Afternoons

These portentous clouds
speed past. Light rises, falls in
waves. Your rapt pupils,
taken with shadows, dilate

and contract, the way
the breath of one who is seized
by passion quickens.


A Room Where It Always Rains

The arrangement of these immobile bronze figures
by Juan Muñoz substantiates the leap from one
perspective to another. The gaps, with rigor,
insist that where we stand is exactly the same
as the distance we stand apart. But who’s to blame?
Ideology demands a certain vigor,
a motion outside the cage that cannot enter,
the blurred colorful figures of faceless stragglers.
Now look at the dead soggy leaves lumped in center.
Some say it’s the privilege that’s lost and some the will
to come and go as you please. Sometimes, the truth spills
over, so very much so. It’s absurd to deny,
yet we do with increasingly perilous lies.


Mikipons / CC BY-SA 3.0 ES
E.mil.mil / CC BY-SA 3.0 ES

Castles

Pails and shovels and sand make
castles by the sea.
Wind ruffles follicles and —
snap — that’s memory.

At night, the tide flood
wipes it all away, as waves
swell and surge and thud.



Saturn Devouring His Son

Saturn grips the bloody torso
so tight his fingers disappear
into the flesh, up to the knuckles.
Mouth wide open, he leans forward
to bite the headless body again.
His eyes — bugged like a frog.
His hair — long and feathery.
I am more disgusted than angry
at his relentless hunger
to devour, at this madness
driven by fear that is not,
I’m sorry to say, unfamiliar.
Everything vital is a threat
to our progenitors.
Without remorse, they mutilate
perceived rivals and the earth itself,
as though any generation
could avoid its end by consuming
the next. From what infernal place
does this foolishness rise?
In private, you admit
that nothing lasts forever,
not Saturn nor the gods
who preceded and followed him.
Yet in public you pretend
the opposite, while the real artist,
Francisco de Goya,
could not and would not.

Affect

Happiness, like consommé,
comes, sometimes, in such
dizzying simplicity,
it’s impossible

to grant each spoonful
is real or enough until
one comes up empty.


The Tantalizing Temptation of $$ (or How Capitalism Corrupts)

kept a ledger / until I didn’t anymore / didn’t think it mattered / to know exactly/ what I had in store/ because every good that disappeared / eventually was restored / and then some / very sincere men / came to my door / my capital from them had come / they wanted to know / had their loan / a modest sum / over time earned them more / I couldn’t say / without an inventory / I said let me look into that / thus my attempt / to feed the hungry / was displaced / by a very suspect chore / I closed the shop / opened the cupboards / and took stock / imagine my surprise / when I discovered / the task / that I / assumed would be a bore / was quite enlightening / I examined every corner / of every shelf / took notes / and learned to keep score / soon I was rich / and so were my friends / the capitalists / whose interest in interest / I used to abhor / now I see / they were my saviors / as for the poor / they’re still welcome to anything / they can afford.


About this poem
Someone asked, “What are trying to say in this poem?” I replied, “What do you think?”

If I Had a Guaranteed Basic Income …

I would glue magnets to the back of beer bottle caps and give them away as gifts.

I would make every recipe in Gutes Essen: Good Eating in German-Russian Country, brought to by Prairie Public Broadcasting and the Tri-County Tourism Alliance.

I would perfect my broken Spanish by speaking and reading solely in Spanish for an entire year.

I would pay the fines I owe on overdue library books from three years ago.

I would check out a copy of Atlas Shrugged from the library and accidentally lose it in the dumpster.

I would fast one day a week because I’d never be hungry by accident.

I would write a series of critical essays in Spanish about Juan Muñoz.

I would write a really long patriotic poem to America titled “Now That I Have a Guaranteed Basic Income.”

I would find my audience, and my audience would find me.

I would make elaborate wind chimes out of thread and spent needles.

I would continue to give money to anyone standing on street corners asking for money.

I would hunt down every tick carrying Lyme disease and burn them all alive.

I would raise a couple Shih Tzus and a cat, but still not have children.

I would spend more time with my parents before they die.

I would walk no less than 10,000 steps a day.

I would start a blog and publish transcriptions of conversations I overhear in coffee shops.

I would sleep 10 hours a day because the full productivity of my labor cannot be realized without dreams.


About this poem
This poem is about what I would do if my life wasn’t organized by the need to make money. It’s about what life might be like if I never had to worry about paying for food, shelter, and health care.

The Broom and The Spider

When the calloused hand that grips my handle
sweeps my bristles through your fragile beauty,
the threads collapse and cling in clumps to me.
For the love of god, I feel such pity,
said the broom to the spider.

Brace yourself and wipe away the spent threads.
Symmetry provides me nourishment.
The laboring hand destroys what I invent.
It should be so. Nothing is permanent,
said the spider to the broom.


About This Poem

I started this poem in 2012 or 2013. In the early drafts, I wrote “guiding hand,” in the second stanza. I didn’t look at the poem for a long time. Now it seems obvious that “guiding hand” is too easily interpreted as “invisible hand,” which is not what I wanted to communicate.

I tried “reckless hand,” “juvenile hand,” “senseless hand,” “thoughtless hand,” and “hasty hand,” before settling on “laboring hand.”