For the Chinese New Year & for Bill Berkson

One or another
Is lot, since we fall apart
Endlessly, in one motion depart
From each other
— DH Lawrence

Behind New York there’s a face
and it’s not Sibelius’s with a cigar
it was red it was strange and hateful
and then I became a child again
like a nadir or a zenith or a nudnik

what do you think this is my youth
and the aged future that is sweeping me away
carless and gasless under the Sutton
and Beekman Places
towards a hellish rage
it is there that face I fear under ramps                                                                    10

it is perhaps the period that ends
the problem as a proposition of days of days
just an attack on the feelings that stay
poised in the hurricane’s center that
eye through which only camels can pass

but I do not mean that tenderness doesn’t
linger like a Paris afternoon or a wart
something dumb and despicable that I love
because it is silent oh what difference
does it make me into some kind of space statistic                                                            20

a lot is buried under that smile
a lot of sophistication gone down the drain
to become the mesh of a mythical fish
at which we never stare back never stare back
where there is so much downright forgery

under that I find it restful like a bush
some people are outraged by cleanliness
I hate the lack of smells myself and yet I stay
it is better than being actually present
and the stare can swim away into the past                                                                     30

can adorn it with easy convictions rat
cow tiger rabbit dragon snake horse sheep
monkey rooster dog and pig
“Flower Drum Song”
so that nothing is vain not the gelded sand
not the old spangled lotus not my fly

which I have thought about but never really
looked at well that’s a certain orderliness
of personality “if you’re brought up Protestant
enough a Catholic” oh shit on the beaches so
what if I did look up your trunks and see it

then the parallel becomes an eagle parade
of Busby Berkeleyites marching marching half-toe
I suppose it’s the happiest moment in infinity
because we’re dissipated and tired and fond no
I don’t think psychoanalysis shrinks the spleen

here we are and what the hell are we going to do
with it we are going to blow it up like daddy did
only us I really think we should go up for a change
I’m tired of always going down what price glory
it’s one of those timeless priceless words like come                                                   50

well now how does your conscience feel about that
would you rather explore tomorrow with a sponge
there’s no need to look for a target you’re it
like in childhood when the going was aimed at a
sandwich it all depends on which three of us are there

but here come the prophets with their loosening nails
it is only as blue as the lighting under the piles
I have something portentous to say to you but which
of the papier-mache languages do you understand you
don’t dare to take it off paper much less put it on                                                              60

yes it is strange that everyone fucks and every
one mentions it and it’s boring too that faded floor
how many teeth have chewed a little piece of the lover’s
flesh how many teeth are there in the world it’s like
Harpo Marx smiling at a million pianos call that Africa

call it New Guinea call it Poughkeepsie I guess
it’s love I guess the season of renunciation is at “hand”
the final fatal hour of turpitude and logic demise
is when you miss getting rid of something delouse
is when you don’t louse something up
which way is the inn                                               70

I’m looking for a million-dollar heart in a carton
of frozen strawberries like the Swedes where is sunny England
and those fields where they stillbirth the wars why
did they suddenly stop playing why is Venice a Summer
Festival and not New York were you born in America

the inscrutable passage of a lawn mower punctuates
the newly installed Muzak in the Shubert Theatre am I nuts
or is this the happiest moment of my life who’s arguing it’s
I mean ’tis lawd sakes it took daddy a long time to have
that accident so Ant Grace could get completely into black                                               80

didn’t you know we was all going to be Zen Buddhists after
what we did you sure don’t know much about war-guilt
or nothin and the peach trees continued to rejoice around
the prick which was for once authorized by our Congress
though inactive what if it had turned out to be a volcano

that’s a mulatto of another nationality of marble
it’s time for dessert I don’t care what street this is
you’re not telling me to take a tour are you
I don’t want to look at any fingernails or toes
I just want to go on being subtle and dead like life                                                             90

I’m not naturally so detached but I think
they might send me up any minute so I try to be free
you know we’ve all sinned a lot against science
so we really ought to be available as an apple on a bough
pleasant thought fresh air free love cross-pollenization

oh oh god how I’d love to dream let alone sleep it’s night
the soft air wraps me like a swarm it’s raining and I have
a cold I am a real human being with real ascendancies
and a certain amount of rapture what do you do with a kid
like me if you don’t eat me I’ll have to eat myself                                                              100

it’s a strange curse my “generation” has we’re all
like the flowers in the Agassiz Museum perpetually ardent
don’t touch me because when I tremble it makes a noise
like a Chinese wind-bell it’s that I’m seismographic is all
and when a Jesuit has stared you down for ever after you clink

I wonder if I’ve ever really scrutinized this experience like
you’re supposed to have if you can’t type there’s not much
soup left on my sleeve energy creative guts ponderableness
lent is coming in imponderableness “I’d like to die smiling” ugh
and every small tiptoe is crossing the threshold away                                                    110

whither Lumumba whither oh whither Gauguin
I have often tried to say goodbye to strange fantoms I
read about in the newspapers and have always succeeded
though the ones at “home” are dependent on Dependable
Laboratory and Sales Company on Pulaski Street strange

I think it’s goodbye to a lot of things like Christmas
and the Mediterranean and halos and meteorites and villages
full of damned children well it’s goodbye then as in Strauss
or some other desperately theatrical venture it’s goodbye
to lunch to love to evil things and to the ultimate good as “well”                                      120

the strange career of a personality begins at five and ends
forty minutes later in a fog the rest is just a lot of stranded
ships honking their horns full of joy-seeking cadets in bloomers
and beards it’s okay with me but must they cheer while they honk
it seems that breath could easily fill a balloon and drift away

scaring the locusts in the straggling grey of living dumb
exertions then the useful noise would come of doom of data
turned to elegant decoration like a strangling prince once ordered
no there is no precedent of history no history nobody came before
nobody will ever come before and nobody ever was that man                                         130

you will not die not knowing this is true this year


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