Digging for crabs at the beach

“Watch,” he said, and he was digging,
with a plastic cup,
timing the scoops just right,
so in the moment before a wave,
when the sand was still wet from the last one,
he was digging.

It was the standard scene: the tide,
the gulls and salt.
How long did Man stand at this frontier,
having reached the absolute limit,
until the first ships tore through the screen,
and the beach became a beginning?
But I was just a boy, playing here for a day.

“Look!” he said, and in the cup,
I saw a scoop of sand, and some water
he’d collected. And — there —
a small crustacean, scrambling for an exit.
“They live inside the sand.”

He repeated this routine and I watched,
two boys, crouched at the edge of the sea.
But for one plastic cup, we could have been
a million boys, digging on beaches
before history, lost in the understanding
that everything — everything is alive.

first kiss

yes i remember the place
and the taste of your throat
down the tracks through a hole in the fence
in the warehouse though an empty window frame

a mass-grave of books
sloughing towards the rafters
half rotted in the leaking rain
with the occasional treasure:
black-letter geometry — 1696,
latin novella — 1705.
forgotten books, their flaking secrets
now my charge and purpose

aluminum cigar tubes, polished black stones inside: inexplicable
a rodent flattened by some vanished weight, matted to paper and bones
bucket of pellets in a room with chains and hooks: cyanide
and everywhere the sunlight streaming from high windows
cars passing outside
pigeons in the rafters
the fear of getting caught

this place was planted
beyond the borders of control —
a forgotten corner of an institution
where we crawled in our time
now long torn down

in a storage room with half a chair
we dropped our bags and learned
the gentle lessons
of lips and breath
and saying nothing
amid the book-rot
and debris

now i punch my fist through the window
now i rescue this tragedy
i will pull a railroad spike from its hole
when there is nothing left to say
when words have crumbled into dust
and pin this memory to the world
in a spray of rust and rot and sun

TANTAMOUNT

This photo has an overlay
In the dimension of flow
In which strangers
Give birth to one another, and die

It is a wave of flesh
Chunking tubes of waste
Squeezing themselves through holes
Too small to follow

Crashes over me
Washes through me
Pauses awkwardly in moments
Saying,

Goodbye.

I see you go by
Smiling with an oar in your hand
As doomed and unforgiving
As a lobster

Glaring from its tank.

Benefits Waived

it begins angry
a ghost
gold around the edges
rotten at the core
gold of yesterday’s sunsets
benefits waived

i remember the wind’s sound in trees
free on my bike, as a child
uncorrupted
unscarred
not yet afraid

  • but war is coming

the trenches blacken with gore
angry holes slicken
with mud
tramped underfoot
by the legion’s boot

  • war is coming

sprung from my own breast
and fear
ugly, tooth and nail

  • i will be replaced
  • my body will be covered with lime
  • brought by the day’s reinforcements

semiconductors

In the factory
wafers gleam in their cages,
green like the carapace of beetles.

Clean-suited shepherds of silicon herds
bend to their work

I am suited, and it is clean
in there, fresh air
controlled in a laminar flow.

Cat Paws on Linoleum

quite possibly
one could pass through life
unscathed by the blade of confusion
having locked up the glare
of infancy’s shimmer:

birthday cakes, paint-by-number
catching crayfish or
burying the pink robin;
plane flights to visit family,
clouds out the window,
the creviced mystery of furniture,
mammarian cushions and
black vinyl vulvas;
scavenging on bikes
after july-4th fireworks,
looking for live ones;
the ant-ocidal obsession
with the sun’s cleansing stare
when focused through
the 2-volume-oxford-english-dictionary’s
magnifying glass —

i should say, confusion is when
the brackets of sense fall away,
like the rising rocket’s access scaffold
leaving the mind to expand unchannelled
without reference or depth
as car wheels spin on ice,
and running cat-paws
scrabble foolish
on the linoleum floor

confusion has a buzzing
sound it makes,
or that clings to its sliding belly.
all ten thousand ghosts
of the strap-bulging blare,
when those straps burst,
return to pure vibration:
they show form
only when restrained.
this hum,
sigil of confusion,
apes the shadow of the waking mind,
sub-resonant shadow-stratum
of creation.

i burst through into its cloister
wet with alien mists
and establish myself,
a tolerated guest
of confusion’s fancy.

Brooklyn fragment

Garlic bread on a board
Old wood counters, etched with cuts
Cups and wicker
Pots hung on the makeshift wall
Tea brews

You can lean through plants here
And see Brooklyn
Through a high kitchen window
Try not to topple the handmade vase

A house of music
And movies — old black-and-whites
And wine
In her room, a futon on the floor,

It took me how long to figure
I wasn’t there to fix
Her computer?
Some men drink liquor
Or golf the time away
But for me life has a certain sorrow
Scenting my fingers still next day

I was young I was old
But I was mostly in between
The music was fine
And the books were fine
The stars were wrong
— but the movies were fine

When I left there, we were smiling
Unashamed and unfulfilled
With not much left to say
On her desk sat a working computer
Still, on her desk sat a working computer
And in my pocket some notes
On the music she’d
Played
Through the night

the room where i grew up

had bold child-color curtains
thin carpeting
olive-yellow like the 70’s
my plastic dinosaur models
sat on a shelf
my father built
whitewashed boxes
stacked
two on three on four
a fish tank sometimes bubbled,
a little world with
colored rockses
slippery angels
watched by cats

i would spend myself
at this desk
with a chalk-board top
you could lift.
underneath was a peg board, and
colored pegs in a tray
in a photo i am seen
asleep across the desk
cheek in scribbles
chalk in hand
and at night
i drifted off
to the summer breeze
to the doppler moan of trucks
on a far-off highway,
the wail of a future
too sad and fragile
for my dinosaurs to stop

Manhattan Lunch Hour

It is summer and the city is in heat. Snapshots of passing faces, staring up from the tedium of matter. Everyone has a texture; many have a story. Girl with tattoo on shoulder walking two dogs — one light brown, short hair, the other black and fluffy. Unshaven man, about 40, turns to look at her ass. His denim jacket is a shell on his wasted body. A punk teen sits against a building, massaging her boyfriend’s shoulders. His hair is dyed, his long legs jut into the path of pedestrians, ending in orange platform shoes. They are sheepishly enjoying being a spectacle. Spare change, sir? Black dredlocked rasta with shopping bags, palms forward, showing veined forearms. Faraway look. Bodies blur into a sea of thought. There are many lonely trajectories, and ample clusters of blind affiliation. Ambulatory pods of muscle and bone. I am one.

DNA, string of replication, the experience squeezes itself from one node to the next, compounding, complexifying, perpetuating itself. Like sap flowing, like crystals growing. I think of it and moan.

Fire Island, July 1997

I left myself on the beach,
with towels and shoes, a book, lemonade
it is all behind me, back on the beach
here I am only light,
or sand, lightly salted,
and water
I am waving, and each wave
only kind of repeats

this strange salt pungence in my nostrils
too long dulled by cab coughs
and uncurbed dogs
reminds me of my breathing
and it is waving
with a cresting anticipation
of intake
and a booming exhalation

some waves find relief
on the land
and it strikes me
that the place of waves
is a place of shifting
promises between
the kingdoms of land and sea
and like me
traces the shiver
of extremes for awhile

but, lemonade,
the scent of coconut on a magazine