31 May 2006

Cross County Shopping Center

these entities, bareshouldered, move
as if in a dream, sleep in their eyes
as sunlight lashes down, searing over
their flesh, the air hangs heavy

mixed, as it is, with the smog and
smoke and wretched detrius of the
burning away of fuel in those
hundreds of cars beetling around

the center, your hospital and cross
long ago a memory, Woolworth's
too, and those lovely scents (french fries,
cosmetics, dimestore cologne, chocolate)

and William Tell long ago shot his last neon
arrow as sister counted out nails-- 2, 3,
4 - and totted up the final cost-
the cost indeed

with Wannamaker's and Gimbel's passed
out of time, time, we're left with
power tools and torches, baby clothes
and sneakers, ill-made garments,

Rosalie, you wouldn't believe it Rosalie

papered windows, waiting for this
promised rebirth, this renaissance,
for this 'center of your universe'
hemmed in by the highways, beige bands of cement

and still they move, implacable
slow-moving, heavy-legged, up the
hill to the Red Coach, drawn,
drawn always, to this center, always and

always, forever and a day, waiting
for Santa, bags slapping against their calves

Talk Radio

ruby circle gleams in the night, the
single cyclops eye: staring through
the black
as the train man rides his hobbyhorse
and again
---fourth night now on the same topic

oh, the bellicose, the bleaters, the
callers checklist their catchphrases,
careful not to omit one

oh, the poppers of pills, or those too
refined for words, playing their
tinkling melodies, the aural
wallpaper to make bacon and eggs to

oh, the screamers, the ruddy rudefaced
bellowing men--where would we be
without them--and their catty
counterparts--that one had her meow-mix
this morning

how finely tuned, the tenor of
their voices, to play upon the
ears of the audience, the listening
herds, falling asleep to the
world of the otherworldly, the
ghost voices that cry out, trapped
between this rock and a better place,
wandering souls

24 May 2006


and I am waiting for an answer
and we are waiting for an answer
all we mothers, legion though we
may be invisible to each other

give me a ticket out of Holland--I
hate it here--and I will rend
the very heavens apart if I do not
get my answer

from the fine-suited, the glib, the
workers of numbers injecting toxins into
the flesh of my flesh, my inviolate,
my lovely one

who has stripped off again and smears
his s... upon the walls, another
dirty protest--but wait til you
see ours

I hope your legs quiver behind the
pipe and drape, your mouth too dry for words,
incomprehensible, squeaking mice held in
line by the various alphabet soups

who hand out the money

what price my son's life?
what price indeed?

and we are waiting for an answer,
and our mouths will not be stopped,
and we will cry out until we have
an answer
an apology
anything except the
prettied spin of the
machine (ka-ching!!)
who delivered us to this place


janjaweed in suits they were
roiling the tongues within their heads, tissues
drenched with pure poisons,

vitriol, those who would skin the very flesh
of a family, to tan it under the hot sun, on the sidewalk
after the elapsing of twenty days

to pack up their meagre belongings, the
spit-stained cloth, papers bundled
with twine,

poisoners of well water with their
inky lies, the sneers of their faces, complacent-fat,
tubs of butter in two-large suits and gator shoes,
turning the very milk in the cow sour

slink back, you creatures, into your
saracen tents, your bland brick buildings--
you shan't stain your blades today

18 May 2006

Fordham Road

perched there, on the curb facing Alexander's,
as the clots of traffic streak past, shiny
hard shells, metallic, too bright swerve,
erratic, he is as still as a bird before
flight, dressed for the tropics in
summer whites, waiting to cross Fordham
Road, but, standing so he seems
angel-like, a clean-ness above the
smudged colors of the Concourse, that palette
of blood-crimsons, warm browns, tar-sticky black
riddled with glass, jewel-sparkling
---and see him take flight, unfurling
white wings to soar across the road, to
come to rest square on the top off the "A"
of Alexander's, cool whites still sharp and
clean, hat at a jaunty angle as he
smooths his wings down, surveying the
terrain, cement caverns, the grand
boulevard stretching too, the red-white-
and blue recruiter, the movie house and
synagogue, the Chinese restaurant with the
red and gold tasseled lanterns beckoning,
beckoning with their promise of foreign mysteries,
the house of the blind, too, and the house
of the poet close by the crumbling grandstand,
splintered benches, carnival colors splashed
here, there, deliberate thumbprints--he sees
all, you see, and, grabbing his hat, braces
his wings for the next big upsurge: the
voyage to heaven takes more than several
station stops and changes, and he, most
obviously, was wise to this


the glaze is cracked into a hundred
pieces, veinlike brown, channels, spidery
lines rivermarks across the pottery
brown like earth
each mark a break, marking time,
the passing of the sun each day
into night, weird script in which
we can read nothing, yet still we
see the delicate strokes

once part of a matched set--now
a stray, all alone, on top of
the heap, pale color among the
brights, silently surveying the
other wrecks, the non-degradable
sherds of modern prosperity, plastic-
loud, inpenetrable, is an orange
barstool stuck into the earth at an
angle, four feet shiny tines pushing
down, taking root, the vinyl crown of
leafy torn petals yet unfurled,

grass grows around the edges--green ring,
verdant mossy, bold in the face of
all this black waste, chipped pottery the
smirking teeth exposed, grinning earth


water, fish, bread, wine,
and life
the stones I shout through
are spittle-smoothed--
waves cannot drown me out now,
chanting out again--
water, fish, bread, wine,
and life

water for washing, to run through
my fingers, muddying it with
dyes and soapscum, residue of
velvety suds, frothful, cascading
water of life with all the
unicellular creatures whose names
I have forgotten, water of life,
struck from desert rocks now worn
to sand

the fish, scaly swimmers, their neat
gills dragging in oxygen, shimmer,
flashbright under water, there,
fluidly moving upstream to
leap and fall
to other sides, to placid pools,
spawn in the dark wet,
clouds humming with life,
saltpearls to smash upon toast

soft belly of bread, dusted-over
with flour-talc powdery smoothness--
punch it down
and again
punch it down
tear through the sticky center,
feel the heft weighing against
your wrists
nestled in a blue bowl,
set it to rise, and rise again
(if the yeast has done the work:
tempermental yellow germ)
cover it with clingfilm plastic,
cosset it with tea towel
brown it, bake it,
serve it with cool tiles of
butter, knife-softened,
spread like soft cement, knife-trowelled
back and forth

liquid-red, rosy-hot, throat-warming--
sloshed in the gold bowl held
by slender stem
bloodred, trickling down, a
complement to bread-white flesh,
courses through the veins,

water of life,
water into the wine of
all life
ruby hotness, jewel drops to warm
the hearts of all men,
washing them clean
with the heat of it,
antiseptic washing away
the residue of ashes-in-the-mouth:
a sad condition

all life: the water, fish, bread and
how well they complement each other
each part a part of a whole
never apart, the
swirling, tri-partite whole
revolving, an inpenetrable mass
for all our eternities

16 May 2006

Aphra Behn

he--was a ball of wax, this
man, this Willum
shiny, rosen-cheeked, an
Important Person from that
establishment of higher
education in New Jersey
across the river: miles away

sitting, purring Southerner, reading over
soon to be greenbacked comments on
medieval texts--yet in page proof--
marked with hasty hand

eyes like grey beads--his--she
wanted to have them on
a string, that pure, that
grey color, free them
from that rosy wax, that
drawling soft-purr voice

but she turned back, to
process the copyrights of the latest
green tome, arrange for the
royalties to be paid

his striped shirt quivered
when he huffed,
diminutive bumblebee-man
fat tyrant

he took quiet-tiny steps--when he
leaned close she could taste the
sugar on his breath

his briefcase, burnished shiny,
had an animal look to it--
she wanted to scratch it, leave long
nailmarks, bare her talons, her
small talents, her injuring fingers

Yes, (on the telephone) yes, I
have sent you your author's
copies, they're in the mail,
now, good-bye, Mrs.
Greenbaum (your history of
Shakespearean humor was not
as amusing as I'd hoped)
you should
be receiving them soon

her contract--10% on copies
1-1999, 15% on copies 2000 to
infinity, the cover design to be done by
her brother-in-law, the
New Yorker cartoonist

how soon before we are

the praying-mantis wife of the
president stalked the halls--
--would she gobble our heroine--no, she
was too big a mouthful, too
stubborn to be devoured

Mrs. Gordon's wedgewood eyes were on
stalks--carefully dyslexic when it came to
royalty statements--her hair scraped
back effortlessly--yet--how her
clothes hung on her,
those scraps raised to elegance,
her body: thin, bone fine,
white bread slightly browned

and the head woman, the top
editor who kept snakes in her
office, her pale porcine

--and would he go to Choate, or
Milton, as his father had,
was the question she overheard

as she searched for the
Behn file--did it drop
behind the cabinet, careen
into some crevice--
perhaps it was sucked
out the window, and
like hundreds of leaves,
squared flowers, snowflakes,
exploded over Madison Avenue,
shattered white

bone hardened,
no sir, we cannot do
a history of frogs, and
for this, sincerely, the
editorial assistant,
sincerely makes her regrets,
most sincerely


these are the people made of silk and wool-
joints strung with spun-fine floss,
pinkwhite sinews, flesh fatty on the
bone, beef to the heel

and carmined lips flash, a bloody
gash, talking, talking, talking---
will she never stop---she does--
corking her mouth with gold-tipped cigarette

as smoke spirals her eyes rove, here
to there, the minutes of intermission
ticking past on her thickjewelled wrist,
two acts have passed, the pages of

the program already creased and bent,
she lounges, catlike, on a chair,
imbibing the lights, swallowing them
whole, goldglobes insubstantial food

the man, meanwhile, paces, nervous
anticipatory steps, eyes fixed glaze-
gaze on the door, waiting for the
grand entrance of another

who speaks her part in stops and
starts, nonetheless, her language
soothes him, her vowels and
consonants morphine to his veins,

she soothes him--and so he waits,
pacing, apace, caged by the smooth
bannisters, the tricky carpets that
trip one, urban pitfalls for our
urbane pratfalls--oh, catch me before I
fall, let me drink from you, parasitic,
give me your words so that I can
chew them to soft pulp for the lining
of my nest

the bells ring--the play ends--and
starts again, the man lingers,
longing for what will not come, the
woman rises and glides, shimmering
fabric, so durable and fine


In how many guises flesh is formed:
in every age some lean, some
corpulent, bone frames tall or
short to carry it all

so many folds--and fat--or
the tight-taut stretching over of
skin after it is knife cut

so many slopes-and points-and
paunches and wrinkles, irregularities
woven over with silvery-snail
stretchmarks, striations, the map of a life
written in flesh


the marigolds make a mad border-
orangebrown petals spiral round
and shine up at the sun

hemming in the rank weeds, the
green overgrowth studded with
slategrey stones, mossy backed,

velvet patchwork, accidental colors

tempered by time, climate, and

crumbled leaves choke the thick-toothed
grate, the asphalt creeps close,
the blisters of tar pebbled with
gravel-edges, a coastline of blue slate
edged into earth
surrounded by the green-green-
green ever growing taller to the sky

13 May 2006

Eamonn Doran's

dance for a new year--across the
carpet smooth-stroked by the
whitecoated cleaners--their
calm faces so contrast
these two in the mad dance
wild, hand to hand, as a
new year barrels in

brushing against a table
shrouded in linen, gleaming
cutlery silver-bright knife slashes,
empty glasses bellshapes billow
above their slim stems, brittle chime as they break

mirror catches sight of the greenglass,
brokenedged hungry teeth aching for
a taste of blood, marvelous tool,
so handy to hold, crack-smashed
against the brass lip of the bar

see them dance--see their eyes
flash bright in anger

(as an aside
see the eyes in the photos on
the wall, those framed by
dull polished brass, smooth dark woods,
surrounded by sepia tone,
all the old men, the grey men, so sure
in their years, their words mouthed
over until no more than meaningless prayers
ave, ave, ave, save us from ourselves--
see too, the semi-legendary of sport, the
colors placed next-to-next, codes to
read to understand old rivalries,
sport as war subdued: it blares
from the box, video fresh,
weekly new)

hand to hand now
cheek to cheek now
as glass grinds now
by the eye now

butcher hand twists and carves,
feral, foul handiwork this,
his heart still bleeds black
in exile--no stitches can
save--or staunch--that fetid mass
fleshy fat, yet empty

The Wheels on the Bus

yellow comes through green
on the four wheels that
bring him home to me--
my wise child
my brown-eyed boy
pulling away from me
a kite
a wild satellite of
an even stronger moon

careening around the room--
catch me mother, catch me,
hold me, no, don't hold

your touch does not soothe--
it is as sandpaper--
but she holds him, and
holds him, chewing on
the meat of her heart in
her mouth, bloody raw, stinking
it chokes her, it chokes her

Burning Daylight

burning daylight--see here--touch
the match to the edge of the
day wobbling from the bowl-
gelatin-smooth, it is still
malleable, transparent, tasteless,
waiting for our imprint to be
pressed into it, the flavors
and spicings so hard thought
of the night before
to do, to do--what to do, what
to do indeed

the edges smoke up, thin,
wispy white, ghosts of
all those wanted things fast
hurrying away--oh life, ah
love, the script disappearing
as it appears--it curls and
curves and sneers, too, twisting
back to taunt--see here--I am
no more--I evaporate to air

and you will remain, and will
remain, for a space and
then again for yet another space,
fingers singed with the
matches, matchless, used to
burn time, oh so casually,
with a flip of the

always hungry for more--
daylight is so--insubstantial--
now here, now there, we
try to make a meal, secure
some flesh to sear, shore up our
reserves for the night-ness
of the days to come--as
they will, stern soldiers staring
down their noses--another and
another, marching, marching on

as daylight burns whitehot, burning
our thin tissues of memory folded
safe away, the blueprints inked
too soon, patient pages sighing,
no more, no more, no more

11 May 2006


the light flutters, flickering
against the fourwalled glass enclosure
blue, blue, frantic like mothwings
beating, trembling terrible heart

shuddering to nothing, black blankness,
the loss of illumination shrouding
the grass blades in dark, the
cool dark

breathing upon your neck, whispering,
oh yes, you, wending its way,
weaving itself through your hair,
the splayed fingers on your side,

tapping fingers--oh yes, you, the
light flutters, frantic beating
itself out, the damp dark
beating it out, the cool cloth

of the night air stripping away
bloodwarmth, hot breath,
the residue of sweat, clean air,
the night air, scouring away until

a second moon faces me, pale-mugged,
bone dry, a whitened hulk

07 May 2006


and Wednesday is collection day--
black bags bulge, larval,
ready to burst, crammed full

of unwanted things--the lost
lines, the disappointments, the
dishes come undone in the

crucial moment when custard
turns to scrambled egg (so much
for that trifle, layered with
yellow cake and raspberry jam)

lost lines, lost letters, cello wrap,
clingfilm plastic, remnants of
meals, scarred sticks of furniture,
our old utensils, sad garments,
odds and endments, flotsom snared
in nets of plastic, waiting for

the Wednesday-men to rumble by,
snatching at these things--once
so lovely, so bright, so new