Thursday, September 30, 2010

We Like To Think We’re Taken Care Of

Being blankets and suffuses, underlies and overlays; nothing
doesn’t have a cover from which nothing isn’t made: everything
is anything you like: constellated atoms spike and swoop

and promulgate their warp and woof to keep you fizzing
in a grand and infinitely busy camaraderie. Biology is physics:
sentiment is quarks. Everything’s a spinning whiz: whirling like

spaghetti twirls on forks: proximities in endless overlapping
families of probabilities and permutations of exacting essences
of star. We like to think we’re taken care of. Perhaps we are.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bob’s 65th

Robert A. Kettelhack
9.29.1945 – 3.27.89

We don’t ever mean goodbye.
Though we think we do.
Life is certain Death’s a lie.
Absence can’t be true.

Twenty-one years have gone by.
Today you're sixty-five.
Skeptically, I watched you die.
To me you’re still alive.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Another, Blue Reality of You

Sometimes you wonder if another, blue reality of you
exists in some dimension utterly unshorn and un-bespectacled,
near-sighted, smelling like an animal, but not forlorn –

silent, unattended, fed and watered by an unseen hand –
all the data you are now allowed to intersect
with every aspect of itself without remanding you to hell –

instead a kind of grand slow evolution into something like
an answer – swelling literally into under-standing, where you find
yourself beneath, and looking up, and knowing what was going on.

Today, all huddled on a New York City sidewalk,
was a man who either long ago had stopped his meds –
or who had found another, blue reality in which he sat

silent, unattended, fed and watered by an unseen hand –
all the data he had been allowed to intersect
with every aspect of itself without remanding him to hell –

instead a kind of grand slow evolution into something like
an answer – swelling literally into under-standing, where he found
himself beneath, and looking up, and knowing what was going on.


Monday, September 27, 2010

My Potted Plant

I have one potted plant. I don’t know what it is. Despite my casual
attention to it (it resides beside a kitchen window and gets watered
now and then) it seems to think it’s in some sunny vernal den

of pleasure: a paradise attended to by genius garden angels
in a sweetly apt supernal clime: it could do advertisements of itself
and gather jealous kin around to crowd onto its shelf: it sprouts

green leaves and stalks and nubs of more green leaves and stalks
and nubs so much so I have had to prop and rope its verdant 
now top-heavy growth up by a chopstick (handy! – those thin wire ties

you get with plastic garbage bags): it sags and blasts like some slow
orgasm up towards the sky. Lately it outdid itself: it sent out two thin
soaring flowers, pointing up like penises. Venus clearly is required.

In fullest glory my anonymous enflamed desiring plant yearns now
to further its unfolding story in a dance with the equivalent
of an amenable anemone. And flooding back to me comes suddenly

a flipside vision of the weirdness of the grownup female, back when
I was a gangly boy. I’d gaped at all the work it took to be one –
in the early nineteen sixties when to see one was to see a towering

teased shield of hair and Cleopatra makeup with sharp dangerously
filigreed accoutrements, exotic scents which spoke to me of some
strange battle: none of it made sense. (Perplexes, that premiere

encounter with the arsenal of sex.) And here! – another brash new
flagrancy! – a vegetable flirt! It dropped one of its phallic flowers
in the dirt. I’ve put it in some water in a cup. I’d like to bring it up.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Cool Triumvirate of Calm

Though today it’s sporting three,
the number of its heads is arbitrary –
it may lack a head entirely tomorrow,
or next week be sprouting four or more;
and that it’s mixed, affixed the colors
it has mixed, affixed betwixt and to

its arms and necks and skulls and legs
and shoes and shorts and shirt and stool
it would be foolish to imagine was
symbolic of quite anything. It’s never
leaned toward meaning, but it has
an aptitude – a talent – for serenity.

In fact, the more I interact with its
evolving forms and hues, the more
I seem incapable of pessimistic views.
Today a cool triumvirate of calm obtains
among its thoughtful trinity of faces –
quite replaces any pain or quiver

of bewilderment that I may entertain.
A nexus and a flow, soft scintillation
of synaptic leaps and letting go – its
demonstration that life can build up
and fall apart – lends quite a sweet
emolument to the receptive heart.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Roo of Ague

You’ll always find Roo in his cove –
this cousin of the slithy tove –
congested, rheumy, reddened eyes:
so used to feeling bad, he lies

in some perversity of peace –
so long familiar with the least
of luck with any kind of health –
(not to mention – lord knows! – wealth)

he’s rather learned to like it: thick
with aches, a mild fever, sick
with vagaries that can’t be told.
I come to him when I’ve a cold –

I try to follow his example –
let the misery be ample –
cough, compare our ills, and whine –
till secretly we're almost fine.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Family Portrait

Colors leech away – leave some traces:
kindergarten tempera paint – childhood
crayon smudges on the faces – and yet

further drained to faintness by the grind
of some dark agency which scavenges
and loots the memory – transmutes

each member of the family into recyclable
commodities your dreams can wield
as profligately in their internecine schemes

as dreams all seem to need to do. Whatever
mystic fluid made up him and her and her
and him and you flows through an artery

that endlessly will bleed for you as long
as you are rankled by the mystery of history –
the doubt – by your determination to discover,

alter, re-create some semblance of what
any of it was about. They may fade
to pallid white but they will not run out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happens a Lot

Sitting there ambiguously
you could almost hear a tune, when –
flooding through amphibiously –
some weird interspecies union

turned you into half a fish,
and half a greenish man.
Apparently some vagrant wish
discovered it was greater than

pretty much anything else you were doing.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smoked Gouda Man!

I just consumed six thin pale pieces –
they told me all. Smoked Gouda
makes my thesis: it’s the correlating taste

of fall. Back in the upper palate blooms
its dusk – autumnal salty musk – reproved
by a consistency the color, just beyond

its dark brown rind, of reassuring sun:
homogenously yellowish dun cream which
calms the hard cheese through its tantalizing

smoke – and gives it its regime: to nudge
us gently out of summer into poignancy:
as warm and friendly as a mild joke

but with a tinge. Something like a destiny
impinges. I close my eyes and it personifies
into Smoked Gouda Man! – there surely

cannot be as good a man. He sits there
something like a Christ, serving up
himself in every gently potent slice.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Design for Living

Strange, today, these ready antidotes to dolor –
radiating frames of color – curving lines –
swelling into art nouveau designs –

spelling out symmetrical geometries –
soothing in their sophistries – persuading you
to think of you alluringly among them

with your foot around your neck. There’s nothing
you would not pursue to conjure up, construe –
protect – the fond illusion of a view.


Monday, September 20, 2010

In Part, In Toto

Subtle awkward bumbles of a waning mid-September afternoon:
someone I assumed would find me devastatingly attractive
didn’t – today’s near-autumn cool bright blue come-hither
went about as thither as it could have gone: a vagrant dawn-and-hum
of headache – slight and pale – pain the color of the lank brown hair

of an unprepossessing lonely teenage girl – squirrels in and vibrates
mildly. Aging, as somebody once suggested to me who knew ruefully
that it was true, is the accretion of complexity, the convolution
of the possible into the multi-likely: the calculus for the solution
of which so defies my aptitude for math, I let it go its involuted

path, untended – and – I take a breath. Yes, I’m nearer now to death:
who isn’t? And out of the murky sea of me, exceeding any
expectation (since I had none, it did not especially surprise), arises
something – as if bent on telling me the business of the moment:
its intention and its size. Leaping from the metaphoric floor,

and feeding on the sunlight which would be, quite soon, in imminently
nearing night, no more – right foot planted like a platform,
left leg cut off from my vision at the thigh, so high had it ascended
towards the sky – torso, arms and head flung widely, folding
backward as if there were no such obstacle as gravity or bone –

carrying a sac of some pink plasma – delicate, attached in threads
to butt and waist and back: like a uterus or heart, alone – whatever this
not unattractive creature came to say, in toto, or in part, it said it,
and went on its way, and here I am, complex, my head-ache fading,
looking for a coda even though I missed the intro – in part, in toto.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dreamland is Ambiguous

Bedposts sprout into a copse of trees
to hoist you through a pale light breeze
up to a pearl-white sky in which nine pink

and yellow puffs float by and you’re
a small boy looking on, brushed pastel blue,
spread-eagle on a mattress – none of which

makes sense to you. Strange to take
the thing in stride: glancing left and right
as if the whole ride weren’t made of midnight.

You are who you think you are. Shards
through a kaleidoscope: detritus of a star.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Most Peculiar Part

The most peculiar part was not
discovering that he was in a trunk.
(He’d ended up all sorts of other
untoward places drunk.) Or that
the trunk was blue, its deep
interior blood-red, his skin so
radiantly orange that it bled out into,
through the better part of everything
he tried to touch. (Although
that was a little much.) The most
peculiar part was he was dead.


Friday, September 17, 2010

In the Holy Purple

In the holy purple of the embryo of thought,
a new ungainly creature starts to grow. Fed by
black and violet – whose flow instills susceptibility
to subtlety – it features signs of promise.
Limbs are wobbly and unfocussed, though:

they want proportion; no locus yet for temperament,
no bone of ideology, no concentration of sufficient
length, no muscular intention has disseminated
strength; no genitals have joined the groin
with lust – no reason to be penitent: no shadow

in its innocence: no pity, grace, chiaroscuro,
or capacity for guilt. Profitable thought must be,
from these, assiduously built. But ah! – look!
Peering into middle distances, its eyes are curious,
uxoriously eager, keen to grope. There’s hope.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Today is Like a Princess Who

Today is like a princess who,
bejeweled, with golden hair,
is pissed there is no prince
to come to take her to his lair.

She grumbles, waits impatiently:
does push-ups on her fists.
A prince gets a glimpse.
Somehow he resists.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Most of Being Almost Twelve

It wasn’t like he wasn’t trying to be cool.
He thought back to the playground after school.
He’d dressed so very carefully for that.
He wore his favorite baseball hat –

it’s true, he wished he had the knack
for looking good in it, reversing front to back
or angling the brim so that it stuck out on the side.
But he looked like a platypussy every time he tried.

Platypussy’s what they called him when they saw his shoes.
He’d thought they were so retro! They thought they were bad news.
And they were hardly sports
deriding his bright yellow shorts.

As he casually struck a blasé stance,
they said it looked like he had peed his pants.
And then there was that bully Tommy Kelly
who pointed at his skinny arms and flabby belly

and itemized his other features with a nasty grin.
It wasn’t his fault that he had no chin.
Or that he had a great big nose.
Nobody had noticed that his chapeau matched his hose.

All they said was that he smelled like platypussy piss.
Most of being almost twelve occurs in the abyss.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pensée en passant

Funny: when you’re feeling loose,
the clearest forms occur –
and when you tighten up the noose,
you end up in a blur.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Be Gone Blue Spook!

That he was blue you took to be the least of it.
Sitting beastly large, Edwardian and cramped
upon a too-small chair, fat hands protectively
astride his belly as if somewhere therein lay
the indigestible dark genesis of Freudian despair,

he was the avatar of every misbegotten stress,
anxiety, hand-wringing care – and there it was.
Your indigo eternity of brooding incapacity.
The azure proof you were a problem. You
disagreed – awoke – toddled to the loo and peed.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Down to the Bone

Pale as her proclivities – an expertise in meditative
sighing, and a slow determination to accomplish dying –
the Queen of Colorlessness sought and brought,
she thought, at least some small distinction to her living
person through the framing of her ghostliness with every
jeweled hue she could command to be employed
around her from her boundless realm. She had a savvy

decorator at the helm: who had a liking for the grand guignol –
brilliant crimson, green and rose and gold and purple paper,
marble, fabric were subjected to his maverick tastes
to set a lively contrast to the waste of her wan face –
a gloomy set outside her window always showed
the blackest night, a crescent moon, a fleck of star,
which he had hoped might jar the queen into the reverie

that there were creatures kindred to her out there in the sky’s
dark splay, however far away from her they seemed to have
to stay. Years and years went by this way, and in the course
of things, she died, and by her own decree, was left there
as a corpse to dry, become as smooth and cool as ivory.
She sits there, to this day, beautiful at last. Residing –
still as stone – she’d lived down to the bone.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Were She Around Today

A darting fear—a pomp—a tear—
A waking on a morn
To find that what one waked for,
Inhales the different dawn.

Emily Dickinson


Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together.

Susan Sontag

September 11, 2010, New York City

Were she around today, Miss Dickinson might
well have found a way to say it. She’d leave
the politics to frogs – and their admiring bogs –
but maybe think of Susan Sontag*, careful never
more than cryptically to cite her, to imply how wise

that pundit was in pointing out how blind our eyes
had been to the calamities we’d all incurred
and buried long before: which underlay the lore
and powers (theirs and ours) that brought down
those towers. Emily would do that in a word. She’d

know there was no heaven on the dazzling blue
eleven of September, Twenty-zero-one. And that
there was none, now, in Twenty-ten. Perhaps there
never had been any-when, save in the wonder
we are able sometimes to invoke in a creation

that does not completely choke the life out of some
other human spirit: a way to see our strange
and marvelous capacity to grasp the horror,
tenderness, bewilderment and glory even in this
woe- and foe-begotten story: a way, in fact,

somehow, to glimpse the vast imponderable entity,
and cheer it: make it clear, and fit: human traits,
with which, at last, we might more comfortably sit –
that we’d like to think could be enduring.
But Emily would never be that reassuring.


September 24, 2001, New Yorker, "Talk of the Town" (Susan Sontag is the seventh writer down, or third from the last).


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Bewilderment of Color

Rising tattered and haphazard, blotched with blistered patchwork hues,
he is now his most alarming piece of news.

Before he’d felt just fine in white and black.
Now he cannot take the flying flak
of multicolored brightnesses he seems to have jumped into back.
He’ll just have to deal with what he used to lack.

Thundering abundance is a drag sometimes.
Numb, at first, a nascent understanding climbs
that lets him know he rhymes

at last with what surrounds him.
It confounds him.


Thursday, September 9, 2010


Like certain
men and women
of a certain age,
instincts do not care

to turn the page
and do not care
when pages
turn on them.

Instincts always think
they’re lovely in pursuit.
No wonder they’re
in disrepute.

I knew an instinct
once that thought it was
a milkmaid-Marie-Antoinette-
coquette; it wagered

it could make quite
any man succumb to it
without regret.
It lost the bet.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mapping You

Today the day withholds a bit.
Be circumspect. Negotiate it
with respect. Reject the sentimental –
yet effect excision of it delicately:
today, precision must prevail. Train

the eye to the travail of overseeing
surfaces with cartographical
exactitude: apply a longitude
of rising curving verticals, in two
varieties of blue, mapping you.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Spills the lot,
holds the whole.

Darkens unimaginably,
brightens to the brink of soul.

Conceals – reveals,
stows – shows.

All it knows is ecstasy,
only knows repose.

And always something
moving through it.


Monday, September 6, 2010


Hunger sits there
eating everything.
Lately he’s acquired

random lengths
of copper wire interwoven
with a fibrous substance

which imbues it with
a polyglot extravagance
of indecipherable hue.

He says it tastes
a little like beef jerky
soused in Phenobarbital

and glue. People pass
him, think he’s screwy.
He finds it chewy.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

For the Moment

Like a man in the mist in a sauna,
steam erasing his core,

old fantasies’ flora and fauna
aren't quite here anymore.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

It’s Always Something

It’s a highly decorated
species of a thing.
It wears its yellow young
around its neck – offspring
it derives from cool

(the nemesis of sex).
Hermaphroditic single
parent that it is, it neither
needs nor beckons

to much company:
apart from tattoo artists
at the peak of their sharp
needling expertise:
preferably skilled in

calligraphic black. Not many
creatures in its species
have the knack. Not
perhaps surprising
when you fathom

how the tattoo client
treats them. Once
the skin’s been pricked
with a sufficiency of line,
the tattoo client eats them.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Way To Put It

The cavities and currents that account for song –
sleekly subtle muscular alignments –
the spin of the bravado of vibrato all along
radiating lyrical refinements

of singing flesh: sweet physicality whose meat
depends upon frail craft, bare chance
to cultivate crescendo in the heart – entreat
the animal down deep in you to dance.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

And Come To That

It won’t say what, it won’t say who,
or what it has to do with you.
Apparently it came because it wanted to.

It doesn’t blink.
You don’t know what to think
of something that won’t blink.

And, come to that,
you can’t tell what it’s looking at.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One Way To Put It

He found his private store of magic not too long ago:
before he’d found it, he was subject only to the random
pull and to and fro of puffs of it, soft shafts of light

and color from some unreliable diffusion of a source,
radiating a near imperceptibly faint broken course
of calligraphic line: too evanescent for him to apply to it

the precious pronoun: “mine.” But then he happened on
an open, very large clay jug which, every time he neared it,
would begin to glow and grow; the closer he would

come, the more excitedly the urn would churn up
its rainbow conundrum: like a lover who cannot restrain
his phallic ardor, this considerable pot would pulse,

get hot and loom the larger till, when he drew up a ladder
to investigate more closely its strange pumping art,
and looked deep into its expanding heart, the thing

would veritably sing: ejaculating joy as he reached down
to take grand handfuls of it home. He now goes
back to it like Englishmen return to Rome.