Monthly Archives: March 2012

April poems

I will not be posting any new poems during the month of April.  

I will, however, revisit poems from the 3000+ poem backlog I have here online and elsewhere, and repost them; some I’ll be revising.

Just thought it might be good to see where I’ve been.  I’ve posted 81 new poems this year so far, which I think is slow for me but feels right at this time.  A little retrospective feels right. 


Final Poem

In the backyard
my legacy:  a bonfire
of all the books
that explain me,

that made me
and that I then made.

In the house, empty shelves.

My directories and address books
torn apart on the floor.

Where are the pages and pages
of friends and family and contacts
and brownnosers and suckups
and slavish touchers and holders
of hem and knee?  Where are
the pages and pages of those 
I’ve groupied and touched?

Outside in the flames,
all the unwarranted names.

No scene, no family.
No crowdsourced art.
No more of this.

It’s going to be much easier now,
I tell myself. No more fires,
no more poems.  

I tell myself a lot of things.
One day I will in fact do something
to make what I say true.  
Today, I feel it’s closer
than it was yesterday.  That

will pull me through. 


You Are Not Going To Win The Lottery, Maria

Maria,
it’s not in the cards
or the Ouija Board.
It’s not in the fortune cookies
either.  There’s not going to be
a revelation in the shapes of smoke
rising from the bowl full of sage on fire.
Nothing is going to give you the numbers.

Maria asks me if I am psychic,
that I know this so certainly.
No, I say.  No.  I’m just one of those guys
around whom the energy drains.
One of those guys who cools a room.
One of those guys who knows better
than to carry a mirror, or to keep walking
when the black cat appears ahead on the sidewalk.

She brightens up, all at once:

Ah, she says, I am Maria
around whom men like you become
so confident that luck awakens
and so I am sure of what will happen!

There is this weird gladiator scent
in the bar all of a sudden

as she bounces out to buy a ticket
next door at the bodega.  I pat my coat
for cigarettes — might have to mosey over there
myself soon.  Pockets feel a little
light.


Dragon Advice

Having
a great Dragon to fight
is important.  

Yes,

you say,

I know,
but finding the right dragon
is heavy and hard work.

Is there a short cut, a bypass
that leads past it?
I think I can get by on charm.

Of course you can…
but your Dragon will miss you
and seek you 
and in your later years will find you;

your charm will get singed
and you will find the Dragon smell of belly-smoke
and longing intolerable at a time 
when you have no will or strength left
for fighting. 

The road you are asking about,
by the way,
begins…

here.

 

  


The Sidewalks Outside The Poetry Readings

on every street where there’s a poetry reading
there is a sidewalk

and on it the rich folks stroll, the middle class folks 
hurry, and behind the windows the poor folks 

stand behind counters, behind bars,
behind the scenes,

and everyone looks a little bit lost,
a little bit scared, a little in a fog.

but in every reading everyone changes —
there are just poets there and people thinking about poetry 

so is it any wonder that in there we love
our detailed narratives and our persona poems

and our big broad stories told loud?  stepping outside —
bah, who wants to do that?  who among us here

in the warm hug of the poetry reading
ever wants to go back onto the sidewalk

with the rest of the foggy scared
lost rich poor middle class people?

 


Lesson

Her hand moves
from first position
through second
position.  I see

her studied
shift of each finger
settling in,
tenderly precise after
each movement;  see how
her face changes,
how she moves
differently;

in fact if I listen only,
go beyond watching,
forego seeing,

each finger’s placement
still carefully opens
my ear; her
breathing
changes
as she moves into
the new position, how
the song changes;

it is a matter of some
fearful astonishment
to me, as she quickens and
strums; a matter of some
anxiety to me
as she plucks and strokes across,
each finger a small bow drawn across,
and when I open my eyes
to see what is drawn across
her face by this playing —

it is a matter of some concern to me
that I fear I will never learn
how to draw forth 
such music
as she can draw forth.

 


Not Dancing, Not Minding

if in spite of
the bright organ and
impetuous drumming
that fill this room

you somehow find yourself
unable or unwilling
to dance

stick your back in a corner
and squint at the crowd

count the upraised arms
count the faces glimpsed in 
flashes of light from the stage
count how many of them
have their eyes closed
see how in the roar of the band
so many bodies have lost
the inhibition against
the casual touch of strangers

and say out loud the words
reserved for those who find themselves
separate and alone

say
“I did not want this anyway”
or
“they never want me anyway”

you will be correct
no matter your choice
and maybe you can use this 
to fuel a solitude
a run by yourself to a glory
not bounded by the mass love
of each other and the group rate
for the trip into mmmmmmm…
mingled joy

as a famous loner once said
in a movie
as he held his hand famously
in a bright-hot candle flame

of course it hurts
the trick
is in not minding

as long as you can tell yourself
you don’t mind being alone
everything’s
possible

 


Architecture Of Misery

Architectures of misery:
for one, the brickpiles of public housing;

for another, the triple decker units of aging neighborhoods
with sagging porches and facades of cheap vinyl over clapboard;

for another, the detached homes
and closecut lawns of the suburbs;

for another, the family farmhouse
and its windburned outbuildings huddled tight in the wide plains;

for another the perfect home on the perfect ridge
perfectly sited above the perfect ocean;

for another, the trailers and prefab shacks
on the reservation, clustered in the shadow of all the others.

If you can name a misery you can give it a home
and a palace and a yard and estate to hold it;

if you can name an ecstasy you can do the same,
and the ecstasy of one may be the misery of another, of course.

Admit it: the home in which you are happiest
is a negation of one where another lives best.


Post-American Song

I don’t care how any of us die, no
Method is king over madness of believing in our immortality
Don’t care if it’s from gun or blade or germ
Don’t care but don’t want it to happen too soon
But know it will happen and I wish you could see it as I do
As wave of the star enveloping, sick as you are
As wave of the earth encompassing, wounded as you are
As wave of the wind embracing, struck down as you are
And the next minute moment second instant it must be   — not this
As NOT THIS as any moment ever
All I want to know about that moment I cannot know
So I sit here speaking of death with intense fingers tapping
Oh the damn notion of all of us having to wait
You wait as you will but I will be calm and resigned to it
Call for tacos and pizza and meats and cigarettes to be delivered unto me
By horse and by helicopter and by men who have made that a living
I don’t care how any of them die, no
Don’t care how any of them live
Method is king over judgment of such trivia
How we die is trivia
And every death I’ve ever known has been trivial
And every individual an inconsequential body gone
Except as wave of earthquake to those who love them, dead as they are
I am the broken acolyte of continuance
Death ate me out a long time ago
And now what I yearn for is method of choice
As wave of desire punctures reluctance, weird as I am
In this country devoted to living forever
To never eating the sick bulletins of unconscious satisfactions
I don’t care how any of us live, no
Live and let live is here practiced as apathy not compassion
Does it look the same when it’s not about love but instead about disinterest
I don’t care how anyone anywhere dies, no
Do you think that is awesome or troubling or false
Wave of suspicion engendering a breakdown, such as I am
Such as you are, come as you are, come correct to the throne of mirrors
AMERICA the hall of just in time history
AMERICAN is the holler the chorus the cadence
American the man in the trembling suit
AMERICAN the gun in the hand of the — what is he today anyway
Cowboy over Indian, soldier over prisoner, boss over peon
Vigilante songs in the heart of every person
We don’t care how others die as long as the lettuce stays crisp
Method is ghost, is memory, is suggested mask for the inevitable
I am wearing the mask of a wave all-encompassing
I am wearing the mask of a wave of righteousness
I am wearing the mask askew from its moorings
I will take off ths mask and look at you
I am the wallflower with back to the fourth wall
Are you behind me watching the others
Are you in front of me on a player’s mark
I don’t care how you die if it makes sense to the plot, no
I don’t see your death as being all that interesting, no
I don’t see how the rockets and twilight should lead to dawn’s early light


Would-Be Suicide Seeks Spiritual Guidance

Into the heat of the night to chase Lazarus,
for I know what I want to learn from him:

how he got over his anger at his friend
for pulling him back into the struggle. 

I want to ask him how long he held the grudge
and if he led with it whenever he and Jesus talked,

if indeed they ever spoke again after that day,
which seems likely though it’s unrecorded.

How do you have that conversation
about him not just saving your life,

but pulling it all the way back from bankruptcy
and liquidation to deposit it right back where it had been

as if nothing had happened at all and anything 
that soul had seen while it was gone could be forgotten?

I know it can’t.  Know it for a fact.
And I need to know how to speak to a friend

who brought me back just like that, even though 
in my case I really wanted to go.  I want to know

how I’m supposed to be his friend again.
I want to know if it’s even right to try — and if anyone

should know it’s Lazarus. How did he and Jesus
get past it, if they did at all?  They never

put that in the Gospels.  They never made
a sermon out of that.

 


Where No One Ever Gets Shot

Imagine a place
where no one
ever gets shot

or
barring that
a place
where no one gets shot
without deserving it
or asking for it 

Imagine that someone 
in that place
got shot
without asking for it
and at last
we were all ashamed

How could it be
we would call to each other
that
someone got shot
without asking for it  

Imagine that we then tried
to rename the place
as Country Without Guns
and Earth
as Rock Without Guns

Imagine that we tried to do that

Who do you think
would show themselves then

What big bad wolves would rise
to fight us on the change

How long would we tolerate 
their unrepentance
and ravening

They’d be asking for it
but
we couldn’t shoot them

Would we have to drive them back with rocks
like we did in the old days
like we did back home
or
would we threaten them
with whatever was at hand
with wallets
with CD cases
with ice tea bottles
with bags of candy

They must know how ridiculous that would be
Killing a man with a wallet or a bottle of tea
Maybe on the Rock Without Guns it might be possible

But here there ARE guns
so
here
we go 
again


Revisionist History

In the history of government
it doesn’t matter how they start out,
they always end the same way —
as a system where the venal
can game their way to power
and stay there regardless
of the label they choose to wear.

In the history of nations
it doesn’t matter how you love them,
they only love you back 
a little, and only at certain times.

In the history of history
it doesn’t matter what happens,
only what is said about what happened
or did not happen, or is said
to have not happened.  

I tell you these things
not to make you despair
or get you angry.  

I tell you this
not to make you shrug
or to allow myself delight
at your learned helplessness — no,

I tell you this to let you know
battles are not won
as much as they become
games 
to be replayed.

You will 
lose some,
and win some,
and some of us
will die playing
while some
will kill while playing.

There are no nations
but two:
the strugglers and the lords,
and both are everywhere
and speak all languages.

In the history of humans
there’s dancing and loving
and making of art and music,
good sweat, grand tears,
and a lot of laughter,

but you should not confuse their sources
with history and nation and government.
If you want to pursue happiness,
chase it but always recall
that history and nation and government
pursue happiness too,
and they do it, always,
by chasing you.

 


A Man In Need

You look like a man 
in need of a punch
in the side of the head
or a piercing
in the side of the body
Something dealt to you
by a Roman or a punk
Something you can add to
your Martyrdom Book
Something as good as any 
suicide attempt
colossal drunk striptease
bad haircut
Something to tell
the LADIES about
over a bottle of tears
You look like a man
in need of a narrative
to put it all into
A man in need
of a rabbit to tear apart for effect
as if the rabbit were an envelope
and the winner’s name was inside
A man in search
of a terrible weakling to be
A man who knows his disease well enough
to call it up for a ride
when he needs
to get somewhere FAST
A man who’s not going to get
his much needed punch in the head
from this guy
because this guy has no desire
to drive you anywhere

 


Genius Teat

If they decide to kill your spirit,
they will begin with flattery.

They will begin
with flattery
and continue into sycophancy.

They will follow you around
on hands and knees as sycophants 
and slowly, slowly begin to suck you dry.

They will say your shit is nectar —
and what, therefore,
must the rest of you be?

You will believe them,
you’ll see yourself as a genius teat
after a while…

and full of shit
or not full of shit at all,
what will be the difference then?

 


Triumph In The Battle Over Nick Drake

As if there were not other options
by the score to choose from,
the overnight radio’s playing Nick Drake
at exactly 2:04 AM when I awaken
thinking about darker things.

Although I like Nick Drake’s music
I refuse to let him do my work for me.
I’m not going to contemplate desperation
and spiritual desertion while envying
his fingerstyle technique, because

I always end up pissed and reaching
for a guitar and after I’m still desperate
but looking toward getting that tuning right 
tomorrow, and so much for that.  So let it 
not be Nick Drake.  Let it instead be

Jackie DeShannon’s “Put A Little Love
In Your Heart.”  God, yes.  That works
perfectly.  I start picturing Iggy Pop
singing it all Morrison-spit-take gruff
and no one believing

a word of that song ever again. Chase that with
ABBA or something — here, let me
get the dial — candied oldies
of a different stripe.  Perfect music
for the darkest hours  — because if you actually sing

of despair, you know,
if you can hold its lines
and wrangle it into song,
what you get is not in fact despair.
What you get is called, instead, “triumph.”