Saturday, January 30, 2010

common sense is not super glue

toast: if you lose my bones
after i croak           no sweat
                            my neighbor’s
name was jimmy stewart
before i knew of the actor
                            in my backyard
i told him he wasn’t the center
of the universe

yes i am he screamed
no you’re not i said
yes i am he cried

and threw dirt on me
it’s a wonderful life
of graves or jokes
for angels
i tie my ass to a tree
and walk for three days
a debt collector
in the poorest city
of a country w/ wings
made in china
a sense of balance
a sense of balance
so self reliance eats
the lie of itself
what am i worth
to what i have loved
remains a question
for the birds
to pick at
the train’s a whistle
that hurts
you can float whispers
into its phone’s heart’s
bathroom door its
locked song withstands
any attempt to smoke
it out
some aching poem
in there          sleeping
off its debts

expect large streams
of paul revere
a gaping sense of wounded
cats          the huff and puff
the house that holds a name
that gropes
i smash old crow bottles
in my kitchen
chris dances in the ruins
brandon tackles him
paper bag over my head
counting down the sidewalk
riverbottum passed out
against stoop
pass the glass says the love
to no one
it’s a wonderful life
sweep it up

Dear Tom Paine,

During the recent SEPTA strike, I had to take a cab. The driver, from India, asked me about American women. What is wrong with them, he said. Why had they spurned him. Why are the customers so mean. I wanted badly to say the reason you came to this country is the same reason the women here want nothing to do with you. Two birds with one stone. Efficiency. Common Sense. But I kept the stone in my pocket and shrugged. I tipped him two bucks on a nine-dollar ride, which I thought was reasonable, but he didn’t say bye back. We both felt indignant. Two birds, one stone. We love that stone. Love to save it up for the right birds.

My friend Brandon says the only thing he loves about New York City is that intimacy is possible through anonymity. There are so many people that sometimes a person’s gotta spill his guts, say the words, the desperately important words, allowing for a real, meaningful exchange. Something’s born, a story, say, out of and in spite of an overwhelming nothing, and the story has a chance to live on for awhile before it is washed away. This Big Nothing might make us honest, but it also cheapens the risk. Tell me about risk, Tom. Why is that important to me? Is it simply that I want a greater return on my investment? Is it just that I want more?

What can I call the distance between birth and my writing this very word, so that it’s holy? Time won’t do. Life won’t do. Gertrude Stein wrote in “Poetry and Grammar”: “As I say a noun is a name of a thing, and therefore slowly if you feel what is inside that thing you do not call it by the name by which it is known. Everybody knows that by the way they do when they are in love and a writer should always have that intensity of emotion about whatever is the object about which he writes. And therefore and I say it again more and more one does not use nouns.”

That we have to name and name and name again and again and again is a real motherfucker, Tom. But that’s how we stay young. It’s the only way. And that means you have to be a poet. There was a poet I loved very deeply who called me “love,” and I called her “love,” which is both a noun and a verb but more so a verb. Once I asked her how we had come to call each other that, and she said “because we’re lovers.” I’m one who loves. You’re one who loves. And we had come to be lovers by spilling our guts to each other again and again (and by fucking, another kind of gutspilling). So the action of naming the respective distances between our respective births and the present moments of naming, you might say, the little speeches we offered to one another, brought us closer and closer, til finally we named each other “love.”

Now this type of thing is swell, right, but what if you think of yourself as a noun rather than a verb, and someone’s calling you a word you feel strongly as a verb, such as “love”? It can be a lot of pressure to realize you’re a verb, that you’re in motion all the time, and that you are headed, ultimately, for an unknown intimacy, and you have only dead intimacies to go on, to guide you. What kills me over and over is the paradox that inside the urge to name is the urge to make permanent, and in naming we achieve the opposite, as our little speeches change us, taking us further and further toward some abyss that could be heaven or hell or anything, really. So you can’t know how much it’s worth, the intimacy. Name any price it’s totally arbitrary. Which means it is probably not something to bank on.

So what is? God is. And god is not love. I’m speechless right now, Tom, and I don’t know what I am, so I’ll stop here.

love song

i was not a depression
in the park’s heart i was

not a tree in south philly
what i was was a glass

coke bottle strung from
a power line i looked up

out of the bottle, the sky
was a dime and it

blew into me and dried
up the death and i

fell into sleep fifty feet
deep and woke up as air

w/ you: no title, nothing
had begun nothing had

ended, the world spun
so the river was patient

we hurled stones at the
water, and they skipped


for the record

sorry marcel duchamp but
you are not a household
name where most people
come from           nothing
personal              the urinal
changes my life every time
i relieve myself
a classist rolls his eyes
like stones down the steps
of the poorly attended
funeral that invented him
underground there’s no
wallet open to mouth
signals to the operator
no traffic spilling its guts
to anyone           i’d like
to say i was born in the subway
and then invented love
but that’s as readymade
as american cities are
for spoiled artists
to win honors
from the social class
that invented them
i have been told
i have a one-track mind
an ambulance insists
on going down passyunk avenue
i don't know why
its blood won’t flow faster
again and again i arrive
at the point where
the question of what god
could be crosses my desire
to eat or fuck or tell a story
and that’s where i get off
and try to figure out
where the hell i am
since place and identity
have melted into
the same glue
cecil b moore used to be
columbia ave or columbia
became cecil b moore
temple university once belonged
to the neighborhood
i was going to bother
to say i rely on public
for the record
for the record
at tasker-morris
this morning
on the platform right in my
face stopped a big dick
drawn by finger
on the fogged up window
of the subway car
i got on and rode in silence
among the other passengers
surrounded by other drawings
of dicks on windows and
advertisements w/ mustaches
and thought bubbles and
as i tried to keep from bursting
out laughing i got pretty
confident that the spirit
behind those drawings
would live forever and ever
and i would continue to believe
and believe in this world

Friday, January 15, 2010

a pair of thoughts on responsibility


To take responsibility for your life is a middle class concept. It's like wearing a neck brace to hide your scars. It means that you're taking a vow to walk the straight & narrow. The words mean more than you say, a meal ticket to instant happiness. To articulate the idea of responsibility indicates an irregular heartbeat. The label is pinned to your shirt collar, but your true identity has been erased.

--Lewis Warsh, from "Premonition"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Collaboration w/ Brandon Holmquest

Last year Brandon Holmquest and I wrote a bunch of poems together. Below are a few of them. Tomorrow night - Monday, the 11th - at 8pm, we're gonna read them and some other things at Molly's in the Italian Market. It will be a party. You're invited.

Cowboys Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Mamas

When I die I will ask who, who robbed the register. My first question will go unanswered. My second question, a refrain I hope rots the core of another prayer, the moment I learned that one could, if one wanted, laugh a priest into shame, that opened it all up . . . and then it passes. Another chapter in the Universal Bible of Human Misery. It sold thousands of copies the first year. Brilliant reviews, but almost nobody read it. You can find it in any used bookstore. $2.95. Mass-market paperback. Heavily underlined. Marginalia.

No Frontsies, No Backsies

I am Walter Mercado's tailor and my ass is made of gold. Come sniff at its horizon! At the top of the hour! At the bottom as well! Spank me with a hammer! My ass is a bell! The parishioners come a-running, clad in trash bags. The poor bastards worship the grandeur of my work. The poor bastards worship the poop on my stoop. What do I charge? What do I charge to let you scoop up my poop? I charge nothing because you may not scoop it. You may not. I will. I will use my solid gold shovel, and you will watch and, by watching, pay for it.

Does Marcellus Wallace look like a bitch?

However, we come quite to the precipice, quite the messy mess. Victorian. Where in the milk's the milky loquaciousness I bet my mother's milk on? That shit is gone. My sole inheritance this advice: Beware black rats and white mice. Beware brownstones with bay windows: traps. Carnivorous plants. Asps and asspacks full of candy. Rush on the radio huddling masses, fingers the hungers I can't let you go.


I type poet in an email and google tries to sell me poet lessons. They are taking all my letters. And they read them. Spool them round some headquarters. Parking meters, I wrote my uncle last, are a product of your generation. Parking meters, he wrote back, what are those? He wrote those words on paper. Sent them through the mail. My next letter began: Dear Uncle Luddite, okay I have thought about it and I will join your paper airplane factory under one condition: no contracts. And you can't fire me. Dear Spacebook, it is 2:50pm. I own the shirt on my back. Dear Myface, fucked til seven and I've got 1800 friends so why are my hands shaking. I should know better.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I'm reading Thurs, Jan 7th at 7:30

Come to BLEND @ BLUE BANANAS CAFE, 223 South St. on January 7th.

I'll be reading w/ Dan "the man" Schall and Jonathan Todd.
An open mic will follow. $5 cover.

Details here.