Poetry Anonymous

Do not fall in love with a poet
they are no more honest than a stockbroker.

(Do you have a stockbroker? If you do, 
your poet is with you because you have one.) 

If you think that they are more sensitive because they care about language
pay attention to how they use language.
Are you included? Are you the "you"?

Or are you a suggestion?
Are you partially included as a suggestion? 

        Are you partially excluded because you are a concept 
        in some jewel-like nouns, almost throwaway,
        yet a perfect resemblance? 

        How does narcissism 
        assist you, who is also the object of desire?
        Do you become the tour-de-force?  

        Consider that poem's vagueness doesn't account for your complexity
        and the epithets don't suffice, you are not "one who is a horse-drawn carriage" 
        nor are you a "sparrow with hatchet." 

Perhaps they quote Mallarme when taking you to bed, 
carefully confusing you with their charm and faux-chastity.

All this before voracious body-pressing.
The lovemaking is confusing until, you remember, they said something:

thus spake the dreamboat, your poet, alarmingly announces during climax:

I spend my fires with the slender rank of prelate

and then fierce withdrawal with a rush of perseverance to flee.

You are mistaken if language furthers your devotion.
You are a fallen person now.
They care more about "you" than for you (you, the real person you).

Line after line, a private, unmediated act done to you with confusing abandon, 
flailing in its substance, however deceptive.

It will enhance your own directionlessness, 
you will be harmed. 

You cannot mediate it with caress. 

Do you think because they understand what meaning looks like, 
they have more meaning than others? 
They are the protectors of feeling, mere protectors: earnest? 
        No. They are protectors of the flawed,
        filling zones of bereftness. 
        The aftermath of pleasure. A contested zone for all.  

What about the lawyer who loves the law? 
Isn't he just a poet with a larger book—
the way they protect and subject language 
to sense-making? 

A kind of cognitive patternization. 

Ultimately, both undertake the hijacking of language, 
they won't love you the way
you are; it's in this inability to love— 
unless you embody the poem— 
you embody the law and its turn of phrase.
Unless you see the poet clearly: loving utterance, 
an unadulterated utterance—seized and insular. 

You must entice with otherness.
        You must catch the poem as a muse does. 
You must muse and muse and muse. 

In thralldom to encounters that stand in for sexual ones, 
we terrorize with sense-making, 

it stands in for intimacy. 

It stands in and suggests that all other kinds of feelings 
and declarations yield to it.

It will move you if you ask for permission 
to exist within its confines,
and you move the poet toward you and you hold the poet's head,
wrapping your arms around it 
strapped in your wordless hold, but soon words do come 

and in the trailing off of speech, you will be permanently lost.

What Happened at the Service?

The forest service team came to my house to give me a thin-leafed tree,
and to say you can have something, if you wish.
You can have this native tree, a skinny branch, a skinny leaf
with bareness between the leaves.  
A shrub like me? Here is my bark-being underneath.

The freight service team came to my office to give me a vermilion boxcar,
and to say you can have something if you wish.
Why is there no train service? No Amtrak? No russet cargo of folk,
no poets to embrace because our hands all unclasped in response 
to the peptic ulcer of too much fanfare, 
woods with austere engravings—plumed-pen-etched-words, 
severe sentences with accusations—then interjections—
poets all alone floating skyward.

I have found the writing on the wall to be formidable—no patois,
no interesting resilience—I don’t care for leaf rot 
nor figures who do their own dance. 
They find frozen ground menacing—they found me menacing—
even when they say in unison you can have something, if you wish.

It was not I who shoveled the shore and fixed it to another place.
I didn’t find the pallor remarkable nor did I steal it.
I did however try to emulate it—pale-face looked feasible.
I thought I could have something but this was untrue.   
I didn’t take your sun. 
I didn’t take your eyes.

I’ve been trying to salvage the bitter roots that came my way, 
the tincture inside watery and unctuous—
maybe the residue is sweet. 
Or look to the river with its over-determined gurgles 
in the vicinity, 
small cascades immersed in scenery. 

All will sound false to you but I can hear my real voice attempting speech—
but you happened to me—you ghosted your way through me,
you shrubbed me, not the other way around. 
I know these things. 
I have been down here, not up there—
I don’t believe in powers that be,
but can see how the world looks up there. 
How it knights itself with the grandiose—the majestic snow
of simulated faces, the whiteness that surrounds me,
and the quiet that follows.

A Situation for Mrs. Biswas

When I received the call I was in a store in Missoula, Montana.  

A store stocked with sparkling ephemera: glass fauna, tiny belfry bulbs, 

winter white birch and stump-lamps brandishing light cones, 

little shelves and branches hung with drops of ice and round silver baubles.  

I loved the store: it was cavernous, dark with wood and burlap,

a ruddy brick loft with lithographs and monographs on birds or bracelets. 

The store-owner, Fran, was away that day otherwise 
I would have stayed in there a little longer. 

She was a comforting friend—
she had impeccable taste, manifested in her put-together garments, 
she also had a warming patient smile. 

I didn't stay long, I didn't linger; 
though linger is absolutely the wrong word,
more like I didn't stumble around there for hours.

(I would stumble around in that store for a full year.) 

If she had been behind the counter I would have turned to her in bewilderment. 


You see I had picked up my ringing cell phone while browsing 
(I usually keep it off in stores), 

and my father said, there's something I have to tell you.
I don't want you to find out any other way. I am leaving my job. 
They want me to resign. 

Fran had met my father the week before—
he wanted to see downtown, the campus, get to know Montana—
he had done research on the education opportunities. 

He was interested in outreach. 

People all over met him and found him to be a kindhearted man. 

I had set up meetings, he was here to meet educators, mathematicians—
more spirited people—I told him—than Bostonians.

I told him the West was a magical place. He agreed. 

Later he would tell me that this was his last best day, a strange pun on the Last Best Place. 

Little did we know we would have to fight a very public battle. 

And apparently from the rumors and from the strange
treatment he received prior to his termination, 
there was a plot in place. 
We, as a family, felt the public ridicule. 

And as an Asian family, we felt the acute Asian shame. It was a dark, 
disastrous cloud hanging, hanging, hanging.

My father would be would be publicly shamed
and we were shocked at the racist narratives—
allegations—a greedy brown man—

mismanaging, mismanaging, mismanaging

One public interest story to release venom—
to tease out real feelings from strangers.  

Blog comments were aggressive: the Indian was a con, 
a snake-oil man. 

You just have to give them a scenario
in which they can invest—in which to place those hard-to-place feelings.
White people bury their resentments beneath their liberalism. 
We knew he hadn't done anything wrong—we knew this was bogus.

Like I said, I was getting ready for the holidays, 
I played hooky that Tuesday excited to wrap gifts;  
I wanted to decorate the house. 

This was my first house. 
My husband was out looking at Christmas trees. 
Albeit I am a Hindu, trees are an awful lot of fun. 

And this planning was quickly thwarted with the difficult—
my family was falling apart—
the droop in my life felt permanent. 

I was more than 2,000 miles from my father, but the way he spoke 
at the moment of the call becalmed me—
I felt anchored to his side—
I will stay there for as long as it takes. 

Before this moment I was in a terrific mood. 

I wanted to don the table 
with the kind of candles that beckoned, pulling you into an aesthetic presence 
fully-fabricated and lit, and yet looked like it came from snow. 

I had been in Missoula for many months, 
I had come from Brooklyn, where I had lived for twelve years. 
Now I was ready to escape.

Having been born and raised outside of Boston, 
without the opportunities say someone like Robert Lowell had. 

I knew I was not of that ilk nor was my father—we now realize. 

Boston was indeed for the rich—with its stodgy colonial identity, 
with its ridiculous Brahmans—
its oddly cultureless stance 
even with Harvard as its mirror. 
(Even with Cal as front & center literati.)

Even so, I was pleased, I was unhurried in my new life, I was, I was. 
I could feel how I stood, I could feel the rising happiness—of the belly, not the gut. 

I was consumed with the bliss of poetry, 
so much poetry around me, everything with poetry.

I said and understood, the workshop will be my ideology, 
my intentional community, front and center—with bells. 

My family was overjoyed with the way our lives 
were working together—

my father was comfortable, my mother pleased, 
a professorship and presidential position 
at a college, he was the first South-Asian president. 

He had come to America with very little and now had something. 

As you can see, there is an immigrant narrative here. 

When he first arrived, he made very little money as a visiting professor so he worked
   security at night at the Museum of Fine Arts. He kept thinking his colleague, Bruce,
   was calling him bastard, when he was calling him buster. 

It took him months to realize this. He first had to confront Bruce. 

The sequence of his first major purchases and acquisitions, which took several months: 

a suitcase and a rug, then he found a dentist's chair for the living room.  

He bought the Bob Dylan album that had "Blowing in the Wind," because it really
   sounded Hindu—it sounded like it came from the Rig Veda.

For many years I would say he was a model minority—he aspired to being
   rewarded for his good work by white people. 

We agreed, all was well— I had made my way to where I had wanted to be,
living a poet's life and it felt extraordinary—
all of the birch-stump lamps lighting up inside, this was a kind of bliss.  

I had arrived where I loved in absolute terms. 

Where I could love the poetics of if, then & thou. The luminous…

And yet poetry haunts with its suggestion that terrible things are true and stick, as Rilke says:

I am much too small in this world, yet not small enough/to be to you just object
and thing/dark and smart.


The sun was hidden behind the darkest cloud.

I said what is happening to my father? 

In response, my husband's back gave out, 
he could not walk without whimpering, there was whimpering in the night

and I wasn't sure which one of us it was. 

What was happening to my ableness? 

We had failure, heaps of failure in our hands.

The world had recast itself in such a way that I had to address the power behind it. 

I kept saying strange things to people like no one is exempt from suffering. 
I felt like a tiny bird with sinking feet. 

There are assertions about difference 
That I had not wanted to make in the past, but now did. 

Where was I? Who was I? 

My father was told he had to watch his back 
and then they took everything away from him. 

To take away his dignity with so many untruths. Do I have to watch my back too? 

What did I think I could have? I wasn't even sure if I had it here. 
People hadn't seen me as me, I started to feel it. Those glass birds 

and the birch lamps were a kind of privilege 
only others could have—not "others" in the sense in which I was other. 

I started to see how money worked the room: when we had it, when we didn't. 

Imagine, we were so close 
to the soaring sky, and imagine how we fell. 
How we knew falling wouldn't end us,

fall right here, fall right there, cry out, oh blustering self, 
it can't be as bad as you think. 

I said let's remember how to do it so it won't hurt 
this time or the next.  

But I had to say the branches extended their arms,
there was a house attached to them—

we found ourselves languishing, then needing 
to rebuild.  

It was the turning of the year and then another one.

And the showy, extravagant people capped themselves
on the tops of mountain ash—

we came out to clear them away.

Poem for Leigh Hunt

I find ways to keep a sense of peace
but it is not always easy; for example,
I can't keep my questions tempered.
What kind of sun expounds its rays
upon the hills but then mutes
like an ordinary bulb, small
and self-contained?
Moreover, what moon filters
the blistering whiteness of
snow so that it can only be seen
by the fiscally immune, enamored by the dully-noted?
Let me amble with Keats
and his wandering expression
and try to figure out if the poem keeps
me encased in a rapture for which 
my dim external life won't account.