James Brook


Television: A Letter to Robert Duncan, with a Thought for Jess

Dear Bob,

A moon full of lies does fool you, not you, but us,
with our nodding as if in affirmation. There is no harm

in spiritual bob wire, is there? And it remains our charm
to wear the hair cut short, you agree, bobbing under starlight

in an old inner-tube, floating in fool knowledge
of the plumb line that docks the heart of what it’s owed.

The wind comes up, and the lights of the city shake
like a staggering bob at Christmas time. You tell us

to redream and go on, to say yes again, to put on
our mittens and join the pasteup of the Bobbsey Twins

pink and laughing on their sled. No doubt, and this is information,
“Nan felt greatly relieved to learn that Grace was not dead.”


Waiting Room

                      for Lawrence Ferlinghetti

I am waiting for the end of the pursuit of perfection
I am waiting for you to open your eyes
I am waiting for a large and devoted staff
I am waiting for springtime and hormonal fluctuations
I am waiting to leave late
and I am waiting to arrive early
I am waiting for your left hand
which loves candlelight
and your right hand
which loves the spotlight
I am waiting for the walk
not the talk
I am waiting for pleasures
in a hotel that I cannot afford
after a fantastic cruise to nowhere
that I cannot afford
and so I am waiting for the perfect relationship
I am waiting to frolic in the deep blue sea
off the Côte d’Azur
to experience the yachting life of Europe
I am waiting at the Las Vegas Club
I am waiting in the Bahamas
I am waiting in Beijing
where the East isn’t so red anymore
I am waiting with boundless choices
I am waiting for the dentist
and reading his full-color magazines
I am waiting for a haircut
and reading those magazines too
I am waiting for soothing décor
flawless design sublime amenities
I am waiting to be young again
without knowing what I know now
I am waiting in the lobby
I am waiting at the corner
I am waiting in the waiting room
I am waiting to cross against the light
and I am peripatetically awaiting
a rebirth of wander


Cold Water Motor Court

                      after Gary Snyder, by way of James M. Cain

No book to read but the good book.
Hair gone wild, sheets ripped to shreds.

No talent for making money
in your dusty world.

Later than you think—
old moon still bright on cable.

Don’t follow me to this motel,
bright mirror! Six-pack of Lone Star!

Don’t try and call, either!


Hermetic Poem

                      for Lew Welch, out there

It turned out to be white-man’s poverty, after all—

           shack in the woods, kerosene lantern, pot on the stove—

like going crazy in a trailer, only without a radio and no neighbor.

Not a bit like home was the beauty of it.

It was a beauty of subtraction—

           the bachelor stripped bare of his brides, even—

plus the beauty of wine in a jug and a box to sit on, perhaps, out by the tin cans.

To sit, to brood, to howl at the Mother Problem, to hate cash and have none.

Rest up, Lonesome. It turned out to be dust, with no starting over. Flicker.


Coda Wags Dog

                      for David Meltzer, who gets the picture, in homage to Beat Thing

Serried minds under shaved heads
Obedient to required reading of “Howl”
In the military academy

Beat instructor means well
Students observe the Birth of the Cool
And prepare for war