growing up

you know who?

who you were, where you come from, how many fingers I'm holding up?

You know why, why
you ain't there, not here, you ain't them, nut us, why
you eat rice, not duck, not food from somalia, or figs, or ants
why you eat full plates of beef?

you know when, don't you, your birth,
the birth day, more or less,
and believe it too

you know how it came about
oh there's the chuckle, the blush
the family resemblance, fantastic as that seems

but is there a part you're leaving out, there, guilty
a dangling bit of gossip from the family tree
a knucklebone in the family dresser
page ripped from the family bible?

we eat shame for wheaties, with sugar
sunday mornings, and once a month
grape juice and wafers
because god hates wine

so you get these poets
who write their stuff in ten minutes
in between classes
on their way to work
they hear their classmates nasal drone
or the teacher, ponderous from the back
talking smack on alliteration, overelaboration

"It's gotta be about things, concrete abstractions"
he'd say, ore there'd be a mining pun,
split the nugget, find a vein, tap into it
that sort of rugged crossroad
in the center even as they're writing
martyred poet, blood for ink, salve for salvation
the body as mimicry"

and they sit start
to finish, throw the whole thing down
right there, names and everything
documenting, critiquing, not drinking


I grow from her these plastic fingers
desensitized yet nimble:
there are colder parish
places than kansas
nashua, new
on the road
again, blue
buddhas, big
sky, winding
sidewinder roads,
blown faces, hair wild
enough to baffle between
what I need and must not have
fingertips brushing, brushed away
chaos diadem dropped perish the thought
though the idea has eclipsed my mind a few times


there are so many horrors, more than letters
can tease from meaning, more than images
left sepia-toned, ephemeral, analogue
can indicate, can signify

ugh, words even, thrown down wet with ink, splattered
they mean nothing against the raw wetness glistening
beyond the tv screen

string them along these mysteries are fresh,
are prime time, prime rib, thick, beefy, juicy
like steak come out all tender and sizzling

just in time for kick-off, for the spangled banner,
for the pistol, horses, dogs, cars racing round the track
and you wonder, oh how you wonder, did any of that happen, over there,
in bosnia or kosovo or serbia or the balkans or finland or korea or the gaza strip
was it all just some pantomime, some miserable field exercise in existentialism as applied to demagoguery?

we still smell like piss between the sheets when the jets come rumbling overhead,
we still feel the tingling at the nape of our necks when the sirens squelch out twenty yards down the block
a contentious, desultory observance

obsequies, condolences, limbs missing between us
they still hurt, the fingers


how many paydays until death in this

the age of plastic?

spastic, frightened, cold huddled beside the tracks
the trees whip in the prairie winds

we are real
out here, cuddled
by the firelight, the fireflies

we are real,
struggling, making do
with plastic forks, plastic totes

plastic tarps beneath dying trees