God, I could put out
your eyes I could
put out. I could wring
my hands, my snakes.
There it is, damn its stench:
the error house.
Yes, you embarrass me,
you easy liquor.
I'm done dredging gutters
for the dumb fuzz from your thighs—
It was your clover-choked
windmills that threw me.
Anyone would understand.
Abasement is where I keep
The Facts We Prefer
As it may be generous
to donate firewood
to a heretic's burning,
so the ascetic thrashes
against the hands
that love him,
lest they settle
between his ribs
and take hold,
like sleeping hawks
whose relaxed claws
grip the perch more tightly, immobile
as the eyes and mouths
of the dead (exhausted
by surprise, as we all will be):
open, finally ready to receive.
We sew them shut
for decency's sake.
Oh, the hell with it, really.
Let the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets2
fuck themselves. Enough disjunction.
Let words, in addition to being bodies,
reveal bodies. Let the tongue,3
that arbiter of sweetness,
clot and finally fail, but let us
in the meantime presume,
if not to understand the erotic,
then at least to savor it with a syntax4
which rigorously determines meaning.5
Let's have a real old fashioned
love poem, for Chrissakes!
Let us not settle for copulative verbs.6
Let's have moonrise over the Mediterranean
and six tiny fishing boats
lighting their lamps and your head in my lap
and my hands in your hair
and you asking me please
to keep humming that old song,
because I am so good at it
and so beautiful
and such a comfort to you.
1 Italian for "Enough like this," or, in the English idiom, "Enough of this." See also "Sono qui con mio ragazzo" or "I am here with my boyfriend."
2 I mean poets who gleefully arrange text which "destroys the spontaneously functional nature of language, and leaves standing only its lexical basis" (Barthes 41). Barthes, Roland. Writing Degree Zero. Trans. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968.
3 Strictly speaking, I refer here not to the tongue entire but to the papillae on the tongue, where the tastebuds are located. (See Sherwood, Lauralee. Fundamentals of Physiology: A Human Perspective. 2nd ed. New York: West Publishing Company, 1995.)
4 By "syntax," I mean "the arrangement of words in a sentence in order to reveal the relation of each to the whole sentence and to one another." (Lunsford 980). (Lunsford, Andrea. The St. Martin's Handbook. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2003.)
5 I recommend against strategies of clausal arrangement which leave the task of constructing relationships between elements of the poem mostly to the reader. The Beowulf Poet, for example, delivers his text to his listeners/readers in what Fred C. Robinson terms an "appositive style," which requires the reader to interpret the relationships between nouns and noun clauses. (See Robinson, Fred C. Beowulf and the Appositive Style. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.) Similarly, much contemporary poetry presents itself as a series of juxtaposed clauses/images, so that the reader is asked to "write" the connective structure between these elements. For example, see Christine Hume’s Musca Domestica. (Hume, Christine. Musca Domestica. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.)
6 Strunk and White warn the writer: "Do not affect a breezy manner" (73). I hope I shall not be accused of doing so, nor of "cutting rhetorical capers" (74). (Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1979).
Ode to the Tune of Frank O'Hara
Oh phone! You are a sleek silver super-
huge bullet in the palm! Allowing me
to believe I am Clint Eastwood
when I am only calling the dentist!
But perhaps I should not squint into
the wind this way (certainly such chomping
on cigars is bad for me). It will not do
to confuse my office with a desert!
Maybe some dry weed will tumble me
to Vegas, where every long leg swings
from a lit-up brick. How short-
lived is beauty in the absence
of preservative liquids! I order seabreeze
after seabreeze from a Cleopatra
I'm not sure how to tip—how can I multiply
in the presence of false eyelashes?—and each tide
arrives in a glass I don’t know. Perfectly crimped
trouser cuffs everywhere! This current
of smooth men in smooth suits that breaks
around the polyester-shadowed slot machines
leaves sand in my shoes and that's why
I'm kicking off my knickers
to shimmy up the nearest palm tree
and from the top I'll dial until someone understands.