Every form of contestation against this tyranny is comprehensible. Dialogue with it is impossible. For us to live and die properly, things have to be named properly. Let us reclaim our words.
This is written in the night. In war the dark is on nobody’s side, in love the dark confirms that we are together.” —John Berger, Where Are We? (via sketchyjoe)
but when I tell you
that girl had
I know you might
listen it was
in those woods out
girl a little
was stoned on
leave him and made
love to her
It was a Thursday
if I tell you how
bruised she got you’ll
probably think she’s me
but go out into the
The fact that I
am writing to you
already falsifies what I
wanted to tell you.
how to explain to you that I
don’t belong to English
though I belong nowhere else.
We all think about suddenly disappearing.
The train tracks lead there, into the woods.
Even in the financial district: wooden doors
in alleyways. First I want to put something small
into your hand, a button or river stone or
key I don’t know to what. I don’t
have that house anymore across from the graveyard
and its black angel. What counts as a proper
goodbye? My last winter in Iowa there was always
a ladybug or two in the kitchen for cheer
even when it was ten below. We all feel
suspended over a drop into nothingness.
Once you get close enough, you see what
one is stitching is a human heart. Another
is vomiting wings. Hell, even now I love life.
Whenever you put your feet on the floor
in the morning, whatever the nightmare,
it’s a miracle or fantastic illusion:
the solidity of the boards, the steadiness
coming into the legs. Where did we get
the idea when we were kids to rub dirt
into the wound or was that just in Pennsylvania?
Maybe poems are made of breath, the way water,
cajoled to boil, says, This is my soul, freed.
I leave the number and a short
message on every green Volvo
Is anything wrong?
I miss you.
The phone rings constantly.
One says, Are you bald?
Another, How tall are you in
your stocking feet?
Most just reply, Nothing’s wrong.
I miss you, too.
(via rabbit-light) (via grammatolatry)
For three days I have seen sun and rain and now
snow falling but it has slowed to a blunder almost,
a blight. Winter. January 8th. I try to give the season
credit for its importance as one part of the cycle, thinking
pain is life, thinking pain is only weakness leaving the body,
thinking the cold is that which gives meaning to warmth,
our bodies finally finding each other in the morning
after a long night rolling one way and then the other
on either side of the bed. To divide and conquer. The division
is really all that’s needed you see the other is just aftermath
just war just silence just misunderstanding and today I fear
there is too much of this in the world I fear that we’re not getting it
right as people. I am not a dreamer like I used to be.
I don’t know if I believe in great things anymore
but that doesn’t mean great things can’t happen. When it was
April 7:30 and the sun was just going down and the streetlights
were coming on and the children were out in the streets
the neighbors with their dog, slapping at his mouth
while he barked, the two of us on the porch drinking something
on ice I don’t remember but I remember the cold of it going down
I remember asking St. Francis for the birds just a little bit longer.
These days it is more St. Anthony I call upon saying I think I have
lost my soul I think I have lost what I want to say, saying Tony, Tony,
Tony, please come around. The trees are so stark against the sky
today I feel a bit like I am living in a picture which is to say
I feel surreal and held in one place and held tenderly by the hand
of someone I once knew, folded and tucked away by someone else,
placed in one of those boxes we all have where we put
the things we cannot let go of, the things we want to keep
but not see, nor need to, and I think the heart is like that sometimes
that it holds distantly to what it might as well just let go.
I tell myself a thousand stories about myself. I tell myself You are
a good man, you are a bad man, you are wasting your life,
you are doing something right. From one day to the next
I am in love with myself or I am looking at myself disgusted
and tired of all the bullshit I repeat to one person after another
I meet on the streets or at family gatherings, all the same things
I have said over and over and over when wanting only to say
I really don’t want to talk or I really don’t even like you
or You are my family, my friend, why are we speaking
to each other like we haven’t known each other our whole lives,
like we weren’t there in that world of childhood together,
like we didn’t talk about girls or our lives in the future
or the big goddamn possibility of everything we might be
there is too little of that these days too little of you saying to me
I want more, I am not myself, of me saying to you I just want you
to not talk about the weather or the next president or all the children
even though I love the children we spend so much time outside
their world just looking in, the brothers and sisters and friends
and cousins, thinking Once life was that simple, once we smiled,
once we cried, once we ran through the house naked
with no thoughts of the windows or other humans no thoughts
of the real estate market except the large expanse of a room
as it stretched out in front, thinking I bet by god I can run
all the way to the other side. Now we run away, or rather
we do not run but we turn from each other very politely,
we spend a long time at doors and sometimes I have the urge
to say something very important to someone, sometimes
it is right on my tongue and I feel like I could make their life better
just by uttering a few words because people have done this thing
for me and I want to give it back and I can sometimes see
them wanting to give it back but we do not give it back, only
a hug which is the closest we can get or care to get or know how
anymore. We are real people. All grown up now. And I remember
going back to my hometown and running into some older woman
who knew me as a child, who I couldn’t remember if I wanted to
(and I do), who sees only the child in me held in a six-foot body,
sees not my mistakes, my faults, the ins and outs of thirty years
of making people proud and upsetting people, winning awards
and wrecking cars and doing drugs or staying sober they see
none of that, only the child as man, that mannish boy
and we have nothing at all to say to each other so they just stand
back and smile, and hug me as if I was something tender
enough to break, small enough not to notice, unless looking
very hard, very hard as I have grown older now to become.
And I think sometimes I am too much of a man being man.
I am too much jealousy, too much indifference, too much
paranoia as it comes on, too much guilt. I drag the guilt around
like a dead shadow, a heavy shadow, and sometimes
I don’t even know what I feel guilty for, only that it seems
I should, that it is my destiny. Day to day I am happy or hurting
or both and not knowing how not to be, not knowing how
to be everything I want to be for you, everything I feel like I can be,
everything I feel like we can all be for each other, goddamnit
I’m dreaming again, it seems again I am a dreamer, but I don’t care
today, I don’t even care about knowing how my caring comes to me,
how I care so much, how I do. Winter. I’m taking it for what it is.
The longest season, it seems. The darkest. The hardest
and by some accounts that makes it worth the most in the end,
worth every bit of blossoming I can stand.
Looking forward to Ten’s new show “Can of Worms” which will posit such moral conundrums as: “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler for a fancy dress party?”; “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler while selecting and purchasing mixed lollies?”; “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler when attending a meeting of the local Dress Like Hitler Club?”; “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler when you have invented a time machine and traveled back in time to assassinate Hitler?”; “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler or is Nazi regalia *so* 1933?”; “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler while doing the ironing?”; and, “Is it wrong to dress like Hitler while commenting on national television about whether it is wrong to dress like Hitler?”
Three thousand letters of hope folded into paper boats to sail to Gaza. Israel sneers, we own this ocean and all the tears cried into it.
The edge of the surf meets my hip. A white waver, your painted orgasm.
Man, 26, Western Ivory Coat, April 2011
May I never be afraid
especially of myself
Muhammed Ali are you telling
Well you’re being true aren’t you and
you talk so wonderfully in your body
that protects you with physique of voice
raps within dance
May I never be afraid
rocked and quaked
the mantilla is lace
whose black is oak
But if I’m dark I’m strong
as my own darkness
my strength the universe
whose blackness is air
But if I’m alive I’m strong
Strong as the violets
in Marlon Brando’s fist
his dissemblance flourished into truth
I’d take me too
and my Ali I see you
a hard bright speck of me
the savage formalist
authentic deed of gossip
a kind body
—And when you have forgotten the bright bedclothes on a Wednesday and a Saturday,
And most especially when you have forgotten Sunday—
When you have forgotten Sunday halves in bed,
Or me sitting on the front-room radiator in the limping afternoon
Looking off down the long street
Hugged by my plain old wrapper of no-expectation
And nothing-I-have-to-do and I’m-happy-why?
When you have forgotten that, I say,
And how you swore, if somebody beeped the bell,
And how my heart played hopscotch if the telephone rang;
And how we finally went in to Sunday dinner,
That is to say, went across the front room floor to the ink-spotted table in the southwest corner
To Sunday dinner, which was always chicken and noodles
Or chicken and rice
And salad and rye bread and tea
And chocolate chip cookies—
I say, when you have forgotten that,
When you have forgotten my little presentiment
That the war would be over before they got to you;
And how we finally undressed and whipped out the light and flowed into bed,
And lay loose-limbed for a moment in the week-end
Then gently folded into each other—
When you have, I say, forgotten all that,
Then you may tell,
Then I may believe
You have forgotten me well.
In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy … ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t be safe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Muhammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me … and I forgot, like you, to die.
Translated by Fady Joudah
Flood, According to Her
You are like a leaky row boat pretending
to be a raincoat. I am straight-forward:
self-confessedly undependable because
my right arm overrules my left, just like
my brain. Life within a fortress within
a life in an arc of motion, oh Russian doll.
How to be the years we have? I’m thinking
of love. I’m planning to make up the truth:
this end-stage sunset, that baby landscape.
I’m thinking of laying down slabs of stone
across the lawn, big feet of heaven, whole
kingdoms. Feng Shui my way: a cadre
of rubber alligators protect my door.
It’s not as though we can pick up every
shell on the beach, but there’s often
something nesting in the nest of the bird
in the hand. One day I just stepped out
of the boat. Relief like a flood I tell you.
Flood, According to Him
You don’t understand limits. Visiting cities
with high water marks, you marvel and
flounce on, not a minute’s stillness to absorb
all that’s been swamped, what it’s like
to be assailed. You’re playing solitaire.
I’m dreaming backlit backgammon, bigger
You slow thing,
you with your superfluous yips,
what can you suppose I want from you?
My instinct feeds me; I can tooth-and-claw
any bone to brightness, I lick the sockets
of the air to track my next hunger.
But you who of your urges make ideas
can’t guess why I break from your steadfast
and dull pettings for the first ripe bitch I smell,
my magnificent flanks flexing toward her
as you spindle along far behind;
why sniffing her asshole wags the stars;
or why I tongue and tongue a sore
to keep it raw and salty. My next hunger
is me: the rare, incarnate meat of me.
O frail, O small, if you want me
to love you, take off your muzzle
of words and fang this pig’s ear of a world,
your mouth, for once, filled only with your teeth.
I want to die with Keats in my pocket
along with a jar of honey,
of your underwear (the one with the bow),
some of Magritte’s nightblue sky,
for the Ferryman poling the river,
And enough smooth stones to weigh me down,
Proof against the promise of my ascent.
I don’t like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,
spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I’ll howl at you, moon,
I’m angry. I’ll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,
you had me chasing you,
the world’s worst lover, over and over
hoping for a mirror, a whisper, insight.
But you disappear for nights on end
with all my erotic mysteries
and my entire unconscious mind.
How long do I try to get water from a stone?
It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.
Better off alone. I’m going to write hard
and fast into you moon, face-fucking.
Something you wouldn’t understand.
You with no swampy sexual
promise but what we glue onto you.
That’s not real. You have no begging
cunt. No panties ripped off and the crotch
sucked. No lacerating spasms
sending electrical sparks through the toes.
Stars have those.
What do you have? You’re a tool, moon.
Now, noon. There’s a hero.
The obvious sun, no bulls hit, the enemy
of poets and lovers, sleepers and creatures.
But my lovers have never been able to read
my mind. I’ve had to learn to be direct.
It’s hard to learn that, hard to do.
The sun is worth ten of you.
You don’t hold a candle
to that complexity, that solid craze.
Like an animal carcass on the road at night,
picked at by crows,
haunting walkers and drivers. Your face
regularly sliced up by the moving
frames of car windows. Your light is drawn,
quartered, your dreams are stolen.
You change shape and turn away,
letting night solve all night’s problems alone.
It’s a wave, isn’t it? Not a particle.
A fresh, cool wave, so why am I flushed
and not washed? Why dirtier than before?
On the subject of our names.
They’re so embracing,
thinking they’re all us
and swallowing themselves
into our nausea.
Yet we never quite die on the spot.
We put off being what we’re called,
we take the hint.
Time is never wasted.
It is always spent.
Sheer fabric trailing through 4 a.m.
I thought it was opaque and earlier.
I know you know I know.
And the mirror multiplies inside.
The world is no bigger, but next time
do the math,
because I wanted to know none
of what I now know twice.
4. The Principle of the Borg
Saying “There’s no one like me”
accomplishes the exact opposite
of what you mean.
It is true only insofar as it is true
for everyone equally.
So it means you are not special
in any way. Which should be enough for you.
This clothing, a maladaptive wrapping,
cuts me up. I am a vignette,
since I pulled myself through myself,
like a unitard. Too many eyeholes
have been cut and pieced together
to make flesh less various with others.
The cure for embarrassment
Strap, don’t pluck.
Baldness makes headlines.
Use grass. Use less.
Shorts under your skirt for recess.
Redo the surfaces of your wrong turns to make
taking them smoother in the future.
Things are less embarrassing
at the cellular level. Remember?
We were a whole part of the universe
before Mother busted the party.
Before we were ourselves.
Now, like dirty soap, we
attract what we repel.
Even the clumsiest fate is perfectly shaped,
so the view took over looking
but the sweetest thing I’ve ever known
is obscene with a beautiful
sugar rotted down to its truth.
Loving you a serious accidental shame
and day flatulates into night,
trips and falls in front of millions
In thrall to this pocus:
the end of fear starts
with such an annihilating blush,
with such a stutter.
I signed a treaty with Adam and I took back my rib. When we were back in the garden I buried my white bone in the earth, pointing towards him. I have stopped eating ash but tasting apples. My son walked around a sundial anti-clockwise to undo the murder of his brother. Forgiveness is a wound almost closed. The blood smeared nipples I breastfed the babies with were the state of not forgetting. When they were crying I whispered to them that one day they would be a shadow falling across the earth, and I would still be hungry.