Sep 022020


Gregg Glory
[Gregg G. Brown]

Published by BLAST PRESS

Copyright © 2017 by Gregg G. Brown

Stuff and Nonsense

Dark Poet, your pen scratches at the heart of life. ~~Antonin Artaud

Nonsense is often the most sensible kind of sense. This is counterintuitive, but trust me for a moment as we proceed. This is no three-card monte. Nor is it like the wonderful magic of Emmett Kelley the clown sweeping his spotlights into a single circle, and then putting that circle in his pocket, patting his pocket and smiling like Einstein after he’d eureka’d light into a corner.

Nonsense reveals all of us—our self, our situation—in a single pop of recognition as we are trampolined from our usual assurances and then forced to regain our footing, to regain our meaning, on the fly. Like an old-fashioned photographer’s flash powder, we are exposed to an extreme of light, with no visible space left for secrets or lies. This is part of the odd exhilaration of nonsense. And, don’t get me wrong, nonsense isn’t some sly encyclopedia where all hidden truths are stored and we must simply discover the index—oh, no. Rather, the puzzles that nonsense reveal are genuinely unsolvable. Gregor Samsa will never come back from being a cockroach; his transformation in the story “Metamorphosis” has simply revealed the pickle he was already in, but didn’t know that he was in.

What nonsense reveals, at its best, are genuine mysteries.

And, like Gregor Samsa, the character in the poem “Nagging Question,” who wakes up with a pile of feathers at his feet after having torn his pillow apart in his sleep, all he can do with a true mystery, once it has been revealed, is to go back into the realm from which the mystery emanated. Gregor cross-examines his family situation, and the character in our poem returns to the realm of sleep and dream. But, with new, perhaps sharper, questions in mind with which to confront the mystery that has been revealed. Or, it may be, with no questions at all, simply with one’s eyes widened.

This process resembles the scientific method, except for the fact that there is no control group. What variables could nonsense ever control for? There may one day be a science of comedy, but never one for true mystery. The only control group we have in poetry is every other poem ever written. Their mysteries abide, and it is into them that we go to confront those mysteries again and again—and to find more of ourselves more truthfully (or at least more fully) revealed.

   [With] the pillow exploded uselessly between
         your hands
   And what looks to be a chicken carcass
   Piled in an inscrutable white mound
   Headless between your bare feet [...]
   There’s only one place for you to find your answer.

Gregg Glory
August 28, 2017

(How To Be Invisible)

Disappearing Act

The shaggy sea wagged its big, wet tail.
I walked right into its open mouth 
And was never heard from again.


This entire time
I’ve been stealing peaches
That look like my face.

My hand’s shadow
Grows crooked over their innocence
As if I were shaving them.

Soft as they are,
They talk softly in my pockets together,
Accusing me of many crimes.

Ruby Woo

I knew a girl who began disappearing
From her feet up.
First her toes faded out, then her heels,
Her arches were twin bridges to nowhere.
You could still hear her clicking down the sidewalk,
But she no longer stopped at the shoe store
To windowshop.

Her knees gave her some trouble
And you could see the kneecaps gleaming
Like little cat skulls.

She was so relieved when her ass finally disappeared
She threw a big party and danced all night
But mostly alone since no one was sure 
Exactly where her feet were, or if she still had any.

Last week I went around to visit
And had to let myself in.
She was just a pair of lips on a throw pillow 
On the couch.  I spoonfed her a little chicken broth
And blotted her dry.

She talked a lot, various histories and opinions.
We talked over each other quite a bit,
And I wasn’t sure if she could hear me.

On my way out, she asked me
To apply some lipstick for her, ruby woo.
But, I couldn’t oblige.  I’m all thumbs.

The Poet Wild

 for Joe Weil

An echoing bear snuffles woodward.
His head sways heavily back and forth,
A shovelful of earth.

The bear has eaten the world.
His eyes are full of sorrowful stars
Typed like whited-out asterisks.

The bear pours out his voice,
Black licorice poured on roaring waters.
It echoes in the earth and air.

Reading in Eden

The books are more like trees.
Tall, with letters like people bending.
You run across the pages naked,
Roll endlessly into the binding laughing
At your clumsiness, the pages like cream,
The sun warm applause on your back as you struggle.
The flat people around you stare wide-eyed as Egyptians,
Silent, your foot caught in the plot.

Evaporating Lines

The magician disappeared into his hat.
The rabbit had hopped off long ago,
But, there was his shadow.


I am ferried everywhere on the back of an ant.
A leaf, an aphid.


I am disappearing like a silk scarf pulled through
     a ring.
A small hole, an ear.


Disappear with me, the best is yet to be.
Quoth Browning, quoth God.


I ride in upon a magnificent wave of birth, raving
    and foamy.
When I retreat back to death, I leave behind
A salt grit, a stink.

A Hard Wind

A hard wind is bending 
The wintry world.
Tree after skeletal tree 
Seems tentative
That had been solid 
As wainscoting before.
Walls holding in, 
Windows looking out.

Blue corners of the sky 
Are being torn.
The straight line of the horizon 
Weeps like eyes 
Bowing downward 
At their sad corners.
Sad world.  
And no tissue big enough.


Life is shit
They all said.
But, they didn’t
Really mean it.

Life is suffering
The wise man said.
But, he
Didn’t really mean that.

Life is… is… is...
Unavoidable!  one blurted.
And they 
All laughed at that.

The Reader

Politely, devoutly, 
With head bent down, the reader 
Asks permission of the text:
May I see what my imagination
Has already cooked up?
Can I smell the key lime pie, 
Lick the great comedian’s face?

Loyally, I wanted to kill Issac, too, 
But I stayed my hand.
Isn’t that right, little book?  
Didn’t I chase a white whale 
And feel the harpoon’s spur?
I kissed with Eve, 
And I hissed with the snake.

The pages fell over me 
Like wings, like ashes.

Pages spangled 
With ant-like letters.
Walrus words thundered 
Into the sea 
After the good fight,

Their white tusks 
Hidden underwater, 
Their eyes mysterious,
Human as a mermaid’s.

Riding Fido

The last time around I was a flea for sure.
Dodging the dog’s teeth, the dirty claws of his foot.
Mounting the spine of an eyelash to make love
Or see the endless dogscape.  How the world moved
With the slow gait of an elephant, tilting
Precipitously as a great sailing ship in a storm.
Such vistas of grass and sky and dingy living room furniture!
The dog was splendid, a saber-toothed bear in battle
Who slept all afternoon after a meal.
Speaking of which, there was always plenty to eat,
You bet, steaks of skin and gobbets of blood to spare.
Pull up a chair.  Hair of the dog and all that.

Words Without Music

Whenever I think 
Things are going too great,
That the total amount of joy 
Is adding up 
To one fantastic finale, 
One oceanic applause line,

I stop eating for a fews days.

Just to remind myself 
How things really are, 
Or usually are,
Or are often enough, 
Or were once,
Just to remember those things

That come to mind as your stomach shrinks.

Like carrying a goldfish 
Home in a bag with a leak.
The fish flips 
Harder and harder 
In a smaller and smaller 
Corner of the plastic bag

As its gills get bigger and bigger.

Under the transparency,
Red and agitated
As a cut under a fingernail,
You feel them
Desperate against your palm,
Golden under your thumb.

God’s Hooks

Who could’ve put the stars up to it?  
Shining up there like God’s hooks.

Bait for what fish?  A soul in a gown?

Only our satellites have gotten so far.
Tossed burning from the Earth 
In a dash of hope, like poetry.

They send back pictures of vastness.
Same as the view from here: vastness.

Who knows?  Maybe we’re already hooked, 
Already being reeled in.  Our invisible line to God 
Already tightening, already shortening.

Eventually, even the satellites we sent blink off,
Drawn out of black water and eaten raw.

How to Be Invisible

Look like yourself.
Find the average wavelength of conversation
And neither exceed it nor cut it short.
When strangers approach you assume
That they are looking at something 
Over your shoulder.
You’ll almost always be right.

Try to go around feeling
Like you’ve just stolen an apple,
Or a dozen, your sweater pockets bulging.
Carry on with an anonymous air of savior faire
Pasted on your face
As you exit the supermarket.

Getting married can be very effective.
You’ll be talked to half as often,
And couples are twice as hard to see in a crowd.
Soon, you’ll be like a cloud no one remembers,
A misty uninsistent thing.  After a few years, 
She won’t even know you’re there.
But, trust me, save it for a last resort.

And don’t ever, ever call the police.
They’ll just take your fingerprints
In ten little puddles of ink,
And you’ll have to start 
Filing them off daily.

One last piece of free advice
To feel invisible as fishing line, as sky,
As all those assumptions you make.
Don’t buy a dog.  Seriously,
Whatever else you do.

Dogs never let you forget
That you are loved.  Loved utterly.



I keep trying to think of it.

I only get as far as thirsty.

Consider a Stone

It’s already too late.  Whatever lava
Roared like a furnace in the Permian period
And made it a stone, has been stopped cold.
A stone is a stasis.  Chipped littler and littler
By gossipy neighbors nipping at its reputation.
Locked in grey skin and quiet, there’s endless time
For regrets—like after getting married or arrested.
I’d say it’s a frozen tear, but that’s too lachrymose.
In your hand, there’s weight enough for murder.
When you put one up to your ear, you realize
At your feet everywhere roil fossilized bubbles,
Drowning men crying for help. 


Remember that movie Hellraiser?
All those pins pounded in his skin?
An army of darts.  

When something creepy happens
We get those same
Pins, prickles of intuition.
Hackles raised as if we were
Reverting to wolves.  

There’s a parable I know about that,
But I’m too tired to tell it—
Trying to get back to sheep, I mean sleep,
Turning over and over again
As if basting in an oven.

And all those pins digging in
Right where the wings
Are starting from my shoulders.


Step right in, ladies and gentlemen--
Gilded and ribbed, there’s
A cage for every occasion.
One for being born
Nubile and pink, soft cordons
Confused in the wet umbilical.
A cage for work, oh yes,
All varieties, from rust
To resolute platinum.
A cage for marriage
Red with love, red with strife.
Rattle them, my inmates!
Make sad music with your cup!
Sway when the master walks with you
Down the streetlamped way.
A cage for every occasion,
And a cage for happiness, too,
Fit as a shoe and able to dance
A whirligig jig or two.
One last cage, a bonus cage,
A cage of stars for your soul
Where the mind peters out
In the dark, far, far before
Its ragged hands reach the bars.


A spoon lays down 
Like a droplet,
Or buries its head in the soup 
Like a ostrich.

In the mouth, it’s like 
An extra tongue
For a dollop of ice cream.

Confined all together,
They clang in the drawer.
A folded xylophone,
A music of muffled intent.

Turned over, a flock
Of silver peahens arrive,
All of them pecking
For a beakful of feed.


How can I be alone in my house
If I’m not alone in my soul?

Folded together from memories
A house imitates a home:

The buried dog’s outstretched skeleton,
The cozy oven, Christmas omelettes.

In the empty street the houses
Blow about like paper lanterns.

The windows wisely lock me in.
The trees keep count against the panes.

My mind’s not right, when so much night
Pours ink upon my sins.

Voices vanish, yet whispers stir—
A fly that lands upon the skin.

Time keeps to the clock.
I was, but now am not.

Wiping My Lips

The seamstress is feeding
Bat wings into the sewing machine,
Doves’ wings, pecking
My stitched initials.

The finished handkerchiefs
Flutter at my neck,
Crouch in my lap,
Kiss me after dinner, a peck.

Once I got this set of six,
Mixed, semi-transparent,
Just clouded enough to keep
Me embroidered.


Come to me, little blue button.
Stop up my gaping smile.
Be held and whole.
Serve our warm closure,
Sure as a handshake.
Let’s survive another loveless day
Together, hugging.

Electric Fan

A whispery fan 
My exposed skin
With coolness.

Its brushes rush
Over me
As dog wags.

I can’t quite
Make out
Whatever it keeps 

Its blowdart
Has missed and
The propellant breath
Is delightful.

Whatever it’s saying
I’m sure that
Eventually I’ll 
Agree completely.

White Threads

A needle traveling
In the dark is not
More mysterious
Than I—

Seeking its splinter 
Of light, it’s gap
In the night
From which

It can emerge
With its
Terrifying face

A needle is less 
Than a question.
It pricks,

But it doesn't 
Gnaw.  There’s 
A politeness in needles
I hadn't considered,

Pulling their surgical 
White threads
Again and again 
Through my skin.


Once I saw a man make a pyramid of chairs.
A dozen, perhaps.  Gangly, ungainly cane chairs
Threaded together somehow, linked leg to leg,
A strange assemblage Duchamp would’ve painted,
And hoisted in one elegant lift to his chin!

Our hands applauded in a burst of gunfire.

He continued to stand like that for some time.
Arms out, eyes fixed on the swaying chair bottoms
Which made a sound like trees in winter.
They twirled like a chandelier hung over his nose,
A little smile spreading under his mustache.

The Far Side

The windows are falling.
They are pieces of sky falling.  Or pieces of air.
At first glance, a window seems like a kite stuck
    in a tree,
Something simple, a thin pane of clarity trembling—
There to help us feel the tug of flying.
That’s what windows are, in essence, 
This sense of something falling that keeps on falling.

We fall through windows with our eyes,
Arriving at the far side of walls, in open space.

Words have windows in them, too, vowels and ladders,
Invisible squares we fall through to an otherness.
We sit reading in an attic with Anne Frank
Or a tree suddenly grows in our Brooklyn.
Our parents faces change when we look at them,
And we are no longer who we were before.
We have fallen through this invisible thing.

TV Remote

It’s a Rosetta Stone by design, a solution stone,
A Stonehenge with the eld symbols still visible 
On its tall, crooked tooth.
Combine them at will and light appears
Square and docile before you, a rag quilt
Pulled blurrily over the entire room, a cloak
Of fire
That gives a ghostliness to the life
You inhabit.

The Rosetta Stone in your lap
When held before you like a wand
Will help you to make sense of the ghosts
Thrown like sheets all about the room,
Your life now softened by their omnipresent glow.
It will help.  You will find it helpful.

Two Supplicants

Shoes take the first step.
They come to us like petitioners,
Their tongues turned out for a drop
Of holy water, the impish benediction
Of a toe.

They wait below the waterline of our attention
To embrace
The calm presence of an arch,
The elastic pressure of a ball,
The flat command of the heel.

After a while, years maybe,
Having given their soles to our direction,
We peel them off like grapeskins and 
Examine their pulpy interiors dark as clotted grottoes,
Rank as dead fish.

And then we discard them
Without noticing even once
How perfectly, like supplicants, they have taken
Our image inside themselves, the weight of our identities
Shaping them and breaking them at last.

The Washing Machine

Its face is a Charybdis 
Full of soiled underthings.
We come to it as to a confessional,
Shed our daily skins like dirty snakes
And pour ourselves in for punishment
To leave with a watery burden.

Refreshed, we drag the burden
Out and pin it on the line to dry.
The human figures dance, though the sky is grey.
Soon the sun looking down makes us
Ashamed, and we pull our old sins back on,
Clean-smelling, one leg at a time.


The name of the thing is Thing.
But it’s really a hand in a box
That shuts itself in with a lid.
Sometimes it pops out of another box
Or shuts another lid, after helping
To hold a nail or straighten a tie.
Thing’s shadow-puppets are dramatic and informative,
A kind of one-handed hula.  Today,
Thing loops a lariat, or is it
A noose, and leaves it neatly coiled
On the old-fashioned table for later use.
Now, what am I to make of that?
Thing dances a little, gives a firm OK.

The Beginning of Spiders

Not, certainly, a splat of teriyaki on the tile
Which then wriggles and walks away.

Not that shadowed corner of dark crinkles
You ignore at the edges of your eyes.

Nor spider veins that invade the body, spikes
Of blue midnight, cracks of live lightning!

None of these is how spiders started,
Those inveterate inhabitants of nightmare.

Spiders, with their crowd of eyes like pustules 
Of blackberries, began just the way you did.

Just the way Socrates got started all those millenia
Ago: by cell division: wheels within wheels.

Like Socrates, spiders may be given poison
To drink.  Unlike Socrates, they’ll bite you first.

Green Apples

Sweet isn’t the word I’d use—
A parrafin, a first bite of sour gum
That never gets chewy perhaps.
Juice like a fourteen year old’s kiss, syrupy, thin
Waterfalls down your chin as you laugh
And go in for another green bite.

Thoughts are green like this apple.
Timeless, bright, with a circle of brown seeds hidden
In all that sour whiteness.

When my stomach is full as a fist,
I reach back into the packing crate
And start whipping them against the side
Of the Eden Orchards barn.

Shadow Puppets

All night spent practicing
The flop of rabbit ears,
They grey trunk of an elephant,
The giddy-up of a horse.

Later, there’s the legs
Of two lovers dancing on the wall,
Getting the narrow feet to leap
And land just right.

Around 4 a.m the lamp
Tilts a bit drunkenly.
Or is it the yellow moon
Leaning in on the fun?

Last thing I do
Before dawn takes the wall
Is work on the little, square
Eye of a crocodile.


Alone as a dot
In a snow-filled meadow
Your pencil tip 
Sheds black feathers
Like an old crow.

The sheet is ice
Or desert,
Void or supernova.
It doesn’t say which
And you don’t ask.

You slide down whiteness
Holding hands
And stop on tiptoe
To acknowledge 
The endless cliff.


Difficult Clasp

It is when you were absent,
Visiting your mother, or missing,
That night most advanced
Its absence.

But it was when night was gone
And you were here again, that
You, wearing your hat or not,
Were most absent. 

Solving for X

Lab tables of fireproof resin
Kept partners paired
In their experimental setup,
X and Y chromosomes gleaming.

The Bunsen burner’s flame
Like a needle between them,
And a walnut crucible balanced
On young tongs.

It was delicate, wasn’t it,
The way her curl
Was drawn like smoke
To the blue fire?

My fingers still sting
Where I patted her out,
Leaving a small scar
Visible behind her ear.


Long ago she stopped asking about you.
Stopped making inquiries into your welfare.
Or wondering what you were doing right then
As she puréed the skinned tomatoes from the garden
And poured another tall afternoon Bloody Mary,
Falling asleep in her trashy novel on the chaise lounge
Where you’d made love to her with careful athleticism 
Letting the little wheels help ribbon the rhythm,
Her face turned aside for an imperative sidebar with God
All while you’re cursing and grinning like a demon
To the cool applause of the pool.

Dinner Engagement

My tongue loops over my tongue 
Slipping into a slippery knot
As she shifts out of her dingy peacoat
And sits down to dinner with
Me again.

Her hazel eyes are to die for
But I resist their deadly insistence,
Cooling my heels and blowing my soup
While daintily she slurps her minestrone
Like a lizard.

Finally we’re alone on the roof
Holding hands with the moon—
Hot as two dinner rolls, making out,
Buttering, unbuttoning her tight top,
Tying the knot.


Gussied up, the broom
Wags its golden wig
Over the debris, the dust, the days
That have fallen to the floor.

I like to think of it as a romance.
The broom, beautiful and slender
Picking up after her drunken husband,
The lout in dirty work boots

And no time to talk.
But, years ago he would sing Johnny Mercer tunes
So beautifully to her in the car.
Like I say, I’m a romantic.

Cherry Lozenges

Here she comes again
Handing me another
Cherry lozenge because
My throat’s stuck coughing
Like a motorcycle choke.

She comes back a bit later
With spoon after spoon
Of blown-on broth, and a
Palm on my teakettle forehead
Like cool water.

Whatever patience is
It has a face like hers,
Bending over a car wreck
Like a tree bending over a river, 
In its leafy hands a wrapper

And a cherry lozenge.

Editor’s Note

How, if it happens all the time,
Can it count as being a surprise?
This moonlight 
Alive in dark rhododendrons,

This tension in a whisper,
If it’s you whispering in my ear?

Third Attempt

Ducking, dodging 
The swipe at my puss 
Like a pro I land 
A kiss like a fly
Six-legged, delicate 
On your apple cheek.


One by One

The senses arrive
With daylight,
Like birds 
Lining up to sing
On a wire.

They take the small 
Seeds of dawn
Into their alert beaks
And break them

While the pale shells
Pile fluff
Between the claws.

Too-Early Morning

Sunlight makes everything grow up.
Yet still the night comes, is coming again
Even though it is barely past pink dawn
And the friendly mirror is waiting for me
To comb my unruly hair like a good boy.

The cereal is waiting there in its white box,
The patient milk in its red carton.  Spoon, bowl,
In their dark drawer and closed cupboard wait
Like springs in a clock. Tick and wait, tick and wait
For the morning the owner winds down, and rust

Covers the clock.


Between the stabs of rain,
I remain.

Vernal Equinox

The first cigarette of the morning drifting
In through the open window.  Ah, Spring!

Life Forms

A few disheveled 
Bits of scenery.

A bus that drives by
In the mid-distance.

The little girl’s bicycle waiting
For her return from school.

Every day this neighborhood
Becomes a moonscape.

I’m the only alien left
Typing on my magic box:

The man in the moon
Made of shadows and craters.

The sundial ticks,
My nose grows longer.

The Bite of Memory

Bite your fingernails.
Bite the clouds,
If you’re up for it.

You could spend hours practicing
Biting smiles in faces,
Spitting out the seeds of teeth.

Your mouth will empty itself
A bucket done with fetching.

Look, in one day you’re old,
Maybe even a little lonely.
You will be bitten back.

The River Forever

Watching the snaky surface of the river forever,
Dim in the river valleys, light on the river crests,
I ask myself: “Is the river moving downstream, or is it
I who am moving down rivering time forever?” 

The river only hisses, shows me snakes of sunlight
That writhe in a pile like spilled lines of mercury,
Seemingly going nowhere, the striving river flowing so.
I—who?—watching the snaky surface of the river forever.


   Hurry home, dark cloud.
   ~~ Charles Simic

Just Like Heaven

That little corner in my dream
Where the buildings are made of Legos:
A pretense of an apartment, a town, a country.
Little brick dogs sniffed other brick dogs.

People shook hands like constructing a friendship.
The clouds were a heavy, discolored white, drifting...
Large rudderless cruise ships or giant squarish sheep.
My best friend was there, his face a grey diagram.

He had died some years before, but here he was.
The clocks moved their crooked, blocky arms.
It was always the same day, again and again.
It was my favorite place.

Loitering After the Funeral

Misfortune scrawled her phone number on my hand,
Curled my fingers shut slowly, my hand in hers,
And whispered: Call me.

Bad luck follows me like toilet paper sticks to your shoe.
You never know that it’s there, trailing whitely,
But everyone sniggers as you go by.

Sadness isn’t so horrible if sad things are happening.
There’s a congruence to it, not some hangman laughing
At the radio as he pulls into work.

Tragedy, frankly, is more than I can lay claim to for myself.
Even on my bleakest, blackest days, I’m not tragic.
Rained out, sure.  But tragedy is art.

This isn’t art.  Wheedling a cop out of a ticket on the way
To the funeral home, shoes clubbed with mud
     and crying
Because your friend or mother has died.

Dead Feathers

Children circled around to look inside the wheelbarrow
At the dead owl, its eyelids blue like Grandmom’s,
The dead feathers speckled, not yet full of fleas leaving.
There’s a solemness in the little ears like marked pages
Never to be returned to, never to be read again. 

The claws are amazing, longer than a lady’s red fingernails,
Tines still sharp at the end of their forks.  

Tommy looks under one eyelid, bravely touching it;
The great eye seems alive between his fingers,
The head just about to swivel 180 asking “Whoo, whoo?”
That’s when Steve backs off toward the woods, 

From his back pocket there dangle
The two rubber arms of his slingshot.

So That

 for my Dad

I don’t remember what he called himself.
Lank as a construction crane,
He passed through town like a hook through a fish,
And taking the town with him so that
I’m missing him terribly at an empty table.

The four corners are the four corners of a map
That’s all Sahara, blank as a sandbox.
He’s nowhere now, the back of a Möbius strip.
The toys have run off to play with the neighbors,
The child who smiled here has died.

I feel this answerless vastness, not even an echo,
Like spending all day counting graves,
Walking to where two iron fences meet
And turning back through graves again, through
A few trees, a wind like a scratchy record.

Long After

Long after you are dead
—Yes, you are dead—
As your head lies in a bridal veil
Of galaxies, and your feet 
Have rotted through your shoes,
And everyone you knew is written off 
And has written you off,

You will begin to find
A way back, a secret hole
That leads to your old self,
No matter how far you have gone
No matter how dead you are,
Like waking up still drunk
To the acrid smell of coffee.

Spare Parts

   One passed in a fever.
   One was burned in a mine.
   One was killed in a brawl.
   ~~Edgar Lee Masters

It came with less surprise, less and less,
With each iteration plucking
Eyes out of those wayward dolls.

Now they are lined up naked
Blind and dead,
These waxy cadavers of the field.

Time had been as broad as daylight, 
Fiery as wine.
They ran around the house like secondhands.

Now, no houses will be built in this field
Except little stones ones leaning on crutches,
Grooved with names

Evening fingers touch and pluck.

The Quotidian

Morning Routine

Cut a slip of door
Open to find the light
Spill like a lampshade
Into day.

The sun’s an old man
With his beard on fire.
Quick, before it goes out,
See everything.

The Statistic

A chalk stick figure 
Written on the blackboard
Jumps off to sit beside you 
On the train to Long Island.

You worry he’ll rub off 
On your suit sleeve.
But you ride out together, 
Eventually leaning back,

Crossing your legs in sync.  
You two are much alike
You decide, whistling tentatively 
As the scenery passes.

The chalk figure 
Picks up the melody easily, 
Its lips 
A perfect circle, 

And you harmonize until 
He rises at the next stop 
To hop off, his slim center bend
Leaving a white dot on the seat.

Winter Waltz

Winter picks its way carefully
Over the rolling summer meadow,
A big fat ball of snow
On stilts.

If you stand under the winter 
You get rained on, 
Cold and salubrious 
As a fever bath.

If you follow the winter
All summer and into the fall,
Tracing its tipsy steps
Blue shadow by blue shadow

You’ll wind up back 
In the meadow, only this time 
Everything’s sheeted white
Like a corpse.

Wrap yourself up in the sheets
And start rolling!
Don’t forget to grab the stilts
On your way out.

Blood Light

Small reddening lines creep under the curtain,
Cracks in a delicate shell.
Dawn is welling like a cut, a blood light
To walk dogs by, piss quietly beside the sea
Before the dark tide of tourists unpack.

I follow the dog as I follow my body outside
As we go beyond the scalloped alcove of curtains.

For now, the rocks are still sublime, green outlines
Like pensive bottle shards huddled close
And the sea fitful between them.
White spray lifts in bliss, in blessing
As the small moment passes. The dog tugs my leash.

Dim Air

God must be at home in this muddle.
Dim air heavy, a hot muggy wig
As Suzanne says, her blond hair
Limp and damp, a slap of yellow paint.
Dots of sweat fit for a goblet 
Pinprick her fatal forehead,
Clear and lickable as champagne 
Poured down in glimmering lines.
My beer is blind and wet with sweat.
Insects were born for this hot, humid glue
That has me losing my dry binding
Until I fall apart soft and crumbled 
In your hands again, Suzanne,
Neither God nor insect.

Night and Day and the Poet

The painter looks up at night’s enormous suave.
The singer listening to the choir of stars is calm.
The poet is unhappy in the sweaty bed.
He counts the fleas in summer’s threadbare fleece
Groaning on arthritic knees.

By day, the painter packs a lunch, details the regatta
Like a thousand flags blazing all at once in the sun.
The singer is trilling and making her tea.
The poet waits for the mail, but it’s always late.
The box sticks out its silver tongue,

Eloquent beyond his labored sonnet
Lying misspelled in the cluttered grass.
As they trot back down the drive,
The dog looks up at him with hope 
But is always disappointed.

A hundred birds erupt from the bushes as they pass,
    singing mightily.
Shut up! the poet screams at nature and himself
And goes in to lie down on the threadbare bed.
I know, the poet decides finally, sweatily,
I’ll just write down whatever the birds were saying.

The Optimism of Opening a Window

What’s out there,
I find myself asking
Like irregular clockwork.

I’m stuck in this
Air-conditioned stasis
Listening to flies.

Such know-it-alls!
Cruising the fruit bowl
Or praying on the television.

And then I spot a thumbprint 
Of sun on the windowpane.
Let’s touch it!

A moment of pain,
An almost sizzling gold
Mixed with Bhuddhist orange.

Pure Arithmetic

Thousands of invisible mice
Are pulling the shadow of the barn
Eastward as the sun drops West.

Millions of unfindable doves 
Race upward with matchsticks in their beaks
To light the wicks of stars.

Billions of underwater sleepers
Lie swimming in their beds
To arrive at island dreams.


The children have been playing 
Their endless games
Of hide-and-seek, 
Waterslide, hop-the-sprinkler

Like so many flowers 
Uprooting themselves 
From the field
And running around 

Screaming in endless joy
Under a sky 
Scuffed with clouds
Or endless blue

Over a yard called home, 
With father and mother 
Endlessly tall

Cleaning up the icky barbecue,
Packing up fork 
And plate and 
Enormous soda bottles

As sunset sets 
And everything goes slightly
And the children at last

Are called in by their 
Roundelay of names
For the endless walk back 
To the house and to bed.

Usual Procedure

The songs of birds are for other birds, mostly.
So I figure that laws are for lawyers to obey, mostly,
And taxes for accountants to pay, etc. etc.

Leaves seem so at home in trees, why do they depart?
Clouds move from place to place so peacefully, then
A zipper of thunder, and they pour themselves away.

Are the birds lamenting the leaves’ hasty departure?
Are the clouds paying their taxes all-at-once?
Lawyers stamp around on the damp ground,
     looking satisfied.


Walking Later On

Countless pebbles 
In the darkening road 
Look perfect
As statues’ eyes—  
Blind white,
Round as clocks.

As we walk together 
The late afternoon 
Closes them shut,
And evening leaks 
Upward like rust 
On an empty shed.

The pebbles chuckle 
Like hens, even though 
They are just eggs.
Leaning here, we find 
Time for silence 
Despite ourselves.

The country sky 
Opens, unfolding 
Its somber umbrella
As we continue 
In the small rain 
Of pebbles falling.

Getting Lit

Over the summer tavern with its rocking chairs
A cheap electric string tenses in the wind
And then relaxes back into a lighted smile.
The clear globes have one filament of brain each
Like a jellyfish, flashing dimly yellow
Above dim patrons dipping into beers:
A row of bar birds, like those ones you see
With little tophats and thin beaks of glass.

Drinks are emptied, and laughter shoulders
Pamela high enough to nab some bulbs
And pitch them against the swinging tavern sign
With the plosive softness of puff mushrooms
While glitter gathers beneath it in the dirt.
A stray dog whines and circles excitedly.
Above them darkness recedes, who knows how far?
The moon seems close enough to unscrew.

In Praise of Moon Rocks

All the grasses like green minutehands
Are keeping westerly.
They stop when the frost arrests them
At quarter to midnight.

I want to feel the grass barefoot.
I step outside
Through moonflower wings of faintest gauze
And sliding glass—

Or through flies’ wings, and the frozen buzzing
Of metal grinding backwards,
I think when my feet crackle the miniature shivs
And a shiver undoes my back.

I proceed to the old garden patch
Guarded by stones.
When I pick one up and inspect it closely,
Dense as a brain in my palm,

I’m holding a moon rock.


The 6 a.m. train coming on is a lion’s roar
With a mane of carbon sparks.
We ride inside an electric eel
And read the illegible graffiti of frogmen.

Cold tunnels appear and swallow our longings,
Holding us in echo after echo.
When the station platform arrives like a diving board
We rewind onto it

Graceful as exclamation points!
We swim off to work.


The teacher erases the blackboard so carefully!
So carefully, so completely.
The equation that explained time and motion,
The history of East Texas—gone!

What’s left is this presence from behind the stars.
A black potentiality, a malice
Demanding never to be marred again,
Chalked, degraded, colored-in.

The first letter, an I, lands like a feather
From a passing tern.
Soon the whole silent universe is crusted over
    with feathers:
Crabbed letters, a line of hunchbacks, rockettes.

At the end of the day the teacher
Exhausted with explaining everything once again
Removes all evidence of herself
And goes home, wherever that is.


Everything was peaceful at first.
The wheelbarrows brought in the whiteness
Silently overnight—and everything looking clean 
Like a napkin before the soup course.

Little by little during the day, the edges
Get a bit soggy, or a corner tears open
Revealing the black, dank eye
Of a log in the woodpile.

More and more of the napkin
Gets dirtied by passing cars, by lipstick, by soup.
Random dark spots appear on the x-ray
And start connecting like cancer.

Soon, all that’s left of whiteness
Is a grimace or a grin here or there—
A stray piece of spaghetti
Stuck in your teeth.

The final photograph in the series shows everything
Exactly as it was before the snow
Began to fall all over itself.
But now, everything’s miserable, cold and wet.

Stealing Kisses

Winters I talk to the mendicant fly on the wall
Of metaphysics, starry-rayed emanations,
The sunlight falling filtered and pale.

Each spring I grow a new leg, or two legs,
Just for dancing, for running
Up to new lips to steal a kiss.

In the fall the leaves do all the talking.
I practice being a beetle, opening and closing
The valves of my coat.

In summer—have I said what I do in summer?
In summer I drink wine
And let my beard catch my meditations.


Whether the knife falls into the melon or the melon onto the knife, the melon suffers.
~~African proverb

Conjuring a Yawn

Before the world turned
Into a computer screen,
I watched leaves play
In the scuffed yard.

Each leaf was a little country
On a map, an outline,
Or a man standing up
Like a shadow,

Arms and legs wide.
Sometimes at sunset
The man, the country
Would flare up on fire,

Burning incandescent red
(A sacrifice, an emblem)
Before rejoining
The dark conversation.

Once, a wind came.
The whole sea was burning.

Hitler’s Gardener

Ah, here they are now,
Fresh from their decapitation.
For your vase,
For your buttonhole,
To bring out the blue in your eyes.

Day After Tomorrow

The police artist is drawing my face
In charcoal, line by line, in grim brimstone
For a stranger, one who attended the ill-
Attended impromptu poetry reading
Under a chilly streetlight flickering
Where we used the forbidden words 
With facile ease as in the old days:
She is as in a field a silken tent.
Genders, pronouns, she, he and all that.
The stranger hadn’t seen much, though, 
Just a zee zaying zomething, a blur 
Like a face wearing a beard or sprouting one,
Two feet, or maybe one was fake, the stranger 
Hesitated to say: other-abled, some color
Or other.  Yes, yes, I think zee was a shade.

Watching Rain

Watching rain gathering in a street gutter
As it picks up twigs and leaves along the way,
Little by little, on a growing gush of silver,
The hurrying water twists like a wet
Towel as it swans down the drain...
As it goes cavorting down the black grate
Like oil returning to the dinosaurs, bearing as it does
A red ant rowing a broken stick to oblivion, looking
For all the world like Christopher Columbus.

Picture from Life

The newspaper unfolds like a bird
Flapping, squawking, almost extinct,
Its chicken scratch of facts
Passive as mirrors passing
On the side of the glassworks van
Developing pics of sidewalk life
In their instant emulsions.
A slouchy kid, a happy couple strolling.
An armed guard with his rifle
Tipping the lids of garbage cans.

Good News

It always feels like you have to go too far back
To find any good news to report.
Men all across Germany shaving their Adolph mustaches
Just before the Allies roll into Berlin.
The breadlines getting shorter as the war machine
    cranks up.
Chamberlain’s “peace in our time,” the pages flapping
As he descends the long gangway of the cruise ship.
The war before that ending, the one to end all wars.
Then there was the invention of canned foods,
But that made the Civil War drag on, I think.
Or was that Napoleon driving a bayonet through Europe?
In any case, the French Monarchy was toppled at last,
And there was a moment of holiday in Paris
Before the guillotine was trotted out for L’Terror....
At least the king’s old chief of secret police kept his job
After the revolution.  That’s something.

The Way of the Dodo

Without fuss, friendly, meaty, flightless,
They make their dim-bulb way
To the sailor’s tin dinner plate.  They talk 
Among themselves of evening things,
How pearly grey a rainy skein of sky is,
How docile the nest with its beloved egg!
So many good eons gone by scratching
Among roots for adorable grubs, edible
Bugs—scratch-scratch, whistle, coo and cackle—
As among them long white legs angle, and night
Comes, ever so gently, swinging its club.

Story Time

The story where the boy set sail for the South Seas
In an overturned hat.

Or the one about the old woman who lived in a shoe,
Her children tightening the laces.

That one where all the animals stood around talking
After killing the farmer.

How about the Chinese protester and the tank?
The flea who ran away to the circus?

Reminds me of the story where the mad composer
Conducted a beautiful sunset.

Or the story where the surgery was a complete success
But you died anyway.

That story.  And the one after that.

Sleep Perhaps

A Man Asleep Under His Hat

for Charles Simic

Everything’s normal at first.
The trees are just trees,
His dog is not a wolf,
The wife is not an electric chair.

So slowly it is unnoticeable 
The flowered wallpaper
Becomes a waterfall
Of beautiful roses.

Then, a waterfall of thorns,
Then blood,
Blood with teeth 
Salted in,

Hands trying to swim,
Butchered feet drowning.
The smell is atrocious
And abiding as an abattoir.

The wolf wakes up
And starts chewing on everything in sight,
The wife clicks on
And her voice is 10,000 volts.

The hat shifts 
In the sunlight,
A hungry fly 
Lands on his nose.

Nagging Question

The last feathers fall like slow licks of snow,
The pillow exploded uselessly between your hands
And what looks to be a chicken carcass
Is piled in an inscrutable white mound
Headless between your bare feet.

What the hell had you been doing in your dream?
The blue pajama stripes lead nowhere, the feathers
Curled up like questionmarks everywhere else.
You lie back down carefully, no pillow now.
There’s only one place for you to find your answer.


Sleep unfolds a staircase from its magic bag.
I walk into its countryside in the ceiling,
Elbowing clouds awkwardly away.
My head pops out of an especially fluffy one,
Impertinent, pale, as if on a pole.
This is where I’ll unpack my suitcase
And set up shop for the holidays.

I lay back on the couchy cloud’s flying carpet,
White plush like a plucked sheep,
And look up where the observatory roof splits open
Abruptly, serenely
Into a perfect square of stars—
As if the night sky were lifted there just for me,
For my dark and my dreams.


if the night is long remember your unimportance
    ~~ W. S. Merwin

Four walls of tissue paper
And the stars behind;
Eye in my bed, a stone,
Alone and blind.

Days come like forkfuls of food
I’m forced to eat;
Night shines a moment, red wine
Acid when I drink.

Night opens a little door at the foot
Of my bed.
I follow its black thread
Spooling in my chest.

Dreams come like forkfuls of cloud
I’m forced to eat;
Dreams of doors and stars
And shining thread.

A Student of Insomnia

The table walks 
Like a pterodactyl 
In my dreams,

Steps its highheel 
Spikes on one nipple
Then the other—

Until I stop it 
Cold by dumping 
Granite study books

From my backpack 
On its sweptback wings.

These earliest vertebrates 
With the power 
Of flight,

I read.  I read 
About their voices 
Of torn aluminum,

Their extinction, 
The dissecting table, 
The surgical table,

The butcher’s block, 
The map table
War rooms use, 

With battle units
Pawed like pawns
Around the globe 

By rapier 
Croupier sticks.
The kitchen table’s 

Give an indolent 

Mom’s tropical plant 
To a green beak.

I panic, 
Double down on elbows
And eye the clock.

The Doorknob

The doorknob keeps saying ‘turn me.’
Then when I get outside, I look back
At the other doorknob saying ‘turn me,’
And I am tethered by my mind

Night folds me in its leathern wings,
And I fold myself in my nest.
From my bed I often hear a voice,
The doorknob’s plaintive squeak saying
‘Turn me.’

And my mind goes there, I am neither 
Outside nor inside, myself nor
Someone else, sleeper nor dream.
I turn all night in my bed,
A doorknob.

Pantsless Naps

Only two more words.
Two more,
And I can swing myself 
Off the hook.

After all this banter,
This panting—
The pantsless naps and
Apelike perspicacity:

Carving poems in a boulder 
With a toothpick,
Blowing hundreds of clouds
Into the perfect

Shapeless shape.
One, two,
Then sleep:

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