Friday, March 31, 2017

ADMIN.

The light, arcing yellow 
around the 
bright kite wind

on which surfs 
the weird bracing spring smell 
of streets decomposing—

sensations like these
feel just like
the money in your pocket,

useless lumps 
while they're inert, 
currency 

that must be
moved around 
in order for it to matter.

But by now, you've 
learned enough 
to be shrewd:

you can't exactly
sell beautiful things 
on any sketchy street-corner,

but you can't just go around
giving them away 
for nothing, either.

You're a missionary now,
whose objective is—
the dispensation

of ministry
without religion,
of gospel

with no ugly
liturgy attached,
of godawful, 

bloody, and
ritualistic sacrifice 
that plays itself off

as inconsequential, 
is performed 
on the daily, 

with a smile 
and innocuously off 
to one side. 

Poetry
can never be
anything

as off-putting
as a vocation;
it's only a little

hot oatmeal 
on a cold 
spring morning—

wet eggs 
and dry toast 
for the drowsy  

emaciated planet,
when it finally 
wakes up 

feeling hungry again
after fending off
the stomach flu.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

DISCIPLINE

Incessantly
regular

ticking and ringing,

flashing
and

tight controlled
clacking of clocks—

not at all

relaxing—
still administer

their
intoxicant

relief.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FOR GROUCHO OR KARL MARX

Marooned
for life
at the DMV,

eagerly my captive
eye seeks
poetry. But—

murky dim
carpet
and graywhite

Formica
countertops
sullied

with a
few floozy
pen marks

being, apparently,
the opium 
of the imperialists

(and puritanically
weak coffee, the meth-
amphetamine)

it receives
no
good answers,

only—presently,
at the ends
of lines,

some fair-
ly pleasant
answering machines.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

ECO-FRIENDLY POEM FOR DONALD TRUMP

Nature sits
back in stunned
wonder

at the brutality
of her own
cheap and abundant

laughter—
every growling distended
stomach out there

is an acidic argument
(and all and their
book-learned fervor

a damn bad
advertisement) for
the part of her

that's free
to be so dare-
devil aimless:

free free free—
free as only
an unsympathetic

jazz musician could be—
for part of her
must be?

in order
to inhale
and to to feel

the full breadth
of its aimlessness
as freedom.

Instead of
desperation,
that clinging tyrannical

emergency-love,
glazing the hand of
the fire alarm puller—

that same part of her
that has lately been hopping
around stepping

on millions of ants—
because of its
alleged

compassion
for some
broken glass.

Monday, March 27, 2017

CATARACT

Foamy lakeshore—a shy
miasmatic eye

ambivalent as gray wind peering
crosseyed into opaque clots,

sand grit, fog—then
two keen

ears hear seagulls'
wet sharp cries

for help
somewhere they

can't decipher, will never
venture—guess they're

not so
used to getting

eaten up them-
selves.

Friday, March 24, 2017

ALMANAC

The grass is mottled
trampled gray,

and streetcurb
debris still languishes,

glinting
like piles of old slag—but

away!
those idiot

sepia birds go—
cheeping,

insisting
it's spring.

And so,
all of the weathermen

on the TV,
trying

like hell
to look smart

with all that artificial
light in their eyes,

repeat it.
And repeat it—again and again and again,

as if they're trying
to clear all the little,

black dusty chunks
of coal from their throats.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

TEA PARTY

Gradually, I shall
take the outside, and I shall
make it
become the inside—as a clever prayer
of ceremony and remembrance.

I'll put up a tiny wall (no small
miracle, first of all),
then another, and two more; all covered
and adjoining at the
others' edges.

Then, I'll take some
of what's still
out there—starting with
nouns first,
a few adjectives next,

and an adverb, only very,
very selectively—
I shall carry all I can
back here,
disavowing (not just forgetting) the rest.

I will take my meals in silence
at a modest table
with two places set—a little
transubstantiated tea and
some scalloped madeleine cookies.

And from then on, I will do my
dutiful best
forevermore: to always
dream inside,
and only while I sleep at night—

never again
outside the space I've created,
not ever while my
eyes are open, and definitely never
during the daytime.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

MIDWEST POEM

Outside
their crumbling houses

and tumble-
down apartmentscalm

obdurate elm trees,
though

dormant,
still push back

hard against
immense and

intransigent skies.
And the March wind

makes music
with the bare branches,

but it never
writes lyrics.

Those, they supply
for themselves

going by, whistling
low, wondering: what chance?

can a man—so supple
by comparison,

so submissive, 
and perennially

stuck in this gap
between

the dead earth 
and the living, 

breathing heavens—
possibly stand?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

BOLT

Sometimes you wake up
at some nameless dark space

of time, on some planet,
with a veiled tingling passion—

and, for at least a cavernous
eon or two, there is absolutely

nothing to reconcile.
You think—here lies a slab, a log

floating supine; it's blank,
and it's bliss—there's no difference

between cool sweet streams
of and frothing mad rapids.

Until that first electric flash
and its thundercrack claps

hard, with a shuddering
vengeance—down at

your pure inanimate block
of sensation; rattles it, roils and

splits it back into a million
fragments again, each clamoring

and fighting it out for a scrap of shelter
with all the others. Until at last—

after several more agonizing mellenia
have passed—it sends

you spilling, now instantaneously
out of bed, freezing, running, mad

to your bathroom upstairs,
just in time—to empty your bladder.

Monday, March 20, 2017

RHYME SCHEME

It's weird to consider—
but the 21st century
won't have its own
list of Greatest Novels.

Looking back, it'll have been
half Wild West, and half—
just put your most 
recent foot forward.

Authors will have
coasted a while
on good looks,
then on font choices,

then on Fountainhead references,
then on the sheer tyranny
of repeatable aesthetic decisions.
While the public

will have felt just like
some show
which must go on
straining—to get

so much as a yawn out
without being tossed
in the architect's
Modern Library castle prison—

except, there won't be any
Tale of Two Cities-style
tower dungeons left
by then, either.

just these endlessly reproducible
things—called rooks 
flanking the corners
of checkered floors.

And sure, those things
can travel as far out
as the minds of their
masters could dare

to imagine—as long
as it's always
only ever
in a straight line.

Friday, March 17, 2017

FAVORITE CRAYONS

Remember back
when you
first began

to read
books that weren't simply
handed to you,

and
you came
across those weird words?

Easy, even
pretty to look at,
but hard to pronounce

ones,
such as ego
and unorthodox.

Some that tasted
like dry, brittle
bricks in your mouth—misanthropic,

intrigue,
counterintelligence,
for instance.

And naturally, those words
that shimmered
and slid

down around and in between
the moist
folds of your brain,

stimulating it
in a way that was
excruciating

precisely
because it felt so nice?—ones
like guile

and callow,
impressionist 
and furtive

curt
and agnostic.
Remember

not only when you read them,
but when you
first—understood? Not

what they meant,
but the way it felt
to collect things like that.

To keep them
and to hold
smell and save

and never use them,
like your favorite crayons
in an old cardboard box?

And how they made you
feel better?
Less alone,

less afraid
to dominate
your own disdain.

But then,
after a while,
and as more

and more strange
ideas were hurled out at you,
you realized

that eventually, you'd have to
pick yours up and
use them?—

realized
that silence, for you,
could never be

a shield—not when it
when it already made
such a good sword.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SCRAPE

Back then,
thought
I was supposed to

cut
all the things I wanted—
into poems;

lash at their boundaries,
rub, scour, stick-
in—everything that fit.

Figured I wanted
a cool indigo
bruise to show,

sweet and ugly,
earthy and thick

ready to bust—
like an overfat misshapen
heirloom tomato.

Assumed enough pressure
would hold
anything in, though.

Wouldn't even have recognized—
how savory
a simple

leaf
of oregano,
how merciful

a missing detail,
how decent

and right
one like

this could be—five, four,
three, even

two
years ago.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SCHOOL DISMISSAL

Walking past
the high fence, not seeing—
knowing only

that I have not,
do not, will never
know them—but

as their glinting peels
of laughter
come skittering

through frivolously
falling after-
noon snow flurries

to thaw
and to enter the furtive
folds of each ear—

I cannot
help but apprehend
how it came to pass

that—
many disparate rivers,
once dislodged

from their
high prisons
in secret icy caverns,

all simply ran and ran
and ran, fast and head-
long

into the same vast
and ever-
lasting ocean.

Monday, March 13, 2017

LIFE STORY

Let's say there's a boat—
proud, glistening, sleek;
about to disembark

from the cute shabby
shore on which you're strolling
and daydreaming of adventure,

with an experienced
crew aboard
and a grizzled but captivating captain

who shouts down to you
that there's
room for one more,

explains that their only mission
is to seek peril and pleasure
and explore the whole ocean

'til their wild hearts' content,
to hunt treasure and fight
pirates and race magic mermaids

through mythical ancient passageways.
Only, let's say—
there's this

one little
totally incontrovertible stipulation:
of never getting where they're going,

never docking in any
of the ongoing succession of perfect island
paradises they'll discover

and never again returning
to the old safety of
this harbor either;

but instead, of stalwartly
journeying forth
with the expressed intention

of sinking—calmly, systematically
abusing and betraying,
then abandoning the ship,

every last man aboard it
resolutely drowning.
No survivors, no one left

to so much as
influence the course of future missions
with the telling of the tale.

And let's say—while he's talking
to you, the boat's just floating there
compliantly, bobbing

up and down, kind of winking
at you in the bright
sun, and nodding

witlessly along
with everything
he's been saying. Be honest:

would you—or anyone
you know, ever
willingly board this thing?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

DANSE RUSSE DEUX

If when I'm walking Lucy alone
in the morning
and she whirls quick while squatting
underneath a tree, smearing
just a little
dogshit on her leash—
if I realize
with some weird delight
upon reentering our home that I can probably
squeeze a bit of dish soap
on a wet paper towel and scrub it away that way
without resorting
to my previous plans
of either putting this tiny thing in the washing machine
of else having to waste an entire wet Swiffer cloth 
to do the same job (because let's face it
those things are expensive)—
if a second idea then occurs to me, once again
with appreciably peculiar
levels of excitement:
"I can totally dry this thing
a little more speedily that I'd imagined
by curling it up to strategically
fit on top of a small
metal heating vent
on the floor near the kitchen sink
and Kate will probably
never even need to know!"—

Who shall say I'm not
whatever I dare them not to?

Friday, March 10, 2017

HOPELESSNESS BLUES

Some mornings, I wish I
could stay with you, dabbing
to sooth

your forehead
with a damp cerulean cloth
until every last hope

in your fiery mind
is gone.
A cure

for those times when
there isn't
supposed to be one;

for those days,
which are
many,

when the universe
of music
you dreamed the night before was

so pure,
such
a perfect mix

of warm
tender pain
and cool

composed loneliness—that
not just you,
or me either, but

all of us
would be in some
serious trouble

if you ever
remembered—a single
blue note of it.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

DIAGRAM

Would you believe me if I told you?
I'm not only

here, but I'm also
in a hurry.

It'd be quicker
and easier if I showed you—

there's a crumpled up map buried
deep inside this body
somewhere.

An X—marks
some dumb thing a kid did
one day
a dozen years ago,

and the well-defined boundaries,
also known as limitations,
dictated by each subsequent
rank conferred upon him.

But forget all that; he did.

Just look
for the symbols. Track
the barely audible music
of a left ventricle

as it pulses
red swingtime dotted lines up
behind his right temple.

And forget about
authenticating anything
by its signature.

That thing is always
subtly but adroitly being molded—
just a nonsense heap of loops.

Check instead
for the true pilgrim's insignia—a cool cartoon
lightning bolt.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MOBILIZATION OF THE PROLETARIAN DIASPORA

I suppose if you're fortunate,
one day—when you're
old enough,

you finally get
handed-down
a grown-up bike.

It's light, and it's
quick, a little too tall
to ever let comfort
be a passive luxury again.

Best of all, its sophisticated body
doesn't insist on itself
with all those sharp corners
the way your old one did.

Its supple, contoured chrome
is painted silver
or gold—or the ripe mellow
color of some other
carefully cultivated liquor or mineral.

You're really thrilled
to move so
gracefully, forcefully, propitiously
toward your destinations,

choices-within-choices
for speed and resistance 
just a finger's length away.

Only real problem is—
nobody tells you
before you trade up

how you can never
pedal backwards again. Or,

that is to say—you
can if you want to, but

when you do, nothing
will happen.

Friday, March 3, 2017

GENERAL SWIM

There's a huge mountain—but inside
out

with a peak
that points down

and a road
that grows wider,

where the going
gets easier

except that it becomes
hotter and ever more

crowded with other people—
as you climb
lower,

to
the center, actually
moving toward

your fear
and uncertainty
instead of treading over it.

until
your pain
and theirs

join and commingle
in a mild
underground
river

of very pleasant warm water.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

THE POET PREPARES

Like in a nursery
rhyme, he knows—
the most vital and powerful words

can, at first
sound deceptively simple.
Therefore, in order to survive,

he keeps repeating
the tiniest poem he
knows by-heart—

One day, I / shall finally 
be sad / in a way 
that they / could never understand.

Every day, he disciplines himself
by picturing—being shown his whole future
in some miraculous vision,

and then
abominably refusing
to do a single thing differently.

And one more thing.
A poet never laughs, either—he gafaws.
Or else, he snickers a little,

but with that same
pained and knowing kind
of mirth you used to hear

in little kids singing—
ring around the rosie!
pocket full of posies! etc. etc.

True, like everybody
else, he sometimes enjoys making a plan
and sticking to it;

but only from memory,
after he's caused a big scene—and publicly
burned the blueprints

in effigy, because—
ashes, ashes! We must. All.
Fall down.