Blue Hour Press 1709 8th St Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 www.bluehourpress.com firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright ÂŠ 2009 Alexis Orgera. All rights reserved.
Many thanks to the editors of the following magazines in which various versions of these poems first appeared: Green Mountains Review: “Driving Directions to the Apocalypse” Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Art: “The First Caveman Poet Reminisces from His Library in front of a Roaring Fire while His Wife’s Away” In Posse Review: “The Origins of Your Name Are Fixed in Space”
ONE Driving Directions to the Apocalypse More on the American Dream Such Secrets the Numbers Tell Us! We’re Driving from One Coast to the Next
10 12 13 14
TWO Driving Directions to the Apocalypse The First Caveman Poet Reminisces from His Library in front of a Roaring Fire While His Wife’s Away I’m Drinking Coffee, but it Pays to Drink Tea Ode to the Little Man in the Moon
20 22 23
THREE Driving Directions to the Apocalypse For My Friend the Infamous Ad Man Waiting for a Callback Television will be the Death of Me Encounter with the Fashion Police
26 28 29 30 31
FOUR Driving Directions to the Apocalypse The Aquatics of Losing The Origins of Your Name are Fixed in Space The Dust Jacket Photo of a Poet Circa 1989 Dear Friends, the Birds Were Wonderful!
36 38 39 40 41
DRIVING DI TO THE AP
from the north:
centimeter on my road south. You’ll mountaintops wh shoot hail from artillery guns. Th you’ll see, protect crops and paintin with cherry blossom creates the most the sunset—ambe of the sentences yo way down. Of the a place that still ex or you’ll miss dess
: It’s a tight fit. A y map. Follow the pass the thirteen here teenage girls the sky with old They live like gods, ting their village’s ng their toenails ms. The drive itself beautiful syntax, er—is a reflection ou’ll speak on your e awe you’ll feel in xists. Don’t be late sert...
MORE ON THE AMERICAN DREAM
When they roll like an apple along Highway 5, everything’s cohesive. She understands the world. Salt does what salt does. She is sober, or not. She wants to say, I’m tornado. Pull over. But she meets with an eerie calm from the driver. She thinks, it’s odd, he and I. Odd that we are we. A dissonance in the sky makes her want to rhyme. They’re migrating to Canada, maybe for the summer. She wants to say, This wasn’t my idea. But she says nothing. She thinks about the salt flats in Utah. The abysmal white blankets are wings of assault. Today is pink car after pink car. None of them should be the color they are except for the sunset. She projects safe, unpaved days to ward off the fears bouncing across the windshield in little finch-sized epiphanies. She feels like an entire team of sad dancers and wonders, Does he feel like crying? They’d driven through Yuma once, where in 1540 Alarcon and Diaz founded a town at the confluence of two rivers. Were they, she and he, the new breed of explorers? Would they find what they were looking for in the north? Was it quiet they sought? She was turning her days into bowls from which she would eat this drive in spaghetti-thin reams...
SUCH SECRETS THE NUMBERS TELL US! Eight hundred volumes find the Pacific where they make the most beautiful birds. The angel of counting counts and counts until all faces are one face in her dervish eye. I could read her giant smile if I remembered my angles, concocting spheres instead of squares of paper, indelible lines. Where’s the poetic arc in a game of infinitely perfect unions? We have 4 arms. 4 legs. 2 mouths. 8 years, 6 months together from Ryder truck to shoebox, spurning other symbols for language in spits and choirs. But numbers are like letters, only meatier, more full of tingling certainty, snapping up the universe in their cylindrical throats, forgoing injuries of wordsome bodies facing each other. It’s the angel of counting we should worship—numbers anticipate the bend in the highway. They don’t fly off the truck or get thrown out in McDonald’s bags. Numbers aren’t the sound of rain beating against a windshield. Hold no promises other than solutions. 1 + 1 we all know. How to go on? The numbers tell us to fly, no matter about the wings...
WE’RE DRIVING FROM ONE COAST TO THE NEXT
across the plains in a caravan of semis. Full of animals. In July. We’re heading for a ship. I keep having visions of the childhood of the woman in the truck behind me. I know something’s wrong. She gets stopped at the checkpoint and hops in with us, and they take her truck and another. Later, the other truck shows up, its driver says, they’ve taken everything but this, and he pulls out a photo of the woman’s grandmother in a bathing suit, on the beach. He smells like lightbulbs, and this is somehow a clue. He tells me, what a coincidence. I ran into a lightbulb store a while back. He is, by the way, a reporter for ABC hired to document our journey. We continue driving, one truck lighter, all those animals gone forever, when I begin to put the pieces together. The reporter works for the priest who has his sights on our menagerie. In the hotel later that night, the priest shows up with an orange ball of melting shaved ice, which is supposed to represent a dying sun. Eat this, he says, and show your allegiance. I didn’t have a choice at the time, so I ate the ice, but looking back that was a dumb decision...
DRIVING DI TO THE AP
from the south
tell you to be the to see in this wo MapQuest, this is n route. Be like water everythingâ€”love, but you wonâ€™t fee things cause. The the most barren a by fires. You will w the coast where yo make out shadow spinning in circle sucking everything
Gandhi would change you wish orld. According to not the most direct r. You’ll experience drunkenness— el the pain these southern route is and already eaten want to drive along ou can squint and ws of cruise ships es; the vortex is g in...
THE FIRST CAVEMAN POET REMINISCES FROM HIS LIBRARY IN FRONT OF A ROARING FIRE WHILE HIS WIFEâ€™S AWAY
Cooking made his food tastier, so he cooked on clear nights when the sky was sixty million eyes on him alone. He was a wide-eyed creature, roaming, had found fire one night drunk and tumbling over flint-rock and so took her home, stoked her, and was warm and full of barbecue. But he knew something was missing, heard it calling like a distant crackle of bones. Life was passing him by. The fir trees nodded in agreement. Woodpeckers called down to him on lunch breaks, Enough dilly-dallying. Consider your options. Build a house. And this would have been a smart idea since the wolves borrowed his fire for weeks at a time, their cubs sneaking up at night to nibble his toes. But the caveman loved being out in the elements. Oh, the night! He almost worshipped the moon, though unprepared for the heady theology of debates with rhinoceros beetles. Still, something was missing. There was only he, and his fire. Granted, they were a pair, but he felt the weight of loneliness. All around, creatures
grunted and moaned, love bugs tumbled in twosomes over his shoulder blades chirping all the way. Dolphins rode waves in couplets. Nose to nose, they squeaked. Even woolly mammoths trumpeted to their mates high up in snow-covered hills. The cacophony broke something inside him—a floodgate, a muscle, a string of saltwater pearls. He lifted his head to the moon, opened his mouth full of catlike teeth, and sandpaper tongued, marble mouthed, he pulled sound from his throat. It all came out wrong. Instead of the sighs of love, but yearning to feel those vibrations, he spoke the world’s first poem: Give me woman before / I’m too old to see / her curves, to smell her salt / skin, to brush her / apple cheekbones / with my lips. And that was the beginning...
I’M DRINKING COFFEE, BUT IT PAYS TO DRINK TEA
and it pays to buy the good stuff. For one, the days grow like figs on a tea tree. For one. And by the way, stealing the neighbors’ figs isn’t a sin if they don’t eat figs. If it’s against their moral outlook to eat a thing that looks and feels like sex. I prefer shorts and tshirts to sex, but that’s our little secret, huh? And real blood as opposed to the fake, over-baked stuff they sell you down at the shops over the wharf where people sometimes go to get married but more often where they go to drown. Feel the heartbeat of the ocean, they think, it’s mostly in my ears. Secondly, back to the tea, it’s an inexpensive alternative to the Sisyphean buildup created by taking pen to throat day over day. Rocks in your tea is a good reason to curse the gods, but they’re so dead, except maybe the god of falling. I never did catch his name, Peachblossom? Earl Grey? Peppermint Zing? No matter. He likes things that fall—tea bags into cups of boiling water, bodies into swimming pools, figs concussing pavement...
ODE TO THE LITTLE MAN IN THE MOON Next door, two babies are born. One is the man in the moon. He doesn’t cry because he’s seen everything there is to cry about and lacks the ductwork. He doesn’t scan the world wide-eyed like his sister, again because he’s seen everything. He sleeps more than his sister, his opposite. She might be the sea at its greatest depth. He’ll never tell because he’s seen all there is, and he knows that she’ll cry for centuries if she finds out who she might be. Although she is older by one minute, he is the oldest, the baldest, the most cried out of us all. He’s tired of all the hunger and the crying brought on by hunger. He’s seen it all, and he’s tired of tears. He doesn’t smile often, though when he smiles it is for you, only you. The man in the moon wonders if anyone knows he’s here. In the house across the street, he wonders. He must suspect, then, that someone closeby has noticed the pitch-black night sky...
DRIVING DI TO THE AP
Yo rules of the road. S signs. Yawning do But this is a differ from the east perpetual night. Th rising in this part not sure why you way. Iâ€™m tired of se into the world to r height. There are n just new eyes and You wonâ€™t see driving in the da the moon burned lodging pieces of i Vegas, and LA. It roast is charred; y game... from the east:
You understand the Stopping at the red own country lanes. rent kind of drive: you’ll experience The sun’s stopped of the world. I’m want to drive this ending people out reach the topmost no new landscapes, mine are burning. anything. You’re ark; no stars and d down last week itself in Salt Lake, t’s no use. The pot you’ve missed the
FOR MY FRIEND THE INFAMOUS AD MAN
Damn it all if I didnâ€™t tell him I would write that poem for him. The Great Interchangeable Poem is a drug exchange of poor taste, highway robbery for the innocent. They sure advertise the independence of the artist on billboards all over this coppertoned city. Do ad men read poems? One is not like the other. Though they are both things, in the general sense of a thing. No two tigers have the same spots, no finger plays the same spot twice. A man plucks his ladyâ€™s nipples, and I wonder about doing the twist with Chubby Checker, a man who talks about himself in the third person. Who would I be, who would you be, if all the people were taken? Shadows. Obviously...
WAITING FOR A CALL BACK
She is one warped kitty. Her thumbs are the size of baseball mitts. What’s a girl supposed to do, you? How many people own the title: Queen of the Mysterious Disease? How, how, how many underdressed, insane patients of the Hollywood asylum can say their thumbs are cucumbers? They’re all too busy nibbling each other’s ears to care. The bunnies with the geezers. The agents and the swarthy young boys. But she’s losing her shit over here. She’s bellowing into the ether where nobody cares. She’s looking out her picture window to the Pacific. Life is what she asked for in its auditions, call backs, nothing, nothing, nothing. Now she’s blind for 15 seconds. Now she sees the Northern Lights. Now she hears her mother calling from the next room. Now she’s five again. Now, ten. She’s five and dime. She’s a twenty twen-twen. What’s a girl supposed to do? Gain ten pounds, lose fifteen. It might be the Oscars and her dress won’t fit. She might be too cold outside with no meat left on her bones. They manufacture Hollywood, honey. The swarms. I saw what the fuck I saw, she tells her doorman. But he doesn’t see the cloud lighting up the sky like marmalade. He doesn’t feel the aches in her tiny, perfect earlobes...
TELEVISION WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME
Not all poets are serial killers: sitting in the dark after a show called Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer, I scroll through the cars I’ve been in. The men I think I know with their fool similes. Where are they hiding guns? Where’s the arsenic? These sensitive poets who understand the quiet above the din as a coffin in the dirt, the integrity of the perfect line—maybe it’s the killing that gives them calm. Maybe they feel like God those hours spent stripping metaphor from bone with hydrochloric acid. Burying memory with meter. Depending on the day and the weather, depending on the pen, depending—we all have it in us, that wall of unquestioning questioning. Did you skin cats as a child? we want to ask. Did your mother chain you to the toilet bowl? I’m sitting in the dark. A fork, the devil at my eyeball. The dark, a paranoid butane. The dark, a black car...
ENCOUNTER WITH THE FASHION POLICE They knock on your door flashing measuring tape and hangers. All’s dark, you’re wearing your mother’s orange nighty for god’s sake, faded pink rosettes dangling from its scoop neckline–the one she wore the day you were born. There’s nothing sexy about this picture: mint chocolate chip ice cream all over your chin, reality TV blaring. You haven’t showered for three days, which is why the police are hounding you, demanding your shoe size, your last mini-skirt purchase, through the keyhole. Show some chutzpah. Your first question, when they’ve lodged a Gucci-clad foot in the doorway, should be, Who snitched? Your mind will race to catalog all the neighbors and colleagues who despise your sloppy wardrobe, your hole-in-the-knee jeans, third generation Woolworth’s cardigans, vinyl boots. These guys will never tell, but ask anyway to keep them on their Armani stockinged toes. They’ll snarl, beating the door with Fendi carry-alls. You’ll eventually tire, we all do, and relent. The men will sit down on the edge of your plaid sofa looking sinister when the blue light of the TV reflects off their slick blue-black hair. They’ll study you like a toad on a glass picnic table, take your
measurements being careful not to touch you, point a flashlight into your eyes to keep you off balance. There will be no conversation. And then, without critique, they’ll slam their books of color swatches, take notes in a gold inlaid legal-size notepad by the light of Fashion Makeover on E! You know your worth has no value to them without high thread counts and heavy carats. You know you’re another soul beyond repair, that they’ll leave you just where you were before they forced open your closets. You’ll turn off the TV, it’s making you sick, and notice how, without anything to look at, nothing to critique, in darkness the men grow smaller and smaller until not even a silk handkerchief remains…
DRIVING DI TO THE AP
W your last chance. T and join the rising where Iâ€™m sending why I invited you h a morning in week feel, typing these di full well the high everyone? The rou rewritten. Listen. route into the dese back. Take it to th return. Iâ€™ve heard t next great book: t full, it was empty.. from the west:
Well, friend, this is Turn around now g Pacific. I forgot g you. I don’t know here. I haven’t seen ks. How would you irections, knowing hways won’t hold ugh draft has been Take the fastest ert and don’t come he ocean and never the first line of the the world was so ..
THE AQUATICS OF LOSING
Stop the mismatch and take advantage. Let the crowd cheer infallible as a turquoise-headed duck in a dirty, dirty pond. You’ve got all three of your stars ready to fall, but you can’t have the ball in your hands and facilitate the action, not in the water definitely. Time was, a fish on your line was valuable. Time was, your eyes were alert as an alligator’s all day, watching so that no one would step on your pages. What will we hear from the enemy camp tomorrow? That our noses are fried to our faces. That whatever we’re doing right now is just procrastination, our truest calling the one with wind bursting through seashell heels. The waterways and wetlands, the ocean with black-rimmed glasses who sits in the chair across from me once a week— slouched and waves crossed—dripping from the ceiling like a leak about to burst in the ballroom...
THE ORIGINS OF YOUR NAME ARE FIXED IN SPACE Your jackrabbits are right with the world, but only half so. Your hills are full of big cats. Pooled seeds germinate here from the heat of wildfire. Imagine that, a seed who only wants to live if danger licks her spine. Doesn’t matter what they call your chaparral—fynbos, matoral, mallee—or along what country’s cliffs you reside in your long-baked dish of skin: cool ocean currents are your breath, mild winters your bedside. You are a rarity, a Mediteranea, three percent of earth’s area. Survival is a fist down a mountain-lion’s throat. Luck, as far as I can see, draws lines in the summer dust. On this side, my jugular. On the other, an erasure in the space where I once was, where you are continuous. This is the exact spot in which scientists find vacancy, a hawk too rare for form. You are drought, deciduous shrub-land. Your name could mean two legs or a bevy of wings...
THE DUST JACKET PHOTO OF A POET CIRCA 1989
She is young and pretty, she is all the expectation encased in that moment, that fragile October moment just before a man drives his car off the Brooklyn Bridge—just before the Galileo rises on the back of a space shuttle like a baby on a journey with its mother, growing up in her arms until she lets it loose to discover thunderstorms and spastic volcanoes on the surface of stranger moons—just before the A’s sweep the Giants—before Candlestick shakes and 63 are buried by the Bay—before the stocks crash and burn—before housing gets affordable, then doesn’t, then does. Before she knew she existed, deep inside the mechanisms of her brain were cogs and wheels that spun—tricked-out little gadgets of bliss that would whir and grind and whir and ready her. Then November, then December and a new decade when everything before was now full of after...
DEAR FRIENDS, THE BIRDS WERE WONDERFUL! I can’t even name them all, so many on fire with blue flames! When the wind sucked on everything, I knew we’d have some trouble, what with the spread of disease and coyotes simpering in the brush. I knew nothing was what it seemed. The desert is smarter than we are and whispers in footsteps and creaking bicycle chains. Dear friends, we aren’t who you thought we were. We don’t want to stay here anymore, pretending our days mean something more than dust in your throats. Our dog’s out by the car. We’ll store our goggles and show ourselves to the door...
This book was designed by Justin Runge for Blue Hour Press, printed digitally and distributed online. The two typefaces used in this chapbook are Caslon, designed by William Caslon in 1725, and Gotham, designed by Hoefler and Frere-Jones in 2000.