Cannibal Affections and other works by Richard Collins

Richard Collins is director of Zen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Alexandria (ZUUFA) and Chairman of the Department of Arts, English and Humanities at Louisiana State University at Alexandria. He is the author of Foolscape (Perival), Degradation (New Sins), and John Fante: A Literary Portrait (Guernica Editions).


Cannibal Affectations

I have adopted a Panama hat
like a sophisticated cannibal
dandified in missionary spats
dressed in white skins with ragged meat
still clinging to my fur.

I wear it at my typewriter,
inky ribbons for a hatband,
its snaked brim raked at an angle
to cast an aesthetic elephant
shadow over my work.

This costume is designed to reassure
the unsuspecting reader whom
I would rather seduce with texture
than reduce to tears or some image of myself
in creepy conjecture.

You can say I strike a pose
mock-elegant and foppish, or justly
that my sense of fashion's old and musty.
L'habit ne fait le moine I answer
pointing to my clothes,

and hope you get my sense of humor,
more humid sound than sense. A dark and twisted
gnarled root, devoid of moral purpose,
my wit, you notice, is a kind of tumor,
my moral sense, décor.

Trophies dangle from my belt.
Like any wandering Goth I treasure
my weapons as my art (vice versa).
Each pelt a clue to all I've felt
and all I've ceased to feel.

I pretend to be oblivious to danger,
it's true, and continue to harm myself,
if not others. Crushed by the shadow
that follow me, I compose my adagio
agony as comic memoir.



Zazen Poems III

13 April 2005

Don't talk to me about Zen bananas
-"Zenning it"-Jesus, Joshua, jumping
bodhisattvas/Jehosavats (same thing)-
adjectival abuse bruises all fruit, verily, of iniquity-
though mind be pliant, still,
I've taken a break from poetry
even though we have much to peal.

13 April 2005

Fear is a wave
not good-bye but clinging by a palm
Barbie crucified in paradise

Fall comes so quick
when you're having fun
if only you'd known

Hakuin said, if you fear death, Kids,
Get it over with! Go with it!
Die now! Drown!

No, better bliss because this
is all there is: no master story,
only versions

No perfect ending, sorry.
Only the dragon
kiss of the tsunami.

27 August 2005

It's three a.m. and just the beginning…
Here's to all the optimistic insomniacs
planning their futures, here and now!
These several hours are filled
with Karma that won't quit-
All sorts of complications
that are just … unspeakable
literally unspeakable, and so I won't.
I know it's all just cause and effect
But heck, how much better it is to be
the effect of someone else's shit-
           Hi Mom, Hi Dad!
           I thought you might like to be
           included in this poem,
           since everything else is--
           Without you, nothing--
            Without me, nothing else--
than the cause of all this shit. So,
here's an honorable mention
to all that's dishonorable and unmentionable.
The mistakes of every generation
generating the mistakes of every other generation
world without end, amen.


Cautionary Song
                                    for My Daughter Isabel on her Birthday

Isadora Duncan was a dancing fool;
She danced underwater in the swimming pool.
She drove a Bugatti with a long silk scarf
Till it caught in a wheel and her head popped off!


Mea Culpa
                                        for Leigh

I have been guilty of waiting
for inspiration. We all have

inspiration at our fingertips,
our beck and call or the tips

of our forked tongues. I have been
guilty of trafficking in clichés

of taking the easy way into
your heart, of resting on my bay leaves.

I have been guilty of relying on
the submerged Greek myth, unsubtle

reminder that we are not alone
in the universe, new, nor original.

That even Atlantis is only
an Echo rising for a kiss.

I have been guilty of mixing
metaphors for a quick payoff

while professing to be above the free
market of rhetorical investment and eternal returns.

I have been guilty, forgive me,
of pretending that what really counts

is poetry instead of people, words
instead of heart, ideas instead of your eyes.


Death Sketch

My father's head dry as a cicada
clings to the starched pillow
his parched lips and pinched nostrils
percussive with pulse and whistle
why why why not why why
cling to life why grasp why not
fall away drop off decay

The chalk bones of Blake's death mask
while beautiful have nothing
to whisper to me now--no stink of death
no reek of regret since the poet's death is just
a sanitary kiss through a handkerchief
compared to a father's fall

O when soaring fathers wane
idle sons weep wax

I pick up a pencil and begin to draw
self-portraits of us all in you
begone      begloried      in gore begat
waiting in the corridor we
empty into desiccate day
my feeble etch-a-sketch dad--
wrinkled lizard neck
rasping breath
whiskered cactus
toothless maw.


The Caveat Onus ::: Thirty-Eight Caliber Warning Shot

the sky of january is not blue
           it's that premonition of a february bruise
and I feel like all my ruling planets
           damned virgins and dame archers all
have turned against me
           their storm surge breasts
so I'm painting myself out of the picture
           still clinging to the frame that holds us
to include anything that doesn't include
           a levee like the great walmart of china
hurting myself or anyone else
           who gets in the way of my morning profite roles
it's like that moment when everything starts
           without a cup of coffee beans
following you around like a baboon of despair
           his kaleidoscope sphincter a peephole of regrets
O Maelstrom of Maelstroms & Abominations
           Bless us Ignatius Repititious
you've transformed the city of new orleans
           as new orleans once transformed us upon a time
into a busted-face emotion no one can explain
           to the beat-up lovelies lingering at the bar
and like the watermelons of st. bernard
           breaching their demon seeds in the night
it's hard trying to pretend the waters never came
           to bless us with destruction

Collaboration by Richard Collins w/ Dave Brinks 4.i.06