Sunday, July 11, 2004

Remote Control Dynamite

All these pieces of tape on index cards, getting shallow by degrees of heat,
dragged, smoked and fried to the numb where the brand name surrenders to the burn, crisp in their knowledge of magic candles that don’t blow out, rubber candy, remote control dynamite.

Sections of the body lend their pours for a sweat against poverty, but who could think of such things now?

Perhaps it’s being too dense against the sham of identity that we take objects that don’t return hellos and give them homes as though it’s the beginning of something beautiful

Back at ~home base, the slugger tightens his belt, gets mad at the ball, dreams of monies and hosannas and a confetti rain if he’d only hit his boss.

These leave only the inevitable: thrice the chance of unions coming apart, a management of soured excuses.

Big stick, small dick, that’s what he said.

To a pal who found repast in the silence ‘til he spoke up.

Why bring that up now? Sweet honey in the rock is a hard course to go.

Big talk, small wonders, he replied, you’ve denied the parenthesis of disease, imagined or real.

It catches with you, says TAG! you’re IT, the fruit of my labors.

Rubber necking with you was a big mistake, my thorax is on leave of its senses, who do I turn to?

Not you, or they, or anything or anyone remaining with a thirst.
Duty calls, and it’s the nature of things to expel the bottled vile.

Call me airmail, or call me anytime.
Little bits of glass cling to my brow.
Small animals make nests in my mistakes.

A package arrives in the mail. Lots of wires, a battery, a clock, something packed in aluminum: A send off to write home about.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

A great country we've always lived in

Days are full of empty bottles
through which shorelines are amber
on a coast of an always setting sun,

Nights are sirens on rocks
singing as they wash their hair
and cars pull the shoulder of the coastal road,

Where we lived was rugged
and full of trees that were thick like armored battalions
around the soft essential center which was warm
and worth fighting for,

Yes, this is a great country we've always lived in,
hidden in magazine photos and underlined pages
in books telling so many stories of balance,

There was always enough
money to go around
and it never rained or snowed
while we were awake

But our snapshots are full of snowball fights
and us as kids holding umbrellas
as we waited for the bus that took us to school,

Life is as we read it to be,
dust does not rise from
the dirt roads we lived on,
our stories stop in the middle
and we go back to the beginning
when maybe being here
with these tasks and worries
seemed at first to make sense,

Something has got to change.
nothing can change at all,

I take off my glasses
and talk to my dead parents,
I submit my ballot; I approve the whole slate,

Soon we'll have everything we've ever needed,
freedom from fear screams in the hall,
decades rolled back,
pleated dresses on house bound mothers,
fathers in black and white ties
in wide ties at the dinner table.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Fencing Lesson

A fence runs between
the houses whose rooms
are stacked with boxes of things
that collected over the decade,
ephemera of years that started
when love was love and duty
was a man in a tank watching
Aral mountain ranges on the
other side of a Cold War border,
hands ready for the pistol
and radio at his reach
lest any hoards tried
to dilute the United States of America
in storage,
I slept like a bone in
an airless vault.

But everything
was turned inside out
by the time I woke up,
the fence remains
but everything
I live next to is three stories high,
even TV antennas snatching images
from the sky are gone from my view,
chimneys are rare
as honesty at retirement parties,
satellite dishes sneak
the world to
my house of boxes.

And love became duty
to remain on the border
of the bed
my limbs stayed in,
too late realizing that
the line of death was
my breath heavy with scotch and mouthwash
and pithy perfumes for the tongue
when all my speech became poetry
about duty and honor while she nodded and brushed her daughters' hair, she takes a loose strand
from her shoulder, she examines the end, the hair is split,
voiceless, she speaks

This where it ends,
I cannot breath,
there are fences running all over the world going somewhere
and all
we do is put the past away
in boxes until the corners of rooms
crowd me
and speaks to me in loops of your language
that's liquid and lost in attention to
details that are about why
you become invisible
even in bed,
which is more like a mining camp
than the place where
dreams slip across the darkness
when we've stopped talking, when our eyes are closed,
when our breathing should be the same,
not a race to the sunrise.

Everything is inside out
and I'm stupid enough
to believe that the man in the tank
loves the world even as bombs go off
around the limits of our fences,

But now I love a room
with high ceilings,
empty corners,
rooms big to swing
a cat by the tail,
where my voice rises high
and loud and rings against
the pipes and then dies
away like notes plunked
from a fine-tuned piano,
I love the discovery shoes,
sober talk, doors without locks,
windows left open
with every racket of car alarm
and leaf blower
and weekend carpenter
speaking to me in sounds
that bustle
in phonics that flash a language
that words trail
like a dog after its master
where back yards yield to one another
like lovers wearing blindfolds in abandoned parks
horrified that they might
be passing each other as
both their reaches miss their
objects of desire
and both of them walk sightless in the other direction,
around corners
and into busy traffic
before one, and then the other
takes off the blindfolds
to discover that they are
in a different city
than where they started the day,
every one is in another part of
the map, fenced in with invisible lines
that is the borders armies
make whole populations extinct for,
the world
might learn to do something
with fences that run up and down the
avenues and right into the living rooms
so that the couches and beds have
politics in every position you assume
running from stress, I say,

unwind my string
and kiss me, please,
you are a moon I want to have orbit me,
I am a gravity you cannot deny,
you make my fences sway in
your bluster and flower print dresses,
I regret fences I set up the day
you left town,

the last thing to be seen
were you on the other side of the fence
getting into your red Volvo
just before you drove away
with my heart in your trunk.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Public Affairs Broadcast

I was in the living room with the TV on C—Span that afternoon, waiting for the Furies to visit, when one fly, and then two landed on the rim of my glass of orange juice. This must be it, I thought. On the screen was another panel discussion by some dais of experts summarizing what they hadn’t found out after years of drawing substantial salaries. The flies skirted around the rim, stopping occasionally to inspect a shred of orange pulp that had been congealing for an hour since I last touched the glass, and then skirting around again. One fly took flight abruptly, performing miracle circles and dives through the depressed haze of cigarette smoke, while the other remained on the room, seemingly entranced by the pulp. I looked at the screen again and listened to a man at the podium who looked to be in his fifties drone on in a voice that was as lifeless and dry as chapped lips pressed against sand paper. Balding, his fringe flowing over his ears and the collar of black shirt, his face oval shaped, his suit an orchestration of wrinkles and color blindness, I had him pegged: a soft boiled egg after a thrift—store binge. I scratched my nuts and then my scalp, thinking that I ought to take shower, as the smoke was no longer covering the body odor but now mingled with it after the while, creating an ambience that was double the funk. One fly remained on the glass rim inspecting the texture of the orange pulp while the other one was gone all together. I lit another cigarette and listened to the TV.

“Well, “ said the speaker., who was sweating huge globules from his lips, “I was going to address to the problem that Rock Criticism is no~ facing in light of recent advances in digital technology and the emergence of non-white cultures in a main-stream genre which, ironically, was the creation of a vital American subculture. These, among other developments in international popular culture, poses some interesting problems for a generation of mostly white and middle-aged and male rock critics ~who, unless they get with the program, stand to become the next generation of reactionary commentators who, strangely, will relinquish their claim of progressivism and in turn become protectors of aesthetic standards that, in the long view, never in fact existed. BUT--”
The speaker looked up at the audience, stared straight in the C-Span camera, and gave a grin that was roaming all over his doughy, chinless face. He picked up the pages of his prepared talk and flung them in the air. One hand grabbed the podium while the other wrapped; around the microphone as though it were a gun. The pages fluttered downward around him.
“-—BUT--” he continued, his voice louder and animated now, nearly slurred as his syllabics went free—lance, “BUT.. . I’ve been in the hotel bar since I ‘ye checked in this morning to consider the talk, and damn that bartender Jorge has a heavy hand on the pour, and I gotta tell ya I managed to stack a perfect pyramid of shot glasses, and I considered this thing here called rock criticism, and I’m pretty goddamned fucked-~ right now, and so I have preface all coming comments by saying that this a pretty fucking lame way to make a living, the other people who’re gonna talk are buncha Lit. Crit. drop outs who get their insights from a dime bag and a bong rather than a knowledge of The Unities, and frankly I think it sucks that I’m an assistant professor at Buffalo, NY junior college where the average humanities student LeRoi Nieman is too abstract and that a 7 and 7 is a mans’ drink. Whatta bunch of limp dicks! You guys are a bunch of fuckheads because you’re paying an asshole like me to tell you something. Have a drink, you fools. Hah! But on with the topic. Let’s see, let’s talk about niggers...”
At this point, the camera cut to the other panel members, who were sitting along a long, battered folding table that was draped with a white, coffee stained table cloth, three white males in grey business suits, carefully cut long hair, and wire framed glasses. While two of them remained shocked and ducked under the table, the third arose and walked of f the stage. The camera remained on the man at the podium, who was waving his arms as though signaling planes to land. He had stepped away from the podium, and was screaming at the audience.

I grabbed the remote control and after flying through the channels, came across one of those half-hour advertisements for a questionable product that’s pathetically disguised as a talk show. I turned the sound of f and pulled my harmonica from my back pocket, but became frustrated when the middle notes of my brilliant improvisation came out sounded flat and atonal, a spike in the ear. I buried the harmonica under the middle cushion of the couch, and decided to get out of the house. I pushed the cocktail table out of my way, upsetting the orange juice glass. The fly was gone, though. He didn’t want to hear about niggers either. I was standing in the middle of the room.
“Okay, I give up” I said.
Then I sat on the couch again, picked up the remote control and turned the sound back on and watched this guy and that guy and that woman (who I imagined seducing) all take turns at the microphone talking their share of nonsense for hours and hours and hours.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Lost in a Swirl

Chuck was lost in a swirl of his own thoughts just as Alice came up to him at the bus stop.

"What are you thinking" she asked, her voice a brassy rasp. She placed the plastic bag she'd been carrying on the bench where Chuck sat, where it met the warped and over- painted wood with a wet , crackling rush of air.

"Oh, ya startled me" said Chuck. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked up at Alice, squinting to see her face. If he still had the glasses that got run over by the city bus a month ago, he wouldn't have to strain his eyes to see the droops and sags in her face, the
lines that looked like ravines seen from planes on implausibly clear days. He could tell she was smiling. When she frowned her face seemed darker, more a smear or stain in a cloth than the cheery cloud she usually seemed in his blurry world.

"Whatcha thinking" she asked again.

"Thinking about going downtown and getting me a few bucks for a pint of blood and then
getting a room at the Sattler to get out of the cold, ya know? They're gonna tear that thing down and put some condos or offices or some such nonsense, and I thought it'd be nice to spend a night in a room with a roof and windows that close and all, for old times sake."

He fell quiet, and after some minutes Alice spoke up.

"Mind if I tag along?"

"Nah. Let's get going then."

Chuck stood up and pushed the shopping cart he'd filled with everything he had and both of them moved up the main street, mindful of traffic, quiet as shadows as they moved toward the high rises, the tall buildings just over there, the towers of commerce.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Plato's Walk-In

In front of things adorning the lawns of our town, I abjure to squint of cranes and deers, jockeys with faces white as the walls of empty gallery stoic as they are in their enameled resolve,

Not here or there nor on any brush in sight can relief be spelled in a flick of the wrist , a motion that captures the tone and twist of a minute in this day when all the frustrations seemed they might just dissolve like thin sheets of sugar under warm tap water and just wash away, there is not a gesture that lets me to release things short of releasing all fingers from around the neck of the idea that is old, inert, unable to be redefined or made new by new paint on old boards.

The doors of the houses are wide open , dogs whimper and yelp their routine protest about weekends in the back of the truck,

It's broad daylight, the sunlight is spread like miles of smiling bed covers over the happenstance of my moods in this moment, the newsboy pitches the paper to the roof,


It's business as usual, a full schedule of things to do or lie about doing.

Should I continue with my walk to the beach in a constricted stride, suffering the thoughts of phone calls that seemed to be about everything that was never said until the night past and hysteria goes back to sleep, my mind seems a cave with deep, slurred echoes of what we talked about, the impossibility of the desire, the attraction to fires, bright lights at the end of cigarettes?

Damn these animals and doors, damn this daylight, damn the world and it's orderly progression.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Car Wash

there's a last chance for love
in each sigh you make
watching your car get dragged
through the car wash, sudsy and wet,

but even as breath escapes through
your nose and a sad whistle comes
through your teeth, a homeless man
hands you dollar, and you drop it
as he turns, it's filthy and creased,

your car is shiny as a new penny
in the glistening and buffing that
makes machines gleam with
sex and torque after hours,
thank you, you sigh, I'll park my own car,

the homeless man is out in front
of the wash,he pushes his cart
full of cans and newspaper wrapping
into the alley, he drops a dollar in the street,
he is in love with the Wendy's senior cheeseburger,

you get in your shiny car
while the city awaits your arrival,
everyone you wanted to see you
behind this wheel are eating dinner at home
or are dead before you could brag,

and the homeless guy just gives away
his money,

so no one right at this minute
really gives a shit

what it is your driving
when there is still
the boss's work to be done,

goddamn it,
you say.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Closing Time.

The lights dim, they go off, the room goes dark, in fact, and there is a hurry to grab items from store shelves, unexamined, for purchase lest one leave a store at closing without a purchase on the good life.

What life would that be, and what is the sales tax? Do frequent buyers receive a discount for the chances they took with the pennies they saved? So many hands grabbing magazines or packs of cigarettes before all are gone, out the door, absorbed by a dark winter twilight.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Turlock Motel

We have dreams deeper than
the folds of the blankets
that mimic the contours of everybody
that molded itself into the
improbable shape of the night,

rhythmic instance as you wrap your
arms around my neck, the flat of your
hands pulling me forward into your folds,
deep as the dark of sky that becomes black
beyond comprehension and history worse hours
until yet the gleam, the shine, the faint winking
of another star shows a way, a pinprick in
black construction paper held up against an enormous light
that would burn away
the scruff of this earth
if there was nothing to
block the
of the center of everything,

you are my center you say
in the room as cats and phone messages
come and go with their yowls and beeps,
long into the folds as every surface gives way
again to what is hidden in places the mind sees
as a night when our eyes close as we stand
and the floor feels to give way,
the ground gives way,
every felt inch of the earth we crawled this morning
up and down streets and eventual stairs
gone as if a switch were thrown and
there was only slowness in warm salt water,
we go deep
into the wrap of night,
long in the mouth and
stained with aromas, cigarettes,
a thirst for cold water,

an arm hangs over the side of the bed,
a foot hangs off the other end.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

In Praise of Paul Dresman's Poetry

Selected poems by Paul Dresman
(Cottage in the Park Press)

Readers frustrated and ill by the tone-deaf grating of bad modern verse would do well to acquire a copy of Paul Dresmans terrific collection The Silver Dazzle of the Sun. Dresman, a poet, writer, translator and teacher born in Southern California who presently lectures at the University of Oregon, emerges with this collection as a major voice in American poetry.Where the trend among celebrity poets has moved largely toward a softness scarcely distinguishable from herd-instinct nostalgia,or a reshuffling of old experimental tricks more iconic than satisfying, Dresman returns poetry to the realm of discourse, experience, ideas. The distinction between the work in Silver Dazzle of the Sun and the nervous elegance of much accomplished contemporary poetry is that Dresman understands how to talk about the world through the rigor of verse. Pliant, rhythmic, malleable, fluid and yet solid as the material objects philosophers drive themselves insane interrogating, there is nothing shy nor tentative in these pieces.This is poetry that wants to talk to you. Blessed with an ear for the turns,snaps and lacing configurations that word forms and phrases can bring to bear on a subject, the poet here has mastered William Carlos Williams' compelling if sketchily described notion of the "variable foot" and , achieves what Pound preached when insisting that poetry be written with a mind on the musical phrase, not the metronome. Irony abounds here, as Dresman achieves the strange and wondrous music the idealized speaking voice can give us, while Pound's work sounds its age, creaking flummery at best. Dresmans poetry is rich with a spinning, dynamic music, full of speedy Coltrane-like runs, or modulated with ensemble compactness and precision. This is a writer who approaches his experiences from many routes, paths, ways of entrance. Style is appropriate to subject and tone, and Dresman knows exactly which notes to play, and how often, how loud and how soft. The poems dance and swing and rock and float in a medley of styles united by Dresmans splendidly discriminating ear.Most of all, this is a poetry that lives in the world, poetry as a means to absorb and comprehend events, not something to recede into, feeding on a looping ambiguity.He captures the sense of speed and aggression of California life , where remnants of past years are destroyed in an obsession to build new, useless things, as in "California Frontage" :

The years zip past
like your address in the glass
of a passing Cadillac,
and the curbings repeat.

The grass looks greener
because its older and well kept
women amble the avenues
surrounded with leaves.

Under the eaves of spreading ferns,
we sit looking out for sunsets,
flags by the driveways,
cars returning from work,
porches, doors, sunbursts in bas relief.

We drift though the windows by the sea
and the saber-tooth fronds
on the overhead palms
rattle like fistfuls of keys.
One of the keen things about this body of work is Dressman's particular interest in bringing local and regional distinctions into the pieces he writes. An astute critic of the late Ed Dorn's masterpiece Gunslinger, Dresman's own poems are details of place ,studies of personalities sussing out the manufacture of meaning as terrains are transformed, with an intense, curious intelligence bearing witness in ways that are awed, aghast and swift of stanza, a personality snagging fleet impressions of the disarray created by hubris-laden intentions. History, traditions, specific joys and insanities are restored to poetry's particular mission to make a reader consider themselves deeper in their world, in their own accumulated habits and habitats. It is not, let us emphasize, the mytho- paleontology of some writers who side with Pound and are content to have their fabled genius remain unreadable, parseable only by an anointed coterie. Dressman's poems have extreme empathy with the world. This is a world where one speaks in a tongue that invites response.The speakers are shaped by language that accommodates the vastness of region, The West, both as a physical place and collective social construction, looms large in a good deal of the present poems(as it is in Dorn's long lines), and it is the marriage of voice and location that gives the poetry in The Silver Dazzle of the Sun a life that is absent from too much-published poetry. The world climbs through the language and appears through deft description fresh as a moment of first perception; style is content, to beg an old question, but it's a worthwhile distinction to make clear. Dresman's work brings us a world of felt experience that can be addressed in useful ways. There are no epistemological quandaries here, no rueful meditations on malformed vowels. There is, though, plenty of wit, anger, flights of lyric speculation, writ with a sure composing hand. There is something of a medley of voices at play in these works, where a terrain on which innumerable generations of having written on emerge in a layered and subtly orchestrated music. The poetics of wonder, rage, joy, and sorrow are harnessed with extraordinary skill. Above all else, the poems come from a voice that is speaking to you; there are moments when the candor and unreticent wit of the writing makes you ponder again the incidents in your own experience that you might not have regarded for years. The poetry is that good.An interesting tension is created in "California Frontage", and even within the emphasis of constant change and evisceration of the landscape, the poet still finds the poetic on the broad street corners and patios. The seeming stasis of neighborhoods wedged between strip-mall glutted intersections coexisting alongside the redundant dynamism of a Los Angeles freeway; for all the noise that is generated, a still life none the less. The ordinary detail of neighborhood life is caught in fluid, painterly strokes. Dresman works in many different lengths of line, and the eclectic nature of what his ear picks and his pen composes is remarkable; the conversational twines with the philosophical, zen stillness minds a synthesis with clipped and stinging cadences that suggest hard rock guitar, while nature poems lead to urban realism. These are poems of a world in constant flux, sometimes subtle, graceful, but always dynamic, with an effect on the emotional life of person and place. The snapshot accuracy of the author's description of the churning acres we live on allows us a sense of the large existence we are passing through. There are scores of splendid poems here, some of the surest and best poetry that's been written by an American poet.Dressman's range is impressive, and the works are organized into six sections, "a western child", "histories","california frontage","how to make a chinese landscape painting", "en castellano" and "on sundays, in America". As you can surmise, the titles reflect the places Dresman has been and what he has written about, moving across the continent, over borders and oceans, and back again, with eyes open, ears tuned, the pen ready write. The Silver Dazzle of the Sun is the rare thing in an age where even "instantaneous" is too slow a concept; this work draws you back to it. Additional twists and turns are revealed, nuances are brought to mind, and unexpected inspirations resonate like soft, swift rhymes, just as our own lives characteristically unveil every unexpected thing.

The Silver Dazzle of the Sun is available for $7.OO from Cottage in the Park Press,480 E. 30th Ave.,Eugene, OR. 97405. The publisher will pay the shipping costs.

Last Dance

A mighty morsel is what the world sees
from the sum of the bun damp with
all such expectation that a zipper falls
faster than the credit card lands on the
check, yes, hat , I need my hat, here are
your gloves,

This dance is insane and lovely at the end of the
evening, just when we are leaving
with locked arms an alarm goes off ,
though it sounds more like heavy breathing
and yelps from the pantry, from the linen closet,
a muffled sound of joy, the night is soft
and absorbent.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Dead Bury the Dead

This sleep is so much Like death, I would want to say, but I resist the drift, the faint pretense of experience, and breath deeply instead until the panic goes and the mind drifts back to a preference for other worlds known in nocturnal turns in the folds of a pillow.

I have not died, what can I know what sleep resembles? Only that slumbers resembles nothing else except other slumbers, dreams other dreams, with the variations that I can call out in writing, speech acts of all kinds, gauging them
against anecdote and heartache.

There are years of family, friends, strangers on trains and in lines waiting for nameless service who share the quality of their last sleep, limitless archives of what it was like going in and out of the lidded shade.

There are still no reports from the dead. The dead bury themselves and they do not make a sound except when we dream of them.

Get Out of Town

You are naked
yet I see nothing
but the mist, the steam
of so many nights

I offer you oranges
but you aren't
the least bit hungry
as you chew your knuckles,

Police offer us
escorts to the
edge of this nervous city,
fully clothed,
Bibles in our suitcases,
thumbs at the ready
by the side of the road,

A helicopter flies over
us, a voice over
a speaker announces
cheap room rates
and pleads for the return of
a missing child,

You say nothing
that matters
yet your thumb
says it all,
a wild , twirling dance
that stops
the headlights
dead in the center
of the two lane
on ramp,

Drivers who
want to hear
a farmer's daughter
from the daughter
of the overall'd toiler himself.

Wednesday, May 5, 2004


I've just figured out
what went wrong
with the haircut
when he showed me
the back of my neck.

It seems that
I was leaving rooms in a hurry,
paperwork and dress shoes
flying in the wake of
nervous wind,
the hairs clinging to
the nape of the neck
and licking the collar
in graceless, sweaty clumps.

My coat was usually one sleeve full,
the other arm grabbing the door knob,
reaching for an elevator button,
a car ignition,
grabbing a hat
that wasn't on my head
when I walked in.

From outside the mirror's frame,
wrists and hands reach out
for something on the
other side of the glass,
either a magazine or a wallet.

Nothing else was revealed.
The frame falls away,
dissolved , really.
There's only my head and face
presumably to the rest of me.

The rest of me is already gone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

my mother cries over the kitchen sink

she takes off her glasses
and sets them on the counter,

tears come to her eyes
while she hovers over the sink,

a hand holding a knife
that's sharp as sarcasm,

sob, slice!, sob, slice
sob, hack! sob...

i am back from school
with my brothers and my sister

who are already in the basement
watching Popeye on the big Sylvania,

and i watch my mother as she
hacks, sobs, tears, wheezes over
the sink, the window is open,

i can see our neighbors through the
branches of the crabapple tree
as the bunch of them gather around
a grill, someone laughs, i see a football
go through the air, someone laughs again,


i ask what the matter was, what
in the world that goes around
like the big and little hands on the clock
could be wrong,

she looks up, she smiles as only
mothers are able when their eyes
are red and every in their face aches
with pain and fatigue,

liver and onions
she says,
your father's favorite,
for better or for worse...

Monday, May 3, 2004

Harold Bloom

There he goes again
saying what he does into
the stitches of the spine
where motes and specks
of antique grain makes
him exhort wisdom in
reaches that are beyond the
room or the hallway that leads
so many to the door,

a voice that trembles and
rattles with glottal clicks
and abandonment of tongue
as language roils in sweat stained
back seats where there is
nothing the names of things
in this world to undress,

it's agon again, book of jaybirds
taking flight from the pitch of the
roof where many chimneys bear
witness to ashes of ideas going up
in such billows of smoke that it's
a thought that the sun will never
rise or set on this planet again,

a voice declares that
memory is what we
have when a view is not
part of the scheme,

let's try and remember what
the afternoons and mornings were like
with each fork of food we aim toward our mouth,
let's try to describe the night
and the quality of no light not falling
but rather growing out of the corners
of the city as if it were the blackness
that gives us death, the end of voices,
no memory to give us pause
to be smart and read again

after throat clearings and shuffling of
papers scratched with letter grades,
to come across again
mention of human kind, agency,
the insane mind that will not
obey metaphor nor genuflect to
the crucifix of form,

a world goes hungry
for all the
the tropes contain,

the only things that fill
are pages
of books made of
trees that
are naught but deserts where
nothing we can use lives

let's close this book,
he muses,
let me open another
and another after this
and yet more until
i am full of words
of passion about gods
and their messengers
who are insane
with precision,
undressed in the rain,

all this until
i write another book
to add to a stack
that finds itself
ringed with broader,
tighter kinds of sand
and fruitless dirt.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

all news is local

a woman
from a mid western suburb
turns up missing
when she never
comes home
from the enclosed mall.

news camera men and
reporters angry
with stiff, epoxied hair
stand at the side of a road,
next to an empty field
surrounded by a collapsing
hurricane fence.

it had been raining
and clouds hung
low in the sky, motionless,
menacing an Arco sign
beneath it.

this is where
a ticket stub
and bent
eyeglass frames
were found,
but outside of that,
police are
being quiet
while they conduct
their investigation.

it starts to rain again,
water beads on
the camera lens.

this goes on for
channel after channel,
a panic
in absence of
evidence of a crime,

there is no life
on any of the streets
outside my door.

not through this
on the world.

I turn off the set
and my phone rings.

it’s my sister
saying hi
and then
she says
that my our brother
has been
in the hospital for
six days,
he collapsed, she said,
bad asthma attack,
all those chemicals
he works worth,
she sobs,
the paramedics
incubated him
so quickly
that that they
didn’t get any family information,
the hospital
just called us
at seven tonight,
he looked so
sad and defeated,
I mean,
we should have looked for him,
I mean,

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

About Face

About Face

Striking a pose you've practiced too long
in Toledo as you were thinking of rolls of
butcher paper,

All the same you remain in bed with
yourself and another lover every night,
a date that's guarenteed,

Silk stockings covered with bumper stickers
are draped over the shower rod,

You no longer yawn when friends speak of
grace , glory, deliverence from the centers of
enterprise that stop being useful and instead
become a yearning, roiling rash,

A power contained by no walls
withstanding, instead you feel
fear, a dry blood flowing from
a wound where it feels as though
something had been lifted , a spirit
stolen from you and riden into the
night sky by grotesque fear,

The moon wears a skull mask tonight,

The match trembles, and the pose sours,
the lines around your eyes deepen, ravines
of exhaustion, each fold a rut where a wish
was burie like small change in old purses,

You're alone on the ceramic floor,
telling a joke to a profile,

Imagining low angle shots, a soft filter
over the lens.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Murder Just the Same

It's dicey at best to think that any number of soldiers with tanks guns and goggles are going to settle a
beef that's been going on since before any books were written to justify murder in the name of a power greater than ourselves.

It ends up being murder all the same.

Monday, April 26, 2004

doyle bramhall

one more twist
of the tuning peg
and then this guitar
will be fit for fables
about fortunes
come and gone
while the stratosphere
cracks like sheets of ice
under the sharp notes
the pick coaxes
from strangely
pitched strings.

things get strange
between the city
and the land that
fills up the continent
on your way
to the coast.

sometimes you run out
of women's names
when there are chords
to be hammered into shaped
for a song that will mention
each corroded thing
you've seen between
cities, it's a life of passing
through , war clouds in the sky,
turnpike food around the bend,
every kiss now less
convincing in rhyme
than a sign
reading that
someone would work for food,
it's about getting paid.

rusted cars and
parts of trucks
rest in arid fields
or rust even more
as it rains outside
on a town's main street.

sometimes there
are no Bibles in the
hotel drawers.

the roads
get darker
between towns
that hold their
acres of claimed earth
after the factories close,
desperate and forgotten,
everyweek another family
moves out, another business goes dark,
another song needs
be written.

the last leaves
in autumn that resist
the wind and cold
and stay with the
branch until
they let go without
fanfare or cry,
they let go
and carried on
a wind until the fall
in a gutter
on a street where
neon burns and every working
car is parked,
drunks try to stand in line,
someone from out of town
is jamming tonight.

paintings of products
that have ceased to exist
have their likeness
on the sides of
liquor stores,
promises of eternal joy
faded, chipped and flaking
away as the smoker's
hand holds only
a scuffed brick from the
wall beneath the
fruitless ad,

it all started as a card game
but ended as a scramble
for chips and piles of cash,
car lights swooped over the motel room
walls, a man kicked in the door
and started yelling a woman's
Mary, Mary...
where are you going to?

the voices crack and splinter
on the harmonies,
each tongue clicking on
the syllables that build
on the slurs which bleed
over the chord progressions
that gain momentum
like thrasher machines
in fields chewing up wheat
at the stalk,
drum breaks are the
throb of aching knees,
bass lines the blood
that still pulses and spills,
guitars the fury of a spirit
that cannot fly above the
atmosphere, away from
the brown, mired country,

many homes to pass
before we sleep,
a twist of a lick, BB King style,
someone wakes up
in the backseat, mumbles,
a twist of the knob, impatient,
news fills the car,

we're not home yet.