Came on the birthday of a dozen Facebook friends.

Came like fast food at the drive-thru window.

Came like forwarded junk mail,
like a gift shirt someone thought might fit.

Came like the robocall about the cruise no one wants or wins,
a punchline that forgot its joke,
the calendar’s next blank day.

Came crawling like a cockroach from the shower drain.

Came while I was deciding: New Yorker or Netflix?

When poked, felt fake, like cheap cake gone stale on a styrofoam plate.

I can’t stop thinking of the blind young man’s tapping,
and that dandy cuckolded Bloom, the sickening sirens,
and the whole work laying over my commute, the highway,
like an exploded Church, my tires crackling over each brick,
every day like another ballad to the sun, exposed like Dedalus
buying a little milk in the morning—Comey, Yates, McCabe—
the tarpaulin, pulling, the top, the teepee, top parade, the babe
being strolled by his good mother. I listen to the seashore,
the heave and ho of the country’s nostrils, its punctured eye,
the people asking: “Who did this to you?”—America responding,
“Nobody. Nobody did this to me.” His falsehoods are music,
nearly innocent and childlike. His Hamlet-breath, still speaking
to his father atop a real estate project. “I am thy father’s spirit.”
Swelling at the throat, the aria that may cast a darkened light.
Marking the long tale, I feel as if my insides were cold dust,
the heart reduced to a monologue. Where to go for lunch?
Somewhere where I won’t run into him, the world-whisperer,
the eternal flatterer, the black helicopter filled with steaks
and the stone wife, playing at odds as if we needed to believe
in her statuary. Dignam is dug and gone; his life is spoken for,
the attributions, the lectures in the library, the greasy man
has passed, the barmaids giggled, the world is the world.

 

His name was Bob

He lived in an apartment diagonally across the street from the bar

He started coming in when I worked, seemed harmless enough

Mentioned he had a husband of forty years

He was a semi-retired consultant in his late 60s

He made a lot of money and traveled for work

He would usually come in within an hour after I opened the bar, when there were very few or no other customers

He would pay for two scotch and sodas at once, $7, and tip $3

Sometimes he would tip $5

 

Bob became interested in my life

You surprised no one by dying of an overdose.
Was it glue or oven cleaner?
I can no longer recall, but I know
you enjoyed them both to the full.
Your time on earth was brief, though not brief enough
to keep you from torturing a cat to death
with leftover fireworks and a refrigerator box.
Why is sharing the pain always easier than sharing the joy?

today
will not
get away

it will be
hunted and
stalked

opened
and entered

feasted upon
and finally
laid to rest

well lived
and unwasted.

ROMANS/SNOWMARE

By Cam Scott

Poem

 

[ROMANS/SNOWMARE is a potentially interminable life-poem, to which I add at least one sentence every day. The earliest layers of this project appear in a book of the same name, ROMANS/SNOWMARE, published by ARP Books in 2019, from which the first of these texts is excerpted. ROMANS/SNOWMARE is available in the United States from AK Press.]

 

ROMANS. Do faces have headlights, or windows? I’ve never slept the night before a trip, too busy planning about packing. Dark chocolate parching, an excellent source of magnesium. The stream of everlasting life is owned by Nestle, too. What’s on tap in the master bathroom? I’m so thirsty I could suck a faucet. If we’re going to have to suffer anyway, why wait? One must life equal parts in heaven and on earth. Is freedom a state or a road? “The law does not construct a subject who simply and unequivocally has a desire, but one who rejects its desire, who wants not to desire it.” Her dad was a cop or something. There were bagpipes at the funeral, no one wept. I’m a vicarious sensualist, lingering near second-hand smoke as one might have loitered at the mall. All atmosphere is lightly used. Nothing originates. Made with natural flavours, derived from natural sources. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, bus depot Thunder Bay. The lion’s mane has fallen off but carries on in name. Catching cobwebs in my hair, a silk proximity to skin, I bless the sickening illogic of it all. A putrefying factory or mobile lobe, courting contempt foot over fossil. Am I that bowl of brains, a swollen bag of blood? But then you never see a corpse that isn’t made up on TV. Slept past the water pipe emporium. Catastrophism is “for all”—no nukes, a meagre veganism. As she neared moral perfection, her to-do list dwindled to a few pressing mistakes. The region’s richest silver mine reduced down to a supple islet. A panoramic view inside a rock. O Sponge, your own name is a verb—conatus, indifferently sexed. One can’t mix poetry and politics without theft of necessity. Start with the ideas then. Nostalgia has no bearing upon justice: neither as fidelity to an event, nor as speculation on the resurrection. Imagine a world in which one may adequately mourn. The meadowlark tried in its way. A tradition that extends toward Antigone. The bowaldrome across the courthouse lawn was busiest at lunch, the nearby Travelodge stuffed with incumbent Christs. I hate to see a crust punk hustling on behalf of a suffering pet, as though one nervous system weren’t elaborate enough to bear the succulence of this privation, like one needed a proximate gullet to taunt. That’s my stingy conservative talking, he lashes out at any show of friendship he can’t monetize. No smoking, for example. What’s that odd smell wafting off the parking lot at dusk? Omega 3s, the nutritionist said, are to your brain as oil is to a car. But that light had been on for years, unblinking so ignored. I take the bus so I can tell my story, charmless braggart ambling least. I haven’t shit in Ignace in three years. It’s the acoustic boogaloo that sunders you. Like playing racquetball without a wall, writing a villanelle without a line rule. Galoot forgot his hairnet, had to wear a hat. His colon killed him. Dad’s cologne. A better question asked in bad faith. Who misses the Burger Family? At what point do free spirits go solo? I said that on a whim to see if we were listening. Whoever lingers longest takes the cake. 

grow sick of gilets
and the posturing of
redundant letters

lie down

recognise the fissure
for what it is

take out a loan and
employ an artist’s
impression

obliterate savings
and proliferate
suspect via
billboards and sky writing

lie under breach
until face comes
forward

Start by loving a God that lives
Inside the shell of a black beetle.
Now get a little older
And become a Jew
Who loves a God inside letters
That read backward on the page.
Older still and Christ comes
To teach some other version
That wipes us all clean
When we get dunked
In an above-ground swimming pool.

Get yourself an invite to a room full of fear, hubris and desire.

Enter to applause

          for someone just over your shoulder.

Gently float.

You are invisible…
you do not register.

Glide through the room,

          enter their orbits

          questioning if you still have skin.

Humid chatter is the evening’s soundtrack.

Start open. Start loose and
easy. Let your lines blink in
the sun. Start with the second thing
you ever knew. Draw your fingers together
like circling wagons, then like dancing lovers,
then like puzzle pieces. You should find
at the end of yourself

Your clamshell rings and rings
                                                         wrapped in seagreen plastic

         Mer-crone calling Fisher King

The number you are calling has a voice mail box that has been deluged

          a drowned sailor picks up

… crusts of dried salt in the streets …
                                                                      you’re breaking up …

          the tide of pink jellyfish
                                                      big as washing machines
                                                                                                     rises

110 < >

By Megan Burns

Poem

what I do/ bemoan loss/ my betrayal/ what’s good/ never
traveled a land of dead to get me/ would you/ never waded my city
to pull photos from floodwater stained walls/ would you/ never tried
to pull my spine, notch vertebrae notch through back where I’m split/ spit on me/ would you/ never lowered yourself into mud spewing vomit, your lies that bile thick hanging from your chin/ or clawed your eyes out to not see pain you cause me/would you/ never put muzzle back of my head/ but you did/ never pulled trigger sending metal biting through wishes, dreams, nightmares / never put your mouth on mine & sucked out my breath or put it back in/
wouldyou/wouldyou/wouldyou/

liver licked out of shape,
moldova moya, liquor
loves your shakes

louder the laughing,
lucky the fool, moldova
moya, playing pool

laid out, olives
like eyes, moldova moya,
milk and lies

birthday poem

By Adam Soldofsky

Poem

 

with blasphemies

and great things in my head

i woke up

but you’d already gone to work 

 

anyway none of it was new 

 

why aren’t they fucking off

the ones who should be

with their insane appeals

to modesty 

 

i’m not about to leave the earth

The Riots were the week before my prom
A month & a half before my graduation
Southern California was a time bomb

Race relations warring like Vietnam
My crew more like the United Nations
The Riots were the week before my prom

So Cal needed mindfulness like Thich Nhat Hanh
Multicultural coalitions for communication
Southern California was a time bomb