Before I’ve written about nuclear dawn;
please don’t mistake me as enthusiastic
for a world-wide baptism by fire;
I’ve something to say about the past I
seemed to so eagerly romanticize.
In a way that evil has ended, the
terror of the Soviets and of our
drive to mutually assured destruction;
yet just as we rid ourselves of the wolf
at the door there’s a serpent on the floor,
Wouldn’t the strangest thing of all be if we
were to see 2012 come and go with
no incident except that we remain
exactly who we were, we are all none
being but just a little bit older?
We did survive the 1980s, so
why not the 21st century? In
fact why can’t we live without the worry, if
not without the fear—the world has ended
hundreds of times, yet we’re all still here for
And so the second coming came and went
Jesus and Satan gave up, befuddled.
Any hope of judgement or redemption
has been foreclosed upon; and even still
the whole question of judgement is now moot.
There’s neither shame nor imagination
to compare our shared reality to;
life is only what is in front of us.
What wounded beast, what three-paw dog are we
all of us now, living here together—
and still what could or would we all become
if the path ahead were as clear today
as it was when we all cowered in fear
in secret at thoughts of a nuclear
judgement raining down above our heads, or
when we all daydreamed of the evening skies,
our manifest destiny to own them.
Maybe we were naive, even ugly
But goddamn, at least we were all alive.
So let me play the part, now, of the old
conservative curmudgeon complaining.
I realize now that even if I’m wrong,
I need to be here, just to remember—
It wasn’t always like this, my children.
I remember though I can’t quite recall
were we at the cafe or on my couch,
playing Xbox, when you turned then and said
“But we both know something’s very wrong now,
a light behind your eyes has flickered out.”
Since you’ve seen fit to bother me even
in person, by phone, and via email
I suppose it’s only true that I owe
explanations, to reward your concern.
It was a full moon and a winter night
I decided to go out for once and
then found myself again bored at a bar
filled with patrons drunk and blatantly loud.
Suddenly he appeared as if from smoke:
square chin and shoulders even squarer still
brown bright lit eyes, hair black as wet asphalt.
He drew me in close, produced a joint, grinned.
I don’t remember talking, though I felt
sure after just an hour that our night
had gone on for at least a week or two,
and so, we wandered to the parking lot.
Hours without number fell behind me
behind the wheel following the coast to
where desert meets a dead expanse of ocean;
We then arrived at a lonely ranch house.
It had adobe roof and stucco walls
air conditioned and very 1970s—
young enough to seem familiar, and yet
old enough to remain ever remote.
His Labrador pup nuzzled, licked my hand
and then he brought snacks in from the kitchen;
we watched movies late into the night while
he sketched my picture by the lamp and moon.
Some few hours before the dawn he then
sighed and fell into his chair, and exclaimed
that he had work tomorrow, but still
what was the use of his life anyway?
I plead life’s case until I got him sleeping,
and realizing I wouldn’t drive so late,
searched the house and only found within it
a place for me to sleep in the bathroom.
And when I awoke, of course he was gone,
and yet still any tiny trace of him,
except a book full of all his sketches
with the faces of dozens and dozens.
I’m not all that very sure what it means
and really I don’t much care now, so please
don’t look at me again and then mention,
how we both now know something’s wrong with me,
and something in my eyes has flickered out.
Who mourns all our lost days?
Blazing rivers of red and white at night,
great grey flights of concrete,
all mark the ghosts of forgotten time:
traveling time, where you wear across your face
that familiar blank stare of solitude.
In the Springtime of life you rode a chrome explosion
across the midnight desert lanes.
Time was like a loaded gun—
the engine whine against your temple—
would you even reach your love?
Who mourns all our lost days?
It all fades, long since past the mirror’s view,
with only the road’s trace backwards and forwards
to testify that you were ever even there.
You can feel the pull of joy and fear and boredom
etched in so many lifetimes’ worth of travel,
just before the wind sweeps it to the roadside.
Now you curse your broken down car
as your mind races to keep momentum;
It’s past Summer now—
the leaves were turning at the last exit—
can you still reach your love?
Who mourns all our lost days?
Every morning I play my small part,
an ancient role as ambassador
for my species:
I own a dog,
a wolf in a pact
as timeless as the dawn of human time.
After extensive experience and
daily negotiations with my chihuahua
I have come to realize a basic reality—
we, trapped into society by language,
they, trapped into packs by instinct—
to the degree that language is instinct
we are not so different from dogs,
except maybe that they do not shy away
from fear, or pain, or even death.
And while we walk, my little dog
glances up at me every so often
as if to ask, “Are you still there?
Is my pack still there?”
And suddenly I realize this,
the simple truth that dogs know:
in the early morning wind and
daily sunrise, each gnawing
a little bit more of life away
than fear, or pain, or even death
Let’s talk, for a moment, about the Sonnets—
you know, those Sonnets, the ones by Shakespeare,
specifically, the ones to the beautiful young man
whom Ginesberg called Shakespeare’s boyfriend, but…
But I prefer—I really do!—to imagine
that Shakespeare was totally, completely
balls-deep in pussy and lovin’ it
heterosexual (and really
how could you conceive Ophelia without being a bit mad over women),
totally straight, except that
as an artist
as a man dedicated to beauty and therefore truth
(or is it truth and therefore beauty?)…
…as a poet, well us poets you see,
us artists, even the best of us,
mine for gold; we pan, we dig
we search and search for new territories, and
amidst the chivalrous age
when the whole world bowed
to the clarity, the soft and bright hum
Shakespeare stopped to notice
stopped to show us
and how they become subtly
to pick up a pencil is such a natural thing
it coaxes forth words, like blood as it seeps from a cut
primitive; primal; the first
you make the marks you were taught
with this heft, this weight
fine lines made of innumerable graphite dots;
a keyboard is a much colder thing
and words tumble, clunk downward, dislodge and disgorge
regimented across a grid, instructed
since I was a child to type
type type type, so fast
fine lines made of innumerable pixel dots;
I did not write this poem
with a pencil; I could not find any paper
you see, and
the keyboard and mouse and screen
were literally sitting in front of me
more human in their warm glow and plastic tactile embrace
“To be overly concerned
with pencil versus keyboard
when writing a poem
is like worrying which shade of pink
the inside of a womb was..?”
asks the voice inside me,
a voice my own yet not quite all of me
a voice that likes to assume it is the better part of me
a voice that still knows deep down it’s not always right
(see how it ended with a question?!)
“While I agree with the sentiments of the good Dr. Martin Luther King Junior
About content of character, the fact remains,
That the same baby cannot be born
From different mothers”
I counter, idle, I wonder where this conversation will end
and how much longer the pregnancy metaphor can extend
before it hardens then crumbles like stale bread…
Because, after all, a birth is physical pain, while a poem, well—
I have no idea what it means to rend another life from inside me
But everyone who has heard so much as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
has felt something of the long, slow stretch across all of time itself
words so big they crowd the velvet night skies, the throbbing sun
words that form the only outline we could imagine
…and words so small, so perfect and intimate
that they crawl up next to you, like a small chihuahua,
they lead you into secret midnight pastures
hidden behind bright dawn-fringed mountains of thoughts
they envelope you like a warm and worn jacket, words
sticky ripe running between your fingers knowledge dripping from the tree:
words like serpent Satan.
I swoop back through the electronic image; I blot out a word here, pepper in a word there
not as slow, not as methodical—when I write with a pencil I can see
the road as it approaches me; I anticipate the bumps.
I want to abort this poem.
How shall I
go about it, then?
Shall I raise two poems up
given both the same upbringing
except one, birthed by pen,
and one by keyboard—
shall I make a scientific inquiry?
And record poems on a voice recorder
for a control population?
Will the pen-hewn poem be
better adjusted, and more
amenable to playing with others?
Will the keyboard clacks generate
a strong young son, severe,
with the same stubborn streak as his father?
Archival paper, acid-free inks, archival CDs, cloud-based storage:
These are the physical entrails, the veins, the bone and marrow, the skin and hair and nails
The physical body of the poem today.
How I used to love, as a child, to hold my hand up
right up to the edge of the lamp, almost touching, hurting,
burning ever so slightly, just to reveal
the red traces buried within orange, the fingers;
or bright sunlight and my eyelids closed and all I see
is warm warm orange…
And I want my poems to grow up
and move out of the house
(or at least into my blog);
even the pen poems
even they must eventually
crawl into their beds, cocoon up,
and emerge as little electric bits
the pages of their creation spent,
like a fine silk husk.
So the question is answered, I guess.
I took two Ritalin today—two!—and still
I had to write this out on a keyboard.
I will print photographs computer-less-ly, on silver paper;
I will own a watch with hands (even if I never wear it!);
I will shave wet.
Perhaps this all shall absolve me. (Forgive me my lord; I will not own vinyl…)
Fraught with heavy dreams
He sleeps on the rocking chair
His nose gulps the air
Pleading eyes and frantic paws
I know you have meat
Morning shifts through blinds
He wakes and stretches, ready
It’s time to pee now