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A few thank yous are in order: To Joyelle McSweeney, for showing me a new way to create. To Rod Serling, for keeping me company while I wrote this thing. To Steve Szalay, for joining me on far too many smoke breaks. To Stefan Sagmeister, for being a pretentious Austrian asshole. To the good folks at Anheuser-Busch, for getting the job done. To the Wu-Tang Clan, for being nuthing ta fuck wit.


Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Rod Serling Introduces the Tome Fall Spring Iced Ink E.E. Cumming Down the Street Slouch Free Translation Science & Grammar Enchanted Hairy Tail Marlboro Men With a Name Like Mine, I Have to Be Good Elba Grease We Slur Slamdrunks A Probable Name to Yell Fingertips & Fontanelle Late Nite Wreckin’ Ball I Ephemera The Familiar Tu Wellington Twenty-Five Common Mistakes The Kinetic Caveman Thriller Dickensian Squalor Unusual Suspects Liberal Fascism Our Condition’s Not Gentle Sir Howard Carter, Mr. Howard Johnson Mr. Falcon Similes Summer Winter


Rod Serling Introduces the Tome On this friendless day, In this scarred neglect, We meet a ghoul Some ancient kindling Censored from substance and jilted by All that is certain It travels alone like a hydra In the viscous haze, Constantly pivoting in hopes of a beacon One month of dementia, in which the sun rains and the Clouds roar like some mad forgotten furnace A skulking malaise berates the morning In a dimension between then and then, Between the quarry of mire and the Satellite of reason It is an area we call The Crepuscule Sector

1


Fall Wherein you agitated your outcome, built glass cities, downgraded mountains, wherein you melted transoms, wherein a split stance was practical, wherein ever was acidic, deep-fried skeletons and junkies howled, moaned, wished, wherein standards slithered, wherein you smelled it, old, old and real, wherein limits whooshed, leaks haggled, wherein a temple was detonated, wherein cancers formed, wherein matters of volume and kitchens formed and forgot, you trundled, tumbled, you turtle, wherein quicksand was family, mother quicksand, father quicksand, brother sister brother quicksand, doggy quicksand, wherein napping you were other, bed was other, napping grew night, wherein punchy days were bland, you booked one of four days, library divorced, wherein habits ate rent, wherein you blanked early and many, you lived in pixels, with pixies, undercooked all, man was served, clean was murk, wherein you obscured your gist, sunglass fashion, antebellum proclamations, confederate charm, wherein you beat poets, wherein sterling gleaned smarts, wherein mold turned friend, partner, wherein milk ran dry, bones ran hot, wherein opus popped, spat nothing, wherein lorem ipsum was chiseled in laser, lorem ipsum ad infinitum, wherein you leaned, lean, wherein you were to be continued, wherein you were canceled, wherein exploration was extra, suspicious was routine, routine suspicious, wherein snow did days and katydid dazed, slush puppy was illicit, elicited sentences, wherein beards mounted wing, took dream, wherein dream made messes, nights made features, days weighed features, wherein you were in you

2


Spring Wherein you chapsticked your now, wasted glass cities, upgraded molehills, wherein you congealed windows, wherein bowlegs saved face, wherein never was basic, organic skin and wagons whispered, cooed, knew, wherein lofty galloped, wherein you tasted it, born, born and sham, wherein open stopped for coffee, plugs smiled, wherein an outhouse was renovated, wherein surgeons saved, wherein matters of peace and interstate saved and considered, you tangoed, tacked up, you tailor, wherein hardpan was family, mother hardpan, father hardpan, brother sister brother hardpan, doggy hardpan, wherein making you were this, boot was this, making grew light, wherein paunchy daze took leave, you stepped out of your daze, workshopped promise, wherein habits paid rent, wherein you whited always and always, you lived in atoms, with Adams, ironed all, man served, murk was clean, wherein you made known, eyepatch highlight, stamps in wax, union, wherein you posted modern, wherein titan soaked know, wherein friend quashed mold, fungus, wherein honey flowed soak, bones flowed sure, wherein magnum sold, sipped something, wherein thought was saved in silicone, thought infinitely, wherein you planted, plant, wherein you were solved, wherein you were renewed, wherein frontier was free, trusty was custom, custom trustee, wherein rays did days and candid dazed, plaza was mandate, man dated volumes, wherein babies hopped dream, took wing, wherein mess made dreams, features made nights, features weighed days, wherein you were out you

3


Iced Ink Equals eke wills and I sing icing on this grade A gray day You babble on, Babylon I see you—icy you And what do I insinuate? In sin You ate (for Belshazzar)

4


E.E. Cumming Down the Street and what i want to know is how do you like your hollow-eyed connection Mister Dome aesthetically disproportionate, granted aurally adequate, prayed what an assignment if ballard can pen a psychopathic hymn, then a histrionic jingle is worth a shot the moon or the stars no matter dark matter suffocation is necessarily so can we pause in your head for a breather? just be a woman of jerusalem, despite our differences from the son and the ghost this mumbled life, this drooled out yarn is worthy of a ricochet a blink, a rubber band the royal we hides behind the curtain and implores you, j. doe read to your child fifteen minutes a day

5


Slouch Pretentious, that is, to moan About the state of satellite radio To be obsessed with the shape of Africa Thinking you’re the first Bear in mind: there’s a bear in my mind Be the base to my acid? (Your appeal is basic) There are plenty of pH papers in the junk drawer Chip, that rockstar steampunk Nietzsche, says that good is dead Jesus H. Macy Can a dancing preacher heal an adjective? A noun? Another? Wayfarer answers brother, on a mission from God Hit it

6


Free Translation You nevertheless with haste We are able it no longer make You had are lost to be I are everything forget Remind my still

7


Science & Grammar Science can’t tell me how my brain sees beautiful Grammar can’t make me a stagnant noun Science can’t tell me how my brain sees beautiful Grammar can’t make me a stagnant noun Science can’t tell me how my brain sees beautiful Grammar can’t make me a stagnant noun

8


Enchanted Hairy Tail My manic pixie is out there in the question My lifeless pixel is down here in the theater Can she blame me for expecting her lovely mug on a milk carton? I can’t blame her for magnifying my notches This exhausted mantra is all too resonant, or resident Tell me my flavor, I assert I’ll powder my wig and be your peer Out, out! Damn, Spot You ruined the carpet again Tinkerhell, you sure are sweet

9


Marlboro Men A lengthy timeline of killer cowboys and cowboy killers From simian to sapien to siddha They’re underlined in red zigzags, underlined By bed pans and Panzers Sadistic and dim-witted are far from bedfellows and a Mysterious wisp is sexy Barren fish, apostrophes, nucular The Messiah

10


With a Name Like Mine, I Have to Be Good I got milk I have rrridges I am the location of the beef You’d probably do me for a Klondike bar And you better believe I ate the whole thing, goddamnit

11


Elba Grease The downstairs turtle recalls an awkward body of water Operates within an ecosystem, flanked by anglerfish and Investment bankers Posits that he is more institution than instigation Give me that z-snap, introduce me to the real world? Woo, child Butter his back and lull him goodbye, redshirt Set vitriol to stun—heads up for the salt vampire and the Napoleonic howler The Asian Invasion, the meter maid Also, a horny gorgon slash teacher’s aide

12


We Slur Slamdrunks We slur slamdrunks Textbooks editors tend to place us Somewhere between Margaret Thatcher and the gentleman Who could catch arrows with his bare hands TV Guide lists our spectacle as The Young and the Stressless Remote controls, not a problem We’re popcorn colonels The holy jah, not a problem We slur slamdrunks

13


A Probable Name to Yell Is it in Zion? I sit in Zion Must be concrete to my abstract Central to my tousled gut Wedding cake to my splaying out I yelled Megan to a dead end, but my Double knots have you in a slipstream I’m weird too, like you, like you Even your potential is enough to steal my buckshot You can secrete in my shade You can take my cake They can be seated virtuosos and pedagogues while I smolder, irritating a handsome bear

14


Fingertips & Fontanelle Pretty and predictable, pretty predictable, predictably pretty They told me it was best to hold it up and hide behind Outlandish in a backpack, outlandish in a swinging hi-hat Hangnailed aglets occupy my time and Poland Occupies my moment Pinpricks occupy my fingertips and fontanelle Black and blue is no excuse for brown and blonde Burned bridges, figuratively and figuratively

15


Late Nite Wreckin’ Ball Level with me level me My crutches and clichés This looks promising this looks like crumbs A quick transition from palilalia to Yesterday’s headlines Tomorrow’s escape from Decadent hermit to Snubbed out scrawl Too tall poppy to Scrambling barrel Mourning becomes you Morning becomes you

16


I Ephemera Am I ephemera? I ask Dude swivels like a hoot owl, they say Pinnochio ain’t shit, you charge Her innocent earlobe and kisscurls, we note Postman needs a massage, she thinks Your dead man’s float is see-through, he warns, he knows

17


The Familiar Tu A bildungsroman, an also-ran, a cancer patient Berserk standards and a tiny awareness Narwhals, no magic, idontgiveafuck An obvious metaphor: a knife Inappropriately Brutus

18


Wellington But do you recall your gradient pastime? Late, lite, verdant bloodsuckers Remember to Rewind to peekaboo wayback fussy heat Stooped-out yos twitterskitter on skates for Frustrated harmony Which makes nice origami B-b-buoyancy be a clumsy proposal A spoonful of snowbird breakdown makes the medicine Consider life in a tattooed huddle Ready to break? Clap Honeymister, dragonbaby, do us a favor and Exterminate the biggest flutterstutter Repo the scenic route or be gone, begonia Brainboner Stunt double, artful draft dodger Carpe per diem Buck up, baby It’s the law

19


Twenty-Five Common Mistakes A lot of accidentally acquired amateur arguments are atheist The collectible consensus is definitely embarrassing to gauge Grammar is independent of kernels and Liaisons maneuver so that no one’s occurrence will be realized or received How ridiculous to separate the superseded and their weirdness

20


The Kinetic Caveman Figure four, an insignificant bipedal asked me several statements: 1. From where does one derive the value. 2. How does the disembodied thinker make sense of it all. 3. The thin fine line lies where again. Stet would be my answer were amendments on the table. Not blatantly snoozing, being ransomed by chicken dances and Chinese cheeks, blackboards and burpees. Prometheus, you are the consummate consumer. Have you ever tended the beehive of philanthropy, of birth? Recommend you shake your death rattle when the little hand is on fire and the big hand on brimstone. We’ll be on the doorstep, smoking handwritten cigarettes if you need us.

21


Thriller A notion? An ocean A sound wet with sounds They’re not booing—they’re ghosts, and such is a specter’s conceit

22


Dickensian Squalor Dickens would soil his knickers at the sight of Gore Orphanage It’s a haunting; it’s a spindly ribcage caked with grunge Pseudo-Ethiopian urchins call it home Gruel is a delusion W. Squeers and A. Trunchbull begat Herr Druthers Valencia, the headmaster The wretched pray he succumbs to epidemic myalgia, the devil’s grippe His body is glossy black on a matte black corridor He eats Abbadon’s lunch That name is something like starfish or peanuts or anti-Semitism Gore is nowhere—unlike corroded dystopia And fade-to-black mange Dénouement

23


Unusual Suspects My strident ear My thirsty eye My kevlar foot My breathless curls My swirling thumb My torrid brain My blistered lash My friendly nose My waxy joint My crumpled arm My heavy skin My silly spine

24


Liberal Fascism This was more than simple vanity on Hitler’s part, said Jonah Delve deeper, discosaurus Animate Alec’s acre Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn! Tag a dead Mexican banger’s headstone is what Al took that to mean Warning: acerbic comments involving expired slang and fat rappers will be redacted But American communists themselves used the Smith Act to get American Trotskyites arrested during the war So went Jo’s rejoinder, on wry bread Do you need an expectorant, Poindexter? The top of the discernible light food chain is unsettling at a minimum Alec, you’re talking to an inanimate object Cigarette?

25


Our Condition’s Not Gentle My horse, his name is Apathy I am his burden, and he is mine High atop this towering, indifferent beast I dizzily command the so-what brigade SHOTS! Armed with light heads and dull swords, we stumble toward the horizon Pausing only to soak our whistles in the light of the moon We few We sloppy few We band of bros

26


Sir Howard Carter, Mr. Howard Johnson That ship sailed last year, abducting my haircut in the process It left left left right left, unleash the cats De-rut me, Tutankhamun Can the chaos, Seth Should I be a similac rabbit? Should I lash myself to a cow? I think I should Focus On talk radio and The sound of water interrogating mildew Two pounds of radioactive aloe I still have Fourteen highway hours and the prospect Of a bottle of spit The gruff embrace of caffeinated big rigs Break her, break her There’s still time Still, time To trace my songlines To be big game

27


Mr. Falcon Mr. Falcon is a melon farmer His wife is a total slug in a rotoscoped bikini Norman Rockwell’s schoolboy eats Welch’s on bread, whereas Falcon welches on bets Geriatric hovercraft operators have kidney stones, but He just has headstones (the gall!) Aesop rocks on Helvetica brown proper, while The farmer elucidates the properties of ticks and trips Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon

28


Similes Similes

are

like

bullshit

29


Summer Wherein a heavy metal whiskey motorcycle bad guy from hell made himself known, wherein cookie jar begged for attention and chaw, wherein predators predated praying prey, wherein sugary terrorism blew a half hour, mother lost her head, you lost your mother’s head, wherein you laid waste to wasted lays and laying wasted, wherein horoscope was specific, rubric was dense and conditioned, new melody refrained, wherein schooner provided booze, provisionally, wherein you diagrammed your soonto-be, wherein nouns got up and walked, wherein verbs swam, wherein adjectives yawped, adverbs tagged base, wherein you followed through, wherein crust turned pelt, wherein nostalgia licked moment, inside greeted out, wherein bandits took back bandanas, took drags of purgatory, wherein science dropped the smelt, you counted on their coats, wherein fog hitched rides, another day or bust, young man went west, wherein moray grew bones, donned shocks, wherein you were chockablock with chalk and blocks, wherein you razed cane, wherein you raised able, wherein kids binged, binged, paused, wherein kids binged, wherein kids paused, wherein lank was locked, locks were lank, wherein big cities shone, old cities lived, seven cities shrieked, wherein night was vision, you hailed hostages, you hailed cabs, to hail was to worship, wherein you hosted hail, hail was frozen tooth, wherein obsession was profit, profit not obsession, wherein mud was a bellyful of bricks, wherein incredibly ancient gentlemen invoked the holy ghost, you provoked the ghosty hole, wherein the wizard revealed his motivation, toasted no, cast hurrah, wherein maybe was, perhaps, wherein gentrification was naturally so, so, so natural, wherein speech bubbles novelized, you were rearranged, wherein you were cracked open and out and up to be all that, charade parade, wherein relevance was relative, zombies were relatives, you fucked with the undead, the omega squad cackled, wherein squid brains were derogatory, teachers were greased and slanted, angled incendiary glancing blows, angled angels booming lyres, booming arrows, boxing promos, you ephemeralized neon vacancy, you blushing capital, you glassy green rim, wherein lexicon was heavy fly, Jesus did not joke, waterwalkingwinewilling superhero souse, manna magician, wherein babbling babe was spayed, wherein kegs popped and locked, the jolly roger rolled his sockets, Mister Rogers rolled in his grave, wherein you bathed in stomach acid, marble tissue washcloth, unzipped membrane, you drunk-dialed machetes and kalashnikovs, sodomy commodore, hunchback buzzard, phonebook charlatan, albino sot, snake oil cowboy, droog-eyed bombardier, mitigating cannonball, gutted gunslinger, swampy trollop, wherein you closed your sigh, wherein you saw you see you

30


Winter Wherein a fairy godfather triple sec sidesaddle fruitcake from Florida cleared his parsley throat, wherein rosÊ swine demanded eyeballs and ears, wherein Cadillac varmint prayed in foxholes, wherein aspartame tropical storm saints lullabought insomniac weekends, mother grew another head, you sewed another head, wherein you settled on second, wherein journal was surplus, breaststroke was thin and frizzy, plagiarized wages snacked on cigars, wherein keeper presented seek, sought after, wherein you winged your at-the-moment, wherein words were noises your mouth made like beer me bro, wherein you pshawed the white rabbit, wherein mink turned undercover pest, wherein plans frenched fries and a frog who was just a frog, outside bit thumb, wherein hipsters held onto bandanas, held onto plaid death, wherein philosophy got serial killer love letters, you sat too close to their television, wherein wintry mix ran campaigns, doghouse or bust, young man ate hot pennies, wherein elephant was jelly, forgot, wherein you were a fortysomething bric-a-brac packrat, wherein you raised cane, wherein you razed able, wherein kids paused, paused, paused, wherein kids paused, wherein kids paused, wherein nest was Ness, bags of pipes, wherein little boxes curtsied, boomboxes hurt, container ships laid siege, wherein day was detached from your retina, you talked to campfires, you camped in fire, to camp was to Batman, wherein you fired words, words were sweaty deeds, wherein profit was obsession, obsession not profit, wherein snowflakes had twins, wherein bucktoothed cathartic youngsters drank the Kool-Aid, you aided the cool, wherein the pageboy screenprinted his master, toasted bread, cast removed, wherein yes was yeah, for sure, wherein mollification was unnaturally so, so, so unnatural, wherein comic strips iodized, you were deranged, wherein you were cracked only out, betrayed brigade, wherein relative was revelate, veggies were revelate, you were the undead, the alpha squad panicked, wherein college dropout was tycoon, teachers were dirty-looking, one-dimensional Siberian haymakers, cyber hellions seeping out of wounds, seeping sadly, seeping sadistically, you Smithsonian fluorescent room service, you frigid boonie, you outrageous brown sentiment, wherein fruit fly was lexicon heavy, refuse was a joke, ashyodorediodineillustration garbage paleness, dumpster dentist, wherein caterwauling caterpillar swallowed muzzle, wherein decaf got hyphy, Davy’s locker froze, Dave Thomas was freeze-dried meat, wherein you showered in mucus, furry bone loofah, button-up liver, you cold-called rattles and whirlybirds, eucalyptus clown shoe, fraidycat bindi, cellular carnie, tarmac floozy, infomercial sensei, sequined sequel, heehaw acrobat, corpulent corpse, dreadlock android, wherein you opened your conjunctivitis, wherein you saw them see you

31


Information Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister once said, “Style equals fart.” I tend to agree with this sentiment, especially in the case of design. A designer should never impose any sort of signature aesthetic on a client’s product, lest he become more important than the product itself and design devolve to sloppy, self-indulgent art. A good designer’s work stands out only for its quality, not because of a consistent personal style. Poetry is another story. There is no client, no product to sell, and no rules. Unlike design, poetry is art—pure art. But what happens when a graphic designer decides to compile a book of poetry? Two things. One, he spends almost as much time on the design of the book as the writing of the poems. Two, he finds himself trying to avoid a personal style. That’s easier said than done, especially with a deadline looming. In writing the thirty-one poems that make up In Sin You Ate, I tried to vary my voice as much as possible. To some extent, I think I succeeded. There are definite shifts in style from poem to poem. Looking back on my words, however, I see myself returning over and over to the same themes, ideas, and devices. This book is evidence of how difficult it is to prevent personal preferences from seeping into your writing. Either way, it was an interesting experiment, and I think some good stuff came out of it. I hope you agree. Thanks for reading, and if anything didn’t make sense… I don’t know, Google it.


In Sin You Ate (the Crepuscule Sector)  

Poetry chapbook written by Robert McKenna

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