Joseph Lease, from “Free Again”

When I can’t sleep I am full of red buds and torn curtains and shiny cars parked in a lot. My lower-middle-class manners tear through my upper-middle-class manners: I stared at braided colors in water while my peers figured out the art of the deal. I was (I wanted to be) a Miwestern boy with a disco in my eyes—Chicago Jew, greengold suburb Jew, son of a Coney Island Jew. When I drank I got punched up by luminous waves of anger. I thought I had to chhoose between winning in New York and being a good person. I’m not a good person: a good person doesn’t talk about himself—or so good people tell me. What is our country. Did it start as blank, as blank blank, as blank blank blank. I would love to fly to Vegas for the Punk Festival—we aren’t the first culture to “monetize relationships”—force steel splintering, force breathing, moisture in the air: the city dissolves, one long story of corruption: USA means the outer miracle kills the inner miracle: history has to live with what was here: no images, no lightning, no letters of flame: leaves move, clouds move, money moves, night pushes through the money—

From Broken World. Lease reads tonight with Paul Vazquez at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, and also at Labyrinth Book this Saturday afternoon.

18 April 2007 | uncategorized |

Carl Dennis, “At the Border”

At the border between the past and the future
No sign on a post warns you that your passport
Won’t let you return to your native land
As a citizen, just as a tourist
Who won’t be allowed to fraternize with the locals.

No guard steps out of a booth to explain
You can’t bring gifts back, however modest,
Can’t even pass a note to a few friends

That suggests what worries of theirs are misguided,
What expectations too ambitious.

Are you sure you’re ready to leave,
To cross the bridge that begins
Under a clear sky and ends in fog?
But look, you’ve started across already
And it’s one-lane wide, with no room for U-turns.

No time even to pause as drivers behind you
Lean on their horns, those who’ve convinced themselves
Their home awaits them on the other side.

From Unknown Friends. Carl Dennis will be reading with Henri Cole tonight at Housing Works Café in an event sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. As he explained to a reader during an online Q&A, “Poetry is useful in that it allows readers to feel that they are not alone, that others have thought and felt as they have. It can do this more powerfully than any other kind of writing, or at least more directly, because in a good poem we are made to feel that we are in the presence of a whole human being speaking to us directly, or providing a script for us to enter as we see fit.”

17 April 2007 | poetry |

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