DSM-5

I don't want anesthesia for breakfast again,
no pouring naptha on my cheerios, or ether 
in an oatmeal feed bag over my nose and mouth.

(However nasotracheal intubation of coffee
is indicated per DSM-5, 315.30 (F80.89) –
Pragmatic Communication Disorder, e.g. Poetry1)

Better your feral kissing stays stitched
across my skull, sutures of the cranial plates
fused into a flight of starlings, like radios

tuned to the shillelagh station – Swing, somewhere
between Cab Calloway and a blackthorn club
arcing towards my head.

Awareness.
Concussion.
Only you.

1Diagnostic Features:

“Social (pragmatic) communication disorder is characterized by a primary difficulty with pragmatics, or the social use of language and communication, as manifested by deficits in understanding and following social rules of verbal and nonverbal communication in naturalistic contexts, changing language according to the needs of the listener or situation, and following rules for conversations and storytelling. The deficits in social communication result in functional limitations in effective communication, social participation, development of social relationships, academic achievement, or occupational performance. The deficits are not better explained by low abilities in the domains of structural language or cognitive ability.”  (From DSM-5, pg. 48)

Shay’s Word Garden

The Q100 to Rikers

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"

Shay’s Word Garden

For Laura Nyro

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.

Shay’s Word Garden

The Web of Life

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.

Shay’s Word Garden

Bobby Bly and F. Scott Fitzgerald Walk Into a Bar…

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.”

Shay’s Word Garden