Year of the Amateur

- 1976-
        Recall the frontier when the business 
of memory booms, when broadbands uncoil 
        and clouds swell with sticky portals, amassing 
        to a monsoon of live-streams. 
        Burn your chattel to keep the cloud afloat
so its tears can freeze to snow. 
        The voice flatlines in this season of pulp: 
The artist makes miniature churches out of drain pulp,
The Indonesian rainforest is pulped, 
the last illuminated gold leaves are pulped so we 
        gather and watch an otter nom nom 
sweet urchin to a pulp.  
We laugh softly.

Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins

Chang spoke / Eng paused.

Chang threw a beach ball / Eng caught it.

Chang told a white lie / Eng got caught for the lie.

Chang forgot his first language / Eng picked up English.

In letters, Chang referred to themselves as "I" / Eng as "we."

While proselytizing, the preacher asked Chang, "Do you know where you 
go after you die?" Chang said, "Yes, yes, up dere." / Thinking they didn't
understand, he asked, "Do you know where I go after I die?" Eng said, 
"Yes, yes, down dere."

Chang married Adelaine / Eng married her sister Sally.

Chang made love to his wife / Eng daydreamed about money, 
his Siam childhood and roast beef. He tried not to get aroused.

Chang checked his watch, scratched his head and fidgeted/ 
Eng made love to his wife.

Chang became drunk, knocked Eng out with a whiskey bottle 
and went carousing with his boys / Eng was unconscious.

Chang proved Einstein's time dilation while drunkenly running 
from one bar to the next / Eng was unconscious.

Chang apologized / Eng grudgingly accepted.

Chang paused / Eng spoke / Chang interrupted.

"I am my own man!" / Eng echoed, "We are men yes."

                    *

Both broke their bondage with their pitchman, Mr. Coffin.

Both owned land in North Carolina and forty slaves.

Both were nostalgic for Siam: childhood of preserving 
duck eggs, watching tiger and elephant fights with the King, 
Mother Nok who loved them equally.

The physicians were surprised to find both were "personable."

Both did not appreciate the outhouse joke.
"Are all Orientals joined?" "Allow me to stick this very sharp pin 
in Eng's neck to see if both of you feel the pain." "Is it true that 
you turn babies into cabbages?" "We are nice, civilized people. 
We offer you bananas."

Both were sick of fascination.

Both woke up, played checkers, sired children, owned whips 
for their slaves, shot game, ate pie. Both wore French black silk, smoked 
cigars, flirted. Both believed in the tenets of individualism. 
Both listed these activities to the jury and cried, "See, we are American!"

Both were released with a $500 fine for assaulting another head hunter.

Both were very self-aware.

Both insisted on an iron casket so that grave robbers would not 
dig up their bodies and sell them to the highest bidder.

Both did not converse with one another except towards the end:

"My lips are turning blue, Eng" / Eng did not answer.

"They want our bodies, Eng." / Eng did not answer.

"Eng, Eng! My lips are turning blue." / Eng turned to his body and did not answer.

The Hula Hooper's Taunt

I’mma a two-ton spiker   hips fast rondeau
N’ere more,  nay sayer    feel this orbit rattle
 
Wipe that prattle that spittle   crass pupa
Gupta       away you     ma’ man, 

where you              revolving    solving 
spin shorty            shark   satellitic    fever

Leer not, lyre         I spiral atom pattern
                           Faster than you say  my turn.

Engines Within the Throne

We once worked as clerks

        scanning moth-balled pages

into the clouds, all memories

outsourced except the fuzzy

        childhood bits when


I was an undersized girl with a tic,

they numbed me with botox

        I was a skinsuit

of dumb expression, just fingerprints

over my shamed


        all I wanted was snow

to snuff the sun blades to shadow spokes,

muffle the drum of freeways, erase

        the old realism


but this smart snow erases

        nothing, seeps everywhere,

the search engine is inside us,

the world is our display


        and now every industry

has dumped whole cubicles, desktops,

fax machines into developing

        worlds where they stack

them as walls against


what disputed territory

        we asked the old spy who drank

with Russians to gather information

the old-fashioned way,


now we have snow sensors,

        so you can go spelunking

in anyone's mind,

let me borrow your child


thoughts, it's benign surveillance,

        I can burrow inside, find a cave

pool with rock-colored flounder,

and find you, half-transparent

with depression.

Related Poems

Past Light

Within reach of sex but not yet, I remember, a few stars 
          freckling the vacancies 
past the yard’s blown flood beams and father’s single 
          sycamore. Expert amateur, 
I thought myself, aged thirteen, rabid for facts and trying 
          to have a mind for 
what each light was. This I knew: arrivals of gaseous crackups 
          wholly unlike us, and not 
pinpricks, nor quaint connect-the-dots, nor tiny stabs of will. 
          Sky’s Zenith, Lyra, The Great, The Small Bear. 
Hopes rose. It was before the boys and window escapes,
          before breakup seeped 
into the house like bad water. I loved stories
          of staying in place.
In the one about the ancient astronomer 
          on the day of eclipse,
after he’d gazed his naked sight away,
          he thought he saw the sun giving birth 
to itself and scrawled, half blind, in a notebook, 
          as if wood fought back
to eat the fire. Meanwhile, our lawn sparked 
          with mother’s rake tines upraised,
sound of door slam and squabble inside, squeal 
          of brakes rounding 
out the drive. And if I wanted one clean,
          one lesser loyalty, wishing
so hard on that old onlooker?
          I could see him at full kneel
in dirt unflinching, begging the above to smote what’s bulk,
          the words arcing slowly up, 
saying, burn me all to star, o fathers.
          I understood nothing of their pain.
Already, close to home, the sycamore leaves in full 
          heat looked edgeless,
each dark on dark blurring the shapes 
          as if we were all dropped through: 
Zenith, Lyra, The Greater, The Lesser, The True.