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.

Mostly Outside

 

How we loved the high style we wore
for vanishing occasions
though its warrants wore us down–
logic’s such a drag on
transformation—it just can’t match
the dark unwieldy charm of living
mostly outside yourself.

They later said a feeling
like a sorrowful trance
overcame them all at once–
they could not resist or run.
Mr. Billy found them
wandering his winter pasture,
called the sheriff to take them
home. Even hypnotized
they were unable to account
for the remote location
of their car.

That overgrown yard
I pass by after work–
rusty lawnmower abandoned
not even halfway through the job,
everything there already over,
everything done already undone–
how I wish I didn’t understand
all the giving up in that.

Orfeo

mod detail Camille Corot Orpheus

You walk, she follows. You worry that she’s not following you.
Then you worry that she is.

This is the part where you go to get her back, you can’t live without her, you feel somehow guilty she’s gone.

You are looking for a place and a man not exactly a man–a man who’s a place, a place that’s a man. He has her, but what he really cares about is that you don’t have her.

He’s untouched by the supplications of the grieving, rather enjoys it as a matter of fact. He’s casual about it, sends a pale messenger up to pose palms out, nothing to hide, nothing to blame, the thing is done. Ooh, he tells you the one time he returns your call, a whole lotta fetchin’ women in the world for a good-lookin’ guy like you, a musician to boot, count your blessings, do your charm thing.

Nobody’s going to tell you go, don’t go, no one ever tells you anything when your heart is broken and everybody knows that worse is on its way. No one but the oracle, of course, who tells and doesn’t tell, says: find your way up to find your way down. Continue reading

Underneath

Susurration, that sound everything green
relaxes into at dusk, something like
thunder but somewhere over yonder, some
quiet thing concentrating the arbor,
June bugs, like the tintinnabulation
always in my head, my brain plantation,
you think, you want to think, romantic things,
the smell of the neighbor’s gardenias
up there on the porch, or the kind of cool
that feels like someone’s almost touching you,
everything that spooled out outside that
knotted up room where the demon was, so
hungry and demanding with its sudden
wind and wasps, so old and practiced, the way
it crawled up inside and emptied out and
made the world all ash, how was it that you
did not know, my talisman, and could not
in your safe oblivion, your smooth world
fathom the soft underneath where it fed.