Erected Man

The horseman rides: he is unbound.

The long ships land: they are slim, iron. The sun is yellow and round and it is hot. The long ships slip into the crest beach. The men and women on the beach do not wear clothes. They have burned eyes—deep into the long ago: the ancient come and go of the up and down. They do not believe.

‘They are dead.’

The soldier is captain of the long ships. He has scars on his cheeks, hints. He walks the planks to the beach. He walks from the long ships. Slaves, in rows below the deck of the long ship, look: the men and women on the beach do not look alive.

It is desert. The stagnant burned do not blink. The dead do not blink. The sun is yellow and round and hot and is on and off the flat water. The long ship men soften, turn to pinks. Insects climb from the sand, onto the iron legs of the men.

‘They are dead.’

It is desert. The soldier erects a man. The man has gold hair, bracelets on his wrists, pierces across his chest. His eyes are allowed the hallowed stare to the sun. The man is taut, thin—skin like the low tide sand. The soldier erects his hands, high, above his head.

‘This home has a god.’ The soldier says.

The men and women on the beach do not move. They hold spears, stand in straight lines—lines like the tall trees in the mainland green. They do not look alive. They do not believe. The painted lines on the muscles is the white and blue of the faithless: marked by the no-god.

It is methodical in the desert. Now, the beach is landed. Long ships slide into the shore. Soldiers: birthed out of the narrow iron slips. The soldiers stare at the obsolete faithed, the unmoving languid squid skin: they are without hope.

‘We have erected man.’ The soldier says. The chained slaves do not stir, stare, from the thin holes in the long ships.

The blank, lifeless mud-hut children are bought—for the price of the erected. The children are borrowed, bound. This life: this slaved life.

They are dead.



We Hunt

He housed his family.

It is darkness in the quiet: the afternoon squints in the mist, clouded. He carves shapes in wood, in marble. He carves, again—in the rear of the studio. The shapes stand erect and poised. The shapes stare. The shapes are statues.

Once, accidentally, the wooden legs of the shaped and risen king are too light, are too frail, are cracked. The queen is marble. She is untainted. She is uncracked. Her shawl is on her neck. The gods come into the hallways. The eyes seek a formed and envisioned starvation.

It is the rain. The somber dance in the rain. The somber rise. The somber are healthy. The somber are novel. They will not look as frightful as the days that have passed. We have lasted. Choir, raise my murderer to my hearth.

It is time to pray.

Marianne is fifteen. She goes to the store. She walks in short skirts and he is afraid. He has allured himself to the belief in blood—I will take skin.

Mitchell is thirteen. He sits in the basement and fills plastic bottles with lighter fluid. He sells the bottles on the corner, at dawn, to men with thick coats—tiny legs. The men stand in line and do not talk. Mitchell has a desk. He charges the men. The men pay.

Mitchell watches his sister. He makes explosives in the garden in the afternoon. He thinks to bleed the skin of the misled—the deathless.

The marble queen has watered her wooden king and the sit-in rest makes the wood burn. The roofs of mouths burn in the heated summer. The children have children legs and run with children arms to the water. The un-held: this land is the land of the un-done.

The families are patient to wait until they are pardoned—until they are excused—to untie the soiled string of men who are un-good. It is only, like the lines of plaster on the back leg of an adolescent, a trap:

We hunt unlike the rest.



Three Reasons

1. On that first day, caught in the crossroads of the high school hallway, I was given a choice: left or right. To what was left, I say: left led me to you, a thousand years of love and suffering, two thousand pages of documentation: field notes, microfiche, poems. You found God in the flesh of my body and, as in the tradition of certain forgotten people, therefore wanted nothing more than to eat me whole.

To what was right, I say nothing. Tide coming in and out. The unchartable movement of stars.

2. You wrote, I do not love you like a mother. This was on the train; we moved toward Manhattan through a flurry of telephone lines, houses and light. I wrote that I loved train-time, in-between time; the space between here and there. It is like the quivering of molecules before they shift to bring a new something into the world. You wrote, I do not love you like a teacher. I do not remember what waited for us in Manhattan. In my mind, we are forever riding the in-between on rattling seats. You are forever writing, You do not love me like a son, and then passing it on.

3. Gary sits in the kitchen, arms folded in the half-light. Through the window I can see: birds, pines, jagged lip of sky. My own lips are dry, and under my tongue something appeared last night that will not go away – a lump, or sore, and I keep checking to see if it is still there. "Use it or lose it," my father used to say. He and Gary would have gotten along; their worlds are orderly, rational, neat. They vote along party lines. They love and correct their wives. Gary offers me a juice and I accept, the sweet acidic sting under my tongue and all. I accept the sore, the situation, Gary in the half-light of morning and his wife dressing upstairs; I accept her bedroom, her bathrobe, the pines and the sky. I accept Gary’s company – in fact, I appreciate it. We say nothing and in this we find camaraderie. We are man and boy, and the questions we do not ask we will use or lose forever.


The Un-god

There came the word: the man with statue hands will not dig. In winter, the slanted roofed mouths burn because of the light. The statue man will not dig. He stares at his hands, crippled, cut. Churn: the un-god has churned again.

The island is a square, with sides that are straight. The women have hair that is straight, like long lines in early evening squalls. The long ships--shaped like seamonsters--begin to dot: this is the horizon that the un-god has churned: coughed and caught.

My land is the word.

The un-god seized. He seized the sieve. It was a sieve. The man with the statue--No!--the man is a statue. He has statue hands, he has brick burned eyes: he does not drool. No, he stares. The un-god has seized the sieve. He has dripped it into the white water, into the salt flats, into the mud hut villages.

"You live in mud huts." He says and he smiles and he has white teeth and the women smile and have crooked teeth and the children howl and the men drink. Ah: forsaken. The sieve is in the middle of town. But it looks like a strainer. It looks like a giant pasta strainer. It does not look like a sieve.

"Put what you do not want into the sieve," the un-god says.

We all put what we do not want into the sieve. But the sieve looks like a strainer. So we do not care. My pack is heavy. There are rocks in my pack. I put the rocks in the strainer and the rocks disappear. I am free. The merchant has snakes in his pack. He puts the snakes in the strainer and the snakes disappear.

The un-god gives us shovels. He says we can dig, if we want to. We want to dig. At first, we all want to dig. The sand is moist and light.

Now, the statue man will not dig. The square island is a depot for dead men and women. Dead men and women do not breathe. They have open eyes and thin skin. They have hollow thoughts: dead men and women know they are dead. We build their graves.

"You are dead." The un-god says and points. He points at the woman with the short curls, the tan dress, the flat soiled stare. She has collapsed like wet paper. The mice will eat her skin and she will know that the mice eat her skin.

There is a sign on the mainland. There is an advertisement, on the mainland, next to the theater. The sign advertizes our island. The sign is next to the theater. The sign is next to the church. There is a church in town.

"We bury the now dead." The un-god says, has said--writes, has written.

The sign is green and gold and says that we will bury those that are dead. But now the statue man will not dig because he says his hands have turned to cracked marble, he says his stance is uneven. He says he sees Hades.

"But it does not matter," I tell the statue man. "We do not believe in such places." I shake my head. This folly, I think, and continue to dig. The statue man looks like marble.


Frost Valley

Discovery! In the backyard, as the sun slips down the lip of earth, my shovel hits something like stone. It is not stone. I cry aloud and you come running, What is it What is it? I put my hands into the dirt and from it pull what will take our whole lives to recognize.


In the hallway, in the slanted rays of sun and sparkling glass everywheres, you hand me a word. What shall we do with it? you ask. I regard the word, then, through the windows, the tall world. You are standing too close, like you were running from a dream. Is it a dream? The word in my hand feels unreal, and all morning a breathlessness has risen like steam off the fields. Please name it for me, you say, Please say you will. I say, Yes.


Yes to the blue sky, to the brown deck. To the persistent clouds, the leaves of trees, yes to the ocean stirring behind the leaves. Yes to the fingers, the eyes, the hands for grabbing and giving; yes to the skin and yes to the air. Yes to my mother, who is too thin, and yes to my father, who would be king. Yes to ambitions and yes to failures. Yes to the car, the exhaust, the road. Yes to the power, the politics, the flash of the knife in the dark. To the lost, the compass, the glass everwhere; yes to the snow that falls around us a different January, turning everything to unbroken light.


Orienteering: you write: you hold the compass close until you find direction that reveals what you must know; that sometimes we must learn to fall behind before we understand how we can go.

I watch over your shoulder. The gathering darkness is a promise outside it intends to keep.


Our manuscript is published. Now everyone knows what ever happened to love. I take to side streets, call taxis in advance, change my wardrobe. You don't answer the phone. No one remembers what the soul is, no one even owns a shovel. At home mounds of dirt are piling up, mountains in the bedroom.


January: we walked two hundred miles in the snow. I said yes to the sparkle, yes to our breath turned crystal, yes to the absent sky. You held the compass in your hand. When it happened, there was no sound or song or changing of light. We went on like we always do, whether or not the world discovered what we are, whether or not it said yes.


Wedded Monks

We lost.

In the early, this is my kitchen. These are my hands. The run (the dance) of the in and out is the flee of the in and out. They have fled, child: we have fled.

A man sells wooden chamberpots on the urban street. The street does not face the sun. The street is a market. Men and women unload their carts. The carts travel from the countryside. Men and women pick fruit in the country. They sell the fruit in the city, on the urban corners, in the up-down. Nearby, a tourist is attacked by two men with sticks. The tourist likes to scream. She screams when she goes on the give and take, too. Then, she gossips and is red. Now she screams. She screams and she has a red face. Her face is red. A foreigner has taken her purse. A foreigner has scratched her face and she is crying when she screams. It is morning.

'Oh.' The man in the round hat says. 'We will catch him.'
'Oh.' The women says. She feels better.

Behind the screen, a dwarf in rememberless waltzes scratches marble tiles with his diamond hoof. The guests are masked. The host is masked. They will not catch him, the dwarf thinks.

The space shuttle collapses. The cardboard shuttle has people inside, has men and women inside. The men and women are trapped. They cannot breathe. The shuttle is on fire. The shuttle is close to space. Space is a vacuum. Men and women cannot breathe in a vacuum. We hush, we hush the others. The cardboard shuttle has turned into little bits of metal. The little bits of metal fall into the sea. The sea is on fire. We hush.

We lost. And un-elegant.

In the late, this is my kitchen. It is time for the silenced monks to witness my hands: these are my hands. It is my blood. My skin is weightless like the men and women, the tiny astronauts--they were ripped into tiny pieces. The astronauts were ripped apart after the cardboard shuttle burst into flames. The earth was a small ball for them. The monks bow their heads. One of them has a round mole on his head. I have mold on my fingers.

In the quiet late, the sun goes. I have the eyed monks lowered into the unearthed graves. We begin to dig, after the shuttle collapses. There are famous names on the graves stones. The graves bob on the rolling ground like water buoys. We park the monks and begin to undig the famous buried men and women.

We are wormed. We have walked in the wretched and worn: we are wormed. We have to wait and stare. It is the eyed monks, the eyed-wonder, that began to see that it was hollow.

The unfettered now the unfree: we-we-we. We free them.

'It is a dream.' She says. 'It is like a dream.' She says. She says that it sounds like a dream. The up and down is like the up and down of a dream. She has bleeded fingers and fretful-fretful-fretful: that girl-child will not marry in this town. We sell her: we have sold her.

We sleep and it is (this is buttoned) the free. Thistled and dreary, there is no story. The poor greek emblem. These un-done and sainted have adultered the future. The monks continue to dig and the monk with a mole on his head smiles. He likes to dig. He smells his hands and his hands smell like dirt.

'My hands smell like dirt.' He says. We smile and pat each other on the back: we have met our own reflections. At last, we can smile. We are perky and adolescent again. It is not the inside and outside: in and out--in and out--in and out.

'Let us go out!' The monks say. We rejoice.

'Let us go in!' The monks say. We rejoice. We are not lost. We are praised and blessed. And in the late night, in my kitchen, we unearth the greatest. They will certainly know what to do with these monks who will not stop their talk and their joy and will not stop their digging.



Loose Ends

You take my hand -- we light a candle.

"When I was a little girl, my mother would do this with me. And I remember looking up at all those saints -- so enormous! -- looking at me from the stained glass..."

Above the church, God moves His hands and writes words for me to see in the flame and projected in shadows against the wall. I move my lips and look up at you.

"Do you know, Michael, how long it's been since I've done this?" The lights in your eyes flare and shine. "It must be, oh... thirty... thirty-five years..."

I picture you as a little girl. I close my eyes and we are walking through the cemetary, just like before: you are showing me where your mother was buried, and your aunts and uncles, and your house across the way on Poet's Corner. We are holding hands. The sky is a enormous window of blue. Outside the cemetary cars rush by, tumors are born and discovered, a meat-packing truck takes a left--

"Where do you go, sometimes?" you ask. You hand is on mine and I smell a thousand feelings, hear thoughts from miles away. I don't pull away but ride time to other tomorrows, match distant years like yarn, weave a life from life and let go...

"You know, I think you--" You stop. "I think must have the purest thoughts. I really do." You stop. "Sometimes-- sometimes I picture you like those saints, I do, I swear: I picture you in white robes, healing with your sweet hands."

"Come touch me."

Outside the cemetary poems are written and thrown out. Someone tries to tell the truth, stars are born and die, the meat-packing truck is backing up like beep beep beep and all the universe ripples in agreement. Inside you are a little girl, and when we kiss you taste like something new. "Listen," I say. "Listen."

I will keep saying it.



When I was a boy

The song we used to sing, it went like this—

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
The cross is in the ballpark
The cross is in the ballpark

You were shy, at first; a nun in fourth grade told you it would be better for the choir if you kept your mouth shut. I said: What do nuns know? Then you smiled, opened your mouth up wide--


The first letter went like: Labor Day, Michael, and I am cleaning the house, I am taking out the stuff of several seasons gone by to make room for whatever wants to com e through my window. Will it be wind? Or will it be you? I love you, forever, and this life is our labor: a poem of love, a story of redemption. Whatever comes through the window, I shall name it you.

The last letter is hard to remember. Like broken glass. Like holes in the ceiling. I signed it and walked away. I licked your name and pressed it shut.

I am still walking.

When I was a boy, you said: Oh Michael, is anyone who understands our love? We were driving past the harbor, back to school.

No Miss Mary, I said, I don’t think so.

You were so pleased we almost had an accident.

* *

In the dream you were a girl I used to love at 16. You said to me, aren’t I pretty? and I said yes, very much; and you asked, do you want to touch my legs? and I said, yes, very much, I want to touch you legs, and slid my hands from your knees to your thighs. When I got to your pussy, I felt something hard. I pulled out a pearl. You started screaming and that’s when I woke up with a fist I was too afraid to open.


When the first letter came the world changed overnight. Trees undressed, their bodies bare in the February air. Everywhere I looked – red sky, holly berries in snow, papery moon – I saw: heart, heart, heart. I could hear the world breathing. I wrote it out on paper: Michael, Ithaca, New York, East Coast, America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Universe, Multiverse, God’s heart.


The last time I was too scared to breathe, so inside my head I sang

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
The cross is in the ballpark
The cross is in the ballpark

and kept my mouth shut tight



You were not a teacher / I am not a raindrop

no I will never forget the time raindrops ran in rivers down the windshield of your car, when you forced me out of my body with yours, while I ran with the raindrops and died there on the glass over and over until you were finished. then you drove me home: out the cemetary gates, down goose lane, through the clean night air.

years later I finished with you. first I broke all the pens, then the pencils, then my fingers. when I woke in the hospital I realized these were gestures, really, as in prayer or penence, and therefore imperfect like our words for God, or love. I sat in the bare bed and learned the topography of the ceiling: look, there are mountains, valleys, rivers, roads. I let the rivers take me away...

we were an accident of eyes, you said. a catastrophe of grace. then you smiled, pulled an eyelash from above your bright blue orb, and put it in my hand saying: look, a comma; as long as you hold this, you will hold me, and we will always be able to breathe.

or the time you held me upside-dow n in the closet beh ind your bedroom, when your husband was away. you twisted my cock while I recited all your favorites from memory: I think I made you up inside my head... To live in this world you must be able to... Oh world I cannot hold thee close enough... when it w as over, when you let me down, I remember how you rubbed my ankles, my wrists. My tongue hurt, like I swallowed a mouthful of sawdust, and you said: I'm so sorry, but I think no one else will ever love you like I do.

I take the long w ay to the Pacific. I sleep in vans, walk interstates, disappear in Ohio to wake up in Kansas. I discover the secrets of time, how to bend myself from place to place. In Philadelphia I am on Market Street: long tables full of babies' shoes, electronics, dolla r storefronts and an ATM. I pull the lever and I am on Market Street, San Francisco: standing in the sun amongst the waste, losers, beautiful teenager girls and wild packs of gutterpunk crack-rats, prostitutes and tiny mountains of ash. I tap my Newport, I sing: (Em) I've got a Newport and you've got a town / (Gmaj) we could go smoking and driving around. When it's time I pull the lever again.

* * *

Thanksgiving, 1999: the roof caved and the ceiling dropped plaster on the tabletop amongst the ham and forks and knives. Mother screams and for a second I can see her before the dust rises like smoke and claws the walls of my throat. The rumble overhead: is it the roof, or a plane? Are we under attack? I push aside the table to find Father on the floor. There is white ash in his hair. When the next crash comes, the windows blow out and glass rains like a river throughout the air and forever on our lives. Father won't rise, I keep pulling and pulling and when he looks up, I can just hear him say, Pull the lever... pull the lever...

* * *

CLINICIAN'S NAME: ******* *******

******* frequently talks about voices he hears in his head. He told me that is it his real father talking to him telling him to kill himself, and others. He stated that his brain was fusing with his father's brain and that he father was going to take him to the devil and to hell.

On another occasion he told me that he was a real Indian from India and that h e hated Americans for killing all of his Indian friends. He said he came here a thousand years ago to make peace on a shark boat.

******* portrayed Squanto in our Thanksgiving show. Although it was not a speaking part, he made approparit e gestu res at the appropriate ti mes.

ANNUAL GOAL: ******* will increase positive interactions with peers and adults from baseline of minimum compentency to master level by 1/14/01.

* * *

inside the car, inside the rain, I remember that your body was warm, that your skin was soft and dry. I remember the d ashboard, and the steering wheel. I remember the moonroof and how you smelled. afterwards you said: you will heal people, Michael, you will have no choice.

once, when you were a little girl, your grandfather took you into the closet and sai d, Shhh. He put his finger inside you, and then another. You were scared but it was dark and there was nothing for you to do but wait, and pray. You did not tell me what you prayed for, or if you kept praying the next time, or the tim s a fter that. You just told me: listen: I feel better already.

* * *

I pull the lever and I am adrift. Cars stop and flow. Somewhere I think I hear the ocean, but it may just be traffic, or the wind.

* * *

Listen, Mary: there are things you just don't kn ow. I was born 1,000 years ago in another place. We didn't love throughout the ages; we never fucked in other lives. I sailed here on a shark boat to make peace but they killed us. I gave them the earth of our ancestors and they spat on it. I gave them words and pronounciation to make pictures but instead they hung up signs. You argued that was a different world but I say to you: there is but one world and it goes on. Some nights I wake up and I can feel y our grandfather closing in. I don't need prayer to hold the world. I don't need you. I pull the lever.


The Once Men

Were king where king. Through goned station, awry—how herd the rats, they have red eyes. The last of the stale flatwater goes. We sink in the disease and pray: the leeched bled women will hand her hair to us, on this limb. Underneathe a canard, the gold monks dig caves in the pits of her face: she is pimpled into sex work.

Faced, at last, the male seed, fathered prophetic heir, sells daughters to his kingdom. He draws circles into the eyed—the only eyed madness—to seek the dream of life: this surveillance. In inspected cages, the women begin the crawl to the mud pits where homes like castles.

The kingdom goes to the unearthed wormed. Once wreathed in the vein of their skin, it is now not their stance.

Its performance, though slighted, did connect. The knighted began to kneal to wooden statues in the backyards of peasant homes. Dotted and dressed, carboard bloomed in the church. Cut leathered skin gated the entrance to sacraments—if only we hallowed hold: the service would undue the plague. Soon, as addicted to the smell and felled tire of automobiles, the homely women (beaten as dogs) unwound the head scarfs and railed into the pews of the desert church.

The sand had danced and swallowed the mouths of the coastal villages. There was only a wooden statue, a man erected: perhaps. Gloried in afterbirth, berthed in the corner of a wench’s mudhut, sampled as the glory of offspring: permit the youthful women, the pettite unblessed pregnant to like the passion: his seed diminished the poor into wretched and the king to mad, to unjust, to wretched—to the evil.

The scarfed dwarfed mob at the castle hung the men and women who sold medallions and ate the skin of the sea god, poseidon. In his place, nestled to the hunter cabin palace, the god of this holy seed raised in the roped arms of the villages began to underscore the vibrant—ghouls.

‘They were whores.’ The king shouts.
‘They are whores.’ The king shouts.

He has sat in this castle. He has eaten in his castle. He has watched the thatched roof homes of zeus turned and snarled into the red eyes of rats. They have overdone it—he has thought (then tempted to beds by the white on white on brown skin siren smile of secrecy: concubine, come, concubine run). It is only in the lack that the lack has not undone itself. We king unearthed by the cave dwelt muse: we king uncut by the meek.

The gold hair monk son is the sun. He is born and he is poor. And unmade heat: the stoic praise: if he is god then he has brought the ungod. The king an unking a bearded folly.

The goers, in belief, come on dawn: pray, sleep, trade their hands. The men in shame slip in early afternoon hour, break their backs against the ice flats, romantisize their armies in lust. Then turn the same wet sheets across the real iced women, failed to round home, round bosom, round life.

The cardboard churches in cut out, too early to be steel, collapse. The ancient man is on his knees: risen in horror to his cut out insides. The queens, here, are ants, are lied in torture: ‘Oh Jesus.’ The ancient man dances with himself, he scurries across the floor (a demon—to hell—to hell!). The red eyed rats quarrel, wrangle, with his heart.

My heart—I have a hole in my chest, it is my insides.

The goers, the belief-ers, stand on the backs of pews in this solemn prayer that kings were kings until unmade: it is the unfree; it is the unfree. The suplication to rebuild the dam that has bent into the river. The goers hold hands across their hearts, still there—there—the ancient man has eyes that do not see the shapes and colors of the cut out world: it is the darkness of my rememberless night that has returned, he thinks, believes.

The ancient man rows the rats for his insides. The red eyed rats bite. It is overdone, this history is overdone, the ancient man thinks. He screams. Molested offspring listen, wade through the water, irked by the blind blink of the organ player—the organ player in blue—he has touched me in the confession booths, he has touched me behind the curtains of the church.

It is a lynching.

The now men, once king—once perhaps, to be king—the now men, stamp the herded rows of rats. They have red eyes. They have strained necks. It is a lynching.


But I Meant It.

Goodnight, my love. Someone has spilled beer on the table and under the low lamps it perfectly glows, like a secret burning in the air. This is a partial list of things you do not know: my heart, your heart, the far-off sound of violence, the pre-dawn s k y. Forgive me; I am not always this drunk and free. Tomorrow if you call me up I will be kinder, more strategic, penned-in. My voice will keep us both warm so that you can lean back, half-laugh, and take responsibility for your share of the wreckage. I will promise not to aim sharp truths at the apple on your head. You will simply extend it toward me in your open palm – love-line, life-line, skinny rivers and bone – and say, Eat up.

I always do.



The Now Men

There came a howl. They’d been warred—wenched, wormed. The tunnel in the south, by the airport, was loosed: let out. The snakes in stripes, stripped: skinned. They left the limp, long in left lairs. Skinless, eyeless: the once men, estranged from the observation: this life.

How: in heat: how: in heat. The desert will come, rise, like this in morning. It is sky along reflected roaded: drearied. The hijacked poor, lowered into mountain caves with the eyed—do not let them steal.

It was his first hanging. The desert sleeped growth, they will not let the fell fall from water towers. It was his first hanging. The blooded harnessed horses come and come. We dreaded last, we mourned the fathered christ.

The early dream of man was fire. It was his first hanging. The gold from the north, was not theirs, was not the spanish kings. Knights came, once, at first—first rise, sleep child—they too torture and us to sleep: so dawn the unbirthed haven: our world. The early dream of our world.

There came a howl. It was his first hanging. The limped clogged trio are middle men: caught. The kings hold hands and embrace: stand in circles and do not stand the entered dearth: it is depth of darkened hollowed brace: we are kings.

The through until the split, then two halves. A man, on river food and squid legs locked the gold dust in his lungs—to death. And then, alas, there came a howl a butchered bread thief hung at last. The widowed lisp, they have no teeth. The kings take this color to their earths, their statued rememberless lives—all, on hallowed ground. The kings, the lessoned kings, are names.

The names, the new men. The once men. The new men strive to yearn to be the only ones, here alas, to be the once men: forever rememberless. How: in heat: how: in heat. The desert will come, rise, like this in the morning. Only the sky can tell the painted faced the earth in the wind.



My Backyard

She is a house. Her house is a trailer. She is angry and wears dresses for pregnant women: dresses that make her look fat—like a house.

They pull plugs out of the wall-sockets and do not put them back in. The lights go on, off, on. The lights stay off. They cheer and hug and hold hands. A frog-like child writes slogans, but they are spelled wrong.

‘What has happened?’ She asks, her dress has holes in it. The insects look like queens in the dark and she lets them come to kiss. The Luna eye—the eye of ants—is victimless: I have seen glowing hands on the ants, she whispers—whispered, dearth. She is weak and will not have children.

‘What has happened?’ She asks again, audible now. The red eyed turn. ‘We are on strike.’ They say. ‘Strike?’ She asks. She looks at her dress and holds the hem. She returns to her house. The screen door is on the front lawn. Next to the washer, and her mother. He eats ice cream on the couch, his shirt is unbuttoned. ‘You are trash.’ He says.

She is a house.

The first month is a snowstorm. She shows afternoon swells, urine spits develop the pimpled thighs, and the waste. The waste is too much. The house smells, she crouches—holds the hem of her dress. The panics take, turn her stomach thin. The house is a trailer. He eats on the couch and does not move.

Blankets, child?
They are iced marble balls. She leaves the backdoor open and tricks a homeless man into suicide: here, she says, and smiles and dangles. The hunted man skins his fingers in the walls of a coffin and suffocates. It isn’t really suicide.
Get in the box.

There are four of them. There are four boxes in the basement: her father, her grocer, her plumber, her homeless man. Her mother is still in the front, on top of the washer. She greets her when the ins and outs of the office became vicious, base. The yellow afternoon prey.

There are four boxes in the basement. In the after hours, after the spells twist into the wakefulness dread, she cuts the corners of the hall rug and disappears into the basement, cuddles on the top of the boxes.

She was caught once. When she tried to grip the ends of the hose. It was spring. Outside was yellow and loud. She had wrapped a scarf around her head, masked it with the invoiced lessons of the lord, the prophet, the televangelist. But the boxes began to drip with the decomposed. The hard wood softened. The father, stripped and beaten by the whores in the back alley of a village in Brazil, went first.

The smell of her fits, her swells, her howl—her urined spit: damn you, woman.

‘I am not mad.’ She says, wry: contentment, coddle-me. The airplanes in the airport continue to take passengers to Brazil. It is not Brazil. The passengers come back from Brazil. It is not Brazil. It is simple to be afraid of the whores. Her father’s hand splits his wooden crate. The box collapses.

She is a house.


December Manifesto

We decide to go on strike.

The silence fills entire apartment buildings 30 stories high. Intersections echo with the Click Click of traffic signals changing STOP to GO, but no one is walking. Even the birds seem nervous; pigeons peck and watch, peck an d watch, but we are gone.

We decide to go on strike. Millions of televisions tell indecipherable stories to thousands of empty bedrooms, hotel lobbies, airport terminals. Escalators hum with perfect useless efficiency. One begins to sense that even th e neon signs are feeling foolish.

The clouds don’t mind, of course, and neither do the stars, who have been beautiful and indifferent since they day they were born – even our own sun keeps on shining over amusement parks and swimming pools, empty valleys of basketball courts and stadiums waiting to be filled…

Because we decided to go on strike there is no one to tell the President’s friends what happened. They smoke restlessly in silence of that gorgeous room, cros sing and uncrossing their legs, heel-to-heel, heel-to-knee, heels apart. When he finally arrives – Where the fuck was the driver? – no one wants to break the silence. They sit staring at no one in particular, while outside on the lawn the pigeons peck and watch, peck and watch, until they too are gone.



She shuffles on her fingers—she scoots, more likely: she scoots on her fingers, on the slick marble walkways, where the monks drink water and shave.

Go-go, Michele.

Her cart is driven by batteries that she found in the basement—next to where the emaciated polish man (and pale, he looked like ghosts, she remembered) was chipping ice and howling. There were batteries at his feet, scattered on the floor like little beetles.

Little beetles, she thinks now and laughs. Her cart scoots past the monks who do not look pleased or angered or alive. Once, when she was smaller and had fewer teeth, she screamed: “Stand Statues!” The monks had not moved. One of them had grabbed himself—no, on his chin, and he had slightly twitched.

That is the one to break, she had thought. But he has still not broken. Perhaps the polish man is still howling in the basement.

Michele is on an errand now. She drives her cart (go-go-go-go): through the brazen gardens. The gardeners here are men who have no ears, wear beaks on their breasts and amble in tight squares, careful not to rub the animal bushes. They bob like dinosaurs, she has thought years before, after wetting herself and turning her sheets into adolescent folly:

“Burn, the wench, Burn the wench!” The mother and the father were tall and held torches and pointed down to her as she wedged into the corner of the bed. Their shadows were too big. And he had already fled out, out.

“We will burn our carpets, tonight.” The mother had said, white robed in the darkness: insected into the heart of a queen. The witches wore armor, shaded, scorned.

And outcast: concubine. I would not wet my bed with him again, she has thought: much good it has done her, since. She is wielded and cropped and turned into the exhaustion of the un-free limitless. Monks who are not kept to their own robes.

The concubines comb their hair and wait for the tumble: when they are under trains. Michele wonders if the polish man has finished cutting ice. She drives her cart, along the walkway, toward the concubine home.

She knows, as she has known the past few years, she will not make it past—or passed—alone.



From Up Here the River Shines

I am on the corner of XXXXXX and 31st, watching wolves take taxis uptown while waiting for love. Full moon tonight. I am waiting for love.

I am waiting for love to take me to bed, put a pillow under my head and say hot-breathed to my face, You're home. In the meantime there will be plenty of ways to lose days like pennies down the stream. I hang with the wolves, I pound the beers, I sleep in the far side of the park.

That trick you taught me, I still practice it. I take long walks and disappear a t the edge of the interstate where headlights don’t go. I’m not looking for you, but it does cross my mind now and then I might find you there, amongst the rags and cans and moonlit grass, talking to yourself to pass the time until the river finally lets you go…

But tonight the stars spell D-A-N-G-E-R so I walk fast, stay close to the ground, avoid eye contact, keep alert, keep sober, keep away from strangers and don’t feed the wolves. They are crazy with moon tonight; when I pass the bar I hear them h owling and salivating, laughing and howling, throwing darts at the women who walk by and holding bones all for themselves. What a pack. Tonight they’d eat me up and not think twice, so I won't stop by. I decide to go for a ride.

Subway lights flash au rora borealis in the dark. I count the light fixtures, check under the seats – am I looking for love? – and go to sleep.

[The dream went like this: Dad and I lie in bed, we are recovering from childhood--]

In the morning the lights are a dull throb beh ind my eyes. Further back, a small boy wanders the corridors of a hotel. When he comes to a door, he peeks in, but each time it’s the same: orderly, neat, empty. He hears the river in the distance. He hears the elevator chime in the ha ll. Nervous, he palms his hair, puts the bouquet just right, and slowly steps toward the parting doors.


The First Find of the Stoic

She’d been drinkin from the hose again.

He got hands like thin tiny wires—like the ones in the back there, on the fence. They was cracked, his hands. They cracked when he sent the old man upstream in the dumpster durin the hurricane. His hands was cracked and bleeded. That rain was red, blood—and it smelt like the blood to. I seen a dead man, a man as tall as this here wall, like a picture in a book, out of stilled ground—

Jesus had little to do with the old man drowning in his urine during a lightning storm. But the magazine skin develops and turns into a pyramid. Really, the father and his boy had been too busy walking in the wood and hunting rabbits and telling each other stories:

“I am made of god.” The father said.
“Oh.” The boy said.

The father and his boy hunted in the wood. They caught furry rabbits. The rabbits ran in and out of holes in the ground. The rabbits had little paws and tiny eyes. The thin fishing wire cut them into little rabbit pieces. Each day, the boy and the father ate in the wood.

"I am made of god." The father said.
"Oh." The boy said.
“These are rabbits, boy.” The father said.
“Oh,” The boy said.
“Tomorrow we will hunt out of the wood.” The father said.

She still drinkin from that damn hose.

Not like a picture book, he come down the river on that sled of his, shooting and whoring, at each town. Then what you think? He get that skin diseased, you know. He got his skin diseased on his back. It gone clear to yellow. It has itself riden up all over his part like it out of some wartime sickness--

Jesus, they trampled the tall grass. They came clear to the window, over here, with flashes--magazine gators, we called them. Magazine gators. The father and son, were hunters, not squatters:

Father built a great bow: mighty and golden and god-like and war-like. Father placed the bow on a rock on a mountain that was carved by Apollo’s God. Father blessed the bow with his large hands. The blind wench went in and out. She did not see Apollo’s God. Poor wench. She wore the same clothes each day.

Shut up and stop drinkin from the damn hose!

Man was made inbred. The round women were weary and soon graduated to canes, then dissolved to the wavey water and the wine and the childbirth.

The boy was on fire. His skin glowed and hid the skin of the bear. It was blood. It was the blood that made erect the tiny statues that were thrown by hag wives—the aged wastes—into their basements. It was their petticoats, their despaired hope, that burned: for the fearful longing; for the strides of hell to wade their bedroom—No! It was not the hell that is the fire.

Anon! The sparse painted paper that coated the walls came to Hell—in turn, the streams that lead the sons of these frail huts were blood and urine. Soon, the wolves treaded and trotted on the forest carpet and licked the face of the boy.

Wolves have yellow eyes.
She drinkin that hose!

The father woke, red and bloodied. It was my urine, the father thought. The boy stood, stood and stared at his father. The bow had two halves, it was broken.

‘I have eaten your heart.’ The boy said.
The father saw a hole in his chest. His ribs were broken and in shreds. There was a hole in his chest.

A side—of the great opposite—was unearthed. The boy hunted the haired and upright jungle creatures. He ate the skin of animal kings. The beaten shuffled to hell.


You Call and You Call and You Call

You call and you call and you call, but I am busy -- I have secret plans, you see, documents to obtain and exchange, bathroom rendez-vouss to attend. You have caught me at a bad time. A time when I cannot afford to get caught at all: My life, my livelihood, the nation all depend on me to get the job done.

I admit, I do it well. Artfully, even. Under cover of darkness and foreign bedsheets, trenchcoats and all that (I'm sorry I can't be more specific; most of these details are fabricated in fact; trust me, please, it is for safety of millions, and you). Work of this quality eventually demands historical record. Unfortunately, my work can never be written about. There are exactly three men who know what I do, and no women. Each knows what is absolutely necessary to get his job done. What is absolutely necessary? Who determines that? I don't know, or can't say.

You keep asking me questions I cannot answer: Can I have dinner on Friday night? Will I make it to your party? What type of music do I best dance to? I have told you before: you put me in a compromising position. I know your motives (I have learned -- in my line of work you must -- everyone has them) are pure -- good, even: unsmirched by decades of scandal, clandestine coups -- all the baser forms of power men aspire to. But, then again, do I? You say you work part-time at a temp agency, but how do I know you are not an agent, as skilled or worse -- more so than I, attempting to let the last shoe drop, so to speak, to draw the final straw that breaks the camel's back that shifts the Struggle irrevocably in the favor of those hidden forces who conspire to make every American's waking life nothing short of a nightmare?

I cannot afford to take this risk.

(Although it is true that sometimes, lying awake under the star-filled sky of an undisclosed location, I questions my own motives. There may be a river nearby, I may be able to hear the sound of boats cutting through the pre-dawn current, their oars noisy as doubt or a persisting fly. There may be shouts from aboard the larger ships, and I sometimes permit my mind to imagine the men and women below deck, shackled for a better cause than they are authorized to understand -- how they rage in place against the chains and their vital, yes vital role in this. our one and only life, which is exactly when I start to think dinner sounds nice, and wonder to wear.)


The Unmade

“This one is better.” One man says.

The two men are in a store. The store is on the riverbank. In front of the store there is a pier. The pier stretches into the river. Two boats are tied, at the end of the pier. The river rises and falls, throughout the year. It is quiet now. The river is quiet. The air is early, yellow. Waders cut through the glass water with long rods and waterwell eyes, waders cut through the tall grass in green and yellow slickers, hunted moustaches, gator neck skin.

The dew breeze, forgotten in the urban street lights, doses—snores, puffs. Out of the yellow fog of the late spring, drip the bull frogs. The bull frogs boong—boong—boong.

No, it is winter. And that is the horn of the ship that drops the slaves into the southern town—the southern town that has unfree. In hours, the free will bang drums and urinate in the street until the bought and sold comes and goes like the ins and outs of the late night drunk rape.

Already, they have painted their skin. Already, they have hooded their children, locked their thin veiled homes and scurried through mud alleys, tailored to the unmaking: they are ready for the unmaking.

The horn sounds again.

“No. This one is better.” The other man says.

The two men are in a store. The store has flags and helmets and pictures of sun gods. The two men are looking at marbles. One marble is blue with green and white twirls. One marble is blue with white and green twirls.

“I wouldn’t imagine buying that one.” The first one says. He has walked toward the front of the store. He looks at the fog. His coat is long. His sleeves have bows. His hands are behind him, clasped.

“The ship has already landed on the other side—this early?”

The store owner nods. He is large, round in the middle, round in the head, round in the eyes. He polishes: silver, gold, silver, gold. When the store owner walks he shifts all his weight from foot to foot—he goes, like that, like that: side to side, down the street.

The unmaking has begun. There are whistles, on the other side. The painted families hoot and make themselves into the shapes of war kings.

“Oh, I don’t care. Buy which ever one you wish. We are late.” The first one says, at last. He has lost to stare. He squints--leans close to the window, and remembers, then, he will not breathe. If this fog does not clear we will not see, he thinks or mumbles: and scratches, here and there.

Sale is made: here and there.

The store owner is deliberate. He wraps the marble in cloth. He places the wrapped marble in a bag. He hands the bag to the man. The man holds the bag to his chest, shake hands, shake hands. It is made. He moves to the front of the store.

"Ah, friend, it is still early. It will clear,” he whispers.

“I suppose you are right.” The man says and looks at his friend. The hoots on the far side begin to grow loud across the concrete mirrored water—the gathered families on the shores, on this side, see the faces they have brought.

Already, blankets are spread and wine is uncorked. The two men make their way to the shore. The sun, the yellow sun begins to come with her horses. The howls begin to tease shrieks, turn and tease the shrieks. One man, it seems, has already been unmade.

The two men squat next to wives of women and toast with wine. I think I bought the wrong marble, one man thinks.



Winter Day

When they sleep it is day. When they wake it is night. The day is short. The day is the shortest day. The other days are longer. Ivan sticks to the ceiling. He cannot get down. I am on the ceiling, he thinks. Irish does not laugh. He carries his sheets to the backyard, next to the dumpster. The sheets are wet. He pours gasoline onto the sheets. He lights his sheets on fire.

The sheets catch on fire. The fire does not look like a fire. The flames are short and the smoke is too much. Irish stares at the fire. The fire does not look hot, he thinks.

‘I bet my sheets are still wet,’ he says. He puts his hand in the fire. He touches his sheets. They do not feel wet. His hand burns. The skin turns, bubbles, turns again. He pulls his hand out of the fire and looks at it. It is the shortest day of the year. The sky is black. The smoke hides, dissolves, and elbows its way up—-they used to elbow, they used to elbow when they: in and out. Irish has trouble breathing.

Ivan is stuck to the ceiling and she is on the mattress, cold because there are no sheets. She should leave. The Russian should leave, he thinks. The other one, the other girl, with the pom-pom hair and the snakeskin forearms.

The other girl should come back. She would sit in the basement and draw circles with her knee. She would squat on all fours and turn in a circle. Her knee on the concrete. She would bleed. It would make him dizzy.

The flames that were small are bigger now. The fire is still hot. Irish sits on the back stair, the one closest to the door. He puts his head on his hand. The Russian woman makes noises like she is waking up and beginning to get stalled—-stoic and forgetful. She may not like where she is, anymore. Not on the shortest day of the year.

There is a scream. There are two screams. Ivan has fallen from the ceiling.


The Astronaut

Ivan and Irish are sharing a drink. "Look at it this way," Irish says, "life is difficult and endless. What we can control, what we can’t – what’s the difference?" Ivan looks shifty under the bar’s half-light.

"I knew a woman, once," he says finally, the n draws pictures in the air with his hands until Irish gets his meaning. They each sit back. One hundred miles away a woman stares at her ceiling that way. Lost in space, the topography of plaster above her head swings in broad circles at 1,670 kilometers an hour: fragile mountain ranges, empty valleys, incidental roads to nowhere – she walks the lunar ceilingscape without moving her eyes, an astronaut in her bed. Inside her are the following: organs (e.g., heart, papery lungs), fluid, cartilage, bone. He r breasts could be rainclouds, or monuments to the moon – if viewed from a certain angle.

"There are no angels," Irish is saying, drunk on scotch and ideas. "Intelligent design forbids it, renders them obsolete. We needed angels when we couldn’t find God; now that he is waving back to us from the end of every telescope—"

He is silenced by Ivan’s gaze, which he follows with his own across the rippled windows and into the night. A fat, hazy moon squats behind a grove of pine trees and telephone poles. Wir es criss-cross its face. Irish turns back to Ivan, who has begun to make a church out of ten fingers, and palms. Irish regards his hands, and then his drink.

"The astronaut who did not come back, who chose the lunar life instead, passed every psychological profile without incident. Most mornings, this, more than anything, is what gets me out of bed."


What is the point of all this pretty nonsense?

"You look starved," I say, chewing my sandwich. Outside cigarette butts cascade through darkness; you wake to the sound of running feet, but it's just your heart. Can you show me what the soul is? I have sat in this restaurant for 17 years, waiting for y ou to answer while neon lights chase shadows up walls and ward off dreams. Do you wear your arms so thin as a reminder? Are you trying to tell me a story?

Cigarettes float like UFOs in darkness; you type long tracts into the computer to keep yourself from sleep -- 17 years of beautiful garbage, unusable in the life you are making after a greenhouse: glass ceilings, orderly rows of need...

We could be an explosion in the sky, constellations or kings. We could make love, declare war, invent a new form of violence. We could die on the cross or too close to the sun, swallow lightning, split wide open. Meanwhile, under our bodies, beneath our bones, lie a million days in every direction. We could go there, live our lives in ever-widening circles, spit fire, fly--

"I'm not hungry," you say.

I will keep asking.




The sleep:

He is wet when he sleeps, disgusted. She is disappointed, dry. They roll and ru in sleep. No, she does not sleep. She stares, in dark. She stares in dark. She does not blink. His eyes come open between the day and night.

She has not slept. The sheets, now, like the skin are wet. She cannot find her hands, her lisp begins again, again--she is not new, not this one. She has been found before, once, earlier, on the doorstep of the house that was not full. On the house that was abandoned. She was not new.

She stares and does not sleep. He wakes and coughs and turns. They hate, then, they hate. In sleep, in wake, the in and out goes in and out and it is only the in and out. They sleep in hate and do not close their eyes.

We awake.

Again, it is the later hours in the morning. She has not slept. He has slept in wet and it sticks to him. To his skin. There were mornings when his mother did not wake. No, there was one morning when she did not wake. And there are more when she did not wake. She continues, indented and dead.

Yes, she is dead and you are wet.
We half, she says.

The sleep to wet. He brings a russian girl to the house. He brings a russian girl to the bed. She is not asleep. She stares. He in and out, he in and out. She stares in sleepless. Not yet. He brings a russian to the house and stares in eyes that do not stare.

They do not stare, he thinks. The bed is wet. A man knocks. He is Ivan. He is drunk. You are Irish, Ivan says. Yes, he says. They drink and do not believe that they are drunk.

The others sleep, in wet. The sheets are wet.
We are only, they say.



You are not kept awake by the fires burning down the street. It is not the hard hot stars that make you toss and turn, or the moon where no one lives, or the empty houses beneath it. Somewhere a president is dreaming of a world he will never remember. Som ewhere a king goes to sleep.

No, it is not the waves of traffic coming through your window that keep you from dreams -- they do not remind you of another coast, another highway at another time of year, an ocean at the edge of the world that heaved restless waves while you fell in and out of love. That memory, like love's absence, does not come as strange smells from the street to tease your brain and break your heart, again and again, until the sun rises and you, perfectly broken, finally fall asleep.

(There are men down the street, in dirty alleys, who sleep like this: under cardboard, under the moon, under the chilly pre-dawn air. When they dream, do they call it life? James runs from cops carrying televisions -- "Stop or we'll shoot!" -- and, leaping through a concrete wall, finds himself warm in bed with a woman who looks like his mother. He does not care; she pulls his shirt over his head and takes him in...)

You, however, are wide awake: unbroken by love, held by gravity, staring at the window as if there were a secret encoded in the patterns of streetwalkers and traffic lights; as if watching could unravel the knot that keeps you up; as if you were not staring at own your face.


We have a King

Cru, the king is crowned. And he is gold like god. The men and women eat mud. They have hands that are mud. We eat mud, they say and smile. There are holes in their teeth when they smile, black. The men and women in rags like the mud.

Cru, cru!

They play in the mud. The mud is their friend. They have gods that look like mud and are made out of mud rocks. Too, their homes are made of mud. It is not privacy that tells them the wrong, the right. They do not wish to be private. Naked men and women do not care for privacy.

Cru, cru! The castle is on a hill. The king is in a tower. The tower is in the castle. The tower is tall. The king wears soft robes that are from rich places far from the castle. The rich places are in towns that have dissolved coast lines, triangle mountains: myth. The robes are stolen. The king rubs the robes and smiles. This is not mud, he thinks.

The mud huts dry in sun. The men and women have mud on their skin. Their skin cracks when the mud dries. Little lines of red, blood really, on their bodies. The cracked skin hurts.

The sun does not stop. There is no night. The mud huts catch on fire. Alas, the poor men and women are in the streets, and they are on fire. They too are on fire. Their cracked skin is burned. They are caked in fire. Poor people: they have no homes. Perhaps a storm will come, perhaps a rain will come, and this fire will stop.

The king walks inside. He calls for the men with the horns and the drums. They dance and sing and he smiles and taps his foot.