The bookishness that
is hallucinatory for those who
catch it at all times
lay upon me like a glamour
as far back as middle school,
even if none of my 8th grade friends—
those future bagmen
each on the lookout for a girlfriend ready
to leap like a reawakened Breisis—
even if none believed in words
quite as much as I did.
They were just boys
and not particularly meaner or more lethal
than others, not piggish
or out to spit on the snowdrops & violets
every time some tachycardic flower
sprang up before them.
They just liked to spit.
A massive carelessness governed their world.
They belonged to the good gangs
in partisan gullies
and seemed to have it
all figured out,
while I stood startled in the department store
where husky boys shopped,
a wearer of clip-on Windsor-knots
and black-framed glasses.
I was a walker on the outskirts
of the visible world
who lived in books
where mossbacked Romans plotted
in which a clammer’s lantern shimmered
above a sleeping geisha’s face
or a boy was taken
by his father to discover ice—
every day had the slow, stealthy feel
of a small cargo ship
carrying a stowaway to another home.
Sometimes when the house I live in
is ballsy with sunlight my readiness for life can seem
either very large or very small now.
Brush Your Fingers Through Your Hair, Why Don’t You?
“Brush your fingers
through your hair,
why don’t you,” her mother
had just told her, & Bud Powell too
had you a wish to play the piano
scout style, you should keep
as cat’s ears, swiveling,
but this girl, a very tall
mess-hall of a girl even without her bike helmet
(and with it, a skinny, bitstream
a cup of takeout green tea),
out of her accumulated wisdom,
splurging, she fairly
brimmed with a lifetime’s worth
distilled, not an ounce of annoyance
in her as she ignored
might as well have worn
noise-cancelling headphones in honor
of the serene smile
on her lips—
the zealous whiteness of her teeth
a space where even some barrel-assing
ant could see
something of the
generosity some of us
like to think exists. It
just has to exist.