Tossed Out Box of Treasured Possessions
And how did it happen?
He mistook it for the trash.
And when you saved these favorite things you speak about did you waver in your choice of them?
There was no wavering.
And so you saved them?
Saved them. Yes.
What did you do with them after saving them?
I looked at them.
Did they help you to recall good times, bad times?
The good times. The bad times.
And were episodes conjured up from seeing them?
Episodes, yes, and also images of ideas of myself I used to live with.
What sorts of images?
Images of thinness.
Thinness of body?
Thinness of body, yes. And also that of memory.
And what did you do when he threw them away?
I mourned. Then I tortured him for doing what he did, tossing out that box in particular.
And what did you do with your other collected possessions when he did that?
I dusted them off then tossed them in the trash.
Why did you do that?
Because they were worthless in comparison.
Now, I can't help but ask: which of the treasured possessions do you miss most?
The booties of my babies, certainly, and maybe the unused magenta lipstick from my week in Paris. Of course the colorful puppets from India and such small, black, high heeled shoes I once wore strapped at the ankle and then there is the shrunken green soap from that amazing hotel in Lago Maggiore.
And what will you do with the rest of your possessions?
I will never collect possessions again.
This morning they are tiptoeing elephants, listening to the cats
make love down by the water, as am I, as must we all.
I dreamed last night my foot detached itself, flopped
away from the mat (this is all they allow me to sleep on. The plight
I must endure! The outrage none of you feel could feed
all the orphans of China for decades) and drowned itself
in the toilet. I woke feeling damply evil, toilet paper
underneath my toenails. I woke in India, nuzzled by elephants who'd come
to stab my eyes with their coffee breath, my arms, oh my arms.
They put their trunks under my tongue (imagine the agony
of tasting uncured elephant leather). They fed me oatmeal with
cranberries in it, waited till I went BM, and took it home
to show their children. They patted my head, became cliché, more
than that, became film, melted in the light, threw shadows of incineration
like an Iron Maiden concert I went to one time with a girl
who wouldn't even let me look down her shirt, and went
to commercial. I am waiting, saving my thoughts to feed their little plastic
cups. When they lumber back through the cage door, I'll light the cup, throw
it in their faces, run through the door and find her, out there where the music
is bad and long. Now, all I need is Prometheus to come, steal
their coughs, share them with me and burn, burn.
There will be buzzards. But that's my liver's concern, not mine.
Woke early or late, something in the vent
in the ceiling above my bed. I used to keep my nickels in there
so the orderlies wouldn't steal them. Had to move fast
so they didn't see me in the monitors. Stood
on the bed and saw two dots of light, moving
in unison. Thought it was a foo fighter flying low.
Took the vent cover off. Some kind of animal, a wild
jape. Small, blue fur huddled in the breeze. I took it out, fed it
a little from dinner I was able to vomit up. (Japes often
have extraordinarily vicious teeth, and yet often lack developed jaw muscles
necessary to chew due to a viral epidemic which has stricken
the population in recent years.) I named it Tourniquet
because I've never been able to spell that word. Hid her (the sex of japes
are easily differentiated by observing the length
of the nose in adults) under the bed until lights on. Then I snuck
her out to the yard and showed her the fountain. (japes love water, being
predominantly found on small islands, far removed from human
life.) I nudged her towards the water, leaned out to show her the statue
of St. Christopher in the center. I thought it would be funny to watch
her try to swim, little thing. I splashed water on her until she cried, loud, braying.
She clambered back into my shirt sleeve, snuffling quietly into my elbow.
I took her back to the room, hid her in my sock drawer and waited.
The slow line of traffic dead
ends into the cafeteria, eyes limp
across the slack faces of tray-bearers
exiting singly, drifting through lanes;
I am damp cardboard mashed potatoes.
I am boiled meat. I am unsweetened
peas. I smell of rot and bleach.
I carry my tray of myself
to a thin plastic chair, a creaking table,
slipping crumbs into my pocket
to feed my jape whose ass
is swelling melon-heavy already
from breakfast's shame.
They've got souls like mood rings, brown
and dirty when they're grounded, (on top
of me, their sticks full of shock
like I'd told a surprisingly funny joke) so full of
grey you'd think their parents were poor. But
this is a lie, souls
aren't colors or things used
to make points. They are nothing more
than the cold breeze slipping over the aluminum
siding on a storage building. The soul
isn't chocolate melting in a box. The soul is melted,
melting new, each day. This is its purpose; not to be,
After milk, we're moved to
(useless, anyway) ears
so we can't hear the cries
of all the baby lards, sleeping
unhappy in their pens. Grown
without bone, nibble sized
so their teeth won't come in.
See them waddle from sleep mat
to chocolate drip, sticks thrust
under pelvis for leverage.
When the expiration manager comes
with his pellet gun, shoots their fleshy brains,
it will be Lodo, equal opportunity hire, slow
as river ice, who will gather these sticks
and pass them on to the youngest, whose feathers
have barely fallen from their skinless bodies.
Surfing the Styrofoam Sea
Madonna wants me to open my can of tuna
so she can swim in the oil
but I don’t buy Frieda Kahlo as a thermostat
Far out on the Styrofoam sea,
the Great American novel comes up for air
with Norman Mailer tied to its side
in a tangle of typewriter ribbon.
Some days I’d rather eat potato chips
and watch Rocky and Bullwinkle reruns
than weep the slow death of a Puccini aria
or wire Madame Bovary with fiber optics for a drive-by age,
some days I want to deep fry Baptist Bible thumpers
in the pressed cholesterol of Betty and Veronica.
It is very cold here at the bottom of the North Atlantic
in my broken U-boat
as I wait for the return of the wolf pack
and the sheep flock freighters heavy with screams
for good German torpedo steins,
very cold and very finished in a post-Götterdämmerung kind of way,
while far away parakeets cringe at dreams
of the unbarred sky.
The wind rises.
Dust corkscrews in courtyards,
scraps of paper scrape along asphalt.
On a shallow wooden boat
nearly awash, a thin alert dog
braces on an engine cover
watching the river surface.
In the glare of afternoon sun,
aspirations of nation states
and great scientific achievement
fuse in a confetti blur,
and the sound of motors
on the water, on the land
and in the air blend,
from insect hum.
There was a big shaking. I felt like I
was being thrown into a deep pit like hell.
I couldn't control my legs because of the
shaking. I've never felt anything like it.
The TV set in my room flew through the air
toward the bed. The bed jumped up and rumbled
a good four feet across the floor. Outside
the whole world was pitch black in the aftermath.
Next door a building fell on top of a car.
The whole house picked up and moved some five feet.
When I could manage to make my way out
onto the street I found a dark, confused
landscape stunned into absolute silence.
No emergency sirens, no lights, nothing.
The temblor had sent rubble crushing down
on the heads of sleeping residents, ripped up
roads beneath early morning commuters.
All of us were outside, some with clothes, some
without clothes, some with nothing but blankets.
The next week, in The New York Times, I read this:
I like it these days because I don't have
to study, says Kaori Nakamura,
11, who lost her home and is now camping
with her family outside a shelter
in a tent. I play around with my friends
and sometimes I go and collect firewood.
I like living in a shelter. I can make
friends here, and I can get on television.
And now I might get in a newspaper.
Good People Become Better Because of
plants. This horticulturist-philosopher
believes people ailing become better
when they take care of plants.
The therapeutic effects of growing plants
reduce anxiety or depression,
shortening illness recovery time.
When you grow plants you grow yourself.
Keep a garden diary. When something goes wrong
you'll be happy to know it went wrong before.
People soothed by vegetation are
less inclined to worry, over- or under-
eat, to steal, kill, go crazy, indulge in
other "talk-show topics." Make a career
of growing things, starting nurseries. Develop
the urge to "get back home and grow trees."
Plant caring softens prison inmates, and
greenery is the key to rejuvenating slums,
making urban wastelands inhabitable.
Plant culture is a universal language,
but plants are only as good as the people
who take care of them.
The Spirit of Lindbergh
Seeking escape he hurled himself again
and again against the sky. Complete loss
of all conscious connection with the past.
Reaching all the way back to his childhood
his chronic restlessness, fear of facing
himself, then the unmourned loss of his son.
You can't write about Charles without writing
about me. Filled with love for her husband,
the differences between man and wife.
Ever on the alert for dangers
he tried to predict the unpredictable:
insults in the press, democracy's decline.
The "omitted material" revealed:
A few Jews add strength and character
to a country, too many create chaos. . . .
A pressing sea of yellow, brown, and black.
(Reader's Digest, 1939). Late in life
a one-man conservation commando corps
dropping from the skies wherever species
were endangered, indigenous people threatened
by change. He changed, lent his name to the cause.
Dying from cancer on Maui, his last days,
meticulously planning his own funeral
he picked the reading, chose the inscription,
the typeface for his tombstone, had his grave
dug to precise specifications and saw
to it that his death certificate was signed.
Every line was filled in except the date.
You drove me around the reservoir at night,
the one in Redding that has the undertow
that sucks swimmers in and drowns them
but people jump off small cliffs into the water anyway.
Your Subaru carried us over the wet turnpike
past amphibians equivocating at the side of the road,
rich people who didn’t bother to turn off their high beams,
and kids in the woods smoking pot out of aluminum foil and
drinking their parents’ vodka out of Poland Spring bottles.
We drove past the deer that had grown fat eating my father’s
garden even though he chased them across the yard with a rake,
You took me on that drive to play me a song that was 20 minutes
long and didn’t have any words in it.
And I kept nodding my head like “yeah, I get it, I’m 16 but sure I
can get this, yeah” but I have no idea what that song was about
I only really cared about knowing that there was something out
there more mysterious than the little town I thought I had figured
out already, and then, there you were with your polyester and wild
teeth and there I was,
a few months away from dropping out of high school,
nodding my head to this song but throwing my eyes all over the car
trying to watch you and the road and the woods and the water.
And I ended up catching only jumbled little slivers of each.
So that night, in my mind, is filled with your face,
but it looks like your skin is moist asphalt,
and your eyes crawl over me like those salamanders
trying to cross the road so they could lay eggs right where
they were born.
La Globbolalia Ciega
El Ojo Globbolálico
Richard Pousette-Dart’s Night Landscape, 1969-71
Guggenheim Museum, New York City 8.22.07
The stars and other detritus
of the vast explosion of space
appear all at once and seek out
that secret, still spot within us,
and stir us there – so strange, unlike
anything we might ever know.
The night sky is a dream in which
we float free among the gaudy
lights, where there is no such thing as
darkness and what holds the stars there
are our hopes, like them pulsing and
signaling what we cannot read.
For every star crossing the deep
night, flaring and brilliant, someone
slips into sleep and dreams of a
lost star, a forgotten life quite
unlike what the daylight reveals
yet somehow very much the same.
Under the backyard maple tree
we sip our morning tea and read
the Sunday paper, the summer
sun already above branches
whose shade crosses our table full
of cups, spoons, teapot, and napkins.
In the bushes beyond sparrows
chirp at a robin who has flown
too close to their nest – and somewhere
not far away a knife and fork
scrape a plate of the day’s first food.
Reading Barbara Henning’s Poems
I think of the possibilities, the
worlds we move through, of what can happen in
the heat of a summer day or the chill
of an autumn night whose bare stars cover
the hills outside Santa Fe, or a street,
emptied of people and even moving
cars in Manhattan’s East Village, music
intruding from an open window. The
next day people everywhere talk past each
other. We all borrow someone’s precious
words for awhile and then we make them
our own, and then we turn them around in
poems, not what we expect. They are a
toilet overflowing in Delhi. They
are flowers pushing up out of the soil
in Aunay. And they are a woman in
Detroit who “carefully winds her daughter’s
hair into little curls.” Everywhere, in
the daylight, people go through their routines –
as if we can live out our lives without
poems – but at night they haunt us, we who
dream when awake, we who dream when asleep,
they having come from the desert beyond
the city to settle in for some time.
Sturdy Tribute, Marion Hotel
When I think about this town
with its one donut shop and
ancient packman machine,
the way the slackened stoplights
still flicker all through the night
in the noise,
and all the fathers of the
fourth grade shepherds
frozen in a nativity,
I can feel their mad pride
still living in my bones,
the way you can still feel
the ocean rushing over
your body at night even
hours after the beach has closed down.
Still there are things
I wish were never true
like the night D. ran away
from rehab and stole a car
and drove all night through
how he roughed up an old lady
in her home and took all
and how he stepped onto
the train tracks that night
and stared into that bright beam
until it was all he could see
and listened as the whistle
grew louder and louder
and looked up and lifted his arms
like he felt rain.
With no one around it’s
hard to tell what anything
why living room lights are
still on at 3 a.m.
and the dog howl
in the distance,
so I tuck in my shirt,
trade a dollar in for coins,
dial a familiar number and
and listen to it ring and ring.
Repeat the question
We were born into it. Small desert town under construction alongside the highway. The red a red, unnamed color. Begins to shine real sweat. Flat light hard light side light calling all high-rollers. A group of guards went in on foot that god has spoken to. It was much harder to move without being seen. We met them on the road. I curled up in the dirt. Like Pharoahs of the sun. How a soul can temporarily leave the body. Turn 90 degrees and it disappears. The scatteration. We’re moved around in ways that just don’t add up. Spot where a planet might appear. Whoever knows this much isn’t blind but inside where they’re from. It was always just a mess, too light here, too dark there. Some people do have curses on them. I can’t explain this. You look for. Walked up on me. That is really happening. I speak to you from this water, from this blurred world. The day’s mirages are gradually forming. Everything comes down. Burning their own villages & moving on. Trying to bring down out of the sky. Past tense doesn’t matter. What counts is outside the normally counted. The words no one can find. Not too far east, not too far west. What if you went there. There is likely no one left who remembers. You can see women either with or without their faces. To mistake one thing for another. All of the woman characters are dead in some way. Going from being a person to being a mammal. The animals milled around them who are out all the time looking for something to eat. What happened to our plan? Animals with whips resemble lands elsewhere. Right next to the highway, to try to explain what it’s doing in the desert, reading from a printed form to reduce risk to the animals promises a resurrection day. The animals may have walked in. Into real mirrors. The small gate of the house. The first is a question of what happened. The second is a question of how. I could take you to places with as many fish as there ever were in history. Swell out of the dark at you, ‘blue oases.’ One big piece of water in the dark looking through it where I could see last. What did you see & not come back and say? Sniffing the night wind for prey. He looked at me sharply then smiled. Do you know where you are? You pull that trigger you better fucking kill me, I smiled. We started stepping closer to him. Come to know the documents and the words weren’t there. Take it from the top. What is its genesis. Sources are newspaper articles, witness reports, existing investigations pulled from multiple sources, electromagnetic energy of living flesh, whitewashed walls, the palm tree shine of the generals’ medals. It had an irrestible glow, a human skull, tiny gold pendant in the shape of a skull. Where the light is turned away from the subject so that nothing is only what it seems. Like a red spot shows up on skin from internal hemorrhaging. “Based on a true story.” There are these things you can point to to explain what happened but nothing sticks. If all the – in the universe suddenly became visible… Why do you like it? Repeat the question. Approaching black skin, some accent, the place that marked the origin of it all. Below the light, just below the flame you’ll come back with a whole new plan. It’s got to be in a place I can’t see it. From the other side so that the light simply cancels out. Millions of white dots appear in the beams of the searchlight. Who counts that? Just this one. The paired bones have burned away inside. But we’re still here. We are the burning ones, don’t you forget it. Burning apart. Humans first came to America by boat, moving along the Pacific Rim from Siberia. Only halfway there.
here truly here the turbulent touch
of you is precise
pieces of remember stuck
into what we’ve skilled
or I have and hope for the best
no poison harpoon
where a heart is
was between us
since it is always the rest
gives no rest
From my man to completely baby
boomer fear for all of two
ways previously practical
elected action heart or mind
needs to campaign, pink-slipped
or slipcovered this slippery
debt to pay utterly out
of (your) context
that’s not used
to hope, possibility.
Naivete waxing writerly
leans hard on nouns and verbs
to caution me with
If we limit ourselves
to mending the winch
and drive the immovable
so to surveil it
only rips the cable
then we move back
the alphabet slow like
this genuine failure
of being here
together is enough
then on Friday what’s been
done are abecedarian booms
your line moves into
all the excavations
ending in terror
types of terror:
comment, no comment
earth not ground
root not seed
the interdisciplinary species
H A M I L T O N S T O N E E
D I T I O N S
p.o. box 43, Maplewood, New Jersey 07040