Thursday, April 27, 2006

Taproot

His words desert him this morning for downtown Manhattan,
carrying briefcases, newspapers and coffee. They do not speak
to each other. They’re thinking of memos, faxes and phonecalls.
They do not look at him, a Chinese wetback waiting to be picked
for a day’s work. Tiny jaws gnaw at him and he wants Matt.

The spotted knapweed migrates fast,
decimating the bluebunch wheat grass.
You can identify it by its pink blooms
in black-mottled bracts on stem tips.

He hurries past fat black women prodding snappers which gape
on beds of ice, past the row of crones blistering next to their red
talismans and I-Ching hexagrams, their faces cracked
like parched ground, past the old men hunched over their paper
chessboards, rolling a cannon across the river or retreating an elephant.

Small populations can be uprooted
by digging and pulling. If they’re established,
spray Picloram at point five pounds
per acre when the plant is a bud.

He passes a boy practicing a Yao Ming hookshot seen on TV,
two young men outside Kowloon Trading stacking empty crates
into a van, the New Land Arcade that squats a quarter-block
and catches the eye with its tall, electrified gold letterings,
and clones of knick-knack shops that claim Little Italy.

The weed is not just hungrier. Its taproot
secretes catechin which triggers natives
to kill their own cells. It is not just lean,
as one scientist puts it, but mean.

He plunges, two steps at a time, into Canal Street Station.
In the car’s electric lighting, he looks for Matt
in the young white men and lurches into them. The train shrieks.
Fulton Street. The grid has crazed into a maze dead-ended
by tower blocks, to be traced with the red thread of a previous visit.

Trials are being carried out
to determine if bio-agents work.
The weevil is a candidate. A species
of seed-head gallflies looks promising.

He pulls Matt, word made flesh, out of his standard chair, out
of the office and its mite-dusted carpet into the men’s and locks
their mouths. He works his man’s belt loose and turns him
round. Matt pulls his tan shirt over his head and arms. The tenant bends
over his white boy’s blue-veined torso. This is also his farm.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Payday Loans (22 of 31)

This is not a lunch poem. It’s an after
lunch poem. I can write this ‘cause I’m jobless.
In fact, I have the whole day to myself. So there!
This morning, I rode the 6 train to Lex
for an interview with the School Head.
She’s the first African-American
Head. I don’t remember what I said
but I think she likes me. I like her too. Then
I had a vegetarian sandwich with grilled
peppers, dijon and Fontina and made eyes
at the curly-haired Latino behind the till.
He looked away. I cruised the park to say HI!
to the gulls. Call coming in (stops writing) ...
It was the Head. I’ve got a job waiting.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Payday Loan (21 of 31)

When angry men made rough rocks beautiful
in Florence or some place where they found work,
they didn’t instruct pupils like a petty clerk
nor inspect hack-hewn stones with a plumb rule.
The teachers sought in future’s Istanbul
Byzantium built into the marble’s quirk,
and molded to the forms of Greeks and Turks
the breathing figure sat on bed or stool.
I refuse to spend my best and brightest hour
correcting this boy’s grammar, that girl’s heart,
coruscating like plastic when they shine.
If I’m the model, then let them devour
my passion for highlighting into art
this girl’s clothed breasts, that boy’s vigorous line.

* this sonnet begins with the last line in a Paul Goodman sonnet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Payday Loans (20 of 31)

He does not want our change but wants our souls,
this black man begging in the crowded train,
warning of God’s wrath, fire, tears and pain
in a voice straight and steely as this pole.
What gives him the right to stand and tell
this herd, who’s not his flock, they’ll go to hell?
A flare is tripped; I want to swing and whack
his jaw. I don’t because the others will frown,
because you don’t kick a man when he is down,
and down is what I often think of black.
I hate the weak who try hard to be strong.
The really strong I can face and attack
but from the weak, so greedy for right and wrong,
so sure of what they deserve, I hold back.

*


I am reading as one of four features at the Cornelia Street Cafe. It'd be lovely to see you there if you can make it. I hope to read some new poems too.

Date: April 23 (Sun)
Time: 6 - 8 p.m.
Place: Cornelia Street Cafe (link below)
Admission: $6 (includes one drink)
No open mike.
http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Payday Loans (19 of 31)

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.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Payday Loans (18 of 31)

Lend me three hundred certainties, Mister Death.
In cash. You’ll have it back on my payday,
and whatever interest levied. By my breath,
I need the loan right now to make my way.
My boyfriend does not want me to move in
yet. I’m leaving school without a job.
My visa is expiring. I begin
again a sonnet when the brain’s a throb.
Last Saturday, the Berkeley economist
spoke of the lenders jacking up their stalls
and interest rates for those desperate or pissed,
scuffing or sleeping in poverty’s malls.
He explained to me how it’s irrational
to borrow from death in order to subsist.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Payday Loans (17 of 31)

At night my body woke and roamed the sum
of streets. Behind shop windows, old men aged
defending countertops and daily waged
fathers hunched over woks. The streets were dumb.
Inside a bar, young gods swallowed their rum
and coke, working sweet mouths, throats, barely caged
in filled-out shirts. I sat alone, loved, raged
until I heard Cavafy whisper “Come
this way.” Then I felt like Xerxes when a low
Hellene revealed the local thoroughfare;
or like a shy suitor who turned to go
but recognized the stranger on the stair
and followed. In his room, he held me—Oh!
relieved me of myself, wet underwear.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Payday Loans (15 of 31)

We started wrongly: you surfed the Net and loved
an early poem in a style so crude
I blushed and stripped it down to a glowing nude
but you prefer the body shod and gloved.
You see more than I do. How you approved,
as I read Proust out loud, of the French prude
who blurred the window when his women screwed
each other; how you were visibly moved.
Last night I read to a responsive crowd
but had eyes only for where you stood
and then for the train window, still too proud
to ask. You answered in bed, it sounded good.
Sounded! We started wrongly when we vowed
candor we walk into and do not crack.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Mermen" in Softblow

My poem, "Mermen," has been published in Softblow, a poetry journal edited by Cyril Wong, based in Singapore. Check it out! The journal is a good read.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Payday Loans (14 of 31)

May good flowers always bloom for you
and good fortune always be yours too.
The red paper pocket my parents sent
presents six crisp one-hundred dollar bills
they can't afford but will still send until
I'm married or dead. Needing every cent
to pay the cost of New York City's rent
while ambition hustles to fulfill
itself, I don't swindle or steal or kill
but pocket the greenbacks and their intent.
I think of Hart Crane, strongly doubtful, bent
on being a writer, dining on goodwill,
swallowing pride, yes, like a bitter pill
and plucking the roses the rich soil lent.


*

I am reading as one of three features at the Cornelia Street Cafe. It'd be lovely to see you there if you can make it. I hope to read some new poems too.

Date: April 23 (Sun)
Time: 6 - 8 p.m.
Place: Cornelia Street Cafe (link below)
Admission: $6 (includes one drink)
No open mike.
http://www.corneliastreetcafe.com/

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Payday Loans (13 of 31)

How do I write for these? The student sniped
and the shot’s ricocheting in the school
when I return to them their stories typed
to fit what we have taught are fiction’s rules.
I am well-trained and train my students well
to distinguish good from bad and right from wrong
and friend from foe as if it’s easy to tell
to which embattled camp each thing belongs.
I am well-trained to devastate dissent,
cut off supply lines, dig in or delay
the enemy, which is why I resent
the sniping of my competence that day.
How should I write for these when my desire,
Goodman, is to return fire for fire?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Payday Loans (12 of 31)

My Kyrgyz classmate, after the revolution,
spoke of his government’s overthrow known
to none of us. Either it was not shown
on TV or clashed with makeover solutions.
In a Bel-Air suite, regretting her resolution,
a woman has her thighs sucked thin as bones,
face broken in and reconstructed, breasts blown
to a choice of Ds, endured as absolution.
When she goes home, what does the Head of State,
freshly installed, tell her? What ritual bull
do the new priests sacrifice? The bureaucrats
will do as bureaucrats do. When the wool
is snatched from her eyes, as the audience waits,
she feels her face, Oh my god! I’m beautiful.