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tearing the rag off the bush again
Four Poems PDF E-mail

Bright shining fame.

Shall I cast my pearls, you said
wicked ellipses sharpened the malice
cause no one got it.
teenage (swine) eager and bored
twining legs over laps arms around shoulders
eyes more interested in breasts and necks
than your india-ink xeroxes of smudged hellenic glory
the excesses of caligula and nero
a man of the lyre, not fiddle, you were sure to add
inevitable that you would stray there,
seamy encounters in bathhouses
bodies draped over divans like slender wet noodles

It was a battle of filthy minds --
ours cleanly vulgar, frankly sexy
yours refined to super-sensory lust of the most exquisite kind
but always tempered by a conservative streak so that you hated girls in tight shirts
short skirts, combat boots and frank hallway necking,
walked by straightly and narrowly with hunched walk and thrust-out jaw to cast a pall
but inside your domain the jokes were wickedly, brilliantly perverse
so tortured and risqué that we felt dirty just listening to them
gallows literary humor, adult and little boy all at once
moby _____ you wrote, and i could almost hear the adolescent guffawing in your brain
but he was in an old man’s skin

We thought you mad
to slander PDA and rattle off peloponnesian particulars in a frenzy
as if you realized you had ten more minutes to drum into us an appreciation of history and then meet
your own fiery gate
some would say you deserved to die alone. miserable in a subsidized flat, silently destitute or despairing. you may have been poor, but money did not kill you
the precious books (you told us, you racked up credit card bills half your year’s salary) stacked precariously around you
the precious grecian urns, slender and rounded as the ancient fertility goddesses
stomachs globes like earth and necks delicate columns

And I, who during the worst of your invective
imagined you deathly ill and me the only one magnanimous enough to visit
no one else would care enough to come.
(dude, he messed me up.
in the fourth circle, they still call you evil
we are co-conspirators in trauma, all of us.
your name an unspoken curse.)
and- supremely benevolent -- clasp your claw hand. the wrinkled skin, hanging off the bone from when you lost too much weight.
fat people sag, skinny people wrinkle --
what about you, a fat man become skinny
in between as always you got the worst of both
(sag. wrinkle)

We should have been thirty, forty, when you died
time to leave this village masquerading as a town, get out, escape, flee.
go to college, grad school, go abroad, fall in love many times, name our children.
you thwarted everything, fled just four years after we reached adulthood
and there was no sickbed, only the news --
quiet, understated, hell -- reserved.
no body or last words. in a life so fully verbal (never tactile) no speech.

A day later (to me) the pearls are for you.
there was in you something eerily human
beneath the quasimodo walk and lewd lisp
you were a failure, a life that gave you very little you wanted
barely a degree and very little love. academic rejection slips married to revulsion.
which did you mourn more
or was it us, the bright-eyed laissez faire seeds you thwarted, cherished, feared.
what name did it give you.


Martyrs he knows well
at fifty-two his mother
confounded everyone’s expectations
before cancer choked the voice out of her
she prayed furiously and clasped her son’s hand
to pray with her
his faith, the hot blue flame of youngness
etched and burned
pickled gall to sourness, acerbity to apathy
in a secular country, he finds the idea of dying for religion vaguely distasteful
his one piousness: his mother, he firmly asserts, she was a martyr

Because at fifty-four her voice came back
after living for years a mute figure in a white sari,
reddened eyes dotted with kajol
the disease gave her back her voice and gave her son
the proof --
and etched apathy into his hands and eyes
she died loudly
a cruel retribution for summer’s silent agonies


-- Was a dark fruit, a rotting thing
And lined by fences, hemmed in
It circled or pivots, a bull in a chase
A furious gap a temporal quip.

Mistakes, dull and heavy
Rose-pricked conscience
Heavy dull rose
--it was a bruise, purpled and ill
porphyriac ego that
ripe, pressed firm and gave like rotted wood

-- Had arms and fingers
Overreaching limbs and a grasp
What a profound close heat
Comes out of darkness
And sheds its heavy fire in dull depth.

Black crocus.

I was born with a black crocus above my head
Its leaves perpendicular
penetrative, splendidly thornish like a knuckle
intersected at the joint
perfectly straight but bony, spinish as
an anemone cross.
My bed until five
Was a solvent cradle, a billowing sea under its varnished arc
Or if night was slow, a deep swamp
that as we stepped made a sucking sound
a squelch of derision
Its night was a sign, sparse and tortuous
As a subverted swastika.
What dreams lurked under its lurid neon twists
Flashing like a mob sparkling in a shower that left more
Dry than wet,
Flashing like the crowd on the High
Whose shades, belts, gold clinks and ear pieces wear better than
Serpent scales or green and gold or meso-flags strung across
Confederate hideouts. That swarm in red in naval blue in worn white.
Baby, sleep. Lullabies are words paramount
Sweet as balm, soft as air, delirious
As a kite wheeling across the sky, shrieking craven
insults into the clouds.


The date above this
I’ve crossed it out
--might only be
swift-born and ant-sprung

The avid. Yes. The keen.
In a sea of gnats
Spread out in mud, something clean.
This madness of rhyme
Oh sentimental reversion
Rhyming verse.

Uncharted streams
Hefted in with whalebone
My own writing is illogical
A mad hieroglyph all its own
Words bubble under ink

And become something wide
Massive, monstrous. Gross
A bellicose blancmange
Blubbering thing.
Quivering, quivering in its
Coat of fat.
Jelly bubbles, beads so yellow they drop.

I am Lewis Carroll
And you are dry to the bone
Splendid, your thighs of monstrous flesh.
The hairs of your scalp
The prickle and tickle rising under
Your brittle nails.

This is pure ménage
Pure equine
You have the eyes for deception,
A trainer quipped.
They will find out, the bridle can only
Lie secret. So long.

Your lips, I bite them back
And the teeth exposed.
A thoroughbred rearing against the sun
Broken with leather, pincer and hook

It has a black crocus
And its arms a cross
Bears a slash.
No gods have ever
Deserved this name.

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