Ol’ Factory Sigh

winter gardenDamp light of December
spare me your soggy cereal
Let me say it smells straight out of Midnight Cowboy
Dim hopes and daily hustles
Better weld your wires to a little motor
You can’t just slide ‘em over

To the uncontacted tribes
To the undisclosed recipients

If I can give two plastic blocks
Plastic bollocks!
—one blue and intact—
—one orange and broken—
to the TV science guy to illustrate
a fundamental principle
never mind which
I’ll paint on a mascara mustache
and wash it off in a public bath

I saw a collection of scythes
for sale in a ruined factory
Any handle is helpful for a minute but

Let’s skip the call to prayer
Go to the movies in a batmobile
Cruise the city outskirts
where a million tiny fires burn
where the powers that be
have decreed what the people need
is men’s undershirts
cement
and an engineering degree

Black eyebrows caper and crawl across my floor
A wide-eyed idol glares in my window
What’s underneath the toy piano’s broken keyboard
but my house keys

Come with me, come over
I know I’m only one of many
To compare myself with others
more beautiful more accomplished
is a narrow road to nowhere good
Still why wasn’t I writing symphonies at seven?

Maybe you did and just forgot
The waves are kicking up
South Cove my corner of Hudson flotsam
Broken lumber splintered limbs
Condoms caps cups

Will you sing backup, Billy?
The chorus goes no no no
no no
no no
We’re gonna record in front of the audience here
if Greg with his sideways ponytail
will ever show up to engineer

I dreamed I walked in my cut-offs
out of the dark into summer glare
in my hand a pack of Luckies

His Car, His Bed, His Christmas Tree

santaplushesHis new shift is to care for dinosaur bones
He says I’m winging it best I can
Is it all I’ve ever, always on the fly
I say the answer never satisfies

An old bathtub Volvo to disassemble
Comes apart an antique brass bed
A family memento he says all sympathetic
I say no way we’re buying this car
So mom sends us to get a Christmas tree
Out there naked past the fairgrounds with Nothing but a hatchet
He says you don’t know the real me nobody does
Probably a good thing I say
Keeps me chipper
Do you see anything remotely like a spruce

King queen and baby are nouns
I say to the baby what is a verb
Moving and changing the baby says
A paper pavilion of towers and pennants
Cascading drapery and tiny buttons
I stole them and will not give them back

He says my body is beginning to break
Still I don’t feel adult inside
At my best a bright boy
And at your worst I say
Chin up and run with it

Outcomes are what we call them now
A narrow tunnel tighter than ever he says
Toward bright day to some sandcastle I suppose
Surrounded by aging acquaintances in time
For an acolyte actor to recite a sutra and sob a bit
At water’s edge it works he says it’s powerful
And maybe dangerous
Let’s do it again

Voiceover Artist

His dream wakes him
I am the half-dead monkey in the plastic bag, he says
Explaining it to himself
I say, Who are we but screens
Upon which we misread ourselves
Taking cues and mistaking clues
I disabled the memory of the graveyard TV, he says
I say, I thought it was you
I have seen flying clouds curling in arabesque
Predictably unbalanced yet nonetheless entertaining
He says, I am the man with the alligator head
Snatching fish from the trash
I say, Let’s walk across this frozen lake of blueberry mousse
Like two perfect slices of multigrain toast
Popped up in a Proctor Silex
He says, I am the long gone glacier
The tide of grinding ice
I say, that’s perfect
We’ll mix two parts memory
One part desire, add bitters
And share the slanting light

He sleeps he is dreaming again
His face unwinds
An upturned cup of infinite sky
And so do I

Chavasana at Clam Cove

Clam CoveI take a cold plunge at low tide
And lie naked on warm slabs of red
To dry in afternoon sun and doze
To the whisper of salt breeze

I dreamed I stepped on my straw hat
I laughed I said it meant the end
Of summer yet green-leafed gates
Are still swung wide and shining

A distant grace smoked on her fire escape
Her legs glowed golden red
Suspended in time and the sunset
Did she disappear because of my gaze

Across rooftops clouds of skulls and smiles
Against a silhouette of pinetops
Above water reflecting last light
A pair of herons bark and separate

Come back, come back
Come back to your breath
Your breath on my skin
Your breath a tide that comes and goes

Sliding away to reveal the stones
That will always be here for us
Like fresh-baked loaves

“Holiday in Reality” Poetry Blast, Oct. 16, Brooklyn!

poster.newThe 4th annual Holiday in Reality Poetry Blast arrives with an all-star line-up of great New York poets:

Legendary Nuyorican hero Edwin Torres. See his Brainlingo site and read Moroccan Slippers. Read “Merely A Poet” on Poetry Foundation.

Award-winning Cave Canem fellow Morgan Parker.  Read “Beyoncé on the Line for Gaga,” “Rebirth of Slick,” and “White Beyoncé” in Glittermob.

Fulbright Fellow and brand new mom Julia Guez. Read Still Life With Vicodin and more on Diagram.

Brooklyn bon vivant Pat Smith. Read Leonard and Beta Agonists  on Not in the News Today.

Thursday, Oct. 16, 8 p.m. at Park Slope’s Old Stone House, 336 3rd St., Brooklyn. Ten bucks at the door includes beer, wine, snacks and the delicious thrill of POETRY ON THE TONGUE!

Presented by Brooklyn Reading Works. Curated by Pat Smith.

The View from Sturges Corner

SturgesGlaciers can carry pretty much anything
they want. But which way did the glaciers go?
Robert Titus
The Catskills in the Ice Age

We are city dwellers craving summer
Woods and wildflower fields so
Off we go when life allows
and friends invite
We don’t hesitate, we take
No time to acclimate
To the leafy green forest cats
I have named Little Jimmy and Long James
Whose stony spines rise above a valley
Carved by blue flowing ice
Twelve thousand years ago

We took our tall boy on a little tour:
front porch, barn, garden, apple tree,
hammock, lily pond and long expanses
of green and green and green
climbing up the mountainside

We set up on a table in the shade
With books and paints, we watched
Late afternoon sun and westerly breeze
Paint the waving branches of willow trees

I read what catty Catullus had to say
about his tortured love for a fickle girlfriend
and some jerk who stole his favorite napkins

The air grew cooler
We put on long pants
Sat by a fire in a pyramid stove
Watched the Dipper slowly brighten
Till we got sleepy
Went upstairs and let a bat out of the room

I dreamed I was cutting my hair
In the open air at a drive-in movie
I plugged my clippers into the speaker box
Dense clumps of hair clogged the blades
A man who wanted a cut
Asked to borrow the clippers
I said they’re broken but
I’ll rent them out
He gave me a look

Bees and butterflies enjoy
Wild thyme beside the path
We forage yellow gold chanterelles
from a pine forest I won’t say where

Soft music of wind and supple leaves
Summer society of trees
So talented at reflecting
our bodies and our moods
Trunks, limbs, seeds, sap
Reach, bend, wave, droop,
Whisper, sigh, sing, moan,
Grow bare, lean, fall down

Bright open gates to memories
Of endless kickball summer
Climbing sycamore and maple

This is a common story
Of the formerly ice age Catskills
You may be thinking
Of other summers
And wondering if they
Had a similar story.
They did.

To My New Pal Li Po

Furtive flicker pauses on birch top
Disappears with his red spot
One monarch butterfly lights
On granite rib flecked with green lichen
Flashing orange wings lift it away
Years ago there were so many

My daughter leaves on the ferry tomorrow
Now she sits where the butterfly was
Her knees at her chin, pretending to smile
Blue heron gliding over blue water
A cello note low over flutes of tide

In the Library of Sandwiches

P1000498Most of our bodies were stuck
Under a table but we raised our heads
Up between an edge and a wall
Like characters in a Beckett tragicomedy.
A sweet smell of growing green things
Made my heart hurt a little, said Rocky.
I was a child, school was just out,
Nothing to worry about.
What would we do without perpective?
I said. I remember a crumbling tunnel
To a beach location of so many dreams.
Rocky said, May used to mean an impending surge
Of joy—sixth grade is over!
And loss—sixth grade is over.
What’s May to me today?
What warm breeze?
What sexy trees?
What sweet possibilities?
I said, Maybe I wished I could be
In the quiet storefront office
The schoolbus went by every morning
Because I just wanted some calm, damn it.
We are vessels, are we not,
Of all that came before, said Rocky.
Happy in Grampa’s Lap, watching Jackie Gleason,
Algebra homework, Revolver on the record player,
Knee-deep and laughing in warm ocean waves
With you, the one who saves my life.
How would I let you go? I said.
For an unusual tattoo I wanted
Something from a dream.
Though not a slice of rye
To cover a hole in my door
But mysterious enough to draw
Attention in yoga class:
Faint pink crystals scattered
Across a pale blue sky.
Can they do that?
Anything is possible, Rocky said.

Leonard

santajacks1I was admiring the knees and elbows
Of my favorite crabapple until I nodded off.
I dreamed a big egg salad sandwich was sailing
Up the Hudson. When I opened my eyes
Leonard Duncil was sitting beside me.
Look at you, an old man snoozing on a bench, he said.
I’d hardly call it snoozing, I said. I was just lost in thought.
I hadn’t seen Leonard, the neighborhood bad boy,
Since 9th grade. He hadn’t aged—same long greasy
Hair and adolescent beard. Are you spying on me? I said.
If I’m a spy, I must be good, he said. You haven’t seen
Me in thirty years. He had me there. Still I was
Suspicious. He said, You sit here moping until you see
Something you think is funny, like a truck for Giant Big
Apple Beer. I said, What’s not funny about Giant Big
Apple Beer? Are you a ghost? Were you an evil pimp,
Murdered by one of your whores? He said, Wow.
I’m an aircraft engineer and a grandpa. I don’t look like
This anymore. Why do you remember me? I said, Blue
Print Cleanse. We Think. You Drink. That’s funny isn’t it?
He said, You and your sisters were straight out of the Brady
Bunch. I said, You were a happy delinquent. I was a lonely nerd.
I gathered Leonard Duncil into my arms
As the crabapple waved in the June breeze.

Beta Agonists

Encrypted LunchmeatPlease order food for today’s conference, Roger said.
I said, Of course. And encrypt the message, he said.
Encrypt our lunch? I said. He said, Send it secure.
We need to be in full compliance. I said, I guess we can’t
Be too careful. Especially about sandwiches.
I’m serious, Murchison, Roger said. I said, Me, too.
I don’t take my pastrami lightly. He said, Pastrami—that gets out,
boom, total red flag. Code purple all over the place. I said,
Jesus. I had no idea. He said, Investigators in our files, circling
like hyenas around the copy machine. I said, The bastards!
We’ll shoot them down like dogs. Roger said, Whoa,
Murchison. I love my dog. I love all dogs. I said, Right, sorry.
I used to have a dog when I was a lad. What kind of
Sandwich do you want? I asked. Roger said,
That’s protected information. Order a selection.
Roger left and a chill went straight through me.
One leak, tuna salad, and German shepherds
Are sniffing under my desk. I’d be out
On the street, aimless, wandering
Lonely as a cloud. And there goes my pension.

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