Plain American Language

I cut a sliver/of WC William's finger
and placed it inside/my philosophy...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peppers, after "Onions" by William Matthews (revised a bit)

How easily happiness begins by
picking peppers. At the grocery store
browsing the apples (Fujis, Pink-
Ladies, Granny Smith's), the cukes
dreaming of pickles. Then peppers.

Hands could spend an eon
tracing these creases
with the simple care of a lover
or a professional cook,
diving, then, into a cave of
inward depths and removable

then the sweetness
of an orange one;
the tender crunch of a red
that stains the mouth
when eaten whole;

then splitting it
open, how it howls
& stops suddenly as if it sunk
back into the soil;
and dipping it in sauces

and watching it wither & brown
in the frying pan --
too long but still good
in a stir fry; and the taste
of oil on your hands

as you lick your fingers clean
and set the table for dinner.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thought at the Parting of These Waters by John Rybicki (not Andrew Ratner...haha, oops)

Morning and evening
like two sides of one hand.

All the prickly stars
with their beard set

upon us. Who sees through
these molecular clothes

to where the skeleton paws
at the air as if

climbing a ladder,
or swimming feebly upward?

The river hounds us
wet and white and swift,

conspires with the colt
kicking in our chest

and even our toes
point towards death.

How precious to hunger for
morning and the tilt

of all things -- lampshades
by windows, cups

of warm milk, fire hydrants
all lilting towards her

when I rise and pour
across the earth to where

her heart stands like some factory
with sun in every window

slanting its legs
to press upon the ash.

The way her loveliness summons
me like some trumpet

made of blood jutting up
amidst the last dandelions

and dying grass to sing to her.

My Day in Stones (Sept 11, 2007 Santiago Chile)

My weight in stones depends
upon how many topple
onto my head.
I pick one up, throw it.

Today encapuchados are throwing stones
at the police, who throw
stones that make you
shut your eyes tight
pray for a lemon to suck on
and stones to throw.
They glint like an empty space.

Someone picks up a stone,
throws it. There's nothing left.
Nothing there,
even to fill, but stones.

Note: encapuchados are kids who put on ski masks or scarves and throw stones and shit at the police when riots break out during protests. Sept 11th is the commemoration of the overthrowing of the socialist gov't in Chile, and there are LOTS of protests.

Rosh Hashannah/Yom Kippur 5768 (lots to work on....but here goes)


I can feel my davening travel
all the way to the bottom of my tie.


A green apple in honey
is a soured scrape
licked clean by a cat named Doti.


My paradox is I must hear
the cantor wail and beat his chest.
The rabbi too; though they
must always be in tune
like two mourning doves.


There is not a quieter sound
than a page turning
slowly; and a finger
tracing the rims of each word
as if to find meaning.


A small stab of pain --
today is a day of memory
so I tried to remember again
during Yizkor service.
Death is a cake of scented soap
unlike memory
which washes into you.


Returning home from dinner,
people chat as if it were a normal day.
But only half the double doors
on this bus will close.
Everyone notices, no one moves.
If I fall, I fall, says the girl standing closest.


Home, and Sunday's tomorrow,
as inevitable as honey and apples.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

I'm Published!!!

check me out:
(does a happy dance)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Deer (revised Nature Poem)

A pause, breath,
cold and now colder.
A tiny droplet of fear.
They lift their heads
ears perk up. If
its not much
go back to eating.
But what if another snap
sets their eyes
glinting? What if
turning your head
was a mistake?
The world grows
with funghi-like precision
in the meantime--
a blink, another,
and spores land
into the palm
of the earth.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Sometimes a thought is more like a bad translation" is Probably the Over-Presiding Theme of This Poem

Sometimes a thought is more
like a bad translation
a line of Marilyn Hacker's,
a quick look at the bottom of a magazine's website,
cruising through her poetry
while friends of mine practice

a duet of Brazilian music
(guitar and clarinet, quickly
drowned out by my own
slowing down, quickly
crashing into sleep. It's

a rare occurrence, such
in-between wakefulness,
such false sleepiness. But
how familiar this drive
toward closing my eyes,
what music would play under
my eyelids, I wonder...).

What's with Brazilian music
and beauty? What's with
clarinets and stringent sounds?
What's with a pretty voice that
calls the cat's attention,

slinking around like a stray thought
that trips and sputters
into that part of the brain
where we ask ourselves,
What was I thinking about just then?

In the Bathroom, Looking into the Mirror (another revision)

Without a thought in my head
my penis grows and shrinks
at inches (not always for vanity's sake
but out of sheer surprise
we love to watch our bodies
& are proud of at least one feature),
and when I wipe my ass
it tucks itself inward, embarrassed,
wanting so badly to rejoin the body,
though it makes sense!

Every day, all it does is expel,
protrude, interrupt. We're allowed
to be shy about ourselves, a bit
ashamed of our purpose. But when
touch is involved, we shrink
into the warmth:

I'm tired of my day,
touch me and let me creep inside
the heat you so lovingly give.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on Teaching English (revision)

I want to eat them
spit them out and yell, implore them

Ask me questions
don't bat your eyelashes shut

we are not caskets
we get buried in our things

but rise out, asking why.

Don't we?

Oh, I want to break out
of my teacher's body,
sit in the back of the room,

a forest of heads,
and dive

inside their black-brown hair
to remove the bark

& pick out the beetles
and grubs that block the way.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Shit Water (ending? also, lacking structure?)

After years of knowing the sounds
& studying the music
I can read a sheet of music
with a piano in my head,
a shiny black baby-grand Baldwin,
tinking without a sound
rather the impression of sound
in the sandy beach of my ear...

then I turn and think of
my dead great uncle and aunt.
I'm at dinner conversing,
though watching myself
from above, half in, half out
of the conversation. Another turn,
and I'm in bed, where death is
a shiny black baby grand
and I am playing it with no music
on the stand and love
or lust or whatever sex may be
comes into the picture & in one
burst I fall asleep.
I turn
& look into the toilet bowl.
Whatever floats mixes with
whatever sinks.