Lo and I am like an armadillo, jolted and rolling into a protective tuck,
safeguarding scrolls of Tibetan mantras, chanting Avalokiteśvara – compassion –
as we are shot from the barrels of our phones, armored rounds
of blood-warm arms, legs, intestines, and organs
into the oncoming warships, worships
My skin knows only that tomorrow it will be stretched tight, immense
across the diamond vision screens of Times Square –
thin and translucent, burning pixels of news and all the colors of M&M’s
looking down where the naked cowboy sings in his rodeo boots,
no leather left on the sole, dubious, dub-stepped and pious
Please, mercy, I can't hear my own heart beat
over Kerouac jungle drums in the ChatGPT jukebox,
can't see my breath exhaled and frozen against the collapsed horizon
some genius left in shambles,
malfeasance and malediction
Lincoln might be in the Bardo – where spirits wait bewildered in their Rubber Room souls – But William Wordsworth is outside in my parking lot waltzing with language and cars – Foxtrots of Kias, nouns, and verbs, Fords and Acuras tango with adjectives – insensate and doleful dip and turn, While the drivers, like inmates of ballroom dance class, trip on overgrown iambic feet, hoofing to Glen Miller. In Spring he will gently blow adverbs and romance into pistils of foxglove, until magnolias faint in jealousy. For him, Death is no purgatory, no dotage, he is as lucid as yellow, as sharp as a blackbird quill plucked in flight, Far less bewildered than I between this world and the next – if he writes of eternity, it must be so – Poems to guide us with the half-life of Uranium 235 – fissile at room temperature – Nuclear reactions of sunrise breaking like egg yolk over the hillside – Ten thousand daisies runny with light.
|I’m a tornado of bees,|
a cyclone of buzz and hum
|You have more sharp turns|
than a toboggan of hornets
|I’ll rattle your mullions, believe you me,|
love storm of the century.
|The sky is seasick|
|We’re the full catastrophe,|
|You ring in my ears like dynamite,|
like a fight between samba and flamenco
|Oh Nagasaki, oh hot ginger,|
oh Ali‘s rhumba in the jungle
|More fun than a barrel of mimes|
tipping over Niagara
|You are handcuffed to wind,|
laughing about mortality
|Eskimo my nose, my toes,|
cuddle is the new tundra
|The windows leak ghosts,|
whistling for their supper
|But this is a love poem,|
gorgeous with leaves turning cartwheels
|Rain weeps through the cracks in my hands,|
wanders the damp maze of my bones
Go ahead, tell your sob story to the spoon and the coffee cup, how your addiction to night sky started with poetry, the gateway drug, and now you are mainlining – shooting stars – your veins twinkling with broken bottles and shards of Christmas lights. Go on, lament to this plate of eggs and Tabasco the fate of words like tigers performing tricks with what's left of the magician's sleeve, or the sound of violins playing blackjack on their shoestrings, hit me. I listen to your sling, your hash, your blather spread on whole wheat or white, your second, or third, or fourth marriage to sonnets, to Surrealism, to Whitman, feeding the doggerel scraps under the table, stumbling down 12-steps into the void.
I'm supposed to list my obsessions. OK, fine:
- The ferry maintenance depot near my apartment.
- The human body personified as root vegetables – potatoes, turnips, rutabagas.
- I can’t remember Jack Shit, though I’ve met him often enough.
Mostly the last one – it's like trolls under the bridge have custody of my memory. Pay the fee in princess skin or thou shalt not pass. I look in my wallet, but no Ben Franklin. That look of his makes me think he feels sultry in his lingerie, hidden under his coat. I feel pretty too, Ben.
Maybe my missing to-do lists and kodak moments are lost in a time warp – if we rip the veneer of space away will we expose its mechanism, its springs and bomb wires? What if lost time is a pendulum swinging in the clock case with its balls cut off – fixed like a steer so it can't reproduce. Or memory baked into adobe bricks, daubed with mud, stacked into walls in reenactments of the Alamo, where we always lose.
Someone said it’s the journey, not the destination, blah blah blah. I feel miles itchy with distance under my skin, yet the tundra of my kneecaps and knuckles are insurmountable. The rocks quit, the mountains quit, even the pavement quits before it ends down the block. With light pollution the milky way is only a candy bar. Nowhere to go from here.
Just once, contemplate Powell in 1869 – shooting the fevered waters of the Colorado river in wooden boats. Make the shift from your first gear to fifth, fourteenth, infinity. From darkness to light to fugue to black holes that leave you breathless on a far shore.
Rue de Rivoli – "It's you! Assassin! Mon frère!
Ah, we were but children when we joined the Legion,
marching from Algiers under Rollet – 'Honneur et Fidélité,' eh?
You, brave flower, fighting like a tiger in the alleyways,
and me, bragging open brothel doors.
The Devil or God (And which is which, in the desert?)
a coward when we blindfolded him,
rag carnation in his mouth,
we shot him with our Berthiers,
bolt-actions genuflecting in the sun.
Did we sin? We were fools!
We ate our bitter hearts out in that desert,
boiled our souls with thorns and thickets.
Riders with wind and sand rasping between our saddles and thighs…
Oh the melody they make – say it! Sirocco!
Now, over there, to your left, Diguet and his Montagnards
who gave so much blood at Tuyên Quang,
'Français par le sang versé.'
Now I merely puzzle the streets of Paris,
a toad who buries himself in cafes.
You say you garden now? Shadows of songbirds
against the barn, netting and dressing them
for your pies.
Here! Violets for your dear wife. Tomorrow it will rain.
Treat your blindness with care. Adieu!"
The day slips away, a greased crow –
hours and minutes on fast wings, my hands slick
from trying to spell the alphabet backward,
cawing: “Mind your p’s and q’s!” and which is which
Waiting for Amazon to deliver a box of wind,
open its thermals to lift my pages,
my shuffling, flapping sorrows and anthems –
trash or wings and which is which
My wife sends me to the pharmacy, midwife
to the season's skele-ghost and fire-nurse costumes,
the mockingbird kiosk sings for my debit card –
and which witch is which
I stop in the park and thumb coins into a rose bed,
wait for autumn to brew me a coffee –
I bang on the trash bin, demand oak trees
drop their red and yellow poems, end their masquerade
Of art and life, and tell me which is which
This morning I am a shuffleboard disc – shoes scraping across cheap playground asphalt, lines weathered and flaked I try shoving over a copy of The Waste Land, see if I can make points with ”hyacinth,” or bump off “lilacs” with ”lilies” But I'm too sleepy. I still have goblins in my fingers from last night's dreams, my maw dry and filled with peacock feathers Better, my game of folding grief like origami – I tear pages from the book, crease poems into surprise! A crown of thorns Forget about forgetting, memory steeps in tea bags of the past, dried peels and scabs of 1970 in tiny paper sachets "Are we having fun yet?" Outside again, the sun slowly slides Into scoring position, aloft Above the mirrored river, wings choppy as waves, geese wheeze south for winter
Sleepy, when my arm went over you, the trapdoor slipped open as always And we fell in stuttered flight, like bees drowning in sugar water set out in the lids of jars Tongues and stingers slurred with nectar, our waggle-dance instead a stumble Drunken semaphores to the Sandman – Instead of: "follow this way to forage, to hive, to hoard" He reads: “Turn left at Chicago, ride the ferry in your dwarf costume, and meet us in the Shatterproof Café” Which becomes someone else's dream tonight while we linger on the veranda, our bower draped in honeycomb
The clouds were tired of smelling my feet –
old man legs that swing, swing,
until toes stub the sky –
God's vast blue nostril inhaling
summer's residue and blister,
dead skin of bestsellers litters the beach
OK, no, only my face in the towel bag
huffing sunscreen fumes;
you said it was time to go
For all good things must come to an end,
like Columbus I sail
off the edge of the world
Pull the ripcord and parachute with all the others
in our Chevy Niñas, Pintas, and Santa Marias
down I-95 into Manhattan
Hurricane of returning vacationers,
lightning flash turn signals,
children the howling wind and rain in McDonalds
And you, as always, in the passenger seat
with your movie star face –
oversized sunglasses and bored look
We hang suspended, swaying
from the ends of steel cables on the GW bridge,
close enough now we can smell New Jersey
You say, as you always do:
"Never again. Never."
The dogs need to pee.