It was late last night the dog was speaking of me, and the gulls speaking of me, out over the field. You were drawing water from the tap in the kitchen and a moth was speaking of me, beating for light.
I was raising delft from the sink to the aumbry, while they spoke of you in loops, over the waves. I reached for a switch; sunlight coalesced about your reflection, helmet of bright coils.
Outdoors was a blankness peopled with black angles; waiting for the water you caught your own glance. My eyebrows bustled, you submersed in my dressed; then you were speaking of me, just a word, in response.
All the dogs in America have sisters of their own, all the birds have sisters, out on the highway. Moths have moths for sisters, beating out for light, and I am speaking of you here, to everyone I meet.
I only intend to send word to my future Self perpetuation is a war against Time Travel is essentially the aim of any religion Is blindness the color one sees under water Breath can be overshadowed in darkness The benefits of blackness can seem radical Black people in America are rarely compulsive Is forbidden the only word God doesn’t know You have to heal yourself to truly be heroic You have to think once a day of killing your self Awareness requires a touch of blindness & self Importance is the only word God knows To be free is to live because only the dead are slaves
Forgive her. Sometimes she forgets she is painfully the same as stagnant water, hollow ditches, foolishly imagines she has the right to exist.
Forgive a portrait’s listless rage, whose longing for movement melts in her paper eyes.
Forgive this woman whose casket is washed over by a flowing red moon, her body’s thousand-year sleep perturbed by night’s stormy scent.
Forgive this woman who’s crumbling inside, but whose eyelids tingle still with dreams of light, her useless hair quivering hopelessly, infiltrated by love’s breath.
People of the land of plain joys, you who have opened your windows to the rain, forgive her, forgive because your lives’ fertile roots burrow into her exiled soil and pound with envy’s rod her naive heart, until it swells.
I don’t think I can afford the time to not sit right down & write a poem about the heavy lidded white rose I hold in my hand I think of snow a winter night in Boston, drunken waitress stumble on a bus that careens through Somerville the end of the line where I was born, an old man shaking me. He could’ve been my dad. You need a ride? Wait, he said. This flower is so heavy in my hand. He drove me home in his old blue Dodge, a thermos next to me, cigarette packs on the dash so quiet like Boston is quiet Boston in the snow. It’s New York plates are clattering on St. Mark’s Place. Should I call you? Can I go home now & work with this undelivered message in my fingertips It’s summer I love you. I’m surrounded by snow.
When I wake up in a strange bed
Beside a girl called Pam
I try to play the whole thing down
And give my name as Sam
It’s clear I’m way out of my depth
It’s clear that she’s dropped a dime
It’s clear that even I suspect
I’m guilty of some crime
I know those goons by the streetlamp
Are champing at the bit
I last saw them on board the train
Before we took a hit
And jumped the observation car
Only to lose our way
In a nightmarish railroad yard
Somewhere near Noir, NJ
When I squint through the slatted blinds
Pam orders juice and eggs
She’ll let a man do the legwork
While she works on her legs
It’s clear her husband was a wimp
It’s clear he had no spine
It’s clear she lit that cigarette
To give the goons a sign
I know that it’s a rule of thumb
A gumshoe’s fingered me
When ladies who’re high maintenance
Meet lighting that’s low key
They’re just so many femme fatales
Who have been led astray
And now lure plainclothesmen et al
Back there to Noir, NJ
When a sergeant with a scattergun
Meets a shamus
Halfway up the stairs
Somewhere between Paterson
They redefine the parameters
And bid us welcome, hey, hey, hey,
Welcome to Noir, NJ
When I flash forward through the murk
Of who did what to whom
I’m pretty sure I don’t deserve
To die here in this room
It’s clear I’ve been double-crossed
It’s clear that I’ve been framed
It’s clear that Pam’s husband was half deaf
From how they shout his name
I know I’ll be reduced to pulp
She’ll gulp with her orange juice
If I don’t reassert myself
She’ll kick in my caboose
It’s not too late to be hard-boiled
Like the eggs on Pam’s tray
Through even her pistol would recoil
At what happened in Noir, NJ
Source: Muldoon, Paul. Joyce Carol Oates, Editor. New Jersey Noir. Consortium Book Sales & Dist, 2011. Print. pp. 217-218.
No one attacks it with a long lance,
No one plies a strong cross-bow.
Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs,
It trains them into savagery.
Its reared head becomes a wall
Its waving tail becomes a banner.
Even Huang from the Eastern Sea,¹
Dreaded to see it after dark,
A righteous tiger, met on the road,²
Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai.
What good is it for that short sword
To hang on the wall, growling like thunder?
When from the foot of Tai mountain
Comes the sound of a woman weeping,
Government regulations forbid
Any official to dare to listen.³
A satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers.
Huang, of Dong-hai, had magical powers which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost these powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger.
The zhou-yu was a white tiger with black markings which appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned were-tiger, who ate his own elder brother. He is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others.
Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.
Li He is the bad-boy poet of the late Tang dynasty. He began writing at the age of seven and died at twenty-six from alcoholism or, according to a later commentator, “sexual dissipation,” or both. An obscure and unsuccessful relative of the imperial family, he would set out at dawn on horseback, pause, write a poem, and toss the paper away. A servant boy followed him to collect these scraps in a tapestry bag.
Long considered far too extravagant and weird for Chinese taste, Li He was virtually excluded from the poetic canon until the mid-twentieth century. Today, as the translator and scholar Anne M. Birrell, writes, “Of all the Tang poets, even of all Chinese poets, he best speaks for our disconcerting times.” Modern critics have compared him to Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Keats, and Trakl.