Find the Dangling Modifier

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

       -fir Dana Gioia

As I hang ornaments on our Fraser fir this year,
I am reminded of the year we had a Douglas fir
and, also, of one year we had a Balsam fir,
and, although their limbs were droopier,
I can’t complain about those firs or the years
they stood for. What I can complain about, sir,
is the scratchéd ornaments you’ve charged me for
and the ice-block solid quality of the weather
this particular winter. Humbug! But also, brrr.
This hard freeze really sticks in my fur
or rather in the black-wire hair of the cur
shivering outside upon the cellar door.
He’s scratching nonstop and shabbier
than any other “winterhund” — my mother
raised him, so little joy had she to share,
but she should have left him at the pound.
Or dropped him off at doggy lost and found.
Yet here we are, hanging chippéd ornaments
on a tree that — though markedly stiffer
than trees past — reminds me of mother
and her love of dying things. Why do the dead
insist on bringing gifts we can’t reciprocate?
I’m not sure what that means, but let’s concur:
it’s poetry for a holiday, and leave it therr.

• • •
 


Afternoon Fade

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Not a huge fan of my work.
Like how it’s always irked me
that Jerry Harrison didn’t popularize
himself under the mononym
Jerrison: Or how your
forearm’s velvety skin
could be a silk purse or
a horse’s ass for all I know.
Analogies aren’t exactly my
hotsprings, if you can sniff
not only what I’m steppin’ in
but the chemical spray I’ve been
applying to try to get it off.
Or how literally a million
literallys litter the allies of U.S.
rhetoric, near-wrecking it.
Oh, and I’ve been as unsure
when to hyphenate as you are
ready to pop the question’s
answer both for your own sake
and for the good of others.

• • •
 


Rounds

Monday, October 14, 2019

I’d like to write a round for you.

I’d like to have you around, too,

and try to right a wrong—

running around on you—but

I know you’re 85% completely gone

by now. By noun. The noun being

‘frown,’ and, to me, the door

you’ve shown. Rightly, I’d say.

Oh, the rites of the first of May,

and their bodies strewed in the hay.

• • •


Notes on the Chorus

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The purpose of the chorus, we are told,
is to echo, advance, question, and sometimes subvert
the singer’s argument—or the singer himself.

In Joel, for example, the narrator’s earnest query—
“Should I get a set of whitewall tires?”—
is met with an apparently rhetorical question:
“Are you gonna cruise the Miracle Mile?”

It should be noted that, in this instance,
“Miracle Mile” refers to a premium shopping district
in Manhasset, on the North Shore of Long Island.

Of further interest to scholars of Greek theater,
the voices seem to be the singer’s own, merely
multiplied. It is as though he were chastising himself
within the complexity of his own consciousness.

• • •
 


Preppy Haircut

Friday, September 20, 2019

Anyway, my band Preppy Haircut.
Venue asked what time we could loden.
I said anytime but I prefer hunter.
Assuming we’re all wearing khakis.
They said no this is for the mock
turtlenecks. I said ah that’s actually
our genre—shoegaze. Mumble core.
Rap stripe ties. They said well
how about the marina. I said sure,
We’ll be playing a few new pieces.
She suggested heather for fleeces.

• • •
 


Distant Relatives

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

I have distant relatives
in my immediate family.
They just seem to be thinking
about other things.

• • •
 


Catch a Shooting Star

Sunday, September 15, 2019

I’ve tethered my star to a wagon hitch
of dreams I can’t even begin to remember:
In one, one of my oldest and dearest friends
waits patiently at a diner two-top.
His date never arrives. His date is me.
In another, a party to which I am not
invited begins to disperse, and there I am,
sitting in the middle of a well-lit
and now nearly empty room. Me again.
In last night’s, whatever we’re paying for
we don’t have enough money for,
and I’m asked to go sit in the car.

I guess i’ve put too much stock in things
that circle back around to devour themselves.
Crushes, consumer products, promises,
even institutions such as the Constitution.

I—we—had such high hopes! Once,
sitting behind my favorite bar and grill,
I proposed to my friend Devin that what we
really all want is to be back together again.
All in one place. All sitting at the same table.
He said he doesn’t want that. He
wants to be off on his own, ultimately.
Maybe that’s changed now that he has kids.

• • •
 


Denial

Thursday, September 12, 2019

He said that he would join the dead
that we humans no more may die.
I believed him! But then he said
that I myself would three times lie

when asked point blank if I knew him.
“No, no, no!” insisted I;
“If the whole Dead Sea I must swim,
you, my Lord, I’ll never deny.”

He looked at me, sort of grinned:
“I know you’re perfect, Peter; ‘Rock.’
I know you’ve never even sinned!
But think twice when you hear the cock.”

He knew me, how I’d prove myself a liar.
They took him (apparently the plan?),
and then night fell. Folks made a fire.
This girl came up and was like “Man,

I saw you with him. Am I right?”
Unthinkingly I just said “Nah.” I mean,
the air was cold, the fire was bright.
I needed to be chill, not “seen”

by some servant girl without a name.
A hubbub broke out—just a small one.
By the light of growing flames
I was accosted by a centurion.

“You’re his disciple?” asked this guy
wearing a helmet with a transverse crest.
He looked me dead in the eye
and cocked his head a bit to the west,

seemed a wee bit cock-a-doodle-doo,
like he’d been hitting the vino
for some time already. “I am a Jew,”
said I, “But a disciple? Me? No.”

He wagged his red crest back and forth
like he didn’t believe me at all.
Unsettled, I left the common hearth,
into the dark, tiptoed along the temple wall.

And though there was no light or noise
and though I never felt my heart harden,
ex nihilo a very sober, earnest voice
said to me, “You were with him in the garden.”

And then I snapped and shouted “No!”
I was heading down a darker road.
“I’ve said it already: I’ve never met the fellow!”
And just like that, a rooster crowed.

• • •
 


Nobody’s Watching

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jog like you’ve never been kneecapped.
Jump like you don’t live in shame.
Traipse like you’re not made of feathers,
and nap like you’re already dead.
Win like you’re not tired of losing,
and lose like you still want to play.
Sing like your dad isn’t drinking.
Shop like you’ve never been dumped.
Dance like your exes are watching.
Shriek like you’re not getting stabbed.
Barf like a toilet’s nearby, lease
billboards like yesterday’s here,
and let the peppers sauté like nobody’s
coming for dinner, like nobody’s
ever passed by this way—nor will they.
Tweet like you aren’t abandoned.
And live like you’ve never been loved.

• • •
 


Vaguely French

Thursday, August 1, 2019

What galls
me about Gallic
art is the balls
  it took to make
it all so phallic.
  I mean, apart
from O’Keefe’s flowers
everything is—
basically towers.

• • •