To an Upstairs Neighbor
Greetings good morning it is me your downstairs
neighbor I can hear you walking around hello.
I don’t know you at all but oh I can tell
by the patterns of your footfalls that I sure do
enjoy you. I sure hope your life is a joyous one. I hope
you have a dog who is a good stupendous dog.
I hope you keep nice plants & I hope they rise
to your silverwaterhands. I hope someone touches you
like a forgiveness machine. Neighbor in your upstairs
clothes, I could say I love you more than lunch
but I’m not trying to put the heart before the course—
I’ve only known you these few moments & what
have I already revealed? Since we’re oversharing—
in my heart BMI stands for Bowel Movement Information
which you will find in the footnotes of this book
which is my body—the primary injustice
of an unjust existence. According to Julia Kristeva
it’s supposed to make me feel terrible that stuff
inside my body one moment is outside my body
the next, that it too is my body, but it just makes me feel
Vesuvian! I shit & spit & weep until I’ve wiped
out the little village & nothing remains of me
to finish telling you what I don’t want to have to tell you.
When the Lord made the angels it was this way—
vomit, excrement, ejaculate, milk. Each took
the shape of an idea, a terrible restlessness in the flesh,
dashed themselves into each other like ships
against quivering columns of moonlight & well,
that was angels! But we’re talking about
boundaries now. Borders & serration. Where my skin
saws into the air is a boundary/border, but
I can never quite cross into that empty country. Try it—
how frustrating! All due respect to Julia, I cannot agree.
For if I truly was all of my various emissions
wouldn’t I know everything at least about the sewer
systems of the greater Los Angeles area & as well, other
sewer systems? Wouldn’t I have visions in which I abandon
myself, mammoth body entering each particle
of air like a fire made of little hallelujahs, little written-out
hallelujahs! burning a hole in the ceiling, so that I might see you,
my upstairs neighbor of the boots that go clomping
this way and that? Mightn’t I see you consulting your cookbook,
preparing to bake a tray of raspberry tarts for a party
I am not supposed to know about, because I am
the stranger, the Angel of Boundaries, anonymous
& unfortunate beast who sleeps beneath your sleep?
Failed Ode to My Penis
O storm wand!
O snow dragon!
O seething traveler
with your sack slung
over your shoulder!
Sack of treasures!
Sack of miracles!
It is time to try
to make a praise for you.
A big old praise
for the little old Penis.
O Penis! You go
with me everywhere,
like a depressed clown
hanging off a cliff.
If you were a musical
you might not have
all the production value
of a Les Miserables
but you would make me
just as sad. Alas,
my cranky Javert,
it seems we shan’t find
who we’re searching for.
I’ll remain forever
uneasy with lust,
getting up for a snack
when the actors
start kissing, wondering
if desire makes me
a monster, the instrument
of an organ’s gory history.
Yes, I long to penetrate
the mystery & am ashamed.
I long for an exuberant
coupling with the Name
& am ashamed.
My mother inquires—
do I wish for a child?
I attend my friend’s
& look, everybody’s
got them: toddlers
& spouses, avocado
stains on their blouses,
stories about how
they used to think
they knew what being
tired meant. O praise
& bless & exalt. Of course
I wish for a child. I play
with the ones at the party
& all my friends
gather around to tell me
what a wonderful
uncle I’m going to make.
It is sad to tip the kettle over the cup & discover
there is no more tea in the kettle. It is sad when the
diner is closed. It is sad when the hawk seizes the
rat & sad when the hawk misses. It is sad when the
child encounters too early. It is sad when a mother
apologizes. It is sad when the aphids have chewed
holes in the lacinato kale. It is sad when there is a
shopping list taped to a refrigerator. It is sad in the
morning, Bach or no Bach. It is sad in winter &
depending on the city sadder in summer. It is sad to
finish a book & sad to not finish. It is sad to make
love imperfectly. It is sad when the body is ready
but not the mind. It is sad when [ ] has left the
group chat. It is sad when the wrong thing dies. It is
sad when it is three in the morning & the wind is
howling & the moon is like a burning umbrella oh
god who will put up with me
Lines Written During the Monarch Migration
An outrageous fantasia of butterflies is sawing through the city
on the orange buzzsaws of its wings. It’s the most fabulous
thing I’ve ever seen, but all I can think about is the woman
I wish would drag me down to the apricot cellar & kick
my ass in the dark. Is there even such thing as an apricot
cellar? Do I even have an ass? Butterflies are like that: little
thoughts bouncing around & then becoming a tunnel
to wander through that falls apart in shards of color and
wow it’s already 5:30 PM on tax day & all my money has turned
to locusts. What asshole decided I should care for a body using
only the body I’m supposed to care for? What about mistakes?
Where shall I make my ruin? Imagine Chagall with only one
canvas but enough paint for eighty-five years. That’s a boatload
of goats & violins. Permit me to explain: I want the woman
to kick herself out of me, to make room for butterflies & prayer.
& here’s the thing about prayer: it’s an intimate grappling with
empty air. & Jacob was both Jacob & the angel. & confusion
is one of the senses—I can’t stress that enough. Divesting
the self of desire is impossible because the self is desire—
to continue selfing, continue burrowing into bewilderment
like a kaleidoscope until you’ve learned nothing but how little
beauty can finally teach you. Sometimes the only thing
you can smell is the inside of your nose. The butterflies
are gone & I never danced within them. I was too sad.
If you put apricots in a cellar—surprise—you have an apricot
cellar. If you beg a woman to come, she won’t. I’m a saint
unblessed, a bell that won’t ring. O, it’s spring, & my
life is a mess—no, it’s life, & my mess is a spring.
The Buffoons Had It Right
Smeared in lamplight, I braid my longing
into a challah & implore you to eat
my longing, or bring it to a public pond
& scatter it to the hungry ducks
that they may excrete my longing into
the scummy water. What could have been
so important? I shall tear my vision board,
pin it with a kitchen knife onto the elm,
forget what I visioned & go dancing.
No longer will I remember what I thought
I was put here to do, no longer will I sigh
or dream of tracing a collarbone. It’s only
me & the ducks, my allies, mishpocheh,
my irritating seraphim, we thrive
together in the orchard, honking orbs
out of the trees. Soon I will be like them,
stiff wings cranking me through the sky,
clown-mallard sentry patrolling the air.
Listen to me: the buffoons had it right.
I will take the vow of foolishness.
I will fill my days (forgive me Lord,
I forgot to suffer) with apricots.