Because the poems are in translation
and no chronological order, the class
is having a tough time figuring out
when the poet stopped leaving his house,
unable to move half his body, choosing between
living inside a burnt-out bulb or constant
pain, joining the lotus eaters or riding
in Apollo’s chariot since being run down
by a taxis in Paris. You’d think syntax
would be a clue, says a teacher but
fragments are everywhere, doll parts in nests
of seaweed. Tachycardial swag. Chop shop.
Alen has an idea. Alen always has an idea.
A tiny spider rappels from the corner
of his eye. Everyone is trying to figure out
how lost they are. Even bats know where
they’re at, scolds another teacher. But
they do it by screaming, says Alen.
Someone once told us all Alen has to do
is hold out his arms and every crow
in the park gathers. He’s always greeting
gorgeous women no one knows with giant hugs
and whenever he mentions childhood, you hear
the propellers of bombers about to take off,
people who peaceably passed each other
for hundreds of years suddenly killing
each other’s livestock with roofing hammers
and knives made from shoehorns.
Rites of Spring
Sometimes the heart must be torn open,
sometimes protected with thorns.
One woman’s being eaten by a flower.
No, she’s being lifted from the grave.
One heart is almost never enough
a man argues with the music
but the music always wins. Inside
the electric bell, the hammer’s to
and fro is produced by magnetic action
but inside the dancers are other, quiescent
and going wacka-wacka forces.
To be hungry is to be alive,
to be alive is to be on fire,
to be on fire is to have a mind.
It’s not just pain chasing the vanishing point
around the stage. The flock turns
all at once and so I turn to you.
Let dissonance be our cognition,
let a burning scarecrow be our guide.
Woe unto anyone who doubts this meadow.
A woman with one wing tramples the earth.
A man battles his own shadow.
Sometimes the heart just beats itself apart.
No Man’s Lamb
I guess I’m here to cheer you up on our way
to the slaughterhouse. Can I say whenever
I come to a river, I don’t know its name
but the trees if there are any and not just
factories whose names are everywhere
reach towards me or someone like me
to pull me in and down, their best friend.
Probably the usual self-destructive impulse
like when I sit in an exit row for leg room
and can hardly keep from weeping
when the steward asks if I can function
in an emergency, me with my usual trinket
skull in my pocket. I don’t know how
death works either but I’m leaning against
something I can’t see and feel rise and fall
like a sleeping animal. Let us imagine
our hoofprints in the mud filling
with wildflowers. Let us imagine
our skin cool as pearls and when
the night nurse comes in, she’s here
to be taken dancing.