First Efforts Poems: 2004-2006
Luke Bartolomeo 3
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Authorâ€™s Note: This is a book of first efforts. That does not necessarily mean they are good ones. Let the reader decide.
Prayer and Water
Let us pray, let the sweat of our hands be the thing which binds us â€”the polarity of which is no natural law, but decided on its own long ago to have the smallest indifference to its fellow molecules. With the slightest attraction, one engulfs another â€”where on petals, on cheeks, in road drains, on a moisturized stem or chest, water gently settles, and with movement, more gently streams it entrails: soothing to the immaculate flower and street corner â€”cleanliness for soiled skin.
Could I Be One Too?
I’ve seen the tapes: I’ve watched lights blink their way through a forest and scorched earth in triangle shapes. Have you seen these blurry pictures? Worthy as abstract art alone. I’ve seen the men and women taken; a little crazed and rumored to be loons —and I ask, could I be one too? My uncle had this theory that they were demons in bodily form —demons in physical defiance: in their unearthly neon glow, in the unflinching up-down physics of their UFOs. Demons as pale green men, with planchettes for heads and pancaked marbles for eyes. I’ve seen the men and women taken, their relics: fables of found metal, hopeful autopsy tapes. Could a twinkling ship be their guiding star? Their wisemen are found naked in the woods, giving their skinly selves to what they wholly believe
(giving more than I ever gave). Somewhere their saints are commanding control panels. Somewhere they wait: the Second Roswell, sure as the Second Coming.
Him, his words, reminding us is the idea that trails from the thing, intrinsic, but in need of trailing, for the mind is hapless to have two things togetherâ€” only a trailing, an idea separated (though intimate), for a time as a shadow or as when we wake and the glint of our eyes reflect the Trail Maker, the Architect, with fortitude.
An Axiom Explained
Midnight Driving (and always Death)
My largest fear was that a nude woman would pat her dirty feet onto the asphalt in front of me. That suddenly a road of forest might turn to the foliage of hair and fingernails. That a pothole would become a belly button, or apply lipstick. I was afraid of a peachy torso; of hips, steering-wheel round; of breath, sharply cool as the A/C. She could be a roadside wonder, approaching center, with sure feet on the double line, with toes between the asphalt cracks. Sheâ€™d be the talk of beaming-eyed raccoons and deer crossing. Sheâ€™d confuse headlights for moonbeams: her pupils becoming tiny receptacles for electricity; for the drone of late-night radio to whittle her ears to nubs. Would this woman be raised by wolves or hijackers? Would she be the scheme, the distraction,
for two men with crowbars to rob me of my car and lightly bash my swimming brain? Neither of anything; of forest fawn or “civilization.” Neither of my decisions to create realities or fake imagination. An after-hour child: a falsetto light in the growling voice of night. Woman of 12 a.m.: calves in cold spasms; her spine, rigid as tire tread —blue-as-night crowbar speaking now blunt noises to my head.
The faces pass, stringed masks parting away from the center â€”nothing of the thing that it is. Moodful memory, the essence of each flowing into another. The tether, the rope â€”the rope that strings the mask that suffocates each faceless thing it covers. Nothing atomized. Nothing physically cornered: ideas that drift between the things that drift between the static. Vague friends, people without homes in my mind, sick and duly welcomed, duly met, but misshapen; diversions of their real sources; transplants hurting for skin to feel,
but left as shadows to darken loneliness and shape question marks: a million shadows that around us hold all atmosphere to sharp and sightless points.
Carry Me Down and Into
Your fuzzy voice comes like old timin’ on black record. Comes like raw and a gift from the Delta— The Delta splayed out in the tragic soul of strings and wood. Your fuzzy voice comes and resonates, Sticks like tar in the heart’s chambers— A tar of rhythm, scraping strings, and long fingers. Legend-man: Myth, and the mystery of something real. Poisoned young, posing to happily conquer. Mile-man: Each fret more three miles long. Three more miles to eternity To be finished and not done.
The Aviary has captured them in their prime â€”young, forceful. Birds are undone; clipped and mingled. They find corners to chirp gossip about the hands pecked to feed them. The parrots ask where their pirates are. Glories of the eagle, gone â€”belittled in coins for soda machines. Flamingos walk more idly without the suburban lawn, and peacocks greet with wild plumage, with little wildness in their eyes. A child presses tiny fingers on glass, pokes fun at the vultures joyously squawking for his valuable flesh. The desert owl becomes prophet: determines the state of natural existence, observing the way pockets of air guide feathers to fall and land, plotting the race of birds and their end.
The choking of many faces the memorabilia of cough regurgitation of the people we silently press against Sing, sing O city Sing, sing O backwoods Make the tremors in my throat unify to your song harmonize with the isolate centers â€”the people who have been fitted to their corners counseled in the ways of spiders
whose webs prism light:
â€”the peopleâ€” so autonomous as to be alone
replenished free to be departed from themselves
slurping their brains with slices of lemon so mindless as not to be induced or stimulated â€”a soft thing carriedâ€” encased in its deadness
Directions for An Overlook
A night window, a soul that has no name, circumvents the walls with transparency. The sky streaks of oil; a smoke speaksâ€” worded and articulate of phrases beating up the middle of the body. Long passages, striped like cells, are struck as the image of being winged, wired limb to ghost, feathers for the ground. Shadows are quartered faces, paper folded; drawn to enhance what little is left. â€”Quick! A nervousness must be handled discreetly: look at the window ledge, now over it. You are taller;
your length is smeared upon the town, swooped under its foundations to rise and land: to be placed, chewed, as ash or dust in menâ€™s mouths.
Female to the river, the sense and poison that make dance convulsion convolutes steel beams of meaning. Male to the city, the people wait in a blocked street, watching the sky. Hopeless leaders are led by sanctioned lights splayed to unwitting dimensions; looked through to a taste for red as blue, tart; white as
sweet; the desert of the eyes.
A girl vomits and says sheâ€™s all right. From remote in the stomach, the seed, a sepulcher of life, she hurries to
like fireworks on the pavement in gashes of vomit. Aside her, someone yelps, “What the hell?” Laughs, removes themselves from the scene to ravish the light above without smell. That seed clenches alive the world, abortive, squirms like a baby’s arms in mid-flight; happy at the air it moves, pushing the world’s breath to reek out into all places unannounced by the name of Life, but by what lies under that name.
Another Room, An Image
A clear voice clings to distortion. A holograph appears when staring at the white walls. The super image: black flaps, a white triangular face, the sequence of something unworldly, hope outlined as a border of flowers: a garden to submerge the white walls in a jelly of spirit. Abstract defined: to draw closer its indefinables; concealed to transpire the finality of letters in infinite speech â€”the moot resonance, the cry, the social fracture between friends: a bone, an ivory road that divides as paths to pierce and form edgesâ€”
straits of muscleâ€” a division of pain and multiple intensities. When the gaps close, the fluids return to their placesâ€” guard dogs who smelled a dangerous wiff; their caution taming their brains to tiny their balls.
No more peace before the slaughter when worldly laughter disappoints the augmentations of our disease. Eyes that focus pass between each other, the single thought, the sense of seeing that sight betrays. Shot out and across the badlands of noises, devil shrieking the sky with clouds like tadpolesâ€” black aquatic sperm. Their jilt at the sense of anotherâ€™s sight: fuzzed ruins that connect to piss rain and condemn the glories of a city. Its neuro center boring out mystery in soldered mantras; doomed version of life blooming a robe of fire to torch the sky,
diminish the hidden with oil and logic. A building menstruates people from revolving doors. Logic delegates: ambassador; embassy of stretched skin; thick liquid warbling the fleshy halls, fear, the flood, echo and harp of sin. The fellows table talk in the black puddle of the city. Their lips tarred with rivulets of oil; they speak to gurgle loneliness, abate prophecy. A woman skips through ruins, fully built in the functionality of their presenceâ€” (a heat behind the ear that plucks the spine). The red iron, the orange brick, compresses, glistens trivial jewels, false light cemented between stone.
A crevice of steam
hovers the heat, chars the black sky. A rainbow browned like burnt sugar, lives by the streetlights; an iridescent scarf that streams and entangles the people whose shadows leech the bulbs. He shall never flood the earth again, but the earth floods with the wicked; the wave of blood that blushes their bodies, heats the rocks on a distant lamenting shore. The city is a creeper, a linger, a sensation, a solace sliced in peace by distant white lines: bones that dangle in the avenues, compose in the oil, originate in mystery. Single lines: ivory steps revolving the earthâ€™s surface stopâ€”
join and form woman through the ruins, her marble dress, the offset of hair, parting forest, broken stems that sway discreetly, the two-headed chain of the wrecking ball, black wet sky, the city spilt along the world like oil, single white line, one step, a manifold staircase, light making malleable the dark: it is the bride that dances sweetly in its death.
Liberty to the park: we missed the fireworks, but a conical tree of lights beamed vacantly. This, an annual skeleton, is where the point meets the rivers, and where idle boats bustle with companions who yearly make retreats to dwindle passion for the occasion â€”push annually upon the waves less lightly. There is laughing heard: a kind of speech pronounced, always redescribed, lazily, upon itself.
Light and See
Fragrant smoke: a linen of lines that cross and fold each other, dress the counter, conceal the room in smells; a wedding veil, a snow forest shifting without light, reflecting the darkness; without motion, trees of smoke wandering from their roots â€”a purity lacking sight; only the residual of smoldered composite and forgotten ash.
River to the City Striving near the middle, then: on the other side of the river, thereâ€™s a harbor house or an aged industrial plant; through the chipped layers of fog white, I see the powdery error, the era of decay. When the train crosses the river, New York sits, buildings like pikes, the uneven crown of the worldâ€” green swamp mud curls to the entrance: the ghosts of towers, the rusting metal, oxidized tongues sticking out from stone; amidst rubble, a staircase ascends to the lowest place the city holds, invisibly intrudes the faint air of the scrapersâ€™ shadows.
I. Greenwich dialogue: there are two men, one woman between them, traversing by the sitter who composes jingles from shook change. Across the street lies a desert of lights â€”white and red, orange. (And light means the waking at time of sleep; to never sleep at night.) There is no woman but the one with a body â€”the many women, their sexed backsides, syntax of arms with four root meanings in their sway: coaxed or spurned, touched or tilled for delay (a clamped lip anticipates pleasure).
One man to the other sifts speech through her hair, a last transmission wandering roads to wrong ears. (A marginal echo in the cup of change.)
â€”Crossing the construction, crossed again: the large wood planks are as peach as a torso that swivels three feet away and repeats through
the crowd between several women; in them all is the essence of mobility, strengthening desireâ€™s stronghold, grieving the grief of men, that
liquidates loveâ€”forms a passion made stronger without the heart.
A Greenwich night: energy-vacant limbs; too many smells; ice-cream shop; outdoor restaurants; a dog eats whiffs: the food lingers in its stomach but is never served;
the kid with a cap, his shadow encaged on the stores’ ribbed steel shutters: lights frequently break new dawn above his bobbing head, new days in the continuous night. Light—reversed and retried. It is a trial of patience: the city pushing, clasping hands over the sun, crushing into life and fingering night’s vacuum. Here, car lights issue warnings to faces— stage-lit moons crosswalking through black-veiled streets and the dampened lights that prove their existence a mosaic mane of flippancy:
red orbs, white circles; the open mouths of stoplights, eyes that speak their expectant words;
all these streets are alike— an underlain truss is here found.
(Paz steps between each street and
I am there to catch the article of his sounds.)
Main streets cut through red brick squares, Bleecker and Carmine; lead to sushi shops, old wine, grime of business; moving legs clip the lights, splice the odors river-bending through the crowds; people piston motion; delicate hands curl in humor over dinner plates. â€”The images speak their sounds; the sounds project, against buildings, scenes from shadows: â€”spaces of definite void; obstructions of equilibrium authored by window ledges and the world that steps from them; people stand in lights: the dark mounds of
their existence kneel as vapors before them, cluelessly stomped by footsteps, following the destruction from which they are birthedâ€”martyrs that do not die. The shadows dissolve from the place we stood. The city dissolves by speechâ€” speaks in Greenwich shapes.
II. The museum:â€”ruined cultures, and the testimony of their artifacts. The Japanese had their delicate scrolls held captive, unread, behind glass. The Romans had their broken busts, their dented gold coins. The Egyptians had their power, a sphinxâ€™s stone, roped with velvet. The Americans had their city, holding all the world within its walls.
III. Blessed by its culture, murdered by its stance: it stands—and yet I’ve walked its foundations, wobbling; oriented for the structure of its images, not the perfume of its heat, a presence that demonizes—a false surety beyond the prayer of light that clings in the trees like entrails of syrup that a moved tongue takes in. Only the moved, for some who cross 96th pass me, shaping the brute forms of the self I chose to miss; if they could go through me, they would: with a heart’s reconnaissance, their vessels, like rifle barrels, pump with a poise to topple identity onto value, a tradition of change onto stasis.
IV. —Desolate: splintered window points its pieces at the woman. Woman milks the glass that milks her blood, cradling the sleeping steel, wandering the wounds of death, its anonymous touch of heat and piss that all must enter and refrain from. A city that never sleeps only goes to bed when it dies. It sleeps when the people still walk awake; it dozes towards dark, slumbers through the apocalypse of afternoon, pleasures the horror of its spindly metal: buildings’ windows meet at night, stars dilate their light, as two walking the streets romance each other with confessions… I have cried, in earnest, of my illness latent tears that drip on the seed of my loins.
And I, I am a town seized by weeping—
deaths still battled for, forgotten in the energy of mourning.
I have a passion that summons anger against my lust, and yet desires the calm of curves unsheathed.
And I, I am a desert owl, displaced by the city, lost among the ruins, captivated by the
skeleton that hangs illuminated, by the flesh of wires, the tubes, the liquid that sends visuals to their
domains and parses sight from senses.
Look! See (in truth) without the body the shadows become their own, an evil incarnation. Two buildings stand. Between them a dark substance hides the mannequins of trees that line the sidewalk where a man counts his prayers with a stopwatch,
while beneath him, a woman compresses her head between a subwayâ€™s doors, while above, another compresses their head between the buildingâ€™s shadows, to be forever enfolded into the darkness that never knew its contrast.
V. The city shook today: nothing was left, but many things went on. Beneath the movement of tour buses and crowds were subways, burrowing metal worms, that led the darkness into the energy of their lights. We were flesh lining a metal canister. The lights dimmed, timid from the screeching rails. The poles between people barred the vagrant from the rich; tight-quartered seats forced limbered arms of the sleeping upon those of a strength to stay awake. The car turned left, three standing tipped right, blown wheat holding to rungs, lassos for hands— arms acute, obtuse, acute, obtuse— people held on like they were pulling levers, pulling down the steel roof with one hand, peeling back the city’s skin across itself.
VI. When the buildings stumbled, they broke apart like spoiled teeth: crumbs of stone were sneezed through the air by explosion, like a ghostly soul, a departed cloud that weaved firemen into flames, let business blood smear Wall Streetâ€” a cloud, a front, that pushed a hundred thoughts on death to hover over nearby waters. The buildings crumbled into makeshift tombstones; rubble, the first birth of debris, dug ditches, prepared open graves that were covered by the passages that gravity guided younger stone through. Explosion buried the dead:
encroaching metal pillars stretched out like a woman’s legs under a table of ash and flame. The crashing steel screams blunted human sounds —a scarred throat, strangely open, oval, tightened as a bowl for blood; a tongue protruded long enough to taste heat, lick the impotent side of a tower— held only by its innards of bureaucratic papers, reports, accounts, and the sounds, the human sounds hidden by the shrieks that metal bent into men’s ears. In the aftermath, pictures posed foggy backdrops: dim yellow clouds and pulverized stone, blossoming atop broken metal stems.
To the River On the Jersey side, a history of garbage collects: —museum of the natural world stunk up by industry crates, a rusting ziggurat, unfinished; workers exhale at night the smell of gray days, gray hours —their wishes rarely blessed. At night, their breath swings a left from their mouths, rises to the red tower lights, the darkness’ many suns. And we are quiet again, quiet again …the train waddles like an old woman…. Tired in her steel belly, hungry that she is hungry; the appetite of eyes to close encapsulate the day’s events:
the walking, the bloodstream of bodies, the women, razorblades of their shoulders; a tune plays melody in the madness; the organ of a brain begins:
‘cuz New York’s not my home
Subway bum mistook for a terrorist, politely asking to scatter his person or sequester change from standers-by
Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, I hate to interrupt you but—
to keep his person intact.
The day’s events talk suavely, thought of palely;
the lust hankers the boy:
I would like to cut myself on you
Grievous, he returns on train
shaking his tongue violently at the tundra of steel (the cold metal taste shred divinely through bleak waters); shaking to touch the mettle of this metal place. New Jersey, its old man buildings, the rickety wreaking of sediment into the river and cattailsâ€” he returns on train to remember those, without broth of age, shapely like knives.
Ardor and retraction; a ribbed rhythm. Sweet hums of aesthetic climax â€”trumpeting the trumpet; blues with the smooth smelting of the soul spurting lateral, vertical, notes three-dimensional: when silent as a silhouette, never a light-year of song; when the end of meter and time, the beginning of the Jazz Age.
The girl, miraged, accelerates illusionâ€” marked herself. A sinister ignorance annuls, flays, opens a beauty where existence cannot be (lacking ability to be defined female). What beauty is is a sharpness, a kick in the geometric ass of architecture gouging, boring depth into the cortex â€”from beauty arrives philosophy; a desire, an excuse for thinking. Thought rarely forwards a body of definition a definition of beauty. For nothing in eternity defined,
for already defined by perfection, for already perfection divides beauty â€”an earthly zenith badgered, blessed, belittled by an astounding one.
History is a Circle...
Many asphalt pavings ago, what I remember was the sinister kid of childhood â€”the one who threw a brick into our tree to get a ball, but instead gave our car a concussion. We wondered how we would explain this to my father, a man, who many tennis shoes and flannel shirts ago, shot D-cell batteries out of a pipe. It was Lincoln Place where the sounds of suburban artillery could be heard. I imagined the shots hovered out over the early seventiesâ€™ summers of bike rides and roller skates as my father, the future engineer, prepared to engineer his way out of explaining that it was some sort of sign from heaven that the neighbors needed a
new window; that the old one was a target in a military operation to dismantle family dinners â€”an operation against lifeâ€™s daily courses served in steaming packets on decorous T.V. trays. I imagined the flying object caused a concussion: if not a manâ€™s head, surely the earth felt the tiny pang of kids in midnight heat, boiling their brains to the corresponding blindness of no sun and a cloud-covered moon that many moons ago was covered by the flak of artillery guns where triumph was more than giving the enemy a concussion, but a good shot to the head.
Moments: III & IV
III. A Wave Movement Immediate and centripetal, the fury of the wind’s assault is true to its actions: the word heralds and patterns, incomprehensible The field here makes sense —the marshes from which the rusting grass wades and spurts and grows erect in the wind, flimsy in the summer’s rhapsody. Be aware of the stones that lead us there: they lie as lost pieces; artifacts of earth’s great core that spewed and formed —stripped to the air: colors come densely as smog to meet one another. The word here heralds, slips unconscious between the brown grass,
attended by the dew that squeaks and distorts, blurs the words to be read neatly, collates the mind to the idea made squalid, now strangely lucid: the abstract in the shadow of the word is given new shade â€”looking up, the sky is swarmed by singular branches biting baited clouds, or the word that descends and weaves the grass to matted surfacesâ€” incomprehensible.
IV. White Space, No Peace Two of us on the entrapping white, it is blank in its business, bustled in its meditations: this is a man or a city. This is a collective flesh, a spherical combine: we wait here behind the electric fence of pale skin, a hue like bulls-eyes off-centered; cheeks that throb with life-giving smiles â€”this is a woman or a city: perched and buttressed by the skyscrapers: inhumane, watching their kind by night.
Don’t Shoot Truffaut
Truffaut’s final scenes find expression in two panting through grainéd snow —where danger is always flicking its wrists just to throw the Ace of death into the hat, or to a piano player living with one hand and a finger sunken where a ring should be, the other gripping the girl tremblingly. Voice-over voices over what could truly be said on the keys, in a club, where the player left his career: a stand-up bass, some lusty nuggets of culture, fine in collage dresses, finer when they shake like fences someone hurdled over —after all, their love is hurdled —the piano player doesn’t pay, but plays ribs like keys, sifting dance numbers through finger edges for sweet birds, future mamas with worms,
giving him the winks and jimmies â€”if he could only stop to pant in notes to say, darlings take me home; daddyâ€™s all right but he needs disaster done to him.
Hands sidle to hips, hips the great half-circle moons, re-bent, reshaped like tin foil that bumps and surfaces, reflects a metallic dusk. Inward expression of muscle: shape of raw fish, fish of deserted land, land of embodied water, water of real earth, earth of transitive universe, an ink seaâ€” the shape of God expanding beyond form. The girl witnesses her profile; the shadowâ€™s shape before the shapeless image. Behind the girl and her shadow,
Of the Dance
lies the girl again: hips eaten by the wolves. Hips, a morphing metal tin, sensual in reflection, red and yellow in their sex; a smooth, pocked gray with which the wolves play by their teeth, the sun by the lick of the flame the shadow licks again. I found the woman with her chewed hipsâ€” each rounding out the center of the earth.
I. Pre-Movement Alone, on the clearly crumbling edge that peaks wildly into a mindful gorge â€”to be at home here is not, but lacking cause, home is like the scab that when torn relieves, or issues red-like, and, through a shorter time defined by infinite measures, infinitely returns blood like bad memories.
Moments: I & II
II. Williams and His Object Floating courageously down the verbs of Paterson, we will soon lift, without judgment, Williams’ remains to the permitting sun, saying, “This is a man of prophecy, of utterances unfounded: restore him, O God; make new this man in someone.” Make new this man: be touched by the recluse hands that gripped a waning pen that went from ink to spirit to ink again. Williams, now dead, writes invisibly, mimics and procreates poetic image like: the dotted images of a girl, blonde;
unloving, unknown, red slippers worn, and pranced diligently by (a tongue’s cascade— trails marked in spit); a sight and angle lost, bangs restricting eye-to-eye: she speaks with acrobatic lips piqued and catapult by the crinkled face, crinkling beautifully as a plastic bag —but soundless; an emptiness where no emptiness should lie. Who shall know she has been written fervently into ink? Her hands become a chicken scratch of youth, of a glance divorced— she is untouched, but tangible in the metaphor;
tangible only by her slippers lapping the floor:
â€”heartless to use her as words.
The sidling beat she heaves is irrevocably wholesome; opened as a gorge to the word, but tight, clasped invisible as Williams â€”untouched as the poet: the poet becomes her who has shown herself, written in her movements unintended. Her remains, restored, reinstated by the untouched hand holding to a poetâ€™s doctrine and the pen that went from ink to spirit to ink again.
Stories in the Stillness
Judith speaks of stories in selfless recognition —in the gaps between stillness in talking, lie her stories on death beds stuffed with stomach ulcers, stuck with brutish minds churning with alzheimers. Her stories are grandmother’s —they are the gifts of ancestors who only now are an oral tradition —sounds with legs gooey as the white of eggs; moans with no order of ambitions; moans that ding with powers to pressurize the room. —and to remember not what is lost physically to us, for the cloud of saints is a fog descended and we must record this wisp of mist in every intention of what we write, and what we consume.
Published on Nov 3, 2009