Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm So Hot

I am so freaky hot that it makes my life miserable. I’m not bragging, I’m just stating facts and objective reality. If hot is making people go googoo gaga and lose their shit, then that’s what I am. I can’t even talk to anyone except in my family. And I’m talking close family, real close, because 2nd and 3rd cousins have been known to drag their tongues after me and ogle me all day at family cookouts. Creeps me out. It’s like your constantly on stage, constantly being compared to the best hotdog or hamburger, constantly judged, though with me it’s already a done deal: I’m just freaky hot. And if you look through family photos, old and new, it’s obvious that I’m the hottest that ever was. You can’t imagine what a relief that was for my mom. Being hot means getting the money. All my frumpy cousins for instance married normal men with average jobs. They even belong to the PTA. Imagine me, freaky hot as I am at a PTA meeting. The mothers would run me out in a heartbeat! I can remember my mom talking about all the great things that would happen when I married a wealthy man. She was convinced that she’d live with us, later, much later, after she’d retired, out in a private apartment connected to the main house. She’d be talking about trips and vacations, visiting all the beautiful cities in the world, maybe moving to one if it comes to that. She made me feel like a lottery ticket, like she found a diamond and couldn’t wait to pawn it off. That’s not really what was going on but that’s how it felt. I never heard her say a thing about love. It was always about getting the right man who had the right money, and then keeping him for your own. Every time a Hollywood divorce took place, she’d check all the media to find out how much money the wife ended up with. And if they signed a pre-nuptial, man-o-man, my mother thought they were the stupidest women on earth. It ain’t enough to land one of those guys, you got to know how to keep him, how to tie him down. My mother said that men with money saw the whole world as a toy factory, and saw us girls as living toys, and someone as hot as me would be just the type they’d like to take to the playground, so to speak, and that’s why I’d have no problem getting myself hitched to “a bank account.” That’s how she saw them, bank accounts. I think she regretted marrying my dad, who was no more than a truck driver with no bank account to withdraw from. She always had visions of riding on boats and wearing dark glasses, a big windy hat on her head, a glass of wine in her hand. I think she just got sick of paying the bills and cleaning up the house and wearing stuff that got ratty in a hurry. None of her sisters were hot enough to get any money, though they all got nice enough homes and good husbands. One turned out to have a drinking problem but otherwise a pretty good guy. The ones with the money ain’t never that good, so it’s your job to make them pay. Anyway, that’s how my mom thinks about it. For me, being hot had its good side too, though I’m not sure it compensated for all the bad. No matter what you did, as soon as they looked into your face you could see the forgiveness wash right over them. Hot people get away with murder. The bad stuff was that no one really liked you. The ones who were pretty but not as hot as me would do anything to belittle me, and if I had a bad hair day or a zit—I never had ‘em but every now and then some blemish would pop up—they’d point it out fast as they could. They liked to take me down a few rungs. Mostly I ignored them, because when you’re the one being attacked it’s obvious that the other person is the one with the problems, so you don’t have to do anything, really, just wait them out until it all goes back to normal, back to you being hot and them not being. I guess all in all, I’m pretty lucky that I was born hot and not average, or even worse, too heavy or built like a “brick shithouse.” That’s my dad’s phrase. Back in his day I guess they did their business in a separate building. Seems a bit rich to me, kind of pampered having a special house for that sort of stuff.
You might think I get bent out of shape over everyone wanting to be near me or sleep with me or just look at me. I don’t. I know I’m hot and feel the same way when I see a guy who’s hot, who’s got that way about him, that look. If I feel it and they feel it it must be normal, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense going against the normal. I already did it, once. Me and this city boy met at a church thing, a weekend of singing Christian songs and praying and talking about God. He never looked at me, at least that’s what I thought until I went to talk with him and right away I noticed he was different. Everyone was treating him different, like they needed to be careful around him. He was blind, which I learned pretty soon. Once we started talking, we hit it off, and the others drifted away because they had nothing really to say on the subject and maybe they wanted to get a break from having to be careful around him. Maybe they thought that being hot with a blind person made me normal. It’s true in a way, even though he told me I was hot. When I asked what he saw when he thought of hot, he said fire, though he couldn’t describe it. He was blind from birth, so fire or anything else he had to imagine from start to finish. Except what he touched. That’s how it happened. He asked me to close my eyes and touch his face and to concentrate on the tips of my fingers, to see his face with my hands, as if I were sculpting it in clay. I was cheating, kind of, because I already seen his face and could see it when I closed my eyes. After that I let him touch my face and it felt like snowflakes or feathers had landed on my skin, the way his fingers were so gentle, like they weren’t even touching me just hovering a fraction above my skin. He traced my forehead and eyebrows, following my nose to my lips. Then he swept his fingers up my jawline to my ears, which he circled like he was drawing a map; pinched my earlobes, not hard, but I felt it. That’s when I grabbed his hand and put it on my breast. He reached with his other and did the same with my other breast. I was trying to imagine what he was seeing as he circled my nipples and made them stand right out like when a wind passes. Someone entered the room and I jumped back. He had to go to see Father Piaggi, but before he left he whispered in my ear: “you are hot.” That night while everyone was playing guitar and singing near the fire that Father Piaggi and Brother David got started for marshmallows, me and Kevin sat next to each other. I wore a special dress so he could put his hand on me without too much work. He was supposed to sit near his chaperone Mike, but he said he was just fine next to me. I could see that Mike was jealous, scrambling for some reason to stay. I could see too that Mike thought I was hot. But Kevin told him to let him be, and when a blind person tells you to do something you have to do it. I sat on the grass where my dress and legs fell into the shadows. Kevin sat just behind me, just listening. Then his hand brushed my thigh and I maneuvered so that he couldn’t pull it away. I let him touch me until I nearly fainted and then later that night I went and hid in the bathroom at the exact time we’d agreed to. He arrived, and listened for me, and then we made love. First we kissed and hugged each other and then we just did it, right there with the light off. We didn’t even lock the door, which was kind of risky. If we’d ever gotten caught I think they would have blamed me. I never saw him after that except at breakfast the next day. Somehow we got mixed up in other things and didn’t give each other numbers or information. When my mother arrived to pick me up with my brother, Kevin and Mike had already gone. I planned on looking him up through Father Piaggi, but it didn’t really make sense. My mother would die if she knew I let a blind boy do it to me. If he had money, maybe, but Kevin being blind and me being hot was not the combo my mother had in mind, even if he was sitting on a goldmine.
I pretend with my mother all the time that I haven’t done it yet. She sent me on the “retreat” because, really, I wanted to go, and she thinks having God in your life is important now and forever. Mostly forever. My friend Jenna’s almost as hot as me, and she was supposed to be there so we could hang around and worship Jesus together, but she had to cancel because her older brother got in a car accident. I’m not happy he got in one, but I got the chance to do it with Kevin and it was beautiful, even if he couldn’t see me. I mean, he could see me, just in a different way. If my mother ever found out she’d kill me. She’s always fishing for what I’m up to when I come home late from school. She’s sure the boys are looking at me in that way because they are, but I just ignore them though it’s hard to walk by them when you know they are trying to take your clothes off in their minds. If they were blind like Kevin and not like they are, they just might succeed. My mother is always lecturing me about boys and how sneaky they can be. She said they have tricks that you don’t even recognize because they’ve been working them since the garden of Eden and now it’s like a master magician who moves so fast there’s no catching his game. I like boys though I think they’re kind of stupid the way they dance around trying to get us girls interested. I’ve already seen it all because the boys start early with that stuff, and being hot I get a lot of examples of their craziness.
My cousin Mae went out with a major league outfielder once. She had three dates with him and told me all the details, except maybe a few. They went dancing, and to the best restaurants in town. He was handsome, and made a ton of money. We all felt bad when he didn’t call her the next time his team came to town, but she still had those memories. And now she knows what it’s like to go to fancy restaurants. Everyone was left wondering if she didn’t need to be just a bit hotter to catch and keep a pro ballplayer, but there’s nothing she could have done about that. Now she’s married and has two kids, nice little boys but from two different fathers so you can imagine what that house is like on a weekend.  Not what I would want, that’s for sure. But that can’t happen to me, because, as everyone out there knows, I am freaky hot, and can say no to a lot more men than she could.
Now, when it comes to keeping the man you caught, my mother told me that you have to use psychology on him, just like you do with children. Men, by their nature, never grow up. The more grown up they get the more they start acting like women. That’s the truth. Anyway, the most important thing is not to ask too many questions. The less questions, the better. Asking a question that requires them to go into the details is the wrong approach, my mother said. Yes, No, I don’t know, are the answers they are perfectly willing to give. You have to learn how to do that because it doesn’t come easy. The other thing besides asking questions is to never act uninterested in whatever he might say as the spirit moves him. Not getting any attention is the worst thing for boys and for men with money. They love attention, and with all that money they got people watching them and listening to them and jumping up and down whenever they say so, and that kind of power, that kind of feeling isn’t something they can get over.  So you have to be hot to compete with that. But really, I don’t even want a rich man, except to help my mother live out her dream. I don’t really need a guy with money. I just need one that ain’t a little boy. Someone who thinks being hot is not the most important thing about a person. In school, I went out with a boy who I had picked from the ground one day when another boy tripped him. He was kind of ugly, had a funny looking face, like a pear, bigger on the bottom than the top, but I went out with him anyway just to shut down the other boys who were always wrestling to get in my line of sight. We didn’t do nothing but eat lunch together and go to a movie on the weekends. He didn’t understand why I didn’t want to take him home but my mother would have killed me if she got a look at him. Nothing worse for her than aiming too low. Since this is my last year in school, my mother asked me to forget about boys if I can and concentrate on graduating. She doesn’t really know but graduating is the easy part. If she wants me to avoid boys she’ll have to keep me home. Once I meet one, a good one, I don’t know what I’ll do. A couple weeks ago, my mother showed me a package of condoms by leaving them on the bathroom sink and waiting outside the door until I finished. Did you find them, she said. I can’t keep you from doing it, but I sure as hell can try to stop you from making me a grandmother, she said. Babies are nice, she said, but not too early, and they cost a whole lot of money. Look at your father, works his butt off driving just to put clothes on you and food in your belly, she said, just to make sure you have what you need to grow up right. And, she said, just so you know, no rich man wants to feed and clothe another boy’s kid. Rich men want their own kids, so you have to wait awhile before you spring that trap. I didn’t know what to say except okay, don’t worry, even though she had all kinds of things to worry about because I was going to marry for love and not money no matter what happened. It’d be best if she go see Father Piaggi and pray together that I find a rich man that I love. And if I love him, I’d sign an agreement. You bet I would. Don’t think I’d tell my mother that I did, but I’d sign one. And I’d make him sign one too. We could start with two agreements. He might have the money, but I’m hot, freaky hot, and that’s worth a lot too.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bottom Rung

On the one hand, it’s obvious that a clash is immanent.
On the other it appears that the sky is too crowded as it is.
On another, it’s clear what lurks in the shadows, what
Needs to happen. There’s always a good reason to spring
Into action; indeed, at this juncture, it’s vital that we get
Underway. It’s colossally important that we meet it head on.
When it drains off, after the deluge, we won’t find any trace
In our memories, only the debris we vowed to collate
And move elsewhere if to make an honest buck isn’t pointless,
Isn’t timeless like a road that wouldn’t exist without its
Escape route. No one looks down while climbing, they look
Into the blue yonder, into the yonderous up up up
Up the ladder of civilization, diaspora of continents,
Women, looking up to see their “betters” scaling the heights—
Great art gets made by those hands that hold the ladder
For the rest to ascend; it sees by standing under,
Standing at the bottom of it all. Still, a clash, obviously,
On the one hand immanent, on the other not in stone.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Barrel Dad

The one called Dad was shaped like a barrel and had a barrel of ideas, the kind of ideas fit for a barrel. He used to fish them out whenever he got stuck. When the house was sad, we drained him dry. He’d head for the bar-tap around which his buddies floated in a circle like a congregation of swans at the foot of a fountain. They’d preen themselves with vows and pledges; break into song like satiated gulls above the catch. They’d empty their glasses and search for the toilets like mice juiced up for a maze. Dad would say goodbye and meet the night, drain himself in the gutter and roll his barrel home with the rumbling thunder of its emptiness enough to wake the neighbors. Our kitchen was a quagmire. He came through it like a polluted seabird, wings akimbo, bogged down by The Magic Shamrock’s 2 for 1 happy-hour special. We went to school for a whole week before his noise and face would join up for a Sunday of armchair snoring. There’s not much to expect from a barrel, except that it hold without springing a leak.

Decent People In Good Faith

Decent people in good faith
Sometimes engage in violence,
If it’s genuine, pure, if it helps
To fix a screwed up world.

Decent people in good faith
Get lied to, and then lie to us
So we don’t have to feel guilty,
Disappointed, but decent and good

No matter what. It’s a religion.
In school I heard the shot
Heard round the world, then fought
To make my mission a reflection

Of us, decent and good. Once
Upon a time these lands lacked
Liberation from idleness, only fauna,
Flora on its own, and Indians missing

Their chances, unaware of the gold
Beneath their camps, inside their pelt
And meat hunts.  Decent people
In good faith said, “There’s no

Stopping progress!”  Epic bloodshed
Ensued, as if an ancient poem
Were taking place.  In the aftermath,
Decent people in good faith

Tallied up the dead, deciding
The price paid was worth it, and now
Going forward, let us all try
To relieve the suffering of victims.

Decent people in good faith feel
The need to help the frail, those
Whose grasp of reality is in question,
Who might become decent too,

If they would only listen to us
And agree that our version is decent
And human, and whatever we do
We always do it in good faith.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lyric for John Ashbery

There they sat, wine and smoking in lamplight,
Talking of themselves and things other people own
While I hung from the eaves, my ears turned
To their voices like I know about the reason

This carnation failed and the other raised its petals
Like hands in a church without a ceiling—
They continued building the scene, moving room
To room without losing the thread; fearless talk,

And not a single break until minutes ago
When I heard the master had died, and the other
Who didn’t say much but listened with his eyes,
Was biting his lip, wringing his hands, uncontrollably

Sobbing in the armchair as if he had fallen
In a well, and now would have only the stars to admire.
In a whisper I climbed from my perch and hurried home.
Someone (let it be me!) has to write the next poem.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Short Order

A baker’s dozen dozen
Before ten o’clock,
Over easy, over hard,
Scrambled, poached,
Sunnyside, omelets,
Ten in the dock,
Four in pans—life
Has no time to intrude
On high-volume
Breakfast at Joe’s;
Three meals at once,
Paint the pan with butter,
Crack ‘em, flip ‘em,
Slide ‘em on the plate
Next to homefries dusted
By paprika and toast
Popping up, going down,
Four at a time.
On the mat
Two land yoke up,
Slide between the slats,
The boss sidles over: pay
Attention, he says,
Try to be the best cook
Breakfast ever saw.

Stalin and Mandelstam

We love your poems.  You grew from us
To enrich us.  We love your work.  And you
Love us in every line, every syllable of every word.
Not a country in the world with one like you.

We understand the engineering of the human
Soul, the science of stresses, technology of image
On the page, the whole symphonic machinery
Of your verse, how dangerous it might be 

In the ears of certain enemies of the revolution
Who never had any feeling for the people
As you do, who might be tempted to use you

Against the nation, your nation and ours that knows
What is best and what isn’t, and even you’d agree,
The poems, so beautiful, make you unnecessary.

Fascists and Lorca

We don’t read poetry, and only listen
When there’s music, a stormy drumbeat
That gets under the skin and makes us
Want to do something historical, great
Before we end up on that regrettable
Pile of forgotten pasts. We don’t like sissies,
Men who brood too much, or think a lot.
Inspiration is a God no consequence

Can corral. Slaps you in the face like a coach
When otherwise you’re not up to the task,
And brings people together with a single aim
And a steady hand, ready to act as one
When we site him against the wall, smoking
Before the sun’s had a chance to warm the place.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Centuries Go by in a Flash

Centuries go by in a flash, then they crash
Into clich├ęs.  I recall reading about today’s strife

In a book from caveman times.  Can it last?
Is the first thing you think, can it thrive?

Seven days a week the drunkard ups his drink,
While machines wear themselves out, sink

Into abuse.  Looking forward is looking back,
Since for trouble, we have an old, natural knack.

When I’m asked about what will happen tomorrow
I tell the asker yesterday’s tomorrow’s sorrow

Unless it isn’t. But you have to put the drink down
And commit to a different path, you have to drown

Your love in an instant, and keep your head high
Above the water until you reach the side that’s dry.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trumperlick 2

There once was a peacock named Donald
Who traced his roots to bonny Scotland—
He wanted nothing else
But to grab beaver pelts,
Before his huge feathered head goes bald.