Historic Flaws

I am going to the mountains
where the alternating universe of autumn
descends over you at an erotic squat. Out of that blank
and meaningless Play-Doh of my psychic flesh
I am moving on. I am a pupil of fading antiquity.
Sprawled across the table, in a lament about healthcare
and the ineptitude of The System.
Nothing burns quite like The System. It comes at you
when you ask for help, displaying its super-talons
around a clutch of arrows, saying No.

“What deeds could man ever have done
if he had not been enveloped in the dust-cloud
of the unhistorical?” Nietzsche asks this morning
from a small pamphlet on my lap, issued in 1949
in New York City, which I am leaving now,
like a wife from her distant husband
who will not stop to ask her why she is weeping
while she slices apart his silk ties on the floor of the closet.
 

Practicing Vigilance

Every day try and write down one terrible thing.
One terrible thing—I’m filled with them,
carry each one
like an organ locked in a Coleman cooler.

Add a little color for emphasis.

I say my father’s surname to a migration of crows.
His name like a figure jumping out of an aerodynamic object

through a burning hoop
into a glass of still water.

 

*

 

My history is comprised of the inappropriate.
I look into the mirror and see disturbed human qualities,

my face like grass in a summer essay
like a senator stepping into an empty room

to hate his speech,

the almost symmetrical science of it.

Trying to feel something.
Covering rented light with a curtain.

 

*

 

Today make nothing happen very slowly.

I can see through the atmosphere’s silk chemise

        all the way to the faint constellation in the southern sky
and it’s making me want to shake my head

and ask a question
to the clairvoyant 8-Ball in my hands—ask

if we are among those left in a dark forest

        with our flare guns pointed at the ground

or among those loved by our parents’ parents
on the paternal side we never see.

Hell If I know, the 8-Ball says
drunk in its dark blue alcohol.

 

*

 

Winter breathed out all language.
My father appeared
and began taking my hair
one follicle at a time.
He worked his way to the neural tissue
threw himself down
in a tantrum.
I listen attentively to the wind
and cannot compute this.
I sell my letter to the sentimentalists
leaving behind a trail of fuck you
crumbs the largest of birds cannot tear.

 

*

 

Despite the parables I keep close
I won’t be mythologized by my father
who moves like an incoherent, boozing breeze
through my life’s antechambers.
I won’t admire the west vestibule of the Frick with him
not with this roast on a spit in my chest
the mind like a database of rage-expressions
the mind like a bottle of loose glitter—

so shadowy, my people, you begin
to see the blueprints in all things
        until you can’t hold a book without
blowing on it to see if it will scatter
or laying on a bed, waiting to fall through
into the particle-laden apartment below—
to each his own until it ruins pleasure.

 

*

 

Where is the rain
when I am feeling this
reckless?

I went to a doctor and she said
There’s a little you in there who feels
hideous—

the little me fell
like a grand piano into my lap

 

*

 

Visualize a knock-knock joke with yourself
in a white noise somewhere
on the Upper West Side
a box of Kleenex in your hand.

memory swam through the grotesque
with its spoon paddle.

My dreams always fell flat.

The doctor said:
Start with finding out where your hands go
when you say your father’s name.

 

*

 

I say his name and I can see him.
He squats in the corner computing Zeno’s paradox.
He fills another glass and pukes,

starts in again about the illusion of motion—

If I’m coming toward you on the street
I will never reach you, he raves.
I’ll go half way and there will be another half and another half and another half.

He stands in infinite points on the distance
assuring with his ancient terrible glee
that I am going to go out and get a drink with him.

Deep within some cell
the  nucleus grows unstable

 

*

 

I used to put a miniature rosebush 
in the ground each year
to counteract my squalor.
Don’t tell me that definition of madness,
doing the same thing over again etcetera.
The definition of madness
is a certain enthusiasm, then there has
to be another person there
to not share in it—who is oppressed by it
who can only stare into it.
Tell it to the bluebird rustling over my head.
Tell it to a satellite orbiting in its delusion of being a moon.

I’m coaxing the black bull out of my mouth
with a red flag and a beer. I’m constructing
out of my faulty genes,
my last sentence, my last thing
which addresses the dilemma obliquely:

we will perceive our own pain in others.
And we will know if we are capable of loving them.

Reading a Science Article on the Airplane to JFK

Today I flew over the Midwest
filling out a questionnaire
on the emotional life of the brain
and personal capacity for resilience
against despair. I was making
a sculpture of my limbic systems
in a huge conceptual neurosis.
Under the simulated
middleclass environment
of the fuselage
the snow was falling.
And in everyone’s skulls
complex régimes went on and on and on.
I seek forever the right way to know this.
That there are bridges
not built in me. That there are areas
that do not light up—
You are at a party having a conversation
with an interesting stranger.
You are in a restaurant and the service is bad.
You have experienced profound grief—
how do you react to this?
Down on the ground your family
writhes. Down on the ground
you are surrounded at Starbucks
with a terrible glow.
And you have seen someone you love,
with a colossal
complex vehemence, die.
And it is pinned under glass
in perfect condition.
It is wrapped around you
like old fur. You’ve looked at the sky
until your eyes touched
zodiacal fantasies—right there in the void.
You know this. That the body lays down
while the mind bloats
on intellectual chaos.
And you have just eaten
a bag of cinnamon-flavored chips
and assessed that if you met
a wonderful new person
who ran from you in horror
you would fill their space
with calculated desolation.
Thus, you are waking up
having traveled through time.
You are looking down
at the Statue of Liberty
garden gnome with her arm in the air,
her head full of strangers—
And you hear crickets. Lined up.
Playing their creepy violins.
And you want to be good.
And you want to be liked.
And you want to recover.

Hunter

Erotic dancing takes the place of Greek tragedy
just as the gladiatorial fights did in Rome—but it is a
private dance
no one can touch or see. A feeling every day I enter and close
a curtain behind. Sitting alone with it,
looking at it through a tiny hole,
something lithe and naked, shaking in the spotlight
beyond which I can never reach—

suffering cannot do what it did for Christ.
We do not get to go home afterward, cannot be
imagined into the arms of the absent father. See how
I do not rise up or shift the stone, do not
inspire a nation—I sit at the bar
consuming fried food. I put $5 into a machine
and shoot bucks with a long green rifle,
not speaking, not calling out anyone’s name,
just me and the deer
grazing in a digital clearing of the wood.

I can’t tell anymore for whom I grieve.
Something bigger
and more catastrophic has died
but died out of necessity—something that thought itself
into indispensability
something burst from every atom
outward, like autumn fireworks over the lake
and now
I’m just recording its scream and glitter-down,
just making a serial
from its fantastical, dazzling demise—
I can’t tell anymore whether I am grieving you particularly
or I simply find life and death erroneous—this
big expired grief
                      like a limb people deny ownership of, find
in their beds and throw on the floor, only to be told
            again and again, when the
whole body is thrown with it—that it is

attached,

           it is theirs, that they were
born with it.

Related Poems

Our Bed Is Also Green

Please speak to meonly of the present
            or if you must            bring up the past
bring up only thatwhich you and I
            don't share. I know            this is a selfish
thing to ask. Yes, as Ihave often
            remarked, shore lunch            at hanging rock
was lovely. Yourhair and mine
            stayed put. Later on            we didn't, as we
do now, pull it fromeach other's clothes
            as if for final proof            that we've been
sleeping witheach other. In the glorious
            picnics of the past            we simply knew
such things. The rockupon which
            we sat, ran beneath            the lake, and was
the same rock wewere both looking
            over to the other            side at. I almost
felt, believe me,as if we were
            two people. Person,            I nearly could
have said, hold on.Instead, I used
            the name we had            agreed upon. Not
your fault. A nameis useful, it helps
            with the blankness            I am sometimes
feeling in regardsto you. I apologize
            for saying this            out loud. You are not
the blanknessI am speaking
            of. Plug your thought            or daydream
into me, and theyor I will often
            fail to light. You are            beginning to see
what I mean aboutthe past, how I,
            despite my facility            with pliers, and eye
for detail, may notbe suitable. What was
            your name? I am            not kidding. What comes
will run us throughfrom the front, we
            pull our way            down its length
if only to see, at lastwhat has ahold
            of the spear-grip.            Therefore, the future,
as a topic, is sadlyalso out. Instead, let's
            cast the deep side            of the weedbed
together. The lakeis black, like slate
            we scrape across            with paddles toward
the weedtops,sticking up, like alien
            flags, above            the invisible
settlements, the castleyou've dropped
            your hooks            inside of. I love
how destructiveyou are with the fishes,
            so go ahead            and bring your war
against them, Ramona,against the duck,
            against time,            against any things
that swim. Our fiber-glass canoe is of
            burnt orange;            our shapely hooks
of shining gold;our giant rock, also
            somewhere in the lake            beneath us, is
the bottom, towardwhich the minnow,
            lip-hooked, dives            after the lead,
its weight a thingthe minnow seems
            to follow, as if            we sent it dropping
both for what we hadto give away and still
            we didn't want            the lake to have.