Morning call. The starlings arrive
Uncountable to their range
Their plumage boasts green, plum-color,
Black inside the sun's irony
Groundsmen rake the gardens-askew
Old fox shakes a crease off his business-daily
Morphe. The curtains move. Susurrant.
Why won't the air relax them?
The postman arrives,
In each hand a dagger sheathed in white linen
They've sent me palm,
The Easter gladiolus, Belgian chocolate
A rabid, aching woman, her teeth wont to tear
Dissolves beneath a pale blue robe
Retainers take pains to collect her
She is gone to green city Oz
I remain. Crystal turquoise.
Waxy lustres guard my lacquer-sheen
I, aporia, a plethora of word, confound prospectors'
Pick and dig, survey the disheveled forest
I felt their acid,
Pitting little singes as it reached hysteria
They could have swallowed me whole
And they would have
[previously published in Stylus Poetry Review, #14]
When the end came, the surprise was that it was no surprise. There was a calm, no struggle or wailing, they say, their reports arriving in bundles, soft sacks stuffed with something irresistible, the shape compelling us to guess: what. Who dares pull the string that keeps a bundle closed, and finger within all that was abandoned, then finally gathered as words, a gift?
Those who survived, flesh and blood among the remains of that ancient wooden town, say the noise was such as one expects to belch from the throat of hell. And yet the most beautiful sky, the night red, banks of smoke that intimated mountains, and through it all, silver flecks like snow in the sun floating to the earth. People left their cellars to watch it, the end they knew was coming, a vision of the world without past or future. Do not let it startle you, this idea of observing the beauty of ruin, unsurprised.
Middle of Nowhere
The idea of Kansas fills the screen—November, a windbreak of trees, bare now—a foil to the city, without which there is no heartland, no horror.
We scan the fields until the camera sets a building in its sites, walks us toward it to show the clean lines, the white solidity of a farm house through blades of wheat. We hear its impossible rustle, want to muffle it, silence essential to the notion of prairie.
Were there a scarecrow or stalks of corn, we could not be more convinced that we have arrived at the great middle, the plain, awful core of it all. Or that we are about to happen upon stains, small darkening pools of life leaching into the floorboards.
Wear and Tear
Behind the ridge, the moon falls, light paling the limbs of every tree as our arms stretch in prayer to pull down heaven. We are clothed in the work of others; their fingers, stained mango, ocean, berry, to match our pants.
Snug across the belly, history is an ill fit, buttons tugging at buttonholes, anxiety hanging over the belt. The season is upon us, love—time to take up the needle, close the seam on another day.
First the world will sparkle with a glitter ground from things in the cupboard, the closet, the garage. Families will bunker as it settles, fathers hammering, mothers tuning the radio. Each will care for his own and gaze with tenderness at children wolfing down heaps of Franco-American spaghetti, Vienna sausage and applesauce. Cans will create new mountains; boys will play with shadows until the batteries run out. Thus begins the dreaming, the long mushroom night.
From Broadway window,
high above the street smut sounds
of gambling, dope, flesh
lower appetites that mesh
into a brutal traffic hazard
full of menace,
hulking near squalid movies
Rich White Trash, Blazing Zippers,
Hot to Trot, Wild Swedish Nymphs.
Nymphs are departed, forgotten,
jammed so far down the subconscious
that the only song remaining
is a timeless drone of spasmic lust
predatory, omnivorous, debased,
ruthless in the prance of evil deeds.
Mr. Smackhand sits at desk
lethal latin book before him
rumbling Caesar to his students
watching for a snicker.
Little scholars squirm and fuss,
peeking at their neighbors' papers,
while others dream of magic rings,
praying for the bell, their savior.
The stage was nearly ready
All eyeballs out, teeth set, the sphincter of
existence providing that dusty wooden theatre scent
and the prop-boy’s navel still full of lint, etc., all atoms
of their statement, as sunlight on the grime of tenements
under swollen skies, a particular insouciance like burnt
cabbage or rotting meat to eye. Break a leg, they say, you
bet, or, better, request the self-evagination of every creature
before you get . . . what? Why not let rot the boards and chide
the staff, get honest job as whore? Where was the curtain
cast? Again? The text is soaked in tears. Here are the feet
that were his hands. His mind wearing little socks that slip
on the bare floor. Otherwise he’s naked and sports
a boner. Whose were those gifts to his side? Was
he lost in a sprocket and “all tore up”? What comes after
a good meal? Could one man document all the different
colors of a harbor, say? What might such a study leave? sheen
on crown of hair? a comedy of lights? In the distance, over
waters at night, the Globe catches fire. Language rides
ready in bushes, sunlight overtops the world and cars go gliding
into the curve, another morning to make of what you will.
warm body spread over time
with a plumb-line like furnace bees going mad first
cold day of autumn, or a manicure in the wings, if
you don’t remember who you are, maybe you aren’t, sun
slung over slippery side of buildings where everything
on fire is free, blue sky of eye, leather unfolding off
stage, morning ripe at your knees while the claw of
necessity reaches into the frame, automatically, and
tenses, not every girl’s a boy, even in dream, castration’s
only what happens to everybody all over again, the
best, the worst, the unlucky first, etc., consider
consolation's torque when you pretend you’ve consciously
recruited your inadequacies, inabilities and fears instead
of having chosen to inherit them, once when frozen stiff
in the glare off the actual’s cold, empty grin, and so forth.
Like sailors with mops
swabbing down her interiors, deck suds rinsed by
torsos in tee shirts with long arms, there’s always room
for joy, deep flourish of contentment rustling
in the rafters, the possible blooming beneath infinite
skies, air alive, thoughts swimming through florescent
lucidities, mind of life, ballet of protozoan angels
climbing walls, mist-like illumination, while our lights
flood every crevice, each doubt made otherwise
and whole, driving into a small city each morning,
spring manifest beneath tires’ sibilant whine as globe
rises, filling eyes with light, chambers of mind blind
with it, the particular, engine, leaf, cloud, sky and
idea, sure in the belief, that if such darkness as I have
seen at last obtains, for these there's always room.
Potlatch of the gods, abjuring eye, feather edged
in blood, etc., time to go inside, commit
suicide, or sign a song with hand smelling of fresh
dick and spittle, Laughter Falls from Light: A
Palindromic Flesh-Colored Bathing Suit, dehorsed
the next day by village women bristling with rakes
and hoes, little words screaming their minds out on
the page, try frying up a flat stroke, you’ll be dumb struck
as stone to your own insistence (what’s new?), crack
attack (shit), wounded relic at home, flatulence of lonely
lovers (bah), or reduced to a single pillow (you listening?),
a pool, or huddle, resemblance in flesh, working toward,
even now, no specific, nothing in general, everything
otherwise, lacking center, like most lives are left, lost
in a poem, how will he retain his domains (or you, yours),
reduced as they are while “Where’s my pillow?” rhymes
with what he’s about ready to forget, leaving a residual
thud like driving a hump down hill, or if rhythm driven, it
flails like a pogo-stick on stilts (it’s spring! Heavenly
Anything!), no, nor center of mind (except occasionally
when pulse runs with muscle of intent, naked on the set, frilly
in flesh, best crawl beneath a porch, prolong the torture, under
a pig sty cower, screen running with cruel exposition: you
will lose everything finally, save for a grin on white ash, memory
lost, even your hardon poking her pudendal arch, gut slick to
gut, silk sweet as liquid flesh (like hari kari under smoky skies), horn
to sweet crevasse, insane with echo-like Urals, light losing
laughter that falls after, all gone, yet wonders shining on
the horizon, a table set on fire, mirror blazing morning’s sun,
moment studded with the banal, yet supple and wild, a
squirrel making its nut in your skull, her tiny feet on your butt, a
mad tugging at each other's lobes, lie down on the carpet,
weave it if pungent, leave the body where no one will find it.
A former Special Ed. Teacher retires with a bad heart. It always comes as a surprise.
She wants to go San. Benito’s gate. Don’t forget this is a struggle. A life as a dusty box. A life shared with others.
The last person, who knows,
Imagine a plane
Shaking ferociously. The voice of a family beside a parking lot.
It’s too much. It’s power. All the “wants.” The “likes” of which you have never known. Say simply: NO. Let’s be Carol and Carola and Caro. Go back in time to before. This sandwich is eating me. Destiny has a wicked sense of humor. A tumor.
Do you know how lucky you are? Lucky?
In ten days she gets to be released from the hospital. Are you ok?
There is shame too.
It is accepted: the enormity of the news. The darkest night. Iraq as music.
Vacation to Palm Springs. Fourteen and pregnant. He agreed. Being gay.
We have to hide a part of ourselves. The baked bread. Is it time to say something?
She drinks whiskey shots in the kitchen. What day is it? Her lips are purple.
Why does she choose to be her mother and her daughter when they buy clothes?
He worries that he will move to Israel.
He is a freshman in college.
He says “my roomate” maybe for his language.
He hates himself for believing it.
He becomes suggestive.
He serves as a pin setter for bowling.
He goes to prison.
He is listening and begging.
He wonders if they treat adults differently.
He is a cold Saturday morning.
His socks are on the floor.
He can’t compete with this present moment.
The sun is outside lying on the clothes.
The shovel looks relaxed. Wont do a thing
to improvise July. Though who knows,
it might take more than random gardening,
parts of cars, to make one. The robin yanks,
but the worm says, Not today. The wind
is on the take again, and the flayed banks
of the shriveled river hang there, chinned
on a few roots. We finally arrive,
but no one knows us. We know no one, too,
so we get along famously, even thrive
on what the dirt seems to be coming to.
The air gets set to gather and then go.
The sky pays no attention to the crow.
“The essential feature of Dissociative Amnesia is an inability to
recall important personal information.”
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed.
It might have been May, maybe June.
It might have been something I did or do
with a knife and fork, more likely a fork,
as I was coming up Broadway, crossing
Delancey, hoping I’d get to the Met
on time. For what, I don’t know.
Maybe that show, the one called “Othello”
by Pirandello, starring Anthony Hopkins
as Auntie Mame. Mother had already had
her dichotomy, performed by lobotomy.
Did I mention the beans? We bought them
last autumn, but then we forgot them
later that week in Havana. I was peeling
a rum-soaked banana in skivvies, when who
should come yodeling through the cabana
but Fidel. I fell feet first off my shadow.
You could have smothered me in shadblow,
served me confetti over shad roe.
My Life, My Dream
My life returned to me last night,
but in a dream.
Here, it said,
I need a size larger.
My life returned to me last night,
but in a dream
it said it couldn’t follow.
My life returned me to last night.
I’d rather have the dream, I said.
My life returned again last night.
Where have you been, I said.
Dreaming, it said.
Oh really, I said.
My dream dreamt of me last night.
It was my life, returned.
I already have one, I said.
Oh really, it said.
To me last night my dream
was but a life returned
to the wrong address.
I know, it said.
I know, too, I said.
What, it said.
I know, I said.
It said, I said, it said.
Counting the Stairs
Maybe there is no world. Maybe nothing
is what the trees have been saying for years.
I remember counting the stairs. I knew
where I was always. Seventy two
meant I’d gone too far, though the tiles on the floor
were the same up there, and the water fountain.
I want to walk away from this poem
before it tells me it may not be me
writing it. These may not be, after all,
my thoughts, rather what the trees have tried
to suggest without mentioning a thing,
without even knowing they were trees.
the reason I don't want to is no reason at all
shepherd me (to myself)
I have not listened for so long (the walls require protecting)
I require protecting (self imposed)
due diligence becomes the threat of magic uninvited (self)
let's go on being doing learning valuing (at our peril)
something has to change (has cha)
the river is an invitation (answer)
the river is a desert plea (indulge)
and when I close my eyes (this dulcet plane)
grows curves (a world)
singing may comprise the quiet between singing (hear)
here conditioned are my terms terms (watch wheat)
turn silver with the onset of the dimming sun (across)
the land is still (the land)
the underneath that is so (generous)
includes impulse and different light (received)
You see these grandmamy oldies, well, you know,
seventy, seventy-five, another twenty years in the
(doddering) saddle, and they say “SHANTIH WOMAN,
everything I touched seeded and flourished,” but
the fireside mud-pie night-sits were best, a little
CN , no more, let’s just sit and talk . . . enough . . .
2. Subway Faces
After Brazil, mom and daughter sitting across
from us, train to Braintree, listening to their
inner voices, “We’ll all be dead before we know
it, and we’ll never have any money to live decently,
your father, my dad, what a bunghole . . . I don’t
know what I hate more, summer or winter,
they should take Paris Hilton out and shoot her,
along with you know who . . . ”
My first night back in Boston and all night
I dream I’m back in Paris, Rue de la
Parcheminerie, the Spring of 1913,
Saint Severín church, demolishing the old
for the new, like all the old buildings had been
bombed, when I wake up and have my Nutella
and toast breakfast, no me importa si el
idioma official de los Estados Unidos vuelve a
ser Español...o Galoise, Basso, Pawnee / it makes
no difference to me if the official language of
the U.S. becomes Spanish or Galoise, Basso,
4. As If
As if daughter Margaret (34) and the kids
(4 and 8) were on the TV instead of being
across the table from me, is it the fifth or
fiftieth century, “If I get my teaching degree
in two years and get a highschool or grammar
school job, I could still build up forty years of
retirement money . . . ,” Suddenly she’s 80, Alex
is 46, Rivka 52, and me 1932--?
5. Sparrow Park, Sunday, June 10, 2007
Sunbathers, strollers, moms and dads, a basketball
court, lots of bing, bam, boom. . . . MM on the grass
drinking a big bottle of water, then back down almost
naked in the sun, no Dordognet-Francophile,
Norman Invasions, one shaved-head black grandma
and her grandson on a purple plastic mini-bike,
“You go ahead, I’m not a sun-person.”
keel a/o kill
(Electronic Poetry Center),
clicked through and navigated
so suddenly in the moment
EP is the C--
across decades, sound file: “keeeelll to brrrrreaeaeakerrs,”
thick ritual voice, already grave
lapse? when a Master is not of sufficient character
you’ll have fits
deciding what s/he’s owed. Ez is
what precedent? his piths:
dazzling; his spit: a daze-
quotes that are of the matter:
And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea
--Ezra Pound, Canto I
And Kung said, “Without character you will
be unable to play on that instrument
Or to execute the music fit for the Odes.”
--E.P., Canto XIII
Ez for Prez
poetry as comprised of “piths and gists”
--E.P., The ABCs of Reading
The yidd is a stimulant, and the goyim are cattle
--E.P., Canto LXXIV
Are they still with us, those whose swords
halved whole bodies, those whose blankets softened
the winter, those with faces carved in rock
back at the waterfall of decades through the Milky
galaxy with massive infinitesimal infinity?
Names for the sun are carved solemnity, a roadside
with pollen showering a billion times a billion times.
Guitars riff overhead, down through what we’re breathing,
strumming the talkers waiting heavily, the coffee line
near screeching milk steam, the big grin of a four year old
with his mother it looks like, a cup of warm chai tea carried
to another table, the conversation opening its ‘50s band shells,
its satellite dishes, as potatoes lift out of the ground somewhere
and become rocky hills. Now subatomic guitars shudder
downstream from 1990, the hound running in ‘76, the marchers
in Washington in ‘69 passing by Lincoln, people with four-hour
candles, sleeping in church basement sanctuaries, the Ford in 1955
on two-lane roads, hotels towering over a green pea. The pine table lifts
through the void into meaning. Bookshelves rise up from their floor
into starlight, the green day inhaling old studies in Germany.
Over woven trans-continental rugs of many colors, the table’s a harbor,
the solidness in flux, a vibratory forest sense in polished clarity
for the swirling mud-mind, mute firs all the time speaking
of rain, who gave themselves to God and slung home feasts,
who took off with dancers igniting the joints, steadfast employees
with classical ambition, at this station for why we’re here.
“. . . bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog...
spendthrift of tongue . . . stale old mouse-eaten dry cheese . . . ”
--1 Henry IV
You doltaged fiend-gut ventilator, claptrap removed by elevations.
You distilled radium of presacral midnight, you nasal air-breather, you,
you helium already burned in parthenogenic engines, country hamhocked
local counsel of curving leaves, man, water-washed side of the passing train
gone in a fingersnap almost back to human form! You backing-up brake-lit
vehicle valved between degrees of pain, rotunda over a broken finch egg
you, you porous solidness arced by dilated apple grove calculus
given over to nature. You overly mature first words, dentured syllabi
heart-beaten drink-plowed governor of gas and an ancient wagon train.
Thou comfort of thorn-rimmed clocks whose hands move quietly through
stale Gordian wheat at night of us, man, you simmering day of the week,
evaporated and spray-painted, stamped through by iron factories
without a brain of somebody’s own, avalanche of Neolithic praises
tossed to the side by a child--and furthermore, you republic
wisteria seen from the moon, you breadloaf and sparkling water
in the empty glass. You brown boardwalk of ingredients not yet shipped
from the mother country, you with your living room
of eel mouth foam the fool counts to number the age.
Alraune 4 or 24kb
25kbs was the measure of her men.
25kbs included herself.
Everything she had ever said about them and all she had ever felt for them slotted neatly into a 25 kilobyte folder or file of emptiness.
By committing her loves to the keyboard, the monitor; she predestined them for early graves.
The kilobytes misled her memories and transferred them - exchanging them for more RAM and better speed.
The life and works of everyone who had touched her needed a folder, a subject and a desktop space.
A little bird transcended the sky and metamorphosed into a 25kb internet folder.
Saved and Saved As yet empty, had she not saved her feelings accurately? Were they lost in space? In the recycle bin? Ah.
She saw as if from outside herself – she saw her experiences and feelings melting down, down, down becoming earthbound and merging with those of the others.
Below, with them. Again. Losing all sanctity. Broken wires.
Attempts at opening a 25kb folder to retrieve the old self and the truer ties.
Encroaching on her again.
It was like raising the Titanic.
The imposition of metal shoes
is the least of the horse’s hardships.
The sweet disposition of geldings. As a leather bag
testifies to the mortality of cows.
Once by the shape of a hand
you could say which tribe
Let us proceed to the emptying of all things.
Scrape of blade on toast,
each floral teacup carefully chosen.
Take personally the affronts of the past.
Above, dark water.
Below, dark water.
Once by the shape of the hand
you could tell the land.
We wear the same clothes differently.
Death as a boundary disturbance.
The sway of her hips against the gothic.
Man with man
beast with beast
house of blood.
Explaining perspective to the blind.
The occasion of necessity between ping and pong
as tentative as blossoms.
Not to have been shot at or starved
would seem amazing luck
in the world as it’s been.
It’s this complex engineering called beauty in motion.
A kinship with cows.
The disguise of the native.
The intelligence of a dog
applied differently to the landscape.
As useful as feet. Strange to think of them
Your body’s quick intelligence.
All praise for instinctual virtue.
The language of sorrow has an Irish accent
a Jewish accent a
Scottish accent et cetera.
Yellow haze of mustard
among cactus and thorn. Salad
for the border-crossers.
Hand to mouth
as easy as
“ . . . and given the times,”
he said . . .
Noise and predation.
Become accustomed to muscle and bone
where before skin
and a skein of nerves.
Sticks his finger in his ear
clears his throat.
The unknown codes of the law of twos and sevens.
In the consideration of the greatness of this or that ruler
include the accomplishment of questionable goals.
I’ll say what I know.
Fill in the rest.
Call it the voyage from self to self-prime.
You do what you can to find the rhythm.
May I buy you, did she ask,
the bread of affliction?
After long study she
stands at the window,
then sits on the sill,
her back to the lawn.
Impossible elegance, the woman in the portrait
too distorted to survive.
Somebody’s paradigm, somebody’s embrace
of a desperate perfection.
Muscle, bone and flesh rose to her.
Canta No Llores
Every morning for 10 years 10,000 Greeks took a shit and went out to fight.
Three million six hundred fifty thousand dumps, and Scamander
ran brown in the morning, red
in the afternoon. Plus horses
sheep and cattle.
That, and the carnage.
They leveled forests
to burn the bodies.
Greeks bearing gifts?
Dropping a cat into a nest of birds.
Sow the ground with salt,
leave nothing for longing
no stone on stone.
A sense of competence of sorts
in the doggy pleasure of obedience.
Thwack, and the arc of the ball.
The rise and fall of breath.
The celebration of meat and fat.
Grip the ground as if climbing.
As in the reciprocity between pose and painting
the channeling of impulse and instinct.
De facto segregation of the back-country.
If I make the effort the crying child
will become white noise.
We only learn betrayal from the best of friends.
and the disappointment of symmetry.
Let webs be webs
and ivy ivy.
A sense of “not here.”
Think of satisfaction as a glyph.
As for instance, the woman with distended labia
at the edge of the cliff, where now there’s a falls,
Her nose, they say,
And her feet glistened with rain.
Corresponding to the tendency of the toes of each foot to resemble each other.
A different vocabulary.
These, if I so choose, are my people.
In the darkest of times
creatures of sunset and sunrise.
Edifice erected upon instinct.
Distinction between song and sound.
Busyness of birds.
We kill to assert our right to do so.
Came closer, parted the hairs, squinted.
A set of instructions.
A flurry of gestures
expression of race place species and self
invented rituals, every possible
of the moment’s dances.
The game of pots and kettles.
As the child builds the components of understanding.
Where was I? Each chamber
like the last.
At the end of time
the cattle, freed, revert to aurochs,
by coyotes and wolves.
The eye stilled of its restlessness.
Come, I will give you meat and fat.
A history of shoes.
Chaotic interplay of fixed positions,
teased out like a fright wig.
Why appear in a state of constant surprise?
and a quiet surface, the bay
nonetheless a battlefield.
Let us imagine the harmonious workings of violence
as if observed from Chaucer’s cloud. Small beings
reduced to consequence.
As if to leave no footprint.
The man who lives in boring times
bucket by bucket moves a mountain.
Wedded to the trajectory,
a collection of shattered lenses,
a matrix of rituals.
Man, or machete.
A catalogue of expectations.
Cutlass, for instance,
the brute violence of the toolshed
become a scimitar in the hands of pirates.
On the subway platform the girl sways
to invisible music.
Maybe she’s gone to the islands.
I knew a girl whose childhood
was her mother’s experiment
in elective surgeries to make her
“beautiful,” new nose, new eyelids,
as the world sees it.
Except that she’d refused the last experiment.
A different story. And what became
of all that perfection
that one defiance,
that vote for symmetry.
Failure to make circles.
Old age, as the young man assured me,
is a state of mind.
In the order of things
there will be a fire.
Ownership of islands will be swept by the sound
and all these wetlands.
This has been home
and this has been home
and this has been home.
Much of what you plan for
won’t happen, and what does
you’ll be unprepared for.
elk and elephant providing wisdom.
there will be meat.”
“Salt is aggressive
and rises to water.”
in the English
in the physics of war.
A nice day,
flaxen girl in flat sandals licks
a cone of white ice cream
and strides through the park.
Strides through the park in flat sandals
licking a cone of white ice cream.
So nice a day.
A mayan woman with her mayan children
at the Delacourt fountain.
Hard to imagine a beauty more divorced
from that belle époque fragility, she
recalling blood and viscera.
But her children
will speak the local dialect.
How flame doth harden meat but melteth water.
A tendency to swallow whole when excited
(a tendency for excitement)
but macerate, grind,
that the slice of water chestnut not
become the death of you. Chew
as if your life
depended on it.
Time enough for the visible world
beyond the restaurant.
In his will he endowed a fund
to feed a homeless person once a year
in the finest, most expensive
restaurant and record
the recipient’s despair
Gleaning the last of an insufficient harvest, he
chops down the final bit of scrub so that his
child will have warm food, and
who knows what luck might bring
to keep them for another day.
Maybe the last
of insect or mammal
will descend upon them.
Where blond means enough to eat
and brunette not so much.
So it turns out
that we’re not the answer
to the dreams of centuries.
Lope of the hunter from field to forest.
We have adapted wheat to grow on clouds
and grain to fall like rain.
Laughed, then died, and the living
guess at the joke.