8th Grade Science Outrage

handandatom

Back to school night
slumbering parents sag through rooms
look brightly at each other, wrinkling noses
then drop masks
plop into plastic saddles
their asses stir to remember
in history the teacher exults
“the kids didn’t mind the Mayflower!”
frightening me badly
in maths the teacher
is lanky and thick-haired and cheery
wearing a lanyard and i.d. badge
like a classified scientist
thoracic concavity and blousing shirt
conveying underfed youth
a distance runner
at the spring dance
in his excited kid voice he says
“we’ll study exponential variances.
So, geometry.”
I bark a weary laugh
look around at the parents
jaws open, dogs awaiting a tossed mercy-snack
worst is Physical Science
eyes bagged and non-responsive
grups looking tiredly at their iShit
the teacher is a former materials engineer
wonderstruck by her subject which is
the Crushing Vastnesses, plural
our real-time embrace of the growing void
things are moving away from each other
as one would expect in an explosion
but accelerating as the mess blossoms outward
teacher talks about kids finding passion
she calls it “their passion” like everybody does
a common mistake.
the dead are unmoved
occupy the eternal moment daintily moving fat hands
over phone screens with pinkies extended
“We’ll study what makes up the atom,” she says.
The Atom!
they stare at her through draping eyelids
my blood leaps like a synapse
I attempt to stand
I can’t wrestle myself free of the school desk
with its sanguine pencil groove
and perpendicular tubing
heads lazily turn
I’m momentarily constrained
unable to free myself I begin shouting
from a semi-crouched, prostrate position
legs held fast by gunmetal
“Oh! Are you bored of the Atom!
Space is a windless field of rocks!”
So self-righteous, I later realize.
Possibly being dumbstruck
is not a sound measure of spiritual wholeness.
We go home and microwave mini pizza
the first greedy bite fastens a scalding flap of cheese
to my hard palate
and I scream o god how I scream

what i won’t do. the mandelbrot set. i’ll need more convincing. stop pulling that goddamned dog

not eat in public

what i won’t do

i’m not going to eat around strangers
i mean other people
i’ve made it very clear
the helpless Piltdown mastication drives me
to an inexplicable distraction.
i look at you and I see an hourglass figure
sand in all the right niches
Clairol hair
a lipless x-ray skull filmed in profile artlessly chomping
chomping and chomping
chomping and chomping
i see that everywhere
lipless awful chomping
like a death skull but lit up by x-ray
and ravenously chomping
the mandibles and chomping more annoyingly vertical
when undisguised by fancy-flesh
you’ve seen the film
probably around the 4th grade
why eat after that
why ever eat again
we have to eat a little
but not in front of these assholes
idiot mandibles disrobed, no lips, no flesh
know what that looks like?
looks like the skull is smiling, smiling like an idiot
the village moron smiling and cracking his gum
smiling and chomping smiling and chomping
while a rolling shadow of x-ray chow
gets hustled around the inside of the yap
like a wilding victim, this x-rayed bolus of food
hustled and harassed from molar to molar
until finally the great heaving translucent tongue
rises out of x-ray nowhere, pulses disgustingly into the cavern
to throw the thing slickly down the back stair.
Oh yum. They’re bringing out the hors-d’oeuvres.
No thank you.
They’re bringing out the catered hors-d’oeuvres.
No thank you.
Honey, just eat a fucking hors-d’oeuvre, it’s popcorn shrimp on a Ritz cracker.
Can you even hear what you’re saying? I’m not gonna eat in front of these people.
Yes, honey.
No.
Yes.
NO.
Yesss! Honey!
DON’T YOU YES HONEY ME. Listen. C’mere. Let me take you aside.
Don’t fuck up my office party.
Some mornings I wake up and the world is a contusion.
Oh, shit. Don’t fuck up my office party.
– whole fucking world a stubbed toe –
EAT THE CRACKER
No.
What is this?
I’ll tell you what this is. Put your purse down. Put it down. Do you know what your mouth is going to do to that Ritz cracker?
I don’t —
Answer me!
You’re scaring me. You idiot!
Oh, you’re scared. Take a look at an x-ray of your yap working a Ritz cracker.
I just got this job!
Smiling and chomping. You can’t even call it chewing!
Sssshhh!
This whole charade is a horror show.
Ssshht! Look, just don’t think about it. How hard is that. It’s an hors-d’oeuvre. IT’S A CRACKER.
I saw the HR lady eating over there by the empanadas, that’s another thing. She put the matter in her mouth and it disappeared.
…what the fuck are you talking about —
She put the food into her mouth and it disappeared. Where did it go? The mouth moves, and the jaw. The stuff doesn’t come back out. It’s gone. It’s gone. Where? Pushed down a living hole, that’s where. You’re cool with that? I am not. Pushed down a hole. I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not going to stand around with these jokers and push stuff into my mouth.
It does come back out! what’s wrong with you!
You know what I mean
NO I DON’T
I’m not eating with those people. I am not going to beat off into a plastic vial.
Oh my fucking god
Can’t I go into a room at the clinic with a magazine. Like in the rom-coms?
Oh my god!
“Please masturbate into this brown plastic pill bottle then race it back to us before the sperm die. DRIVE YOUR SPERM ACROSS TOWN, BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT IF YOU HAVE TO. Run into the clinic like Jack Lord. Hand the pill bottle full of your sperm over to the young lady behind the front desk.” huh UH! YOU masturbate into a pill bottle! YOU hand an attractive young volunteer a plastic bottle full of YOUR living sperm. You mandibular jackasses! Screw you!
<hissing> Eat the fucking cracker you asshole!! Eat the cracker!
No.

the mandlebrot set

An infinitely finite number
or number set, rather,
which when expressed graphically
flaunts its recursive hoo-ha
in lavish fractals and floral expressions
of frustrated finitude.
The Mandlebrot set.
what a stupid name.
So annoying. So fucking annoying.
Benoit Mandlebrot,
did he have a lot of time on his hands or what.
Who thinks this shit up?
Benoit Mandlebrot, for one.
that’s what the Mandlebrot set is to me
a guy with all the time in the world. this is what he does with it.
Do my dishes, Mandlebrot, you asshole.
Fibernucci, too, or whatever.
Clean out my closets, Fibernucci!
you layabout theorists!
not to sound like a government functionary
giving your collider the bad budget news
but what of the application
just look at this dump
spacetime may be a superfluid
what can that mean
when the sink looks like this
-you mean Mandelbrot –
Shut up

stop pulling that goddamned dog

mans’s best friend
is an expensive afghan hound
afghan may mean drone strikes somewhere.
here in the u.s.
afghan means a sleek-looking hound
at the end of a grasped leash.
aw look at the doggie
look at all the doggies
aw man’s best friends
you can’t have a dog
you’ll never take the dog out for a walk
aw yes I will, I promise.
and even if you do
it’s an idiot’s game.
man’s best friend spends every minute straining
against the leash
does anyone notice that?
man’s best friend wants to run
sniff pee-pee at every bush
make a little pee-pee himself
and take off running again.
“whoa, that’s a tall order.
i want a best friend, sure;
a loyal yes-companion from the ranks
of the docile lower animals.
but this is man’s dominion.
we made it to the top
climbed here with our thumbs.
where the hell are your thumbs, little doggie.
thought so.
you’ll be at the end of my taut leash.”
he doesn’t know he’s an afghan
and the pricey Shih Tzu’s id is indistinguishable
from that of the three-legged living rag
that nervous guy sold your neighbor
the Shih Tzu looks at the three-legged rag and thinks
that’s me
not bad
not bad at all.
i like.
the dumbass Shih Tzu doesn’t know from dominion
it has been bred to walk from room to room.
“interesting breed! what are they bred for?”
to walk from room to room
none of these best friends know what they are
they just want to screw each other
and eat and make pee-pee
like us
is that such a big deal
you get to do that every day
or nearly every day
can your best friend
maybe take a crack at it, asshole?
loosen that leash.
I said loosen it, jackass
i will knock you down
aw look at him strain
aw his little face
he doesn’t know he’s a prisoner
you dog wants to run
aw man’s best friend.
he wants only to run!
but after maybe 30 self-congratulating minutes
you’ll be fatigued from hurling
the slimed ball in its plastic “Lower-Animals-R-Us®” claw
let’s get back to the condo
and leave our companion alone
back to the kingdom of man
back to a blanket in a basket
and a synthetic Purina snack of glued brown powder
shaped like a cartoon bone.

i’ll need more convincing

light can be both particle and wave
dual mutually exclusive properties.
yeah, right.
they proved it with slits.
right.
i’ll need more convincing.
and what of it
two states at once?
what of it
that’s fine at the planck scale.
up here where the sun shines
on an upturned face
it’s another story
we’re a stupendous car wreck
of highly organized particles
a momentary spasm of beige brownian movement
invisible and inconsequential.
they recorded a couple making MRI love
and it was a nightmare of wet machinery
bumping and horrific
you saw everything
two machine-filled bags
and some urgent swarming
but it says here our electric laughter
rings through the numbing eons
travels outward
past where microlensing events
suggest other rocks and other skies
other lawnmowers in repose
under the blanched light of other suns
other realms. bikes, homework and cars
other blushing kids sneaking kisses
catching breath, afraid to smile. smiling helplessly.
for real. this part is real.
our embraces are finally meaningless, yeah. Probably.
no fear, no pain. no nothing.
just this mindless, schemeless bowl
kind of ordinary,
but filled to the lip with gorgeous collapsing stars.

 


elizabeth and bob

bob

Elizabeth (not your real name)
we were kissing
by the blanched light of a cheap floor lamp.
three-way bulb dialed down to nearly useless number one
i say nearly useless
the room was lit as if by candlelight
so, useless but for kissing by candlelight
you call that kissing
sprawled on a bean bag chair
faces dulled with rapture
no sale all purchase
wee hours.
through the window
occasionally glimpsed stars
shimmied in a desert sky
wavery lights arrayed over an oleander hedge
and glowing backyard pool
my parent’s house
my house and my parent’s house
in truth more their house than mine
I didn’t know from amortized
but its stucco and wood
surrounded and held me
cast a spell on me
in my unreliable memory
every room and every hour
are suffused with midday sunshine
people places and things
i can’t hold any more
though i didn’t care
to hold them then.

this tv room in near-dark
a display diorama at the Smithsonian
my teen feeling
of surreal gravity
wondrous and unrecognizable
is this happening?
our first dislocations
always at the behest
of sexual fumbling and half-light
you were on top
my 1977 shorty-shorts
working overtime
this was our first kiss
and would be one of our last
fueled by stars
in science class they’d said
we’re made of stars
or ‘star-stuff’
shut tf up we’re not ‘made of stars’.
well.
your hard breathing
made me breathe hard, and so on
the feedback loop
had my heart flopping wildly
i could picture it ululating in there
i had concern
is this a heart attack?
is it supposed to vibrate like that?
can it be moving any blood in this state?
will this tear my heart muscle?
i actually wondered these things
through feverish
shorty-shorts tenting
chambered slosh-muscle
crazily on the move
in its little calcium cage
making of the moment
an oven I felt
would consume me.
is it possible
to feel ones heart
abrading the sternum?

My dad walked into the room.
I’d heard him approaching
but like the startled
watchman on the Titanic
couldn’t believe my senses
nor the abject, impossible horror
of the immediate
and unavoidable cataclysm
my systems at full boil
registered movement in the periphery
is my father coming down the hall
at this hour?
Right now?
iceberg
iceberg
I said iceberg
iceberg. iceberg.
full astern godammit oh my god full astern
iceberg godammit oh godammit
this can’t be
it freezes the blood
iceberg
iceberg
oh no
what an emergency
it freezes the mind
and the blood.
strips the gears
i had feared an unchoreographed
burst of telling semen
now I fear I’ll vomit
where shall I turn my head
I can’t lie here
and turn my head and vomit
Elizabeth and I freeze
like sparrows
she clutches my forearm to signal.
‘I know’, I clutch back
iceberg
iceberg
‘oh fuck don’t you think I know?’ I clutch back
dread-clutching
‘oh my good god’ I clutch back
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in from the hallway
elizabeth, let go of my arm
he’s in from the hallway
he’s in the room with us
he’s in the room with us
what’s he doing
he’s looking right at us
he’s stopped in the murky lamplight
looking right at us
elizabeth let go of my arm
oh good god almighty oh my dear god
he’s in from the hallway and in the room with us
he’s in the dimly lit room with us
elizabeth let go of my arm
elizabeth you are cutting my arm
don’t make me cry out
oh god he’s standing right there
he’s like a golem in the room
and us on the bean bag chair,
frozen and clawing forearms

i see him in the very dim light
he is an indistinct
unmistakable figure
shirtless and out of shape
in baggy boxers
that tell a lifelong tale
two lifelong tales
my laissez faire dad
my vaguely loving but feckless dad
my orphaned unwanted dad
my dad in the next room like a kindly uncle
my dad who never threw ball with me
my dad who played cowboys with me once in 1966
my dad who couldn’t say i love you
my dad who secretly drank
my dad who feared much
my dad who never took us on vacation
my dad who was scarcely a dad
my dad with his prematurely gray hair
my dad with his easy smile
and this adored young girl in my arms
a juxtaposition that compels vomit
I love her I adore her
so this is how one grows love
so this is that heat
heat like a sauna
so this is where sex and love intersect
now I believe it
clothed bodies throwing heat
my tiny 70s shorts struggling.

dad looked at us
a vaguely visible silhouette
in really baggy boxers
in my memory
a talking cat, a specter
a man alone in the other room
watching sports
wanna sit and watch sports with me Jeffry?
no thanks
wanna sit with me and watch this?
no thanks, I gotta go
you sure? come sit with me
no thanks, I gotta go, dad
come on, just sit with me
naw, I gotta go
ok, Jeffry
always Jeffry with him
a helpful distancing formalism
disguised thinly as bemusement
now in his enormous boxers
by phony candlelight
I see the boy in my dad
I see the boy in my dad
iceberg iceberg

‘what’re you doing out here?’ dad said
I remained frozen and silent
why? why? why? silent again
in five more seconds he said
‘oh!’ in a tone I’d never heard come from him
revelation
he walked on to the kitchen
turned right into the family room
went back to his bed.
i saw the boy in my dad
as if all the lights were on.
it struck me and then it left me
Elizabeth said
‘i’d better get home’
yeah. let’s go.

Zeus or Apollo
whatever titan runs this place
take me back
i won’t ask again
when dad comes into the room
i’ll run to him this time
throw my arms around him in the dim light
all the way around him
the man in his oversized boxers
will see a startled kid jump up
his skinny kid-arms thrown wide
it’ll really surprise my dad
just take me the fuck back.

exodus

birds march grandly

bright blue-breasted bird
with a laughable mohawk
jumps from branch to branch
to branch to branch to branch
to branch to branch to branch
to branch to branch.
stopityouidiotcantyouseewhatyouredoing!!
up the worn steps i go
as mechanically as the jumping bird.
i carry an outsized valise
that worsens the climb.
gears turn
a breeze dutifully blows
trees waver and rustle.
not fooling me!
Minutes are on the march,
a dusty endless column of the dispossessed,
they trudge along with their carpets and pans
one turns to me in passing
and says matter-of-factly
“your village is emptying
and there is naught to do.”

forgive my politics

calgontakemeawayaway

We mobilized early.
I’ve learned, though.
my bible study leader
has been diagnosed.
the headaches are a tumor.
Krishnamurti,
who taught us to see
through the veil
and lectured musically
and at length
on our embrace
of the infinite,
parted his hair
straight sideways.
this morning
you are an insufferable
happy-mouth
and tempt the cosmos.
the toaster
is so full of crumbs
it may combust,
and that would be of a piece
with the sublime. so be careful.

I was thinking about my last hour in the world

uplifted_sidewalk_omniverse

“If confirmed, the predictions would indeed be stunning. They would mean the universe is relatively small, something like 70 billion light years across.”
-New Scientist

I was thinking about my last hour in the world
because that is a real thing up ahead.
A chair. The sidewalk.
A bouncing rubber ball or a chain link fence. Plain.
Recent reports of the demure limits
of our Omniverse? Unhelpful.
Just another expanse
beyond the sunken living room.
Shag carpet as far as the mind can see.
And I’m all “There go my atoms.”
Not tomorrow but the usual Day After That.
I’ve always known it.

Sitting at this bus stop Tuesday,
my heart fluttered with the first hard-edged sadness
the Occasion has ever occasioned.
The incongruity of Sadness briefly trebled the sadness,
and I was scared to think,
but had to think of all the analog
particulate minutes
the bread crumbs in sunlit relief
on their maddeningly unswept kitchen counter
and tears for absent friends, arguments over movies
and concern for our kids,
the yelling at the kids to please help
keep the place clean,
and those uniquely awful hours
that I sometimes couldn’t hurry along
for the life of me.
We’re on our knees and shuffling
into the important-sounding Omniverse
with shoes on our knees so we look very short.
Our arms, as we leave the room,
are outstretched and aloft.
Pure vaudeville, but the tears are real, more or less

It was a quick sadness at the bus stop
but it was ordinary sadness.
Plain as a pillow.
It came and went;
Jungian mayonnaise sandwich. No meat.
Or it was a flashing cramp.
The inexplicable flashing cramps and stabs we feel in our guts
with no physiological cause
and finally no consequence.
“Oh those are growing pains.” wtf? Since when?
I thought “growing pains”
were allegorical,
the manageable torment of a first kiss
or the humiliation by the swingset after math.
The flash was like that. A growing pain. It shook me.

What do I make of it?
You’re not asking but I’ll tell you anyway.
The abstract is surfacing
and behemoth, ascending from pineal depth,
preceded by its shimmering curtain of air
the shimmering curtain beautiful
to see from this unlikely angle.
Then a glimpse of undersea flesh
rubberized and black
humping out of the water’s vastness
to briefly take and test the homely glint of sunlight.

There’ll be a room and I’ll be in it
and it’ll be my last time in any room
save the shag-carpeted room
of the previously infinite Omniverse
through which my component quanta
will soon waft like a cheap plume.
Again, the Thornton Wilder.
Not tomorrow but tomorrow.
I think of my last stand as an afternoon
but it doesn’t have to be an afternoon.
It could and will likely
happen at some idiot hour,
inconvenient and crushing,
lit by a crummy government-issue lamp.
Will I look into the air
and appear to my few visitors to be
seeing something?
They’ll follow my gaze, just in case,
but there’ll be, like, nothing.
In a billion years the dice
that drove Einstein to such distraction
may (MAY) reconstitute me as a flower,
but a space flower.
Aw. What’s the use.

changeling

dime is like a river
I’ve found my place in the cosmic order
marked it with a pen
content with my apprehension
of the eternal.
But in the all-too-temporal process of
peeling off my tight trousers
doing the helpless
suburban man-dance
in the previous quietude
of my room
a couple shiny dimes noisily fell
from a momentarily inverted pocket
and I shouted “oh screw you!”
The dimes rang accusingly
on the wood laminate floor.
Such small coins,
but commandeered
by mathematics and Gravity.
Mysterious and inexplicable Gravity;
unknowable energy field
into which the large bodies nestle
quantum thorn in the side
of the Grand Unified Theory.
We know this much –
the Mystery wants to see a dropped coin
perform an eviscerating hula,
each point of the milled edge
in its turn contacting the floor
in a round-robin rejection
of our race, our opposable thumbs,
our dreams of flight.
Thanks, Big Bang.
These goddamned coins!
They rang and rang and rang
and rang!
“Aaaaaahh! screw YOU!”
I had time to say it again
as the dimes whirled their lil’ dervish
for what seemed five full minutes.
I said it loud,
hissed it with meaning,
one aging chicken leg
yet ensconsed
in Tom Jones sale trousers.
Another scalding victory
of the inanimate.
I so want to live.

i saw your first wife on the bus

i saw your first wife on the busI saw your first wife on the bus.
she was wearing
an ill-advised mustard yellow
cardigan
the color of an organ
in a textbook.
And she looked forlorn.

Not only that.
When we were idling
in the university circle
she looked, as I saw it,
longingly out the bus window
as though she both
hoped for and feared your appearance,
your bounding down the steps
of that grand-looking building
where your department lives
and where you
take your good fortune
utterly for granted,
as you always have.

Oh and as we approached
our small town airport
I looked out and saw two incongruent
contrails slanting up
from behind the mountains,
looking really postmodern
and painterly in the squishy setting sun.
One of the contrails was a little older
than the other
and had begun to blur.
I’ll add here that the cars
arriving and departing the airport parking acre
shouted ‘impermanence!’
despite the accompanying aggregation
of airplanes and air foil
technology there.

Well, I saw your first wife on the bus.
She was wearing
an ill-advised mustard yellow
cardigan
the color of an organ
in a textbook.
Of course she had those
goddamned ear wires hanging down,
and of course she looked forlorn.

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.