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

Stuck Tight Old Boy Stuck Tight

“My word / Hand caught in the door / Stuck tight old boy stuck tight”

‘Safety Lock’ by Louis Aragon

My word
Hand caught in the door
Stuck tight old boy stuck tight
In other words
Or
The password please
Many thanks
Now I hold the key
The bolt begins to twist like a tongue
Therefore

Trans. Michael Benedikt


Source: Aragon, Louis. “Safety Lock.” The Poetry of Surrealism, edited by Michael Benedikt. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1974, p. 151.

Photo: Gerace, Joe. “Stuck Tight Old Boy Stuck Tight” Nov. 14, 2020. JPG.

Men in Hats Rise from the Ground

“Men in hats rise from the ground: / Bless these broken dolls and mend them.”

‘Five O’Clock’ by James Schuyler

Men disport themselves.
They help each other:
“Reach in my chest and massage my heart.
I am not dead.”

If clouds are God’s table linen,
what is rain?
He gave men towels to dry themselves.
He blessed their soap.

The city grew like the desert, by erosion
Men walk in it.
God is not so much dead as resting.
His seventh day has just begun.

Men step out of the wind.
They give money and necessaries.
They steal what belongs to them.
The eighth day, doors open on new sights.

Men in hats rise from the ground:
Bless these broken dolls and mend them.
What goes through cloth, walks and floats?
We rise lightly in you.


Source: Schuyler, James, James Meetze, and Simon Pettet. Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. Print, p. 179.

Photo: Gerace, Joe. “Men in Hats Rise from the Ground” Nov. 14, 2020. JPG.

The Song of One Hundred Thousand Chemicals Approximating Sunshine

“This is the song of one hundred / Thousand chemicals approximating / Sunshine in my hair. My lover bit / My cheek this morning.”

‘This is the Song of One Hundred Thousand’ by Ariana Reines

This is the song of one hundred
Thousand chemicals approximating
Sunshine in my hair. My lover bit
My cheek this morning. I think I’ll
Fall from one trance into the next
Might fall asleep any minute
It gets tiring making yourself look
like you’re alive while you’re looking
Hard practicing turning
Away from the shit we’re in


Source: Reines, Ariana. A Sand Book. , 2019. Print, p. 157.
Photo: Gerace, Joe. “The Song of One Hundred Thousand Chemicals Approximating Sunshine [Secaucus Junction].” Nov. 14, 2020. JPG.