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See Seed Seen

I may have picked my nose on that Zoom call
just now. I don’t do it a lot, I promise.
I just lose track of being onscreen is all.

If I did it, I didn’t notice while
my finger dug. But I sensed an emptiness….
I may have flashed a boob on that Zoom call

while I was fixing both bra straps, which fall
off my shoulders so constantly, so fast.
I just lose track of being onscreen. It’s all

so mediated, so exhausting, so unreal.
I miss other people’s halitosis.
I may have murdered someone on that Zoom call

when they walked in front of my camera. Again. “Talk talk
talk talk talk” and then somehow, silence.
I lose track of being onscreen. That’s not all.

I chew, mouth wide open. I mop up spills.
Why shouldn’t I? I am, after all, the host.
I may have transubstantiated on that Zoom call.
I just lost track of being onscreen. That’s all.

Answering America (pandemic poem #9)

We are an unserious country. We are a joke.
We say “thank you for your service” to police lined up before
we scream in their faces. This has to be funny. This can’t be real
because if it’s real, Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
is, like, the mildest imprecation possible. And maybe we already did.
Some weapons-grade sperm implanted strong, healthy, blond eggs,
implanted in the rivers lining the Midwest, somewhere between
the Mississippi and the Missouri, we were so pregnant we waddled
and gave birth so many times to nuclear idiots, venal and mean, and so white.
So many of them. So loud. So sure. So heavily armed. So angry. So white.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me. It’s not corona virus. I don’t think.
But how would I know? There are tests everywhere. Everyone who wants one gets one.
But not me. So I don’t know. It might be some other dread disease.
I have symptoms. But I veer so whiplashingly from hyper aware to oblivious
about my body, I don’t even know when I’m hungry. Everything hurts. Then nothing does.

I don’t need more books but I’m buying them. And buying them.
Support a local business, I tell myself. I don’t drink beer anymore. I don’t miss bars.
I miss someone else making my coffee. I miss someone else making me cookies.
I miss browsing the shelves. America why are your libraries full of tears?
The books miss being handled. They miss the browsing. Even curbside service
leaves them lonely. When you order the very book you want and someone pulls it
for you, there’s another book just three books down, a bright red spine
you’ll never see, a font that catches your eye, an author photograph you develop
an instant, serious, intense crush on, but not now, not when we’re quarantined,
not when we’re not sure where we can go or how to go when we go where we have to go.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
You and me both, buddy. When? Here’s the thing—when can I go shopping
and not think about washing every single thing I’ve bought? You and your
mid-century modern concerns. No wasted space on those worries. No flourishes.
You had no idea how lucky you had it. You stewed over the atom bomb
but one never went boom by you. That’s not why your hair fell out.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
We need a haircut. We need a massage. We need to go bowling. For the love of God,
we need to park in a row of SUVs and wear our Sunday best business casual khaki
soul suits and raise holy hands together, repeating structurally plain refrains,
daydreaming under architecture designed by industrial archangels bent on compliance
and ease. There is nothing sublime where all of us on stage wear a mic
designed to blend with our faces, making our projected voices seem miraculous.

America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.

The more things change, the more they
change. The more things stay the same.
The more, the more, the more.
Nothing is ever good or bad but America makes it so.
The tiny little campus where I’ve taught for half my life has always had
a lot of international students and I’ve loved them, 93% of them, for sure,
but now we have a sphincter in Arkansas mouthing they can come here to study
Shakespeare or the Federalist papers but not quantum computing. I don’t know but
I’m guessing the mouth-sphincter from Arkansas did not study Shakespeare. Or math.
One time I had a Russian student tell me he missed the Soviet Union.
He missed being in charge of half the world. I guess I should’ve warned someone.

Curvy hips on a girl and six-pack abs on a boy will take us wherever
we want to go if we also have good teeth, good hair, a willingness
to be provocative, to be deeply, deeply offended, to be filmed taking a shit.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
Until the world collapsed, we had no unedited experience, no authentic
way of being in the world, everything styled, just so product placement, curated.
However now our roots are showing. Our nails have fallen off. Perfect lips droop.
The blush is off the rosé colored glasses. The blush was broken capillaries all along.

It’s going to get worse in the city on the hill before it gets better.
We flattened the curve to prove we could and now we’re whipping it
like a cowboy on a tacky tv show because we can. I don’t mean Hee Haw.
That’s where I first learned about re-runs. String Bean died, I knew he did,
but there he was on Channel 12 KFVS Cape Girardeau, as I lived and breathed,
as he did not. Someone explained it to me. Probably my brother who
always loved giving me bad news. Now we say of people who are dead
“at least they don’t have to go through this.” Of people so far gone in Alzheimer’s,
“at least he doesn’t know we’re not there.” This moment nothing seems possible except more
disaster. More terror. More sadness. More cycles of hot takes and outrage and bounce-backs
and war and corruption and always, always, another novel virus waiting in somebird’s wings.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.

_____

(Italicized lines, if it’s not obvious to everyone, are from Allen Ginsberg’s amazing poem, “America.”)

_____

And if you’re super-lucky, the bookstore in your town just drops the books you bought right on your front porch.

Dream Song #7, Pandemic Poem #8

O it was a zappy, snappy kind of play,
a gum-chewing-broad kind of play,
little bit of a farce, little shedding of tears,
one of those whodunnit/I-did-it! plays.
And right at the end they did a little two-step,
a shuffle-tap, heel-step, second buffalo,
curtain call. And they were gone.
But as we all stood up to leave,
a guy we’d never seen before
came onstage. What had been pink
and aqua, very 1950s Miami style,
was all gray now. Lighting design
or point of view? Or both?
Everyone saw, everyone knew, all at once,
as he felt his way across the stage,
saying “canopy bed” instead of what it was,
a ratty mattress on the floor, saying
“four course dinner” and not “paper bag,”
that he’d made the whole thing up
in his head, all of it, the repartee, the chemistry,
the happy dance, the stolen kiss,
the mystery, the denouement,
and we stood and looked at each other,
not sure if the play was ended or how
indeed it could end, because
who made this part up? Did he? Did we?
Should we leave? Are we real?

_____
I’m not the only one having weird dreams lately: even the National Geographic says so.

Dream Song #6, Pandemic Poem #7

Everything’s still crowded in my dreams, bathrooms the worst,
with people jammed in or lined up or knocking, “Can you hurry?
My little girl has really got to go.”
They’re chamber pots, implausible stalls, or holes
in the floor. I’m always just about to lose it
when I find a working toilet in a bank lobby.
So far, barely, at the last second, I make it.
I wake up relieved I haven’t soaked the sheets.
Last night: the closest one is full, the next
monitored by a woman I somehow know doesn’t like me.
I’m close to the parking lot. I just decide to leave.
I’m already late. Somehow this connects
to a storm brewing. It’s so dark all the streetlights
have come on. I get excited when I think of this lie:
“I’ll just tell them I thought it was already night.”

Image

Pandemic Poem #1

corona virus I take a long bath and just touch touch touch my face

Dream Song #4 (a fat sonnet)

The trees and hills are at that awkward point
of winter, snow on the ground but nowhere else,
a bald guy with new implants too spread-out
to be attractive. I can’t wait until it all melts.
I had a dream once of climbing a hill like that.
I stubbed my toe, looked down to see bright pink
instead of white—blood mixed with snow—I think
that’s why hills look like heads to me still. What
dream book should I consult for giant head
with tender scalp and kicked-up bleeding crown?
I was part of a dream journaling experiment back then
and had a wicked crush on the therapist who led
the group. He had snake dreams. We all said
a snake means sex. He said no, not always. It doesn’t.
At 22, I was a nearly-manic mix of depressed
and horny and drank too much one time and tried to find
his house. I knew it was by a lake. If I found
his house, he didn’t answer the door. Which is good.
That night felt like a dream, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

Dream Song #2

I almost never want to leave the street
where my dream is taking place, but things
move fast so I can’t linger. The other night
I was in Butte (I think) and everything
was Irish, St. Patrick this and Brigid that,
mint green signs and throbbing drums and drunk guys
and a sense that things were turning dangerous
and I was walking, not driving, down a very narrow street.
That’s it. That was the end. I wasn’t afraid.
A man I know who lost a tooth in Butte
(for real) has cancer. I dreamed about him last night.
A gallery show, collages of himself, most naked,
which he called “The Ravager_________.” Next to the cheese tray,
he was selling tiny brown cloverleafs he’d crocheted.

_____

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Dream Song #1

My family said I’d lost about two months
when I called to say I’d popped back up in time.
They were, in my opinion, a little too calm
about my reappearance. In their defense,
they’d gotten several calls from other mes
from other times. I hadn’t made it home
to them on any of those other times.
I set out, offering up a tiny “please.”
I can’t stop seeing my original descent,
a fall, as from a plane, no chute, convinced
I was about to die. Somehow I didn’t.
Wind held me up. Or magnets. Or just friction.
In any case, the grass I landed on
was softer than I can describe. Softer than

_____

My cat, Callie, wondering if I’m going to kick her off the back porch, out of the dirty clothes. Not yet.

I love sleeping. I love dreaming. I love my dreamscapes. I love writing sonnets. I love Berryman’s dream songs. So–let’s see how many of these I can write? And how long will it take Callie to sleep so I can take a second picture, illustrating sleep?

Big Drummer Man

What if the Little Drummer Boy grew up
to be Big Drummer Man, a butcher perhaps,
with skins aplenty to manhandle across the tops
of barrels and pots and one precious little cup
that someone drank some special wine out of,
(Jesus maybe, yes, that’s who it was),
so that all along the Via Dolorosa,
every single, sorrowful step, there rose a
tattoo (the skin kind is the second definition,
thank you very much), a pummeled out
percussion code, spelling with every beat
not “inadequacy,” but “indignation,
causing Mary to nod to the beat and from
up high the grown-up baby smiled at him?

I know the little drummer boy did his thing in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem, but hear me out–any kid who plays a drum for a baby isn’t going to just GO AWAY, especially not after mother and child both encouraged him. I figure he stuck around and made a nuisance of himself, kept in touch, essentially stalked the holy family, drumming the whole time, and I picture them feeling about him the way I feel about the song–partly charmed, partly annoyed.

Not happy yet with the title. I considered these:

OK WHAT WISE GUY PUT A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

WE CAN’T HELP SEEING A CROWN OF THORNS IN THE MANGER

ON THE HEAD OF THE BABY IN THE MANGER LIES A CROWN OF THORNS

HEY DRUMMER BOY I CAN SEE YOUR HOUSE FROM HERE

CHRISTMAS IS SALT, EASTER IS PEPPER

Behind. Alive. So Bright.

New snow and hoar frost and every cliché
about crystals and diamonds and stars—
my commute the other morning was bright
while my mood was altogether grim, standard
mid-semester stew of “I am so far behind”
with big chunks of “I live in squalor” and
an extra soupçon of regret. Remonstrance
aplenty as I set out for work and yet
those damn sparkles everywhere,
especially on the red blackberry canes,
and I won’t say the grimness diminished,
but I played like each spot of silver
shining in the morning sun was one more thing
I needed to do that wasn’t yet done
and honestly I’ve never felt more alive.
_____
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The snow, thankfully, is mostly gone. But the bottles in my garden are glowing.