Poems: Painters’ Exhalations 72, 73, and 74
Painters’ Exhalations 72
—after Mitchell Johnson’s Poppies
Misconception, red. A child’s naïve
across stove’s unchanging, fiery temper, yes.
body, disallowing cars’ miniscule
motion, halting, the corner
Too, the eyes hankering sleep,
the body ingesting poisonous degrees of
libation, the cursed sign protruding
eyes’ dampened orifices, yes.
pool, the unaware dive brain first
in lieu of using foot’s adrenaline
Blood, painting a bull’s fur the saddened tribute
to unaware amusement, yes.
Soil, sad to excuse from its nurtured hold,
poppies ignite more sporadic containment
found alerting eyes
can take shape of a beautiful
blossom bloomed to forgive
the fallacy red has been spilled
from tongues of devoted
Painters’ Exhalations 73
—after Alfons Karpinski’s Garden at Dark
Cemetery pleasantry, asymmetrical,
the speaker cascades a langue blue departure
air’s crepuscular covering,
climbing down rungs until
earth resembles the awakened,
the walking receptive.
Dissimilar to the dead
(whose lives resemble a photogenic
conversation, animated motions
sadly solely now seated on dusty shelves
of sometimes acrobatic memories)
the garden exiled into planters’ innate
concepts, armed with growth proclaiming
answers to the query of what shall
become here. Not
bone dry, an arid voice
cracking leaves and accompanying
mother-branches, the humid
survives quite well
insolated where night shields from a sun-
gone-mad, attempting perjury of light,
echoing what occurred prior
to the dying, the burgeoning tones.
Painters’ Exhalations 74
—after William Orpen’s Zonnebeke
Why the horizontal positional
attire aligned with callused intentions
your sleeping warmth slowly
can panic a child
they overlook safety
arriving to behold
with innocuous eyes
the smile you’ve lashed into leaving.
So much death walks this ornamental maze.
that of deceitful exhibitions
to the building
onto the back of gilded conscience
spelling future using hands
designated as noble tools
postulating rejuvenated meaning.
Georgette Magritte Dreams Hubby Rene’s Golconde,
The Listening Room, and Tomb of the Wrestlers
How sour tasting, her green-apple name,
floating nimbus in a gray Golconde sky,
and all the twin t’s, raining down
like Italian daggers;
funeral umbrella-handle t’s, gripped by her
white-gloved hands, claustrophobic outside
the gargantuan wrestler’s tiny tomb;
tt stiletto silhouettes, minnow darting shadows
across the bedroom window pane, shadow-netted
by seine-patterned wallpaper fleur de lis and
umbral L’s overlapping V’s, black-onyx mirrored
from her nightstand’s patent leather Vuitton purse,
raven-perched next to the solitary
sentient Rose immensely listening to the storm.
Linda Ann Strang
Maria Nova: Hymn for the 20th Century
Cubist, cross leg puzzle, Catholic radio –
when Maria started receiving raunchy country
love songs in the Dragon Café
she twisted her legs into a plait,
even so she managed to fawn multi-planar
hips from fresh air – Picasso’s dove,
Braque’s mandolin. She knew she had big
trouble when Confucius leapt forth from her fortune
cookie to sing, “One
singular sensation,” on the table top,
shocking the restaurant with his red bowler hat,
and high-kicking ketchup all over the show.
Gabriel must have ruptured a paper lantern.
To say nothing of Raphael.
Later, those Demoiselles of Avignon, bless ’em,
rowed home on her broken waters – Chairman Mao’s
eyes peeping from their Guernica slit and cultured wrists.
A Tourist in Poetry City
My roses were on heat,
they left smudges down the street,
so I tried to leave the Eliot Quarter
with my basket full of co co rico
and my bargain maculate pashmina.
But some lollipop man
started waving his big erotic semiotic,
threatening to sweeten me
among the nightingales
Terrified, I had to duck into Auden lane
with my bill and my platypus flying.
Here two cups of coffee tried to mug me
with a sawn off geranium,
an ocarina dove and fife caliber pigeon
in their C flat funeral best.
I hadn’t even asked for coffee,
I’d wanted a Shakespearian.
You know, small beer.
Luckily, a police car with screeching
line brakes pulled
up beside me. My God,
I said, Up, what you doing down here?
Me! cracked Up,
I’m here for anapest and dactyl detox.
Plus you get a Yeats rebate
this time of year –
Spanish capes inclusive.
Was that a rev?
Spiral Forest Swoon
swirls skyward nautilusing;
layers of sedimental rock found
underneath the site are reflected on the
façade in bands of tiles and stucco. The building
is a spiral-shaped bit of earth pushed upward as if by
earthquake; mosaic walls and walkways; no two windows alike,
they dance out of line, off-balance, the walls swooning…
I’m forming this poem organically, pouring concrete,
mimicking the forest, mimicking Dickey, who
wrote a diamond-shaped poem
of beginning a life
live inside of
it, this recipe for life.
The stairs reach forever toward
grass roofs and a café’s stairs spiral ever
higher now in the yogic kundalini twist, each floor
an energy center. Pressed against the window I see the
crown chakra, a gleaming gold onion dome inside my poem of
diamonds. I crown you prince of the forest, prince of my
body, my Russian lover and guide, your hands lie
on fluid lines of hips and thighs, feeling
the building’s uneven walkways,
mossy roofs, sight can
to explore by
hand, a tactile tour,
ceramic tile walls worn by the
body’s warmth and oils, hidden stairwells
and terraces, we’re both a part of this architecture.
Just look at my body, no straight lines—Hundertwasser
despised straight lines, said that anyone with a ruler in his pocket
should be arrested; of course facetious, but even the facets
of these diamonds are linear, each sentence stacked.
He said buildings should never be complete
always a work or play in progress;
Earth’s manic seasons
of life. Living quarters
should be altered by all tenants:
age, mold, animals—if the walls crumble,
so what? They were modeled after the chaos of
earth’s quaking rumble— they could tumble any moment.
Fingerwhorled windows identify us both as individuals, self-ish,
dancing out of line as footsteps scuff below, people ascending
toward our coiled embrace, untangling now, panicked:
but he said that walls should be made of glass
surely then all sex would be public? We
wonder what is the punishment
for public sex above
Are we two
subject to reprimand
in the architect’s grand plan,
my prince? If these tilting walls and floors
disappeared we would just be bodies floating freely,
lovers in a Chagall painting…a Russian painter, like you,
and I’m your beloved Bella, not of this earth, boneless body swirling.
Hundertwasser drafted this day already, drafted us, his lawless
sighing lovers in his rising spiraling forest. Already these
windows, kisses, and breasts were sketched
in his mind as he sat naked and drew
us together, pressed against
the windows nude
have five skins,
so naked is not really naked; there are
levels of undress: self, clothing, family, house,
community; all skins we wear, identities. I’m far from
home, far from my family—nearly naked just by being here.
Your arms are a better garment: I hide my face in the warm squeeze,
in your voice and smell. If I can’t see anything, then I am
invisible, small. No one will ever find me; so
naked, I don’t have a name or a face
I’m just a doll in your pocket
a lover in a painting
Forcing the dough into his mouth, he almost swallows his fingers. But it’s when he withdraws his hand that cheesy tendrils slip down his throat and resist his gags.
He shouldn’t have gulped, but the hotel room door is bolted and he’s alone with the pizza. Draining soda into a plastic cup, he watches it swirl like a flushing toilet, feels it moisten his nose as it surges between his salty lips.
The ocean’s binge had ceased earlier in the morning, seaweed strewn along its porcelain shore. By late afternoon, seagulls shrieked the withered mounds’ desperate cries for a high tide. Further along the beach a restaurant was perched. Like a fat bird on skinny legs, his mother said.
As the air cools his slick knuckles he thinks about the restaurant, his parents inside. He imagines churning waves heaving seaweed against the stilts, wonders whether they’ll buckle when his mother leaves the table.
Once it’s over, the purged heap clings to the transparent cup’s rim. He can’t help but smell his fingers; they were inside him.
Because the glob will harden into a waxy tangle, he props the door open. Rushing the hallway, he drops the cup at the vending machine and kicks it beneath. Only when he’s back inside the room–his blood pounding and his breath hot with relief–does the invigorated tide retreat from his wounded throat.
It’s usually ok
after a dozen
words that hang
paper from the
of one’s dendroid
nervosity. It’s usually
ok, except today
when I need
even if tomorrow
I will delete it
a burgeoning tree.
After Allen Ginsberg
he went outside and stood
in the sunshine
saying, God, touch my body
with your pincers;
I’ll wait here for you and for
Kerouac, who promised
to come by later with some wine.
for Ray Succre
Four knights on zebras come
charging over the amethystine hill brandishing
signs advertising four separate whiskeys.
Outside of the caretaker’s window four children
are throwing apetalous plants onto the derbies
of these gentlemen in the mackintoshes.
At noon on the shopping plaza parking
lot a grocery cart collides with a tan wagon.
In the wagon are four polaroids of newborn babies.
Outside every house in this neighborhood a
man stands poised to knock. He will wait till
four o’clock. He has four new death certificates.
The Fantasy Called “Life” Left a Mauve Quiver
I was not afraid
Of being an outcast from
Orisons and opinions, I prefer
The reddish f-
ur of orangutans to
Of pearl, oyster concealed.
The lascivious touch
Of scorpion does not string scorpion.
I regret you have faith in the elixir
Of the morning microwave browned biscuit
Severed in a new modeled, blessed kitchenette.
The last time I saw an orangutan was in a
The orangutan threw at me
A piece of simulated rock broken off
From his zoo home, a simulated cliff.
I understood his interrupted solitude
And the gesture upon
His glimpse of his reality.
The last time I saw a scorpion
Was in South Texas,
And the scorpion was in a jar.
I saw you as I saw you the last time,
Standing in the atmosphere of an eclipse,
I recall the mystic aureole of your dim-lit
White gold long hair.
Geese with outstretched curved necks
Flew in front of what was left of the moon,
Your eyes became spirals,
Spun like slot machines,
And then shut down as if the spinning
Had never begun. It was as if
Had bled all the emotions from
The divine corporeal.
I glimpsed the light the moon has lost,
It became a curious splendor
Like a not-understood curio.
I heard from a skeptic, who
Spoke with sneers,
Disdainfully that you now have
Virgin visions, hold
A hand with a scar
Of an eternal, external not-here,
As you and the touched,
But unseen otherness
Speak of your love
For each other
In an extinct language
The Unknown Already Known Lives and Resurrects The Corpse of Language into Life
The question, not the answer
The rivet becomes a wing, the
Moon refuses the light of the sun,
Emerge from moon sand,
And each pineapple has three shadows
To quiver on the quacking moon ground,
And we illuminated by the moon’s darkness,
See the sounds
Sung by the cinnamon-colored, cerise-combed
The sounds become our hands, and we hear
The new sounds
Coming from the fusion of our joined hands,
And the sounds
Have gold knuckles.
We listen to the sounds from joined hands,
The ashes of the burning sun
And cover our eyes, our ears.
Only Those Who Stay Home Travel
On my pale beige, rough surfaced, wall
Hangs a long, pale beige Sino Zen scroll,
A shaky bush
Has inked on
This pale beige scroll
Of an ax,
A homemade ax.
The line representing
The left side
Of the handle
Is thicker than
The line representing
The right side.
The different in the thickness
Speaks in silence
A thought that has never
The thought through brush strokes
Was spoken here.
I know Sino believes we are all born
With “completeness,” and have “completeness,”
But everyone lives as if incomplete.
Everyone is so wrapped up in the illusions
Of his or her inauthentic self
That he or she cannot unwrap
And find his or her authentic self.
Sino says, “This ‘ax’ does away
With people’s incompleteness.”
I understand what Sino means,
If the ax sits in the corner and is never used
It gives completeness,
But if the ax is used
It creates the user an incomplete person
And creates an incomplete society.
Samsun and Izmir
There’s bone in the stew, a green sign
informs that May
is Lyme disease awareness month.
Am I aware?
I can’t answer the sign and downtown
a bearded man
donning Russell Athletic’s sweatpants
with eyes denser
than the Kodiak’s maw
is given forty bucks a week
simply to quit bothering the owner
of a used bookstore.
Someday I will own something
and do the same,
not now. Now I sit on marble toilets
and read my cigarette carton;
The finest Samsun and Izmir
Well, for $4.68, my knees will bleed
on a rug facing East.
I get up, the toilet flushes
should be as simple.
to express a different
with the current facade
these amino acids act
selfishly to obtain
the desired look,
appearance to attract
worthy of integration,
replication to attain
supreme fitness in
who disperse to inspire
to transcribe their model,
program once individuals
into homogenous translations.
Lightning works in the white noise of darkness.
Wood seemingly chiseled haphazardly
evolves into a phallic statue.
Encompassed by derelict houses,
this mass of oak stands in radiance.
Daylight reveals an unapologetic slaughter.
Limbs crash when chainsaws release
the tension against the made.
Through the bus window is viewed
the resultant electric carving.
Reverent promises are proclaimed.
Metallic claws finally dismember
ligneous refuse into thin mulch.
This word smells
like a tongue depressor.
It offers its bowels to strangers.
Its brain is made
of macaroni and cheese.
It has the shrill, petulant
voice of a bitter parrot.
Its eyes are two magpies
staring into Hades.
It is the marriage of
genius and the mundane.
The Theory Wars
The baroque violinist stared at the ardently neoclassical violist. More and more, carnivorous glances were exchanged between players as the velvet curtains rose. Perhaps another of the theory wars is on hand, the conductor mused, tapping his black baton. Only the audience would know for certain. As the concerto began, musicians grew fewer, and their sound greater, and the dim stage collapsed in a heap of shattered harpsichords.
Robert S. King
Why Graveyards Are Full of Bright Birds
At dusk I lock the gate
to keep the living out.
I am told the wind comes here to die.
It falls and a thousand wings
nothing to hold them to the sky.
My heart has a hole in it. Sometimes I wad up paper towels
and stuff them in the hole. My heart leaks regardless. I
visit the doctor. The examining room smells peculiarly of
mint. “Hmm,” the doctor says as he peers into the hole. He
decides to give me a shot. He says it’s to numb me. It
“Tickets!” the conductor shouts. My heart is riding the
train into the city. It glances out the window at the
river that knuckles alongside the tracks. The river was
once a great commercial highway. Today it’s only scenery.
At least the seats on the train face forward. Traveling
backwards always makes my heart feel sick.
It’s perfect bombing weather. Angels are continually
taking off and landing in the big, empty field next door.
“Love is the world’s greatest democracy,” my heart
declaims above the rumble of air traffic. Later, when I
repeat it to her in bed, she doesn’t argue or object. My
heart shakes hands with her heart.
“Next, please,” the barber says. My heart trots in from
the outfield, chewing a handful of sunflower seeds. The
barber is holding what looks like a letter, but if it’s a
letter, it’s not the letter on blue paper the government
says I need. I fight down the confusing feeling of
drowning and then talk about last night’s dream. Women
with half-smiles finger the fabric noncommittally.
My heart climbs onto the roof. From up there, it can see
the system of roads built to carry away the dead. I beg my
heart to come down. “You’re going to get hurt,” I warn. My
heart doesn’t answer. It’s thinking of its obligation to
beat. It’s thinking of the dead on their backs in boxes.
It’s thinking of my mother, the unrequited bones of her
I hear crying. The crying goes on all night. If I didn’t
know better, I’d think it was a baby crying, it sounds so
human in the dark. My heart tries to sleep, but can’t. I
watch it walk away. I watch for a long time. I watch my
heart until it’s out of sight. It never looks back. It
doesn’t wave. And then the street fills with bruised shoes
and the invention of gunpowder.
My heart returns in a dark overcoat, the brim of its hat
pulled low. It talks rapidly, but also with a stutter,
like a tommy gun. The couples at the other tables look
away. There are various theories as to why. My heart draws
a rough map on the back of an envelope. In the piney woods
a fat and bleeding sheriff is tied to a tree and crying
I huddle around the trash barrel with a jury of my peers.
Although spring, the days are gray and shabby, and the
police overtly suspicious. My heart holds its hands out
toward the fire. There’s much to say, but no one speaks,
afraid to upset the silence following upon the collapse of
the great newspapers.
My heart knows what’s right. It doesn’t know how it knows,
but it knows and opens like a red-tinged blossom under the
weight of its knowledge. The ropes and pulleys stop; the
Napoleonic soldiers stop dragging the peasant girl off
into the woods; the clouds stop drifting. I wait for
further explanation. None comes. In the gray grainy light
from the window, the blossom is a dark inadvertent blue.
Friends forget to call. Forget they’re friends. Mail
contracts without signing their names. Change their names
without telling me. Snap the heads off birds. Leave
headless birds on the doorstep. And when I’m near, drop
their voices and whisper into the phone. My heart
remembers now how it got its hole, which was once round
and clean and just big enough for hope to escape through.
An engine coughs to life. Startled, I look up. Defendants
and their lawyers are dancing around the cannon on the
little square of lawn outside the courthouse. They must
believe the rain has erased any fingerprints. “But that’s
stupid,” my heart murmurs, even if something like it
happens nearly every afternoon.