Earth
I could stomach the lookers a crowd of bleeders and their
Fallen the thirst of another day’s rain falls away from the slop
The child and the child and the adolescent laugh
Letters fog great washes of snow patterns
Under blankets like sunrooms and into sunrooms
Great merriment the car lights my dear
The all conquers distance and agreements take
Selfish winces the face to see or think or
Move move home move a home to the quiet pleasant
And smoke on chairs and tables of sky and gangs of clouds
A brief white above everywhere wrote the horrible
No stars ever the pavement before a stair before a stair
The modern word idle and whatever is dirt
Small movements on couches like a sort of false wallpaper
Of barns among hallways sun an empty room
How it is to fill the endeavors of some day
Everywhere wrote the horrible again
In the absolute wanting of the parts of others
like all the first lines we wear as paper shoes
here I am at 8:08 p.m. indefinable ample frame
built for a larger man but holding me up
to dig in red clay all hot daylong
my canopy is on sideways in case I tip that way
from sweat weight and pull of humidity
the street is asleep on a mattress of scenery
frozen in a winter of whitish white breathing
under water the sky looks like a person’s skin
I thought you were magic until teenagers beat you up
what insurance do I have
now words are burnt in a forest of red reddish
Orienteering in the Land of the New Pirates
The New Pirates are men who, as infants,
told their moms Keep your milk and went and suckled gas pumps.
In towns of peril and experience, were the twelve-year olds
shrugging It’s an island all around and no water.
Coming home to dark houses to moms saying, Baby
they turned our lights off.
ConEd turned their lights off. And ConEd turned
their stove off, turned their heat off. And Citgo
sucked the gas from their car. Citgo sucked back the gas from the car as they drove.
It wasn’t that they weren’t tender, didn’t want to cry—
just, they saved up each yelp and lachrymal drop
till they could stick a finger in a socket and light up the house.
I am not the fountain of all pity.
We were all afraid to go near that neighborhood.
I thought, with gold caps on their teeth, they will smile and kill.
Yes, I thought, but they are sort of— beautiful.
Destiny for them is right now and right now and right now and the air with spit hovering in it.
Hiding in the town shadows, the air gagged
with electrical currents, the cars, the people on the street lagging—
even the moon lagging behind the tides—
they would come, the New Pirates, dark in the dark.
And the light they make and the light they take is gold.
That’s the romantic in me, yes, but if you could see the latest maps.
The world is all dark
except for the pulses of natural gas etched in purple
the white of fireflies and the golden coils that trace the movements of the New Pirates.
Plus the thin red light off one police car chasing them down.
If you flipped the switch on that map
you would have seen the little boys, New Pirates-at-the-ready,
standing in line like for a carnival ride
because isn’t adventure always better than stagnant water?
—I say this standing waist deep in a swamp.
Sure the sludge this time of year is golden.
It is a swamp of ancient leaves, logs from ancient forests.
It is a few calendars until a seam of coal.
The golden sludge I think is a collection of sunlight.
It only wants to be stirred.
A crew of men from the inner city are robbing ships of the rich on the high rivers,
the highrises, the Hoover Dam.
Their treasure is energy, their loyalty to— living?
It sounds stupid.
We were afraid to even go near that neighborhood.
Still, if I had a son, I might want him
to make a New Pirate of himself. He’d be exhausted, always too thin, but that’s an honest
heartbreak. I wouldn’t want my boy to think the world is kind.
Wouldn’t want him to think his games have no dark side.
Me the supermarket braggart—
My boy was the first to mechanize his fist. My boy rides a windmill when he needs impetus.
blah blah blah, he surfs on oil slicks.
My boy says energy is the only life.
I imagine this waistdeep in a swamp.
Or am I the swamp, wanting only to be stirred?
And who is the man on the map, in the dark, eating out the heart of the swamp?
Even now the waves’ gallant receding
as still some whales go unharvested,
even now the restless continents
and the clamorous pingings in between,
just another amphibious planet crosshatched
with its giant, tsunamic reckonings
between the moon’s silvery clavicle and the clouds,
feathered and whorled. So first it’s the body’s
clamorous hatchings and another
potentially-bicuspid zygote, the egg
shakes loose from its filament into a motorcade
of sperm and Voila, another clueless hominid
kicking the Coke machine in the hall.
Someday we will all be so many
vestigial organs under glass,
decomposing glial cells of our flogged
and sanctimonious forbears as the earth
carries on with its apoplectic music,
half Hallelujah chorus,
half Flight of the Bumblebee on kazoo.
Somewhere it is autumn,
the woods tossed and heady with pitch;
it is May, the sexy Black-Eyed Susans
knock-kneed in the wind.
Already somewhere it is too late, but wouldn’t
you do it once all over,
wouldn’t you spring the beast from its muzzle
just to see if it could sing?
EARLY INDICATIONS OF THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Already the quorum of stars and their distant,
Apocryphal hum, already the field
Lashed with frost, the lightning’s frenzied
Pyrotechnics, already the sound of water
And sea’s voluminous displays, orbit
Of spinning and hurtling through the body’s
Multitude failings. Soon organelle, soon ribosome,
Soon Golgi apparatus, soon body’s rap sheet
Of forgeries and the vials on clinic shelves,
Soon eruption of fire ants like pus
From a ruptured boil, mosquito’s suicidal
Forays, the zapper’s sharp, unequivocal
Crack. Not the dream of lilies,
But of root-bulbs buried in snow.
Soon the faces of loved ones from where
Already the train has appeared.
Z – A
Zeeeee: Is a small yet visible phenomenon exerted on a body rotating directly upon
any moving wind of objects at the poles and goes east to zero at the
equator because it is an apparent right directed outwards in a clockwise
velocity in a non-appreciable suspension non-advection similar to the
Y (Why) Brings to mind the breach between the Seen and the Unseen; or, in other
more uncrinolined disciplines, the gross symbiotic effect recently stumbled
upon by Yasbel’s Knife or the Kaleidoscope of Rhizomes (See Kay.)
Xotic Haven’t seen Kay yet but news from Joan about swamps made it this way,
i.e., it’s okay to swim barefoot and petticoats are high fashion once again on
U (ewe) Yikes. Stuck between the high court judge who is pro succulent and one
who believes in goat man, man goat, man goat woman, goat goat woman,
goat goat man, but not goat man woman unions, was fired for fro(licking)
with Hellava Bottom Carter. (sound of goat stumping_____!)
Thomas Is a tank engine train? Is now a government plaza? Is my class brother? Is
real? Is buried? Is a punter of screen arts? Is one of Davis area’s most
respected dental assistants? Is conservative? Is survived by his wife of 47
S (ess) Slimester. Slimblekey. Once known for his chemical-holding fat bubbles, Mr.
Slim Shaky, aka, Whimsy Corpuscle, is survived by his wife of six months,
aka, Thomas Stout’s lovely widow.
Rooster Hoopi dopey do! I want to shake my booty out da’ door. Oops. I lost a
Q (kewpie) Is the codependent partner of U; sometimes, as in qarif, Q branches out on
her own and the results are startling and occasionally couplets. This,
however, is not easily perpetrated, so don’t even try if you’re into the four
horsemen or if you are a horse. Nothing is worse than all those qills without
the quivers. Either way, kewpies rule in quintuplets and then only on
Post Holy Rosary School of the Little Mosh Pit! I’ve just found a mosaic
bracelet with kewpies-encrusted gun metal. Close your little eyes and put
your pinkies in your ears and blow. Then write the first thing that comes to
your fingertips. Like this: mosquito.
O (boy) So Steve walked into Unit 7 and I introduced him to Malcolm who, as
you know, bites. Steve liked him anyway and was careful to wash his hands
after touching him. Later Steve called Malcolm Morty by accident, which
actually fits really well now that Malcolm is in this new stage of his lives.
When I mentioned the name change to Malcolm he bit me on the leg and all
I could say was: Oh boy, Morty, not you too!
Names I met this guy who changed my cat’s name from Pumpkin to Stella. Then I
met another guy and he changed my cat’s name from Stella to Lola.
After those guys I changed my cat’s name to Kitty, which better reflected
the fact he was 1. a cat and 2. a boy not a drag queen.
M (yum) M’s birthday is coming up. Therefore, We will eat sirloin burgers (made from
mammals) at Le Tub in Hollywood (or dolphin sandwiches, not made from
mammals). No beets, no doves, no karaoke.
Lillian I gave her the copy of the IR because she’s curious and also bought her a
journal so she can write her story. She remembers everything (maybe I’ll
collab. with her too, how weird?, anyway) to our (my s’s and my) wits
feets. When is this fete champetre? (Will you add the symbols above the
e’s?)I remember something about shopping at Chico’s and dinosaur kisses.
K(ay) Kewpie doll heads. See Yasbel’s knife.
Jackson Fetlock fetid fetishist, stand up! I’ve got geese bumps.
I Are you talking to me?
H ell no!
G She and her husband had tried to open a coffee shop in Englewood, Florida,
where the Red Tide is not a kind of tea or a communist takeover, and the guy
who was selling the perfectly wonderful space refused to negotiate. G was a
gamete, a gameshow, a gamma. She fell backwards into the pool and waited
for Gresham’s Law to dissipate. We left her there for about nine minutes,
then we pelted her with dog toys.
(m)E Are you talking to me yet?
Dungeness Crabby guy, what you want?
CLAM I am not talking about sounds or forms or silver dolls or saffron. Here’s a
money saver for you (not you, lollipops): male bonding is Canadian bacon
(which is really ham). In a small twist of things the lice attach themselves
to the baby salmon who die because fish farms are run by clergymen with
ham sandwich fetishes who then release the (he’s so cute that guy from
Boston Legal) what was I talking about? Sea lice are cling-ons and they
attach to some fish that swim upstream or river and die because (why do
they die?)—lice bites?
Boo(bs) Possibilities and everyone beautiful on tv. (See Freddie.)
I stare at the beard on the tire salesman hoping it’s hiding
something from me inside because on most days I am decent
at reading people, but he is burly in his navy blue uniform and I
would pay almost anything to get back on the road. I lean
against the counter, and look back at the shop through the window
tinting the cars in the rear of the building and the men underneath
and the tires holding on to one another in these perfectly
tilted towers. This elevator goes only to the top, and once there,
my friends, there’s just the one way down. Pit stops on these
the otherwise dramatic versions of life as a highway. And that
cliché wore me out sick in its pseudo radio rock and roll version
back in the nineties but that was an entire other decade, another
century, another time in my life and now when the song comes playing
on the speakers, covered by some country artist trying to make it big
for every one of his moms and pops and aunts and cousins sitting
on the back porch eating corn on the cob and drinking cheap beer,
I think to myself that maybe the song is not so bad after all, and even now
preferred in the original version once un-preferred. These are a people
I know all over the place. America look at your wonderful guts.
And I am wearing khaki pants I am not to be trusted I am looking
at a man who is looking at me and we are both wondering what it is
the other one really wants. And the door opens and the wind comes
in and now it is the weather that brings us together as he and you
and I and we go on standing in semi-circles and wondering what
in the world sends the rain. Because anyone who understands motors
even in the slightest sense understands a chain of command
if you push the why and how far enough you’re always eventually left
without an answer. So I sip on the coffee which is really just water
pushed slowly through a bean, a bean which once pushed slowly
through water, and soil, and air, and this very moment I hope
is a microcosm of larger things that are also not to be understood.
I have loved many women. I have married only one. I have lost
a brother and given up on people. I have no idea how to live
the honest life, the good life, the pure life, the righteous life but I
am working on living the best I can which these days I can sometimes
be proud of. And I have grown to be a better gardener and a better
neighbor and a better listener—all these things in spite of myself.
The whole world in spite of myself. We go on and you go on and in
the background the air ratchet goes on in perpetual motion, removing
the same lug nuts it will later put back on and tighten. Even the machines
take on a life of habit. You can drive a car back and forth to work
the same route every day and then one day head for the ocean only to find
the car would rather stay home. This may imply I was going somewhere.
This may imply an escape. I know freedom is just a word and America
is not itself freedom but they are a concept I continue to love. Like in
the movies about prison escape, of one sort or another, where the caged
man is let out to shake a leg. This happens in one of two ways: on his own
or with the help from friends. And if a history of film has taught me
anything it is that it is beautiful to be alone, and beautiful to rely on friends.
The key is the right camera angle. These are little lessons of life I offer
with a growing respect for little lessons of life. Outside it’s getting
darker and the trees are bending to the will of the wind because
the tree that stands upright is a proud tree but a fool because
as established earlier we have yet to identify the temperament
of the source. And I have yet to identify the source of the automobile
malfunction, which is I am sure something technical but just seems
to have something to do with the heart. Here’s a confession. Sometimes
at the shop I look at the local car papers, at all the fabulous array
of cars, trucks, minivans, campers, and each car stands in as an alternate
lifestyle, another me set to motion by the glimpse of a photograph.
And then at some point (and it happens every time) I feel guilty,
like I have cheated on my own car, like I’ve let it down and this is
the reason he has let me down, because I was the first to break his heart.
Silly notion but it never leaves. Silly is what the life’s all about.
In the front of the tire shop there is a flower bed, surrounded
by concrete and new tires and chrome rims and trash various people
have unloaded while at the stop light. And I wonder who
in their right mind puts a flower bed at an auto-mechanic’s, and which
of the workers comes out, early in the morning, to water the flowers
which go on in spite, in good weather and bad weather, in testament
that inside these doors is a man or woman that cares this much.
Pride in work. There is only the autumn to return the favor.
But I say this as someone in summer simply waiting for rain.
The television is set to the news announcing another bad day
at the stock exchange, though gold has appeared to hold its value.
This gives me hope, if for no other reason than we the people have
set out trying to mean something heavy, and because gold is something
I have none of except for the wedding ring I wear on my finger,
the ring a young Jamaican girl held before my wedding, weighing it
in her hand, asking, Gold? And when I nodded, she answered, Nice,
and I felt like for once I had done something terribly right. Error
and redemption. I’m trying to make up for a thousand things. The door bell
rings and the man up front tells me my car is ready. I pay him with a credit card
because it’s the only option I have. And we shake hands, and I look at the clock
and then back again. And we nod as if knowing the debt owed each other,
and the larger debt owed somewhere else. He hands me my keys and says
You’re all ready to go. As if once gone out the door he already knows where.
What It Is That Abandons You
There is a triangle
and in the triangle a tree.
The tree calls, the tree waves,
the tree hunches over the children
and whispers in their ears.
They hear not the deep sap traveling
through their sleeping tendrils.
There is a street. It ignores
the boulevards, the thoroughfares,
the tree. It has no mother, no son,
no daughter. It is a street
whose brick dissolves and intersections
clench and unclench at the cross-
walks like memory’s muscle.
There is a square. It is green.
A man has arranged
for four windows to face the tree
and two to gaze upon the mountain.
This is his pledge to her.
After the leaves have fallen
she climbs the tree and pulls him up.
This is her gift to him.
When the fruit drops,
the tree shudders,
the golden triangle roars.
Please She Said
for requests can make
for happy accidents,
if you will. Take a moment
and notice the shrubbery,
the pulse behind your knee,
the plane your sole touches,
the earth. No, I mean
look at the world.
You are in a large diffuse field,
part of the field is dying.
You may be that part.
Elsewhere, exotic quadrant,
black staffs of antennae,
ants shepherd aphids
plump with chartreuse translucence,
honeydew, nectar, elixir of wife.
This is their currency, their contract.
For sweet sustenance provide
shelter for our soft, fragile bodies
for as long as we both shall live
well. She said the arborvitae
means the porch isn’t plumb
and the foundation sunk
long before the time capsule
hemorrhaged in the ticktock of twilight,
and the carpenter will not rise again.
Moths balls, in addition,
planted in the tulip bed
indicate the Bavarian hag
hates rabbits roaming wild
more than the smell of death.
The equations, tell me,
echo like empty rooms
and shelter dilated
orphans with them.
and make an enemy
out of love
and the neighbor slowly
in the rain.
Once heading toward a different exit,
I saw him striding down the platform
and cut off my voice in my throat.
Just as, when she was still well and at home
and I had a baby for her to meet,
certain plans would have taken me there.
He worked five blocks from me;
we rode the same morning train.
I’d stop him to talk another time.
This row of cubicles is haunted.
One by one or in clumps,
the occupants picked off, midday,
made to leave at once.
Now, their monitors staring and silent,
notebooks left in hopeful attitudes,
legacies of paper clips:
mine, all mine.
We Could Use a Few More Members at the Thousand-Dollar Level
Again they’ve left the mike on so the fitful
jangling phone is louder than the music.
How they must dread these ten endless days:
the manager schlepping her overnight bag;
volunteers drooping over their donuts; deejays
rambling, imagining our prolonged wince:
same recorded celebrity shuck, same coffee-mad
CD-dropping mania, willing to pledge back
almost anything for your call. But they persist
in the biennial slog with all too few
Jerry Lewis telethon moments. You will walk alone,
public radio station in the windowless basement
of a small-time college, sending out your pleas
to the profit-polluted autumn air.
Bird WatchingMarch , Front Royal Virginia
South on Rte. 340, hundreds of sparrows break into cones, black and white thunder:
whooshing, flailing against the shallow river of orange light. These dark stalkers seek
and climb, roll into deep blue breezes while truck drivers hose down their wheels,
spraying salt and snow off the hard rubber. Their hearts fly backwards
towards food, wives, and shadows. This afternoon spell spins out of control
on them. Several stare from the cabs or pace the parking lot, alone. Manic, one lifts
and glides away from the swirl and vortex of those other twirling sparrows. Bumping
nervously along, he sinks and swivels across Middletown Road, into the hollow.
See the redbuds’ early pink leaves flicker like wings in the great gusts from dumptrucks:
all these little boys follow one another, trying to steer like men into Front Royal.
June, Cross Junction
Robin commutes carefully across the road, obeying laws: gravity, exertion.
Tractors sputter and throw obscene stares and short staccato bursts
of choking smoke behind them. Her red breast swells and recedes: she never stalls,
never gyrates in circles, never swoops out of control. Across the lawn,
her cheerily-cheerup is never desperate, her call never floats into a question.
My girlfriend doesn’t know lovely depressive mornings or the spinning, chaotic evening.
Reclining on the lawn, I’m laying my raked and combed head on a spinning planet,
just level with her ordered hopping, instincts, directions. Bobbing, she snaps her beak
together, scans the ground with pitiless eyes. Spurs thrust deeply into sandy loam,
she’s pulling a worm from her feet, through her heart, torqued to the back of her neck.
The head feeds her hunger, but bites off an extra section for fear she didn’t get enough.
Parade with white foamed lips, she looks like she’s swallowed a blossom.
Down Cameron Street, the cracked hard glaze of ice wants to thaw. On my steps,
footsteps are frozen, toes pointed away from home. On the open windowsill,
pieces of molded bread and tomato ends lure him into the street lamp’s glow.
Trotting, side to side, he sings a song he’s never stopped learning. Fluted phrases,
whistling higher and higher: you, you, you. Winter stops. His long grey tail feathers
bob up and down; he’s warming his behind at the crack in my window. He drags
his wings through another singing come from his white chest, spotted
and riddled with mud: me, me, me . The notes scrape the window and creep
into where I’ve been left. silence and a new round of snowing. The kettle brags and he
opens his beak when it’s blown, breaking
into: pay, pay, pay . We’re both blinking through the steam hovering over the kettle.
He leaves me, my fingers winging across a pane of glass, tracing her name in moisture.
The boy pulled
the diamond out
of his forearm
& asked the mattress
in the field why
would not be enough.
The twin brothers
spoke the song through
the vent & the sounds
from their mouths
came wet into
the sleeper as if
through a mousehole.
Dew Settles; Our Beloved Explorer Considers the Role of Evidence
The cloud-numbed night sky is a warning, confers
mauve to bluestem, starlings’ tongues,
imprint of a coat’s seam on a right cheek,
exchanges white-age for twitching synapses,
translates sigh-sickness into cymbals’ shudder (maybe treble,
maybe teeth, baby fingers grip a cricket carcass),
rips the calloused rind from hard cheese, cyst &
brittle-bitten fingernails, bats wheedle through elms.
And if this is broken I will remain broken,
maintain oval-dreams. A drop of egg white
on the formica countertop, dew-wet cotton sweater,
egg yolk cloud-seductively sliding the curl-steel bowl.
The starling’s breath smells like a morning-wife.
Moon-precarious: so goes carnival, the whirlwind-world
said Helen to Paris’ slave as she broke another vase,
said the pink thumbtack to the dead starling’s eye.
She Uses Her Pinky Finger When She Types
Suppose there was an ice cube left over from the Napoleanic wars
& I’d bought it at auction, Christies or Sothebys
or something like that & all my friends were like
“Why the fuck are you buying that ultra-rare & ultra-expensive ice cube
when you can barely pay your rent & your freezer is full
of perfectly good ice cubes?” And my parents were all
“This time, Mathias, I just don’t follow your line of reasoning.”
And suppose that it cost like a million dollars &
I charged it to my Discover card. And suppose that in sunlight
its color is glacial-blue & dreampure-blue & remember
that the bubbles caught inside it are the air of Napoleanic France
& that as ice ages it holds the sins of its owners inside & hence
our international love of the polar ice caps.
And suppose we sat on the concrete steps of my apartment
& you knocked your finger into the votive candle
by which we were playing War after 3AM on a Tuesday Night/
Wednesday Morning, moon haloed & nightsky churning
more violet by the minute & as you hit the wick
it stuck to your finger, & left a small white burn
& I went to the fridge for ice & the only ice in the freezer
was the left-over-from-the-Napoleanic-wars ice cube,
shrouded in a insulating sleeve of black velvet
& I was all “fuck it” & I brought the ice cube out
to ease your burned finger & maybe you’re half-pouting, playful-like,
the pain hardly worthy of a pout but a pout being the very thing
that seems only permissible & even forgivable due to the pain
& I unwrapped the ice cube from its black velvet
& handed it to you slowly, with an air of mock-stateliness
& you held the ice cube in the palm of one hand
& slipped your burned finger over it night-breeze gentle
as a child might pet an oddly affectionate koi fish
in the backyard pond of her parent’s work-related friends.
Supposing all of this, would you let the melted water drip
off the burned finger? Would you let it pool in your palm?
Would you hold your wet finger out to me,
moon-halo, elms-in-the-breeze & moisten my chapped lips?
I was born inside a paperback book.
Therefore I can never forget a word of this.
The elms are heavy with coming storm.
Lightning is of the same class as weapons.
The language of water is not yet forgotten.
You use your pinky finger when you type.
And I am in love with the Chardonnay the hard spackled lights,
The all you can eat buffet fat with fritters little craw, crayfish,
Lobster, spice an atrium of reunion this brutal closet, this mini-
Malled arch of earth this expenditure thoroughfare to Jesus,
Jay-Z & we’re in it over our heads with the late Jimmy Rodgers
It’s peach pickin’ time in the upper atmosphere the American
Thrift repeating itself in tintinnabulation reciprocity & rebound
Relationships doubling for the real thing like the seltzer pop
Of bubbly food & fast like the giddy-up & go of graveyards
One headlight, hubcap, hills in every direction little clay runnels
Clandestine with shopping with Lowe’s, Payless why pay at all?
Even the theaters begin to cloud the stars with Right Turns Only
Headstones you can mow over just enough gas for getting there
KINDNESS IS RARE
What a mistake it was
to kick the cat, the fat
one with the bad leg.
Or, when I was a boy
out looking for things to shoot
with my bb gun,
to have all of the sudden
shot the baby bird
with its neck stretched out,
mouth open, waiting in its nest
for its mother to return with food.
Its little cheeps slowed
then stopped, as if
its batteries had merely run down,
and I turned back to the house
to pretend it never happened.
Kicking the cat
was an accident.
It has a small brain
and I’m sure forgot
the whole thing almost
A DESK IN THE CREATIVE DEPARTMENT
The Jesus nightlight pinned
to my cubicle wall is never on.
I haven’t even taken it
out of its package.
Pigeons are on the street below,
which I can’t see.
Someone told me once
they aren’t really birds
so much as flying rodents.
They were probably right,
but I love them anyway—
the pigeons, that is—
because I’m a poet
and it’s my job to love things
and hate them.
I’m supposed to hate
my real job, but I don’t.
The work isn’t bad,
the people are nice.
Some of them are saying
the Jesus nightlight is really Yanni,
a woman whose name I can’t recall
tells me as she admires the army men
battling on my desk.
They were a birthday present
from Stephen, the creative director, I say.
That’s fitting, she says.
I’m so wired on coffee, I say,
I may never come down.
And she says, Aren’t we all.
GRAVITYPANTS ROCKETBOY IS FASHIONING A FLYING APPARATUS
Gravitypants Rocketboy is fashioning a flying apparatus
made of old newspapers and wood from his childhood home.
You wouldn’t know GP Rocketboy if you saw him,
only revealing his face to invention—
head bowed, kicking his left foot with right,
walking past your breath, helium for take-off—
GPRB admits to himself:
when I was young, I moved with the grace
of a pair of cement legs on glass-face earth.
Gravitypants Rocketboy asks himself:
how long until we’re not the people we were before?
And, of course, it is never—
but he gives light
to each of his Russian-nesting-doll-selves—
weightlessness so their new ghostskins may leave
only the dense core of who he has been all along,
grounded on this rooftop, ready for flight.
LOSING SIGHT OF YOUR RIGOROUS SOCIAL INTERACTION MANUAL
—dropped your guidebook of motivational interpersonal
conversation suggestions, and it keeps getting kicked further
from reach. Sweat on your forehead when a stranger
asks a question, and you reply all good clouds want peace.
He stammers away in a fog … a billowing steam arm
from above taps your shoulder, says please speak for yourself
from now on, but that’s the problem, after all, and the manual
teeters on the lip of a sewer—every time you speak
a bullet ricochets off street signs, lodges in just
the wrong wall, which will post a billboard the very next day
that says Bullet Speaks for Boy—World, Suck It,
and that’ll be that and all rugs will be pulled out,
and not just the rug but the hard wood floor beneath
and you will be balancing on the pipes that run the world
until you say screw it, let it flood, the place filling with water
and there, as the phone rings in sonar, your guidebook
notebook floats out of the lead, now a concrete shut
artifact with your initials in its surface
and you think to say, a mouth full of dusty water,
yes, go ahead—please help me.
After Sneaking Into The Museum of the Moving Image In Queens
for Patrick McNamara and Tommy Two Times
L’Arrivéê [d’un train en gare] was a visual tour de force, and audiences are said to have stampeded at the sight of the locomotive barreling toward them from a distant prospect into the foreground of the screen.
—David A. Cook/A History of Narrative Film
Where are the days of the lone harlequin juggling knives passed hand to
hand with a bookkeeper’s precision?
The cadenced bend to unbend in his left knee (a retraction into the push
up of retrace) completes the aesthetic line
of the whirring steel arc, knighting our jester with a counterpoint sharpness
of his own. Here’s an amazing thing:
on the museum’s third floor the phenakistoscope slowed, I think I
remember wondering if the, it was
only for a second, knives might fall, the ceased whirring spawning its own
second sequence, some melodrama
involving a severed thumb, his left foot run through by a falling blade, a rumbling
ambulance of some kind, enter the mumbling
ringmaster pissed-off at the compensations coming out of his pocket. The wheel
slowed, the fool’s knee straightened and bent again a
last time. And the knives rested mid-toss, any notion of their capacity
for brutal amputation remained only a stored potential
energy per square inch per square inch. The sign beside the display can explain
better than I can how animation works. I read
it then but I’ve semi-forgotten what it said. We’d smoked a lot of marijuana
that morning and I was convinced I was losing my front tooth.
On the F train home, we talked about taking a headshot of either you or me,
done right complete with the noir
of a glamorous hollywood chiaroscuro, framing it, adding it to the empty slot
I saw in the floor to ceiling mosaic of movie
stars lining the entry hall on the second floor (the spot just to the left of Dana
Andrews), just to see how long it might stay
there. You thought it would be a week before anyone noticed. I thought
it would only take minutes, some woman, some
valued East Side donor, walking in, her quick double take, and then her boast to the
curator four minutes later:
“I knew all along that one was missing something. I could tell all along
it was lacking that certain magic.”
After a Drunk Reading of Pablo Neruda, I Walk Along the Beach and Think of You
I would recite “Buscar” for you but I’ve
forgotten the first two lines. My drunken
words make tra lalas! I’ll find a trunk and
force them inside! I will send them by night
by waves coursing the ocean to islands
far away! Where idle birds nest in silence,
where along the sweat troughs of your ribcage,
my mouth, a slow kettle exhaling fire-
salt and rain and dumb laughing desire,
will spell an actor’s fright. Somewhere offstage
to his gone alchemy beats a clear vision;
its sounds make our hero cough his admission:
“Dithyramb, loneliness, both held within her.
The motion in sex swerves poems to splinters.”
Love before Talkies
The first time I got so excited I ran all the way
down the street and knocked on Dana’s window:
these weren’t photos but moving photos, motion
in motion instead of the lie of “captured” moments,
which were too overtly artificial. Like the one
of my best friend and true love making a face
I never saw her make, not even as the picture
was taken. But one day in a dark theater
she leaned over and in a hushed voice told me
that what I was watching were discontinuous,
totally not moving images. So that constant motion
was an illusion too, and the joy I felt just a conspiracy
between the camera shutter and either my eyes
or brain or both. There were no alternatives
outside of real time experience, which was now
tainted by my inability to stifle the feeling that
some kind of ontological metaphor was going on.
“On the surface,” I told Dana, “deep down
it’s all disjointed.” “So adjust your strategy,”
she told me, “learn to admire the first illusion
for being more obvious yet more strange, and the second
for being so convincing and unashamed.”
There was honesty and truth in that —
but then I walked into Dana’s new mom’s
new dining room, and my voice echoing against a room
void of carpet or furniture sounded more false
than either of these and more strange because
more true, with no manmade tricks of technology,
just available acoustics. The fundamental truths
of hearing and seeing I’d grown up believing
had been irreversibly subverted and I’d only
been dating Dana for four months. That it felt like
we’d been together forever only compounded
my confusion, which, combined with my lack
of official parentage and spotty memory, made
for an ever-increasing empirical mess of affairs.
How could I propose in this condition?
But Dana wasn’t interested in marriage,
she told me, “Look, if I believed in state-
sanctioned love or public validation of my feelings
or (when it comes down to it) if elegantly tacky rituals
didn’t make me totally uncomfortable — but I just
want somebody to understand what I’m saying
without me having to say anything, or to understand me
without understanding sometimes what I just said.
Both of these. The rest is icing or just details,
but not really.” I told her I felt the same way
and that no amount of italicizing could ever
put the emphasis in the right place. But by then
the cinema was all the rage and I remember the day
we came face to face with the tangible impact of
silent stars, and their over-enunciating arms and faces.
It was night. We cowered between the restaurant
and the theater as the gestures became more and more
pronounced. It would be years before the talkies,
and years before the talkies restored subtlety
to modern courtship, only to take it back.
If we knew then what we know now — but then
we wouldn’t know now what we knew then,
which I’d know if only I could remember.
Or forget. I had to remember to forget so I could
“know now what you know right now,”
that was Dana’s new mother’s advice
that we ignored along with her admonitions.
Either way we ran into the theater, because
it was dark in there and the “collective dream”
as Dana called it had already started, meaning
the patrons were passive and figuratively sleeping,
so long as nobody yelled “fire” we were safe.
Omen of Construction
A house is built on a wall and you live there. You build a birdhouse adjacent and live there. There are crows there that live there. This is good.
The house is constructed on a wall, and you live there. You build a jack, adjacent and alive there. There are beaks, there they lives there. It is good.
Home it is built in a wall, and you live there. Find a home, adjacent and alive there. There are crows, there lives there. Sign your walls carefully.
WRITING AND READING
drinking Stella Artois
and how exciting to be firing
all my cylinders’ engines
after long week of working and dying to mend
to conduct myself in flowerpot
not to hate
to be floored
and now, more particularly
for Melanie who will bring home Italian
aglio olio and fried mozzarella
Live from Cincinnati it’s Saturday night!
where I have already copied the poems of Commander
have said in my mouth both Ginsberg and Clare
What could be more mooring?
and the windows flung open and the yard in its thrall…
Consider your allegiances
Remington Noiseless and a clean white shirt
Full throttle yours,
It’s midnight, and I’m fading after too many drinks;
you’re blue-speckled, mostly sober, right beside me.
We’re wondering what to do next, but also what to do ever—
which leads us
frequently, if figuratively
to the question:
How is this beginning the start of something crucial? Well,
I have a sonnet for your trumpet, but it’s lost and now I’m laundry.
There are so many forests for the burning to rebuild.
Bob Dylan might say, “The vandals took the handle.”
And you might respond, “How now brown cow,” i.e.
“What on earth are you talking about?” an inquiry
which would be perfectly apt considering the circumstances
and to which I would answer:
this poem is little more than a chalkboard equation,
and you, with any luck, the fastidious after-class eraser. Still,
I have emptied my motor-mouth. And you have walked
through junk expired.
What we do ever
is significant magic
is better than teeth.
Bespectacled alive in the eggshell beside us.
Anything else is beside the point.
NEW YORK SCHOOL LEAF LETTER
More than a hundred thousand copies. Massive
the piling of leaflets to burn. The cento.
The BINGO. The leaves and the letters.
This is not always so easy. This is not always
so massive. Nor is it more than a hundred thousand
copies. It is not Joe Brainard either. It is not
his painting BINGO. Dear Ron Padgett.
The cento. The aching machine. The
raking the leaves. You may think this is
nonsense or merely a penny, but it isn’t.
Nor is it. Nor leaflets to burn. Liberty’s
Statue proclaiming inferno. Joe Brainard.
Ron Padgett. Heroes both and towering
above me. The raking. The poem. Massive is more
than a hundred thousand copies. Otherwise sold to
a nonsense inferno. Joe Padgett. Ron leaflet
SIRENS MUSES FATES HOURS
Consider the ages. The fates and the muses.
The face that amuses and despises a kitten.
A kitten named Podiatrist. O good grief.
No one despises a kitten, not even
the Sirens, and they have a lot of reasons
to despise us. Me And You And Everyone
We Know. A very fine movie by Miranda
July, starring Miranda July. July July
it’s the end of July. Consider the aegis.
The podiatrist. The rhinoceros. The fates
and the muses and the new Honda Civic.
It has all the features. Me and you and
everyone we know should buy one. Starring
Miranda July. The Sirens, the Muses, the Fates
and the Hours. They have a lot of reasons.
A lot of features. All new shipwrecks, 2007
SCREENSHOT FOR ALLEN
Here’s you. Here’s your street. Now zoom out—way out.
That speck on the right-hand side by the scrollbar is me.
Hanging on the coast. Hiking around, in the cold-day air,
cerulean wind whipping at our faces with our own hair.
Over the dunes, always more dunes. You would have said,
Why does it have to be so sandy? Since you weren’t there,
I said it instead. I wonder what you were doing then.
Probably writing out equations on unlined paper
in your fast loopy hand: something I couldn’t comment on
except at this superficial level. How stupid of me
to find your pencil marks sexy. To prefer them
to the world: the huge freezing ocean: it does nothing
for me. This gull wing jutting up out of the sand.
Is there a bird down there, objecting? Politely?
Excuse me, world. I wasn’t ready to be buried.
DISASTERPOEM (FOR KR)
I want to drive under the overpass all night,
turn the stripe of light, the light’s blink
to a strobe effect—turn the light epileptic—
the interior goes orange, night-orange, the orange
of black—the edges go sharp/slack, sharp/
slack. I think So this is how it feels to be high—
I always think that when I’m high …
& I play & replay the film clip of K
when she stood up to go—when the towering
wave of her drunkenness hit, flattened her
there—when she fell like a building
down into itself, its own empty air—
freeze frame & rewind—those heart-breaking
legs, collapsible spires—it never gets old.
She’s with me now, half-asleep in the back
& ice-cold & now the moths are coming,
the moths of spring—moving toward the car
as it moves toward them—we will pass
thru each other’s fields. Don’t be afraid, K—
though afterward we may not remember
who we were before the crash.
MY WINTER FILM
Anthony is a good
name for a
And presto, the ink
addressed to mortals.
Out in the
shot with a
until it looks spiton.
I am sucked in again
though it always claimed nothing
rhymed w/it but din
or the heart as it burrowed in
deeper & finally deep
like the last time I’d let lion
have a line to its self
proof that I had begun once again
to uproot all its secrets
step over me please
we are nothing more than elbows & knees
& me w/my swashbuckler’s pen
clenched between these falsest of teeth
I am only attached to the world
by the words it has tried keeping from me
dead leaves cupping water
tissues mangled into blossom
my feet are reluctant to take me anywhere
when neither can agree on my history
a janitor’s mop barring the entrance
to paradise’s longest sleep over
the only mercy I’ve been shown is the wind’s
that one difficult note that’s played over & over & over
more concessions this morning
several chin strap elixirs
& a bic pen discharged from all figuring
how I’ve flipped through my fears
w/an unblemished finger
while I feasted on holiness
like an echo long confined to a cave
& what was mustered was meatless
an almost archaic condiment
these slips which they’d predicted
though I knew nothing of their product
when I’m falling into silent conversation
my power lines coated w/sleep
& that pacifying hum
if an ageless & colorless rampage
has come to visit our dreams
what would one need to know
to have it sentenced to a book
to unpack & restrain up these thermals
I hammered more scrap into heart
& wound up w/a hunger for things
these the terms for addressing my hand
such as quilt there I said it
& quilt again we’ll return
this established while only a head
more flinch & dictation
who can taste resurrection through the salt
what is made out is faked
just a little bit dark & a little bit light
so let’s have the word for it
from those speaking for most of us
in a part of the world
that is aroused by the scheme
the unnecessary weight of more fliers
& a month of convertibles
(or was it mouthed the whole time?)
as much as something can be murmured responsibly
the hesitant flash of uncertainty
so I checked in the mirror again
a rain only slightly recovered
my bones sugary light in the toy-r-us parking lot
I should have flown, ran, etc.
before the last of any angels
turned blue from these formulas& my eyes became tied to what voids me