These Are a Few of My Favorite Jews

With antisemitism on the worldwide rise and attacks in my hometown of Brooklyn, NY scaring people in ways they may have not imagined would reach such startling heights, it seemed an appropriate moment to highlight and give praise to some of my favorite contemporary Jewish poets. Recently Ariana Reines described in a characteristically heartfelt post that she felt grateful for a review that highlighted and understood her within a context of Jewish and Judaic thought in part because it highlighted something that can sometimes feel closeted even when loudly proclaimed or pronounced. While I make no claims to try and know or understand what each of these poets' relationship to their religious background might be, I've often wondered what might bring us all together, if there could be such a thing as a Jewish poetic sensibility and what is at stake, what it means to even have the inclination towards this question? Just last night at the Poetry Project David Henderson said that if you live in New York long enough you are basically Jewish. I'm sure we've all heard some coy version of this half-joke before and while we Jews may seem aplenty in NYC, this comment struck me as particularly unaware of what it is like to be Jewish in any city or state right now. And maybe, though I'm not letting Henderson off the hook entirely, in some way it is because we talk about our jewishness so little. So I ask again, what does it mean to claim or divvy out jewishness for a city? for a mindset? for a poem? This list is just a sampling, for there are many more Jews that I love that did not make this small playlist, many more that I don't yet know exist.

(As, Within Three Parts, Each Thus Pronominal)

“At least no one is keeping me alive”
                – Matvei Yankelevich, “[At Least]”

i.
We were cuffed in the back
of the van and
Someone said, “well, if you’re
 a poet could you / give us
 a poem?” Mind gone for
Fear of its end, exhaustion
As the notation of affective
Similitude that courses through the steel
Walls, that conductivity of fear all
People feel, perhaps, as the extension
Of dream – the sleep paralysis, that
knowing sour bulge of air
What stings the nostrils or hangs on
Its left leg, an
ear, a lobe of surety that
Tomorrow will be worse, that when
They have brought you to your
Knees you will not know
What time it is, nor that
day has passed and
Day will have erased itself
as judgement and spit
in your face, trained you
to ward off and ever.
History
is a nightmare from which it
cannot wake I
didn’t know what time it
was / as I have been
to the future and we are not
remembered / the
future / remembers no
time / but its ordered
sputter / Even so. A /
 silence of
attribution / of – attrition -
a brittle point / the world
sheds and so, when they
come, and they will come, when they
come, and they will come, they
will come /  the stent,
what has been stoked not
in the flame but in the mold
about the monumental lip.

 

 

 

 

ii.
The Sole at Footfall or Toward the Nightmare of Directive

I’ve got a good mind to give up living, and go shopping instead
                                                           -     B.B.King - Paying the Cost to be the Boss.


Inscription, its present undone
dipped my hand into it and it returns to me
the privacy of it &ndash how much of it
the incapacity of it–: it all, in your poor mind.
It all. It all, established against the long waves
of (timing was everything, you know – didn’t it
come to you?) Where else where? We feel that we
choose
 and will, but that we are choosing

 what is imposed on us and
willing the inevitable. Or :: We are hell
bent on watching ourselves live.
The memorial function-crystal
 the soothing pernicious wrench
what’s in a  (this is as the already having been
 burnt out, have been, kept alive
(I want to have seen ourselves already in
seeing ourselves and the dread of the inevitable
 past of seeing the future’s memory of itself – again?
 Still. Searching around on the floor for the keys
the sudden memory of a dream
memory of a memory, having been
what is internal to it? Again? Still.)
How do we talk about it? How much of it?
The Great Systems of Cumulative Thirst
Again? Still.
 The flexibility of it, then
 the this of) a passing gradual
watching the ever more malleable
writing cudgel commodity no
 deferent - than the petro-firmer who
Brings forth grain from the ground
Meat in a vat. Who’s a - we I say
Duncan refused to publish during the war
War being permanent – what does this say for
Then, they republished all his work
as the descent the descendant the dissent caved
(we did – we were always tending)
to this global civil war, that static set in
endemic to a thinking of sociality as conference
 of thinking over and above con frere for
 affinity conferred – and by. Whom?
There’s a coronal haze that surrounds this
 speaking of not speaking, the capability that wanted
only for its mutability to bend the mute chorus
 spoken of what are we speaking about, or are we?
There’s a constellated sense here – that
if we could rearrange the noise, or if we
could dwell in it – ASMR, teleology of affect
the word folks steadily increasing in usage
over the past hundred years –
 as in, that’s all;  Where does your money go?
That deliberate hygiene of writing – not sanitation,
 but hygiene whereby the self (watching
oneself live / live) becomes the externalized
 site of disposal (take a dump) all else
to assimilate these microbeads, these
– (take a dump) flush against the reproduction
of the frontier capitalization zone (take a dump)
as another tiny kitchen video, the painstaking
 pancakes, sushi, minion bob cake.

In the bathroom of
the bar the graffiti used to read
“RIP Ike Turner.” This had been crossed out
and next to it someone had written:
“RIP Desmond Decker.” Both of these have
since been painted over and the wall now reads,
“my dick is made of dog shit.”

Let’s talk about dead labor,
which we can all agree on. How well does
the financialization of pain assimilate the violence
of the border?
Put your debt in writing.
Make your money work.
Let’s say this is a part, too – of…?  Here,
Though the question of
action – direct, or otherwise, is not one of writing
and has never belonged to it even less so the non-
space of aggregate selfhood – manageable is
worse than governable, and ever after [see above]
How is that
non-space  – as with any other, not as the junk that Rem
 Koolhaas might have wanted us to think
but as a space of imagined contribution –
ATMs, conventions, professional associations.
You want to, it says – caught
in the klieg lights fixed, as ever,
on the alien craft, perched in that
terrestrial junkspace they’re always landing in
open fields, etc (alternately: here it
comes, caught in the headlights – other – other other? Big Other?
I know what regime I’ve got on the low burner.)
So here we are in the blinders of non-space of the permanent
 biometric standard flotsam high
above the measure of movement – isn’t writing,
as program…incremental? Aren’t you tired of
working so hard?
…something about the hell of the cursor?
 The man beside me in the airport mewling into his
Phone: “I think they’re creating
 events that would have occurred without them.” He’s
talking about handbags? And from the bar – “same
as it ever was.” One of my college
professors  recounted how the day
Duras was expected at the writers’ conference, no one could
find her. She had spent a week at the airport in Chicago writing
The Malady of Death. A few years later, another professor
Told the exact same story about Tadusz Ruskewicz
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.
What is the age of the monkey
wrench in the death throes of
professionalism? How
does the state appropriate
these dead
winds of non-space in this model
country of the democratic
swindle?

 

 

 

iii. Anchored at Sands (briefly, anyway)

“Capital appears to be ascending to a form of sovereignty without a
sovereign, that is, without an anthropomorphized God at its heart.”
                                 – Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty


They want to defend us against the west?
Groaned the (largely) automated house, lunching, as
Per usual, at its desk– I mean,
They want, really, to be
Explicative in the capped sine wave where
The limitation of transparency is the transcription
Of noise? Again, pointed above to the question
Of sovereignty, a customer picks up four
Orders of shrimp cocktail at three A.M.
What is it about setting that makes a
Work perceptible as all the more
righteous in its affective
Quality? Is it that you’ve been here
With me, or that transparently obvious need
For language as other than surface, other than
A rehearsal of the diasporic present so common
To an ever-growing population of
Memories transmuted across the impossible
Surface of innumerable temporalities and spatialities?
They say we are going to be a little late
Because of some VIP action on the tarmac, but
There’s an easy enough answer – gaseous
And antithetical to the space of the self, the
Bloviating cancellation of language in the
Suspended body of the sovereign as
Border or a return to these signifiers but
Might substitute other than, if only the liquid
Nature of the post-sovereign capital what is or
Declares an other-than sovereign did not also recur
In the thousand-fold reproduction of power as a
Controlling model of architectural multiplication
Across the landscape of Slabs© in a terraformed
Dream an eye permanently at or of the horizon.
Ghastly, really, these asides but what can one do
But watch over the daily specials, wonder at who
Orders the filet mignon or makes their
Way through sixteen scoops of vanilla ice cream.
In other words, the aside is a means of perpetuating
The work until an easier time, a time without
Settings where one might imagine the poem carved
Into a tree or a rock or perhaps transmitted
Solely by muscle memory of the mouth, hand
Or, to some extent, the eye. But then, once we have
Begun to speak of the feast the feast is ended;
The recurrence of the lysogenic virus
Digging in the wrong place – the virus
Having, as always, been a vector of selfhood
And illness, itself a cheap mockup for a territory
Of contestation per a linguistic or poetic
Sleight of hand, rendering the truth-serum of
Post-ideological nihilistically chirping
Falsifications of meaning moot.


 

 

 

iii. Coda, alt. The Atrophied Cordon (Plugging the Strophic
Inconsequence)

“The expression and effectuation of the world and the subjectivities
included in there, that is, the creation and realization of the sensible
desires, beliefs, intelligence precedes economic production. The
economic war currently played out on a planetary scale is indeed an
‘aesthetic’ war for many reasons.”
               – Maurizio Lazaratto, “From Capital-Labour to Capital-Life”


Imagine a life so bored it squanders the flower
And blissed out on the parquet stuffs its
Pocket full of ash, the joke
being the cops are univocal and grab hold of
The final articulation of strength, wear out
The belt of the observable world – one of
The particulars, of the known, of the
Observable world. Is this poem
tired? Is it practiced, anticipated? Can it
Imagine that ideological void, that
Turn in the knot of meter? Cupping a
Forged new in the cordite of its
Past. Zoological garden; homonym
Silt washing into the cup’s conic base.
Is this poem tired?
Particularized, there’s no revolution
However time proceeds it’s by its
Polar root and tousled from
Beneath, it wills the skiving
Ends up from and shore
line, article and breath.
I am reaching in the etched
Fungal alphabet
Hay’s milk an eye closed to
Parcel out the noise
is too much with us
How is it in the language
Of its funders? How’s it muscle
Out the roots? Where
should I bear you down along to leave
and how should I come to
Know you if and this poem is, then,
Tired? I can’t breathe beside the
H to praise the dead the mule
The eye the dog trades
For marble in a glass – worn
Worn out the plug, amniote
Homebody a chore like stuck
Or studied the warp a
Muffled disc – is this poem tired?
Aren’t and chase the radish
Root back down the lead
And its a rare, and it’s a sorrel
And it’s the leavened share of
Cankered root. And or ever and
To press and pull the blinkered midge
Aphorescent pulled from the loam
They said it was as though seven hundred
Acres of white birds had come to rest along
The open pit. They said the more was
Wild, to cultivate the sound of
sands as they stretch out toward the
Night. What to be numerous of diffuse
Speech, what to curse the dawn
And break the stinging nettle, clove, and wheat
What of it – the home theater, the remedial
Dunce, the pay stub, the only
One of us left is stroking the pin, turning the
Lump over in our hands and over in
Our hands, over and against. Is this
Poem tired? And aren’t, and aren’t to
Address you knew I meant, or aren’t I aren’t
Loam and ash, pin and salt the rocking
Mouth, the coast to island out the porous dunce
Get making the billing come nested
Pry the open like a handful and note. I to
Bill the salt of lush and turnip stents, faucet
And come to in a wrenching dawn; stomatic
Sunning and fielded, I know it’s late but
Sense me, make sense me, is this poem
Tired? Is it tossing against the bridge?

Sleeve as Packing

creating use
from the word loving
or of it
of that action of a window
again and again
as if to learn
what could be laze
would be worth noting
notating or taken
to a garden full of radiant cabbage
anxious for employment
windows of working

 

the garden weeps
in the air
as sleeping is fine
sometimes
on a wrack of opening
points
the monologue walks
to the center of the room
we are listening drinking in circles
we like babies
babies with books in their teeth
they walk clapping
for apparent newness
in drift

 

reason washes on the substitute sublime
its taste of hair and salt for a calendar
is in its action
hours that will come
promising a hem a hem
a root a root

You Say Wife

Dear Kay—

A letter in seven arguments.

1. On Lies

             In another poem a man compares me to pussy, and then it
             happens again. Rosario says straight men don’t even like pussy,
             an attack so devastating I took it vicariously. Cause of death:
             personal correspondence. Do I care about straight men?
             The question is maybe misplaced.

             Anyways they care about me. That coy interval between gays and
             trans women is good for a couple things, one of which is giving
             the lie to hetero protestations about themselves. I don’t even
             believe them, culprits of their own desire, though as Cam says I
             think they believe themselves.

             This thing is multiform, contingent, ambivalent and I call her my
             sex. Even if I make choices I still like everything. I like myself and
             you, but the hole we share accuses us both. I’ll call it autofiction;
             on its head it accuses the world.

2. On High School

             VISITING HOURS ARE OVER FOR THE BLOODBATH, PLEASE

3. On Being a Wife

            Q: Are you polymorphously perverse?

            A: No, I am betrothed to the present.

            Consider the wife. Desperately Seeking Susan: Rosanna Arquette,
            wed to a jacuzzi and skimming the personals, rearranges the
            opposite side of the bridge. Anybody can be Madonna, so
            everybody’s a wife in Fort Lee. Even the tubs dull the senses into a
            staycation. Arquette wants to be a club kid too, and briefly
            succeeds—at the precinct, in a gutted loft. Get into the groove and
            rot there, oh comely bohèmes! You’ll even like it.

            You say wife like style or you say wife like rifled through someone
            someone else’s stocks or you say wife like wages. Wearing only
            animal print and plump in the right places. Dear Kay. Suspicious,
            you delayed wifery. Now you wear it like a polymer mink. Anybody
            can be a wife in the country like everybody’s a piece in town.

            Q: Does everybody feel this way?

            A: I suspect they do, the fuckers

4. On Joie de Vivre

             It comes out of me like ohhhhhhhh

5. On Beauty

             “By origin or not I am ‘of’ the city until I can’t be—a choice, as
             choices go, made within constraints, one of which is surely
             beauty.” I’m saying beauty like a person, not aesthetics like a
             grad student, though for my sins I’m the persona of a grad
             student and I’ve been one for long enough it feels like a condition.

             You say aesthetics like style or you say aesthetics like a pretty face
             or you say aesthetics like a brand. Brecht says you can’t write
             poems about trees when the woods are full of cops. An aesthete
             says you can’t write poems about sex if the city’s full of brands. Or:
             art has no vocation after 1991. Or: beauty is a fixing for the wealthy,
             a commons in a paywall. Do I like this world and what it’s full of?
             Like hell but there it goes, spitting you in the face and waiting for
             you underwater. You don’t refuse to breathe, do you?

             Meanwhile behind this handwringing the hushed suggestion that
             women, gays, transsexuals are especially to blame for the miseries
             of brands, or what the metropole inflicts on everybody else. Hello,
             I hate it. Or: how interesting, the smack of the feminized in buying
             and selling.

             Dear Kay, hi, I’m waging a sub rosa war. Who loves me will know
             what I mean.

6. On Grief

              It comes out of me like god fucking damnit……

7. On Lies

              Desire is the suture of a new (say it) world–I’ll fuck you till your
              dick is blue
–following Jackie’s lead it won’t be one of winners in
              a virtuous game, or letting agency skid off your ethical
              shoulders, or of sharing your toys based on a common Rx.

              What are you and what does it mean for me a question nobody
              could stop asking if they wanted. Re: perversion you meant to
              say and follow it with something about bodying forth the new 
              but Rachel heard one word played together like a chord. Say
              it’s the same old sex bent double. It’s mine now, and goes
              between me like a stent.

              Dear Kay. I’m writing the same letter always, let me try it again.
              Here’s a fable in the perfect tense: some friends—perpetually
              adolescent and vengeful, with a weekend off and no particular
              reputation—make the drive to bully a medium-famous writer.
              He’s speaking at a private college for a couple hundred bucks a  
              pop, the subject “modernist difficulty” or you get the idea.
              They’ve got a megaphone, which they use to frighten local
              wildlife. The poets they intended to swirlie have all scattered to
              satisfy their appetites on bowls of seasonal produce. Or maybe
              the Rimbaldian creatures enjoy their promised encounter after
              all, irritate the Tenure out of every mom and dad. Campus cops
              usher them off the handsome private greens. Over fries the
              maudit kids hum some poems about difficulty, poetry, and rent,
              which makes them feel a little better–even triumphant!

              Two of them are dating, and sort of clocky. En route back to a
              dingy apartment in the ‘burbs some guy on the train resents
              the way their faces look, how they touch each other. He’s got a
              couple slurs to share—his parting shot to “stay away from that
              AIDS.” Which missile, however graphic, lets something slip.

              I’d like to say that he got his but actually he disembarked at
              Newark without consequences. It’s a shame for words to be
              more vibrant than sex—and sexier, too, says my enthusiastic
              boyfriend. Write back with something genuinely new, I won’t be
              disconsolate or have anything unkind to say, palpating that world
              in a caress, your palpatrix on call,

Turner

ON THE OCCASION OF A STATE SANCTIONING OF ANTISEMITISM IN THE U.S.

I.

A book of memories is not only a recording.
It is a faith that balances itself
only in the praxis of interpretation, only
in interpretation of the traces
of interpretations.

If our faith is for redemption
then our faith arises
only through interpretive forms.

The meaning of a faith
that depends from the manifesting
interpretation of the traces
of interpretations, is it
a gathering for the short span of here and now
slightly away from an accentuation
of singular presence, for what? for
the simulation of wisdom? for
the arrival of itself?

The idea is that we are alive and living
in some eternity, some historical
particularity, beyond ourselves,
and yet
they are returning this
knowledge we say we must
already know against us.

For example, when we are witness
to a force of death that seems to control
a drive for violence against us
we somehow don’t go to hell,
but descend instead to some
morbid kind of freedom b/c

we believe our writings have
a living existence even beyond
what we’ve understood of them,

a living text that can’t both be killed
& have the killer know its death
b/c it belongs to eternity’s historical form.

When it appears to be gone is
a sign of its transformation
(the letters rise from the burning book
& recombine in the air).
Thus, the gravity of loss is what
roots us to a textual ground.
No. Yes. Us?

II.

Praising ideas is,
and the ideas we might
feel good in praising are,
always regrettable,
never a simple thing.

Their strength, to be
imported across contexts
as though without context,
is confusing, becomes confused
with programs of
subjugation they meant to oppose,
and in the measure of their growth
as they begin to dream of
a coalition, of a power, they
subjugate interpretation to a forecast.

So why do we keep on believing
that the place we’re in exerts
an idea we must already belong to?

We layer a fateful secret in our place
as though it determines us, as though
it absolutely is us beyond us, as though
it must continuously embrace
or eventually reject us, a
s though there were an eternal
void below language instead
of this ground of body & earth.

Does this place love us still
we ask ourselves as though
we were only ourselves, or
does it choose us
from among
the other others
to represent a burrowed,
self-serving, passionate will
which secretly structures that
wake of lost power
breeding its hate?

III.

A knowledge of another person we meet
is only a knowledge insofar as it’s a question,
a movement of rearrival into interpretation.

When the stakes of this question
are reduced to knowing myself,
I get really worried.

I imagine this worry is the only
reward I’ll receive for being
from our violences, which are

more alive than what
we can say of living where we …

we are made strange to ourselves by
the hierarchy of any
nation, any place, even our own.

dunjaluče

I hope you got some cool mountain air tonight

glamping with you is better even than sharing a coke

I hope you are setting a new record for summer coziness in a sufi commune on an old shaker farm

on the bus ride home the divinity of travel blurred into the divinity of habitation until I became fleetingly translucent

well what are saints for if not to break the distance between the things around us and the words we use

breach sonata, the highway is the radio is or weather or even news, though the news is bad we feel and say so much and can never understand this sweetness of all language

lately when I travel in the u.s., I imagine each state is its own country, as though that had happened and we’d all survived it

though in fact survival is allocated under terms we detest and the roads are full of holes aching

still new york state has some of the most beautiful woods how lovely are thy tents et cetera

in brooklyn a subway is becoming a pokéworks

the canal where that dolphin died and I texted Joseph and he put it in a poem is steaming from its green glassy surface

there’s an army of poets here who carry poetry instead of money wear poetry instead of clothes occasionally throw each other down staircases and

if you’re not listening to the six-minute twelve-inch dance mix of walk like an egyptian, you’re totally missing the song

this weekend Ada said to us, you’d be good to be friends with in a genocide

she remembered passing into north american life as the phrase ethnic cleansing was passing into english

and how during that war the litanies of strife summoned danger and you might swap your coffee with someone in case it was poisoned

not because you more deserved it but to lay a claim on the power of allocation

decide to share even violence

which is everywhere losing its shame

there are minor poetries, but as Daša Drndic´ says there are no minor fascisms

or there is minor art but no minor politics

the weak universalism of the avant-garde dreams a sign of victory that recedes ever deeper into the other part of sleep

we speak darkness backward into the heart we’re waiting to hear about in hospitals, lofts salvaged from industry, crumbling houses salvaged from capital

we know all kinds of buildings

in turkish saray means palace, a word the northern slavs of russia twisted mockingly to mean shack and the southern slavs of bosnia borrowed for their capital

Himzo Polovina sings a song about sarajevo, I can’t pronounce it but it’s dunjalucˇe golem ti si

golem ti si means you are enormous, and dunjaluk means the mortal, material world, a saeclum that can solvet

from the arabic dunya and the turkish luk, and the form dunjalucˇe means the world is being spoken to

though in fact we’ve mostly forgotten a world can be spoken to

the psychiatrist sets chairs around a table

hello world I am speaking to you now the soft science of contact or mystery of convection

hello world you’re going to want to sit down for this

the world idea walks like a crab into the heart of a greasy pond

Maria writes that she’s seen a big, windowless paddywagon, high-tech, it worries her, in the streets

when harm looks to the sky the stars it sees are different

chattering teeth, victrola amid rubble, knife buried under a hill

between what we know we know and what we can bear to think we know

homesick for a world culture that has never come into being

that homesickness Tsvetaeva said we acquire in becoming adults

hey world you’re wide and you’re hot and you’ve fed me a lot

woodward avenue simply beautiful, the empty bullring pastoral

hey world you calamitous thrillbox you zoetrope of glamors and subversions you bear in garbage city

hey world distinct from the infinite I think I found some infinity here despite you

the psychiatrist carries a lute and when one day he dies everyone will ask what the last song he sang was

you and Ada and Rachael caught in the red light on the hill by the fire this was real life only days ago

we stopped for egg sandwiches, it was totally yolkadelic

later alone at night in a tent on a mountain, ulterior economies pooling in our happiness

a frog gets in

treat every earthling as an invitation to gentleness

down the hill and past the fields, buildings of every description, cars piloted by lunatics

a juice shop with four options: wake up green monster for you hippocrates

the windowless paddy wagons grunt down alleys unseen

I guess I mean to say we are homesick for meaning

harm clothes itself in bare aesthetics (in the pleasured air, Peter Dimock says), sic transit vocoder off to the side road

later still your words gather at the bus window like real breath

in 1565 Ivan the Terrible created a new force for the allocation of violence

he called them the oprichnina, men who rode in black cloaks like monks, carrying severed dogs’ heads and brooms

(to sniff out rebellion and sweep it away)

oprichnina means the widow’s share, that a greater politics had died, the sovereign that was its wife laying claim to some remainder

police seek to inhabit every affect

mere enforcement is loosed on the world

and anyone will drink rather than go thirsty

bastards will steal even your grief if they can get it

hey world there’s no definition of violence we all agree on

hey world politics died and we have no lute to mourn it by every song is last

on facebook everyone’s a monk you can put down that dog’s head

hey mortal, material world, you are enormous

a tear opens up in the fabric of scarcity and a thousand tissue paper flowers fly out

run from bee mistaken for frolic heaven’s on fire et cetera


the brittle joy of being finite is to end and to begin


thank you to verbs for everything you do

thank you to whatever it was, sand or water or shade, that kept time

the bus pulls in and I walk to the train, city at its usual polyrhythm

it’s hard to find a name for the experience of caring about people in a time of totally cockamamie civilizational collapse

an age of dog’s heads and brooms

mostly I still just wish you were here and hope you come to an agreement with the moths

I settle into a ritual of zany hummus flavors and oprah clips


the horizon bends across a night sky to touch you

as for everything that’s happened so far, if we cannot retrace it

after all the forgetting that language requires

utopianism’s yelp page will be hearing from me

from Reversi

The following is drawn from a manuscript tentatively titled Reversi: a group of letters written to Em Bohlka, who died in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. Reversi also engages with Othello as a core text, jumping off from that play to explore its difficult history and the questions it raises around race and gender. As I grieve Em, these letters hold space for our conversation.

***

Dear Em,

Leonard Alfred Schneider, AKA Lenny Bruce, had a famous routine sorting Jewish from Goyish: “Kool-Aid: Goyish. Instant potatoes: scary Goyish. All Drake’s cakes are Goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very Goyish….Macaroons are very Jewish—very Jewish cake.”

So maybe I already wasn’t a woman in the way that Jewish women aren’t, exactly. We’re large, with our big asses and the horns on our heads, caging our tiny men behind the aprons spread across our girthy knees. Lusted after by our Others, spurned by our own, those archetypal shikse-chasing Portnoys and Alvie Singers. 

The off-Broadway play Jewtopia was advertised as “the story of a gentile who wants to meet a Jewish girl so he’ll never have to make another decision.”

When a question was bopping around Facebook, “Which author have you read the most of?”, I totaled my numbers and found: #1, Shakespeare; #2, Octavia E. Butler. I was amused by that but also kept it to myself, embarrassed by Shakespeare #1 and what it said about my attraction to prestige properties.

Em, you wrote me (talking about poetry): “I don’t mean to come across as some overeager young protege.” It made me uncomfortable, that you named the power relation between us. That I had the ability to give you something. That I enjoyed or desired this. 

It also made me feel old, and a bit snippy. You weren’t that young yourself, seven years younger than me, sure, but mostly young in your feelings. In your declension toward the poetry world, you felt belated, as did I. So maybe rather than both old we were both young, or young-old, unsure of how to put on or how to drop our authorities.

It occurs to me that Othello’s drama is set in motion by the general’s choice of protege. Othello picks Michael Cassio as his lieutenant over Iago. Iago is left as the ancient, or ensign, hoisting the flag. Honest, jealous Iago. If you were my protege, you would what, become me? Partake of my authority, stand in for me? Who was the lieutenant and who was the ancient?

I haven’t touched on–though it’s one response to the question someone could easily ask me, “Why write about Othello?”–how the play mingles with my oldest writing friendship. 

I first met R in Iowa City in our so-called office, a room jammed with desks. He was obsessed with Robert Duncan, Ronnie James Dio, Captain Beefheart, Joanne Kyger, and Iago. We met boyishly, geeking out over music, Big Star. R was living on the football side of town with no car, undergrads tailgating on his lawn. Tony and I would scoop him up maternally and take him across the river. 

We took a Shakespeare class together in which we gave bratty nicknames like “Monarchist” and “Evil Duh” to the academic grad students we found condescending or authoritarian. In spring, we met up to thumb through books, then wander around town looking for other little groupsicles to merge with and part from. We found one another in ways that allowed me to combine three of my favorite gender roles: enthusiast, doting parent, and flâneur. 

We bonded during the George W. Bush days, a time among many of American imperial huffiness. I was reading Wallace Stevens’ Collected Poems and trying to write like a metaphysical banker. R spent his time at Iowa looking at fields of black-eyed Susans and thinking about evil. One form evil took was Iago. 

Though unquestionably a dick, Iago fessed up to it, to the audience, at least. That interested us in contrast to the disavowal we were used to, the customary fascist, democratic, civics-101 techniques of scapegoating, state speechifying, axis of evil.

R’s poem “What is Outside” was written then. Its first word is Oleander: not having been to the West Coast, I asked what it was. R couldn’t imagine: “It’s the California highway plant!” We learned that our states were uncommon to each other. 

“What is Outside” continues “I had and have no heart/Daws, hungrier than I am/screech for interiority.” Referring to Iago’s speech: “For when my outward action does demonstrate/The native act, and figure of my heart/In complement extern,/’tis not long after/But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.”

One of our MFA teachers responded to R’s poem with, if I remember rightly, a mild dismay: “I could never say I had no heart.” She was a lovely person so I doubt R had the heart to tell her she had no heart. But of course she didn’t, as I had no heart, and R neither. We were artists competing for fellowship money. We lived in the US.

It’s this kind of thing–the articulation of one’s relationship to power–that makes honest Iago, the ultimate liar, ultimately honest. If you really listen to Iago, he has a lot to say about resentful entitlement casting itself in the victim’s role. An only quasi-rogue figure, he’s a skeleton key to evil’s mystique, how it combines the romance of authoritarianism with the romance of wayward, paramilitary boyhood. 

Think about the way the play ends for the Venetian state, thanks to Iago: they’ve been rid of “the Moor”–dangerous outsider–and the disobedient daughter–without any blood on their own hands! Playing out the state’s desire precisely to the degree he disobeys the letter of the law, Iago is special ops; a militia volunteer policing the border; the corporate fixer you can hand the project off to when you don’t want to know too much about how the sausage gets made.

So more than my own insights it was my conversations with R starting 15 years ago that got me thinking about Iago-nature. Superficially, the moment that started me in pursuit of this book (before you died, Em; before I had a form) was while I was driving and listening to NPR some commentator referred, off-hand, to Iago’s evil and its lack of cause: in Coleridge’s formulation, Iago’s “motiveless malignancy.” 

Primed by talks with R, at that moment I thought I don’t understand how “they” (NPR, & as I’ve since learned, the apparatus of Othello criticism) can keep repeating that Iago’s evil comes from nowhere, when he’s the enforcer of patriarchy, of state rule, of race and gender hierarchies and the play comes out and says that, so why should it be that invisible…though I guess I know why, I’ve been writing about why for six years, but to have such a twisted and oblivious read on Iago really undoes the point, I said to myself (in the car, to the radio) of Othello, the point being that it’s one of the few canonical works of art that tells you the same hidden obvious thing that horror movies tell you: that the call is coming FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE. Inside the house, people! 

So, R, I guess I’m the one who’s your eager young (old) protege? Yours, too, Em. I would never have made a shape for this writing had I not needed a secret place to talk to you after you died. And both while you were alive and after, it was in relation to you that I learned to think about being non-binary.

The aspect of myself I shared with you, Em, that was quick-witted, quick-tempered, quicksilver, shifting; conversational and rangy, capable of endless talk, desiring the feeling, in fevered tumble of conversation, of what could be better, how to ascend toward a rhetorical goal, to pirouette around it, bat it back and forth like a feather; of knowing, never enough knowing; of interpersonal deference combined with aggressiveness in debate: I thought of it as my secret masculinity. For you, that thing (mode of our mutual enjoyment) was the femininity you were beginning to unfold.

It’s nice to have someone with whom you can clasp hands and exchange roles, cordially.

My beloved author Eve Sedgwick talks about how there are so many different taxonomies, ways to organize ourselves, we could use other than homo- & hetero- sexual if we so chose. Like the Borges division of animals into those that belong to the Emperor, embalmed ones, suckling pigs, those that have just broken a flower vase, etc.

I think that’s one reason the poets and queers love astrology so much. It’s what Sedgwick calls a “nonce taxonomy,” our mundane, daily inventiveness about how people and roles work. We use it to navigate the social world, and as a way to sort, connect, and distance ourselves that’s not founded on the hierarchies most obviously connected to power.

Emji and I might be opposites (Aries and Pisces) but I connect to their Pisces rising. All my Scorpio friends are private. The group needed one water sign to balance all that fire: first it was Zoe, then it was me.

After you died, Nat and I talked for days, and one of the things we decided was that I was you–Em was Lauren–and Nat was Tony…there were commonalities across the partnerships: one person fiery, emotional, quick, and mercurial, the other cooler, steadier, stronger, more stalwart. Now this is a category that I use to classify people in their partnerships–are you an Em or a Nat, a Lauren or a Tony. 

We are built of characters we’ve met. One way to say that Tony is my life partner is that he is so deeply imbricated into my classification system as to be my opposed category, or perhaps my matched one, even though we aren’t opposites any more than we are the same. 

Iago is one of the characters I’ve met, in different guises. His work is pedagogical. He is going to teach Othello about what a woman is and what it does, saying, of Venetian women, “I know our country dispositions well”– i.e. (since Iago is nothing if not a Borscht Belt comedian)–“I know how our Venetian women dispose of their cunts.” 

In the Lou Sullivan book I worked on, there’s a moment when Lou is trying to get hormones when his transition counselor asks him “How many masculine vs feminine things do you do in a day?” He says something like “So I swore (masculine). And then I got home and cried (feminine).”

Part of the chip I have on my shoulder about Othello comes from Iago whispering to me about my disposition.

There’s also a moment in the Lou Sullivan diaries where Lou, post-transition, looks at the other men around him and longs to be secure as he imagines they are. To be a man continues to recede. In this melancholia, the experience of enjoying gender becomes one of being seen having it, of fending off rivals and threats to one’s perfect embodiment.

When he says I am not what I am, the actor can smile with satisfaction, scorn, or resentment; he can be expressionless, confidential, or secretive; or he can openly mock himself for pretending to give away his secrets.

 Joel came to work with a thin red line down the side of their chin, a shaving mishap. It made them look like a movie villain. Which raised the question of why having a sliced chin makes one look like a dime-store movie villain. 

The Lou Sullivan book taught me that it was in my deep insecurity that I was most masculine. And that strangely what is both most masculine and most feminine is one’s ability to make a surface. That in this work of comparison is where gender holds taut. Between imaginary poles, interlaced ribbons.

In Proust, reading is one of the systems that bind readers in a “secret society.” Marcel’s gentle, well-mannered grandmother and the fierce, hieratic, extremely gay Baron de Charlus seem as distant as characters could be but are drawn together based on their love of the writings of Madame de Sevigne. Their bond isn’t occasioned by being readers in general, literary types; it’s that they met inside the landscape of one particular book. 

Audre Lorde writes about herself and her friends this way, too, as acolytes of the word. Nonce taxonomies don’t erase the others (race, gender, class) but they do, I think, cross-cut them.

Are you a person whose favorite Elizabeth Bishop line is “with grammar that suddenly turns and shines/like flocks of sandpipers flying,” or a person whose favorite Elizabeth Bishop line is “derived from the rocky breasts forever, flowing and drawn, and since/our knowledge is historical, flowing, and flown.”

Marlon Riggs when making Ethnic Notions said he heard a woman’s voice (his own voice) narrating it to him.

For a woman, to manifest any desire of one’s own was to be immediately a man. But to desire excessively was womanly (due to lack of logic, of the rationality that could hold one’s desire in bounds) and a man who wanted too much was effeminate. So in my wanting to be other than I was, which I thought was called a man, I became a woman again: to turn and turn and then again begin, letting the eternal note of sadness in.

R was my first Bay Area poet and I imagined the Bay in his image: shambolic, warm, secretive, and pastel. You, Em, were, I suppose, the writer in transition, and both of you (what I love in both of you) I tried to become, over time, in my halting way.

Having no heart also means to have no certain kind of inside, which I don’t. I’m not a fixed sign but a mutable sign and I have not the man kind of inside nor the woman’s neither. In lieu I offer but a few scabrous strings of connection to lovingly entwine about your waist. 

In Shakespeare class, R and I would have joked “Life–it is a mingled yarn”…

Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime Jell-o is Goyish. Lime soda is very Goyish. Underwear is definitely Goyish. Balls are Goyish. Titties are Jewish. Mouths are Jewish.

To write and write and never make a body. 

Love,

Lauren

Because It Has a Surface




It’s civic because it has a surface. It’s worse than it seems, but at least it keeps seeming. Though I become butter in the face of such hard-knifed buildings, I’d like to locate a harmony that does not equal plan. That doesn’t tilt the map toward a penthouse. Now might be a good time to tell you. If it can’t be faked, it is not our city. It is not our city. It is time we faked it.

 
 ___________________________



It’s civic because it has a surface. A week of hangovers takes the shape of string lights. The top of the DHL truck so rusted it gives the yellow a margin to fry in. To watch the light die and pull out a seat for its caption. A flam hits two points of time in the circle of one note. All my life I keep telling you. This interview is over.

 
 ___________________________



It’s civic because it has a surface, which may disclose interior truths, or alternatively falsify the documents. Bricks extend back into the pre-war you’d guess. But I watched workers carve them out of plaster, then paint them red. Am I free now to read from my chest hair a missing chisel? It’s civic because it has a surface. You’ll have to live with the work that’s done to get it.

 
 ___________________________



It’s civic because it has a surface. Whose surface remains pertinent. If we repeat the same elements, a cartilage. Did life give you lemons? File melons. Music spills into the street. Two different tempi flint a third by way of prodigal hi hats. Towards what miracle, what migraine I don’t know. For your hunger. Not the dish. Stick a fork in the fork.


 ___________________________



Late I say it begins—the window pillows. Elbows seem to stoke the street, lost twin to our houses. The pavement is not 0, but pit. The men splitting peanuts on their elbows do not talk in the ordinary sense. It is more like holding the door open after you pass. The sky, I insist, is not our destination, but hinge. As opposed to trompe l’oeil, for me there is no greater magic than the wall that flattens into passage, if you give your hands a way to meet its weight. Asshat, the sign says push.


   ___________________________



It’s civic because it has a surface. Gnat climbs into my nose in real time. This link is no longer trampoline. A screw converts surface pressure to depth. You must download the errant street sound, or be cursed to wander your thoughts without footnotes. The scent of latex stays on the skin long after the condom has been removed. After a few years I stop calling it my city. I stop calling it a city. But I do not stop calling it.

 
 ___________________________



It’s civic because it has a surface. Thank you for your service. Who do you say it to? I felt which of the below a) left out b) left of center c) like I’ve returned d) to sender. Needless to say I didn’t feel in a grid. I too am a guilty plan, fall into loud blocks when you ask for an answer.


 ___________________________


Rent your energy from a baguette. Spend it like a mallet on clean little spasms. A kind of nail which undoes a foundation when hit. Men are always screaming at women on the street. Why? For making them angry. It’s civic because it has a surface. But the waitress keeps passing. Will you ask for the check. Are you mad. Are you mad at me.


 ___________________________ 



It’s civic because it has a surface. Wherefore art thou what’s his face. Show me in the bright wall I cannot see next to. The surface is blinding. Rewind it back for me, sugar. The lining is perfect. It’s the buttons I hate.

 
 ___________________________



When night falls, glass starts to double the fluorescents. Which doesn’t leave a lot of room for you. The abyss calls back. Box full. They is only you in a mirror. No, that’s a window. Whoa. That’s a window. Night kiss its own lips. Self-smacking surfaces. We’re guaranteed to line up, not to get in. Because it has a surface, it’s civic.

‘BUT THE BIRDS DIVIDED HE NOT’

The albatross has been abused by poets
by being compared to them.


Poet’s goat.
Not through gates of the temple
led by priests, passed
from booth to ceremonial booth,
does the albatross await sacrifice.
Sea is the anteroom.


The sea, spool of junk, similar to land
abides by plastic the albatross eats.
A lighter in a jug, submerged fire-
crackers. Shiny streams of steadfast blue
overlap the wave’s face, oily as fish
eggs to the albatross eye.


At the nest, a sandy trash disc, baby
feeds upon polymer lanyard, molds
its own belly into an altar.
The beach shelters the ribs
of chicks once they burst with plastics.
By maggots their confetti shivers.


The maggots say:
Ye shall be clean.
The poets look dirty as yesterday.
They go home and attempt to split
a mussel through metaphor.
Their beards left to grow, grow.

Neighbor

Neighbor is a long page
about the neighbor

why it is called “Confession”
or if it’s called “My Neighbor”

or what, if anything, I am.
I have ideas.

At the time I type this
I’ve been at it for one year

the last six months
completely in my head all in my head

where there are many levels.
The problem is whether they

are connected or if
they are levels

at all. “A level” may connote a
piece in a unified structure,

or unity of disconnected parts
firmly housed. By what?

The State or me
or if I am the State.

I am a collection
of desire

precariously
housed.

And so there is Neighbor
and then there is my neighbor.

In the book called Is My Neighbor
I am the object

of the relationship I’m in
to which               I have distance.

(between walls and / or levels).
Distance is domain.

I share it with the I
of I         that I

am aware of. When I confess
I make this distance.

I nearly wrote detachment
but it is not detachment.

Detachment is the thing
I create when I

am not aware of the I
I am aware of.

Detachment is the thing
I make when I love.

Love is a more complicated thing
when I am speaking of my neighbor

who knows I’ve rejected him on numerous occasions
to whom I’ve been lately inexplicably nice.

Love is a complicated thing
when I speak of my neighbor,

crazy, though committed to the logic
of life, currently of being a good mother.

Why then do I say
she is crazy when

crazy is how we name
those who refuse.







But I love my neighbor
I am sure I

love the closeness / mediated
distance we collaborate / corroborate

I wrote distance not detachment
we never attach / to begin.

Already I am telling you about the neighbor
who today asked             where was I going?

Sly look in his eye—
              Which naughtiness are you tonight.

Vaudeville

For Lorenz Hart


Clovers will rot. An intimacy conjured by the crucial
Sighs and words that surround us. We’re not, after all
In this concealment for nothing like all pornos it’s a
Family act picking our favorite words to cloak our non-
Sentiments. Not being able to trespass knowledge, the
Marker of infidelity. The
Bridge is left always so unformed. Because
No poet emerges on second thought. Vanessa
Founders on the edge of a shoe. Helen Keller did
Vaudeville too. She’d puppet
What she said too. A grimace was enough. I dropped
Three pounds and called it a day. Plotting, scheming to
Make all my money back. Some words we cherish
Seahorses and seesaws make us forget. They try too
Hard to unearth every last bit of tinsel from her
Shelled out anatomy. False eternities conveyed in
Her lyre. False and utter helplessness in her teardrops
This little girl blue went out to market and stayed there
The piggy went home and hid under the bed. Some say
Locked deep inside her skull, when her green ribbon
Comes untied, we see her actual emotional vomit.
The more mute, the more you are a muse, the more
Fisting required, the happier to see you my dear.
Blanket falls right on cue to wrap him. Right as
Snow hits his face. Bullies make him feel
As if it’s like he is no less who he already is. That’s
Refreshing. Note well that he confuses prison with
Psychic torment from yellowed privileged
Memory. My head cannot convince
Me otherwise. Disintegration is always playful at
First. The opaque kernel of torment that gullibility
Breeds is always filtered out by the
Precise repression machines bedimmed my
Early onset urge to leer
This
Becomes it.
To
Play forever. That is hell. Where a
Hermeneutics of suspicion becomes
Baseless denial of self. Without
vision, I flop. An agnostic
Peacock glides in and out of jargon
And fails to subsist. Showers of tranquil
Colors finally crown me. And knock
Me down to size. A caffeinated
Phantom
Thumb stuck in his own pie. Always
Grosser than you’d think. The only
Thing left that’s undreamt is sleep.
Shuddering at the Shoah.
Apples and honey and macaroni
Craft projects.  All visions pang.
And a lonely viper storms into
Shower and relief. Climb into
Bed on top of a sweet plume
No fear in sight, lengthened
Boundary, warding off all
Natal reminders of causality
A collective scream is hard
To turn off, scrambles my
Ceiling. I climb three vines
Shaped like tears and reach
A tarn swarming
As soon as
I catch sight of the tare
In river reflection, I
Seek to unrouse myself
Analytically, loosen up
My winter-bright mind
But there is nothing left
That isn’t damp and cold
Italy is worse than I thought
And I can’t convince myself
Otherwise. Stifled by low
Mist and gondolas, one
Gets the sense that
Felix, if only, your
Balmy eyes…
It’s okay to be rich
In some things and
Empty handed in
Others. A new-moon
Slants light on a
Puddle and I’m

YOU HAD TO OPPOSE MIRACLES

                                        I can’t tell down spruce miles from this avenue perspective
                                                                            motion away from motion approaching

                                                                                                               running versus
                                                                                       chasing away
                                                                                    someone parallel
                                                                                       walking
                                                                     what if I were
                                                                                    the fear figure contemplating
                                                                                                                        target running
                                        Franklin Avenue locomotions: centuries shuttle watch for gold
                                                             a different set of transit constraints
                                                                           the gravel and the chain gang
                                                                           other people’s public traffics
                                                                                          how do arterials converse


        / I only meant to worry havoc in chain
cataloguing trusts how far reach to the things I cannot see

There trusts connect invisibles

unsealed non-
       sense:

If then
[OBJECT PERMANENCE] –> [—]
Gravity may continue in properties
Whether I can see through a wall to the other end
I know the spines facing colors hard cover words

walls the size of
a bathroom contains a bedroom

           a whistle alarms

                                            replacement batteries
                                            the whistle
                                                       then the apartment unit
                                            complex of      candles
                                            Next year I will
                                                        be fasted

                                            safety precautions test a new way to toe
                                            the edge lit in dust cover
                                                                                                  zoom out calculating other routes


                                               can’t withstand
                                                                                 a solid summer the beach is ok once you try
           but I could get used to this
                        rye in warm roast sand in the corridor
the toast grit sunshine machined time
                                          scene and sand in pocket
                          I smelled the glitter                 only in place of dog is
                                                                                                A Course on Miracles

The gears are producing opposing miracles


              never to beach again
              so many drawings skinned           the sand stranger than suits
              who are these creatures beaching
                                                         another kind of cloth covering

              cloud cover and shade too                  I had a genuine now
              an inventing moment
              home sand under a                              pocket
                                                                    hand in head in

                             kept in the deeper far out with stranger
                             levers in my head in
                             wave temperate in
                             sky again in
                             under the pocket sky
                             swimming to Cambodia


               these clouds in my mouth I can particular the salt chop deeper

               party unit the hang tide alarmed shrill sand underfoot and the crash back
                                                               in the region devoid of guarding only urban park ranger’s
                                                                                                            games for sun sand surf garbage
                                              I was served board complaints I am the particle rock the irritant
                                         sand in the scalp gendered sand when encountering rage stands by

                                         breaking the boundary laws back on ground (I mean sand) but still
                                                                                                                        shifting in space (water)

on wood ground              more oak cups more mice
               summer visitors
discrete collapsible spine         if the mouse can I want to/o
can’t I find the concrete to crevices
                                          Really the sand couldn’t stop me the sea glass the splinter wood too
the boards fled surf and I under sky must be way out there where is
              and back and form in the wave                                  machine / invisible bones
               melting
        hard lines              no particle now no boards participant-time under the volcano
and a helicopter private machine and I thought this helicopter just for me this helicopter
                                         search

                                                        found before registered
                                                        search light   quadruple
                                                        sunset and the sunset comparison slides in two nights
                                                        in two timeshares oldest landmark for prayer
                                                        Javits centered Marketplace for the World
                                                        eyes on the sun drop power pointed

                                                        Earlier in land marked services
                                                        there are times
                                                        when I fall
                                                        off surface tension

                                                        I stood up too early
                                                        I think me myself approaching concrete
                                                        never reaching concrete
                                                        I thought several times
                                                        (because there were times for several
                                                        thoughts) the shofar longevity the star team
                                                        dispatched to find pyrite remnants
                                                        particulared from the category sky
                                                        burden of the perimeter
                                                        g-d associations prefer another code system
                                                        hidden values alter the personified sky

                                                        emerge
                                                        represent forces
                                                        to belong
                                                        in vaguer terms

I can’t talk about what I think I know, approaching concrete, never reaching concrete

I was enamored by the avocado ice and the strange pickled
other percussives from small contained wood

adnoun from left field / the field left behind

Thad nun Tapestries at the far end of the monastery wall
The brutal murk sat, portend against the statuary’s fall
I think of Stalin shattered, Hitler’s fall
You should’ve caught his legless sprawl
Chad ad noun: “`meek’ in `blessed are the meek’ is an ad-noun” –oh, I get it! I think.
And where he fell, one might forever seek, empyrean to sink
Along with Hitler’s call, unanswered, no one now, on whatever brink –
A terza rima ruined in a blink! and boy does it stink!
Within the burk of time, we’re all gone in a wink,
Please save us like from the slime, Stephen Hawking,
remember there’s no time sublime, let’s all keep talking!
“the cursed obsequious and that their folly” like, when an adjective is nominalized!
and then resurge the riverrun ‘s elsewhere, the world is cauterized
firewise with redundant undulations, mark my wild surmise!
ad-noun: “The shined of equal 3 paired your vision” impair my vision, three-
person’d goad! what are you waiting for?
and shattered, vision’s lost, four killers down. The dank moat
reflecting only monstrous, bulbous, watery bloat
while I and billions like me missed the boat,
baiting, and then there’s more – we with love over hatred racing much have
joined embracing closed friends’ derision” oh may you be ever saved from such.
(Which burns against revision’s ism, raved, and then there’s touch.)
She left the house in pink stilettos and a fuschia clutch.
A date with Stephen Hawking, going dutch.
Nightshaded night’s sweet realms murk now left aubergine yam”
alas, bright Hades sight! meet helms lurk, wow! bereft young Ondine’s ram’s
tusk! Suck’d down the intertext’s gory hole, madame!
Both coddles seethed; she, left in the warren
husk-clothed bodies breathed were bereft of the barren
results of the Warren Commission, history’s repeating by and by,
and bees pervading, invading a starry indoor dome-sky!
Hurtle, bled mates cursed in song on beach! Bother Scylla’s mantissa’s glowed motes,
mortal led hates pursued among each other’s ribald fantasies and low notes”
And here again, the bloated body floats…
Among the plasticined debris, endangered stoats –
A hounded sitter’s word-horde gathered! A crow’s beak? Bother, brother of glowed girl!
wounded fitter’s sword’s swart-slaughtered war’s bleak mother and mother-of-pearl”
A sister’s as good as twelve four-eyed hounds with jaded collars all aswirl!
Was Speer really good or evil damned, a murderous churl?
“Sharp heightened, fathers descend in nacreous smoke-ringed shimmer”
With harps sighted, bothered! Portend in cresote this unhinged glimmer!
With blind wing’d harpies, descend on the smoky ones, asleep in their timor.
East or west, the world is burning, friends,
“heist daughters makes amends” thorn adnoun” and with a little cuddle thrown in
Most daughters make amends, shorn and grown, a bit muddled, like brutal kin::
and who would fault a rhyme that ends in fathers’ sin?
with too much blood and gristle, the planet’s thistle crashed within?
adnoun: mortal-led sitter’s “halo “th east bereft”> barefoot and bereft, but wearing a beret
              swearing and swimming today; they pray for prey empyrian, sink
bitter’s other”> greater than sour, than savory, than dour
as if flour made a difference with pi? three point one point four point carp!
No pi for prisoners, round and round we go, waiting for the next harmonious blow –
And Please defer the lyric as you would defend the harp!
Oh Oedipus, to whom else can we now turn? within your narrative trainwreck we, all
destitution, burn!
“Tharp “theist mother”> Th’Adnoun descend”> what part of speech are you?
armour amends”> amour demands paramours’ indecent descents, mortar’d,
hurtled among the Alpine mountains where rulers go to pout, find themselves out,
exhausted, the mad clown calls: How to live among the ruins
im/mortal’d > “th’Alpinic “th’eastern th’ology juices itself out
exhausted, the ad-noun falls
into itself
into itself
into itself

the dark tower hums
the dark tower comes
the text ends here, we’re dead, nothing comes to mind

Welcome to Hell

Hell is good. To live here, it is good. I really like it! It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s the crowning joy of my life to exist in Hell. It’s amazing. It’s so sweet and charming. It’s perfectly delightful. Maybe that shocks you. That’s OK. You’ll have to learn to deal with it. Because I’m not going to lie to you—in fact, I can’t. I can’t do it! It’s just not in me. Lying offends my finely honed sense of integrity, my absolute belief in the truthful expression of one’s passions. Honesty is the bedrock of my character. And it’s not just temperamental! It’s physical as well. If I try to lie, I get all worked up: I shake, and I start to hyperventilate and sweat; I break out into hives; my mouth goes itchy and dry; my joints ache; my palms get clammy and I begin to have diarrhea, and I can’t stop having diarrhea until I’m able to say something truthful. I’ll have diarrhea for hours—once I had diarrhea for a whole week. The diarrhea goes on and on until I can find a way to utter at least one genuine and correct phrase, something inarguable, like “the sun is hot,” or “the sea is vast,” or “Hell is a super rad spot full of amazing fun where you can really cut loose and be yourself.” So believe me when I say that I’m not going to sit here and make up some story about how I hate Hell. I’m not going to fake a lecture about how Hell is actually not a really excellent place to be. I know that’s what some people want to hear, but, whatever, that’s too bad. I don’t care what they want. I’m not their flunkey. I won’t grovel after their approval, those self-absorbed, Hell-hating elitists. What have they ever done for me? What arguments have they made to convince me, for even a single second, of the preposterous idea that I should give up my beloved amity with Hell? They can go fuck themselves! I don’t need them. I have Hell. I have this beautiful Hell that I live in, that I sleep in. I have Hell to hold me tight, to keep me warm. It calms me, Hell. It relaxes me, my beautiful Hell, my soft, beautiful nest of Hell. I love you, Hell. You’re like a nuzzle to my chest. You’re like a brume of dew upon my brow, a swirl of cinnamon in my milk. My spirits are lifted just by describing your munificence. I could go on: Hell, you are like the gentle scent of a lamb laying down in the cool green grass; you are like the last few fatigued breaths at the end of a long day, before the kind drift of sleep overtakes me. Hell is kind. Hell is bountiful. Just try and argue with me—just try and tell me otherwise! You think you know something I don’t? You think you’re going to spring on me an unassailable proof that devastates my case and sends me spinning into melodramatic spasms of self-doubt? “Hell is not good. You should not live in Hell.” Oh, wow, what a fresh perspective! What a novel hypothesis! You must have really dug deep for that one. Please, tell me more, enlighten me. “Hell is a rancid place of fear where terrible accidents are never far from befalling one’s children.” You think I don’t know? You think you’re the first person to push that on me? That there isn’t always, every day, that moment in the middle of breakfast, that ghastly moment, just as I’m about to shovel one last dense corner of toasted bread into my mouth, when some joker smashes their face through the window above my sink to vociferate righteously about the failure of Hell to “provide adequate housing that conforms to code while remaining tastefully in-context with the surrounding neighborhood’s architectural profile?” Or about Hell’s reluctance to “attract visionary entrepreneurs willing to invest in unique and quirky local businesses,” or to “lobby for stricter parking laws that give the streets a more open, inviting feel,” or to “institute school choice programs that give parents the resources to choose the education experience that best fits their child’s needs,” or to “investigate public/private partnerships that secure much-needed funding for the repair and maintenance of our neighborhood’s communal spaces, in exchange for the reasonable assurance that the interests of the private parties will be upheld in the rules governing the operation of those spaces,” or to “finally give our police the permission to crack down on those unsavory elements whose misanthropy has, for far too long, held the neighborhood back from fulfilling its true potential, so that we can finally show the world the kind of value that exists here”—they go on, their jaw gumming out this litany. Their bloodied face swings to and fro. Their eye, slashed, deflates in its socket. Glass flecks dislodge from where they’d broken off in their cheek, in their eyebrow, in their forehead, to plink against my kitchen tiles while their voice, hoarse by now, rambles on with an especially impassioned defense of our two party electoral system as a modulating dialectic that prevents any one ideology from dominating the whole of society, therefore providing a fertile middle ground upon which progressive political development can take root and naturally flower at a pace that reflects the complexities of our diverse citizenry. It’s disgusting. They’re so loud. They’re going to freak out my neighbors. Plus they’re getting blood everywhere. They’re fucking up the clean dishes drying on the rack. I’m going to have to wash them all over again. I’m going to have to sweep up the broken glass and scraps of skin, and get this place into some semblance of shape before I have to leave for work, which I’m already late for after having spent the last twenty minutes listening to this bullshit. And then, on top of everything else, I’m going to have to get the window fixed. I’m going to have to call my landlord and explain that “it” happened again, “that thing with the window,” which, even though it isn’t my fault, is still for them an imposition, which imperils the stability of my lease because it creates in their mind an association between me, living in the apartment, and the semi-regular occurrence of someone smashing their face through the kitchen window and screaming at the top of their lungs. This is not an association you want your landlord to have. It gets them into “problem solving mode,” which is dangerous because of the supremely degraded set of incentives a landlord’s reality rests upon. Before you know it, they’re calling you back, they’re saying “hey, look, that’s a real bummer. I’ll get someone over there to take care of it right away. But I think maybe this whole situation might require something more than just a quick fix, you know? Something more than just a new window and, ta-da, that’s it. This might be a sign that it’s time to modernize the whole rig—a new airtight, state-of-the-art frame for the window, impenetrable locking system, double-thick sound-cancelling security glass. You’ll love it. It’ll be great. And while we’re at it, maybe we can start knocking out some of these other projects I’ve had kicking around in my noggin, in my astute landlord brain. We could look into remodeling the kitchen, for one: new appliances, granite countertops, some bonkers-ass tile splashback. The works. Let me talk with my contractor and then I’ll get back to you. Of course, these improvements will have to be reflected in a renegotiated agreement between the two of us. It wouldn’t be fair for me to bear the costs of this maintenance and not, in turn, be given the opportunity to recoup my expenses through a modest increase in allowable rent. Nothing too extravagant, I promise you. Just enough to cover the hugely significant cosmetic overhaul I’m about to rain down on your miserable head, plus all of the shoddy and incomplete infrastructural improvements that will have to happen simultaneously. Speaking of which: you’ll have to let the contractors come in and work on all of that at a time that’s most convenient for them per the agreement that we developed entirely without your input. Because they’ve got other things to do. They’ve got other kitchens to update. They’re busy guys—everyone wants them for a kitchen update. We’re lucky, I’m telling you. Charmed. You should count yourself lucky. I’m doing you a damn favor here. When it’s 4 a.m. and the doorbell rings, and you let these guys in and they start jack-hammering into your floor and throwing fixtures and appliances around, filling the air with dust, debris, and the smell of scorched wood and gas, you should be lying there in bed, just taking in the experience. Because that’s living, man! That’s life: your landlord’s contractor ripping your kitchen to shreds, hours before you have to get up for work. I’m sure you understand. I’m sure you get it, right? It’s all good, right? It’s all cool, yeah? We’re good, yeah? We’re copacetic, right? We’re on the same page, yeah? We see each other, yeah? Eye to eye? Eye to fucking eye? Hell yeah we do. Hell yeah, brother. Hell yeah, we do. Hell fucking yeah. Hell fucking yeah. Hell yeah.”

Cats

Let me ruin it for you in saying
When bolts snap on your spine’s taser


Poetry pools in the outer, more angelic plume,
Material numeral’s fluid firewall.


A gust juliennes my cats
Leaving two fur chandeliers


Lit by future movements, sun’s installed
And socket-shaken glare


Beating from bone’s mirror as thought
Enters and exits its dock.


Their fresh event now whirs to that limit
Around the room, twin atlas volumes


Read like flip books whose vile jelly
Windows into paper guts—


We see through them but they’re still there, I’m
Sure as frost fakes your words


In other of Earth’s clawed curtains.
At what hour should we call it night?


Pointing north and south, a reassembled freedom,
Poetry’s architectural history grows


Fungal on the number one. I’d love to go
Down facing stars, such mud.


The gathering environment told my
Contagion that these were friends.

Point of Entry I

Certain portals, happily, just hang around:
           closed, they’re open:
           hinged but limpid
the engravings just teem from their surfaces.

Yet one lusts for a material language.
Air as still as a sad suitor
who inwardly, alas, oscillates
before such portal, in the swollen interval of doubt.
Who sees none of those fluid but inalterable forms
           spawned just there, swimming outwards.

Is it the Queen of Thought that is
maladroit, or are those your own rough renderings?
Mood caws, swift to project a wall.
A crow as black as tea leaves, but
it’s with hot tea that nature kneels to human action,
cups of porcelain fill with running life —

In which each ripple of light opens a door.

Like that sitting rock I’d rejoiced over.
Or that moist sapling delicately anchored
           on the far-off hill.

And when it comes time to name
those manifold willows whose frail bodies
each weep differently, for a different sun,
all immense beneath the creeping curtain of fire,

Then from the marvelous river-banks
lifts a single silken bridge.

A white moth, this evening’s motif, hunts its mate
through orientalized labryinths of lace