The Body Politic
the creature has
mirrors all around
erogenous zones envelope it
its largest chakra
needing constant reaffirmation that it is
It lurches toward sensation
ideal sweet comfortable
awakes to solitary numbness
The body breaks up into
8 billion interactive movies
"stars" fear death terribly
while endorsing or ignoring
a constant apparition
demands impossible ballooning financial obligation
constant hard labor at undesired tasks
leisure periods largely dominated by indirect interaction with
which it is utterly unwilling to surrender in any way
It has such a huge cubic head!
wires take its temperature
via a variety of devloping mechanisms and redundant storages
updating data accumulating for each individual and grouping
In the center a beam radiates
the one vibration
Surrounding is a
Turneresque landscape of
great clouds and storms
Incomprehensibly Huge Storms
odd colors shapes and spectra
currents of temperatures
sub-microbes and minutiae
for its very being
where it finds rest
connected to the disenfrancised of the species
deprived of choice or action
generated by its own many devices
hypnotizes the creature
unaware of the miracles
resulting in here
only a moment
subject to action
interaction and reaction
movies not over yet
an imminent threat to continuation of any of this type
wide-eyed babes notwithstanding
possibly it will become
or utterly chaotic
more likely it will explode or
some great violence will shred it into primal nothingness or less
indeed the Great Being may be
"having had enough already"
for all of it
what might have been
having no effect whatsoever
(as you went about your day)
in a countless
The Little Girl and Jack the Moon Man
The little girl was running down the street.
A white pinafore and patent leather shoes in the sunlight.
She was very much afraid.
Twisted green, she shouted, twisted green.
Jack the Moon Man sat at his piano frosted in white flour.
The restaurant chattered patriotically.
Iraq was sand and blood and oil and a ragtag God.
Who is counting the children?
Who is caring?
Jack the Moon Man had made his millions.
He told his story from the other side of the fence.
His horse farm glittered with luscious green grass.
His daughter was happy in Sausalito.
His son was happy climbing mountains in Europe.
A Vietnamese woman groomed his moustache.
I replied very angrily, almost shouting:
I pledge allegiance to the various states of growing old.
The Vietnamese woman was afraid.
She had lost her tongue during that other war.
The road to Columbia's trying to spell
us something. If
I could get to a piano I could
play it by ear
except it's bound to be humming
nothing but A to G—
also I wouldn't know how to read
the sharps and flats—
sandals, summer clothes, bare legs,
long hair braided
makes women, maybe even me
look like girls
from a distance, and there's plenty
of distance on 695 toward
that invented city if we measure it
between where we are now and
where we were
in 1965, or the distance between
and a hitchhiker with cowslips
in her hair. Look past that tank-top
girl in the Mazda,
there's the police barracks' old chain
where handcuffed bandanna girls hung
on a bracelet. You remember
I'm jealous of every one of them
that wasn't me.
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I lived in those times. For a thousand news cycles
I have been dead. Among the giant smiling
Austrians I was a girlie man. As diaphanous as Bush's
brain, as feverishly sensitive as Cheney's heart.
I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the armored cars, the windflowers, the sky,
all moving past me, achieving their balance.
I drained my glass of sludge between atrocities.
Living people, how have you coped with your luck?
Have you cleared away the old heroic city?
Do you regret the days when deaths were fungible
and traded zealously among the hooded slaves?
Manly men, think nothing of me. I am dead. Nothing
survives of my spirit or my intolerable maidenhood.
Great Pick Up Lines of the Twentieth Century
The red barn blue sky green trees and amber water spuming white over granite
as a minor league pitcher leans over a fence towards a girl with big teeth,
Your eyes are like Coca-Cola, he says.
This is an honest poem.
In 1909 Albert Kahn spent his fortune
on 72,000 autochromes lumieres, a color process
made of starch rolled onto a glass photographic plate,
convinced people would not destroy
what they could see was made of flesh.
This was followed by World War I.
World War II.
So much depends upon . . .
In 1966, Larry Burrows saw a colored man stagger
into the arms of another colored man
on a hilltop in a forest of slaughtered trees near Dong Ha,
only they were colored differently and no one was laughing
at the name of the place, the mud and blood thicker
and dismemberment better than memory
at recalling what was torn from the body
and what was given back in carefully labeled bags.
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day . . .
On February 1, 1968, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan put a bullet
in the ear of Nguyen Van Lem and Eddie Adams made it black and white.
Still, color came out of Nguyen Van Lem's brain
and entered the mind of several million Americans,
who said in survey after survey
that blood sure looks like blood
when seen on an RCA.
His master's voice.
Then today in Jerusalem, a woman leaned into the window of a car
and a katyusha rocket from the West Bank cut her in half,
the photographer angling to get not just the blood
but the body and the car flaming like a cauldron
dropped out of the sky into the forge of Hephaestus.
If you hear nothing, you had better get the fuck down.
My first camera was a Nikon, purchased
after seeing one slung around the neck of Tim Page
reclined in Vietnam like it was his sofa.
Even now, when I walk out into my backyard
I think of Vietnam, not because my backyard is a jungle—
I don't even have a backyard.
I live in New York City on East 96th St.
One grandfather was a minister,
the other, a surgeon—
a Presbyterian and a Lutheran.
So before me there was a belief in God,
and then a string of images I remember
flowing out of Vietnam like entrails
carefully unraveled from an opened body.
The Lutheran put men back together
on a hospital ship in the Pacific during World War II.
The Presbyterian spent the war in a prison camp
in Manila, Philippines, with his family.
I became a poet.
. . . a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens.
Take a plane across the country a week after a major disaster
and look for Srebernica, Mogadishu, Banda Aceh
lodged in a Motel 6 of the national consciousness
and you'll find free coffee, a clean mattress
and all the donuts you can eat before the salesmen get up.
This is my backyard.
Take a photograph. It'll last longer.
Meanwhile, a boy leans through a low hole in a wall
to look at a group of American soldiers
carefully working their way up an alley in Sadr City
no wider than he is tall—
the hole placed perfectly for an IED.
Hey baby, come here often?
Longer and longer.
Paul E. Nelson
Letter 3:05 (In Memoriam Hamed Mowhoush)
The sound of an empire dying's like a torture
field. To break his will brown-skinned in a green sleeping bag
of paramilitary CIA-sponsored claustrophobic
dreams of swarms of birds, thousands & thousands—
has this happened to you?—darkening the sky
shorn of all glee—in response to bombing practice
off the record, wrapped in an electrical cord
the idea of a soldier's older brother's torture,
corners cut off all such Geneva Convention pre-911
& laid him on the floor & began to go to work. Again.
What are the voices of dead poets doing in my head
is beauty the first prod of fear we must live our lives in?
Left nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose.
Dead 56 yr old detainee in room 6 ghosts of
poets summoned as witnesses their
voices pierce the edge of the cultural tinnitus
I breathe more shallow at the news I try to avoid.
Have we yet learned to choose joy over drama,
heard the news that stays news rustling
in the undertow of Slaughter near otters in the marshland
my Mayor navigates w/ new teeth? Are poets the only ones who cook anymore
head full of voices and ringing ears. Voices of dead poets
are competing for information overload synapse bandwidth
not resting on this August 3rd for poems, or chicken, or
terrifying news from the latest Abu Ghraib.
His moment came & went & he leaves w/ a fistful of straws,
shadow growing at 3:30AM, tearing at cuticles w/ bitter teeth
it will be the only thing that holds back his bile, his destiny
has all at once
arrived and he's lost in torture's undertow chasing fragments of his lost faith.
3:34AM - 8.3.05
w/ starter lines from George Bowering
In memory of Otto Dix
If pushing limb
through an eggshell
were easier—"Weeste noch?"
more daunting, say—
"Sehr wirklich Leben,"
daisy cutters , der
Selbstermörd (1000 lb/in²),
might've led one
to meadows, however
miniscule, of quiet.—
But looking on
long enough, "Nach
diese Platter dort."—
"Relative," he said,
"— to naught."
No voice. Stilleben.
And all is graceful.
[Note: BLU-82B, nicknamed "daisy cutter," is an extremely
lethal 15,000-pound bomb originally designed to clear ground
for helicopter landing areas.]
Graduate in 2000
Work ministry of health
Ministry of education
2 brothers arrested also
70 or more men in uniform
storm in thru open door
"My tools. I am a dentist."
Smash my younger brother's head on ground.
"Do you know man in photo?"
Only to stop them from hurting brother.
Walk with me to find man's house,
knife at my throat don't know man
Interrogate one time
Female and male both
"Release." But sent to A.G.
The Place de la République's outdoor cafe, white wine
in a glass so thin it blurs realms with the greenery,
and with a statue patina-ed bronze, its plaque too far to read,
dull-lettered, pigeon-marked, possibly a thesis on history.
Yet the student lesson for today was the bomb at Boulevard
St. Michel, and the tourist's heightened sense increased
in the evening's Semtex blast near Le Drugstore at L'Étoile.
Luxe, voluptuousness, the children of freedom have returned.
Benjamin was here in the late 1930s, jackboots down the street,
wrote to Scholem of his "estrangement from everyone he knew."
Old Paris, carnage and death, St. Denis grilled on the champs,
the slaughtered diners at Goldenbergs in the Marais. I have
eaten there too, and now the wine's tincture puckers the lips,
and then the buds of flavor burst coming through, like a life
passed from one into another's care, in the City of Light
where hope was stifled once between le mot juste and le mot juif.
I write on brick walls
and gas station bathroom stalls
because I am afraid of being forgotten.
we have always been small,
but when I stare into the face of the highways
I shrink just a little bit more,
and out comes my sharpie.
snails, vandals, slugs,
we all leave trails behind us.
some of mucus, and some of paint,
and some of "call this number for a
good time," they are all equal weapons
in the war against the extravagant volume
of this globe and its millennia,
but kids sprinkle salt and cops
catch the dreamers
and some folks are paid to
scrub away my chicken scratch
cries against the tyranny of the inevitable
I have no dead loved ones
to pour out liquor for,
but I drench one slab of concrete
with color for
each life story lost in the
finite history of our species.
I know my high school walls
will never really lose the signs
I clawed and inked into them,
I want them to never forget me,
even if my mark is faded and only
noticed by those who squint and linger
in rarely used hallways
avoiding science class.
I want them to never forget me.
I want to have changed that building
forever, as it changed me. I defaced the
walls and they defaced me and now
we both have scribbles marring our
my parents' generation marched
by the thousands trying to alter the world.
now this generation is busy making more changes,
bit by bit, adding more language,
more pigment, during each anonymous night
and during every private asphalt moment.
when you're not looking,
we own this planet.
We live in a fading country.
My wife said that.
I am not married.
My country is an ex-wife.
She has moved in with a violent man.
She lives behind curtains. Flags. Signals.
Not a ghost.
Not a ghost of a chance.
from Ghost Walks
On the Afghan Trail
He signs the air with his breath,
as if he were the author of his life,
and watches it dissipate into the cold
that he sucks in until he exhales again
and erases the mud ruts below for
a full stomach, a crisp mountain day,
quiet. He stretches out in the hot crescent
sun at the cave's mouth and closes his
eyes, dreaming of the morning wail to pray,
the aroma of onion, goat and black tea,
and the white, sticky poppy fields that
don't officially exist. He doesn't
see the flash, the puff of snow,
or hear the crack that reaches him
as the bullet sears through his chest
extruding a gossamer stylus,
hotly looping right to left on the crystal
air that sinks deeper into the snow
crusting red on his camos, sinking,
as his breath fades unpublished
and the quiet returns to the crescent.
flat on the
aimed not even
[*Title of a blog by Jonathon Trouern-Trend. A birder since age 12,
he kept this blog while serving in Iraq with the 118th Area Support
Medical Battalion in 2004-05. This text takes its references from the
entry dated March 18, 2004. http://birdingbabylon.blogspot.com/]
Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino
do not meet me, friend, at the Fort de Vincennes,
at the posts at the Fort de Vincennes
do not expect me, tonight, at the Ambassador's
where you, and your companion, are regular guests
and do not look for me at the Institute,
where celebrities and intellectuals, and good-looking officers,
toast "this wonder of Western civilization."
for that, my friend, is the smell of kerosene.
that is not the smell of coffee, but of acorns and chickpea
that is not bread, it is pain noir
that Thought Must Continue Its Mission is the Surrealists' propaganda
(his tomato is a red, white and black skull-and-crossbones
and I am joining the Zazous.
Near active volcanoes
Every day my son comes from school and announces
with his calm, measured voice: "any moment now
there is going to be a nuclear war." He follows closely
the conflicts in the east. I remember growing up
in the eye of the cold war, each waking hour spent
in the shade of threatening atoms, my dreams
an explosion of wondrous colors of what was possible,
of what was expected, the mushroom shape of my death
known from newsreels. In school we were taught to hide
under old wooden desks in search of whatever safety
they afforded. The president had a fall-out shelter built
complete with wet-bars and TVs. Like in the theatre
of the absurd, the narrative of the threat didn't matter
we were the sketchy characters of a fable
whose mysterious plot was being written
by army generals in bunkers, we were
the sacrificial lambs of incompatible creeds.
My son says, "people have always lived near active
volcanoes, at peace with the danger, arrogantly
trusting their stars" while I cringe, powerless
and fearful seeing how history unfolds under his eyes.
I have to teach him now how to hold on
to the part of his life that makes sense, that goes on,
I have to teach him to trust what he hears in the night
are only raccoons scavenging through the garden,
and on awakening we will find our backyard littered
with chestnuts and half-eaten pinecones, we will awake
to the mundane routine of morning chores—homework,
gym clothes, laundry, scattered seeds under the birdfeeders,
the sparkle dew-soaked acorns flash from the tarmac's
spidery cracks. I have to lull him to sleep with the lie
geography provides—miles and miles of oceans,
mountains and steppes between us and the war,
the meltdown radiation and heat would bring,
far from our shores, far from our seas,
but he keeps coming back from school every day,
and like a herald announces, "there will be
a nuclear war, any moment now,
between two famished countries,
over a patch of land where oxygen is sparse,
and even breathing is difficult."
the beginnings of dada
were not the beginnings
of an art
but of a disgust
so Tristan Tzara in 1922
dada came to be
the shrine of a urinal
—fountain of poverty—
signed into an art museum
a pig in an army uniform
the Prussian archangel
swimming through air
kicking its little boots, grunting
"High from the Heavens I Come"
Hugo Ball nonsense syllables
blowing up like body parts
shoulders of words hands arms legs
fleeing the Great War
in the sand
between art and pissy death
dada judo turns
newspapers, cripples, ticket stubs
into dada ads
not to disavow art, but
to shred its
to make visible the violence
of business as usual,
its chaos and hypocrisy
laughing like mad
dada was all for
out of the Great War
Janco Dada Museum
the heart of Ein Hod
is also built upon
art thrown up by war
a not so great war
Ein Hod = Ayn Hawd
a village in 1949
the Jews drove the Arabs
its haunting emptiness
evoked, then, biblical ruins—
here was a heavensent
to mystify the bounds
of art and life
dada, the art of war,
into a bubbly art movement
where, in the Dadalab,
art concocts reality—
everything is possible,
objects like a refrigerator
or a table or picture
can go through walls,
a pot becomes an animation apparatus,
the imagination spreads its wings
and soars . . .
says the museum brochure
and in truth, in this
art that's a kind of anti-art
everything is possible
the Arabs who squat on a hill
a mile or so from home
live without electricity
without water, without a road,
imagine living without wings,
and yet they do
as animation apparatuses,
like tables or pictures
that can go through walls
because the ends of dada
like its beginnings
are not the ends of an art
but of a disgust
troubling the ghosts of Ayn Hawd
whom museum walls go through
from Donatello's Version [Curbstone Press, 2007]
Glenn R. McLaughlin
A prayer drawn from Holy war
help me to understand why
when You stepped aside
emptied a space within You
for Your creation of us
the connections You left
the shimmering in air
the unexplained and mysterious
seem to be waves of understanding, substance
that escape our grasp
when standing on Your circle
we each see a different face
and then in turning
still connected by Your locus
we look past You
and beyond the opposite
ignoring ties and equal distances
help me to understand why, how
we, all here engaged, say we have listened
to Your voice, spoken at once to each
believing each is the first and only to clearly hear
could the sound have been just an echo
for all: truth broken by walls
changed by stepping away from You
for everyone on all sides