Millipede

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.


Waffle House

every scene

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

forever

in fear

of my nature

that nature

plagiarizes

every chaos

is compelling

the future

will ruin my life

if it can penetrate

my soggy sopping brain

if the information

means anything

it’s always

fat Tuesday


The Day After Lou Reed Died

1.

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.

2.

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.

3.

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 jejune,

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

anthropomorphizing

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.


The Venetian

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

diminuendo descending,

wounded starlings fell from the sky,

littering the ground 

from Breezy Point to Hell Gate,

but still unfilled

the empty spaces are unfilled.


The Countess

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.