Okra Palimpsest

featured in the poetry forum October 15, 2018  :: 0 comments

A quiet night at home
Struggling to unwrap
Her phantom alphabet
‘This is a rare remake
That is better than the original’
She insists, we are talking about
Black-eyed peas & collard greens as
Someone slides a telegram under
The door as if it were 1943 & a
Black & white world, it is a note

On crisp music paper
Requesting us to lower the volume
Of the hi-fi. We do not have
A hi-fi. Do we know anyone
Who composes music? She rubs
The flat of the pencil across the words
& a grocery list emerges
Also a doodle which might be
A turtle or might not. ‘Every vegetable
Is a palimpsest for a vegetable

Now defunct,’ she says. Someone
Knocks on the door. ‘It says so on
The okra can.’ That was a whisper.
‘It does not say that
On the okra can’ (also a whisper)
(Even quieter)
& then no sound at all
Except the pounding on the door
& the man shrieking at us
To turn down the hi-fi.

editors note: Over written to right over and request to turn it down. Really! Revisionists all. – mh clay

Permanently Dilated Pupil

featured in the poetry forum August 14, 2018  :: 0 comments

Homeward under the railroad bridge
The crab nebula foams like a spilled beer
She’s watching from her window
The snow is sulfur the snow is rubber
The plume of Con Edison steam
Cocks its top hat like Marlene Dietrich

My pupil will never recover
From her lightning bolt t-shirt
From her carbonated beverage
Or her eyebrow
Wrenched into a square root sign
By her indelible stink eye

White bright world spins around random radio tower
Cadmium yellow or Wreck of the Hesperus red
My brain is saturated with terrible light
My sink is full of Woolite
Everything looks like an album cover
Everything sounds like bubbles.

editors note: Enveloped in evil eye, implosion imminent, in a hiss of bubbles. - mh clay

Alley

featured in the poetry forum June 14, 2018  :: 0 comments

Today when I cut through the alley
The alley did not cut through
It flowered into a labyrinth
And I didn’t find my way to the center
And I didn’t find my way to the end
And I could not find my way back to the start
I could hear the broken radios buzzing
And the frantic dog who could not answer the phone
And the young couple arguing about whether
The toilet paper should roll from the outside
Or the inside
And in the far distance
Slices of toast popping out of the toaster slots
Like corpses
Sitting up in their coffins
In a John Carradine movie.

But why be morbid?
I know you will find me eventually

I sat with my back to the coiling wall
And sharpened my horns.

editors note: String your sanity out behind, murder the minotaur, lose your mind. - mh clay

You Stop in to Buy a Donut & I Tell You Everything

featured in the poetry forum April 18, 2018  :: 1 comment

This was an asylum
For the criminally
Insane (The innocently insane
Had been collected
Elsewhere) and when we first
Broke in, the last
Mad man
was still chained
To the back wall;
Well, not the last mad man
Per se, but his pajama-clad bones,
Some of them.

We put up
Drywall, we built
Shelves, we hosed down the
Concrete floors and advertised
Incredible sales with
Handmade posters taped
To the cinderblock façade
We waited in our bright aprons
For the eager shoppers
Who in the end could not
Find their way to our
Fabulous bargains through the
Tractless swamp. Only the
Ghosts of the long dead lunatics
Drifted down the aisles and
(Perhaps out of pity)
Purchased a can of black
Eyed peas or a box of
Bisquick before returning
To wander out back
By the dumpster, which
Was already sinking
Slowly into the bog a week
After we’d paid the waste
Removal company to slide it
Into place. Now we are only open
For an hour a week, otherwise
The doors are chained &
We sit here in the dark
Waiting for someone in search
Of supplies to stop by.

editors note: The candid concerns of a "going concern," apparently not going anywhere. - mh clay

Night Thoughts to Raymond Scott’s Suite for Violin and Piano

featured in the poetry forum January 27, 2018  :: 0 comments

On the landing.
A hand painted neck tie
wrapped around my knuckles.
Somebody doing the dishes and singing
a song about summertime.

My mind needs more colors
only softer.
She gotta wash the sheets.
One of her toe nails looks funky and
I don’t like it. She doesn’t
like it either.
Painting it bright red isn’t the answer
to anything. I like the light
around the edge of the door,
It makes me think about
a party happening in there.

So now I’m on the subway
dreaming about carrots.
Now I’m on the subway
thinking somebody here didn’t change his socks today.
Now I’m on the subway
wondering if the end of the line is somewhere
nobody is allowed to talk about,
someplace a thousand miles away and
You have to get on the right car
at the right time. Someplace with ice.

It hurts to make a fist.
It hurts to make a decent pot roast.
It hurts to make a moon pie do the things
a moon pie don’t wanna do. I think that’s a song.

When you remember to water the plants
everything is better, even the things
that have nothing to do with the plants.

So now I’m tying the tie around my neck.
It has the Chrysler Building painted on it.
It made me happy when I bought it,
I dug into my pocket for ten bucks
and thought, ‘wait a minute, how do I wash the thing?’
and that made me happy, too.

Just pick the bugs off, I said, walking down the street
on the balls of my feet like a boxer, like a dancer,
Pick off the bugs and watch the fork
when you’re eating pasta. You’ll be fine.

editors note: This really ties things together; happy be. (To get that extra layer of smile, listen to the suite here.) - mh clay

Juggling Oranges

featured in the poetry forum November 22, 2017  :: 0 comments

Watch, Anita! The cloud’s blotted,
(The one that looks like Larry Fine), the
Sky’s sliced (or do I mean
The skies?!),
Top-a-th’-tenement’s
Blurred, it’s
An edible parabola!
Pale hot blue &
Pale blue ice
Carved into the air
By my orange thunk! & thwup!
Every impact spreads
The citrus ripple
To another dozen
Dilated nostrils!
I own every nostril between here
& Tompkins Square, Anita
(& most of the eyes)!

Until
The pebbled skins pink
At Manhattanhenge
& we retrieve

Our glasses from the freezer,
My juicer from the sink,
Your t-shirt from the shower head

& sip until the sky
Unblurs.

editors note: Citric assignations in the big city - fresh-squeezed! - mh clay

East Tenth Street

featured in the poetry forum September 28, 2017  :: 0 comments

Brick by drunken brick
I pulled my tenement apart
& put it back together across the street
Or WOULD have, except that the building
Already standing there, which YOU
Were supposed to have taken apart
Last night, was still standing
There. So nothing
Got done. So nothing. So I
Am going around the corner
To the bar & having a beer while
You take that stupid building apart.

Now
An interesting thing happened while
I was at the bar, to wit I blew the foam
Off the top of the beer and it drifted
Down onto the cheap pine top table
& turned into a garden. Events occurred
Among the tulips I am not at liberty
To divulge. Figures ambled down
The garden paths that I recognized
But can not name. Rosebuds were
Gathered and rose branches tied &
The only thing I could bring myself
To say was “Pass the pretzels,
Chaz,” & Chaz did, the bowl obliterating
The garden made of foam although
The pretzels were good, everything you
Could ask of pretzels and yet not too
Salty.

So
I sighed and returned to where you
Had managed only to take apart nothing,
Not one lousy building, although you did
Crack a window pane. It is no use, you
Sighed and showed me your nails
Which I was forced to admit looked
Beautiful, which I was forced to admit
Would NOT look beautiful when you
Were done taking a tenement apart, even
If you were wearing gloves.

So
I said okay, okay, forget it, it’s fine,
Your nails are beautiful, let it go,
And I spread my hands in a gesture
(I thought) of dismissal, at which
The building flew apart and rose skyward
Like foam blown off a beer, corkscrewing
Up & up, and I gestured at my own
Building, & there it went, swirling skyward,
The drunken bricks weaving crazily
Around each other & you looked at me
With wonder & said my God! What
If they never come down??

editors note: In every renovation lie the roots of revolution. When that old décor has got to go... - mh clay

Better Than a Movie

featured in the poetry forum August 1, 2017  :: 0 comments

Who is better than a movie? Not me,
Although sometimes when I am soaking in the tub
I am pretty good. I walk down
The aisle of shampoos and conditioners at the supermarket
And imagine these beautiful liquids
Sitting on my bathroom window sill glowing like
Stained glass windows as an old
Stephane Grappelli record plays in the other room,
And that is almost a movie.

Who is better than a movie? You are,
At least you would be if you kept sour cream & onion sprinkle
In your kitchen. ‘You’ve been soaking
For half an hour,’ you would call to me as the microwave buzzed,
Notifying us that the popcorn is ready.
And you’d pad into the other room
To flip the old record over, moving through
A dozen pools of beautiful light,
And that is almost a movie,

Maybe even the same movie. I’d dry
My hairy legs while you plucked black kernels
From the Fiestaware bowl
And the camera would cut from one of us to the other,
Music crisp and loud while you pluck,
Muffled and soft while I rub.
In the background, a bottle of lavender shampoo (blurred),
And puddles shaped like my feet
All the way down the hallway.

We are not better than a movie, because
Nothing is better than a movie. But we
Can be as good as a movie,
So long as the light cooperates
And gravity does not fail,
Even without sour cream & onion sprinkle
To redeem all disappointments.

editors note: Still a great story, even if it goes straight to DVD. - mh clay

Aneurism

featured in the poetry forum May 27, 2017  :: 0 comments

Tied up the garbage & intended
Or so I said
To toss it in the dumpster but
Once out the door
I kept walking, plastic bag in hand,
Up the alley & past
The pungent metal cans, simply could not
Bring myself to lift
The lid of the dumpster knowing what must
Have been there
Given the lunch special that day &
I kept on walking
Even after the alley snaked up the hill
& was no longer paved
Was no longer an alley by any sensible definition
The path twisted into the trees
Trees that shortly I could no longer
Identify & heard animals
& birds extinct or never evolved & the garbage
At the end of my arm
Was no longer garbage but rather the germ
Of a new world
& I stepped through one impossibly thin
Gelatinous window
After another, my legs growing tired
Or so I thought
In fact they were becoming new legs & ached
From their newness as I
Barely daring to breathe pushed through the final
Viscous portal & released
The throbbing light at the end of my fingers.

editors note: The unauthorized text of the new Genesis. Creationists, rejoice! - mh clay

The Ascension

featured in the poetry forum March 11, 2017  :: 0 comments

I balanced on the window ledge and scraped the decal
From the window glass. “Now try and find her,” I said,
And fell five stories to my death. But later that afternoon

I wobbled on the window ledge and tapped the window
With a hammer until the cracks webbed across the glass
“This will fall into a thousand shards next time you lift
The sash, O I wish I could see your face then,” I said and

Dropped backwards, seven stories to my death. But
It was nearly dark when I crouched on the window ledge
Drawing dicks and maniacal clowns on the glass with
My grease crayon, “And your whore of a mother, too,”

I laughed, and plummeted 19 stories to my death, my eyes
Never leaving the horrified face of the woman leaning out
Of the window over yours. She was pretty, I thought, though
Of course it’s hard to tell for sure when someone is

Screaming like that. Her eyes were beautiful. I made a
Mental note to ask you for her number as the air currents
Spun me around and around and around.

editors note: You can't make this kind of impression with a dating app. (We welcome Jeff to our crazed conclave of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page - check it out.) - mh clay