As though assembling and disassembling my own plausibly denied youth. The stoners offered to set me up, toke me, put my head in rainbows—“we want to see what you’ll say.” No, I said, afraid of the law, of myself, my vocabulary’s enough drugs for me. My vocabulary…
Another interrogation: the heavy lids, the loose tie, the yellow nails, the smirk. His mother just offstage pulling terrible quills erect. “But why did you resign?” “On this island…” The letters have stopped speaking. Head lolling, amused and unafraid, in the cabbage patch with the other Bibles waiting to be plucked.
Thousands of us downloading songs that question their own value and putting them in our ears! on trains, on buses, on subways, in the street, in classrooms, at home. Journey to the interior. “I think the train is lost.” “How can it be lost? It’s on rails.” The Darjeeling Limited (2007): another festschrift of quirks for our consummation. Owen Wilson’s wounded head.
A secret verb predominates over the paragraphs that mostly seem to concern themselves with the presentation of certain facts about how we live. Being poses as Becoming in a dark alley. Becoming waits for Being outside the stage door, methodically beheading the flowers in Being’s bouquet.
In a minor key, as it were absentmindedly, we chain ourselves to each other and call the chain taste. This gregariousness is as political as it is disorganized and weak. Then you may read the tea leaves at the bottom of a thought-leader’s cup. We live in the age of rock and roll and the niche market. Transgression is now of the sender, the eroded establishment of a watchmaker’s values. We are best.
Stupid with fatigue derangement ranges outside any logic.
Thither and yon, holding palaver with the brute creation.
You needed springtime to need you,
so you shut the black umbrella
you’d been mistaking for the sea
and the real unbidden Adriatic
spilled over your hands. So too
I heard a voice calling me from Triestine rooftops—
my unborn reader, aswim in the dark
pinked perhaps by Cretan light
where my wife’s belly finds its separate sun.
A bedside lamp, a television, Curzon Street. Not the place of conception or authoring, only a passage to your being here.
Mika on the Underground under rain. She holds my hand, lets it go, swings through the crowd, I find her again. Thameside, Thermidor’s failed sparkle.
The what and the how of writing, their separable necessities.
and lashes me
compared to an inner thigh
makes mock and motion
of mine so stupid
to fail and fall
of the season after
endless pairs of cracked and crackling
this vocative O
Stigmata are golden, my father always said
nodding off the cliff of his Barcalounger
while Laurence Welk threaded the needle of another Sunday night.
It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but after, strung up
or out in the schoolyard or man on the dump,
I think of him slack-jawed in that famous blue light.
Then a cloud passes over my forehead, a click
and the renewed whir of the sump pump
gives me a jump on mortality. If thine eye
offend thee, pluck it out, and leave
it wobbling on your TV dinner’s tin tray.
unsupported assertions based in personal trauma
Another long night of king crab legs, cell phone casings, nine-volt batteries piled high, clean dead water on the flow. Now dawn’s rosy filings cast a long shadow on my unearned prosperity: overheated peonies, greenhouse schoolchildren, the widening solar absorption zone. In the middle of it all behind drawn shades my newborn family romance: mommy baby and me, sweet Sadie’s wise and terrible blank gaze. On some savannah somewhere charismatic animals leap and die for a poacher’s camera. On the edge of the Amazon a burn soots the faces of men who will feed their families for one more day. A trawler scrapes the bottom of my melodrama, getting and spending a spent force. Polar bears cavort before drowning, we subscribe to it all: force majeure.
Small pink hands, purplish under the nails, a frayed nip of skin at the tip of her right forefinger. Little legs, pinker still, crossed at the ankles, wearing no-slip socks. Top of her head mingled thin dark-and-light brown hairs, cradle cap, fineness of eyebrows. Shut eyelids with the same inner hue as the nails. Nose the slightest of convexities, not yet the proud flare of her mother’s or the Roman thrust of my own. Recognize my own lips, the mouth that defiles, her mother’s stubborn chin.
How to embrace you in this arms-free hold? Cup of coffee, books, notebook, pen. A little weather system beyond the border of this sling like a canoe strapped to my chest in which you, sleeping, voyage. A new thing under the sun, but it’s cloudy today, threatening rain, and the intransigent cars hurl by. I am telling the old story
of helpless love, imagining futures fast so they can’t come true, your canoe bobs and eddies in the wild stream of a dying planet—planet means wanderer. I mean a happy ending before dying, or after; I bequeath you flesh, shit of the exhausted earth, compost of Keats, to feast on your closed and peerless eyes.
So much bigger than you. As we imagine G-d, as children to parents, the parents they’ll never meet when they’re older. There are only vagrants, strangers, coming in with thunder. I do what I can / And no more. My mother’s letter of resignation—you’ll never read it, I promise only this, never to break
what can’t be broken.
Brussels, surrounded by foreign academics. How even the most fluent speaker of English language, when not born to it, sounds golden and impressionable as a child.
The spandrel as variant sustaining the sameness of a system.
Word and world as fraternal twins.
Pounding up and down on the environmental actual, which withdraws and withdraws. I’ve got this toaster. I’ve got this magnifying lens.
“We change the speech because we are not explaining, agitating, convincing: we do not write what we already knew before we wrote the poem.” George Oppen.
Daughter as desiring machine. Her fingers marking the waterglass.
Oppen: “I am the oldest promising young poet in America”
Do you remember not owning a phone?
he wore nothing but a bowler
and a mason’s apron printed with arrows
down toward concrete particulars and hairy toes
up toward ultimate premises did
I mention the cigar?
terrible tunnel of no wind
terrible tunnel of the eye
howl of flight fringed by the iris
the unloved body shrinking at the center
shrinking and twisting like water in a drain
alive only with your own life that you now have less of
every shade drawn
void of course
holes in the walls
irretrievable tunnel cannot unsee
bed at the center the unanswered crib
face perpetually unmasking itself
face still a face though abandoned of motion
face still a face in the shattering pond
whether she led you by the hand or you led her
set down on a bench I’ll be back in just a moment
alone in the play of shade leaves the splashing of a fountain
perfectly level horizon of water just to the right
no clouds at all and cries from the playground
getting restless and shading your eyes with your hand
the companion does not appear
wait a bit longer as the sun is going down
water streaks its colors to the point your vision fails
as mothers collect their children or are themselves collected
dark as it gets by then still sitting a little longer
and pay again the price of opening open eyes
My daughter pulls down mud, she pulls down sky, big red barns and moons in pails and great green rooms and fields she bends to kiss or lifts to wear as a hat.
My daughter pulls down Lovecraft, she pulls down Patrick O’Brian, she pulls down Proust.
My daughter whinnies, slick foal, she pulls down William Fuller’s Sadly and Lyn Hejinian’s Happily.
My daughter pulls fiercely, she pulls attentively, she pulls carelessly, she pulls down colors, she pulls down black and white.
My daughter tucks the tip of her tongue between lower lip and gum, she pulls down Allen Grossman and Allen Ginsberg together in a ungorgeous New Directions heap.
My daughter pulls down my vanity, she pulls down her pants, my daughter claps hands.
My daughter plants petals in her hands and turns them, from a distance she sees me turn my own petals, my winged hands.
My daughter nibbles on corners, chomps on chapters, she gummed the messy baby in her copy of Messy Baby until no baby was left.
My daughter pulls down.
My daughter pulls down a name from the air, from her parents’ lips, from interested parties. She turns her head now.
My daughter in language but not yet of language—of thrips and chirps and splutters and warbles and ululations and giggles and coughs and never too far from tears.
My daughter pulls down hat, she pulls down hot, she pulls down hi.
My daughter who will know only and for years a black president. My daughter pulls down my vanity.
My daughter pulls down heavy volumes I can rescue her from but for how long.
My daughter pulls down a box of hand-me-downs and plays peekaboo with the pages.
If my daughter touches her hands to the top of her head and holds them there looking grave underneath we understand that she’s invisible.
My daughter pulls down my gaze and my thoughts from a desk far away, littered with judgments.
My daughter pulls down banners and raises them again.
My daughter pulls down the flag of her future disposition till it’s indistinguishable from the carpet.
My daughter pulls me down to her, I rise with her inexorably, soon into language but for now sweet pure speaking—
My daughter pulls down apple, she pulls down walk walk.
My daughter my daughter she pulls she pulls she pulls me backward and hurtles herself forward oh go ahead change.
My daughter turns her head and sees a sound.
My daughter laughs, sometimes she laughs at me.
My daughter pulls down Mama, she pulls down Dada.
Oh go ahead and stay the same my daughter if it costs my daughter pull me down to you among all the books and tatters where we crawl.
I don’t pay for it. I always pay for it later.
I never gave at the office. I always loved and hated.
I never hated. I always wore white gloves.
There is that much language and all
of that luscious. Says to me sarcastic,
Well, Josh, why don’t you let it out, then?
President Obama the end to every alienation.
Those people were a kind of solution.