You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers • selected poems • Jéanpaul Ferro
You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers
also by JĂŠanpaul Ferro All the Good Promises Becoming X The Driver Hemispheres
You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers selected poems by JĂŠanpaul Ferro
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the editors of the publications in which the following poems appeared: Ann Arbor Review: “The New Essence,” “Way Back When” The Aurora Review: “where we eat the churrascos, banana, & papaya” Bare Root Review: “Jacob’s Ladder” BlazeVox: “S&M” Dark Sky Magazine: “Dreams of Men” Dogmatika: “Lonestar Blues” Drunk and Lonely Men: “Dear Heather” Litchfield Literary Review: “It’s a Strange Life” Copyright © 2009 by Jéanpaul Ferro. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Photographs by Jéanpaul Ferro Book design by Daniel Casebeer Set in Garamond First Thumbscrews edition: March 2009 www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm
contents You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers Lonestar Blues where we eat the churrascos, banana, and papaya Door #1 Da Nang beach (found poem) Dreams of Men S&M I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You Roadside Memorial (Death in Rhode Island) Dear Heather Wake up, Robert Rocciamelone Black Man Speaking Below Federal Hill Growing Perfect Flowers Please Prepay After Dark Your Blue Room Red, Red Moon It’s a Strange Life Way Back When The New Essence Jacob’s Ladder Crater Lake Paris Honeymoon
3 5 6 7 8 9 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 24 25 26 28 29 30 32
Whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong. Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan
In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day. F. Scott Fitzgerald The Crack-Up
You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers
you know too much about flying saucers I dreamed a hole through her head, where blue cathoray spilled out over space and time, ten seconds of my stare, my eyes pretending to look at the red Coca-Cola sign flashing up behind her head as it went blinking on and off: Drink Coke! You dope! People say we are like Siamese twins, but really we are more like Tiananmen Square, 1989; six murdered sextuplets on a Sunday; You’re crazy. We can’t be together, she says every time we go and remarry down in brilliant old Mexico; I love the crazy flashing skies over Acapulco, an emerald stain the way old George Stevens got to do it, both of us with bare feet, dancing under moonlight, over broken bottles of glass, arms flailing, waving madly; every day another séance to stop the Nuclear bombs, all night long as we pray against the missiles landing on someone else – wet and on fire; a wave, ten thousand surfers going out from the storm atop another tsunami; I can taste it! I can bury it in the morning with my foot down to the floorboard; water, napalm, flying about; I will fly; sea turtles flowing in my veins to the other side of the earth; my mouth: it’s got a direct line to Jehovah’s red ear, splitting my own chest open to get down to the delta; ••
swinging, dancing, spinning, tango atop the cobblestones, both of us shivering along the gold spires, our souls being pushed up hard against doors, in heavenly colors, azure-blue, emerald, until we are falling – down to the ghost of your words as they whisper out to me: “Come together; fall apart.”
lonestar blues I see you when you’re on the other side of the fogged up window, just the outline of your naked body, the dark stain of your wet hair, your hands pushed up against the glass like you’re waving goodbye.
where we eat the churrascos, banana, and papaya She drives her two-door coupe up Oakland Park Boulevard, 16-inch chrome wheels headed on up toward Palmetto, her skirt hiked up mid thigh, she meets me at the Brazilian restaurant, where we eat the churrascos, banana, and papaya, we dance a little to Sérgio de Pinna after dinner, head on up to the beach, we lie on the sand together (where we had been twenty years before), we kiss, and her lips taste like I had remembered – a white sheet, a bright lime, a dozen dogs barking in the distance, I don’t know what to say – I want to say something, I write these lines down in my head, they kick at me in my chest: The night is blue, and it sweeps all around us, it is blue like Cuba is blue, The touch of her hand haunts me, my soul is opening like it is morning, I stare at her eyes as I say this to myself; I know her, and she knows me too; we don’t say anything, because there is too much to say between us, she hands me a pair of gloves; of course, they are his gloves; I know he is somewhere waiting for her, wondering about her, about me, you unlucky man, I think to myself, you stupid man; she smiles at me; we hear the waves, we kiss again –
door #1 He stood on the sidelines, trading on faith for personal gain, calling G. up on the telephone at 44th Street, having him tell everyone which way to vote, he relayed this to the people on television, said a prayer, and told everyone where to send their checks to Jesus.
DA NANG beach (found poem) “a wild area with sandy beaches with many lakes and marshes lying along the Han River” Latitude 15 55’ 20” to 16 14’ 10” North Longitude 107 18’ 30” to 108 20’ 00” East a quiet spot a grove of trees a smooth white beach “Restitution for the white sands blanketing a breathtaking bay outside Da Nang, in central Vietnam, started a few years ago, when renegade surfers held a competition in the choppy waves off of China Beach.” “You can still see the old hangers that housed bombers by the beach, in full view of the Vietcong, who maintained a spectacular network of tunnels in the overlooking Marble Mountains.”
dreams of men The sky in North Korea always leads to China, dark during the day, bright plutonium yellow at night, dogs sell human body parts along the country roads here, humans cut off other human’s legs in the camps, there is neither a half full nor a half empty glass, there is neither a half full nor a half empty soul, everyone knows the day they are going to die in North Korea, there is torture and a life sentence in the political prisons for when you are caught (it does not matter for what), you have a 5-foot-by-5-foot underground cell, you are hit, you are raped, you are tortured, you creep, you crawl, and you cower, you are crashed, you are experimented on, you are rushed off your feet by freezing water, you are poisoned, starved, gassed, you are cut up, you are told your dead children’s names over and over; I smashed my fingertips so they would kill me, but they laughed at me for over 3 ½ years instead, I huddled in the corner all night and tried to dream – dream of dream of dream of dream of
my fingertips touching the wet sands of the ocean, the bright garden stars rising out in the backyard, your hips with cinnamon and parsley, your body raising sunward like a blue sunflower, ••
dream of flying south over the distant mountain tops, so we can die together in a beautiful peace.
â€˘ 10 â€˘
s&m She followed the scent of him through the parade grounds along the darkened Bois de Vincennes, her deep blue eyes asleep while dreaming, the Daumesnil coming alive in a million bronze hands forming/rising, she heard him whispering to her from a dark corner in a blackened room on this one particular day right after the war: toute la nuit désirent ardemment! toute la nuit désirent ardemment! je vous aimerai toujours, the subpixels blurring him from her, the many years of distortion in these burrows where these things go to hide, she returned home into a box where she laid out the yellow flowers and feed the cats and the dog like it was the whole day, later, she returned to the red glow of the 3rd bedroom, the one that always reminded her of Moscow right after the purge, she tried to tie the rope around her wrists, the final cuts on the bed bleeding out like a wet rose in snow all along the bed sheets, frappez-moi à plusieurs reprises faites-moi me connaître suis vivant! she whispered in every minute that she lie there – dying/bleeding/relieved from every day: the ideas/the bombs/ all of modern life that we have protected into our homes for us every moment that we are alive/and then dead.
• 11 •
i’m not gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you I awake back in the city on the day before the world ends. Outside my window, I see every sin that I have already paid for: 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue laughing at me right in my face; so many things that I already know – gone, now, like the white side of radiator caps glistening – on, off – over in the sun atop the Chrysler Building; – delay of pleasure; deep tracks in the snow; a tattoo in flames of the U.S. dollar right over my chest. I think to myself: Haven’t we already been through this? Have we suspended our senses? Have we changed into something that we don’t even recognize? We are living through history with our eyes closed. The city calls to me now. The scents of her garlic, rosemary, and thyme cooking in the barrio. The pulse of immigrant music hurrying atop the brick stoops. The faces that are passing by are all foreign now – I see that America is a planet of immigrants: their food, their language, their art, music, and mathematics – the best of everything all in one place; but you all want to blow it up! Can’t you see those airplanes coming again? Don’t you see that bomb you’ll be sending through somebody’s doorway courtesy of the red, white, and blue? We all seem to be in love with our greatest losses. We all love what we have lost – we all want to win it over again. But then there is this time machine sitting over there in my living room. I go and hover over it. • 12 •
Outside, the night is craning her neck down over the glistening rooftops, kissing the city goodnight. A giant fire bruises the entire western sky behind her. Afraid, I push the button that says: tomorrow. When I arrive there, I notice that there is complete silence â€“ there is only the sound of the wind in the trees, an empty forest with a river going through it, And I see God walking alone there before he created words (long before human blood ever even stirred for a moment).
â€˘ 13 â€˘
roadside memorial (death in rhode island) The morning after the accident, Frank, Randi, and I went to the devastated crash site. We drove under the blue Scituate skies from one end of town to the other. You have to snake over a giant S shaped causeway to get all the way across the Scituate Reservoir. Up near the high school we could only find the crash site by finding all the burnt trees – the ground was still smoky and ashen all around. A nurse who lived next door came outside and told us how they carried away pieces of his body in six gray one-gallon buckets. She told us the name of the boy who hit him head on at 85 miles per hour – it was said that other boy was high on cocaine. Later on, we drove over to Chris Green’s house, where we had to tell everyone else the news that only we knew at the time. We lit candles and stood around the accident scene in tears, staring at everyone driving by like they were somehow the enemy. Twenty years later, we were all the same, but old now, when someone came by and told us about the kid, all grown by now, who had killed our friend, and how he was dead too (he had actually been dead for two years but we only found out about it now). He had OD’d on drugs, finally; and somehow in a strange and cognizant way we were all relieved – actually happy that he was dead and gone and that it was over with now.
• 14 •
That night we all got together for the first time in years, all of us going up to the old high school where we used to hang around back when we were teenagers. “The Big Guns” by Jenny Lewis came on the radio while we all stood around drinking, reveling in one more meaningless death that never should have been; but we were all glad.
• 15 •
dear heather In my blue murder poetry, I think of all words you used to say, But why should I tell anyone? I can keep all the good words for myself, the sexy ones, the ones whispered all night, the way they go through everything like smoke, I remember your pink slipper, your pink thong, lunch on Thayer Street – sitting in with the Talking Heads (in that spice box of the world that is Providence, Rhode Island); And you once said: true love never leaves a trace; but there’s no trace of you; Should I say: I found someone better; but you weren’t that bad? Driving home a thousand times, I am dreaming of the dead – I never thought of you as dead; There are times when almost everyone is wrong; but there is plenty of cowardice and fear all through downtown anyway; can a cowboy say that in 2009? – ah, damn, I don’t even care; we both know there is no wholeness in psychological depression, – ten words you would never say. • 16 •
wake up, robert Did you know there is an entire lake of salt, where all the Mormons go to get baptized? Angels come down from on high to fly around the processions – why? What’s this business between the devil and God? – you say it is a court case, because you know how I love court cases: God vs. The United States of America I wonder who will win, Robert? You go and put on your rhinestone Nudie suit, sweep up your beautiful silver pompadour, start singing on the street corner to rile against the war; and you’re standing there for the next five years while we all go passing by – why?
• 17 •
Rocciamelone Where the grass road turns yellow driving up Mt. Bré, at the snow-line and the white birch trees, the restaurant atop via alla vetta, hoarding landscape of winter colors, the reddish-browns and emerald-greens of the severed leaves, the stucco yellows of the building, you and I the composition, this deep sense of our own renown ability, the position of our souls, bodies drenched in come, we swirl, the bestiality, the unhurriedness of friends, always a few more steps in time, a few steps back where there is no pain, in the furious poverty of wanting you, the blackness in two thousand miles of barbed metal wire, in a world where we all want to be free, children always want that, when they get older, too, immovable like gods – Mischabel, Rocciamelone, Alphubel, Lago di Lugano down in the fissures, the silt of the sun covering over our earth, when a person leaves you, when she’s dying in your arms, when you awake from a dream and it just intensifies, how your voice shakes, how you know you’ll die if you don’t go on, if you don’t know how to leave all the pain behind, cut out your own beating heart until you are dead in the middle of nowhere (standing there alive with everyone else).
• 18 •
black man speaking below federal hill All this freedom in the grasslands, green oceans stirring stellar waves, swimming bodies of timothy and alfalfa, your nakedness burning in my arms. Voices of reason, no reason, methyl isocyanate in the words of his tongue, black Hitler’s, white, blood in veins, flowing, wet blood – sticky, crimson – all over the ground. And down in the city, up near Westminster and Weybosset, this man speaks, puts us all to death with hatred and reprisal. On my black face all blackness shines, rivers and temples and, yes, dreams too: the murmur of life in tall Egyptian grasses, the ghosts of what was once breath on the Nile. And you put them to death like you always do, silence all voice that is pain; but all of life is pain ... the warm crest of a wave as it climaxes over you.
• 19 •
growing perfect flowers She planted blood red roses so they’d blossom in June, Plied me with poetry in bed, her warm mouth against my ear, Our minds in non-rational thought, our bodies in perfect juxtaposition, Down the curve of her young back I fell like Suhail al Muhlif (8090129), Our gods like the gods of India and Pakistan, haunting us for a lifetime, All summer and autumn searching for more daguerreotypes to fill us up, Trying to “tart up” everything from everything else that is fading away, Blue light in blue windows, outside the pond blooming green and white with lilies, House of longitude/latitude, all of natural life full of nothing and everything, Different exhibitions on different days – ballroom/Latin, lyrical in Rhode Island, Things get broken, no one does this, it just happens that way,
• 20 •
Napalm in darkness (in the study of all her beautiful colors): A garden full of blood red roses, her hands carving each one perfectly.
â€˘ 21 â€˘
please prepay after dark A little boy riding his blue bicycle by my house doesn’t say hi, afraid I might murder him like on CNN (24 hours a day), We send an unmanned space probe to Mars to monitor the fine red sands, I e-mail you the pictures later on, so we can do it in each other’s minds.
• 22 •
your blue room On Sunday morning the snow comes down s
w a y
in torrential white sheets, The sky turns blue like the twilight at the pond the night before. We had built a bonfire on the ice, drank some beers, and fooled around. Later on, I went down to the cemetery, where I heard your ghost stirring in the pines (in the wind that went blowing all around me as I stood there, alone, in the snow).
â€˘ 23 â€˘
red, red moon I awoke in the canyon under a red, red moon. Next to me I heard an Arab brother crying out: “You know? You know? You know?” And I said: “I know! I know! I know!” I awoke atop Mt. Everest in the midst of a white cloud. Within the snowstorm I heard an Indian spirit praying: “You know? You know? You know?” And I said: “I know! I know! I know!” I awoke in the ghetto in a graffiti filled room. Outside in the hallway I heard a bang, and then someone shouting: “You know? You know? You know?” And I said: “I know! I know! I know!” I awoke in the desert under the shade of a date palm. Jesus came signing to me in my hand, and he was saying: “You know? You know? You know?” And I said: “I know! I know! I know!” I awoke in the sea under a heap of green, green waves. I was about to let go when I heard your ghost screaming: “You know? You know? You know?” And I whispered: “I know. I know. I know.”
• 24 •
it’s a strange life Piece by piece, bone by bone in the scrapbook, little stones, arrows, and the blond hair that we’ve stolen, pinning it to each page to show the world in ruins, I am a broken man in love; I am happy amid incalculable sorrow; I eat hurried desserts amid bones and the starving; A strange blue sun shines on me with rain across the earth, I am Saturday on a Thursday; I make love to her all through the war, In the papers every day I read something different than what I feel, the earth spins around blue and glass-like in its own dark space, beautiful winds stir the trees in the valleys, winter ponds freeze over, birds sweep across the landscape, pink jellyfish lie near a white beachcap, barns are painted red, and old New England towns drink up to their glory, children sing, and couples marry, and music plays, and we go on and on, While I am in Geneva I see the warplanes unfolding, arms and legs tremble as these earthquakes hit everywhere, torsos and memories and lovers get swept away by the tidal wave of it all, giant gravesites on little islands, graves in the Sudan where people fall dead, skinny litters of people drying up in hospital beds everywhere, eyes shrunken, bodies thinned out, flesh liquid like a hummingbird, exquisite constructed souls shimmering down into nothing, and we sit and wait politely for God – some waiting for this, some waiting for that; but everyday it is just the same.
• 25 •
way back when I remember when you were Marilyn Monroe and I was John Wayne, back in our glory days – when everything still lie out ahead of us, when avenues were crystal and the sky was still this astonishing blue, when we were young and callow and so very proud of it, back when there were long, tired days out on the prairie, golden waves that went sweeping up and over the slope of all the tall hills, when you were my true love: in the snowstorm, all through the cold spring, on days when the rivers froze all around us, the waterfalls carving down into frozen curtains, when we would go inside and warm our tired bodies down in front of the fireplace, that old flag waving out behind the house while we made love, and do remember when the President was a god-damn good man? when American was the place to be? • 26 •
but now a million drums callout in the dark out on the dunes, church bells as they go ringing out all across America … everyone trying to sing just like they did (way back when) like it was their wedding day, just like we once did … back when you were Marilyn Monroe and I was John Wayne.
• 27 •
the new essence And I held onto something strong as the bombs hit, London disappearing, New York as she went falling, one after another the cities dying while we all watch, essence in the roots breaking, glass water lilies on fire, no name for what this feels like (both yesterday and tomorrow), her ghost at every doorknob, my soul around every corner. I remember her voice at the edge of dark, out across the fields – way out before the moon, she said: be careful where you go! all this chest deep in forgetfulness, and you could hear the reeds and the tones of gold in her voice, her smile like drops of rain on a small child’s face.
• 28 •
jacobâ€™s ladder Driving in my silver car along the silver highway to this silver building, where I sit at a silver desk, staring at the silver screen, dreaming of green and white waves tumbling along the beach, you and I stretched out on the sands, our bodies naked, wet, and warm, both of us glistening gold and bronze under the sun in a blue sky that is hovering above us.
â€˘ 29 â€˘
crater lake The blue eyes of God, the soul of Jehovah 12,000 feet on Mazama, The whole world erupting in the remains of Crater Lake, Phantom Ship island your body forming in the magma, Caldera walls falling as though they are waterfalls falling upside down in the sky, In this abyss, in indigo, sinking down 20,000 feet into orgasm, Big cat in a cage, pumice on your face, human avalanche, Your voice speechless as you gaze over the edge of the cliff, Jewel point on the surface of the earth resting above nowhere, This giant ghost of pain, the theater of all my past, a billion years, The twelve men of the moon, and they need only stand here in my shoes instead; Daring; a million more questions to a million questions in all one hundred billion galaxies,
â€˘ 30 â€˘
The cold August wind blowing at your brown hair, the moon still in the sky (even without you/the rest of my life).
â€˘ 31 â€˘
paris honeymoon How I love you more on these dark New England days, when the winter sun filters down at four o’clock in the afternoon, as if this were Jesus to the embrace of his angel, human pulp, marrow and golden out of its side, gravestones in a field after war, in these final hours when there is only your name to remember, with no photograph of you to look at, only what your soul has left me, notes in songs, your hands against piano keys like my trembling fingertips, in Bois de Boulogne and at Rue Monsieur-le-Prince, where it smelled of urine and hay and crayons in the morning, inside the room where we both smelled of sweat and cold: complete silence, the sun beating helplessly in our chests, our blue masks on our tan faces,
• 32 •
your blue nightgown, your blue theater of pain, a life without dreams, my soul without you like the gentle yellow hair of bees.
• 33 •
Jéanpaul Ferro Jéanpaul Ferro’s poetry has appeared in Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, and Emerson Review. His work has also been featured on NPR’s “This I Believe” series, WBAR radio in NYC, and “The Plaza’s Masterpiece” series. A six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he lives in Providence, Rhode Island. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Poetry Jéanpaul Ferro’s poetry reaches inside the human heart and pulls out ... what we often ignore, but in reality are those events and feelings that will ultimately save us. Poignant and articulate, Ferro should be considered one of the great voices of our generation. We have much to learn about humanity and the ever after from his work. Corrine De Winter, author of Virgin of the Apocalypse Jéanpaul Ferro’s poems welcome you in and pour you a glass of the good stuff, with sinuous music in the background and dark wind in the trees outside ... I like to read his work to my students, my wife, to everybody, just so they will know how delicious ordinary words can taste when so carefully crafted. Tom Chandler, Poet Laureate of Rhode Island emeritus
A collection of poetry by Jeanpaul Ferro. Features "You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers," "Dear Heather," and "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your B...