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					set flat in the flour of god’s
antique art machine
each table has a white porcelain vase with
a plastic yellow flower in it. they’ve got
water in them so the plastic yellow flowers
don’t feel like you’re ostracizing them,
ingesting coffee like you do. there are
pastries everywhere and a general feeling
of sad femininity; that over-grown girlish
femininity that somehow never blossomed.

the chairs were donated by unfeeling
kindergarteners, drunk with manners and
obsessed with victorian gates. and they
were a unit; the tables, the flowers, the
vases and the chairs. sitting here and
there like bowls of oranges. sitting around
like pumps in a lonesome gas station.

I arrived teetering a cup of coffee and
instantly rendered all of us hopelessly out
of place. The scene became combustible like
an unstable chemistry experiment.
I was there because bortnick’s had closed
and I was trying to finish a rap song
called “the most handsomest boy in the
grocery store.” I had my notepad with me:
     pardon me peggy I’d love to grab those
     tender with splendor / arousing avocados
     no, I’m here by myself / they call me a lonah’
       watchin’ yo hips we traverse the chips
     lockin’ eyes by the two liter soda
     sale on tombstone / heat things up at home
       lookin’ fine in aisle nine
     winked at cindy / swiped a comb

in a jittery spasm my wrist flicked the
white vase off the table, vertigoing in
slow motion away from our muzzled
vibrations and shattering on the floor like
a jar of pasta sauce or a girl in a dress
with a new driver‘s license. shattering
like a dream underneath an alarm clock.


                       2.
contorting myself towards the wreckage, I
gently lifted the plastic yellow flower
from the puddle and the porcelain shards.
that little plastic flower -- it wasn’t
dehydrated, it was embarrassed -- we
ignored its precious whispers, we were so
worried about ourselves. it was embarrassed
because we were right not to worry -- until
then I had no idea how humiliating it is to
be a flower that never wilts or feels
thirsty; I’d simply never been so far out
of place to subject myself to that kind of
information, (I usually drank coffee at
bortnick’s, where they played lee hazelwood
songs and recognized the importance of my
work).
wrapped into that little chair like the
answer to a maze, I presented the flower
like a captive presenting his gun: full of
vague regret and publicity. a dozen marble
eyes slithered towards me like streams of
gasoline towards the catastrophe of my
plastic flower -- my exposed fraudulent
flower, doomed to imitate forever; not even
biodegradable. the onlookers were
anticipating something flammable in the
climax of the hunt. absorbing the
circumference of my destruction and trying
to figure out how angry I‘d made them.

a professional cat photographer wearing a
nursery sweat shirt cleared her throat as
if to scold me vaguely, beyond the terms of
grammatical logic. a roundish costume
manager with blueberry mist eye-liner and a
mouth full of sewing needles said “mmhmmm”
and rolled her eyes in unison with the cat
photographer and they sneered gratifyingly
at one another, rife with unity and
platonic satisfaction.




            “I didn’t kill it”
the barista meanwhile, huffed off smiling
with all the supernatural condescension of
a possessed porcelain doll in an empty
basement. her posterior bubbled along like
two gossipy girlfriends.

an agnostic nanny in khaki ham bottoms
peeked out from behind a computer monitor,
indifferent, like a native. she smiled
through the pools in the egyptian bicycle
tracks of her cheeks, “you‘re a prize pig.”
and threw a sugar cookie, which hit me in
the glasses.

I rose up slowly from my complicated chair,
meeting her gaze and trying not to quiver.
her face floated like a mirage in a
gelatinous primal nightmare. grinning above
the backdrop of doily inspired wallpaper…
or the witch’s mirror in snow white… or a
plumbing disaster’s paper towel… or the
dress that alice wore. swirling above
everything in the manner of oil on water.

her smile recalled the cheshire cat’s
smile… and I was alice. I was enormous
alice. instigating problems, stuck in a
chair, surrounded by complicated pastries
and my own gentle prejudices. rattling off
apologies and wiping sugar off my eyes.

I began to explain the whole thing about
bornick’s and my open mic freestyle rap
reputation but the barista returned with a
broom and shoo’ed me onto the sidewalk like
a pile of peanut shells. “get! get!“ so I
took off down the sidewalk with that flower
tucked snugly behind my ear and I imagined
it was growing there, it’s peduncle
stroking the wall of my skull.
ibikotay the genius
the moon was talkative and kissing all the
fire escapes at the cosmic wedding ceremony
in the sky. all those parallels, rungs and
side members, looming here and there like
the diplomas of society’s ancestors. it
wasn’t just old technology either, there
are ladders in computers and TV sets. like
pyramids -- but ladders. even toaster ovens
have little ladders in them. it was the
cave dwelling indians who did it. they
needed a way to climb into their cave
dwellings.

charles was bleary eyed from an a capella
version of “paris 1919” performed by the
stars who make up the little dipper. then
he listened to a piece of cosmic debris
tell stories about what it was like when it
and ladders were in the army together.
enraptured, charles was oblivious as he
rattled his grocery cart upon a hostile
gaggle of thugs in the midnight stillness
of wilson avenue. the negative energy
gripped him like a crab’s claw.

the gangsters leapt off the stoops with
such momentum that charles looked over his
shoulder, expecting to see a fire,
expecting children to be scurrying down the
fire escapes behind him -- but there was
nothing doing. just a dark dewy avenue and
a couple of stray cats making love. he
turned his attention back to the gang.

montagne handed the remy martin to rizzo
and grinned dizzily through the vacancy of
himself, extending himself through the
boredom of the night towards charles; eager
to greet the stranger with as much
hostility as he could muster up.

everyone else was quietly watching one
another, watching monty in particular,
waiting for the signal to knock over that
grocery cart and stuff their shoes in the
homeless man’s abdomen.




earlier that day, city cyd, charles’s
brother-in-law, told him all about ladders;
where they originated, how they were built,
where to buy the best ones… just everything
one could ever want to know about ladders.
if was for this reason alone that he had
been invited to the great cosmic ceremony
in the sky. in fact, it was a coincidence
that the wedding was happening on the very
night city cyd told him about ladders. just
luck, actually.

the gangsters were oblivious to the
galactic super-party up above. they were
exploring the dismal frontiers of their own
boredom. they felt a vague sadness and that
sadness infuriated them.
“what up can man! haw! haw! nah, ferreal,
why you gotta take everybody‘s garbage for?
what if I took this grocery cart from you?
what would you do about that? haw! haw! you
smell like diapers.”

the gang laughed. then soupie added
something but nobody could hear it because
a car rumbled past them, thundering the
clang of rubber and metal and some music
like an angry box of jewelry.

the silence returned as soupie finished
saying whatever clever thing he had been
saying. everyone laughed out of courtesy
but nobody knew what he had been talking
about.




“I keep seeing ladders everywhere” charles
confessed with a chuckle, “…did you fellas
know that the ladder was invented by a cave
genius named ibikotay?”

...nobody spoke

“yessir,” he continued, “’course that was
billions of years ago. if you want a good
sturdy ladder nowadays you should get an
ALACO… they got a patent on microbeads…
cost ya more but it‘s worth it.”

they just stood there in silence, unsure
what to do, until soupie’s little cousin --
the one who sold ninja stars to elementary
school kids -- made a noise like a record
player tumbling down a stairwell. “haw haw
haw, niggahhh!“

another car rolled by.

“you idiots!” charles declared heart-
brokenly, whispering now, “I’m telling you
numb skulls about ladders and all you can
do is fiddle fuddle with each other like a
bunch of damn jellyfish! look at you… the
bunch of you… just standing around like
fucking cobble stone sidewalks!”

nobody had ever called them cobble stone
sidewalks before. it sort of shocked them,
out there on the street like they were. he
rattled his cart indignantly through their
little crowd, shoving monty out of his way
and nobody touched him.

the streets became quiet again. for the
most part anyways.




when something momentous happens in the
universe it’s effects are often not
traceable from earth for many years after
the fact. it is on this great scale that
time and space appear synonymous. then
again, sometimes it just takes three or
four minutes. it wasn’t until they were
about half a block away from each other
that the full power of that interaction was
born unto its participants:

from the stoop a bottle smashed and
laughter bellowed through the wind tunnels
of wilson avenue. everyone spoke excitedly
about what they’d seen -- like a movie --
or anything else really worth telling
someone about. (motherfucker said
jellyfish) slapping each other on the back,
re-enacting the scene with light in their
eyes… sensing that they’d finally
compromised themselves to their beds. a
great relevance overcame them and distilled
some unpleasant urgency that had become so
customary to them they weren’t even aware
of its presence until it disappeared.

for his part, charles couldn’t wait to
relay this interaction to city cyd. he
would give a fine discourse on the
experience when they met up the following
afternoon. he sorted out his thoughts
verbally, (it‘s the video games) and he too
had light in his eyes.

the light, as you may have guessed, came
from the fire escapes. they had all started
glowing like holy railroad tracks buried
beneath the information superhighway.
humming with a culmination of all the power
of all the ladders ever climbed.

continuing down the great aisles of the
earth, charles grinned privately to the
rattling tune of his plastic bags and tin
cans as they went “thrump, thrump“ together
through the streets of brooklyn.

up in the sky vast energies and galactic
furniture were still going full speed in
honor of ladders, drinking and singing to
the longitude and latitude of its health
and marriage. the moon escaped to the
solitude of the front steps to smoke a
cigarette; resigning itself to sentimental
feelings and oh! how beautiful does
callista look tonight!? sweat soaked
through the moon’s dress shirt because it
had been spiritual dancing with the
microwave and the wheel. out of nowhere a
deep sadness began to swell up in the moon
-- but then ladders come outside and joined
its beautiful new bride the steps.

they sat in silence for the longest time,
listening to the songs the dj spun and
watching little meteors fly by, all golden
in the night like taxi cabs in new york
city.
boy sandy’s telephone sunrise
beneath the surface, near an impossible
woman who looked like a vampire nymph, he
could hear her eyes whistling like kettles,
her lips puck’d ripe like fruit that nuns
don’t grow. the train glid loudly some
shaft in a tunnel, rumbling along some woe-
begotten 5am.

“miss?”

she turns toward boy sandy like she’d been
expecting this. examining him cautiously.

“hi. you got any advice for me?”




“never trust a woman”

that was it. not unkind, either. he wanted
to know her name. “that doesn’t help.”

her mouth bent like a loaded crossbow,
“never run with scissors.”

ok kitten, he decided.
down the train from them sat a man
clutching a stack of flower pots. every
time the train left a station he would wake
up with a jolt and mumble incoherently to
his empty pots. then things would quiet
down and it was just the humming of the
train. things went on in this fashion
beneath the east river and through the
desolate williamburg stations.

boy sandy couldn’t help but notice the
style of the woman’s shoes. they reminded
him of a certain style of women‘s
underwear. he decided to tell her about
camille:

“the first time I met camille she poured
hot syrup down my shirt and grazed me like
an empirical truth; her sweater, her pants,
whispering hollywood steam into every
thirsty pore. despite my shrieking
mortality we got famous for each other. we
were like national flags. silk flags. or
golden pillow cases. so… this afternoon I
got attractive and sent her a text.”

“you got attractive?” she offers,
playfully.

“yea, you know… danced in the mirror,
covered my mouth when I sneezed,
complimented a stranger’s dog, spoke in
complete sentences, ate lunch, listened
with animated interest, didn’t cry or
bleed; kept my emotional gamut limited like
the number of colors in a box of markers.”

she smiled her bloodthirsty smile, “and
what did you text her?”

“u goin out 2 nite? …with the number 2, get
it? …which of course she was, so I went out
to meet up with her…”

“and…?”

“aaaand… I bought her a few drinks.“

“and…?“

“and sniffed her arm a few times.”

the doors dinged shut at morgan ave. “washa
make some… uh… cake lifter!” complained the
man to his empty flower pots.

“she behaved like a wolf gouging herself on
the carcass of everyone’s attention. and
sometimes she would rip out a part that was
mostly me!“ boy sandy lamented dryly,
fiddling a book of matches, “and in this
manner we talked a lot, she and I.”

the vampire interjected, “my name’s
gloria…” but boy sandy would not be
interrupted.

“so anyways, even at this ghostly hour, as
you can see, the attractiveness I conjured
hasn’t quite gone away. it’s got an elbow
on its knee relaxing with a milkshake in
the reclining chair of my chin.”
“and yet you got so nervous that you
managed to cut yourself on the staple that
holds a book of matches together?”

“I never said that…”

gloria pointed to his fingers which were
bleeding underneath the nails, prodded
compulsively by a mutilated matchbook. then
their conversation went some way or other
with boy sandy saying something
unbelievably insightful as she got off at
dekalb ave.

but more importantly: how many times has he
smelled his thigh tonight? sitting there in
bed with his nose tucked under his knee,
picking apart the things that happened from
the things that didn’t. peeling up beneath
himself again, clutching a cold fried
chicken wing. boy sandy likes himself so
much! and not only that but the vampire
liked him too, he could tell she did.
the manta sector
my former co-worker the pathological liar
once expressed something remarkable. I
can’t remember what he said exactly but
that was the beauty of him: you had to wade
the innuendo of his words in order to feel
out what possessed him to participate in
the act of implicit communication. faith in
the ability to accurately express oneself
was not something he subscribed to.

so you look back unable to recall what he
had been talking about but profoundly wound
up in what the conversation meant -- like a
movie where the characters are more
significant than the story line.

it had to do with professional ramblers
such as train conductors, corporate seminar
leaders and camping trip chaperones and how
they’re always getting wasted on alcohol in
various motels and bars across the country.
this disturbed him, a man who has never
left the five boroughs nor properly enjoyed
a drink.

   “man, I love drinkin‘!” he replied to
some vague comment on my part about what I
intended to do when work ended.

  “you do?”

  “o hells yea, boy! I’m a vodka man!“

   “yea!? …what kind of vodka?” I already
knew he was lying but I valued his opinion
on things anyways.

   “aww… you know… like, aged vodka. the
good stuff.” and then he smiled slyly at me
in a way that flattered me. his smile
seemed to indicate not everybody knows
about good vodka, but he could tell I did.
I absently returned the grin while stocking
the salsa verde doritos -- indulging myself
in some memory of kindergarten, reaching
into my personal space.

     “but I don’t get WASTED or anything
like that” he added while stirring a vat of
salad dressing, “not like those roving
professionals do. man, those guys just make
me sick, poisoning themselves like they do.
you know the type, right?”

“yea.” I replied, slightly offended.

those weren’t his exact words, though. I
can’t remember his exact words -- I’m sure
they included a brief discourse on the type
of people who are oblivious to the cruelty
of zoos. I know he used the word “cage” and
the word “society” …it also had something
to do with dennis rodman… see, he had this
way of dealing in three or four dimensions
at once. you got the impression he wasn’t a
pathological liar for undignified reasons,
but rather it was the closest way a man
with his mind could come to the truth.

I realize now, this cathedral weekday
morning, this calm cold light of pre-dawn
tuesday, alone with wake the bear and a
mind that refuses to detach itself from the
body, this perfect humid windowless august
/ now :
my ex co-worker the poet was spot on.

when I look back on my career as an
astronaut most of my memories are tinted
with a foggy unrelenting inebriation. the
boys and I, we used to get wasted out there
in space. really tanked. it was graceless
in that respect. we would wake up in the
manta sector with nothing to take away our
hangovers but a quick slug from any number
of half empty bottles of captain morgan‘s
NASA label. lifting our weightless,
throbbing heads and blocking our eyes with
playing cards whenever planet earth
appeared on our alumizon transmitters.

lusting after disorientation; avoiding the
subtlety, the creaking, the sadness, the
style; bludgeoning ourselves without a wink
of insanity. ready to take our place in the
great cosmic graveyard like any other
organism… out there in the manta sector of
all places! clicking switches and turning
important dials. peeling the holograms on
our space suits and trying not to think
about our wives.

in those days we had day-long ketchup
eating contests and drew sex organs on each
other’s foreheads. we made love to
beautiful aliens and told them it was our
way of shaking hands. we told their leaders
that we were the kings of our planet and
they plugged us into their genius machines.
we had a lot of adventures out there but I
just can’t look at it the same way in light
of that conversation with my pathological
liar friend; the whole memory of the thing
has taken on an uncomfortable hue.

then there was that morning in 1987 when my
mother dropped my sister and I off at the
playground for kindergarten. we were the
first kids to arrive and I believe it was
my third day of kindergarten. the slide was
covered in morning dew but I went down
anyways and the fog was so dense you
couldn’t see maybe five feet ahead of you.
the chains suspending the swings gave off
brownish orange rust stains and I saved a
family of kittens from a rabid dog using
self-taught karate. it’s an incredible
thing to look back on. I think about that a
lot. I can still remember what I was
wearing.

you know, he and I were really a couple of
jack asses. nobody else at oliver’s market
liked us very much… one time we both
pretended not to notice while a friend of
his lifted a big rack of ribs from the meat
department. I was in on it and played my
part -- ultimately we both got fired. we
laughed about it in the parking lot
afterwards but we never saw each other
again. there had never been much to say in
the first place.

meaningful destruction is impossible
without some sentimental gratitude for the
thing that is being sacrificed; walking
into the blackness with a sense of balance
-- nothing exists on its own. it comes
down to respecting the relationship between
all things.

when you say it like that it just sounds
obvious. there’s more to it than
recognizing it. sometimes you have to work
against it. you have to resist the urge, in
good or bad company, to wrap your tongue
methodically around a perpetual supply of
leaves and twigs like the giraffes at the
bronx zoo.
                   11.

                army ants

saying the world was filtered by extensions
of my own identity would be like a fish
saying there is land above the ocean.

the bridge of my glasses was temperature,
the shadow of the weekend was the rust spot
on my sock. the radiator hummed a song
about the living room. the sound of my arms
in my jacket started swishpering and the
afternoon was narrating from the archives.
time became a scar that had healed over. It
was slow enough that I could cluck it with
my tongue. intimacy. the rent was paid and
I could understand exactly why. there was
my face, reflected in the window, above the
spit and mailboxes. something personal was
underway, a brand new chapter. cluck,
clucking like a little song.
on my dinner room table I discovered an
envelope with my name and address written
on it in actual human hand-writing. it’s
contents, I knew, were intended exclusively
for me. a revelation that shocked me with a
wave of blissful curiosity. I took off my
water-proof jacket and flung it into the
corner of my room. I kicked off my shoes
and turned on the computer. I took the keys
from my pocket and, while multiplying
twelve by seven, dropped them on the
reclining chair. I had already forgotten
about the envelope. when I saw it I had the
blissful feeling all over again.

I ripped the envelope open and devoured its
contents as if it were a chapter in a book
about science and the chapter was entitled
“army ants” and the first part went:
     The general result of this progressive effort
     has occurred in the outer void of a universe
     infinitely extended through gray ants without
     any case to all intents designed to stimulate
     or avoid the depression of space.

cluck cluck cluck, I finished the letter,
flung it into my room, and marched
purposefully towards the sea monkies to see
if any of them needed medical attention or
supplies. I was also curious to see if any
of them had switched genders, which they
were in the habit of doing. I was the only
one home and my roof was there so the sun
just sliced it‘s way in like sandwich bread
from heaven, slipping through the slats on
the windows.

cockroaches jittered to and fro beneath the
shadows of dishes and cereal boxes and the
area behind the oven but I didn’t notice
them. I didn’t even notice the sound of the
neighbor’s dance music or the faucet
dripping or the floorboards creaking
underneath me.

if I’d been listening, I’d have heard the
dripping water say, “egg. moss. boof. dap.
floo. mau. slip. corn. trap. lip.”

and I’d have heard the floorboards reciting
those cryptic folk fantasies they never
tire of. I might have even hear the lyrics
to my neighbor’s song:
     I'm looking for a new love
     (Does anyone out there know what I'm talking
       about?)
     I'm looking for some everlasting love
     (One that goes on and on, on and on hmm yeah)
     I'm looking for some good love
     (Good love, a real good love, good love, good
       love)
     (Yes I am)
     So I'm sending out this application
     All across the nation
     So hurry up and sign up, sign up
     Right here
     (On the dotted line, yeah)*

but I was well on my way in so many
directions, existing within some holy
sandwich and the cluck cluck cluck and the
chapter about army ants and a new job that
paid $84 a day, under the table. tax
exempt.

                       ***

that night an album ended and the silence
came back again. it pulled me out of my
book about jewish summer camps and brought
me back to my bedroom. the silence was
impersonating a mountain.

flopped in the lamp light near my feet on
the mattress was the letter you wrote me. I
rolled over and read it again. but this
time I had no shoes on and I was under the
blankets because the ice cream had lowered
my core temperature. my feet explored the
folds of the blanket like big lazy
caterpillars.

your letter had changed. I could picture
you flicking the pen, meaning it, even
sometimes not meaning it, then getting back
on track and meaning it again. then folding
it with yer hands and pressing the stamp
and dropping it in the mailbox. I could
even see the black and tumbling trip across
the country. all of this in the creases, in
the shadows.

it was you, (it wasn‘t me) and of course
the chapter was ending and things were
finally starting to make sense. I put the
letter back on the floor and turned off the
light. the room disappeared and I took a
deep breath and something different
altogether started happening.

what I’m trying to tell you is that truth
has always been important to me; I’m hung
up on truth. I’m so preoccupied with truth
that I don’t hear a thing anybody says
until they are gone and everything is quiet
and I can feel my skin and searching is no
longer something predators do because
they’re hungry.
*Lyrics to “Looking 4 A New Love” by Gerald LeVert
law abiders in the light of day

mr. arigotti wears shirts that look like
rooftops while his shadow gets the flag
pole dizzies. sitting on the concrete steps
asking everyone for cigarettes. he rolled
in from some far off place where he knew
some pretty important people.

it was hot and humid mid july when the
apologist first met mr. arigotti. the
situation came about by mistake and it went
something like this:

“sorry but do you know where I can find a
miley cyrus boogie board? it’s not for me,
it’s for my mother. she’s afraid of the
water -- it‘s cause I never take her
swimming.”




mr. arigotti thought this over while
scratching the white bristles on his
leathery chin. to his right was a plate
with two sausage patties on it and an
overturned fork.

“no.”
“ok well thanks anyways!” grinned the
apologist, “sorry to interrupt your
breakfast. have a wonderful day!” and he
continued down the sidewalk below the
silent birds and satellite dishes.

“wait!” commanded mr. arigotti with the
urgency of one who‘s used to being hung up
on.

“yes?” replied the apologist like a waiter
in an expensive restaurant.

“do you have tobacco?”

the apologist did not smoke and the fact of
it made him feel inadequate. the stranger
had been nice enough to consider his miley
cyrus boogie board dilemma, it didn’t seem
fair that he couldn’t do something useful
in exchange.

“ummmm… yes! I most positively do!” lied
the apologist, “may I share it with you?”

“yes.” replied mr. arigotti like a cat who
does not wish to be touched.

“no problem,” the apologist had to think
quick. “oops! I just remembered I left the
bath tub running. I need to turn it off
before it floods and drowns mother! I’ll be
right back!”

and just like that he stormed off down the
block to the bodega, leaving mr. arigotti
to doggie paddle in his lake of remarkable
memories.

as he pulled out his last $10 for the
cigarettes the apologist saw it in the
window, below the clothing detergent and
bug spray: the miley cyrus boogie board, on
sale for $7.99.

he ran back to mr. arigotti and tossed him
a half dozen cigarettes.

“everything ok?” asked mr. arigotti, who
was now filing his nails beside a half
empty plate of taquitos with a napkin on
top like a swirl of whip cream.




“oh yes!” panted the apologist, “everything
is wonderful. now I must be going, I’m
afraid! enjoy your lunch!”

mr. arigotti nodded, his mouth full of
cigarette smoke and ground beef.

2.
back at home, the apologist bee-lined for
his jar of change. his mother, from the
kitchen, heard the rattle of the beads
hanging in his doorway as he plowed
purposefully through them.

“rainin’ out there?”

“not at the moment, mother!”
“did’ja get wet?”

“not just yet, I‘m proud to say.” replied
the apologist, now standing in front of his
mother -- who was situated behind a plate
of fried chicken wings with all the windows
drawn (because the sky resembled the ocean
and threatened her with its enormity).

“watch out for that rain!” and she was
wearing a bright orange jump suit with a
chocolate chip cookie sewn to the front.
she had a little umbrella leaning against
the table like a feathery black rifle.

3.
back at the bodega the apologist discovered
that the last miley cyrus boogie board had
just been sold. they wouldn’t have more
till next summer. he took this up with the
man at the register.

“listen pal, you see that little gypsy out
there on the sidewalk? next to that hairy
cat? …well, she got my last one. sorry
kid.”

“oh, that’s ok. I‘m the one who‘s sorry,”
sighed the apologist, “I shouldn’t have
waited so long.”

he went outside to find liana and george
talking about how nice it would be to take
a bath in the ocean with miley cyrus and
lick the salt from each other‘s bodies.

the sky filled up with clouds and hurricane
Hannah winked at them with the tip of her
finger.
“tell ya what,” offered george, “we’ll give
ya the boogie board but in return for it we
want a big dinner. I mean a big dinner,
see!?” he and liana smiled at each other,
“I’m talking ‘bout sausage patties… I’m
talking ‘bout fried chicken wings…. uh…”

“ooh! taquitos!” added liana, who then
pointed at the sky and it stopped raining.

mr. arigotti was glad to donate his
leftover sausage to the cause. likewise,
the apologist’s mother contributed her
fried chicken wings, (while franticly
scratching her ear and mumbling about
constructive criticism). she packed all the
food into an enormous bright blue
tupperware and wouldn’t you know the thing
worked out beautifully!
4.
well, the whole group hopped on the A train
and went down to far rockaway to play on
the beach. it was the apologist, his
mother, george, liana, and mr. arigotti.
they acknowledged the ocean; it was
basically unfathomable. everyone was happy,
mumbling joyously into the wind, except for
the apologist’s mother, who took off down
the shore reciting pi with tears in her
eyes. everyone was watching her, between
bouts of ecstasy.

then, armored in floatation devices and
looking like a pile of tires, she tip toed
cautiously over to the shore and planted
her right foot into the darkest sand. a
shriek of triumph leapt from her soul as
the tide rolled over it and everyone
cheered her on, rolling around and getting
sand in their pants.

as she put her other foot in the water a
flying walrus emerged in a ray of light
from her bosom. he spoke like biz markie
and he fluttered a foot or two off the
ground, “yo fellas, it’s liana’s birthday
today!”

the gang looked at liana to see if it was
true and they could tell by the bashful
expression on her face that it was, so
everyone climbed on top of their arms and
sang her a song. even mr. arigotti got
involved, even though he hadn’t sung a note
since his cousin’s wedding -- when he
married that bitch in ‘86 and subsequently
got divorced, moved back to the islands,
penniless and alone.
the sun was beginning to go down so
everyone washed their hair in the ocean and
read the instructions on the shampoo bottle
out loud like they were reading a michael
mcclure poem.

the apologist glanced over his shoulder and
saw the cellophane glean of the miley cyrus
boogie board reflected against the setting
sun, upright in the hot sand like a summer
tombstone. technically it remained unused -
- but somehow, as you‘ve well seen, it was
at the center of everything.
your illegitimate child
4dw

there were a lot of us there and each one
of us had a place to sit. there was
something very happy going on. we were all
just picking it up and putting it down, if
you know what I’m saying. it was as if we
were staging a surprise birthday party. I
almost expected the whole group to break
out in song, and -- perhaps more astounding
-- I would have instantly joined in even if
I didn‘t know the words. just clapping and
singing and slapping my knees. all of us,
strangers on the M train, smiling slyly at
one another, proud of the great universal
lineage. I grinned at the face of my watch
as if the time of day might provide some
relevant insight. when I looked up again,
the source of all this happiness was
sitting plainly across from me.

four people squished into a three person
bench. an old lady, a young woman, and two
little girls. the little girls were
kneeling on the bench with their backs to
me, watching the tunnel whistle by through
their window. sometimes they smiled at each
other and spoke confidentially about happy
important things.

one of the great joys of public
transportation is observing children. from
newborn babies with their naïve braveness
to high schoolers acting like what adults
are supposed to be, they are like lost
friends who never changed while I went and
expired to certain vague and unrelatable
wisdoms. san Francisco is my true love but
new york is the greatest city in america.
one of these little girls in particular
disarmed me. she had a little yellow and
white flower in her hand. I don’t know how
long she’d been carrying it but it was in
great shape, as if it had been planted in
the soil of her loving fingers. blossoming,
it had a dozen or so vibrant white petals.
she was the perfect climate for that
flower.

she invited all of us to watch, from every
walk of life, the plucking of each one of
those petals and then her flinging them
dramatically over her head. letting them
flutter down, one by one, before all of us
with our headphones and grocery bags and
insane private miscalculations. some of us
simply had to shut our eyes because we
didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves
in an age where admiring five year olds can
be regarded suspiciously. those petals
flipping over themselves and resting on the
filthy floor. these little geniuses showing
us what our hearts are for.
next to them on one side sat a one hundred
year old polish woman. she was not a part
of their group but she was plugged in and
charging her batteries like the rest of us.
on the other side was the mother, probably
chaperoning the kids on a trip somewhere.
she was not the mother of the one with the
flower.

the reason I bring this up at all is
because I think perhaps you are the mother
of the girl with the flower.

do you have any children I do not know
about?

she had your prickling nose and sand
sweeping dark hair. she had your big eyes
and I do believe she even dressed the way
you might have dressed when you were five
years old. little hearts all over your t-
shirt? blue jeans with glittery lining
along the pockets?
meteorites
we didn’t want to move. we liked the
stickers on our windows and peeling the
chipped paint along the window sill. we had
given our hearts to the mickey mouse stamps
on the wall behind the television. it
didn’t matter if we got in trouble.

here we sat staring at each other across a
room overstuffed with the void of fresh
white paint in a house that pulsated like
september or a hole in space.

and we had to bend our necks because the
roof was low. sitting on either side of my
new room on our old dressers in the
arbitrary places where the movers had put
them. her dresser and my dresser, enormous
and out of place like egyptian tombs in the
metropolitan museum. awkward redifined. in
the old house we sat in chairs.

there was a thunderstorm outside and we
laughed frantically, with bent necks like
that, with the storm just smashing down as
if it remembered us from before and had
something important to tell us.

laughing like adults with dimension and
sadness and wisdom, sitting way up high and
flinging ninja turtles at each other, back
and forth across the room, sometimes
whacking the walls with such velocity that
little dents were created.

the rain lamenting from the oversized
window, “DANG! I‘ve been all over san
francisco looking for you two!”
sir john the baptist
I stayed in bed as long as possible because
that was my job: to seek out
accomplishments. getting up at noon is
slovenly but getting up at 6pm is
remarkable and kind of worth discussing.

when I arose at 2pm the disappointment was
unanimous. I put on my shorts and stumbled
my greasy frame to the kitchen where the
cockroaches were having their version of a
gay pride parade and a mouse was losing its
mind in the depths of an empty garbage can.
the dishes were like a pile of broken
toilets and I assumed responsibility for
everything as sir john the baptist.

the sun was ranting out in the middle of
nowhere; all bright and enormous. jesus
never acted enormous like that. I
remembered being a kid and looking under
rocks in the church garden while everyone
else was listening to the sermon. I
remembered jesus, the way he used to climb
trees all the time and throw ice cubes at
the roofs of his neighbor’s houses.

water heating up on my hands, the dishes
were fidgeting like an emergency room
lobby; they sat and twisted and tried to be
patient but were restless and I was a stern
caretaker who may not have shown it very
well but cared a great deal -- and happens
to be very good at what he does.

with the dishes taken care of I gently
overturned the garbage can and started the
kettle. I was careful not to think about
the mouse because mice always know when you
are thinking about them and it horrifies
them. not thinking about the mouse was my
way of showing him that the coast was
clear.

then there was a situation with the freezer
door. I noticed that the little shelf on
the door had been snapped off. it happened
three years ago and today was special
because today was the day to have it fixed.
I squinted thoughtfully, sipping a cup of
coffee and trying to conjure a roll of duck
tape.

I prowled the living room scratching my
chest and sucking the plastic sleeve of an
orange otter pop which hung from my mouth
like an iv catheter. the table was covered
in national geographic magazines and
religious pamplets -- mostly jehovah’s
witness -- but no duck tape.

I went back to the freezer to see if I
could use a rubber band instead but the
logistics of it were all wrong. if I was
going to fix this thing I was going to need
duck tape… so instead I fried up some
sausage and tried to think about things
that were not impossible.

another cup of coffee, a plate of hot
links, a look through last night‘s e-mails,
(to make sure nothing unforgivable happened
and in hopes that we were possessed with
love and perhaps had just forgotten) and a
bowel movement is pretty much all I did
today.

if you saw me you would have thought I was
a photograph in the national geographic:
     it is almost 4pm now

I’m running low on reasons not to be
sleeping or dead or shopping for duck tape
or playing some kind of hand -- a palace
hand, or something to clap about! shocked
with caffeine and feeling a little useless,
I’m trying to convince myself that I fixed
the freezer door. I’m scanning my carpet
with relaxed eye-balls, hoping for some
provocative hallucinations.

but what I found was better than a
hallucination. what I found was a gift from
jehovah himself; a mysterious and beautiful
artifact; an invitation to faith; an
evidence of contact and a shape so overtly
feminine as to be almost arousing: a bobby
pin.

breath breathing, I look out my window,
which is actually a poster of a window on
my wall, and I am grateful for the sunlight
that bleeds down and across my arms. it
reminds me of jesus -- the way he and I
used to start exclusive clubs and the only
way you would be allowed to join our club
was if you drank a jar of pickle juice. of
course jesus and I didn’t have to do that
because we were the founders. jesus and I
were too busy hanging out on the corner,
talking to girls.

I can hear the mouse rummaging through the
cubbard with all the recyclables, that
mouse from the trash can -- you know, I
still remember that mouse’s parents. they
were so in love.
anthem (getting back from the
bottom of the issue)
we have a tendency to submit
re-enactments of unpleasant interactions
for the jurisdiction of the people
who                   love us
    want to see us     happy

( segments where we exercised
  an honorable temperament
  level headed and articulate

while the other person
, god help them ,
  was some sort of mentally
  handicapped bigot
  rattling off non-sequitors
     humming the condescending drawl
     of a universally perverted
     power plant , (
                       complete
         with the yelping metallic
         broken hearts
         of sweat shop saints)
         blurry in the toxic flames
         of our antithesis ventriloquy )

when I was a kid I listened
to these captivating diatribes
on good versus evil

     I reviewed facts
     as they were presented

     and always proclaimed
     with righteous zest
     that my friend had been
     empirically victimized
     by our mutual nightmare:
       some living antagonist
          I’d slam my fist
          against the kitchen table
          like a man who’d gotten
          every job he ever applied for
               scorning thoughtfully
               the evil that blackens
               the sidewalks of society

     my friend would then grab my wrist
     weak with some internal struggle
     “ sooooo… ”     desperate faced
     “ tell me. honestly… am I
       wrong
       here? ”

     and I’d roar back
     like denzel washington:

“NO! you did absolutely nothing wrong!”




and I meant it

( I didn’t understand the rules )
  there was a time in my life
  where I thought it possible
  to concisely speak the truth
it was tricky to discover
things weren’t happening
the way they were told to me

 for a while I took this to mean
 that I needed to make new friends

I was raised in the church
so it never occurred to me
that I was lying along with them

eventually
I came to understand
that we are all liars
the bodies themselves are lies
the births and the deaths are lies
language is forever making liars
of us all



I feel better these days

but still sometimes i wonder
how many times
and in how many kitchens
my name has been passed around
like a bottle of barbeque sauce
     by beautiful people
     who can’t get
     the taste of my existence
     out of their mouths
as a rule
     when we aren’t quoting
     our favorite movies
     we are quoting the fiction
     of our own experiences




         huddled around tables
         doing unfair imitations
         of the voices
         that haunt the ideas
         we’ve come to let
         represent us unconditionally



            trying
            in our very small way
            to preserve
     /      I mean persevere
ecstasy of scandalous language
    easy bend / we start
    exponential winding
    slithering
    curling
    twisting muscles
    birthing, worming
    rolling, burning
    heating between deaths
    suffering an organized disguise
    blocking everything out
    except forward -- experimenting
    with the space //

    indulging small geometry
    and necessary parallels
    racking balls on a billiard table
    and the up close look of leaves




    the achievement localized
    the crosshairs microscopic dot
    the infinite convergence realized
    the destination on a pulsating map
    the thunder crackle and the sky: edged
    blending and ext
                anguished
age

I

the chest of age balloons reciprocally
against tolerance / egocentric
myth of an avenue that stays new

interested

just far enough away



II
the abstract age has bit-rates
chugging careers

triumphs

even the betrayals you never
thought you downloaded



III
the truth of age spins kisses

you lean in like a summer shadow
or a drunk in his pajamas and press
gently against the wall

with spiderwebs in yer hair
IV
the fact of age is breathing



V
the fingernails of age are filed
with memories so blunted and round
its cuticles never bleed -- for
reason unknown -- it calls
them pants and wears them



VI
the pockets of age are full of beer
caps and ATM receipts

the garbage trucks
never wake you up
like the keys and wallet

like the alarm clock does



VII
the plate of age is covered in pie
crumbs in a shallow puddle
in your kitchen sink
but you are unruffled
by drinking yer dinner
phineas vs. the krasdale
strawberry beverage
this afternoon you were sitting there in
your chair and you started feeling thirsty.

"phineas! you should make some krasdale
strawberry juice!"

surprisingly, that worked.

after glaring indignantly at you for a few
seconds, he tilted his head to the side:




           "that’s a GOOD idea."

and meandered wearily into the kitchen.

a few minutes later you were in the kitchen
with him, washing your cup and poking the
ice cubes. you peeked over his shoulder to
see how things were coming along.

phineas was starring into the pitcher,
which was half full of water and had two
ice cubes in it.

you startled him when you asked him how it
was coming along:

"woah! oh... i was just watchin’ these ice
cubes melt."

then you were sure you heard your phone
ringing so you leapt back to his bedroom
but your phone wasn’t ringing after all. it
was just some noise from inside your brain.




you sat on his bed wondering why your
vacations always coincided with your
menstrual cycle. you sighed, gazing
lovingly at the piles of clothes all over
the floor and for a second you could smell
dillon‘s beach, 2004. then you went back to
the kitchen, sure that the krasdale
strawberry beverage would be ready for
drinking.
the pitcher was still half full, sitting
unperturbed on the counter -- except this
time it was a slight pinkish color. you
lifted the pitcher to your lips, that hot
july afternoon.

it was like drinking the water in an
olympic size swimming pool after a
strawberry had peed in it.

disenchanted with refreshment, you went
back to his bedroom to ask him if he’d take
the train with you to the airport tomorrow
but he wasn’t in there.

you found phineas, with his gentle palette,
laying in the hallway snoring peacefully.
you quietly laid down next to him on a
carpet you were sure had never been
vacuumed before and soon you were asleep
too.
all the haunts of man
the jokes that start with an artifact that
knows god
and trusts god
to keep it pure

     sometimes bad but never wrong

who slit the throats of pick pockets
and slay lions into crumpled carcasses
with the help of / what confirms
                     its own existence?

the jokes that slice the onions so small
they don't even exist anymore -- us
armed with a reinforced fear of ghosts




what is it to speak seriously?


     the rush hour train is full of
     things so horrifying
     we can only relate our contempt
     by pretending to be a part of it


     the best jokes are so good
     we cannot laugh at them --
     instead we nod wisely   --
     muffling a quiver of shock   --
     dumbstruck
     acting calm
     trying to catch up with ourselves




the best ones are veils for every
unimaginable loss --
     every debilitating disease
     and every betrayal of the human
     imagination
     we are intimate with      the word
we would be fools
to stuff it full of sighs


we are filling it
with scandalous innuendo!


all the walls
of all the haunts of man
shaking / teeth exposed
           bells ringing
           corn holders
           meat juice
           the physical
           world of hopeless
                               optimists




spooking about in there
and not a single person
lacking a chair
                 or a plate
just accelerating
into their names

        taunting the void --
            between gasps --

wrestling what cannot be known
into something conceivable and snarky




sometimes glancing up from their plates
with grease in their eyes
and moons in their mouths

     then lulling back towards
     the horizon of the graves
“some girls” and the coinstar
superstar
i had the rolling stones on my headphones
and i was cruising down the street like a
lady on a bicycle. ohhhh yea. i had a
quaker oats tub filled with nickels, dimes,
and pennies… aright… and of course it was
sunny outside so the birds were out there
being all fine and the sun itself was like
an arawak love story.

mick was going on about "the church of the
sacred bleeding heart of jesus" while me
and a gang of dominicans did the electric
slide, funeral-style; clapping in unison
and smiling like vegetarians. there was
even a baby there who hopped out of her
stroller. and when it ended we all laughed
and some of us hugged for the first time…
departing in separate directions, catching
our breath… me towards myrtle ave. to visit
the commerce bank.

a man can buy lots of things with so many
nickels, dimes, and pennies. terrific
things. stuff like second hand lamps, all
black overalls, hand sanitizer, american
party ice, general tsao's chicken, magnets,
stamps, reptile tanks, limited edition
commemorative coins, pasta strainers... i
mean lots of wonderful stuff. spectacular
stuff.

i walked into commerce and screamed,
"waZZZZuuuuuup!!" like they used to do in
those budweiser commercials. then everyone
else responded, "wassup wit you?” like I
was the host of their favorite television
show. the woman in the suit gave me the
rehabilitator high five and i gave her a
fistful of change and a kiss on the cheek.

and mick’s goin‘, "am i hard enough? am i
rough enough? am i rich enough? i'm not too
blind to see!" and a baseball rolled across
the hardwood floor, bumping into the
coinstar machine in the corner. i removed
my headphones and started towards it like a
dog.




suddenly i was submerged in the sound of
change jingle jangling through the coinstar
machine. it would erupt and then quiet down
and then erupt again like a professional
comedian telling jokes to the ocean. the
machine was occupied by a gentleman in a
full brim porkpie hat.

he wore a collared shit with a textile
aztec pattern running lombard into blue
jeans bleach damaged in the manner of the
fashion. his supply of change was unending
and we all watched him with the cautious
admiration normally reserved for ex-
convicts and magicians. i put down my
quaker oats tub because it was heavy and
there was an element of shame there. his
change came out of a cloth drawstring bag,
like the kind wealthy midgets transport
their laundry in.

forty-five minutes later the jangling
ceased. i caught a glance at his receipt.
he had $856.44. as he walked away i caught
his eye, "good show, magillicutty."

without missing a stride he handed me his
hat on his way to the teller's line. i put
it on and poured out my change… $54.77
…which isn't bad, really. my change sounded
like a secretary flushing a toilet. I
picked up the baseball and took my place in
the teller line, behind him.

"say, mister. you sure had a lot of coins!"

he replied, whispering, "must a christ
parish in torment in every age to save
those who have no imagination?” words that
spurted from his diaphragm like water
through a pinched balloon.

“I’m sorry what did you say?”

“nothing. george bernard shaw.”

I wanted to know how he got so many coins.
"how do you get so many coins?"

“he was a playwright.”

“oh. you’re a professional busker?”
"yes. watch this." and he took his hat off
my head and put it back on his head. then
he started doing the melbourne shuffle--
but he didn't look silly, he looked like he
was born to dance like that. he looked like
a necklace bouncing up and down around the
neck of shaushtatar, the matannian prince,
riding a tiger through the khabur river
valley. he looked like charlie chaplin
riding a piece of cardboard down the steps
of the lincoln memorial. and he sang:

     this town's full of money grabbers
     go ‘head, bite the big apple, don't mind the
        maggots
     shadoobie, my brain's been battered
     my friends they come around they
     flatter, flatter, flatter, flatter,
     flatter, flatter, flatter
     pile it up, pile it high on the platter!

before leaving, I gave him my money and
thanked him for everything. I rounded the
corners like a baseball diamond, heading
towards home in the warm blanket of
applause you get when hitting a grand slam
out of bushwick. there are so many things
you can do with money. wonderful things.
ALSO READ:
Snub Pollard gus iversen
JAR gus iversen
Our Dogs Are Restless andrew macy and
                       jake page
Cocktail Salute kevin estrada
The Prismatic Cathedral will lasky


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