Fall 2009 Vol. 6.1
Poems and Sketches
for Veronica and Samuel
The peasants used it to fornicate under.
The werewolves used it for an excuse.
The witches used it as a silhouette device,
that glamorous medieval portraiture,
a brain stretched around a looking-glass.
The Gnostics knew it was the devil’s skull
bowed in prayer to his own creation.
The negative theologists wrote on it,
saying god meant everything you could not know.
Semantics used it to make lunatics.
Lunatics used it to pretend they weren’t
average. The earth uses it as an excuse
to exterminate who believes the tide
to be her friend.
I’m not sure what the Asians used it for
because I’m not Asian. My skin
in the moon is white like the moon,
its veins made by the shadows of debris
gliding between the source of light and the mirror
bouncing that light into the sea, where it dies.
The Neoclassicists used the moon as a Frisbee,
cutting off men’s heads. The Romantics barked
at it. The Victorians put the moon on plates,
numbering a series that began with O, a full moon,
and ending in the number 1—the moon,
to the Victorians, was an accumulation of decimals
used to sire children. Matthew Arnold,
the great closet atheist of the British Victorians
requested his skeleton be kept in a metal coffin,
asking to be shot from a future cannon
into the Imbrium Basin, the giant crater
on the moon’s surface. He said the moon
was, like himself, a part of the earth
that could get neither closer nor farther away
without destroying all of nature.
That isn’t true,
he didn’t say that, or ask for his body
to be shot in to the Imbrium Basin
which is about 4 billion years old
and the size of Delaware. I don’t know what
I was thinking. How would I know
what Matthew Arnold wanted?
But then I go and look it up on the Internet
to find out that’s exactly what he wanted.
And his last words exactly were
The tide is not her friend.
To the Modernists the moon didn’t mean a lot.
To the great Wars, the Moon was first
a flying scythe seen from under water, and second
the shaved head of a sex maniac.
To the Spanish Garcia Lorca the moon formed a perfect
guitar note. To the Peruvian César Vallejo
it was the bilateral view of a broken bone.
To the Chilean Nicanor Parra,
it wasn’t anything because he was sick
of the Cowboys of the Moon. If anything,
mathematically, it was a lightbulb
imprisoned in the darkness of its freedom to burn.
Even now, with his installations in Madrid
called “Edison’s Insect”—a popped bulb
with its nervous antennae exposed suddenly,
Parra’s face looms like an embossed ghost
from a can of women’s bath powder.
However, when man landed on the moon,
he was killed instantly. Women never had to.
It is particularly believed that woman
has a moon between woman’s legs,
and the waves smother themselves to death
to get to her, but that they get no closer.
This belief is correct.
But I’m not sure where else the moon
could possibly come from.
In my opinion, the moon has exactly the same
oxygen isotope composition as the earth.
To me the moon is gigantic sex toy.
It’s mainly the skull of my newborn child.
One day it is the beads hanging from the head
of a black girl. Then it’s a mistake.
It is a chip of ice in the mouth of a woman.
I know, I know. “If you really loved me you’d take that toothbrush out of my gunshot wound,” etc. But how can I love you when the nudes flash like teeth, wiping the parking lot with their utmost clotheless lustre? Licking over the setting? The setting we are intent on being in love, in?
We must learn from the antiquities. Didn’t the nudes cure your cancer just being here all this time? Hanging out the garage, sipping from the gas cans, proving they are above cause-effect, practically holding up the garage in the first place, ever since we first moved in, making the falling-down architecture of hate into a standing-up architecture of love that so does resemble your collapsed lung that isn’t collapsed anymore, from cancer, now that I don’t love you anymore?
How can I love something so well, so cured, as you?
Another way of me asking this right now is how can I not love myself more than I love you, instead? When the nudes bring me the books I need, warming them by rubbing between their thighs? A warm book is a good book. You only bring me plain books, and in the plain way, with your “Sex Now Please” flash card you use so I’ll get the message when I am just really, really busy. But how, when they are cooking my breakfast nude as, not just eggs, but nude as yolks too? Should I care whether theirs are swollen thighs or toned thighs? Probably not. Should I care they are not your thighs? No, like I said just now. Should I care about that disease of brain that brines me in clerical recall of the day we got married and the dumb jewelry symbols people were shortly, like, “O that’s awesome,” about? I have combed years of these out of my hair.
On a nude, a single hair seems like an intrusion.
Besides me being denuded of you and your hair-burdened memory, you are completely out of my heart. All I have or want now has been summed up in that which loses everything each time I spot it. They are so poor, they’re like, on vacation. Even now as those forms stand upright in the graveyard of bathtubs I’ve arranged to live in the rest of my days, splashing in flesh when I can, they naked as fables, me fully clothed, more clothed than ever.
They are all the more naked in the tubs when it’s sunny! I’ve got them all whittled or waxed down to gleaming finishes, bellies flat as rippled sandstone, pink shoulders round as tub corners. Some days, I only wish they could be more nude than nude. Some days if they could only show me why I quit loving you long ago by really taking it all off, by really having nothing to hide, by stripping themselves down to an actual vacancy. I’d move in.
Come On My Firing Squad
We’ve got the cake, the hats,
the candles, some boxed wine,
a rosary clipper, an ice cream punisher,
a coat rack dispenser, a floor soother,
a wax teeth stabilizer, a harmony licker,
a fish swatter, a sweater anesthetist,
a handshake verifier, a still-life killer,
an on-screen machete assessor,
an electric mixer lullaby,
it’s one o’clock and the executions are at four,
a tube of phentermine lip gloss,
euthanasia nasal spray for in a pinch,
a stallion diffuser, a footprint in-filler,
sun dial wax, a peripheral glance recorder,
a mustache deboner, a ring finger depressor,
a plywood therapist, a Roman history buffer,
a drinking straw emulsifier,
a rhythm establisher,
an abdomen recorder,
a shoelace instigator,
a pillbox recovery unit,
a coffee threatener,
an actual ring decoder locator,
a blunt instrument of foresight,
a cat tapper, a Bolivian scarf rightener,
a tight ass memorizer,
a memorable photo mister for tearless moments,
carpel downshift syndrome,
a pentium doorknob, elbow trouble,
flat paint puffer devices
and other nonchalant crises of faith
that actually do pass before your eyes,
styrofoam yogurt extractors, candle assessors,
insole refillers and nickel rash scrapers,
brief nape of the neck fondlers,
carousel horse evacuators,
camel’s tongue glove animators,
garlic bulb convincers,
death’s head mask elaborators,
nude man welcomers, harmony blisters,
prolapsed flamingo amplifiers all such things Father Job saw in pleasure tended by his daughters Jemima, Kezia, and Kerenhappuch, who scraped his ulcers from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head with pottery shards and ash.? And in all the land no women were found so fair.
I Found Jazz Stimulating
I found Jazz stimulating it was a killer whale in a nutshell
a microphone in the ear of a killer whale on tape, actually
actually it was nothing more than the sound of pollen decaying
Jazz became sullen, suddenly but I didn’t care
though I minded
So I sat in the bathtub and thought about it with a peach
holding the peach under the water as it ripened
to death in my hands it wept like a clarinet it got soft
its stone was loosed
I knew nothing about Jazz
So I asked the woman in the room with me (she was my
I asked the woman in the bathtub with me, Do you love me,
who has heard so much jazz up until now?
She answered by blowing her nose into a saxophone
don’t need you to get cute I said
The window outside was raining hard notes of ice
the trees were all convulsed in bath time
a trumpet bleat with its throat cut Jazz, I said
How punctually mangled it is how much like a
How much jazz is like a church steeple!
So the woman and I drove to a graveyard
and we were right on time
That’s jazz, I said
So we sat in our portable mausoleum and listened
and 2 % of all the instruments in the world
littered the steps that led to mass flapped on stone
And the bells how they were crying
and the angel how it was weeping
tears quivered like whiskers astutely
I couldn’t take listening anymore not to jazz
jazz sank too much below the sound of the church bells
jazz littered the yard with its own dead instruments
and the bells were chewing off their tongues in solos
jazz stopped being funny to me then
jazz isn’t easy, I said to her
but her voice was a caution light
House By House
What stumbles through mosaic and mural
into and out of the life of wives
and the husband killer—-
scaling down one dead breath
drop one dead breath into the penny well
got the front teeth of a white alligator
jumped into the back of a mausoleum vehicle
said final rites into the ears of a safety patrolman
scared the white off a dead albino
then took his shoes of dice
everything in his cinched and girdered sex
is death & death & deathing
and for him every task is a simpler task
convinced her she was absolutely correct
to agree to him being absolutely right
killed everything in his path
left a trail of newborn daisies
his notion of order,
like Wallace Stevens’ but a whole lot funnier
screeched to a halt at the gloomy red stoplight
which stared like a Puritanical lawyer
because there were only red lights
and green was out of the question
and driving to work was the same
as slaughtering a blue ox
and even he couldn’t help but stop
and giggle and get mad, go mad,
get embarrassed, hit the gas, then he
purchased an ounce of terrible blue salt
and used it unwisely
* * *
Sharked his wise old British aunt at pool
and lied to her about his success
though he didn’t mean to lie
then veered off in his limousine at a dead clip
into the heavy sunset hanging there like
a bag of plasma
and he sang alone to the similar colors
of birth and murder, one hand dripping
out the window, climbed into your very hair
as you slept in your upstairs bedroom
and he drove up the pillar of your private
sheet music and played on a harmonica
by whispering, through his teeth
this bleak distended melody
Doesn’t like breaking somebody’s life
into colors, but will. Doesn’t enjoy the trigonometry
of murdering somebody’s life into decision
and option and calculation, doesn’t like the way
a calculator is a tool, doesn’t like the one thing
that will kill him, falls in love anyway,
doesn’t like the way he is cruel only in theory
and drives away in the woman’s ear in her car
with the volume at top notch bent and listening
to her voice come begging through the radio, for mercy
When We Die in Somebody's Else's Dream
It’s nothing sad, nothing discomforting.
But our most important flowers do grow
from the dirt of great loves changing places.
You want arrogance? Try the arrogance
of flowers that actually grow from Absence.
Now in our dream—and because our fans
want Narrative, here’s the narrative—
in our love’s dream we ride out to a cave
where my father’s bones hang on a wall.
In real life his bones are in a plastic carton
hung on the peg we use to remember where
the family dog is buried. But in our love’s
dream we examine these bones, which are
gold. In dreams, that which is gold does not presume the arrogance of exits. Our fans
just would not stand for it. Our love
told us in email: “you were going there
to join him,” but that’s not how it ends.
In our dream we go back to the light,
get back in the car, drive somewhere
else. “To die together,” says my love.
Our fans don’t get this. Now, they don’t
have to have happy endings—they are
sophisticated people, and nothing
sophisticated demands a happy ending—
but they are connoisseurs of experience.
Our fans would not have us reunited
with our love, go off somewhere to
drive for a few decades, park and die
holding hands or maybe watching
a sunrise, a mating bird, a traffic accident,
whatever other small joys we really do
manage to script into one lot. So, we
write back to our love, suggest some
changes. Our love does not write back
because she has just had another dream,
a dream in which she marries a No. 2
pencil. We’ve tried to change our love,
and she has responded by having a dream
in which she throws her wedding boquet
and another in which it is caught.