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.

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

200! (Dog Talk)


200! the old mutt says
hallelujah and forevermore
the rats of us
keep banging on that drum
if the sky has his way
if the shy sky has his way
frank o’hara blessed me
early in my career — he blurbed
my christening i’ll pray for you
says the well intentioned divorcee
really where would we be without soft
scrub the bathroom would be the barn
no other poet should mention prokofieff
you’re setting yourself up for failure
it’s like last tuesday when the martians arrived
and locked all the inmates in with the guards
and burnt the whole penal colony
for fuel — i know it’s cruel. you’re not
telling yourself anything you don’t know
he blurbed my christening he read radio
but spelled it the old russian way
i remember something now about my grandfather
but can’t find a reason to type it — i’m not
the showboat All week long I trudge fatiguingly
i couldn’t name a damn thing the inanity of it
would crush me like a slug beneath a heel
in hell he made me come close i’m in
no condition a man is a man is a man
we think we can do anything and then
anything comes face to face with self-recognition
and the whole national book awards go ka-boom
how do i get out of this
promise me you’ll find a scholarly way to shuffle off
how? i listened and i didn’t like what i heard
another bug in another field of heads unrecognizable
except for it turns around — means of rotation
unknown — and shouts backwards into his
spinal column: 200! bark bark rough rough etc etc
and out of the eye’s corner a dune buggy
accelerating cliche-first into the azzurri sunset

Good Blue Clay


Tanka, by Ono No Oyu

The city of Nara of good blue clay glows like a blooming flower, now at its prime


Source: Ono No Oyu. “Tanka.” From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987, p. 43.

Photo: Church Street, New Paltz; Nov. 6, 2020; Joe Gerace


“Ono no Oyu (?-737) was a Japanese bureaucrat and a poet. He served under Ōtomo no Tabito during the Dazaifu administration. He rose to the rank of Assistant Governor-General (daini). Three of his tanka poems have been preserved in the Man’yōshū.” Wikipedia

The Fiction of Time Destroyed

“the fiction of Time destroyed, / free from love, from me.”

‘Anticipation of Love’ by Jorge Luis Borges

Neither the intimacy of your look, your brow fair as a feast day,
nor the favor of your body, still mysterious, reserved, and childlike,
nor what comes to me of your life, settling in words or silence,
will be so mysterious a gift
as the sight of your sleep, enfolded
in the vigil of my arms.
Virgin again, miraculously, by the absolving power of sleep,
quiet and luminous like some happy thing recovered by memory,
you will give me that shore of your life that you yourself do not own.
Cast up into silence
I shall discern that ultimate beach of your being
and see you for the first time, perhaps,
as God must see you—
the fiction of Time destroyed,
free from love, from me.

trans. Robert Fitzgerald


Source: Borges, Jorge L, Willis Barnstone, and Alexander Coleman. Selected Poems. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1999. Print, p. 39.

Photo: 11 Church St., New Paltz; Nov. 6, 2020; Joe Gerace

A Great First Line

“When you are all sinew, struggle and solitude, your young — being soft, plump, vulnerable — may remind you of prey.”

“Ducks, Newburyport” Lucy Ellmann

On the Roof of Wannsee Villa

Bloomfield, NJ. October 2020.

with no ill intention to the artist
what the fuck were you thinking
the mangy dog and the electro-
magnetic implant
fine! but
replacing the u with the v?
what a braggadocious pile of staten island’s finest
piled up to intellectual
affidavits — i once asked allen ginsberg
should i be scared when the polish
barrister holds a luger to my temple
and demands fried bananas he said
you’ll never move to krakow
don’t fret my pet i pianeti
della fortuna
no ill intention
to moloch or the electromagnetic swing
the dog abundant and widespread
in hungry this abandoned city in the days
since the airing of ruth bader ginsburg
coordinated inauthentic leaderless lurking
evil the writer goes down the one true rabbit hole
a meeting of senior government officials
four cholinergic cherubs armed with radio
poles lit upon the roof of the confident
wannsee manor unclear
if these birds are gripped fast to the edge
of indivisible azalea branches or synaptic clefts
between bit and byte cast totally aside
countervailing rights
— unclear unclear

‘Greenwich Avenue’ by James Schuyler

In the evening of a brightly
unsunny day to watch back-lighted
buildings through the slits
between vertical strips of blinds
and how red brick, brick painted
red, a flaky white, gray or
those of no color at all take
the light though it seems only
above and behind them so what
shows below has a slight evening
“the day—sobs—dies” sadness and
the sun marches on. It isn’t like that
on these buildings, the colors which
seem to melt, to bloom and go and
return do so in all reality. Go
out and on a cross street briefly
a last sidelong shine catches
the faces of brick and enshadows
the grout: which the eye sees only
as a wash of another diluted color
over the color it thinks it knows
is there. Most things, like the sky,
are always changing, always the same.
Clouds rift and a beam falls
into a cell where a future saint
sits scratching. Or a wintry
sun shows as a shallow pan of red
above the Potomac, below Mount Vernon,
and the doctor from Philadelphia
nods and speaks of further bleeding.

Source: Schuyler, James. “Greenwich Avenue.” Collected Poems. New York: Noonday Press, 1998, pp. 169-170.