Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The War to End All Wars

Indulgent and part here, I sound feebly
the ocean for deep chords I fathom in the strings,
the solo of the one sonar of the sound bar,
the sand bar, from where my eyes squint,
but all things are of a meaning and have webs,
tentacles of no piercing nature but floating loosely
on the waters where the Dauntless torched decks
and the Avenger avenged the avengers in the Central Pacific.

So, too, are the starlings that startle the trees
in the peace force of a deciduous morning when the banker,
oblivious to curtailment, counts booty, not wars,
and all dying is a product of reduction, when the course
of a nation is courseless and drained from the insatiable nod
of a once wing mate in a turbulent nothing.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Never the Right Tool

That woman has turned harsh and crude,
small indications of pain honed in the factory
of her departure, so that she wants to remove

everything that doesn't slide in neatly.
Filing metal is a bother—one likes parts that
offer no resistance, but do such parts exist? 

Better to discard a rough one and buy it
new, she says. She's committed herself
to be so efficient it seems to me more

a disease than a cure. She throws out
the worn parts, but they were hers, too.
Can she be other than she is? I can't.

We each have our methods. I like gradual
decline because I'm slow-thinking—what is
obvious to others brews in me furiously,

then I fuel up or rust. But she is so
organized, on her calendar is the
exact action to be taken long before

she's responded to others. An act of precaution,
no doubt, as if the slightest liquid had power
to bring her back. To what? Not me.

I tell her you work with the tools you have.
Unless you're an expert, you don't even
know what's available. You never

have the right gadgets to fix the door,
but you fix it anyway, squashing this a bit,
hammering that—you can't waste time

searching for the perfect implement.
The door needs to be open now.

Saturday, September 13, 2014



For the time being, the succulent compassion,
streaming from so many directions and gorged
with money, is being totaled and distributed among
the ten thousand children whose parent or parents
evaporated in the jet stream like sizzling ants.
Poor mortals, languishing in a Survivor-less hell,
can again wallow over a case of beer.
God bless the commerce, the way I see
it, so prez., partner, and princes can press forward
with scripture, a license to kill, and all mania
is loosed like a jillion roaches on wee little
folk, we elves, who hapless, get crushed between
two land masses of madness and colored cloths.


Do onto others as others consume, the cleft
dollar that burgeoned higher than a sequoia.
I can't express the intolerance, the sheer rupture
that long ago began with the first exclusion.
One buck for the white man, nought for the red.
No, it was centuries before that—this culmination
neither death nor birth but the interminable middle,
the center centered so all eyes are diverted.
Every answer is answerable, all marrow
a continuous dying, so surfeited with grief
I mouth only the obvious—it roars savager
than a jungle, more tangled, the poisonous berries
gleaming red contiguous with the luscious melons
no one eats for fear of not knowing the difference.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Vapors: In Memory of a Suicide

It’s the little things
that count, no, not count, but accumulate
into the bigger things that count. Who 
counts anyway? You’re too busy, 
consumed, so to speak, by the ongoing minutia,
the fifty phone calls necessary to confirm one
fact. It’s the absurdity of it all. To render a memorable
idiom takes four decades, at least,
and by then, someone in another city has vocalized
it in the most trivial of performances, sans sparkle, sans 
pertinence, and who is to believe it was you first,
and does it matter? 
Cherish your quirkiness. You’re isolated or famous, 
and neither means anything.
Be polite and affable, but stay singular on the inside, 
so that at any moment you can separate one
persona from another. You are never you. I know 
I am never me. I encapsulate myself in the bathroom 
when cramps relegate me to the can. That’s as close 
as I can get. When pure function. Not even a facsimile
of a role—no one dramatizes such moments. 
Other times I’m a composite of who knows 
what. I locate myself in the most peculiar instances, such
as on the subway marveling at the extraordinary bodies
my fellow humans reside in and try to accept.    
Balconies make me dizzy. An ultimate loneness.
I grab on to a railing, if there is one, 
the brick if not, laying my palms across
them as I look down. Fear of heights, suspended
in midair with no guarantees, a slab 
of concrete jutting out from the side of a building— 
the actual defying the impossible, the extraordinary
so taken for granted, I sense the featheriness of my body
twittering in the breeze as if the slightest gust 
could suddenly loosen my footing and toss me off.
Toying with my mortality, I dare myself to the edge,
while others, nonchalant about such matters, 
engage me in drink and talk without noticing my tentative
steps, my smallness, my glances at the inviting space.
One senses a voice—not a voice but a compulsion, 
not to end anything but to test an end, not 
a case of dying but an urge toward experience, 
like viewing a horror movie, clutching the seat’s
edges, knowing full well resolution 
is generally positive, and again does it matter? 
One exits into the open air safe as a sparrow 
and flutters back to the familiar.
But there is that moment of doubt, when all
regularities are not so much challenged but obliterated, 
and for a few seconds you’re stranded among lifeless 
objects—you reach out with your eyes and touch them, 
but they have no extension just flatness.
The grand end in a gulf, or more mundane,
in the Hudson, when one on a ferry suddenly, like a gull,
disappears, others speculating, “Yes, he was here,” 
and “Where has he gone?”—a denouement lacking 
in worthiness, which should embrace, if not ceremony, at least
acknowledgment, so that others can decipher the equation,
for all actions have equations and can be filed in a catalog,
or, better, on a computer, because times have advanced 
if suicide has not. A victory, I suppose, if you upstage 
the inevitable, but who is to care? A statistic, an obit, 
a leap over the railing, never in a drunken stupor 
because booze gives one the giddiness, if not 
the fortitude, to live on, and one must be giddy 
to live on, but the water is so riveting, so sensual.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Krazy Coot

          Even a disorganized
move gets you there. 
                 Ugly win, they say,
   but nevertheless a win. 

I saw a Philip Guston
        in which I observed 
his trundling from frenzied realism

to Crumb-like bananas. 
      So much like myself,
I thought . . . ten years before I thought it.

            One can evolve, molt,
terminate one's contours.
       There's growth in dying.

Alive . . .
  by so much . . . 
              and beyond that might be more than
        I can handle. 

Like Guston, I've slithered
   into autocracy. Can a figure 
             express that?

I doubt it. 

      I need antonyms and umbers,
                crimsons and odors,
                     curlicues and verdigris . . .

this imperceptible stasis,
          that endures as a contusion,
and I heal slowly 
                 nowadays . . . not at all.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Devastation of Premises

It’s a pretext for saying something about my history—
like the bird bric-a-brac that was shattered
and glued together by my stepbrother who assumed
it had something to do with me. There were
many such items that were swallowed up by the
hole under our house, and some nights
when the car horns penetrate through
the symbols, I can hear the mud sucking
like a child with a lollipop and my stepbrother
creeping up behind me. He was a gatherer
of pieces, a decent person who returned
the spirit of the object but not the object itself.
Nothing was mine because I declared nothing.
I headed west over the border, not the border
of territories but the border of the possessor
where something as skintight as a childhood
can be stripped clean. The bones under the night table
that clacked when the floor adjusted its position
I left for others to clean up, never considering
that what was stationary for so long was discardable.
     I returned on a cold winter morning, quilted
and wrapped up in nylon with a satchel
stuffed with coordinates. I sought out a tree,
a wall, the lineaments of an impulse. The 
bald-headed figure I shadowed across the alley 
left a trail of glass. I stepped over the reflections, 
the glare passing me like a breeze, as if I were 
impervious to light. It led to a garage where 
I remember one morning we investigated 
the bird organs of a girl.
     “This is my life,” I say. I’ve waited for
the squirrels to intercede, but they were not
interested. The gray-haired balloons 
that even my stepbrother found uncollectible
have a way of responding but not bursting.
They float obstinately through my dreams 
and become trite figures I have to ignore.
     The stacks of possessions he collected
I never considered until I stood among them.
Somewhere there were fragments, like moon stones,
I shared spaces with. I have to negotiate
an intimacy with them because they reflect
nothing. The regimens of my earlier days when 
the world was finger-counted and I could identify 
the lilac bush in my backyard as a demarcation
not to be violated might not have existed. Now, 
there is only this foreign country where 
the residents speak a language I can understand.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Man in a Hurry

There’s a man in a hurry winds round
a corner in March when the sun is chilled
and has no direction but forward. His flared
overcoat a flag in the wind, he is restless
for a morning he has heard of once
and has not found by the shack on the corner
nor in the buildings that shadow past him. 
He heads north on the pavement, unidentified
on the boulevard he sees on the horizon.

The light winter is gone and he hears
summer thickening in the bushes, or, rather,
remembers the grass bleeding under a mower.
But not now, in the morning, when the shack
splinters and yawns at him as he passes,
his hat blurred and his hands clenched in
a pocket. Brooding in a wilderness,
he is unable to think of a sagging bush
and the willow he loved once as a child.

He has no thought of the concrete or the sun
swelling over the park, where the neat fences
gather in the children and gathered in him once
when his palms were drier than the autumn.
He doesn’t listen but he can still hear
his mother’s voice dripping like tap water
the the tub. The warmth bubbles up to his chin
and then he is not what he is but a man in
pointed shoes hurrying down the sidewalk, and
the stark shadows are there and are still to come.

He has no time for a vision or the truth
or a lie because he knows who he is and it is
not the moment to suggest that the shack has
an interior: that the darkness is knee-deep
and perhaps there is a wedding and a family
and an old man who is no longer nodding.
He has his credentials and is quick-lipped
on the trolley, but he is walking now
and there is no one in front of him
or on the avenue or around the corner
where I’ve been watching him disappear.