Sunday, April 20, 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.

Friday, April 4, 2014


The bent-over professor in Ohio
instructed us on the lineage
of the backbone, the triplet,
in his water voice as he dragged
a leg through the door, through the room,
a gravestone in his knuckles.
    Buckled to the seat in the inclement
    weather, a death’s-head to my left,
    its slate eyes on the lines of the verses,
    I scanned through
    the centuries the lakes,
    the tubers I chewed on,
    the mornings I rose in the famine,
    the bone parts in the bog
    where the steam boiled off the flesh
    and were raked up like leaves on a Sunday.

The brute pit of his leg
expanded through the odes of the poets,
sprouted into a plant 
could sniff in the stale hour
where the spores were unbreathable
and the windows fluttered in the sun.

    The gold fillings that bridged
    the gap between decades
    I picked out of the mud
    like corn out of manure,
    I was that hungry.
    I strolled in a circle
    in a courtyard the color
    of sludge, the color of blood,
    or was it the blue sky I ingested 
    and threw up?

He caned his way through the aisles,
one finger in the air where he carved
his initials in the immediate and knocked
wood when his heart took a beat.

    I was impenetrable, I could
    project myself, I could dominate
    air pockets, sing lullabies, smell
    echoes in the woods.
    I twisted myself rearward,
    the moaning in front of
    me no longer mattering. I reached out,
    touched the tips of the sounds
    as if they were maggots, let them crawl 
    through my wounds to heal them.

He hauled the mudstone of his body after him—
it decomposed in the evening, left
a residue on the sidewalk that no one
scraped up. I, too, stood flat on the stone 
and intoned, “I know who I am.” 
I drew up a loose chart of the days,
a ledger indicating the amount 
I owed each hour. I had no pretense
of my uniqueness. I was culled from 
the forest like a slug. I could smell 
rebellion in me as it swelled up
in my shoes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Life Later

Men in satin, hand signaling, no, hand
divining—intelligence . . . is where?
Under mitres? Are we brained? Skin-lose
camouflage, humanness is wicked.
I quiver when I urinate.

The nun’s bulldog face, with thick jowls,
from overeating? It seems slimness
is in order.
I frighten easily.
The massiveness of it all. The tenth-century
unelucidated, repeated,
horrors I’ve read of, can sense in monk
portraits on wood.

Have you noticed the eyes of a monkey while
eating a grasshopper—the way we would
a candy bar? The emptiness.
The way Nigerian soldiers can kill a man:
“Don’t shoot him in the head,” says one
to another whose weapon is also raised.
“I want his hat.”

The jowled face fascinates. The mantra it repeats,
over and over, litanized,
over and over, by a classroom of subjugates.
Self subjugates.
Decision doesn’t exist. Can I defend myself?
I have that fear.

Beyond indifference.
Not solely self-preservation. A perversion,
for lack of a better word.
They shot babies at My Lai.
They heel gerbils in Texas.

A sidearm in a restaurant: “Think of it as a fire
extinguisher,” says the man.
“Then why not carry a fire extinguisher?”
I ask.

Hasn’t it been said? Isn’t it still being said?
Fear wears you down. Comes at all angles.
A killer praying for a good kill.
A broker praying for a good kill.
A chalice of blood, a body—
man will never escape—he sees
no need to escape, nothing to escape from,
or to escape to.

A long history, a prehistory, moving toward
no conclusion. Who will say that?
Who will accept that?
I need to, but I’m too frightened.
Of you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tincture of Iodine

Mystical, magical, a satyr in a Volkswagen.
I don’t take my religion seriously. I spent
yesterday at the tomb of the unknown rabbi. No
wreath because flowers are verboten, they wilt,
leave a stone, better a boulder, but who
can pick up a boulder? I’m kugle in the world
of supplicants. No, a satyr, although my libido
is diminutive. The earth is a cellar. Lust illuminates it. 
Look!—you see spiders laying their eggs.
If I sound nuts, it’s because I don’t take
my religion seriously. Things bubble around me,
and I’m baffled. I climbed a minaret once and hailed
the universe. “Say something kind to me,”
I shouted. It did or it didn’t, I’m not sure.   

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


           Pain is
a cloudburst saturating a meadow.
Pain is an adhesive. Not a landscape.
           What sticks? 

The commonality of liquid.
You go your way, I mine. 

          We grasp what we have
when we have it. What we don’t
belongs to others: uncles, foreigners.

          I’m a tourist in such matters,
avoiding ailments in my vicinity.
Animal consciousness.

          We may know as a species,
but we separate in despair.
Every beast a survivor.

         Simple stuff. You learn apprehension
as you apprehend. Descriptions
are for travelogues, magazines.

         You’re stronger than that: when
you color your hair, when
you pad your shoes.

         I distract if I need to, hum if
I don’t. There’s never enough. Never
too much. I can sense my senses.

         Pain is cloudburst. A bird chirps.
A dog shelters. A person?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Third Tour

A similar name, a place, where he swore he had grown up, 
      a man from somewhere, as everyone is from 
somewhere, yet as alien to these mountains as a duck 
      bred in the Sahara or a whale in the Tigress.
                                              He remembers something, says 
to himself I’ve been here before, not here but in a place 
      similar to here, listens to the gears shifting in a 
truck—their meshing sounds, different, robotic, like a 
      voice-activated machine that flusters him, not because  
it’s a technological wonder but because it lacks 
      wonder, lacks sensation, lacks a corruption he 
      He no longer hears what he once
 listened to, nor is he appeased by homilies such as the 
      world is changing. He sees nothing changing, which is 
where his confusion rises. Merely sequences have altered, 
      become public, when so much of it had been relegated 
to cellars. Yet essentially he finds himself looking neither 
      backward nor forward—as if squatted on a boulder 
from which he can view infinite angles, yet from each          
                             gather the same information.
      The color red is no longer the red he knew, yet it is
 still a color, still elicits whatever a red elicits, and he has 
      realized that the majestic is not majestic but something
 he once thought he possessed. 
      He adjusts what he can, but there are no real 
adjustments to be made. Like outdated engines, he feels 
      obsolete, yet he can function efficiently, although 
often in frustration.                           Where has he come from? 
      Where is he to go? He has no answer to the former, 
and he can see others have no understanding of the latter.    
      But all continues—not as it must but as it does.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Storm Visit in Vermont

This miserable woods in this miserable rain, an insensate
ferocity imploding in on me like an ancient river
and pitching me onto a half-mile half-marked
trail toward the Indian camp my son was enlisted into
by my wife so he could go native and earthy, dirty
and wild, like a beaver, as the torrents of water tear
up the earth and I slog my way relentlessly over
the downed branches, through the vicious, liberated, and
bloated waters of Vermont, soaked to the skin, to pay him
a visit in a camp I would never have inflicted on him.
My intent is to make him into a self-sufficient man,
not a grizzly bear, and I curse the indifference of the
fallen limbs and the savage rivulets no wider than
a few feet but with the frenzy of a surf, and leaning
into the wind, the rain, the downed branches of the tress
cracking against my shins, the churning digestion of the woods
chewing away at my boots, my puny umbrella twisted into
a wire sculpture, the nylon flapping in the wind like the flag
of a retreating army. I yearn for the filthy bacteria, the rats
that breed under the subway tracks in the city I live in
that out-of-towners find so unforgivably disgusting.
The unrecognizable, unwanted seething of this
unnavigable path infuriates me, fights me back like Job
at the hand of God, but I'm not going to ask for
forgiveness, sacrifice an iota, render myself
self-accusatory in this aberration known as nature.
I refuse to accept it, nor will I interpret or
appreciate it, grovel. It has no beauty to me,
this lunatic savagery I can relate to less
than to a terrorist, who at least is a human, knows his
own death. There is no humanity here, just
violence, rage, an incomprehensible lunging that clearly
establishes me as expendable, as not even an entity, and
separates me from my son whom I'm determined
to see, and no vegetable enemy is going to keep me away.