POEMS: Gavin Adair • Claire Becker • Daniel Becker • Julia Cohen • Simon DeDeo • Eric Elliott • Charley Foster • Noah Eli Gordon • Eryn Green • Timothy Green • Matt Hart • MC Hyland • Becca Klaver • Robert Krut • Brad Liening • Chris Martin • Lauren McCollum • David Sewell • Lori Shine • Peter Jay Shippy • Brenda Sieczkowski • Leigh Stein • Chris Tonelli
Artist’s Portfolio: Fumiko Amano
ESSAYS & REVIEWS: David Saffo on Charles Olson & Antonio Damasio • Gina Myers on some chapbooks • Jen Tynes on some chapbooks • Matt Dube on Gabrielle Bell • Monica McFawn on Rachel M Simon • Timothy Bradford on Paige Ackerson-Kiely • Tom Dvorske on Adam Clay • Zackary Sholem Berger on Sean Thomas Dougherty
Entries in 1. Poems (23)
I scold myself into offering up my big sadness,
the piece I’m not telling, but the only thing to say
is that my life-grip was always like iron, that I’ve
crushed joy like grenache, never knew the dance
or my own goddamn strength, have woken up all
these mornings with stains in the cracks of my lips
but no memory of the toast. I’m not some
run-of-the-mill masochist, never wanted to hurt
myself or anybody else. All I’m saying is that it
can turn on you, so that all your staring out
the window counting blessings in oak and peony,
all your unbolting the door for every droopy-eyed
soul who drops a knapsack on your stoop, so that
every warm room where you gave up holding your
breath, all those tiny wunderengines can quit turning
over, all those little joyfruits can shrivel up and say
Sorry, you’ve squeezed us out. Sorry! We are citrus
rinds at your pitcher’s base. Sorry you loved us empty.
And you are twenty-three, four, five, and you hide
in the pantry afraid to ask for anything at all, not even
pass the salt, not even salt in the wound, please—
You ask for nothing more, until all you have becomes
an abstraction of itself, prim boxes of everyone else’s
Love! Family! Success! Your little robot nod admits
nothing, you keep not-asking but still accept each delivery,
signature required or the buzzer keeps up its buzz.
Gift boxes pile up, look at all you’ve been given,
it is the wedding day of your self and your wonder
is not invited, sits up in the attic with highball, cigar,
photo album of the days when you were all together
and there is just one face, and it is yours.
It is mine.
This is not about you, general, not about you, reader,
though I wish it were, wish I could shrug it all off—
would rather someone else’s sob story, rather point
a finger at everybody else, Generation Who? Here, let me
tell you about you—In that case I’ll be over-simple and
brutal-true. In that case you’ll hate me but sort of love me,
too, and I’ll wipe my hands clean, harmonic, frou-frou.
Alas, alack, it is mine—the face is a sad-sack
sandwich called Slice of Self with Wonder, called
my life. That was my bread and that was my knife.
Self-imposed—the real tragedy, I suppose.
But, oh—I wanted to take us places: down Highway 40
in a metallic pink Cadillac, hair flaming, spirits snaking
like smoke, like the way mine used to. I did, I did, I do.
I’m afraid the congestion in my chest can’t stand
another bright bouquet, all of us pecked and ringing,
assembling around the splashdown by the arsenal.
The multihued parachute collapses like a clownishly
big jellyfish, no longer given its shape by velocity and air,
which are but two things we routinely struggle against.
And it is a struggle, scale being the only variable:
the city rises from the sea in great gurgle and spume,
the retiree rises in the pre-dawn dark to prepare tea.
And it is a victory to reach that coda, I mean, I’m a mess
by the fifth measure and by the tenth I’ve completely
fallen apart, fallen to pieces, fallen to however you’d like
to describe childlike helplessness, I’ve maybe fallen
to orange cat in the branches of a weeping willow
bending low into the river. Most everyone I know
is made of sterner stuff, breaching moats and storming
castles before breakfast, but it’s a chemical reaction
I’m convinced somewhere in the dusty bottom drawers
of the brain, some electron dislodges and then bang!
I’m breaking eggs in the aisles, not paying for a thing!
Such moments of transcendent excess are in fact
paid for with the next morning’s pangs of shame,
oh why was transcendence tied so tightly to excess?
Is it because a human is a harp hopelessly out of tune?
When a moment of immutability approaches, of what
and to what end becomes quickly beside the point
as the sky inside one’s head ripens to a shiny shiny anvil.
A defenestration for the ages, for the aegis of actinism
sidelining us with radiance, our radiance by proxy only.
Given the whole hock and whorl, the goo in the runnels
and the goodness of this moment and the depravity
of the next, which is first a girder before becoming
milk, it’s foolish if not terrible to crave understanding.
The technocrat takes a long walk along the beach, my
second grade teacher lifts the voice box to her throat
and explains subtraction, the moths turn black with
prolonged exposure to flame. There I go again,
taking up space and letting my makeup run while
the cross-section of the new insect is blown up
to the size of a bell tower. To think it could be
living inside of you right now, curled up at the
base of your brain and rankling like the memories
of another you can’t expunge and in the end
probably wouldn’t even if you could, since it is
precisely this sort of shadowy essence keeping
us tied to this world, tied to each other, driving
us to skip stones across the water when we think
no one is watching. Those stones eventually sink,
of course, grow irretrievable down at the bottom,
but just once, after rearing back for the sharp side
armed snap, I’d like to see the stone rise and curve
out of sight, perhaps dinging off the orange crane
that hunkers over the construction site. Even that
crane has a kind of grace as it turns through blue air.
If left untended birds would build nests there, in the
slats and corrugations, like it was just another big
steel tree trapped in uninterrupted autumn. But it is
the world’s business not to leave anything alone for long,
not you or me or my second grade teacher or the little girl
in the scuffed pink jumper picking at her scabby knees.
It is a terrible thing to crave mystery, as this means
one suffers from a surfeit of the predictable, which
in most cases is worse than a buildup of poison clouds,
wilting the lettuce and lacing the juice, reminding us
that all we’ve lost constitutes a world of its own by half.
Here, jam this pin into my palm. Do something worse.
What we are is between what we love and what we
endure. Between what we apprehend and what we
can never know is an anvil, a ripening defenestration,
a cross-section of the new river, a bell tower big as
a jellyfish rising from childlike helplessness as the
conductors heat until they turn invisible, producing
a humming like the singing of our happy wounds.
The soul flickers a bit when the candle’s
thumped, a fluttering in the left ventricle,
but this golden grilled cheese and crisp pickle
are proof enough for me there’s more than
the debris deposited on the high hills by the flood,
the wheelchairs cock-eyed in the dunes.
An iridescent rose fastened to a bell
becomes the sky. A kick ass drum solo!
Thus do I for a while forget the sinkhole
I can’t help but stand in, fungi taking root,
but still I move faster than the red thread
whizzing from my chest as each moment
is overtaken by the next like a wave
heaving through the spray and into the rocks.
Seagulls circle as they do because their bones
are hollow, and though much of the rocket
is too, due to atmospheric disturbances
the launch is delayed. The astronauts
go to sleep, curled around their helmets.
I pause for a moment, towel wrapped
around my waist and toothbrush sticking forth
from my mouth, thinking maybe I’ll be
good-looking today. The cosmos just sorta
hangs out, waiting to stop existing. Hey,
no hurry. The impenetrable moustaches
of the politicians will remain even after
each and every last one of them is dead,
but not even the tar pits of their hearts
can stop my stroll through the chlorophyll,
the pleasant declension. So large is the
machinery in which we operate the functions
will never be known, a star sizzling between
my teeth. The small plastic cars race around
the electric track till the air grows sharp and hot.
Morning light barrels through the window
and the crowd goes wild.
This is the year I start liking beer again. This is the year I fly
to Taiwan and light paper lanterns
with my student loans. I set perfectly
good furniture by the side of the road.
I buy tickets to operas and forget to go.
This is the year I fall in love again.
I draw eyes on the back of my hands. I eat French fries
with chopsticks and baked beans
right from the can. I leave dollar bills
pasted inside washing machines.
This is the year I forget what you look like.
Here it is. And here. And here.
We stood watching the sea and
Poking fingers into pizza after
We noticed the sea
Let’s get pizza,
But the sea
Had a smell all its own
And contained turtles
As far as we could tell
It was awkward
Sitting there poking fingers into the sea
But sometimes the skeleton of a scorpion fish
Would dart between our fingers
And it was like we were back home
In our pajamas climbing
Out the window
To escape a fire that was
Shattering glass somewhere.
After that we were stared at
But the people were nice, really
And gave us hat racks
With cow hooves for feet
And horns on which to hang the hats,
And jars of Vaseline for the kids.
In the end it saved us a lot of time
Popcorn pieces drift to the theater floor -
Little pacts with the devil.
Roosters scream out in the night like murdered women.
They call to one another across the night
Like murdered women calling to one another.
Popcorn cascading into a glass case
Is shoveled into paper bags and cardboard buckets.
WHO CAN REMEMBER
We used to enjoy hobbies.
Sketching life-sized caricatures of motorists at the stoplight
Who stared straight ahead, uncomfortable, angry, unable to drive away.
Some exploded, leaping from their cars to chase us.
We retreated on all fours, bobbing up and down like meerkats.
You had that gun and we’d play Russian roulette into the night
Laughing so hard our sides burst open
Spilling out great piles of dusty newspapers and horsehair.
We no longer have the time or the inclination.
We’ve become like your father sending angry monologues
From his ham radio set. Scanning the road for discarded gloves and bungee-cords,
Removing our glass eyes for no other purpose than to cause upset.
Our appetite for mussing the hair of homeless men on the bus
Is no longer a part of who we are.
Who can remember when we carried cattle egrets on our backs,
Their droppings leaving long white streaks?
Coming out of
The tunnel from Carroll Street
The graffiti reads CHOKES
HIS CHICKEN EVERY NIGHT
And we the passengers
Convene momentarily, our anonymous lot
Suspended slant as if
Preparing to nosedive on some
Futuristic and ad-laden
Rollercoaster safely blasting
Through the patently everyday
Landscape of traffic
And ruin, rivet-studded
Girders grumpily trellising
Sky, May and too
Many mornings have I spent
This week observing
The recumbent figures
Of capital tragedy
Their scaly ankles dangling
From soot-soured Wranglers and likeness
Is likewise suspended in favor
Of a proximity, our teetering off
And on pattern of tapering
Parabola shapes arbitrarily weaving
Depths and it depends
On the curious phases a face
Makes wincing at nature, the maturing
Content of cells, can you see this
Sound collecting there in spastic
Syllable growths? It’s cyclical
The way one devours his own carefully
Tended ignorance, a slow
Canceling of accumulated skew
As the mutilations fall
Off and are just as quickly
Replaced by others, the spells
Forgets, the mask one
Tries on and unobservantly
Absorbs, the train’s
Sibilant burble hurrying
Forth as the signal greens and I
Barely beneath this
Concrete, no lurid node
The sky’s stately
Dome, I say fuck this forever
Grope after the mysteries
Of a sphere eaten by worms
Regurgitated by birds
Paralyzed by windowpanes, we are all
Forced to mourn at the outrageous
Tombstones these towers make, rifling 100%
Cotton clouds as a little girl
In a purple sweater chases a brown
Pigeon along the platform’s orange edge, believing
Is a form of expectation, tonight
I shall dream of newspapers
Wrapped in fish , of smog wrapped
In skin as sometimes
I tremor at the way
The world seems so vigorous
One second and the next
It’s swimming, each dumb leaf
Resorting to metaphor
As every winking turn traps
You into thinking that life
Is a meticulous plot dimly allotted
To you alone, people
Fails, we fall into knowing before
We know that
Knowing is not enough.
If I am to be committed
To transcendence, to merely say that
There is a body is not
Yet to deal with it , if my looks go
Everywhere they are
Selfsame slaughtered by the manner
In which they snag, a car
Illuminates in panic every thirteen
Minutes or so and it’s driving
The neighbors nuts, while the socioeconomic
History of golf pollutes
The branch in the hand of the kid
Swinging at an imaginary
Ball, the handshakes
Here are reversible, we touch
Touching the way these fall dragonflies
Flee the invisible weft
They sew into the air that unites
Above our heads, today’s weather
Report calls for abundant
Sunshine as a man with a limp
Plods past the girl
Asleep in her tiny camouflage
Bikini and if she dreams
Of the secret blackness
Of milk , it’s only these pinks
Her back as a sigh
Descends over the scene, all the girls
Putting on their shirts, we must
Recommence everything just
Moments after it’s begun, the sun
Shines abundantly down
Upon the clouds, or briefly
Breaks on the totality
Of a dog, or the simple impression
Of the totality of
A dog and there’s something
About lived life that leaves
Itself in intractable
Tufts upon the heart, it’s tough
Being a thing
Which understands enough
Of what it means to be
Seen to see others in the nightmare
Of consciousness, which is nonetheless
A dream, which is nonetheless
A choice without choice, spiraling
Like the intertwined black
And white on the disc
Of the hypnotist, whose colors
Remain fixed, we remain
Unconvinced by the spectacular
Passing of modes, want
Our ears near the frequencies
Of I hear myself
With my throat and what the throat
Thinks we drink , let
Each cell in your body bulge
With song, there is room
For more, a mouth, a moon, again.
The Science Fiction of Color
At Delancey a man
Babbles with his neck
On his chest
Like a bib, a teenage girl allows
Her leg to dangle over
A startled teenage boy, both laughing
Their window in the twenty-second
Commercial of childhood, our attention
Wavering as the world
Of neglect shedding
At the periphery
Of the eye, knowledge subsumed
By our desire for desire, only
Today I discovered John McEnroe
Owns Gerhard Richter’s Girl
On a Donkey , the nature of perversion
Perpetually shifting as one’s dream
Dwindles in the lens
Or is lost adrift
The swifts’ delirious plunge
As gentle earthquakes pervade
As the little tear gland
Says tic-tac and petty octogenarians
Crowd the Lexington
Storefronts where white girls
Spill their blank
Guts between pages in the cloud
Book, waiting for Max
Ernst’s Science Fiction of Color
Course to begin, each
Benign conscience quietly plagued
By the interregnum, it is not trivial
This death we die not
Dying, the blur of sexuality
Metastasizing in blinks, I never
Imagined I’d marry
An aristocrat, nor quote
The adages of some thickly accented
Bavarian, some stupidity
Is heroic , some heroes assume
The village children
Are blind, I can’t
Count the number of times
I’ve thought the world
Different only to find my fingers
Twittering in their familiar
Way, the reflective scallops
My nails make shaking
Like gusts furrowing a sail
And so I am too
Fraught with this calligraphic
Landscape we speed
Too sure these unsteady words
Are like a frowning woman who wants
Desperately not to sleep
Here tonight, if reality
Is temporal why not write
Poems the size
Of cathedrals, at 4th Avenue
The conductor howls, the dreaded
Man sings Ain’t no
Sunshine as the sunshine
Streams through keyed plastic, a mother
Gabs on her phone as her baby
Bellows and that’s life
In the ten-second
Opening of train doors don’t
Be afraid to give everything away.
An Actual Hawk
after reading Sampson Starkweather’s “The Hawk”
I’ve filled my cubicle w/ postcards of paintings.
Before I read Sam’s poem, I just assumed
it was because I was an art lover, that I was
artsy (see: poems, etc.). I was wrong. It turns out
that I have some innate desire or need or whatever
to look out the window even when there is
no window. Maybe especially when there
is no window. Out this window, I see two pink fish
dead on a white cloth, carefully placed on the sand
(my cube overlooks the sea). Out another, I see
a wedding taking place. Over here, a nude woman
toweling off in a parlor chair. A Boston terrier
posing for a portrait, an angel visiting a penitent maid,
a train pulling into a covered station
guffing clouds of smoke. This doesn’t make me
like my job any better. Maybe it would if they were
actual windows and I could see an actual hawk.
The Room In The Elephant
Right now, I’m supposed to be editing a section
of a science chapter about parasitism.
Which is funny, because just last night, I went to a lecture
on how ideas can cause this same kind of harm
in us. Watch an ant, the speaker said. Notice if it climbs
to the highest point in the field. Flick it off.
Does it race right back up? Then it most likely
has a parasite that can only complete its life cycle
in the belly of a cow. So it drives the ant
(like an SUV, he said) straight to the top of a blade
of grass, increasing its chances of being eaten
by a cow. Point being that organisms who
harm themselves are typically infested.
He explained that toxic, or parasitic, religions
act similarly. People are flying planes
through the tallest blades of grass, because they too
are infested. What small thing is piloting them
away from their genetic fitness? Or maybe
they have a whole country inside. Our country.
I wonder what’s inside of me, not doing
a damn thing. Here I am, at work, not wanting to be.
The speaker mentioned that susceptibility
to hypnosis used to be selected for, since it
guaranteed you health insurance. I wonder if this
still holds true. Today is one of those days
when ideas seem to unravel themselves
right out of existence. Justin just emailed me an article
that says the newly found Gospel of Judas
may reveal that Jesus told Judas to betray him.
What to believe. I wanted to believe that philosopher
last night—I was so ready to deconvert.
Maybe I believe that poems are mutualists
and should drive us to the highest point of ourselves.
But instead of perishing in the belly of infinity,
we would thrive. Here. Now you’ve got one.
I hope you start a scourge.
I Decide to Be Alone With the Versions of Myself Who Accompany Me, Not the Versions Who Accompany You
We agree it’s important we can
Then at the establishment,
begin to feel unpleasant.
Staring at the menu screen,
I say, Life’s a minute,
series of minutes, spent any way.
He says, But they have context.
But my context is in transition,
the minutes before & after parting.
What do I reply? A murmur
to the journalist. We get obliterated.
Was I forgetting the possible?
In the former, we were hiding
our embarrassment & looking.
Now as I said, the after unthinking.
I had written on an envelope, Ahab
feels but God thinks. The physical fact of being
one person + the psychical fact
of being more + the physical impossibility.
Next to napkin & packet of soy sauce on the table.
We know it, I remember on long days
when I’m several. Feel it, Ahab.
Think to shake them. I’m a God.
At first he’s nowhere in the computer.
His wife is on her way from work.
Their sons are waiting in a waiting room
next to patient registration.
I had wandered down there
to complain about another patient
assigned to me who wasn’t mine,
but down there they had worse things
to worry about,
like the man who worked upstairs
whom they’d just finished
After hearing his name and looking him up
by adding Sr. to his last name
and reading what I had and could have done,
I offered to tell the boys
who are young men not boys
and call their grandfather
and try to reach their mother
and greet his colleagues,
now filing in to wait.
Pretty soon I was in the middle of this tragedy
directing traffic the way I had been taught
and can’t stop.
The older son acted older.
He must be named for his father.
The wife and mother told me
how much her husband liked me,
and trusted me,
then she thanked me.
When I came home from work and my son,
visiting for Christmas,
asked how was my day
I talked about what happened
as if explaining a photograph
tucked inside a wallet,
someone who reminds you
who you used to be
and who you thought you’d be,
something you carry around for years and can’t
throw away and sometimes
don’t think about.
Squirrels for Peace
I haven’t been wearing lavender shoes
long enough to know how to make
love fall from the air like an injured sparrow
I can reach only so far into the cereal box
and anyway hair has no discernible taste
today I’m merely differently sane today
I’m not sure how tall I am but do know
I require exactly two and one-third pillows
to go unnoticed in the snowstorm last
night syntax was fun but not as a party game
leaving through the window after the pause
just seemed like the right thing to do
all around the morning the air smelled
like ice cream which is why I was screaming.
Do You Hear a Harp?
In truth I was making up about the sweater vest
it wasn’t sewn of fireflies it wasn’t on fire even
I on the other hand have never been one
to return from the cloakroom with enough
contraband to pay for the window that broke
when I threw the grapefruit through it in truth
I didn’t actually move my lips in my mouth
the comparison to a salmon was inaccurate
I have a new avocado I am tired of all the dying
the wearing scarves the unnamed goats loitering
about in place of the furniture therefore I’ve
lain on you throughout a night made wholesome
by the window being open and talking
about soup it’s not easy to make so little sense
so near the mirror the eyes in it seem to follow
me wherever I move whether or not
I’m wearing a top hat it’s weird I admit but
I’m merely a belly-itcher who looks good
in velvet I am not qualified to answer
to only one syllable or to found a religion
with my hair I am here because you are dear.
Who Will Carry My Strawberry?
I’m only trying to situate the weather
nearer the weather vane. In order
of similarity to the monsoon:
a steady girl, a steady hand, a steady life.
I’m believing in you so you don’t have to.
I’m learning to play the double-crested cormorant
because the ocean’s been looking desperate
and moony these passing afternoons.
Armed with a finely appointed mustache,
I’ll enter the gentlemen’s club,
unshelf a book from the reading room,
calmly ingest its table of contents.
Then I’ll be worthy of the crown
of pamplemouse, the cereal bowl
of being upside down. But there I was,
alone in the bathroom stall, with only
my problems and an indelible photo.
I’m like this, I’ve said, attempting to kick
the sparrow that is never successfully kicked.
I’m like that, I’ve said, pointing to
the woman on the subway carrying
a strawberry on a small plate.
I’ve connected the dots on giraffes
maculate and not, yet parts of me insist
on posing the rain impossible questions.
So much I’ve wanted to be the one
in the top hat, instead of the one eating
the refrigerator box. But, oh! And, oh!
My head’s become stuck in a platypus’ burrow.
The platypus is waking up.
Sunday, five hours north of Mississippi, my friend says Cop in a hushed voice.
Glance at the speedometer. Lose the needle somewhere past ninety. Shit I say. Shit, shit.
I turn the radio off and tap the break, nervous with a pill bottle in my pocket.
The cop merges onto the highway behind me, gets left, pulls up beside me
long enough for every god to battle in the thick sky following us home.
I imagine the lights animating the peaceful sky in the rearview as the cop flies past.
We are fine until the pinging. Let off the accelerator, the noise is gone
accelerate, it’s back. Then we’re on shoulder, hood up, oil tank empty.
Above, a jet slices the eastern sky, leaves a single white scar
thin as a year cut from the whole of time.
I wonder if the sky has ever confessed as much for so little ceremony—
two stranded travelers and a hungry dog begging to be walked.
There’s a Chevron at the next exit, I say—my voice someone else’s in the twilight.
Was it my voice all those years ago that split the pastor’s sermon on demon possession?
I stared at the cross until even the wooden Christ had life—
jut of the nail from wooden palms and ankles, painted blood, thorns big as my fingers.
I was too young to know about symbolism, stared in fear, like I stare at this dead car.
We start walking for the gas station. My friend asks if we’ll make it home on time.
I say we’ll try, expecting the flock of satanic angels from that old sermon
to carry us back up to the wounded sky.
We’ve gone four thousand miles in two weeks to break down half a day from home.
How many millions of years of light have we passed through on these highways?
What do we catch up with when get home at last—
a kingdom, a pit, a long and satisfying dream?
We’ll stop every hundred miles to oil an engine we know won’t make it.
I want to re-call this house with pebbles
from the ground—honestly, beautiful enough—little round dream of
thirty years—a winter’s hat— no sound when you call—expecting
love to be love—/ disappointed until not—/ grapes peeling, body whispering
yr impossible—me too—a diver’s chute
failing—again, falling—into a church
parking lot—radio blaring // under water—soft
white freight trains—deep
light—choked on snow,
scenery—cheer up dear, it wasn’t always so bad
for me—rain knocked out power lines—
you wrote mountains across my tired back
in sheets as still and as whole as white sails of straw air—
couples carrying umbrellas inside-out—wind blowing boats
over scattered arrows of frozen wheat
After the crash
After the crash a studio still went for ninefifty, but what could we do? I rode daybreak
past the park and through the poor section, to the island where the crewcuts lived.
The others took photos or ate Jack-in-the-Box or made tenfoot computer drawings or music.
I was the only one up early enough to see the old man feed the feral cats and leave
a trail of yellow plastic plates strewn behind our building. Other days I took the train across
the water, then got a bus crosstown. When I could I bought Chinese cigarettes
that were inexpensive but tasted like glue if smoked with wine. It was after the crash, but still
I sold more headphones than anybody, to Poles mostly and to a woman I once knew,
and all I could do was accept the pain in my feet as I walked up the hill past the golf course
to look down at the bridge and bay during lunch. It was before the war, and downtown
armored police snaked in formation through streets lined with buses they came in or brought
empty. People took pictures or yelled or played music, I saw a kid breakdance and flash
a squadron of pigs in a line. I saw Scott, who said he’d been down there three days.
I was getting hungry, so I smoked the Chinese cigarettes—they were called Generals,
and had a lifesized bee on each box.
Sparklers burning the barn down and it’s all smoky on my arm
We piggyback ten kids across the lawn to water the plants and rearrange attachments
We’ve never found a four-leaf clover so keep looking for slave toys near the graveyard
Bury your beard on the porch where first I found it
I admit I wanted you dead so I could mourn properly
There’s a mannequin on the neighbor’s roof and helicopters are mosquitoes
that will never save its life
Please bury me in the beehive it’s hot in here and I’m useless and used to it
The miscellaneous mash of moonshine with the reluctant
Bullfrogs burp the alphabet close by and these are the sacks of insects hatching
Plants and the kids that watch them place larva on the grindstone
Keep saving allowance for the carnival that comes in spring
The fire trees ring the crops and pitchforks stake out like-minded mountains
Bury your beard on the porch where first I found it
What slips through the screen door does not even touch the entrapment
Sorry for the time-tested topics
The sincere explorer is unreachable in the midst of subtle alterations
to the letter’s landscape
When the whistle runs out the soundscape fills with direction no lament could witness
So where are the beautiful trackers when the explorer crushes the compass with his route
The name of my sonance is what instrument I play sleepily
I play with gleaming strings diamond dangled and cross-eyed
I click when my camera functions
In a landslide the superficial glances bury the sincere release
The explorer pricks the soundproof and we come tumbling out of the din
The digging begins the digging will persist and guess what breaks the surface
My wallet was stolen, my identity with it.
Multi-ocular buildings and sidewalks turned away
from the filching. How hard-nosed
this freeze of street muck,
how gray the granite air. I am 22 today,
although verifiability has skipped the scene
much like those ducky twos
that sail at a clip backwards
in time foreseeing and fleeing the day science
overcomes mortality. The numbers are meanest
where divination is concerned; in their cards we learn
to live and live, and down their graphpaper timelines
we stomp like giants, our hearts
our brains fortified circuitries, outfitted with spines
and the juice to keep burning even once that soul thing
gasps and gurgles something solemn before diffusing
from disease or just malaise…
Look at me. Look at me.
I’ve lost the context critical. I’ve had to cancel
everything to play the schizotypal dissident
to Corporate Colossus. As if the birthday happened
to my driver’s license
and not me. Slick of plastic
in my likeness made, count your numbers and hold them close.
You’re Mispronouncing My Name Again
This time last year I was an astronaut
in a window display at a department store
that has since been bought out by another
department store. I wore a gray crepe dress
and a helmet they pumped full of oxygen.
I had one line to say. I mouthed the words, but
no one ever heard me. They tapped the glass,
saying, We can’t hear you on this side. Take
off the helmet. Take off my helmet?, I mouthed
back. What?, they said. This time last year I
thought I was speaking English, but lip reading
has become a forgotten art. This time last year
I learned to speak in the dark with my hands.
I know the sign for tree and forest; dead bird;
the spelling of my maiden name; long walks
on the beach of Normandy. You think everything’s
about you and you’ve been right since the end
of the war. I took that astronaut job so I could
tell you I took it. I took that astronaut job so I
could miss you from the cosmos beyond the glass.
This time last year it was snowing when you kneeled
to lace my skates and it was so nice to run into each other
under our pseudonyms like that. I said, Times of duress
call for a record. You said, Did you say something? No,
I said. You said, Why don’t you take off that helmet.
I can’t hear you when you do that thing with your mouth.
What thing with my mouth, I said, and you closed your
eyes. And you held both my hands so if I tried to spell
our names you wouldn’t see. I cut the number of my age
in ice. Will I ever be any older. No. I will not. Where
you’re from they’re cosmonauts, but you’re the one
that left, I said. I could feel the oxygen running low.
The snow blanketed the totality of all existing things.
which of these may now be property
delimited, surveyed, parcelled
the decision will not come down
out of the trees fireflies strobing
the meadow aglow, riches
with no tower on them
we have passed the tower on our right
the town gets new lights
these too in their newness
a bar across our lenses
which frame most suitable
for your features
what is called a drainage basin
where we lived
can it be said
we lived somewhere
we lived around
we spread our tablecloths
we worried our karma
then our worry beads
dazzled the trees
was soft enough for a new fence
but where to run it
instead the treeline
the skyline the margin
… . .
it can be said where you were born
though i feel it as a heretofore unknown
our hourglass was looking
post-prandial, sagging, making a fold
mint grew in there, steadied
with a smear of pitch
life got a little longer
and i stole your childhood memory
i wanted its door
but i had to take the whole thing
you were trying to decide
if you could persist, beleaguered,
unassisted as it were
without this particular memory
the grass assists me
it is a memory
… . .
that cloth polishes everything
just a few degrees east of clear
you have a hangnail that says
for better, for worse
the sheets were gray and twisted
on the radio he said Howl is so comforting
remember when we found it so discomfiting
remember when it lit the hotplate
and burned the sagging sleeve of your pajamas
today by my own account i have received two blows
both dealt by inanimates
both my fault
i was animate in the wrong direction at the wrong time
… . .
you are losing your suitcase
following the fireworks there were maps
with unseemly legends
let’s collect them
we can collect all four
how many in a set of grass
is it two or more make a garden
be more specific
offer your hand to count on
if we must go higher
which way was higher
are you about to be thought of
… . .
vapor and cradle change
hairs on head counted by cloudkeepers change
what you want is divided into blades change
articulation of bone mesmer
two birds leaving like two stones from my mind
the empty feeder, the crying animal
can you not approach
the core of such an utterance
and feeding him I have fulfilled
his perfect steady moving knowledge of the world
and I have not let him down
in the throes of it
to know that the pines in the park are waking to their vigil
to know that the meadow by the dam is being crossed by the concrete bridge
juices in the underbrush seeping and carrying
stillness in motion
a swoosh like a sheet shaking out on the line,
the birds taking off in a rush at some
threat real or imagined
pull hard on your bootlaces sometimes they snap sometimes they tighten
… . .
i have some plans
they take me through the weekend
then i plan to be green and full of cool soil
why don’t we plan on it
why don’t we count on it
the way the birds do
right on target
next time try to concentrate really hard
this time be grass
what makes you think the grass doesn’t concentrate really hard
tiny angle of dislocution
the mountain was off dreaming
what you allow
what is it i always say then hate
you get what you settle for
what kind of world is that where that is true
i wanted better for you
Poem Where Something Incredible Crashes
You in your flowerbed beautifully seeming
Or oft bent over a thank you half lost
There’s a bark in my Bauhaus Every minute
you’re a skylark Every minute I’m winging
my euphonium song A concrete existence
made yesterday special Somebody saying
finches ever after bones in my t-shirt
and Ohio’s white blossoms Don’t try to make a big thing
of hatchlings, or crush us you will with your ass
in the air-conditioner, a feather falling loose from your hair
in the tree This morning I feel like a nectarine
in all its ripeness, because out the window, it’s 4AM, not green
And I can hear in the sky a plane full of Everymen
bespeaking you a meadow echo, pterodactyl, tango or waltz
Why am I awake Because I couldn’t sleep
to hip-hop’s rising soundtrack and all the many
neighborhood’s citizens on patrol
for Erin Martin
I am a handsome and lonely man.
I like to write these letters to the housewives:
Dear Betty, I am a handsome
and lonely man. I appreciate
your zinnias and Buick. RSVP.
I seal them in envelopes made from top-secret
blueprints. Then they get intercepted
by my ex-girlfriends in the postal service.
Dear Erin, I have sabotaged the factories of sleep.
I drive around and around the abandoned worksite,
taking photographs. Smug workers, sealed
in their plexiglass pods. I cry out to them: Vive
la television! Abajo las manzanitas!
Will you write to me? I confess to the housewives
everything, everything. I could curl your hair
around my wrist like a shackle. I could draw
our path on every map in the atlas. Look: we are crossing
the Atlas mountains. It is like The Sound of Music
without the element of escape. I am singing you a song
that I wrote for the people of my country
about their beautiful, beautiful smiles.
When we get to the other side, there will be
a house with steaming coffee and pancakes.
I will stitch this letter into my arm.
I am here with my suitcase to collect only the good brains.
—Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Chamber of ash left open.
Mythic entitlement wash-out made us witness
footprints I crush to register a slow descent.
A place to appear overly eager, unjustly relieved.
I hadn’t been hanging garlands, ineffectual geometry,
crossed streets & arrival circuits, an overdose on the outline
traced by falling in. The mice were still. Switch channels.
I’d say ease its own name, written on the lowest point
between broken instruments. Sew the house. Although it’s closed.
Admittedly, I could. But paper legislating geography, flowerbeds?
I rubbed backseat perfection. The glue holds the ground
so frozen nothing happens because we do it.
Like this I-think-I-can engine rides
an otherwise mimetic account.
Lighthouse out, equal sign to anything save contempt, spreading code pink in the not-quite-famous. I’m willing to flowerbed, stuck striking these illustrated pictures, perfectly reflective glass. Pulling teeth or trying to cull an ideal peach rotting a window ledge, a coat draped over footprints to refract the loved rain, an expectation of divinity. Immediately preceding the earpiece, standard philosophy, two threads to disregard differing modalities. Differing modalities considered disassembling the TV.
Snow-covered bird’s nest outside the next big motif. Later, a silent art. Beside fine print, why not a jar of its own syntax.
Things are mirrored next to belief.
Light in almond oil paint congeals, bubbles & the string is how we believe in the other.
Joy enough behind me somewhere.
A little sparrow choking.
A half-completed mock salute to harness willful redemption.
A fragment of conscience immediately preceding the ante.
A lie to the library.
The scattering mice. The fibers.
The framework of the barn’s red curtains.
Perfectly balanced plain jack-in- the-box psychosis.
Gut rot in the left-brain, right-brain paradigm, apart
from swerving into think-tank spillage.
Alters the left-brain, right-brain
paradigm apart gracefully.
Time passes or a city without
its diminutive song.
Aft, the oracular self
striking gross overstatements.
Think, vistas of architectural terms. Later, there’s not a landscape before settling down. You leave a knife in the context her paintings take back onto what? Locomotive sound, hooves rotting in two, hoping for these overindulgent pleasantries? One side has his implicit contract—gift-box deliverance, another telephone solicitation list? A litmus test in a joke of manipulative dogma. It’s the crowd. We agree on the leash, de-lead the weather in such abortive silence. I’m pure bull’s-eye for precisely such an exposed metronome.
I’d considered moves, differing modalities, considered
disassembling the trees or a commencement speech
lounging on the rocks, another fuzzy-diced measure of reason.
How ‘bout a heart saying: that way.
Someone’s fascinated by another Peter Pan statistic.
It’s like a kite will go out, wondering on a symbol? Maybe you can count on a correlative. If every photograph of a vertex like this afternoon dents itself into flange. To speed-read through terror cake seems overused. If you’re waiting, try extending. It’s taken their own ink to overdo it, a handmade atlas of empty unknowing strings in another week’s clemency.
Maybe cartography’s the dailyness of stargazer lilies.
I feel awful about nature, art & sediment rotation.
Splay the sludge, the foreground, to say
an argument? Starboard, a flame begins
by cupping the sun from first abundant
flower parts. Lacking in noise, in my
finite sense of oil paint. Starboard,
a visible form’s tangible notion of music?
Aft, the archer’s darkroom gear. Outside
the spot where mythic immediacy lacks.
Imagine being prone to bits.
It’s all boundaries, but consistent.
I left the last Saxon in the trenches.
The pipeline disappears. The pipeline disappears. The appearance differs.
Starboard, a dim sarcophagus. A cord crackles, holds workhouse skirmishes, some paregoric to entertain a visible river of happenstance melodrama. What’s precious in the red city caught the clouds past an offhand allusion. The pipeline disappears.
Winter ends. Laughter happens downstage. It’s serious motion. Two thin triangles of left-brain, right-brain paradigm, apart from the pavement. The last Saxon’s noise, a beacon leaning its soliloquy to gravity, a fig & the referents to call elision an otherwise drab parlor-room distinction. Flack battered in the haystacks. It’s all barreling back.
Signs and Wonders
To the uninitiated, it looks
Like a tar stain on a telephone pole.
Y ou shoulder your way
Through the crowd of believers
And try not to feel their keen
Faces. You try not to judge.
If they see the Virgin Mary
Or Jesus Christ or Hart Crane, well
Good for them, right? I mean
Who are they hurting? Then again
Couldn’t this oomph, this
Gusto for signs and wonders
Be applied to the hardscrabble?
Couldn’t they volunteer
At a soup kitchen or adopt
A blind dog? On the other hand
Maybe they do do-good. You don’t.
Right? So who are you to lecture?
It looks like snow. Your back aches
Just thinking about shoveling, again.
March, lion, lamb, bah.
The sun looks like a blood orange.
When you break free of the host
You look back, one last time—
Yeah—that’s Hart Crane. No doubt.