(11)

I've written dust, body hair, a bit of black stuff under your fingernail

I've written courses for dull boys and girls, to introduce their love to a thousand shadows

I've written geese and swallows laughing through dark skies against the wind, against the faint coughs of god

I've written poems that sound like this one, full of boom and babble, just to say what you saw when you finally closed your eyes and tried to sleep but kept returning to his look, that word, how he said it so bitterly

I've written postcards from the clinic; I pasted tiny words onto all the buildings

I've written mechanical lies so easy to repair that no one bothers

I've written ghosts without salt, ghosts that come to dinner with their tongues hanging out, ghosts that look like boys and girls in love; whose cancer was it?

I've written home a few times

I've written red portraits of life in this century; each one smells like a wretched motel curtain *

I've written gorgons and griffins, damsels in dragon-distress; fortunate sons and careless daughters

 

(12)

I've written the clocks that tick click tick in every film by Ingmar Bergman

I've written foggy plastic boxes for every pill you'll ever need to take, fake leather boxes for your eyes, shiny aluminum boxes for your lunch of bagel and fruit

I've written hundreds of nuns and go-karts, thousands of cats with bobbed tails, a few bucks for dinner

I've written restaurants of laughter and trailer parks for the disembodied ambassadors of merriment

I've written The President to say that Walt Whitman really is my brother; he has paid for this paper, this ink; we played Go Ask God in the basement every Saturday afternoon

I've written the unanimous approval of teachers for one more day of school

I've written the idea of rain; it will cling to our skin like bad news

I've written cures for stomach cancer, halitosis, failing memory, angry kittens, nose willows, and gray feet

I've written asbestos eyeballs for the flaming halls of Congress

I've written whatever you cannot understand too well

 

(13)

I've written artificial arrangements impossible to believe

I've written innocence into the eyes and expression of a great cheat, avarice into the fingers of a saint

I've written a transparent story no one will publish

I've written garbage collectors singing show tunes before dawn, Oh what a beautiful morning on the street where you live

I've written the plastic wrap, the aluminum shuffle, the tinpot blues

I've written boys and girls together in a room, taking a test in simple algebra, none of them are laughing

I've written a sky the color of very old underwear, rain and sleet like ruined wine, wind like a wall

I've written crumpled paper burnt paper scribbled paper butts

I've written goosebumps and orange whammies

I've written personal electronic devices that tell you what to do in uncomfortable situations, a steal at $29.95

 

(14)

I've written ballpoint lovers near legal pad lakes

I've written coronary thrombosis for stupid bigots and smart civic leaders

I've written geography; it took me a very long time

I've written the boy who wrote about "that bitch Emily Dickinson"; he wrote back "what are you - a fag?"

I've written soft curses over gravestones flatter than the earth, lower than the grass beneath human blades

I've written roads drifting up out off into the hazy light of New Mexican mornings and the dogs walking along those roads mindful of breakfast

I've written silent rubber whales, artificial fingertips, envelopes of glass, chicken strung up on a single black thread, bottles of indians, beakers of cowboys, inflatable globes, deflated eggs, the hearts and hands of fools

I've written air the color of snot

I've written you a thousand times but you have never answered, except once you sent me a long list of penitential tactics and a set of instructions which I had also written

I've written a pair of eyeglasses in shadow beside an old book that grandfather prized as a young man

 

(15)

I've written the rainforest fabric of wild bugnoise and birdtrees, dark dark earth

I've written pigeons for the air conditioner, first two then one then two; what do they want where do they think they are?

I've written an empty room and placed it beside your bones, fenced it off with diamonds and chocolate ice cream

I've written super-thin wires around each headache

I've written summer mornings in a garden, clipping the dead heads of calendula and petunia, plucking pale green thistle weeds despite the pretty yellow flower, grabbing handfuls of tall grass, harvesting poppy seeds for some other garden

I've written how if you stand on a certain hill in this town at a certain time of day the whole place shimmers like a cheap vacation

I've written heroin failure dark blood depression boys hate sweat

I've written humorous cigar labels and hundredfifty year old bottles with the cork still in; if you could drink from them you might live forever

I've written freudian horses mostly silent in their stalls

I've written lyrical organs for corporate charities eyeballads heartodes liverelegies

 

(16)

I've written you into my will; you get my 3-D map of Death Valley, my five plastic nuns, my six garden books and two dubious French philosophers

I've written soul winters, soul springs, soul banquets, soul singers, soul burials, soul dances where every thump sounds like an old love returning

I've written so much of myself that everyone has walked into the next room, but I've done it all for you

I've written mutant chickens over the stove, mutant mice in the pantry, mutant children in the bedrooms

I've written sink holes and sex into other men's other women's poems; you will not find them here

I've written telephone books for old friends sucked back out of memory - what we called them, where we met them, the secrets they could not say

I've written paper jams and traffic jams and those real tough jams you never seem to get out of

I've written the end of patient waiting for the mail; we wail and yelp in expectation from this point on

I've written corrosive fanfares for the ascension of minor public figures; silent encouragement for the rest of us

I've written "Feel guilty about this, feel real bad; find it on the map and go there feeling real bad"

 

(17)

I've written accordions of bees and cheeseburgers

I've written every building famous in books and the low, forgettable structures you'd be thrilled and ashamed to enter

I've written "Congratulations - you have just won a life unimpeded by the clumsy passions of youth"

I've written that the first is never the best; it binds like death on an overcast Sunday morning, insisting that nothing needs doing more than this squat by a window above a rancid village

I've written thin boys backs to the moon smoking drinking coffee over paint and paper bent under art desire frenzy loving themselves like mad in the morning smoking another cigarette

I've written action movies in black and white, silent and still; the car never does start; the villain contemplates wildflowers; the hero imagines a spider on the ceiling above his bed

I've written secret trips to Public Health offices for painful and embarrassing interrogations

I've written lost sons in cemeteries and ball parks and museums

I've written true gorillas, faithful to the life they've been given in cages, in forests, in the tiny dreams of falling children

I've written SHUT UP SHUT UP a few hundred times but nobody seems to read it SHUT UP SHUT UP I don't want to hear your story I don't want to know what you desire more than anything I am nauseated by your constant talk SHUT UP SHUT UP it is mine I have already written it all

.

(some silence here)

.

(18)

I've written that queer is not a bad word; there are no bad words - only bad intentions; do you know what I mean?

I've written all of the escape strategies; each will lead you back to this room

I've written Italian voices singing the saddest most beautiful songs of laundry, fenceposts, obnoxious ministers

I've written miraculous electrical drugs for a depraved century

I've written Adventures in Buying and Selling Stuff on Turtle Island

I've written pianokey dentures, jumping horses, very good formica windows

I've written no more mail no more conversation

I've written that the end of the world is coming from the north mumbling sweet imperfections into child-like hearts

I've written a stony blue grimace, my own sad heart, upon reading: "poems containing far too many words (computer-driven? anyway, verbally incontinent); poems without music; poems without dissonance; brittle poems of eternal boyishness; poems oozing male or female self-hatred; poems that belabor a pattern until it becomes numbing" *

I've written I've I've written I have written neon classrooms and dayblind laughter to prime the hearts of tiny men and women *

 

(19)

I've written one hundred and eighty lines of ether; this is the one hundred and eighty-first; you are feeling kind of drowsy

I've written this circle of forgetfulness around your life; you will wake into brightness or a movie theater; the day is one frame then another of now and now and now

I've written soft things and hard things

I've written boys hitting girls and girls hitting back

I've written microscopic portraits of every person's smile, everybody's last vacation among short people and umbrellas, everyone's favorite teacher, Time

I've written all of this for you who will not cannot read because electricity has taken your soul on a bright sad journey

I've written your itinerary, your pleasures and tiny inconveniences, the message waiting at the front desk

I've written collaboration before the camera clicks, generosity just in time, fun in the bushes

I've written grades for poor students; each gets an A and a list of hopeful gestures

I've written shopgirls and delivery boys dashing towards the twentieth century, newspapers and fresh fruit tumbling from their arms

 

(20)

I've written ticket stubs smeared with mustard and lipstick

I've written people who are not the same as me and you, people with better noses, brighter prospects, fine paper hair, sadder eyes, moony children, rounder stomachs, breath like crayons, smoother voices; you get the picture

I've written nothing

I've written a long list of words we must never speak in the presence of a cat or a dog, words like incumbent, aluminum, perfunctory, honorarium, and napkin

I've written mossy contradictions for children to chew

I've written the heart-rending speech of God before the assembled multitudes; she sounded like our most loving grandmother; but we don't think she knows our true life

I've written essays in two minutes about the most unlikely things: articles and prepositions, windowsills and small bulldozers

I've written a distant jet in your ear carving a thin gray line through the sky in your head

I've written the end over and over again in my imagination; it's always the same: you are blind on the cliff above me, the roaring sea in my head; your hand is floating above your outstretched arm above and away from your wrist, the hand rises into a pale pink cloud, flat things fall to the ground around me; I pick one up and it turns into a crude machine, this poem of old words that

I've written

 

Oct. 1996 - April 1998


The epigram by J. Schuyler is from "Hymn to Life."

5.3 see Some Trees, 1956.

10.1 The image might be from a movie I saw long ago, but I've forgotten the title.

11.9 The idea of "red portraits" comes from a poem by Louis Simpson and his comments on a Watershed tape.

18.9 The quote is from Adrienne Rich's introduction to The Best American Poetry 1996 (used without permission - come and get me).

18.10 The word "dayblind" is lifted from Michael Hamburger's translation of a poem by Paul Celan.

Other likely sources:

Kenneth Koch, Walt Whitman, Christopher Smart

Hugh Gallagher, "3A Essay" on First Words (Gang of Seven, CD).

Some family voices.

God. Maybe this is the voice of God. Well - it could be.


My Pretend Poems

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