last poem of this year


Apparition Poems 12.29.13


Out of the apartment, walking down
East Eden Street, I note somewhere
in me how it might feel to be homeless—

a desperate free-fall into death; while
also noting that I’m not yet homeless;
the desperation, thankfully, inaccessible.

What’s also inaccessible is the glad warmth
of generous times richly lived, which I
used to know so well. As the sun rises,

something/someone other than me
sees the whole tableaux, meets me in
the middle— wires, houses, lights—


The encumbrance, in a recession,
against Wordsworth— there are
no visible incidents or situations.
People huddle in corners, die to
themselves. Imaginative colors
are always black, white, grey—

nature’s primordial green stung
from view, seemingly forever.
The starkness of our green is
its blackness, in being what we
are not. The “perfect image of
a mighty mind” inverts into a

perfect scourge, thought past us—


You could call this, for all
of us, “framed life” or life
in a frame, as though we
here were arranged into a
specific composition, re-
presented to itself, by itself,
all in icy-cool color— the
old man with the New York
Times Book Review feels
like an ape sitting in
Starbucks, he’ll get out
no how, convergence of lines—


No matter how you define freedom,
he said, no one wants to be the kind

of free I mean to be, which is so damned
free I can’t see five feet in front of me.

Secretly, he just wants (I thought) to be
a kid again, buying (perhaps) a Nirvana

cassette at the Willow Grove Mall, every
thing taken care of, supper waiting on the

table, part of the phantom world of
gratified desires— peaks over ravines—


X-Mas Eve Apps


On mornings when it all feels
precarious, what you meant to
be mountainous so much easily
washed away sand, I clean myself
by subtracting all I’ve written
from my conscious mind, so that
I’m merely someone who likes

books— I’m old enough not to
mind being that person, who
reads Tolstoy for kicks, sits
harmlessly having profound
thoughts, hoping well of/for
everyone, blinkered like an ox—


Ultimately, the real people who
do this do it just because they
want to, seeding rare earth
poorly guarded— he watched

his daughter play with her kids
as they waited for sandwiches,
it was a power block against
him somehow, ate him alive—


She told him, “I don’t know what
everyone’s talking about, everything’s
fine with us,” & he never saw her
again— she wore pajama bottoms
in December, he should be painting,
no one’s getting Christmas presents
this year— what he said back, “you
don’t seem alright to me, maybe I
just don’t get how this place works”—
was mouthed with lust, he’s lost—


“In this recession, no one likes anyone’s
work, because no one real who’s left likes
anything— art depends on a settled brain
to perceive it the right way”— I agreed,

felt bad for him, all alone on a heap of
rocks in the wilderness space of his own
subtle brain— but I said nothing. What
can I say, when I’ve done nothing myself?


Apps: 12.22.13


Three days before Christmas, its
unusually warm, the simple fact
of a solid grey sky redeems what
torturous human complexities I
have no way out of— where the
sky begins is where we end, on
the ground where gutters fit, I
heave my own brain into the sky—
certain grey wraparounds are holy—


What a human life is worth—
either you keep pushing your
thoughts upwards or you don’t,
& complexities are there to work
with, emotions— its not a parking
lot being rained upon on a dreary
Sunday morning, its wont (the
mind) to issue, from positions
of singularity into multiplicity,
even, literal knives to make their
own incisions, mountains/valleys
kill differently, worthiness/humanity—


Why did America
sell cheap? I speak
from inside history,
what the hell do I
know? She’s the type
to wear clinging tights;
to see her, look in her
eyes, is to hit a brick
wall with velocity,
then she’s gone—


I don’t just walk
a tightrope, I dance it—
this kid’s eyes are so
hard, how can I be of
use to him, who already
senses that ineluctable
“something wrong” this
family lives with, towards
the creation of bullshit
images to mollify
peasants— there’s
something happening
somewhere, I’ve
promised myself
to fall right into it,
determine nets at the bottom—


Apps: 12.20.13


She got the text as she was lying
down drunk— her old friend had
jumped from a balcony & died.
She knew instantly— her friend
had jumped from the guilt of
being a negligent mother. As it
turns out, she, herself, was preggers—
had arranged who the parents
were to be. She stood up, peered
out the window— a full moon on
Abington. No cars had gone by for
twenty minutes— she forwarded
the text to me, & slept—


For a guy playing father (dossier,
secretly, in hand, he was only eighteen,
didn’t really know how to do this),
he’d found himself in so much
trouble so fast he wished he could’ve
avoided the gig (this is all they could
find for him), all because his daughter
had screwed the wrong guy, was in
trouble with the authorities. She
was only (it turns out) two months
pregnant, but rules were rules.
However, it was nice to watch the
Eagles defense function again—
the heist last week was too pitiful for words.


They want to sign this kid up for
Little League, kids’ got no last name.
I asked them how this could be,
they wouldn’t answer. I don’t get
it— kids’ got talent, apparently,
but no last name. I turned the case
(I don’t know what else to call it)
over to my supervisor. But things
are getting more and more weird
around here, and there’s a bunch
of things I try not to notice. There’s
something wrong with these kids, I need more coffee—


What the guys on pot tried to sell us—
everything turned precisely upside-down,
in hopes of the human race’s extinction—
parts assembled with immaculate incompetence,
for the delectation of no one— our fathers
could only be gods or kings with mops on
their heads— our mothers made machines—
human lives as fodder for a process so air-
headed only an imbecile could approve it. Thanks, Hollywood—


Apps: 12.14.13

# 2062

As to those pushing shopping carts
around Whitemarsh Shopping Center,
one wonders— what can they afford?

Are they putting everything on charge
cards? Are they seeing what I’m seeing?
But one doesn’t talk to everyone, & I

watch the carts go by from Starbucks,
where I lay down two bucks a day for
a grande coffee, watch this part of the

life I still have. Over expanses of time,
many of these people must turn to ash—
a human life really is what you cash.

# 2064

To be the last Cheltenham stud from my
era left alive— a strange kind of homage
I collect, as a human relic, still strapping,
ready for action, a reminder that points

in time do connect, re-connect. As to what’s
put on display— I never know quite what
to make of the shows: mothers, daughters
preening, replaying scenes from their youth

or scenes self-created, of goddess-like
gracefulness. It would be nice to have some
company in this— but I stand alone, behind
what myths may come, decoying rebellion—

# 2065

One thing a huge recession will do—
suburbs grow more provincial, self-
contained— no fluidity between us
and the city, with its concrete, grey
degeneracies. Conshohocken has its
own rhythms now: furtive, tentative,
towards an individual, non-subordinate
identity. As I notice we’re all becoming
“regulars” in some places, possibilities
arise of huddling together for warmth,
against martyred goombas, soulless
media. Painfully, slow roots will spring.


Thursday's Apps: 12.12.13


Idolatry of words, signs— idolatry,
also, of anti-cognition— an American
century subaltern, already (strangely)

lost, forgotten in daily squabbles for
survival, as money is either there or
not, freefall becomes shorthand for

normalcy. I walk through the ambient
museum of human angst, buttons
pressed, resources tapped but not

drained, I stop before an idol cast in
bronze, face besmeared with grease,
and realize the guards are murdered—

I can take what I want, but want nothing—


If you attempt to
create something
solid from language,
all the million
harrows of your
inadequacy must
pursue you, what’s
solid is harrowing—

past your control.
As for I, you had
better sacrifice the
whole construct,
complexities & all,
as it is all evanescent,

and circuits back to
language show you
all the magic
prophecies of non-
existence you not
only fulfill, but harrow—


Among those who care about art,
and the arts— in recession times,
they recede, grow inarticulate,
theses proved incorrect, mostly
die quietly to themselves— as I
have, and my corpse lies rotting
somewhere on 23rd Street in
Center City Philly, even as I’ve
also stayed alive, refuse to recede,
out of sheer force of correct pretence,
honest bullshit, prophetic blarney—


Apps 12.10.13


The frost Neko carries, as she
strides into snow, pins her eyes
open, as points of balance
disappear, between us and for
the tiny light she carries, soul-
orphan given brief shelter to
kindle sparks when she opens
her mouth, raises her head-voice
and sings; no needle touches
down where I can feel it, as too
much of her decamps, no mortgage
on her insides (whoever moves in,
moves in) through blank whiteness—


America has its own pathetic fallacy—
not that the moon loves the clouds,
but that someone who knows us
really loves us, is watching from
above, tying together loose ends,
reducing boundaries, corralling the
populace into a virtual arena where
we watch ourselves defeat all foes
eternally. Just as mountains kiss the
sky, all things happen for a reason,
things right themselves in the end.
Now, we’re pale for weariness,
wandering companionless, and if
we’re climbing heaven, we feel hellish.


On a snowy morning, she’s primed to
drink before noon, and while the buzz
lasts the snow and the gin dissolve her
into graceful movement. But the after-
noon drags, and by two she’s ready to
nap, degraded as usual by her own
abiding uselessness and a past which
not only makes no sense, it’s a tattoo
needle which keeps tinting her flesh
the wrong way, so that she feels
repulsive in her own skin. I watch,
and shrug— my skin, uncolored,
covers me against the cold. I won’t
drink ‘til the sun sets orange-red at five.


Apps for Saturday: 12.7.13


You watch, as in slow motion glass-
hewn objects crash to the ground, as
streams back and forth confirm, once
again, you’ve cracked into a slug-pile
of heartless psychopaths— I stand
aside, jaundiced, wearing my own
glasses, knowing blown glass to be
how human interstices are knit, words
to be an absolute sky of glass, and here
I am, speaking to you in transparencies—


Conshohocken power lines in the rain—
edges of buildings cut through whitened
sky, as rising light topples privacy for
squat-dwellers on the Schuylkill— I see
power defining itself in lines, acrobatic,
space-consonant, but always working
within suburban, subaltern parameters—
eternity decoyed from a rusty beneath.


New Apparition Poem: December 2013


this is what
words amount to—
festivals of ash,
collapsed into urns,
held up by timid
folk for the bold
to scatter.


From "A Poet in Center City"


It has to be said that, all things considered, the big “getting things done” circuit in the Free School nexus was John-Adam. We were always “on,” always ready to seduce, always working the angles with everyone and everything around us. Lots of subterranean action happened at B & N on Rittenhouse Square, where we worked (Ricky had started off with us, but had been “offed” for molesting female employees). Free School characters would drop in to say hello and commiserate. John and I would smoke a little pot on our lunch breaks (the streets around Delancey Place were conducive) and plan new heists. John had U of Arts kids he wanted to include; he had also become chummy with a gaggle of Temple undergrads who were into poetry. We were too on fire to create a context to be snobbish or elitist; anything young and fresh, with at least some artsy edge, had to work. The big sexual tension between John and I was more personal than my head-butts with Ricky— John was in love with me. He made passes; I deflected them. I was later to learn that many people who saw us on the street assumed we were a gay couple. One of the reasons we so liked to get high was so that John could numb the pain of unrequited love and I could numb the pain of having to deflect him. I was, and remain, incorrigibly straight. Still, these were dark undercurrents in a period charged with vitality and excitement. As a way-station leading to other destinations, B & N worked just fine for us.


For the second Highwire show, Jim O'Rourke installed a nitrous tank in the stairwell behind the "factory room" and manned it. Whippets were sold for a dollar and almost everyone, including us, indulged. We were all in an exhilarated mood— it was now October, and attendance had doubled since the July show. We exhibited one of Trish's paintings, and she came with her sister. We were also able to show movies for the first time— our friend (and Trish's PAFA buddy) James Nguyen had two short ones, perfect for a venue and an event this size. Most importantly, the square worked cohesively (especially at keeping the money collection tasks in order, at Jim's behest), and no major balls were dropped between us. I learned about Ricky— when he had just the right kind of alcohol buzz going (we had loaded up on cases of wine for the event), he could be a sport. The best part of the night, for me in particular, was how effortless it all felt— the work of overseeing things (balloons in hand) was a pleasure for all of us. If there was a dark edge operative that night, it was that many artists were showing up who wanted to ride on the Free School gravy train, and not all of them had good or honorable intentions. John, in particular, would drink with anyone, and he was besieged with invitations. I struggled with my instinct to impose on John who he could and could not drink with.


By now, all of us were infected by the freewheeling spirit of the Free School. We were bummed that Bush had won a second term; but there was nothing that could be done. One of John’s many chance acquaintances had bequeathed to him a little acid blotter sheet. So, one night, when Christopher and Ricky happened to be unavailable (Christopher in particular, being based in Roxborough, was in and out of Center City), we decided to trip. We started at my pad at Twenty-First and Race; the acid was slow-burn, and took about ninety minutes to sink in. We had been listening to the Stones the whole time, and by the time we got to “Hot Rocks” and “Satisfaction,” I was “seeing the music.” It passed in front of me as something concrete. We somehow managed to stagger over to the Last Drop, and found ourselves occupying the basement, which was dimly lit (as ever) and dank. Neither of us could sit still, and John was stuttering. I had a fortuitous inspiration— I was seeing another B & N girl named Jenny Lee, who lived around the corner on Lombard between Thirteenth and Broad. We could drop in on her. She was a stoner, after all, and forbearing. We found her entertaining a bunch of her Delaware friends (she was a U of Delaware BFA). At first, John was OK. But when we smoked a bunch of weed on top of the acid, John became catatonic. He was rocking back and forth in an armchair, and wouldn’t respond to questions. The Delaware crew became aggravated by John’s bad vibes, so I got him out of there. The trip would’ve been better with all four of us on it, but what the hell.


One of the incidents which transpired at this time was symptomatic of Philadelphia’s mixed reaction to the Free School. I asked a U of Penn staff poet to read with us at the Highwire. He demurred, and I shrugged; but Jim O’Rourke revealed that, having discovered the Highwire through us, he’d gone behind our backs and booked a huge academy affiliated poetry event there. He didn’t ask any of us to read. Now, he wasn’t breaking any laws, but it was a cheap move, and very not Free School. So, employing the privileged position we’d established as Highwire regulars (crucially, Jim O’Rourke didn’t attempt to dissuade us), we decided to put in a unified appearance the night of the reading. It was just as boring, rigid, and Academic as we had expected— the important part for us was that we stole the show. Not only was our antagonist made visibly uncomfortable by our appearance, all the Academicians appeared uncomfortable that we were there. Even just our looks ran rings around them. As I was later to learn, many academicians have beleaguered fantasies of being rock stars themselves, and want to be perceived as celebrities. The Fab Four gave them a pungent dose of the real thing. It was enough to make me think that Jim O’Rourke, who had smoked us all up in the factory room beforehand, had the whole thing planned when he booked the Academy reading.