j’a lu tous les livres mais la chair est triste, hèlas
I would like to read, but where are the books?
quoting Valéry got you there every time
toltec submarine with dragonfly wings
mating with two or three of your kind on the wet ass
of the beloved floating downstream on a frog floatie
what a beautiful day to be dizzy with happy sun and shimmer
rock of brains built multicolorfully vertical for hawks to cruise
we make days by hand with the aid of god and her trembling fabric
fanfare of buzzing world of slinking lights breaking up in things
to unquote quotes and unmatter matters
surrender at the “hèlas” yes we believe that we have
read all the books or that at least we didn’t have to
since one who has read them all found in them
nothing better than them & that’s as good
as having read them or what else are books for
and I the speaker am not that one but I know her
there is no contest between the them of books
and the them of the flesh we exalt now
a day like this intervenes and all that we knew escapes
and it won’t do to ask where it went
it went into things and escaped as small breaths
from the tiny mouths of rodents and frogs and narrow snake ones
or sank into the eyes of an unmoved fly on a leaf
who forgot how she got there
all she knew was that it was time to eat
and that something would soon come close enough
mmm tasty leaf of philosophy
nourishment for many generations
I see no bodies petitioning to embody:
is that a scholar or a fly?
When I was on the leaf books shot out of me
dark moist hèlases!
I heard the hawks and wasps and heard songs
her tresses askew
forever mate of a moment in playful sun.
At sunset there was a brief lingering
a yellowing of former self poorly observed
a dimming of exuberance
a marker to put there for the next sunrise
not “a definitive fall” to quote another someone.
The urge to go on dragged-out as a soldier is almost as good as sleep.
Believers in irridiscent scarab mystery
report news of colors of seasons from old temperate forests
or cities where bricks with bat faces look out on executioners’ squares.
A package of their letters smelling like coffee and smoke
is waiting for you at your mail drop in the next town.
Oxygen from mountaintop caves hisses in spirals down to the rooftops
filling with ardor the absent-minded students kissing the bark of each other.
The bonbon spheres mix bouquets of evening with wafts of bistro
there is war somewhere but in here no fifth column
the paranoia of knowing oneself having subsided to give way for love,
solid pink, integrity like a cloud in a blue drink,
the shape of the urban future of our city written in lavender ink
on the faces of lovers sparking in starry bed,
tiny demon faces close infused with crimson laughter.
See how pretty we dressed the questions up tonight!
I primped the exclamation points and hair-combed the commas
even as children were making rather stark movies about modern times
about themselves and their parents behind the cardboard trees.
I shook the powdered wigs under buggy lanterns
flakes of satire fell
and coleoptera simulating transparency
abrutum tendrae philtrae marstenicum saltunt
(so plant the brutish filter in the arsenic marsh).
Bruitism is a noisy art dead from the city,
an art we invented so that something might speak
when no one will be listening.
My love, I taught you gilded syllables
for the maggoty carnival,
collaboration creaking in its joints begging oil
for its most exquisite corpses,
phosphorus flesh flowing out of bars like piss into gutters.
But that was long ago when I embraced
the metaphorical and the literal under one wobbly streetlight
and cartoon corpses marched under the batons of candor and libido
to a text party like they used to give in the last century.
Now I’m with the fertile and the embodied
And this scattering of text paginating itself for the show
has already marked the moment
now please step out of the way
to make room for people coming in for drinks.
The trapeze has gone off shooting the remaining fools into the sky.
That would be us and the sunrise will be real not tequila.
Hélas so does art trim ranks and teeth
a steady rain on sidewalks and bartops.
That swoosh? The leather wings of generations migrating.
Is it Fall already?
(from please don't wash: storm songs and other poems, forthcoming Coffee House Press 2008)