Walt Whitman at the Patent Office
It is late Thursday afternoon, and hot.
Another farmboy from Pennsylvania
who’d never had reason to venture
more than fifteen miles from his parents
lies dying beside the models on the
second floor. The cotton sheet under him
stinks of sweat and shit and fear, is stamped
with rusty blood seeping from his crushed head.
The boy must unlearn everything here, from
this cot—how to speak, to swallow, to think.
His mind, no longer his own, swims between
this ceiling and his brother Cecil, the
times they’d run on the frozen river and
slide, violet crows mocking from the orchard.
There are no words for water, but here’s a
man who looks like God the father taking
the chair that is like their mother’s washboard
sitting beside him
and it’s Christmas morning.
Saint Nicholas reaches in his bag
palms blooming hot red flowers
and it is penny candy
The kind proprietor smiles—
in each of
his glass vitrines
—the boy is unlearning how to breathe
around Cecil’s back
in this large one
noiseless as a ghost
he is borne out
Where does it go all the water
They had the kind of
middle of the night sex
that’s formed out of something else
because whatever dream
being screened is part of it too
She didn’t know or ask
what he was thinking but
because of the dream thing
each of her gestures was a highly
articulated reflection of
early French art deco style
Not that in her waking life she knew
precisely what this would look like
but she was sure that the way she lightly
outlined the circles of his nipples
expressed the style in its purest form
and the conviction she felt about this at the time
was stronger than most any conviction
she would experience in the light of day
In the morning she got on the train
walked through the cars took a seat
on the left because that’s where all the water is
She that is we that is I watched the scenery
slide by like in that R.E.M. video
only in color and more like the Netherlands
Something about the sky
And she and by that I mean her
painting professor from 1989 might say like Vermeer
and not like whatever the Netherlands
may or may not look like now or in 1989
because this isn’t something we can ever actually know
She sailed along the Dutch landscape
so many boats and no people at all
and watched the Canada geese
and the swan which in all honesty
seemed a little contrived and
the inner tube in the ditch
and the egret—so showy it’s amazing
it hadn’t already been picked off—and the spires
evidence of someone’s great-grandfather
imploring heaven rising up
over the brick boxes that are housing projects
and schools and there is water
more water which sparkles and looks
perfectly clean from here
I believe and by that I mean my mother used to
and some friends still believe
that I have special powers
My son often reads my mind
which is full of mostly ordinary things
but it’s still not a great idea
and I should discourage this I think
as we cut briefly from the water
to a section of woods where
if you squint a little and use
your imagination you can picture
an Indian on his belly
aiming a gun at you just like
in that reenactment at King’s Island in 1975
There is a lot of bad theater out there
a lot of bad design and far too many bad thoughts
The heavyweight champion from 1921
isn’t remembered anymore
even in the bar that bears his name
The rivers are always moving
You can chart the progress of this one
with a quick estimation of how far
to the other bank times how far to the bottom
times how long this procession continues
and you realize you never would’ve thought
it would have worked
Where does it go all the water?
Where does it come from and how does this river
keep moving day and night where does it come from
and how is it we didn’t all drown in the night
Never God, and not even an engineer
Nine ways of looking at hands
i. Bach’s first invention leads with the right thumb
on middle C one two three four two three one
I was not a good metronome
ii. A baby rabbit, downy pink and warm, eyes sealed
wounded by the neighbor’s cat
died in my palm
iii. My eyebrows, my crooked incisors, the tiny sun rising
in the nail bed of each of my fingers—
in these ways I knew I belonged to my father
iv. Ten blue ovals pressed into the white skin of my hips, my thighs
David Bowie let us sneer at modern love
but I still asked you not to bruise me again
v. The sweaty palmreader outside St. Louis Cemetery took my hand
said I would live a long time, have children, be loved
He grunted, “Stop worrying about money. There will always be enough”
vi. We made shadow animals on the wall, played clapping games
I braided her hair. “Your most useful tools are your hands”
—they say this on all the cooking shows
vii. I was the only woman
at the table, the only shop teacher
with all ten fingers. These were among the reasons I left
viii. I am a poor metronome but sometimes I still drill
the call with the right response with the left
onto counters, steering wheels
ix. I did not know which to prefer
the span of those hands—hard and elegant, snapped from a statue—
or the marks they left, fading green
Crows say GET UP GET UP GET UP
They say “And She Was” is about a girl David Byrne was friends with. She’d drop acid and trip in the field next to the Yoo-hoo factory. I don’t know if the story’s true, but I like the image. The only pronoun in the lyrics is she.
When we were about seven, a lot of my friends liked Yoo-hoo. It’s this carbonated chocolate drink trying, I think, to be the kind of chocolate egg cream Lou Reed sang about.
James R. “Jimmy” Dudley (1909–99) would serve as the Indians’ lead announcer until his firing by the club in January 1968.
HMS Mimi and HMS Toutou were two boats the British brought through Africa to Lake Tanganyika to fight the Germans in 1915. Isn’t that very French, mimi and toutou?
Boom boom boom wehoo is a rising star in webcamland.
The marketing copy on drinkyoo-hoo.com shifts back and forth from the plural first person, we, to the plural third person, they. There is no you in Yoo-hoo, except that implied in the URL.
Did you see the movie where he wears the big suit? Jonathan Demme. That was a good one. It made me want to dance with a lamp.
Meehoopany is located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Considering its geographical location, we might assume the name is derived from a dialect in the Algonquian language family. But don’t quote me on that.
From Wikipedia: Mimi (Mexico), a little-known Spanish slang term, derived from the verb dormir, used to signify sleep to children, as in “go to sleep.”
“Yoo-hoo became apart of the Dr Pepper/Snapple Group.” Apart here should be two words: a and part. Doesn’t anyone read this crap before they post it? Jesus.
Chief Wahoo is the mascot for the Cleveland Indians. Real Indians hate Chief Wahoo. My great-grandfather loved the Indians, the disembodied voice of them. I don’t mean actual Indians. He wouldn’t have known any.
“I can’t see you, but I know you’re here. I feel it. I wish I could see your face. You been hangin’ around since I got here.” Peter Falk says this to the hot-dog cart angel. I would totally see that again.
You take a pencil and you make a dark line. And then you make a light line. And together it’s a good line.
I don’t want to set the world on fire
1. You are wearing a fine knit bathing cap adorned with orchids.
You are doing the backstroke while smoking a Lucky Strike.
You would rather smoke than eat, just like in the ads.
Your skin is flawless, pale. Your lips are shiny red.
You are made up of a million tiny dots, all of them slightly different, equally exquisite.
The water surrounding you is glassy, green. It glitters.
The Ink Spots are playing on the P.A. system.
Joining hands, you and the other girls form one enormous flower.
2. The famous person is listening.
You gush about their work, what they mean to you, possibly embarrassing yourself.
They nod, then ask that you not reveal their occupation or their name.
Okay, you say. You natter on about this problem you have.
You could say they’re a high school principal, they suggest helpfully.
You decide to end the conversation before they do.
You come away with the impression that the famous person is both awkward and kind,
also that the word natter could be used more.
3. You have a fever.
You want to talk about the Green Monster and the old-fashioned Coca-Cola sign.
You played ball when you were five, but you think a four-year-old could be taught.
You explain that children younger than four can barely think.
You believe a four-year-old would be too distracted by ants and clouds and airplanes.
You voice your concern that a four-year-old might be hit by fly balls.
As you continue to talk, I watch a plane crash in the distance.
A narrow plume of smoke rises along the horizon, a million little birds natter in the trees.