The thing about the non-breathers is they don’t breathe.
Nobody I knew said they ever saw a non-breather breathe,
Except once, and that was a one and only.
I’m on my haunches outside The Red Rock, sweating and smoking; here comes
One, a guy, a real Mr. Spock,
Dressed in standard issue beige bathrobes and sandals
And the headband medallion over his forehead.
“Hey, non-breather!” I say, feeling the meanness
In me like steam out of a sewer. “Why don’t you
have a drink?”
And Mr. Spock says to me, “To breathe
Is to decay…” and he doesn’t speak this, but says it
Through his thought-grille on his forehead, “…to breathe
Is to decay. And to eat and drink is to ingest one’s death.”
And he pauses to look at me,
And then he walks on, that funny walk, like he doesn’t have any
Underwear and his balls are swinging free.
Squirrel bacon and acorn coffee over early morning fire—morning sun,
cast-iron horses; seventeen-year-old face fastened the lure—extinct East Belt Line—
fuzzy yellow fly—dead noon medicine man pulled the buffalo skin, stooped through;
once inside, he was amazed; tattered coats, ties, ghosts ,West 59th by the ruins
of the Plaza, the canvas of the teepee brightly illuminated, a dance of shadows,
tattered hems, small fire, the voluptuous girl leaning awake, trees of the park, alien.
The girl lay on a canvas cot, green wool blanket thrown over her feet, the ruined buildings,
conical minarets ,“Fantastic Four” comic book, holding it over her face like a roof; the pavement .
“Sit if you like,” the teepee girl said, a burned photograph, the ghost
stepping off the recently electrified cable car of the 59th street cross-town,
a small tuft of yellowing grass, a small Persian carpet. The ghost trudged across the trolley
tracks, sky suspended before the renewal of radio—the silence ludicrous—
smacking upon an ancient piece of licorice—the brittle crackle,
turning a comic book page. A small circle of stones—a promise of ice
in every breath of wind. In the center of the stones was a mound of ashes—
crumblings, burnt negative, the medicine man smiling,
the cable cars, a child, the twin of the girl, a design peculiar to tribe and ritual,
the windshield of a ruined, abandoned cab reflecting the one true world.
Stream. Amniotic day,
I’ve gotten away
Sandwich, bottle of water,
I won’t go home for hours.
“Pretend you are
Perfect as Jesus!”
Is this the day
I must revise myself?
I spend fascinated hours
Staring at crayfish
Scuttling the bottom,
The potato-sized rocks,
Sunlight mix, dazzling potion.
“You must be born!” streams say.
If you went away
I’d be stunned,
Announcing the birthday
Of our favorite nun.
We must be lost.
A million years
To find you—
In anything you do–
To make me
Dedicated to the Cell Phone Girl in Comp 1
Like, I was walking down the street, and like
All the sudden, like, I said, Oh My God!
Like I have this vagina! And I like all of
The sudden I’m like having this baby
And I’m like Oh My God! I’m like having
A baby like right here on the street
And so I like say to my girlfriend
Like can I have a drink of your diet Pepsi
Cause I’m like really thirsty from like
Having that baby and she’s like NO
WAY and I’m like YES WAY bitch!
And like all the sudden the baby like
Starts spinning on this silver plate and like
It’s all bloody and disgusting and I feel
Like I’m going to puke right there
And then this cop comes along and like
Starts saying like you are going to jail
Because of this like baby on a plate
And he’s calling my mom and
I’m like crying and saying like please
Don’t call my mom and my mom is like
totally ballistic but like what the fuck
I’d like do it all again anyway
The Philosopher Savant Has One of Those Dreams
I was camping in only a sleeping bag
When I woke to some wild pigs snuffling
In the pine straws. It was just
Dawn, and the skies hadn’t quite
Finished their weeping when
A lioness, a puma, skulked into the camp
With a lust for pig’s
Blood on her tongue
And a glassy glint in her eyes
Like someone I had once known, a mother-in-law
Or midwife, in Bethlehem
The night the soldiers stuck
The firstborn through on pikes.
The pigs suddenly found power
To skip through the branches
Like squirrels or pine martens,
And the lionesses (now there were five)
Gave chase, snarling
And snapping at pig flanks
But never quite sinking tooth
Into the sweet flesh.
Realizing I was an easier
Breakfast for puma, I fumbled
For the bicycle I had been sleeping on
All night, and erected a getaway,
Still tented by my sleeping bag,
Down the gravel drive and eventually
To the pavement that ribboned
Through the misty hills
To the lodge where you were working,
It seemed, as a hostess, a clerk
Keeping the keys of rooms adorned
With a magic eye above each door.
You had always been beautiful to me,
And I was so happy to see you
And to wrap the arm I had injured somehow,
And which hurt so badly,
Around you. I asked, “Is there anything
I can get you?” And you said,
“Can you make me some macaroni and cheese?”
For you, sweetie, I said, “Of course I can,” and so
Was led by a gaseous singing to a stove
Where I boiled the water,
Cooked the pasta, and when I had
All but finished preparing what you wanted,
You said, “Wait!” and then made me
Stir in a bag full of plastic snowman
Cupcake ornaments. This made me worry
About you, and it made me cry for a half hour,
And I wanted so desperately
To write you that moment. Let it suffice
To say that later that night I dreamed
You had agreed to marry me, and preparations
Were being made at the lodge
For the wedding: silver streamers
And paper bells and long rows of tables
Sprinkled with confetti. You let me see you
Undressed, your hair still wet from a shower.
I can’t understand why I protested,
Your skin warm to my touch, but I said,
“It’s unfair. You are so attractive.
The power of attraction is all that exists.
I have no chance.”
And you stood there, slender and beautiful,
And slowly shook your head,
And I had no power to move.
The Philosopher Savant Has Another One of Those Dreams
Slip this slender girl lengthwise into a deck of cards
And she will tell your future avec de sincères amities (i.e. kind regards):
Mssr. a une affaire
avec une ballerine canadienne imaginaire.
Business, strictly speaking. A few snags at Customs:
And boy were they f***ers this time. Jerks. Picking on me
about my secret plans to stay
forever in Seattle. Hate those guys. Sorry.
Her nose runs, she snags a tissue.
Misbehaving in the here and now;
with this imaginary, is it even an issue?
She says, “I’m feeling like quite the hagfish today.
Hagfish are disgusting.
I read about them (and saw a few) at the aquarium.
You don’t even want to know what they do per diem.”
Slip this slender one into your drink.
Stir. What do you think? What do you think?
WE IOWANS ARE A PROUD, UGLY PEOPLE
Our ancestors took off for the prairies
Where they would only see themselves.
When I am sure they are good and starved,
I feed the sparrows. When their mischief
Is expended under the eaves, the squirrels get grain.
I trim the trees when they reach out too far.
If I get a pile of anything to burn, I am happy.
So intense, the sun’s rays. I hear the train’s whistle;
A passage of wheels over the graves.
Leave a penny on the rails. A silver dollar
Can be smeared into a finger’s length of blade.
The ice cream is plain vanilla, cold as winter,
At the end of July. This town has no river
Or means of communication but the light shed
To the evening sky.
1966: ROCK, CALLED UP
Cold rain in September.
He would take his chances. Wait.
Inside his ’48 Chevy, Rock
stares at the tarmac,
the flashing lights,
the security cars,
the mute door of the jet.
Takes an hour of downpour
for the President to emerge
from Air Force One.
Finally, the rain abates.
Stairs are rolled to the plane.
Johnson is tall as he waves,
strolls down to the dais.
He speaks a few moments.
Rock has blended
with the crowd
before the platform,
the podium with the president’s seal,
sheathed in sponge rubber.
nearly silent gunfire.
the President’s face.
“Somewhere, bathed by the rains,
the South China Sea…”
on his plane.
It taxis down the runway,
aims its nose, surges
down the strip and up into the clouds.
The crowd filters away.