Mohammed's head is my mother
singing to me
a wilderness beneath trees
She is the cow's head
through the steam of boiling milk
a festival of cattle and the common milk pot
filled with a sweetness
that will harden in individual feasting
She is the skein of lights
crawling past the window
a netting over the sore places
and protruding bones
gathered into a hammock
Mid-stride we forget
and remember again
like taking the smooth round stones
from a graveyard, from a portal between
this and that, and placing them on a dish far away
We are never that far
from the intimacy
tapping at the window, poking us
in the crater that was once a shoulder,
steering us by the arm
The downward stroke of a pen
leaves glints in the dark
indicating a lively involvement
in the passive face
Close the mouth of the mother
the ear of the listener
the sound still hangs in the trees
blinking on and off like fireflies, a light
connecting the dots in perfect design.
Flight to Albuquerque
I heard a real poet* reading his work yesterday. Shattering. When
I looked at it in the book I saw that there were no line breaks.
Not broken, shattered.
The sea captain tried to escape last night, but he was quickly captured
by the pirates
1) off the coast of Somalia
2) in the Gulf of Aden
Perfume overcomes the trigger, the trauma, the shattering.
dream ? Trauma
As the man said, a little stimulation causes the line to break.
A tiny song:
Man with umbrella in backpack
So it won’t rain
Nothing is reliable—look, my wrist doesn’t move, the
lines break, are broken, no safety
here/near (when my cane, its curve resting on the table edge, falls
down—crash—no one starts, stares. I pick it up
Shooting schedule: shots of shots: e.g. 1-second shots of shooting
(guns) from familiar or unfamiliar western, adventure, period, dramatic,
comedy etc. movies
In blood we trust
uncertain ground?coherence of vibration
Everything opens up. Pretending to read in order not to talk, moving
from thought to thought to thought. The line? What about it?
Your thoughts were elsewhere.
Why stop with one?
I think I’ll stop here
but then go on
read “beer and sun”
for “bees and sun”
jingle of a bell on a bike
thumbtack, its shadow on the wall
the shattering—hear it
IN PRAISE OF BIG MEN
for Gerry Locklin
I like big gentle guys like him, with big hands,
a no-bullshit, ugly but irresistible mug,
sexy like firefighters and policemen are sexy,
and with a trademark irony that, in a charming way,
is boyishly self-deprecating too,
and makes his poems unique.
He’s a lot bigger than me, an athlete,
with hands that could crush beer cans or a wimpy hand like mine.
I always say he’d be the perfect big brother —
anybody jump me, call me faggot or jewboy,
and Gerry would be there, saying Sez who?
He’s tough, but a softy,
the most attractive combination in a man.
Funny, me in that macho Long Beach world.
but I’m no threat — Gerry’s not afraid of other
he’s not scared of the varieties of male sexuality.
He knows where his goes, so mine doesn’t faze him.
It was like in the army — what a relief
the guys didn’t beat me up like back home!
When I first met him — he and Chuck Stetler
had written about my first book —
they were downing beers like mother’s milk,
and amazed I didn’t join them.
But I preferred my normal head back then —
I wanted to be clearer than normal,
though with age I’ve discovered that a drink
gives a fuzzy glow that blocks
thoughts of impending doom —
one drink. Two wrecks it.
I also get there with one toke.
Come to think of it, now that smoke has blown me slightly gaga,
Gerry’s like a big puppy, and irresistible.
Thank you, Gerry, for your true heart —
I think that, partly, you like my poems
out of protectiveness — that’s why
you write so well about children.
Lucky to have a father that doesn’t take the strap to you.
Yours is the poetic voice of the common man at his noblest —
too smart for most “common men,” of course.
I sing your praises great and small,
for the long poems and the short,
for your friendship and support,
and for the big hands and the big
Drop the Rock
The Rock rolls back
No more mandatory time
for victimless crime
the sale or use
Oblivion or enlightenment —
Humanity seeks transmutation
And substances deemed illegal
lead to long incarceration
Since '73, New York locks up our kids
Fractures families and lives with long term bids
Makes profit industries from jail
A nickel and dime heartbreak trail
Now it looks like we welcome reform
Early release, worth a try
I'll pass on the booze, powders and pills
and send a smoke ring to the sky
Whatever sin it was
That damned the
Cities of the Plain
Neither God's wrath
Nor the Hebrew Elders
It's a good thing
Lot wasn't hungry
Or we'd have to add
Cannibalism to incest.
The Flight Into Egypt
Was so precipitous
And recently delivered mother
so ill prepared
For a strenuous journey
That neither mother
what does the house make on Texas Hold-‘em
my former friend asked me one evening in what
used to be more legibly spring;
nothing, I told him, and some would consider this
the beauty of the game, but they’re no gamblers.
A real gambler is to lose, to throw
it away like the numerical nonsense it is
to find the way back to the table again,
with a stake humbled down
to the minimum nub
that builds to a fortune
the gambler then places on rouge
knowing noir’s the inevitable next outcome
the purpose is never to win,
but to feel for an hour, a day
the freedom of losing everything:
the air smells sweeter
the world wears a fresh astonished look
as if it indeed existed in and for itself,
and for his delectation.
The man who has just been ruined
walks a special walk
as if one leg were partly paralyzed
he shambles to the exit staircase
oblivious to the house manager
extending a flute of complimentary champagne,
and may collide
with others descending to the pit
without knowing it.
His eyes stay fixed on his collapse:
his one friend in the casino.
Outside he hears
birdsong, the soughing of boughs
sees what grows from the earth even now.
What can I do, I have reached the impasse—
this impasse is his moment
of orgasm and freedom.
The palm trees glisten in the sun. On the steps to the fountain,
a young woman with a green computer reaches down and scratches her
leg. Insects are attracted to water and flesh. In Baghdad, Tammy
says, If I wore jeans and a t-shirt on the street, I'd be killed.
A man walks past the fountain, talking to a young woman in a green
mini skirt—"You asked me to knock on the door, so I did."
Abdel-Qader choked his daughter holding his foot on her throat because
she spoke to a British soldier on the street. Her mother used to
call her Rose. A college girl says to her friend who is reading
a book, "I will never survive alone." An old faded peace
sign on a lamppost. A vine climbing half way up the leg, the door.
I cross the tracks on my bicycle watching the end of the train disappear.
2500 miles from home. And the wind is blowing dust everywhere. I
close my eyes for a moment. The dervishes in Basra twirl, their
long black hair unwinding. I tie a red bandana over my face and
then peddle faster and faster. A man stands on the corner with a
blue paper mache´ mask bobbing on his head, he's looking south
for the dark Tucson souls on parade. Then I'm peddling again straight
into the wind.
PINS & NEEDLES
Black threads, outline of an oak,
Bare against the sky. The digging
Ground pulps & gasps. October is
Pregnant with grief. If Vallejo was
Born on a day when God was sick,
I was birthed into a bedroom filled
With dolls & their roll-back eyes.
The brackish stench of this place
Frays, but each day there are so many
Burials it’s hard not to get used to it.
The hours brim & hang & sump. Every
Morning the heart wrenches back
Into my body. None of us have ever
Been. I find a soot-covered hummingbird
In my pocket each Thursday. After my
Hands are charred, & then scraped clean
With a knife, there is no better chalice
Than my mouth. If I could fly into myself
I’d wear my cape like a blindfold & mosey
Into the bloated sunset. When you realize
You are missing something, it wasn’t me.
from Silent Pictures Recognize the World
orange piles the girders
shadows on back
shadows on stairs
green peels and scrapes
pale beige continents
a deeper shade of hustle
the sun sets
before the day ends
before the train comes
before the mind rests
bleed and vibrate
on subterranean lakes
Brooklyn Super Hero Shop
Behind the Antediluvian Shades
Behind the antediluvian shade??
lies the nap?
handclap for yourselves??
& drown in the unmarried??
in spring pole beserker.??
I violet gumdrop?
in thermometer jog.??
My liver makes its point.?
I am in drum,??
in a fair splash.
Sewing up the grass in wakeful
pardon while the parrot while
the beggar woman in pseudo wares
Mongolia they say on Genghis Ave
Shall we threepeat and avoid
the mobster carousel (you can't)
blank megalomania bounds by
in stripes of sugar piked to
the gecko, the cherry-lime rickey, the pinto
it's exactly what I say it's
dour narrow vision you fear
but gasping at everything at once
decorated for dominance
it's not so dark basilica retro
Suddenly, its visage appeared
Towering over us, yellow
In the mists, the moon
Is bright because of the sun
It follows us in the air, rises
It howls yellowly, our son
Asks and tells how it shines
In the darkness it rises until
It is shrouded no more but
Accrues in the blackness
A terrible force, that pulls
Us alone through longing
She comes like a wrecking ball in winter,
razing the old tenement and with it,
plink-plinking, she shatters your ice to splinters.
No one expects the foundation: the pit.
But you always recognized the ruins,
the crumbling walls, the painted hearts—you knew
it like a child alone will know to spin.
When you lie down, the weeds will take their pews,
and the white sun is too far to warm you,
and only the wrecking ball, your gray moon,
is licking at the air for bloody dew.
And whenever she comes, she comes too soon.
And you will love her like the broken glass
loves the wind that blows away the ashes.
Astoria is Queens’ baby grand.
The avenues strung across Steinway Street:
E flat minor licked by a finger’s dreams
forever. Ebony keys, which are sunken
not raised, sustaining all this human music:
Socratic avenue is thirtieth;
Broadway is sliced lemon meringue pie;
Steinway near twenty-fifth: a minaret.
Once Bennetts, Schwimmers, Mermans, Walkens, Archies
and Joplins played these eighty-eight acres
and knew that William Steinway had composed
a factory outside of which the side
walks were white notes. And as the dark descends,
this baby grand: its lid is slowly closing.
MADE IN GOTHAM
Poseidon’s colossal tears fall into Ulysses’ beer
In the midnight hour I’ll sing In the Midnight Hour
David Shapiro’s blood runs gold in his poems
His son found The Lost Son’s orange dustcover
I have never found what the attraction is, Magneto said
Pardon me for asking but Who do you think you are?
Here comes Zen Bones, Zen Smooth Bore Action
How much I wish the truth would tell it like it is
Back it up, jack ass, make room for the nonbelievers
Olympus is crowned with a cathedral of cotton fog
I polish its handle with everything I’ve got
Like an old puzzle laughing its shoes untied
I will cover you with wings of garnet whoosh
Until everyone is home free and utterly Bozo
THE TUBA PLAYER
For all the bad poets
I love to play my tuba,
my tuba, my tuba,
I love to play my tuba,
oom pahpahpah pah pah.
Explore your surroundings and dream between
Would you sacrifice the vast universe of magic
for a sacred kiss?
Young breezes go laughing by
Remembering to celebrate
and not chase after ghosts.
No sad worry could compete
with the blue translucent sky and sun
warming my lips
Come, think on this.
I Love You with the Patience of an Astronomer
I love you with the patience of an Astronomer
My gaze persistent despite how far you are
I am calculating motions and predicting positions
A tactician based on thermal emissions
Submission to light needs no permission
Waiting to see how little lights will pass
I use bent glass, I use bent glass