operation: get down

Alex Lemon

       It is very
       Common
              To have

       A cave within us
              To hide

       Away in when it all
       Seems hopeless. To cry

              Tears of mostly blood.

       To feed on the day-
              Dream in which

       Side mirrors shear off
              Of your car

       As the walled road
                     Narrows.

       To swerve might make...

       There is a saint for the down
       & out. A rock is a rock

              Is a rock & redwood
              Trees grow out
                     Of our chests.

       It is horrible & right,
              Here in this place. Dum

              Spiro, spero.
We're all in
       This shit together.

More by Alex Lemon

All Us Beautiful Monsters

The entire world wants
To pretend to be a foreigner
In a big box store & wander
The aisles shouting, endlessly—
But I am pretty sure that today
Is my day to not just be a guy
But to be the guy. A baby grows 
In each drawer of the million-
Drawered cherrywood cabinet
That is my head & to keep
This army of tender brutes warm
Before heading to the strip mall,
I put on your coonskin hat.
I swallow a fist of stones
You stole from the Alamo.
It is like it is each time—not
Just like returning to the womb—
It is as if the womb sucked me up
Into the starlight like a spaceship.
Nothing came before us, I suppose.
Tonight, we will once again forgive
Ourselves for the people that have
All gone missing while under
Our care. Fireworks will splash
The sky with a pink wave & we
Will both jump back, feigning
To look at what we’ve done, exactly
In the same way. Like lobsters
Hammering missives back & forth
With claw & rock, when it goes
Black, we will bang our fists
On whatever’s closest to speak
To each other about
The loveliness all over us.

Better Get Better

Each night, the suffer-
Gleamed stars above
Texas crush down & I do

Not know how to say
No thank you, please
To the jawing ghosts

That show up to gnaw
Furrows in my chest.
The wind whispers

Hotly. Nightjars
Polish the darkness
Free of moths.

I refuse to let go
Of my paranoia
Because it assures

Me that I am alive,
Living the dream,
A limited edition

One-life-in a life-
Time offer of bones
That glow in the dark.

Morning comes metallic
Over the lakes of blood
I bucket by bucket splash

Out of the window. Wiping
Sweat from my brow

I am like Baby, Baby, how
Lovely is all this glitter?

This Paradise This This

What I need from this
Slap & tickle is a full

Suckle of lies. Glue
My lips together with

Blow flies. I am not
Ashamed at how hot

My cravings swing—
Cinder blocks crashed

Through car windows
& a joyous Wuuuu-Wuuuuu

Shouted at the dark
Puckering stars. I love

My calamity—say I am
The prettiest thing

You have ever seen
When the fire starts.

Related Poems

Operation Memory

We were smoking some of this knockout weed when
Operation Memory was announced. To his separate bed
Each soldier went, counting backwards from a hundred
With a needle in his arm. And there I was, in the middle
Of a recession, in the middle of a strange city, between jobs
And apartments and wives. Nobody told me the gun was loaded.

We'd been drinking since early afternoon. I was loaded.
The doctor made me recite my name, rank, and serial number when
I woke up, sweating, in my civvies. All my friends had jobs
As professional liars, and most had partners who were good in bed.
What did I have? Just this feeling of always being in the middle
Of things, and the luck of looking younger than fifty.

At dawn I returned to draft headquarters. I was eighteen
And counting backwards. The interviewer asked one loaded
Question after another, such as why I often read the middle
Of novels, ignoring their beginnings and their ends. when
Had I decided to volunteer for intelligence work? "In bed
With a broad," I answered, with locker-room bravado. The truth was, jobs

Were scarce, and working on Operation Memory was better than no job
At all. Unamused, the judge looked at his watch. It was 1970
By the time he spoke. Recommending clemency, he ordered me to go to bed
At noon and practice my disappearing act. Someone must have loaded
The harmless gun on the wall in Act I when
I was asleep. And there I was, without an alibi, in the middle

Of a journey down nameless, snow-covered streets, in the middle
Of a mystery--or a muddle. These were the jobs
That saved men's souls, or so I was told, but when
The orphans assembled for their annual reunion, ten
Years later, on the playing fields of Eton, each unloaded
A kit bag full of troubles, and smiled bravely, and went to bed.

Thanks to Operation Memory, each of us woke up in a different bed
Or coffin, with a different partner beside him, in the middle
Of a war that had never been declared. No one had time to load
His weapon or see to any of the dozen essential jobs
Preceding combat duty. And there I was, dodging bullets, merely one
In a million whose lucky number had come up. When

It happened, I was asleep in bed, and when I woke up,
It was over: I was 38, on the brink of middle age,
A succession of stupid jobs behind me, a loaded gun on my lap.