VHS

for V

How tempting to begin
with the scientist telling me how the eye doesn’t see
at all, just transmits light and shape
to the greedy brain– poor, sad eye, just a blind blinking
light on the camera– is it on? we wonder
aloud at what amazes, disgusts:

3 men in masks
spot a woman
with a perfect, round ass
wrestle her shirt and bra
from her tits,
film her goodies,
cut her to bits–

If I commit the scientist
to paper, some critic
will hate it, offer it
as proof of my failure
to transmit the unseeable

at least 2000 ways to get inside of this
and I chose the scientist
with his hazel-flecked eyes
beneath the horn-rimmed glasses–

not of the spectacle of the woman
on her back, mouth flung carelessly
open, unable to see the mouth
parting her, fingers trapped
inside of her, some other vision
in the dark: the brain a blank
slate, the body just wants, wants, wants

all the time, wants–

like me, you’re afraid
to close your eyes at night
in bed. Who might get in?

Open eyes: twin cameras flashing.

Here is the unsayable always rising
up in a dream, the dark men
who could take my son, take me from
my son– you want a fence
around your daughter, around your heart
that beats inside her small
brown body: no one can say
what will happen when you hand over half
of yourself; sometimes, I thought

If I am quiet enough
I can hear the cells split;

how often I locked myself
in the bathroom, the black shapes
just shapes, divorced 
from my eye, from my tongue
two bodies just bodies of one dark fear
the man outside crashing, looking
to clutch at me, to reach for the body
inside me, his body was my body
then, just as suddenly, he was his–

You want a fence
you want a camera

but what you don’t know: the fence leads only
to another, you’ll want a camera inside the camera
to show you the inner workings, the thoughts
of whoever lurks just out beyond the angry links,

the chains that glisten in the moonlight, the doberman
with its pointed ears, their own kind of lens–

this is the perpetual night of your brain–

someone is picking the lock
someone is slipping inside
and he lives only in your unseen, invisible
blinking light of your naked eye, forced open

while your daughter sleeps

a half-smile on her lips.

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Please Read This Essay–

Which absolutely astounded me.http://drshahsofficehours.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/my-last-day-as-a-professor/

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Underearners Anonymous

My ex could swallow handfuls
of pills without a single glass
of anything, not least
a mirror to show him
the rivulets of black blood
or  his son’s identical mouth
or a window through which to browse
the wide world existing daily
without a single oblong tablet
to make it spin. My friend says
she’s joined underearners anonymous.
I snort. Get a job. Get a job
that pays. 10 years close reading
Dostoyevsky for 12 crooked steps
it’s out of my hands
which a few times tipped the glass
of water to his mouth
to make it go down easy, baby
an economy of motion
please don’t spill
a drop or the god
you’ve given this over to
might hover in the glass
spit hard once more
into our four good eyes.

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Don’t Let Me Love You

Or I will turn you
into something unrecognizable

if you were a novel
now you’re a drum kit
waiting to be thrashed

if you were a beautiful man
inked and boiling
with love for some awful woman

now you’re my young neighbor
who only leaves her house
in short shorts and heels

spied through my window
oiling her hair– your hair–
into licorice twists

I’m so tired of being
your daughter, I never want
to hear the word patriarchy

again, I want one day
where I am someone
else, turned, god-smacked

into beauty, loved out of recognition
by someone exactly like you.

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What Little I Wouldn’t Permit in a Dream

Madness to think this is happening
in someone else’s poem: we’ve been rediscovered
in the late-late work of Larry Levis, dug up from a false-bottomed drawer
stuck in a locked box buried beneath his cowboy boot-sole, some grad student
found a letter with a poem she close read as a treasure map, and

there we are: two blurry women. We are not
the sun, we are the shame
of someone’s dead father’s fading mind, the weight
heavy and hanging over every false move we make, we grasp
for purchase– if you can describe something as mad, does it prove

you’re not mad, but really what other word fits
my decision, last night, alone in bed, that if I kissed her, if she allowed
her mouth to open under mine, I would suddenly know
(I would dive inside her body, I would enter
the center of world’s largest theoretical crash)

My God– her body
consists entirely of starlight, and I am not looking
to purchase a thing, or hold her in my mouth

for if we stop moving, we will disappear, dissolve
into the background of that other poem, where I serve some man

(his cock is writ large, but so small, I have to purse
my lips to keep it from falling out and disappearing, too)

and she serves another, and I will never know the glittering light inside her
and I will never know what she might see, scrawled and scratched, in me.

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If There’s A Script, Mine Was Lost

Easter Saturday, Easter
Eve, the afternoon, the half-assed bastard
zombie, red-headed step-
child of Christmas, the cold
South Jersey spring, the puffs of plum, spun
sugar on the vine
and my son
face deep in a bee’s hive
of pink cotton candy
on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

Ocean City: dry town the Methodists
founded some time
outside of time, a foreverland of 1910, brass
bands, striped pants, everything
costs a dime while the black folks
struggle in real time, a memory
of someone’s memory’s bright thought bubble, a graphic
novel crouched in wait to be thrashed
out on the page. Ocean City: the boardwalk
thrums with all these other
lives, and I talk my pink-toothed son
into riding the elephants, cram him in
to the inside seat of a dirty dove-
gray Dumbo who spins slowly
on a glowing axis. Oh Earth, reified: with the simple tug
of the plastic lever grinning at us
from Dumbo’s center, we can choose
to rise and fall and rise again. But when? I never
know. I don’t know when to stop. I don’t

know when to go. I didn’t sign up
to be the captain of this or any other ship, isn’t
that why the pock-faced kid in the red wrinkled polo
gets to flip the big red switch? Isn’t he my little
90-second god-ditch? Everyone must be watching
and wanting to know
why we’re up high while the others
fly low, the five-year old ponytail
in front of me has clearly gotten the memo. My son
is screaming to get down. The elephants keep going

round. I am waiting for the day
I am finally someone else’s hired clown, when I will know
exactly when to go, to take the proper cue– Come out,
now, 
someone (stage left) whispers into Christ’s dear ear.

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All the Beauty Goes Elsewhere

You eye a picture
of your grandmother, note her cascade of curls,
catch your mother’s golden locks glinting
once more in the sun; and there, again, is the minute grinning
Norse-girl skiing down the perfect bunny slope
of your sister’s nose, as you turn

your face to profile, that trusted magic
trick that trims the broad bridge
of your own, framed by its wan brown hair—somewhere
the mixed bag of beauty wrote itself out
of your code, a sonnet refusing to hang on

to its object of love, turning instead
to the half-dead dog wheezing at the foot
of the bed, the difficult master
who loves him, hits him, rolls his eyes and waters
his bowl—snip, snip goes genetics, and there

you are, whole and broken
cloth, a woman who spends twenty straight
stupid minutes pinning the wispies
to the half-assed bun at the top of her head, arriving late
to her second cousin twice removed’s bridal shower
where at least 16 bridesmaids are somehow dressed
in the same sleek shade of blue. And you

want to deny the beauty of the lace and tulle, the cotton
flipping up and down like a flock
of royal birds, to render them
voiceless, to shove the shining silk of twenty-
something collarbones into a baroque box, a shimmering
reduction, a twittering pack
of matching fools, the ease, the ease—

and then they speak, and the beauty
goes elsewhere, transforms
into love for your awkward second cousin twice removed
who somewhere in her toothy grin,
her strong, thick thighs bears you out—what if this

is really it, the last word, the last
dumb poem you’ll ever get to write, you’ll never traffic
in another tongue but the fat golden apples of English—you’ve tried
Spanish, Russian, French but the letters went
elsewhere, a watered sieve—

and anyway, you’ll likely live, and age, fat and golden
in America, as every last bit of what was once,
if not beauty, then youth, if not ease, then
some tangled strip search for truth leaves you
en route for dust, as by a blessing you’ll forget
even the rust red of the tank top you wore

the night you were raped while
elsewhere, your friends slept or drank and danced–
how you walked it to the dumpster, wept
and tossed it in (still, still sometimes, his lascivious
grin, that wrinkled dollar bill he left
in your ashtray) said goodbye to its ruched neckline, the tiny
buttons on the straps, your body

elsewhere, now, where all
the beauty went. Out there, you were surrounded
on all sides by dry hills so hot and brown and sexy
they could at any moment snap
into flame, and then all
the beauty goes again, lights up

like your best friend
torching that greenback with one hand, holding
you with the other.

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