Ineluctable Blues

by Lewis Turco

"O ineluctable blues of the middle class!
Softly we sing, and the more forgetful hum."
— Donald Justice, from “Sonya Sits at the Piano, Practicing.”

Well, that's the way it is, that's how it was,
Yes, that's the way it is and how it was–
We heard the sun come up, we hear time buzz

Beside the bed and tell us to get up
And shower, go to work and just shut up
About it all, just pour yourself a cup

Of coffee, swallow it and head for work–
Get that black coffee down and off to work,
Try not to bitch, try not to be a jerk.

When you come home, who knows? She might be there
Waiting, maybe not. She might be there,
A hairnet holding back a hank of hair.

"O ineluctable blues of the middle class!"
Whatever that may mean. I'll take a class
In night-school if I get up off my ass

Some evening soon, to work on my B. A.,
Get a better job — or maybe a
"Position" somewhere, as they like to say.

Yeah, fat chance. I'd need a little luck —
I'd need to take a chance, but with my luck
I'd cross the street and get hit by a truck.

Guys like me don't march to a different drum.
Our song's the same old song, it's the same old drum.
"Softly we sing, and the more forgetful hum."

Pythagoras’s Meaning

by Lee Slonimsky

When raindrops strike the pond they ripple round,
Pi-scriptured circles perfect as his math;
he lingers long on this fernlush high path,
observing, calculating.The one sound,
the silken one of water.How astute,
this forest where Pi matters just as in
his lessons, certain theorems.Red leaves’ spin.
The math of tree rings, rain, a young lark’s flute
as fluent as his own.Should he persist
when all he does is mirror nature’s laws?

He pauses, counting one crow’s loud black caws
addressing him through sudden, fleeting mist.

And that’s the core of it; he’s not here to
make history, discover the unknown,
but rather to connect until he’s gone.

Mere notice makes the ancient live, brand new.

Stock Trader Steps Outside

by Lee Slonimsky

A whistler: one
and a thrummer: two

the latter like
someone’s dropped a cello in the woods
and a yellow bird plucks absently
at a string

Together they make quite a pair,
even as the morning sun
radiant on this thawing stream
seems to shimmer in rhythm with
their punctuated harmony

Even as fir tips sway
their version of
getting up and dancing

Even as a scoop of breeze
splashes light against the trees,
makes them luminescent.

Nothing’s ever seemed less urgent
than a schedule
in this morning pause

You lean against a fir tree,
commune with its gray bones,
feel your common origin

in how thin bark embraces,
in how your blood tingles.

The Love Call of F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Alan Soble

Hogy túléljünk, imádjuk az
alliteráció istenét‏.
[Не транслитерация!]

For Philip Milton Roth
il miglior spazzino

I. On the Jewish Question

Matzoh is the driest bread,
made on the fly, Exodus declares.
I eat blueberry in yoghurt topped
with walnut-and-cinnamon sugar.
In which diaspora did we fress as well?
I was assimilated by Jewish Rye
while “We built this city” on borscht and lox.

I live on a freshly brewed,
integrated Starbuck Earth,
sprightly sipping esoteric strains
from Guatemala, Rwanda, Timor –
a dark roast, a medium Pike, aromatic decaf,
odors that make me cosmopolitan
and turn my buds Turk, Arab, Greek.

I smell, much too near,
a Bukovinan Albert, Allen, or Alvy
adoring my healthy punim
but mostly staring at the deep dish
of seasoned fruit with glazed-over
graceless starvation understood
better by Pavlov than Plato.
Brutish envy is the sharpest pain.

II. Sexual Revolutions

In plush powder rooms,
the women come and go,
speaking of my cool Angela,
a tsatske girl no cuter
than two-day-old shtetl kasha,
adorned by not one poppy,
no onion bit, raisin, garlic, or seed:
The Everything’s accessories.
She’s a plain unbedazzled Biały
whose familiar warm scent
keeps me aroused, and spent.

The women come and go,
dissing circumcision,
with words toned
by English abhorrence of Jews
which Tom learned well
in his counterlife
along with tea at four.
I feel no genital disgrace,
as if Shylock’s prick
had no right to be as stiff
as Sweeney’s erect.

T. S., you missed rock-roll bands:
too late to bard with jumpin’ jack packs,
the devils who let it bleed and paint it black.
You missed Clapton-Knopfler guitars,
“Driver’s Seat” and “Stairway” stars.
You missed the lexicon of gangsta rap:
“shorty,” “piece,” “phat” – all that crap.

You missed the I-net,
where your skill is free,
along with Auden, Igor, and Klee,
where bloggers hack “Prufrock,”
become Facebook friends
with Lou’s poor, bored Jane
who clerks the day away,
tokes, gets wasted once again,
drags a brush across her head.

You missed Steinem, Friedan,
and that Portnoy guy.
Like you, T. S. E., he
had not been ready
for Larkin’s 1963.
Neither was I,
the one lingering naïf
on either stretch of coast
who committed a marriage
before committing a sex.
Call me Pisher.

The Allman Bros. dared
to slurp the juicy peach,
their stage britches tight,
leaving no dry seat in the house.
Stoned freebird roadies
scour the stained stands.
Daltrey and Plant, too,
had their pick and share and fill
(“Keep your hands offa my stack!”)
in the battle of the bands for muff.
The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd,
all boned the leftover girls (‘n’ boys)
in Winslow AZ.
Star fucking,
born voracious in ’63,
engendered night moves
of lying leaching hands,
fingering greedy and foul,
through marches, sit-ins, concerts,
from Columbia, D.C., Woodstock,
to the graveyards of disease
and infanticides.

My envy should not too much complain.
For my second love I, too, had remains.
I groped my Brit Lit teacher’s tuchas
in a tiny airport motel closet candle-lit.
We couldn’t see the floor’s filthy bed.
So adultery became my first “real” love.
Augustine’s pulpit rancor groaned.
He judged us “cheat” and “slit”
in a proper Latin that proved him right.

Tommy, we were humbled by your technique.
Neither the Bishop nor I grasp any Greek.

High school’s an adolescent waste land,
where diplomats train as lunchroom killers
aiming higher than cafeteria reform.
I often heard, too loudly,
from the putrid holes of goyische thugs
stuffed with sausage spice,
spewing their considered view
that Jew slits are effin’ easy.
I wouldn’t know, only foolin’ around
with my misinstructing kissing kin.
The goddess shikse I craved
dozed off in Psych and Math
wearing a short summer skirt,
her thighs falling unbearably
apart.

“In your wildest dreams,”
the mean girls mocked.

III. Death by Water

Solomon’s praise of passion
was doomed by arid winds
that cooked his burning eyes,
two desiccated yellow eggs,
on the dusty road to Dachau.
“Love is as strong as death”?
He was burnt, not tanned,
as the Good Book says.

Why dread a dip in Gatz’s pool?
Had we not already been gassed,
gladly we would swim.
Had we not already been gassed,
we would have done it all,
were we not wasted,
squandered – for flecks of gold
and cleansed Lebensraum.

I forgot (blame my sour senility) –
when fabricating shoddy lines,
constipated polyphilalliterative
strings of obscure miasmal smog –
that in a Southern-hot
August over ten years ago,
instead of fleeing Kristallnacht
I first-hand found that Petty’s buoyant
“Refugee” refrain was bogus.
The House of the Rising Sun flailed,
then foundered, in the floods.
Au revoir, szerbusz, שלום, до свидания, adiós
I offered to my big-hearted nightingales,
those devout, stoic bodies
bound to my debauched desire.
All were FEMA derooted and rerouted:
Cleveland Baltimore Atlanta
Cheyenne St Paul Tampa
Phoenix ‘Frisco Miami
and Providence (R.I.)

GATHER YOUR BAGS LADIES
NEXT STOP PURGATORIO

shifting, shoving, bouncing, dancing,
flashing, twerking, shielding
their stash of coke crystal crack
roofies pot hash and smack.
Even a charming Dom Perignon
lifted leisurely looting
a ruptured gonif ‘s Quarter bodega.

HURRY UP NOW LADIES
NEXT STOP PURGATORIO

New Orleans, my Bukovina.
Pushed out, flushed out, washed out, flicked out.
(“And they put you on the day shift.”)
Rotund Nero,
Flawless Peter,
Falconer Yeats,
Waxwing Shade,
Boiled hard Spade,
Ghostly Anne Frank,
Machins of many colors,
Hoarded Yverts and Michels,
treasures buried with Gulf oil
in buses-bulging shark bellies,
and a thousand LP vinyls left behind
in distracting jackets for the Nazi troops
during the flight of whores, Jews, and blacks,
street sweepers, bag handlers, dishwashers, busboys,
the whole miserable crew right out of Toole,
stayin’ alive, barely, with fungal fever.

I wish I had a fantasy
while weaving
and shuffling
up I-55.
I wish I could pretend
I wasn’t running
but was a ramblin’ man,
tracing Fonda’s trip,
crisp clean wind
blowing out, on I-10,
my long brown hair.
In my dream,
there’s no shotgun
in a Southern Man’s Dodge.
I’d make it all the way
with Bogie to the Keys.

IV. The Breakdown

The war and that woman,
poor Tom-Tom, did you in, for a while;
your suffering, the spring of Great Art,
aping de Sade Van Gogh
Tchaikovsky Nietzsche.
My women and my wars,
multiplied beyond yours,
made bananas of me, and crackers.
I should have created greater Great Art,
greater than the Great American Novel
that eludes the gospels
of Herman, Toni, Saul, and Mark.
A Midnight Cowboy Philosopher.

Japan leaks radioactive cream
next to whirlpool garbaged seas.
Denver to LA is scorched,
taxing grapes, newts, and gnats.
Christian heads sliced and rolled
on the road, Damascus-Baghdad,
like kiddies play kick the can.
Trains, planes, trucks crash galore.
Boston’s finish line rages roar.
Exploding cafés in Tel-Aviv.
Bogdanovka, Újvidék, Port Gdańsk,
Watts, Harlem, Newark, Kent State.
Manhattan’s “falling towers”
(foreseen by you, Tommy)
clogged our throats with muck
and stuffed our pores
with bloody ground chuck.

More people die in heaven, hell, and earth
than in Cantor’s infinite cardinal dreams.

By two thousand and fifty:
Elkúrtuk, nem kicsit, nagyon.”
MRSA, C. Difficile, and TB
infect a terabyte of mankind
plus the greatest Great Apes.
No shelters trailers huts shacks
beach umbrellas tents lean-tos
outhouses carousels igloos
high-rise balconies gazebos.
Hordes of Texas armadillos,
bony dogs, hippos, snakes sleazy,
snarling rats, lizards, birds eerie,
gargoyles unleashed, coyotes
rummage streets of pipes
and fields of rotting rice
for prime cadaver chunks,
while we kill our neighbor to eat
and kill to eat our neighbor.
We maim and stomp to drink
thick water slick with jimson weed.
We hallucinate progress.

Swift is now a bad joke,
a second-grader’s sophism.

No more polished granite
engraved with names, dates,
and proverbs of hope.
In a vast blank waste land,
no monuments (no heroes)
pointing to a glorious future.
Celebrations of the Fourth
or for Mothers worldwide
are sarcastic exorcistic
“Robot Chicken” rituals.
No sanctuary in Frauenkirche,
Stephansdom, or St Mark’s,
nor in a Riverside church
where Attica is transubstantiated
into a paradise of illusion
that promises safekeeping
from zombies, pirates,
ghoulish gangs of bikes,
other Harry Potter dreck,
all manner of dubious
specimens of humanity.
Only in an Absentee Landlord crib,
is no one stupid, or evil, or insane,
and only here is Pope’s glib
“Whatever is, is right,” not arcane.

Prescient, clairvoyant,
you well perceived
a small panorama of waste.
Ours is boundless,
more than you could see.
When I die,
I would all this shit die with me.
Let it not boast
by having synthetic life
in someone’s cloddy verse
marred by tortured glyphs.

Tom, you praised it beyond desert.

V. Mortalities

The prostate is the weakest lump.
It would go first,
smothering slender ducts,
except psoriatic arthritis
had a head start and
did its malicious labor
on every innocent
patch of bone and joint.
Deaf-dumb doctors
offer no lotion or pill
from a fake pharmacopoeia.
So it ascends to reign:
Lord of the Ankle,
Lord of the Knee,
Lord of the Elbow,
Lord of the Thumb,
Lord of the Neck,
Lord of the Left Big Toe.
Thus we succumb to
Osteoarthritis,
the unmoved mover,
that meets and knows
no sovereign curb.

I would plead,
“Let us go, then, You and I,”
and engage our few good parts
(eyes that survived Dachau).
But all we’d do
is smoke and fall out,
nodding straight through
Mon Amour,
Bergman’s Scenes,
and Popeye cartoons,
until the screech
of dead and lonely ‘rents
wake us and beckon,
and we, too,
dry out to nothing.

Enough, already,
of this mandatory,
masturbatory wasted
time of old age.
“Elder orphans.” Ha.
A patronizing phrase
for our closing Exeunt.

No!
I will not permit a drowning.
I will not suffer dehydration.
I will not lick a loathsome bug.
I must live till
I hear and smell and taste
the Mother of all bombs,
the Burka Burger
that slams into the slums
of fat, bald, cranky New York.

It will not be your London,
after all, Mr Eliot.

From Sarga 69, Book II of the Ramayana

translated by David R. Slavitt

[Bhárata assures Kausálya, Rama’s mother, that he loves Rama, who is her son and his half-brother, and swears that he had nothing to do with Rama’s having been sent into exile in the forest.]

 

As Kausálya complained, Bhárata cupped his hands in reverence

and addressed her: “I am guiltless, my lady.  I knew nothing about this.

You know how deep and abiding is my love for Rama.

May the man who exiled him never have thoughts that are in harmony

with the sacred texts. May he come to serve the most wicked of men.

May he urinate facing the sun and kick a sleeping cow.

May he bear the guilt of an unrighteous master,

who forces difficult tasks upon his servant without remuneration.

May he carry the stigma of the sin of treason against the king.

May he be reviled as is a king who levies heavy taxes

but does nothing to guard his subjects.

May he be compared with men who promise fees to priests at sacrifices

but then refuse to pay.  May he who sanctioned my brother’s going

never honor the code of honor in battle, where elephants, horses, and chariots

crowd the field and weapons fly thick through the air.

May that evil man lose his understanding of sacred texts.

May he eat milk-rice, sesame-rice, and goat meat for no reason.

May he show a lack of respect for his gurus.

May his children, his wife, and his servants huddle about him at home

while he alone eats delicacies.    May he who sanctioned Rama’s exile

be guilty of the sin of one who murders a king, a woman, a child,

or an elder, or of one who abandons his dependents.

May he be like one who sleeps through both morning worship

and evening worship.  May he be guilty of arson.

May he violate his guru’s bed.  May he betray his allies.

May he show disobedience to the gods, his ancestors,

and his mother and father.  May he be excluded from this moment on

from participation in any good deed, from the praises of the good,

and from the world of good!”

Thus did Bhárata try fervently to reassure Kausálya.  Then he collapsed.

Those were indeed heavy curses Bhárata had called down on his head,

and as he lay on the ground grief-stricken, Kausálya addressed him:

“My sorrow has only increased.  That you should curse yourself

with such curses chokes the life out of me.  I thank the gods

that your own thoughts never departed from righteousness,

any more than those of Lákshmana.  If what you say is true,

you shall attain the world that only the good attain.”

Bhárata continued to languish in sorrow, his mind in turmoil

from his grief and confusion.  There on the ground,

he fell into a stupor and passed the night weeping and heaving great sighs.

trees i

by Donald Kuspit

trees ascend faster fuller
                                  fresher freer
than thoughts,
                  decay slower,
leaves dying
            in a painterly blaze
of fullblown color,
                           thoughts colorless
at birth and death,
                           falling as they rise,
the squalor of consciousness
                                    in their conception,
trees conceived
                   in unconscious earth
sturdier than time,
                           upright in eternity.

ascending until
                   there is no more ascending,
attended by the sky,
                            measureless clouds
the halo on their nakedness,
                                    unashamed
before the angels,
                      enjoyed by the gods.
thoughts abject
                   before them,
bowing to their pride,
                              fading into flimsiness
as trees burst into fullness,
                                     thoughts parochial
and sapless,
                trees universal with inexhaustible sap.

blurred in the text
                           of time,
thoughts the waste matter
                                     of wonder,
trees wonder incarnate,
                           everlasting.

trees ii

by Donald Kuspit

what's left to inspire,
                               all the gods ground
to dust, the heights leveled,
                                         meaningless,
meaning itself meaningless.
                                   emotion of enigma
impossible in the clarity
                             of the banal,
triumphant over thought
                               and passion alike,
indistinguishable
                         in the ruling indifference.

you alone remain to inspire,
                                    haunting the outposts
of memory, flourishing
                          in forests of forgetten
feelings, growing in the ruins
                                      of cloistered
consciousness,
                  glorious in the invisible wind
on the mountains of myth.
                                 outlasting all words,
lingering in the unexplored silence,
                                                marking
the horizon of hope,
                            you measure the immeasurable
with your uprightness,
                              nature timeless
once again in fantasy
                             as it never was in reality.

trees iii

by Donald Kuspit

not as deeply rooted
                            as you,
not as beholden
                   to the sun,
the moon my infinity,
                             the darkness
my method,
              i also need the sky,
ascend to the unplaceable,
                                      urgent
in clouds
             of consciousness,
shifting shape
                  with every blink,
my eye bound
                to the boundless
as your peak
                is bound to the plenitude,
indistinct
              in the inevitable emptiness
that surrounds
                  the enigma,
bounds us both
                  to the earth,
toiling upward
                  until there is only down,
awaiting our decay,
                           the fall
into memory,
                relieved at last
from the heights,
                     for striving
for the inconceivable
                             once called heaven.

trees iv

by Donald Kuspit

rise wordlessly,
                        clouds the only wit
left in the sky,
                        its emptiness
dispelling
              the bitterness
of thought,
               the thunderstorms
of the gods futile,
                       their wisdom
wasted in echoes,
                     finally abandoned
in the silence.
                   your leaves rustle
with the first music,
                         the wind ferments
your freshness,
                   you grander than time
as you cast your shadow
                               on space,
lifting me to the heights
                                 of wonder.

Diego Rivera Posing with Giant Papier-mâché Devil and Girl

by Stephen Gibson

When the papier-mâché devil moves its arms

to fondle the breasts of the papier-mâché girl,

for Diego, it is like the peasant with his bedroll

when the papier-mâché devil moves its arms:

there is no difference, because each performs

what each is, just like figures in Diego’s murals

when the papier-mâché devil moves its arms

to fondle the breasts of the papier-mâché girl.