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Irritant Š Kostas Anagnopoulos 2007, 2010 ISBN: 978-1-933254-28-9 (Print Edition)

Ugly Duckling Presse The Old American Can Factory 232 Third Street #E002 Brooklyn NY 11215


Ko st as A nagnopoul os

To my daughter, Olympia

1. Try not to melt too much into letters Doomed as the language That colonized us Hanging many in its wake Settling our common past Gathered in a dish To increase production of arms A war too That’s okay because it’s not here We’re up in the hills

2. That poem is not a machine A fluke Or a laconic statement like I am here by chance It’s Labor Day, get out and celebrate You’ve been tied down by jargon long enough To know who rules you But you’ll never meet them

3. I am talking through my father’s hat of course I owe my first letters to him What were they? My gown hooked on a twig Over a stream Sit up straight at graduation Commander of the feet This pair belongs to the wrong man

4. I mourn my old address Once located My lot is to be uprooted To go from ointment to ointment Though I was told otherwise by Sister Elizabeth Which brings me back to my file Linking me to a criminal mind A prism A politician told me that And I’d like to add a few lines for the record Spiraling back, so to speak To honor our great melting pot

5. I am he who knits in the middle of the night An itinerant of the Greek variety Ithacan Division Raised on chickpeas, yogurt and nuts Locked in a basement Hit with a switch By my maternal grandmother Who forced me to draw a circle over and over The letter O blackening the paper She signed her name with an X

6. Miss Sound Byte has the appearance of gold But in the end her hammer will break Don’t invite her back Let your perforations act as a release Release

7. We can see the spectacle better from the distant promontory Much has been written on paper I migrated in ’74

Slippery I came and slippery I remain Untouched by parallel bars Sealed in a grid according to plan What to do Ancestors are counting on me Yet I freeze “Show us,” they insist One of my two lies is bigger than the other But I can’t tell which is which

8. Wandering in the atrium for air Finally out of my element Glazed as the platters around me Drugged by honeysuckle Then when I place my coat over a puddle It sucks the lady in

9. Tied up in traffic, switching lanes over and over They were belting out the Song of Songs Then I saw an asteroid in the stratosphere

Enlarging, coming closer to Earth, moping Hinting that I ought to listen more Then it got all misty Nothing would give The rules of composition were heard Blasting their dots and dashes Must wash behind the ears, they say Try again Row your boat I turn away from them

10. Now playing at a blue flower of forgetfulness near you I sit tight as a doodle Waiting to take off I get delirious in the dark, mix things up With a twist of my star-spangled wrist Scoot the debris out the back door The strong man pieced it together for us Beloved physician Stopped it from occurring during the Reformation Divide your time between verbs of motion and verbs of sound

11. The tree flowers at the window The cake is inverted I promote these objects, this landfill My limit is examined again At the bank The answers will appear on the big monitor And they’ll escort me out the revolving doors “You forgot your dumbbells”

12. Thoughts are available for doubting I realize I’m on the wrong path Grasping at their every word Just short of song Unable to retain it, nothing more To assume a disguise at this point Would induce laughter That’s what the forefathers mumbled America what are you doing here? Queens, forgotten borough, what about you? You resemble my room in the morning, but with chainmail

And here’s a drizzle Here’s a lens

13. You can’t be spotless You are spotted You missed the curb Discolored by imitations This new arrangement will kill me Another development will kill us Walk away You’ve seen a ghost You’ve seen no such thing Only a singing bird With a few modest emblems to get it off the ground Okay, you’re done, go I’m expecting company A raid Or at least surveillance Call it what you will, it’s one big oversight Open to view, they’ve spotted me My own doing

During unspecified hours What else can we expect from the unexpected It will finish us off Nightshade family, I want to join you Squash, your funnel-shaped flowers run amuck Yet nothing is decomposing Because you radiate Everything’s been emptied and preserved You’ve been seen by a ghost

14. That’s poetry for you Put it away now and listen to me I’ve taken care of everything We won’t dwell on the future It’s misleading, plain wrong And there’s more where that will come from Think happy medium Skimming all the while with a slotted spoon Relying only on interpretation Numbers have been declining High winds are predicted I ran away from the trade show

Hid behind an embankment Held myself above a sunburst In all my hats and shirts To be released among things that matter Will be music to the buyers’ ears Ears that speak to each other As though the words mean what they say I won’t even use words Bubbles on the receiver If only my mind were arranged like a cemetery Where the stiffs mingle freely It’s nice to remember the forgotten Brightness pours from above Holding all forms close Heavier than lead Speaking out Soft and loud Retelling it Losing one Choosing a replacement

15. I’m taking Mondays off from now on Emptiness is next to godliness Those magic words have never been stuttered Such gifts in the atmosphere who can resist The volumes taken out with the trash The index that came from nowhere The last book assembled on the island Really a lid to a bin of grit For your protection Just until I finish my description Then I’ll be crawling, crawling away Shrunken in my own presence Over you go It’s all right in front of me I’ll get to it tomorrow Whether I see it or not The storm is here for a reason Blowing bags into the trees I’ve lit the hall The corners soak up the glow You were here a minute ago You didn’t look up

Rain scatters birds What does it take to block the sky?

16. There’s talk of leaving As a means to jar them A way out The winds have pushed us forward Into oncoming headlights A green car with rusty doors From my childhood repair shop I’ve turned out better than expected Right here in front of you Stronger than you imagined Oh let the earth finish with us! Meanwhile here’s a whistle In case you’re ever in a tight spot

17. Turned around by mountains That danced away and began again To convert the gringos Pressing fingers deeper into temples

Who is for this, who against? Writing slowly, never to catch up Too many points Wake them up with your letterhead

18. God save us Or try to understand us Does that come naturally in your country—trying? In my dream I’m a long distance runner But in life I’m a slow walker, slow talker Surfacing late, traveling with a scrim To keep from cracking, stooping over for a drink Scenic patterns on the walls With signs of buckling I was once a boy With such a small grip On myself Patterns are dissipating More motion is expected Falling in the shadows Missing a couple of beats Word for word

19. Something unforgettable An omen, say Though forgetfulness has been known to occur In the middle of a sentence or a forest Assuming unexpected shapes Curled up under a tree With your dog-eared book Making do with the machine Since a formal request is preferred Here it is Live from the diorama Best viewed from the side Your voice wavers Blank as a noun

20. My thoughts don’t end here I ran ahead Distracting myself with gold-leaf They tried to see into holes Am I the only one awake? Why is spring so late?

Waiting around for it Putting my slippers out to dry It’s not going anywhere But I worry about losing it As if it had something better to do A disk with conventional wings speaks Of insupportable things Some packages The object is to do something with the letters I don’t mean employment It’s all relative Choices Slip away Being the sign Of a black fruit

21. The sky appears lower later On bricks Motion to stop for the night At this point though it’s pointless Without signage or notation Things are repeatedly

Stacked But first there is separation Then determining boundaries The dragonfly pushed at the screen Dust flew in the faces of the patrons A beam cracked Just forget it I speak from experience The words are metal vibrating in the wind This is no place for them Though mouths are watering Large drops With respect to society The sun will burn New beginnings Not stopping with touch Or starting with sound

22. I hate to tell you but‌ Negative hums In a book Too heavy to carry in the subway Biology served cold for religious purposes

23. Between interfacing and underlining It’s all in mother’s hands Grape leaves, Joe said Where we keep our collection of collars And the folding shovel Don’t get fooled by those symbols at the welcome wagon Listen to the bosses Building permit required Farm rental Air space too Rock on top of lonely rock Will you be the one? The messenger?

24. What a partition We’re receiving the shadows Watch this paper The offer still stands Where would that deliver you If not to the wrong neighborhood Where identity theft is on the rise

And how would you recognize yourself? It can’t be placed in the story Where then? This from an immigrant Though some took the trouble To locate your preference For the hell of it Like your friend up above

25. Nothing can come between us Aside from the estuary and the usual pollutants And then a godlike vacancy Better not horse around under these rays The steps to the hole Stay out of it Blessed are we Who lower our eyes to the grass Taking note of the surrounding pulp Expressing regrets about life Then reinforcing the life cycle

26. Walking backward With a forward motion As though in a trance And the faint shrill of a young bird Using its beak to break its fall into knowledge Emerging from the egg Temporary, drowsy I fumble my speech English made me do it English as a second language Something informative for the community at large It’s packing its bags for going A pleasant sight-seeing Witness the facts before they dry up Hobbling to the cement mixer To be finalized The sun has turned all the way around

27. Reading the commandments out loud I see that someone lied To someone a long time ago

And that they’d like me to keep quiet about it Filling a shelf with the classics Some ideas were mentioned What will become of us? Will the birds give us their business? We wake up from our ride Having butted heads in a dream It’s still dark out

28. The fragrance of books fills the house Librarians follow us around A dangling thing, the underworld An orchestra pierces us There is nothing to look into or out of Our eyes are open when they’re closed Relying too much on motion Words won’t come

29. A candy-making table Creating order in the room Tea is offered

The pot is boiling The path is clear Ground is broken Night is gone Time will not tell That the earth breaks into portions The pot is cleaned with a finger The path jumps in disbelief

30. A mirror does more harm than good Imitation isn’t the answer to your problem There’s nothing wrong with this idea Take down the dictionary and point to the word Though you are your own translator The truth surfaces On an invoice, for example This tree Isn’t dead yet, otherwise the wind wouldn’t know What to do with itself Where to go next

31. I try to climb my five flights A mountain in the city Following the sun to the tops of the trees

32. The plan was to sit it out Sit what out? This upholstered life What do you mean? The vacancies Here, hand me that hammer and I’ll explain The stones don’t often touch Lips reading the maps in your hands I’m running out of prose Find all the films that have lied

33. Reading is as close as I get to a community Not that I feel a need for one I am shy I try talking to myself But don’t know enough to say

What I need to say So I turn to others Pete the Tramp, Faust, Faustino Learn by repetition, they tell me It sounds rote when spoken I learned English from television My father edited a Greek-American Communist newspaper He was self-taught My mother was a seamstress Still is I hated school We lived in a mirrored house

34. Nothing outside holds my attention It’s all at my disposal I need a guide Someone to read to me, maybe Pete I remember the first book I read And the impression it made on me Sadako and the 1000 Paper Cranes About the bombing of Hiroshima

35. Aren’t you tired of these concentric circles? Never has blue looked so decrepit Or green so yellow Save me from assimilation I have a plant to keep me company We’ll be quiet The sky is emptying now Chance meeting of clouds An obvious place to end this conversation

36. There’s dust And more dust from dusting Did you catch it all? Under the sink is a pile of rags Wash them The cat recited the Gettysburg Address Prompted by a power surge No package for you today Once you release your grip The wind will move you forward

37. Weeks later The face appears to be worn out Not another word Before we begin Something new Like punishment or reward Let me recite this charming old nursery rhyme The one about blood in a tree And an apple in the throat

38. Pour from One beaker Into another Listen carefully A lisped reading Much emotion here Pass it on Next time someone might not be so thoughtful I defer to the footnote That indicates how much of the elixir Is to be thrown out

The author would like to thank Anna Moschovakis & Ugly Duckling Presse, Larry Fagin, Diane Shaw and Jesse James. This book was originally designed by Diane Shaw of Goodesign and typeset by Macabea Can Type on a Macintosh using Adobe InDesign. The text is set in Caslon 540 Roman, with numerals and titles in Caslon Antique Italic. The cover and title page were letterpress printed at the Ugly Duckling Presse workshop using polymer plates made by Boxcar Press. 300 copies were hand-bound by volunteers at the UDP workshop in the Gowanus sector of Brooklyn, NY. Electronic edition produced in July 2010, and made possible in part by a grant from the New York State Literary Presenters Technical Assistance Program.

Irritant by Kostas Anagnopoulos  

Chapbook of Poetry

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