This is the part where no one

This is the part where no one stands up or
someone does but can’t think of what to say,
tongueless bell—see, like that: all the words
already used up. We leave, who knows where
we go or where we’ve been when we return.

Who will stand up for us? No one at those
impromptu concerts of the past where the
things we thought we knew approximate just
about anything else–stars, lace, something
that flew out of someone’s breezy red car.

That’s what you get for listing off to the
side, it taking forever to get out
of bed or creep down the block . Nonetheless,
If you were here for an eternity,
you could wear this old slow rock away.

This is the part, isn’t it, where you call
your own bluff and don’t confess to the
particular things you had in mind, the
part where you discover someone’s
silence wasn’t the reserve of deep thought.

The god who strolls in this garden we tend,
has some bad news about the weather plus
a few things we’d forgot we’d done or not.
No use in that was then—it runs down
into the earth for ages, this stacked ruin.

What did anyone feel in any new
place with all the dead underfoot, living
much as we do except for their patience
and obdurate good cheer, except that we
love them as we do not love each other.

Even in this late limning of our hearts,
the abandonment procedures require
amnesia about the part where we were
staking listless roadside trash and our
future—already aflame—barreled past.

 

 

 

Annunciation

Before it happens, she’s wrapped in her sheets, books
disarrayed in the cabinet behind where
she leans toward the book on her knee, looking
perhaps for some line half forgotten or
searching for a spell to make him love her till
she can’t stop shaking, or perhaps some recipe
to make this sudden nimbus go away or
to undo the volumes she’s swaddled in. And
here’s the angel fumbling with the door, his skirts
so heavy he’s squat, he’s going to tie her up
with that banner of words, he’s going to make her
sorry she ever left her bed for that book.

Know

sea serpent near galveston crop short mod 1

This is the part where you don’t know what you know. Later when you know what you know, you don’t like what you know, you wish you didn’t know it, you wish you’d known it sooner. But you did.

Right now you are dreaming, strolling, lollygagging, in a place where you don’t know what you know. So it’s more like somebody is dreaming you, sorting you out in the dream bins with the other detritus of the day, some other dreamer who gets to wake up while you dream on.

First there are some bad things, though the really bad things aren’t what you think the bad things are, you think he’s sad. You’re sad, but your sad doesn’t matter. It’s like always giving him the better part of whatever it is that you are cooking for dinner, everything you take for yourself is something not good enough for him. No big deal, you’ve got love, you’ve got a lot to give. Everything you have in life is something with a nick in it or a smudge on it, you get the crooked, he gets the straight, you get the old, he gets the new. It’s what you do till you don’t even know you do it.

His sad, now that’s something, that’s some kind of sad, something’s got to be done about that kind of sad. Your sad, that’s just some little old thing you keep in the nevermind drawer. One day you’re going to be looking for something and you’re going to open that drawer up and think where did all this broken stuff come from, how come I kept it when it didn’t get fixed? But that’s later, not now.

Get this: he’s not loving you, but you cannot imagine that, so you think he’s sad, you think his mind is off in some lonely place, of course he’s not talking, there aren’t words to say whatever the big sad is he got coming down on him. You get a cat, you think maybe he needs something small to love, you think maybe he needs to work his way back up to loving you—what the hell are you thinking?

You’re thinking there’s a story here, a story of restoration, a story of return. Or maybe it’s just that you think whatever the story is, he’s in it, you’re in it. Now the cat’s in it, and the cat needs your love too because he’s not loving the cat and what you move on to thinking is that if he just loves the cat it’s ok if he doesn’t love me, he just needs to love something so he can start living again. Doctor Jesus, please come on in my house.

You’re not thinking he’s got a story and you’re not in it. What kind of story would that be? If you’re not in the story he’s in, why is he still here and what the hell are you doing here?

What you got girl is a baby man: a baby that ain’t a baby, a man that ain’t a man. So you think: must be a man man thing, letting you see his softer side, oh how you’re gonna take tender care of it, oh how you are gonna abide with this little slump here, this soft side. The side you get when the other side’s already packed its bags and gone off somewhere else.

Oh, you worried so about that man. Everybody loves that man. How’s Derek? they say down at the store. Oh, you know, you say and shake your head. How’s Derek? they say at work. Oh he’s coming along little by little, you say. At church, How’s Derek? Oh, you say, he just has not been the same since his mama died, I miss her too. And you do and so you think you know his sadness. Your girlfriends, now, they’re not saying How’s Derek, they don’t even say his name anymore but you don’t notice that, how’s he, what’s he doing, he’s he to you too, and by the time you get it, your friends, they’re gone too.

Later on you think. What kind of man, you think, what kind of man, what kind of words come after what kind of man. What kind of man what kind of man what kind of man. But right now you wait, you’re patient, but you don’t really know how to be patient, never have, so you don’t know that what you are experiencing is postponement.

So you wait. And then you drift. But even that isn’t what you think it is. You think you’re drifting, drifting in all this waiting, waiting for him to be the man who used to love you, waiting for him just to be the kind of man who can love you, waiting to be the woman that kind of man would love. Drifting. Postponing what you know but don’t know you know: you’re not drifting—he’s cut you loose, he’s thrown you back in, he’s got bigger fish to fry. He’s got the life boat. Look at all that water running over your feet.

One day you reach out to touch him, to comfort him, he’s so sad, he’s so lost, you think, and he recoils. Now there’s a word your mind has never coiled around, a word you’ve known only in books: the mortal coil, snakes coil, guns recoil. Now you know men recoil. You think about it the way you think about things you learned in school. Isn’t that something? Men recoil. Who’dathought.

And here you’ve got to hand it to your mind: if you knew what that meant, there would just be no living, so it just becomes another fact. And everything else becomes another fact. And you are living in a world where nothing can mean anything because if anything means anything then it can mean something that he won’t even touch you now. Though he does seem to be warming up to the cat.

And that, you will think later, is what people mean when they say it is what it is. It is what it is because we can’t say what it is because if we said what it is it would really be what it is which is what it really shouldn’t be but is. When you get back to it later, that is how your mind is going to run on because a mind that can run on like that is a mind that can run away.

One day you think he might as well have killed you. And then you know he did. And that’s when you know that nothing you know is any good. And that’s when you go see the conjure woman. Because you can’t live in the world you’re in, and you think if he loved you again it would be a world worth living in.

Now you know.

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altered image; original image: Oudemans, The great sea-serpent (1892), Biodiversity Library: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/129989#page/75/mode/1up

What Binds

Fragility of things robust
speaks only if we know
what becomes of living
not allowed. Once called,

one will not be invited.
Old, poor we serve still
what disregards us,
lest we disturb the air

with our endurance.
Some say we choose
what binds us. Those who
cannot choose don’t say.

The dark book

In the dark book
a cornfield, flat like a fence
but plump in cartoon nighttime
we cruise past on slow bicycles
having been in that forest
a long time, long enough
to dress and undress and redress
will there be a pool or a pond
what shoes shall we wear
or shall we go shoeless
to our borrowed casket,
two guests and then too many
it’s a vast lake
black water, cold, black trees
a broad empty plaza
trash skitters off to the side
low horns, banging cans
a warren of dusty rooms
shadow, grit, somebody
something is coming
the outside watches you
nowhere but in.

Stand

This is the part where someone doesn’t stand up for someone. Or doesn’t stand up to someone. But that’s not the kind of standing up this part needs.

Maybe someone simply stands up, to go to another room, to go into the bar, to walk to a corner store, turns back as if compelled to say something that gets forgotten right there on the spot.

After he’s been gone for months, maybe for years, she’s still driving herself crazy with it: what was he going to say? She’s got this feeling there’s something she should’ve known even if he didn’t say it, or just that there was something she didn’t know, that he was going to tell her something she needed to know. Life becomes impossible, there’s something she doesn’t know that she needs to know, for what, to avoid danger, to pursue delight.

Sometimes it’s like something she’s circling, sometimes it’s like something circling her, getting tighter in, making it hard to breathe. Sometimes it’s as if she’s living there where it is whatever it is, that that is where she has her life, or where her life has gone, but she has no access to it. This life she’s in now, the one she does have access to, this life feels like an approximation of something. She’s not looking for something in this life. She’s looking for it in whatever life she might have had if he had said whatever it was he was going to say.

Things To Do In Case of Weirdness

Something weird going on? Don’t wonder what to do. Just imagine what someone in a horror movie would do. And then do it.

Footprints not yours on an uninhabited island. Uninhabited island—that’s what the travel agent said—just the two of you. Make love on the beach out in the big wide open, let it all hang out, fall asleep in the sun. When you wake up and see footprints that cannot possibly be yours or your partner’s, don’t even bother to put your clothes back on before you follow those footprints from the beach into the forest. When you can’t see footprints any more, pick up a big stick and start whacking at the vegetation and shouting “who’s there?!”

Weird knocking and scurrying sounds coming from the attic. Go up there and look. Those dusty old-fashioned boxes over there? Go over there and move them around and shake them and stuff and try to open them. If you can’t get one open all the way, just stick your hand in it and feel around. That grimy foot-locker-like thing with the old-fashioned lock? Go downstairs and get a hammer, Continue reading

Whose Cat Is That Oh Frank O’Hara

whose cat is that
oh Frank O’Hara
the sound of your typewriter
like a voice-over traveling down
fifty years
all your everything
should have been
in that message we sent
into outer space
at least the address
of your voice
saying in everything you said
I’m alive I’m alive I’m alive
and that’s not all: here you are
on film with a friend
you’re reading what you’ve written
then writing on that typewriter
and still talking to the friend
and the phone rings
and you keep typing and now
you’re also talking with
the friend on the phone
being filmed for educational TV
Alfred Leslie is holding my hand
and another cutaway to the cat
are you also communing with it
has it escaped alive from
the black box to arrive
like an emissary in your apartment?
I bet even your cat
could type and talk and think
and write big and live big life
everything every moment
all at once other people
only think they can
What is happening to me
goes into my poems

yeah that but also how that looks
from here outside—
you were the happening, man
nobody had to tell you
or your cat
to be here now
what wonder in a world
with your mind inside it
your wild mind
your love mind
your New York state of mind

Not That

Even before you are finally gone
the things that will cease to matter
do drive-bys on your brain unhindered
by any possibility that you will
recognize them or name names.
You will become indignant about
things disconnected from words, will
smile at everyone because anyone
could be someone you know. Clueless
and keyless, trapped outside in your
pajamas, you’re just a nuisance in
a neighborhood no longer yours.
Installed in someone else’s bed,
you will discover the past has been
carpet-bombed by electricity in your
head except for shrines so remote
only monkeys and snakes go there.
Suddenly somebody roughs you up
to change the sheets, dials loud rap
up on your radio. Bye-bye Beethoven,
bye-bye Brahms. And there’s no more
doing as you please on Saturdays.