How does I compete with a history
of violence when it isn’t the time for
spectator garnish glossing the good
son’s desperate call from the tarmac?
It’s the time of exile. Even the dogs
have abandoned the table. There are
new navigators, gleaming new hinges
on the bomb bay doors, a sewn flashlight
squeezing dubbed hangover balloons.
Call it the militarization of everyday life
where not all voices are public.
The howling started in the backyard,
then gradually moved inside. That’s
when I threw a TV at it, like collapsing
an air pocket in an avalanche. Cool
hunters inspected the damage and
attached tracking devices that functioned
beneath polar ice caps. Just so you know,
let it go means a part of me goes with it
at the America’s Cup of flashing steak
The light switch is outside the bathroom.
I don’t give a damn how people are
expected to have sex. To me, the most
frightening law of all is maximize profit.
And while it may appear that we’re
alone, you’re forgetting about the hungry
ghosts and benign ham eaters quietly
chewing in the kitchen. Boysenberries
rot in pools of rainwater. No one hedges
their bets when the only outcome is loss.
Cartoon characters don’t age, they get canceled.
A lifeguard missed the shark attack while reading
the articles of impeachment. After years of enduring
such a messed-up situation, the question of blame
became relative, and longevity gets more difficult
to spell. Is the context going to be love, the impossible
imagination of mourning quickly?
Some of my best friends are machines tracing dust
back to the body, the night to the sun searing
a massive oil spill scooped from backyard swimming
pools with spatulas and patched with hair dryers
applying decals advertising the local speakeasy
serving a rubbed-off shine backed by a bucketful
Gargoyles decorate a gothic dollhouse balustrade
after being banished from the playground, so if
the penguins want to have a good time in their
sequel, I’m not going to hold it against either them
or my petty-drug-dealing neighbor tending his rooftop
garden and pit bulls while we embrace the constraints
soaking a cardboard shelter.
When will I see you again? Rats invading igloos
means it’s time to go solar or dye chlorophyll orange.
I don’t know exactly where the money will come from.
All the drinking water was diverted to the golfcourse
greens, yet the dream remains alive of someday
stocking our own terrarium with nerve damage,
late bloomers, and a senate’s quicksand bandwagon.
Which is to say, I’m kinda hopeful hearing the wind
in those dwarf spruce trees that don’t seem quite as tall
now that we’re older. Hail to the Thermo King, because
maybe we just need to learn to chill out a little
instead of always outguessing the morning’s muffin
selection, of losing the thread in the everyday cubicle’s
managed swamp gas.
Meanwhile, children run right into the nets tossed
at delivery trucks and strays. Narrative tucks information
in. So how would you explain the opaque quartz
animal leaning into me? Or the silk gloves for each
fist on the oars jabbing elevator buttons? Or a hand
pressed to a red electric burner? Each of the calendar’s
months picture a different prison neck tattoo.
What’s the romance in getting lost at sea? Most boats
rarely pass beyond the city’s skyline. Images are translated
into numbers, even the drunk elephant jiggling on screen.
The next day the rulers were slaves building corn syrup
clocks ticking off addiction’s economy of desire and
resurfacing symptoms dragging their scaly tails across
A ceiling fan wobbles in its mount above a light breeze
rolling low off the water. A screened-in-porch protects
paper plates and fishing bait, as the heat stretches
out mouths and made the plastique unstable. Give
and move on is what our mothers told us when they
were sick. Then learn to sit quietly in a room filled
with voices, with every viral promissory note.
Alan Gilbert is the author of Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight (Wesleyan University Press, 2006). His writings on poetry, art, literature, culture, and politics have appeared in a variety of publications, including Artforum, Boston Review, Modern Painters, and online at Jacket. He is a regular poetry reviewer for the Village Voice and The Believer. His poems have appeared in The Baffler, The Canary, Chicago Review, and online at the Poetry Project website. In 2006, he received a Creative Capital Foundation Award for Innovative Literature (poetry). He lives in Brooklyn.