Frequently Dialed Number

Thursday, February 6, 2020

When the spam callers call
the way autumn leaves fall—
numbers on numbers on numbers—

though I know it could be
better healthcare for me
or it could be the walk-in tub plumbers,

I can’t help but glance
at the area code
and think “216. That’d be Cleveland.

Could be the dude
who still owes me for food
I bought when we saw Negativland.”

Or, “Buenos Aires?
Finally! The mulberries
I ordered—a long time ago, in the past.”

I see Princeton—609—
and I think, “Is it time?
I never applied, yet I got in—at last!”

But calls from your code,
my ex-lover of old,
send a shiver up my very spine.

I remind myself “No,
she don’t call me no mo.
And my therapist says that that’s fine.”

• • •


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

There’s a difference between
receiving an award and being
a ward of the state. Similarly,
there’s a difference between
being recognized with a plaque
and being recognized with plaque.

At least you were recognized.
And plaques are plaques, some say.
Yes, and birds are birds, yet if I

flip you one, things change.
There’s that pivot, that fulcrum.
Meaning, meanwhile, like Newton’s Cradle,

just keeps on click-clicking.
Like Fonzie’s hair keeps slicking
with a double thumbs up and an “ayyy.”

Pivot again, and ‘ay is for ‘orses,
and ‘ere we are in East London.
Or Heast London, as it was once known.

• • •

The Autobiography of Love

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Prayer for Owen Meany, My Name is Asher Lev, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are my three favorite books, followed by What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and/or The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Put another way, A Prayer for Margaret, My Name is Owen Meany, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Benjamin Franklin are my three favorite cheeseburgers, followed closely by What We Talk About When We Talk About Asher Lev and/or The Autobiography of Love. It is this final point toward which critical attention has yet to be adequately drawn. And when I say “adequately drawn,” I’m looking at YOU, Mayor McCheese. You with the enormous cheeseburger for a head.

• • •

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.

• • •


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.

• • •