Although what glitters
on the trees,
row after perfect row,
of the world,
the chips on the bark of each
catching the light, the sum
of these delays
is the beautiful, the human
body of flaws.
would give anything
to step again onto
into the avenue of mottled shadows,
broken skins. The dead
in their sheer
open parenthesis, what they
for something to lean on
give way. I think I
for the moral nature
of this world,
for right and wrong like pools
and light you can step in
and out of
crossing this yellow beech forest,
one autumn afternoon, late
in the twentieth
century, in hollow light,
in gaseous light… .
To receive the light
and return it
and stand in rows, anonymous,
is a sweet secret
even the air wishes
it could unlock.
See how it pokes at them
in little hooks,
the blue air, the yellow trees.
Why be afraid?
They say when Klimt
a painting, still
was found in his studio,
a woman’s body
open at its point of
rendered in graphic,
between her legs. Slowly,
he had begun to paint
garment (his trademark)
over this mouth
of her body. The mouth
of her face
is genteel, bored, feigning a need
for sleep. The fabric
defines the surface,
so we are drawn to it,
and yellows glittering
like a stand
of beech trees late
in Germany, in fall.
It is called
Buchenwald, it is
the finished painting
has something to do
This is not morning. There is a nastiness
slowing your shoes, something you shouldn’t step in.
It’s shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit—
such stupid beauty,
beauty you can stick a manicured finger
into and through, beauty that doesn’t rely
on any sentence the sun chants, it’s whiskey
swelter blown scarlet.
Call this something else. Last night it had a name,
a name wedged between an organ’s teeth, a name
pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word.
Wail it, regardless,
Weak light, bleakly triumphant, will unveil scabs,
snippets of filth music, cars on collapsed veins.
The whole of gray doubt slithers on solemn skin.
Call her New Orleans.
Each day she wavers, not knowing how long she
can stomach the introduction of needles,
the brash, boozed warbling of bums with neon crowns,
She tries on her voice, which sounds like cigarettes,
pubic sweat, brown spittle lining a sax bell
the broken heel on a drag queen’s scarlet slings.
Your kind of singing.
Weirdly in love, you rhumba her edges, drink
fuming concoctions, lick your lukewarm breakfast
directly from her crust. Go on, admit it.
You are addicted
to her brick hips, the thick swerve she elicits,
the way she kisses you, her lies wide open.
She prefers alleys, crevices, basement floors.
Hell, let her woo you.
This kind of romance dims the worth of soldiers,
bends and breaks the back, sips manna from muscle,
tells you Leave your life. Pack your little suitcase,
flee what is rigid
and duly prescribed. Let her touch that raw space
between cock and calm, the place that scripts such jazz.
Let her pen letters addressed to your asking.
New Orleans’s, p-please. Don’t. Blue is the color
stunning your tongue. At least the city pretends
to remember to be listening.
She grins with glint tooth,
wiping your mind blind of the wife, the children,
the numb ritual of job and garden plot.
Gently, she leads you out into the darkness
and makes you drink rain.
When they told us Don’t speak until spoken to, we grew
ears the size of corn.
When they forced us to eat everything we swallowed
their hurt whole.
When they hit us for drawing on the wall we painted
doors that opened behind curtains.
For generations they lived like this. Wanting badly to
save us—not knowing how.
& all the while we found love in unlikely places: In
the ravaged church of our bodies & our faces,
refracted in their long faces.
My mind is abuzz
causing a fire in my gut
like a large gulp of whiskey
and my heart to skip beats
like a drunk drummer.
The things I want
but cannot have
and you change like
of a springtime New England.
How you want to be good
and want to be bad
on starched white sheets,
a palette for your needs.
I have slipped,
fell off that ledge
to the deep ocean
whose tides you control
and I need you to set
me safe on the shore,
to find me in the sand
tired aching for you
each word written
and sea glass.
by Dan Labrecque
Above is the poem that didn’t make the cut at Poetry. Then again, I was trying for the big leagues.
he’s almost 80 and they went to
visit him the other
day. he was sitting in his chair
with a burlap rug over his
and when they walked in
the first thing he said was
“Don’t touch my cock!”
he had a gallon jug of
zinfandel in his
refrigerator, had just gotten off
5 days of
a new $600 piano was in the center of
he’d bought it for his
he’s always phoning for me to come over
but when I do
he’s very dull. he agrees with
everything I say and
then he goes to
Solid State Marty.
when I’m not there
he does everything:
sets fire to the couch
pisses on his belly
sings the National Anthem.
he gets call girls over and
squirts them with
seltzer water, he
rips the telephone wire out
of the wall
but before he does
he beats dogs
he tells stories about
how he was a
a friend of Ernie’s
a friend of Picasso
but when I come over
he goes to sleep
upright in his chair
grey hair rumbling down over
dumb hawk face
his son starts talking
and then it’s time
by Charles Bukowski, from Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed a Bit (1979)
ignore all possible concepts and possibilities—-
ignore Beethoven, the spider, the damnation of Faust—-
just make it, babe, make it:
a house a car a belly full of beans
pay your taxes
and if you can’t fuck
make money but don’t work too
hard—-make somebody else pay to
don’t smoke too much but drink enough to
stay off the streets
wipe your ass real good
use a lot of toilet paper
it’s bad manners to let people know you shit or
could smell like it
if you weren’t
by Charles Bukowski, from Mockingbird Wish Me Luck (1972)
I do not love you as if you were a rose made of salt or topaz
or an arrow of carnations spreading fire:
I love you the way certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you like the plant that never blooms,
but conceals within itself the light of those flowers;
and, thanks to your love, the darkness of my body
houses the suffocating aroma that arose from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, when, or where from;
I love you straightforwardly, with neither problems nor pride:
I love you thus, not knowing how to love you otherwise
than this way whereby neither ‘you’ nor ‘I’ exist…
so close that your hand on my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes grow heavy when I tire.
by Pablo Neruda
I lie here thinking of you:—
the stain of love
is upon the world!
Yellow, yellow, yellow
it eats into the leaves,
smears with saffron
the horned branches that lean
against a smooth purple sky!
There is no light
only a honey-thick stain
that drips from leaf to leaf
and limb to limb
spoiling the colors
of the whole world—
you far off there under
the wine-red selvage of the west!
by William Carlos Williams, 1916
We bought great ornamental oranges,
Mexican cookies, a fragrant yellow tea.
Browsed the bookstores. You
asked mildly, “Bob, who is Ugo Betti?”
A bearded bird-like man
(he looked like a Russian priest
with imperial bearing
and a black ransacked raincoat)
turned to us, cleared
his cultural throat, and
told us both interminably
who Ugo Betti was. The slow
filtering of sun through windows
glazed to gold the silky hair
along your arms. Dusk was
a huge weird phosphorescent beast
dying slowly out across the bay.
Our house waited and our books,
the skinny little soldiers on the shelves.
After dinner I read one anyway.
You chanted, “Ugo Betti has no bones,”
and when I said, “The limits of my language
are the limits of my world,” you laughed.
We spoke all night in tongues,
in fingertips, in teeth.
by Robert Hass from Field Guide (1973)
“In another life,”
I felt winter
howling around my car
waiting to bite
as I drove away
in the wrong direction
from my heart.
by Dan Labrecque
it feels good
to be driven about in a red
by a woman better-
read than I
it feels good
to be driven about in a red
by a woman who can explain
it feels good
to be driven about in a red
by a woman who buys
things for my refrigerator
cherries, plums, lettuce, celery,
green onions, brown onions,
eggs, muffins, long
chilis, brown sugar,
Italian seasoning, oregano, white
wine vinegar, pompeian olive oil
I like being driven about
in a red porsche
while I smoke cigarettes in
I’m lucky. I’ve always been
even when I was starving to death
the bands were playing for
but the red porsche is very nice
and she is
I’ve learned to feel good when
I feel good.
it’s better to be driven around in a
than to own
one. the luck of the fool is
by Charles Bukowski from Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed a Bit (1979)
I believed in nothing, so I thought
no system of smoke and desire
got in the way of what I saw.
There was the other world
if only it could be seen,
slag heaps and golden valleys,
crime and celibacy—-
visible companions—-if, say,
your politics could braid them,
and there were all the gods
in the darkness of our needs.
That was when I realized
that to believe in nothing
is a belief too, and not much fun
either, and acceptance
of the world as it is is as dumb
as standing still when floodwaters rise.
Fortunately in the midst of it all
you came along with your singular beauty,
the truth of things for a while
tactile and unequivocal.
But often when you left the room
a few questions replaced you.
When you returned, they remained.
Is it possible to be in love
and wise at the same time?
In love, I might be so intuitively right
I’d be banned from a republic. In love
I might believe any foolish thing I felt.
Over time, questions formed curlicues
in your hair. They became part of what
I thought when I thought about you.
So good, then, when you stayed in the room,
giving them flesh, making them real.
by Stephen Dunn from The Insistence of Beauty