16 May 2009

She Was Flexing

she was uncoiling
rhythmically pushing
the bedclothes into a rigid boundary
"Pain? Another sensation
and there are so many sensations..."

I wished we lived on a train
so I could flick my ashes out the window
so the lights from the stations we passed through
would move across her face in interesting patterns,
from back to front

"Watch my mouth. It will become
an interesting shape."
Instead, she kissed me
like the long fields of green wheat
we can see from the observation car

(Originally published in Tyounyi, 1989)

15 May 2009

On the Occasion of the Unveiling of a Statue of a Representation of the Feeling of Estrangement

A man with his back to the window
wonders where that noise is coming from;
the one that sounds like a 45rpm kitten
being on played on 33,
not the noise like a throbbing hum.
That one's from the refrigerator
and he already knows that.

Inside a helicopter thousands of feet in the air,
the man on the radio tells us about the traffic.
When we look up we can see him
but he can't see us.
Inside his head, he's thinking of a woman
and the way she hooks her bra in the front
and then twists it around
and then kind of shrugs into the rest of it.
He loves that.

A woman moves her eyes away from the screen for an instant
and that instant is multiplied,
falls away faster and faster
until it becomes itself a blurring mosaic of fossilized moments,
and there is coming now a sound of applause
that becomes the sound of waves.
Her hand is poised above the keyboard;
it floats over all the letters and all the numbers.

The doors on our houses open inward
because we are so glad to be there.
Every key moving into every lock means something;
every bolt shot behind us or
every fastened chain
becomes a hissing prayer,
an interweaving mantra,
that makes a sound like
"go away."

14 May 2009

4 Hearts

An arrangement of what used to be called emotion,
they are hanging like pictures
because they are
four hearts hanging like pictures of emotions.

These hearts here, hanging,
look like memories of telephone calls
or letters or scars carved into trees,
soft aspen trembling above the snow-line.

Lacquered thickly, they shine reflection
and put back some light into this dull air.
Glazed over, their beating has been fossilized and
only now reveal their tortured contractions.

Four hearts hanging and hung
against the softening plaster that
takes the prints from the hands
of those who would lean in for a closer look.

13 May 2009

Sooner or Later

He put a playing card, the three of hearts,
into his bicycle spokes with a clothespin.
It made a noise.

He made a wrong turn in the middle of the night
and ended up southbound on Rt. 387.
It was worse than he imagined.

At the 24-hour diner with the neon coffee cup he met a girl
while he fumbled for the money to pay his bill.
It had been a lot more than he’d expected.

He kissed the girl outside near her car
and she pushed her hips toward him, let her breasts touch his chest.
It seemed like the right thing to do.

Riding back, the passing semi blew him off the road
and into the weed-full ditch,
his leg sadly pretzeled beneath him.
It was broken.

At the emergency room, they cut his jeans from ankle to thigh;
they ran a tube into his arm and poured in the drug.
It became quiet.

In recovery, they asked him who to call,
who needed to know about the accident.
It was pointless.

When he was released, they returned him all his belongings
in a labeled paper bag: his wallet, his shoes and
the three of hearts.

(Lunarosity, October 2003)

12 May 2009

Monkey Talk

I. In The Basement Of The Psych Building

We chitter at each other through the mesh of our cages
and all our noise is an echo of every primate’s chatter since Oldavi:
“Me! Me! What about me!
And why has my skullcap been replaced with a Lucite dome?
And why has my brain been shot full of electrode things?
And why does my monkey chow come out only when I pull this lever?”

We are not really listening to each other
but we like the way it all sounds when we do it all together.
It is better than no noise at all.

II. Approximate Latitude 7’ North, Longitude 15’ East

When I clung to the fur along my monkey mother’s belly
and put my opposable thumb in my mouth,
I thought things were pretty darn good.
Then she started talking to me
and then I started understanding what she said
and it was things like:
“Watch out for boa constrictors ‘cause they love to eat monkey babies” and
“Watch out for the panthers on the ground ‘cause they’ll just rip you to shreds for fun” or
“Watch out for humans watching out for you. If they are indigenous, they’ll pop you in a pot and cook you up for soup. If they’re from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, they’ll try to blame you for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
“Watch out, my little monkey baby. Watch out.”
Well, like most kids, I didn’t listen to her
and I toddled through the leaves and branches of the canopy
and I played with all the stuff lying around on the jungle floor.
I started putting things together and started thinking about putting other things with other things and, like most kids, I got me some ideas.
I taught myself to tie knots. I taught myself to weave leaves.
I invented glue. I pondered representation and, later, non-representation. I considered money.

My monkey mommy hovered above me in the canopy
and her “tsk tsk tsk” followed me benignly until
she saw me on the verge of bending some twigs into a pleasing shape
and then she swung down from the trees
and beat my monkey baby ass quite red all the while shrieking in her worst mommy monkey voice:
“Art? You monkey moron! Art?
This hurts you far more than me
but I won’t stand by and
watch you end up inventing religion.”

I got the point, you betcha,
and I never ever tried again to juxtapose incongruous elements to imply or signify a representation of neither any kind nor any abstraction nor to convey a particular mood or feeling.
I still think about forming a coalition of disparate monkey groups
to examine the underlying tensions that
undermines individual monkey goal fulfillment
but I’ve got monkey moron babies of my own and,
oh my oh my,
do I beat their baby monkey asses monkey-ass red.

III. 1967—New and Improved Primates

Boys’ Life magazine,
the official monthly publication for all Boy Scouts of America,
had in its classified advertisement section in its back pages,
small notices from small companies from which
one could order small animals through the mail.
Various companies offered sea monkeys and pheasants,
sea horses and quail, hermit crabs and squirrels,
rabbits and lizards, raccoons, and, best of all,
spider monkeys all delivered parcel post
straight to our doors, no C.O.D.,
check or money orders only, allow four to six weeks for delivery.

She arrived 36 days after we sent in the order,
shipped in a cardboard tube featuring air-holes and
she wore a tiny soiled diaper made from foreign tissue paper and
she was stark raving mad, I mean,
her eyes were as big as dimes,
which is big for a squirrel monkey,
and as blank as punched silver money but always moving.

At night, at the bottom of the birdcage become her cage,
she would burrow deep within a mix of shredded newspaper and cedar shavings,
and she whimpers and shivers and dreams her small monkey dreams
of a river and some trees and a long green darkness uncoiling forever.

11 May 2009

The Distance Between These Things

Imagine me as a child
with a measuring tape
borrowed from my mother's sewing basket
and it was yellow on one side and
gray-white on the other.

Imagine me stretching it
across the dining room table
and realizing 57 inches lengthwise
but 64 on the diagonal.
It was the birth of geometry.

From protractor and compass,
I learned to extract the area
of a figure and express those values.

My hand was so many inches long before it grew.
My loneliness was measured in square yards.
The cosign of my longing became
my latitude and
I could find its position from
the angle of another person's moon.
This was and is and will become
my geography,
my way of saying
that I was here
for so long
and for so often
and it will never be enough.

stretched from end to end,
each of my emotions might circle the earth.
Or not.

10 May 2009

The Whore is on the Beach Again

She lets her monkey,
to the limits of its slender chain,
play in the ragged ends of the surf.

The boys who could don't
make fun at her.
No, instead they taste the sweet rotten fruit of her mouth
and the monkey's sweet moan when he finds a perfect shell.