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
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.
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”