for leila

there are walls everywhere
for people who can’t help but
see them

but when they start with th—
cutting bricks or whatever—
themselves—God help us all—
those hateful fucks.

he was drunk off his ass
(this was back in 406—
everybody plastered
2 a.m.)

it’s like—
when how they say is
it really yellow?

like you see something yellow
and someone else says yeah—
Jesus Christ—
you both say it’s yellow right
but is it the same?
(looking for her face
to do something)

like the same yellow
or like blue or—yeah—

so they see these walls
and nobody else—like—
the broader society—but what if
(hands out wide)
actually it’s them
seeing the walls

and don’t know it—like
don’t recognize it?
(hand on her bare shoulder—
that was a long time

what a beautiful thing—she
said—to be able to wonder
what it must be like—and
he took her close and said
he had to sleep.

he was hardly worth her time
but so far gone—
she walked with him
into the velvet
warmth of starry april
empty jamestown road.

it had become awkward by then—
he knew even as he was
that he had failed.

the frogs
the crim dell

he said
you know i saw
a snapping turtle here

right here.
old dominion—this
place by the wall—
it still beats me why the hell—
it was a rainy night
i guess.

she said
sleep well

walking back south
thinking about the teeth
of the monster—
its regime of words and testimonies

the monster with no eyes no skin
but teeth
shining and final

they want them to become visas
so they become visas
they wanted my father to become a visa
so he married
and she gave him his license
(in its language
there is no other way to explain


if he was going to be wasted
it’s better that he didn’t

who knows what he might
have said
if he had?

swimming in the million-eyed

if someone says they’re looking at the stars
how can i know

whether they see

like i

mahoning county

they’re lying that tell you
it feels bad
to hate

it’s the best kind of being right

make up some bullshit
about it being a disease—

it’s the finest kind of principle
it stands on solid ground
welcomes the accusations and
smiling shows you to a thousand books

a thousand proofs of concept
philosophy and law

they say hate is inarticulate—
a very great lie

that leaves you unprepared
for its timely words

the world demands hate—
it can fill your cup
a billion times
with the bitter enormity
of everything

despair on despair
misery on broken life
and it will never


then again
if we did everything
the world seemed to demand
we’d be long dead—

what an awful life anyway
to do everything right
in a perfect logic—

the rules are hardly there
to help you win

january 21st, 2017

we don’t fear things—

not yet
in any
meaningful sense—

not the Kremlin nor the yawning sea.

but we fear each

half the country wants to slit your throat
half the country

maybe wouldn’t—
not at first
at least—

if they had their way.

three hundred million devils
the rest mostly snakes and
poseurs—but hopefully
you have some good friends—

friends will help
when nothing

else is

songs for lake matoaka


if it takes
so long

after someone

to get back to where you were
are you insane

or only very stupid

and now that i’m there
where am i


—not that time matters of course
time is a great fraud

all the same it feels so strange
to wake up in the winter

before her


people say nobody’s perfect
but almost everyone

looks like a god
in the right weather.

why not celebrate
i asked

while the sun shines
life’ll drive you mad

regardless why not
be a happy drunk

twenty-first street

she wished that she could speak to him in a
way he would understand, that the clouds
would lift long enough for it to take hold,
that she was leaving town and that was
always part of the plan,

that they would grow away from one another
and that was always part of the plan,
even if he had no plan,
even if he felt a different way;
the light of prophecy that guided her
or whatever you want to call it;
the plan that was called “the plan”
somewhere out in space
had them going out
by different roads

how seductive, she thought, was the feeling
that the world with its fateful sinew
could be understood by a heart of requisite
sensitivity, with requisite gentleness:
of course the darkness of the night
is full and full,
but clouds too
are not any more solid
for being real.

but it makes the heart cold;
you become narrow
and jealous in your affairs,
guarding your destiny
like a fool guarding mist on a river;
Don Quixote ready to kill
who would harm the fog,
as if it were not
forever itinerant.

he had called her beautiful many times
and that was always a fine thing
almost regardless of the speaker,
but was beauty really so rare?
a dirt track in Prince Edward might be beautiful,
but it proves nothing beyond that
beauty is like water; we could not exist—
but, she knew for a long time,
he did not see.

he had driven a great distance
through rain across the hills
to be with evidence of her, if not with her.
he had found her at home but did not know,
knocked many times and murmured
something inaudible, no one else around
and the rain continued; she might as well
have been asleep—she would not have
heard him, would not have known.
but for the world to keep turning
she needed to remain quiet
and not give in;
this was not cruelty, after all;
he himself was cruel.

actually, they both spoke
but the rain intervened
and they did not hear;
he sat back in his car and drove
but waited around the corner for a long time,
maybe an hour—she did not know
but it would not have surprised her
if he wept miserably all the way back to his
place; it was part of the reason
she had done as she had done in the first place;
that was always part of the plan.

for diego rivera

there was a time when we
thought God was a factory

molten and vast
a wonderfully bolted

kind of nightmare
with sparks marking out

the edges of chaos hosts
of suspendered seraphs too—

six wings and
great bulging forearms.

(back then
we thought

was a factory).

art cannot be anything but wrong
she said

so the place becomes
an archive of faiths

lovely and myopic—
she said usually

even the nihilists seem quaint
in all those big white rooms—

a museum of error
truer far

than the sum of its

for january

lentils and summer sausage is a pretty fine thing
when you have nothing in particular.

that January feeling—rain’s fine
it really wouldn’t matter
if it rained bacon fat
for a month

(my mom used to collect bacon
fat in a plastic tub

until a mouse died
in it)

basically though
when summer ends the poets say it dies
but winter flees

it doesn’t ever die—
why not?

good things always die, for some reason
and evil’s always hiding somewhere dark—
it’s probably for the best.

January’s lovely though.
like an old family friend
who visited once a year
when you were little—God
only knows why—but
that’s the point isn’t it?

expecting nothing and receiving nothing
January is an honest month

winter not so old and year still young
it’s fantastic
but no one has probably
ever written about a dying January

good for them.

for ben ali

if i was best by
november 23rd 2015
would you drink me?

i hope so, i probably was

and i want to be drunk besides

grapefruit tastes like
shit anyway dying
of botulism would be a hell
of a trip

imagine someone saying
“my best friend moved to
Michigan, drank a two year old
grapefruit cup and died
like Socrates”

and the fame! i could
blame it all on Donald Trump in a deathbed note
and win immortality:
it would be like Tunisia 2011
all over again, probably.

(grapefruit tastes like shit
but also kind of okay:

we’re not so different)

even now i can’t
imagine a more genuinely
patriotic act

than drinking that grapefruit juice

(i threw it away like a coward
after googling “fruit cup past expiration”—
took the worst possible course; it must
be obvious by now

that it was fine).


i told the angel
(when she asked)
that time was a lie

because i saw neither beginning nor end to myself
nothing but colors

nothing but light—fall asleep on a couch in swem
the time i spent all night
writing about the japanese five years ago

it might as well be yesterday,
i did not change—
woke and it was winter on the land,
dour southern february grey—

(stay up all night sometime, and
you will see, the garment has no seam—

the way you know)

i think and
there i am, no memory—

i have no memories, i told
her straight.

dixie place

life begins when you wake up
without thinking
you are a guest in the house.

vagabonds and cowards
never are at home always
thinking of circumstances—

i became much happier
once i decided i was myself
a circumstance.

i’m home, but not since
i returned—home because
i am the thing called home.