Your glass eye(s) breaking my heart like a highway at night of endless black mirror crushed beneath tires at high speed the splintered light of oncoming cars unseeing but we are not blind in the onrushing darkness, no love is not blind in your arms the shivers and slivers clear and bright
At the end of the line – Ditmars Boulevard in Queens – shake yourself awake, yawn, get off the N train. In the shitty weather walk three blocks north on 31st to the bus stop, about 50 feet from the corner. There you can wait in line with the nuns, wives, mothers and girlfriends for the Q100 to Rikers. You've never been to this jail – an island in the ocean sound built on bones and sorrow, landfill of ashes, ghosts, hauled by the inmates to make their own burial ground. If you are looking for prison poets – who shot their lovers like Verlaine shot Rimbaud – they are slumped in plastic chairs in front of the tv. They know a thief when they see one. You are here with your poetry workshop to steal what is furious, fierce, Eat and feast on what is glorious: "The heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.*" *Allen Ginsberg, "Howl"
When three dogs howl in the night, what's a catgirl to do? Skinned of song, you yowl the blue in your veins like a train whistle exhaling, wailing, disappearing like oxygen that ends in fury, a holy song that confesses what every Tom in the alley knows: hide your heart fearless girl – it's only a short toss into the remaindered hay, for when the winter snows part there are no coffins for strays.
No, no. No lap-dances with angels, no pushing cash into the elastic bands of their wings and copping a feel of heaven. Is it my fear, yours? To be skeevy and homeless in the afterworld? Me, haunting and flapping down the sidewalks of paradise, the smell of urine parting a sea of cherubim. And you, in Job's rags, riffling through the trash, collecting Diet Coke cans of redemption.
Watching Beatles clips on YouTube – John Lennon walks into the studio in a giant fur coat twice his size that looks like an apex predator humping Little Red Riding Hood It is the moment just before they devour the band forever, and all I can think I as I watch – they all have such small teeth
Did you just brag you measure your life in sheets of toilet paper? Stuck to the bottom of your foot, uncoiling the roll as you leave the bathroom you are a Charmin spider, exuding and unspooling your load as you walk through the living room and out the door, taking the bus to work where you circle the conference table until your boss is wrapped like a Halloween mummy so they send you to Paris and you are on the airplane jet trails of TP streaming and screaming out behind you, you’re a paper Frequent Flyer, Million Miler club of all the crap you’ve had to deal with, don’t cry or the world cries with you and we have to wipe the whole soggy gobbledegoo from our eyes our front yards the earth a trail of tears and a white Christmas after all? Be careful – no smoking – or you will light a fuse and find the world is a bowl of cherry bombs, an explosion of blackberry cobbler without sanitary napkins, a spark that follows you back igniting your history if not your imagination, unwinding and spiraling the idiots and maniacs into torched frenzy until at the very end of the line you find your head in a gas oven like Sylvia daddy daddy daddy with poems burning their way across the kitchen floor.
Bly's is the cue ball, his mind breaking Fitzgerald's rack, club ties striped and solid but eight-ball in the corner pocket, the dark-haired fever of it – F Scott buried in a pauper's grave Though Bly is only twelve in 1940 the next morning they're chewing cigarettes and champagne, tobacco bubbles and sparkles in their teeth – light of the sun trespassing through the empty glasses Fitzgerald is a flabby edition, his suit dog-eared, unsteady from the hotel, bookstore to bookstore, asking for a copy of his books, but no, his work a has-been, a feather mourning the precarity of wind and tremendous fame. Bly says we're dead now, whither shall we go? We lived in the front pocket of delirium, sorrow and lint to mix for our ink. Vienna will not have you nor write on your tomb: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Reader, now you are fully here in the poem. This is how the poem, you, and I transcend illusion, maya. Tell us how outside your window rain beats a can – the one you left on the porch of hair mixed with coffee grounds swept from the kitchen floor last spring. And I will admit my mother was already lost as we drove from warehouse to warehouse in Denver looking for heroes and boxes of steel ball bearings. The poem tells us these are where we hide, our thoughts tangled in umbilical, helical ropes that hang our hats or our heads. I am a large man, if I try to wear your clothes they will burst. If you try to see yourself in my mirror you will be unshaven and want a clean bar of soap. There is no "chop wood, carry water" here, only an apartment in Weekhawken above parking lots filled with brown leaves, thin puddles. Let us break bread together then, raise our glasses without deception – utterance and burning promise in our throats.
Dawn edging London, that red-eye planet. Reader, stand with me here in the hotel shower, face-up to the spray. Slowly turn up the heat until water is a lash. Not penance, no. You understand how this is necessary. Agree it would be a mistake to reckon and tally. Or call back dreams from distant beds. My clothes on the floor an abandoned spacesuit, skin professing faith in time-travel. There is nothing faster than light you say, from beyond the mirror's blur. No trick of gravity or imagination that grants us passage. A twist of the tap unseals the locks. I must learn to breathe. Only the long way home. “To be loved or broken, to be born again or die…” A woman waits for me.
*Salman Rushdie – “Quichotte”