1 September 1999
(after Ishmael Reed)
Am I inchoate or ossified?
Am I evanescent or stone?
Am I a chronic optimist
or on the edge of a landslide?
With alacrity I await the turning of the
I am 30 but the world may end
when its chronometers malfunction.
Who do I wanna be,
30? This ponderous incantation,
circumlocutory, and imminently
balding. I can clear my throat for
half an hour,
I am a true pundit.
If I might wax circuitous for a moment,
I will, and after this verse
filibuster I might rightfully expect a
panegyric and tonic.
My tastes are constrained but copious.
Do I continue to evolve or
is my state of arrested maturity
permanent? Goad me, 30.
With certain profuse bad habits,
and a bridge-burning instinct,
I embrace adulthood.
I understand it is fully unrefundable.
If I am intrepid, it
doesn't show. Mine is an
internal voyage, an attempt to keep
a glacier of immaturity from melting
even as the sun approaches the zenith.
Six years will be my statistical equinox,
the middle rings on my trunk.
It is my birthday, yes, and this recondite
transcription of a verbose
internal double spiral.
A question mark straightened out
and twisted into new configurations,
that amount to the same thing:
Why the fuck am I here?
Did I fuck up?
How will I die and why?
And why, it seems,
propinquity? Plagued by a failure
to hang out, terse and mechanical,
didactic and inclined to
To many a chum's chagrin.
We all envy one another
our various forms of motility.
Me I live in my home town
and it ain't no cosmopolitan
galaxy hub like Manhattan.
It is only what it is, with little
room for illusion.
Dry, laconic, saturnine,
always pushing at the edge of
decent behavior, our mandatory bourgeois
requirements: enjoying fun,
something I always sucked at.
This untoward unwillingness to
dig Pictionary or Adam Sandler flicks.
What exactly kind of stick
do I have up my ass?
I should go suck eggs.
Cessate all gainsaying and accept
my indentured presence
in the kitchen clutching
the present link
in a chain of beer
stretching to an anchor at the bottom
of the ocean.
Always imagining myself some
shabby inheritor of genetic riches,
a poolhall prince,
this spurious vanity.
My friends brook my supercilious pretensions as
graciously as they can. If only I made
a greater effort to cajole, it might
come as a mark of sincerity. Accretion
of credibility. In July it was definite: I
had lost the popularity contest. Still I went to parties,
like when your only bank account is overdrawn
and you don't die on the spot.
It was equivocal in the maddening heat.
Don't chastise me for I am
(-30 give me credibility -)
no apostate. In no way
venal. Just a simple fool
with an affection for beer
brewed according to Germany's
Purity act of 1516.
Garrulous in silence,
the downstairs neighbor now stares at the ceiling
wishing I was writing his dissertation
in this irritating machinegun clatter of keystrokes.
If only I were as mordant as I
envision myself. A mere cynical
sycophant. Coltish with regard to
health and relationships,
my abandoned garden has delectable peppers
hanging among wreckage
Sing my accolades, 30,
frame me as a singularly
decent man. With integrity and probity,
poise. Not this insolvent, acquiescent, diffident
child, depraved in my solitary turpitude.
Go easy on me, 30,
because I believe in the significance of things
like numbers, for they are a key organizing principle,
along with location, hierarchy, category,
time and the alphabet.
All of the things I use when I write
I am erupting into a blossom now.
It is painful.
I fear I am flagging.
I have been in my last cocoon.
Eaten my last paper.
From the ramparts of my website.
do I collapse slowly like
a punctured zeppelin?
This is doggerel and I treat it like
scripture, like source documents of
a forgotten time, like biographical matter.
A welter of irrelevant asides,
deleterious to the youth of today.
Go away, 30,
go bug somebody else.