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Stark shallows

Her empty words are thought to carry weight
She’s a valued bullshitter, highly paid
Rumors and gossip salt her trendy talk
lies to truth to light gradations of gray
I see a tallow winter landscape from the train
Travel through various gradations of grays, browns, and whites
Today, even the vivid colors fade, duller reds, washed out blues
old paint, a certain worldliness, oily and shrewd
I tried to get close to her, my error
In a world infused with spirit gods and goddesses
witches like her are sometimes hanged –
her anger is stark with no set landscape
I box with ghosts from my thoughts and her soul,
like a town that awaits my late arrival
Don’t tell me you adore me, when you don’t,
admire me, when you don’t, or love me
As the sun loses energy, it radiates and gets hotter, not colder
As life lacerates cruelty, it can’t be made right
Like a great dead star, it’s the nothing from which I come—
Stark shallows urgently crave – and go

-March 7, 2011-

There’s nothing more

                1
The ideal is unyielding melody,
powerful, restless, continuous —
half-simpleton, half god, the great symphonist
He once thought her the love of his life —
but now she’s just a cranky, old, prune-faced,
sleaze fuck, from Forest Hills
Meanness, hysteria, self-sacrifice...
The great professor could work no miracles
He cut into his patients who revered him and
with great skill, and the best intentions, mutilated them
“You work on the water and you smoke too much...” said the seer,
who sees only what we already know
                2
He was devout, that clown, he prayed deeply, so reverent, everyday
He even encouraged his house slaves to do the same
With red hair and yellow teeth, that Bozo...
He walked on the stage intense and ready
To the piano he resolutely began to play
Then he’d abruptly stop and ask the audience
“Did I play that right?”
When they showed their approval he’d
raise his hand to stop them and
he assured them that before it was okay
but that now, at last,
he’d play for them as only he could
                3
Like an old lion, solitary, watchful
with visions of greatness, dreams of rescue
We’d disappear to the sides of his mind — we are
puppet-like characters easily moved, then discarded
He derived great pleasure in assisting those
whose wounds are self-inflicted
He would never decide what to do in haste
His deep-seated rage was for toughness and order
Some thought him part tone-deaf and quite elusive
By nature reserved and solitary, he’d grow up to say
“I’m old, I’m rich and
there’s nothing more they can do to me”

-February 16, 2011-

The Forgotten City

                1.
The forgotten city sleeps
Its scars make him dangerous
“That blockhead loves that hooker, that bitch...”
He breaks the smuggler’s creed,
cuts his arms in frustration like a child,
“Remember those who love you back, they rarely...”
There’s little truth beneath her words
We look for good substitutes, new scripts
No one waits so we die by chance
All those porcelain lives, accidents
                2.
I feel your heart beat next to mine, I hold you…
Part of me thinks there will be no others,
no substitutes
It’s an act of faith to think my thoughts
have anything to do with you or come near you,
bitterness, graceless, beaten back
Hard laughter seems like tears to me,
exhaustion tightens my legs
and my love spits blood in the streets, even
the right things change
                3.
He thought her chatty, though she never said a word to me
He called her “prune-face” as in “You old prune-face!”
but told us she was beautiful when...
Gentle hands rubbed her back...passionate hands
In a world of private suns she learns to wear her knowledge lightly
When it rains, white pearls rain for her
She tries to be understood and even makes a little sense
Life isn’t confused if you just know how
Black ice is invisible, we couldn’t see...
I kiss her and she’s gone, again

-January 30, 2011-

But to see her cry…

(inspired by Jacques Brel’s Voir un ami pleurer)

Of course, there are fierce wars
   far worse than the noxious violence here
Of course, there are the swank dressed brutes
   without music, huddled together in tribes
And money, of course, has little odor
   but stinks up the house, nevertheless
But to see her cry...
Of course, we lose everything, many times
   wretched defeats and then death at the end
Her body already leans that way now
   Amazed at herself, that she can still stand
Of course, there are unfaithful women and
   murdered birds with bruised wings fall
But to see her cry...
Of course, all our lovers just go away, and
   our times go too
The mirror is honest, spectral, dry
   We have neither the courage of their words
nor the grace she desires
   We want to burn clean but we melt like wax
But to see her cry...

-January 14, 2011-

Relentless

                1

If it happens to everyone...

My freakish double, the killer,
isn’t around right now—
malignancy’s shadow

The host’s old,
the protoplasm frail, the
treatment:  none

Liars in pinstripe suits and cufflinks
Our bliss short, so short
I paid my bills, made my will

Jealousy was their aphrodisiac
(Whatever can heal will break)
and prepared to die

                2

Death and travelers have the same saint...
 
The door opens easily,
just turn the knob
Last hours of life:

delirious and whimpers beneath
an oxygen tent ...
She hands the parents

a large brown bag of miscellaneous
odds and ends of belongings,
just behind that door

But the black bile was nowhere:
not in the orange size tumors,
not in the foul deep ulcers, nowhere






                3

Nuggets of pleasure for all, for all...

An angry red margin begins to spiral
out from the wound and
the skin begins to rot

from inside
Something had broken and annealed
within her

Eyes bright with tears shed and unshed
The old prune-faced witch
from sagacity to senility

He lacks the gift of silence...
Formless, timeless, pervasive
(imitative, corrupt and perverse)


                4

What I can’t explain – or show, or describe...

A family trip gone bad, real bad
There’s a fire in the kitchen,
The wolf is in the yard

Broken mailboxes, broken locks...
Great effects produced effortlessly,
marvelously, strangely,

inexhaustible, intangible, invisible...
He played it canny in all the glistening courts, admired,
his subtle expertise, his diplomatic grace

Acts are the bottom of language:
Their faces had a poisonous orange tinge—
all that belief, groundless







                5

Relentless...

On his instruction, they bury him
in a plain wooden coffin with a soft
mulch designed to speed decomposition

The windows are covered with hard wire mesh
to prevent suicides, their poisonous orange faces
Relic hunters found:

a few pieces of corroded metalwork
and the tassels from a ceremonial hat
Great stalwart men, back from the war:

gaunt, lean, hungry, weary, sad;
later won’t speak of it—later...
They’ll never try to tell you

-December 27, 2010-

The Great War

                1

Fog of the childish mind

No difference between what comes into his eyes
and sounds to hear

Music is colors for him

He goes through this life
through fogs of brittle noise

                2

She brings her favorite bald gorilla to the gym

to hit me—
She was my enemy, always

I spit on her ass,

while electric guitars play silver,
and hope that she dies


                3

A Nathan’s frank in a clear plastic wrapper

microwave hot, small packets of yellow mustard,
no sauerkraut, in prison

Everything ruined

We pity the old prisoner who pays
for every sad minute


                4

Much must align to make love hot

A form on the stairs,
a cough from the basement,

invisible, alone, secret

Movement around this axis
like the after-images of trees in bright water


                5

With age, deceits and troubles

the lines in her face harden
A coiled smile, a brittle mind

A time of giddiness, shallowness, escape

Her doubts require his certainty...
but she ruins everything


                6

The Confederate leaders, just before the war.

in celebration, served:
turtle soup, turkey, mutton, capons,

ham, tongue, lamb chops, duck, oysters, steaks,

pies, pastries, ice cream, figs, coffee, sherry, bourbon,
scotch, wine, champagne, claret, port, brandy and Madeira


                7

The building was too tall for the hoses

and burned all night
He likes having tough guys around

He was sick with fear

every time he walked on stage— he
followed her to hell


                8

As a child he read all of Tarzan, King of Apes

So round, so firm, so fully packed”
Believe it or don’t, but that describes

a brand of cigarettes

Now that tornados blew the trees away
I see the cemetery on the hills and all those white graves

                9

Rage black as coal

The rallies beautifully choreographed
Mass chanting swelled and fell precisely on cue

She hates every line on her face

They didn’t, in those days, believe in self-pity
and they didn’t recognize, or care about, your self-esteem



                10

Famously lovely, her husband quite dashing

Delightfully happy, like a furry white mouse
Two of his brothers-in-laws,

Andrew’s only brother, his four best friends,

all killed within months of each other
at the start of the Great War

                11

Treachery, double-dealing, shabby behavior

Who gets the dog?
Who wants the photographs?

Two years of passion

He’s a bad ball hitter
in this brittle nasty world

-December 2, 2010-

Always Faithful

                1.

You held that fine jewel

Let’s be more like Albert...
   The loops he makes

are golden ribbons in his head

Some loops are bad
   Some, quite harmless

Some even charm

They repeat and repeat
   themselves, regardless

Semper Fidelis

                2.

Why when it felt so good
   did it go so badly?

The old marine

had what was called then – Hepatitis
   neither A, nor B

Today we’d call it C

Would come every week or so
   to have the fluid in his stomach drained

Took it all stoically, said little

One day he motioned me over
   whispered, Semper Fidelis, Doc

Thank you—always faithful
 


                3.

Cold eyes in frightened faces…
   Is something wrong with your eyebrow?

Stop twitching at me

Grief has no time
   this childhood fantasy

Every bright morning

opens yesterday’s wounds
   Heavy smoke from the crematory

This happiness, this illusion

was seen over Hadamar
   each day


                4.

Form letters:

The first letter explained
   the war related reason for the transfer

The second announced the safe arrival

but explained to the family
   that no visitors were allowed

because of the war, of course

The third letter announced the patient’s death
   which usually occurred

within 24 hours of arrival

Doctors did the killing
   because “The syringe always belongs

in the hands of a physician”
 

                5.

He went to Italy for two weeks,
   spoke to no one

Who else was tone deaf?

A quick cremation was needed
   for public health reasons

I want to mess up her lipstick

Unless you move faster than the speed of light
   you don’t escape

By struggling you hasten your mistakes

This singularity will become
   increasingly redder, then dimmer

It’s my time machine

Her father was a chauffeur of
   improvident habits and violent temperament

As a child she had to steal food

Some fine music is heard
   only in your head

I want to lick her pussy

In certain narrow loops
   I know what I’m doing
    
                6.

You fall through levels
   of chemical happiness

I know the road well

You have several heads, several hearts,
   many souls

Where the cops are, everything

all the way to my girl in Pittsburgh
   He hides every fear, that trickster

Money never interested him but that world

and its music were murdered
   Hungry worms wait for me

Too beautiful, too happy, too fortunate…

One rehearsal – that’s all you’re gonna get
   from old Dino

I figured it out

Old men see visions,
   You should have done the same

Young men dream dreams

Let’s be more like Albert...
   He’s genuinely happy to see them come

and just as happy to see them go

-November 4, 2010-



She leaves her…

                1.
She speaks in pungent slang
self-absorbed, insensible
small-minded, incapable,
afraid
I’ll never find my footing here
We’re all alligators, my dear...
we move toward each other, slow, slow, fast—
we love to fuck
She’d been treated cruelly, when young
After the losses she gives up
ideals of sustained happiness—
hello intoxication—short bursts of fun
She now prefers loneliness, to the horrors of love
                2.
He wrote long letters
Her replies neither long nor loving
Melancholy, to surly, to rage,
last night he dreams the top of his head
pulled off, no pain; so he wrapped it in a napkin (no blood)
to show to the doctor later (there must be something he can do)
Wind so terrible it rips up a tree from the root—
leaves a big empty ground gash
She walks away sad
like some cumbersome reptile
The mansions of the rich
pull her away, they
torment her
                3.
Free fall is our natural state
Gravity comes up to meet her
“I met her sister long ago”
All those criminals in uniform
I’m afraid...
“In Theriesenstadt,
before she was murdered”
Carries the M60 through sharp jungle grass
Hot, always wet, swelters
his skin covered in cuts
When you get to the leeches, focus —
you’ve got to get rid of the whole damn thing
She leaves her sharp knife in my chest 

-October 4, 2010-

In this game…

                1.
In this game, you only lose
We build a fire, together, in the rain
To win changes nothing, furious
I make myself invisible
The apple tree smashed in the wind, the tornado,
no time to grow another
Does this mad flame still fire?
Is he still a weapon?
Poise, patience, control...
Don’t play, if you can’t stand to lose
                2.
As bad as it is, child, it’s not so bad
as it will be
I spend the night teeth clenched, sweat,
twisted in the sheets
He says it all in a silent nod,
boxes and punches his dreams
This desert of death, executed
with exact precision, high speed, duress
His exiles’ heart, his
fragile confidence
When he’s no longer there, he’s in the mirror
Anxious dark eyes stare back at him
                3.
The monotony of monogamy, your new dance
(or that old dance comes back)
Love’s the proffer of what you don’t have
to a stranger who doesn’t want it
She gives you nothing...
All those gifts, unrecognized
A man facing eviction, disgusted with his breakfast,
kills his wife, stepdaughter, two neighbors, the dog and himself
The landlord thought him unpredictable (you think?)
Little things would set him off
                4
After she eats the muffin in Amsterdam
she swears off the stuff—
makes her feel paranoid, sick, drowsy
To play this piece in tune is like
bending the back of a chair
with my bare hands
They turned her away
George Sand from Chopin, just before his death
Her gifts for the moment warp
This is the wrong way around
A metal fork in her head
heats from silver, to gold, to red

-September 20, 2010-

Just another place…

                1.

We forge rivers through winter snow melt,
look for arrowheads in the desert

The oblivion before birth
is a different kind of heaven

No fear; the stronger the sentiment
the stronger the flavors

He diets when his pants get tight
(ah hot mustard, spicy onions!)

Her brown eyes shine
through the irrepressible brutality

Our wicked ecstasy
Our spectral, edgy gladness

                2.

We crossed all the rivers together
We sat under the trees

Watch it—you may freeze to death
in the mountains after falling

Afterwards just the same, well
maybe a little sadder

This is where they sat
the artist and his entourage

We flatten them out,
commit their features to memory

Over there, where they display those potato chips
It’s just another place of business now

-September 2, 2010-