Thursday, July 1, 2021

Excerpt from EVERYTHING SAVED WILL BE LAST, Isaac Pickell

Everyone applauds the bravery of the past

Amelia Earhart was
eaten by a giant

crab and digested
just like any other adventure—

some way to die.
some people are just gone

even before they’re gone,
prodded with careless

panic children reserve
for fire. but is there any

difference in desire
and deference?

writing yourself whole

let your body consume
metaphor like everyone

has a body, like you have
had eyes for too long

to learn new tricks; change

the mirror instead. if you find
some body missing do not

report to the authorities, call the
number at your perforated edges

stapled to trees and signposts, do not
present a problem without a solution

because you will get used to it; remember
there is actually no difference between good

and bad things. it is impossible to remember

the others as young men; let your body age
with their memory. time will take shape painlessly

about you no matter how closely you watch the pot.
accept the diagnosis that makes none of this your fault,

accept someone else’s lies as mantra: gratitude and complaint
are not mutually exclusive, hold yourself closer to the vest. do not

conflate skin cells with history, politics and other sciences
pretending I am unimportant, reciting: no ideas but in things.

no mountains but from molehills.


on a windy day breaking
those hottest Midwestern months

where most everything is
wishing for death

or winter, a single dried petal
from that little blue flower

with a cute colloquial name,
shrunk beyond its living

weight and crumbled a bit
on its edges, falls

from somewhere that is not
knowable to the backseat of your car

in a park, the kind with trees
and paths but not a path

through the trees, surrounded
by city and city

and suburb and trees and
something catches your eyes

in the sparse canopy, your whole
body follows until one is

captured and catalogued
by a benevolent satellite employed of a science

repeating, “When’s the last time you heard Michael Brown?”

To order copies of EVERYTHING SAVED   WILL BE LAST by Isaac Pickell, via Black Lawrence Press, click here

Excerpt from NOTHING OF THE MONTH CLUB, Jeff Alessandrelli


Your X-Rays Have Just Come Back from the Lab and We Think We Know What Your Problem Is

Indigent, shimmering, the pieces of reality that I like best are the ones that fit together so finely—minutes rubbing into hours unto days funneling themselves (aghast!) into years—that it feels like your whole life is a déjà vu, pervasive, splatters of consciousness at every edge and the accretion shards of sight and motion and sound, lived out whole.

Nothing of the Month Club 

Summer. We switched the colors in our town’s only traffic light to blue, pink and purple. Lo-card country-grade acid. A sun-soaked caramel apple, festering, steady the hour settles on my coffin’s cover. Loving freely and boring easily, I changed my phone number to CALIFORNIA. (The stupid screen’s still cracked, the screen’s always cracked.) Death is the one and only law with no flaw. Dust into dust. Don’t call me. Don’t text. 

Nothing of the Month Club 

Studying the bones in a blade of grass, squirms in a cube of ice, I’ve finally begun the major work necessary to finish my novella I’m a Man of Few Words, None of Them About Myself.  I’ve resigned myself to the cold storage world of America, everhard. I’ve committed myself to a constant erection of the heart, evertaut.

Living in the moment before dying into the past, living in the moment before dying into the past, living in the moments.  

To order copies of Nothing of the Month Club by Jeff Alessandrelli, via Broken Sleep Books, click here.

Excerpt from THE WOLVES OF THE MOON, Ghadah Kamal & Mohsen Elbelasy

The Poem is Dead

He was going on like a lost shadow.
He wears a red coat in the time of the murderous bulls.

As a skinny frog,
He sleeps in the debris of himself.
He eats a fresh death.

He jumps over desperate burning rocks.

The god poet died Leaving many old humans behind,
the heavy dust asking: What will you find 
behind the last fort of that hidden in the crystal?

The poem is dead in a slaver’s bed.
The poem died in a slaver’s bed.

And you…you are a jungle of old desires.


How about a scene that hunted the butterflies of the impossible?

O dust, be a guitar
…So it is

Be a man wearing a coat of pianos that’s playing a symphony
of falling debris and thirst.
Dance, dust, and spit out all the plague that 
inhabits ant heads in the squares.

On the Sonnet of the broken roads…
dance and be a burning smack that breaks the
monotony of the dying shadows.

The nigh passes.

And the butterflies of the dream explode like a death…
Line-in-line, extended colors in the oysters of fading.
And the blood of the sheep woven with handcuffs
that are hanging over your head,
it forms an eternal wreath of gum

Dear poet…
You are a tomb saturated with the penultimate smoke of death…
The bells of Negation strike your broken neck.
Your chest graves sing the rush hour…
You are nailed to the wall of spiders with looters hats…
Fluttering over thorns of waiting…

Red like water
Blue like fire
Black like air.

O painter

Many locusts come and fly over your color palette…
Locusts and more locusts
Bleeding and more bleeding

O painter

Do not make from the Drawing board what the
butcher does when he decapitates the utopian lambs…
Make your painting a delirous microscope that
does not lie in the gypsum logic shrouds…

Draw crumpled handcuffs and a bottle of wine
bearing the reddening of the crowd of screams…

O musician…

I do not want to hear anything that brings me to death…

O musician

Play something like a tight fist with faces that don’t kneel
And from the noise draw a hammer
Little by little write letters that do not fly from the chimneys…

O vague, burning mind

Or you died in silence, mixed with pallor
Mixed with fear…

O hand that is filled with volcanic eyes…

Slap me on my unhappy face, break it so that it won’t fall
into the tissues of spiders and the upper hanger of the pigs…
Until Obsessive dies and is replaced by a new void…
Here on this dirty, bloody street…

The poet wolf was killed
With mixed tears in his black blood, stretched 
And the night flowing from his mouth on the
sidewalks of expatriation.

Your street where all the keys are lost, burdened with locks,
you will die like the god poet and like the poem.

The Store of the Damaged Brains

I will open a store that sells damaged brains.

My goods will not be expensive.

I will help idiots to look more stupid in the shadows.
The store name will be: “The Phantom of the Opera”.
Shelves contain brains at reasonable prices.
Human brains, monkeys, frogs, and crows.
It will be available to humas from now on,
to change their brains here in my store while dancing on;
(The Phantom of the Opera) music.

A young man was betrayed by his girlfriend, so he 
decided to replace his brain with a fish’s brain,
and in the village he became called, “the fish man”.

Another woman lost her son in the war, and she 
replaced her brain with the brain of a woman with psychosis.

and many stories…

One day a woman came without breasts and 
wanted to replace her brain with a tree,
they say in the village that she lost her baby in an 
air strike and cut her breasts, and
when we told her that we were not replacing
brains with trees.

She removed her severed breasts from between
her thighs, and shot everyone in the store.

The Brain Massacre was on music:
(The Phantom of the Opera)

The sky is raining frogs what a curse!

Only the hesitation of a woman raving at the 
beginning of the road.

The funeral of a soldier who returned from the
war without arms, and his mother made a wooden
body for him, as if it was a funeral for Pinocchio.
The sounds of war illuminate the boozers night.

The lights of the aircraft illuminate the bedroom 
of the prostitutes.

The air is saturated with death.

A woman without breasts, and
no heads looking for the trunk of the tree.

Neither head sings loudly:

I feel the shade is more honest
under the shadows our hidden features appear,
there in the shade we all look like each other.

Dogs are dogs
Humans are human beings
Monkeys become monkeys.

Do you think that is why those stuffed inside
expensive clothes are afraid to walk in
the shadows?

I knew a woman who loved to draw shadows
She changed her eyes every day

There is a store on the edge of town
It sells used eyes at discount prices.

And one day, she decided to sell her tongue and
buy a new nose.
She stood in front of her shadow,
and she pulled her tongue out,
and she cut it while she was laughing.

Then she remembered that’s he wanted to sell her
breasts and replace them with two gears.

She looked at her severed tongue and cried.

The closed rooms are full of spiders.

The ceilings are spiders’ homes.

How happy!

I imagine how happy I was when I was hanging
from my feet in the ceiling of the room.

I watched everything silently and I made a guitar
to turn it into a spider’s web to attract all
those I dislike to it, and melt them with acid in the
shades of the room.

I am not a spider but I love the wooden frog, and I 
its collective croak…
Like a symphony walking at the shadows of the night.

Oh if I were a wolf…
I love wolves that live only in the shadows.
in the shade

Then she walks around herself in an acrobatic dance.

She kills herself by the trunk of the tree,

Falling frogs, a soldier without limbs,
a woman with delirium
a store for body parts
Bomb’s sound

(Translated by Mohsen Elbelasy)

The Symphony of the Curly Eyes

Curly eyes
Wingless butterflies
A single artery crucified on the wall.

Boxes of Sulfur without ceiling

Black bags at the clinic’s door
The clinic packed with hanged fetuses

The smell of blood smells from Butcher’s shops.

The voices of the birds are begging on the edge of the altar,
the Crows are waiting for massacre

Children cuffed in uniform on the edge of the
sidewalk waiting
Drunks go back to their holes.

A woman spreads her underwear and bedding,
To mesmerize the world
with what her beauties did with her Bull at night.

Banner of the doctor who injects Botox inside

Billboards about Beauty, and 
Billboards about new compounds,
Lame old bus.

At the edge of the end of the road,
there is a woman who embraces two children,
and there is a Music coming from some home,

and the trumpets of cars.

Then she embraces her babies And jumps in the 


The girl smiles at the entrance of the clinic
Welcome to our liposuction clinic.
Voice in front of black bags.

Boy, carry these stinky bags.

The birds at the edge of the altar are crying,
and the crows are screaming,

Then a woman floats over the Nile.

(Translated by Mohsen Elbelasy)

To order copies of THE WOLVES OF THE MOON by Ghadah Kamal & Mohsen Elbelasy, via Lulu, click here.

In Madness, Yuu Ikeda

Only while madness is
hovering in my hands,
I can draw mad shapes of stories

Only while madness is
screaming in my hands,
I can make mad shadows of stories

Madness is energy
to bloom in gloom
Madness is fuel
not to wilt in needles

Only while I feel madness,
I can feel alive,
I can feel my blood

Madness is a shield
to endure woe
Madness is a blanket
to stop trembles

In Conversation, with Heller Levinson


DC: How are you holding up, Heller? What’s new? What have you been doing to stay sane during the pandemic?
HL: Thank you for your interest, DC. The new = working on upcoming LURE which is expected to be released in Spring 2022 by Black Widow Press; = the  hybridic essay, jus’ sayn,’ (which you inspired) focusing on John Coltrane’s “One Down, One Up;” = the frequent alightments I’m privileged to attend to; = looking forward to further intercourse with the visual artist Linda Lynch as well as more dialogic engagement with Will Alexander. 
Interesting that you should use the term ‘sane’ as I have no idea if that is at all applicable to me. Recently I’ve been drawn to the notion of insane in a vague equivalence to Breton’s fascination with mental patients. If the dictionary definition of ‘insanity’ is ‘irrational,’ ‘utterly illogical,’ ‘absurd,’ then I’m all aboard. I seek to stretch, to flee the tyranny of causality, the demonstrable, the quotidian, to eke out new pathways where undisclosed nuggets lurk in mineralic mayhem.
I think one would be hard-pressed to attribute/apply the term ‘sane’ to our current global condition. 
Explorations in the Hinge domain keep me grounded. By connecting to the vigorously sentient restorative Lingual Power, Enlargement to a Vaster Potential ensues.

DC: You certainly count as one of the most prolific among my colleagues. Releasing 1 solo-efforted book every year for many years now. What does your ‘schedule’ look like? And if there is none, how do you manage to continue the prolific output of material(s)? What keeps you active?
HL: It always surprises me when others consider me ‘prolific’ as it does not feel that way to me. I mean, writers write, & if writing is one’s major focus, it seems natural that a rhythmic outflow would follow. I do not feel there is anything to champion about ‘prolific’ per se. Rilke produced roughly three books but the insights they contained were massive. How many does not concern me, how Illuminative does.
I keep active – I would use the term ‘charged’ – because I am drawn/intrigued/enchanted by the material I’m investigating. The beguiling activity of probing & fleshing-out terms such as Seep/Lurk/Lure & their constellates is ever-thrilling. I often feel like a mad scientist in his laboratory enthralled with the elixir of discovery. I view the terms I’ve been exploring – lurk, seep, lure, linger, meander, errancy, askew, bewilder, baffle, trespass, among others, – as the Resistance Fighters of today. They are all behaviorisms capable of eluding the blitzing technological suffocations, the gridded binary statistically loaded explanatory. 
I believe that if a reader attends to my applications (poems) with some attention, they will find strategies for avoiding the cultural momentum intent upon shutting down the human, of mangling the pure impulse. In this sense, they might even be considered survival guides.
Curious that in the second paragraph of Kerouac’s book the Vanity of Duluoz, he anguishes over the fact that “people have changed so much” commenting upon how the exuberance of walking has shrunk to a “slouching stroll  . . . is it because they’re used to walking across parking-lots only? Has the automobile filled them with such vanity that they walk like a bunch of lounging hoodlums to no destination in particular?” He remembers a healthy walk from 1935. I had to laugh when I read this because today even the activity of driving is being taken away from us as vehicles are becoming self-driven. Human shrivellization is occurring at an incredible pace. The shutdown is omnipresent, from dismemberment of limb to benumbnent of mind.

DC: Conversely, what do you think of capitalism’s relationship to productivity? 
HL: Not sure where the ‘converse’ in this question is unless you’re referring to poetic production in which case there is no parallel since, in my case anyway, there is no profit component involved. My books don’t sell enough to remunerate either myself or my stalwart & heroic publishers Joe Philips & Susan Wood of Black Widow Press.
I think it’s clear that capitalism’s relationship to productivity is a highly effective one. Capitalism has enabled hordes to be fed, clothed, & perpetually amused. Evaluating the benefits of this prosperity is subject matter for a separate discussion, but I would point readers to Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death which was published in 1986. I’m sure Mr. Postman could never have imagined the Pan-Screen Submit-Surrender-Succumb Syndrome infesting our lives today. Another source for evaluating the effects of the capitalist goodies-fest is Nicholas Carr’s well-balanced The Shallows: What The Internet is Doing To Our Brain.
I am leery of criticizing a system I don’t have a superior alternative to (untested envisionments, yes), but there is a pernicious element to capitalism which imperils any moral redemption & that ‘peril’ is the Profit motive. The responsibility of a Corporation (corporations control the majority of the planet’s resources) is to its shareholders. Shareholders invest with the expectation that their investment will increase in value. & the corporation’s enterprise value, as measured by its stock price, is a function of profitability. When ‘responsibility’ is defined by profit rather than any thought as to the ‘good’ or ‘sustainable’ or what negative planetary results could such an action cause, then clearly the planet is up for grabs & the result of this economic architectonic is what we have before us today: the dying days of the Earth.
As Dubuffet said, “Everything has to be reinvented,” or The Mother: “We must wage war against everything established.” 
Capitalism’s aim is ‘wealth’ production & what we (principally speaking for U.S.A. where I am a citizen) have been fed regarding what is wealth contributes to the “State of the American Mind Address.” Americans have been fed the notion that Wealth production, amassment, is the supreme Happiness & the pursuit of that happiness has been promised them in the constitution. But the concept of wealth that’s been disseminated as the Holy Grail is monomial & limited. Wealth in the capitalist system is countable, it can be calculated, measured, smelled, fondled, & spent. We can google the net worth of Elon Musk (156 billion as of 6/21/21), but how do we calculate the Wealth of a poet in their garret, an artist in their studio, a scientist in their laboratory, where the buzz bazooka bonkers eureka of creative exploration infuses their beings with rapturous jubilation. I believe it was Blake who said “Talent is Joy.” How do we measure Jubilation? The Hinge Institute has offered a course on Bafflement 101 & I think I will suggest we add Jubilation 101 to the curriculum. When speaking of ‘productivity’ how do we measure the quanta of Insight.
It is in the area of interior wealth that I feel Hinge is uniquely able to prosper. When persons discover the sheer thrill of the Hinge Encounter, trips to the mall will become boring, alcohol & drugs will be deemed deficient stimulants, Hollywood entertainments will appear dull, & consumption derided as an insufficiency cover-up. Those who feel Space Travel is the ultimate kick are the imaginatively deprived. That will be another course to add to the curriculum, Imagination 101. The majority live binary lives: 1). what can I sell 2). what can I buy. They are constricted to an unrewarding nothing-is-ever-enough transactional consciousness which is well-suited to burgeoning the American economy. The Hinge Universe, which emphasizes reveling natural capacities, eschews purchasing power as a viable launching pad to the Ecstatically Reverberant. Neither actively selling nor buying, the Poet is a threat to the national economy which in turn threatens the state of the union.

DC: In Hinge Theory, of which you are the originator, a posit is made that language is alive. Do you see language as a separate organism from the human organism? Or is it more so a part of our human being-ness? A combination of the two? Would language be alive without human beings?
HL: I see language as being part of the sentient universe like trees, clouds, frog, sprout. So yes, language would be alive without human beings as other pulsations can & will exist without the human animal. I believe it was Heidegger who said: “Language is the house of dwelling.”

DC: When I think of your work with Hinge Theory, I am often mentally drawn to William S. Burroughs, who posited something similar to what you’re doing with Hinge Theory. Although seemingly at the other end of the polarity. Where he estimated that language is a virus. What are your thoughts on this? When I hear “language is alive” my first thought is definitely not that it is alive as a virus. What are your thoughts on WSB’s observation? Do you agree? Disagree? Why?
HL: From what I remember from my Burroughs’s reading, which was many years ago, there is some overlap in our views on language. I think we both share the notion that language was here before the human being, that it arose out of the original gases & vapors, that it is primordial, reproductive, & sexy. As far as his thinking ‘language is a virus,’ that is his entitlement. For myself, language is language & a virus is a virus. When one attempts to reduce something to something else, you risk obscuring/diluting the something you’re transferring, robbing it of its indigenous integrity. Additionally, I don’t believe language requires a host as a virus does.
Recently I’ve been focused on what I call the Linguistically Undocumented which refers to a word’s under-recognized, marginal, border-line status. By submitting a word like LURK to multiple modules/formulations thereby provoking multiple exfoliations, the word appears fleshified, muscularized, densified as it evolves & matures. Hopefully, after a reader experiences over fifty LURK behaviorisms, they will become more intimate with the term. When they hear or see the word a bell of recognition will go off, their rapport with LURK will have enriched their world much as a birder studying a cardinal for months will feel that they now have a rapprochement with the cardinal, with their song, their mating & nesting habits, their postural dispositions. 
This is part of the campaign. To awaken persons to the Universe, to free ourselves from the culture of measurement & classification, to embrace the Immeasurably Incalculable.

DC: You also study animal behavior. Which sounds quite fascinating, and I imagine there are many parallels with your work away from and with the pen. Could you please elaborate on some of these parallels? Differences?
HL: That’s actually funny. When I moved to NYC from Los Angeles about 15 years ago, surrounded by a preponderance of human animals, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn more about my fellow creature, so, somewhat flippantly, I added that to my bio. No one has ever asked me what animal(s) I was studying.
Less flippantly, I have had some deep experiences with canines. In L.A., I helped train dogs for the sheriff’s department, principally in the area of scent & protection work. I also competed in the German dog sport of shutzhund. In New York I worked with a 2 dog team in protection training (there is a video of this on youtube with over 1.4million views…ironically, my poetry readings average 100 views).
My work with canines has indeed been one of the deep privileges I’ve been gifted. I will shy from your word ‘parallels’ as parallels do not ‘touch’ & substitute fuse/intercourse with. The animals taught (& continue to teach) deep humility because they are so sensitive, emotive, & canny. It exacerbates that Universities spend millions of dollars measuring (again that ‘measuring’ reflex) a dog’s intelligence with testing, calculations, studies, etc. What a waste of time & money! Anyone with any experience with dogs & animals know they are intelligent. One study shows that a mature dog can understand as many English words as a 7 year old. My experience indicates that a dog can pretty much understand whatever you have to say. With my 2 dog team (Emily & Nietzsche), I had only to think a thought & they would react. I did not even have to issue a command. I have rarely experienced that level of telepathic intensity. Who are we to rate a dog’s intelligence? How do you rate their olfactory intelligence? There are multiple intelligences & to try to format intelligence in accordance with our scale of values is to demean the universe around us.
A great Hinge event is cross-species intercourse. Intercourse here is used in the large sense of communication & mutual dealings. Dealing with animals is a wonderful spiritual exercise in excising the ego, . . . you can’t approach the essence of the ‘other’ if you are still self-entangled.

DC: Through our discussions over the years, it has been made clear that music has an important role in your creativity. What are you listening to these days? How has your relationship with music impacted your relationship with words, with language?
HL: The second part of your question elicits differing response-approaches. The normative reflex would be to list & delineate the various ways in which music has impacted my poetic practice, e.g., ‘Trane’s use of the augmented triad in the first chorus of  “One down, One Up,” shifted my imagistic relations while Elvin’s cascading triplet patterns suggested new possibilities for how line disjunction could enhance percussive power.’
This would be a slight response. By parceling & peeling-off slices of influence I would be betraying the enormity of influence. Sure, I could itemize & say that I consider Eric Dolphy  my poetic mentor, as I tried to emulate his sonic with my linguistic, that musicians such as Dizzy, Brownie, Jackie McClean, Horace Silver, Blakey, Bill Evans, Pharoah Sanders, Jim Hall, Wes, Trane, among others, changed my world as well as tunes like ‘Three Blind Mice,’ ‘Delilah,’ ‘Love Supreme,’’Passin’ Thru,’ ‘Kulu Se Mama,’ ‘Song For My Father,’ ‘One Down, One Up,’ & I’d just be getting started.
But rather than  pointing to an A/B causal relationship, e.g., Blakey’s press roll taught me how to develop line sustain, a vaster more fusionist approach asserts that I am my assimilations. From this perspective, all my life events  inter(mingle)(course) fecundate rotate & flux in creative ekstasis. I use the term ‘event’ rather than ‘experience’ because ‘event’ permits amalgam & does not preference a subject as having undergone the ‘experience.’
The short answer, then, to “how has your relationship with music impacted your relationship with words, with language?” would be: Yes, it has. But more precisely then ‘impacted,’ which sets up a binary division between music & my poetry, would be to say that music has fused/merged been assimilated/absorbed into my self, the being that I am. Included in that assimilation would also be artists – Giacometti, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Soutine, Agnes Martin, Pollock, Franz Klein, Linda Lynch, to name a few – as well as canines, certain oak, cherry & birch trees, the brook in my backyard, thunderstorms, twilight & so forth. Nothing is alien. This is the Great Cosmic Smooch. The intercrackling rainbow warble fluting from whale brow. To isolate & sort so I can say this relationship produced this result is simply not applicable. To simplify through reduction sucks out the Savor, destitutes Sapience.
Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of 50’s & 60’s jazz as well as songbirds. I live in the woods & the birdsong this year has been unusually fertile.

DC: What was one gratifying thing that was said to you, in relation to and/or following the release of LURK?
HL: One gratifying comment that was emailed to me:
“I started reading LURK out loud, as is my wont, and my Polish sweetheart’s boy said to me ‘what is that, some sort of incantation?’ You see how attuned youth can be!”

Three Poems, J.D. Nelson

yes, that yarn
that hulk is the saint of the foster of chains
to use that mork of the spider monkey
this is the house of the gumdrop wound
we get the morning in the eye to hear us now
the tongue becoming that house is the dream of the world
the day of the frog
to truck one of the filthy eyes
not a show of the potato
we get that smurf of the corner
to forage for that gum
to learn of the window lint
the egg and that dollar mouse
the inside wolf was a weapon
the song of the simple apple
that hair transplant is the griffin of the morning egg
language is the tree of the iron maiden sufi

the color of the yarn is the mood of the import bench

earth is the broken house to name the gum of the world
to slim down after that crumb is the phone number

not a knot of the power cooking day
you are the machine of the wolf’s lung

sugar the dollar doll was a cornerback
the bill ball of the wash-ing-ton

the wooden fault is the saltine darn
would you like to be the soup of the cardinal universe?

that dollar is the hen of the dregs
the wooden nut was a knuckle of the earth

in dust there was a zebra coin to gallows earth the pudding
the great frog of the inside face to win a lecture

the alignment of the crown is the normal story and we feel the welch’s
when we get there will there even be a mars?

sterile corn yarn

the land of the gland of the people
the bacteria on the hand of the daybreaking huck

earth names a flight pattern
we are without the cranberry toad

we hear the nile in our sleep
all I can say with that dream to get there

we can hear the billowing hand of the iron noun
the broken hand of the iron french to be myrtled

the new inside language to be roasted with that pepper
one morning is the brain of the trout

the iron trout ducks the sentence of the night to wander and I do
the fierce tantrum is the balloon of the ghost banana

Selected Works, Amelia Díaz Ettinger

For No Particular Reason
on these walks of mine
my bird is the towhee
—rufous-sided to be exact
I like her unassuming
dress of brown
with hints of white patches
flashing on her tail
as she flies towards a branch
but maybe what calls
me to her is her song
chup chup chup seeeeeeeeee
such a plain song
a clear song
a celebration song
makes me wonder
how can she be so content
in her noisy rummage
among dead leaves
that startles me awake
such a necessary reminder
to sing

Lymphoma This time,

and for five months I hold your life with my secret string.

Never been good with a fishing rod, yet this I have mastered.

I know how to pull, to grasp, to anger.

This is not the life we wanted, it is the life

we knew we were losing, over and over.

Cancer, our constant companion even in our bed.

A ménage à trois in our marriage, if I let it.

This demon-lover clutches your bones,

cruising in your veins like a lost gondola.

We never went to Venice.

In Spain we saw Goya’s Saturn Devouring his Son.

I looked and thought, ‘that is how it is.’

So, I swallowed gallons of my anger with your toxins.

Each drip of the chemo tasting like rust,

the iron in your red blood cells exploding corrosive.

Your flesh forms loose contours over your skeleton

visible under my fingertips, I palpitate the poison

navigate the river’s ripple motion under the surface.

I touch this radioactivity, and pretend to be a healer.

Again, I swallow gallons of anger with your toxins,

toxins that have done their trick one more time, for now.

Yet it left a residue all over our house, orange desert dust.

Did Saturn swallow his son’s head whole?

I clean and rearrange, try to straighten

allow my anger to dress in red-hot-high-heels.

Let it walk towards the porch without a duffle bag.

Let’s go to Italy, or the living room, and just look

at pictures in a travel brochure, see more paintings

of Goya’s black walls inside the Prado.

Now I have to remit the residue of these months,

let the string go, see it float away as spider’s silk.

Just to wonder when will I have to reach for it again.

I Like los Traviesos 

Mi amiga is proud that her granddaughter is docile, suavecita. 
For her I write and say, “Listen chica to this poem.”

I like naughty kids, los traviesos, who run and giggle around 
with a mother trailing with a chancla or spoon in hand.

I like nippers that soil their clothes as they crawl under the house.
Especially when you told them not to find creepy crawlers or skeletons.

I like los mal-educados who won’t say, Yes Sir, Yes Ma’am,
but weight and ponder someone else’s fate and spirit.

I also like the children that shed their selves as they run
to save an endangered turtle or climb a cliff to warm a condor’s egg.

—A si me gustan, impish, mischievous with sangre in their misconduct.

I like those sin-vergüenzas when they have a tantrum 
carrying signs in a Black Lives Matter march until their throats are raw.

I particularly like the girls who aren’t suavecitas but obstinate,
chiefly with their bodies. They yell, kick, and pluckily point their fingers.

Yes, it is true, I love all the wicked revoltosos who stand
and make trouble, the good trouble, compassionate trouble. 

Sorry About the Shoes

His sister-in-law is with me,
in his old bedroom
with the new hospital bed.
I choose his clothes.
“This is a nice suit,” she says.
It is. But it isn’t him.
He liked dark tuxedoes 
and light guayaberas.
A whole shelf to the right of this closet
dedicated to cologne, and handkerchiefs.
All machine embroidered with his initial, ‘E.’
Opening this closet pauses me.
Like finding him in the hallway
of the casino, unexpectedly, wanting.
Old Spice, sandalwood and father.
My father, mi Papi, gone now beyond
these closet doors.

“What about this one?” she asks.
Another pin striped suit. 
Is she showing me the same suit over and over?
I remember him fitted by his favorite tailor.
“No, no, not that one.”
Each suit and shirt
familiar and foreign. My fault
I’ve been away too long.
The colors blur together
numbed from unmoored.
Can color do that? 
His death we had expected for most of his life.
Tenaciously holding on like a ceiba tree.
He was my father and mother. Not quite my friend.
Now, I get to choose
what comforts he takes. He was so fearful of death.

His sister-in-law is patient.
She waits as my hands fondle
silk, cotton, polyester.
A fabric parade of decades.
I find a suit in the very back. 
Still has the tag.
An outrageous price, that pains me.
The price of a dying dandy.
“This one will do.” 
The sister-in-law sighs, 
looks at her wristwatch.
Have I chosen poorly? I wonder
what happens to the rest of his clothes?
His closet is a veritable rainforest 
of solid and serious fashion.
But his habitat is not him.
Quite his opposite.
A bolus blocks my throat.
“Are you okay?” She is so kind for asking.
Papi was a jokester with bad timing. 
Ready for a laugh or heat to anger.
Papi carries — carried — sadness like a cloak.
Do all comedians, or magicians, do that?

After the burial she asks,
“What shoes did you pick?”
I have no answer and a coldness
rises inside my bowels.
What kind of daughter sends 
her father to an afterlife in silks
and barefoot?

Beautiful Rebellion

If I am a weed, the alien
to be plucked 
out of this garden
forced to be manicured,
I say,
not today.

I am surrounded by the buzz 
of honeybees,
and sunlight bites my thighs,
as a playful lover could.

Let’s meet 
in the center green 
where so much beauty grows;
surrender your sheers
share with me this blush…


Her left eyelid would remain closed
for a while, sealed to the cornea
by an afterthought, a residue
of old, burning tears.
She waited patiently for her mind
to release vision. Shards
of so-called insight, though what
she believed she saw was far out. 
What she believed she saw
were flashes hitting sideways
horizontal blades aimed at her chest
her waist or her limbs.
They indented. They didn’t slash.
They released pain like cutting
does. Like cutting
they were blessings.
They, the insights, came with wings
and haloes. They wore white
and were rimmed with gold.
So she said.
Sudden, fond of velocity.
Sighed within a murmur.
Poignant and vague.
Climbing up and down her spine
as if on a ladder.
Then, her eyelid unglued itself.
Slowly, daylight came in.