For a thousand years,
I haven’t wanted to remember
how good it felt to be debased,
but now I want to return,
return to that alerted night,
when you walked on my face
with a thousand legs like a millipede,
as if you owned the place.
Something clarified in me
that fragrant night,
my blood as thick as butter,
and every hair on my body
stood up to welcome you,
and make a nest
for the thousand tiny eggs
you chose to lay.
By the next morning,
your exquisite eggs had fabergéd
into hatchlings I’d have to raise
alone, because you were gone,
like the moment was,
as if you’d never been.
I know you’re out there though,
skittering across someone’s face
on your thousand skinny legs,
and I know I’ll have to swim
a filthy river
just to lick your nutmeg
skin again and taste
how you taste, of mace.
at the Waffle House
is a crime scene
every body is lying
in a pool of butter
they don’t know
how they got here
they just don’t remember
when they reached
a fork in the road
to this jurisdiction
on a journey
to being a girl
with the Domesday Book
on her reading list
it’s so horrible
I want to live here
of my nature
will ruin my life
if it can penetrate
my soggy sopping brain
if the information
The Day After Lou Reed Died
The day after Lou Reed died I had a colonoscopy,
so I would have thought about mortality
anyway, if not mine then someone else's,
maybe someone I really knew.
I thought of Steven Wayne, a former pal who
shot himself for the shock value.
His bequest enabled his survivors
to build a house of straw on the Connecticut River
and go careening, none too gently, ass over teakettle.
I thought of many-dimpled Sarah Rattle
whose frequent lapses and resurrections and battles
entranced and enchanted but ultimately ended
with a dose of mercury and blood,
a mesmeric scene worthy of the end of Harold
as shown on the Bayeux Tapestry,
the World War Z of its day.
And I thought of my father, lying in a dissection tray,
who finally couldn't hold his breath or get his way.
They bisected his brain by the shining
big sea water (this is no myth, Hiawatha).
Nothing to choose between
Lucia’s mad scene and John the Revelator,
until finally, in the midnight hour,
his love came tumbling down,
and he provided for all those little Attilas
who then sacked and plundered his bounty
and left a shuddering trail of loss flooding
from town to city and county to county.
So anyway, back to me and my colonoscopy:
They scoped me up and down and sideways,
they practically fracked me,
searching for the conqueror worm.
They labored over me
as if I were giving birth
to the urgent oyster of Bethlehem
or some monstrous blob of something,
Rosemary’s baby, maybe.
They looked and looked,
even Madame Sosostris looked,
icy speculum in hand, eyes as old
as the last century is old,
her bad cold and all, looking
for evidence of disaster,
but she didn't know the useful question
so she didn't get a useful answer.
Then Lou Reed entered
through the usual way
and delivered of me this poem.
I hadn’t felt this bad about the death
of an artist I didn’t know, since I don't know,
since Sebald ran his car off the road
(how could he be so stupid?).
But VU videos on YouTube helped me fill
the blue grotto of public sadness for Lou.
It was the least I could do. After all,
his faith and works at the siege
of Constantinople nearly carried the day.
I played Femme Fatale and Sister Ray
until I started to smile, and even after
the Venetians carried the four horses
back to San Marco, his nasal voice represented
to me my private grief for my own departed,
and departed strangers, though unknown to me;
it was then I had the happy reverie to play
the home movies of other families.
These are not my memories I play but they are
like my memories of fuzzy, puzzled love.
I play the living who no longer live,
I put them through their fatal paces
and they give and give from beyond the grave.
Whatever else they have to give,
they give the answers that I crave.
School of Fish
I am not a alone. Instead of people,
I saw a listing school of fish
fisting from side to side,
and their desires;
they were on drugs.
I ate tree bark and beetles and bugs
and the sea knew me.
I was almost convinced
I was almost a merman, but I knew
it wasn’t true because I couldn’t tell
my left-hand flipper what to do.
I paid strangers to watch me
eat myself; I’m the last doughnut
in a box of doughnuts.
Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
When a man loves a woman
and winces with discomfort,
when a worm wins a ribbon
for skydiving like a baby airplane
that’s lost its way instead
of doing something useful
like learning to dance the tango
or read Rilke in the original
I’m gonna say German,
these velleities (to use an
Ashbery word) are not consonant
(to use another) with one’s life
as lived and never will be,
one’s paralogy will not allow for it.
How subtle one is one thinks
to turn the misery of adventure
into a naissance of ordinary
unhappiness, one’s thumbprints
barely visible on the pages
of the abandoned autobiography.
Duck Duck Goose
I have several of Donald Duck's
most inauspicious traits:
I'm pretty but I'm boring,
I'm moodier than the usual,
my urine is a dull yellow,
my beak hangs unhinged
when I doff my hat,
I only wear underwear
on my birthday.
I'm willing to shill,
I butter my scones
with Sisyphus's groans,
my pupils don't dilate
when I shut the lights.
When I shut the lights
the years weigh heavy;
I carry them high,
thrust out in front.
I demand your seat
on the subway.
I'm up to my feet
in chicken soup.
My left breast is bigger
than my right—that's right
where my heart sits.
That's right where my heart sits,
hovering below the choir,
as big as the Higgs boson,
right above my distended stomach.
My lips taste like duck sauce:
surely this is my ducktail
I feel with my duckhand.
I Want to Believe
I want to believe the ants
are wise and that you mean it
when you say it’s for my own good.
I want to believe that Fernando
Pessoa was happy in his
heteronymity, that Nijinsky
continued dancing in secret,
that someone honored Alfred Jarry’s last
request, in his low-ceilinged room, for a
toothpick, and that Frank O’Hara
did not go to the beach that night.
I really want to believe that Karl Liebknecht
declared the revolution from the balcony
of the Berliner Stadtschloss,
then stripped down to his underwear
and went to sleep in the Kaiser’s bed.
I want to believe that he was
still asleep, dreaming his dream
of peculiar freedom, when the Freikorps
dragged him from his bed and shot him in the head.
I want to believe that the Clash really
was the only band that mattered and that
DiMaggio would have hit in 56 straight
even if he’d faced Satchel Paige once or twice.
I want believe that my
parents would have found me at
the ’64 Worlds Fair
if they’d known I was missing.
I want to believe that dogs
are man’s best friend and that
plants, animals, even
the baby hare will help me
fix the sedimentary world.
I want to believe these things
even if they are true, or true
enough, or even if
they are untrue, it doesn’t matter,
I could have a whole trunk
full of ants and they
wouldn’t make me wiser.
I traveled to you by air, by land, by water:
the air viscid as honey with expectation,
the land covered to depth with the dust of dreams,
the water that brought us together and kept us apart.
We are separated by hundreds of years
and the sinister habits of Europe,
separated by the distance
between Vilna and Venice,
between ghetto and palazzo,
between my grandfather’s grandfather,
who saw Napoleon’s army,
defeated and dying and returning to France,
and yours, who welcomed the hero of Italy -
in the traghetto, the oarsman told me to sit down.
My dream is of you, Venice -
you're thin as this paper and
as serious as happiness, take care!
A View of a Storm
The day before the rain began
another jazz martyr ascended,
carrying his crystal tenor,
and returned to water.
Maybe it was Albert Ayler, the Holy Ghost.
Then it rained forever
until the Hudson
burst its banks at
23rd Street and the East River
poured into Avenue C.
I saw it from my window:
The fishes, freed, walked on land.
When 14th Street exploded,
Manhattan cut in two.
With darkness like a
wounded starlings fell from the sky,
littering the ground
from Breezy Point to Hell Gate,
but still unfilled
the empty spaces are unfilled.
Idiot degrees outside minus
under six o’clock sky.
Let’s do our morning stretch,
says the countess.
Right now I will stay;
What else can nothing do?
She demands attention,
her soothing kindness
soon followed by
burning coals laid on by
her blunt workman hands.
She presents these little deaths
with impressive indifference,
the impulsive bamboozle
remains her signature style.
Static and prophetic,
The taste in my mouth
a bit like blood
a bit like dirt
a bit like gold.