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True Love in the Age of Microwaves or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Dumb Poems

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TRUE LOVE IN THE AGE OF MICROWAVES OR HOW I LEARNED
TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE MY DUMB POEMS
A THESIS
Presented to the Department of English
California State University, Long Beach
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Fine Arts
By Benjamin Klein
B.A., 2000, Chapman University
May 2005
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© Copyright 2005
Benjamin Klein
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WE, THE UNDERSIGNED MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE,
HAVE APPROVED THIS THESIS
TRUE LOVE IN THE AGE OF MICROWAVES OR HOW I LEARNED
TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE MY DUMB POEMS
By
Benjamin Klein
COMMITTEE MEMBERS
CHSnes Harper Webb, Ph.D. (Chair)
English
-
....................
Gerald Locklin, Ph.D. «
English
George Hart, Ph.D.
English
ACCEPTED AND APPROVED ON BEHALF OF THE UNIVERSITY
Gerry Riposa, Ph.'
Associate Dean, College of Liberal Arts
California State University, Long Beach
May 2005
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ABSTRACT
TRUE LOVE IN THE AGE OF MICROWAVES OR HOW I LEARNED
TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE MY DUMB POEMS
By
Benjamin Klein
May 2005
This thesis is a collection of thoughts and poems concerned primarily with
investigating the wonderful and ridiculous problem of my life. My hope is that the
poems herein contain ingenuity, wit, and charm, as well as shameless charisma and style.
This project is intended as a means by which I can begin to understand, refine, and
elucidate the themes which motivate my writing, education, and my life.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
Page
1. INTRODUCTION................................................
1
2. METHODOLOGY.......................................................................................
7
3. CONCLUSION.............................................................................................
14
APPENDIX...............................................................................................................
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CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Beginnings give me the “heebeejeebees.” Something in them reeks of duplicity,
connivery, charlatanism. In other words, how should I know? The golden sun rising
majestically over the hills, the where, how, who . . . none of it interests me.
I have always had trouble making my brain sit still. I seem unable stop the words
in my head from becoming sentences, which in turn become thoughts, which in turn
become concepts, assertions, ideas, ad infinitum. This biological quirk has proven itself
somewhat of a stumbling block to the establishment and maintenance of what one may
call a normal, functional life. I am an insomniac, and I did not learn to tie my shoes until
the fourth grade. I routinely forget important dates, deadlines, and occasions. I barely
remember my birthday let alone anyone else’s. I misplace crucial documents, lose
money, and can never find socks. All things considered, it seems that my brain has long
since abandoned the “real world” with its necessary mendacities, and is content
gallivanting about the cosmos with little to no regard as to how I can get through the day
without my car keys. This is where the poetry comes in.
Gradually, the words and thoughts featured in my daily and nightly meanderings
and ruminations have worked their way onto paper in the form of lines and stanzas. By
and large, this is my poetry. At night, under the merciless scarlet glare of the clock radio,
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at work, in museums and grocery stores, I talk to myself. I have imaginary
conversations. I think about my credit cards, friends, women, sandwiches, art, and God.
I imagine what I will say at my father’s funeral; I imagine making love in a submarine; I
wonder what Budapest is like and which one of my wives lives there. I sing songs to
myself. I think about dying, and living, and sex. I mumble incessantly. People comment
on the circles around my eyes, and say I should take something to help me sleep.
Writing has been if nothing else the survival mechanism which has allowed me to
retain a rudimentary amount of sanity throughout my life. I now think, for the most part,
in poems. Poetry is simultaneously the referee, the traffic light, and the pinball machine
which has taken up residence in my mind. Imagine if you will the Swedish Chef
(Muppet), Wonder Woman, and Woody Allen siring a child. I have developed a mania,
an obsession for getting the proper words out of my head and onto the pages in the proper
order.
Ultimately, I am thankful for poetry and the outlet it provides. I can think of no
other forum wherein the collective flotsam and jetsam of my psyche, the nonsensical,
cosmically dimwitted detritus of my cerebral cortex as it has come to manifest itself is
not only tolerated, but celebrated. As a result, when I am writing poetry, there arises in
me this sort of dynamism. A pervasive energy, coupled with a sense of well-being and
happiness which I can find virtually nowhere else in my life. I laugh; I guffaw; I smile; I
gesticulate unabashedly. Hopefully, this energy is manifested in the poems themselves,
and some of the heart and soul poured into each of them manages to wriggle its grubby
way into the retina and corpuscles of the reading audience, whoever they may be. I am
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by no stretch of the imagination the most industrious or disciplined of writers. I have no
set writing schedule, do not keep a journal, and oftentimes am lucky if I can find twenty
minutes out of the day to devote solely to the creation of poems. However, when I am
prevented from writing for long periods of time, whether due to my own negligence or
circumstances beyond my control, I become depressed, and lethargic.
I have found that more often than not, the quality of mood I am in can be
attributed to how often and how well I am writing. When I am writing frequently and
well, I, much like Frosty, am a jolly happy soul. Conversely if I am writing badly, or not
at all, I, much like Frosty in July, am a decorticated puddle. Writing seems to play a vital
role in the maintenance of my basic psychological and physiological well-being, and
some of my happiest moments are those spent cloistered away in a comer somewhere
scribbling to my heart’s content. Those are the times when my consciousness relents,
slides over to the side, and lets the ever-present backseat-driver in my head take the
wheel and steer for awhile.
There are of course a myriad of variables when considering the roots and
influences of my poems. Genetics is partially to blame. My father was a sports journalist
for a great deal of his life, and my mother insists she read copious amounts of Blake,
Verlaine, and Neruda while I was in her uterus. My mother is extremely intelligent. I do
not believe h a - for a minute.
I do however credit my mother for passing on to me her penchant for the printed
word. I distinctly remember her as always having a book hovering just in front of her
face, eyes glazed in a silent meditative reverie. I must have been intrigued by this
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voluntary catatonia she immersed herself in, because I was soon begging her permission
to read the books that she read. At some point she acquiesced, and I immersed myself in
the pop-fiction of writers like Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Michael Crichton. As a
result, my first attempt at fiction was a three page sci-fi novella, in which the main
character was either a time-traveling mutant, a vampire, or both, I cannot remember. I
was eleven. My mother read it, and yelled at me because on page two my protagonist
utilized the expletive “goddamn it.”
Of course it was not long until I grew tired of relatively mundane and predictable
best-sellers, and I began to root through the library for something different. It was here
that I encountered writers like S. E. Hinton, Aldous Huxley, and J. D. Salinger. Books
like Brave New World and Rumble Fish completely altered my understanding and
appreciation of fiction. I began to recognize reading and writing not only as recreational
activities, but as incredibly powerful cultural phenomena that held within them enormous
potential. With writing one could create at will, give birth to entire worlds in the span of
a paragraph. Writing seemed the conduit through which thoughts and ideas took on
relevance, significance, and ultimately meaning. A way to be heard.
Despite some of the early critical response I had experienced, I continued writing,
though never in any organized, thorough manner. The vast majority of my early “work”
consisted of a haphazard collection of awful short stories, tepid novellas, and truly
ghastly poems read only by myself and my closest companions. However, I enjoyed
reading immensely, and was able to mimic what I read well enough to begin to put a
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sentence together from time to time. My rather voracious reading habit, coupled with the
need to crank out hundreds of essays throughout high school and college is how I learned
the nuts and bolts of writing.
I received my bachelor’s degree in English (creative writing emphasis) in the year
2000 A.D. from Chapman University which is located in Orange, California. When I
graduated, my favorite professor admonished, “Ben, just put off getting a real job for as
long as possible.” I still believe this is one of the finest pieces of advice I have ever
received. Never one to ignore professorial guidance, I took a year off to figure out what I
was going to do next. It was during this time that I traveled extensively in Western
Europe, which turned out to be rather boring. I have written a few poems about it. There
are a lot of great old buildings there, and some great paintings, and sometimes the women
will talk to you, but by and large it is just like here, only smaller, smarter, and less overtly
obnoxious.
After I returned from abroad, I got a job working in a book store located in that
veritable Mecca of intellectuality known as South Coast Plaza. I was not in school, was
not writing, and was not pining for Rome. As fate would have it, the poetry section was
located directly in front of the cash register, and after I had finished the autobiography of
L. L. Cool J, my gaze happened upon a book with a grizzled old man on the cover. The
book was You Get So Alone Sometimes It Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski. I read
it, as well as two others by “Buk,” that night, and by the next day I was writing. Within a
year I had decided that poetry was the only medium I was interested in pursuing, finding
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myself unable, and perhaps unwilling, to write anything else. As I told a professor-friend
of mine, “I would like to keep writing short stories, and maybe a novel, but without
characters, dialogue, plot, or a specific setting of any land.”
Upon hearing my decision to pursue a master’s degree in poetiy, my father asked,
“When do you get a job?” I spoke to my father yesterday, and he asked me the same
question. When I tell people I am pursuing a master’s degree in poetry, they say “What
are you going to do with that?” I usually say, “Conquer the entire universe,” to which
they usually reply, “Oh.”
I am a fan of healthy skepticism. In this case, it is probably entirely warranted.
Poetry is not exactly the most lucrative of fields one can go into. In fact, I think it ranks
just below assistant rodeo clown in terms of income. But as an exceptionally deluded
individual once said, “Money isn’t everything.” I write, and I want to write well. Period.
I enrolled in the MFA, which has proven invaluable to me in terms of my growth as both
an aspiring artist, and an aspiring person. I can say that my exposure to the exceptional
work and ideas of my peers and professors, as well as their gracious and careful
consideration of mine, has benefited me in ways that I am just now beginning to fully
comprehend. If I amount to anything, it is no doubt due to these gifted and amazing
individuals, to whom I am eternally grateful, and cannot thank enough.
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CHAPTER 2
METHODOLOGY
It is important to know what to give up. In the fourth grade, I abandoned
saxophone after only three weeks. A few years later I picked up the drums, and I ended
up playing reasonably well for a long time. Last month I sold my kit for sixteen-hundred
dollars. I cannot explain the sense of relief I felt when I loaded my drums off into a
complete stranger’s track, and watched him drive off into the proverbial sunset. If asked
why I felt this way, I might say, “Have you listened to a Buddy Rich record? Who needs
the pressure?” I am not a brilliant musician, and it is partially out of the immense respect
I have for brilliant musicians that I decided to stop playing. I did not want to become yet
another boring musician, playing boring music, with nothing interesting to contribute,
who for all intents and purposes should have stopped a long time ago.
My assertions regarding music are directly analogous to my feelings about
writing. I write poetry because I feel I do it well and have much to contribute to the
world of poetry in general. Writing, like music, should be performed with the utmost
vivacity, passion, and commitment, or not at all. I have no patience for average music,
average writing, or average art in general, and furthermore I will not be an accomplice to,
or responsible for, its proliferation. I demand that the poetry I read, and especially the
poetry I create, be engaging, compelling, and extremely well-written.
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One would think that this attitude would be commonplace in the creative
community; however, a seemingly overwhelming majority of individuals seem quite
content with creating boring art. There are a lot of people writing extremely bad poetry.
Furthermore, there is a whole lot of bad poetry being published. So much so, in fact, that
poetry’s popularity is at an all-time low in contemporary culture. And dare I say,
rightfully so. Unfortunately, this is what occurs when not enough people know when to
quit. Not enough people within the artistic community have the decency, or presence of
mind to question their talent, or decided lack thereof.
The copious production and overrepresentation of bad art and the subsequent
necessity for better, more ingenious art is now more than ever virtually self-evident. This
is an assertion which is as far as I can see beyond debate. However, while endeavoring to
create art in a dynamic fashion, an unfortunate upshot which can occur is excessively
high standards. While it is often the case that poets and artists need to be more cynical
and demanding in regards to their own work, it is possible on the other hand to be so
critical of one’s own work, that nothing ever gets written. For years, I could not write
anything that was good enough to warrant putting it down on paper. I was caught in a
kind of “Catch-22” wherein I wanted so badly to create a relevant piece of writing, yet
nothing I wrote seemed to satisfy my lofty aspirations. I became obsessed with finding
the right words. I spent months where I could not write so much as a legible sentence
without analyzing it to the point of exhaustion. I was terrified of writing, and terrified at
the prospect of failing. A professor of mine has a phrase he likes to use which has proven
invaluable to me. The phrase is: “They can’t all be Prufrock.” Up until I began to
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appreciate the fundamental truth behind this phrase, I was a bit of an obsessive wreck. I
was an objectivist one moment, a performance artist the next. I did not “write poems,” I
“arranged language phenomena.” I bristled at being called a writer, and cringed at the
word “poetry,” and I was exceptionally wary of everything I wrote. If something came
onto the page that was not about to blow the roof off of the entire artistic community, if
not the entire planet, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was a delusional goofball with the
best of intentions.
As trite as it sounds, there is a point where one has to learn to like, if not love
one’s own work. This typically involves looking into the mirror one day and saying: “I
am not Charles Bukowski; I am not Ezra Pound; I am not Robinson Jeffers.” I believe
the technical term is, “Getting Over It.” One of the most important things I have learned
in the MFA is how to stop worrying and love my dumb poems. Be they experimental,
vulgar, solipsistic, overtly funny, or downright weird, I have come to appreciate the fact
that it is perfectly acceptable to write all kinds of poems, and that one is much better off
not trifling over relatively irrelevant problems of definition and interpretation. At this
stage in the game, I am grateful that anything got written in the first place, and I hope it
keeps coming. I have come to the realization that you do not necessarily need to worry
about what comes out, so much as you need to worry when it stops coming at all.
I do not like to think of myself as an especially lazy or apathetic individual;
however, I am becoming increasingly wary of any activity, particularly in the way of art,
which requires an excruciating amount of effort on my part. Big Fat Lie: “Nothing good
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ever comes easy.” I have come to realize that one of the reasons I write poetry is because
for me, it is easy. Not only is it easy, but when I am doing it right, it becomes as
effortless and enjoyable an activity as holding hands with an attractive woman, or eating
jelly beans.
I try to write as quickly and as painlessly as possible. I cannot see the value in
getting worked up and making my life miserable over something. It is not good for the
artist, or the art for that matter. Big Fat Lie: “Art is suffering.” This is a delusion that I
labored under for an embarrassingly long period of time, and it is as pretentious as it is
dangerous. If writing makes me poor and angry and miserable, I should do something
else. In other words, no more poems about not being able to pay rent.
As far as techniques, I like short lines. I prefer three to five words per line, and I
have noticed my stanzas gravitate around the five-line mark. My poems are generally
one to two pages in length, but have been known to ramble on for up to six depending on
the occasion. I prefer not to have a lot of punctuation cluttering up the page. I find
excessive dots, quotation marks, and other such debris distract the eye, and thus interrupt
the overall velocity of the poem. I am not a fan of capitalization. Something about
capital letters reeks of authoritarianism, bravado, and machismo. I enjoy the understated,
even demure appearance of the lowercase. I have heard that my poetry is laconic, terse,
deadpan, and minimalist.
My artistic influences vary considerably, and include professional wrestling,
women, cities, joy, music and failure. I have heard that there is some interesting range
and eclecticism in my poetry. Part of this is deliberate, merely poetic ingenuity, and
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shameless creativity; however, most of this results from random phenomena which have
occurred throughout my life. I was lucky that the first cassette tapes I owned as a child
were the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Bill Cosby’s Wonderjulness, and an audio
recording of the novel Tom Sawyer.
I try to write good poetry. This may, can, and often does include poems which
are called language poems, post-modem poems and surrealist poems. I have also been
known to write poems that are called post-structural poems, stand-up poems, funny
poems, and sad poems. I am not sure, but I may have written some poems that are called
jazz poems deep-image poems, and slam poems. I try to avoid writing poems that are
bad poems, lame poems, and dumb poems.
I try not to concern myself with poetic debates. Much discussion has taken place
regarding the role of poetry and the poet within the contemporary literary and artistic
landscape. Is poetry still relevant? Does poetry matter? I have a difficult enough time
managing to find a pair of socks that match; I do not need poetic responsibilities
confounding the issue. I find myself with ideas and words. For me this is where the
proverbial rubber will always meet the proverbial road. My poems are the words and
ideas that I like the most. Poetry is relevant for those who choose to make it so. I do not
know, nor do I particularly care if poetry matters. Evidently, I care about writing poems.
If my attitude changes, I will stop writing poems. Whether or not any of this
matters in the grand scheme of things is anybody’s guess.
Despite what many in the academy and the arts would have us believe, it is my
firm belief that poetry does not need rescuing. Poetry does not want me returning it to its
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rightful place of “immanence” in mainstream America. Poetry does not need me. Poetry
will do what it needs to do. It will die if necessary. It will be reviled, championed, run
through the ringers of the academy, snuffed into the ashtrays of publishing houses, spread
up one side of die cosmos and down the other if it so endeavors. I think one of the most
important aspects of writing is learning one’s insignificance in relation to the art. Most
importantiy, be humble. Be gracious and appreciative. Be grateful to be allowed to take
part, for however short or long a time, in the joy and rhythm and life of it.
I detest poetry that labors under the illusion that it is poetry, and seeks at all costs
and at every opportunity to remind its respective audience of its authenticity. I hate art
that is self-conscious, self-congratulatory, and self-obsessed. I have nothing but disdain
for poetry that is utterly convinced of its own merit and worth. Need we be so eager to
proclaim ourselves poets, and what we write as poetry in the first place? As it is
articulated by poets such as Gerald Locklin, Russel Edson, and Frank O’Hara, perhaps it
is not our place, and best left to posterity, to deem us worthy of such titles.
.1 have a feeling that one of the sole moralities of poetry, and I hope my poetry,
lies in its ability to deal in the self-evident. Poetry composed of words which have an
inherent beauty and such-ness, and what can be referred to as Right-Here-Ness. I like to
think of the poems I write as Right-Here. The Right-Here poem is a poem that starts
before it begins, and continues starting throughout its duration and eventual ending. It
can be understood as an extension of tension. It is a process by which the poem aspires
to a level of velocity, a momentum which carries the reader down the page and suspends
the reader after the poem has finished.
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The idea for Right-Here comes out of my desire to create poems with an
immediacy to them, an urgency. I want my poems to convey a kinetic force, a transfer of
energy which interacts between the author, poem and reader. The poems I enjoy most are
poems that “hit.” I want to read and write poems that “hit”. I try to steer clear of
descriptive language, overt sentiment, and political or social didacticism in my poems. I
do not insist that my poems “mean,” either. I prefer to rely on images, sounds, and
rhythm, and I deliberately try to employ to the best of my ability intelligence, wit, humor,
style, and charisma in my writing. In other words, I am sick of boring poems.
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CHAPTER 3
CONCLUSION
Unlike beginnings, endings do not give me the “heebeejeebees.” They do
however give me the “willies,” and occasionally even the “creeps.” They bring with
them a distinct air of fallacy, melodramatic melancholy, fatalism: “The blood-red sun
dipping ominously into the ocean.”
What can one hope for?
My sincerest desire above all else is that I will continue writing. I would hate to
think that I have put this much time and effort into something only to discard
and abandon it as readily and carelessly as one would a dilapidated ceiling fan.
Furthermore, I would hate to become the type of individual whose conversations
gravitate towards the fact that they used to do something worthwhile. I hope I will never
live to tell people that I used to write. It is like telling someone you used to be attractive
or interesting.
I would like nothing more than to have the privilege of one day becoming an
English professor. It is really the only profession I can imagine myself in, and
consequently the only one I am somewhat qualified for, besides hand-modeling or
professional air hockey. Whether or not my formal education will continue, I cannot say.
As of now the idea of pursuing a doctorate seems daunting, if not impossible. Of course I
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can recall thinking approximately the same thing about an MFA after receiving my
bachelor’s. Annette Funicello, of course, said it best: “Que Sera, Sara.”
This entire project is intended among other things as a solemn and sincere love
letter to the many professors, (particularly the ones on this committee), friends, comrades,
and colleagues who I have been lucky enough to associate with over the duration of my
academic years. I am forever indebted to you all for the patience, humor, and wisdom
you have shown me, and I consider you all family. I pray that this introduction, and the
preceding poems are worthy of your attention, and in some way a testament to the life
you have given me.
I would like to thank my sister Molly for being a great friend and partner-incrime, and my mother and father for their weird genes, as well as their unwavering
support, financial and otherwise. I wholeheartedly thank the women who have allowed
me to bask in their wonderfulness, and shamelessly fiddle with their extremities, to whom
a great number of these poems are dedicated. Thank you Discover Card, Check ‘n’ Go,
Prince, Frank O’Hara, Buk, the Sex Pistols, and any other entity or establishment that has
made things easier on me.
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APPENDIX
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gun
ask yourself
when was the last time you made
a gun out of your fingers
and pretend-shot it
at some body
only to
realize that the
same hands which made your
pretend-gun which you
pretend-shot are now
pretending
all by themselves
they pretend-wave
pretend-hold with
other hands
they pretend to touch
the make pretened-guns
without you
and pretend-shoot
whoever
they damn well please
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Comrade Doomnikov and the Legend of the Siberian Deathlock
It is common knowledge among
professional wrestlers
that the Siberian Deathlock
can only be successfully
administered
by six individuals in either
hemisphere
(Comrade Doomnikov is one such
individual)
yet many are unaware
of a crucial prerequisite
that the Siberian Deathlock must only be performed
in years ending in a prime number
on only two occasions
has necessity required
Comrade Doomnikov to utilize
the deathlock
the first
against
Mexico Max the Man-Mangier
as a result
Mexico Max never wrestled again
and for the rest of his life
had trouble dancing
and couldn’t have played badminton
even if he had wanted to
the second
against Rude Mike
Comrade Doomnikov
Was in danger of being publicly
debased in his hometown
of Bethesda, Maryland
and out of desperation
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administered the Siberian Deathlock
and having failed to consult
a calendar that day
spattered all 345 fans in attendance
with Rude Mike’s upper middle
and Iowa: intestines
along with the vast majority
of what was later identified
as his spleen
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the man thought to have invented irony
explained to the ketchup bottle
in the center of the table
“yes the whole irony thing...
i had up until that point
been earning my living
through jaywalking exclusively
a fact that you may find fascinating
remarkable even.”
he opened his
briefcase and finally showed
me the manta-ray to which
he had been constantly alluding
and
onto which he promptly emptied
the contents of his wine glass
before the briefcase closed
he gave the beast a reassuring
pat on its back
and said
“but you know the old saying:
give them enough rope...”
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a license plate frame
in front of me in
traffic reads: “Zionists
out of palestine!
stop the holocaust!”
i thought about the
driver of the car
at the county fair
or maybe the mall
reading the sign on the
booth
“personalized license
plate frames
while you wait”
considering the prices
and the colors
looking over the display
frames:
“zero to bitch in
sixty seconds”
“don’t laugh your
daughter may be
in here”
and then asking the
guy working there
“can I get one that reads:
Zionists out of palestine
stop the holocaust?”
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kill-bot
i removed the last feeding
cartridge from his tube and set it out
to dry alongside my dished
we sat across from one another
my attention wandering
my eyes following the metronymic
motions of his humming defibrillator
(tick
ping)
his ocular receptors reset to
an aperture setting 6
head tilting 3 degrees left
(setting: concern)
i carefully patted his death claw
and reminded him to pick up
some eggs tomorrow
fiber optic lines
sprockets cogs
wires fluids
(ping)
in the shower
i could hear the faint slurp
of his coolant valves
draining
and i repeated the letter over
and over again in my head
while he powered down
for the night
kill-bot darling,
we had to know
that it would be this way
we had to know
that it could not last
but i will
22
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never forget the nights
your l.e.d. lights coloring the walls
that throbbing red
my fingers lips and tongue
dancing across your cool monitors
gauges soaring
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creative writing
all you need to get started is
immense self-loathing
a hatred for sleep
punctuality
money
work
and food
no soul
a pen and some paper
with some luck
in forty to fifty years
you might have something
but really probably not
24
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pink cookies in a plastic bag getting crushed bv buildings
is an L L Cool J song
and i cannot adequately express
the nearly overwhelming sadness envy
an visceral emotion i feel
when i hear it
the title alone
does it
i like to repeat it to myself
over and over
and when i die
i know
with utmost certainty
a ziploc heavy with day-old
frosted animal cookies
will beckon
25
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three days of music
at 315 am
i was awoken
by my penis
vibrating and
emitting a barely
discemable hum
when suddenly
it raised itself
slow and
flaccid
with what seemed
a sober solemnity
a kind of dignity bordering
on the theatric
and the asymmetrical
goldfish lips
of my urethra parted
and out came the motown hit:
“meee-e
aaa-and
mrs.
mrs. jones”
when the song finished
the urethra closed
and my penis
fell
lolled lazily
against my body
assuming again its
slothful repose
i sat there for a moment
then turned on the
light and
went to the bathroom
under the light
i took it gingerly
in my hands
26
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gave it a few inquisitive shakes
a few light smacks
as would administer
a drunk relative
then i drank a glass
of water and went back
to sleep
the next night
sitting up in bed
indian-style
eyes glued to lap
again my penis
began to vibrate
and again raised itself up
and still again
the motown hit:
“meee-e
aaa-and
mrs.
mrs. jones”
i went to the bathroom
and took a shower
roughly
angrily
nervously
i scrubbed my penis
with dove and scolded
it
“what was that?!”
“what is wrong with you?!”
i toweled it off
and dabbed the edges
with rubbing alcohol
then drank a glass of water
27
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i convinced a girlfriend
of mine to
come over the
next night
assuring here that
my health was
at stake
i stood there
hands on hips
while she looked on
confused
at 314 and 50 seconds
i said
“ok watch this”
and to my relief
“meee-e
aaa-and
mrs.
mrs. jones”
when it was finished
i stood
arms outstretched
eyebrows raised
she sat there
eyes glazed
in relative boredom
and disappointment
i said
“dont you find this
the lease bit unusual?”
she issued a long sigh
and laid down
back against the
carpet she hiked
her skirt up
parted her legs
and slid one hand between
28
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i heard a low hum
thighs trembling
a shaft of light
shot out from
between her legs
and there
splayed across the
ignoble beige wall
of my studio apartment
began the opening
credits to
Gone With the Wind
in all its technicolor
glory
29
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ooh yeah, life goes aw-on
rome is alright
not a figurative rome
but the actual one in
italy
it’s alright
my point being that
you get off the train
and you may or may not
be arguing over
who sang Jack and Diane
bryan adams or john
cougar mellencamp
or the innate problems and
advantages of
pop songs
their significance
in general
and the kind of culture
which produces them
but you get off the train
and there’s a gustav
klimt exhibit who you
like or don’t
but for ten-thousand lire
who can say no
and you stand in front
of these paintings
and playing in your head
is
“ooh yeah, life goes aw-on”
30
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Everyone is rich, everyone is beautifulAndy Warhol
Everyone
everyone recites the diamond sutra
in their sleep
everyone administers fellatio
with the fervor and precision
of a Chinese gymnast
everyone yawns the
thick quiet of honeycombs and
dying spiders
and everyone loves
you
31
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Glitteropolis
Kid Lemonade did it all
he saw the Hug Factory
and Gigglesnap Meadows
met and rode
Bulby the Giant Sleepy Butterfly
ate honeybugs in the Fun Tree
he even hiked Tickle Mountain
twice
but best of all
that night
at the Gliterweee Picnic
he married
the Unicom Twins
32
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birth of the cynic
i was bom
sick
a koi pond
residing sleepily in the center
of my chest
they had trouble naming
all of the fish as they
continued to dart through
tiny crevices amid the viscera
an unfinished monopoly game
lodged in my upper right
ventricle
some scoundrel
hid hundreds
under baltic ave.
my father tells the story
well
how they removed it
all with microscopic
diamond-encrusted tweezers
how my tiny body glowed
a blinding fahrenheit orange
i dream often of
the cursed obstetrician
glaring at the x-rays pinned to
the wall like spooky movie posters
clinically appalled at the
whole mess of me
33
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good old ghettoblaster nightmare-kissing
agony techniques
keep the fuses warm
34
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carfhage
might i compare thee
to a lopsided paper lantern?
the hamburgers
and pickup trucks?
and the vaulted gates of the republic
cringing
in rapid succession
wince
laze and shut
like the solidity and dumbness
of a promise like flags
or can
like the shriveled lungs of
carthage
can like vacuous
torchlight of Nuremberg
can the heart tune a
spastic truth
narrate an adultery of pieces
of words
a collective adultery of cash machines
gum-blackened sidestreets
pom-spattered asbestos?
can suffocation be considered
a gift?
35
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for mv uncle
who looks like the illegitimate
son ofkenny rogers and wrestler
ric flair
who taught me blackjack at
age ten and assured me
that i would quote
“get my ass kicked outside
of a poolhall one day”
who smokes Kool cigarettes
with something akin to piety
whose wife is ten years younger
and a born-again Christian
and whose love advice i
remember as “you’ll have time for that
shit later”
36
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mv hotel fetish
we cannot fault
order
cannot hold within our
lucrative breasts
contempt for the
perfect
the unmistakable
the guiltless
i believe that nearly every
move i make should be
regarded with suspicion
know for example
how envy can chisel the
heart-strings
and make mockeries of the
towels pillows and
mouthwash in its miniature
emerald resilience
you have taught me the
value of guilt
the beauty of disposability
the hysterics of limbs
and legs and vulgarities
when played out against
your cool pastel walls and
beige ice buckets
i impotent
as the t-rex
the guillotine
the catapult
our temples
our ziggurats are thirsty
for love and dying
37
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retribution
if i ask a girl out
and she says no
i usually say
“well
i know someone
who won’t
be getting any
olive garden
this evening”
38
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the last pinball machine
a steady derelict
can impersonate
the plink and pang
laser-light
and were you
planning on breaking
through the glass
and unscrewing each
of the
tiny lights
on the TILT
again
or finally stealing the ball
to have your way with
to suck on were it the last
and best and coldest and most
resilient of jawbreakers
and ultimately
jamming it down
pinball day after
pinball day
into your body
full in the knowledge
that you ruined it
for everybody else
39
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i went to europe
shot one half
of one roll
of film
and it didn’t develop
i went to europe
stood in paris
and pointed at the eiffel tower
i went to europe
and took a picture sitting in
front of trevi fountain
in rome with my right thumb up
i went to europe
and got drunk in a hostel
in amsterdam and
sat cross-legged on
the floor where in a conversation
with a young indian man
regarding the
egregious foreign policy of the u.s.
i set the record
for consecutive
repetitions of the word “fuck”
and the phrase “do you know what
i’m saying?”
i went to europe and
took a picture of some
french school children
and actually said
“alright kids, say fromage”
i went to europe and
kept telling myself
that i was in europe
40
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gil elvgren 1914-1980
your everyday fascist attractions
pulsing the dark
across vibrating
in the magazines
so fever beautiful than
the present-tense light
cleaving the first lies
like wet flowers feel
when no fire between them bums
41
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iohn coltrane built the ex-girlfriend graveyard
hands to the badness
you bad you bad
sitting standing lying walking
of it
remembers
everyday
what
laughter
and smiles
were hearted in the green floodlight
of burnt Octobers
choking wounds in red
or far blue tempests
far farther away one about
one who writes to empty walls
understands
convincing skin and telling
walks lovely the lonely panther
cascades
his fire and soul shake and shatters
the planet rock
worlds rock
and perfect orgasms rip
through hummingbird bodies
tearing apart the shivering day
42
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condoms
arena football
watching fireworks
with a welding mask on
eating filet mignon
with a dinner jacket
around your tongue
wearing tap-shoes
to the beach
non-alcoholic tequila
smoking dope with your mom
sushi wrapped in tinfoil
universal studios
a shopping spree
at mervyns
43
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mv hospital fetish
some mouths only meet
with the
delicacy
of cement trucks
or
sledgehammers crippling
bright-red bowling balls
ephemeral lines of graham cracker and
milk-saliva stretched out between chins
a chipped tooth
and a swelling lower lip
dizzy with
first and last acts
performed within the confines
of irrefutable heroism
some like the desolation
about the eyebrows
and the sterile halls
gleaming
squeaky
hard
and think about the precarious
paper hat and bleached backward treachery
like a click of the bone setting
of the stiletto heel
of the dueling pistols
of the boxers and juveniles
and victims
the syringe
the rattle
coughing worse the music
breathing wheezing
music
catch some sleep doc
you are tidy enough to
ward off the spells
44
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your tricks are the best
noggins to scoop out
like diet jack o lanterns
limbs to pickle
the only amputee
is me
and does he reach up
to polish that
diploma with the comer
of his cuff and wink
to his reflection at the end
of the day?
45
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the flier read:
“A Night Of Women Poets”
and the only line i
remember was
“My pussy is my prison”
and how i had to do
everything in my power
to keep myself
from throwing my
hands up as if shackled
and yelling:
“Book me baby! Book me!”
46
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to the guy who lives below me
next time
at least play devo
or ccr
next time
at 833 in the morning
or after i come
or after dinner
do it with prince
or the cure
or lawrence welk
play anything
but what you play now
what i can only
identify though my walls
as whale farts
accompanied by a
freshly-slapped queen
sitting on a washing machine
but understand
were this dodge city
long before the stomping
the complaint forms
the night after night of
jackhammer bass and
asinine counterfeit wailing
assailing my slumber and
rattling my wine glasses
i’d have moseyed on
downstairs
kicked in your saloon doors
popped four in you
and two in that godforsaken
player piano
and left you both
smoldering and wheezing
in the sawdust
understand
47
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were this feudal japan
your neck would have
been relieved of its
burden long before
a contemptuous eyebrow
was cocked
the blades glorious flash
the sublime fountain
of crimson justice
decorating your subwoofers
all long
long before the first
syllable of
“could you please
turn it down?”
hit the air
so
if the few hours of peace
i manage to glean from god
each night are to be so
unceremoniously wrenched
from me
if i am to endure this
punishment
next time
do it with
ccr
or otis redding
or Aretha
or public enemy
or iron maiden
mel tonne
morbid angel
the muppet album with
john denver
Christopher cross
the clash
sex pistols
sheila e
olivia newton john
ray charles
48
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in other words
the next time you’re going
to wake me up
at least
at least
at least
do it
with a little bit of style
asshole.
49
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the problem with mv ex-girlfriends mother was that she had no concept of transcendence
dear ivy
i’m sorry about the lateness
of this birthday card
but hey
i figure
better the card being late
than your daughter
know what i’m saying?
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
the art show on Wednesday
these are good people
happy attractive
kind fun people
i assure you
showing off photos paintings drawings
sculptures
talent skill
nice good
pausing smiling
nodding
afterward
across the street
i bought a french cruller
some curly fries and a
chocolate milk
eating and then
breathing
eating
breathing
in and out
and i know
exactly what you’re thinking.
51
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apollo creed
the dream i have of you
is that you’re yellingi hate you
your mouth toes teeth
your liver your eyelids
and your hairy right nipple
not to mention your not-quite-as-hairy left
nipple and your
tempermental hemorrhoid
your crescent-shaped scar
on your right middle finger
just above the top knuckle
your two gold molars
and that one really long hair
that grows out in the middle
of your forehead
that you wont pluck
like it serves any purpose
like it’ll start a trend
your beat-up shoes
your new shoes
your multi-vitamins
and the story about how you met
apollo creed
and your picture of you and
apollo creed
that’s not even his real name
well then why do you call him
apollo creed
like that’s who he is
i suppose you think it’s kitsch
or post-kitsch
or a criticism of something
don’t ask me to make sense
and don’t ask me
to make you eggs anymore
in fact don’t talk about my eggs
you’ve been relieved
52
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of all egg privileges
if you leave heavy metal messages
on my cell phone
how can you expect me
to look at you with anything
but disgust?
and not even a nostalgic disgust
like flying into Newark
and it’s already 83 degrees at
6 in the morning
and you’re trying to get to
new york kind of disgust
where there’s not even a chair
but just all this warm green linoleum
and the samsonites make their 90th revolution
on the carousel and you make a joke
about buzzards
and you hear someone in the
baggage claim clearly say
nigger not even whispering it
not even whispering it kind of
disgust
that’s not what i’m talking about
so take your sentimental trinkets
and apt comparisons and get out
of my face
that’s not an artistic
temperament
you’ve got there bub
it’s somewhere between
idle parody and sheer
assholery and nowhere near
anything interesting
and i say:
how could you not like
the apollo creed story?
53
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the clandestine blues anthems of southern California
nothing wrong with humanity
sleeping so consistently
but whatever did happen
to that toe tappin’?
whatever did happen
to that toe-tappin’?
trains and busses
curses and cusses
my my my
my my my
and far off camera
b.b. sings in arthritic fingers
the thrill is gone
and omette blow and blow baby
his black brains to a broke sax
54
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debating the mall
eyes for one please
processions of paper roses
backlit across stages
peeking from out the eyesockets
of sweetbread concha
and painted sugar skulls
such vibrancy when your eyes
are closed
to you that wouldn’t
see back in me
when i look for eyes in the
storefronts
at the clerks
the signs
and ask and
think
does anyone kiss anymore?
on the eyes
for the eyes
were it to
touch the eyes
they are ice
black sharks
preening and selling
and don’t look in the
eyes anymore
don’t you really slow dance anymore?
because sweet eyes only mean it
when shut
do something like that
make them all purple
and swelled up like nickel slots
you really wanna make your man
55
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cry like that
dressed up in silver
white light makeup counter
bastards those lashes remind
me of a dead roach for one thing
and where exactly have all the shy people gone?
56
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sex is funny
i usually end up
hitting my head
or twisting something
or saying
“goodjob”
or
“that was neat”
57
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
watching the fireworks over Disneyland from a back bedroom in anahiem
noiseless bursts
the colors
set against
the black
flower
red gold
green blue
glitter blooming
forme
like when she opens
forme
me
so silent
the back of her neck
everything so silent
this way
58
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you’re not even pretty
there are not real problems
there are not
many real problems
there are not
many real big problems
what will happen?
what?
i am still surprised
when my car runs out of gas
and i run out of money
still disappointed
when everyone i meet doesn’t
just fall in love with me already
then say oh what will happen
something will happen
what will
something will
what
something
59
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
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