Daily Archives: March 14, 2018

In A Time Of War You Seize The Nearest Weapon

There’s so little inside me
you’d think I was a balloon
if I didn’t weigh this much.

I’m not a balloon. What, then?
Maybe a hollow iron sphere.
Steel encapsulation.

Knock on me and I make
a pleasing sound. I’m a bell,
a closed bell, dark inside.

Knock on me and see
if you can understand what I say.
I’ve spoken an empty tongue since birth.

Now I’m old and resigned to it, but
there was a time when I tried
to crack myself open and become a full throat. 

It never worked. Here I am, then,
a hard ball of air. When things are hot,
it’s hot air; when things are cold, you can guess.

Things are hot right now and I’m boiling.
Not likely to crack but if you swing me, I’ll bust heads.
If it gets cold, I can break them just as well.

Understand one thing, though: I’m not one of you,
will never be.  I’m the big hard void and will be,
before and after your war. You need a bell like me.

I do tend to ring your way. It’s an accident, really;
a mistake 
in your favor. Think of me as eraser,
here to shift the ledger; to wreck it

and in the process of wrecking it
to crack myself open at last,
make my one rightful noise, then shatter.

I have no illusions. You won’t want me
then. Will have no need of my voice
once the breaking’s done. In a time of war

you seize the nearest weapon. I’m ready.
I’m your rock, your branch, your 
morningstar. Let’s swing. Let’s sing.


Revised.  Originally posted 6/10/2012.

Hair, sifted full of gray.
Cut, less than good.
The scalp’s not flaking
with the new shampoo.

starting to furrow, starting to line,
starting to bag and sag.
Fuller than it was, much rounder.

Beard, uneven,
post-trendy, stubbornly
present for thirty years in this form —
the only thing the same from when I was,
arguably, at my peak of flavor.

Neck, undistinguished.

In fact, let us from this point on
use that word
as a frequent descriptor.
Let us say that as a whole,
the body is undistiguished
except where noted otherwise.

Shoulders, undistinguished.

Here and there skin tags
which some claim
are proof of heart disease
though they are not.

Chest, furry. 
Bigger tits than I’d like. 

I have some great and knifing pains
in my right upper chest, strong enough
to take my breath, pains that slice
from front to back, from nipple to blade.
Right side argues against heart attack;
I go instead with pulled muscle, or strain
from sleeping wrong; part of me
hopes I’m wrong as it will add to the value
of this poem in my Body Of Work
if I die after writing this,
wouldn’t you agree?

Arms, undistinguished. Hands
weirdly lined, a palmist’s dream or nightmare;
joints stiff as dry sticks every morning.

My eyes barely catch light.
My ears do my best work.
My ears support my hands in whatever they do
writing, playing music, meddling
in others’ opinions and business.

I don’t know how it happened,
but I have a voice that to the ears of others
is far better
than undistinguished.

Brain?  Can’t we just
let the soup and stew up there
do for themselves? Perhaps that can be
left for another day?  It’s not a chemistry to admire,
to emulate or strive for.  It’s not like
I haven’t got enough documentation already on that;

look at the bottom shelf, all those
yet unpublished books I’ve written, all those
piles of poetry, all those lines.
There must be formulas somewhere.

Gut, prodigious, not at all
undistinguished but in fact
a salient and unmistakable feature;
all in all, these days the most memorable
feature.  Bullet hole scars all over it
from surgeries, not injuries.  I have not
been well, not at all, not for a while.

I have a partial set, a half empty
glass.  I will explain the next time
I’m drunk, if I remember, if
I’m in the mood, if you earn
the right to hear it,
and if I want to. For now enough to know
that what’s here works,
somewhat surprisingly.

Ass?  Undistinguished.

Thighs and knees and shins? Chickenesque.
Feet?  Cracked and horned and rimmed with callus;
they are undistinguished
if craggy.

All in all, not horror show,
not Chippendale’s. Not at all the worst ever,
not at all the best; mostly indistinguishable
from tens of millions of fat older men.

Asking me how I feel ought to be

I hope you are listening.

I feel exalted.
Think of a slice of heaven
as you would like heaven to be.
I’m that.

For me, it is a dark bliss bubbling over, a pot
of warm molasses, a scrap on the stove
I forgot to clean or put away.

This body may soon be forgotten
by those too pleased
with being young to understand
how an older body makes richer music.

They may think it plays a poorer score
no.  Every mad note of it, scoffers,
every mad note is still remarkable, 

and I am a Goddamn hallelujah chorus
because I am holy and wholly
who I am.


Martyr: Clarion, Shine, and Chime

The sole of the boot
approaching your face.
The air compressing
ahead of its arrival,
a wave of dim purple,
red, blue, diffuse.

What you want to say
to the power about to smash you
into the dirt won’t come out
of your mouth. You push 
hard, try to unclench; 
nothing. The air turns
to pure and solid shadow, 
then to hard leather, then
to explosion, red
and blurring. You still
have something to say
but are not sure it will be 
understood or heard now.
You choke it down though
you can still hear it, your clarion
and shine and chime.

Again it comes:
your clarion, shine, and chime.
Someone is crying it out.
Someone will triumph
where you did not. Someone
will rise from this same dirt
and remember you,

you who did not cry out
because you could not, and

you will not die.