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Showing posts from February, 2006

Florida

This evening walk around Lettuce Lake
begins on the planks of good intentions.
Palm fronds droop, like fingers over railing, over land
sliding below wetland, and weeds
yielding along an indeterminable wave to duckweed,
a false green carpet to the door of the lake.
Bald cypresses, wearing beards of moss, sit
surprised in water, their greyish knees
breathing above the rootless bladderworts.
Here, the wading bird is king, the Great Egret
picking its way between land and lake,
spearing the temporary frog to an unexpected hump of ground.
Here, the roseate spoonbill swirls the mud.
Even the osprey, who nests in feather-tips of trees,
must bury itself in the lake, wings held up
like an archaic angel landing on a gravestone,
before rising with silver in its beak.

And here, reads the sign in stainless steel raised by park authorities,
is Alzheimer’s Walk
that travels two feet above the bog, two feet
from the leafy stink, but does not sink.

Times Square

[Removed for submission to journal]

Hungry Ghosts

My father took me picnicking in Hell
in Tiger Balm Gardens when I turned five.
Horse-Face and Ox-Head flanked the door to quell

tourists, returning ghosts, recaptured live.
Small spectator of retribution’s drama,
I shuffled through the dark; I’d rather dive

in and out but the crowd before King Yama
passed as if shackled by the chains of crime.
Father explained to me the law of Karma

while a mirror screened a whole lifetime
in a flash. Jostled into Court One, I balked
at heads and arms and legs, in bloody mime,

stuck out from under giant slabs of rock,
impossible to tell which limb belonged
to which gory head on the granite block

(Father said, unfilial boys, they wronged
their parents who gave them everything);
into Court Two where sinners had their tongues

pierced by long knives for lifelong gossiping;
in Three, the greedy were handcuffed and whipped;
the tax evaders, in Court Four, drowning;

one body blurred into another, stripped
of eyes or bowel, heart torn out with a hook,
and on a hill of swords a trai…

Hungry Ghosts (1 of 2)

My father took me picnicking in Hell
in Tiger Balm Gardens when I turned five.
Horse-Face and Ox-Head flanked the door to quell

tourists, returning ghosts, recaptured live.
Small spectator of retribution’s drama,
I shuffled through the dark; I’d rather dive

in and out but the crowd before King Yama
passed as if shackled by the chains of crime.
Father explained to me the law of Karma

while a mirror screened a whole lifetime
in a flash. Jostled into Court One, I balked
at heads and arms and legs, in bloody mime,

stuck out from under giant slabs of rock,
impossible to tell which limb belonged
to which gory head on the granite block

(Father said, unfilial boys, they wronged
their parents who gave them everything);
into Court Two where sinners had their tongues

pierced by long knives for lifelong gossiping;
in Three, the greedy were handcuffed and whipped;
the tax evaders, in Court Four, drowning;

one body blurred into another, stripped
of eyes or bowel, heart torn out with a hook,
and on a hill of swords a trai…

Natural for a Man

I was hurrying by the college green
where sunlit men in sleeveless shirts and jeans
were flicking a Frisbee and catching it
with hands grown up and sure in baseball mitts
when a deep voice called out to one, “Yo, Drew!
New haircut! Nice! You look so beautiful.”
Gold-curls who stood the nearest to me wheeled
round on his hips, shaded his eyes, revealed
white teeth in smiling to the ardent fan,
as if it was most natural for a man
to be appreciated by a cock,
without fear of being made a laughing stock.
The sun-flecked moment, flicked for someone’s hand,
curved into me, winded and then wing-spanned.
I flew down to the city (on a train)
and, in a quiet park, landed the plane
of my hot hand in yours. You kept it there.
Then, after leaving the fenced grassy square,
you shook your hand free as if stung by scorn
as we walked down into Hoyt-Schermerhorn.
You looked around, I followed your unease—
three young black men in baseball caps and tees;
a Chinese mum; a white girl with her guy.
You leaned apart as though I w…

To Philip Larkin Who Said

“Deprivation is for me what daffodils were to Wordsworth.”

For half a life I followed you, Old Fart,
hoping to catch the accent of your art.
You cussed the dogs of boredom pissing on stones
engraved with others’ names, one with your own.
At tea, curling around your feet, Bitch yawned.
When a friend praised your poems, Fido fawned.
The dogs, and not the girls, kept you alone
and dug up beds of flowers to find the bone.

Now I’ve traded in my dogs for men,
hung up my leash but not my ball-point pen
which empties in detailing ecstasies,
dancing, gold-petaled memories.
Embracing this hot afternoon, I take
root in fair, rotting bodies by some lake.

The Grand Historian Makes a Virtue of Necessity

Dear Heart, you hear the gossip Lord Hu circulates
about how I begged the Emperor to castrate me
instead of quaffing down the poisoned cup, how base
I am to return a remnant of the blade to my father.

The slander passes in winecups around the court
once every year. More often if the border’s quiet.
My name’s divulged to new officials as a joke
or else a warning not to defame the Son of Heaven.

Defame! Because I spoke up for General Li
who fought the Xiongnu brutes until he was brought down.
Each day my bowels twist nine times. The nights! So wrote
Zhouyang: Accumulated slander destroys bone.

Sweat springs from my cold hands and runs into the ink.
I have completed writing Records—all one hundred
and thirty chapters—from the earliest sage-kings
down to the present reign—more than two thousand years.

To the fragments gathered by my father for the work
he dreamt about but did not start, I added flesh
and bones, stitched them together into history.
The Master edited one Spring and Autumn Annals

which Records …

Come on, Straight Boy

Come on, straight boy, and make gay love with me.
One day of loving will not make you queer,
if queer is what you will not bend to be.
Loving men is but a change of gears.

Why settle for a girl, an undulating
waterbed, and stress leaks pinched too late?
Why with an oven she loves regulating,
you stick your tray of cookies in, and wait?

Men love themselves when they love other men.
Loving themselves, they know well how to give
each other head, maneuver two or ten
round the bend of straightforward relief.

What have you got to lose? Leap, acrobat!
You can still fall back on pussy-cat.

Wildwood, Nebraska City

This poem appears in the inaugural online issue of andwerve, a journal out of LA.

I wrote the first draft of the poem while on a 2-week residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts. Thanks, Julie and Jess, for making me feel so welcomed. The poem received the benefit of crits from MonoE, Urizen, Kemmer, shadygrove and Dunc at PFFA. Thanks, everyone of you.