The Current Isolationism

IMG_3123The Current Isolationism

In the half-light, I am most
at home, my shadow
as company.

When I feel hot, I push a button
to make it stop. I mean this stain on my mind
I can’t get out. How human

I seem. Like modern man,
I traffic in extinction. I have a gift.
Like an animal, I sustain.

A flock of birds
when touched, I scatter. I won’t approach
until the back is turned.

My heart betrays. I confess: I am afraid.
How selfish of me.
When there’s no one here, I halve

the distance between
our bodies infinitesimally.
In this long passageway, I pose

against the wallpaper, dig
my heels in, catch the light.
In my vision, the back door opens

on a garden that is always
in bloom. The dogs
are chained so they can’t attack like I know

they want to. In the next yard
over, honeybees swarm
and their sound is huge.

~ CAMILLE RANKINE, Incorrect Merciful Impulses

Progress Report

The PathProgress Report

It’s time to admit I’m irresponsible.
I lack ambition. I get nothing done.

I spend the morning walking up the fire road.
I know every tree along the ridge.

Reaching the end, I turn around. There’s no point
to my pilgrimage except the coming and the going.

Then I sit and listen to the woodpecker
tapping away. He works too hard.

Tonight I will go out to watch the moon rise.
If only I could move that slowly.

I have no plans. No one visits me.
No need to change my clothes.

What a blessing just to sit still —
a luxury only the lazy can afford.

Let the dusk settle on my desk.
No one needs to hear from me today.

by Dana Gioia, 99 Poems: New & Selected

the break

the break246ab-11259965_1656144147957466_1808724269_n

is the place in the funk record
everybody goes crazy. if the dj is smart
the break is built longer. the break is hip-hop.

Grandmaster Flash took the break,
stretched the break. pulled it apart
like silly putty, plastered the party in it.

the break is where the drums take center
stage. the break is the center. the break
is the party. the break is built
from thrown-out equipment,
unused grooves. the break is struggle.

the break is the place
your sister doesn’t have.
the break is the eviction.
the break is moving
back in with Moms.

the break is the break-
up. the break is garbage
bags of your sister’s
belongings you find
in your room the day you
come back from summer camp.

the break is the party
you want to have
for your sister. the break
is your sister not being
only yours anymore.

your niece is the break.
the job applications
are the break. listening
to Lil’ Kim & Biggie
while your sister braids
your niece’s hair is the break.

the break is the job
your sister hates.

the break is the apartment hunt.
the arguments between Moms
& your sister. the break,
the apartment coming through.
the break, garbage bags
absent from your room.

~ Nate Marshal, The Wild Hundreds

palindrome by Nate Marshall

palindromeNight Walker

after Lisel Mueller

on her profile i see she has 2 kids,
now 1 she had in high school, now none
at all. she unaborts 1.
she is unpregnant
in 8th grade. she unresembles
her favorite pop singer Pink. she uncuts
her hair, it pulls into her scalp from clumps on the floor.
her new boyfriend forgets the weight of her.
she leaves her new boyfriend. he’s forgetting
her phone number. she becomes my girlfriend
she picks up the phone & i am on the line
ungiving a goodbye. her best friend trades letters
between us. we each open lettters
from ourselves with hearts on the outside.
she transfers to our magnet school. she moves
to a neighborhood close by. we separate
at the lips. we have never kissed behind the school.
she unchecks the yes box on the note & i take away
my middle school love letter. i unmeet her cop father
& her Chicano moms. we walk backwards into Baskin-Robbins
throwing up gold medal ribbon ice cream into cups.
it rounds into scoops, flattens into gallon drums
of sugar & cream & coldness. we are six years old.
maybe we can go back to then. i unlearn
her name, the way it is spelled the same
backward. how it flips on a page, or in my mouth.
i never knew words could do that
until 5 minutes from now.

repetition & repetition &

ours is a long love song,IMG_2371

a push out into the open air,

a stare into the barrel,

a pool of grief puddling

under our single body.

a national shame

amnesia & shame again.

we are a pattern,

a percussive imperative,

a break beat.

we are live

on the airwaves,

until they close,

in the pubs

until they close,

in the schools

until they close.

we are close

to the edge of the city limits.

we are limited to the hood

until we decide we are not.


we are hundreds:

wild until we are free.

wild like amnesia

& shame,

amnesia until

we realize that it’s

crazy to keep forgetting

& we ain’t crazy

baby we are wild.

we are 1.

we are love.

~ Nate Marshall, Wild Hundreds

Variations, Lorca

The still waters of the air                            20140407-173615.jpg
under the bough of the echo.

The still waters of the water
under a frond of stars.

The still waters of your mouth
under a thicket of kisses.

-Federico Garcia Lorca

one for the shoeshine man

one for the shoeshine man

the balance is preserved by the snails climbing the
Santa Monica cliffs;
the luck is in walking down Western Avenue
and having the girls in a massage
parlor holler at you, “Hello Sweetie!”
the miracle is having 5 women in love
with you at the age of 55,
and the goodness is that you are only able
to love one of them.
the gift is having a daughter more gentle
than you are, whose laughter is finer
than yours.
the peace comes from driving a
blue 1967 Volks through the streets like a
teenager, radio tuned to The Host Who Loves You
Most, feeling the sun, feeling the solid hum
of the rebuilt motor
as you needle through traffic.
the grace is being able to like rock music,
symphony music, jazz . . .
anything that contains the original energy of

and the probability that returns
is the deep blue low
yourself flat upon yourself
within the guillotine walls
angry at the sound of the phone
or anybody’s footsteps passing;
but the other probability–
the lilting high that always follows–
makes the girl at the checkstand in the
supermarket look like
like Jackie before they got her Harvard lover
like the girl in high school that we
all followed home.

there is that which helps you believe
in something else besides death:
somebody in a car approaching
on a street too narrow,
and he or she pulls aside to let you
by, or the old fighter Beau Jack
shining shoes
after blowing the entire bankroll
on parties
on women
on parasites,
humming, breathing on the leather,
working the rag
looking up and saying:
“what the hell, I had it for
while. that beats the

I am bitter sometimes
but the taste has often been
sweet. it’s only that I’ve
feared to say it. it’s like
when you woman says,
“tell me you love me,” and
you can’t.

if you see me grinning from
my blue Volks
running a yellow light
driving straight into the sun
I will be locked in the
arms of a
crazy life
thinking of trapeze artists
of midgets with big cigars
of a Russian winter in the early 40’s
of Chopin with his bag of Polish soil
of an old waitress bringing me an extra
cup of coffee and laughing
as she does so.

the best of you
I like more than you think.
the others don’t count
except that they have fingers and heads
and some of them eyes
and most of them legs
and all of them
good and bad dreams
and way to go.

justice is everywhere and it’s working
and the machine guns and frogs
and the hedges will tell you

Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog From Hell