Newspoem 9 November 1998 I just came home from talking with Peter Miller at the Embassy and at the new Blues club next door. At the Embassy, for Sunday night football, I won a Guinness bottle and can opener. Esther Patt and Laura Huth joined us. I very mu ch enjoyed getting lost in their intricate descriptions of Urbana politics. Peter and I had been talking. At first he took the upper hand, presenting me with a printout of the government's science budget for the coming year (mostly, obviously, defense - " defense" a euphemism for offense - I know of no defensive weapon other than, say, a bulletproof vest). Then as the drinks flowed beneath us, he asked me to explain postmodernism. Of course you can't do that, but I did okay I think considering the imprompt u nature of my presentation, the fact that I haven't had to worry about postmodernism since completing my degree two years ago, and the loud jukebox and conversations surrounding us. I broke it into four parts: I. metaphors of modernism and postmodernism; II. what makes postmodern literature get called "postmodern;" III. what is good about "postmodernism, " and IV. what might be bad about it . I wrapped it up in a hurry though because it was at this point that Laura showed up and I felt kind of weird but I wasn't sure whether it was the postmodernism or the beer. Then Esther Patt, who recognized me from my experiences with the slumlord on White street, which experience she remembered to the letter (and since then laws have been passed that could have protected me), showed up and began several expansive, manic stories that strained my ingenuity to follow. Which strain was very welcome and uncommon in my experiences at the Embassy. We talked a little bit about grammar. I never got a chance to tell Esther that I thought "six days' notice" should be "six days notice" because the notice was the tenant's, not the days'. That was a political decision on my part, though, and had nothing to with grammar as I understand it. I gave them
Grammar Primer and we talked a lot and I learned a lot and was again amazed that Peter and Laura are my age and I have spent too much time being really frustrated with people my age for not being more like them. So maybe they will be my friends. Something to hope for. Esther Patt is older than me and way more alert and energetic, I want her to be my friend too. Maybe I'll get really lucky and continue to rent from awful people like my current landlord so I'll get an excuse to visi t Esther at the tenant union. (She told me about how my landlord was fined thousands of dollars by the city of Urbana for violations in my very building in the seventies(?). And how he has, since then, been waging a petty and dumb war on the city of Urban a, even getting involved in the Friends of Lincoln Home, apparently mostly to get to criticize the city of Urbana.)
peter miller won a miller lite pool cue at monday night football at the embassy.
in urbana we see that things are out of hand but not out of mind
and in the clarity of the prairie we can see every dollar bill clearly
there is crookedness amuck, there is trouble afoot,
there are vultures turning factory wheels in the sky
i go to IUB and look at the books published that week
i try to help people to read because literature is my business
but politics is my life and everybody's future
and i envy those who find newspapers more informative than verse
i teach for a university that does not know my name
that hired me reluctantly for a maximum of three years
because they had temporarily run out of graduate students
i had a radio show but when i could no longer change it i quit it
we meet in churches to plan rallies over vegetarian food
we have potlucks in owned homes with many books
of course, a great many of us are starving
but still manage to go see moxy fruvous everytime they come to town to play the same set
i want to be a novelist, i don't know how i fit in
maybe i can send newspoetry to the octopus or
volunteer at the co-op
i want to stop drinking, but not at the expense of nights like this
green 5 lincoln square
she stood in boots with a leaf and an expression so soft it was painful to behold and she saw me looking and looking again
and eyes so deep and gentle
the sun playing along the cornices and the leaves in an articulated swirl
whirlwinds along green street
the buses come
it is all good, all of them and all their skin and kind faces
and the books they read
(my photo nowhere to be seen among the adjuncts)
they are all good, they don't know who i am,
and i am their lover, and this is how it should be
like a watchful angel i pass by minding
my business, extrapolating theirs,
wondering tangents, loving distantly
sending love through the ether
my eyes igniting the hallway
no way to say hi even
the unshaven rhet teacher adjunct alien
crawling like a roach from the corner of 315
having been doomed to be a writer and thus a miserable failure
at everything
except the thing
we are all there to recognize the importance of: writing
the most important thing to us
in english studies, we are all there to study the
language, whether we love it or we are lost and unable to program
computers, or we wish we love it,
or we love an english teacher we once had,
or we believe that reading is good for you
so we feel guilty because we don't do it.
i hear trouble.


stupid moon

it was a time of winter ghosts
stark gaunt trees
and broken statuettes
an undertow of dreams drowned you each night
beneath a thick layer of blankets
sweeping you toward yourself
it was a time
perhaps the last one before the winter
came and ate everything
erasing the landscape
it was a time when you were bruised
by bottles
when you were
unable to defend yourself
against yourself
and you tried to take back every memory
you ever claimed
and tear them into bits
and dump them
in the corner wastebasket
like a stupid confetti of shredded moon
stupid moon
how it would rise on you
like a wild dogstar
how it would throw your silhouette into
sharp definition
on the wall
where you could stab yourself in the back
and how the trees would shake then
to see your limbs flail so
when the snow came
to freeze you
that winter
is when you howled silently
twisting in a dream
like a papersnowflake hanging from a pine tree
twisting twisting in a frigid wind

because when you write the stars listen
and later when you reek of cigarettes and adrenaline
and have no appetite
there are smiles to remember and
you sit and write because you are a broken human machine
but with friends nice ones who give you their hats and scarves
people who are patient with you
and those eccentric orbits and your lack of appetite and your writing
you are afraid if you die the whole species will go extinct
but your idea of living is not everybody's
because you don't travel to other countries
because you would rather be a native than a tourist
because you are some kind of mutant indigenous
coneflower that has removed itself
from the prairie
because it knows that its children will be manic depressive
suicidal workaholics with money problems
and you could never do that to a plant

Newspoetry at Spineless Books