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Brain Flares

                1.
Brain flares, shrill voices
   scraps of melody, scorches of memory
   torturous, crowded, pitiless voices, screeches
   in his head, all at once, hot, infected, shrill, soft or loud –
He throws himself in the cold river— they pull him out
   He’s no longer, he can never again be, that man
Her advice—“I wanted to mention
   a few more things for Elise—
Do not let her take too many things
   If she needs two chemises a week, let her bring six
   If she is used to wearing only one, about four will do
   Stockings—six pairs, she only needs two changes of dress
Keep the nice blue one at home it will be ruined
   in the packing, if she has a black petticoat
this will be best for traveling, and then
   she will want just one white underskirt
Too much luggage is inconvenient on a journey”
   Mechanical, blind, we go on
   Still, with her usual decency, uprightness, charm, she adds
   “You know how heavy my heart is
I don’t want to talk of it
   My heart bleeds at once”
                2.
People give, when they give, their own gifts
   The aristocrat admired his brilliance
   But his sarcasm and bad manners “are a disgrace”
   He later said “I leave the world to go the way it pleases
I’m difficult and for that, I have often
   suffered the consequences”
Wild justice, revenge
   When you want it, you really want it
The deepest wounds never heal
   Skin just covers over them in waves
   His comic touch only added a grotesque element
   to the pathos, pain and haze of that sad day
Either learn to develop calluses
   or keep yourself safe at home
We spoke frankly as far as such a thing
   is possible with him
Though they reconciled at their father’s death
   relations between the brothers
   remained entirely superficial
   She wrote “Everyone there assumed I was a normal person
The girls giggling with excitement, the boys proud and manly
   That was rather weird”
                3.
The death count’s wrong, they didn’t live
   Tens of thousands were discharged to die
   Tens of thousands died within the first few months
   Tens of thousands lingered for the first or second year
You understand people too little
   and you trust them too much
She fell in love with fire
   Sick of your ridiculous dreams
Your stupid plans, your empty promises
   Never pretty enough, never really thin
   He painted her portrait, caught the bloom she had
   before the loss of innocence
I know how it feels when you’re in trouble
   and no one’s there
No more edges, you might drown—
   There’s nothing left to cling to
Old men nursing morning beers
   This is where the slaughterhouse was
   The transvestites hung out here, near the sex club
   When she gave up meat she still loved the smell
of the slaughterhouse, the animal blood, its visceral
   wildly cold justice

                4.
“Well I think it looks smart,” she said,
   “That’s the difference between you and me
   Your hair is too long and greasy
   My hair is all done up special
I think it looks smart”
   I thought her sweeter than red lollipops
When she couldn’t move and was waiting to die
   She’d stare at silver balloons outside her window
The wind moves the branches above me
   It bends the leaves
   The sun in the river vibrates in gleams
   of  white light on gray water
As he tells it he always fought harder,
   flew faster, and gambled smarter than anyone else
The balloons were set up outside for her delight
   This house has no woman now
Every lie sickens him more and the longer
   he lives the more they lie to him
   Go out there where no one can help you
   Accept who you are and live
Some things, when you have to ask for them,
   aren’t worth having

-September 27, 2011-

The Sky Hook

                1.
He’s an old lion
She’s his oasis in this callous,
hot, beachy, astringent sand—
his refuge from the damage
cool and subtle
No one could stand the imposter
in any capacity other than leader
He was aloof, enclosed, controlled
But he lets them believe in his sky hook dreams
He hoists them happily up, they think
Be like that fish hunter bird
Not much of this world gets to her
For awhile she floats with the intensity
of wind gusts, supremely observant—
and at that perfect time she drops
from the sky, her sharp beak like cut stone
He wouldn’t talk about it, not then,
there was too much to say
That false election was all about appearances anyway, and
angry, blood stained, streaks

                2.
The water drifts from right to left
Sunshine sprinkles the tips of the wake
This is how “we” becomes “I”
She goes ponderously, cautiously past
the prickles of sheen in gray water
He makes them all feel important
But I saw him run out of his office more than once
to avoid unwanted visitors
The camera terrifies him and he can’t abide
the idea that his recorded voice might survive
He knew he couldn’t make a living
from this kind of music
An honest, upright, honorable man
No offers of sky hooks, no illusory gifts,
nothing much  popular from him
He commuted from Poughkeepsie to New York City
then up to New Haven four times a week
No problem, he said, but we had good trains then
I seek for her like some seek to see the illusive white leopard
I believe in this “us” and our disparate pleasures

                3.
He intimidated some and really didn’t care
what anyone said
He never neglected anything, he was balanced
Today, although we are so trusting,
not one of us is trustworthy
If his dream is destroyed his life goes too
The press was not invited so none of it was staged
A tendency to secrecy and camouflage
We come out of nothing and then disappear
No happiness that year, no giving of thanks
He could no longer see layer upon layer
depth upon depth
It was all flat confusion now
A wave that comes only to you will tell you
what to do about it, but listen
He had a couch in his office because
he used to get these heart attacks
He liked sports, as a student, Greek, Latin and mathematics
Treatment left his head heavy and feverish
Delirium lifts him up, he towers above us

 

-September 9, 2011-

Don’t talk to me…

                1.
Don’t talk to me of love, liar
your desperate, hateful, lies about love
A friend of mine, though much alone,
is rarely, almost never, lonely
He lacks a gene for “loneliness”
What if he breeds?
An acquaintance, a French teacher,
finds no task too dry, tedious, or dull
She lacks a gene for “boredom”
What if she breeds?
If they breed together their offspring may happily—
Don’t talk to me of love, you bitch, you liar—
never, or rarely ever, suffer
the hurts of loneliness, the heaviness of boredom
                2.
I go to the prison to visit him
But before I can they make me change my pants
You can’t wear khaki pants to prison visits
That’s what prisoners wear, it’s forbidden
What if I’m old, sick, alone and have no home?
Where will I go?
Wholly unreliable, regardless of character
and rights of others,
incapable of discrimination and jealous
to do something overwrought, dangerous and sensational
A completely despicable leader, yet heartily admired,
untrustworthy, weak, vicious
When things go bad they really go bad and
they go bad fast
                3.
On that day it was sunny
so I rode my bicycle
No, on that day it rained so I couldn’t ride it
No, on that day it was sunny, but
I didn’t feel like it so
I didn’t ride my bicycle
What an impudent dash it was past the trees
With his bad eyes the world began to shimmer
and spin in the distance
He would judge where he was by other means
not all of them visual or fall in wet grass
He would reach for those mountains alive
with an outstretched hand, so close
did they seem

                4.
The heart of the dog-fish cut from its chamber
continues to beat on the boat deck
Not for long—violent emotion,
gentle release—not for long
Fields thick with the dead
Torn and discolored bodies swell in rank
humidity, turn black in the sun, many look upward
their dead eyes open to brute light
We fought in wet grass, we bled...
My advice— give up this absurd fascination
with dank, bloated corpses—
We will, without mercy, kill
enemy snipers wherever we find them—
Study viruses instead

                5.
Don’t bore me with talk of your love again
or even simple human relationships
She asks, “Do you know who I am?”
“I think so, you may be my wife” he said
Her hurts were no less heavy or sharp
when imaginary
There are no human relationships, not really
We merely compare notes
Purple and copper stained hair, sweet legs
a world weary expression soon to be earned
Those in love are ill and must be forgiven
So this is what it was like, prehistory—
When they met again they’d engage in rudimentary, guarded courtesies—
everyone was cold, hungry, odious  and young

 

 

-August 20, 2011-