Thursday, July 3, 2014

I will not weep, will not shed tears

I will not weep, will not shed tears
For the rats in the walls who will be homeless
When that place is finally shut down.
For the yellow and black mold, waiting
In the cracks and crevices of the broken cement
And the buried century old pipe-fittings, leaking
Into the landfill we call Manhattan.

So much liquor spilled, so much smoke
So much sweat and amphetamine rush
Music so loud, so loud careening
Down the shotgun room lined w/ logs,
Set on planks, down the long mirrored rail
Across from the Cattle Trailer, that was, of course, a bar.

I will not tear my hair, raise my fists
Clash and bear my teeth – some fool
Surprised by the rising of the tide
Some sand crab scurrying
West of Bellvue, East of insane
I will not fret and wonder

So many promises made, threats
Declarations of love
So turns the world, and Last Call
Will come. We were listening to those songs,
Weren’t we? Those lyrics? Those words?

We saw the writing on the wall, back then
Knew it, each of us
lived like we meant it, messy and flawed
I will not weep for that.

I will not call out names, listing
Homeric and starboard
I will not grieve those bands
Gypsy, anarchist, honky-tonking, rock guitar playing, swing, monster, musicians
Road weary and epiphianic, lilting
This way and that.

Rome was built on the bones of Trojan refugees
Manhattan on the bones and broken hearts
Of Last Call. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stolen Knife

It was a big deal. Carbon Steel.
It would rust if not treated right
Red and Orange flakes similar in color
To both my brothers' Beatles hair.
The blade would poch and scar
If not totally dried, left damp.
It was a big deal. Not that stainless shit.
That’s for suckers. Can’t hold an edge for a damn.

Steel, real Carbon, can get filed down
Ground to such a fine point
That the tomato cleaves and divides
The garlic wisps, transparent film

The knife sits even in the palm
Weighted more appropriately for her
Small, cramped fists. Her Virginian gardening hands.
The weight of the blade is light
Short and thin, 25 years old
If a day. More than likely a gift
We gave her, when Holidays were tolerated
Yorkshire puddings baked, crested, and fallen
Handel’s Messiah, and only his,
Coming through the Old Man’s Hi-Fi

It would have been the oldest of us
Who found it, picked it out, knew
The quality of the blade, could pronounce
All the stacked vowels and repetitive consonants
From the French Factory where it was made.
He and the elder would discuss metallurgy
Bushido and Samurai, cribbing things learned
Watching Kirosawa, aping Mifune
“You can trust steel”, one would say.
“You can trust steel”, the other would confirm.

I was told how to hold it
How to walk from here to there
How to drag it across the fat of my thumb
To check the bite of the blade, its intergrity.

I was warned about the rust
Lectured about the whet stone
Shown where the bandages and iodine
Could be found once I cut myself proper.

I was small when this knife came into the house
So long ago, before the remodel, before
So much came to pass, before this knife
Came into my possession.  I was small.

When I took it, not so long ago,
When she was still in that kitchen
When the light was still good, when
She was still in that kitchen
I took the knife, wrapped up in short kitchen towels
Shrouded in yellow flower prints.
I tucked it into my bag, next to my journal
And took it back to my kitchen, some miles away
Beyond any measure of time.

I don’t think anyone noticed it gone.
It was the books from the library that we took
That were noticed missing – gaping holes in the face
Of the wall opposite the picture window in the alcove.
I had stopped stealing books years before.

But I took the knife because it reminds me of her
Small cramped hands, her quick and messy chopping
Her listless quality as she would stare out the window
Through the purple blossoms on the clinging vine
Out into the even slope of suburbia
So far, so distant, from the holler and dale of the river valley
Back there in Virginia, from whence my Mother came.

Monday, February 17, 2014

There is no hole in a bagel

There is no hole in the bagel.
There is only the bagel, and not bagel.
The space around does not define
Only delineates and separates matter

The bagel biga bubbles, giddy
1 part water warm enough
To recall how we all came from the ocean
How rainstorms in the summer time
Steam Brooklyn pavement
One Half That Again in the Form of Maple Syrup
Slow in its roll, so polite and Canadian
Six Ounces of Helen Mirren
The sourdough starter, some 18 months old
Born in a cold Fall, leading into a hard Winter.
Helen Mirren grew long legs in that 18 months
She embraced the sorrow of the Spring
And turned those bitter tears into sweet love
Of fermentation, that poetry of deconstruction
On an atomic level. This is the power
Of Helen Mirren

It must sit, must acclimate. It cannot be rushed
Cannot be forced. The sugar in the Maple
Will drive Helen wild, Twenty minutes
Is not to long to wait, time is
A fucking shell game, anyway.

There was the stopwatch I lost
inside of my body cast, the year I turned three
When my leg was broken above the knee
in the family drive way, outside the kitchen door
They had given me the stopwatch
So shiny, with a perfect glass eye
Cool metal piston buttons clicka clak
They had given me the stopwatch
To help me understand when
I would not be in this cast, this shell
immobilized with no concept  of when
This would not be the case
Forever is the natural state of the two year old
They assured me that I would be 
Out of the cast, free
It was only a matter of time.
They gave me the stopwatch
So I could master time in witness
Watch the dials spin, the arms flail
Clockwise, indeed.
But I lost the stopwatch
to the cast, it slipped down
And sat like a gem on Smaug's belly
for the next month. Twenty minutes
Is not a long time to wait. 

Hand mixing. 
The machine does a great job,
It's magnificent in its ingenuity
Sexy in its strong horse-power
vibrating bits and stamina
The machine does a great job.
Hand mixing in an indulgence, really.
Geared towards album sides 
stacked on the turn-table's spire

8 oz of flour and a wooden spoon.
(This is my orb, this my scepter)
And the bowl of bubbling starter
The flour disappears quickly into the bog
Celestial and Infinite, I drag the spoon
Clockwise round the curve of the bowl
The smell rising fast, wet and lusty
Of wheat fields and good dirt
Of Rain and Seasons
And the light of the moon

8 oz of flour and a wooden spoon
Half strokes, slow and dragging the sides
While I spin the bowl the other 180°
With my left and forgotten hand.
The biga starts to turn into a kind of porridge
A thing lumpy and not quite right

It must have looked this
When God was thrashing about
Some years past, with Creation
At least, when baking, sometimes
It is necessary to have faith

A plank, a sideboard, a sturdy piece
A well lit place to handle this dough
Surface dusted w/ flour, a handful fallen
Remove the dough from the bowl
With your hands, man! With your hands.
And put it there on that table, that plank
Firm in your intent to get to know it better.

An album side is what it will take.
Not more. Not less.
To massage 8 oz of flour
Into the body of the dough
Squeezing with flexed fingers
Stretching the palm away from the heel
Working the thumb, rolling knuckles
An ounce at a time.
Folding. Pressing.Stretching. Folding.
Tap out a tap dance w/ your fingertips
Tease the dough.
No one likes it all rough and tumble.
Bagels, more than any baked good,
Has a great sense of humor.

It is no mistake that it looks
like a globe
                  A planet, a world

When you cut it into 8 parts
(4.5oz each) rolled into 8 perfect balls
Roll each ball into and in between
Your hands, across the crevices
The dips and valleys of your palm
Rolling the dough into itself
Each move as soft and unending
As butterfly kisses

There is no hole in the bagel.
There is only the bagel, and not bagel.
The space around does not define
Only delineates and separates matter

Poke your thumb through the center
A Dutch Boy & a Dike
The dough does not break
But moves around your thumb
Join your forefinger w/ you thumb
Nothing is as sweet as the ring imagined
The spyglass of all children
The ring made with thumb and forefinger
Each bagel is born in this way,
With not a hole, but a completion.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sestina for an Italian Assorted Sub

I will tell you true, fellow pilgrim, this road’s been hard before me.
These cobblestones turn my ankle, stub my toe.
And it’s miles to go before Rome, before shade
Under the cedar trees on the Seven Hills
I am tired, fellow traveller, of this dusk, this sky
I am weary, bone tired and worn
This is the sandwich that will change all that.

This Italian Bread, constellations of sesame seeds that
Stud the crisp brown crust before me
That moves me head to toe
That gleams like the mid day sun without shade
The arc of the roll, supple as the hills
Palatine, the Tiber River reflected in the sky
In the heavens worn.

Cheese is an indulgence worn
With impunity, with irreverence and that
Kind of lust that both you and me
Cannot resist, a line we can not toe
Cheese from the North of Italy, in the Alps’ shade
Where the milkmaids roam the hills
And the moon is made of cheese, there in the sky.

The storms will break; can split in half this sky
The rivers may run to the ocean, leaving shores worn
Cut into smooth banks, sea grass listing this way and that
Salami is the cure, so good for what ails me
Capicola and Ham, toe to toe
And Sweet Genoa, a card, wears a lamp shade
There in the North, away from Tuscan Hills

Fellow traveller, fellow pilgrim, these are Mountains not hills
Passable still, as long as the earth remains below the sky
A compass is faith worn
True North. A straight line on a curved globe that
Bugs the shit out of me.
Perspective is the thumb, the toe
It is not, after all, light that defines shade.

When I worked on that farm, there was shade
Away from the fields, across the lake, around the hills
Where we thought the giants might have lifted the sky
Held it in place, like a mantle worn
We rode bikes around that lake, to that
Sandwich shop: there was you, and there was me
And the cat who had one extra toe

That cat was crazy. We thought the toe
Was some kind of gypsy witchcraft, some shade
Or spirit. This is what she told us, there in the hills
Beneath the Strawberry Moon of the Solstice sky
The gypsy woman, with her cook’s apron worn
Tied low on her wide hips that swayed, that
Brought this sandwich to me.