Saturday, October 28, 2006


"Angel and Muse approach from without; the Angel sheds light and the Muse gives form . . . But the Duende, on the other hand, must come to life in the nethermost recesses of the blood . . . The true struggle is with the Duende."

Lorca, from "Duende: Theory and Divertissement"

Diarrhea Permutation

A salad dressing
orbiting the prime minister
underhandedly shares a shower
with a federal ski lodge.

A prime minister steals pencils
from a knowingly vaporized
cargo bay. Now and then,
the pickup truck
behind the short order cook
ignores an apartment building.
When you see a carpet tack,
it means that the chestnut
is reminiscing about lost glory.

The chestnut flies into a rage.
Or a dust bunny slyly assimilates
a crank case.
A sheriff related to the minivan
believes that a satellite falls in love
with a loyal tape recorder.
But they need to remember
how a load bearing burglar
wakes up.

The load bearing burglar
with an inferiority complex
secretly admires
the power drill.
A frustrating briar patch
satiates a boiled recliner.
An overripe blithe spirit
is muddy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

At Princess Olga's

The smartest of us found a coatrack;
We had linguine and peaches to protect.
First, from a rectilinear curve of earth fell Myrna,
Expellable one-hundredfold because hunchbacked.
Her form was as the moondog's,
Lunescent as Miami relatives parlaying lilaceous fake vaginas
For tape-dancing lessons.
The many Albanians were eager for tape-dancing,
Though most didn't know the first thing about dipping.
Enter the coincidental Caucasian —
Rod Praecox and his "bucketful o' muscle" —
Challenging the Albanian counterman from downstate
By one-offing Urkel with scores of sonnets each beginning:
"Even mistletoe gets the gristle."
Impeccably occluded but impotent in the afterglow,
Missy Bodybuild's side-cleaved loquacity was spent on the subject of
groin fluency.
Number One Necromancer mercifully interrupted her:
"What do you get when you cross a Dadaist with a brooch?"
(Answer: Aldous Huxley, who wrote with his nose.)
Meanwhile, Aggrieved Deodorant Gal unbuttoned Obese Basso's shirt
to his navel;
His rust-colored alluvial boots begged her to.
His conceit, he said, was to meet interesting people in Nebraska,
While working as a temp for Keith Richards.
Suddenly, the many Albanians began beating their women's heads
Like bongo drums.
The women stuck their tongues through their button holes.
Most needed water after.
Silas deployed his famous Franciscan buss as a pre-emptive measure,
Though only Aggrieved Deodorant Gal showed optimism.
The movement to dispensate any budding footpath perverts
Set off cautious offspring onto already rickety arpeggios of
"Want to make more money, Dane?
Let hogs root through your shame."
Then, I guess, the babysitter appeared.
And maybe even a twelve-point centaur was there.
If he was anywhere.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Begin Transition

The way the light looks this morning is strange,
like it’s coming from a different direction.
But it’s beautiful too,
like how mornings on other planets in sci-fi movies
are beautiful, with two suns or three moons.
Yesterday the sign on a construction site
by the doctor’s office said,
“Begin transition.”
And so, when I got home,
I exfoliated my foot:
long, luminous rivulets of skin,
papery and apricot-colored.

I’ve been in a cast since August.
I haven’t walked on two feet for thirteen weeks.
My leg has atrophied,
is markedly shorter than the other,
while my arms and shoulders are incredibly muscular,
from constant use of a walker.
Vertical extension
is a singular exclusion,
replaced by the flawlessness of tedium.
But within that tedium hides another kind of life:
like when I’m sitting at the kitchen table
and I turn away from the window,
and the flights of birds are reflected
in the shiny surface of formica,
and a woman passing by outside
smells like the fragrant breath of a laundry vent
from a red brick apartment building
that I passed one long ago Chicago October
when the orderly cleanliness of that scent
was merely a reminder
of an anxious evening’s lack of comfort:
the dark dirty kitchen,
the stained slop sink,
the oblique metal fittings
of glossolalia:
of silver/crack/intrude,
of an angry person’s wisdom —
death wish, fleshy kingdom —
a parasite’s suicide
which is really just a vast appetite for life.
Oh, you who were my poverty.
But the fetters of forgetfulness
are temporary
and speak of another kind of purity,
maybe Lucifer’s purity,
(it must be an allegory
of the memory
of drunkards joining hands),
of prudence,
the romantic exuberance
of goo.

What am I doing?
This isn’t memory,
but the illusion
of remembering:
a new cuteness
relating to history
and the everyday,
like the popularity
of Rachel Ray.
Fuck that chipmunk.
The real need right now
is to dust/sweep/mop,
toss away all nonsense,
take down those cardboard boxes,
replace them with expensive plastic boxes,
and find or design a system of efficient, color-coded filing.
And, most of all, pick my skin up off the floor,
start sending out submissions,
begin the aforementioned transition,
because the light this morning is strange
like it’s coming from another direction.

From "Sic Transit" (3)

I wrote D a poem, ending our friendship. I ended it with a line from a song by Jefferson Starship. The next time I saw her her eyes were wet and she smelled like a basement. She asked me to forgive her and then we'd have dinner. Of course I did. She reminded me of my sister who fell in the sewer.

But now I'm sitting here wondering if D was just a way to expiate an earlier misery? Like maybe my experience of C. In 1991 C and I were urchins yearing without aplomb, stretched out across the jukebox at the Step-Hi Lounge, our perceptions heightened by hormones and the devestating effects of misdirected pheromones. I asked him to drive me home because I was afraid to go there alone — "At this moment secret admirers are throwing bricks at my windows instead of stones." Or so I hoped. But there were neither secret admirers nor bricks, nor stones, just a V of geese across the slate-grey sky.

Our firsr date was a last-minute pilgrimage to Memphis; our last, watching ants on a doorjamb. He should have had a sign on him: "Caution: Operate with Detachment." I had to not love him a lot in order for him to love me a little. But I wasn't tough enough for that kind of love, the love that's like an implement of hard labor at the turn of the last century, now an ornament hung with other flea market finds in the kitchen of a civics professor. On my way to work the naked girl with money in her mouth on the cover of Penthouse (displayed outside the smoke shop by the bus stop) reminded me of everything I couldn't be. I was a skinny body in a lacklustre Midwestern windbreaker, constantly adjusting my surfaces in uncertain, imperfect ways. I wanted to be a durable Tallulah Bankhead beauty, dedicated to transgression. But there was no chance of that.

... to be continued

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fourteen-Midget Man

for Rod Smith

I rocked out with fourteen midgets throughout my youth,
fourteen midgets, sprites and their bigger brothers,
wormboys, all hairy and screaming.

I can show you how my fourteen midgets
(or sprites)
fit into one of fourteen different cars,
no fewer than fourteen midgets and fourteen Austin Sevens,
all fourteen of them supercharged and dominating.

My fourteen midgets who lived in the desert
went low over the beautiful Sierra Nevadas
with local Reno racers
disguising themselves as meat in order to steal the real meat from the village.
These raids deprived the villagers of necessary protein.
Did my fourteen midgets care?

My fourteen midgets walked into a bar,
all of them wearing matching plains indian costumes.
The horny midget leered (Ted)
The other midget (Gary) sat on the minotaur's bulging crotch, coming.
In the labyrinth, fourteen midgets scampered.

I guess I’m going to hell because some woman dangled
my fourteen midgets from a rack.
And in a ring fight sanctioned by the Cambodian government,
a imported African lion killed my fourteen midgets in 12 minutes.

If you can imagine a fat bald midget
wearing a bright blue sweatsuit,
you are a fourteen-midget man.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jake Gyllenhaal's Dog

The ghost of a dog coffeepot foretold:
Jake Gyllenhaal has two cats and my parents have three cats
and I got a second dog.

All it takes to start a new religion
is resentment and a pot of cold coffee
and Jake Gyllenhaal walking his dog.

It's funny that people find other people getting coffee really interesting,
or walking their dogs in the dog park —
welcome to Christian Carnivore ‘04:

with only the occasional torn-up slipper and scattered
hieroglyphic chapters
as proof that any human beings ever lived there,
the dog coffeepot became a sign that,
for the poor, coffee is always already over.
Didn’t Thomas Jefferson predict that would happen
once dark bilious vapors began to define the character
of our dogs?

Hey! Aren't we supposed to just have good things happen to us?
Jake Gyllenhall’s dog is as much of a dog as that Brazilian double-bagger
Giselle Bundchen’s dog,
and I’d really like to know
how shepherds do it with their dogs.

Kim’s sharing spirit has done a great job in telling us about some of the things
that shepherds do with their dogs.

What is the difference between Christianity and all other religions?
The answer is that Dr. Bob is mind blowing.
So consider the story of Ben Stiller and Jake Gyllenhaal:
they got their eyes checked and their dogs autoclaved.

How did Jake Gyllenhaal’s dog get way up there on that fence post anyway?
That black poodle-looking dog had a rocking a cool 'fro
and dog food heaped with Pepto-Bismol.

What is the "abomination that causes desolation" in Mark 13:14?
The daily news, the conflicting messages in the world
and the longing for another man’s funky dung.

Humans in zoos, cross breeding —
it’s evolutionists vs creationists and I’ll be pooping on both
and from beneath the dirty hood comes an awkward
I love you on the sofa in the dark:

It was Jesus weeping as Jake Gyllenhaal returned
from Dramatic Dog Walk/Smoothie Excursion.
It's all over.
The dog has been walked
and the smoothie is just a distant memory.

From "Sic Transit" (2)

"It is only by admitting the night physically that one is able to admit it morally. O, nights of young!" — Lautreamont

The dark glory of a time of hardship: about a month ago, D's seemingly accidental tortures finally took their toll: first, she pulled my lucky fish eyeball out of her bra during softball; second, she humiliated me at the flannel shirt sale; and finally she fucked my uncle the cardinal behind the funnel cake concession at the Back-of-the-Yards carnival. I always knew that despite her successfully projected aura of innocence she was pure evil. But to those who didn't know her was "the Mexican Shirley Temple." To me she embodied the destructive power of Persephone. Of course that meant she could renew, too, but that aspect was always far too removed for me to see my way through.

D was the creator of a successful literary career based on four novels about living in hovels. Before that she'd been an acrobat. She claimed she adapted the words and moods of her circus girlhood for her first book, "A Bowl of Blue Roses," and thus discovered that a healthy dose of artifice passed off as verity magically released people's charity. On the other hand, she herself communicated by a kind of cruel levity: when one complained about, say,a migraine, she'd offer her own version of the will-to-power: "To suffer is to allow. A mountain labors to birth a mouse." Or, if one were feeling a bit run-down: "An insufficient lunch can cause instability in anybody. Even a nun." After her fourth novel, "The Hideous Familiar," about the love between a Balinese buffalo herder and an adjunct professor, was remaindered, she decided to retire, but returned to the circus for a farewell performance, reprising the feat which had made her famous.

After assuming the spotlight in the center ring she "levitated." However, her harness and its shiny plastic strings were obvious; she hadn't even bothered with the proper concealing garments. But it didn't matter; to thunderous applause she rose to the rafters. She tried and failed at grabbing her ankles, and slipped slightly out of the harness. A gasp rose from the audience. But that didn't matter, either, because they all loved her, and then more than ever, because of her failure. Clowns lowered her to the ground, and she took her final bow. Backstage she addressed the adoring crowd: "I now understand the dramas of forgotten gods. Their tragedy was just loss of audience. The half-smile of the Venus de Milo has nothing on the wistfulness of the Botticelli Venus. But we can still honor them by ignoring the Anglo-Saxon portion of life's overlong program."

She made a sweeping gesture that implicated me, and was borne off on shoulders in a frenzy of glee. I had to acknowlege, in spite of my torment, that she was never more beautiful than at that moment.

to be continued ...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gone Now

Gone now, the fruits of summer
that we ate, laughing, with jasmine tea
on the grass, under the trees.
Here now, the dirty, obscure tubers and roots
that we pull from the shrivelling loam,
then scrub in the slop sink
with hard metal brushes,
anxious as darkness
envelops the tenement.

We lay them on the table
and weep.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stella Felix

To fall from a great height
at the turning of the year

To bear libations to the trees
and sacred mead

redolent of dentists

To dress in finery and dine
on equality and balance

and pomegranates

To write the story of reality
in grids of experience

and set it between cow’s horns
suggesting a crescent:

that’s Seshet

her vexed palette
six hieratic couplets

reflecting the expected
autumnal restlessness —

the brighter the light
the deeper the shadow —

the mitten of winter
in the rusted-up camper.

From "Sic Transit"

"Dead of night. No one, nothing but the society of the moments" — E.M. Cioran

The radiator banging, filling with water in the middle of the night.

In the apartment next door the 1970 "Theme from 'Love Story'" playing on the radio, and in the apartment below a strenuous, rhythmic nose-blowing. Where I live is no place familiar. But the red brick buildings across the street, seen in streetlight in the darkest part of night, generate enough memories for the passage to daylight.

The comfort of the radiator and a cupboard full of Campbell's cans. Not even to eat — just to have.

But is all this constant insistence on comfort bad? Here I am, looking out the window at 3 a.m. expecting revelations, and meanwhile fifteen miraculous apparitions are taking place around the corner for a hideous legion of star-spangled scenesters. I've never known how to intuit the right moment. I could be famous and not even know it.

(to be continued ...)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Perhaps the True "Humanity" of Cats

A description of the last days of Virginia Clemm-Poe, written by a friend:

"There was no clothing on the bed, which was only straw, but a snow-white counterpane and sheets. The weather was cold, and the sick lady had the dreadful chills that accompany the hectic fever of consumption. She lay ... wrapped in her husband's great coat, with a large tortoiseshell cat on her bosom. The wonderful cat seemed conscious of her great usefulness. The coat and the cat were the sufferer's only means of warmth, except as her husband held her hands, and her mother her feet."

From The Extraordinary Mr. Poe, by Wolf Mankowitz, Summit Books, 1978

* * * * * * * * *

The cat's name was Caterina.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Just This

It came to me
suddenly —
Three Dog Night
were really great!
And the revelation
engendered a seizure
that revealed
the ephemereality
of eternity:
how Theseus in the labyrinth
is everyone’s predicament,
how the milk of three ornery daughters
spawned irony,
and how every morning
trails clouds of glory.
But it was after midnight
that things got interesting
in the low-ceilinged kitchen,
with the slop sink sweating,
and the door to the back garden open,
and us the only ones on the block
still awake.
The next day
a powerful wind
whipped through Yankee Stadium —
I saw it happen on television —
and eight minutes later
it arrived in Brooklyn
to disturb the birds
nesting in the air conditioner:
proof that everything
is always beginning and becoming.
To bring it into being
means always deploying.
Because the portal
to the river of cordial
closed in 1960,
reducing me
and all who came after me
to a cowboy vulgarity,
to fluidity
on a wave of dissipation,
but thus a deeper appreciation
for the play of changing
light and shadow
on a window fan on a rainy day,
and the certainty
that the light we imagine we see
with eyes half closed, squinting into trees,
is the most beautiful anyone’s ever seen.
Like three weeks in Andalusia,
it ameliorates.

I believe I should like
to decorate your life
with a painted scale model
of the Apollo 11 lunar module,
and then bow out
in a blaze of italics,
anxious for exit,
yet anxious to persist.
And so I’ll go
erase the notes for this poem,
so that you’ll believe
it came to me
on its own
as just this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

My Cute Pain

I Hate 2 Work
But why are you such a wonderful person that you make me smile
everytime I get an email from you?
Oh my Gosh, why are YOU so the schmoopy!
Your shoes are so cute, and they make ME bleed.
Okay, insert your mad excuses here about how my social butterfly-ish lifestyle
has not allowed me sufficient pain.

My pain is so cute.
It pained me to say so,
but I was at first unable to overcome my pain.
I could understand that you wouldn't want to cause your baby pain
by having his dew claws removed,
but I'm sure my siamese will take care of him, it's so cute,
you will totally want to smell his hair.
I can’t believe I didn’t screw that little darling
when my eyes were hurting
after I slept on my eye.
Yeah... How you make my lips quiver!
How you make my body shake!
How you pimp my tiffin! oh my!
Your tiffin huggers are so cute!
I feel like hugging the huggers myself!
It’d be so cute if you could make me a hugger.
Make it a painful one.

I’ve always wanted that little bit of my ear pierced,
to make the pain of life flow.
And parents of toddlers, you will feel my pain when I tell you
I had a dream that I was reading my syllabus in bed,
but then I somehow managed to drop my highlighter on the sheets.
There were little multicolored neon stains all over my comforter.
Some people dream about sex.
I also dream about your sister.

I think your sister is all better now.
But I'm not 100% sure.
She might be dead.
Did she eat the stuffed mushrooms I made for our Anatomy reunion dinner?
Maybe I should just quite med school and adopt a more
Martha Stewart lifestyle.
I could entertain every night.
I could make little stuffed mushrooms and wine bottles frozen in chunks of ice
embedded with fresh flowers,
to make everyone else feel terrible that their lives are so
tacky and graceless.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Dirty Arms

As I sit down and ponder what to write about today, I fold my arms (because doing so is conducive to pondering), and I'm surprised by how dry they feel — the upper part, the part between the shoulder and the crook. At first I can't figure out why they feel so papery to the touch, but closer examination reveals a freckled quality, a speckledness — the speckledness of dirt. It turns out they're dirty!

Why do I have dirty arms? Because I have a slow-healing broken foot, I've been in a cast for three months, (under the cast are four rods and a big clamp holding my metatarsal together) and it's hard to get into the tub when you have to balance on one foot. But even so I've been diligent about washing — or so I thought. I guess because I was using my arms for washing I forgot to wash them. It's always what's most obvious, isn’t it, that one thing that's out there doing the most work for us, that escapes our notice?

My dirty arms bring me back to childhood, to a bright bathroom with a bare bulb late at night in winter, and the smell of Palmolive on a washrag: I'm secretly scrubbing my upper arms, chest and thighs, secretly because of my mother's prohibition against bathing in the winter. She believed bathing in the winter would cause you to "catch a draft" and get sick. So for my sister and I there was no bathing from November to March, only sponge-bathing the parts that showed: face and neck, arms from the elbows to the hands, knees and the backs of the knees. But on Thursdays I had gym class, and I was already the biggest freak there — literally the biggest: I was almost six feet tall by age eleven — and the last thing I wanted was to have someone spot the caked-up dirt. Ma had said, "Oh, what do you care what they think? They ain't gotta live in a drafty house." Actually, we didn't live in a drafty house. We lived in a tiny, four-room apartment above my grandmother's tiny, four-room apartment. The place had been built by my great-grandfather for stockyards workers, and had been four two-room apartments on each floor. But then when he brought his family over from Poland he redid the layout, and everyone occupied the whole house. (And when my mom got married she and my dad just moved in on the second floor, in true second-generation immigrant tradition.) There were no drafts because there was no room for drafts, the place was too small, and plus the one transom — that little window above the door that you open by pulling down on a metal rod — didn't work anyway. It occurred to me years later that Ma was hypersensitive to cold because of her overactive thyroid, and that's why she was always sensing pestilential drafts and breezes. I also later discovered, on a bus in Prague at the height of a very hot summer, that the fear of drafts is an "old country" thing: when I cracked the window to get a breeze going an old lady sitting across the aisle from me almost broke her hip running over to close it. She screamed something at me in Czech, with fear in her eyes. After she went back to her seat the man sitting next to me explained to me in broken English how some people still believe that moving air carries germs and diseases. I got Ma's whole "catch a draft" thing right then.

But who knows what kind of personal "Death in Venice" that woman might've lived through during the second World War. And as I'm writing this I'm starting to see Ma in a different light — she was kind of a cool neurotic non-conformist who didn't give a shit about bathing, just like my record-collecting geek boyfriends of the '70's, who also didn't give a shit about bathing. She was right: why did I care what those kids thought? They were all on welfare and living in trailers in the dirty park under I-90 anyway. What kind of a little conformist was I? And all along I thought I was such a rebel, engaging seventh grade boys in long, baroque polemics about Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock version of "Purple Haze." I may have sported black and white spiked hair circa '78, but only in clubs where other people were sporting the same; whenever I went back to the old nabe I wore a hat. Now Ma, she was different, in her own quiet way, all the time. I think I'll be more like that from now on. America needs its non-conformists.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

How I Broke My Foot

Dancing in a movie called "Coven a Go-Go."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

When the Platypus Kicks Back

I like art movies, books, the duck-billed platypus,
Thai kick-boxing
in the back of a flat-bed,
and the fucking duck-billed platypus,
relaxed and peaceful
from the armpit with a flatulent knee

I don't like staring at a blurry boob
because I have mud like a nun in her church does,
and when pus comes to shove
I kick back with French cuisine
where peacocks breed,
on a precipitous descent prior to believing
I was a tree

Oh, shy the platypus, the red rock,
distributed cognition
situations and actions
depending on neighborhood

Inspect the wine making \ kick back with a spot of sampling
Where peacocks breed

Platypus is semiaquatic
mammal with a broad flat tail
king monotreme
propelling itself through the water
with alternate kicks of its webbed front limbs.
His spurs administer a cocktail of at least six different toxins.
That’s getting physical.
And every time that happens
the platypus dies inside.
He’s used to it.

Not everyone can do the platypus,
you need strength and
great glutes moving
against the stress
of Howie Mandel; he makes me laugh,
platypus enthusiast, 20 years old,
watching platypus on a kangaroo
like a duck-billed cowboy
in Princess Leia