blue threads to the soul: Collected Poems of Linh Dinh

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From All Around What Empties Out From American Tatts From Jam Alerts From Blood and Soap From Borderless Bodies From Some Kind of Cheese Orgy A Mere Rica Uncollected Tahseen Alkhateeb Interviews Linh Dinh Walt Whitman, Mass Media and Jewish Power

From All Around What Empties Out

I. Drunkard Boxing

Laced Farina Who touched your hair? A rifle butt to the side of the head. Who kissed you on the forehead? Three knocks on the door at midnight. Who put his fingers in your mouth? It is like fireworks. One is thrown in the air. Who unbuttoned your tunic? Unbutton your tunic. Who touched your breasts? It is a crime to conceive. Who rested his head on your belly? One is undressed by the whizzing bullets. Who played with your sex? To be lying here in this ditch.

Hygiene Discordant music shall be punishable by death. Here are the actual cases: A man who wears dots with stripes; A woman who paints bad pictures, And whose teeth haven't been cleaned In about twenty years; Disciples of this religion and that. Children, as prescribed, shall be cooked and eaten, And confusing books shall be banished from the library. The new planes shall fly over the new stadium. Many bombs will be dropped during halftime.

Letter to My Bed Disheveled bed, sentimental sponge, love of my life, Witness to all my horrors, my Valdez spills, my crimes, Black-faced farces, commedia dell'arte--par-deux and solo, Hopped-up rants, weepy pleas, morning conversations, Do not spill our confidential beans to enemy intelligence. They have surrounded us on all sides tonight, bed, And tomorrow night, and the night after tomorrow night. You are the leaky boat on the South China Sea fleeing Ho Chi Minh City. You are the wide gurney of my nightly dearth.

Slow Tribe They are the usual three: One, who fantasizes about my death; One, who craves my sex; And one, who claims to be restless. They come, singly, at odd intervals, unannounced, Bearing exaggerated miens and inexpensive gifts: Plastic flowers, slurs, bits of lint, left-over food. They pick fights among themselves whenever they meet, Or else they fuck on my bed, forgetting where they are. I never ask them to leave although I despise Each one of them. They are my kin: I, too, fantasize, claim to be restless, crave my own sex.

Traditional Vietnamese Architecture A house with no doors. One enters by climbing through a window. Any window. Break glass if necessary. An entry should always be illicit. Unobstructed entrances are not worth passing through. Ceilings are painted with upside-down bookcases, tables, beds and sleeping animals, etc., to resemble floors. Floors are fitted with bare light bulbs. On a pedestal in the center of the room is a symbolic toilet, slightly bigger than standard size and sculpted from papiermache. There are no real toilets anywhere in the house. On a long shelf too high to be reached is an array of "lost" items: nail clippings from childhood, love letters, first kisses... At the end of a long, steeply sloping corridor is a large mirror, so that "one could admire oneself at a great distance, then see oneself staggering forward, gaining momentum with each step."

Motate General emission from all orifices. Blink left eye, then right eye, Then left eye, then right eye. With index finger, jab at right temple, Then wheeze quietly as the bullet enters. Touch all forbidden zones simultaneously: The crooked teeth, the singed eyelashes, The crushed fibula ... Insert one's penis into one's vagina. Assume the drunk position, the Chinese position, The eunuch position. Throw a javelin out the window.

O Hanoi In the middle of town, or just off to the side, Is the largest turtle in the world. (Or, maybe, Just one of the largest.) We lived in the old quarters, on Potato Street, Then Coffin Street, then Clown Street, Then Teleprompter Street. In a so-called tube house, a house So narrow one must walk sideways With one's head turned. Like this. We slept Upright during the Four Thousand Years War, and, Out of habit, for a thousand years afterward. You will find my name, that of a ballyhooed scholar From the 23rd century (AD or BC, I can't remember), Inscribed on the next-to-last stele At the Temple of Poesy.

Chatter of Honor On January 17th, 1978, at 2:32 PM, we were insulted. On May 4th, 1985, at midnight, we were again insulted. Our prestige has been retarded. Our legendary status deterred by patriotic rogues. Our height has been declined. We were promised a terrace and chunky soup, A pair of loafers and two leaflets. We were led to believe We had ongoing safe passage through the sewage. But our guide was hosed as we entered the city. We wandered until dawn popping every lit window.

The Dead The nine-year-old hockey puck Bounced from the fender of an olive truck Now bounces a leather ball on his forehead. The old lady who scrounged potted meat From foreign men lying in a mortar pit Now sells gold jewelry in Santa Barbara. The dead are not dead but wave at pretty strangers From their pick-up trucks on Bolsa Avenue. They sit at formica tables smoking discount cigarettes. Some have dyed their hair, changed their name to Bill. But the living, some of them, like to dig up the dead, Dress them in native costumes, shoot them again, Watch their bodies rise in slow motion.

Ash Every gesture I make is spontaneous to impress itself upon your mind although of course it is only forlorn this hand can function. Gesticulating wildly at the drop of a pin I am he who places a lead pillow on his forehead simulating sleep if only twist and twirl my head doesn't whirl so endlessly. The strange juxtapositions of the last few days from a sweating monk drenched in denatured alcohol. They say his charred tongue is the only organ to have survived the rest has been burnt to a coarse ash scattered all over the streets of Philadelphia. Before it is covered in paper and ink please save my ash in a plastic bag in case someone does find a clever method for corporeal rehabilitation. With one blown kiss a man is made this tryst we've made I won't be broken.

All Around What Empties Out I live here because I do not have very much money and this is true of all my neighbors as well. In essence, I am one of life's losers and drifters, shunning responsibility whenever it arose. After each meal, I lick my plastic spoon in a gesture of solidarity with an inanimate object. Did you know that I was once fucked with my own spoon? This very spoon. And then, later, with half a razor. From the seam of my scrotum to the rim of my anus is about 15/16th of an inch. It's called the perineum, meaning, I think, in Greek, all around what empties out.

An Odd Sensation Neither inside nor on the surface of the skin, it is six inches away from the body. A circular itch behind the left shoulder blade? A tingling in front of the groin, commencing with first frost? No! No! No! No! What it is is a howling pain, like a hand dipped in bacon fat, but in front of the forehead, outside the skin. An ice cube is worthless. At night, lie perfectly still on one’s right side, like this, while squeezing one’s nose with an index finger and a thumb, while breathing, rhythmically, through one’s twisted mouth.

Needle A needle plying the bloodstream will protect the body against cuts, dismemberments, decapitations, etc. It should be at least three inches long, of stainless steel, sewing variety. Whenever a notched knife or an ax breaks surface of the skin, needle will rush instantaneously to the violated spot to thwart blow and prevent muscular laceration. Needle travelling day and night beneath dermis, inside lumen, plowing plasma and platelets aside, cleaving blood clots: a local train going downtown. The insertion has to be deliberate, casual, without ambivalence. Points of entry: dorsal digital artery beneath nail of big toe, blind (white) spot of the eyeball, ear canal, tip of penis. A red gauze over the cornea, ping-ping notes scattered on a toy piano, a thrust up the urethra will create a host of childhood emotions.

Self Defense for Women Against all assailants and intruders, the ones who seize you face to face, the ones who grab you from behind. Suppose a man takes freedom, persists on tugging your front while choking his intentions in a flourish of tenderness? The insult begins: He may put an arm around your waist, cover your mamma, stroke your belly downward. He may change his palms into fists, interlard grief with jokes, lullaby you with particulars. As he bends further down, enervated, raise your right knee, stay calm, rub your eye sockets until they are red and warm. If he is foul-prone, stall for time. If he drags, give him something. If he cannot straighten out, befog his short-term memory. Incline on your axis. Rotate. Later, if he assuages you from behind, look back vividly at your enemy. Now he cannot stand firm. Now he feels painful.

Drunkard Boxing If you say, “God, no! but hell sure.” If you say, “Balustraded headboard, bound girl.” If you say, “Atonal youth?” (The young tend to repeat what you've just told them as if they had thought of it themselves.) Lie with hands clasped behind head, raise legs and pedal. Rotate legs horizontally in air like helicopter propellers to repel all assailants. Sit on ground, bare-assed, and explain each problem slowly, in a calm, insinuating voice. Add and subtract, collate fingers. If someone strokes your hair in sleep, open your eyes to see who it is.

What’s My Name? The susurration dodging my every step. Walk into any hotel lobby, a restaurant, chic, McDonald's, and it's “That's the champ!” Everyone tittering, teens, foreigners. And it's not because of my ring, impressive as it is, but how I carry myself, a flippant composure plowing under an intense hatred of all those who adore me.

The Fox Hole “Oh great,” she yells, “a fox hole!” and jumps right in. And just in time, too, because a shell immediately explodes a few feet away, throwing a clump of dirt on her head. She is bunched up like a mummy, but not too uncomfortable, a woman in the flush of youth squatting in a ready-made fox hole. Another shell explodes, this time even closer, and throws more dirt on her head. She is almost completely buried. There's dirt in her nose, in her eyes, in her mouth. A soldier could walk right over her and not notice that here, just beneath his feet, is a pretty woman squatting in a fox hole. But then she realized that she had been sitting on something. Something sinewy, bunched up. Was it a root? A hand? A hand grenade?

The Most Beautiful Word I think “vesicle” is the most beautiful word in the English language. He was lying face down, his shirt burnt off, back steaming. I myself was bleeding. There was a harvest of vesicles on his back. His body wept. “Yaw” may be the ugliest. Don't say, “The bullet yawed inside the body.” Say, “The bullet danced inside the body." Say, "The bullet tumbled forward and upward.” Light slanted down. All the lesser muscles in my face twitched. I flipped my man over gently, like an impatient lover, careful not to fracture his C-spine. Dominoes clanked under crusty skin: Clack! Clack! A collapsed face stared up. There was a pink spray in the air, then a brief rainbow. The mandible was stitched with blue threads to the soul. I extracted a tooth from the tongue. He had swallowed the rest.

A Childhood in Vermont Our common traits and interests unite us. Up here, above the tree line, there are very few so-and-sos. This climate is inhuman. The little girl said, “I cannot talk to those kinds, but what can I do?” The trick is not to master a new language, but to have new facial expressions. The trick is not to master a new language, but to have a new face. A man was shot in the face for touching his wife's buttocks in public.

A young female is always welcomed. From behind, she looked, I swear, like all the others. But from the side, she resembled a cat. Even an educated man will only open a book to read about his childhood in Vermont.

A Million Donuts An honest day begins with getting up in the morning. I went into the kitchen and was ecstatic to find a million donuts, all ready to be put away. Each day above ground is pure jelly, the old man said before falling asleep. There was creamy chocolate on the inside, bright blisters on the outside. Later the old man and I went outside to build a snow man. A stubborn motherfucker, he would not melt for a whole week. It was so hilarious to see these animals talking to each other.

Late Sorrows Infant, you don’t know me. I’m called Millennium. Some people call me Ciao. Others: Sudden Death Overtime. Even in this friable language, all my names shame and infuriate me. The other day I forked over beaucoup bucks to have my mug downloaded. I was at my witch doctor, demanding to know when I’ll be ransomed. Salted peanuts: their asset tends to dissipate even as you’re saving them. I’ve buried them all over my estate, and now I can’t find them. If the tailgates are diced into triangles, after cooked, so that I can still see them, then I will not eat them, but if the tailgates are melding in with the other foods, after cooked, so that I can’t see them, then of course I will eat them, even though I know I’m eating tailgates. I must admit that I am an admirer of Goatee, the author of Foost. Late at night, I enjoy strumming along in the company of my steel guitar.

Whoaaaa!!! And now, for our first ride on the bus! What communal happiness. What blessings! Everyone going the same way! Whoaaaa!!! Get away from me!!! What fumbling speed! Ruminant, tragic. Look!!! Look how we can see the top of everyone's head!!! And now, for our first skyscraper! So... shiny! Sooooo ... straight up!!! What balance! What splendor! This... this... this... This straight-up-ness!!! Hush! And now, for our first girl on roller skates! Arrrghhh!!! What unspeakable joy! Must we? Boo hoo hoo! Boo hoo hoo! I think we must kill ourselves!!! And now, for our first toothpick! Can I have this? Waaaa!!!!! Is it mine? Ha ha ha!!!! For real? For our first cornflake! For our first coffin!!! Custom-made, no ordinary pine, a fine wood... With what anguish must we receive each thing? With what rage? With what gratitude?

Bartering My armpit for your deodorant? My hump for your deficit? My left sandal for your right boot? My right sandal for your left boot? My right lobe for your sucker punch? My frontal nudity for your wool suit? My biopsy for your urine sample? My exhaust for your splatter? My petroleum for your wine vinegar? My shaved head for your skull? My autopsy for your tinted glasses?

My half-moon for your mirror? My full moon for your smoke?

Dream Codes Corns indicate separation. String beans indicate unity. Seeing a dog changing into a cat means you will break a bone. Seeing a crab changing into a fish means you will lose money. Seeing a black and white rainbow means you will die within a week. Seeing a carload of cadavers means you will live a long life. Seeing coins scattered on the ground means you will be forgotten right after death. A new hat means a new lover. A new pair of shoes means you will die lonely. Seeing a blurry face means a sexual encounter. Hearing a distant sob means pregnancy. A naked woman hiding a knife means a daughter. A naked girl flashing a knife means a son. Dancing means a dispute over money. Hearing music means death to a loved one.

Brushing your teeth means you will die before waking up. Even in dreams, let no one wear your eyeglasses. A parrot calling your name means a chain of mishaps: a jail sentence of less than 30 days, followed by a traffic accident. An overflowing toilet means great wealth. Seeing an ant crawling across your bed means you will be fired. A fist fight with a friend means spiritual renewal. Fluid on the face means self-knowledge. A ticklish wind under your clothes means a fatal disease. A car door swinging open means your spouse has a new lover.

Guide to Odors Vinegar: fresh guilt; your mother-in-law; mature love; patriotism. Sewage: scurvy; old men; solitude; sainthood. Turpentine: young men; a sweaty upper lip; vesicles. Cinnamon: sudden shame; a half-remembered dream; a strange bed; a town of 5,000. Urine: a city of 100,000; bar conversations. Garlic: attentive listening; a bus ride; a ridiculous hat; a drowsy face in a rain-flecked window. Canned tuna: the soul; menopause; foreigners. Acrid: pink, mottled flesh glimpsed through clear plastic; a genius. Ammonia: accolades; a high-speed crash on a deserted highway.

Earth Cafeteria Mudman in earth cafeteria, I eat aardwolf. I eat ant bear. I eat mimosa, platypus, ermine. “White meat is tasteless, dark meat stinks.” (The other white meat is pork, triple X.) Rice people vs. bread people. White bread vs. wheat bread. White rice vs. brown rice. Manhattan vs. New England. Kosher sub-gum vs. knuckle kabob. “What is patriotism but love of the foods one had as a child?”* To eat stinky food is a sign of savagery, humility, identification with the earth. “It was believed that after cleaning, tripe still contained ten percent excrement which was therefore eaten with the rest of the meal.”**

Today I'll eat Colby cheese. Tomorrow I'll eat sparrows. Chew bones, suck fat, bite heads off, gnaw on a broken wing. Anise-flavored beef soup smells like sweat. A large sweaty head bent over a large bowl of sweat soup. A Pekinese is ideal, will feed six, but an unscrupulous butcher will fudge a German shepherd, chopping it up to look like a Pekinese. Toothless man sucking a pureed porterhouse steak with straw. Parboiled placenta. To skewer and burn meat is barbaric. To boil, requiring a vessel, is a step up. To microwave.

People who eat phalli, hot dogs, kielbasas vs. people who eat balls. To eat with a three-pronged spear and a knife. To eat with two wooden sticks. To eat with the hands. Boiling vs. broiling. To snack on a tub of roasted grasshoppers at the movies.

*Lin Yutang **Mikhail Bakhtin

My Rising Prospects Surely, among dream mammals, Among man-apes, among ape-apes, among man-men, Among tasseled, scrubbed, prospecting for hubbub, Among chyme-free duodena and lipsticked flour, Among synchronized twitches and applauded pillows. Thus embraced and mutilated, in my 34th year, With my dukes up, with my grammar up, With my legions of fish lips, stapled To the inner ears, loquacious, murmuring, With my musical toes and symphonic molars, With my squatting rights about to be revoked, “Where are you from? And why are you here?” With my nose bleeding, with my menarche, With my mud nap on the hour, With my rising prospects and descending testicles.

After Zigzagging After zigzagging across an open field, How did I ever learn so many words I can't pronounce? After hiding under so many beds, How did I ever learn to paraphrase My nose? Eyes? Boils? Scar distribution? And who was it that taught me to rearrange my teeth? In darkness, in privacy, I squat, tabulating My special stink. My breath Has been mistranslated. And yet, I can still kiss its veneer, stroke its vinyl. And yet, just this morning, As I crossed a seven-span bridge, as I Crossed a twelve-span bridge, going both ways, As I crossed and recrossed a hundred-span bridge, A flock of dun-colored pigeons serenaded me.

Now I will pretend to lug my thin rump homeward. A Kafka, a Jew, a stowaway monkey: “Hello!” Freeze dried, flash frozen.

Acoustics I like to bore a hole in ice, warm half a worm in an armpit, and yet, most nights, I still can't sleep. My eyesight is poor. Piss poor. When I walked down the street, I’d often think someone is waving at me. Is it a long-lost friend? My dear dead mother? (She's still alive.) I'd smile my best smile. Suddenly, I'm on my back, surrounded by strangers. My hearing, on the other hand, is not so bad. The slightest whisper miles away, even thousands of miles away, depending on the wind, the humidity, the amount of dust in the air, would be amplified by the convolutions of my outer ears, and pulverize the smallest bones in my body.

II. A Small Triumph Over Lassitude

Born After the Mother Is Buried There is only one reality. As long as one other person exists, I cannot exist. Therefore, I will kill everyone on this earth, one by one. I enjoy a drink beforehand, and I like to eat afterwards. Sometimes I go out with friends. I’m very fond of examining a stretch of highway, a scenic lookout, a rest area, a parking lot, a bedroom or a bathroom, and reenact in details what I may or may not have done. I love the wife I don’t have. I love the children I don’t have. I love the mother I don’t have. I love the father I don’t have. What I will inflict on you will hurt me more than it will hurt you. Of that, I am convinced.

Nativity I was born astride a suckling pig. Inside this pig was a fancy mirror With instructions scratched onto it On how to slaughter a suckling pig. I was born with two or three stomachs Astride a fancy mirror, In a country no larger than this map. Eat me now, said the clam. Eat me next, said the chicken. Eat me tomorrow, said the cow. Eat me last, said the suckling pig. I’ll look for a suckling pig, said the first midwife. I’ll look for an extra-long knife, said the second midwife. I’ll look for a fancy mirror, said the third midwife. You don’t know, where I was born, There were thousands and thousands Of suckling pigs, long knives and fancy mirrors.

There was nearly everything there was in this world, At least one faithful reproduction of each thing.

Academy of Fine Arts Seeing a dog walking around with its tail upturned, its asshole exposed, I feel infinitely superior. I am a man, after all, and do not walk around with my asshole exposed. Even with my pants down, my asshole would not be exposed. Once I saw a young mother blow hot air rhythmically into her infant son’s asshole hoping to cure him of something.

Circa Who can stand the warmth of gruel? Who can stand the smell of yeast on his hands after eating bread? Everywhere: this tinny music. My stomach is fading. My nose is erased. Inside this sad sack is a yellowing photograph of my talkative dolt. The other day, I overheard my large intestine say to my small intestine: “Don’t you worry. We’ll make it through this interregnum. Soon they’ll have to make us a new man.”

Lang Mastery A blindfolded native speaker reenacts continuously the syntax of a fading tongue he cannot decipher having not so long ago emigrated by a lisping dinghy down the muddy white stream of gunboat diplomacy. Lying on the seeded floor, the wise coolie opines: Once I thought it would be cool to always be flummoxed by a fair femme of this come-on epoch. Once I thought it would be cool to schlep through this newspangled alphabet. Have you, Sir, by chance, perused the illustrated biography of this moon-walking American?

Scansion They’ve been fiddling with the axis of the earth. That’s why our shoes don’t fit. Watch as I try to convince this giant animal This man is not a wheat parasite. This woman is not a wheat germ. This man is not an old rifle, Coughing up buckshots. This woman is not a contraband moped With dented mudguard. This man prays every night To a flickering street lamp. This woman dreams each morning Of pork dumplings.

Nearby, a hemorrhoid is escorting The ambassador of hygiene. Nearby, an old house has collapsed On its prodigal son.

Conversion Table A stick of carrot is equal to a gillyflower. A gillyflower is equal to a drum of gasoline. A drum of gasoline is equal to a stick of carrot. “For the sake of my offspring, I think I’ll marry an outsider.” Tamerlane has been sighted in Northern Italy. Jesus has broken out in Inner Mongolia. They like to kiss outside and piss inside. We like to kiss inside and piss outside. A mosquito has a mouth but no asshole. After three drops of blood, he falls asleep. He only gets up to bite another mosquito. He sucks and he sucks. Inside this balloon are ten thousand mosquitoes. In my left fist is a fossil of the first butterfly. In my right fist is a theory on why blood trickles down men’s legs. A man gains a drop of blood per day from eating. Each night, he gets up to slash himself Across the face and wrist.

He must be bitten by ten thousand mosquitoes. He sucks and he sucks. Where would all that blood go otherwise? Once a month, a woman drops a teacup on the floor, A fine teacup with bones inside it. Vietnamese and Germans now speak the same language. Prussians and Bavarians cannot understand each other.

Newspapers and Concrete Slabs Do not read those books, read these newspapers Textured like concrete slabs Announcing a surplus in the weather. Do not read anything but this thin book, Whose cover is beautifully embossed With a famous servant’s face. Do not stare at this fading photograph Of a fading moon, Or you will go blind. The sun was made with cowpiss And has hidden implications Implanted by our enemies. The stars in the constellation Are enemy mosquitoes Caught in our netting. Once I could not tell The fat man from the thin man Without reading the thin book.

Once I could not differentiate Me from you Without having to pick at the scabs On our same-same faces.

A Noise Came to the Door I was fantasizing about going to work the next day and bragging about being in the hospital. It didn’t feel like violence, only longing. A noise came to the door. We were lying naked under the rug because it was raining. We were lying naked under the rug because we liked it. Suddenly, aging. With its soft middle, I should have known it was going to explode. I couldn’t wait to verify what I had eaten. Although my eyes were all watery, all I wanted was a glass of water. When they touched the back of my head, their hands came back bright red.

Wherewithal A wishy-washy sky. Flowers sprouting from a black nub. Is this a hospital? Who wants to go begging? Drinking leftover gorilla juice, a dirty nude wondered this earth. Once I was a surface of ornaments and ambitions. (Then all my problems were solved in prison.) I am Godzilla, he said, a luddite. And I am Satan’s wife. Inside this windbag are our essential belongings: a lottery ticket, a toothless comb, a ribbon.

A Reactionary Tale I was a caring husband. I bought socks for my family. My swarthy wife liked to wear these thick woolen socks that came up to her milky thighs. I had a lover also. People could see me walking around each evening carrying a walking stick. My most vivid memory, looking back, is of a pink froth bubbling out of my infant’s mouth. Not everything was going so well: one morning, malnourished soldiers marched down our tiny street, bringing good news. When good news arrives by mail, the cuckoo sang, tear up the envelope. When good news arrives by email, destroy the computer. When an old friend came by to reclaim an old wound, I said to my oldest son: Go dump daddy’s ammo boxes into the fragrant river.

To reduce drag, some of my neighbors were diving headfirst into a shallow lake. We were rich and then we were poor. A small dog or maybe a cat now pulls our family wagon.

On the Avenue of Idleness Sitting astride his first and last dream, he was sideswiped by a swerving truck carrying either suckling pigs or cement. The nightingales then took him to a house of love, where he died soon after. On the Avenue of Idleness, there is still a trace of this man’s shattered headlight, imbedded in the molten asphalt. Late at night, you will hear an intermittent drunken sort of laughter swirling around even when there’s no one around.

Fish Eyes My son won’t eat anything but fish eyes. At the fishmonger’s, if my wife wants to buy a sturgeon that has already lost its set of eyes, she would also have to ask for two eyes plucked from a catfish, or even an eel, just so my son will have his fish eyes that evening. At home, these eyes are inserted into their new sockets. If a boy who eats chicken legs all the time will most likely turn into a drunkard, and a boy who eats chicken wings will become a poet, what will become of my son, who never eats anything but fish eyes?

Homilies Knew something was up when the government gave me this plot of land for free. Can’t walk three steps without stepping on one. Can’t have any children or pets. Can’t get too trashed in the evening. If a man can’t walk on the ground, where can he walk? Me and a buddy were out hunting legs last night. They wear their pants tight; we wear ours loose. Crawling on all fours, we each found a pair in loose pants and dragged them back to our hole in the ground. Waking up this morning, we realized we had made a big mistake: those legs don’t belong to us! You see: they had decayed a little, and shrunken a little, and only appeared to be wearing loose pants.

A Wayward Daughter Three times I tried to get rid of my daughter. I left her by the river and she came back. I left her in the woods and she came back. The last time, I left her in the next village but she also came back. You see: my daughter is not normal. She is always naked. She cannot speak in sentences. She gets violent whenever she hears music. She would eat anything: orange peels, fish bones, longan pits. I would discipline her by whacking her on the knees with a wooden stick. I would also lock her in the bathroom for a week at a time. I thought: since she was already acting like an animal, I might as well leave her in the wilds. That’s why I left her by the river and in the woods.

The last time, I was hoping the people in the next village would kill her. I tricked my daughter each time by saying, “Sit here and eat this apple. Daddy will be right back.”

A War Veteran As a war veteran, with three major bodily wounds, my pension is, admittedly, not all that bad. Still, it is hardly enough to live on. I go to the market only in the late afternoon, where wilting vegetables and rotting meats can be had at discount prices. These I salt and pickle when I get home, to maximize their flavors. I chew each morsel slowly, almost nostalgically, and only swallow with the deepest of regrets. I have even learnt how to regurgitate my food by sniffing from a jar of vinegar. After each meal, I lie down on my wooden bed, under a thin blanket, and, to conserve my calorie count, breathe in as slowly as possible. As my blood slumbers through its veins, I keep my eyes closed, and I keep my ears closed, and I think about nothing, without ever going to sleep.

The Mind The mind is a hotel with a thousand rooms. When I tilt my head a certain way, I think about certain things. When I tilt my head another way, I think about other things. If I sleep on the right side of my face, for example, I’d dream of a pale rose, the future or a continental diner in Passaic, New Jersey. When I sleep on the left side of my face, I’d dream that a hand is squeezing my heart, I’m jailed or that I’m watching hockey at an airport bar, about to miss a flight.

Man Standing I want that date to come as soon as possible, I cannot stop thinking about it, and yet, I also want to postpone it for as long as possible. I’m afraid of it, actually. When that date finally arrives, I’ll be that much closer to my end, and yet, until then, I have no life to begin with. I must wait patiently, and make each day even longer by thinking about waiting. As long as I mire myself in tedium while hankering for that date, I still have my entire life ahead of me, a non-life that will only begin when that date arrives.

The Flesh They say that when the flesh is menaced, it can suddenly lift a thousand pounds or leap over a wall a little taller than itself. Perhaps this is one of those situations as I’m chased down a blind alley, pursued by a bunch of them, all making gutter sounds that seem to come not from the throats but the stomachs, and hacking at me with crude, homemade weapons that barely miss my head yet repeatedly scrape chunks of flesh from my back and shoulders. I am running as fast as I can, maybe even a little faster, towards an impossibly high wall. There is no time to hesitate. I do not know what is on the other side. I leap.

A Hardworking Peasant from the Idyllic Countryside I was illiterate until yesterday. All these squiggly lines-tattooed on every available surface, all around me, all my life— suddenly started to make sense yesterday. Until yesterday I did not know that the invectives and commands constantly swarming around me were actually made of words. I thought they were mosquitoes, or dust, or flecks of paint, each one leaving a prickling sensation on my thin, almost transparent skin. Yesterday someone said something in my vicinity and I finally decided to write it down, a phonetic transcription, to the best of my abilities: FUAK YOW MOFTHEARFUAKIER. I wrote that down with a blue pen on a yellow piece of paper. I finally wrote, I thought, now I’m a writer. If I had merely transcribed the above as a blue thought onto my yellow memory, I would still be seen as a hardworking peasant from the idyllic countryside.

A Peripatetic Purveyor of Nothing On the Avenue of Idleness, there is a man who pushes a pushcart around with nothing on it. He rings a bell to announce his arrival. Children and other undesirables like to throw rocks at him. “I was never made out for this. I don’t want to sell nothing. I don’t even want to buy nothing.” “So much for nothing today?” “You better know it.” “A little cheaper by the dozen perhaps?” “Not at this weight, ma’am.” “But my children are grossly underweight!” “Like the billboards say, ‘We can’t modernize overnight.’” “Please wrap it up then.”

A Note on Translation I cannot talk about things, a catnip or a dog, with the confidence that they will still exist in the world by the end of my sentence. (Such is progress.) Further, my modest and improbable vocabulary is always compromised (and perhaps sanctioned) by an unbridgeable gap between the source of words and their promiscuity. Immortality is always slander, agreed, and yet translation is everyone’s best bet for immortality.

Blue In some languages, the word “blue” does not exist. In others, the word “green.” In my native language, the word “color” does not exist. A man was given everything in life but the color blue. All would have gone well had he not been told of his deprivation. Thereafter, he vowed to destroy everything in his path: home, country, confidantes, God, all the other colors... Because I cannot pronounce the word “blue,” whenever my conversation calls for “blue,” I always say “red” instead.

Cruel, Forgiving Circle Take my hand, sneak in and witness Mysterious, awe-inspiring and perfect feats, Performed by pliant and rhythmic individuals, Trained from inside the womb for these ever So brief moments under the blinding lights. At the end of the longest night, if you’re not Aroused, convinced and gratefully wounded, Permanently, in all your soul’s dank spots, We’ll consider giving you a partial refund. Traveling each back road in every land, Into the distant past and impossible future, We’ve never failed to elicit weeping accolades, For whether jejune or senile, none has been Molested so thoroughly and satisfyingly By such a staggering generosity of soul. We don’t do cheap tricks. Don’t confuse us With two-bit sorcerers. From deep below, A sorrowful half dream, half memory wells up To comfort this whole tent. Holding a needle, A trembling man treads on a thread, unraveling Across the gaping mouth of his sleeping mother.

Folded then stuffed into a stampless envelope, A woman wakes up many days or years later, Inside herself, next to her unborn spouse. Pulled from the audience, you’re forced To balance a clown on each shoulder. On your forehead sit a thousand teacups, On top of which perches one more clown. Mocking, amused or pitying eyes watch As you fail to understand the ringmaster. Whistling, bullets flirt with your borders. To laughter, you fall with your apple.

Sex Video A baby-faced prostitute (clown) standing on the side of a dirt road (clown) next to her squatting father (clown) always yelled “SIDA” (clown) each time I rode by on my motorcycle (leaking oil). Slapping its detachable tail against the white wall, the brown gecko goes CLACK! CLACK! CLACK! CLACK! satisfied to have finally made it with a fruit fly. The dolorous sky sweated a malodorous beverage universally known for having spawned a jazzy jingle that goes something like this. The winsome flashback of our first intercourse returns to me on this nippy day as I politely hanker for that lost minuet shagging flies in a faraway veranda.

A Small Triumph Over Lassitude A naked, chewy thing on the floor. A digestible punishment. Is this the flip side of my birthday cake? My six side teeth are hollow, like popcorns. Death sleeps on its belly on our tin roof. “This is the land of the dizarre,” a foreigner once said to me. We are milquetoasts and leave all hard decisions to our late wives. My life, if ended this evening, will represent a small triumph over lassitude.

Souvenirs Aphasia (sunrise) Toothache (sunset) A smelly window (sunrise) A stinking door (sunset) Strep throat (sunrise) Glossolalia (sunset) A century among the comets. A century among pigs. A century on this earth, And I still don’t know where to go To get a half-decent haircut. An hour early. A minute late. A day early. A century late. He was neither late nor early, having arrived At his appointed laceration At exactly The anointed time.

Sleeping Beauty Revenge is a bearded figure in a shaven dream. Because you lynched me, I will knife you. Because you denied me, I will immolate you. Because you degraded me, I will execute you. Because you electrocuted me, I will abash you. Because you confounded me, I will put you to death. Because you disemboweled me, I will dispatch you. And a knuckle is a rounded knob formed by the insults accumulated in the bone. Any protuberance on the human body may be called a knuckle. How many knuckles are there on a sleeping face?

Dip, Plunge, Sink We will merge soon in an oven or a vault With an exclamation of great disappointment. You are an undesirable or contemptible person, An annoying and unwanted person, A person with whom I’ve engaged in sexual intercourse. I will confuse or disturb you (strike or copulate). I will mess you up (idle and loaf), Then I will go away (bungle or blunder). You are an instance of fucking (of a specified competence). I will lavish you with extraordinary malice. I will whittle away my time (I will mess you up).

Modes of Locomotion The best way to move forward is in a pedicab. In Saigon, the driver ushers you from behind like a concerned mother. Hovering above the back of your tousled head, he steers you firmly into oncoming traffic as you admire the scenery. In Can Tho, the driver perches, paradoxically, in front of you. With unblinking eyes, you watch in anticipation as your aging father lowers his head into the vexatious yet exhilarating void. In the Philippines, the driver rides alongside you like a brother, a utopian arrangement which yet manages to displease those who would rather traffic in silence. But as a booming and colorful airplane appears suddenly above your head, you find yourself, once more, tilting your tear-stained face skyward while thinking, Perhaps someday I could be among those frozen in the clouds, tossing a candy wrapper into the heavens.

At the Coffin Plantation We were once a very tall race, our bodies exceeded the length of our coffins. It takes forever to grow one of these fine coffins. So much water, sun, and manure, for each coffin to reach maturity. Even the smallest coffins have their buyers. The oddest-shaped coffins also have their buyers. This coffin fits two: a married couple, preferably, one on top of another. This coffin fits three. Although hardly rare, pink coffins are still very valuable. Poachers are always yanking them from the ground in the middle of the night.

Yams We are hungry twelve months out of the year. All we eat are yams. Every day, yams. We wander through the woods all day long trying to find them. We yank them from the ground and stuff them into our mouths. We never bring yams back to our village because we don’t want to share them with the others. Our children eat banana flowers. Sometimes we are not hungry at all. Even an experienced yammer can wander through the woods for weeks on end only to end up with a rotten tuber. To spare them from further suffering, we like to bury our old people right before they die. Before I die, I would like to taste something-other-than-yams, finally. My daughter tasted something-other-than-yams once and went blind immediately. There is a blue rosette on the tip of her tongue.

Rocks in Bac Lieu In the alluvial landscape of Bac Lieu, rocks are so rare that any impressive looking rock, usually no larger than a man’s head, is placed inside its own shrine, about the size of a dog’s house, declared a buddha, and worshipped.

Floods in Quang Ngai Yes, it floods each year here, and each year we lose all our livestock, all our possessions, and yet we don’t move to another province. We just don’t move. Each year, the flood becomes more severe. There seems to be more water in the world. There is more water in the world. What’s worse, the water does not recede completely any more after a flood, but remains ankle-deep in our houses. As a solution, we raise the floor. And yet the water keeps rising, and each year we must raise the floor a little higher, a little closer to the ceiling.

The Sadistic Climbing Perch Monger The climbing perch is a small, bony fish that can travel short distances on land. At our market, there’s an old, turbanwearing and gum-chewing woman who sells climbing perches. Keeping these fish in a tin basin, she takes out each one and snips, with a scissors, its tail, anal fin, dorsal fin, pelvic fin, ventral fin, pectoral fin, then, finally, head. If only she would reverse this order, the climbing perch would not thrash about during the entire process.

Longitudes Walking for several lifetimes, we finally reached that country. A city at the end of a 24-hour bus ride. A walk across the street. Oakland by the Seine. The Trenton of the East. The skyscrapers resembled adobe huts from afar, And a well-paved road appeared as a river. I ordered food by gesturing, And asked for directions by gesturing, And watched TV inside a well-lit coffin. The earth is our stewardship, the dung beetle declared. This far below the mirror’s surface, Only cowards can survive. I’ve lived my whole life by this speed bump, Sir, And know every nook of this stinking alley. A provincial often thinks himself superior to a cosmopolitan Because he knows every nook of a stinking alley. And I’ve been married for a century to this fire hydrant. My dream is to travel to the dim continent,

If only for an afternoon. Someday soon I hope to return To the hamlet of the dozing fathers, Where porch swings provide easy refuge From the cares of the day, And the movie house shows cartoons on Saturday.

The Sea There are razors on its bottom. There are wooden shoes. The sea’s surface has few protuberances. On its frayed edges are welcome mats. We threw ourselves overboard, while yelling, “Surely a half-melt spatula is now near us.” We swam as fast as we could, Before climbing onto a crocodile, Before climbing onto a slow yacht, Before climbing onto a surfacing submarine, Before climbing onto an oil tanker. The captain gave us half a cracker, Divided into a hundred. He also handed us a clean towel, Before he threw us overboard. We swam as fast as we could, Into the heart of the iceberg, Into a pair of wooden shoes, Into the mouth of the mollusk.

III. A Glass of Water

Freckles Look how big I will grow as I walk towards the sun alarming the midget within me who is truly a midget within a midget possessed with Gargantuan balls too often drunk to realize that he can and will be neutered loped off with one incidental cut of the knife administered by nature. Freckles of the world I do not envy those who are engaged with me in a tug-of-war but how many know it is only the impoverished self doing the haggling since I am in the deepest sense above haggling. Lawyers everywhere with noses that honk I will anoint you with a tasteless odor the sensation of which few will remember but when and where can this really matter? Enough already this leather book which shall be taken from me sans gratitude for I will stare with bleary eyes into the sunset at you rekindled.

Nadir is the Lowest Point Nadir is the lowest point apex is the highest point nexus is a meeting point where I will find your solar plexus. Fat orange old sun: Why doest thou not eclipse me with a Venetian blind? Here on my bed my mistress thus. All countries exist right here the jagged edges of my stamp will scarify themselves into your life with a tenderness you didn't know existed this side of Saint Jerome. Lioness you look a bit like Golda Meir that sandblasted Jewess magnificently perched on a tank cocking her Uzi. My Uzi is your Uzi shoot me if you have to I will only see God before going to Siberia. Charnel house of the fierce whip purify me please with your punishment something I no longer dread since having honed myself into a humble stoic.

A Historic Pinkie The meters and rhymes of this my time are syncopated by a toy monkey. Once more let us all meet this minstrel show our versifier. A shame-faced gorilla gestating in the front pocket of a polyester slacks waiting impatiently for a chance to jump out every five years to blast someone not anyone with a historic pinkie.

Amid General Derision Amid general derision a belching cow is whelping triplets of the most bewildered Hottentots of which I am by far the oldest to consent to be ejected despite well-intentioned warnings from experienced colleagues and the vicissitudes of years the one lesson you have taught me. If noon could be darker I'd walk faster determined to reach New York or Chicago within the hour but alas the starkness of half-friendlies continuously stalking is a tame violence I must at times avert my gaze from. Pickpockets have stolen my cunt today.

A Glass of Water Gums for tits and toys for tats a glass of water please for this man right here prostrate on the ground with his chest blown open you standing idle make sure not a single button is missing a person cannot leave this area without first asking my permission. You are my pork chop just as I'm your Casper the friendly ghost don't extinguish me yet with one twist of the dial my nose is a Jew in Argentina escaping Sylvia Plath's Hitler. Lapses of communication your expertise while I'm a maven in semaphoric not often blurred by a concoction of vinegar and seropurulent.

I Refuse to Be Lambasted by Your Bloated I Ching The union goons in their plaid shirts are pouring tar down every orifice not yet plugged up already from their previous campaign the 20-year drought also known as the cork stops here as it does everywhere else for example in all the restaurants I've ever the gumption to walk in not to eat but to be constipated. I am a man celebrated in recondite circles for his exquisite stoppages the lips of which have prematurely grown fat from too much exercise why shouldn't one be allowed an occasional stump after decades of hemorrhaging wildly at the drop of a bucket. Three buckets I have one on each hand and one strapped to the back of my shoulders the exclusive content of which is the ossified stools of my past the weight is preventing me from growing voluptuous like everybody else adorned around the neck with fantastic ulcers the growth of which is considered to be highly decorative in this part of the country.

I refuse to be lambasted by your bloated I Ching that ghastly crossword puzzle appearing at the back of the Times besmeared by gum pats darkened through the centuries. Nor do I care to place in my mouth a piece of rubber band spat out pre-Christian era from the fatal palate of Genghis Khan although I'm quite obviously one of his more illustrious descendants. The physical properties of the world address themselves to me only insofar as your two pieces of pork fat dangling from the revolutionary gallows about to be erected tomorrow in the public square the gala for which I have two reservations. The noose of my tie is choking me soon I'll be a decapitated mind permanently hovering over a bucket of piss the stench of which is making me drowsy.

Womblasted Why shouldn't the castrated snout of my desire Be displayed come January in a public museum? Why shouldn't this gesture, the doffing of my hat? “I'm too indurated,” she said, “to be impressed By your serrated method, although Sooner or later my shins will wither.” All the bullets in the world are contained Within this skull, this punctured face.

from American Tatts

A Blue Pain “A blue pain will come to us all,” the infant lisped. Soul rhymes with toes, Goethe with sleet. I have gorgeous blue eyes. “Check this out!” he said, As he gouged my right eyeball from its socket. With my left eyeball, interested, I watched him poke An unfiltered Camel through my blue pain, Then smoke the cigarette.

Cadavalier You know what I like about these shoes? The color! You know what I like about these eyes? The texture! The color! The texture! I’m by far the richest Man/woman in the world, by a mile: Luxurious, bouffant, obscene. (No sex.) This pinkish universe is really nothing But a flocculation of my desires. And yet, nobody! But nobody but PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! Do no more for me, I beg you, come here.

The Undead Are you presented live before a teeming audience? Do you stand forth? Are you adaptable to leisure in a suburban home? Is motion still imparted to your lips? I am no longer alive to the risks involved. I am dead white. I am a compost of mineral matter. I am naturally without life, inanimate. My arms dangle at my sides. I am neither vital, warm, interesting, bright nor brilliant. I am a sweaty handshake at a dead party. I am without power or movement. I am exact.

Pick-Up Lines 1 I will stand on tip-toe, Tape peacock feathers to my forehead. I will pant half notes, Speechify in dialect. I will lather you with my swerved voice, Peer into your pharynx, weep. I will wiggle my index finger. 2 Deep down, I know, believe me, about your innermost Character, feelings, or inclinations, the essential Or most vital part of your younger self, your thing, Your older self, the leafy rosette at the heart of Your cabbage. By rote or by memory, I have, Trust me, the deepest concern for that burning Discomfort behind the basement of your sternum, The spasm at the lower end of your esophagus.

3 Come, let us lie down on the timothy. Your mud is my manna, we are intimate. You listen to my effluvium. There shall be no sanctimony between us.

Doing the Wave Love, marginal love, I was making love On the side, as it were, On the berm at the bottom, Between tugs. A tumbril Had brought us here at eight this morning, Me and my widow. My dulcet feather, If we jump up and down together, Like this, look! We can make the floor shake.

What’s at Frank’s? A fake Calder floats over Sheila’s head, Who really should be called Sheila-na-gig, Because she’s all vulva and all suds, And because she’s well-tipped each evening. On one side of the horseshoe bar is Gummy Christ, Well-known for his toothy grin, sucking On a yellow Corona between throws at cricket. On the other side of the horseshoe bar is Skinny Dave, Who’s all coked-out and skull-plugged To a quiet Walkman playing Nine Inch Nails. A large trust fund has allowed Dave to be fulfilled By volume after volume of the fattest sci-fi He reads zealously while swiveled on his stool. Dave prefers the ladies’ to the men’s room, Because you can be locked inside, although The full-bladdered matrons are none-too-happy Queuing outside waiting for Skinny Dave To finish powdering his fuckin nose.

“Full pelvic undulation will help to dissolve All neurotic personal armor,” someone has written With a Magic Marker over the broken sink.

Which Not The man on my left stank so much, I had to Chain-smoke Lucky Strikes to cancel his funk. “We’re all the same,” he’d been muttering, In a castrato voice, odd for a nose tackle, “You’ve got to thank God for everything.” The grimacing woman across the bar Suddenly waved in my direction, grinned, Became a little less shopworn. I wobbled Before waving back, smiled, Before I heard a baritone bellowing Behind my back, “Sorry I’m late.” The guy on my right cleared his throat: “I’ve just moved to Center City A month ago. I’m still trying To figure out which bars are cheap. Which not. Which bars are queer. Which not. When I came in here and saw no women, I thought maybe Frank’s a queer bar, But all youse guys are just too pitiful-looking. Queers like to dress up, from my experience. Not you, pal.”

Line Breaks A bombshell struts into a doctor’s office With a carrot up her nose, A cucumber in her left ear And a banana in her right. Riding in a limousine, a pensive bloke Saw his double chomping on grass By the side of the road. The day before her abortion, The one-eyed lady accidentally Swallowed her glass eye.

M/F I spot her at a nightclub. I have muscles. We will be alone. Perhaps I will offer her a ride home or an invitation to my place. Or I may walk into her apartment as a plumber or a policeman. I feel shortchanged. As a drinker, I am passionate and artistic. I always look for the right opportunities. I am spontaneous and passionate. I have no muscles. She lives near me. I look. In the wee hours, there will be an open window. Because I am her lover, I will ask her to put on something sweet. I can be charming and intelligent. We will be together for several days. It’s a step-by-step procedure I’ve rehearsed. I’ve only done this a few times. Check out these photographs.

Suggestions Your nude models are gorgeous And outstanding. Somehow We all want to see these pretty angels Put into embarrassing situations. Being absolutely nude (no clothes & shoes) In public while everybody else has clothes and shoes Is truly embarrassing. We would like to see them in tough situations too, Like walking barefoot on snow, dirty alleys or rocky terrain. Please Show some pictures of their soles afterwards. Showing soiled soles in public is embarrassing And interesting. My suggestion would be a naked girl Or even two naked girls wandering Around naked in a zoo.

The climax would come when the girls Enter the animal-petting section, where visitors Can feed and play with animals like goats, etc. I think the only thing more beautiful than a nude woman Is a pregnant nude woman. Can you do a photoshoot Of a nude pregnant woman in public? There have been a few suggestions About having the girls nude near children, As children would have a more obvious response To a nude girl, how about it? A girl working with a spade in muddy earth. A day on the farm, working with the animals, Tractor-driving and riding a quad bike Would make an interesting nude day For a girl. Nice as it is to see nude girls in public, There’s a lot more fun to be had in watching girls Lose their clothes either by being forced

To take them off or by losing them somehow. It’d be nice to get a shot of their embarrassed looks As they realize they are showing everything they have. I would like to see that.

Why You Should Get to Know Me I could easily spend the rest of my life In Disneyland, given the chance. I also crave Roller coasters—the wilder the better, And I can’t seem to get enough of Six Flags Magic Mountain. As a hobby, I write and perform New Age type music (on the computer), And I also enjoy writing comedic screenplays. I’m also HIV/STD.

Surprise! Fickle, unsettled, capricious, Inconstant as well as vigilant, Pregnant, eager and watchful, She picked up the phone and dialed his number. Unfortunate, threatening, sinister, Unyielding, hardened, incurable, Beyond recall, past hope, Balding, vain and embroiled, He was also disarrayed and disoriented. In short, he was irreversible.

Vincent Van Gogh Impaled with a pitchfork Vincent Van Gogh. Handcuffed, trussed, and stuffed Vincent Van Gogh. Decorated with an oversized medal Vincent Van Gogh. Within the coffin a chintzy suit Vincent Van Gogh. Domesticated like a rabid hamster Vincent Van Gogh. Touched up with expensive cosmetics Vincent Van Gogh. A less-than-life-size statue walks off its base every night in the Jardin D’Arles.

Lapsarian Rag We all know that sculptors Enrich and litter this universe With their masterpieces. But what about writers? The filthy condos they build in our minds Are also picturesque. And yet Some of us would rather be an animal. In nature films, the natives Are always shunted From the viewfinder.

The Interstate Generous, monotonous, the Interstate Can’t be challenged or even modulated. Hurling through your seemingly long life, You need not pause, as long as you’re Confined to this asphalt eternity.

Exits These roads were only built To prevent neighbors from visiting neighbors. In a vast, empty parking lot, Orange lights shine on purple asphalt. The intimacy of my car’s interior Has kept me hopeful for decades now. We’ve entered a new level of parking consciousness, A multitude of multi-level options designed For the ease of those eager to feast On noise, monotony and sports. Idiots are naturally the best drivers— No inner life, you see, To distract them from the rules of the road. (Only geniuses die in car crashes.) All night long silent trucks deliver goods From one blank city to another.

Bearings To sit on one’s heels, With the knees bent And the weight resting On the balls of the feet. To crouch or cower Close to the ground, As an animal. To occupy illegally An empty, abandoned, Or condemned building. Orientals do it. Occidentals don’t. Baseball catchers and sumo wrestlers also do it. And a young blonde hiding between two cars After too many brews on tap, Her white orbs like twin moons Inches from the steaming asphalt, Piddling.

After death I will finally be able to squat Over my own brown face.

Vertigo Vertigo He has a muscular torso With a thousand erections Lighting up the night sky But none sticks up more Than the twin cocks. (And yet) Who would think of going all the way Downtown to castrate With two knives ablaze? A muscular story ends. He now speaks differently And cannot look into the void Without flailing.

Another Country Trying to destroy that mural, The wall collapsed on me, Crushed my head, broke my neck. Now I can’t even feel myself swallowing. I’ve lost my eyesight and my right leg, Had a hole blown through my left leg, But I’m glad I tore that wall down. It was the best experience of my life: Twenty-one-years old, I’ve seen two countries. I was insipid, aimless and poor in bed, And looking for reasons to take life seriously, Then I got to play with mines, jump out of airplanes. I got to interact with another country.

Continuous Bullets Over Flattened Earth Like horizontal couriers of a vertical fate, Like troop rotations at a service station, Like English lessons in Guantánamo, Like draping towels onto a bronze head, Like spraying love onto the sand. I went as one and came back as two. I went as one and came back as zero.

Etc.? The revolution revolves, Is always revolving, Is hardly a revolution, Where lumpen are happy To drape ribbons of flesh On pyramids of skulls. Are you low or contemptible? Unproductive or shiftless? Alienated or degenerate? Open your mouth, let me count your teeth, love. Mouth empty, you long to say yes. Selling yourself to the lowest bidders, You ingest, sniff or shoot up daily. Does your boss rub against you? Must you steal daily from work?

Schema Apes are encouraged To wear blue jeans, Learn English grammar. Enraged, they blow up The Capitol Building. Street to street combat, Countless civilian corpses, Civilization burns. Ape fighters trapped inside The Jefferson Memorial Are blown to smithereens By our own ape soldiers. I’ve seen these apes so many times Wearing T-shirts that don’t make sense Crowding the checkout counter at the Wal-Mart. The President finally appears on TV To announce that freedom and democracy Have scorched the forces of evil.

Crime Correctives Will I be struck by a neon light? A dictionary? A bible? The intangibles of crime, Like a bright feather dangling over a small head, Cast a lurid pall over each citizen’s life. To help the police identify the assailant’s voice During a rape or a homicide, recording devices Will now be implanted inside the inner ears Of each citizen. A camera rigged up behind the citizen’s left eyeball (To photograph the assailant’s face) has been rejected As too expensive and impractical, As it can easily be dislodged (by said assailant) With a spoon or a finger.

Night Escape Inside a locked john in the sky, Folded into a fugitive fetus, Among eleven pairs of legs, Under twelve blankets, The so-called peace of the grave, In this pink, perfumed air, Yearning to shoehorn thirteen inches Into a bloody, shrunken mitten Left on a darkened lawn, Fearful of being dragged Into the legal light of daybreak. Can the night itself protect us?

Why Must I Wash My Hands Every Day? There is a man, unmarried, bald, with a decent job, Who must wash his hands each time he touches someone. In fact, he must wash his hands Each time he touches a houseplant or a flower, Or the underside of a dining room table, Or the top of his own unmade bed. He cannot touch any part of his own body Without washing his hands immediately, With the most abrasive soap, with a vengeance. His right hand can never touch his left hand. At night, this man sleeps with his hands suspended in the air, Humming a solitary song of ecstasy.

A Super Clean Country You (almost) never see it in public so You have to conjure it up all day long, Drag it into every conversation, To flesh out the corporate picture. It’s an inevitable verbal tic—wouldn’t you say?— For a super-clean country. Holy shit, that shit’s whack. She thinks she’s hot shit but she ain’t dogshit. There’s nothing but shit on the internet. Why are you so hung up on shit like that? I got some good shit at home, some far-out shit. You’re so full of shit, you dumbshit motherfucker.

The Moving Stink Spot of Tyson Corner With their deep social histories, Old houses, hospitals, and hotels Are very often haunted, but can a Shopping center also be haunted? At Tyson Corner, a vast shopping emporium Near Washington, there is a phenomenon Known as a moving stink spot. A browser at Foot Locker, for example, Would suddenly be overwhelmed by a stench Of open sewage or rotting flesh, Causing him to retch or even vomit. This torment would only last for a few seconds, however, Because the stink spot had already shifted to its next victim. The shopper can save himself By simply stepping aside.

The Air in Florida It's often remarked that people in Florida Are unusually generous. I can explain. First of, the air there is always misty with salt, So any metal object, knives, bikes, toaster ovens Are rusted into oblivion within weeks, if not days. That’s why they can afford to give everything away. When a Floridian hands you the keys to his new car, It’s more of a practical joke than an act of generosity. Secondly, the soil there is piss poor. Nothing grows. Floridians subsist mostly on scrapple and biscuits. In huts, huge families sleep on plywood platforms, Without electric fans or even mosquito nettings. Each night is bug-infested and hell-hot. Owning Next to nothing, they crave all, all the time, and Their elaborate gift-giving is merely folk theater. Handing you a dish towel, a Floridian would intone, "This is the wedding dress of the Empress of China."

Baseball Epiphanies Caught up in the endless screaming, I didn’t even see all those Transcendental home runs. That dumbshit third base coach With a fuckin windmill for a left arm Has just cost us another fuckin ballgame. A slap hitting wuss with a yen for sliding headfirst into oblivion. A life-long slump On the mound and at the plate Without, strangely enough, Being demoted even once To the minors. That dude could not bunt, bat, run, field or throw But he had all the intangibles down.

Going to work, this persevering man Kissed his sweet, patient wife goodbye, And from what I heard, he was run down In a horrible suicide squeeze. I’m just devastated. I know everyone’s (updated) batting average, The stockbroker’s, butcher’s, mailman’s, But not my own. Standing on the on-deck circle, getting ready To avenge and vindicate myself, I suddenly realized the lights Had long been turned off And the stadium was empty.

Sudden Death Overtime I stiff-armed my way through An army of lunging assholes, Sidestepping bouncing betties, Just so I could kiss once more That line of scrimmage. Badly booted, The wobbly pigskin, skimming The frozen ground, barely Cleared the tilting uprights Of my father’s grave.

Immersions I will dip (bread, cake, etc.) Into coffee or other liquid. Or rather, I will score an accented field goal By leaping and thrusting a big brown ball Down the throat of a well-hung, braided basket. Nothing’s more beautiful in this blighted world Than a well-hung, braided basket— A polyester chute. With your hands in my face, I will gently leap.

Stats We do points per game, shooting percentage, Steals, assists, yards per carry, fumbles, sacks And penalty minutes, etc. We count each punch Because it’s crucial that we quantify entirely Our messy, murderous lives. A man must be Accountable for all of his thrills and fuckups. We also count coituses and countries but not Collateral damages.

Fifteen Rounds with A Nobody I can only show my happy self To A, and my angry self to B; Thus, when I’m with both A and B, I do not know how to behave. Jolted by an unpleasant memory, I punch myself—hard!—in the face. In my defense I can only say: “The point is universality and solidarity. Unity, transparency, efficiency, Collectivity and objectivity. These are the key words.”

Devastation Yes, I have moments. Sometimes I’d think it’s only a vehicle, A means to an end, but then I’d realize How much I love it, in spite of the atrocities. As soon as I’m walking down the street, And I see, for example, whatever, Everything just burns me up. I’ve paid my dues all these years but no one Pays attention. No one knows the fuck who I am. It’s a weird life, man, it’s very lonely. But everyone needs his privacy, you know. When people look at me, all they see is A gatecrasher and a fuckin weirdo. A person may not have the money Or the power or the love Or the peace of mind, but that doesn’t mean He’s a victim. No one’s a victim. After an unfortunate coincidence, You’ve just got to say, Fuck it! And move on.

You know how it is: everybody’s below average, But everybody wants to be a star. Who said you’re entitled to an income? There’s no guarantee, you know, there’s no God. Living in a big house and eating all the time is way overrated. I remember when they arrested me and gave me a cavity check And took everything I had away, I felt relieved. There was nothing for me to do but to gain weight. It’s so ironic but when I grew up We didn’t have shit for dinner. I’ve slept in holes you wouldn’t throw up in. Since then I’ve never had less than a million in the bank. When I first got here, I wanted to eat everything up: I wanted to drink all the wine and chase all the women. I guess it’s halfway an insecurity thing. I guess at a certain age you start to feel like You’re ready to hang out with your offspring, And when your offspring start saying things like, “I love you, Daddy,” you can’t help but think, “Fuck! Does that mean I’m an old man?”

It took me forever to figure it out, You know, like, Shit! If you gonna have kids, Then you’re going to die, But you must also believe in the future. Talking about the future, you see that snowman standing outside? I built it with my offspring just yesterday morning, But it’s practically gone already. You see that carrot lying there on the grass?

APIC If Basie and Ellington could call themselves Count and Duke, Then Lee Goldston had every right to declare himself President Of the Associated Philadelphia International Company. He even had cards embossed to impress his clients. But all APIC was was Lee with a squeegee and a bucket, Making the rounds of Center City stores to do their windows. Whenever I was seriously hurting, I’d join Lee’s firm. Though he had lined up all the gigs, Lee never hesitated To give me half of the day’s take—usually around 40 bucks. It wasn’t too bad a job in warm weather but in midwinter, Water sometimes froze on glass before you could even scrape it. A stooping black man in plastic shades and mangy beret, Lee thrived on liquid yeast—like all of us—and when he died, No one found out about it until a week later, not until The landlord came to his apartment to collect the late rent.

Lucre Of all the grunts and beer bellies I knew in Philly, I have always wanted to describe Joe LeBlanc. (But I don’t want to distort or slander him in any way.) As my house painting boss, he kept me alive During my most desperate years. When there was no work, He would lend me money or give me cash outright. Born in Quebec, Joe had gone South to join the US Army. During the Vietnam War, he was a gunner on a chopper, spraying Generous lead over coned heads and pock-marked jungles, Before he became disgruntled and was dishonorably discharged. In Saigon, Joe had a girlfriend who was half-French. “Half yellow and half white is the best combo,” Joe said. “Half yellow and half black is no doubt the worst.” Joe would hire anyone: an old man, a fat woman, Even a punk or a drug addict, but never a black person. Joe often slurred black children but he also gave New bikes and eyeglasses to black kids living on his street. Joe bought novels at K-Mart and Seven Eleven. Occasionally he’d toss baseball cards behind dry walls As gifts for future boys and dry-wallers… Married once, Joe was living with a brown mutt by then. In the evening you’d find him alone at his kitchen table, Drunk on whiskey and crossing out with a Magic Marker

The “in God we trust” from all the bills in his possession. Joe’s dream was to retire to a dome home in Kentucky, Where he could drink and fire his weapon repeatedly Into infinity.

Eating Fried Chicken I hate to admit this, brother, but there are times When I’m eating fried chicken When I think about nothing else but eating fried chicken, When I utterly forget about my family, honor and country, The various blood debts you owe me, My past humiliations and my future crimes— Everything, in short, but the crispy skin on my fried chicken. But I’m not altogether evil, there are also times When I will refuse to lick or swallow anything That’s not generally available to mankind. (Which is, when you think about it, absolutely nothing at all.) And no doubt that’s why apples can cause riots, And meat brings humiliation, And each gasp of air Will fill one’s lungs with gun powder and smoke.

Going to Goa Living in such an impoverished, degraded world, He rationalized his riches by becoming an artist. Buying into this, he never apologized. The idea was to spend whatever that was necessary. Going to Goa was warranted because it was stimulating And because it fleshed out his knowledge about Goa. Eating a souffle in front of a child beggar Was necessary for a future souffle painting. Sucking blood with a straw, the father’s corruption Was necessary to elevate the artist son. An artist cannot waste money Because money cannot be wasted on an artist. He should be showered with money, As much money as possible, Even blood money.

Glockenspiel Sorry, bath water! Sorry, sofa! Sorry, dark woman wearing a hat! Sorry, chipped monument to the year 2,000! Sorry, stiff salute! And, again, so sorry! Words misheard, then misforgotten, then misremembered! Mattress without appendix! Unnamed flowers! Classified insects, my sincerest apologies. (Brightest things, why are we so beautiful?) All is possible, dear, but later, After the fact, and for that, My sincerest apologies.

Yes You Heard Me A heart lying on its side, Under a spent strobe light, Dreaming of a locked zoo, Dreaming of a blocked bladder, Dreaming of a vast nocturama Where one can meander naked For the rest of one’s span Without bumping into one’s shadows, Dreaming of scoring a ticket To the top of the skull tower From a scalper skull.

What’s Wrong with American Literature? Drunk #1: Readers are no longer interested In experimental hogwash. They want real stories About real people, concerning real things That really matter. Drunk #2: Writers should learn how to dish up Small tales about myopic people With a dim view of happiness (And how come none of us has it). Drunk #3: A writer must be well-versed In making us forget where and who we are, At least for the duration of the book. Drunk #4: No philosophy or politics, No ideas whatsoever, only moods. Drunk #5: A reader from Mackville, Vermont Reading a novel about Mackville, Vermont, By a novelist from Mackville, Vermont. Drunk #6: Inspirational tales delivered with a chuckle!

Drunk #7: I, on the other hand, write poems About my father’s hands, my mother’s breasts. Drunk #8: What will it matter in the end— So many words on a flickering screen, In front of a flickering mind?

The Death of English It stang me to sang of such thang: This language, like all others, will be deep fried, Will die, then be reborn as another tongue Sloshed in too many mouths. What of “That kiff joint has conked me on a dime”? “Them cedars, like quills, writing the ground”? It’s all japlish or ebonics, or perhaps Harold Bloom’s Boneless hand fondling a feminist’s thigh.

After John Skelton JUST JUNK IT! JUNK IT! JUNK IT NOW! You are a dumb piece of ass. You teased me with your tailfeather. You have VERY nice buns. I hate your combustion, you dumb fuck! You’re the last surviving member of the breed. You amazed and dazzled me. Kudos and butterfly kisses. Unworthy. I hate that you love Diaperman more than me. I realize he’s the captain of your shrimp boat and I’m a mere Greek bottler, but please, I want to do the elephant walk with you again. Ta Ta. Wow! You sucked me into your world. You teased me with your tailfeather. I kissed your toes. You ain’t never gonna get a man. You.

Vocab Lab This word means yes, however, maybe, or no, depending on the situation. This word means desire, love, friendship, rape, or a sudden urge to engage someone in a philosophical conversation. This word is unlearnable, its meaning hermetic to all outsiders. It can neither be pronounced nor memorized. This word is protean and can be spelled an infinite number of ways. Its meaning, however, is exact. This word is also protean, and may be used in place of any other word, without loss of meaning.

This word can only be hinted at, implied, and thus appears in no books, not even in a dictionary. This word can neither be spoken nor seen. It can be freely written, however, but only in complete darkness. This word means one thing when spoken by a man, and another thing, altogether different, when said by a woman. This word means now, soon, or never, depending on the age of the speaker. This word means here, there, or nowhere, depending on the speaker’s nationality. It has often been said that the natives will only teach foreigners a fake, degraded language, a mock system of signs

parodying the real language. It has also been said that the natives don’t know their own language, and must mimic the phony languages of foreigners, to make sense out of their lives.

From Blood and Soap

13 You are often hunched over in an armchair to confide sweet nothings to the side of a face. In this sense, you resemble a bassoon. Though you expect the most extravagant praises for the most trivial accomplishments, you shun and despise those who view you favorably. As sunlight slants down on another late afternoon, you are strumming on a guitar, eating shepherd’s pie, and sipping rumlaced coffee. Always bitterly exuberant, you see life as a pink spathe swathing a yellow spadix. Tonight, standing in a musty hallway, you will speak your penultimate line with some dignity. You are often seen in profile at the top of a stairs, listening to a distant music. Your hair is bouffant in the front, flat in the back. Your best view is three-quarter. A minute or two after midnight, champagne will spill from your fragrant mouth.

As you bend down to retrieve a long lost favor, someone seizes you by the shoulder. You are such a master at aestheticizing your crimes that even your victims are grateful to be included in the horrible photographs. Inducing doubt and self-hatred in all those you come into contact with, you are a cancer and a pig. When a stream of your indulgent reveries is nixed by an unpleasant, ghastly image, you let out a high C and touch yourself immodestly. “A straight line is easy enough,” you hear in a dream, “but it is not possible to draw a perfect circle.” You smirk at this provocation. Waking up, you work all night on an endless piece of paper, drawing circle after circle, each one wobbly, oblong, squarish, rectangular, some are outright triangles. Trying to peel away your fingers, someone pleads, “Let go of me!” but you are already beyond discretion. Like every other human being, you crave a single moment of absolute exposure. Today will be your day. Your veins will pop out.

Overhearing “Where I come from, people don’t . . .” you punch the speaker, a blind, elderly immigrant, in the face, knocking two teeth out, before you yourself are knocked unconscious by a blunt instrument from behind. Waking up days later, you are told by a lugubrious dog that he, too, has often slept through the best parts. In the men’s room of a small town bus terminal, you discover your oil portrait in a trash can. You cut the canvas out, then stuff your folded face into your back pocket. Later, you notice with irritation that where your nose should be is a clay pipe, and your mouth is just a hole. You cannot understand the story of a youth who falls in love with his own reflection in a spring. Where you are, water does not reflect. Nothing reflects. One’s view of oneself is made up entirely of other people’s verbal slanders. Told by your employer to buy a new shirt, you respond, “To buy a new shirt is to assume that I have at least two more years to live. Such presumptuousness cannot go unpunished.

What's more, there would be this outlandish incongruity between a brand new shirt and my already worn-out body. Such an incongruity would cause my entire being, every single cell, to feel an unspeakable shame, a shame not on the skin, but in the skin, a shame to bring on my early death.” You wake up to a jungly tune. On the ceiling is a water stain showing your mother’s face in three-quarter view. A suspicious fluid drips on your forehead. You wish there were a hand the size of an umbrella to protect you from all this fresh degradation.

From Jam Alerts

Getting Up Conditional Munching something fingers, we fled From one barf fest to the next. After Much yawping, we finally arrived Inside the chunnel for the money shot. It’s not a misfortune, really, to be born Ass backward in a cul-de-sac. Once I turned down a predatory gift from one Who could least afford it. Straddling A squishy balloon, erect, she peeled Old calk from an ancient calk gun. No more mirth until tomorrow, at least.

Bio Notes Short of all vitamins and calcium, malformed, My mom a yawning question mark, I wasn’t born From a warmed egg, but sculpted from the surfeit Of a bombastic masturbator, clouding a bathtub. Raised on no milk, I sucked and suckled myself Into this laughing pretension. * The least and last of 99 roll-outs, 98 of them Troglodytes or shuffling sideways, I was bred With a colorful xerox of my mama’s mammae, Muzak and a printout of my pop’s corny digits. Now I huff after ingots and a synapse-born shine That doesn’t even translate into adjacent dialects, To be erased, in any case, with the next martini Or rickshaw mishap. *

You’ve heard this one: a predictable punch line To all jokes, I’m the bug in that cheesy proverb. On the other hand, it’s also nice to have sinews, I’m testing my equipment.

Who braised you? So anyway, the hogs were out bawling, The limp tongue chided the snide tooth, And all were sweating to be naked Once more, before being upgraded for The years-end liquidation, the rapture, Or something like that.

The Persistence of Animism Born-again death row inmate confides to his rectangle Of cracked concrete. A groom chit chats with his mare, Daring it to lick his soiled face. Cruising to rock towards Another crunchy pileup, modern man has prolonged sex With his cozy, steely host, baptizes it with a wet phrase.

Tagging He’d refer to the same structure as a hut One day, a gazebo the next, sometimes As an estate, a villa or a dacha. His voice Lowered, he’d mention it as a compound. Although we’ve known each other for decades, He calls me by a different name each time. I would Suddenly become a Theo, Frank or Mohammad. You look like a Mohammad today, he’d explain. He even tags his wife diversely. I suspect he genuinely Believes she’s a different person each time he glances At her across the dinner table, or in the semi darkness After their rote, shabby and indeterminate lovemaking.

How to Walk Most are convinced that to walk properly, one must Square shoulders, straighten spine and steer all Of one’s toes resolutely forward. It’s ill-advised To keep hands in pockets. They’re contemptuous Of all those who sidle, waddle, glide, sashay, Cake walk or, God forbid, walk backward. Call me disturbed, if you will, but I’ve been haunted, For decades, by how folks propel themselves forward In Malevich’s paintings. Most trudge, stiff legged, Their bodies impossible. Some parade, But singly, their hands swimming, Their boneless arms flapping. Nowhere to go, they still walk. Walk with me, then, to this wrong door, even, For to have feet or just stumps is more gravy And sex than torture. Ask the green man.

I Paid for Sex! Well, who doesn’t? Let’s examine this naked man, Who was killed around 4AM, west of Snoqualmie Pass. Driving a red pickup on I-90, the owner of three McDonald’s Crossed the median, then slammed against a guardrail. Exiting his truck, he took off his clothes and even shoes, Then stood facing traffic in the freezing cold and dark. Investigators have no idea why he became sexual. Adding to the mystery, a dead dog was found nearby. Its carcass straddled two lanes, nearest the shoulder. Meanwhile, in Detroit, a 58-year-old lost control Of his car around 3:30AM, for he was jerking off To pornography on his smart phone. Ejected From his sunroof, he too died without his pants.

Celebration When this bullshit Word edifice burns, It means your mouth’s Decomposing. Not enough—seven times In Disneyland, and that’s Just this week, alone. Always piss outside, save water. Step off the pavement and drizzle On the first patch of grass you see. Abort yourself For the planet.

Too Late Late Capitalism A plate of free-ranging eggs, fried with palm oil, On a plastic chaise lounge—how poetic is that? I’d never settle for polyester, spandex or rayon For my goddess, free-ranging daughters. Where Did all that money and sex go? (They drained Down your bottomless bell bottoms, of course.) I don’t get why folks bother with chicken wings? There’s no meat on them. Totally tuckered from Working out on a Solid Pecs Flab Burning Rack, I chill with Whitman on my billion blades of grass.

No Clues but in Things A well-rounded man with a tank belly and a basin mouth said, “Cast into this mirage, it behooves us to have swimming pools. Each time I rinse my well-tucked assets, I need several lochs.” Exporting peanuts, the average Gambian uses 4.5 liters per day, Less than 1/3 of what you and I flush down the toilet each time. (Shoot, that’s not even adequate to dab the corns on my nuts.) Can I have my action man cool dude celebration twinkie now? Can I have my all-stars victory flavored champion cake now? Though more expensive, a dug-in pool is the perfect medium For you to space out in the privacy of your own lot—after all, You’re not just seizing comfort, you’re charging your karma.

Behavin’ Living a full life without a square meal, crouching Inside an oil drum teetering on a plastic niagara, I dream of stitching winged goddesses of victory For a cheekful of millet and a boot in the ass. Raising lobsters for the man, I go nether on hogs.

$ On a day, in a world, In which many people were stripped Of their houses, spouses, children, Countries, limbs, life and honor, He was devastated after looking for hours Without finding a dollar he had misplaced. It’s not the amount, it’s the principle. * Money protects you against assholes, A deep voice, redolent of roast beef, said, While greasing you to become an asshole. * Money in the brain? Yes. Money in the heart? Yes. Money in the eyes? Yes. Money in the mouth? Yes. Money in the hands? Not sure. Money in the belly? Sometimes. Money in the dick? Difficult.

Money in the pussy? Sure thing. Money in the asshole? Yes. * Money chops up all the tangible And intangible things of this universe Into equal, instantly understood units. 8 units of pasta equal one unit of roast beef. 10 units of roast beef equal one unit of pop music. 23 units of pop music equal one unit of laughable sex. 5 units of laughable sex equal one unit of good poetry. * He doesn’t ask, Is this book any good? But, Is this author any rich?

Some Moves If you have never bought it here, you have probably Always paid too much for it. It is always satisfactory— Continuous effort on our part keeps it so. It’s absolutely An everyday-of-the-year product. We doubt if you can Find such a product at this price anywhere but here. Truly a price that defies competition and belief. Try it and see! We speculate we may then count you Among our most loyal & rabid customers. In short, My eyes desire you above all things.

In Praise of Pimples Ca-chink mirages, besieged and festooned by an ocean Of parking, shopping malls are totalitarian. You are told To do one thing and one thing only. There’s no mishmash Of architecture to betray history and place, no upper floors, Balustrades, cornices, pediments, chimneys, birds and sky For the eyes to soar and rest. At best, nature is canned there. Packed into corporate boxes, these shops can show no pimples.

Box Shopping Going Home, Horizon, Cruise, Wayfarer, Ambassador, Sleep. Material: 18-gauge steel. Finish: Brushed copper with Roman bronze shading Or Neapolitan blue with slightly tacky wavy patterns. Design: Square, diagonal or round corners, gasketed. THERE’S NO SCIENTIFIC OR OTHER EVIDENCE THAT A MODEL WITH A SEALING DEVICE WILL IMMORTALIZE YOUR MORTAL AGGREGATE. Interior: Nude Crepe or Champagne Velvet. Embroidered Mama theme head panel, Stars and Stripes or Lady of Guadalupe. Silver or gold-colored fixed handles With bright yet tasteful floral decals. Adjustable mattress, of course, With a vast selection of pillows To choose from. Vanity models, Lined with mirrors, also available.

Interior width at body sides: you. Interior length at body sides: you. Maximum weight: 240 lbs. ($14.99 each additional lb.) Monterey, Carmel, Monte Carlo, Capri, Cote d’Azur, Lethe, Plymouth Rock. Deep discounts on showroom samples. Overnight Delivery—Flexible Financing.

Live to Count The Piraha people of Brazil can count only to 2. Any number greater than 2—3 or a billion— They only indicate as many. Americans, on the other hand, love to count, And can do it very accurately. Perhaps that’s why They have so many things and can ingest so many Sedatives. I, on the other hand, like to count corpses. Whenever I see corpses, I always mumble 1, 2, 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. When I don’t see Corpses, I count living people as corpses. I’m always waiting for an opportunity to count corpses. Perhaps I’m only here on this earth to count corpses. When I meet someone, I’d ask, Are you dead yet? Meeting an 89-year-old man, I’d say, Are you dead yet? Seeing a relative, father, mother, aunt, uncle, cousin, Child or grandchild, I’d interrogate, Are you dead yet?

Seeing an infant just born 2 or 3 minutes ago, I’d stare Straight into its mother’s eyes, Is your child dead yet? Whenever I hear, Not yet, I’m always devastated, Even bewildered. Are you sure? Why aren’t you Dead yet? Why won’t you die already?

The Travel Stall Moving through space to vent the psyche, Traveling is most instructive alone, of course, And never en masse, even for a second. You shouldn’t aim to rush through a city, A continent or the entire world, but to see, As clearly as possible, a single spot, even if It’s that street corner in front of your house. With this in mind, we’ve developed the Travel Stall. The size of a phone booth and completely lined With one-way mirrors, each stall can be rented By the hour, day or even week. Each is equipped With just a chair and lidded bucket. Once entered, You can’t leave before the agreed-upon duration. With nothing to do, say, for 12 hours, you’re forced To examine a virgin reality, tedious and profound. Two or more Travel Stalls can be set up side by side, Though no communication between them is allowed, Not even among honeymooning couples. Call now.

By the Navidad in 1830 A wild, two-legged thing, No naked white woman running, An “it” that comes after midnight, Right pass the sleeping hounds, Into the kitchen to filch an apple, Which you’ll return later, the core. Once you stole a novel and a bible, Scrunched up their pages for wiping. Lost child, hiding behind the yucca, Or dozing on the flat fork of an oak, Chewing arrowheads and cattails When nothing else is reachable, You crossed the ocean in chains To this land of the free and home Of the something or other, etc.

Demarcations Frontière, frontiera, frontera, Grenze, border, what separates Also connects, crossing it always Triggers an instant high, although The geografia is exactly igual, And la gente and arquitectura Haven’t changed all that much. What do you have in that trunk, Sir? A relative? Your girlfriend? Something White? Two tons of it? Something green, Like horseshit, after you’ve stepped on it? Negotiated with blood, a boundary Is nevertheless an illogical entity. Standing on one side, staring across, One can’t comprehend why one isn’t Allowed to just pop over. If someone Draws a line on the ground, and declares, This is something you mustn’t transgress, The first impulse is to kick sand, naturally.

Yesterday, a naked man was spotted walking Across the border, at its most exposed link. Which way was he going? Does it matter? Meanwhile, on the radio: muchacha, Give me your cha cha!

Correspondence Thorny and tumbling, The opportunistic stud Scatters its offspring Across this raped land. Though mostly dead, It maintains its edge Over wussified rivals. Imitating the weed, I cohabit with snakes, Scorpions and humans. Wandering this waste, I seed my sad spores Across this sick hostess.

Why Pay Taxes? You call it maize, Hang it by Jesus. I call it corn syrup. Don’t want no Blue Ox or Red Bull, Just give me a tall bottle of fizzin’, Old fashioned, syrupy corn syrup. Shurfine supposedly pork sausage, Less than 99% corn syrup, exactly The way I like it. Shurfine ketchup, Approaching 200% corn syrup. Subsidized by my 24/7 huffing and sweating, Corn syrup oozes through my jiggling mass. Sugar, let me rub some corn syrup on ya.

Canto LXI ½ China your good friend, her friendship spreads! (Since reforms and door opens, China spreads.) Where is the best source of protein? Adopting Advanced equipment and manufactured finely, The noodle is still flipping after being cooked. With the natural seasoning, dried something, Green vegetables and bone juice, the juice Is pungent aftertaste, buzzing years hence. Wide, smooth roads, acacia fraught ramps, Orderly street lamps, quite lots of factories. What is more, there are opera schools, art And thespian working cells, brass sections, Drum sets, croquet teams, culture gardens, Medical shacks, libraries, healthful gardens, Computer & math halls, millennium gardens, Cracking kindergartens, schools, telecast And newspaper hacks run by our Party. All sworn members, cadres and villagers Are urged to achieve diligent chumphood, Sincere and helpful, each folds and tucks Himself into a dank niche, gives and grins.

The superior cadres sing highly laudatives. All subjects of this paradisal lot, the toddlers Are carefully watched after, the kids are OK, The slim, tackily-dressed young drip breezily And the nearly dust are cheerfully disposed.

Wrong Countries What constitute a wrong country? One That’s always lectured and bombed, or one That cannot stop bombing? A wrong country Cannot compete? In what? Founded on A miscalculated philosophy, it is farcically Hypocritical and hosannas, by examples, All the sickest values. A wrong country has Taken a wrong turn? Right from the start? A wrong country maintains all of its subjects In solitary confinement, all the time. You know You’re living in a wrong one when all you want Is to decamp soon, or to burrow inside yourself Until Armageddon, which will debut, you hope, Before the next nightmare farce of an election.

Blue Passport Blues Accident of geography and time, you’ve done nothing To earn your fossil drain, your burning of huts, your 24-hour contact sports from sea to shining sea, your Jazzy exhaust, marvelous freeway exchanges, sex Vacations, roadside bombs and hacked elections.

Foddering Dollops Unlike other corpses, these corpses Can speak for themselves, perhaps. Terrorized into heroism, they were blasted Into the annals of the anal who had chosen Not to participate. Dead for a pipeline dream.

Rueful Outlays for a Conscript Minus the moneyed, defective and ministers of religion, What is left is sucked into the intake, paid some fraction Of what they deserve, trained for a period of months, Then spat out, in one piece or several, adding no value, Really, no advantage to this high-tech peace machinery. This churning that takes place requires An enormous amount of effort in training, And then they were gone… No two-bit fruit-peeling racket, No cookie monster slicer and sorter, No depleted uranium sushi fridge, No wine chiller with blinking canopy, No spiral dough kneader and mixer, No candy-assed gelato churner, No, Sir, this is a real meat grinder.

Detonating Gamers A breathtakingly cool portrayal of soldiering, a virtual inside Perspective into today’s premier land force, an entertaining Ambush and wipe out for well-chosen, high-potential madcaps, Exploring its many gores and global opportunities, different From other action games in this bloody genre, we emphasize Verticality, teamwork, docility and muffled screams as means Of achieving full-spectrum abjection, aggression and oblivion To maximal pain, be it physical or mental, fugitive or eternal, In oneself or another, whether man, woman, child or beast, The torso zapped, snapped in half, hanging by a ligament, The right leg swaying, the left shin crushed, blinded for life, The clothing burnt off the front of a well-rendered anatomy.

Award-Winning Jejune Poetry, to be Encouraged Always prompt to blast doors away, pass out kandies and kill, The Asskickin’ Armor-Plated Hummin’ Boyz got da green light For their next ripe picking, a backlit oasis complete with palms, Scorpions, two-hump camels and derricks, but they ain’t there To chillax in no discounted Club Med, but to apply righteous, Fearsome tactics, though the sun’s nefarious glare, adrenalin And narcotics make it hard to identify turbaned friends or foes.

Symmetries Talking constant shoot, he forced the darn Nude bleep bleep to smear loads on himself. Later, when chased, he incontinently fled. Scoring often, he refined his bitchin’ techniques, Flew freakin’ home and stabbed her 76 times. No fireworks, please, or he’ll shoot in his dockers.

My Foreign Policy As soon as the shooting started, I splurged On a gorgeous, state of the art, plasma screen. Before this war came on, there was nothing good To watch on television, I couldn’t focus, evenings Were wasted on flops and penguins, but now, My death wish slaked and placated by a fiesta Of other people’s corpses, my life’s centered.

Dialectics Each birth a disaster. A baby is always cute Because of its huge, adult-sized eyes. Its mouth is free of rot and murder. Each death occasions relief. We’re disarmed by its edible, poodle mass, And its fumbling through the fun house maze Of our wiggly, injurious tongue. Unlike immigrants, It can't lash back with even a glare. It bawls. Its serial ineptness charms us lifelong failures. A child brings love, brightens the house. It’s how Life’s supposed to be. On this cozy earth, earthquakes, Tsunamis, droughts and plagues are always godsends. Once born, a rock wants to be a sated, successful rock.

Are You Refined? I used to paint with linseed, Now I paint with crude oil. Draped in cheap oil and sweating oil, Under an increasingly hot sun, I steer An oil car, on oil, towards my oil job. Look at that skyscraper made with oil! Billboard-size minimalist oils decorating Spanking lobbies of unctuous firms. Before meals, I pray and take an oil pill. To feel upper or downer, I chug a lug oil.

Investment Advice Shimmering on the horizon, the four horsemen Will arrive soon. Put all your liquid assets into Baked beans, canned tuna and bandages. After the almighty Dollar evaporates, the King’s English will shrivel. Therefore, toss your English Dictionaries away, burn all of your English books.

Diminishing Addenda Because of the chemical phthalate in plastic, dicks Are shrinking—tell me all about it—sperm counts Are way down, but not low enough, unfortunately, To slow down this full-throttle-ahead fuck boat, About to burn, capsize and sink. The seedy Demilitarized zone between anus and dick, Perinaion in Greek, is also contracting.

Free Jizz Ebullient, habitual jailbirds Can’t help but pump, even In icy solitary confinement. To counter, the longest mensch Must mesh as often as possible With the lankiest women—Plato. Thwarted by ribbed rubber, Unfortunately, some mourn, Masters of Arts and Science, While genius gargoyles spout. It’s thundered that men and women of full age, without Any hinderance due to passport, skin tone or religion, Whether a punk, a poet, a lunatic or a preacher, Have the right to marry and to found a family. At the Goa rave, ballhogs, lollipops and witches Circulating among doofs, tugboats and whales, Multiply with calculators between their thighs.

Melodrama This blade is sharp, thin, longest, This blade doesn’t stab but erases, Like a schoolboy’s eraser, it erases Your face with my blood, or your blood, All blood is the same, an amorous debt, Incurred incrementally by pigs. Pigs Know how to cry, who doesn’t? Even flies sob each night. All rivers fade into the ocean, a man blurs Into his wife’s shadow, if he’s lucky, before He rubs his eyes, then pulls out the knife.

Cruel and Singular Punishment I have not conned the mindless, Regurgitated nonsense nonstop, Befouled bedrooms, soiled kids, Stolen chowder from the destitute Nor have I drown out my betters, And yet [your name here] for the truth, Wrongfully, and without reason, am I Confined in this [your name here].

A Smooth Life I have a smooth life and a bright future but I don’t care If I die soon because I’m too lazy to go on and maintain All of my successes I’ve been in daycare since birth no one Ever talks to me or changes my diaper I catch every disease From everyone else but I also dish out my share I had sex For the first time in kindergarten instead of protesting the war Or whatever I watch porn all day what a douche bag I’m a lesbian But I’m trying to turn myself straight for good I don’t know why There’s nothing wrong with being gay I just hate women I like Sleeping with them enough but I can’t fathom spending the rest Of my span with one of them scags they think they’re so kawaii It makes me sick each one latching on to a jalapeno beef jerky In stone-washed jeans I hate straight porn but I’ve been inching Towards straight sex by watching gay male porn at first I thought It was disgusting but I’ve learnt to get off on it I obsess about So many things from my horrible past things that happened Before I was even born just kidding stupid errors I’ve made Like a dumb comment I’d obsess about for weeks on end I may

Have an as-yet-unidentified mental illness I can’t for the life of me Stop thinking of the word snatch attack whenever I see a knife Or anything sharp I just want to stab myself or any nearby flesh I dread the day I’ll have to do this because I’ll certainly do it soon Whenever I cross a bridge I just want to drive right off I’d ask myself So many weird questions such as why are women’s buttons on the left? Why doesn’t anyone help me? God damn it how come I never score With a good looking one?! I just love to look at breasts although I’m neither a man nor a lesbian I must own the world record For most masturbations in a day a week or a lifetime I masturbate First thing in the morning last thing at night of course I masturbate In my sleep I prefer masturbation to actual sex I’d rather masturbate Than fuck Reese Weatherspoon after all who could possibly know you And love you better than yourself? Soon I’ll have a heart attack and die While whacking off I guess I just don’t dig it when people bring me To a climax something about another person getting me to that point Makes me feel weak and exploited sex is not pointless it’s fun as hell And enjoyable it’s just the end that sucks I just can’t do intercourse

Right now I need a decade at least to work on myself physically Mentally and spiritually before I can have the confidence to let Someone fall in love with me again if you just keep yakking people Will ignore everything you say even the most horrible or vicious Or incriminating once I couldn’t help but yank it out and spray it At her left eye or maybe it was her right eye with a straight face I said to him it was an OK size but I was laughing deeply inside I felt so embarrassed for him sometimes I stretch my nutsack Over a flashlight I get so ridiculously horny I just want to shove The entire Milky Way up up inside of me last week I went down On my best friend it was pretty hilarious and enjoyable but l still love The cock sometimes I fantasize about screwing dead people young Pretty girls of course with all of their cutesy limbs and organs intact There’s nothing more beautiful than innocence especially expired Innocence once as I was making love to my lover I accidentally Blurted out I love you I feel so humiliated I think I’ll leave her soon During sex I always wear a headphone to groove to my favorite band

I’m addicted to go-go bars I prefer lap dances from total strangers To intercourse with my lovely wife I’d fantasize about giant breasts And penises hovering in the sky like Chinese kites when I’m with her It’s like the 4th grade all over again the name calling teasing playful Grabbing whispering secrets awkward silences long gazes shoving Kicking feeling warm heart beating faster I’m a method actor Who’s intrigued by suicide though I doubt I would ever make That final cut I can only make love to one song and one song only Is it wrong to obsess about doorknobs? Of course we know That all you want is to fuck us fine all we want is something good Looking to make our friends envious when we’re out a hard fuck And a fat wallet everyday I turn on the news hoping something bad Has happened in America instead of donating to the third world I buy shoes my husband reads all the time my complexity tells me I’m not an animal I’m not proud really of my contradictions should I Feel unattractive because my boyfriend’s prick is rather small And can’t stay up for very long at all?

Pixel Jerks You totally control the dancer, you decide How she dances, what she wears, even Her expressions, the music she moves to, Have her writhe or spin just when and how, Make her laugh, sneer, wink or slap herself. DYNAMIC HAIR COLORS DYNAMIC OIL HER UP DYNAMIC SPOTLIGHT COLORS DYNAMIC AMBIENT LIGHTS DYNAMIC LIPSTICK COLORS DYNAMIC TATTOOS Unbelievably realistic models Tight details where it counts Total Control Mode COOL COWGIRL OUTFIT CHEERLEADER OUTFIT WICKED DEVIL GIRL NUN OR G.I. JANE SWEATY HOYDEN SPANKING MAID

JUNGLE GIRL Shake those! Work that pole! Show us that! Blow us a kiss! All natural! Nice. You’re in control. Jiggle, tongue, rock out, kiss me. Ice Cream, Whip Cream, Banana. I love you. Hi! What’s your name? Bend over, sleep with me tonight. What’s your phone number? As she dances, watch her expressions fluctuate, Shift your mouse to catch her from all angles, Before you strip away her excess pixels.

Raw, Windswept Capital, Regulated To legally work nude, you must be employed By someone who possesses a nude permit. Nude means being devoid of an opaque covering Over the genitals, pubic hair, buttocks, perineum, Anus or anal region of a person, or any portion Of the female breast at or below the areola, or Male genitals in a clearly turgid state, even If completely and opaquely covered. Nude, You shall not be within six feet of a patron. You shall not intentionally touch him or her, Or allow a patron to intentionally touch you, Whether nude or not. Nude, you must not work Between 2 and 6 AM. You shall not encourage Or allow the fondling or even casual brushing Of your genitals, pubic region, buttocks, anus Or breasts, sex acts, normal or perverted, Actual or simulated, including intercourse, Oral copulation, or sodomy, masturbation, Actual or simulated, or excretory functions.

Concave Serial Loop Below the belt? Whose belt? I have a lot Of sick sex to sort out, yes, and no, this Is not a confessional gaud. The bat buffs The lathered beaver, the bored chicken screws The lewd duck, and I would certainly applaud A tactical nuke on my mother-in-law, so help me, God. Amen.

A Few Days, Paid by the Night Just got back from there. Only drunks Yoyoing up and down, yakking, giggling All night long. Couldn’t gain oblivion at all On a bobbing mattress. As misfortunes rushed to their eyeballs and foreheads, They vomited, cursed, but kept on singing. On the walls, A thousand spider husks wavered. I swear I saw something like a melancholic gecko, longing For an abstract illusion, an improbable color or a trite, Romantic smell. He writhed like half of my soul, at least. The damp spot on the ceiling kept on weeping, a pubescent girl With fresh lipstick, having just chucked her egg for the first time, Her hair not yet dyed a breezy color. Behind the moldy curtain, a moldy anatomy. Never lit, The new lightbulb had already become obsolete. Leaving, I crossed a happening mess, lumpy with creations. Let’s Meet in the next life, right here, OK?

Refrain Well, then, if an alien object, something tiny Even, like a grain of bullshit, is persistently Lodged within the brain, there’s nothing to do But to shoot the motherfucker. My eyes Are alien to me, their defects hindering My already dire discourse with the real, This lake here, them privates. That’s why I must shoot the motherfuckers.

Aesthetic Probity Man ripped own ears off, disgusted by a pusillanimous note. Man ripped own nose off, offended by a glancing equivocal odor. Man ripped own eyes out, outraged by an extraneous Exclamation point! Later, he ate a futile, pointless and hapless sandwich, An absolutely no-go-zone sandwich, A ridiculous, degrading and criminal sandwich. Retching, He ripped his own mouth from his face.

Nature Freaks Sometimes I forget that this world came From fresh herring, that these people come From solid herring stock. Lovely Bianca Black Will soon be wedded to one Chien Meow, I see Very clearly now how herring has brought us all Together, under the lych gate, waiting, as always, For the damn priest to tuck away his sin, before He lowers us, one by one, into the bog, minus Our blameless nuts and titties.

Affixions Here the young like to skate about In their gauzy glaze, while the old Don crusty mud as they mosey. Horse hair extension or tall turban crowns An upended jockey, who’s checking out All them fine, slurry chicks in stilettos. (In this 1 billion-horse boonies, all the men Are 5 foot 3 or less, and shrinking fast.) Over the crotch, an embroidered arch, Or just air, when the chemistry is right. Tell all the gangly fucks to shun vertical stripes. As for the squat screws—no horizontal.

Let’s Think This Over Only thing worse than dying once, No doubt, is to get struck twice By the mother of all muggers. Once by bullet, once by ale; Once by falling, once crushed. On the other hand, you’ll get Two funerals and two graves, Side by side, perhaps. Here lies Your name, who departed this life On such an illegible date. And here lies Your name, again, who split this life On another illegible date. No more Naked pigs feeding in a field for you, No more cows merging in the mist.

Deadly Bravado Itchythology: a probe and survey into The myriad causes of itching. Let’s talk About death instead. Dying is certainly Not an au courant thing to do. Let’s hope It is forthright, linear and not an endlessly Tedious workshop. Before you stride over My bone mess, over and over, I’d like to X Another mega contract, worthy of my still Erect stature. * Death ambushes us From below. Lusting To know what drawn And quartered feels like, He fondles his thanatos Without blinking once. * Meanwhile, the sappy and sappily vanquished

Are dripping in frustration. Distilled to shades, They hump and are humped by shades. * Already humped, in papyrus, you wait Across a dim, slushy street. It snows, But not nearly cold enough to stick.

Optical Axes The trees sway, that’s nothing, the world itself Vibrates. A black curtain drops from the sky. All the erased scenes reappear, tactile, true, The beckoning, accusing faces. Promiscuous, They cancel each other out. “Do I know you?” “Do you remember me?” “Of course, I do.” Have I seen so much? I haven’t lived a day.

Bairn in Bothy on Hogmanay Demanding Cadeaux How do you signature discomfort, pain or displeasure? If you abject something, like, really undressed, a necessity, How do you ping ping about getting it? Do you feel flushed? Have you ever effaced a whorl? Alive? That’s OK. Do you Typecast your eyes with your mouth or hands? Do you Typecast other people’s present with your own past? What time is it? Are you dozed by large numbers? Thrilled, even, by record breaking numbers? Are you inFatuated with the zigzags and hues of your own clothes? Differently, are you just schnooking around or cloacal?

Spiraling Jetty They often confuse ships with the whale that saved them During many close calls. They think everything’s a ship. They name their children after sunken ships. They often Call their mom “Titanica.” In the evening, they stand alone In their landlocked rooms, looking at the brown, mossy Bricks across an alley, and hear, they swear, a foghorn Calling them home, when they’re already fuckin’ home.

Bloody Cruise Standard of work is passable and the accommodation Faux luxurious. Nevertheless, things creak often And certain squalor issues, inevitably, From you know where and where. I saved My life for this, only to have it befouled By sebaceous crooks and joke compensations, Adding spat insults to turf and surf sickness. No scum on draft, should we mutiny, Disembark or sail on?

Poetical Pedagogics Many Western poets gain niggardly fame By surfing the sonnet, while those of the East Often avail themselves of the economical haiku. Images are organically the fun foci of poetry. Paired with inapt similes, they can provide slits For uncivil poets to startle.

Phoneme Nugget Rotate this phoneme, study it, Then examine its base closely. See that hairline crack? Sniff it, Son. I’m not a butcher, but I know What I like.

What Words Do They cannibalize each other. The weakest ones Are merely parasites. Grafting words onto words, The wishy-washy don’t trim away what’s superfluous, Resulting in ghastly weed gardens. Words, especially Wrong and pointless ones, like to flit about, like bugs.

Tyranny and Succor Hogging the biosphere, he chatters Only to deny everyone else’s existence. The tongue is a persistent wand. When A mouth cannot shut up, it should Have something nice stuffed in it. They’re always blathering about themselves, of course. She’s waxing about her nice, petite ears. He’s spinning About his oddly shaped nose. Freedom of expressions Must be balanced against freedom against speech. Nothing is true, sure enough, unless in print. No one dies privately, alone. Dead, he waits Three days to read about it in the newspaper.

Man Wearing Glasses Plucked from the land, I must be taught How to cross the street to order a steak. Removed from the soil, I inject Dirt into every article of speech. I cannot look at any landscape, a lake, A canyon, a cave or a volcano, without Recalling some presumptuous painting. Sap green smudges flecked with scarlet lake. Naples yellow dabs abutting umber webbing. Above, a wash of indigo-tinted cremitz white. I can’t even tell a male from a female mallard.

Painting Challenges Forget majestic sunset, homestead or discreet nudity, Paint something so (genuinely or fraudulently) salving, The viewer will never feel forsaken again, no matter How horrible his life may turn out, whether From an exotic or common affliction. Forget the twelve keys to great compositions, Paint something so horrifying, it’ll ruin the structural And surface integrity of a man’s physiognomy, And desolate his soul permanently.

HF ICBW BFN End of day, Face to face, Fine by me. On the other hand, Over and out, Just a sec, I rest my case, Unpleasant visual, That stinks! Girlfriend, boyfriend, best friend, Never mind, one of these days, I love you, see you later, I’m not a lawyer. Way to go, you’ll be sorry, Sorry, I could not resist, Get a life, take your time, Same place same time, Sick of me yet? Speak. So stupid it’s not funny,

To be honest, take care, Between me and you, Same stuff, different day, What’s up? Thanks a lot.

POETRY BRIEFS Fleeting Feathers: the Complete Poems of Humphrey McCaw 475 pages. Pelican Grove Press. $21.95 Humphrey McCaw is perhaps our greatest avian poet. No winged creature was too repulsive or lightweight to escape his dartingly sharp eye. He penned thousands of rhymes and near rhymes about jackdaws, grackles, blue tits, red tits, bearded tits, the annoying red grouse, the red-necked grebe, great bustards, wax wings, wheatears, night jars, whinchats, sand martins, hoopoes, wry necks, blue throats and blue jays… Wry and persistent, he repeatedly probed the myriad complicated implications of the common magpie, as in this eponymous near classic: Half black, half white, multicultural Before its time? Not quite, the moor hen Is even red, brown and yellow. Often branded a realist, even a photo-realist, McCaw was not above caprice or goofy anachronism: Dutch treat—a dodo took flight Among the ho’s of Amsterdam.

In the middle of my life, between The Oude-Zijds-Voorburgwal & The Oude-Zijds-Achterburgwal, I heard my kettle boil. Sometimes, he even went dada: ooh eh EH ooh eh EEK ooh ehhh ooh eh EEK EEK ooh ehh – vee vee ooh eh EEE – EHHHHHHH [“14th Way of Looking at a Blackbird”] Born in 1936 on the remote Scottish island of St. Kilda, McCaw made the near fatal mistake of migrating to Fremont, California in 1969, where he remained for the rest of his life, working in the microchip industry, yet all was not lost, obviously. Deprived of his beaked, gizzarded, feathered and occasionally-tarred friends, McCaw compensated himself—and us, habitues of English— with an exquisite, unmatched syntactical aviary. Aloof and sheepish—some say mousy—McCaw never hung out with other Bay Area poets, and even claimed to have never visited San Francisco. He refused to give readings or lectures, and when San Jose State

University baited him with a tenure-track position in 1983, he turned down its relatively small class load and not-tooinsulting salary. McCaw simply had no patience for anything that would distract from his fierce focus on birds. He loved them for what they were. In a rare interview, McCaw insisted that birds were not stand-ins for humans in his copious oeuvre: “Birds are only birds, but humans can be anything, even birds.” A circular logician, perhaps, but a very fine poet indeed.

Selected Translations Reggis Tongue 899 pages. Noioso. $29.95. The sudden appearance of Reggis Tongue must qualify as one of the biggest literary stories of 2006. (Generally, one should never use the word “sudden,” because, frankly, nothing is ever sudden. Suddenly they divorced, the world will suddenly end! No, son, it’s been ending for a while.) With 12 volumes of translations published in frantic succession, Reggis Tongue suddenly staked his claim as the greatest translator, perhaps, of our time. Granted, there is nothing sexy about translating poems. When triumphant, one becomes merely invisible, but with the smallest blip, lapse or blunder, then abrupt universal ridicule, infamy, then gradual oblivion. For those who’ve been dozing for the last 12 moons, let me adumbrate essentially the aforementioned volumes, in order of publication: 1. The Complete Guilluame Apollinaire, translated by Reggis Tongue (Stochastic Shack 2006). 2. The Complete Antonin Artaud, translated by Reggis Tongue (Fawcett, Strauss & Giroux 2006). 3. The complete Cesar Vallejo, translated by Reggis Tongue (Xenograft Editions 2006).

4. The Complete Vicente Huidobro, translated by Reggis Tongue (Blue Decimal 2006). 5. The Complete Ingeborg Bachman, translated by Reggis Tongue (University of Baja California Press 2006). 6. The Complete Paul Celan, translated by Reggis Tongue (Community College of Northern Virginia Press 2006). 7. The Complete Amelia Rosselli, translated by Reggis Tongue (Hash House Press 2006). 8. The Complete Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Reggis Tongue (Vantage 2006). 9. The Complete Miroslav Holub, translated by Reggis Tongue (Vallecula Press 2006) 10. The Complete Attila Josef, translated by Reggis Tongue (Colon Press 2006). 11. The Complete Nina Cassian, translated by Reggis Tongue (Semi-Colon Press 2006). 12. The Complete Nazim Hikmet, translated by Reggis Tongue (Cecum Press 2006). Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s 12 major poets, some of them quite difficult, if not impossible, converted from 9 mutually-hostile languages. No single mind should contain so much incongruity. Clayton Eshleman, Pierre Joris, Michael Hamburger, Eliot Weinberger and the rest of them should feel nothing but shame and disappear promptly from the face of

this earth! But it’s not just volume, girth and length that distinguish Reggis Tongue, it’s his modus operandi. In the preface to his just-released “Selected Translations,” Tongue stated unabashedly: “Slovenly translators—bums, basically— think they have to choose between music and sense. To pin down meanings, many of them squash the tune. To ape the melody, they ditch or deface the semaphores. They don’t realize that syntax is melody. A translator must ignore the indigenous drumming echoing in his lumpy head and obey the alien word-order, rhythm of what’s he’s translating. Make it strange—never try to domesticate a foreign poem! As for meanings, what’s keeping a translator, experienced or novice, from buying an electronic dictionary?” Sounds good, sort of, but how does it work in practice? Let’s look at Tongue’s rendition of Apollinaire’s “Le Pont Mirabeau,” a much-beloved poem that’s been assassinated repeatedly over the years by everyone from Richard Wilbur to Donald Revell, to the Pogues. Here are the first six lines of the original: Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine Et nos amours Faut-il qu’il m’en souvienne La joie venait toujours après la peine Vienne la nuit sonne l’heure Les jours s’en vont je demeure

Wilbur attempts to duplicate the rhyming of “Seine,” “souvienne” and “peine,” with this lurching monstrosity: Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine Must I recall Our loves recall how then After each sorrow joy came back again Let night come on bells end the day The days go by me still I stay Recall, recall, what the hell is “come on bells”? Are we in a Dixie diner?! Compared to Wilbur, however, Revell is even more freeflowing. Like any teenager, he confuses love with lover. The more chicks, the more deep and cheap feelings. Haight-Ashury, anyone? And water doesn’t flow here but slips: Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away And lovers Must I be reminded Joy came always after pain The night is a clock chiming The days go by not I

Revell should have written “the river slides into first base,” to make it more American. As for the Pogues, God bless them, I will not discuss their sing-along version. Enough jive already, let’s go to the real jazz. Here, finally, is Reggis Tongue’s extraordinary rendition: Under the bridge Mirabeau runs the Seine And our loves It is necessary that it remembers me The joy always came after the sorrow Vienna the night sounds the hour The days from go away I remain The first thing one notices is that, unlike Wilbur, Revell and every other English translator, Meredith, Hartley, Padgett, etc., Tongue does not anglicize “le ponte Mirabeau” into “Mirabeau bridge.” By not flip-flopping the French word-order, he maintains the ambiguity of “Mirabeau,” which is both bridge and woman, woman as bridge, a haunting, beautiful image and the person the narrator’s talking to. The “our loves” in the next line become her loves also—that’s why Apollinaire writes “nos amours” and not “mes amours.” Since Mirabeau denotes “Beautiful Reflection,” the narrator’s also talking to himself, a potential suicide seeing his face in a roiling river slip sliding away. But he does not jump, fortunately, because a mysterious

“it”—God? Love? Lovers? Mirabeau, mon amour?—is reminding him that “joy always came after sorrow.” The pasttense “came” maintains a tragic, suspenseful doubt, because we don’t know, never will, if joy will ever come again. With the next two lines, Tongue unleashes on us the full genius of his translation prowess. He does not mechanically convert “Vienne la nuit” into “Comes the night” but, noticing the capitalized “Vienne,” understands that Apollinaire is punning “vienne” with “Vienne,” the capitalized capital of the AustrianHungarian empire. With this subtle and masterful stroke, the poet evokes Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” composed in Vienna in 1787. A little night music remembered, and hoped for, a bit of nookies, the joy that always came after the sorrow. Another striking musical allusion enlivens the next line. The first modern man, Apollinaire exults in pop culture: “The days from go away I remain” is a barely-concealed paraphrase of Paul Simon’s “You know the nearer your destination, the more you slip sliding away.” So rivers do slip away, after all. My apologies, then, to Monsieur Donald Revell.

My Local Burning If it feels and looks like racing, And crashes, hallelujah, like racing, Then it’s World War III all right. Hapless, uninspired civvies of all ages Ducking behind dumpsters. To rake them Is less than lame, even with the massive Ordnance up your dead mama’s ass. When this endless ride’s finally history, You can return and camp fire inside her Ample back hatch, and stare back down The 12-lane highway of your combustion. Gazebos on astro lawns, incinerated firs. These explosions are so surprisingly realistic, When I saw my local burning, I almost cried.

Future Weapons Our dipsticks dry—hell, we don’t even Have a dipstick, it’s in the locked museum Of seething nostalgia—we use wooden arrows. Every man worth a cow must have an oiled bow, Sheath, 24 straight ones and a furnished spear. From 12 until 50, you unleashed six a day— That’s 82,992 shots!—most of them way off The painted butt. False in aim, wobbly in flight, Horseless man, you’ll never make an archer. “Bombing each time, it don’t help me none to call These twigs, branchlets, whatever, smart arrows. I’m spose to be one with the freakin bull’s eye. To miss is a contradiction. Sheeeeeit.” Wussies will always shun wappenshaws, But I can’t wait until the next weapon show.

The Earliest Poetry Digging for a new well, we discovered a weird book yesterday. Though very heavy, it has only two pages, or rather, one page And a sort of black mirror. The oldest man living has never seen Or heard of such an odd book. I must be poetry, we assume, Though we don’t know what language it’s in. All the lines Are of equal length—a rigid, formalist construction. The first: Esc F1 F2 F3 F3 F4 F5 F6 F7 F8 F9 F10 F11 F12 Num LK It must be added that there is variety in this crude poem. The last line has a surprising, breathtaking caesura: Ctrl Fn [weird symbol] Alt————Alt Gr [another weird symbol] This discovery proves that many years ago, our forefathers Already had a taste for poetry, although their stamina Was not great.

An Awful Joke Check out my muscles, man, I lost 5 pounds Chasing a pound of flesh, then I lost another pound Killing, plucking, cleaning and grilling it. By the time Its gizzard eased down my gullet, I was dead.

Deism Help Us “A Chinese fellow from around here, Goes by the name of Tong Peng, said: ‘May you live in interesting times, these Are the times that try men’s souls.’” [overheard in a Thetford pub, 21st century] May chickens, hamsters and pigs jockey For real estate on your ancestral roof— Check! May your thin, wheezing ox collapse On the Interstate while cart-pooling— Check! May pesty populations Fester in your crotches— Check! May your tomato cease to be tomato. May your garlic cease to be garlic— Check!

May your seasons blur into one. May You never see another Super Bowl— Check!

Metropoles There was a city so vast, milk could not be Delivered from its outlying farms to the center Without turning into yogurt, sometimes cheese, Depending on the weather. Eroded by greed, an entire city, every skyscraper, Shack and subdivision, would tilt 45 degrees, Until it kissed the splattered pavement. They built one-hundred-story towers, Only to occupy the first three floors, the rest Were haunted by their pissed-off ancestors. Amid cheers and booing, drunk adventurers Would set out for the darkened highest floors, Never to return. Ruins encrusted upon ruins, these dark ruins Are organic, growing centuries by centuries, until The lights are turned on again.

2084 Bone soap, pubic hair cigs, grass tea, We make do with milk substitute, egg And sperm substitute, shit substitute. Shit, ma, ain’t got shit To eat round here, not even Some jive shit. [haiku] Only the barest few, buck naked, can afford nothing. I was cleaved from my wife, kids and refrigerator, Then cleaved from my own bones. Whew! Beaming happy eyes around a yew tree, Last one in the hemisphere, apparently. What’s a slipper bath? What’s an 8-track player? What’s a lug wrench? What’s a rearview mirror?

Recent Archeo News 20 February 3006—Ancient toilet Discovered in Boston, lid missing. 8 February 3006—30 billion scraps Of well-preserved, well-made plastic Accidentally unearthed in Athens. 30 January 3006—3-foot-long “COSMIC EXPANDING” toy sword Excavated in outskirts of Beijing. 24 January 3006—Large glass menagerie Recovered just off-shore, near Key West. 22 January 3006—Post-modern poem Found in dog’s grave, tucked in anus. 16 January 3006—Tattoos, salacious, Shed light on 21st Century Tokyo. 14 January 3006—Plastic barrettes, polyester scrunchies And rare titanium navel ring shaped like lovely butterfly Interred with disturbed skeleton of teenaged girl.

13 January 3006—Chubby male mummy With lots of loose change, buried erect In well-preserved peep show cubicle. 9 January 3006—Miraculous city of Dubai Discovered nearly intact in deserted desert. 1 January 3006—Oxidized brass Trumpets and cornets found bobbing In New Orleans waters. 24 December 3005—Tire tracks, chewing gum, Bolts, pegs, screws, pins, nails and human hair Detected in ancient asphalt driveway. 17 December 3005—Plethora of megalomaniac And glib sculptures in corporate spaces offer Abundant proofs that 20th century man Was prone to lead poisoning. 15 December 3005—Nasty skull hookahs And dead head bongs excite experts.

Cyclopian Economics With hard cheeses generally favored, cheddar has become A near-universal currency, with pecorino, beaufort, gouda, jack, Appenzeller, emmental, comte and colby also widely accepted. In the Middle East, there is an aversion towards rennet. There, The locals make do with the crumbly, easily-depreciated feta. Soft cheeses don’t barter well, even those that age well, and For self-evident reason, valdeon, cambozola, cabrales, brie, Saint agur, stilton and montbriac are absolutely not fungible.

Tale from the Desert This you must know, it is a tale of consequence: For their water festival, the villagers of Los Angeles Would build, out of odd bits of masonry, a huge effigy Of a so-called English toilet. Elected W.C. Queen, A large virgin would perch on this while everyone Makes hydraulic, irrigating noises, while chanting: “Crapping in fresh water! Crapping in fresh water!” They also make violent throwing motions, as if Stoning her to death.

Hibernation 101 First, maintenance and tune-up work on ambulance, Then solid, reliable citizen’s band radio purchased. Before corpse of client, freshly dead, could be whisked From solemn thatched cottage, ice must be purchased. Contract stipulates that undersigned be kept super cool For long as it takes for science to catch up with death.

Beloved Alone Standing in deep snow, don’t look forward to the late bus Swinging around the corner, at last, don’t look forward to Friday, 5 o’clock or the end of your unjust sentence, don’t look forward To the landing of this numbing, trans-everything flight, thank you For your patience, don’t look forward to the return of your Daddy, Because, for every second of each long day, you must remember What DaVinci said: “A man who looks forward to Spring Is looking forward to his own death.”

Borderless Bodies

Obsolete Maps There are spots on your body That are never touched or seen, Nearly impossible to reach, even Connoisseurs of the human body Do not know what to call them.

Borders Where bones always nudge Against the fuzziest skin. Where inside and outside Are confused and flushed.

Processed Food On my hands and knees, I reached behind the bauhaus Of her stained porcelain bowl For a rainbow of M&M’s.

Trinity Out of her laboring hole, her husband’s head. Though full-grown, it was blind and beardless. She slapped it when it demanded Songs and teats. Asymmetrical, They lay next to each other, A mingling of breath, dirt and saliva. Sick of the one, She gave birth to another.

Serial Toes and dirty feet Lined up in a row. Bare bellies in a row. Male and female Genitalia in a row. Legs are for draping. Arms are for folding. Lips are for peeling. So much DNA To gather.

Putang Putang is the capital Of an insular state. Its rail service Is perpetually Understaffed.

Liquid Always sluicing, her overflowing body Seeps through her blouse and jeans. Her eyes leak through their shut eyelids. Her breasts bead and drip in the sun Into a defiant puddle.

Gaseous The articulated gas And learnt discharge That bind and distress. The accidental hiss. Brightest birds, must you Always discuss plumbing?

Wiping For drying or cleaning, until You don’t see it, of course. Pondering wiping, I picture The clean, dry bodies of nuns, Nurses and armless soldiers.

A Fairy Tale In the moonlight, he hoisted himself Up the funky, kinky hair tangling Down the rugged, leaning tower, Trying to tag his dusky reward Before the moon struck midnight.

Ductless Gland The Adam’s apple is no apple But a little man, an artistic type, An unpublished poet half-swallowed, Squatting in front of the voice box.

Bardic He sang not of oceans Or the open road but The pale sun rising On each thumb nail. He sang not of breasts But of breastbones.

Curriculum Vitae Barber slash shrink. Nurse slash butcher. Surgeon slash chef. Plumber slash philosopher. Slasher slash slasher.

She Said My body’s like an egg, she said, and it was true. It was certainly hard, round and smooth like an egg. My body’s like a squid, she said, and that was also true. Milky white with a purple underside, chewy and slippery. My body’s like a scoop of ice cream or a pound cake.

Negligible Like male nipples, the bellybutton’s Fairly pointless, a dumb ornament. A cheap souvenir from a forgotten trauma. One only misses one’s bellybutton As one is hacked away from it.

Holes Holes all over the damn body! Not all holes are equally precious. Six or seven holes? It depends On what you consider a hole? It needn’t be darkened. It can be lit from inside, A mess of marmalade Or an ammunition dump, Sandbagged and barbwired. Such a nice, fresh hole, Such a rosy, tender hole, Such an eloquent hole. I peered at that sad hole Through the sorry peep hole. Open it wide, but not too wide, Let’s air out this generic hole.

Assholes If I remember correctly, Bruce Chatwin Declared the camel’s to be the most elegant, Over the cat’s, horse’s and human’s. I am no fan of the chicken’s or the elephant’s, But the human asshole, like the human nose, Hair, penis and breast, comes in such a variety. Some are rimmed pink, others are bruised purple. Some are scraggly, bohemian, others well-trimmed. Some are pert, saucy, even threatening. Some are frankly shy, others coquettish.

Two Theories The god who created pain is a cruel god, Someone said, who somehow forgot That a world without pain is one of mutilations, As the pleasure continuum graduates to numbness. Men will offer their nerve endings to each other for sport. The word “pity” will disappear from all dictionaries. Shit exists, but only to provide us With a concept of shittiness. If it weren’t persistent, we wouldn’t know How to spell beauty or a clean smell.

Astounded Children Face pressed against belly, Mouth mourning the missing Umbilical cord, shadowed By two pendulums inside a Dry T-shirt, where no insults Or bullets can ever reach. What A relief it is to jig-saw so snugly. Like naked mole rats or raw members Of the National Liberation Front, with only A few ticks left between us, we tunnel.

How It Is The sun rises Between your legs. My name appears Between your legs. I kiss the ground Between your legs. I disappear Between your legs. I dare not look Up at the sun As it rises Between your legs.

It’s All Mental You could go for days, weeks or even months Without seeing one. Your memory of it deteriorates, Its absence becomes truly tragic, until you see it again, Of course, and it’s like, Wow, I must look at it carefully But slyly, I must look as if I’m not looking, to not arouse Ridicule or hostility. I must savor this moment. Who knows when the next time will come? Walking away, I always turn back and wave.

Just a Mind He wants to be just a mind, nothing but a mind, To ignore whatever processes that are openly Or secretly breaking down his itching body. Wanting to be just a mind, he shirks the least task, Such as stirring a coffee spoon or sipping tea, since Such maneuvers taint and discolor his mental integrity. Even the saliva irrigating his mouth detracts from His quest to be just a mind, as do the ropes And pulleys that blink his eyes constantly.

Meat and Dowsing Rods Much has been said about the meanings Of clothes, why we bother to put them on, Even when there’s no rain, snow or heat. Without clothes, the body is geared for love, Or maybe not. At least it’s primed to be swallowed. A man cannot hide his intention without pants. Envious of birds, women also want to be dappled.

Protocols Two bodies, adjacent, clothed, thus not touching. Two bodies, adjacent, clothed, thus OK to touch. Fingers and palms are conduits. Knuckles—no. One’s allowed to grasp, not stroke, another’s hand, When it is clearly offered, for two seconds or less. Naked backs and shoulders not OK to touch. Clothed—maybe. Face to face, it’s OK to stare at another’s forehead, Look to the side or up, or foray briefly into another’s eyes, But don’t linger on another’s torso, though fully clothed. Sometimes, eyes can lash through another’s clothes.

Flesh on Furniture Instead of on my face, she sits On my head, bareness to crew cut, Her hair nappy into mine, her oven Warms my microwave, or she sits On the dining room table. She can’t Conform to a chair, it seems. It’s foreign to her, superfluous. Squatting on the ground, she heaps A mess of stewed flesh on its seat To watch gravy drip down its legs.

Troubles Personally, I can’t think of anything wrong With the body—the nose over the mouth Is about right, the asshole under and back Is also about right—But there are those Who say that even a so-called perfect body Is too holey or not holy enough. It disturbs Them greatly what’s entailed out of sight, Yet many of these folks would die or kill Just to get a better look at another’s body.

A Fine Woody I ingest death daily, sustaining Death and life inside my belly, Until this marriage implodes. Undazed, I lie low for three days, Not yielding to my buzzing backdrop, Until I achieve a gloriously stiff one That ties all records.

Cold Hands She always feels cold hands all over her body, On her neck and belly, on the inside and outside, Front and back of her thighs, on her burning face, An insistence of icy palms and fingers spreading. Walking alone down a bright, familiar street, She could feel cold hands under her threads.

Post Mortem “Don’t ever think of yourself as old,” The old man advised, before expiring On the bright carpet of the living room. The dead don’t care to defend themselves. They suffer countless injuries after death. Only four minutes after death, to be exact, His name was purged through his asshole, His head kicked about by his own children.

How Much? Passing, he parsed the statuesque meat. So many loaves of bread, lessons and nights For young bones to lengthen surreptitiously. So many eggs.

Chamber Music Seeded pendulums, like wings, Are fluttering against meaty bulwarks. Wet feet are racing across porcelain.

Menu Talcum powdered meat. Meat arrayed with trinkets. Meat back lit by red strobe lights. Meat photographed from below. Meat admiring self, photographed from below. Touched up meat universally applauded. Free ranging meat suddenly subdued. Meat marinated in old sweat. Meat stewed in own bile. Meat spat on, kicked, then set on fire. Meat blown up for profit. Meat obscured by legends or slanders. Meat impatient under a satin sheet. Meat wrapped in an old, nappy blanket. Meat smuggled in and out of paradise. Meat cloistered, sacred and unseen. Meat coiled on the sidewalk, dusted by Spring snow. Meat covered by fresh newspapers. Meat dressed in all the wrong colors. Chopped meat as spectacle. Bleeding meat as entertainment. Meat washed, then tucked into the ground. Meat protruding a little.

Meat angling into space.

Eating and Feeding Always starving, he suckled his wife. Famished, she sucked her husband. For appetizers, he nibbled her fingers and toes, While she gnawed on his shanks and thighs. Becoming intimate with each other’s meat, They marinated each other’s meat, to stew, Deep fry or roast, or they ate each other raw. Even with exposed bones, tendons and flesh, They still had each other, two intact heads To smile at each other each sunrise.

Toothpicks and Chopsticks A toothpick grows Into a chopstick, Into a crutch propping up A jangling man, Into a 100 story Skyscraper, Constructed entirely With toothpicks, used 100 times. * Solitary chopstick Drips dirty tears Into a mouth stinking Of wild flowers. *

Eyes prickling heart Like a thousand toothpicks, wet With extraneous words. Tongue Is licking chopstick. * Your legs like two gangly Chopsticks, propped by My frayed toothpick. * Don’t confuse one chopstick With another, of course, but Each toothpick is also an individual, With its own peculiarities, moods, Dreams and even Grammatical tendencies.

* Rich man, dead, left A toothpick and a chopstick, Identical, to each Of his offspring. * Inside the skinny corpse’s stomach: 1,000 toothpicks and 1,000 chopsticks Filched from 1,000 parties. * Chewing a toothpick, I’m determined To ride my chopstick across the vast arc Of God’s mouth.

Fish Sauce and Soy Sauce For years, I suckled fish sauce From her taut teat. Now, my mother Tells me it was never fish sauce But soy sauce. * Eyes tearing up with fish sauce, She watches soy sauce squirting From 10,000 holes, all over The body of a soldier, about To turn into fish sauce. * Naked, they swim and dive in Each other’s fish sauce, until They throw up soy sauce.

* In a cell as dark as soy sauce, He could smell, vaguely, night and day, The high-quality fish sauce From his distant childhood.

Orally A glass of tap water’s Suitable for all mundane Psychological disturbances: Adolescent suicidal musings, Dark clouds, marital stress And postpartum depression. (Gargling has lascivious associations And is not recommended.) A raw potato is an individual Deserving of contemplation. What’s more: a boiled potato Without butter is an antidote For hubris. Blowing smoke out of the mouth Is a parody of respiration and speech. A sin against nature, it is nevertheless The only act of civility available to all men.

Confession Perhaps I’m a cruel artist. I always depict In great details, lovingly, all the defects On the faces and bodies of my models. I use my eyes and brushes to thread The jagged gaps of their stiff smiles. I pamper Each pimple, hump, massage each incrustation. I cajole my models into poses that are awkward, Dangerous, unhygienic, sometimes mortifying. I don’t care to paint smooth, poreless skin but collect All manners of rashes and eruptions. Inspired, I’ve forced a hundred bodies—impossibly old, Extremely young—onto appalling heaps, Democratically naked, viscous with sweat, spit and etc., Just so I could render the human condition Most accurately and movingly.

Language and Meat Language comes from meat. Without meat, There’s no language. It’s too obvious. Meaty words shaped and rolled by a meaty tongue, Such as tender, juicy or sliced, for example, would be Meaningless without the muscles, tendons and fat That wrap around bones. Words such as dead, lovely, Haggard, touch, desire or satisfaction. Further, Everyday language is overstuffed with meat: Don’t you slander my meat. A piece of meat, She turned down such prime meat.

Don’t! According to a theory, the first word Ever uttered was perhaps “don’t!” Managing an unruly horde of kids, The cave mother had to “don’t” nonstop. Don’t [put that thing in your mouth]! Don’t [climb up that branch]! Don’t [wake your father up]! 150,00 years ago, the main purpose of language Was to prohibit. In many places on earth, now, The main purpose of language is still to prohibit.

Miming Ignorant of the local language, I had to use sign language To indicate my needs. Hungry, I’d rub my belly and open my mouth. Craving chicken, I’d crow. Desiring pork, I’d honk and roll in the mud. Sleepy, I’d shut my eyes, slump forward, then pretend to snore. Needing to make water or love, I’d grab my crotch, then pull My pants down to my knees, if they still didn’t get it.

Gifts He has been to all 197 countries in the world. At each country, he stayed for exactly one night. He never visited the sights or ate the local food. He never talked with or embraced the local people. He only liked to lie on his bed, in the hotel, alone, So he could gift his seeds to a faraway country.

My Country’s Airport Airports in other countries are places of anticipation, But my country’s is an illusion, a type of pornography. Outside its permanently shut gate, my countrymen Elbowed each other for glimpses of ghosts admitted To hell or ascending to heaven.

Two Flying Issues To be born or to die On an airplane is nothing. To be born, then die On the same airplane, Without ever getting off— Now that’s something. * Tugging my sleeve, The tanned man asked, With a twisted face, “Are there mosquitoes On an airplane?”

Travelling Man Travelling, he sees nothing. In the windows of Amsterdam’s Red light district, he doesn’t recognize his plump flesh flashing Or slouched on a chair. On the streets of Saigon, he doesn’t see His snotty nose on the faces of child beggars. He sniffs and sniffs Yet smells nothing. He steps on something that gives. In Rome, He cannot imagine himself a pickpocket or a slave.

A Room Is a Camera In that spot where you’re sitting, Sir, 800 years ago... In this dank corner of a room That can never be heated properly, A nude ghost appears at exactly 3 A.M. Each night, for exactly 3 seconds. This kitchen retains all the original features— The wooden spoons, the cracked bowls, the solitary bucket— Of a torture chamber disused 900 years ago. That scrawl of a skull on the wall was either made Yesterday, by my youngest son, a child in kindergarten, Or by some ragged prisoner kept in solitary confinement 2,000 years ago. This bedroom is not unlike a tape recorder. It has absorbed every single sound ever made Between its four walls. Each night, as you try to sleep, It will play back many centuries’ worth of endearments, Shouts, screams and moans, and even the subtlest Rustles of the sheets.

This bedroom, on the other hand, is like a movie camera. Soon as you close your eyes, you can view its entire history In one endless sequence. On extremely humid days, these plaster walls Will exude the body odors and cheap perfumes Of all of this house’s previous occupants. Before the beckoning computer, Before that frightfully, erratically ringing telephone, Before electricity, Before fire.

The Years People in this town have a curious method Of counting age. In their system, A 31-year-old is considered 13 years old. A 46-year-old is considered 64 years old. Someone 55 would still be 55—of course. While a hundred-year-old man, in their eyes, Has suffered and debauched on this great, miserable earth For just one year.

Paradiso di Formaggi Smegma, my dear, my soul mate, will I Become cheese, like you, after death? No, but the fat around your cheeks and ass Might turn into a crumbly waxy substance, If you’re terribly lucky, if there are no bugs. Talking of cheese, once I ate camembert On a train in Corsica. Snafu, my bad. The locals were disgusted, but I thought, Hell, you made this crap!

Talking Heads The head is protean. Completely flat, some are visible Only from the front. Some assume the shape and function Of a lantern. Some heads are like spittoons. They vary in size. Rare ones approach the girth of the earth. (Those who claim to have seen a sun-size head are lying.) Others are so small, they could be squashed with a finger. My favorites, however, are those that grow underground, Forgotten, impatient, brooding, with only their bright turfs Exposed to humanity.

Tracing A liquid balm for a solid hurt. A skirt for a holy farm. Everything balms, then capsizes. I was two doors past hope. I had come here for a bit Of inter-species romance But found a doorjamb instead. Smooth-skinned fruit induces shame. The tyrannical taste of one’s own mouth. Everything is inside out here: The animals, the houses. One can even see behind what’s behind. My head now rests on a garrulous pillow That speaks without verbs. My wife is muttering in her sleep: Fuck you, I’ve heard all it before. You are neglecting life, my dear. I miss you so much.

Hard and Soft My father’s hard. My mother’s soft. Where is she soft? -She’s soft everywhere. There’s nowhere where she isn’t soft. She presses her softness against my face. I touch her softness. I touch the softest part of her. I pinch the softest part of her. In pain, she cries tears of joy. And what about your father? Where is he hard? -He’s only hard in one place. * My father’s not hard, he’s soft. Frankly, he’s softer than my mother. He likes to wrap me in his softness. I like to burrow into his softness. Some say, “Soft! What good is it? Isn’t it better hard?”

* Since my father’s so soft, my mother has to be hard. She’s hard everywhere, my mother. Looking at me with extremely hard eyes, she said, “Since your father’s so fuckin’ soft. I have to be hard.”

A Few Things that Must Be Said about Family Altars Dying with grief, glad to be alive, we erect family altars because we’re afraid of ghosts, but why? The dead despise us because we’re still living, of course, because we’re still capable of baring our teeth, still have lips and hands that move, some hair, a nose and an anus, because we’re still hungry and thirsty, still sing to each other in darkened cafes at night, still buy lottery tickets in the morning, still hope, because we still have a chance to be stricken by countless diseases or end our life prematurely with a gun, a knife or a poison. A new trend is to build altars with pink ceramic tiles, the type normally associated with bathrooms. We have to accommodate the bodily needs of our ancestors. Though the dead no longer eat and drink, they still discharge regularly. We will have to clean up the filth of our forebears until the end of the world, and maybe even after the end of the world. We tend to place the family altar in the living room. Our living rooms are foreboding and cheerful at the same time, with strings of eternally flickering lights, like a funeral held in a disco. Half crying, half laughing and dancing arrhythmically, we

attend this funeral 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to prepare for our own funeral. Before photography, we worshipped charcoal drawings. The poorer we were, the cruder our ancestors: generic, smudgy, with one eye larger than the other, a nose even flatter than in real life, lips too stiff to ever move. One day soon, perhaps we will worship DVDs of our familial dead. Talking of altars, I must tell this story: as an adolescent, I was secretly in love with a cousin. Her eyes were always lit up as if she were about to laugh. Visiting her once, I stayed overnight and slept in the living room, in front of the altar. My cousin slept with my aunt in an adjacent room. Tossing and turning all night, I heard, or imagined I heard, my cousin sighing behind the threadbare, lanky curtain, blotchy with vague stains. Eager, hopeful and filled with self-pity, all I wanted to do was to tear down the curtain so I could pounce on my cousin, and perhaps my aunt also. Though middle-aged, she was still supple and firm. Only near dawn, after the cock had crowed, was I able to drift into sleep. Suddenly, I heard my aunt screaming: “Where are your pants! How dare you yank down your pants in front of the altar!” Waking, I discovered myself naked from the waist down, my penis pointing directly at my black-lipped and beady eyed uncle, recently dead, lurking behind the incense and

fruits. Red faced, my aunt kicked me out of the house immediately. Seeing me raw, my cousin took off her pants and handed them to me. Walking to the station, I felt strangely elated, her soft garment a cool layer of skin to soothe my humiliation. Though I never had a chance to see her again, I’ve kept her brightly colored pants, decorated with daisies, until this day. Though married, I still moon at them occasionally. Pressing my face against its soft crotch, eyes brimming with tears, sniffing, I can’t help but mourn my blameless youth.

A Guerrilla 10 to 24 feet deep, the Cu Chi Tunnels boast three stories, kitchens and wells, operating theaters, sleeping quarters, chambers to stash rice, cassava, AKs and hand grenades. Everyone assumed the system was merely 150 mile-long, with one dangling branch plopping troops and casualties onto the muddy bank of the Saigon River. Now we know it’s much vaster. Becoming more elaborate and fantastic by the day, the Tunnels thread and multiply from Ha Tien to Lao Cai. They crawl up mountains, cross borders, punch into the ocean floor. This cancerous spread is the work of one Zuong Chi. Though his tiny name has long been gilded and carved into a shiny, black memorial, he digs and hews daily into the clay of his homeland, 30 years after the civil war. 72 years-old, he’s still a guerrilla. Underground nearly 7/24, without beer, soccer, wife or mother-in-law, hot as hell, drenched in sweat, Zuong Chi is abetted and buoyed only by rats, snakes, fragments of a few ballads and a still fierce idealism. Every few days he’d spring from a leafy hole to punish civilians, soldiers and tourists alike. Strings of crackling gunfire, frantic screaming, then the droning karaoke music would resume—peace has returned. By the

time cops appear, Zuong Chi would be gone. He vows to fight on forever. He would only rest his rifle when there are no puppets, fakes and lackeys left in Vietnam.

Reeducation Dissatisfied with the domestic servants, the mistress screamed From morning till night, from one day to the next, From one month to the next, until, bursting a blood vessel, She died. Inside the coffin, she still screamed. Each night, she returned To scream at the useless domestics, to reeducate them into being humans.

Interview What are eyes for? To sleep. What are noses for? To cover. What are ears for? To cover. What are mouths for? To scold or flatter. What are stories for? To warm hands. What are poems for? To pick rotten teeth. What are books for? To throw at the heads of enemies. What’s the best book? The one I just read. What’s the worst book? The one I haven’t read. What are books for? To throw at the heads of enemies. Who are the enemies? Stories, poems, eyes, ears and noses. Who are friends? Yesterday, enemies were friends. Tomorrow, friends will be enemies.

Borderless Body Before, I was a miserly person, dried up, stiff, Stuck, completely wrung, stuttering, fanatical, But this morning, my skin felt unusually cool and conscious. My body tingled. Suddenly I could understand and speak 2,000 languages. My soul blossomed, my breasts budded. I peeled back my foreskin to scrape clean all of my obsolete And labored presumptions. My teeth, the gaps in between My teeth and my breath felt unusually fresh and clean. I could see very far away. I could sympathize with each Strand of hair stranded on the skin of each person. Shuddering, I ejaculated for the first time in life, into life. I became aware of my miraculous vagina and anus. Finally, I had been allowed to spread out, to blend into All humans, animals and things. I just wanted to leap up

To kiss everyone right away. I just wanted to service And suck everyone right away. I also wanted to be sucked By everyone on this earth. I was willing to forgive And apologize to each toe joint on each person. Naked, I walk through the street as the very first human.

Carnal Habits Black-faced guerrilla Hidden in crevice Fuzzy with hair. Diagram of uterus Flooded with the blood Of a tiger. Fiery channels concealed Inside a small town’s Pair of jeans. A great mind Must wait a thousand years To be squirted from the top Of the meat tower. Crawl, son! Crawl to me.

Variations Struck on the left, I grab my right side. My right eye can never espy What my left is up to. Solomonic, An impartial baby, Neither breast preferred. An objective observer, A face with no sides.

The Difficulties of Poetry This poem was written underwater, In a steel bubble, surrounded By blind and asexual fish. This poem was composed jointly By a deaf man and a mute woman, Two strangers tied together, naked, In a dusty, abandoned house. This poem was not written but flung Onto the tent wall of a field hospital By a soldier about to die. This poem was incised in concrete In sub-freezing temperature, In complete darkness.

This poem was sketched with tinted dirt. No, it was transmitted with bird sounds By a decomposing corpse. This poem has not been written Under the best of conditions. The lamp had a green bias. The day was overcast.

Three-Sided Poem Newly-born Breathtaking Sick of living. Worn Fading Strewn. High heat Trembling beads Smoke and fire. Cold Drops of water Exploding. Lips Lumber Day after day. Eyes Ashes Luxuries.

Hair Sand and dust Poofed. Bones Leave-taking Bulging veins. Pus Human skin O vesicles. Bloody The body Always rhythmic. Skin The soul Bohemian. Dogs Making love


Mismatched shoes Levitating A brown river. Rice Overflowing Turbulence. Humans Always near Humiliation. Breasts Singly All over. Buttocks Desolate Firecrackers. Happiness

Spread thin Frozen.

Memento mori On a mountain side Without legs. Pillow I crave Bit by bit. Bed Contentment Exhausted. Male Junk Regalia. Female The last day of summer Discounted.

Living Abject Day by day. Dead Sticky rice Stuck. Water Jade Pearl. Tea Discharged A lump of coal.

One Sentence Poems I hesitated before the penetrating, Seasoned, bright, slightly wicked face Above a smooth, white body, Perhaps malnourished. * She yearned to be impregnated By each bold, extravagant mind She met on the yellowing page. * Each night, without fail, it rang At exactly 2:13, but she never Picked up the phone because That’s the exact time he died.

* All morning, a live ant carries A dead ant across the vast, Cheap, polyester carpet, In grief or hunger? * Before making love, drunk, After the party, mother and son-in-law Despised each other. * Insolent, stupid or insane, He declared his occupation as Resting, yawning and sleeping. * He wears outdated clothes, Eats outdated food, lives In an outdated country.

* Based on defeats big, small and spectacular, A lifetime of continuous defeats, he decides to pen An instructive book for humanity, to stimulate Progress and righteous living, before he dies. * Deaf, blind, missing arms and legs, Caked in blood, he crawls onto the stage To receive his medal from a draft dodger. * Tearing up, puffing, he twisted My arm, yanked my hair, before He handed me the diamondStudded wedding ring. * Morning, night, in light or darkness, I took the initiative, then waited, Waited and waited, but he wouldn’t

Dare touch me. * Though she’s of a different race And half his age, he likes to bury His face in her tangy armpit, And calls her mom. * Though he’s of a different race And decidedly sunken chested, She likes to suck his nipples And calls him mom. * Infatuated with women’s traces more Than actual women, he’s absorbed In collecting every fragment, Memento, trinket, fossil, souvenir, Scent, vapor and drip of women. *

After sex, she always forgot The name of whoever Was next to her.

* The last day on earth, the sun Doesn’t set but rises, rises And rises. * Out of all sounds and colors, He could only hear two notes And see two colors. * Reading this sentence, He forgets the previous, Because his mind can only

Contain one relatively Short sentence. * Reading this word, He forgets the previous, Because his mind can only Contain one common and Not too abstract word. * A lifelong liar, He doubts everything, Including dogs barking And birds chirping. * To collect a paycheck each week, He must lie nonstop to everyone, Including his wife, kids, dogs, birds, Fish, snakes and horses.

* He would only eat each dish once, Talk to each person once, Sleep on each bed once. * Lying alone, naked, wrinkled and ripe, He still mumbles in satisfaction, Betrayal Is power. * He’s hyper sensitive To every shift, twitch, twinge, Belch and hiccup of his soul, And oblivious to the conditions Of every other living thing. * He’s very philosophical about The great suffering of others, And very emotional about

His minor irritations. * He always sees another’s misfortune As a consolation, a spiritual boost, Frankly a personal stroke of good luck. * He knows a little about everything, Except the things he knows nothing about.

One Dented Second Tolerating only perfection, he couldn’t stand anything That was chipped, scratched, nicked or slightly faded, No matter how beautiful. Reading a masterpiece, 10,000 pages, with only A comma missing, he had to burn the book Immediately. A nearly perfect life, with just one dented second, Was unacceptable. Therefore he could only live For one second. With the second second, He killed himself.

Hell Yeah! What is that tight muscle Between naked modesty And nude aggression? What is the name of that ligament connecting Your raw body being wrestled and clawed To the front panel of your subconscious? What is that dead chunk that’s always Stuck in between two livelier chunks, Right there, where everyone can see it? And, finally, behind that fluttering dress, There’s really nothing to speak of.

Brand New Products A vigilant gun that always picks out The right target—even if it’s you— No matter who you’re aiming at. A computer that listens and blows you, As you blow it, to your favorite tune. Meat that cleans your teeth As you’re masticating it. A truck so awesome, only the President Of the United States of America’s allowed To careen in it, to his own beat. A dictionary with positive adjectives only. A dictionary with no wet verbs. A dictionary with negotiable definitions. A dictionary that defines words by their antonyms. All the greatest hits from the last millennium Performed live, on stage, on the inside Of your state of the art, acoustically-enhanced skull.

A complete set of nude photos Of you, taken by you and sold Back to you—at a discount. A sex doll with a mirror for a face. A sex doll with a Ph.D. A sex doll with adjustable skin tone. A sensitive sex doll that just wants To be friends—a Platonic sex doll. Rain water in a bottle, sunshine in a box And ambience sounds from a bus stop Down the street, recorded on a CD. A 24-hour video of what you did yesterday. A 24-hour video of what you’ll do tomorrow. A super realistic photo of what’s outside Your window, pasted to your window. A baseball game that never ends, To be played simultaneously with

A football game that never ends. Cluster bombs that scatter copies of Leaves of Grass Over a thousand-mile radius, for a thousand years. Landmines made with dough, Topped with mozzarella and all Your favorite toppings. An airplane that never lands. And, finally, your favorite fairy tale Painted on your new plastic limbs.

Party Flavors? Clowns or penguins? Cocks of the walk? Grim reapers? Naked ninjas? Twinkled old farts? Drunken princesses? Bear hogs and kisses? He rules the roost, she rules the rooster. Hearts as brickbats? It’s udderly fantastic! Jocular hags as tiered cakes? Chill out, it’s cool to be 110! Silhouettes of buzzards or nuns? Real balloons? Priapic shadows? Suggested rhymes: date, bait, ate, fornicate, innate, mate, deflate, sedate, hate, pontificate. Tree stumps with yellow ribbons? Dancing skeletons? Empty boots? Perforated helmets? Generic dog tags? Energetic blood drive with shimmering flags?

Suggested rhymes: horn, porn, corn, born, torn, shorn. Happy birthday from your ghoulish friends! Smiley faces on styrofoam headstones?

Biblical Haikus First man, then woman, Then man, woman and golden Delicious apple. The first three men rolled With the first woman, to launch A nation of ants. Chewing in darkness, Men, women and animals Could scent each other. Again, the short straw. Squatting inside a fish, then Speaking engagement. I know you. You are Said to be alive, though you Are deader than dead.

More fortunate than The dead and the living, those Who will be aborted. If only the door To my mother’s womb were shut. No whoredom later. Beneath her bruised heel, A garrulous serpent’s head. No trophy virgin. The male addendum Made no sense whatsoever Before the spare rib. My wife has a sword In her mouth, like God. My feet Are like burnished brass. Steal from the ants, slugs! They got gas but no weapons Of mass destruction.

The green grass will burn. Water will turn into blood. It’s shock and awe, y’all. He ran after death To give death to his neighbors. It met him halfway.

Great Americans Albert Pinkham Ryder, For his transcendental cows, And for spilling his lava flow Onto our consciousness. Andy Warhol, For saying sex Is nostalgia for sex. Billie White Shoes Johnson, The father of end zone dancing, Now outlawed by the lizards. Edgar Allan Poe, For having his tombstone pulverized By a speeding train. Walt Whitman, For sleeping under his office desk,

The only place for an American genius. Yoko Ono, For inviting strangers to clip Her skin into ribbons. James Baldwin, For being unsuccessful At hailing a cab in his native Harlem On his last night in America.

No Biggies Nothing will be paid for loss of Life, a hand and a foot, both Hands or both feet And sight of one eye. Nothing for loss of both Eyes, Speech and/or hearing, or a hand & a foot. Nothing for Loss of movement in both upper and lower limbs. Nothing for loss of movement in both lower limbs. $1 for loss of an eye, Speech and/or hearing. One hand & two feet.

$1,000 for loss of movement in both upper and lower limbs of one side of the body. $25 will be paid for thumb and index finger of the same hand.

A Newspaper Reader Sideswiped, bulldozed and pricked By all sorts of injustice, he gladdens When he sees a bloodier, more definitive Injustice strikes another. He also tries To inflict as much injustice as possible On a daily basis, as he celebrates, silently Or not, what he reads in the newspapers. Truth equals beauty equals goodness. He justifies His pleasure in other people’s suffering on aesthetic And moral grounds. He imagines that he shares The same taste and logic as God, if He exists.

Twelve Inches As twelve inches fall outside, I can watch it live or delayed On my twelve inches. As my wife sleeps alone, at last, I can watch her undress, at last, On my twelve inches. It’s OK, buddy, to miss Twelve inches going by At the speed of life, As long as you’ve saved them On your twelve inches. Twelve inches in real life Are merely twelve inches, Or even less, depending On the many, many inches Between looker and lookee. How can these compare to The twelve honest inches On your twelve inches?

Hygiene for a Comma Bug the size of a comma cleaning itself The way a cat would, by licking, In turns, its six legs, then privates. But! But! the mahout screams, What is there to clean on a bug The size of a comma?!! All the filth, mahatma, that would naturally Accrue from dawn to dusk on a comma.

Conversation about the Naked Mind “A naked body, with its predictable, tyrannical Hot spots, is not as sexy as a naked mind.” “Agreed, but a naked mind on a naked body is sexiest.” “Most minds are turfed over with layers Of cants, dust and sap. Most minds Have never experienced nakedness.” “Agreed, but a naked mind on a naked body is sexiest.” “The mind’s nakedness is a dim network. Like a confused striptease, the mind trips Over itself as it flashes its jewels accidentally.” “Agreed, but a naked mind on a naked body is sexiest.” “Always slipping from its pursuer, the mind’s Nakedness is a serpentine tunnel, interrupted By stark chambers of beauty, horror and grief.”

“Agreed, but a naked mind on a naked body is sexiest.” “Striding forward, the mind’s nakedness Will undress, and mesh with, its pursuer.”

Quiz Invaders invariably call themselves: a) berserkers b) marauders c) frankincense d) liberators Our enemies hate us because: a) we’re sadists b) we’re hypocrites c) we shafted them d) we value freedom Our friends hate us because: a) we’re bullies b) we hate them c) we’re hypocrites d) we value freedom Pushed to the ground and kicked by a gang of soldiers, about to be shot, you can save your life by brandishing: a) an uzi b) a crucifix c) the Constitution

d) a poem A poem can: a) start a war b) stanch a wound c) titillate the masses d) shame a nation Poets are: a) clowns b) parasites c) legislators d) terrorists A nation’s standing in the world is determined by: a) its buying power b) its military might c) its cultural heritage d) God A country is rich because of: a) its enlightened population b) its political system c) its big stick d) its geography

A country is poor because of: a) its ignorant population b) its political system c) its small stick d) its geography A man’s dignity is determined by: a) his appearance (skin color, height, etc.) b) his willingness to use violence c) his command of English d) his blue passport Those willing to die for their beliefs are: a) idealists b) terrorists c) suckers d) insane Those willing to die for nothing are: a) principled b) patriotic c) insane d) cowards

Terrorists: a) abuse language b) hit and run c) shock and awe d) rely on ingenuity Smart weapons: a) render hopeless and dormant kinetic objects b) kill softly c) save lives d) slaughter by science Pain is: a) payback for evil-doers b) a common misfortune c) compelling drama d) suck it up! Humiliation is: a) the ultimate thrill for bored perverts b) inevitable in an unequal relationship c) a fear factor d) sexy and cathartic The media’s job is:

a) to seduce b) to spread c) to sell d) to drug The Internet: a) allows us to be pure minds b) connects us to distant bodies c) disconnects us from the nearest minds and bodies d) improves illiteracy Pornography is: a) a lie that exposes the truth b) a needed breather from civilization c) class warfare d) nostalgia for the garden of Eden Correct answers: c, d, d, b, b, a, d, a, a, c, b, b, b, c, b, d, b, d, c. -If you scored 14-19, you’re a well-adjusted person, a homeowner, with an income of at least $50,000 a year. -If you scored 8-13, you either rent or live with your parents, never exercise, and consume at least a 6-pack a day. -If you scored 7 or less, you’re in trouble with the FBI and/or the IRS, cut your own hair, and use public transit as your primary mode of transportation.

From Some Kind of Cheese Orgy

All You Can Eat As a jumpy, frowning mammal, my pusillanimous Aim is to produce a single egg, if not photograph, Brood and discuss it some, before I’m butchered Behind that curtain, canvas, table cloth or summery, Cotton dress. Here, they can’t help but pun, thinking They’re hilarious. From the sky, our prison appears As an airport, and our hospital, an amusement park. It’s well known that the dying are soothed by laughing At those who smell just a tad worse, but did you know That corpses also have a fine sense of humor? Tell me A joke. I’m dead already. Tell me another joke.

What a Wand An erratic fountain that makes Nothing much happen, poetry Won't just save me, it will heal The universe, stop presidents, Secretaries, recent immigrants And plumbers in their tracks, To marvel at my metered gush. Your mama won't finger your poems, For fear of going mad over you, after Seeing your full magnificence, for fear Of lusting after herself, finally, alone, Sobbing in her sad, sordid bathroom. 99.99 percent of poetry is a sham, Likely this poemette, for example. Honesty alone cannot float it. A chance porthole into the real, A glancing clarification, more Than just horizontal euphony, Poetry still feels false within The context of this slammer Of mushy minds and bodies,

Yours also. Truly. Bumping My head against a stanza, I knocked My conscience some inches to the left.

Bailing Nothing to say? Why not relax, Pour youself a mug of mocha And write a poem? Remember To be shameless and all that. In trash can, everything Worth saving from last Billion years, but in wax Or papier mâché. I am Of the opinion that blogging resembles Singing karaoke alone, but of course, I’m old enough to miss her big butts On JenniCam. I’m the best poet In my class at the Community College of Quietude. Tattooed Child molesters get better perks. Another war on, time to masturbate.

I could have been a swinging, two-fisted flyweight. As it is, I must compose from a freshly-dug grave, Beside yours, as my soul worms into your Coeur D’alene, Idaho or something, which I’ve glimpsed Only once through a crazed window. (Greyhound.)

Hold the Applause! God doesn’t blunder, He has chosen me To write this asskicking poem. Shut up! So I can listen to His dictation. Boldly, I can claim inspiration. I am, I say, In the employ of God and His angels, The true authors of this divine poem. (Which God? Any, really. Unlike nearly all, I don’t totally believe That postmodern fiction, poetry and dance are health hazards, Degrade the environment and spread unspeakably painful And disfiguring, for sure, lifelong diseases to our children.) There are six billion before Him, yet He always Selects the right cog for the right job, each time, Condoleezza Rice for her gig, and me, for this. Get out of my way, punks, so I can do justice To this backboard-breaking, rim-bending, Triple pumping dunk of a poem, after leaping Over a pyramid of squinting cheerleaders.

Ritratto di un Maestro A so-called master painter Painted with an invisible paint, Super expensive, special ordered From China, so all of his so-called Masterpieces are invisible to you And me, who are too stupid, anyway, To appreciate them, were they visible. Actually, he sucked, like the rest of them. Skipping breakfast, lunch and dinner, he’d Labor for many months on a single canvas, Expending a heroic amount of mental And physical energy, not to mention Obscene amounts of invisible paint, To produce a piece of innocuous or, At best, fairly obnoxious garbage. You can’t blame him. His eyesight was bad, His motor coordination poor, his knowledge Of art history rudimentary, his mind average, His passion zero. Look at his wife’s wan smile. In short, he was just an idiot with a palette knife, Like the rest of them, but, boy, could he paint!

Last Poem, I Promise I have maximized neither my Brain nor brawn. Feel this. I’ve fucked around, drifted. Decades have disappeared. (Shut the fuck up, you fuckin’ Hardon. Is it time to jerk off?) Creatively inclined, I’ve tried All seven of the arts, in turn. Pretty, not even trashed, “Fuck me.” “Let me think about it. I’ll get back To you. Do you come here a lot?” “Given your industry and smarts, would you Prefer a well-paying, prestigious career or A lifetime of poverty, irrelevance and an Increasingly absurd display of self-hatred?” Ten seconds, then, “Can you repeat that?” After the fatal car crash, “What have you done With your life?” “I blogged, took some photos, Left comments on other people’s blogs, So they would comment on my blog.”

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah The woods decay, the woods decay and fall, The vapors weep their burden to the ground, Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath, And after many a summer dies my sentimental, Poisoned by my next-door neighbor, although We can't prove goddamn shit. His eyes refuse To close on such an outrage of a universe. Fuck you, dog. Smug dog. Eat shit and die, dog. After many a summer croaks the self Proclaimed poet. He meant everything He never got round to say. He didn't know What he was saying. It didn't matter. His brain is too bloated to eat, His eyes fogged before eulogy, His teeth fang-like yet brittle. People, can we go a day without massacring a shit load? How many collaterals have you stabbed this morning? How many did you strangle last night? Looking at you,

I just want to strip you naked, eat every scrap Of your lovely nonsense, gargle your thin soul With my stink hole, then spit you into paradise.

Third Coming Rough beast out there. Everywhere You’re laid, it slouches. Don’t steer To Bethlehem. I miss that soot More than my checks and ozone. “Act now, dodge later,” uncle spat, “Build your McShack here, patriot.” Done, a giddy century of smoke. Excuse me while I check my Diversified stock portfolio.

Caption Before photography, people didn’t exist. Blow it up, I’m in the doctored details In this picture, and this one, I’m in Each photo, in the cool blur, in the Brown cloud, my tiny head redrawn, My splayed limbs cropped. I hammed. I’m telling you, I’ve slept many times With near celebrities. True, I’m lying Face down, here, in the mud, my pants Stained with too much clarity. My bones May dissolve in a toxic tub, but long As this photo shall last, I won’t fade.

Really What’s the temperature of this film? Location determines. Like the rest of us, you’re the sequel that almost wasn’t. Are the sex scenes real? Is the kissing? So we’re treated To a panorama of you walking, forward and back, sometimes With an always-at-least-slightly-out-of-sync walking partner. Shadows, words, fences and gadgets, sporadically infused With an insistent and desperate, at times tiresome beauty. It’s your life truncated yet blown up, a parable or punchline, Suitable for a colorful, discount and pre-shrunk T-shirt. Thanks to the static, I must say indifferent camera work, We know no one is directing this. That’s cool. A lifetime of Walking, posing and thrashing wasted. So this little action, Pornographic, not quite sci-fi, lame travelogue, snuff film You’re lavishing and imposing on us doesn’t really exist, But as a script, torn, mostly lost, then taped together In a hazy, flickering mind, yours, outlasting its warranty.

It Let’s talk about your piece first. The lighting Was erratic and banal, which was really great! The text repetitive and also banal, mostly, but Occasionally poignant, as when you blurted, I Think these crackers are old. The disembodied Hand snaking inside your clothes was a cliché Yet still arousing move. When you whispered, One or two? One or two? I finally understood That you needed me or someone like me, or Someone utterly unlike me, to feel the dead Weight of your still-warm anatomy, to multiply My climax by at least two, so to speak, to walk With you part of the way, then on without you.

Dang! I thought I had writer’s block, but my wheezing doctor Opined I was braindead, paralyzed or merely absent For a century or a day, from this airport lounge, food court Or racetrack, where brightly-dressed tricksters and fools Congregate to trade fates. Anyway, you won’t recognize My ghost as it strides from the wall, skinny and priapic. Speaking of going away, never accept chocolate pudding From a grinning stranger, fairy or not, or you’ll never espy Your mama again, not that you’d want to. In my country Of dismal birth, the dead are chopped up and stir-fried Thrice daily, to make sure us living won’t join them For a banquet of sloes, hoggins and other regrets.

Some Kind of Cheese Orgy As soon as I got off the boat, I stepped on a slice of cheese. The cheese is cheesier here, the non-cheese also cheesier. I ate cheese with both hands, wishing I had one more hand. "Don't bother chewing your cheese, dude, it'll chew itself." My cheesy thrill was enhanced by the sight of everybody else Also drowning in milk, whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, Salt, calcium phosphate, sodium citrate, whey protein concentrate, Sodium phosphate, sorbic acid as a preservative, acpocarotenal (Color), Annatto (color), enzymes, vitamin D3 and cheese culture. I couldn't entice them into eating cheese with their mouths wide open.

Racialism So white and hard. The black man Runs through a female swarm. They cheer. Cornered, The black woman sprints. So white and soft. The yellow man Looks up, then down. The yellow Woman’s glad to be matriculated. To wimperingly pleasure the other Is feared and celebrated. May I Slaver your oddly tinted adjunct? Implicate you in our shared scent?

Imagine His palace surrounded, he fled through miles Of secret tunnels, hopped into a waiting SUV And was driven to a house of worship, where They finally found him, hours later, praying, “Dear Father, I ask you to honor the heroes.” He was never stripped, made to stand naked With his arms spread, shit smeared on his face, Forced into high cut, low rise panties, punched, As girls grinned and german shepherds growled. No one jumped on his naked feet, stuck things. Disputing widespread verdicts that his regime Was violent, corrupt and anti-intellectual, he Produced a hand scrawled note, listing his token Humanitarian gestures, which failed to temper An all-volunteer firing squad. Pow! Pow! Pow!

Hearing how his sneering vice had been wasted, Then strung up in public, he vowed, “That won’t Be my parting scene, scenario or shot.” Kissing His golf ball and horseshoe-loving dog goodbye, He calmly killed his mistress and tight-faced wife, Bit cyanide ampule, pumped a depleted uranium Slug into his smirking mouth. Burned and buried By his remaining lackeys, his lying, straight teeth Were dug up by his bummed-out enemies. No, he was never kept in a suspended cage In a mega arena, executed during halftime.

Beyond Stupid “Sometimes I want to go to prison,” he said, “So I’ll have all the time to write.” Look here, Etched into the granite walls of a 6 x 8, Windowless, single-occupancy, postmodern, Maximum-security suite: love of country, white, Sandy beach, vigilance against all & everything, Sleeping teens, mossy boulders, rolling, grassy Meadows, hung ferns, bright birds and dandelions.

Late Weather I wish somebody would violate me in public, strip me, beat me up then fuck me, so I could sob in front of the whole world, so that as many people as possible could see how pitiful and sympathetic I am, so they could feel sorry for me and admire me. I want to be spat on, strangled, then spat on some more. Since childhood, I’ve fantasized about being on a stretcher, naked, dirty and bleeding—mostly for effects, mind you, even fake blood is OK, no spouting gashes or organ failures, thank you—with my eyes open just enough to see these horrified, titillated or indifferent eyes staring at me, vouching for my greatness, so that anyone could see that I am somebody, a lovable somebody.

Nude at last, I am glamorously famous. Now that you’re loving me and it’s reciprocal, let me suck each of your unclean holes, please, please, please, all seven or eight of them, but don’t fuckin’ grope me with anything besides your retinas, fuckhead. This is the stock market speaking. The bottom is just around the corner. This is the poetry ghetto speaking. The red curtain is mangy, the vinyl seats torn, and I’m a piss poor act, indeed. Alone, I prefer cream cheese evenly spread on a silk kerchief, a wholesome and perfect facsimile of a female human, something I’ve never experienced. Female version: I am a piss poor act, indeed. Alone, I prefer fake butter dripping from a week-old, crusty roll, a wholesome and perfect facsimile of a male human, something I’ve never sampled. Time for a soprano sax solo: I have no idea what a pussy looks, feels or smells like, and I’m a woman.

And a lowdown, likely illegal trombone solo: I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a dick in profile. Like you, you and you, I am deranged and degraded, my perfumed silk undies and au courant, expensive haircut totally useless. Ditto, my minted breath, sandblasted of all microbes. Watch how I steer my late model Mercedes convertible into an underground garage, my wilted soul budding from its wool enclosure, acrid with sulfur. Superficially different, we are all inferior to one another, aren’t we? But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? I was in luck. The gods forgot to fart me off the map yesterday.

Again, Holes A boy with two holes. A girl with one hole. A sensible man with five manicured holes. A harried secretary with seven or eight holes. The President of the United States with at least nine holes. With his feet wide, a grinning soldier flaunts His twenty holes or so, with some comprised Of at least two holes, blending into one. A chairman of the board With ten thousand holes At up to ten thousand Undisclosed locations. A world-class athlete with So many well-toned holes In hard to reach corners.

A dog with no hole. Twelve holes lined up, Two or three outstanding, But all are acceptable. I misplaced my hole, now I must make another hole.

Poem Before Mirror I’ve forgotten your name, as you mine, but I do remember one of your presentations, Bottom smooth, free of tricks and errors, With a nose over a chewing mouth, etc. So sloppily made, will this face Last a day or a week? Already Discolored, musty and sagging From mere seconds ago. Totally Evil shit from a divine face vs. euphonic And soothing syllables from a deviation. Trust me, lie back. After fingering your Patient mug with my seasoned digits, I would say that your face is neither Representative, presentable nor a gift To humanity, frankly, yet even sanded, Erased or caked with a slanderous and Soggy definition, you’ll still be you. I’m sorry, but I really don’t know you, You had a different facet or façade

The last time we rubbed faces. A breathtakingly radiant face Still can’t compete with more Salient and silent parts of Its ensouled package.

Thoughts while Walking Home Your hands are indispensable. Without The opposable thumb, all complex operations Such as the hand job or penning the constitution Would have to be automated, or contracted out To these lowballing aliens. Legs, on the other hand, Are so flighty, they tend to run back and forth of Their own free will. They're so uppity. Anything That can be done on the go, can be done in situ. Therefore, I propose that all legs be amputated A minute or two after birth, so that a man can be Intimate with all that are closest to him.

How to Foster Man chops own thumb off, Replaces it with his toe, works Just as well, sort of, is happier Than he was before, lops his own Dumb demand off, replaces fucker With his brows, works even better Than before. His wife, in sympathy, Slices her own afterimages off.

Lookee Here, Originally Gleefully lowering themselves, lower Forms of life caress with their tongue, but those Capable of wearing thick, cheap, plastic glasses Will even kiss with their hands. Hands keep all Marvels and dangers at arm’s length. They are The first acrobats and media stars. I enjoy Watching them do what I can only dream of Performing at home.

Not Quite Symmetry Broke, I’d like to borrow your lower half, Wear it for a day, make some coins. I’d Love to enter you, snug, but not through The usual channel. You can invade me, Feel my convexity, as I’m ventilated By your absence, there, in the crotch. My eyes shaded by your eyelids, I’ll Conform to your nose’s architecture, Breathe this life though your nostrils.

Church Basement Social A nerve, the eye transmits impulses. Amazing, isn’t it? Just by maintaining That ventilated posture, you can make People gasp worldwide, even weep. You’ll be admired from an unusual, Neck twisting angle, reminiscent Of transgressive art. You and it Are only a sniff away, yet absent. Staring at your pixels, the abject wish They could become pixels themselves, So they could conjoin pixels to pixels. Kneeling, I worship your stink hole.

What I Usually Tell My Students Rhymes are built into the language, any, really, Even those without vowels. It takes no special Effort or skill to sing song along as you versify. That’s why you must be sly about rhyming. Don’t Pummel readers with obvious end rhymes, OK? Pope Benedict Now Bigger Dick to Gays. SEAN AVERY IS NOW AN EVEN BIGGER DICK. Who’s got the bigger Dick? Chris Brown or Neyo? My senator is a bigger Dick than your senator. How can I get a bigger dick (Naturally)? Men’s obsessions with penis size dates Back to the start of time and no matter what god has Given them, most men want a bigger dick. Watch the How to Get A Bigger Dick Quick! Video. Daily Kos: I'm so tired of "I've got a bigger dick" foreign policy. How about it? Get A Bigger Dick Today. Let's Play "Who's the Bigger Dick? Wow, Roger Clemens is a Bigger dick than we imagined. Seth: How can I get A bigger dick naturally without any pumps? WANT A BIGGER DICK? MAXIMIZE YOUR MANHOOD. Ben Dover Bigger Dick Kit. Ben Dover's Penis Pump Kit is from the

Porn star himself. Eight-inch wonder includes a free cock Ring, the chamber is made from a translucent plastic. So, you see, it’s even OK to rhyme “Seth” with “get,” “Cock” with “plastic,” and even “plastic” with “plastic.”

Poem for Infants The moon is a late-night snack for bats And toothless old ladies. A somnambulist, The moon peeked into a young girl’s window. “Here, moon, take my pink polka dot hairbow.” The moon slipped into a lonely man’s bed, With its gray sheets and electric blanket. “You grab that extra pillow. Come closer.” The moon strolled into a busy butcher’s shop. “Go ahead and confiscate my knives, moon, I can no longer tolerate so much bloody flesh.” The moon tried hard but got nowhere close to The neglected prisoner’s cell. Near cock crow, The moon sneaked up to a writer. Looking Over his thin shoulder, the moon blushed To see that he had filled page after page With—what else?—“moon, moon, moon…”

Guarded by two dogs, the moon is a crazed mirror You can walk through, to reach nothing, at last.

Candle-Lit Tale After the blunt snake slithered away, finally, its tail Jiggling one last time before disappearing behind The frayed, red velvet curtain, not quite closing, I checked on my bent knife, my ruffled chicks, A drowsy face in the dim mirror, not to mention What’s left of a half-eaten, half-spat-out kielbasa, Accompanied by a glob of dijon mustard, still intact, Miraculously, ready for the next verdict, not too soon.

Parabolic Parables Opening wrong door, sober man with good eyesight Saw what he thought was his dead wife preparing His favorite dinner. He could tell by the aroma, The same hairstyle and her usual house dress. “Sorry,” he muttered and shut the door. Seven people concocted the same, perfect plan To assassinate a cynically corrupt, genocidal yet Moronic dictator. On the fatal day, they arrived At their sniping spot. Startled, They shot each other. Unprovokedly stabbed, he asked for the knife As a souvenir, proudly showed it to everyone. "This is how it went in. I had no idea why." He then befriended his attacker, so they Could recount, over beer and kettle chips, The exciting and hilarious episode Which had disabled him permanently. It’s impossible to look at this man’s face And not suspect some barely suppressed Sadistic tendencies, likely sexual. His eyes

Are perfectly clear and regular, his nose Straight and not calcium deficient, likewise His full set of teeth, his mouth also regular. He conducted his life punctiliously, according to The clear dictates of misprints and proof mistakes, Not to mention sentences gravely misread Through bad eyesight and poor lighting. Fleeing an imminent disaster, he saw the disaster In distress, dirty, tattered, practically naked, walking Towards him and its grand appointment, obviously. Without hesitation, he gave it a ride to his doom.

Don’t Read, This Poem is a Scam!!! When someone says flower, you picture a rose. You’ll die on September 29th of this year. Just by reading that, you’ll certainly croak. Don’t thank or curse me, it wasn’t much Of a prediction, but words are indeed deeds. I find you very nice, sexy and intelligent… Why not get even for once? Dominate The English language today! It’s too late, You’ll die even if you hide inside a bomb Proof bunker, for all of September 29th, Even if you burn this non-poem, destroy Your just bought computer, or disappear.

I Owe You These Lines Welcome, friend, I give you My very best friend, to eat. I did not kill my best friend, friend, Although I did rejoice at his death, As I would rejoice at your death, As you would, no doubt, fall over Laughing at news of my demise. With the sharpest or dullest knife, Whatever’s handy, I’ll point the tip Of my blade at your jugular vein, Observe your jiggling jaw, ask About your questionable taste In wine, painting and poetry. Fall is my favorite season, I somberly reflect, As your blood pools in the sharp morning air, As I incise a clean cross on your funny belly, As I gut you, glancing over my thin shoulders.

Blushing Rose as Shy Carnivore A shrine to butchery, this darkened shop Hasn’t seen blood for decades. Since My father, the butcher, died, I’ve left all Of his cleavers and boning knives in place. (That’s a pentameter, which is guided And constrained by the diaphragm, Made of delicious hanger and skirt steaks.) I feel like another heaping plate, don’t you? To know a people, you must eat and drink With them, whatever they find delicious, As dictated by their climate and fauna. We never killed anything, we butchered. Even delicate jaws prefer much meat. Some men say I look like Natalie Wood.

Good Morning, Good Night Mud leavened by blood, Pee, casual spit and semen, This earth is a fruit, that’s clear, Not round but heart-shaped, With a stem sticking out Of the North Pole, long before John Hudson thought he had Found yet another way home. (He, his boy and the sickest Were left adrift on the icy bay.) Anyway, my generic droppings, Like your mama’s, contribute To this gorgeous fruit’s gravity, Its peacock pride, its teeming Orgies, parades and carnages, Cloaked by a sky sans gender. Just this morning, finding myself strangely vertical, I doffed an imaginary hat at the blushing, winking,

Cliché horizon.

Skin Jokes Anticipating another tickle, I convulsed. Remembering it, I threw up. Sometimes, I can do my mirth routine quite convincingly, Without even the shadow of a tickle casting Its hilarity across my serum-flecked landscape. That penultimate tickle was not cool. Late last night, I was either tickled stupid before a shoeless crowd, Or as I snored alone on an enormous bed. Waking, I found side-splitting gashes on my dumbstruck face.

Blotter Swollen man stuck in hexed novel. After ghastly extraction, convoluted Soul surgery somewhat successful. Subsisting alone in a tenth-floor walkup, Woman found yelling and beating On a stillborn sestina, her own. High on pills, white-haired freak caught With pants below shrunken alibis, At poorly-attended poetry reading. Despite repeated citations, A being of undeterminable sex Insists on passing out, totally free, Elegant, finely composed chapbooks To swine, dining at Michelin five stars.

A Story Needs Not have a weather-tossed introduction, rising action, A drunken, sappy and nasty surprise, then fitful sleep On a freezing couch, falling action and denouement. Having two characters unleashes sexual ping pong or A lumbering dance. Three, much winking, suspicion Then bright vipers balled up beneath a messy bed. Recommended conflicts: Man vs. pant pockets. Man vs. hypertrophic right shoulder. Man vs. televised terrorists. Man vs. dick. Woman vs. dick. Suggested dialogue: “What are you doing?” “I just thought I would.” “I don’t know about that.” “How about tomorrow?” “I’ll take a rain check.” “Why be so discrete?”

Tell me, what’s the difference Between omniscient limited And omniscient objective?

Safe, Retarded Opening lines Inappropriate For any nonOccasion, son: My poor prick, Don’t go there. Hi, my name Is Richard F. Broke. I’m a Cunning Linguist, Third-world Trillionaire. How do You do?

Today’s Poem is Sponsored by Monkeys and inmates, Bipeds, basically, will Fling shit when angry. Hence, the term “apeshit.” Why? Because their hands Are free, dummy. “But, but, I only hurl shit with my mouth.” Were you crawling on all fours, Just like you did, a minute ago, Or so it seems, your blow hole, Slash, mono speaker, would be Too busy grasping and tearing To learn to declaim anything but Grunts and squeals when snug with A significant other (in a zoo). Poetic sentence: In Antwerp, I Saw a langur’s thin, red dick, as He chased his Beatrice before a Howling class of second graders.

Let's Talk The shit knowledge gets stuck In between the eloquent teeth, Anchors those haloed thoughts. My chain of minty abstractions trip Over the titty bumps, get hoovered Into the scalloped ever pink. Your Jazzy jibes sidestep that rude rod. Each utters in euphemisms, the hate And fuck fuck creases ironed away, All inchoate truths diluted into light.

This Poetic Effort May be called “Angling, a Night,” “Hiding Between Two Cars,” Or “Anne Sexton Sucks.” Is the mike on, Joe? A mom and pop, sort of, I’m rentable by half An hour, though some Of the starving, paying To feed me frantically, Don’t even take a blink. Don’t mess up my hair! Don't kiss me on the lips! Don’t eat me, you really Don’t want to do that. What’s worse, asking, "Is this your first time?" Or, "How long has it been?"

How is that possible, love?

Clean, Clean, Clean Belonging to the lower class, you’re expected To cater to the upper class’ lower bodily functions, Not to engage their minds but to wipe their asses, Kiss their cunts on demand, suck cocks for tips, Unless, of course, you’re an artist, in which case, You’re an aristocrat of the servant class, to quote That grand maestro among slaves, Jasper Johns. I used to clean apartments and houses. Showing up for a new job, I was greeted By the mistress, "I have the most respect For new immigrants. You work so hard!” Down low, you’ll get a disproportionate Low down on all things funky and nasty, Nothing unusual, really, just shit and stuff. I cleaned toilets and fridges, folded panties, Got on all fours, dipped into the suspicious. A young woman confided, "I moved to Philly Because California women were so beautiful." She was usually home when I came. The spine Of her soft porn book turned to the wall. They all Had some smut in the house. This was before

The internet made these sad and surreptitious Purchases unnecessary. I found a teen-aged Madonna in a closet, so I knelt and sighed. A fat one lived alone, but once she said, "Sorry, The house is so messy today. I had company Last night," and her face brightened angelically.

Recalling Scitan What I’ve shed pertains To me, unfairly, a scientific Whiff and mother lode, a vein Of used bullions, a superstition. I have much on my conscience, The using, degrading and splitting. Yes, I’ve swallowed the sublime, The vulgarly condimented as well As the deeply discounted and shit.

Autoorbituary I was outpaced in death By my good looks, my sex, Even, I hoped, my cowardice. Death strode before me, farting. Towards the end, I could hear all, Remember zero. I don't remember Being paid for anything I've made. Still, I've done some things. Drunk, I mimicked all the ridiculous motions. "I sure hope you're pregnant, dear."

Mounted I love this head, I really do, it brings back A lot of tingling, audible memories. I hate That one, front and back. Sure, I’d love To shoulder mount this still-wet one, But it will cost me 700 bucks. Shoot! A cheapo alternative is to let, say, a million Bugs clean out all the facial hair and flesh Of a cherished, targeted head. Simultaneously Eating and crapping, these dermestid beetles Will devour through anything, wood, dry wall, Linoleum, silicone, animal or human tissues, Even the hideous memories associated with A smirking, accusatory, just-murdered head. Stunted by the Black Death, the cathedral In Siena is still the mother of all cathedrals, Its upper nave ringed by the white marble Heads of maybe a hundred popes, glaring down At the squinting, open-mouthed, tiny and yetTo-be eaten heads, with their cheapo cameras. Bud lived life quietly and solidly. He enjoyed

The simple and beautiful pleasures of each day. He accepted life’s occasional cruelties gracefully. Asked after dinner if there was anything he needed, His reply was always, “No, I have everything I need.” Charlie B’s in Missoula is also a sort of cathedral, With its own gallery of heads, mostly of white men. Mounted in black and white by Lee Nye, they appear In a hopped up glow, wall-eyed and beer-battered, In a Stetson, fedora or baseball cap, often laughing, Relieved and a little proud, perhaps, to have made it Into middle age without leaving a chunk of themselves A dozen time zones away, or just around the corner. Gary went on to serve four years in the Navy, Which took him to Sasebo, Japan, where he Developed a life-long love of Oriental food.

Pissed Off Zombies Counter to stereotype, most Yankees [go home] Are quite civil in person. They consider the comfort Of others, readily say "excuse me" or "I'm sorry," stand In straight lines, and not too close to whoever’s in front, Like many third-worlders hounded and conditioned by Crowding, pushing, shoving and elbowing. Americans Try not to irk those around them. It's more than just The Capitalist strategy of pleasing All customers, ingrained from one's first McJob. "Have a great day! Come back again. Do you Want to supersize that?" American civility Is inculcated in [a three, four or nine-bedroom] home [With adjustable mortgage], and at the dinner table, Don't chew your [freedom] fries with your mouth open, Etc. The operative phrase is "in person." Given the anonymity Of an online persona or quick escape, protective armor Of a car, preferably a militarized SUV, American civility

Can quickly unravel. Road rage is all-too-common and Abusive comments Run rampant on the web. Before the widespread addiction Of the internet, a decade and a half ago, Americans didn't Have such a ready, anonymous outlet to vent their anger, As well as porno, poetry and porno always [wipey] handy. Normally, one hesitates before calling someone an idiot or An asswipe face to face, at a bar, for example, not merely Out of civility but because a crisp right cross might crash Against one’s kisser, then rabbit punches and hair pulling, But online, there are no corresponding restraints. Freed from the burden of having a name, a noggin And personal history, one can rail against strangers, Flirt with adolescents and do pretty much whatever. Even when a real name is used, there’s still enough Safety and privacy to unleash one's not-all-that-odd Demons, after all. We’re constantly thwarted from life, since all media mediate, And what connects separates. Seductive, addictive screens

Keep us marooned, unsocialized and removed from whoever Sleeps a wall or floor away. Reduced to pure minds, we may Yet realize that the body, without mouthwash and deodorant, Is not such a bad buffer. Phone sex isn't a long-term solution. Tila Tequila isn't All that. Put your discount family jewels away, Son. She needs a spine specialist, them headlights are fake. Cars and iPods are yet more emblems of our isolation. Glimpsed through a windshield, life comes at us with The unreality and speed of television, that ultimate Control freak. Zombie machine, electronic pacifier, the boob tube Is at the heart of American relaxation and good times. Americans perch in dark bars not to chatter but to be Fixated by a bank of televisions, showing half a dozen Sport events in different time zones. They go to stadiums To gaze at the Jumbotron, then home to study TV highlights Of what they missed at the game. As for family entertainment, They gorge on a diet of kitschy, feel-good stories interspersed By sadism,

An American pastime by now, bubbling up from The subconscious, garnished with nooses and feces, Trickling from the White House. Passively watching, Americans feel no complicity enjoying scenes Of staged yet real degradation, in witnessing An endless parade of attention-starved assholas Being screamed at (Hell's Kitchen), punched, kicked And kneed into a bloody mess (Ultimate Fighting) Or eating cockroaches and maggots (Fear Factor). The Toyota, Coke, Froot Loops, Hummer and maleEnhancement commercials, interlarded between These vile, entertaining scenes, reassure viewers That they’re still safely within the mainstream, that They're still God-fearing, patriotic and baseball-loving. The cheeky rudeness of the Gong Show is now super quaint. In this TV environment, natural disasters and wars Are also entertainment, to be enjoyed with a Bud Lite And a tub of Cheetos, with Abu Ghraib an even more Thrilling version of Fear Factor. It's true that people have Always rejoiced at each other's misfortunes, and nothing is

More cathartic, fun and funny than someone else's death— One even feels slightly taller in the presence of a corpse, Elias Canetti has written—but our appetite for death porn is Being whipped into a frenzy by an endless orgy of destruction, All with the aim of selling us more Mars bars. Asian tsunami, San Diego fires, Iowa floods or Katrina disgrace are all cool To watch, dude. Chill, everybody else is into the same shit. Numbed by all the fleshy and opulent come-ons, eternally Frustrated and restless, many Americans can’t even be sated With an open-ended snuff show that’s Iraq, now in its sixth season. Many are clamoring for a sequel in Iran, so they can channel surf Between a Kobe slam dunk, nuclear bombs and American Idol.

Which Womb? Man as an animal. At first sight, the other Is simply too weird and perhaps not fully human. He's more like an ape or the devil. Everything's Off about him, from his dress to his table etiquette To his toilet manners. For the insanely narcissistic, This utterly otherness, this wrong, wrong, wrongness, Can never be assimilated. We're also dirty, sure, but We've learnt to contain, mask and package our shit. Not these filthy others. I find it interesting that Kafka, a German speaking Jew In a new Czech nation, dreamt up a small menagerie Of talking and hybrid animals, from an "odradek" To chatty jackals, to a celebrity ape who first learnt to Spit then, in a moment of triumph, blurted out, "Hallo!" Captured by sailors, his first human home was a ship, Which was neither land nor sea but a rocking, artificial Womb. He was a kidnapped, future slave and a boat person, Or rather a boat ape, soon to become almost a person,

By ways of the circus then the academy, his progress "Accompanied by excellent mentors, good advice, applause And orchestral music." Seeing no place, no future for himself, He could never procreate, and I'm talking about Kafka here, Not the ape, who had, as a companion, “a half-trained Little chimpanzee and I take comfort from her As apes do." In George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, a black cat’s in love With a white mouse, who responds to the cat’s love By throwing bricks at this mooning and lute-strumming, Malapropism and alliteration-prone fool. In Musical Mose, Herriman's earliest strip, from 1902, a black musician tries To get gigs by "impussanating" other ethnicities. Assaulted By two white women for pretending to be a Scot, Mose cries, "I wish mah color would fade." Back home, his wife asks, “Why didn't yo impussanate a cannibal?" Born in New Orleans, Herriman was probably of mixed races, But he never said so, so even his closest friends thought He was a Greek or a Frenchman, born in Paris. But what Exactly is a "Greek," or a "Frenchman, born in Paris"?

Herriman was a mutt. But who isn't? Every tribe is totally impure. I'm supposedly Vietnamese, but there are 57 ethnic groups in that country. Vietnam was also colonized by China for a thousand years. My last name, Dinh, is the same as the Chinese "Ding," and There was even a 20th century Chinese writer, Ding Ling. If she were alive, I would definitely sue this broad for theft. I should also drag Kafka's ape to court for impussanating Me.

Jive and Solids Listen, I’m the summation of all My body parts, except my hairstyle, Obviously, I’m the sum, the final Aggregate, even as I type, of all That I’ve ever glimpsed, including all The holes, the blanks, the tax returns, Postcards, all that I’ve ever said or heard, In any language, each squeak depositing Another speck of confusion onto my hair, I’m the subtraction of no song or insult, flung Or embossed upon my meat, the florescence Of all the transient jive and solids passing.

Rupture Adam broke up, finally, With his exceptional rib, fell In love with his navel, decided To write epic poetry, was ejected From Six Flags Great America. Adam’s poem was a post-avant masterpiece, Crammed with neologisms and non-sequiturs, But also a few end rhymes, a retro touch. Cute. Collage, montage, parody, beaucoup irony and Outright thievery quickly became old hat. Truly, Adam was second to none, including all of our Greatest bonobo, langur and silverback bards. After much deliberation, Adam concluded that The best neologism for that small, hairy and Silky creature, known as a “cat” to us moderns, Was actually “cat,” and not “hummer” or “cactus.” Actually, Adam’s poem was all verbs, since everything Shapeshifted constantly during his time. Each damn noun Became obsolete in front of his eyes. You couldn’t call a

Teacup a teacup, before it became an ox or something. You couldn’t even say “something” because it was Already something else.

Diary of a Spadefoot Toad This may or may not be a dream diary. In any case, I’m writing this in a dream. Like a poet, I brood underground, waiting, Sometimes for many years, for the convincing Rumbles of an A-1 storm and rapturous flood, Before I muck to the surface to do all the things That spadefoot toads are supposed to do, mostly Croaking an original tune, I hope, for a moment, Before easing my dick self back into the ground.

Last Letter Dear mother, wife, soul mate and Probation officer (pick at least one). I lost my digital camera, so I must Use abject and chintzy words to describe This spectacularly appalling place, where Gray, flabby flesh is steered through climateNegating, hyper-masculine spaces. Although We’re given individual rooms here, all six Or seven billion of us are forced to negotiate The same bed, for the sake of “transparency.” Bumped by a gentleman named “Duron,” I couldn’t help But explain that “dures” is Latin for “hard,” so “durable” Is the universally-applauded ability to stay macho. “So What’s your point?” His face hardened even as His eyes betrayed some permanent hurt. Speaking Of hard-on, I miss you very much, Dearest. No More soon.

Eating Morphemes Same word, Different syntax, Different word. No longer held or possessed, This word has wandered off And cannot be slotted in any Long masticated, Macerated mess Of a sentence. In short, it is a Forgotten chord, Missing feeling or Flushed ideogram. Goddamn, this word Shapeshifting on me, Surgically tampered, Deftly airbrushed and Voguing with a feather boa, If not translated.

Word lit by tungsten lamp Vs. chubby aromatic candle Vs. bathed in pitch darkness, So that is must be felt With startled hands. Listen, massaging a word, You will become informal, Intimate and unabashed With its muscles and even, If everything goes right, Its bones and tendons. As for word topiary, You can now choose Bushy bohemian, Waxed brazilian, Traditional and neat triangle, Mohawk or bald. Naked, a word needs not be full frontal. It can be shown aslant or even tushside, Turning from the waist.

First Aid Kit A blonde wig, meth, a plain dress, A flak jacket and a high-power rifle Are all I need, or so I thought, but The gods like to sucker punch ye. Assfugging ugly, yet terse and oozing With significance, arousing sorrow felt For another’s bad luck or suffering. No, You don’t want to look. When it finally Whacks you good, it’s like, No, this isn’t Happening. Backtrack, backtrack, only Seconds ago, I was among the chillin’. Wash, then apply poem to bullet, Burnt or knife wound, or contusion.

Grounded Soon, we’ll make love with this denuded earth. Bad joke time: Stewardess to frequent flyer On a long-haul flight, "Do you want Red or white with your dinner, Sir?" "Do you have any other colors?" Centuries hence, the hurricanes have abated, so You're on some island with a thousand meat faces, With no truck or sports with any other, where your diet Is mostly lobsters, oysters, snails, crabs, shrimps, turtles And some weak-flying birds, where the love of your life Has turned out to be a first cousin, predictably, The one you often swam naked with, since infancy. Bored or curious, you can always wander into the library To frown at its endless nonsense on so many pages. What’s Rome, missile, fashion, alarm clock or media? Outside, sunlight, sea and trees renew themselves. Night will be night again, with no flash to startle.

A Car in Every Line 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

I want to get behind the wheel, so I can kill somebody. Each time I get in a car, I decease dozens of people. Cars speeding around a track: instant reruns. Am I solipsistic or just a good driver? My windshield is a sped-up reality show. Let's break our cherries inside or under the car. Don't reverse, there are bodies under the car. Saturday, we cruise Main Street, yearning for catharsis. Sunday, we drive to the biggest parking lot in town, without parking. 10. I leak, my car leaks, but only I stink up to the heavens. 11. Glossy photograph, glistening car, dull, blotchy skin. 12. I hesitated before undressing; the car was already naked and ready. 13. Witnessed by a half-naked girl, I made love to my first car at 18.

Jaws Crawling, walking or flying, everything with a mouth Gravitates towards food, crossing a wide lawn at dusk In sub-freezing weather, or the dark ocean even, in A vomit-sloshed hull, if needed, or breaching walls, To stand, finally, on a touristy street, peddling grass Grasshoppers or faux watches, or strafing then patrolling Seething natives while passing out candies. It’s hard To keep your mouth shut, even when stuffed, but I'm not just the contents of my belly. I am also This endless series of desperate explanations.

It’s Only Me, Don’t Maim Yourself Yet Three doors marked: There’s bourbon And dancing behind this; A brick wall Awaits you; and Why not? You enter A dark room to be crossed in silence Where another raw body is waiting, The one you thought had escaped or, Most likely, just another random soul Waiting to be entered or enter, in silence, Your father instead of a husband or a wife, Your stepmother perched on a stepladder, Her skirt fluttering, a wet dog, a mumbling Foreigner or a teenager, lips puckered. Over a prone target, a naked lightbulb, Not to be turned on, or it will explode Into your momentarily sated eyeballs.

Body Eats The word mình, body, has wide application in Vietnamese. It is sometimes used as a first-person pronoun, as in “body has lived here for a long time,” or “body does not know him.” Body is I. It is also we or us. As in: “Body eat rice; they eat bread.” Body is also used to address one’s spouse. As in: “Body, what would you like to eat today?” A spouse can also be referred to as “my house.” As in: “My house is not home at the moment. Please call back later.” To be married is to live in a new house, to be engulfed in another body. The core of the Vietnamese body is not the heart but the stomach. Instead of saying “I don’t know what’s in his heart,” a Vietnamese would say, “I don’t know what’s in his stomach.” To be content is to have a happy stomach, vui lòng. To be in grief is to have a rotting stomach, thúi ruột. To be in extreme anguish is to have one’s stomach chopped into pieces, đứt ruột. Eating is the body’s primary function. Whatever else the body does, it must ăn, must eat. To dress is to ăn mặc, eat and dress. To talk is to ăn nói, eat and talk. To have sex is to ăn

nằm, eat and lie down with somebody. To be married is to ăn ở, eat and live with somebody. To win at anything, a bet, a soccer match, is simply to ăn, to eat, an echo back to the days when to win is to swallow one’s opponent whole, perhaps. To dominate or decisively defeat someone is to ăn sống, eat raw. To indulge in pleasures is to eat and play, ăn chơi. To celebrate is to eat with happiness, ăn mừng. To go to a party is to eat at a party, ăn tiệc. One doesn’t celebrate the New Year, one eats during the New Year, ăn Tết. To look for work is to look for something to eat, kiếm ăn. To work is to make and eat, làm ăn. A good business prospect is described as having something easy to eat, dễ ăn. To do well in business is to eat customers, ăn khách. To spend money is to eat and digest, ăn tiêu. To take a bribe is to eat money, ăn tiền. To work an illicit job, thievery, prostitution, is to eat dew, ăn sương. To steal is to eat in secret, ăn trộm. Eating, and how one eats, becomes a metaphor for nearly everything, as these proverbs testify:

A magpie, starved, eats banyan fruit. A phoenix, starved, eats chicken shit. Fish eat ants, ants eat fish. Have vegetable, eat vegetable. Have rice gruel, eat rice gruel. The smart eat men, the stupid are eaten. Tailors eat rags, artists eat paints. Father eats salty food, son's thirsty. Eating new rice, telling old stories. Eat in front, swim behind. Eat for real, fake work. Arrive late, gnaw on a bone. Ate rice gruel, pissed in the bowl. A bowl of sweat for a bowl of rice. A piece of meat is a piece of shame. Selling ass to feed mouth. Two hands, two eyes are just enough to feed one stomach. Better to die sated than to live hungry. To be homeless is to eat the wind and lie with the dew, ăn gió nằm sương. This phrase used to refer to the hardships of a long journey, a concept similar to the English “travel,” a variation on travail, from the French travailler, to work.

To inherit property is to eat fragrance and fire, ăn hương hỏa, which refer to the incense and oil lamp on the ancestral altar present in most Vietnamese homes. A remote place is described as where “dogs eat rocks, chickens eat pebbles,” chó ăn đá gà ăn sôi. To be primitive is to eat fur while living in a hole, ăn lông ở lỗ. To die is to eat dirt, ăn đất. A common Vietnamese greeting is “Have you eaten yet?” One should always answer, “After eating dew all night, I’m more than ready to eat and to lie down.”

Fried Chicken vs. The Fuck Enjoying fried chicken as part of A balanced lifestyle can play a part In making us feel calmer, more relaxed And basically giddier. Good fried chicken Gives us an emotional boost, which triggers “Good feelings” similar to what we experience Steering an SUV, cheering a war or spending Hours looking at online porno, which is much Better than the fuck even. The fuck, like all Physical sensations, are fleeting and hence Dubious, nay, even meaningless as an index To human happiness. Six minutes of the fuck Cannot compare to a lifetime of fried chicken.

Vietnamese for uptight? Đụ, đéo or địt all mean fuck. Địt is fuck in northern Vietnam, fart in southern Vietnam. Đụ mẹ means fuck mother, used to express frustration. Đụ mẹ mày is fuck your mother, used to convey hostility. Đụ alone is not aggression. There are no Vietnamese equivalents of I will fuck you up, he dicked me over, this is all fucked up or don't fuck with me. Cứt means shit. Vietnamese already see turds often, so they don't need to be reminded, no voided victual after every other word. Ngu như cứt means Stupid as shit. Mày chẳng biết cái đéo gì means You don't know fuck, as opposed to You don't know shit. Bú cặc means suck dick, bú lồn means suck cunt, both used to express I will fuck you up. Vietnamese don't say You bleeding cunt, like the English, but You crippled cunt. Vietnamese has two definitive articles, con and cái. Con is used for living things, such as con whale, con boy, con prick. Cái is

used for supposedly inanimate things, such as cái planet, cái house, cái vagina. Cái also means female and is even used as a prefix in northern Vietnam, as in Have you seen cái Hillary lately? Some Vietnamese dodge words for vagina: bướm, butterfly, chim, bird, cửa mình, body's door. For anus: hậu môn, back door. For schlong: dương vật, male object, hạ bộ, lower apparatus. One can also say, for all of the above, chỗ kín, the hidden place. Your hidden place or mine? The English uptight used to mean close, intimate, as in She and I are uptight.

Double Double Portraits (long version, well strung, as in horses, as in thief) Next, I will translate you into you. Have you been translated lately? How long has it been since you've been translated? When was the last time you were translated? How much long, length of time, since the last time you were translated by someone, a person, human being, biped, other yourself? Take a deep breath. Are you translatable? Scholars agree that this translation is more reliable, more accurate, more true than the original. He translates by looking up each word, including "a" and "the." That's no mirror, dude, it's a translation. Two unique translations, side by side, both useless.

I translate so much, I don't even know I’m translating. Am I translating? Sorry to be translating again. Now you translate, I insist. I translate everything, Greek, dolphins, paperweights, the city of Philadelphia. The only thing I can't translate is squirrel. Squirrel syntax and slang crash my hard drive. Poetry is the illicit booty gained through the strenuous or glib art of translation. I got it right, finally. (I just translated that from squirrel.) Translation is in fact the engine of much of the world's poetry. Without translation, poetry would be reduced to a few ballads sung by your upstairs neighbor, on his balcony, at 3AM. We must localize our poetry production, to reduce our selfdestructive addiction to translation. Translation, like jazz, is a form of revenge.

Translation, like jazz, is a tool of imperialism. Translation, like jazz, is an improvised explosive device. I cannot mistranslate. I don't even know how. He thinks it's a virtue to translate away from the original. My translation is way longer and way bigger than yours.

"Two faces that are alike, although neither of them excites laughter by itself, make us laugh when together, on account of their likeness."—Pascal

Cười cười (v) to laugh, smile or chuckle. cười ầm (v) to laugh with a booming voice. cười bò (v) to laugh while crawling on the ground, usually said of children or drunkards. cười bối rối (v) to laugh nervously while confused. cười buồn (v) to smile wanly or in grief. cười cầu tài (v) to grin while kissing ass. cười chảy nước mắt (v) to laugh oneself into tears, usually from some absurd situation. cười chê (v) to laugh in contempt. cười chúm chím (v) to smile or laugh modestly or coquettishly, without showing teeth, said of young women. cười cợt (v) to laugh while goofing around. cười nói (fig of sp) laugh talk, i.e., to be loquacious. cười dở mếu dở (fig of sp) to half laugh, half wear a twisted face, i.e., to be in an awkward if not impossible situation. cười duyên dáng (v) to smile charmingly, said of young women. cười đến chết (v) to laugh oneself to death, i.e., uncontrollably. cười điệu (v) to smile rehearsedly and exaggeratedly, while picturing oneself smiling, of course, said of young women. cười đùa ngả ngốn (fig of sp) to laugh and joke while

staggering around, i.e., to be frivolous. cười gằn (v) to laugh with curt, half-swallowed sounds as one's eyes flash hatred, contempt or anger. cười giòn (v) to laugh in loud, crisp, echoing bursts. cười góp (v) to laugh because others are laughing, without knowing why. cười ha hả (v) to laugh shamelessly in deep, sometimes inane satisfaction. cười hềnh hệch (v) to laugh contentedly or smugly, with mouth wide open. cười hì (v) to laugh with moderate mirth and slitty eyes, making hee sounds. cười híp mắt (v) to laugh with eyes nearly shut. cười hô hố (v) to laugh uninhibitedly, sometimes rudely or vulgarly, making ho sounds. cười khà (v) to guffaw hoarsely, usually said of men, especially old or drunken. cười khanh khách (v) to laugh boisterously, in rapid bursts. cười khẩy (v) to sneer. cười khì (v) to chortle. cười khúc khích (v) to giggle. cười lả lớt (v) to smile flirtatiously. cười lạt (v) to grin uncomfortably, politely or from resignation. cười lăn (v) to laugh while rolling on the ground. cười lăn lộn (v) to laugh spasmatically while writhing or rolling

on the ground. cười lẳng (v) to smile with erotic desire, intent, suggestion or imperative. cười mát (v) to smile coolly, ironically. cười màu mè (v) to smile theatrically or grotesquely, to simper, to parody smiling. cười mếm chi (v) to barely smile, more with the eyes than with the mouth. cười móm mém (v) to smile earnestly yet pathetically, without teeth, forcing unpropped lips to gargle nostalgically a mouthful of exhausted air, said of old people. cười múm mím (v) to smile with lips nearly closed, from mild amusement, a lame joke or out of modesty. cười mũi (v) to laugh without opening mouth, with just the nose snorting serially, to convey disgust. cười nắc nẻ (v) to laugh in rolling waves. cười ngặt nghẽo (v) to laugh convulsively. cười ngất (v) to laugh until one’s out of breath. cười ngây ngô (v) to laugh with a vapid face. cười ngượng (v) to laugh from embarassment, against one's will. cười nhạt (v) to laugh wearily, palely, in defeat perhaps. cười nhếch mép (v) to snicker or snort sarcastically, with barely a facial muscle disturbed. cười nhoẻn (v) to smile brightly, without ambivalence.

cười như đười ươi (fig of sp) to laugh like an orangutan. cười như hoa nở (fig of sp) to smile like a flower blooming. cười như pháo ran (fig of sp) to laugh like firecrackers exploding. cười nịnh (v) to smile obsequiously, likely while currying favors. cười nôn ruột (v) to laugh in paroxysms from deep inside the belly. cười nụ (v) to feign a smile, approximate a flower bud with one’s mouth. cười nửa miệng (v) to smile with half the mouth, i.e., with ambivalence. cười ồ (v) to laugh uproariously, sometimes in mockery. cười phá lên (v) to explode into laughter. cười phát ho (v) to laugh oneself into coughing. cười ra nước mắt (fig of sp) to laugh when one should be crying, i.e., to laugh bitterly. cười ré lên (v) to laugh while shrieking. cười rộ (v) to laugh while roaring, howling or hooting, usually said of crowds. cười rũ rượi (v) to laugh oneself into exhaustion. cười rúc rích (v) to giggle. cười ruồi (v) to laugh at some hidden amusement or joke, or for no reason at all. cười sặc sụa (v) to laugh oneself hoarse.

cười sằng sặc (v) to laugh hysterically. cười té đái (v) to piss one’s pants laughing. cười thầm (v) to laugh or smile inwardly or surreptitiously. cười tếch toác (v) to laugh heartily. cười tình (v) to smile affectionately, said of couples. cười toe toét (v) to laugh gleefully with a wide mouth. cười trừ (v) to laugh evasively to avoid saying something incriminating or unpleasant. cười tủm tỉm (v) to smile discreetly, often over a private joke or understanding with another. cười vào mặt ai (v) to laugh in someone’s face. cười vỡ bụng (v) to split one’s sides laughing. cười xòa (v) to laugh off an unpleasant fact or incident.

Khóc khóc (v) to cry or weep. khóc âm thầm (v) to cry or weep almost silently, (fig) in secret. khóc dạ đề (n) the infant proclivity for crying at night. khóc dai (v) to cry for an impossibly long time, stubbornly, with determination. khóc dở mếu dở (fig of sp) to half cry, half wear a twisted face, i.e., to be miserable. khóc đứng khóc ngồi (fig of sp) to cry while standing and cry while sitting, i.e., to cry all the time, to habitually cry. khóc gào (v) to cry while screaming. khóc gió than mưa (fig of sp) to cry about the wind, bitch about the rain, i.e., to whine and be a royal pain in the ass. khóc hết hơi (v) to cry oneself into exhaustion. khóc khàn cả tiếng (fig of sp) to cry oneself hoarse. khóc lén (v) to cry while hidden or while no one is looking. khóc lóc (v) to cry while sniveling and whimpering, (fig) be a crybaby. khóc mếu (v) to cry while trying not to cry, with face contorted. khóc mướn (v) to cry for money, be a professional mourner at a funeral. khóc ngất (v) to cry until one's nearly unconscious. khóc như cha chết (fig of sp) to cry as if one’s father has died.

khóc như mưa (fig of sp) to cry like the rain. khóc nỉ non (v) to cry softly, which, from a certain angle and if the light’s too bright or dim, may not seem like crying at all. khóc nức nở (v) to cry convulsively, in rapid waves, with hiccuping sounds. khóc oà (v) to loudly burst into tears. khóc oe (v) to cry or wail while emiting pitiful yet charming oe sounds, said of babies. khóc oe oé (v) same as above, but a bit more shrill. khóc ròng (v) to cry for a very long time, even intermittently for weeks. khóc rống (v) to cry while howling. khóc rưng rức (v) to cry endlessly but without making much noise. khóc sụt sịt (v) to cry with a runny nose. khóc sụt sùi (v) to cry while trying to hide grief. khóc sưng mắt (v) to cry until eyes are swollen. khóc sướt mướt (v) to cry bitterly and theatrically. khóc than (v) to cry while lamenting. khóc theo (v) to cry because others are crying. khóc thương (v) to grieve. khóc tức tưởi (v) to cry bitterly and uninhibitedly. khóc xì xụt (v) to sob with a runny nose.

A Mere Rica

State of the Union Shovel toothed, funky in profile, I, John Dodo, am son of Camden. Beneath boasting of a city invincible, I’m two boarded up windows. I am a Well-painted mural of kaput industries. Who touches these, touches my void. Once I shoveled coal, tamed pig iron, Strung bridges. Erected. Now I strut Up and down Broadway, dazed, Fingering coins, aiming for chicken. Pants low slung, crack peeping, I’m son of Bethlehem. I peddle Christmas mart, push Sands. I patrol dying mall in Buffalo. At dawn, in McArthur Park, Los Angeles, I piss and scratch. Legless, I buff Hollywood Plaques, pose as monster For tourists who undertip.

I push charity condoms, body oils, High class looking purses, low class, High definition porn, incense and sox. Lying on news, ads and cardboard, I browse, RECOVERY IS ON COURSE. BUM SIGHTINGS DOWN. LATTE SALES UP. BRITNEY SEEN IN ODD COLORED SHOES. JUSTIN ALARMS FANS WITH FAKE HAIRCUT. As I sleep, an asswipe sneaks Photos, then gives me a buck. Strung out, I will suck and fuck, Excuse me, until I get my fix. Like a cliché, I press nose Against steak house glass. Soon I will break that glass.

How to Have an Interesting Life Shun the smart crowds. Instead, mix With the dumbest you can find. They will teach you much, in fact, Just about everything. They’ll show You how inadequate you really are. Sneer at beauty, especially all Manifestations of glamour. Never Forget that time brings each ugliness And that we’re all hideous, at the core. (Coeur.) If you see unblemished skin, Peel it. To nourish your atrophied Sense of empathy, practice mercy Fucking at each opportunity, and try To do it sober. Don’t, like every other, Identify and align yourself with power. Short of suicide, always situate yourself In the wrong place, at the worst time. Be Vulnerable. If you are “at home,” you are Not trying hard enough.

My Local Rising You ask, “Must art be political?” First of, art is always political. Enter any modern art museum, You’ll be greeted immediately With Minimalist oils, the same That decorate corporate lobbies, and Unlike zigzags that gladden brutes, these CEO-sponsored smears and stripes cost Legs, nuts, torsos and even entire countries. Huge yet hazy, they awe, but don’t irk clients. Or take Abstract Expressionism. Content-free, mostly, it appears Apolitical, but it coincided exactly With the hyper masculine posturing Of the American state, or consider Language Poetry. With its constant Meandering and quick shifts, it Echoes television, so that too Is political, since it reinforces The tranquilizing and flattening

Media tactics of our masters. Pushing a glamorized death, They want you to be divorced From all that surround you, Not just your city or town, But the one you sleep with, The food you eat, the room You’re in, this moment. Life Is mediated, then. Between One and all is a screen. Fixated by this, I can’t Feel your breath on me. Yes, I’m talking to you. You. Frightening each other with Our homely beauty, we must Eat and have sex sideways, But let’s try, for good, to kiss With no melody of any kind. Canned tunes are our opiate. Turn them off to hear ourselves. Measure all with our bodies.

Eternal Flies and Postmodern Men A fly alights on some feces, broods On a dead man’s face, then buzzes Straight for the vermillion lips Of a most radiant girl. For a second, Her labial flesh is his cosmos. During Its brief life, this fly has already had A wider range of experiences than you, And if it could talk, it would also be Many volumes of books wiser than you. Advanced, men fornicate high tech plastic. A woman becomes moist reading texts sent By a faceless, dickless Don Juan. Bothered, She claws her infernal oven while typing. Envying flies, he spills his fate on the floor.

Killed or Mauled? Be grounded and raw, don’t let Life be filtered by any medium, Be it an “educational” TV show, Or a poem, especially this one, if This is even one of those. Look At this thrift store shirt, lavender With cartoony figures, draped On a lank body, at rest, during A brief smoke break. Now hear, Without looking, someone say, “I don’t know how anyone can Get married, I don’t know, before They’re 45. I mean, hello!” Then, “I love that guy. I want to give that guy My uterus.” These specimens prove, Once again, that a poem, any poem, Is not so much written as found, so Short of getting killed or mauled, go.

Away from this Mind Rape When someone pipes, “I know Knoxville,” What does he mean by that? I mean, How much of Knoxville has he measured With his own body? Once, I heard A novelist declare, “Read my book And you will know what Brooklyn was like,” And I could only think, Her private Brooklyn Can’t be larger than her medium-sized head, So even a thousand-page book can’t do justice To an inch of Brooklyn, which must be measured, Directly, with your own two feet, and hands, too, As you crawl or slither, or as you sniff Brooklyn’s Infinity of sweatily fragrant spots. Thanks To Fisher-Price, a newborn can now be strapped To a seat, and forced, his head tilted up, to stare At a relentless screen, with its bright and anxiety-ridden, Sped-up world, so that his eyes will cloud over and roll Away from this mind rape. Drooling, he will utter a series Of terrified near-words, which his iPadded parents Will interpret as pleasure. Raised in apptivity, kids Will eschew walking, talking or eating while looking

At their food, or sex that isn’t on demand. Like now. Hooked on porn and apps, we’re pacified. Are you back yet? OK, then, walk with me. Actually, don’t walk with me, for our paces And pauses shouldn’t converge. Exiting Girard Station, I notice a white-bearded man, Leaning on a walker, saying, “Good afternoon, Can you spare some money for lunch,” while you, Already down the block, stop at a table, Set up by an old lady. She’s selling old pots, Five single rolls of toilet paper and an ashtray. On a chain link fence, she has hung her dead Husband’s polyester jackets. A portable heater, Well-rusted, is also for sale. You engage her. Examining closely the ashtray, you can’t help But envy its coherence, focus and dignity.

Jerks Revolution aborted by virtual sex, Potential Paines stay home and jerk. It’s all good! Meanwhile, hiding at the U, Professors lure the smooth-skinned and doe-eyed Into always voting for what’s disguised As the lesser, sic, of two gross evils. Between tenure, healthcare and undergraduate nookies Or dissing Israel and the military banking complex, all Will choose the quiche special in the faculty lounge. “Fuck you, man, I invest in GE, Raytheon, Boeing, BP, Blackwater, Halliburton, Titan, Bechtel and Aegis Defense Services, because, fuck you, man, do you Want me and mine to starve, working 9 to 9, like you?” As daddies and mommies fund Weapons of pax americana, Sons and daughters occupy.

Intimacy Leaving house or country, a man May have skin contact with someone His wife never suspects, may fling His love or a hand grenade at those He’ll keep mostly buried under trash. Late at night, though, he will relive The nakedness of a lover or corpse, As his bare foot touches his wife’s. He will feel estranged from this trusting Flesh next to him, for it has never Opened up to him like that other one. The corpse, then, is his soulmate, since It turned itself inside out just for him, And to reciprocate, he unzipped. To make his wife more urgent And truer to life, more authentic, He may have to invert her also. Gun always cocked, he’s turning.

7/4/13 Is it the Fourth of July yet? So who should I shoot now? Dude, can I jerk off your flag? You’re welcome to stroke mine, Then we can both massage The Constitution, you know, Roll it up, like this, and stuff It up the Liberty Bell’s ass. Man, I feel like voting again. It’s like eating bad Chinese. Did you elect this emoticon? I’m bored, let’s waterboard A whistleblower or two. Global warming is cool, So let’s all sleep naked, Just like Bradley Manning. I’ve never heard of him either. You know what kicks ass? A flag tattoo on a corpse, Or guys pissing on a corpse. Let’s snag some Army chicks And make a naked pyramid. Don’t join if you don’t want some.

Kill ‘Em All Sovereign countries are sandboxes For Uncle Sam, as he loves to suck The black stuff from beneath sand, But don’t blame me, I’m just another Pissed off dipshit bored out of his wits Among so much sand, so I wander Off base to puncture some ragheads. Male, female, old, young or just born All look about the same, even alive. Maybe I’ll get on the cover of Esquire, Like Lieutenant Calley, swarmed by gooks. Biologically, we’re programmed to love What’s most like us. I’m fond of my face, And you don’t have a choice but to adore Your ape demeanor. It’s how we’re made. Genocide, then, is built into the equation, For each of you I kill, there will be more Of me, proportionally, in this sick world. What to make of my President, then, For as a Kenyan Socialist Liberal Messiah

Who can hoop, slow jam and weep on cue, When not cracking joke about drones, he Resembles no American we’ve ever known? Personally, I don’t mind seeing that hue, If it shuts up blacks and smart whites. To keep oil gushing from bloody sand, And steel boxes humming on asphalt, They may even prop up a chick or spic. Roaring, “Bye, bye, Miss American Pie,” I’ll strafe weddings, funerals and baby showers, Blast children from their first English lessons.

Pigskin, Beauty, Death and a Huggable Rat 225 countries watch the Super Bowl, but Almost none play. Unfamiliar with the rules, They merely stare at a spectacle. Of all American sports, football is one that hasn’t Spread overseas. It doesn’t translate well. The amount of equipment needed excludes Poor countries, which are most of the world, But its very nature also precludes Global appeal. It is nonstop violence. On each play, someone is knocked down, But he doesn’t writhe and grimace, as in soccer, But gets right back up. With padded shoulders And helmeted head, a football player appears More than human. He is a machine. A robot. A mascot for NFL broadcasts is a hulking, Dancing robot. Thick necked and impervious To pain, a football player is the opposite of Your weepy-feely, pencil-necked intellectual. The objective of each football play is to gain Real estate. For tactical reasons, a soccer

Player often passes a ball backward, sometimes Even to his own goalie, but in football, there is Only the forward thrust. In fact, a backward pass Is illegal. Gaining yards is so important, it defines The success of each play, and of each player Who touches the ball. A running back has A successful day if he gains 100 yards, even If he never scores and his team loses. In no Other sport is statistics kept of yards gained. A soccer or basketball player can dribble The length of the court or field without tallying Anything, but in American football, each yard Must be counted. This nearly continent-sized Nation has always defined itself by expanding, By gaining yards and miles. Settle the coast, Then foray inland. Move the indigenous Out of the way. Kill them. Half of Mexico Was swallowed up, then Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, on and on. Now, America has at least 700 military bases In 130 countries. That’s lots of yards gained.

Granted, there are no people that haven’t Engaged in territorial wars with neighbors, But the US’s ceaseless reach is unmatched. Much more than land, America invades minds. There is scarcely a brain alive that’s not Constantly titillated and harassed by American culture. Worldwide, people wear Hats and shirts with American slogans And words they don’t understand. They listen To American lyrics and babble American. In Vietnam not too long ago, a woman asked if I liked the song, “Aleet Beeper.” What she meant Was “Careless Whisper.” Whatever its title and Whatever it meant, she liked that song. Also In Vietnam, I saw “POLO” stickered onto a Japanese motorbike. This man had Americanized His modest rice cooker, since America was much more Glamorous and cool than Japan or anywhere else. Humans are warm, machines are cool. Notice The ubiquity of “cool” to denote anything positive

In American English. Americans aspire to become Hard, tough, and efficient machines that feel no pain. More specifically, they identify with their car, a Sputtering box that enwraps them daily and gives Them personality and status. Spending more Time with his car than anything or anyone, The American’s confidante is his steel spouse. Nowadays, it can even speak and tell him To go to hell or the strip mall. Each year, Car commercials dominate the Super Bowl. Its main goal, then, is to push more wheels, Oil, and by extension, wars for oil. Ignorant Of draw plays and blitzes, even catatonic Grannies in the Hindu Kush are compelled To ogle the Super Bowl, since the empire Exudes not just power, but a kind of sexiness. The alpha male demands vigilant attention, For he’s coolly lethal. You can’t duck him. By His lizard-blooded calculations or whims, Anyone anywhere may be blasted at Any time by a plane or drone, even without

Knowing why. A study shows that only eight Percent of Afghan men have even heard Of the 9/11 attacks, America’s pretext for Maiming and killing Afghans. Even more Than usual, war lurked behind this Super Bowl. Before Christina Aguilera botched the StarsSpangled Banner, Lea Michele belted America The Beautiful, so there were basically two National anthems. Troops with flags arrayed Behind these sirens. As Aguilera mumbled And fluffed, we caught a glimpse of a grinning George W. Bush. Our war-criminal-in-chief Would appear again later, as would Condi Rice. After Aguilera’s last note, military jets roared Overhead. During the game, we were suddenly Introduced to Sergeant Giunta, a well-jangled Veteran of our Afghanistan carnage. He stood With other soldiers beyond the end zone, waving. As has become customary, announcers thanked All of “our troops” worldwide “for all that they do.” Earlier, there was a shot of American grunts

Enjoying the biggest game in Afghanistan. America is gorgeous, but so is every other land. None can match her in mass hypnosis, however. In a 1997 article for the US Army War College, Major Ralph Peters sums up America’s cultural edge, “Hollywood goes where Harvard never penetrated, And the foreigner, unable to touch the reality Of America, is touched by America's irresponsible Fantasies of itself; he sees a devilishly enchanting, Bluntly sexual, terrifying world from which he is Excluded, a world of wealth he can judge only in Terms of his own poverty.” And, “The films most Despised by the intellectual elite—those that feature Extreme violence and to-the-victors-the-spoils sex— Are our most popular cultural weapon, bought Or bootlegged nearly everywhere. American Action films, often in dreadful copies, are available From the Upper Amazon to Mandalay. They are Even more popular than our music, because they are Easier to understand.” The further one squats From Uncle Sam, then, the sexier he becomes,

For without an actual experience of America, This country is pure fantasy, a fabulous rumor. One of history’s oddest ironies is the name Mỹ Lai, Which means “half-American” in Vietnamese. Mỹ is “American.” Lai is “of mixed race.” If A person is “Mỹ lai,” he is half-American. Mỹ in Vietnamese also means beautiful. In daily Vietnamese, then, America Is the beautiful country, Americans Are the beautiful people, and the American Economy is the beautiful economy, etc. In the half-American village of a country That calls America beautiful, American Soldiers killed roughly 500 unarmed Civilians on March 16th, 1968. Nearly All were women, children or the elderly. America seduces, then kills. During one Of Israel’s episodic massacres of Arabs, I saw a photo of a dead child wrapped In a Mickey Mouse blanket. Murdered by An American bomb, she would be buried

With her beloved American icon. An American Talking rat accompanied her to eternity. Watching The Super Bowl, Americans and foreigners alike Are blasted with this message: America is Bombastically virile and stridently fun, if only On television. The seats at this spectacle are Way out of your reach, even if you dwell Right here, in the cartoony belly of the beast, But your seats at home are free, assuming They haven’t been pulverized by the USA. Though you can never be this cockily Carefree and invulnerable, this immortal, You’re free to stare, stare and stare…

War, Porn and Jive Your bobbing head doesn’t count. To fudge ugly statistics, many Of the jobless are depicted as No longer wanting to work. Cute. Voluntarily foregoing an income, You’re just not interested in eating, Drinking or sleeping (under their Sweating tonnage, granted, as they Extract your last ounce), so say A wet farewell to your shower head, Flush toilet and one lemon-garage, For you’re hitting, hard, the potholes. At fifty, you’re starting over, son. At twenty, you’re done. It’s never Too late, or too early, to discover The great outdoors, or to squat In a trash, bottle, shit and needle Strewn, post-industrial civilization. Hey, do you parley Chinoise? Fuck you! Fuck you! That’s all

The Chinese you need to know. Sun Tzu counsels, “Feign disorganization, Shape shift, make your enemy think You’re moronic, then one fine, sunny day, As the still extant, mutant birds are chirping, Blow up Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, CNN, FOX, Times Inc. and the Disney Channel.” Yes, I can hear you loudly, bud, you’ll cancel Your cable subscription after the Super Bowl, March Madness, NBA Playoffs, Stanley Cup, Spring Training, then Opening Day, then, then. Dearest Ministry of Propaganda, we’re trying To wean ourselves, sort of, from your manure, But please, whatever you do, don’t take away Our free internet porn, OK? Snatch our rights To breathe in peace, searching for cheap eats, But don’t mess with our right to ooze on Our sofas, beds or bathroom floors, OK? Only with porn, do we feel connected To other people’s inner or outer selves. Transcending race and age, porn unites us.

Without porn, we’d just be narcissuses, Each man, woman, child and dog with shard. Without porn, we wouldn’t know anyone, not Unless we lived in a tent city, of course. It’s the first again. Are you making rent? Is your phone still connected? What About that gas bill? How many limbs Do you have left? Did you serve them? For butchering, did they toss you a slice Of pepperoni and a made-in-China flag? Will you waste someone soon? With them Unreachable, will you zap yourself? Sun Tzu raps, “No nation can survive Endless war and a deluge of bullshit, So that’s why you and yo mamacita Are swirling up the Potomac, without.”

Missed Connections I noticed you behind the fat Chinese guy. We have a history, I know, and I’m somewhat Sorry about that. I’ll send you six swift boats To make up. How about if we make love, again, With my tonnage on top, again. I miss your pho. [Uncle Sam to Miss Saigon] Seeing you dumpster diving the other day, I meant To say hello and toss you a quarter, but the Secret Service wouldn’t allow it. Plus, it would look phony, For I did shove you out into the cold years ago. Had to, or I wouldn’t have made it this far, so Just be glad for your old buddy, as you chew Wet french fries and suck on leftover ice. [Barack Obama to his soul] Excuse me, my English no good, sucks ass, But I see you all day long, every day, pleasing Yourselves in the office, living room, bedroom, Bathroom, with your pig pictures and videos, And your tubs of pig, chicken and cow, and I can’t help but see you blown up from the sky, By your machine, like I was, by your machine.

[A Yemeni drone victim to the American public] Dead broke, you buy the commercials promising An asskicking future, plus applause and gratitude From your compatriots, but soon you’ll be abused, Humiliated then shot at, by your own even. [The ghost of Pat Tillman to an Army recruit] I know it’s a long shot, but I’ve been trying To look you in the eyes and speak slowly, And listen to each of your inflections, amid The cacophony of this madhouse where even The tiniest man cannot help but bully and bluster, Where crass power is the only currency, where A sneering boy rides a dead man’s cock To add ghost inches to his petty fame.

Grays Ferry The name itself is dismal. Stumbling Into adulthood, I spent a year there, On a narrow, much interrupted street. My austere block had a single, sick tree. Tim Fender and I rented a row house For only 50 bucks a month. Basically, It was a shell, bought by this gay man Who thought he would fix it up, but Grays Ferry made him so depressed, He just had to bolt. Being Catholic Irish, This hood couldn’t have been congenial To someone gay, unless he’s a priest. Still, I seriously doubt the neighbors did Or said anything. They certainly didn’t Show hostility to Tim or me, two art fags. Everyone suffered in Grays Ferry, and In 1986, it literally stank, for there were two Huge lots filled with garbage, thanks to a Twenty-day strike by Philly’s garbage men. I had left art school without a degree, For why borrow money to learn painting From all these failed artists? Why not just

Slink somewhere and paint? Though I never Amounted to crap as a painter, I’ve taught Myself to write, sort of, instead of hocking My life to a bank, just so I could be misled And muddled by stunted or puffed up typists. That year, I manned up and mainlined Celine’s Death on the Installment Plan and his Journey To the End of the Night. After the first Paragraph of Death, I knew there were risks To reading further, but until I could finish all One thousand-plus pages of these books, I Didn’t leave the house. It took me a week, Then I started my own novel, from which I’d read on UPenn’s WXPN. The response was great, actually, but People were just astonished by my On air delirium, for the writing Was a goofy mess. I had to toss it. (WXPN liked my raving so much, It even made me a host, until I Really went nuts on a live show.) The Grays Ferry shell was freezing. I ate badly, drank rather well, kissed

Rachel upside down, bit her lips, and Not in a nice way, either. I apologized, And I’m saying sorry again, for one Can never say sorry enough. I’m sorry. Any lived life will trail loose ends, but what Are unforgivable are malice and betrayal. For a month, Tim had a boyfriend then, Much later, told me he wasn’t really gay. I wasn’t too gay, myself, for my prospects As human, artist and writer were pathetic. Irrelevant, young artists and writers lie On gray sheets and dream of greatness As society sinks further into stupid. Hi, I’m stupid. This is stupid. Nice to meet you, stupid. The local, though, can never be stupid, But I didn’t know it then, so I missed all Of Grays Ferry’s breadth and depth, which I never bothered to investigate. Tense, I talked to no locals. I simply assumed My future was in New York or, at least, Downtown Philadelphia. What a farce. Had I mingled in Grays Ferry, I might have Discovered its trade in soiled underwear.

For 17 years, neighborhood boys would run To swank Rittenhouse Square, to sell their Skid-marked Fruit of the Loom to Fast Eddie. A UPenn drop out, Eddie also paid these St. John Neumann kids to piss, shit or throw up Into his mouth. He kept shit in pizza boxes. Though HIV-positive, Ed had butt sex With some of these teen-aged boys. Before his trial, Uncle Ed died of AIDS. Eddie studied economics, then music, Married his high school sweetheart, divorced her. The love of his life, though, was excreta. Messy yet meticulous, he saved all of His boys’ underwear in 312 trash bags. To be an artist, you must not blunt your Troubling vision, no matter how queer. Hedge and you’ll be a half-assed punk. To be true, you must be willing to die. You must, as Gary Snyder says, “kiss The ass of the devil and eat shit.” You must have as much integrity As Uncle Eddie of Philadelphia.

Broke Poem Another day, another bounced check, Another ream of bills and applications. Come, you can boost your joking income By shoplifting, pole dancing or shooting, as Our Prez greets our creditor, who’s buying This nation from nuked sea to corexit sea. Is that a can of sardine down your pants? Fridge empty, I have no more Monsanto Main course or side dishes to go with this Aspartame punch my brood is hooked on. “Dad, why do I have two heads yet no brain? Why can’t I spell ‘Bernanke’ or ‘crook’?” Actually, I don’t have kids, for I can barely Appease bedbugs and banksters, as is. “Pay your bill now or your phone will explode In your brokeassed face. Cough up, or the FBI Won’t be able to eavesdrop on your palavers. If you don’t settle charges and penalties, Plus interest, of course, Her Honorable Janet Napolitano herself will crawl out of Your plumbing, as you digest Reader’s Digest.”

I guess we ain’t broke enough to reform Into functioning poems, handcuffs or bombs. As is, academic jive, voting and FaceBook. Detonating endless violence, they preach Symbolic whining to us hushed puppies. Though broke, I’m no boneless chicken, Fished from a dumpster, no way, for I Will break my breaker with a shoulder Mounted weapon of teflon destruction.

Strumming Broke Tony pays $280 per month for a room Merely two blocks from the cracked bell, Now more dinged than ever, but only To the eagle-eyed. 7th and Market Is no free-fire zone, but street noises Disrupt sleep all night long. Honks, Sirens and drunken shouts jab into His debt, bill and illness-filled dreams. Tony often wakes with a headache. With no kitchen, everything’s nuked, Or fried, surreptitiously, on a hot plate. Soon he may burn everything down. On each floor is a shared bathroom. “One of these guys shits on the toilet seat,” Tony sighs, resigned, sort of, to such shit. Tony was born and raised in Kensington, A traditionally Irish slum that’s now Irish, Puerto Rican, Black and Vietnamese. Ever heard of a Kenzo Mouthwash? Look, It’s when you bite on the curb as someone Like Rocky Balboa stomps on your head.

The last time I was there, a young woman Had just been shot, and as I was snapping Her large candle-and-teddy-bear shrine, her Teenaged sis shouted at me, “Hey, you can’t Take photos! This is not a show and tell.” Tony was delivering pizzas in Philly, But that felt deadly, so he got a similar Gig in Cape May, on the Jersey Shore. On a good night, he’d earn 200 bucks, Sometimes even more. Tony bought a $40,000 home, then sold it For 20 more grand. A dead uncle Also left him fifty. This was Tony’s Financial, social and philosophical peak. What is your apex, buddy? Ah, don’t say, “The years before I was born,” or, “The decades After I croak.” Say, “The moment they’re nabbed.” (In drug rehab, Tony met Tina, whom I’d find Dwelling in a Camden tent city. Freckled, Redheaded and petite, she said she was A former Miss New Jersey. She was cute.) Though he has never heard of the word “busking,”

Tony has been busking for two years. He freaks Strumming and singing in public so, this day, He swills two cans of Pabst beforehand, outside, Since he can’t afford to get buzzed inside a bar. “I’m too old to be arrested for public drinking. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to pay the fine.” Diffident, Tony stands in the back corridor of a nearly empty Commuter rail station, in front of a Dollar Store. “FROZEN FEATURE OF THE WEEK. $1.” With luck, he’ll cover his beer investment, Plus enough for reconstituted meat.

Brook is Broke Working at Easy Pickin’, Brooke had it made. She could steal skirts, blouses, shoes and purses, Though her many hair extensions, she had to buy At other places. A girl has to diversify her aura To keep the male gaze fresh. Evening, at the club, She could pick and choose from all these beggars. The next day, though, she might be too crap-faced To drag her sweet ass to work, but it was worth it, For we’re not here long, and love mustn’t be dammed. Inside her tiny, hot hovel, there’s moisture on walls. A firm, long-lasting man leaves a syrupy aftertaste, Except most of them don’t last more than a blink. Markus, though, did hang around long enough To leave her Caleb and Leesha, plus an abortion. Of course, Brooke got some on the side, as did he, Then he was sent away for a half-assed mugging. Out after two years, Markus was ancient history. Plus, he could no longer achieve wood. Serious. Something weird must have happened in the clink. Whatever, life moves on, including another abortion Caused by one or another of Brooke’s conquests.

The Indian doctor did say, though, “You might die The next time. You already have four. I’m serious.” A week after the doc’s blah blah, Brooke was back On Delaware Avenue, in front of a Pina Colada, Looking as hot as ever. By comparison, Rihanna Ain’t ish, not to mention that neon nightmare, Nicki. That night, all was back to normal, then normal, too, The next morning, as she called her boss to say That she was too under the weather to show up, Except that, this time, he snapped, “Don’t bother!” Suddenly broke, Brooke sold her food stamps, Then her stolen bags, for next to nothing, really. Last time I saw her, she already looked thinner, And though she had always chewed gum before, I noticed her lovely mouth was empty.

Broke Xmas Blues You must know, these are the strangest Of people. To them, a new day begins In pitch dark, and a new year when it’s The coldest, instead of spring. They believe In rebirth when things are most dismal, and When the shit really hits the fan, their God Will return to take them to another planet, where There will be more petroleum and each day Will be Black Friday, and the Walmart will be Much bigger than here, on this puny earth, with Its increasingly listless Christmas, which most Now spell as Xmas, without any idea why. Celebrating the birth of Jesus, half Of them, at least, commit suicide by swallowing Their tapped-out credit cards. Many also Kill themselves after relentless self-love, For this is, without a doubt, the loneliest Society ever. Most eat and sleep alone, Even while married. Even on their weddings, They feel absolutely abandoned, so They sob silently while biting their lips, as

All the guests openly sob while clapping. That night, bride and groom feast on a Host of maxed-out credit and debit cards. Lovely Mandy has an open marriage, so Her husband is gone for months at a time, Only to reappear suddenly, to save On a motel room, while on his way To the next love making target, Which is no longer his lawful wife. “Marriage is heavy,” I said to Mandy. “It’s like embracing a corpse while crossing This earth a hundred thousand times, or more,” Maybe I didn’t say that. Don’t even know Mandy. While war rages, with more wars to come, I cross A near empty parking lot, towards a rock bottom Liquor emporium, with its speaker blaring John, Yoko and a bunch of kids now grown old, caroling, “War is over, if you want it.” Not a chance, buddy, not In this culture of endless war and desperate gluttony. Next to a ratty tree, Santa is glum and has no color. “This seasonal work sucks, dude,” he confides, “and “They don’t even pay like in past years, but what the hell,

If I don’t take it, they can always hire another fat guy.” For a fee, not payable in food stamps, parents can have Photos of their offspring being cuddled by this suspect. Pockets and souls empty, we stumble towards verdict.

Job Forum “The objective is to remove This surplus of humanity, that Even if employed still aren’t likely To earn their daily allotment Of degraded nutrients, but what Is the most efficient way for us To remove this mass that’s clamoring For scraps from the dismal end Of the job market’s digestive tract?” “If you’re making minimum wage, then You’re clearly a minimal person. Don’t Blame me for your deficient DNA and Lifetime of ignorant decisions. After Slacking off at work, you drive home For five hours of Call of Duty shootfest And free porn snippets on the internet.” “I have two friends who each worked three Minimum wage jobs, just to survive. One died After falling asleep at the wheel. The other Nodded off while working at Wendy’s. He dunked Half of his right arm into the boiling oil

Of the french fry fryer. He’s alive.” “Sure it can work. I’m a minimum wage Salad decorator and sandwich sculptor, And I can scrape by, fine, on what I make Because I eat lightly, don’t drink and have Forsworn children, health care, car and house. You just need to set your priorities straight. I have a bachelor’s degree, by the way.”

Young American Dad said he wanted me to move out The day I turn 18, three months from now. I live 30 miles from the nearest store. Rural areas suck for many reasons. I have no money, no car, and no friends I can move in with. I’m desperate for a job, So I’ve applied at Walmart, Ace Hardware, Family Dollar, Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chick-Fil-A, Church’s, Taco Bell, Subway, Exxon, Sunoco, Citgo, BP, Hess, Walgreens, CVS and Piggly Wiggly. I figure someone will give me a chance. If I do get a job, I’ll still have to get there, So I plan on riding my piece of crap bike For however long it takes, and once there, I’ll towel myself off and even change shirt. The cheapest efficiency apartment Will eat up more than half of my salary, But hopefully I can still get a used car Before an SUV runs me over.

The Army would have been a life saver, but I have obsessive compulsive disorder and Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Since I was seven, I’ve been drugged, so I do Everything, like tying my shoes, slower. That’s why I can’t be a soldier. Also, I know a guy who returned from Iraq. His face is messed up, and so is his brain. At this point, I’m more than willing to move Into the ghetto, though I’ve never been. I do have black and Mexican friends. I’ve also thought about getting me a tent And sleep by the creek with all the weirdos. It beats murdering my always nagging dad. “When I was your age.” Oh, shut the fuck up! Plenty of people around here get by On welfare, food stamps and the church pantry, So there’s no shame in that, but I’d really Hate to start the rest of my life like that.

Backpack and Nut Indexes Forget the DOW or Nasdaq, I give you The backpack index. Meet Aslim, a Purveyor of backpacks and purses At Philly’s comatose mall, the Gallery. It’s back to school time, so backpacks Should fly off the rack, but not this year, Since everyone is broke, after years Of sinking wages, or none at all, yet The cost of anything has gone way up, Including the price of nuts, which have Been crossed from your grocery list, for Who needs snacks, when there’s not enough Quarters and dimes left for regular meals? Out of nuts, rice or beans, you can sell blood. Low on blood, you can offer your lower half For half an hour at a time, or else Have it shredded overseas, under the flag. Like a nutcase, you lunge forward, yelping, “Better to kill ‘em here, I guess, than there, Though I hardly know which country I’m in. Even home, I no longer know where I dwell. Fighting for nuts, I’ll leave mine right here.”

Nutless, you will be deemed a hero, fool or freak, As you roll down the street, with your small flag, But at least you’ll eat with what’s left of your jaw, Though you may have to loiter outside all day, Behind sign, “HOMELESS VETERAN. PLEASE HELP.” Nutless, you’ll recall that hazy, sweet night In your Chevy, after much Schlitz, when she Rotated those dear dice in her winsome way.

Tri-State Mall Variations It’s 20 below, windy, and I’ll surely croak Unless I get a ride to the Tri-State Mall. I’ll kill you if you don’t take me to this oasis Of discount liquor, sneakers and payday loans. Across from this sixth-rate temple to Capitalism, An old man sells cemetery flowers. Buy roses To place over your own grave, then say a prayer For a life well-wasted inside the Tri-State Mall. My entire youth was spent in this beauteous tomb. I had my first kiss and sexual experience there. I also got married, then divorced there. No doubt I’ll die in the Tri-State Mall in Claymont, Delaware. For decades, people laughed, cried and gasped Inside the Cinemagic Five, then they chuckled When it was turned into the Comedy Lounge. Actually, most of the movies were wretched, and Most of those “comedians” should be sent to The Howard R. Young Correctional Institute. At 17, Marlene escaped South Carolina.

In Chester, she was the first to use dark eyeliners And slash her jeans, showing some skin, but What did those innovations get her? Nothing. Now, past 50, she pours beer at McTullio’s On the lower tier of the dismal Tri-State Mall. Chuck makes beef jerky out of sirloin steak, Which he brings to McTullio’s daily, to offer Friends and strangers. His face radiates peace, Thanks to his good heart and countless pints Of Miller High Life, at only a buck fifty per. Each day, an unemployed man comes and sits Across from the rolling gate of a long-dead store. Hey, is that a joke? Where’s the joke? There’s no joke. Actually, there is a joke. Today’s headline: “More Americans are rich than previously suspected.” Another: “Pope and Miley Cyrus vie for Time’s Person of the Year honor. Repeat for Obama?”

Mariam’s Baby Just 19, Mariam peddles fancy Pretzels at Philly’s half-dead mall, The Gallery, While her fiancé, Dominik, has a classier job, Complete with health insurance, at Starbucks. Domink’s dream gig would be Whole Foods. Even as she wears frumpy outfits, Dominik Buys Mariam lots of brand name clothes, belts, Purses and shoes, plus flowers. When jealous, She’ll smack Mariam good, though. Boiled over, Mariam also claws herself bloody, Screams and yanks her long, wavy, black hair. After, her voice will be raspy, and for weeks, Her face and neck will show these red marks. (Look Closely, you can also see traces of a fixed cleft lip.) It’s not clear whence this coiled anger, despair Or anxiety, for Mariam’s life growing up wasn’t All that turbulent. Granted, the boys she dated Were nasty enough, and sex sucked, so after Enough grappling, she realized she didn’t care For any dick, whether micro or Holy Jesus.

Now she has Dominik. Soon, they’ll get married In New York State, where it’s allowed, then save Until they have six grand for some guy’s sperm, Preferably of the X kind, to be named Jewel. By the time they have that kind of dough, It might cost, Mariam jokes, a million bucks. Sure it’s odd to have an unknown’s sticky cloud Pumped into her, but this child will be sense itself, And absolutely perfect, even after birth. Work done, they walk hand in hand, but lately, You can spot one without the other, and sometimes, Dominik strolling with a brand new female, and Mariam bantering with some security guy. Boyish looking yet 40, he lives with his mom But fancies himself a player. Looking at him, Mariam beams her prettiest smile, even as That familiar nastiness surges from below.

Beth I never thought I’d see Beth again, but She came bounding out of a dark doorway, Called my name and gave me a hug. It took A long while to figure out who she was, For I’m awful at faces. Stories, I remember. Plus, she has changed. It’s been 20 years. I first met Beth through a mutual friend, Phuoc, That even he would mispronounce as Phuck, As in Phuck Phan, kung fu master. In Vietnam, Phuck was just a guy in dress shirt and slacks, But in Philly, he grew his hair long and dressed As if he was in a Hong Kong chopsocky. You don’t want to phuck with Phuck, though, For he’d kick your ass. The many trophies In his martial arts gym attest to this. They were dating, but once, Beth came crying Because Phuck was meditating and wouldn’t Touch her vagina. Pensive guys are already Hit and miss propositions, much less dudes Who meditate six hours a day, like Phuck. Done with Phuck, Beth eventually married a

Japanese “sex champion,” her phrase. They lived In Philly for four years, then went to Tokyo So he could die of cancer. There, his ex-wife Struck Beth with a rod several times when They were alone. None of this sounded real, Until Beth showed me a photo of herself In a sauna with these Japanese broads. This, as we were sitting in Dirty Frank’s. Today, though, we’re in her new café, And Beth was all wrapped up and flowery. Staring hard at this Muslim hippie, I tried To figure out who she was, then it hit me. We’d kissed, but it was no big deal, except Everything’s indelible, to be retraced, In due time, then blotted out again. No memory is remote, only life itself. Beth was talking about her third husband, A doctor from Pakistan, “I believe In commitments. With a commitment, You can love anybody, but without it, You can’t love anyone. I tried it And it was just emotional chaos.”

Sunil at his Shopping Mall Kiosk People who don’t know South Asians think We’re all the same, more or less Indians, But Pakistanis are Muslims, mostly, While Indians are mostly Hindus and Bangladeshis are much poorer than Both Pakistanis and Indians. Although A Bangladeshi, I was not poor at home. Far from it. Back in Dhaka, I’d never, ever, Eat lunch without meat, like today, with this Ridiculous pretzel, with its smear of mustard. Yesterday, though, Tumpa and I split A Subway hoagie, on sale for five bucks. Sometimes we also buy McDonald’s, from Their Dollar Menu, although it’s not really A buck anymore. This is bullshit, I’d think. Why did I leave my decent life in Dhaka? Back home, I would shop at Bashundhara City, A mall ten times nicer than this Gallery bullshit. This place is dying. It’s, what, 3 o’clock already? We’ve sold two necklaces all day. Imagine! And customers also haggle with you now,

Just like in Bangladesh. When I first came, Americans didn’t haggle, didn’t even know how. Now they’ll shoot off their mouths for 15 minutes If they think it will save them a buck or a penny. If this sucks so much, then why did I come? But how was I supposed to know? Back home, America appears as Paradise. You know, lots Of money and everyone dancing and singing All day long, and having sex, lots of wild sex! Speaking of which, Tumpa and I barely do it. You know, I never really loved her. In fact, I don’t even like her. I only married Tumpa To come here. I mean, just look at Tumpa! And it’s not like we can even talk, because She either makes no sense or she lies. She lies to everybody. She’d tell people We’re about to travel to Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon or even Dubai, that Last night we had dinner at Olive Garden. All my girlfriends back home were gorgeous. They didn’t even look Bangladeshi, but Indian. I know it’s bad to talk like this, but it’s the truth.

I wish I had never married Tumpa or come here, But now, I can’t return, for people back home Would laugh at me for being a failure in America. Yesterday, one of the security guards gave me Two tickets for the flower show. “Your wife, Tumpa, Will really like it!” He said. What a nice man, but There’s no way we’re going, because I can’t stand To do anything with Tumpa. In fact, I can’t stand To even be seen with her in public. Oh wait, Here comes Tumpa now, so goodbye, eh! I’ll talk to you some other time, buddy!

Not Getting Lucky in New Jersey Jay Dee was with his woman for five years, saw her Each day and slept with her every single night. They had a great kid together. Only trouble was She was bipolar, you know, so they’d argue, and I mean screaming matches with things breaking. Sick of it, Jay Dee decided, “We’re splitting, but I’m keeping Tim.” Eyes bugging, she laughed, “You Ain’t keeping nothing, ’cause he ain’t even yours.” Test proved it. Jay Dee wasn’t Tim’s dad after all. Truth out, Jay Dee escaped to a go-go bar, And blew, like, 700 bucks. He sat until closing, And this chick, really hot, and blonde, too, said, “Why are you blowing all your money?” He told her, So her eyes went doggy sad, “I’m so, so sorry, but You know what? Let’s get a motel room. I’ll make Sure you feel a whole lot better.” Here was this babe, Nearly all skin, and glistening from all that dancing. Her hand on his thigh, she rubbed against him. Her breath smelled fresh, too. She was a baby. There is nothing more infantile than sex. Though Brandishing big words, we’re nothing but babies.

What would you do? Not stupid, though, Jay Dee Could tell she was only being friendly because she Had seen his cash. He said, “I’m broke,” and he was. He must have spent over 300 bucks on her alone. Sometimes he didn’t even tuck bills into G-strings, But threw money on the floor for chicks to pick up. She murmured, “Don’t worry, I’ll pay. I just hate to See you looking like that. I’ll do a good deed today!” So they checked into a motel. It was only 53 bucks. If I were fanciful, I could invent Jay Dee fiddling The clock radio, to come up with Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman,” and on the wall, There was a print of a unicorn or Old Faithful, But since this is straight forward reporting, I can’t Even claim that her eyes were green. They swilled Bud, Snorted coke and he tried, you know, to merge with her, But she kept turning away, “We need liquor. Let’s go to your place and get us some liquor.” She knew he had moved back in with his mom, But the old lady was away, and wouldn’t be back Until morning, so they went to his mom’s house

To get a couple of bottles. This was in Medford, An affluent, leafy, rustic and 97% white town. The English Manor is worth a million and a half, With spare rooms and bathrooms everywhere. She was like, “Wow, you’re really loaded!” “No, Only my mom is loaded!” He kept a close eye On her this whole time, to make sure she didn’t Filch anything. He didn’t blink for half an hour. Never a book type, Jay Dee never went to college, But he did learn how to do brick and cement works, And even had his own business, with a truck and two, Sometimes three Mexican guys sweating for him. Soon enough, he would also inherit a bundle, for sure. Back at the motel, they drank and he tried again And again, but she kept stalling. I mean, he could touch But that's it. Then, she said, “I’ve got to call my dad. He’s probably worried sick I haven’t gotten home. I’ll be right back,” and she went outside to call her dad. She was gone so long, Jay Dee started to think maybe She won’t return, and he’ll be stuck with the bill, But the door opened, finally, and there she was, As hot as if she was upside down and red lit, but Her disposition remained stale. They nibbled

Each other a bit, but only Jay Dee was naked. Finally, she said, “Listen, it’s not working out. Let’s just sleep,” and they cuddled, which was nice, Sort of, as he touched himself, until morning. Every man knows that sex can be denied At the very last second, and only an inch away. Parting, she gave him a phone number, but this Was no more real than her name, Mercedes. “Call me tonight, let’s do something.” They kissed. From the top of the cul-de-sac, Jay Dee could spot Half a dozen cop cars outside his mom’s house. Burglars had taken his mom's safe, with its 40 Thousand dollars, plus 80 more grand in jewelry. There was no sign of a break in. They had entered Through a back door left unlocked by Mercedes. Jay Dee, then, became the only suspect, so He was handcuffed right then, then locked up For three months, until his case was thrown out. Mom and son haven’t chattered since, and Jay Dee Has been homeless for eight months. He sleeps Outside nearly each night, since the shelters Don’t have enough lying spots, and assholes Will cut in front even when you show up early, then

Rob you, so you must sleep with one eye open. With Today’s snow and sleet, buses have stopped running, And people are falling left and right just trying to walk.

Check Fraud, Gas Theft and the Augmented Detainee Restraint So now you know, don’t take a stripper To your mom’s house, especially if It’s worth a million and a half, but Jay Dee also has other lessons: “Down to no money, you can bounce Checks at different stores, and even Get $50 cash back. At each, they will Only scan your driver’s license, and if You haven’t stiffed them before, you’re fine. Considering how many stores there are, This can keep you going for a while. As For your bank penalties, just make sure You don’t go over $500, total, or they will Investigate you for check fraud, OK? If you want to move to another state, or Just drive around for the hell of it, you can Get free gas. As long as you don’t place The nozzle in its slot after you’ve filled up, They won’t know the transaction is done. By the time they realize something is wrong,

You’ve vanished. Also, it’s best to steal gas Just before you cross a state line. Cops Won’t likely pursue you in another state.” Jay Dee has also been a guinea pig, he claimed, But the details are too weird. In Manhattan, Someone shot something at his calf, then Restrained him with electrocuting handcuffs. There is such a device. Did the cops test Their new toy on a homeless guy? Though a Minor crook, Jay Dee broke no law that day, Short of having no warm and soft place to lie.

James Even if this economy was gravy, James would still be in deep shit. At 57, he sleeps in a trailer in a Camden junk yard. In exchange For this rusty haven, plus sporadic Cash and food, he’s the night watchman, A slurry backup to the crazed bulldog. The trailer has no water or electricity. Each month, James gets 140 bucks In welfare, plus 200 in food stamps, Which he sells for $100 cash. Most Of his meals are taken at soup kitchens. Born in Camden, James has spent most Of his life in Millville, NJ, the home of Mike Trout, the 150-million-dollar slugger. James has been to California and even Alaska, But never out of the country. At 16, James Fell in love with Linda, 14, and they had sex, But they would not become husband and wife Until 11 years later. They had twin girls, then A girl and a boy, but the marriage

Didn’t even last five years. A lifelong drunk, James just drifted away, but each time He showed up again, Linda would let him in, Even after she had a new man. Sometimes James wouldn’t leave for two weeks. “I got along Good with her boyfriend. I would introduce Them to people as, ‘This is my wife, and This is her boyfriend.’” James spent decades Working as a carpenter. He built houses. Three years ago, Linda committed suicide By swallowing a bottle of pills. James’ children All live near Scranton but won’t talk to him. He has never seen his seven grandkids. Five years ago, James took vodka and crack To this woman’s house, “I was trying to Score some pussy, you know, and we were Partying over at her place, but I passed out. When I came to, I noticed my wallet wasn’t In my pocket, but sitting on this counter. When I opened it, my money was all gone! I had Six hundred bucks, man, but it was all gone! “She denied she had anything to do with it, so

I said, ‘If you don’t give me back my money, bitch! I’m going to burn this place down!’ She wouldn't, So I went home and got a container of gasoline, Returned and poured it on her trailer. I wasn't Going to light it, I was just trying to scare her, But she called 911. That’s how I went to jail. I plea bargained for five years and ended up Serving four. I had never been homeless until I got out of jail.” While James was locked up, His mother, a brother and Linda died, But he didn’t go to any of the funerals, Since it’d have cost him 500 bucks To be released each time, and he would have To show up in handcuffs and shackles. “I didn't Want to see my ma in a box anyway. My brother Said she didn’t even look like herself. She was All bloated. I prefer to remember her sitting At the kitchen table, reading her book. That’s how I still see her.” This day, James trekked across the Ben Franklin Bridge To panhandle in Philadelphia, and that’s how I met him. James smiled, “Some people collect Coins, others stamps. I collect jokes.” He told me

Several unfunny jokes, including one about A rueful Italian who’s selling a blind horse. His honest pitch, “He not looking so good.” I asked James if he had a photo of Linda, And he said no, “It would make me cry To look at her face.” I said Linda means “Pretty” in Spanish, and James said the only Spanish he knew was, “Te quiero mucho!” James has seven siblings, all brothers, But three have died. A brother offered To take him in if he’d sober up, but James declined. This brother is also Trying to quit alcohol. James has owned Seven cars, but lost his last license due To a DUI conviction. Female homeless Drug addicts will offer sex for $20, even 10, But fearing diseases, James is not tempted. James doesn’t have a woman now, “Because I have nothing. I have nothing to offer a woman. I take it one day at a time. At night, I thank God for having given me a good day. In the morning, I thank God for another day.

I thank him during the day too. I thank God.”

Wall Wisdom Since all prices are essentially cutthroat, I steal or beg, which is also stealing. Paying for a short ride, I cross country. I forge checks, credit cards and barcodes, Swap price tags, chat, eye and flirt With the cashier to distract her. In love, I also steal, beg and lubricate my Grossness with measured ejaculations. Paying for one life, I try to live several. No Goldman Sachs, I’m just a nickel thief, And like George Soros, I toss back a dime After each sweaty killing. Leash led By providence, I embody his plan. I’ve been imprisoned, but that’s Because God wanted me to chill. Sometimes it’s good to go to jail. Poking him, I accept his spanking. Like a monastery, jail’s a place to Burp up and chew over your maker. A man isn’t man until he’s cornered, Thrashed then caged, preferably

On the most slanderous charges, Just so he can grasp, finally, fate’s Funkiest form of mercy. It’d be good To have this wall wisdom, though, Without being enclosed by walls. It’s also good for a man to beg, With his eyes bathetic and paws Cupped together in supplication for Something that will only come too late To be more than a sick skit of desire. Futility is the meaning of prayer. After much praying, the fool wakes. Locked together, like this, we rock, Singly or in pairs, mostly singly, Until we’re let out, also singly.

Jackson in Camden As a young man, I loved to fight. Even sober, I’d fight. Though I’m not big, I know how to throw a punch and mean it. I never fought dirty, though. I don’t like These mixed martial arts queers on TV. A man should always fight standing up, Not on top of each other, on the ground Sometimes, though, I’d get beaten, even Knocked out. Three times I was arrested And locked up for ten days, each time. That was my only jail experience, Before I got hooked on heroin. I was born on a farm in West Deptford. My dad and granddad were both farmers. We even raised cattle, Black Angus, but None of my family is in farming anymore. I learnt cement work, and for thirty years, I was a contractor. I had three trucks, a nice, Three-bedroom house and five guys working. There was so much work, I was running around Like a headless chicken, putting out fires, But after the housing crash, everything stopped.

I laid off my guys, sold my trucks then lost my home. Looking back, I know I should have saved, but Who knew it would turn out that way? Actually, Irv Homer did. You know him? He was on radio. In 2002, Irv started to talk about the housing crash, And everyone thought he was crazy. He wasn’t! I used to listen to Irv and think, Shut the fuck up! I’ve never been married, but my girlfriend, Jenn, Was practically my wife. I treated her twins, A boy and a girl, like my own children. We went to the shore often, and I still talk To her kids. I have another son, though. You see, I’ve been with lots of women. Women like me. I’m not like Wilt Chamberlain, with his 20,000, But I’ve slept with, I don’t know, over 300 women, Ain’t it funny, though, I’ve been with so many, But I have no one now. I have a cousin Who’s afraid of pussies, yet he’s married. He’s such a nice guy, it takes him an hour To walk fifty yards down the street, because Every three steps or so, he must stop and Shoot the shit with one of his neighbors. At 53, I may have blown my chance at love.

Plus, I have COPD, meaning I can barely Breathe during sex. The last three times I had sex, I couldn’t make her orgasm. I had to take a long break in the middle To catch my friggin’ breath, then afterwards, It took me, like, God, forever to recover. As you can imagine, she wasn’t too happy. Her name’s Heather. She’s a hairdresser. We were together, off and on, for 12 years, And I didn’t cheat on her once! I was good. Here, read this text, “I don’t kno what u want…. Been waitin for u way to long!!!!.....” She wanted To get married, but I couldn’t commit, so Heather has a new man. Last Valentine’s Day, She gave me a card that could have been picked By my grandma! I had just gotten out of jail, But I spent three hours in the Hallmark Store To get her the perfect card. Now it’s over. I didn’t try heroin until I was 49, and Last year, I was clean from May ‘till Christmas. Now, I need three bags a day, one as a Wake me up, one for fun, then one as a nightcap. That’s 30 bucks I must make each day, panhandling.

Food, I can get for free, and Medicaid pays For my medicines. I take eight pills a day. I’m not sure any of them works. I’m certified As bipolar, paranoid and I have panic attacks, But do you see how calm and lucid I am? That’s because of heroin. Heroin works. Many days, though, I can’t afford three bags, So I must find used ones from the streets, but You need at least 15 of these scrapies to get Even a bit high, and once, I was locked up Forty days for having six empty bags on me. If you’re arrested, they take $35 for the nurse fee, But once I came in with 85 and left with nothing Because the cops had stolen my other 50. They had taken my glasses so I couldn’t see What I was signing when I was processed. What’s worse are the fines. If you’re charged With loitering in a drug zone, they fine you $500, But all of Camden is a drug zone! They can also Fine you for panhandling and obstructing traffic, Then they’ll charge you for the court cost too, so You can easily owe them over a thousand from A single arrest, and you’re a homeless person! The judge will put you on a payment plan

Of only $25 a month, but sooner or later You’ll miss a payment. That’ll give them Another reason to lock your ass up. At least I haven’t been killed out here. One time a guy hit me with a steel pipe Out of the blue. When I saw him coming I thought he was just walking up to say hi. I’ve been robbed several times, and a friend Put a gun to my head because I couldn’t pay Money I owed him. I was thinking, Is this How it’s going to end? I wasn’t scared, I was just sad I hadn’t spent more time With my family. I’m talking about my kids, And brothers and sisters, even the ones Who don’t like me very much. I said, “Al, You don’t need to do this. It’s not worth it.” He took a deep breath and lowered his gun, But then he said, “Put out your leg, Jackson. I want to shoot you in the leg.” “Fuck you!” I said. “You’re not shooting me in no leg!” Al ended up not shooting me at all, and I actually paid him back every single dime. Three days later, I was walking on Linden When I just started sobbing. I was so sad

I hadn’t spent more time with my family. At least I haven’t died from an OD. If you see an ambulance in Camden, It’s nearly always a heroin overdose, Dealers do have a sense of humor, though. Check out what they call heroin: Lights Out, Dead On Arrival, Slave Master, Body Master, Angry Bird, Death Row, Jersey Devil, Punisher.

Tim in Camden I was born on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Christmas, And my last name, Matusheski, means “God Is with you,” something like that. Look across The street, and what do you see? Take your time. You say “Crown Chicken, Angelo’s Pizza and King Gyro”? No, buddy, it says “Crown Angel King,” and That’s no coincidence, because this city of Camden Knew I was coming. Before this, I was in Skid Row, In Los Angeles. You been there? No, it’s no mess! It may be aesthetically unsound, but not for long, For the meek will inherit the earth, and that’s why I leave my vault of gold and my castles unclaimed. I don’t even know where they are. Doesn’t matter! I lack nothing. I’ve eaten today. I’m not hungry. I’m really a Rothschild, but I’ve disowned them. This morning, while shaving, I saw Jesus In the mirror, and though He said nothing, I understand a 15.0 earthquake is coming That will swallow everything up, for this Is utterly unacceptable! Prepare yourself.

The Happiest Place in Camden Is not the aquarium, with its ménage à trois Of sardines, tunas and anchovies, not even Campbell Soup stadium, home of the Riversharks, Though, it being winter, there are only steel dogs All over the infield and out to shoo away seagulls, No siree, the most ecstatic place in Camden, by far, Is the McDonald’s at the corner of Haddon and Federal. First of, you’ll be inside and not lying on the sidewalk, And safe too, since the police station is across the street. With trepidation and gratitude, I approach the counter And beg, in my manliest voice, “May I have the transfat Special please?” “What's that?” “With beef-flavored tubers too.” “You want me to call the manager?” “I am your manager, baby. Can I have The Black Anguish Extravaganza?” “You mean Black Angus?”

“Whatever. Just give me that! Give it to me. Give it! Now. Now!” Serenaded by glib rhymes, I glide Into my private booth, cradling my fizzy Cor(o)n(ary) syrup in its wax vessel. As with my Prez in his tank limousine, I’m bullet-proof, as long as I stay Cocooned in this corporate shack. A child begs for another cheeseburger. Inside the locked john, a junkie shoots. From the wall, my dad smiles at me. Dwelling in this city invincible in 1891, He slumped in this very booth and stared At his own tray of meaty complications.

Camden to Trenton Train Connects two cities destroyed By post-Martin Luther King Assassination riots, then white flight. Snaking along the Delaware And threading through hamlets, The slow-moving River Line Is dubbed The Crack Track. In packed car, black man With age-old shell game, “Round and round she goes. Where she is, nobody knows. Bet twenty. If you guess right, I’ll give you a hundred bucks!” Black or white, no old head Would bite, for they’d seen Enough hustling, and had, Most likely, done a bit of Pickpocketing themselves, For who among you ain’t A shape shifting cheater? On my right, a swindler.

On my left, an embezzler And roof raising preacher. Across from me, though, There’s a sexless saint, with No gristle in his breath. “Come on now, no one here Wants a hundred bucks? Just for fun, take a guess. How about you, young lady? Follow that dice carefully. You’re sure that’s the one? I’m going to open it. There! You got it, but lucky me, You didn’t bet nothing! This gentleman, though, Wants to play for real. He’s A serious customer. He ain’t Got no time to waste now. Round and round she goes. Where she is, nobody knows. Lordy, I’m getting nervous and Damn it! He got me, so I pay up. Here you go, Sir, a hundred bucks.

I’m a straight up dude. That hurts, But if I lose, I lose. Let’s do it again. OK, young lady, you and your friend Want to bet forty, to win two hundred? You’re going to clean out the house! Lord have mercy. Round and round… Don’t get jumpy now. Look. Oops, You guess wrong this time! Argh! Who’s next? Round and round she goes…” Outside, the brief business strip Of Palmyra, booze-free Riverton Then Riverside, with its eight-story Keystone Watchcase Company building. Long dead, it was the largest maker Of watchcases in the universe. Ahead, Bordentown, where the great Thomas Paine bought his only home. Each year, there’s a scavenger hunt For the Founding Father’s lost bones. None of these places are doing well, But at least they’re not America’s Rape and murder hub, Camden.

Out of $40, the young ladies Brooded for a while. The white one Had a baby in a stroller. The other Was Puerto Rican, and chubbier. As People grinned, she’s getting more pissed By the second, until finally, she got up And charged the shell game man. “I want my money back! Give me my money back!” “What you talkin’ about? We played. You lost.” “You cheated. Give me My fuckin’ money back!” “Don’t touch me, woman. If You’re gonna act like a man, I’ll treat you like a man!” “I don’t give a fuck. Give me My money back, nigga! I’m Camden, for real, so Don’t you fuck with me!”

“You touch me again, I’ll Seriously fuck with you. Why don’t you be a lady And sit your pretty ass down.” Half a dozen men got up To act as buffer between hustler And this raging, tough talking fool, So she kept going for a while, “You Don’t fuck with me, you faggot! Bum ass nigga, you fuck with me, I’ll make you pay, nigga!” Finally, she sat down, and after A few minutes, the man came near. “Had you been a lady, I might have Given you something back, but no, Not after all that, but this is what I’m going to do. I’m giving $10 back To your friend here, for her little man.” Addressing the white chick, he added, “And don’t you share it with this bitch.” Using his life and brain as standards,

No man sees himself as a raw mark. Fleeced, he chuckles at the others. In sunshine, another fool is interred.

Dust Over Sheen That night, I sat next to a large, elderly lady Who snored quite prolifically. Even with a Misaligned jaw and much fat gathering Around throat, she managed to compose Quite complicated, endless solos with her Unconscious exhalations, but I probably Did the same, so we must have been Quite a duet, no less than Miles And Coltrane during their primes. Speeding through the dark, two tiers of strangers, Past backs of homes, cars, car carcasses and Radiant gas, burger and chicken oases. With sun, we woke like old lovers, sexless, That is, sans desire and with a touch Of recrimination. I found out her name Was Juanita. After working in government For thirty years, she retired but now Made money doing tax returns. “Incomes Are definitely down,” she said, “and some Of my older clients are going back to work, And we’re not talking anything fancy, just Retail and fast food, mostly. McDonald’s.

Cost of living is going up, rent, gas, food, But their social security isn’t. You might think It weird that they are competing against teens. I mean, they can’t possibly move as fast, But having worked all their lives, they are Definitely more responsible. I’m serious, I’d hire a retiree over any teen. Many kids these days don’t know how to work, And they don’t know how to listen. You have To write instructions down, because they don’t Know how to listen anymore. It’s true. Kids these days are too distracted. We all are. From St Louis to Longview, Texas, there was This young man behind me who was listening To his iPod for about eight hours. I could hear His music, it was so loud, and he was often Singing along to it. How do you listen To music for eight hours straight? If there was loud music in the background, Would we be able to talk like this? No! No one can think, the economy is a mess,

And the weather has also gone mad. Yesterday, I saw Pensacola From the train window. It was like a bomb Had gone off. And there’s something else. There’s more dust in the air now. There’s definitely more dust in the air Than when I was younger, but how Can I notice it, if it’s so gradual? But I do notice it. I clean my house each day, And when I wipe my TV screen with a cloth, I can see more dust now. It’s not soot, no, It’s not black, just dust. It must be because We have fewer trees. I don’t know how this Affects human health, but it can’t be good.” It can’t be good, but it will have to be, For there is no will to change anything, Not when there’s another tiresome tune To jerk exhausted synapses, and more Hyped narrations of pointless spectacles. Though made from dust, our flesh balloons As if pumped by endless gas, until gassed. Outside the train, endless parking and cars.

Odd Beings on Sidewalks Until yesterday, I hadn’t run into Dan In a few years, so was surprised To see his hair still black, his body Still muscled, with only the slightest Hint of a beer belly. “I was never much Into drinking. I smoke weed after work.” “Still, man, you look great! Look at me!” “You know, I’m half Asian.” “Well, I’m 100% Asian, And I look like shit.” Dan said his mom had just died, so He had to hustle home to make a pot Of chili to bring to his dad in Fogelsville. His brother, Cyrus, was in jail again, For, what else, dealing drugs. Dan Used to be his brother’s partner until He got an office job 25 years ago. Once When he was really trashed, he told me

About killing some black guy with Cyrus, But I never got to the bottom of it. Now, Dan’s a good dad and husband, with two Nice houses, one in Sea Isle, New Jersey. White hair runs in my family. We’re all born With white hair sprouting from our hearts, And though we appear so ancient tumbling From that tunnel, we stay immature Until we’re laid out in that final box. A shutterbug, Dan shoots pedestrians as he Rides his bike to and from work, or as he walks His shih tzu. “People are very odd animals.” With bodies coming in waves, causing awe And arousal, we raise machines to our faces. Freakish being, come here. No less odd, I touch Your head like I’m your dad, but I’m not your dad, Since you’re my mom, but I don’t quite know that, So in my confusion, I kiss your forehead, then Your closed eyelids. Since we don’t know how To do anything according to nature or nurture, We lie perfectly still until the eyes are away.

I Talked to a Man Who thought he might be Superman. He had a S drawn On a piece of paper attached to his knit cap. “If you have Blue eyes, you’re set. With blue eyes, you’re invincible.” He was black. I saw an old woman putting pebbles in her purse And throwing them, repeatedly, down the grates. I noticed on two magazines, “MICHAEL JACKSON— FOREVER THE KING OF POP” and “ANGELS AND MIRACLES—THE SPIRITUAL REALM AND THE WORLD YOU KNOW.” Then I was asked: “How often do you beat your dick?” “Say what?!” “How often do you beat your dick?” “Why are you asking me that?!” “I just want to know. You masturbate? How often do you beat your dick?” Chuckling, I walked away, but turned back, “All the time!” which brought a relieved smile To the face of this black teenager, maybe 17.

I didn’t shake his hand. He did seem frail. Ah, the wonder of English, which allowed A tenth-generation slave descendant and a first Generation geopolitical refugee, both collaterals Of the Yankee fantasy, to communicate perfectly And spontaneously on the street. Through a brief Spill of blurted gutturals, we confirmed our common Jerkhood, but not all’s well, because I went home and Read that 26 Asian students had been beaten up That same day at South Philadelphia High. “Any girl?” my wife asked when I told her. Our basest instinct is to look out only For our own kind, I suppose, but let’s not Go there no matter how bad this thing gets. English lesson: try not to say “thing.” What The hell is “thing”?! Vallejo did say "thing thing," However, meaning the penis. Speaking of dicks, My midget is eternally on the cusp of pronouncing His first word. Though he’s extremely stupid and can’t Get past A in the alphabet, I’ve never beaten him.

Rabbit’s in Grinnell, Iowa “You know what I never get tired of? Looking at beautiful American women!” “Yeah, I’ve had my share of the slanty eyes. In Vietnam, you had to stick a carrot up into them, To make sure there wasn’t a razor inside.” “My boyfriend just got back from Iraq. Either that Or Afghanistan. I always get those two confused.” “We used to pick up drugs in California, Sell it in Ohio and other places. Once, Me and my boys were jumped by a bunch Of Mexicans, but we retreated, called backup Then taught them not to mess with Hells Angels. This happened at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro. I’ve only been in jail twice. Once, I tried to shoot This motherfucker in the head, but got his thigh, And that’s what I told the judge, too. ‘I wish I had Hit his head!’ The judge gave me five years. I got Out after four for good behavior. It was enough. The second time was after a night of drinking At the Rabbit’s. I was so fucked up, I just drove

My truck to the police station, two blocks away, And asked them to arrest me. The cop, good man, Let me sleep in a cell until morning. He didn’t even Lock the door. It’s just like a hotel. You should try it.” Freshly arrived, I shouldn’t try to test Much of anything, but then again, I could, Since I’d be gone before consequences. Here, there was no echo at any corner. The carrot sticking man wiggled off his stool, Then hobbled out of the bar on two crutches. His right pant leg was empty below the knee. Though born there, I’m fully here, unlike him. I’m not haunted by bloody carrots and worse, though What harass me through the years leave him alone. I consulted the barflies on the local economy, bad, And the pros and cons of turkey gizzards, good, So I ordered what looked like a huge testicle, And ate it with knife and fork, like fine dining. It was a humbling and brave salvage operation. Bathed in Tabasco, even the worst is palatable, But this chewy and gamey knob was actually good. I poured the American woman beer from my pitcher.

Tom Fischer’s Tavern Even blind, you can tell What kind of a bar you’re in By listening to the canned tunes. Sinatra’s “Summer Wind,” Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek,” Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” Then, most unexpectedly, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” Which I’ve never heard in any tavern. Arlo’s rambling confuses the barkeep, An Italian-looking woman, maybe 32, “What the hell is this?” “Arlo Guthrie,” I pipe up. “ It’s Woody Guthrie’s son,” But she has never heard of Woody, so I try, “Do you listen to Bob Dylan?” No, she says, so that’s that, but at least Now you know where you are, a trough For middle-aged white guys. It’s afternoon And we’re in Westmont, New Jersey.

Some bars are black and white, but more Are almost exclusively black or white, and Seldom will you see an Asian guy, like me, Save in California or Hawaii. In Philly’s Chinatown, there is no neighborhood bar. In beer commercials, though, everyone Drinks, laughs, flirts and celebrates together. Here, they’ve been talking about food, As in fried chicken, pig’s feet, beans and rice, And grandma’s killer egg and potato salad, But now the chatter turns to water parks, So a 55-ish gent tells the smiling barkeep, “I can sit on one of those tubes all day long. It’s most relaxing, and you don’t have to get Out of the water unless you have to poop.” “To do what?” She asks, looking alarmed. “To poop. Ahhh, it is relaxing to soak Your butts and privates in that water. It’s only, like, four feet deep, you know, So if you’re fat, like me, your bottom scrapes The bottom, as you glide along, in that water.” Shaving hell, we too will frolic until

We turn to some bottom material. Like sediment or memory, we’ll blur To our true shape, leaving nothing, Not even an icky smell, in Westmont. Outside, flags everywhere and a sergeant Named Rambo, I kid you not. Here, I’m safe And whisky comforted. That’s fair enough.

Allentown Bar From Monday to Thursday, Freddie’s Is open at 8AM, so those on their last legs Can swill cheap sud for breakfast, soon after They’ve frowned at their wrinkles in the mirror. Everyone gets sloshed here, blacks, whites and Puerto Ricans, and even a stray Vietmanese On this blustery day. The young white cook has A black boyfriend, and the white, middle-aged Bartender has a stolid black girlfriend. Working class people are often bunched together, And more often than not, they get along. Redneck Wise man and wise guy philosopher, the awesome Joe Bageant said something like, “Each White Trash Family I know has black relatives.” Some choice Overheard tidbits from the hoppy congregation: “Hey, how come every fuckin’ Weather chick is pregnant? Every fuckin’ one of them! Horny bitches.” “Today’s forecast, fifty percent

Chance of pregnancy.” “To get pregnant, you have to come Together. If you come, like, in two Fuckin’ minutes, and she comes in ten, It ain’t gonna happen. You have to Come together.” “Ladies, you must get your man drunk If you want him to last a while, but then You’ll turn him a fuckin’ alcoholic, not That he ain’t already.” “Speaking of the weather. I don’t Give a shit about the weather ’cause I live just down the street, and I work All day in this heated shithole.” “Ten more years before I retire, but I don’t want to think too far ahead. Shit, I might die tomorrow, know what I mean?” “Yeah, buddy, I just get up each morning And try to hustle a few fuckin’ bucks,

That’s all. It’s all I can do.” When the news came on about Romney And Obama doing lunch at the White House, Behind closed doors, the bartender said, “Yeah, they probably Have some fuckin’ Hookers in there!” “It’s all right. You’re just a bullshitter. It’s not your fault, buddy. You fucked Up my entire world. It’s all good.”

Friendly Lounge Sampler “Take these Mexicans, they live Ten to a house. Some of them Only have one bathroom to share, So what do they do? They must piss In the sink or outside, and there’s Only so much hot water, you know, In the morning, so someone must take A cold shower, or fuck, no shower before Going to work, and they do work hard.” “Check this out. Yesterday I was stopped At the corner of 4th and Arch, and there was This Chinese girl, maybe 14. It’s hard to tell With them, you know, no offense, and she was Crossing the street, while talking on the phone, But she had a set of keys and some money In her hand, like this, and this black chick Just knocked it out of her hand, and as The Chinese girl bent down to pick it up, The black chick just stepped on her hand, Then took the money and ran! There were All these people there, and I was in my van, So I leaned out and shouted, ‘Yo! Yo! Yo!

What the fuck are you doing?’ And you know What the black chick said? ‘Shut up, white boy, Finders keepers!’ The Chinese girl looked like She was about to cry, but now she knows. Never Show your money, not in this city. Finders keepers!” “I drank all night, took some Xanax this morning, And I’m drinking again. Fuck, I must be nervous. I’ve got a date tomorrow, and I’m already fucked.” “Yeah, man, I’m beat, nervous and fuckin’ stressed. I met with my new landlord this morning. I just hope He won’t look at my credit too closely. I hope He won’t call my last fuckin’ landlord. I hope We can move into this house. I’ve got two kids, You know, and this is a safe neighborhood.” “Did you know coal came from outer space? I heard it in the news, APR, but everything Is already carbon anyway. That’s all we are. We came from coal, that’s right, and we’ll become Coal, again, after we’re dead. It’s like recycling.”

Same Old News After decades of good, bad or middling, Probably mostly bad, yet touching, Heterosexual sex, middle-aged farts Can let their inner homo flare up, As in this Friendly Lounge exchange, “You fucked me good there, buddy. You shouldn’t have done that.” “Hey, Take it easy, man. I did use Vaseline.” “No, you didn’t, not this time, you didn’t.” More often, the bonhomie is straight Forward piggish, as when the Lebanese Weathercaster appears. “I bet her poop Smells just like curry!” “Ah, that’s nasty!” “I’m into lots of weird shit, but I’m not Into poop. I’m sorry! I’m just not.” “Hey, I’ll give her a good smell test. Hummm, You’re right, it does smell like curry.” Then tick local, national and international Murders and rapes, targeted or random,

Nearly all done by tailed humans, of course, Then Oscar Pistorius, that double amputee Olympics runner who just shot his girlfriend Four times, through a bathroom door. “What A waste of good pussy! How can you get mad At something like that? She’s too good looking.” Scanning this dim dive, you’ll see A sad sack bunch of well-pickled Priapic corpses not yet interred. With pricks, they’ve erected skyticklers, Defended motherlands against their kind And bored their way across this globe. “I think I’m about done. I’m fucked up!” “That’s what you said yesterday.” “Hey, I’m sorry to be a drunk.” “Hey, I’m also A stinking lush, but I’m no alcoholic!” Suddenly a live female walks in, Changing the room’s static and even Brightening each poor boy’s outlook. Each cadaver’s tongue felt fresher. Behave, children, for your teacher, Whatever her name is, is here.

Ed’s Sex Life Shellacked, Edward fell asleep waiting For a hypothetical bus. As he dreamt, Someone played with his foot, but It was no giggling lover, as he thought. She or he nudged harder, so Ed smiled. “Wake up! What are you doing here?!” Opening his eyes, Ed saw a cop, took A moment to figure out where he was, Then got up to trudge home in the snow. His feet were cold and wet. Someone Had stolen his $80 pair of sneakers. Ah, but how can a man go through a day Without ten thousand mishaps, at least? And we’re not counting the insults even! Each tick above ground is mushroom gravy. You’ve crossed the line, though, if you asked Ed About his missing arm, out of the blue. There’s no graceful preface or segue. “When people say something stupid About my missing arm, I tell them I got an infection after fist fucking

Your mom. You got that?” Ed smiles. “People would extend their left hand, Or wave at me with their left hand.” Once, Ed had so many limbs, he ignored Most of them, so a bunch felt sad, atrophied Then fell off, but Ed didn’t care, he had so many Arms and legs left to toy with. Didn’t we all?

Maria’s Cures Maria believes in invasive solutions. If you have hemorrhoids, for example, You can shove an aloe vera leaf Up your ass, “But you must make sure You peel the spikes off. If something’s Wrong with your vagina, an aloe vera leaf Can also be shoved into your vagina.” As for penal punishment, Maria Believes that Christina Regusters, A woman who raped a 5-year-old girl, Should be impaled by a red hot poker. “I’ll shove it into her myself, and I’ll Make sure it’s flaming hot! I believe In law and order. You ever heard of Rafael Trujillo? He was a dictator. He’d chop your fingers off, pull Your finger nails out. I like that! I hate criminals. I like law and order.” Maria also told me to abstain from eggs, Cantaloupe and papaya after sundown. She brightened when I said I liked mangu.

Though Dominican, she wore a jade bracelet And had a reddish buddha on her keychain.

Ecco L’Americano! Remember All in the Family strip club? Don ran the pizza parlor across the street. Don employed his hot girlfriend. She stole. Don’s handsome but dull. His dad arrived From Abruzzo at age 53. “As a kid, I was called wop, dago, grease ball. You just ignore it. What can you do?” Don’s been back to Italy 25 times. His family home is still there, but The orchard with its olive trees and Grape vines has been sold. Also, “Locals, Not gypsies, have broken in to steal just About everything. Each time they see me, They shout, ‘Ecco l’americano!’ They ask All kinds of questions about this country. I love Italy, but I love America more. Everything is better here. Everything.” Today, Don is morose, “It hurts to lose Twenty thousand dollars. It happened In Atlantic City. They stole my debit card. I was sleeping in the Taj Mahal. It hurts.”

Don’s oblique confession needs filling in. Sounds like he lost downstairs, then was robbed Upstairs by a prostitute. Perhaps she did sound And smell like a normal girlfriend while it lasted. Sunlight glazes Don’s shaved jaw and Bud Lite. We’re the only two drinkers in Friendly Lounge. Football season and early darkness are coming. People are killed, nations wrecked, porn comforts. “If you lose your parents, you lose everything. I have nothing, no home, no wife, no nothing.”

Poking Around South Philly Half a century ago, South Philly Was mostly Italian, but also Irish. These groups linger, but now South Philly also has many Asians From China, Vietnam, Cambodia And Indonesia. In the last decade, Mexicans have also appeared. Blacks live west of Broad Street. In the window of a Chinese bodega, There is a male potency ad, “HARD TEN DAYS. A GRAIN OF SOON THE EFFECT REVELS ALL NIGHT. HOLD OUT FOR LONG TIME TO POSTPONE ENLARGE A CAPSULE. SUN SOURCE LIVING CREATURE. WORLD SEX ASSOCIATION.” Reading that, I wish I was a much harder poet, but It’s too late to change my limp habits. I can’t even type well, much less revel For ten “long time” days. Do call 911.

Immigrants will infuse or infect Host neighborhoods with charming Or annoying habits. On 7th Street, A Cambodian sells barbecued pork And chicken on the sidewalk. Eaters Sit on little plastic chairs. I inhale The smoked meat aroma. Next time. A block away, five flags transform A brick porch into a small fort, manned By a middle-aged white guy, sipping His can of Bud. Another house has One large flag and five small ones. Erected for Memorial Day, these flags Will stay up until the Fourth of July, And into the nuclear winter, perhaps. Hard from the dawn’s first gleaming, Through the bombs bursting in air. Revel through the perilous mayhem. Bombed, many came here. Shot at, We’ll fight back or leave, but where to? And who are we, exactly? At Anna Marie’s Café, we are whoever will pay. Blacks, whites, Latinos and Asians

All march in the door, shouting, “One,” “Two” or “a sixer,” and the barkeep Will remember if it’s Coors or Colt-45. Only here is a beer named for a gun. Giving $1.50 in change, she says, “Here’s a hundred and fifty, honey. Spend it wisely.” “I’ll try,” he laughs. Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra And Marilyn Monroe are all over the walls, But Elvis and James Dean also lurk. Behind The bar, there’s a sign, “Confucius Say Bad tipper Get BAD next drink.” Notice How “s” has been chopped from the verbs, As a joke, of course, but let’s be honest: In This brain-scrambled time, we’re all handicapped With ghastly grammar, a wee vocabulary and Decomposed spelling, so that “too” is routinely Confused with “to,” “it’s” with “its,” and “who’s” with “whose.” Confusion say sucky speaker get sucked dry, And not in a hard ten day, reveling sense either. Hardly anyone makes sense. Poets are fogged up, But who cares about them? No one reads poets.

Let’s listen, then, to Vincenzo, a regular, Extraordinary guy, “I was born in 1945. I have known my wife since I was 13, And she 11. In 1965, we married. For our 50th wedding anniversary, We might go to Italy. We’ve never been. My father was born in Latina. At 24, He came to this country, then returned Eight years later to marry my mother. They would never see Italy again. This neighborhood has changed so much. When I was young, all the Italian mothers Would scrub the front steps once a day. Not once a week, but once a day, because Everybody else was doing it. Each Friday, We would eat Chinese. There was but one Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood. I would have pepper steak or pork lo mein. Most of my life, I have done cement work Or work at gas stations. I had a boss Who said to me, ‘Don’t steal. If you need Something, just ask me.’ A great guy, he died When he was 45, over five bucks’ worth of gas!

A man had filled up but didn’t want to pay. My boss reached for his steering wheel. He died when this asshole drove away.” At 50, I have owned a car for less than 2 years, So I can’t drive away from anything, including The next war over gas. Stiffed, we’ll die in place, For there’s no escape from this gassed globe. Meanwhile, beer, pork lo mein and naked words...

T-Barr’s Bar On two televisions: Phillies and monster trucks. On a shelf behind bar: Pluto the Disney dog, Taoist scholar Lu Tung-pin, a unicorn and Other kitschy figurines. On the wall: a guitar With “Jack Daniel’s” painted on soundboard, Gift shop print of two Mexican peasants, The Twin Towers, “Legal Capicity 40 People,” Marlon Brando as the Godfather and famous Photo of sailor kissing girl in Times Square On Victory Over Japan Day. They didn’t even Know each other, and he was just grabbing And kissing every female, young and old. We’re on the edge of Little Cambodia, but There are no Cambodian pubs near, just as There are no Chinese taverns in Chinatown. “Do Cambodians come in here?” I asked Jimmy, The bartender. “Yeah, sometimes, but usually, Just for takeouts, and since it’s Sunday, they’re Down by the lake, having their barbecues.” (That would be Meadow Lake, by the Out-of-commission Navy ship yard.)

On my right, an old black guy would shout “Strike,” “Ball” or a phone number off the TV. He jokes with himself, “He said it’s just off The plate, but I don’t see no plate! Do you?” Suddenly, he sings Meatloaf, “I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m Ever gonna love you, but don’t feel bad.” Then, “Baby, we can dance all night!” When a middle-aged black woman Comes in, he yells, “Hi, baby girl! How are things?” “Things are things. Bills, bills and more bills, but what Are you gonna do? Things are things.” “Bye, big girl,” he says as she leaves. Another minute, and she may outgrow Her shoes and clothes. “Every pretty lil’ girl!” On my left, a tattoo-coated white guy says To Jimmy, “I’ve been drinking since three. I couldn’t sleep. I got up early.” To his left, a young black guy gulps, In silence, glasses of Hennessy. He’s An oddity in a joint that deals mostly In Bud, Coors, Hurricane and Colt-45. When he steps out, Jimmy turns to me,

“I can’t stand that guy! He’s so ignorant, But they’re all like that. I can’t stand them!” The old black gent has also left. Soon, though, The Hennessy dude returns and starts to bitch About what happened to him last night. “Me and this homie was at the titty bar, And he must have robbed me, man, ‘cause I woke up and my money was gone, and I know I didn’t spend all that. I had At least 7,000 by the time I left. Fuck this motherfucker, I’m gonna Blow his fuckin’ head off. I’m gonna Give him one chance to make right. You fuck with me, I’ll blow your head off!” After Hennessy leaves again, Jim says, “Now, who talks like that? You don’t say You’re going to blow someone’s head off, ‘Cause you don’t know who’s in here. There Might be a cop sitting in here,” as in me, Jim probably half suspects, “and he didn’t Have 7,000 either. He’s just blowing hot air. I know he’s a drug dealer, but still, he didn’t Have 7,000 on him, but they’re all ignorant,

Like I said. They talk all kinds of bullshit but They don’t care about nothing. They don’t care For their parents or even each other. They’re Just ignorant, that’s all. I can’t stand them!” The Phillies will go on to lose another, while Monster trucks careen and flip, delighting A mostly white crowd. They have names Like War Wagon, War Wizard, Grave Digger, Brute Force, Martial Law, White Knight, Havoc, Toxic, Americrush and Blown Income. Drivers also have nicknames. There’s Medusa, Who’s also known as The Queen of Carnage. A small man sits with his can of Steel Reserve. He confesses he is Luis, but not how long He’s been here. Judging from his English, He got here a while back. Rising at 5:30, Luis travels each day to Allentown for work At a gardening center. Luis pots plants. At his previous job, in a candy factory, Luis had a Vietnamese manager, so He has learnt, “Đụ má mày, làm biếng!” [“Fuck your mother, you lazy bum!”] When Your boss or manager jokes, you better laugh.

Forty-five-years old, Luis has two grown kids Who won’t talk to him, because he couldn’t Provide for them. He has a lady friend Who calls him “Pappi,” but for variety, He also meshes with Guatemalan and Mexican whores, for they’re reasonable. “Thirty dollars! I don’t lie. Thirty dollars!” “Man, that’s cheaper than Chinatown!” “Fuck Chinatown! It’s 150 in Chinatown!” “They do wash your balls in Chinatown, though.” “I can wash my own balls! If you want, I can take you right now. Thirty dollars!” Everyone knows Mexican prostitution Is in Philly. Hell, there’s a Mexican whore house Two doors from me. I didn’t know it was so cheap. Also, I’ve seen no cholo yet, but soon Enough, they will come, guns ablaze. Luis agrees. “The cholos don’t play, man.” Buzzed, I leave with “Chinga a tu madre” To Luis, who yells back, “Đụ má mày! Làm biếng!” I ask Jim, “What time you open in the morning?” “Ten O’ clock, my friend, but for you, 9:55!”

Cheap bar, true people, I give T-Barr’s five stars.

Deadly United States of Underwear Scraggly bearded dude had an upturned Finger etched onto the back of his neck, But he didn’t seem like a fuck you type. In jean shorts, a mustachioed paesano Rubbed his Yuengling belly with both hands As he kvetched to his pal, “Yours is bulging Sideways, but mine is shooting straight out. I’m going to have a boy, and you a girl!” Among four men and a woman, the barkeep, There wasn’t a single button, for all Were wearing a T-shirt or muscle-T. Freefalling superpower, we’ve become The United States of Underwear. In A few years, maybe, no American Will know how to tie his shoes. On TV, Our brain cell flushing is already frightfully In high definition. Question on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, “What is commonly Placed over the opening of a Corona?” First of, who cares?! Still, among the dangled Answers, the ditzy contestant could choose

A) Taco Bell Chalupa (product placement) Or C) Sombrero, I kid you not, and though The correct burp was clearly a wedge of lime, She sweated along with host and audience. Peeling from T-Barr’s Bar, I drifted home Through snug gauntlets of row houses. Though Not much can grow here, there’s a Tree Street, And even a Mountain Street. This kind of Flash magic is also deployed on countless Majestic murals dotting dismal hoods. At a pre-school, Discovery Place, I espied A banner congratulating Mo’ne Davis, “Scholar & Athlete.” Sagging attire Mirrors droopy thinking and writing, So a 7th grader is now a PhD, And this banana nuclear power and Tireless sower of chaos is, even now, Stridently trumpeted as mankind’s succor. As I type, our prez is pushing war, again. From plumber to college president, we’re Passive killers, at best, so as our bombs Tear through other people’s flesh, we’ll see

And say what we’re told to see and say.

Meeting Uncle Sam at Samy’s While it’s true that a hangover prefigures death, So does a host of other events, missing a bus, Stealing a kiss, sniffing something gross while eating… Still, I’ve had enough of Miller High Life, that headache In a bottle or pint glass, too many of which I swilled That evening at Samy’s, while chatting with Uncle Sam. A short guy acting huge, Sam had been in the US All of five months. Coming from China, he had landed Somewhere in California, though his accent was so thick, I couldn’t make out which city he had stayed in. After a month In that sunshine, he ended up in overcast Philadelphia. “Sam,” he blurted, “that’s my name. I’m Uncle Sam!” Coming to where America was born, Sam will get To see her commit a mass murder and suicide finale, Though by then, he might have to flee back to Guangzhou. OK, so Uncle Sam had no job yet, and no skill set Beyond a willingness to schmooze, for he had become A regular in this black bar. Having bought a 99-cent Bag of chemical-dusted potato chips, Sam shoved it at A chick who had just walked in. Pissed, she shoved such Right back. “Hey, hey, you remember me!” Sam shouted.

Playing peace maker, I grinningly said, “Punch him!” With little English, Sam spoke in clichés, slogans and Commercial pitches, “It’s all good. Just do it. I’m lovin’ it! It’s better here.” In short, Sam conveyed nothing but His own giddiness, but in that, he’s no more silly than The real Uncle Sam who preaches to us daily that Happy days are here again, life’s looking up, The recovery is picking up speed, we will be Energy-independent soon, there’s a resurgence Of American manufacturing and Detroit is back, etc. Stripped of production and pride, we must swallow, As if we’re already brainless zombies, an endless Buffet of hollowed out phrases: Winning the future. We’re the change we’ve been looking for. Change We can believe in. Betting on America. Yes we can! Meanwhile, America continues to hemorrhage, With the latest, the announcement that chickens Will be shipped to China to be slaughtered, then Shipped right back here, to feed all the fired American workers, pinching their food stamps. Hunched in shelters, cars or tents, a million plus Homeless American school children will munch

On killed-in-China, chicken-like poo poo platters Once a month, when the welfare check arrives. But don’t sweat, Sam sings. Just listen to the kids. “Ma, I want to grow up to be a drone operator!” “Me, I’ll get a PhD, then work as a pro snuggler, Charging a peanut butter sandwich an hour!” “I’ll volunteer at the same soup kitchen I eat at!” “I’ll sign up for a badass uniform so I can explode From a mine in a country I’ve never heard of.” Good As any, these are the plans as we blunder forward Towards that mass murder and suicide spectacle. With his flesh chopped up, Sam will eat himself.

Kensington’s Best Bartender I’ve worked at R, One and a Half and now, here, Bentley’s Place. The other bars are closed. There are no customers left. They’ve all been killed. Just this week, a guy was hacked with a machete Across the street. Two weeks ago, two guys were shot. It’s the drugs, you know. They do it right in here, In the bathroom. I’ve caught a few. The men’s room Has no lock, but the ladies’ room does. Some girl Would go and stay in there like, you know, forever. I’d knock. She’d scream, “I’m doing a number two!” Bullshit you are. I’d pry open that door with a knife I keep behind bar. Sometimes they’d get so scared, They’d drop that needle right in the toilet! Blood Would be seeping from their arm. They’d be pissed Because they didn’t get their high. Whatever. A guy would come in, order a beer, then nod off, And I’d have to kick him out, too. He’d say, “I didn’t get enough sleep last night.” Bullshit! If you show me an attitude, you’re outta here, but I don’t have to like you to serve you. I can’t stand Lesbians, for example, but I still serve them.

I saw these two lesbians on TV kissing each other. They were, like, 89-years-old, and they were going Muah, muah, muah! Yuck! Actually, I don’t care If they were 20. It’d still be gross. If I want to Fall in love with a woman, I can just look At myself in the mirror. Like my ma said, “There’s a lot of sausages out there,” and She should know, she had 21 children. I came here when I was only one-month-old, but I’ve been back to Puerto Rico three times, when I was eight, fourteen and twenty-one, when my son Was only two-years-old. He’s thirty-four now, And still living in Kensington. My daughter also. I raised them right. They know right from wrong. For fifteen years, though, I was an alcoholic. I’d go through two fifths of Southern Comfort a day, At least, plus other stuff. I’d do five drinks at a time, All different kinds, rum, beer, wine, Southern Comfort, Plus a cocktail. Whatever. Customers would buy me Drinks up and down the bar. Once, though, I fell Backward and was knocked out cold. An ambulance Had to come, but at the hospital, I jumped right out Of that ambulance, and somehow ended up back here.

Yeah, I know, it was only three blocks away, but still, I was way gone, you know. The ambulance had to Come pick me up again. It wasn’t my last time. I’d go four days without eating anything but A slice of bread, just to soak up that alcohol. My hands would get all gnarly, like this, so I couldn’t open my fingers, so I’d have to go Into the hospital for the IV drips. Finally, A doctor said, “If you keep going like this, You’ll never see your grandchildren, so what Do you want more, your grandkids or booze?” That’s when I finally stopped, and I haven’t had A single drop of alcohol in 15 years and a half. They said I was a trip, but I was flying Without any luggage, so I had to change. Though I’m around alcohol all day, I don’t crave it. This Christmas, I’m making two batches of coquito, To make extra cash. It’s a Puerto Rican eggnog. It only costs me 6 bucks a bottle, but I sell it for 18, And I’ll probably sell 30 bottles, at least, this year. I see new faces all the time, but sometimes, I’d jump When a guy shows up. Hey, wasn’t he shot? Did he

Climb out of the grave just for happy hour? Like they say, it’s hard to leave Kenzo. Even When you’re dead, you still need to return.

Sunday Afternoon at Jack’s “Are you Chinese or Vietnamese?” She asked. “Vietnamese,” I said. “I know some Vietnamese,” She continued. “Boo coo dinky dow. You know What I just said?” “I actually don’t,” I answered. “I don’t think it’s Vietnamese.” “Of course it is,” She retorted. “Boo coo dinky dow! It means You’re crazy!” OK, so it took me a while To figure out that she meant, “Beaucoup Dien cai dau,” which is a mishmash of French And Vietnamese for “Lots of madness.” During the Vietnam War, this was often said By locals to American GIs, and vice versa. Across from the old lady was a man too old To have fought in “Iraqi Freedom,” though his cap Brightly proclaimed him as a veteran of that Open-ended campaign for petroleum and Israel. Iraq has been broken for good, with the resultant Chaos necessitating America’s meddling Until she herself collapses, which can happen At any moment, even during the halftime of this Much discussed game, to be followed by another Endlessly debated spectacle. “Hey, can I take

A photo of you and your cap?” “I don’t care,” The old man replied to my request, “you can Take a photo of my balls if you want to!” His first war was Vietnam, his last Desert Storm, And he has managed to survive it all as a cook. Though his white beard has seen so much, none Of it will be transcribed properly. Meanwhile Utter nonsense is endlessly pumped into Our much-befouled national brainpan. Our lives in arrears, we’re expected to be Transfixed by Rich Kids of Beverly Hill. In a peaceful country, to leisurely get drunk With your neighbors would certainly qualify As happiness, but in a nation that can’t stop Mass murdering, even as its cupboards wheeze, Each laugh is tainted with anxiety and blood. As our cash is sucked upward, everything At street level has gotten shorter, even the Name of a Chinese takeout, Perial Palace. Death murals and shrines mark drug corners. It has become extravagant to be left alone With a cheap pint, as the juke box whines.

Suddenly the bar roared, and I knew the end Had come early to New England, for they were Already behind 23-3. Here, no one cared really. It was just something to watch on television. Plus, it was fun to needle the bartender, for She had on a New England jersey and cap. “Why does she like the Patriots? Is she From Massachusetts or something?” I asked The dude next to me, who turned out to be a Lawyer of 24 years, “It’s Tom Brady, you know, He’s good looking, not like us!” He guffawed. Chatting further, we agreed that those who are Very pleasant to look at, not to mention to eat, Will get all the breaks in life, though this won’t Necessarily promise success. “With this belly And this chin, I’m handicapped, for sure, so if The prosecutor is super appealing, I’m screwed, But all I have to do is win over one juror, so if I can work on one, if I can flirt with her, say, Then I can get an acquittal or a hung jury.” The lawyer said he needed not go into Whether his client was guilty or not. He only Needed to work with the evidence, so if there’s

Not enough to convict, that’s that, “I don’t ask If he raped or killed. I only work with the evidence.” His career was on the upswing, and he even ran For mayor of Bristol, until he got hooked on crack At a heavyweight contender’s birthday bash. “Who are you talking about?” “I can’t tell you.” “Local guy?” “Yeah.” “Timmy?” He grinned. Though never mayor of Bristol, the lawyer Was a sort of mayor of Jack’s, for he knew Everybody there and, what’s more, wanted to Make everyone happy, or so he said, “If I see Anyone here looking sad, I must cheer him up. What if someone’s having suicidal thoughts and There’s no one to talk to? That’s why I talked to you. Not that you’re suicidal or anything, or maybe you are. See that guy outside in the wheelchair? He lost his toes, Thanks to frostbite. He’s homeless,” and with that, The lawyer went outside to greet the toeless man. So what are you missing, exactly? You can tell me. I’ll show you my gaps if you reveal your gashes. Put your hand here. Yeah, like that. Easy! Can you Feel what’s gone? There used to be quite a lot there. Boo coo dinky dow! Lotsa madness! Lotsa madness!

Ending, I’ll give you some crucial information. Although A can of Busch is only $1.50 here, it’s not the best deal, For a pint of Yuengling, which is much better, is only $2.

Dick Seeth, Moe and Woman Drinking Nothing Illness forces a sharpening Of self-definition, and so can Argument. Some fights, though, Are so stupid that the only solution Is to walk away. Vietnamese proverb: “Argue with a smart man, can’t win. Argue with a stupid man, can’t stop.” Dick Seeth, let’s just call him that, derives Enormous pleasure from conflict, which Empowers him. Without constant war, He’s bloodless and limp, a loser, which He is, frankly, for there’s no art or, More importantly, love in his music. Hiding behind posts, he shoots bile. There are Dick Seeths all over, but the world Is not, in fact, overrun by them, so yesterday, I went up to Kensington to connect with a Saner and sweeter humanity, and besides, A pitcher of Yuengling at Jack’s Famous Bar Is only $3.75, and a cheesesteak four bucks.

With prices like that, the place was packed, As usual, but I managed to find a stool, so Let’s listen to Moe, to my right, “I’m 73. When I was 17, I got my first and only job, Working at Globe Dye Works. They gave me Tasks no one else wanted to do, and for that, They paid me $6 an hour, which was excellent Money way back then. I stayed for 18 ½ years. What have I done since? Nothing! I survived on Welfare and odd jobs. Now I’m on Social Security. I get a grand each month. My landlord takes 400, I have a room, with my own TV and ice box, but I never cook, really. I eat here. One cheesesteak Is usually enough for an entire day. I spend more On beer,” Moe laughed, “but if I’m out of cash, I can borrow or I just don’t drink. I stay home To watch TV or listen to my radio. It’s no big deal. Yes, I’ve been married, but that was so long ago. It only lasted six months! I was a virgin, And she was pregnant, but I was pretty sure It wasn’t my child. We only did it once or twice, But my mom and dad said, ‘If you slept with her, You should marry her,’ so I did, but we argued

All the time. In the beginning, I gave her half Of each paycheck, then I stopped. I didn’t care. I don’t even know the kid’s name. He wasn’t mine. I never remarried, never even came close. The love of my life is in heaven,” and Moe pointed To the copper ceiling. Fully expecting him To answer, “Mary. The Virgin Mary,” I asked For her name. “Bobbie,” Moe said. “She died At thirty-five, in her sleep. I still don’t know why. We were only together two years. It was love At first sight, but she was married, you know. In fact, it’s her husband who knocked on my door To tell me Bobbie had died. He knew about us. Everybody did. He didn’t mind. Maybe he also Had a lover. Bobbie and I loved each other, but It wasn’t about sex. I was much older, you know. How old? Let’s see, she only died four years ago, So I was 67 when I met her. It wasn’t about sex. In fact, we only did it maybe once or twice. Sex is not that important to me. I’ve been To a prostitute once or twice, also, and I didn’t really care for it. I was really drunk. You don’t have to do what everybody’s doing.

I don’t vote either. Don’t believe in it. They always Promise you this and that, then do whatever. I’ve Only voted once. I voted for Kennedy, and that’s Mostly because he was Irish.” Moe laughed. By this point, I was on my second pitcher. Behind the bar, beadworks by a bartender. Of flowers, they cost 20 or 30 bucks. On television, the Sixers were trying to Not lose 27 consecutive games. I’m serious. To my left, a woman of about 65, wearing a Lidded knit cap, two coats, purple nail polish and Chowing on cheese fries from Crown Chicken. “Don’t ever get fish sticks there,” she advised. “They’re the size of French fries. I remember Ordering them when Madonna was singing During the Super Bowl. These are all right.” She kept talking to herself when not draining Her empty mug. “Hey, you’re drinking nothing!” Without turning to me, she replied, “I know.” It was pouring when I left Jack’s, but I was already Feeling much cleaner, and so far removed from The stench of those whose rage obscures.

Parking Tickets and Sex After Sixty Two parking tickets for Patty in one day Will set her back $102, so that’s 12 hours Of lost wage and tips, bartending at Jack’s. Looking hurt, the 67-year-old laments, “That’s My regular spot! I’ll go to City Hall to fight it.” “But that’s a lot of wasted time. Patty, what if You just don’t pay?” Carless, I’m ignorant here. “They’ll probably put me in jail. I don’t need that.” “You’ve never been locked up?” “No, but many Of the people who come in here have. I’ve heard Enough about it.” On TV, there’s a Little League World Series game on. Nobody’s watching. I’m on my second pitcher of Yuengling. Mel, the owner, is at the far end of life And a blur from where I sit. Earlier, Patty has ticked off all the states She’s been to. She wants to see more, “Before I need a seeing-eye dog.” “Patty, I hear there’s a lot of sex in prison.” “Oh yeah? Maybe I should go then!

At least I’ll get something out of it. I haven’t been laid in ten years!” “Lots of gay sex,” a Vietnam vet chimes in. “Oh no, no, I don’t need no lezzie.” “It’s not too bad with a strap on,” I grin. “No, no, Sir, I want the real thing.” Staring at me hard, she then growls, “I’ve Been fucked plenty the last two years, But with my pants on.” As you get older, Your body becomes like a nebulous sack Sheltering your shame-faced griefs, so that They get even more confused each time You’re hugged without your clothes on. Trapped water is sloshing over bones. Your genitals slacken, fade then retire. Even when cajoled with heart, they doze. Still, the eel grass sometimes dance.

Ars Alcoholica Tit for Tat, “I was wondering why it seems That a majority of your interviews take place In bars? Is it because there is where one can More easily connect with a cross section of The local public, or is it something else? As one who has spent very little time Hanging out in bars, it just seems that whole Other cross sections of the ‘America’ you seek Out and expose are not appearing in your work. I do have to admit, that like your most aggressive Detractor, these pieces seemingly appear, And I have read many of your pieces, more Monochromatic, not very inclusive of other Potential sources for thought and discovery.” Me, “If you have limited time in a town In which you know nobody, you go To a public place where people gather And in the United States, that’s a bar. If I had the means, I’d infiltrate other venues, But I don’t. I don’t get paid for my articles, Though people PayPal me money to support

My wandering. If you want me to write From more pricey haunts, you’re welcome To bankroll me, but if you’re not inclined, then This is what I have to offer. Working class people Meet in bars, so even if I wasn’t writing Postcards, I’d go to bars. The working class, underemployed And unemployed don’t go to concerts, art openings, Fashion shows or golf courses. They hang out In cheap bars, often for many hours at a time. They don’t care for the bar’s decors or How many beers it has, they just want A place to sit and talk with their similars, And when in a bar, they certainly don’t Talk about the bar itself, but everything Outside of it, so if you find their stories Monochromatic, then I’m afraid there is Something wrong with your vision, for I Can never find people’s lives monochromatic. Ten thousand more nights in bars would be No waste of time, if I could soak in anecdotes About the joys and sorrows of their existence, Which is also my lot in life, though not, Apparently, where you’re coming from.

The thin walleted also go to bars to get out Of their cramped quarters, especially if all They have is a room in a shared apartment. A crappy bar, then, becomes their communal Living room, and a luxurious one at that, since It has pictures on walls, free music and Televisions showing sports, which many Can no longer watch at home, not since They canceled their cable subscription. Finally, there’s a sign in Di Nic’s, a bar Not too far from my front door, ‘Never trust A man who doesn’t drink,’ and beyond the Jokey inducement to alcoholism, it’s a Admonishment against rejecting what Every other man and woman is doing. In many cultures, there are no separate plates At meal times, so you simply eat and drink what Everybody else is eating and drinking. If they Drink sake, chianti or thin beer, you do that. If They eat snakes, snails or blood pudding, you eat.”

Bob “I was born in Media, PA. I was A carpenter, then a caddy. I’d make Up to 125 bucks for four hours of work. These rich guys would buy me a beer At the halfway house. That’s a place To relax, just after the 9th hole, not a Home for recovering junkies, drunks Or criminals just sprung from prison. I Know about that kind, too, for I simply Love alcohol. First thing in the morning. At 7 o’clock, I’ve got to have my drink. I was also on crack for about five years, And I’ve been on the streets for ten years, In Atlantic City and Philly. I’ve been Jumped about ten times. The back of my head Is stapled. It’s these black kids, about 15, 16, They’d just hit you for no reason. Or they’d be Talking to you, and suddenly they’d hit you. I don’t know where all that anger is coming from, But I stay away from all black neighborhoods now.

I try not to wander from Center City. Black women, Especially the older ones, give me money Or food. They take care of me. I have a 15-year-old daughter with a black girlfriend. I was with Diane for five years. That’s my Longest relationship ever. I haven’t seen Diane in years, and I don’t even know My daughter’s name. I’ve never seen her. She hates me, probably. I’m sure she does. I’ve been in jail for vagrancy and Public drunkenness, nothing violent. I would never hurt anybody. I’m just A friendly guy. When I was a kid, My mom and dad hit me a lot, though. My mom is still in Media, but I won’t Go see her. My dad is dead. Just last week, I asked this guy for a quarter, and this man, Who was really intelligent looking, you know, And an office type. He said, ‘Let me go To the ATM,’ and I thought, ‘Shit, man, Why is he going to the ATM for a quarter?’ But then he returned and gave me

200 bucks! I couldn’t fuckin’ believe it! I’m still spending it. When I can’t afford gin, I drink mouthwash. The hardest part is Getting that shit down, because it is nasty. It says so right on the bottle, ‘Do not swallow.’ But if you can keep it down, it will keep you Pretty damn buzzed for four or five hours.” Bob wore green hospital pants and pale blue gown. As we were talking, Bob would wave at cars. Some drivers would wave back. A double decker Tourist bus appeared, so Bob grinned and waved. A tourist waved back. Both Bob and I thought This was hilarious. Welcome to Philadelphia! Before leaving Bob, I said, “You know you were Walking around with your ass showing! You should Go to that church over there and get some clothes.” “My ass was showing?!” “Yeah, man, you should go to the church.” “Yeah, I know where that church is.”

Wayne Says Each month, each Chinese is paid $12.50, Which he must spend by the 15th, for if He’s caught with any money after the 15th, He’d be shot. It’s a capital crime. Also, if He’s caught with, say, $12.51 at any time, He’d also be killed. A Chinese doesn’t really Need any money, since the government gives Everyone three meals and a cot, though they Must work 24 hours a day. It’s Communism. Here we don’t have Communism, so I buy These hot dogs from the Dollar Store. They’re big, Just like kielbasi! Eight for a dollar. You don’t even Need to cook them. I eat them like lunch meat. One thing, though, too many hot dogs will give you Butt cancer. I’m sixty-six years old, and I don’t need My ass all torn up because I ate too many hot dogs. I don’t mind sleeping outside. It’s like camping. I had an apartment in this house, paid $360, Shared it with seven other knuckleheads. Most of them were cool, though, but one guy Would never flush the toilet, and never close

The shower curtain, so water would be all over. Man, it was gross. He said he was germaphobic, So he wouldn’t touch the toilet, any part of it. With so many guys in one place, you’ll have Disagreements every now and then. One time, This seven-footer came at me, so I stabbed him, But my knife broke, so nothing happened to him. He lunged at me again, but I had three darts, so He backed off. Why did I have three darts on me? Well, you don’t know what I have on me, do you? I know how to protect myself, but I’m not violent. I went to college. I wanted to study business, but My ma said, “Business ain’t nothing but a way for White people to rip off black people,” so I switched To music. I know how to play the guitar and piano. I wrote songs, but I don’t remember any of them. We only need one educational system, But Catholics have their own schools, so The country is divided. Catholics don’t like Anybody who isn’t a Catholic, and that’s why Nothing works in this country. We’re divided. Take the war, for example. We’ve been fighting

Ten years against people with nothing, against Cavemen with only a few guns and a couple Of hand grenades, while we have all these planes And aircraft carriers, you know, the whole shebang, But we still can’t goddamn win. We’re divided. The city is falling apart, but Nutter can’t get Anything done, because he’s a Catholic and Obama is not. He can’t just call up Obama and Say, “Send us a hundred trillion zillion dollars!”

Flippant in El Paso A cell at the De Soto Hotel costs $199 a week, $399 a month, But there’s a ghost who stays free. Sweet looking, she’s probably not even Sixteen-years-old. Anticipating Whatever you’re about to say, this ghost Will whisper, with ticklish, hot breath Tunneling into your ear, “So what?”

Philosophical in El Paso If I lived in El Paso, The Tap would be my bar. With $3 beer and $4 burrito, how can you go wrong? For variety, there's a dodgy Chinese joint next door. By The Tap, I met a homeless dude from Detroit With a diamond tattoo between eyes. Twenty-eight-years old, He has had one real job in life at 18, working at a factory For $10 an hour, with his biggest accomplishment to date The fact that he's been off heroin for two years. In Tucson, He hooked up with some girl for two nights, "The best pussy I've ever had, and it's not like I get that much pussy. Just look at me!" Elated, he went out to get some beer And was promptly hit by a car, resulting in a cracked hip And a broken shin. Hence him limping now on a crutch. "The next time you get great pussy, just pretend,” I said, “It's just nothing, that it's no big deal. That way, you won't Get hit by a car, ‘cause as soon as you enjoy something Too much, see, shit will surely happen. Major shit!" "I don't know if you can put it like that Because, when it comes right down to it,

They're all about the same, if you ask me." "So it wasn't really worth it, was it?" "No, it wasn't, but I don't see the connection." "Of course, there was. You congratulated yourself, Got a little too high, so shit had to happen. Maybe It would have been worth it if you were hit by a moped Instead of a car? What kind of a car was it?" I asked. "Just a sedan, but listen, dude, I don't even Think a moped would have been worth it." All men, except me, of course, are abject. “I’d eat A mile of her shit just to see where it came from.” Who said that? A man said that. An English speaker. All men, except me, have said that. I just said that.

San Antonio Tourists and vagrants roaming downtown Near midnight. One fight, two arrests. Cops Walking and riding in vans, cars and on bikes. A pool table in a barber shop. Free mug of beer With each haircut. In the window of vast liquor store, A gallery of shoplifters caught by surveillance cameras. Rat to get your Ben Franklin. “I know him! He my cuz!” Shoved down jean crotch, a fifth of whiskey will shoo away Those bank bailout, Federal Reserves blues. Black dude, “Are you Japanese?” “No, Vietnamese.” “Oh yeah? I was in the navy. Okinawa." He was around 45, tiredAs-shit looking, yet edgy. It was dark, warm and I had Just gotten off the train. On me, nearly 3,000 dollars Of camera equipment. Feet away, a long form slept In a recessed entrance. “Hey, man, I'm in shape,” My new friend volunteered. “I'll do twenty pushups For you if you give me three bucks.”

Approaching Chicago On train, a young man pulled up his T-shirt To show pubic hair besieging belly button. “I’m half French, see? You wouldn’t see that On a regular Vietnamese guy, would you?” He was traveling to Colorado to work on a ski resort. He had been making out to some girl he had just met. He was thinking of returning to her, after our chat. Should we make out or in? It is commonly said That the boy should wear baggy jeans, to not Compliment the girl too openly. The naked face Can be most intensely erotic, alarming even long Married spouses, sleeping in separate beds. A man comes to yet another lascivious city. Open faces flit by. He does business by day. Night, he enters a bar hopeful and determined, But of course, nothing happens, so he returns To the wrong hotel room, alas. Finally, someone Is waiting there for him, unbidden. Blind drunk, He interprets this as a divine gift, a belated Vindication of his own mortal worth. How

Did she manage to enter his room and why? We passed Gary, Indiana, then into the South Side. Impressive ruins of factories, row houses, an empty Basketball court. It was gray, drizzling. In my twenties, I wanted to work as baggage handler for Midway Airlines. Stupid, I didn’t even know they would give me a drug test, So I smoked pot the day before they flew me to Chicago For a damn drug test. Funny, but I wasn’t even a pothead. “You know what’s funny about us Vietnamese? We love our cars and our big flat screen TVs, But there’s nothing else in the fuckin’ house! These guys drive nice cars, then go home And eat instant noodles each damn night!” “Nice red cars,” I interjected. “Yeah, nice red cars. Hey, you know What’s my favorite instant noodles?” “What?” “Ma ma,” he said, with a clear pause

Between syllables. To make sure I got it, he said it again, “Ma ma.” Dying, say, from shrapnel, a man, Craving instant noodles, no less, Would utter with his last breath, “Ma ma.”

Wolf Point’s Baddest Bar On Water Hole’s outside wall, A cowboy and Indian relax, At a placid pond, at dusk. Inside, bar stools are bolted To the floor, to prevent them From being lifted and swung at any Assiniboine, Sioux, Paleface or whoever Talks or acts wrong, according to The judgment of Budweiser. Once, I swear, an obnoxious Navy Seal Got his ass kicked, then chased out. It’s not true, though, that he ran All the way to Cape Disappointment, A spectacular park with lighthouse In Washington State, facing Japan. It must be said, though, that men Are mostly cowards. They almost Never fight one-on-one. Even faced With a one-armed midget, most men Will hesitate, then call for backup,

If not a massive air strike that ends With the midget intact and defiant, But the rest of wherever wiped out. Before we lunge at each other’s throats, friend, Let’s play a mellow game of pool. We’ll share This light broom stick as cue, since you won’t Need but a few stitches when I whack it Upside your soul’s shack, or you mine. As toxic junk washes ashore, seals hack While the aimless and idle bum beer. Contentment is a mug in Water Hole, With the future merely a foot away.

Why Can’t We Be Everywhere at Once? Born in Boring, Oregon, he dreamt for decades Of Celebration, Florida, but after moving there, He soon returned to Boring, Oregon because Celebration, he realized, wasn’t all that. Somebody ought to establish a writers’ colony At Cape Disappointment, Washington. Corn dogs For breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night snack. Spending her entire life in Sweet Home, Oregon, She never visited Vida, just 57 miles away, An hour and eighteen minutes driving, if You’re not too eager for the end. “I’ve heard About that place,” she said to her husband, Her fork stuck in the mashed potato, her face Worn and pleading. “I wouldn’t fuss over it, Midge. We ain’t never going there.” Near Ashland, There’s the Dead Indian Memorial Highway. After death, you can be in Celebration and Boring at the same time. Deceased, you can Absolutely be nowhere all the damn time.

Hinsdale, Montana Since you ask, I’d say we’re hard working, Don’t care for surface and trusting. Here, Your words are like the words of God. If you lie once, people will remember. Our town did well during the Vietnam War Because of the Glasgow Air Force Base. That’s where I met my husband, by the way. We used to have three bars, two grocery stores, Two hotels and even a car dealership. Now, There are just Stoughie’s Bar and Grill and a New coffee shop, Sweet Memories. We’re down To 217 people, and everyone’s white except For five Indians and two Mexicans. Also, farming isn’t what it used to be. Our big social event of the year is the Street dance, BBQ, high school reunion And rodeo around the Fourth of July. A country band would play, but mostly We just visit each other and chatter. You can fish for walleyes in the Milk River.

My mother is 90. When she graduated From high school, her class had 110 kids. Mine only had 12, and this year’s seniors Were just four girls and a boy. There was Another boy, but he died in a car crash.

Reading McCook “God Bless America banner is $8.99.” “Bronze eagle to be raffled by art guild.” “BBQ tastes best with family.” “Free haircuts for a year!!! Enter to win.” Nourished, fortified and encouraged by Copious cowpies, corpulent flies blunder, Dart then land on your lips as if you’re dead. In their pens, cattle lament, sigh, fart and Regurgitate fond memories. I wouldn’t mind Me a steak right about now, though with my Budget, Chinese is hot and decent enough, Except there’s a sign, “Due to food shortage, We will be closed Monday and Tuesday.” The Royal Buffet is built like a joke Section of the Great Wall. What Can they possibly be out of? Soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce or MSG? Working a serious wok requires two arms And even your knee, for the gas lever. As you labor, flames lick your crotch.

Nudged along by history, infrastructure, Hunger and chance, I end up shading My eyes to look at a showroom gravestone That flaunts laser engraved tractor, barn and Two turkeys, with the cock spreading feathers. Thanks to technology, even a peasant Can be interred ostentatiously. Once A year, a nylon flag can be planted, Like an asterisk, onto his memory. Flags drape dead men and a dying Nation that’s not going down without Shooting, bombing, droning and voting. Flags are all over McCook. In a window, A teddy bear is togged like a soldier. Another cub fills a patriotic tub. On a bench, a silhouette of a soldier Kneels next to a Christian grave. Above him, There is an eagle, a flag and a poem that Starts, “Don’t weep for me / Oh land of the free. When it was my time to fall / Twas For my country’s call.” It finishes, “And in her freedom and her courage /

I’ll continue to live.” At the theater, A playbill announces a 9/11 play To benefit the McCook Fire Department. On a porch, a molded resin flag has yellowed. Tramping in the sun for hours, my yellowness Reverts to red. Red enough, I need beer, So I ask the white mailman, “Sir, where can I Get a drink around here? Like, a tavern?” “Old Sarge’s is where you need to go! Good luck!” Unsure if I need fortune to get there or Simply to get sloshed there, I barge in. Describing a late 19th century Nebraska town, Willa Cather, “The dwelling-houses were set about Haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some Of them looked as if they had been moved In overnight, and others as if they were Straying off by themselves, headed Straight for the open plain.” Thirteen decades later, the buildings Appear provisionally more permanent, But with a persistent drought, the soil

Is again truculent, so that these burgs May just be blown away, like dead bugs. Tallgrass and buffaloes counterattack. Indians, punks and failed writers kick weeds. Soon enough, then, there will be fewer shacks On these prairies. Meanwhile, though, descendants Of homesteaders are swilling Bud, Bud Lite and Miller all around me. One guy is sucking with a tiny straw His one-dollar-shot special. I shout, “Hey, what is that you’re drinking?” We chitchat. He asks back, “What Are you doing in town?” “I’ve never Been to Nebraska, outside of a few Hours in Omaha, so that doesn’t count.” Eyes stern, he delivers, “There’s something You’re not telling me!” Then, to another, “Look at his eyes!” Meaning my eyes, Mind and whatever else are not normal To his round, red eyes. Still drunker, he asks, “When are you leaving?” “In a few hours,” I say, “Tonight.” “Good, we don’t need More of your kind around!” “What kind?!”

The cheap shot drinker doesn’t answer.

Drumbeating for conquest, Walt Whitman In “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” sought to Galvanize “O you youths, western youths” Of his “resistless, restless race!” His kind. “Swift! to the head of the army!—swift!” From Jamestown on, this land was cleared And ethnic cleansed for a specific kind. Buffalo Bill killed 4,000 bison. Tourists shot bison from moving trains. To slaughter bison is to wipe out Indians. Blanched bison skulls rose up to the moon. This world had to be reshaped and whitewashed. With the beast gone, McCook High School’s Football team is called the Bison, of course. It must be said, though, the unkind

Kind-focused man is not emblematic Of McCook. Others are much friendlier. Let’s listen to 50-year-old Jason, “I’ve worked on oil rigs in Colorado, But not North Dakota, since my bones Can’t deal with the extreme cold. Colorado Is cold enough, but it doesn’t get to thirty Or forty degrees below zero. I hope To move to the Gulf Coast soon. I’ve never Seen the ocean. I grew up very poor.” Half a mile away, there’s Club Paradise, With a beach scene on its sign. McCook is Nearly a thousand miles from salt water. Maybe there’s a Hail Storms and Blizzards Bar In Miami, with a snowplow on its sign? Gaunt, bespectacled, smooth jowled, unsmiling, Seventy-eight-year-old Will, “I’ve driven trucks My entire working life, been to every state, But I like my home state, Nebraska, best. In fact, everything East of the Ohio River Can go to hell or sink into the damn sea! I’m still working because me and my wife Don’t want to live on less. I’ll retire at 80.”

The longer you linger, the more each street And street lamp will gossip behind your back, So an old man can choose to embrace His history, as woven into a spot, Or he can try to shun it, but inside Each person, the fallen houses still stand. That said, Nebraska can’t be more home Than any place else, for all of our edifices Have only been blown here a few beers ago, And with the next cheap shot, knocked down. This mirage is conjured up by much fluids Being sucked deliriously from raped earth. Finally, a poster skeleton lifts The venetian blinds, then two doors down, On a sweatshirt, there’s a football helmeted Skull and crossbones, “A tradition Of toughness. Nebraska Corn Huskers.”

Carla from Syracuse I suppose I married the wrong man, But I imagine it can’t be too unusual. My parents came from Italy. Foggia. My dad was super strict. As long as I lived at home, I had to be home By midnight, and this lasted until I Married at twenty-one. My husband Was a nice boy until he returned From serving in the Army. In Germany, He picked up new ideas, like free love. Though we dated again, I was actually Happy when he moved to Houston, Texas. One night, my husband called collect and said, “Will you marry me?” He was drunk, I could tell. My dad never liked him, my mom sobbed, But still, I got out of the house, finally. It was my first decision in life. For years, I chose not to have children. I knew. We ended up marrying for thirty-five years. In fact, we got married twice, for only A year and a half after our divorce,

He asked me to marry him again, and I said yes, again, like a complete idiot. Though it was the wrong life, I didn’t know Any other life, so I went back to it. Now, I’m finally alone, and happy. I have two grown, successful kids. They’re always trying to set me up, But I tell them no, I’m really happy. As for my regrets, they tell me, “Mom, if You didn’t marry dad, you wouldn’t have us.” My husband has found another wife, and Thank God, she’s not younger, for that Would really eat me up. As for my dad, Who’s dead, I don’t blame him. He could Only bring us up the way he was raised. Sometimes I do go on dates, but I always Say beforehand that it would only be A dinner and a movie, and no more. Well, maybe a quick hug at the very end. People say my husband’s wife is bipolar. I’ve googled her, seen her face.

Harriet of Richmond There is a Jefferson Pawn Shop, a Baptist church In a converted car dealership, and a Nation of Islam mosque In a former church, complete with a crucifix-topped steeple. Seeing some Jesus exhortation in a thrift store, I walk in And meet Harriet, a 64-year-old employee wearing brown, Plastic glasses and a blue baseball cap. A transplanted New Yorker, Harriet was a home care nurse for decades Until one of her arms went weak, until she got old herself. She’s been married for 39 years, she beams. Her husband is 76. “And I’ll take care of him Until the end. He won’t be in any nursing home.” Though Jewish, she got married in a church, To please her Irish husband. “At the ceremony, The priest said I should wear my Star of David Inside my dress, and I had on a white dress Because I was a virgin. I said, ‘I’ll wear this Inside my dress if you remove that cross From the wall, behind you.’” Harriet’s First love was a man half Filipino, Half Cambodian. The day before

Their wedding, he revealed he had a son. He also warned, very sternly, that Should anything happen to him, Everything will go to this son. Harriet told him to shove it. Harriet and her husband were trying To go from New York to Florida when They ran out of cash in Richmond. They Have also slept in shelters or outside. On the yellow wall, a babe in a stroller Reaches out to a hirsute dude in white Tennis shoes, jacket and faded jeans. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did For one of the least of these brothers…”

Ethel in St. Louis I have diabetes, and so did my mom. After she retired, she just watched TV. She hardly went outside, hardly moved. “I’ve moved all my life. I’m tired of moving.” She had been a home nurse. She was tired, And alone for twenty years. When dad died, My mom didn’t even go to the funeral. She wouldn’t have been able to take it. She would have jumped right in. In fact, She never visited his grave, not even once. The oddest thing, though, happened when She herself died. We called the cemetery And was told the burial plot had been paid for, And was right next to my dad’s, too. I know No one in my family arranged that. It must Have been a clerical mistake on their part, But it’s perfect. I think my dad did it.

Toronto Draped in an East Indian outfit, a young woman Belted out a Russian song, at the Russia Festival in Dundas Square, and no one Seemed bemused. This is Toronto. In an Old York park, a dozen books On the grass—Robin Rice, Anne Tyler, Stephen King, you know, the usual Bullshit. How sweet it was that no one Had bothered to pick these up, but then, I thought, Maybe they already own these titles. What if bpNichol had been scattered, like this, as gifts Or trash. They would probably remain there For the next millennium or two. Speaking Of orphaned language, I collided with “WE SERVE ALL DAY DIM SUM,” not To be confused with “WE SERVE DIM SUM ALL DAY.” Maybe they meant “WE SERVE DAY-OLD DIM SUM.” Dim sum means “to touch the heart,”

By the way, and all I ever wanted was To massage your core with syllables. On King Street, I saw, quite suddenly, A blown-up comic with “La ferita Continua a sanguinare.” The wound Continues to bleed, and the only Response to that is “Basta! Basta! Do you want to focus or not? Let us Focus. You and me, let us focus.”

Make it Swift Many insist that the modern toilet Is a male figure, a middle-aged grump Complaining endlessly about what did Or didn’t happen in his sighful life. Others Will counter that the commode is actually Quite a lovely lady, with enviable curves. But what about that lid on her mouth? “Other women are so envious of me. I can’t sleep a wink, without worrying That your wife, for example, will sneak In here to steal my lid, and snap it onto Her own lovely yet incomplete mouth.” This poem is so full of it. And I’m so full of it, being a Sighful middle-aged creep. Ah! But why do we read and digest At the same time, desecrating Both reasonably excusable acts? So put this non-poem down, please, And finish musing in relative peace.

Self-Love is Blind A man missed his dead wife so much. When Remarrying, he insisted that his second wife Changed her name to match the first. Of course, He was careful to find a woman who resembled His gone sweetie as much as possible. He did Cheat some, however, since the woman he chose Approximated his first wife in early youth, and not Late middle age, the age at which she died. This Ain’t a bad deal, he thought. Though the second Wife’s face was nearly that of the first, maybe even Slightly more pretty, her proportions were certainly Lesser. A detail here, there and everywhere, really, Were also off. With clothing, these liabilities And deficits were hardly noticeable, but, in bed, Well, there was the truth and nothing but the truth. These discrepancies became so disturbing that He would ask her, rather indelicately, to keep As much clothes on as possible as they embraced. Finally, he had to insist that she visit a renown Plastic surgeon which he had found online After much googling and aggressive querying In beauty forums, under the name Sue. After A series of discreet or brazen augmentations,

Tucks, lifts, obscure tightening, dermabrasion, Tautening, thermolysis and laser treatments, She was finally home, That is, his dead wife Finally reappeared.

Air Duct to Air Duct To kiss is to threaten To eat someone without Actually chewing and swallowing. It is also to wed digestive tracts, Meaning the ultimate expression Of intimacy, no less than Having two assholes welded Together, otherwise Known as marriage.

Suing God After decades of deliberation, I want to Sue God for my ridiculously bad teeth. What is The statute of limitation on crooked teeth, anyway? Who cares? I’ll sue. If successful, I’ll move on down The list of my other physical and mental deformations. Chatting with Greg Martino, director of career service At an art school, I said, “I’ve seen a dentist just once In thirty years.” “That’s incredible!” We were talking About the sacrifices and pitfalls of trying to be an artist If one isn’t a trust fund kid. “My biggest fear was being Irrelevant. I didn’t want to give up everything just to suck, But of course that’s always the safest bet.” Thank God, I have these actionable teeth to meditate on. They keep me Mucking in mortality, and make hubris nearly impossible, Though I preen often enough, despite the sad emblem And monument to my intrinsic worth, my incisors.

Yet Another The ugliest man alive. The most hideous woman, Dead or alive. (I want her.) Even the prettiest woman, Even the most God-like man. How else can I put it? Where Should I put this, exactly? Not here, soldier… Yet another transsexual beggar With his useless genitals tied with A pretty knot round his neck, like Some kind of well-ironed irony. In Wichita and not Wenatchee, I met a soul with a life-size Life stuck on his fuckin’ life. (I know, I know, obscenity Means poverty of language.) I am poor, stinky and stupid. Say something you’ve never uttered. Do something weird, why don’t you?

Once, if I remember well, my life was A feast of cable TV and web porn. This is my mother, a month before She tricked me into marriage, her belly Already bulging with my stillborn father.

Baby for Mieko Kawakami Day by day, the baby grows, which can only mean that, day by day, the mother is being lowered into the grave. Thus, she wills that her baby should remain forever the size of a hamster. As the infant ages, the mother rejuvenates, but they resist the temptation to mate after so many years. Now, mother is a screaming newborn, and the child is a frowning parent to its own mom. Sighing, it shakes its head at that blind thrust towards procreation. Soon as her baby is born, she knows it’s already much wiser than her. Judging her with its seasoned eyes, her baby ticks off countless physical, intellectual and moral shortcomings. I should snuff you out right now, she contemplates, before you become even more insufferable. For many years, maybe even decades, her baby can only make nonsensical sounds. This, she interprets as infinite mercy on her baby’s part, for she lives in constant terror of what it will finally utter with its first fully-formed sentence.

One gorgeous morning, she wakes up screaming because her baby has been snatched from her, most violently, in the middle of the night, then she realizes, with an uproarious laugh, that she never even had a baby. With no husband, a virgin, she’s only a child herself. She is the baby.

Anything Else? In Philly, there was a man who pushed pills And performed late term terminations. Many were born into the toilet, to be Fished out and killed, scissored Through the neck. Over decades, This man killed countless. Those Who weren’t killed immediately Had a few minutes of life, but most Lived for merely seconds, spent Mostly in their first and last crapper. Mere is French for mother. Mare means sea in Italian. I was dumped from one water Into another. I went from a tight Yet vast enough sea, my mother, Into a public ocean, the toilet. Lone boat in a shitty womb, I Learnt how to sculpt tampons, turds And toilet paper into SOS. Before I had my first milk, I experienced a Golden shower. Give it to me, mom!

Because of some unfortunate fucking, I became inexorably flushable, if only I wasn’t already too big. I felt a pair Of firm hands rescuing me, thank god, But that was that. I stopped seeing.

I Love You You know how it is, their idea Of paradise is being born a sagging, Wrinkled and stinking corpse, only To mature into an earnest, firm and Sexually anarchistic youth, then die As a manure-spewing and shrieking Meat package, being inserted into the Grave of your one true love and hate.

Two Men In the men’s room at Market East, A commuter train station, I noticed A wheelchair in front of a stall, then I heard, “I can't believe it. Why? Why Would you fuck the nigger?! Fuck me! Why would you do that? Fuck me! Why would you fuck the nigger?!” And on and on along that vein. Then Washing my hands, I could see, reflected In the mirror, the sitting lamenter. With his Eyes shut and one hand on his forehead, He was a black man of at least 55.

Whits Before he could tongue her, one of his teeth Fell out. “That's OK,” he winked at his stale Yet chirpy stablemate, “I still have plenty left.” As if to prove it, he spat out a stringy and Bloody assortment, then counted to ten Before losing interest. He popped them back. They kissed for the longest time, maybe even A bit longer, since they had already paid too much, You see, and had to get the most out of this swindle. They had to milk it by any means necessary. “This Is way overrated,” she grimaced. “Aren’t you gonna Ask what I’ve been reading? It’s not Jonathan Swift, That’s for sure. I mean, I like poetry and everything, But soon as I bite into one... ” “You just wish you hadn’t,” He finished the sentence for her. Speaking of sentences, Some should be as long as the most tedious bridge You will ever encounter, while others could be as brief As this sunshiny life, and it always matters. Many whits.

Wrong Tool Man Out of some desperate Political, philosophical And moral conviction, he uses Scissors as toothpicks, Books as footrests or chairs, Hotels as sexy morgues, Genitals as ghost limbs, Brain as bowels, Shakespeare as André Breton, Life as afterlife, Earth as moon.

Hard Though all names are gaseous, and soon, Mercifully, to be blown away, it’s still better To have a minty moniker than to be cursed, Even after death, by one’s creditors and marks. Silly old Jew, how can your last breath trump Your howling birth, for even a quick slant Of sunshine is worth it, though you end up toast. Precocious, he’d rather linger at open caskets Than slobber at orgies, not that there’s any. Even before the clumsy and anxious undressing, They might flee, leaving you to touch yourself. Unlike corpses, lovers don’t stay put. Come, Let’s tickle each other before we’re hard. Boozing, we sling tosh, but that’s fine, for Deadened faces can’t cheer up the damp, Mutely suffering yet, at times, perky parts. With a tube down his throat, the sick man dreams Of pho with raw and cooked beef, and brisket, While in a darkened room, a young man stares

Very hard at miraculous strangers. Sleepless, She imagines much nudging, lapping and kissing. Only in the mind does life spread out fully. As The young man cleans his crotch, the corpse Is washed, then incinerated. She too washes.

Mare Mere Bend down, everything’s under there. Lift up that ocean, and see for yourself. Is it possible to commit worse violence Against our vast mama, whom we gag with Swirling plastic, spew oil and corexit stew, Vomit irradiated slop into her lapping maw? Welcome to Fukushima Sushi Takeout! House specialty: Radiated Cesium Roll. International Atomic Energy Agency approved. Meet radiant chef, Naoto Kan. All you can’t eat Lunch, dinner and wake. Free goggles, mask, Toothpick and industrial galoshes upon entry. The Vietnamese word for country is water. Which water are you from? Though I was born In that water, I’ll die in this water. To be together Is to be in the same water, same womb. Come Closer, mare mere, let’s spend this longest night Cuddling and spooning. Do we have a choice? Neruda, however, thought the sea should Be tamed and dominated. I translate

A chunk from his “Oda al Mare”: we’ll enter you, we’ll chop the waves with a knife made of fire, on an electric horse leaping over foam, singing we’ll sink until we touch the bottom of your guts, an atomic thread will guard your shank, we’ll plant in your deep garden trees of cement and steel, we’ll tie your hands and feet, on your skin man will walk, spitting, yanking in bunches, building armatures, mounting and taming you to dominate your spirit.

Born next to the sea, even an extraordinarily Smart man can claim to have never heard His mama speak in her own language. Way, Way down there, steel pricks are puncturing Exhausted womb to bring back sick tidings.

Seagull Lecturing Bottom Dwelling Fish What the fuck is wrong with you? While everybody else is uplifting themselves, You lie there, all day long, on the fuckin’ bottom! You make friends with dregs, tossed bottles and shit As you stay clear of anyone who tries to help you. You’re terrified of a more enlightened existence! You’re just afraid of success, that’s my verdict. You adore the dark, the darker the better and Don’t even know how unhealthy your life is! For years, I’ve been trying to help you, to lift you Out of your briny hellhole, but I’m losing patience. Soon as you see me, you burrow even deeper Into your Dantesque abyss, muck, madness.

Homelessness Starter Kit, $29.99. For the myriad who were hustled By a bank into an impossible mortgage, Then foreclosed upon. For the long-retired Yet taxed right out of their own homes. For recent college grads who are jobless Yet too dispirited to return to their nagging Moms and pops. Or for those who were Simply laid off for no good reason and Are now roofless, here’s a perfect gift For this holiday: Two pieces of cardboard, One to lie on, and one to create a begging And/or protest sign. As a bonus, we’ll include A list of suggested messages, completely free: WE ARE THE 99%, PREGNANT AND HUNGRY, I HAD A STROKE, I AM A WAR VETERAN, OCCUPY EVERYTHING DEMAND NOTHING, etc. For a Magic Marker, please add $1.99.

Military Contractor Gear, $499.95. For that aspiring mercenary in your family, The one who needs no reasons to unload Bullets, sperm, hate and suicidal love, Who longs to be stripped of all distractions, So he can simply be meat in battle, at last, Now he can get off his ass and blast Terrorists without leaving his backyard. Armed with a knife, grenades, M9 pistol And Kalashnikov, the world’s most reliable Infantry rifle, your newly-minted hitman Can now drill splattering holes in any Dog, cat or piece of lawn furniture. Emboldened, he can venture into Adjacent properties and kick down His neighbors’ doors in the dark and Butcher them if they resist, or even if They grovelingly submit. There’s no need For your amped up warrior to be bummed Over the end of any war, since he can

Bring all that exciting carnage home. Bored with nightly mayhem, your contractor Can step on an improvised explosive device (At $79.95 extra. Only one needed, trust us), And feel the thrills of having his lower half, At least, shredded into patriotic ribbons. Real life hired-guns don’t get Purple Heart, But we’ll ship you an authentic looking one, Plus a frameable certificate (at $5.95 extra).

Big Sis Sex Doll, $65.99, with $9.99 for handcuffs and $29.99 for TSA uniform. Sick of being molested by Janet Napolitano? Now, you can retaliate by sticking Your hairy palm into her pants for bombs. This is no generic, almost life-size dummy With the usual, traditional orifices in more Or less the right places, or even that rarified, Glasses-wearing and Emily Dickinson-quoting Vinyl girlfriend. No, Siree! This is the Secretary Of Homeland Security in face and person, her Unique body shape extraordinarily rendered By a world-renown, Chinese artisan, a classmate And rival, no less, to the sculptor of that hulking And fug ugly MLK statue on the Washington Mall. Spiffy in your TSA outfit, you can intone On your very first date, “This is merely procedural,” As you legally shove your claws inside Janet’s stretch pants and fondle her pubis, Buttocks and more, with no foreplay whatsoever. Why waste time? Like any sane person, she will Squirm, grimace or even curse in a realistic, Battery operated shriek, AA cells not included,

But should Janet resist your patriotic, post 9-11 No-means-yes-love, you can harden and growl, “I’ll send you to Guantanamo, bitch!” before You handcuff her and get really funky. Fun over, You can waterboard Janet’s face and gently wash Her body with warm water and soap. Deflated, She is compact enough to store in a back pocket Until the next airport patdown and/or enhanced Interrogation technique session.

Home Slot Machine, $199.99 With offshoring, American factories Become hulking, rusting relics. Once We cranked out quality stuff, but now, We merely service or hustle each other, Via street corner shell games, casinos Or investment banking… Forty-one states Now boast glittery gambling emporia, With these springing up in a disused steel plant Or even an old church. It’s not farfetched to Imagine a day when there are poker, blackjack, Roulette and mahjong tables near every home, As long as they’re within walking distance, of course, For we’ll be too broke to afford car or gasoline. Hell, it’s probable there will be a slot machine Installed outside each tarp or cardboard dwelling, Where the mailbox used to be. The government Won’t deliver letters, with the postal service dead, But it will stop by regularly to collect coins From your personal gambling contraption. Why not Leap into the future, my friend, by having, right now,

A slot machine in your living room? If you still have one. Day or night, you can compulsively stuff what’s left Of your income into this cartoon-decorated steel box. As in a real casino, your cash will promptly enrich Some unseen, distant persons. This mindless toy Is tough enough to endure repeated kicks, bangs Or even atomic bombs, without coughing up Your vaporized earnings. Now and then, It will spit out a free porn pic or song.

Obama’s Dream The latest crop of drones have artificial intelligence, So they can decide for themselves who’s the enemy, And whether to kill or just maim him. They can also Torture their target, by firing at his fingers or toes, One by one, or an eye, or a nose at an angle, so Only the schnozzle is knocked off, without the bullet Entering the brain. Genitals can be shredded, but Slowly, to maximize pain. All is well, until these drones Enjoy killing so much, they’ll shoot someone just for fun, Or out of boredom, like a soldier might. By now, Drones have well-developed personalities, with The more immoral and ruthless rising up the hierarchy. The nastiest, a drone that can kill thousands at once While schmoozing, charming and joking, is declared The President of the United States of America, Except the country he leads, so to speak, is just A fetid, desolate and charred wreck after so many Decades of misrule and war. People, real people, weep Joyful tears as the drone gives his inaugural speech,

While intellectuals trip over each other to compare this Elegant and eloquent weapon to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR or Kennedy. Even in a dream, I’m irked To go unmentioned as a precursor to this cool killer.

Poetry Sightings It is Poetry Month again, but most Americans wouldn’t know it, preoccupied as they are with forechecks, Mitt, Kim, Lady, Pippa and Doritos Locos Tacos. What a far cry from what Walt Whitman envisioned, since he actually thought our country would value poets more than any other. It has gotten worse and worse since his days. Just think of John Brown, for example, since Brown triggered an explosion of poetry, with hundreds of poems published in the immediate aftermath of his raid and hanging. Back then, Americans still considered poetry to be an essential response to, and perhaps even shaper of, national events and crises. Now, poems are completely irrelevant, and a major reason for this is the mass media. Americans are most indifferent to poetry because our country generates more nonsense and distraction than anybody else. Though shunned and drowned out, poetry still lurks across this land, however: In New Orleans, two guys sit behind typewriters on a sidewalk in the exceedingly charming neighborhood of Marigny. Inspired by Jazz, no doubt, they will instantaneously write a poem on “your topic,” and, get this, at “your price.” Go ahead and try them, but don’t go easy now. Demand that they write a

poem on Grimm’s law, gimcrackery, the Dust Bowl, viridity or the amazing life and death of Ioan Petru Culianu, for example, and pay them well, of course. In Boulder, there is a smudgy facsimile of Walt Whitman wandering around, wearing sandwich boards that announce, “I’m Reverend Friendly—a poet and I know it. I earn my bread by reciting a poem I have stored in my head, But if you’re too poor, I’ll do it for free instead. Halleluiah, praise be to the Holy One!” When the Reverend says one, he means the same poem each time, but sometimes not even that in its entirety, as when he forgot the final, killer stanza to Baudelaire’s “To The Reader.” After some nudging from me, however, Friendly finally belted out, with flecks of spittle spraying my poor face: Boredom! He smokes his hookah, while he dreams Of gibbets, weeping tears he cannot smother. You know this dainty monster, too, it seems — Hypocrite reader! — You! — My twin! — My brother! [translated by Roy Campbell] In Boston, there is a young woman whose life is truly a poem. She said, “From the age of twelve, I’ve always wanted to be an

animal,” and that’s why she goes barefoot and lives outside as much as possible. Drifting around for the last four years, she has traveled as far north as Alaska, and as far south as New Mexico. In Montana, she slept outside in -20 degrees. She was staying with Occupy Boston until the police evicted their encampment from Dewey Square. She has investigated the Transcendentalists and found them half-assed. “If you want to be an animal, then Thoreau ain’t shit,” I said. “Yes, Thoreau ain’t shit.” In Chicago, there’s a Poetry Garage, and, no, I’m not making this up. Why would I make it up? I’m too honest, earnest and anal retentive to make anything up, ever. The Poetry Garage is at 201 West Madison, and for a modest fee, say, $2,000 a month, you can park your miserable, beloved poem in the Poetry Garage, where no one, but no one, will ever proposition it, not that it’s been getting lucky anyway, lately or ever. My primary and lifelong interest, however, is not in this Poetry Garage but in the cousined, digestively related Poetry Junk

Yard, reputedly further West, where every life form, radiant or otherwise, goes to die, with its dreams, Hollywood or otherwise, never coming close to being fulfilled. Hey, but the road was fun and crippling! The Poetry Junk Yard is said to be larger than the Earth itself. In Providence, some wise guy at Cafe Francaise has decided to scrawl some effete, literary hors d’œuvre on the chalk board each morning, and on March 11, 2011, at exactly 1:12PM, I was affronted with this nonsense from a guy I’ve never heard of: “Poetry begins when we look from the center outward– Ralph Waldo Emerson.” This nutrition-free yet pestering nugget was promptly redeemed, however, by a lovely coda– and all codas are lovely, my dear, in its proper lighting and coupled with a carafe or six pack–right beneath it, “Today’s Soup: Chicken Tortilla.” As we all know, Providence is home to excellent Brown University, an ivory Watts Tower that mostly benefits folks parachuted in from divers brown stones, cul-de-sacs and walled and moated communities. That is, they ain’t quite germane to Providence itself, with its million Dunkin’ Donuts and a few excellent Cambodian eateries. So here’s the punch line: Brown pays only 2 million bucks of city tax yearly when it should cough up 19, which is exactly the deficit of corn syrup

and transfat-mainlining Providence. Ah, but Brown has an excellent writing program! Opening a Brown door to go outside, I nearly slammed into a white bearded and ushanka wearing character, so I shouted my standard greeting, “Yo, let’s go for a beer!” But this Russian caricature dude was not impressed. Though he seemed crazy, he probably thought I was crazy. It turned out he was the takeno-prisoner Keith Waldrop. Just so you know now, Keith doesn’t bullshit, and he has stopped going to poetry readings or lectures. He has enough poems in his head to last several millennia, so he has to use what little time he has left to hunker down and turn each one over, to examine each from all sides, to decide whether it belongs in the Poetry Garage or the Poetry Junk Yard. In El Paso, there’s a gentleman with a vaguely rhythmic specimen permanently lodged in his head. I found him at The Tap, a divey, old man’s bar downtown. A retired Vietnam vet, he had spent 13 years in Juarez, but the increasing violence and extorting cops chased him back stateside. We did agree, though, that Juarez has its sweetness and charms. It’s not just cops with assault rifles and flyers everywhere seeking loved ones. At any time of the day, it’s more alive than El Paso, that’s for sure. With its bustle and colors, Juarez reminded me very

much of Vietnam, I told him, and he concurred, “But if they feel like shooting you, they’ll shoot you right in the middle of a crowd. Even if it’s sixteen bullets, they’ll all hit you, with none hitting anybody else!” After I admitted that I was more or less a writer, he said that he also wrote. He was a poet, to be more specific, “I’ve been writing since I was four!” “Do you have any poem in your head you can write down for me?” “Yes! In fact, I do. I’ll write it down for you right now.” And he immediately went at it. Done, he motioned for the bartender to come over so he could declaim his poetry to her. She listened patiently, though without much comprehension, even if there was no Norteno music in the background, yet at the end, she beamed in relief and shouted, “That’s beautiful!” Before scramming away. As he handed his poem to me, he explained how he managed to compose it, “I wrote this after my first wet dream. Yes, my very first, when I was already in my 30′s! I dreamt that I was back in Vietnam, and I was in a firefight, and it was one of

those terrible firefights when you couldn’t even think, when your mind went blank because you were so confused and terrified. My mind went blank, and I couldn’t think at all, but suddenly the noises stopped, and I was in this hooch, and it was completely silent, and in walked six or seven Vietnamese women. You know, when I first got to Vietnam, I couldn’t tell the women apart. The men, I could figure out, but the women all looked the same to me. I was sleeping with this one girl, and I thought I was in love with her, but then I couldn’t tell if it was her I saw on the streets. Is that her? Is that her? Anyway, here I was in this dream, and in walked these Vietnamese women, and they were all beautiful, but I couldn’t tell them apart, so I had to look at their legs. Suddenly, I could tell which woman was for me, because she had black legs!” This vet was black, by the way, but as I started to comment how ironic it was that he couldn’t tell Vietnamese apart, when racist whites, and Asians too, would say that they can’t tell one black from another, he stopped me with volcanic irritation, “You have no rights to judge my feelings! This is my soul! My creativity! You’re judging my art! You have no rights to judge my art!” And with that, our conversation ended, but I still have his poem here. Like most, the chance of it being even slightly good

or readable is very slim, but who am I to say? Nearly all of our poems are barely read now, much less in the future. In Austin, someone has scrawled on the bathroom wall of a cafe on Congress Street, “I don’t know if you or I exist, but somewhere there are poems about us.”

CC FBI As the FBI gutterpunk division entraps Five guys with crude haircuts, anarchists Supposedly, because anarchists are always Guilty of everything, going back to Haymarket, And beyond, we need a concrete poetry For the true criminals to bite on. Eat this. Or how about a poem that will explode In the face of the corrupt, even if it kills The poet as he’s writing it. Swallow this. As ship lists and drones fly, we Don’t need poetry as earworm, But as tasseled cushion for ass Of Goldman Sachs CEO, to blow Up his rottenness, we demand Poetry waterboarded onto the lying, Smug and top-shelf mug of the Prez, At a White House soiree, and beamed From begging PBS, as foreclosed Citizens cheer while spitting out Microwaved Chef-Boy-a-Poem.

Funded by the maker of Prozac and Cialis, American poetry puts you to sleep with a boner. I mean, shit, you can’t make shit like this up, So it’s high time for a John Brown poetry to surge From the flooded basement of our cranium, as Real John Browns sally forth to retake the real, Rout nonsense and reclaim our definition. * To think is to act, now, so, Like any foreign nation, you Can also be preempted from Your future crimes. If you don’t Believe me, just ask the FBI Agent you’re lying next to, Under or above. He or she Can kill you in the dark, in silence, And that’s no Middle Eastern joke. Well, then, I’m a thought criminal, A terrorist, since I fantasize always About penning or zapping those who Spend their lives sowing chaos,

Despair and wholesale horror. Soon as I close my eyes, I see Skyscrapers being imploded And freefalling into their huge Criminal footprints and scattering Fraudulent investments and mortgages. I fancy myself stepping over corpses Of tax-dodging and looting CEOs, War profiteers and propagandists, The ones who keep feeding us lanky dogs Dryhumping homing soldiers, but don’t show Those who are killed, maimed or tortured By these same guys and gals next door. Dumped from the imperial meat grinder, They’ll become your police or panhandle From neocons and libtards, even Occupiers, And though a terrorist, I’ll give them a buck. “Man, you’ve been had!” If anything, I wish I was a better fighter, so I could join other fighters To combat real terrorists, with their real weapons.

Peeping NSA Monitoring dissidents, Occupiers and Other outraged citizens, NSA goons Get to hear dumb phone conversations And dissect inane emails, but laptop Cameras also allow them to watch Folks stroking themselves as they Log on to Porn Hub, while the NSA Voyeurs also jerk off energetically In their $3.2 billion headquarters. (Unemployed perverts, do send Your application to Fort Mead.) Mass surveillance’s main goal isn’t safety But intimidation and blackmail. Duh! Which judges or congressmen are addicted To call girls or child porn? Who rape teens? Who have mistresses? Who hide in closets? With mass surveillance, everyone is cowed. Though they can’t do anything without Setting off a dozen red flags, they’ll

Red flag you for writing in an email Or merely googling: “Plot,” “Shoot,” “torch,” “attack,” “Federal Reserve,” “Car bomb,” “dirty bomb,” “cherry bomb,” “da bomb,” “Assassination” or “burn down Wall Street.” Though all they do is bomb, They jump at the mere word. Seeing and hearing all, they still managed To miss that alleged Boston terrorist, Though they have been warned repeatedly By the Russians, “Hey, hey, dumbshits, Watch that Chechen guy!” In truth, They missed nothing. They knew exactly Where Tarmelan was all along, up to When they stripped and shot him, unarmed. Then they got rid of two participating agents, By tossing them from a helicopter, the way Viet Congs used to be tossed. Remember The SEALs who supposedly killed Bin Laden? They too were killed by their own government. There was no corpse, videos or photos Of the world’s most wanted man, only

A broken chopper tail, implying A bungled raid, with casualties. Sooner or later a SEAL would yak, Refuting the official fairy tale, So all these “heroes” had to be silenced. Jerking media puppets, they laugh off Each expose of their endless crimes. As American soldiers raped Iraqi women, They claimed Jessica Lynch had been raped, Though she herself denied this, and Though Pat Tillman was murdered By an American sniper, they claimed He was killed in a Taliban ambush. For questioning their SEAL son’s death, A Philly couple was even molested by The NSA’s hairy palms and fists. Since we can barely listen or remember, They can lie to us without consequence. For lying about doping, Barry Bonds Was convicted of obstruction of justice, But for lying about using the Bill of Rights To wipe his mendacious ass, Alexander Will probably receive the Presidential

Medal of Honor or Freedom, plus Honorary Degrees from Brown and Yale. The USA has become a one-way mirror, And a one-way, high speed chase to hell. In this perverted, capsized nation, the top Criminals are lauded, while the selfless And conscientious are caged, when not shot. Hey, Homeland Security, FBI, CIA or NSA Busy bodies following me as I’m typing this, How low will you bend to scrutinize my nuts, And is your petty power trip worth serving such Sinister bosses, for they will turn on you, too? Seeing and hunting so many enemies, You will also be hunted and killed.

Zigzagging Forward So forward looking, we see nothing But a dystopian future, as in record Breaking tornados, tsunamis, hurricanes, Nuclear melt downs and a smiling Jesus. All cops, firemen, teachers and garbage men Are permanently furloughed. Toting uzis, National Guardsmen and mercenary goons, Native and foreign, patrol shopping malls, Airports and stadia, which are reserved For the beef, cake and chocolate eaters. To hell with neighborhoods not behind walls And guarded by a platoon. After dark, Embittered riffraff lob shells into select Zip codes, hoping to strike a CEO, General or congressman. Though these sad Rebels seldom hit anything, scores of them Are routinely zapped by one of the millions Unseen, hovering drones that don’t just spit Missiles and bullets, but also beam cheerful Advertisements onto the sky 24/7: OPEN HAPPINESS. I’M LOVING IT. There are also

Bug-sized drones for personalized attention. What appears as a mosquito may actually be A Pentagon drone, equipped with a single dose Of FUCK YOU. Its tiny eyes can espy if you’re Disobeying one of the trillion no-nos, as posted On government websites, though most folks No longer have internet access, or even A flushable toilet. The insect’s software Allows for various acts of summary justice, From electric shock as a warning to prolonged, Bedridden illness, to whimpering or screaming pain, To an instant tete-a-tete with the long dead Bush. The Pentagon has allowed that mistakes Sometimes do occur, wiping out, in a flash, Three generations or so, including vets Of the Afghan, Iraq or China campaign, But well, better be safe than terrorized By shadowy terrorists. We’re in a state Of endless war, after all. Has been since 9/11, Of what year, most Americans can’t remember. Education ain’t what it used to be. On every screen, boobs, pricks and puppies.

Remember when a high school senior could Spell “corruption” or “surveillance”? Remember when a college graduate Could stab at the meaning of “torture”? Remember when an intellectual wasn’t A droning muffler for serial outrages? My babe’s first words are “9/11,” then “mama.” Draped in scavenged pillow cases, and armed With bits of decaying wisdom, we zigzag.

To Flee Conjugation Lugging my exploded home And trampling on my own name, I trek to a yearned deformation. Imperial chaos hacks flesh, Sends the unmeshed towards a Capsized horizon. They dream Of clean graphic design, houses That don’t collapse onto cribs. Invaded, the invaded invade The invaders’ kitchens and, Soon enough, bedrooms. Look, They’re invading each other. Shut up, smug face, you know Nothing of ugliness, even that Which you’ve long bankrolled.


Travel Tips When booking a hotel room, make sure it’s in the right city. If you’re going to Istanbul, for example, make sure your moonlit bed, dead television and odd angled toilet will be in Istanbul, Turkey, and not, mon chéri, Istanbul, Iowa. Of course I know there is no such place, but there will undoubtedly be one before we break up this playfully pregnant intercourse. Look on Google Maps. You may even see your dead father jogging, quite happily, in Istanbul, Iowa. Who doesn’t know that pickpockets are becoming ever more skillful? It’s as if their fingers have gotten longer and swifter. With their sixth, seventh or eighth sense, they can tell exactly what you’ve been hiding all your life, and your degree of masochism. Of course, you must atone for your own thievery, you compulsive robber of anything that means anything. Some pickpockets specialize in robbing you forever of a particularly emotion, so that you’ll never be able to feel, say, love, envy or contentment again. Recently, I was suddenly deprived of all my lower instincts while merely sitting in a café in the capital of… I’d rather not

say. I don’t want to besmirch this noble country since I may have been complicit in the laughable brouhaha. The pleasantly ticklish sensation lingers to this day. I could easily have been strangled, though, and dumped into a ditch. To ensure that nothing is lifted from your decaying person, keep both hands inside your pant pockets at all time. Clutch your wallet, coins and keys with a death grip. Don’t grind your teeth, however, as that would arouse dangerous suspicion from the predators. Anticipating their next meal, they will smack their lips and extend their hands in heartfelt greetings. Simply nod, if you must be cordial, but it’s best to look quickly away, then quicken your steps as you escape their Byzantine entrapment. Even when dining in a restaurant, don’t take your hands out of your pockets for even a second. All that you ever cared for will disappear forever. It is certainly worth it to master the art of eating without hands. Millions have done it. If someone tails you block after block, mile after mile, city after city, don’t ever turn around to see who it is, for it will certainly make you weep then destroy you. I mean, you will kill yourself immediately for not having turned around much, much sooner.

Tahseen Alkhateeb Interviews Linh Dinh [first published in Arabic in Al Jadeed Magazine, March 2015, London] Though you were born in Saigon, you spent most of your life in the US. Do you consider yourself as an American poet? -Yes, very much so. A writer is defined by his language, above all, so anyone writing in English already belongs to that tradition of Skelton, Clare and Stevens. Although also important, subject matters come second. Though many of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories take place in America, for example, he wrote exclusively in Yiddish, so he’s seen as a Yiddish author. Yiddish was his mental universe. Having said all that, I can also claim to be a Vietnamese writer, since I also write poems, stories and essays in Vietnamese, and I speak Vietnamese daily. I’m two writers sharing one brain, which is probably a very dubious, if not catastrophic, proposition, but I would like to think it has actually helped me. Not entirely at home in any language, I can see how tenuous my claims to

writing, thinking and even life is. I’m a very desperate person, frankly, but who isn’t? Already an American poet by virtue of my shaky, shaking and shook up English, I’m also very much a part of this appalling socialscape because of what I write about. I’ve learnt how to become more of a hands on, down in the slush kind of writer. I get out there to see everything first hand, and to hear people speak. I eavesdrop or strike up conversations, and sometimes barge into them, all in order to hear everyone’s farcical, heart breaking or blood chilling anecdotes. I’m also out there to soak up their language, that is, their English, because this besieged yet cocky English is most fascinating. Also, for the last several years, I’ve become much more invested in writing that addresses issues that affect everyone, and that anyone can read, and since I live here in the United States, this reorientation has made me even more of an American writer. How is it possible for you to freely separate between those “two writers sharing one brain”? How (and when) you decide to write “this” in Vietnamese and “that” in English? The “brain” decides, or the poem itself chooses its tongue, cadence, and transformations? -I became reacquainted with the Vietnamese language by reading its literarure and translating it. While living in the US, I

translated and published Vietnamese folk poetry and a book of new Vietnamese fiction. In 1999, I returned to live in Vietnam for two years and a half, and so I became very comfortable with Vietnamese, and yet, even then, I continued to write in English. It was during my time in Vietnam that I felt challenged to write in Vietnamese, but this did not happen until I left. In fact, I wrote and published my first Vietnamese poems while living in Italy, where I stayed for two years. As you well know, each language has its unique shades, hues, quirks, wickedness and sense of humor, and so a man who switches from one language to another becomes, essentially, a different actor. The Vietnamese language accentuates some of my emotional tendencies, but so does English. One language may be snarkier, starker, drier, more morose or abrupt than another, and syntaxes vary considerably, so a man who’s familiar with at least two languages will inflect or contaminate each with the other. Since my Vietnamese writing shows American influences, both emotionally and linguistically, the reverse must be true also. Before I could write directly in Vietnamese, I merely translated my English language poems into Vietnamese. Later, though, some of my Vietnamese writing was so immersed in the language, it couldn’t even be translated into English. The subject matters of some of these poems or essays would not be of much interest to an American audience anyway. For the last six years, however, I’ve been so

preoccupied with my Postcards from the End of America project that I’ve written nothing in Vietnamese except for a poem and, for the occasion of Vietnamese New Year, three disquieting essays for a high-circulation Vietnamese-American journal. You talked about your "re-acquaintance" with the Vietnamese language by reading, and translating, its literature. And also about the "return" or "the coming–back" to live again in Vietnam, when you "felt" yourself challenged to write in your own Mother tongue, but you couldn’t write any, until you left, and were living in Italy. Does that mean that you could find your own “Vietnamese literary voice” (if I may say) only in exile? (Especially when we read that your first book, Fake House (2000) was confiscated at Saigon’s post office when you went to pick up an author’s copy!) Does that "switching" point between the two languages you talked about (between their unique shades) needed you to be far away from the land where you were born, the land that "confiscated your first book," to achieve that "point of departure" from one tongue to another? -My graduation into writing in Vietnamese was a gradual, natural process, and not subjected to any design. I returned to Vietnam to get away from the United States, then came back

to the US to get away from Vietnam, only to end up in Italy, thanks to the intercession of my New York publisher. I do want to say something about writing from the outside. As an immigrant, I had to learn English from scratch, and to this day, I’m liable to make a basic mistake at any moment, but this precariousness is actually good, since it forces me to watch my step at each moment. As I’ve said to novelist Matthew Sharpe in an interview, “I’m a hyperconscious writer.” That said, all writers are already hyperconscious, or at least much more paranoid about language than your average person. If you tussle with language at all, you know how tough, slippery and devious it is, and can make you look ridiculous at any moment. Further, any writer knows that language is an extremely malleable conceit, and its naturalness is merely a goofy illusion. Each word is bizarre, much less a bunch of them strung together, and it is often the native speaker who butchers his language worst of all, yet is quite gleeful and insolent about it. Commenting about one of my Postcards, a reader suggested that I should “ingrate” myself into more communities. Of course, he meant “ingratiate,” but even that is wrong, for I’m just observing and talking to people, and not trying to kiss their asses for ulterior gains. Thinking of the wrong word, he confused it with another that’s even more inappropriate. Of course, everyone makes linguistic mistakes

nearly constantly, but since a writer is always dealing with language, he has many more chances to mess up. With so many mind-scrambling gadgets, comprehension is more elusive than ever, but this doesn’t prevent the sloppy reader and thinker from having vehement opinions on just about everything, and he’s not shy about spewing his malaprop, off-the-cuff gibberish. If this was relatively rare, it could be laughingly dismissed, but one sees it everywhere now, so it has become a societal handicap, no less, and one that greatly assists the criminal elites in their husbandry of the bleating flock. Getting back to the theme of writing from the outside, I published this in the American Poetry Review in 2004, “I’ve come to realize that I much prefer to live on the periphery of the English language, so that I can steer clear of the tyranny of its suffocating center. In this sense, I am a quintessential American. A Unapoet, I like to homestead just beyond the long reach of Washington […] Hearing the rapid syllables of a foreign language, a bigot is infuriated because he’s reduced to the status of an infant. Poets, on the other hand, should welcome all opportunities to become disoriented. To not know what’s happening forces one to become more attentive and to fill in the blanks. Hence, poetry.”

Please explain what you mean by Unapoet? -Though highly educated, the Unabomber lived in a primitive shack in Montanta, away from mainstream society, so by calling myself a Unapoet, I was pointing out my existence away from mainstream America, which in that sentence is depicted as "the long reach of Washington." There is an American phrase, "the long arm of the law," meaning law enforcement can get you anywhere, and Washington, as "the world's police," can harass or even kill people worldwide. American culture also distorts one's perception, so by living outside of it (at the time), and away from its media and language, I could see the world (and America itself) more clearly. Though I'm back in the US now, I exist on the fringe and am connected to no institution. Like the Unabomber, I try to maintain my mental independence. Though I don't send bombs to people, like the Unabomber, I understand his frustration with mainstream society. Are you familiar with Arabic poetry and literature? -I must admit to knowing next to nothing about Arabic literature. Nevertheless, I’ll attempt a few observations about

Mahmoud Darwish, since all writers can learn much from his life and work. First of, it is instructive and inspiring to see a poet who was deeply engaged politically, his entire life, without compromising his creative development. In fact, it was precisely his courageous willingness to grapple with the gravest crises affecting his community that gives his work such gravity. Though he tapped into timeless themes such as loss and homelessness, he never lapsed into a philosophical resignation, but struggled for justice, meaning and his people until the very end. He believed that words, and thus poetry, must matter. Though he didn’t always write for the masses, he could reach them at will, and this achievement has become so rare that I can’t think of a contemporary example. Although Darwish wrote many private poems that drew strictly from his personal life, he never forgot that poetry’s most challenging and noble task was to give voice to an entire people. “A nation is as great as its ode,” Darwish claimed most interestingly, because the implication is that a people’s greatest canto, song or poem is its highest achievement, and not its pyramids, cathedrals, skyscrapers or aircraft carriers. Now, of course a poet will say that, you snicker, since it inflates his own status, but since words can survive even when bricks and stones have been pulverized, or when the country itself has been disfigured or dismantled, Darwish’s assertion rings truer than ever.

In the early 20th century, when the French has already colonized Vietnam for 60-odd years, a Vietnamese intellectual, Pham Quynh, pronounced that as long as the nation’s epic poem, Truyen Kieu, survives, the language and nation survive. This statement echoes, somewhat, Darwish’s claim, but a people can’t merely settle for a linguistic home. It can’t feed and clothe its children or has a proper, dignified place in the world with just a song, no matter how great, so it’s essential that the Palestinians, like the Vietnamese, regain their territory. Although there are ambiguities in Darwish’s work, its overriding statement is abundantly clear, and that’s Palestine has been stolen from the Palestinians by the Jews, to which he famously addressed: “From you the sword—from us the blood From you steel and fire—from us our flesh From you yet another tank—from us stones From you tear gas—from us rain […] It is time for you to be gone Live wherever you like, but do not live among us It is time for you to be gone Die wherever you like, but do not die among us For we have work to do in our land”

In this entire poem, there is no bloodthirsty vengefulness, but merely a logical and quite restrained request for the invaders to get out! As you have been lately involved in politics, how do look at the horrors done by the American Administration(s) to other nations: the invasion of Iraq and of Afghanistan, for instance? And what about their endless support for the Israelis despite their shameless war crimes against the Palestinians, whether in Gaza, or elsewhere? -Oil and Israel are the two reasons for American criminality against the Muslim world. Without these factors, Muslims would not be so demonized and attacked by Americans, and this pattern will continue as long as Israel and oil remain. Israel is an unprecedented historical mistake, for it makes no sense to claim a right of return for Jews after 2,000 years, but deny the same to Palestinians after six decades, though many have lost their homes much more recently, for this landgrab is an ongoing process that won’t end until all Palestinians disappear from “the Jewish homeland.” It’s tragic and farcical that a Chinese Jew can move to Jerusalem tomorrow, but not an exiled Palestinian who still has the key to his ancestral home. Israel is a violent concept that is executed and maintained with terror, and by this I mean American-sponsored Jewish terror,

though these world class terrorists are so relentless with their propaganda, they have made “terrorist” nearly synonymous with their enemy, the Muslim. There is hope for Palestinians, however, for as the USA implodes, Israel will also go up in smoke. Working in tandem, the US and Israel have collapsed several Muslim governments and generated millions of refugees. The same fate awaits Israel, though its dissolution should be permanent, for only then will peace come. Those living outside the US can’t fathom the American media’s extreme bias towards Israel. During the 2014 attack on Gaza, for example, American television viewers were only shown images of Palestinian buildings being blown up from afar, as if there were no people working or living in them. No corpses were seen being pulled from rubbles. While Palestinian victims stayed invisible, a single missing Israeli soldier had stories about him, with his portrait featured to emphasize his humanity. Unlike Palestinians, this Jew had a face. Female Israeli soldiers were shown sobbing over their fallen (male) comrades. When the massacre of Palestinians was finally over, there were articles about how quickly Gaza had gotten back to normal, so it was no big deal, you see, this butchering of 2,192 people (as compared to 77 deaths on the Israeli side). As if to prove this point, photos were shown of bustling Gaza streets, with kids happily playing.

On American television, there’s a peculiar show called “Inside Israeli Basketball.” Since the level of hoops in Israel is not particularly high, and its b-ballers are entirely unknown to an American audience, there is no sporting reason for this program, except that basketball is only a pretext to display Israel in a banal, and hence benign, light. Game footage and practice scenes make up only a small part of this show, for the camera often follows the players or coaches of Maccabi Haifa, the featured team, all over Israel. (Everywhere, of course, except Gaza and other troubled spots.) In one scene, one might visit a lovely beach, while in another, enter a Palestinian restaurant. Here, two teammates, an Israeli and a black American, enjoy camel rides, and one can see that they’re very chummy with each other. The American, Ike Ofoegbu, gushes, “Here in Israel, the guys are very nice. They speak English, first of all, so they can interact with you. They’re really friendly […] To finally be here in Israel is very exciting. I’m just blessed to be here.” Highly unusual for a reality show, there is no rancor or argument in “Inside Israeli Basketball,” and no trashy behavior at all. Here, you won’t find any screaming, backstabbing, jealousy or drunkenness, though these are the staples of just about every other reality show on American television. Always depicting Israel in an idyllic and harmonious light, this show is no more than propaganda, then, a carefully

crafted mask to hide the endless violence needed to maintain this sham nation. Though your poems were anthologized in Best American Poetry Series 2000, 2004 and 2007, and two of your prose poems were included in David Lehman’s groundbreaking book Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present (2003), and though Village Voice selected your short story collection, Blood and Soap, as one of the best books of 2004, BUT I sense, in one way or another, that your are still "away" of the mainstream literary scene. Is it so? -Yes, I’m only a tiny blip on the American literary scene, a barely noticed writer. My ten books of all types have gotten only a handful of reviews. A writer’s only task, though, is to become a better writer, and since this is a lifelong, allencompassing quest, it should leave him no time to worry about his career. Instead of schmoozing and networking with other writers, I’ve been getting drunk with plumbers, roofers, cashiers, jailbirds and cops, etc. If given a choice to spend an afternoon with a National Book Award winner or a manicurist, I’d choose the latter. Once a year, professional American poets attend a convention where they can suck up and screw down. Craig Santos Perez sums it up, “you get to travel to a fun city, you get to hear / meet many poets, editors, and publishers,

you get to learn many things at panels, you get discount books, you get to eat at new restaurants, you get to dance, you get drunk, you get laid–what’s not to like?” While that may sound terribly exciting to many poets, I’m not at all interested. Moreover, my politics, dozens of appearances on Iran’s Press TV and opinions about Israel don’t make me any more popular among my American peers, but, again, a writer should just concern himself with thinking, seeing and listening a whole lot better, and not fret about his professional standing. Instead of ingratiating, he should just hone his chops. I do care very much about making sense to everyone who’s not a writer, however, and in this regard, I’ve made progress, for many ordinary people have sent money to support my Postcards from the End of America project. As a reader, I have to go way outside the mainstream to nourish my mind and spirit, so I don’t mind being on the periphery as a writer. Publisher’s Weekly (in its review of your poetry collection, American Tatts) described you as “the rising star of the smallpress world”, and talked about your ‘acrid ironies, [and] unmitigated disgust”, saying that "Exploring disgust while toying with frames and assumptions, [you] become in one sense a real heir to Charles Bukowski." To what extent do you think that those "acrid ironies" and that "unmitigated disgust" make you a "real" heir to Bukowski?

-I haven’t read a whole lot of Bukowski and, frankly, don’t see him as an inspiration. I do admire very much, though, his working class existence, and his deep sympathy for bottom dwellers of all kinds. He was comfortable around struggling people or outright losers, but along this line, American literature also has Jack London and William T. Vollmann, and Mark Twain also knew how to get down and dirty. The notion that literature wells up from the bottom, I also got from reading Vietnamese folk poems. Along with what’s beautiful or transcendent, there’s plenty that’s foul, alarming or disgusting, so one must examine the whole gamut to have a balanced view of humanity and life. Cesar Vallejo urged, “doubt your feces for a moment,” but the implication here is that shit often weighs on our minds. As a young man, I was also exposed to that crazy lineage of French writers which sprung from Rabelais and peaked with Artaud. From Louis-Ferdinand Celine, I learnt that a writer should never flinch. You translated Eliot’s "The Waste Land" into the Vietnamese, and the same work was also translated by the Vietnamese poet Nguyen Quoc Chanh. Why Eliot? And Why "The Waste Land"?

-When I was in Saigon in 2000, poet Nguyen Quoc Chanh asked me to look over his translation of "The Waste Land," and I made so many corrections, I figured I should do my own version. I didn’t want to steal from Chanh, however, so I said that no line of mine would match his, and this is no easy task, considering there are 433 lines in that poem. Chanh ended up publishing his version in Vietnam, and mine appeared a little later in Vietnamese-American venues. Chanh is Vietnam’s foremost contemporary poet, by the way, and he’s the star of The Deluge, my anthology of new Vietnamese poetry. In any case, the decision to translate "The Waste Land" was made by Chanh because this major Modernist landmark wasn’t available in Vietnamese. Readers are entirely indifferent to our two versions, however, and I can’t say this surprises me. All the exotic cultural references make no sense to them, and I’m sure many are also annoyed by "The Waste Land"’s meandering and its footnotes. I’ve introduced a few American poets to the Vietnamse audience, but always only through a handful of representative poems. The first to translate Wallace Stevens, a personal favorite, I transposed “13 Ways of Looking at Blackbird” and a few others. Sometimes I translate a poem from an English translation, as in Nazim Hikmet’s “On Living.” I did Pablo Neruda’s “Walking Around” while looking at both the original and different English translations. As you well know, the best poems are not always translated, and often it’s simply

because they’re too challenging for a translator. A while back, I was asked about my opinions on translation, and below are some of my observations: The best way to criticize an imperfect translator is to do a better translation. Doing this, you’ll make the imperfect, offensive translation, which you’ve sucked on and tweaked only slightly, disappear forever from the face of this earth. The many resistances in the source poem force the translator to compensate and invent, enriching the language he is translating into. In both cases, you have one culture or language trying to accommodate another. This meeting point, this border, this collision of avant-gardes, is where the new, improvised and unexpected can happen. I’m not a translator so much as a tightrope walker between two unreliable dictionaries.

The worst translators are parasites and conmen, the best ones are parasites and pimps. I tend to think of myself as an honest and totally selfless charity worker. Some of your short stories were published in anthologies and magazines as prose poems? First of all, do you believe in a "borderline" between prose and poetry? Then, is there any difference between prose poems and short stories? And, finally, what makes a "piece of writing" a good prose poem? -There is definitely a border between prose and poetry, but the two forms do blend into each another. Most people think of a poem as having line breaks, and these dictate how a poem is read, but when there are no line breaks, can it still be a poem? Of course. Take Rimbaud’s “Phrases,” for example. Its absence of a narrative, ecstatic cadence and abrupt shifts within a sentence, and between sentences and paragraphs, all mark it as a poem. In fact, this is poetry at its purest: “Should I have realized all your memories,--should I be the one who can bind you hand and foot,--I shall strangle you.” It takes a poet to come up with “realized all your memories,” and to make the leap from “bind you,” in a love poem, mind you, to “strangle you.”

A similar passage might appear in the middle of a novel, and if it does, that’s also poetry. Conversely, many poems may have line breaks and rhymes, but contain only a minimal amount of poetry, if at all. Though written in prose, Kafka’s beautifully compact “The Wish to be a Red Indian” is also poetry. Since there’s no story there, it can’t be a short story. Generally speaking, poetry is more tightly wound than prose, so you should get more protein with each bite. If this doesn’t happen, you must promptly spit it out, demand a full refund (even if you didn’t pay anything) and curse the fake poet, if not beat him up! In your poems, you depict the "borderless body," not only as a naked existence where the "soul blossomed"—an existence that is open wide, "cleaned from all obsolete and labored presumptions"; the body "blends into all humans, animals and things" and "naked, walks through the street as the very first human," BUT also as an "erotic" existence that tends to free the body from its own "chamber music," from its own "language and meat," from its "obsolete maps": to overflow

and seep into a "defiant puddle." Do you think that one can never be a true poet without celebrating the "body electric"? -This borderless body suggests the immigrant, a child in the womb, rapists, spouses, sitting in a bar and empathy. Human bodies are really one continuum that has been tragically yet mercifully broken up. If you’re cut, I should feel pain, and vice versa, and when we’re at our best, that’s exactly what happens. Too often, though, people derive an orgasmic pleasure from watching another body being violated by a drone missile or a bomb. Excited, they cheer. Elias Canetti talks about how instinctively humans laugh at seeing somebody falling, and he traces this to our days as flesh hunters. Since a fallen body represents meat, we laugh out of joy. Beside this atavistic impulse, however, we also rush to help the fallen because we recognize the body in distress as our own. The American entertainment industry, though, is relentless in pushing the fantasy of the super predator, somebody who’s capable of destroying countless bodies “of the bad guys.” With its mesmerizing war and “action” films, Hollywood has amplified, to an insane degree, all of our worst sadistic tendencies. Sex, too, has become a matter of body count, but this is perfectly in line with the American obsession with numbers. As for your question about being a “true poet,” there are so many types of poets out there, but I’d say the majority

of them are not about grappling with the body’s hidden logics, but smothering these with verbiage, for language, after all, is most often used to dissimulate and disguise everything, and not just the body. Having said that, neurotic poetry has its place, so a poet who always sidesteps the many bodies lying all around him, some smiling, some freshly killed, also has his place. Just days ago, a Vietnamese poet asked me to translate something, and so I did, “I’m aroused. I’m horny. I’m a whore. I’m an aroused whore. I’m an extremely horny whore.” I’m not sure if she needed that for her FaceBook page, or if she was communicating directly to me, but it was clearly her body starting to speak. Not one to be rude, my body spoke back to her, but alas, only by email. Such is our postmodern world. You spent the last seven years photographing the homeless, the angry, the “rebels” of America (or what I might call “the borderless bodies”, borrowing the title of one of your books). Can you elaborate more on this “journey of the soul” (if I may say)? What things, in the first place, moved you to do such a thing: to document the other/ the real/the outrageous face of America? And to where, through those photos, you want us to go? -Actually, it has only been six years. I started this photography project in 2009, when I got my first professional camera. At the

time, I was making these art videos that incorporated poetry and still photography, but with my new camera, I started to roam the streets. Years before, I had been a housepainter so had known my city fairly well, but by 2009, I had become too alienated from it. I was staying home too much and sitting in front of the computer. It’s telling that the last two major movements in American poetry, Flarf and Conceptual Poetry, are both media based and inspired. Like everybody else, many poets are enthralled by the internet. What you have, then, is language feeding on itself. Gleefully recycling its own waste, it stares at its flabby folds in the mirror. Any important shift in society will show up in art, so if you have a blossoming bourgeoise, you’ll see more middle-class images, and the advent of the newspaper, with its odd juxtapositions of serious news with ads, will usher in the collage. By the early 20th century, the newspaper had become a part of daily life in modern societies, so people were conditioned to seeing, say, a story about a murder or a rape next to an advertisement for shoes or candies. On a single page, you will see trajedies mingling with the ridiculous or trivia. These common yet jarring juxtapositions in low culture triggered similar strategies found in collage artists, surrealists, dadaists then, later, pop artists, etc. What’s often lauded as radical art, then, is no more than an echo of a larger societal change, so it’s really

conformist in the extreme, and not radical at all. In a hyper mediated culture, the most radical act is to say no to all buffers and regain, touch by touch and one face-to-face conversation at a time, a more tactile reality, for it is, after all, your naked birthright. Here, I’m talking about a resistence to media, not just its contents but its forms, and to clarify, I’ll give you an example from my own life. In my late twenties, I decided to stop listening to recorded music. First of, it’s highly unnatural and, I contend, even a sign of madness to subject oneself to endless noises that interfere with one’s thinking and perception of the world. Music should be occasional, and by this I mean triggered by a very specific occasion, and not something kept on constantly to make its listeners deranged. Removed this buffer of recorded music and everything in the room becomes instantly more intense. Having said all this, I’d occasionally check out a song on, say, YouTube, just so I’d know what’s happening in the culture. After reading about Miley Cyrus’ supposed twerking, for example, I watched her performance on YouTube. Also, in my daily life, I can’t help but hear recorded music, but when I’m at home, I function completely in silence.

With this conviction, I’ve walked out my door much more often, and just about everything I’ve seen contradicts what’s broadcast relentlessly through the mainstream media, for daily, we’re being told that the economic recovery is on course and unemployment is down, all positive news, but these are all lies, for if you’d walk down American streets and talk to ordinary Americans, you’d know how bad the situation is. Also, the parts of America that are most often seen by visitors are also extremely misleading, for Manhattan, Northwest Washington DC or Miami Beach, etc., are but a glossed up façade to hide the rot that’s spreading across this country. For a while now, I have been aware of this nation’s downward trajectory. In 2005, I taught a class called State of the Union. In it, I asked students to pay attention to their country’s political, economic and social unraveling, and I challenged them to write politically relevant poetry. Though I’ve taught this writing workshop at various universities, I’ve pretty much stopped getting invitations to teach or even to read, and part of this is because of the deteriorating economy, but the bigger reason, I suspect, is because of my politics. You can’t expect the academy to embrace you when you keep calling it a ponzi scheme! Gouging students, American universities send young people to banks for loans that many can never repay, and it is the

professors’ job to hypnotize them into thinking they have a bright future. Saddled with terrible, sometimes suicidal debts, many will be stuck with low paying jobs that don’t even require a college education, and even those with “practical” degrees will tumble into this abyss, for a collapsing American economy can’t absorb its many college graduates. As if this isn’t bad enough, foreign professional workers, as in engineers, doctors and nurses, etc., are also being imported to knock wages down. Though this is done deliberately to benefit employers, it’s cloaked as a benevolent immigration policy so that anyone who questions it is accused of being a racist. A huge pool of desperate graduates will also keep professors’ wages down and render them dispensible, so what you have are all these docile and conformist intellectuals who are terrified of losing their jobs. The academy, then, is not a hotbed of debates but a padded playpen that delimits the terms of the discussion. There, only the more superficial or privately indulgent kinds of radicalism will be tolerated, for these don’t upset the status quo or alarm the moneyed interests that are wrecking not just this country, but the entire world. In sum, my project is a diary of America’s ongoing collapse, and I’ve learnt much from roaming around. Before I started, I had never been to a tent city, for example, nor had I seen Los

Angeles’ Skid Row. Although Camden is only across the river from where I live, I didn’t know it because, like most people, I had no reason to go there. With its absurdly high crime rates, it’s also considered off-limits. Now, I have a much better understanding of Camden, as well as dozens of other cities I would not have visited. I’ve talked to hundreds of people I would not have approached. It is ironic, though, that the internet provides me with a platform to report what I’m seeing and hearing. A rationale for this project is a rejection of media, of living life through a screen, but I’m only reaching you via a screen. For those living in the States, though, my images and words can only confirm what many are already experiencing, and if not, my project is an invitation to go out and see for yourself what’s happening. For those outside the US, my project can be a window into an alternative America, one that’s almost never seen. Mentally trapped in a virtual reality dished up daily by the mainstream media, even many Americans are not aware of how destitute or squalid huge swaths of their country have become. American poverty, though, is not the same as, say, the Vietnamese kind, and having lived in four different countries as an adult, and traveled to a few more, I do have some perspective on this.

America’s relative affluence, though, is a direct result of her status as a super power. Running up the largest trade deficit ever, she is worse than broke, but mechandises continue to flow in thanks to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, but this arrangement is unsustainable. Soon enough, Americans will wake up to their true poverty, but in the meantime, the image that’s still projected to the rest of the world is a USA that’s obscenely rich, confident, fun and free of worries. As Harold Pinter said, “As a salesman [America] is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner,” so there’s a widening gap between the virtual America and the real one. When I posted a couple images of my own kitchen recently, a reader reponded: “This might sound weird, but the photos of your kitchen are sort of reassuring. I live in the UK, and my kitchen is pretty much like yours, maybe a bit bigger but everything is from the 1970s and just staggering along. No dishwasher, etc. My US friends look aghast at me – ‘no dishwasher? how do you survive?’ And I think, ‘What planet are you visiting from?’ The advertising pics of America show huge kitchens, even the sitcoms of supposedly ‘poor’ people show incredible kitchens and meanwhile there’s a hugely populated layer of people in the US (and the UK) that live on microwave meals or fast food because there’s no place for them to cook anything. And then

they get fat (and malnourished) from eating crap, and rich folks like my hedge-fund brother say ‘look at that fat bastard, I'm not paying my taxes to support that.’” The aim of my project, then, is to document the more hidden aspects of this country and also, through my political writing, to attempt to explain why it has become this way. Personally, this has resulted in my becoming more in touch with my city, country and time. I was tired of being in the poetry ghetto.

Walt Whitman, Mass Media and Jewish Power [first published in Unz Review on March 23, 2019] Eileen Neff was my professor at the Philadelphia College of Art, and we became friends and even did coke together, though just once. In January, Eileen emailed to ask if I would consider writing a piece about Walt Whitman for the American Poetry Review, where she is a board member. Its late editor, Stephen Berg, was a mutual friend, and we had many drinking bouts together, fondly remembered, and by Steve too, I’m sure, whether he’s lounging in a heavenly or hellish sphere. I answered Eileen, “I’ve moved back to Vietnam, spent much of last year here. I'm now working as a foreman in my brother in law's plastic recycling plant, in a small, dusty village no one in their right mind would visit [...] With my new life and mindset, I'm not sure I can say much about Whitman for APR.” Earlier this month, the Brooklyn Public Library invited me to be on a panel, discussing Walt Whitman, for the 200th

anniversary of his birth was coming up. The honorarium would be $500, not great, but acceptable if I was still in Philadelphia, a short train ride away. Plus, I would not have wasted a chance to talk about Whitman in Brooklyn. I responded, “Many thanks for your interest, but I’m now living in Ea Kly, Vietnam, and working in a plastic recycling plant. Literally a world away, the American poetry scene is completely alien to me, and I no longer have any interest in it,” and that’s the truth, for I have stopped reading American poems nearly a decade ago, at exactly the same time I decided to write essays on society and politics. I did add, “When people remember the US five hundred years from now, they’ll cite Whitman as our pyramids. He’s by far our greatest poet. He remains my inspiration, though I only write poems in Vietnamese now,” and I am working on a cycle of poems about Ea Kly, my new home. I’ve always believed in being a homeboy. If all goes well, I should have a new book by year’s end, published in Saigon. Reaching out to me, the American Poetry Review and Brooklyn Library clearly haven’t gotten the news that I’m a racist, antiSemitic, Neo-Nazi Fascist, as concluded by many woke American poets, some of them my erstwhile friends. Chax

Press, for example, decided to cancel the publication of my Collected Poems, just as it was about to go to the printer, though all of these poems had already been published, mostly by Chax Press itself. It’s understandable. As a long-time professor, Charles Alexander can’t risk losing his income by being associated with a pariah. The woke mob would hound Charles from his ivory tower, just as they would shout me down at the Brooklyn Library, assuming the invitation hadn’t been rescinded. My biggest thought crime was penning “Blacks, Jews and You,” in which I discussed racial differences, black crime, Jewish power and, most heretically, mocked the official Holocaust narrative. I stand by every word. Before this, however, I had repeatedly called for the erasure of Israel, a racist, Fascist state found and maintained by endless terror and war. Clearly, I was becoming très trief in the eyes of the American academy and media, and that’s why my Postcards from the End of America got exactly one major review, a smear job in the Washington Post. Kudos to Chris Hedges for blurbing my book, then interviewing me on Russia Today. The Pulitzer-winner had nothing to gain, but then Hedges had already been fired from the New York

Times, and even prevented from speaking at UPenn, by Jews. Surely, Hedges knows about Jewish power. Hedges has written quite a bit about how enthralled we are to illusions and pseudo-events, a make believe universe of distortions and lies that has removed us from reality. The mass produced images are the virtual bricks of this faux cosmos, and it all started with photography, invented during Whitman’s lifetime. Inspired by photography, Whitman strived to become just as lustful, undiscriminating and democratic, so that he could record pretty much the entire world, though in real life, he only got as far as Toronto and New Orleans. Unlike Hawthorne, Melville or Twain, Whitman never left North America. “I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling, / I see the worshippers within, nor form nor sermon, argument nor word, / But silent, strange, devout, rais’d, glowing heads, ecstatic faces.” Writing as if he had been there, done that, Whitman did not try to deceive, but seduce us into wanting to embrace more, everything in fact, except that, as has amply been born out, what we usually get are just photos, endless photos.

Sensing this coming trap, Whitman did warn, “Poet! beware lest your poems are made in the spirit that comes from the study of pictures of things and not from the spirit that comes from the contact with real things themselves.” It seems too late, for we’re now not just relentlessly fed, but addicted to everything that’s unreal, fake or indirect, so that we can avoid undressed, pungent or complicated reality. If there’s anything authentic left in this world of come ons, sound bites, staged elections, false flags, elaborate hoaxes, trumped up issues, buried crises, cardboard mavens, disappeared voices, pretend dissidents, silicone boobs, virtual sex, posers and cross dressers, I had a hard time finding it, and that’s why I’m glad to be in this global backwater, where folks are much less mesmerized by Hollywood, New York and Washington. So who are the main architects of our false reality? Focusing just on Israel’s crimes against Muslims, Ilhan Omar charged that “Israel has hypnotized the world,” but the lady has been forced to backtrack and apologize, while citing her susceptibility to an “anti-semitic trope,” as if it’s a contagious disease. If you have any negative assessment of Jews, you’ve come down with an evil trope, and must seek help immediately, but if you’re seething with genocidal thoughts

against whites or non-swishy men, you’re finally woke! We haven’t had such a straight talking politician since Cynthia McKinney, but Omar will be similarly disappeared if she doesn’t Jew up. Luckily, we have Kevin Barrett to elaborate on Omar’s, uh, trope, “it is obvious that Jewish elites have played an outsize role in the discovery and manipulation the unconscious mind. Sigmund Freud’s discovery of the unconscious was weaponized by his nephew Edward Bernays and transformed into what is euphemistically known as ‘public relations,’ many aspects of which involve the direct manipulation of the unconscious in a process reminiscent of mass hypnosis.” The first victims of this brainwashing, Barrett reminds us, are low level Jews. Also at Unz Review this month, we have Ron Unz writing about the Jewish role behind internet censorship. Exposing this, Unz also points out that the Anti-Defamation League “was founded with the central mission of ensuring that no wealthy and powerful Jew ever suffered punishment for the rape and murder of a young Christian girl, nor for trying to orchestrate the lynching of innocent black men in order to cover his own guilt.” Ron must be one of those self-hating Jews I’ve heard so much about, or maybe he’s just intellectually honest.

Counting Seneca, Aquinas, Chaucer, Luther, Marlowe, Bacon, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Diderot, Hawthorne, Kant, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Dostoevsky, Eliot, Pound, Celine and Solzhenitsyn, many of the best minds in Western civilization have been afflicted with this unfortunate trope, so one must conclude that Western civilization is gravely diseased, and the Holocaust had to happen, except that it didn’t happen, as told, but let’s not fuss with six million or so minor details. If such a dream team can be caught anti-Semitic, then imagine what often spill from the slurring mouths of barflies. As Jewish Susan Sontag so succinctly sums up, “The white race is the cancer of human history,” so the solution is to neuter, dilute and, if all goes well, disappear whiteness completely, except in brothels and go-go bars. Hypnotized, many whites are cheering on this final answer. Dumbshit Whitman, though, didn’t see this coming, “The nigger, like the Injun, will be eliminated: it is the law of races, history, what-not: always so far inexorable—always to be. Someone proves that a superior grade of rats comes and then all the minor rats are cleared out.” That’s not very politically correct, is it? Let us, then, burn all copies of Leaves of Grass, rename the Walt Whitman Bridge and even paint over his likeness at Camden’s only McDonald’s!

The fact is, there is no need to erase Whitman, for he and every other poet are already all but invisible in this nation of mirages, trivia and distractions, where sexed up, mass produced images have erased contemplation, reflection and, ultimately, thoughts. Poetry is no longer viable in the United States. Exuberantly singing about what could have been, our greatest bard was no prophet, “Of all nations the United States with veins full of poetical stuff most need poets and will doubtless have the greatest and use them the greatest. Their Presidents shall not be their common referee so much as their poets shall.”