Spring ’85

I can sniff out doom
early
often
easily
but sometimes
I can sniff it out
when it’s
not there.

I think it dates
back to the sixth grade
and Mrs. Brody
-Mrs. Brody
with her
hemorrhoidal
voice
calling to me
as I stood at
the blackboard
MAKE IT AS BIG AS
THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE!

and I tried it.

and the class laughed wildly
at the ridiculously
huge numbers
and I felt myself
burning inside and hating
the lot of them,
but at the same time,
wanting to join them.

I tried to laugh,
but it came out as
a hybrid cough/bark
that reverberated
through the room.

a horrible and malignant
silence ensued. Stares.
and then Mrs. Brody
shouting
GET OUT OF HERE!
in her
great depression
penance
cadence.

I left the room
and time itself
stalled on me.

After many minutes,
she came out and
stood before me,
her beastly arms folded.

HAVE YOU QUITE RECOVERED?
she asked.

I didn’t have
the jam to tell her
that I
hadn’t
and
wouldn’t
and
didn’t care to.

It was 1985
and it wasn’t me
that needed
recovering.

 

the old puzzles are the fun ones

there’s a whole night
gone missing from
February ’97,
the night Dahlia
served the buybacks
three deep,
and one with
a Mickey Finn
flourish.

there’s a whole night
gone missing

from the bowels of an
otherwise safe and
measured winter,
and I recall in flashes
wanting to confront
an old foe
for an offense
I can’t remember,

but finding you instead,
me screaming
NAW  MAN
NAW YOU’RE
MY BROTHER!

And brothers are made
by such things
are they not?
-screaming, burning
in the post-midnight
street and glow,
wanting
the more
the next
the better.

there’s this whole damn
night gone missing,
the robbed remnants
of what should have been
an early exam night,

and these  twenty years on,
I still look for it,
grasping at it
in the broken shards
of a mirror
or a song on
the jukebox
too loud
and just beyond
my placing it.

this will not be a good poem

footfalls throughout the prison.
a distant siren.
getting overcast –
-there’s a new
art display,
some huge
black box
with boards
tapering
out of
the top
like a crown
or maybe
a cage
of shards.

A cage within a cage?
Perhaps.

I overhear
an old man
screaming into
his phone.

“It’s my fault, I didn’t realize he had a SYNDROME! I didn’t know he was SUBHUMAN!”

they sold the building off
and drove out
the engineers.

bumpy cadence of a rolling suitcase.

soon something
new
will
arrive,
but I’ll
have split
before then.

 

journal

Deep in the
Garden District,
on the other side
of the turnpike,
I stumbled across
a garage sale.

There were no toys
to be found,
and very little
in the way of
kitchen appliances,
but I did find
an old, battered
journal.

It had a plain
brown cardboard
cover and
a tin nameplate
with no name,
and when I opened
it up, the inside
cover had one
simple word
scrawled on it
in erratic cursive:

BECAUSE.

That was
good enough
for me.

the man with the silver mullet

the man with
the silver mullet
sits and smokes
in one of those places
you’re no longer
allowed to do it,
looks blankly
from side to side,
thinks those thoughts
we pretend
aren’t forbidden
nowadays.

the man with
the silver mullet
inhales smoky yesterdays,
the smell of the old dances
and the beats and beasts of
a long night’s endurance.

he grins hatefully
at the young scoundrels.

the man with
the silver mullet
mutters in a language
long thought extinct
as a blue minivan
rolls by
blasting
mid-tempo reggae
which seems to pulse
in the air
alongside
the day’s humidity.

he feels the meager wind in his party in the back.

yes the party’s in the back
the party’s in the back,
but the music
died out a long time ago,
and now all that’s left
is a busted-laser cd player
and a trail of vomit
leading to the screen door.

the passing bus has
an insignia.
says “CHAMPIONS.”

I can’t quite locate them
just now.

go swingin’

brutal sameness
unearned arrogance.

brutal sameness
and the beat of
brutal
failed
things
in my head.

And these men on corners
all have dogs
and a greenish
glow,
and I think of Bobby the bartender,
his hairline retreating
into ponytail,
him doling out shots,
running mad
into the Saturday
night Avenue traffic,
dying there
dying with no one holding his hand
dying
from those
brutal
failed
things
beating in  his head.

And the robots are loose,
the robots run loud,
they scream
be yourself
while their
mechanized hearts
measure you
and find you
INEVITABLE.

It’s half past seven
and my soul’s in
a body cast,
it’s half past seven
and the id’s
are there,
kind of like I
pictured the walking
fish to be:
triangle teeth bared,
hands stretched out front
and grabbing for
more, more.

The problem is
I’ve seen this
more
that you covet
and I can tell you
the price-tag
is a bastard.
 

 

 

 

dive

3 days’ steady rain
have pushed the worms
out of the ground,
up and about.

Our bedroom window
faces the courtyard,
a perfect seat
to witness sparrows
dive-bombing from the roof.

It’s like watching
miniature
meteoric
coal
screaming to earth.

they dive-bomb
for the errant worms
and errant ways
and yes
in their silent, small ways
teach us
how to
mean it
again.

this life is a sneaky sausage

Gadzooks!
There are infections
in the rattling car fixtures,
there are bent old wizards
in the trees!
New York, New York
like a little boy running,
New York
like a boy running behind
the park benches
chasing a bubble or
a missing wheel.
And me, I plot
silent
while the
wind picks up
I plot slow
while a bird squawks
in time to the
shifting shadows.
Someone throws a party
someone throws a pitch
someone throws a fit
at a reflection or a
dumbwaiter
stuck and bloodied.
There are prayers written
for this kind of thing
but someone lost them
on the way to work.

 

the smile that hurled itself to the tracks

the smile that
hurled itself
to the tracks
did it quick
and with a
devil’s fluidity.
And though bystanders
begged it not to
they couldn’t help
but remark later
that there was
a raw beauty
to the act.

the smile that
hurled itself
to the tracks
whispered razors
before doing it,
and when they fell
clanging to the ground
a miracle metamorphosis
took place
transforming them
into bloodied
aortas, ventricles,
discarded love things
that the poets won’t
grapple with willingly
or otherwise.

And when they pulled its
bent and twisted form
off the rails
the smile smiled knowingly
while pleading
LET ME GO
LET ME FINISH RIGHT
WHAT STARTED
MISSHAPEN
IN THE DINGY SMOKE.

Amidst much struggle,
they carted off
the smile that
hurled itself
to the tracks
to be medicated
dissected
and lectured upon
by people with lead hearts
and metronome pulses.

And the smile that
hurled itself
to the tracks
will write me
letters sometimes.
They all say:
Don’t worry.
They’re running outta gas.
Their kind always does.
I’ll be back

the man with the question mark scar

I remember thinking
it’s far, it’s too
damn far upon
seeing him

on Lexington and 59th
across the platform
standing there on an
uptown Q or N or Conscience Express
last stop the West Side self-loathing depot.

it’s too far to reach out
and ask him
about the mark etched on his face,
floating like a specter
underneath his left rheumy eye.

And by God
I thought
he’s done it to himself
he’s the genius for the ages.

And unpleasant rumors began
to circulate about
the man with the question mark scar,
that he lived with 20 inbred cats,
that the bodies of 3 ex-wives
moldered in the attic, seated forever
trapped next to an old Victrola,
that he spent his days poking holes
in a Gideon Bible with a saber
he kept on the wall.

I next saw
the man with the question mark scar
in the lower 80’s on Park Avenue.

He was shouting into
an old Gordon Gekko-type
brick of a cell phone
over and over
THERE’S NOBODY HERE!
CAN’T YOU SEE
THERE’S NOBODY HERE!

and he tossed the phone
into the sidewalk as
a gang of skaters
surrounded him, poking holes
into what seemed
a deadly and jealous personal space.

The man with the question mark scar
proceeded to deliver
a stinging clothesline
to one who got too close
before screaming
I’M NOT HERE!
I NEVER HAVE BEEN!

And it is on that point
that we differ
cuz
he
was
more
here
than
most.