4.11 / November 2009


The fanciest restaurant where I grew up
was built inside of an old Boeing 747.
The maestre d’ told my dad he had to wear
a jacket and a tie in order to be seated,
but Pops didn’t have either so they dug out
a old jacket and a clip-on tie from a closet,
asked him not make a habit of it. My dad
shyly led my mom through the airplane’s
interior, his hand on the small of her back.
The place was filled with other young lovers,
eating fondue and fancy herbed breadsticks.
It was the early 70s, years before my siblings
and I marched out of my mother’s body
to set up camp in their lives. By the 80s,
the restaurant had become a sad landmark,
abandoned in an empty gray parking lot.
They shut the place down cuz the owners
were selling coke on the side, but to me,
this somehow only made the place more
glamorous; the lovers, more beautiful,
all of them unaware their flightless plane
could smuggle, that some of the beautiful
people were dining in borrowed jackets,
their ties snapping off when their women
pulled them in for a kiss.


When the black plague hit the Saxon army in 1340s,
they didn’t let this stop them. Instead they catapulted
the diseased corpses of their fellow soldiers directly
into the enemy camp. It worked. Within a year, half
of Scotland was dead. Half the Saxons were dead too,
but at least, they knew how to put their dead to work.

In the 1930s, in the middle of legendary circus tent fire
which would swallow almost 200 people, a little boy
with a club foot remembered his boy scout pen knife
and sliced a hole through the tent large enough for him
and 300 other strangers to fit through. He thought this
would make people see past his disability. The next day,
the headline read: Boy with Club Foot Saves Hundreds.

In 2008, the U.S. National Parks Service reported
a significant uptick in suicides with their parks.
I guess they want to die someplace beautiful, said
the parks spokesman, but this is not the answer.
The Grand Canyon claims the most suicides by far
and park rangers are now instructed to look out
for signs: notes taped to steering wheels; weeping;
the lone person staring too long into the abyss.

In 2009, I stare into the abyss of another poem
struggling hard not to include you. Obviously,
it fails when, in the last stanza, you appear,
out of nowhere, mute, nodding your woolly head.
Look, I have no dead Saxon to throw at you,
no knife to slice through your lingering everything.
I only have this poem, the one I am taping
to the steering wheel of page, swearing to you
I’m not lonely, that I don’t miss you at all, that
I was grateful when silence enveloped us both,
happy that if the “us” we became had to die,
at least it would be someplace beautiful.


Year round, my shuffling boyfriend
has the potato nose, the chocolate eyes,
the bloodhound lids, the stubbly jowls,
the shiny black Buddy Holly glasses.
Yet it is only when he drags out
his winter scarf and black wool hat
do the homeless guys on the Bowery
straighten their backs, extend a finger
from the neck of a paper-bagged bottle
and go, It’s you! Bike messengers
throw fists in the air, record store clerks
hang up their phones in shock, women
shoot him slippery, wiggly grins. Once,
a cashier at a gelato place took his picture
with her cell phone. It is four months
of semi-celebrity, of well-meaning people
trusting their one dumb sense — Well, that
certainly looks like Elvis Costello — over all
the sensible others: but why would he be eating
a Big Mac at two on the afternoon? Shouldn’t
he be scoring a movie, instead of reading
Hulk comics? Would Elvis Costello really
being wearing an Elvis Costello t-shirt?


Your ass is so big, even Taft is like Whoa! [1]

Your car is so busted, even FDR is like, No thanks, I’ll walk! [2]

Your game is so weak, you make Buchanan look like JFK! [3]

You’re so short, you think James Madison is tall! [4]

You’re so crazy, Abraham Lincoln should marry you! [5]

You’re so dumb, you think Millard Fillmore is a concert hall! [6]

You’re so dumb, you think the 22nd President and the 24th President are separate people! [7]

You’re so dumb, you think Charles J. Guiteau assassinated a cat! [8]

[1] At a height of six foot and a weight three-hundred and forty pounds, Taft was our biggest president.

[2] In 1921, FDR was struck with polio, which comprised his ability to walk.

[3] Buchanan was the only American President never to marry; JFK was our 35th President and a known lothario.

[4] At a height of five foot four, Madison was our shortest president.

[5] Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife, was known for her mental instability.

[6] Millard Fillmore is our thirteenth president; The Fillmore is a historic music venue in San Francisco.

[7] Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, hence he is both our 22nd and our 24th President.

[8] On July 2, 1881, Charles Julius Guiteau assassinated President James A. Garfield. In June 18, 1978 cartoonist Jim Davis debuts a cartoon strip called “Garfield” about a fat orange cat named Garfield. It should be noted that Garfield the cat was named after Jim Davis’s grandfather, and not after President Garfield. Jim Davis’s grandfather, however, was named after President Garfield.

4.11 / November 2009