Sunday, December 8, 2019

Object Permanence by Alison C. Rollins


Object Permanence

For the time being
an ampersand is a boy
clutching his knees
to his chest as art.
 
On high, the god of form
wears a face on each wrist.
Only a god can take and give
time, but the one in front of
the gun lasts forever.
 
The boy is parenthesis,
his shoulders curved,
the huddled wings of a bird.
 
The boy’s arms are too short
to box with god. He breaks down-
beats of sweat in his sleep.
 
If life is music, the rest is noise,
this earth a museum of dead boys
walking. The god has a finger to
his lips. He wakes to the boy
 
taking selfies with The Scream.
The boy knows a picture
will only last longer.
 
Frequent warnings read
Storage Almost Full across his
screen so self-portraits he
outsources to the cloud.
 
As I Lay Dying sits in his book
bag. The page dog-eared that has
the line: My mother is a fish.
 
 
Right now
the comma
is a lobe.
 
From afar the god clutches
his head, in an effort
to cover missing ears.
 
The redbone boy was airborne.
As we speak, he bleeds in the street.
The backpack has landed as parachute.
 
The god yowls watercolors,
the way the sky weeps
oranges in lung-shaped
segments of grief:
quarter, half, a whole.
 
A bullet is a form of punctuation.
From a distance it appears
the boy is fucking up commas.
Roger that.
 
The god of variables — a-
bridged & for-
lorn, dribbles mercy
on the mother of
the slain.
 
The boy’s headphones skip
down the sidewalk in the hands
of another mother’s child.
 
The skeletal god’s got bars.
A rib cage full of tally marks
collection plates in memory
of chicken-scratched bones.
 
The writing on god’s wall
was formerly known as art.
 
 
The boy’s chest has become
a focal point. It rests in
his mother’s arms, a still life painting.
The god is MIA.
 
The boy’s mother repeats her prayers
again, & again, & again, & again, & again.
 
Repetition leads to the longing for a god,
for a sound as signal, for the absence of a note
or limb. Think of the bo(d)y as con artist.
 
The boy’s mother knows a period is
something missed. She knows objects
can disappear behind a god’s back
but that doesn’t mean they are gone forever.
 
She holds the boy’s cracked
phone in her hands, as if it were
the whole world.
 
A boy is what he leaves behind.
What a mother struggles to forget
her muscles store as memory.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

My Philosophy of Life by John Ashbery


My Philosophy of Life

Just when I thought there wasn’t room enough
for another thought in my head, I had this great idea—
call it a philosophy of life, if you will. Briefly,
it involved living the way philosophers live,
according to a set of principles. OK, but which ones? 

That was the hardest part, I admit, but I had a
kind of dark foreknowledge of what it would be like.
Everything, from eating watermelon or going to the bathroom
or just standing on a subway platform, lost in thought
for a few minutes, or worrying about rain forests,
would be affected, or more precisely, inflected
by my new attitude.  I wouldn’t be preachy,
or worry about children and old people, except
in the general way prescribed by our clockwork universe.
Instead I’d sort of let things be what they are
while injecting them with the serum of the new moral climate
I thought I’d stumbled into, as a stranger
accidentally presses against a panel and a bookcase slides back,
revealing a winding staircase with greenish light
somewhere down below, and he automatically steps inside
and the bookcase slides shut, as is customary on such occasions.
At once a fragrance overwhelms him—not saffron, not lavender,
but something in between. He thinks of cushions, like the one
his uncle’s Boston bull terrier used to lie on watching him
quizzically, pointed ear-tips folded over. And then the great rush 
is on.  Not a single idea emerges from it. It’s enough
to disgust you with thought.  But then you remember something
    William James
wrote in some book of his you never read—it was fine, it had the
    fineness,
the powder of life dusted over it, by chance, of course, yet
    still looking
for evidence of fingerprints. Someone had handled it
even before he formulated it, though the thought was his and
    his alone. 

It’s fine, in summer, to visit the seashore.
There are lots of little trips to be made.
A grove of fledgling aspens welcomes the traveler.  Nearby
are the public toilets where weary pilgrims have carved
their names and addresses, and perhaps messages as well,
messages to the world, as they sat
and thought about what they’d do after using the toilet
and washing their hands at the sink, prior to stepping out
into the open again. Had they been coaxed in by principles,
and were their words philosophy, of however crude a sort?
I confess I can move no farther along this train of thought—
something’s blocking it. Something I’m 
not big enough to see over. Or maybe I’m frankly scared.
What was the matter with how I acted before?
But maybe I can come up with a compromise—I’ll let
things be what they are, sort of. In the autumn I’ll put up jellies
and preserves, against the winter cold and futility,
and that will be a human thing, and intelligent as well.
I won’t be embarrassed by my friends’ dumb remarks,
or even my own, though admittedly that’s the hardest part,
as when you are in a crowded theater and something you say
riles the spectator in front of you, who doesn’t even like the idea
of two people near him talking together. Well he’s 
got to be flushed out so the hunters can have a crack at him—
this thing works both ways, you know. You can’t always
be worrying about others and keeping track of yourself
at the same time. That would be abusive, and about as much fun
as attending the wedding of two people you don’t know.
Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the gaps between ideas.
That’s what they’re made for! Now I want you to go out there
and enjoy yourself, and yes, enjoy your philosophy of life, too.
They don’t come along every day. Look out!  There’s a big one...


Friday, December 6, 2019

December by Matthew Zapruder


December
 
At first we all
went to down to the lake
to hold hands,
all the multicolored
signs said
with love
we will resist,
over my head
I lifted my son
so he could see
what people
look like
when they hear
the song Imagine,
a few weeks later
again people stood
at the water,
this time at night
holding flashlights
to say to the fire
you came
without permission
and took our young
gentle soldiers
for art
so we will show
even with our old
technology
we can see
each other
without you,
others booed
the mayor which was
my friend said
understandable,
I don’t know
what is anymore,
everyone understands
in a different
contradictory way
the so far purely
abstract
catastrophe
so many millions
of choices
brought us,
not too far
from the water
I sat on the couch
below the sound
of blades
drinking amber
numbing fluid
my thoughts
chopping the air
feeling not
what is the word
to be a father
equipped,
mine never told me
where to hide
a brick of gold,
for a long time
I have known
no voices
will come at last
to tell us how
to stop pretending
we don’t know
if it is not
safe for some
it is not
for anyone.