99 posts

The Unwalled City

“Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death
we all live in an unwalled city”—Epicurus

A train clacks through darkness
past a derailed train in darkness, broken stops
The coin in his head
can only guess at its other side
Ferocious and deranged means dangerous
Most of them don’t imagine or love anything much
This leaves them unmoved, inviolable and untouched
When water freezes the chemical reactions
needed to create life stop
If only the actors would annihilate themselves
The survivor lugs his corpse in her head
and do what they’re told
The harsh impulse may pass before it begins
Let’s make it stop now, shall we?
With his right ankle on his left leg
just above his knee, he’d sit and watch TV
If he saw something he liked
he’d sometimes laugh and wiggle his left foot unconsciously
False promises of rapture, exhausted by the effort
night after loveless night—
too old, blighted, lonely and afraid
He found her intelligence prickly and abrasive—
difficult to stay together, impossible to leave,
universal in sympathy, they’re outcasts by nature
a rancor that develops, naturally when two people live together—
gaunt and haggard, more hawk-like than ever,
this ceaseless process of work, creation, despair,
invention, laughter and destruction
She tries one key than another
struts her air guitar as though I can’t see
The seductress, the would be fuck-hole of Forest Hills
isn’t fun anymore, and still can’t sing
If I wake up beside you will life still be bleak?
It was always bleak, even when I couldn’t see...
Dressed in the French manner, she flaunts her tin jewelry
She reduces her anguish by taking many lovers
She knows just how the tricks are done
Wrinkles start at the elbows and knees
I once saw her rub her face with magic lotion
and her wrinkles miraculously faded into blush
This one has a remarkable military aptitude
but his intelligence is less than robust
Sometimes I don’t know which I hate more—
to wear suits or the pricks who wear them
He has a distinct horror of polite,
feminine, diplomatic conversation
She speaks of the past like it was now
of people long gone as though they still live
the exalted and pathetic, pleasure loving dead


-August 6, 2011-


Misty night mountain,
moon-shines through the cloud seams—
an old man walks alone and thinks
“You holy night, soon it will be over 
I will sleep the longer sleep, 
sleep softly in the midnight breezes 
while her sad last death leans towards me”
Sleeping pills knocked him out at night
kept him dazed in the day
Northeast winds, rocky wine-dark seas
“I see the nocturnal wily jaguars 
I seek the fierce white tiger in me 
Death is not the cruelest way 
to lose someone you love”
His mind knows what to do
but he doesn’t do it
Tough sun today, high skies...
“An ancient tribe—at night some take 
him out hunting where no one else can see 
They push him off a slick icy cliff 
and happily cleanse themselves of this liar”
He was the one who arranged all meetings and
engagements, always in public places where
he could gracefully escape
His tilted head, his tired face, 
the tense thick movements of his hands, 
all assert that he listens to his own taut voice 
and can barely hear another”
She said I talk too loud in restaurants
the way we Jews always do
The old dear thing had one WASP chin too many
“These words share no secrets— 
they’re just prayers to the bitchy slick goddess... 
Days of decadence, quicksilver fragile affections, 
heightened senses—incapable of love or hate”
Got him his sandwich—an individual can of tuna
with the oil drained, lettuce and tomato
on a roll—tried it myself once—not bad
“I don’t remember our last violin lesson 
but I remember him telling me of his plans to retire 
to Southern California—It’s just like Italy, he said, 
it’s like going back to Florence”
The horror is that cruelty and indifference thrived
where there should have been love,
like Rumanian orphans who have never been touched
The real diva was a sensational bore 
Unlike her re-creation on stage, that actress who brazenly puffs up her name 
Colorful fun tattoos like scars, up and down her wrinkled arms 
In life she can’t play the part”
When a squirrel jumps up from a garbage pail
with squinty rodent eyes, and thinning brown hairs
I don’t care, but rats do alarm me
“Morally ambiguous, ruthless 
Her tastes crude, her passions cold, 
said nothing then, because all talk is useless 
Her sore face bruised by his death”

-July 22, 2011-

…because it’s absurd

This sad, classic world
   of death, illness, causes, illusory triumphs and effects
overlies the indestructible, random, quantum
   Unnatural weird events, they
underlie the harsh stark noise of this world, they live
   because it’s absurd
He accepts no criticism
   the intrusive offender is soon dropped
She resents his ingratitude and desertion
   but no one cares about his dramatic resignation
which is accepted with a bureaucrat’s indifferent,
   impersonal, bland deliberation
In this game you can only manipulate,
   double-cross your opponent, hate her or
you can refuse to play
   Fog over water, trash in the field,
old green apples wrapped in cellophane,
   a rusty door held open too long
All the lightness of her personality
   without the anger we dream
They teach us, our mentors, how
   to face her dank, dark damage
Tepid waters calm for now, lives
   lived stupidly pass from room to room
Circus freaks know that if you want to be with someone
   you have to join their act
Instinctive limitations stilt her again, eat at her from within
   We kiss with the subway station bars between us
Healed things work but they don’t always work so well
   He forgets that he still might get through this


– July 8, 2011 –

His Middle Class Ways

She uses her arm to push him violently away
Skids from one unreality to another
All that pedaling for quicksilver moments of glide, of grace
She becomes bulimic, alcoholic, an obsessive cutter...

He spends a long year gazing out the window
Wounds abrade his middle class ways
Nearly lost his job because it hurt so bad,
couldn’t pay attention, relax or absorb the pain
A cascade of days mostly the same...
He was someone we all knew, but knew nothing about
He said of his childhood— “My dad never beat me, 
my mom never ran away”
He plays tennis with his dad
They take long, silent, walks together
He plays his flute out of tune 
in his rooms from midnight to dawn
then sleeps until noon...
Frightened people lie— she lies to him all the time
He glides his skiff through ragged, dank water
his failures push and guide from behind
A happy wish died many years ago
With these tight nerves so little is possible
The soft milk locked away beneath several layers of wood,
deceit, rage, “I defy you...I despise you”
Lives stunned with loss
If the stars could weep they’d weep the blood of tears
then awkwardly withdraw and fade
like a dead blank beat up case
She comes from troubles and brings her troubles here
Gauges the movements of crust beneath her feet
They leave the hotel and find themselves
in an old part of the city, where he’s never been
an obscure closed-in part
Her face stretched tight, dry
The self locked away behind blank stares
and sour, dutiful visions of middleclass paradise

-June 20, 2011-

Let’s just go out


He follows a colorless highway
   near the river’s glazed mirror
where ducks, pigeons, and cranes linger

He wakes in the morning and she’s gone
   No devices take him to her
no felicitous reprieves, no maps

He’s looked for her his whole life
   though he might have met her casually
once or twice or not, certainly not
The wretched city grinds and seethes
   It dulls his sad sensations
It’s all about hunger, denial and heat


She greets him with a rigid-faced smile
   like a hostess in a restaurant
or an airline attendant

Her son is narrow, prudish, hyper-religious...
   He jerks the ribbons and tears the paper
casts the scraps from his presents aside— 

What present can he even care about now?
   Everyone always lies to the General
Old, he can go up, down and sideways

but not forward...If it weren’t for the loud,
   martial, happy birthday, music
you could hear him grind his teeth


The psychosis of religious reverie
   extreme mischief in the brain,
scarred and tormented

Her clown face wears an unnatural expression
   distorted and grotesque
her anorexic body puffed up, bloated

No god to make everything clear
   no happy after-life
no heavenly reprieve
She appalls and repels like a distorted clown
   “You goddamned sons’ of bitches...”
Dead bodies swollen, discolored, stench on the ground

Brilliant secrets calcify with time, we
   seek subtlety, indirection, relative advantage
203 go into the fight, 95 killed or wounded

He hears metal doors slam behind him
   Her arid anorexic languor hard, oppressive, fixed
Sex is no cure for this despair

and no one will stand between us and death
   It takes just a moment of luck to deaden sensation
The numbers sometimes desert him

but they always come back and,
   they’re hungry for dollars here, so
let’s just go out and have a good time

-June 5, 2011-

Her Face


Her face is in my dreams again
   so loveable and fair this time
so mild and full of pain

Only her lips are red
   but death will kiss them pale
and feverish as light


A professional comedian—
   though it made them all laugh
he hated to cry...
Sometimes, in order to fly
   through air, you must
hang by your arms, legs and neck


The mysterious nurse
   does the bop island healing
She arouses desire

Around her he wanted
   to be funny, intelligent and kind...
One more bop to go, a charm, before home


They dance together
   with little skill or pleasure
You don’t know or care where I’ve been

Her curiosity is easily satisfied...
   Truth is fine enough
when it’s what you want to hear


A sense of fiery drama
   a desire for secrecy
She wanted me to care

just a little bit less
   We teeter toward losing balance
then clasp each other close and true

He’s happiest and sanest when
   everyone laughs, the comedian
There’s no reason

It’s like rocks in a garden,
   silky weeds in the grass,
wiry red thorns in a light grey mist

-May 24, 2011-

They must…


They must cause
   the things that will torment them
Bloodstains on cobblestones

Sex numbs her anxiety,
   lets her escape herself, ties her close
enough to hurt him

Today, I’ll be the attractive one

An outward look
   that has nothing in common
with her inner feel

Escape from the hard-edged
   glare of jagged lights
He had everything he wanted

and wouldn’t be that happy twice
The yellow weeds become puffy
   dirty, light, fluffy balls
that make us sneeze

They always look like flowers to me
   We feel opposed extremes at once and
if I knew why we fly into these clouds
I might know why we never fly out

Surrounded everyday by thousands and more
   of affable enough, like-minded monsters
who don’t wish you well

and don’t wish you ill
   until you get to know them
He’s out there trying to make friends

but always says the wrong things


A patchy knowledge, unsystematic
   self-taught, private, extreme
I don’t care about the camera, friend,

I just care about the lens...
   These are random tales, all—
now her arms enfold me, then

her soft touch tight and fast

-May 11, 2011-



Always the mediocre girl, almost ugly
   blank and aloof, stares vacantly at me

No one hates, the way lovers hate

If only you could listen to the voices from there
   while you live, really live, right here

Savage instincts, reptile wants

An older world of stockings, tulips, perfumes,
   and invitations opens before her

a deep and corrosive hunger


If I could see it, I could hit it but
   whatever I do won’t change a thing

Religion, family, love— why care most

for what isn’t real?
   He has these sweet, enduring feelings for her

Toxic fathers, toxic mothers, toxic daughters, toxic sons

Our futile egotistical designs
   Look just over there—it’s a place where we are as happy

as our natures permit


Playful, not immoral, but just a tad debauched
   If she was furious, she kept it to herself

Those who sit among us like gods

will soon be forgotten
   You needn’t strain for them or listen to them

He did the nature, but I did the hours

Sudden, arbitrary hurts will come
   to the vulnerable and innocent

like a vicious enemy we push and then cross


A monkey dressed in overalls
   who rips your face off

the bullet in his stomach, and another in his leg

finds his own room, it’s a child’s room,
   and lays down on the bed to die

None of us seems to know how much love we need

But we know well enough when it’s given
   After the argument a dazed lull

where nothing gets fixed or done


He wants to see things in a kinder light
   She flinched and doesn’t like to be touched

Not much good grows here, the soil’s all limestone

The water flows beneath, pure, cold and deadly
   She could look at my face and tell me

of all of life’s troubles ahead

Her enemies see innocence and want to kill it
   Her grief is strong, but she’s persistent,

she can’t find the bottom or float up to the top

-April 24, 2011-

Maybe in Paris

Love has no mother, no father...
He buries himself within himself
   Flew up so high the sun scorched him
Never thought such pain was possible
Plague days—we examine our skin for rashes
   panic over every cough
His fierce, opinionated and able lover, gone

What she gains always ebbs, dissipates
Then she cares nothing for the lover
   who once took her breath away
 Only the flimsiest membrane stays
Apart from their lust, real lovers don’t know
   what they want from each other
But they want to stay together

There are patterns that don’t change
Love’s neither beautiful nor good, says the sage
   It’s some hard-edged yearning in between
A powerful spirit that descends
We seek to keep our passions green
   I didn’t know that you could love so fiercely
and not get what you want

Love, like gold, keeps its color
no matter how hot the fire
   I forgot what normal sleep is
Jumbled panic beneath a cool and assured demeanor
Perhaps we’ll see each other again, babe,
   I yearn for that, her heart, her lust
maybe in Paris

– April 7, 2011 –

Our Wars

We love freedom for its own sake,
   and start a war every five years
The war is malignant, always to the back of us, silent
   even when we don’t speak or think of it
Warriors will slit our throats if we let them—
   Our wars, whatever we say, are fought for wealth
They poison our days
Stricken, he stands still, stares outward
   the same, for hours it seems, into nothing
Listens to his inner demon
   full of honor, years, courage, fame
Die a good and honorable death—
   not too soon, not too late
Our wars are perpetual
Here’s ambition’s garden—
   in twenty years this will be one large, radium infused forest
A wolf, soundless, lopes beside me in the ruins
   near the burnt out nuclear plant,
once filled with lives—“we will live vigorously
   and we won’t be afraid to die”
The wolf in this world is mine
Smashed bones are the result of these policies—
   Every war will be simple, triumphant and fast
Earth bound minds guarantee it but they lie...
   The warrior, wolf-like in passion, destroys
barriers between men and women, young and old,
   brilliant and stupid, animals and humans,
the drunken and the mad

-March 22, 2011-