On the terrace, huddled
the ticking air
and hissing in the grass—
at the palazzo belfry suddenly
On the terrace, huddled
the ticking air
and hissing in the grass—
at the palazzo belfry suddenly
Just let me finish my story. Listen. I was at this party at a house on Vanderveer Street off of Hillside Ave in Queens. I was having a great time with my friends, then near the end of the party, I had to leave because I wanted to help my mom. She had called me, you know, she’s older and needed my help, I don’t know, can’t remember, something about her house, maybe the garbage disposal or something, so anyway, I said I’d be there after the party. Well after a while, I thought I had hung around long enough, mingled enough, so I went to the front of the house to look for my shoes, and I couldn’t find them.chop! chop! read more!
Meanwhile, in the airy labyrinth,
in a bathtub full of corn liquor,
in the red barn on a hillside.
While you were squinting in tomorrow’s sun.
When the lion purred deeply.
While you were paring your nails
and twiddling with the radio,
incident brushing against incident,
willpower crooking a finger,
intention taking a short vacation,
‘in the meantime’ on your breath,
time an old fire in an older world,
time a sniper, a deer in its crosshairs,
an arrow coursing from one moment to the next.
My mother told me nothing is safe. I’d grown up fenced in playpens, leashed like a dog, harnessed in strollers. I was buckled and belted, handheld and sandwiched, life-vested, sunblocked, helmeted, braced, and warned. My vaccines were up to date. My laces double-knotted. She told me never go out alone, my friends weren’t friends but “buddies.” Each time I built up the courage to timidly test the limits of her invisible fence, things went wrong. I’d think maybe she was right. Or this was a bad idea.chop! chop! read more!
The coyotes are judging me.
The coyotes are excellent judges of character
attuned to minute oscillations of will
opportunistic in their insight. they are misanthropes at heart, the coyotes,
also canids, and therefore cynics
and proceed from the assumption of not the best or the worst
as the essence of the human condition but inertia
the failure to bestir ourselves to invention
so it begins [spring] leopards from a crowd of moss hills bloom
I don’t live there; I built my ship sailed jungle bound
to procreate among the mongoose sifting through sand ponds
this is where
I wait, sunburnt
Speed-free for two days now and stuck waiting on the 116th Street A train southbound platform with a hard two-train hour down to my job at the Gansevoort Meatpacking District, I have this packet I got at the bodega at 113th and Broadway, this over the counter Ephedrine bullshit in its bright blue waterproof packaging, and this is what I’m reduced to, trying to pound two little pills to dust without splitting the plastic, using my fist against the greasy wooden subway bench, and though there are five or six other people waiting, no one is going to say anything to me, not at 3 a.m. at 116th Street—maybe not anytime—and finally I have it powdered but with nothing to snort with, not even a single dollar bill; just a pocketful of tokens supplied by my girlfriend Kiley the way a parent might pin a child’s lunch money to his coat along with a note, I have to lean my head back and pour half down each nostril, snorting as hard as I can and it’s worse than speed, the burning and the small sharp shards that didn’t pound cutting into my nose and soon I have another nosebleed going and the train still hasn’t come and after this there’s another switch at Columbus and another wait, then ten hours of hard work and the whole thing in reverse and it has got to be the worse but given all this, it’s still better than staying home, waking up to her and all that goes with her.chop! chop! read more!
The palm trees outside the window are waiting to wed.
But the officiate is late.
They stare at each other, touching fronds, tasting of perpetual summer. At night
we hear them imagining themselves elsewhere. Unrooting. We smell the yearning.
Annie on Mulberry lane doesn’t believe us.
Well, they aren’t outside the window, exactly.
a simple star-crack unwinding
in ropes of flat out
shaking silver. The white bird
is not raveled in thought
when it breaks open the brow
of the river with its
flung down flight. How
do I say it? I am there
for you. I am
never there for you. Not much
belief would walk your hand
straight through to my spine—
The wind hesitates, the sky like to sing, so blue. Tiny Boy writes his name in dirt, slow and careful. The Lockett’s hound jitters in dream and the same old flies circle and circle. The day is Thursday and Tiny Boy will eat his dinner with Gran, pork chops he hopes, and applesauce. She don’t make pies anymore which is a loss to all concerned, meaning Tiny Boy and her church-friend, Marla. Down the street, shirts hang on a line in the backyard of a house gone empty months ago. Bleached now, in sun streaks. Tiny Boy tries to whistle. Carter tried to teach him 3 or 4 times but he still can’t get out but a huff. Carter’s gone now, too, like the people in the house.chop! chop! read more!
What is this fat hen squawking about? Michael tries to open his right eyelid, so he can see the nurse better, but it is sealed shut. His left is barely a slit. Through the haze of milky sleep scumming over his pupil, he makes out a whitish blob topped with frizzy orange lint.
“Fat? You’re already in enough trouble, mister.” This nurse he has never met before heard him. She walks to the wall beside the door. He fights the urge to think in case another insult slips out. What if he has hurt her feelings before having a chance to prove the opposite, and she thinks him an ogre? His head feels like it weighs thirty pounds, fifty, as he rotates it to better set his good eye on her. He senses the unmade hospital bed beside him, the television plopped onto a cart in front, and the wheelchair in which his large body rests. This room, this ward, is unfamiliar, but he tries to stay calm. The nurse rips off a length of brown paper towel from a leaden dispenser triggering an artery centered in his brain to pulsate and deliver short punches to the surface of his face and into the boggy fluid of his stomach. His gut quivers as he tenses the muscles above his left eye to raise his brow and lower his cheek, which is like trying to prop up a fallen roof with a toothpick.chop! chop! read more!
I could be a constellation,
I have a cryptic, enticing tale
it has lions and swords
and those things,
blood and love
and choices of kings.
in Afrika there is a way you beg forgiveness
for future sins
today in a broken language
the same way you beg blessings and blessings
for memories to be left behind
for gods soon to be forced to answer and answer
prayers yet to be said
in Afrika you beg forgiveness and forgiveness
for only future sins
The slow snow first and then the hard snow with left and right men shoveling, cars swerving, stalling, spinning out, and drip by drip the icicle daggers sharpening, waiting to descend as we women lug logs up the porch steps and the dogs slink off, shivering, tails between their legs.chop! chop! read more!
I never knew you were Baptist.
Nor, I suspect, did you.
Perhaps it was the funeral director
or your most recent ex
that finally got you into church.
Your waterless baptism, surprise testimony
to the suddenness of your saving.
Begin by skinning
an animal. This plastic woman
has, like, 200 acres,
and she has so many couches,
and she isn’t even going to share.
She’s rich, rich, rich.
It is a relief to pass beyond
the flesh and become instead
a column of information.
Puerile, we watch pulp
mills break down the big
coastal forests with sulfite.
Tender mushrooms from
distant pastures, we grind
them into dust, a magic.
Telepathy inside the car.
Before Del opened his eyes he knew the kid was gone. That panic feeling. That guilt. That screen door slamming in the wind. It had broken into Del’s dream, and as soon as he realized what it was he gripped the arms of the threadbare recliner and launched himself upward. His feet hit the carpet and he was down the hall with his head spinning and vision blurry. By the light in the house, it was hard to tell whether it was morning or evening.chop! chop! read more!
There must be more of them than you suspect, here in the Midwest—maybe every tenth, every fifteenth woman you pass. Those who used to ride clinging to some guy’s leathery back, bruised and battered and passed from one biker to the next, and then re-applying makeup in the fender’s reflection. Like the one who dropped by my office last week, her second skin peeled back to reveal her trinity: Harley, Triumph, BMW. Her name was Lorca, after Garcia Lorca, I hoped, imagining one of his dark Gypsy ballads recited at her conception.chop! chop! read more!
Am I sweating? Goddamn Jack Kennedy, may he rest. I never cared about the faults in my face before that SOB. Thank God for Pat. Smile, shake hands, remember key points: differences, future, enemies. Smile. “Hello, hello.” Smile. Breathe. Do not bob your head. Clasp hands behind. Clear throat. “Ready?” Yes. OK. Breathe. “Mr. Vice President…” Shit, my nose itches. “As we look to the future.” Forget the fucking nose, Dick. “We must realize that the Government of the People’s Republic of China…” You are announcing history. “We will have differences in the future…” This, this will be my legacy.chop! chop! read more!
Play. It’s 7 a.m. in Erie, Pennsylvania. Two young men sit at a bus stop on East 6th Street across from a paper mill that closed the previous year (2002). One young man, Dan Morey, is recently returned from a West Coast university, where he earned a master’s degree in English. When people ask him what he’s doing now, he tells them he’s “considering a PhD.”chop! chop! read more!
The kid rides the dad’s buggy fast and quick. It’s him and her in the buggy with the handlebar and the seat he sits in with the kid standing at his back. He’s got a rare type of osteoporosis that only affects men, see, and though it hasn’t been diagnosed he knows this is what it is. He’s seen the weird hunched-over ladies with their reusable totes lugging veggies and fruit back and forth. Each time he sees them he thinks, You and me both, sister. The symptoms haven’t yet showed but he knows it’s coming. He can walk just fine if he wants. The buggy is more a preventative measure than anything else. Plus it gets his kid and him from A to B real quick. She’s in school, elementary, you know, the one where she’s gotta be there 8:30 a.m. or he gets a call. And he gets more than enough calls that’s for sure.chop! chop! read more!
When the boy asked his father where his mother went he said she “had a bird.” He didn’t know what that meant, but maybe it was because she squeaked like one, he thought. Or maybe she used to have one and she lost it.
His father paced around the kitchen preparing for dinner. He pulled out the pasta strainer and put it on the counter but there was hardly enough room, only the corner. He peered over at Tommy. He grabbed the plates smeared with dried ketchup, pressed them together, and rolled them into the dishwasher. He glanced again at the boy, who looked like he had a question. In fact, Tommy was trying to reach an itch in the middle of his back and was squinting his face in desperation.chop! chop! read more!
Category is a submarine, Soviet,
riveted together in pointless hurry
by convict labor, Lesser Class, something for
Black Sea, obsolete when it hit the water:
[Intercept] Frontal lobe Ivan drinks vodka
on his watch—bilge is backwashing into head.
Odessa Command has forgotten us—
no radio response since 1989,
Not since the order to dive too deep for sturgeon
for the Party banquet. Listen, Officer of
Language and Music starboard must be written up
for insubordination – anti-social behavior
playing those old 78s of Stalin from the ‘40s
as everybody gets naked and drunk with
the mermaids. But will they sing for me
sings Denisov, the bass from Stalingrad—
As he trudged through the water-logged grasses, the weight of the canoe’s bow suddenly doubled in his hand. When he turned to look aft, his daughter knelt in the mud.
“Are you okay, Monkey?” he asked. His neoprene waders hobbled him and kept him from rushing to her.
“Why does it have to be so dark?” She shook mud from her hands as she stood.chop! chop! read more!
I grew a maple tree behind my shutter board house. It blossomed despite the stuffed weave of city streets. The first time I saw it, a single leaf had sprouted and turned its face to the sun. Those rays of light that the leaf caught fed the single branch, which pushed against the cobbled patio, displacing old bricks. It is a waking giant, I thought.chop! chop! read more!
when he beat me up he had me against a row-house screen door, blows like birds flying at my ears as if they were feeders, my hands at the sides of my head protecting my face, I don’t remember the feeling of being punched but I remember my bully’s face, filled with paternal rage as if I’d committed a mortal sin not a wrong against him, his lips sealed, his cheeks red and exploding the energy of punishment, I shouted fuck fuck to show that even in tears I was brave enough to shout a word I knew was bad,chop! chop! read more!
Bury me under feathers.
My mother wanted me to be an actress, a singer.
I paint in wings, in white, black, in plume.
You waterproof, you go thermal.
All the directions read backwards, the compass is upside down.
Don’t you get it. Look again, again. It is right here.
It is time to go home.chop! chop! read more!
We rolled into Bakersfield in 1968 the way the Okies did in The Grapes of Wrath — with everything we possessed packed into a creaking car and trailer, kids stacked on top of each other and no place yet to call home.
Following a dust-devil down Highway 99, leaving my dad and his other wife at the Sacramento end of the Central Valley, my mom strangled the steering wheel of the Belvedere wagon until it and the U-Haul came to rest, hot and ticking, beneath the cement awning of the Capri Motel. Piling out, we could see the yellow arch across Union Avenue spelling out Bakersfield in bold black letters. Tall desert palms spindled the endless, empty sidewalk while sun-spotted traffic coursed by the motels and take-out shops and liquor stores. It was May and already close to 100 degrees.chop! chop! read more!
Sunlight through kitchen window,
porridge swirled with raspberry jam.
Mouths clotted red, a bluebird sings:
on this morning, how can anything
be dead? Heat, the language of the
tea kettle, and whistle, warmth.