flatworm

justanumber

Age is just a number
but at this number
I no longer feel comfortable
carrying a stupid
little fabric lunch box,
if I ever did.

Now I’ll eat only flat stuff
so I can secret my lunch
in my shoulder bag;
flatbreads, mashed bananas
flatworms, and so on.
I’ll have to develop
a taste for flatworms
but the epoch demands it.

I should have a rolltop desk
so stuffed with documentation
visitors who see it
are moved.
A desk to match
my tastefully graying temples,
my lightly shaved
George Michael beard,
my gravel drive.

Instead of a rolltop
I have a bus;
an unmentionable sorrow
I can’t help but mention.
This morning the glaring bald guy
with the fist full
of tattered papers
passed all the open seats
to squeeze in next to me.
There he began
his ritual bug-eyed
spraying consumptive cough.
eh-haagh-haagh-haagh!
eh-haagh-haagh-haagh-haagh-haaaaaaagggh!!
And me there,
refusing to alter expression, stoic
but for the little fabric
lunchbox at my feet.

How will I develop the taste for flatworms
which my new persona requires?
The same way one gets to
Carnegie hall.
Practice.

Fortnight

Gene Cernan rehearses flag assembling before Apollo 17_Wife adn daughter_ap17-KSC-72PC-379HR

Last night my daughter and her mom and I (her mom is my wife, you see) watched the television. We gloried in the almost cellular movement, seen from high in the air, of great herds pouring across the denuded dustbowl of the Kalahari in search of water. All they want is water! And when they’re not eating each other they seem so cooperative. I guess if they bitch and bicker their way across the Kalahari, none of them will get to the water, or it’ll take too long to get to the water, or some other thing ripe for allegory will transpire. Here on the ground it’s been a rough fortnight for the often graceless human animal, our anthropological manifesto poking inconveniently through the shiny veneer of civility we’ve managed, at great cost, to pull over our culture. This is a bad time to be a car in Baltimore, or a human of a certain color – and there are two unfortunate colors to choose from, neither one looking that great just now. Yeah, there’s more to it than a plaintive “Can’t we all just get along?” But it’s not a helluva lot more. Can we please move on from the Plasticene, or the Stupidlyobscene, or whatever this dumbass car-burning/secret spine-smashing epoch is called? What are we, animals? (hint: yes). Our opposable thumbs are supposed to exalt us in the animal kingdom, but so far have mostly resulted in fancier and fancier thumb-screws. Dear _____; please help us get our shit together, and while you’re walking around in your robe please make a nebula that looks like Charles. Nelson. Reilly.

Looking Back at the Surprise Attack

Jupiter II!

Tiptoeing past my middle-passage afraid of rousing (or worse, arousing) whatever cloaked figure awaits the creak of a floorboard or the sound of a stepped-on garden rake levering up to thwack my beak, I am nevertheless confident in the New Day. May it bring an Elysian lawn chair or the romance of slaughter at the disputed Hot Gates.

Startled by the flying beige flag! Yes, teens, my decline and your prom are coincident, this bit of manufactured magic acquires a seam once the liquefied plastic is blown in and all the Wonder of wonder bread is its balloon-daubed plastic bag. Einstein fires a bullet in a car traveling 800 feet per second per second, and another per second thrown in.

I know exactly where you are: the sweaty, temporal nightmare of roiling youth and feeling good, when Elton murmured from my Panasonic ball and chain like a man singing through a hangman’s hood.

So, yeah. Speaker tech and outerwear? Much later the radio “sounded” better. But we lost through that advance the letter of the law; Gilbert O’Sullivan stands down and in sweeps Ke$ha. We threw it all away for a pair of fancy-pants.

Really now; imagine actually waking one day, Samsa-like, to find you are an older man with sudden dappled paws. And I don’t mean “Perhaps”. That happened to me. Hand-backs shiny with Arbus cross-hatches and arranged spots like those that trouble the failing sun and indicating the same collapse.

The microwaves turn back around and the heat-death of All This sees God tiredly lifting the latches again, this time to let it all back in, tired energy pouring homeward from near and far, as was expected all along. “The day is done! Lamplighters, would you please snuff this dim embarrassed star? And turn up the stereo one last time on Billy Joel’s ‘Zanzibar’! Jesus, what a song!”

Star light, Star bright, the star our God turned off tonight, I wish I may I wish I might be delivered of this overbite. No more to burn the petals or leaves, and buh-bye melanoma. O teen you have some insufficient inkling but you won’t grow comfortably into this weirdness any more than I will return to pinrail and glory in the wings of Oklahoma.

But I I I I…I have the plucky interiority of a 30-something and have retained, against every expectation of my own childhood certainties of decay, a sense of timelessness, and now see kids glance sidewise at me several times a day.

I used to shiftily spy on ‘older adults’ with whom I would periodically be trapped, utterly trapped and panicked, my expression naked with dread. “Kid” (I’ll say); “as strange as you think growing older is going to be, I’m here to tell you that your untested powers of imagination are not up to the task of painting that picture on the inner walls of your earbud-deafened head”.

Now it occurs to me that, in the space of some individual year, no way of knowing which one, in a future whose approach I only guess (not a calendar year, but I’m supposing about 1 year of adventurism from a stem to a stern, more or less)

I’m likely to unravel like a ball of yarn, my sensory nonchalance, this thoughtless unenlightened physical well-being of my middle passage will be cruelly undone, my spirits in flight like foul bats from a foul barn.

An inexplicable, sudden cascade of cancers, renal failures, plummeting bone density numbers, aortic blockage, and x-rays that cause my doctor to breathe hard and raise his hand to his mouth – a melting pilgrim’s cornucopia of disintegration as my architecture takes the express line south.

That will stun me! Stun my hapless fa-mi-lee! Clusterfeck of bewildering setbacks and teary, faux-philosophical internal and external monologues (arms waving around like those of the over-earnest Branagh), hug the wife and kids and step onto that ceremonial last banana.

Questions, I have but a few; could we have been less murderous as our cowboys headed west? At the top of the Space Family Robinson’s flying house what’s that little bubble do?  This is what I have to look forward to.

Visionary thinking, an aching frame, every day the same sustaining pill. Don West and the older Robinson girl? Not Penny, but Carol or whatever? Thanks to Captain Robinson’s intransigence and the finally distracting Alpha Centauri mission itself, they never got together, and now they never will.

dogged

happyleader

My dear stumblebum child
the glass is half empty. I’m sorry.
The race does not go to the swift,
but merely the dogged.
The fleet of tongue and mind
shall have no place in the dominion
of those with office doors.
The intellectually magnanimous,
the marveling, the loquacious
and gifted and teary wanderers,
those with an enrapturing ken
and a grasp of Life’s translucent arc,
shall ever defer to dim bulbs and half-wits,
they whose wherewithal it was
to push, weedlike, through the sidewalk.

A Serpent

A Serpent

I hope and trust
there is an alternate Earth somewhere
that didn’t stumble onto the microchip
or vacuum tube, or whatever;
the precursor that gave us this dumb sadness
60 passwords to do laundry
and buy gum
or type out a thought
and hand-held windows
to nowhere
through which we gaze unblinking
in a flatline trance
of phony, whistling,
race-killing largesse.

what if he’d known

crespuscular Gotham

He struck out in the direction of home
the hushed scuffed aisles of the grocery store
first he pulled his red car out of his colorless garage
the grey junk hung and jumbled there
said he was going for cereal and a razor
there is no depth to plumb nor glyph to puzzle over
he really was going there for cereal and a razor
Raisin Bran Crunch and a Schick with aloe
he started up his dumb red car and sailed away
heart-racing, unbridled, stars a-twinkle
and switched on the little radio

How to explain and why to explain
it’s been years since he needed the company of men, or man
years uncounted (about 20) since he could endure
the vibrant chatter, the cutting blank
the bright self-ignorant line right down the middle of everything
commercial jingles and artistic gestures
Lichtenstein-dumb and warm with the glow
of puny self-satisfaction, an ossified frieze
ecclesiastical complaining gets one nowhere fast
that there is nothing new under the sun goes unmentioned
he just wants the puppets to see the strings
and say a word or two not hauled up from a khaki past

One afternoon he stares through a streaked windshield
and longs. California sun strikes the glass like a match.
wind-blown families people a littered seaside lawn
mingle easily as phantoms, and as without form
picnic tables, happy summer sun, bovine cliques and claques
a beachfront birthday party for another tween
his untenable terror of the other grown-ups there
roots him to the bucket seat
all this tired glow, all this roseate gift, the dizzying chances lost
look at the fools, what news can they bring
professional guys with graying temples drape their arms and laugh
seen through an arc of wiper smear opaque and bright as frost.