6.01 / January 2011

Two Poems

listen to this poem

Your Pain is 11 Things (And I Hope I’m Never One of Them)


your pain is a limousine
a beautiful vehicle by which to carry
the less fortunate


your pain is a vegetable cart
in a supermarket world

when you bring your lover an apple
it is by the sweat of your back

and every dog on earth


your pain is a farmer’s gun
that can only be used for
a righteous cause

a yolk nothing on earth
can ever separate


your pain is a windmill
breathe it in or don’t, gardens
will still grow wherever

you vomit, black-and-white
butterflies will always carry
you home


your pain is a vacuum cleaner
in a desert and if I am never
a single grain, I think

I will go to heaven


your pain is a fortune cookie
I don’t even need to break open
to read, it says:

your god’s hope
even turned upside


your pain is a flickering light
bulb, the shadows it casts
sometimes puff up

like blowfish, touch one
and your finger gets


your pain is a whalebone
that once fed on plankton
a perpetual hint

from the voice box
of the sea


your pain is a matchbox
mansion, it will always fit
what it needs to

it practically owes
you a sunrise


your pain is moveable furniture
every day you rearrange some
dollhouse scene across

your lawn and win
a few more hearts


your pain is a pocket dictionary
there are words for it all, but
at midnight I will send you

a whole library
of translations


listen to this poem


failure is a body, my body walking through fields of imaginary wheat
chewing on gumdrops, thinking whatever I shouldn’t like death’s
a cubbyhole filled with better candy

like the whole world’s made of clock parts
like you are much better than me because you
could find a train anywhere to anywhere

failure is this body, my legs radiating like neon signs
giving off the scent of fried meat and spent light
the home life I’ve given up

for this flooded tunnel, my jagged coin toss
into the anti-gravity, the change I court in ambivalent fractions
the leakage missing from my eyes

I’m only human at certain angles
meaning I’m flying a kite made of empty pamphlets
pushing a sled to carry my leftover bones

when I talk of geometry and how I ended
my shoulders and why the dirty part of my heart
is the best part


failure is a body, my body arching to meet the laissez faire
three footsteps in a thousand, an umbrella tied to an anchor
that belongs in outer space

despair with no blueprint, a root fetish that changes upon
examination, I put my escape in a jar of wedding rice
knowing I’ll never wear a ring

I steal ozone off dying roller coasters, carry those secrets
like flashlights and vitamins, weaving through patterned traffic
as I memorize the recipes that make me

the sickest, returning only when I need to
a tired chameleon, a zombie with a fuse, lost explosives
and the gift of strings


failure is one body, enduring it another, the undergrowth’s
the slow ride of a single-cell fever floating through my intestinal tract
anger slurred into the puppy love I guard

like a half-charged pacemaker, the seed of my worst superstitions
like if I use the same spoon twice it might cause an avalanche
or how my bed must always face north

I save my hair in a coffee can, my toenails in ashtrays
try to document evil using a black box and tongs
my reasons die of influenza, as trapped lambs

in the vandalized mortuary I visit in my sleep
what was once solar in me now rests like a hardened dinosaur
earthworms and their shadows pass like colds

the fear and irrelevance I beat back
when my enemies gather in my
pituitary gland


failure is a body, my body flailing like an epileptic
in this giant junkyard of hope and centipedes, how they crawl
over my best stationary, disturbing the lady

I hear in every seashell, how her invitation to
the already threadbare hovers like immanent frostbite
a thin line of sugar, another year of camouflage

since the whole world’s made of guillotines
and all I want’s an ostrich, meaning I’ll trudge on
like some headless pet to eat up the dark

to envelop this questionable medicine with
sleep and hunger, brimstone and discipline
a pair of scissors for every bottleneck

as dynamite is pawned, as strangers shovel fallout
back into kaleidoscopes, as wasted crosshairs
become the truth at vicious angles


failure is a body, four limbs and a watered-down suicide
me spitting peanuts at tollbooth collectors because I’m the only
monster in this china shop, me petting everything twice

because I want to, because I’m still trapped in the first half
of a long process of migration, because the earth is flat
because I once wished upon a shoelace

because I thought romance meant breaking my legs to music
because I once met an old man with too many toes and traded him
kisses for a handful of fire ants

now I test nothings against the rubber walls of my battered conscience
now the nights themselves mix pesticides with vials of deep blue adrenaline
now I’m stuffed with moonlight

failure is what my hands do when they don’t know what to do
how I wither like powdered eggs in the butterfly cracks of endless remission
how I can resurrect skeletons just by thinking of dying

how human I am even when I’m not.

Peter Schwartz has 5 published chapbooks: 'the nowhere glow', 'amnesia diary', 'TELL ME', 'IN PRAISE OF all PARANOIAS', and 'Old Men, Girls, and Monsters'. He recently completed a full-length poetry collection called 'eleven'. See more of his work at: http://publishingproject.wix.com/peter-schwartz.
6.01 / January 2011