In real life we are outnumbered
by microbes and rarely think of them.
Next to me, Jack is learning a dead language
and holding an cup of lemon rinds.

At the beginning of the assignment,
he is instructed to write the phrase
I am a human. Yesterday morning
part of my cervix was cut out with a wire

and I spent the rest of the day taking pain pills,
falling asleep watching crime dramas
only to wake up and start them over again.

I don’t know why it is that I want to cry
when my mother’s friend from college
tries to speak of the unspeakable past

or when I hear someone younger
walking behind me talk disparagingly
about being forced to watch Chinatown.

Today it seems almost too sad to bear
that we can enforce anything
and teach practically nothing.

The room was filled with nurses
and they made it so I felt and saw
so little. I don’t know
if it’s good to tell stories
that are only about crisis aversion.

In Frankenstein it is only the blind man
who greets the monster with kindness.
And people die so we know
of human flaw and pride. There is not

an easy answer. We can do much more
now that we have instruments
to stop the bleeding. The doctor smiles
to tell me I’m brave and look like my mother.

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To be like Walton.
Immured in ice, unable to tell
land from sea. Perhaps the quest
for human mastery

began at the moment
in the Genesis narrative
when God divided the land from the water
.

If this is true we may even mark the place
where time and boundary
fall off. What I want is dissolution

and not the science of deciding
what order material dissolves in.
How funny “the thing in itself” is
when thought of. Look.

A lady is hiking up her skirt
for a distraction:
to entertain the guests
and ward away the impatience
while they wait for their drinks
to arrive. Say it again.

Nothing is too elevated
to bear recurrence.

if you comment on a facebook photo
of a girl holding a cat
your phone will buzz on and on

‘forever’. that word is not even finite
enough to break into

for, ever she stood
at the precipice of understanding
taxis passed hummingly in the rain

– have you ever seen
this show? –

a friend’s father asks

he is honorable
trying to overwhelm
the uncomfortable silence
in which we are sitting

what is
the everglades?

DING! that marks reconciliation

alex trebek pointing triumphantly,
smiles fiercely at the camera.
everyone looks away. yes.
there is such thing
as a stupid question.

If I can’t hold you tonight
I want to be famous on the Internet.

Crawl around searching for an ice cube
on a white tablecloth

and you will begin to understand
what it is to be a lonely fool

these days. The song on the radio goes
I can dream about you if I can’t hold you tonight

If I can’t hold you tonight
at least I can drive past the Beverly Hills sign

and think about the ocean the other day:
how it felt almost warm enough
to have gone wrong.

If I can’t face into your back
while you lie sleeping
I am making an empty threat
to become almost too ethical
of a person to bare.

I remember how still your body remained
even while it made a coarse,
allergic noise from the dust.
You sounded so far away then
even as you snorted
like a tired horse.

If I can’t hold you tonight
I want to wake up feeling like an Olsen twin.
I want to talk to my friends parents for some reason.

Though really I didn’t want much beyond understanding
which it turns out is unfair and too vague and insane
to even start to list out—

Hey, that isn’t how the song goes

Walking down Valencia. Nothing but clusters
of novelty shops, predictably vivid tacquerias. Talk 
about a loss for metaphor.

It’s a relief when all of a sudden I remember
my distaste for poetry of place. Everywhere I go
I like to lie down and watch television.
And I don’t eat much bread until late in the afternoon.

I keep thinking of one thing
from a reading I went to my last night
in Manhattan. The poet spoke in a manner
nearly laughable. By the time he reached the end
of a line, his words had slowed so greatly

it was as if a large bird had gradually lost its life.
Or a poorly tied object had been left dragging
behind a car during the recitation
and had finally succeeded and become
fully unfastened.

Nothing to be done. After having endured so much.

What he said was to the effect of
“we live in one moment but our minds want to behold
all of time.” What I mean by this is more.

I recall a night in my apartment
when it rained so hard
one was forced to speak of little else.

Though we had been apart for a time
and were determined to continue in that,
Evan came over on the train. I was so nervous
and afraid. Maybe I blamed it on the rain,
I don’t remember. So badly I wanted to say
and did say one thing.

This is one moment in time.

Afterwards I watched some trees leaning back and forth
out of soreness and grey sheets of lightning:
all out the window. Of course I cried.
It sounds tautological on paper. One moment.

I know I am going to move West soon. It isn’t
that I want that old thing back, but it would feel good
to sense the capability to preserve it. To contain it
within some vial to grasp even while moving
into something else. Time, we say,
always meaning the part that is something else.

And how it ends up that we always speak
of seeing it as a fear, because there is
nothing else to move into. So badly
I want to be able to keep that old part
of it at the same time.

I almost can believe myself when I say
I’m not trying to put it here right now.

Knowing, too, that like all of the best parts of things
it is the kind that can not be convinced to rest for long.
The kind that wants to evaporate even more
for the fact that you love it.

“Part of my message is that we’re not central to the purpose of the Cosmos. What happened to me makes us all seem very small.”

Of course he didn’t love me or any word like that, don’t be silly
Still, there was something there. Nothing too grave. Belief, maybe,
though he was bashful & concerned & did not want to talk about the sky,
enough even to mention a single sparse, cosmological being.

One of these nights. I thought, not meaning much
at first, then slowly dreaming up a story. It ends
with a recollection of the tile floor of his hotel bathroom:
so white it had almost looked pink. In the middle of it, I wake him up
and put a coffee filter on his freckled stomach.
I act like a bully: crying out “So there!” & laughing
just a little before I turn back over on my side.

There, in one of those worlds.
“You know I’m not a rich man.” Carl said when I asked
if I could kiss him. He had the look of someone
who had just removed a hat. Of course I was confused.
I was young and felt pretty. It seemed
like we were having such a good time.

Even and especially when they lay beside us,
we so rarely know what other people are thinking.

“Carl?” I leaned over. He began to cry and apologize.

Just then, I got afraid for myself again. Nothing new, only that old
tautological one: held in the body but rarely exhaled out or finished

–Before that chance came, he placed
his head in his hands, shielding out all of the light.

“I will never go to the moon.” His voice was shaky but certain,
and filled with so much despair.
I tried to shrug this, another thing, off.

If I could explain, it might begin where everything seems small and deliberate.

I took my bag from where it lay in the weeds
and stood up, to clear my head and better think of which part
of this would become the story, and what other part
would be left behind. I wonder what has happened to it, that other piece, if it even
still remains. Out there, somewhere.

Reading Goethe during an afternoon rain.

The café has started serving wine,
and turned on each set of hanging lights

while a man is cursing the mist
that always lets itself in through some
imprecision or fixture—

*

How was that?

Did it sound like any of this was happening
in Europe? Was there at all the distinct warmth
of a small and historical place?

Well. For a moment, it felt that way.

*

Seltsam is the German word
for a peculiar feeling, though it is a term far too silly
to bring much out of us
when it comes to imagining the world shifting
as you gaze upon it: the very idea that all things
could suddenly appear foreign enough
to induce disbelief or fright.

Or even to speak of the way in which discord
can induce those we once loved to become almost—
but not quite, unfamiliar. The moment it takes
to remember some element of intimacy or knowledge

when one feels like an object suspended
between two kinds of motion that can be recognized
but not reached. That silence.

*

Unable to fulfill or renounce his desires
Faust despairs: In jedem Kleide werd ich wohl die Pein
Des engen Erdelebens fühlen.
Ich bin zu alt, um nur zu spielen,
Zu jung, um ohne Wunsch zu sein.
Was kann die Welt mir wohl gewähren?

Meaning something like: In every garment,
I suppose, I’m bound to feel the misery
of earth’s constricted life.
I am too old for mere amusement
and still too young to be without desire.
What has the world to offer me?

It is this preposterous, odious burden
that is, of course, existence: almost,
but not quite enough pain to quit.

*

But perhaps it is not so bad as this.
Outside now, a homeless man stands up

and reaches out his arm. Some of its lines
are wrinkles nestled together.

Others are too strange to be anything
but illustration: dim and many,
indistinguishable from afar. Look!

He is using the Internet on his cell phone.