Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!
It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you, beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because the plot is over.
—Frank O’Hara, excerpt from Meditations in an Emergency
IN PATIENT SPADEFOOT TORPOR, PERHAPS LISTENING
he waits, for he is a spadefoot. And as surely as men
ride in the beds of pickups holding shovels, sometimes
squinting, so too does the spadefoot. He is surrounded.
An ant crawls across a dog biscuit. A baseball hat is mistaken
briefly for a large mushroom. Nobody seems to ever tire
of this. Then everyone gets tired at once, and night is quiet.
Michael E. Craig
WHO AM I?
My head knocks against the stars.
My feet are on the hilltops.
My finger-tips are in the valleys and shores of universal life.
Down in the sounding foam of primal things I reach my hands and play with pebbles of destiny.
I have been to hell and back many times.
I know all about heaven, for I have talked with God.
I dabble in the blood and guts of the terrible.
I know the passionate seizure of beauty
And the marvelous rebellion of man at all signs reading “Keep Off.”
My name is Truth and I am the most elusive captive in the universe.
America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.
I can’t stand my own mind.
—from Allen Ginsberg
They mistook me for illumination — a revenant in walking shoes — so I gathered significance and spread text… stood beneath the seven cardinal points with arms upraised — practical telepathy — in a white paper suit like a flag of surrender, thunder at my back… I was an open man of the open streets — a burnished sieve of common purpose — scrawled on walls, thrashed cans and blasted caps for equivalence. I wasn’t alone — the boulevards teemed with wiggly kids and mooing parents slow as boulders. In the Plaza Palabra on a green iron bench a grand senora suffered the odes of schoolboys and thugs — smiled behind an opal fan while they searched for words to match their tumultuous nights — and all words fit… In July — volubility — I hoarded cherries, catalogued their juices — were they Rainier, Blood Nut, Royal Ann, Squirrel Heart, Rosebud or Bing? —then swallowed them one by one like detonations…initiations…In a fever of taxonomy I followed a squadron of dragonflies right to the vanishing point…Incarnation is a provisional state, but stretches outward like noon. For practice, I wallowed and stretched…
I know that you know how hard it is
to dress in white after wearing black
—from Lidija Dimkovska
I shiver as I listen to each log crash and slam:
The echoes are as dull as executioners’ drums.
My mind is like a tower that slowly succumbs
To the blows of a relentless battering ram.
—from Charles Baudelaire, “Autumn”
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
W. S. Merwin
DEATH GETS INTO THE SUBURBS
It sweats into the tongue and groove
of redwood decks with a Tahoe view.
It slides under the truck where some knuckles
are getting banged up on a stuck nut.
It whirls in the egg whites. Among blacks
and whites spread evenly. Inside the chicken
factory, the Falcon 7X, and under the bridge.
There’s death by taxi, by blood clot, by slippery rug.
Death by oops and flood, by drone and gun.
Death with honor derides death without.
Realpolitik and offshore accounts
are erased like a thumb drive lost in a fire.
And the friendly crow sets out walnuts to pop under tires.
So let’s walk the ruins, let’s walk along the ocean
and listen to death’s undying devotion.
[listen mother, he punched the air: I am not your son dying]
listen mother, he punched the air: I am not your son dying
the day fades and the starlings roost: a body’s a husk a nest of goodbye
his wrist colorless and soft was not a stick of chewing gum
how tell? well a plastic bracelet with his name for one. & no mint
his eyes distinguishable from oysters how? only when pried open
she at times felt the needle going in. felt her own sides cave. she rasped
she twitched with a palsy: tectonic plates grumbled under her feet
soiled his sheets clogged the yellow BIOHAZARD bin: later to be burned
soot clouds billowed out over the city: a stole. a pillbox hat [smart city]
and wouldn’t the taxis stop now. and wouldn’t a hush smother us all
the vascular walls graffitied and scarred. a clotted rend in the muscle
wend through the avenues throttled t-cells. processional staph & thrush
the scourge the spike a stab a shending bile the grace the quenching
mother who brought me here, muddler: open the window. let birds in
THE MYSTERIOUS ARRIVAL OF AN UNUSUAL LETTER
It had been a long day at the office and a long ride back to the small apartment where I lived. When I got there I flicked on the light and saw on the table an envelope with my name on it. Where was the clock? Where was the calendar? The handwriting was my father’s, but he had been dead for forty years. As one might, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, he was alive, living a secret life somewhere nearby. How else to explain the envelope? To steady myself, I sat down, opened it, and pulled out the letter. “Dear Son,” was the way it began. “Dear Son” and then nothing.
They’re sexy because
they don’t need you.
They’re sexy because they pretend
not to need you,
but they’re lying,
which degrades them.
—from Rae Armantrout
, “Soft Money”
Finally, you’re tired of being tired
just because the world is.
—from Paul Legault
, “In the Zone”
I was envious of fair realism.
I desired sunrise to revise itself
as apparition, majestic in evocativeness
—from Barbara Guest
, “An Emphasis Falls on Reality”