Temper at the Prospect

How our lively natures were rapt away by post-modern science fiction

“What temper at the prospect did not wake
To happiness unthought of? The inert
Were roused, and lively natures rapt away!”

William Wordsworth

February 2021 — Why doesn’t ugly start a revolution? The intellectual farmacie of traditional media, rife with fit, reasonably attractive folks earn profiles in the The New Yorker. Unless you’re an old white man, in which case beauty is rare and, take it from me, things are relatively frictionless—we will write your story of greatness.

If our obsession with youth can be explained by an attraction to that which we, statistically, were not: precocious, interested, prodigious and destined for the top rungs of the social ladder, than maybe beauty functions the same way.

Shall we ugly design the end, throw a rock, hold our bodies hostage? What kind of hunger must we become?


Endless war

The man in rags approaches the bricked barn
camel and needle yarn strikes
With no breath to confound
Though no one sentient around
Hears this knotted rotten demand
Buries his tires in the unyielding sand
Keeps the guests at bay
Perhaps just one more day

See the threads of desire meeting needle
knowledge binds together various
fabrics of self at uncertain edges
emerges eyes of crucible
crocodile burning fog & cloud
unity of irreducible information
unit of unbound dictionary lightshed
gathered father and son in bodied
survivalhood emergent territories of
thought escapes in breath

Dressed in silversbane protect my faith
new mother — holy anymother — lose
her holy see scatter her across
the January 2021 Facebook Pages redesign
her brands are luminous with nostalgia
or panic there intuition sings of a songbird
two fingers pointed and retracted
come-hither autocorrect
rub graphite like grapevine phantom to flesh
to thought


Endless possibility

The sun hangs low on two points
connected in electrical circuit
Obsessed with the minister
of reflexive language
as lovers panchromatic grey perhaps
a different meaning the new center
of socialist joy and recreation
I contemplate the aquiline but
refuse to rush into the masses
I rise elaborate as embroided
air vast plains of testosterone
encased in shadow
engorged with the forgotten god
and his abandoned metaphysics

I am a snapchat filter in the eyes of oblivion and beg for forgiveness a man
who collects comrades because even kindness needs a posse
a man who in the infinite stretch of sand finds god’s black wall
and in an instant his purpose a woman who builds rooms
inside and outside of the modern poets’ vague allusions
to common knowledge the radio has dinner
the terrible thing inserts a gun into its poem of
simple relational delight and dilemma
was no gun only infidelity changing lock letters
everywhere in shadow usurping men shooting bullets into the sky
almost every evening when I lived in the country who
permits this you have driven language
like a dead ox from the meaning of the field

Must is the greatest word in the English language
also it is the most misused among the lot
must is my daddy
must is my savior
must is the end of a snowstorm
as the cupboards go bare we must
not accept this way of formulating the issue
if we do not we shall be in serious trouble with the virtues
of curiosity our grammatical assumptions
enshrine themselves
within our philosophical arguments
and that is death

String a pair of slipping records the great colonial spasms of blood against dirt a free exchange of birds and rival ideologies coincides with the rise of criminal networks in cyberspace house of hexagon open to the possibility of retention of sky sound of brutal dictatorship string I do not know the woman’s name nor her side of the dialogue nor mine I must ring the bell though it is of form and weight without she is without voice string in this instance to look at me you wouldn’t know my hands repeat insincere gestures I was listening to that string together at last after years of waiting the smell of skin and

Waiting for the other shoe to drop it is what it is i drink whisky i drink beer beer made of sculptures her words not mine borrowed really from peter to paypal paul and talk about geometry ugly repulsive apparitions on a wet black bough lazy mapping doesn’t know how to read a nap no sense of ambiguity an obsession with youth glowing skin fresh powder a reliable reit wilbur ross financed spac takes it public no sense of ambiguity the poet and the programmer vindictive academics both

Obsessed with the minister of reclusive language the character pans the screen not the player like a patient etherized upon a table I deny myself the opportunity no one’s said it explicitly — actor, writer, set designer, executive producer — but the show is about memory no one can take that away not the ultra rich who pile vindication and swim not the blood and shadow brokers cointreau spiked with lsd at a cia retreat al spoke of destruction finally getting its break if it’s good enough for the abattoir why not right here at home?

Hop skip jump burn hop skip jump burn hop skip jump burn hop skip jump burn

The mass destruction of tourists
The mass destruction of production
The mass destruction of typewriters
The mass destruction of jealous music

Poetry policymakers conspiracies fourteen women share a couch destruction everywhere their feet behind them behind the couch a trio of monochrome musicians a hot light a baudrillard disclaiming suprareality a wedding ring i toss behind the couch like an anchor rides in veins of the venal need flower print — imagine that — in black and white the posterity collapsed like a pharaoh’s lung fat legs crossed surely worm food by now all these artists care so much about dying disclaiming flesh of wristwatches

The memory, bound with piano wire, is something of a meditation. Not intended to pacify the hungry, curious, and violent child-made, by polite society, to sit still and earn their wage. The memory, bound by piano wire, is something of a primitive chant. Primitivism as if to say committed to the ursheriff and the supraellipses. The memory, bound by piano wire, lets blood through an unmarked limited liability company. Too many of us have been dragged through the mud to reserve comment — to forget — to watch Everybody Loves Raymond nailed to the crucifix.


Endless war

ritual of expulsion: setting proves important to the audience, which, in city after city struggles to understand why the woman in the white bandana suffers so and why the small-town cat buzzing in and out through the open den window bob and weave with puritanical, firefly charm. Symbolism escapes them until it doesn’t — like an embolism.

In the 18th century a rhino named Clara visited the capitals of Europe and inspired various French hairstyles as the sun crashes down on city hall where the streets are torn up to be repaved what does this have to do with ugly women? Everything!

At 2:22 a.m. I provide the characters with made up properly seasoned rips in time. We, as an audience, have nothing to worry about. The average theater-goer had a hard time separating entertainment from criticism and I am here to avenge that loss. Tears streaming down his unwashed face, he raises his hand like it was his own. Cold but well bathed, the poet runs his imagination through the treetops — rouses a eastern screech owl.


Endless nobility

That you were buried before you could confess doesn’t mean the asteroid didn’t strike too proud too catholic too ferrous doesn’t mean you didn’t suffer and I didn’t love you more the pain in your endurance love is all I can offer now and forgiveness forgiveness for stitching up the wound unimagined queen of collisions dark and ceaseless coverings always there always lurking

Our patent pending technology attaches a set of medical grade dentures directly to the upper thigh to create the world’s most authentic prosthetic leg a photo is a list of ingredients and a set of instructions called preconception one might say there is no such thing as false witness actual theft or actual inspiration some personal news I am thrilled to hear the poet quickly come to the adjective’s defense.

My wife in the other room alone moaning it’s not what you think by being obtuse obscure obdurate I insure reality what a mitzvah a single poet in a kettle being trusted and truthful and godlike in a drained pool of diction they can be kind and determined all ears all fingers all backbone a penis is a penis is a penis we fetishize nature by its nature his repetitive conceit — I’m thrilled to announce I’m being specific for once — is tiring but not in a bad way exhausting like an Eggleston picture

Exhausting here comes the sun is the first song you heard silk where the green silicone pacifier reds your chin snow falling black against a holy sky every molecule on the horizon vibrates against the desire to regulate to survive navigating generative strangling not the winner but first place itself broken

On the political streets broken maddening itself like ants on a sugar cube here, February, or, interrogations you built America punched down and out by the sidewalk, you’ve lost the game saying too much abyss oblivion no one in my family tells stories broken and yet young bodies baked through with organic poisons in hushed tones around the breakfast table while i burp her

Under the christmas tree my gift unopened for thirty years shallow breaths deep water the lights dim in concert with listicles year end reviews lizard-content basking in the vast nourishing copper field you were invited to motherhood and chose virgin purity invited to fatherhood and chose putty imports a well-built alarm clock a gingham turtle shell split down the middle kintsugi impossible and inevitable, sky hunting its platinum trophy

Art Reality Freshly Preserved, Produced and Tinned in Milan, May 1961

hung in the shadows
on the western wall
emerald cone boasting corona
of dipped lunatic cotton fails
serially with each attempt
(once every three minutes)
to intellect through short
dire sentences despite being broken into
labium labrum maxillae and mandible
the discourse remains functional
powered up and spread warm butter like the sun
like the museum’s most popular gallery
quantitatively as the reader fails
to consider commerce here the radical mage conjures
a million jerry saltzs dehydrate mutants
no geiger counter for this
kind of subjective observation
through a starbucks window
clearly the majority look onward and upward
while elements class traitors sift
form from function and some nonzero number
of postdocs see a leg and writhe in pain and some
nonzero number of highly marketable postdocs see a shark
skin wallet and movement becomes impossible
consider minus zero as a vector of possibility

a long time ago lived a lengthy brass ladder
known for lying who unscrewed
an exit sign named piero manzoni
the ladder was high as fuck and craved a little zappo
critical discourse emerged simultaneously from the academic journals
commonly read by building inspectors
widely known to be bad men damp
men with all sorts of wicked contradictions hammers
hardhats marshmallows cargo shorts and bibles held
to account hauled up by their judith butler-lookin lobes
tonight is the night it is impossible to judge these men
at this hour but long ago judges went unmoored
a mythological tap of little sausages enticing a blue arc
back then everything was faked
everything was cheated an ounce or two everything
surreptitiously observed and tweaked
their values modified until reality
felt just about right

without transubstantiation of the aphid
this reality slithers from open space to open source
its brand much improved especially popular
among college educated white liberals aged 18-24
who earn each rostrum feeds then snaps predictably
with a super majority obeying basic digital commands
retweet unfollow promote accept all
the role of the curator has changed
for the wurst since wuhan

impish discursive corona dip
thineself ankle deep
into serious intellect
unbreak your reader
fall from function
into a nonzero bouquet of legs
move only when movement becomes impossible

my love
uploaded virus
unlocked door
can of the artist’s shit
save my planet
one salsiccia at a time


Contains a modified line boosted from VFX artist Matthew Wilde in Simone de Rochefort’s article “Why the bottles in Half-Life: Alyx look so dang good,” published Jan 6, 2021, on Polygon.

Lawler’s Warhol’s Monroe’s MoMA’s America’s Land

ankle was zoloft
bush was yearling
cock was xyzzyx
diode was warlord
escarole was violence
frigid was uvula
god was tired and true
hush was sacrifice
ingenuous was ritual
jigger was quake
kallyope was paris
limp was oaf
mopping was numerology
nuke was murder
oatmeal was luxury
prosthetic was kaput
quarantine was jewel
rhizome was intimate
sweat was hearse
trout was gallup
ulcer was function
viagra was earthworm
wagner was death
xenograft was coloring book
yarrow was backlit
zambia was appropriation

Vicious Mercy (Vermeer in Death Valley, 2020)

Leave Vermeer alone.

When I write The girl is dying I do not mean to enter the girl nor deconstruct her state of abstract goingness.

It’s a figure beyond an open window in a time of plague.

Disemboweled skywriting or the family name forgotten in water.

Which is to say: Vicious mercy becomes the uncountable gallop of the ruddy horse forging the sandy horizon.

Let the creature offenses stand in beauty among their rare pigments.

Honeycut, should I fail to mention light — What kind of poet is this? — but here!

Look!

Cherry and evergreen ring the moon like a bell unrung, you see them or don’t.

These next few moments of balance determine your eligibility for brief happiness.

Remember first to crucify the middle-ground; translucent, gathered up, mercurial, for modernity.

Mobility.

Into sun-sucked ink, oil, platinum, I vandalize form.

You, widely recognized as a modular prophet, briefly part the asbestos curtain.

Who, among these long-ago minted currencies, profits from the quietus of pulped paupers?

Ultramarine, of course, picked up and deposited here at my feet like seed, forms the reticulated reach of your life.

They do.

When they’re gone they’re gone.

Something else, especially if this chaotic rest goes unexamined.

Time lays a recursive trap in which most get caught.

From the Old English for eye-hole.

The skin that threatens to scream in from its triangular sleep, vanishing from the fog of natural history, just as quickly as it had long-ago been shed.

You suddenly appear vaulted and the sun is beautiful.

My favorite spot across the entire desert.

I am describing the man who offers the creature, spoken into long-to-go life, a bucket of sewing needles.

Mostly I see your bones and saddle.

Faithful reader, a sharp splash of light on the cheek come, potential space for potential space.

‘When you speak of the Cunt put hair on it! Try to forget everything you learned in college.’

“When you speak of the Cunt put hair on it!” Hackensack, New Jersey; Nov. 28, 2020

‘Advice to a Young Writer’ by Henry Miller

All piffle & twaddle—influence of the Bottom Dog man.
For real “decadents” read Huysmans & other French authors.
Diarrhea of words—stew of classic allusions.
Fuck Artemis et alia!
Don’t put intellect in your prick!
Write honestly even if poorly.
Humor is weak—immature.
Try drugs and compare two kinds of writing.
Try using only Anglo Saxon words.
Throw your dictionary away!
Don’t mix realism with poetics!
If you can’t make words fuck, don’t masturbate them!
When you speak of the Cunt put hair on it!
Try to forget everything you learned in college.
Try talking like an ignoramus— or an Igaroti.
Read, for emetic, “Palm Wine Drinkard.”
You will learn to write only when you stop trying to write.
A line without effort is worth a chapter of push and pull.
First ask yourself if you have anything to say.
Don’t draw the pen unless you are ready for the kill!
If you don’t get rid of the Classics you’ll die of constipation.
Never show any one what you’ve written until a year or two later.
Use the axe to your 1st draft and not the fine comb.
The latter is for lice!!!


Source: Miller, Henry. “Advice to a Young Writer.” The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, edited by Alan Kaufman, Emeryville, Calif: Thunder’s Mouth, 2000, pp. 115-116.

Photo: Gerace, Joe. “When you speak of the Cunt put hair on it!” Nov. 28, 2020, JPG.

Thanksgiving Guilt

The days — likely the months — leading up to Thanksgiving 2020 have left a hazy tarnish on my ability to be present for my family and friends.

It started, of course, with the economic uncertainty, political instability, and alienating nature of COVID-19. But it is bigger than that, more insidious, and ultimately more profound.

The rich got richer without doing much of anything, the poor kept fighting at great expense, and the world never stopped its dizzying spin. All this while 1.4 million people across the world died and left a dolorous wake in their leaving.

Please consider: The death of 1.4 million people is, by its very nature, an abstract and impenetrable number of individual lives gone forever and an exponential number of living grief.

Everyone who survives bears a scar. Every witness who remains watches from the silver shadows of their own guilt.

While I have much to be thankful for, I can’t stop making pictures that tell this terrible story writ large on quotidian society.

And I feel ashamed of its toothsome moral: There is a dark and resolute solace in this pathological estrangement from the brothers and sisters who survive here alongside me.

The Blue Cherry Blossoms on The Blue Tree

“the blue cherry blossoms / on the blue tree”

‘Cherry Blossoms at Evening’ by William Carlos Williams

In the prebirth of the evening
the blue cherry blossoms
on the blue tree
from this yellow, ended room—
press to the windows
inside shall be out
the clustered faces of the flowers
straining to look in


Source: Williams, William C. “Cherry Blossoms at Evening.” The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume II (1939-1962). Edited by A Walton Litz and Christopher J. MacGowan. New York: New Directions, 1991, p. 10.

Photo: Gerace, Joe. “The Blue Cherry Blossoms on The Blue Tree.” Nov. 26, 2020. JPG.

The Lady of the House Puts the Alarm Clock in a Drawer

Somewhere someone is sleeping, / somewhere the lady of the house / puts the alarm clock in a drawer / where she cannot hear it / then tells the children to be quiet / and stands there listening / to its tick.”

‘Lightly, Very Lightly’ by Mary Ruefle

It was raining.
I could hear the rain
taking the pins out of her mouth.
Soft rain became hard rain
so that hard things became soft things.
The wet leaves under the trees
became heavy as diapers,
the book left open
on the grass
could finally sink in her bath
without a word,
the way, after a hard day,
I rest my head on the edge
of the claw-foot tub and
my mouth falls open, empty
at last.
Actually I saw that in a painting
when I ducked into a gallery
because it was raining.
It is always raining somewhere,
somewhere the wells are filling
from above and from below.
Somewhere someone is sleeping,
somewhere the lady of the house
puts the alarm clock in a drawer
where she cannot hear it
then tells the children to be quiet
and stands there listening
to its tick.


Source: Ruefle, Mary. “Lightly, Very Lightly.” Dunce, Wave Books, 2020, pp. 52-53.

Photo: Gerace, Joe. “The Lady of the House Puts the Alarm Clock in a Drawer.” Nov. 7, 2020. JPG.

The Great American Rebrand

“an advert for the lightning that fills one’s body”

taos taupe on the meaningless wall an advert
for the effortless lightning that fills one’s body
1960s if i had to guess

masked up against the russian nike strife force
members of which giddily violate
the agreed upon terms of the hue and colorway

sapphire mayan air force marine corps
dozens of dead children some tourists
note i’m still not willing to count peaks

around the mountains of fin-de-siècle literature
dropped from the eradicating chlorosis
could be your ear to the ground

for the right exporter
cheap-as-dirt materials
dog-cheap labor

a skillful color field
beside cotton romance
this standing next to you

a million-dollar gradient
meaning returns
as the temperature rises

safe and dry in the suburbs
where no one can wring you out
and survival is an abatement for wellness