Not (But Fading Away)
I am not a critic but a poetry daredevil leaping over sin
because I don’t care why Madonna’s in the rut of her adoption life
or any other pressing pabulum for dust-worm thoughts:
I am not a reader of poetry because billboards
bore me, the papers all say the same thing
& the best sellers are written by the same people.
I am not a proper philistine because
it takes too much practice to become one,
or maybe just sucking-up (which is worse),
while currently an Elvis impersonator rules
the badly lit corridors of our brains
with the sounds of anti-silence pounding
on the White House asylum door
of contraband & the ex-poet laureate,
like a gun-toting anti-abortionist with principles
tells us, point-blank, to quietly step back
from the shape of things yet to come:
I am not a student of villanelles
because frankly what are they, anyway?
or even of iambic pentameters & trochaic
archaic rhyme schemes …
& I am not writing this,
it was cribbed from the notes
of a deceased
writing a thesis
school supplies for poets
2 sharpened lead metaphors
diagnostic and Statistical manual of disorders (DSM-V)
dirty broken crayons
1 package manilla paper,
cocktail napkin or back of
a losing lottery ticket
rubber cement (or valium)
Small package containing delusions of grandeur
erasers or bleach
manual metaphor sharpener
Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
SCREAMING INTO THE DARKNESS
Late at night he is always awake
screaming into the darkness.
From the time the sun goes down
he is in a state of restlessness.
There is no peace in him. He is
like a tiger in a dimly-lit room.
He said he doesn’t know what to do.
For years madness has come
to plant a seed in his mind. He
feels a heavy weight pressing
down on him. There is no peace
in him. For once he would like to
spend the night in calm silence.
He hears low voices in his head.
The voices command him to scream.
Over the years he has driven every
one away, even those who love him
most. Loyalty could only last for
so long. His burden is too heavy
to lift. The man gets on his knees
and pleads, “Why has this happened
to me? Please, free my mind and soul
from this burden.” The man is
desperate. He wants to live in peace.
Stony faced and awkward
Duly evening falls
And he sighs away the sun
Go heavy into
this home of his; Charlie’s in the cradle
Just kiss lightly
this capped head, he gurns toward the breast
Milky nectar oils
the nipples, and Charlie suckles life
Prays quietly; reels,
and rocks, and sways, and coos
Snip the umbilical;
plant and reap the lotus
Vulva weeps. Xylocopa;
Blood, like bees, mining you a void
Charlie. Never yours.
Michael Lee Johnson
A Métis Indian lady, drunk,
hands blanketed over as in prayer,
over a large brown fruit basket
naked of fruit, no vine, no vineyard
inside − approaches the Edmonton,
Alberta adoption agency.
There are only spirit gods
inside her empty purse.
Inside, an infant,
restrained from life,
with a fruity wine sap apple
wedged like a teaspoon
of autumn sun
inside its mouth.
A shallow pool of tears starts
to mount in native blue eyes.
Snuffling, the mother offers
a slim smile, turns away.
She slithers voyeuristically
through near slum streets,
looking for drinking buddies
to share a hefty pint
of applejack wine.
Chinese Fortune Cookies
“Your dream will come true
when you least expect it.”
“You will bring sunshine
into someone’s life.”
The best times of your life
have not yet been lived.”
And my all time favorite,
(it’s real, honest,
I even called
the waitress over
to complain) —
you will realize
What the Hell! Super Size It!
It is a quarter past three
where a collage of misfit
cars have assembled.
One by one
they state their orders into an electronic idol.
In a hurry, they all rush
from traffic-light to traffic-light.
Their destination always seems to be nowhere!
Impatiently you wait your turn.
And that is when your cell rings
with your clever Baby Got Back ring tone.
Mom reminds you that its Good Friday
and it would be best if you didn’t eat any meat.
But, her time couldn’t be any worse.
As you reflect on the year that has passed.
How you worked and worked,
but you never could save any money.
How the pundits expressed
that it was vital to invest in stocks and bonds.
“Now was the time to act“, they said!
Now was the time to capitalize on discounted prices.
But, it was their distorted advice in the first place
that got you in this mess.
Your life savings flushed down the toilet.
Pay check to pay check you tread,
barely staying afloat.
Scrounging pennies for gas.
Leaving you only 10 dollars,
barely enough for a value meal at McDonald’s.
But at least it’s Good Friday!
And your train of thought is interrupted
by a distant voice in a muffled speaker.
“Will that be all?” it says.
“What the hell”you answer back.
“Throw in another cheeseburger
and super size my drink and fries.
For it’s only good Friday and
I’m dead broke.”
THE LAST ROUND
As I watch him walking alone
leaving the funeral home,
his shoulders slouched and his eyes puffy red,
I wonder how he feels away from the crowd:
Is he relieved
or is he gnawed by the same regrets as me?
The scene reminds me
of Marlon Brando
riding in the backseat of a taxicab
with his no-good brother,
pining for missed opportunities.
Only, here, there is no comfort in a handshake,
no chilly score accentuating
a rogue Brooklyn accent.
There is no solace to be taken from any rewind button.
My brother’s bruises are not on his face;
his lacerations do not cloud his eyes.
His mind is damaged
but not from that kind of shot.
It is a job
I never took very seriously,
being first born
and the responsibility.
I could, again, offer my condolences,
like I have done a hundred times before,
and no doubt they would be received
with the same graciousness,
the same easy forgiveness,
as they always are.
But it wouldn’t keep me from hearing a battered and broken Brando saying,
“You were my brother; you should’ve looked out for me.”
That fight inside the both of us
has grown quieter now.
There are no more cowboys to pique
any shared interests,
no more discoveries to be made
under the dark cover of our
dead mother’s house,
like the time we thought
life really could imitate art
and we so foolishly believed
we could be heroes, too.
On the Train
Move a million miles per hour
blurring borders, glimpsing fringes
a farrago of fields and flowers
faint, familiar, fleeting tinges
Strangers find their destinations
one by one, they leave us nearer
side by side for the duration
till the city heights loom clearer
Stirring into sorry suburbs
like the morning face of good times
So endearingly undisturbed
Charge me through the open spaces,
till we lie still in built up places.
The Purging of Impurity
Unimpeded alpha waves
Slither brazenly across
Dripping stalactites that pave
Catacombs of velvet moss.
Rods of luminous stained glass
Leaven dusty curdled plumes,
Spewing from the broken vase,
Froth of alkaloid perfumes.
Sacred shapes rain jaggedly,
Trickling awkward gnosis, white
Sands absorbed sublingually
Line the shores of crystal night.
Sundry scarab-lustre dreams
Seep through prison-cell-shaped pores
Of atomic structure. Themes
Unfamiliar shed spores;
Chrome euphoria’s, purblind,
Purged of authenticity.
Time was high I lost my mind
Out in zero gravity.
I bravely and blindly tilted at windmills
My lance missed and killed an innocent dragon
A lawsuit is still pending from Dulcinea
I climbed a mountain looking for wisdom
And found an old wise man living in a cave
I had to lead him down the path to the valley
Leaned over the canyon’s edge and threw my voice
As loudly as I could down into its deepest ravine
And received an answer in a collect telegram the next day
I stood at the edge of the incoming tide
Then commanded it to stop coming in
And heard a voice “take it up with the moon”
I sat beneath Buddha’s tree
And meditated night and day for years
Japanese tourists asked if they could take my picture
Watched a shooting star streak across the sky
Held my breath and silently made my wish
Just as the meteor blew up an airliner
I wandered for years
Seeking the truth
And received a walking shoe contract
I awoke one night to see an angel
With a fiery sword and brilliant robe
She told me to go back to sleep
Now I am old, it’s my time to die
I stand on the riverbank waiting for Charon
He checks my paperwork, says my boat pass has expired
But I haven’t