Poetry | March 01, 2002

Featuring the poems:

  • X-Men
  • Quotients
  • Hypnosis
  • Frank Lloyd Wright & The Last Famished Mosasaur
  • Astronomy 101
  • Road Trip



Today in the School for Gifted Youngsters Xavier’s lesson plan calls

for sex education, the hows and whos, wheres and whens dispensed

delicately, his bald brow furrowed serious, his students wide-eyed

chuckling, unabashedly alive and constantly, at risk from you-name-it:

G-men, invasive telepathy, Plutonian radiation, slack-jawed villains,

and now, he can’t believe it, gonorrhea, pregnancy, AIDS, each

contemporary malady less innocent than the one before, a curriculum

chock-full of acronymic woe and code–IUD, HIV, RU-486–too many

physical choices in the modern world, Xavier thinks, too many forces

stitching lifeforce inextricably to doomed youth, their piss and vinegar

mutated into glowy juice, concussion orbs, optic blasts, blizzards

summoned by sheer merge of will, their bodies already breaking out

from under themselves, pushing and yanking their skins like the

colleague they call Fantastic,their young lives catapulted into flight

(literally, he thinks, flight) to some fate he cannot, despite his infamous

prescience, predict, a factored variable he’ll have to follow, patiently,

like a serial; the X of a xenophobic country, lonesome Xmases,

x ratings, the x’s and o’s he’ll send his students when he expels them

to the dangerous world.



Nothing less than an oriole

capering and vanished in the blur

screen of windshield, nothing

less than the shed skin

fuzz of dust atop the toaster.

In Baltimore, a well-meaning

scientist attempts to mass

a human body as it dies,

calculate the weight of the soul

to fifteen significant digits

as it departs wherever

it is we are. An ancient iceberg

bigger than Rhode Island

divorces itself from Antarctica

without even warning anybody,

puddles meekly into the South Seas.

Decimal places spool across

Helsinki, Tokyo, the bedlam of Wall Street,

like lemons on a slot machine,

but nothing is lost. Etherized

clouds of reruns lope lightspeed past

stars no one’s named yet,

a lawyer friend in Chicago laments

the French she’s forgotten and I’m straining myself

for that word that almost means

“desire” but less gluttonous, less

sad. Really nothing

less than the breath of air,

the gone voice that loved

you, nothing less than any

of us marching, shapeless,

into the sky that is sometimes

called empty, sometimes just

called the night sky.



Cut a raw corncob in half with one swift chuffing motion.

For a setting, choose Philomath, Georgia,

and place the sun way down low, a plum

turning in for the night. Note how the colors of twilight

bloom like a bruise. Play Bach, poorly, in the background

with only two fingers on a rickety Wurlitzer.

Breathe easy.

Appreciate the crows barking along the fence line,

fanning across the gloppy brook in rhythm.

Lose the mustache.

Believe in the necessity of penmanship.

Long, desperately, for the unattainable.

Admire the long, loopy strokes of the founding fathers,

their words etched on the mustard parchments of history.

Remember the soft, worn hills of your grandfather’s ears.

In the future, when you want to eat a doughnut,

you will immediately feel a strong urge to vomit.

Search yourself for the reason you never tried out for football.

Consider hurting someone you care about.

Kneel to smell the patient, horologic earth,

breathe in its chamomile odor.

Discount any disparity between the love you give

and the love you’re given.

Expect the gravid air to loosen its humid sag.

Believe that the night will loosen you, too.


Frank Lloyd Wright & The Last Famished Mosasaur

As falls Wichita, so falls Wichita Falls.”  -Pat Metheny


In the moss-green ocean

of late Cretaceous Kansas lives

the last famished mosasaur,

his sinuous tail undulating

toward dwindled pockets of fish,

orange bus-body keeping close

to the shallows of proto-Wichita,

pea-brained but mindful of the sharper

Ginsu shark, whose fist-sized knifeslick teeth

predate the cans they could cut through.

Mosasaur will die shortly, peckish

and chomped on, and fix like a footprint

into the quick-drying sixty-eight-million-year-old

Western Interior Sea.

Somewhat later, in 1915 A.D., Frank Lloyd Wright

designs his final prairie-style in Wichita

for Governor James and Elsie Allen

and seems haughty and undiscouraged

about concluding the period when he writes,

“Those planes parallel to earth

identify themselves with the ground–

make the building belong to the ground.

I put this idea to work, and now

I’m through with it.” Geologic real time

logs its blanketed minutes

beneath tubby Midwestern

flappers, brown tufts of dust bowl,

Big Twelve gridiron, preponderance of

pet rocks, Frogurt™, and aggregating layers

of responsible landfill condoms.

The human surfaces of the the Mid-American

plate dribble on like syrup on buckwheat waffles.

Nametagged field-trippers fog the museum

display case, point to a reproduction

of a dinosaur skeleton, point to each other’s hands,

thinking perhaps for the first time

about who ends up in the ground,

and how they’d like to unbury and look

through all the earth when they’re older.


Astronomy 101

Bedtime, and I’m left chuckling

because the opening sentence

of my son’s astronomy book assures that, really,

The universe is comprehensible.


Ruffling the sheets, I consider the brazen

arrogance of simple explanations; such dumb

prose, so eager to make life easier and easier,

until comprehension is all we’re allowed.


O, for the text that instructs from doubt,

risks itself, teaches out on a candid cosmic limb, as in:

Young love, son, becomes a faint memory,

but your loneliness under the stars might never entirely fade away.


Or, perhaps it will. One thing’s for sure, kid.

As long as there’s night, you’ll ponder devotion.

I toss his text aside, extinguish the lamp,

and pause to examine the roomful of black.


The inky peace of this hour requires no answers,

issues no examinations, and so I fall into the ellipses of sleep,

blanketed by air, space, and those monstrous points of 1ight

which burn and make sense

out of time.


Road Trip

for Martha Lackritz


I’ve never gotten my kicks

barreling down some lonesome

lizard-beaten length of Route 66,

never watched the sagebrush

skip, gallantly, below the big

skyline of Devils Tower,

and yet I sometimes feel like I

can see, even from this sleepy

Midwestern station,

the bitter razor lines of desert

blur on their planar horizon,

see cacti shiver past me, waving

prickly encouragements.


I’ve never squinted at slow-stretching

stalactites, nor gasped at the geyser

ejaculations of Old Faithful, never

set my watch by the beckoning

gravity of high tide at Montauk Pier,

but I’ve learned that any kind of

faith relies on the dependable rhythm–

the circumpolars, the steady march

of monsoon, the compass-swinging

checkpoints of comfort’s syncopation.


I’ll not ride the teacups in Orlando

nor hang my ragged heart out to dry in the Opry,

nor stare down Rushmore’s

Jefferson to a stony, humanist

blink. I’ve no plan to stick my

bumper at Wall Drug or avail myself

of Vegas sinmaking. How the

West was won, I imagine, is

how just about anything has ever been won–

parts of heart, parts of luck, parts of grief

wrestle until hope and pride founder.

The rest is spoils, moral victories,



And can’t we agree that life right here’s nicely suited:

the predawn nonsun deferring to

mystery spots of snow, bagel-store

neon, mammoth cave dumpsters,

the suburban paper routist

loping through the streets like a cowboy.

I look at my clock, mulling through its

assignment, and hear in its steadfast

routine a patient speaking voice:


Watch as the day unfurls itself with

the breezy bite of promise.

Home is a proviso, a word cut

from the plaintive grammar of postcards:


Holding my own out here.

Wishing like hell you were with me.


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