Song of Discipline

You have to cultivate obsession. Read dirt
and decode clouds. You must become detective
of your own mind, and uncover the gruesome secrets
that’ll undermine your empire. Your life can be excavated
from the noise: within the unshapen metal bar
lie the knife, the needle,
and the neuron. But you have to peel yourself,
abase yourself before all, confronting
the only real enemy. You have to
offer your bones as bread,
and donate blood to everyone listening,
squeezing every last drop of juice from your head.
You have to mount the ninety-nine stages
of humiliation,
letting eyeballs slide dripping off your face.
Death will draw closer: you’ll see it smile,
and hear your own real thoughts.
You must dive
into the prismatic waterslide of memories
searching for the weak spot
to break yourself open;
swim back upstream
into the womb of light
to head the past off at the pass,
to catch the last rolling smatterings
of what you did not love in time.
You have to make yourself real.
You have to die for your sins
and not ours.

The Thief & The Thief

Night and day are like two table racquets
smacking Gerhardt back and forth,
and every contact with the blue or black paddle
ages him visibly.

At 19 Fantucci had already knocked over six banks,
and his getaway techniques had ushered in a rash
of decoys and river escapes.

By 27, Georgescu, the art thieves’ Einstein,
had swiped the Quran written in Saddam Hussein’s blood,
and inspired a generation of thirsty young criminals
to perfect the art of disguise.

At 30, Gerhardt, a self-educated expert
in forgery artists and vault explorers,
will be the first to tell you
and the other bar patrons
that he’s no genius,
but maybe if he spends enough time
designing and honing one plan,
then perhaps he could commit
one genius crime,
something everybody would notice,
and yes, in fact, he is architecting a master plan,
something deviously intricate and yet ingeniously simple,
though he needs a foolproof escape, since there are
certain seasoned detectives
who would recognize his unmistakable style
when the crime made international news.

And no, he hasn’t so much as jaywalked in years—
Gerhardt is saving himself.

Now Gerhardt’s 35.

Now
Gerhardt’s 40,
but he still has fire
and he stays alone
because women make him weak.
If it weren’t for women
he’d have long since…
Gerhardt lifts weights daily
and is still handsome enough to be
a famous criminal, he thinks,
though a little less every month.
Across from a diner mirror,
lost in the many images of himself,
he tries to talk his way out of the maze.
But should he shave his balding head?

Gerhardt doesn’t know.

Gerhardt wanders in loose circles
pacing ruts into sidewalks
as if around the next corner
he’ll glimpse the steel idea,
the indie style he needs
for the felony to be remembered.
Surrounded by giants in the mist,
he is too proud to stand on their shoulders;
he must be original, he wants
an authentic, homemade crime,
brilliant and eccentric, a sly blow
against the received wisdom.

Perhaps something with
the Vatican?

What if…

At 50, to top off an already legendary career,
Waszak had conned a sultan
out of an entire oil-state.

At 50, Gerhardt’s everything he sneered at.
He keeps throwing away his promise
then spends years trying to get it back
only to find himself in the same old place
saying something he said before
to people who used to listen closer.
He prays at the sites of former successes
remembering when he had tears in his eyes;
now he can’t find the feelings he pushed away,
and night and day are alternating mountains.
When he was a child, no one had said anything
about the repetition,
and being doomed to act,
how inaction is action,
and the long fall is interrupted only
by a repeating series of
collisions.

55, 60, 65…
The years fold like dominos,
and Gerhardt’s an echo,
afraid of his friends,
worn by his clothes,
owned by his possessions
and bored with his obsessions.
Gerhardt performs as himself in bars,
desperately unable to stop plagiarizing
his younger self. Buy him enough whiskey,
and Gerhardt will joke that he’s still plotting
his big breakthrough, but only so he doesn’t need
to release his favorite delusions,
as if by wishing hard enough
it could all still come true…
Yeah sure, he laughs,
and the mice will eat the cat,
the snow will paint, the clouds will bark,
right, and the money melt, and the launched fist
encounter itself, the whale swim over the city,
and Atlantis turn up
in an old bathtub.

At 76, T.T. “Manta Ray” Barnoy broke
into the world’s largest stash of gold bars
only to take a selfie—a true transcendence
of petty crime, into skill for its own sake,
risking it all for a display of technical splendor,
signing eternity with a golden pen,
and had they met
as peers
the two old men would have gotten on
famously.

But Gerhardt doesn’t care. He’s
engrossed in another, bigger battle
he also must lose, but this time
he cracks wise. These days
sleep wakes him,
emptiness fills him,
and the silence speaks
most eloquently.

Apart

Unless she focuses,
the universe reverts
to void.

Unsettled by emptiness,
she creates an apartment:
oddly familiar walls and couches coalesce,
and stars gather into the shape of a black cat
tiptoeing over to embrace her shin.

But then she exhales
and the room recedes,
and she crosses into another scene,
searching for something real.
Behind her, walls crumple
and spring up when she looks back,

and she builds entire cities,

but no one shows up.

Having invented a sky,
she erects a skyscraper
just to approach an arbitrary inch
she has an odd hunch about,

and once there
she hears a disembodied voice
wheeze a word
that might have been her name,

if she had one.

Renata?

The voice haunts her for centuries,
till she forgets all but
the echoing ache.

Sometimes she makes mirrors,
but they never reflect her.
Sometimes she makes humans,
but they are only machines.
If only she could create another god…

Is that what she is?
Rinalda the god?

Yet she feels like a prisoner…
horribly trapped in fact,
in fact
suffocating in place,

strangled but breathing…

Her mannequins surround her,
hissing and beeping
and jabbering in a language
she doesn’t understand.

With a hand-wave she banishes them.

Is this a jail for gods?

Only once,
looking up from her own thoughts,
she glimpses an arc of faces around her,
faces she knows from some other time—
perhaps from before her birth—
and in that instant
she meets an old man’s grieving eyes

and glimpses another mind,

a real mind,

and something almost makes sense

before the ghost turns away.

Reminder

He’s got your fucking number, my friend
He knows your real name
and lives where you live
and has been leaving messages
all over your body.
So now,
in these final moments,
what few notes do you scrawl
for posterity?
No time to get it perfect.
Spit it out
before he catches up.
It’s getting late, 
and the curtains are breathing…

Between

here again, at the end and the beginning, at the instant before the big wake, all tender and waiting to be shaped, as the embryo of the universe dreams about what it might someday become, slowly approaching consciousness but still hungover from the last cycle, here, with the fetal universe still a single incredibly dense and hot point of pure mind, the original period holding within itself every possible sentence, here, where everything is unwritten, before the stars roared, before the dust ever assembled itself and began to philosophize, before history overlaid everything with steel bars, before the grave gave birth and mothers brought death into the world, before the monocle and before the guillotine, here, with all the past and future whirling around us, long before we ever were, long after we will be, and yet where we’ve always been, in this fixed point beyond time from whose perspective time stays still, here with all the possible realities overlapping overhead, in the four-dimensional cogs of a machine where god in its blank mask sets trillions of words shuttling across the weave of reality to form the illusion of the observable universe, in these timeless little rooms in the centers of our skulls where we sit by fires and read the constellations on our eyelids, here in these waiting areas between existences where souls try on bodies like pairs of shoes, in this dust where heavy-hearted galaxies gaze into one another’s supermassive eyes over this nonplace, in this beat woven from the unseen, the unoccupied and the unspoken, as the universe begins to hatch, as the cosmic child screams suns, as the first organic molecules have their tryst in spiraling aquatic light, as the soul possesses its new body, as the director’s assistant claps the sceneboard, as the dream of the last life fades, as the lock becomes the key

Dancing in a Cage Wheeled Through a Forest of Eyes

Outdoors the air is hostile and nervy,
it bothers glam willows and the swan navy,
and me, slug hunched in a shell jacket,
haunting the canal and street market,
searching the slow crowd.

I stop under a window and gaze up into a world.

Later I ripple my tresses and deck myself in fruit hues,
venture out to perch in parks and groom on stools,
journaling, describing those
I most want to know.

Then I bolt home.
It’s long past time to work,
for real and at last.
I open the page
and stare at the lines of my face.
And I hear, faintly, a hubbub.
I crack the window—
in slides winter,
and party clamour,
high and rapid talk bubbling
over eerie marching-band tunes
I’d love to know the names of.

But these people are on another planet.

I dress again and set out
over rainy cobblesnakes
to the old powerhouse,
a palace pounding with dark light,
where I shiver in line, mutely
watching abstractions.
The bouncer approves…
I climb down into the electric dungeon,
through shaking hallways,
past bars, turbines, attack lights,
dodging swayers and stompers;
and in throbbing smog,
I force myself to dance,
staring overhead,
rigid, pained,
wishing
someone would come—
and then they do,
and it feels wrong,
and I mumble,
can’t look up,
I say no or nothing
and drive them off,
and cursing myself
I hurl my body in rage,
jerk and thrash,
dart in place
and maul air,
for hours,
till muscles quake
and lungs grab
and feet squeal
and I am flesh,
just
flesh
sweating
in the breathing beat
that has inhaled me,
and my face fuses,
as the hall recedes,
as the few who haven’t left
dissolve to dreamt dust,
as the walls buckle and blow out,
and into this deepest noise
billows silence

and I remember I once ran symphonies for no one.

and I remember I spent a sleepless four months engraving paper with the word of my counterfeit god, and then descended from the ceiling and strode out and up forest mountain cemetery roads into the secret world I’d built inside myself, and cackling over punchlineless jokes spooked a kid who doubletook and shrieked at my halfbearded highhaired snagglemawed crazed malodorous monstrosity

and I have awoken clean in holy aloneness, to blinds spraying zebra crossings on beloved floorboards, and approached in awe the glowing window, and beheld the long blue reverberation of morning building, carhoods creased with slanted eyes of light, shadow birds wavering over stainless sky wrinkled with wind, and downtown concrete expanding and receding over the glass bones of giants, their metal ideas driven like dimensionless nails into spacetime.

O O

way back at the beginning of time
all reality except us was a cold corporate hallway
and her body was my daily bread

we made the trees shout

before her I’d been doomed to write
what had never happened

then she smashed in through my windows

and suddenly
everything we touched
turned to history

and mostly we touched each other.
in sheets of ice, under bloody rainbows,
we embraced around our hipbone campfire
and fashioned our own myths:
I was her favourite villain,
Snake kissing Eve after the Fall

but to me

she was the one who slithered
and reflected in her eyes,
a thousand times bigger than life,
was all the flaming 21st century

You

okay let’s see
you’re in debt
your significant other left you for a profile pic
you feel most alive when you’re on drugs

I know you

you failed the test
you want and don’t want the truth
you can’t handle and need the truth

some days you text more than you talk

your father didn’t mother you much

and now you are getting very sleepy
since you worked all day all week
didn’t even have time for chores
how do others cope with so much working?

every year you think more about climate change

you know about disasters, diseases, and serial killers
but not miracles or cures

you wonder whether you’ll grow old
you wonder whether it might be better not to
you would swear the walls are closer every day
you believe it’s best not to think too much about death

you think about death all the time

you wonder whether you maybe said the wrong thing
yeah buddy you did say the wrong thing
you said it a hundred times

you miss him so much
you tell yourself there are others like him, but better

you don’t find any

you know what you should have done
you don’t know what you’re going to do
you doubt too much, you believe too much

you want this part to end

you look at beloved faces and imagine them old
for the last decade you’ve been sidling around a hole
you think ever less about that one brief era when it all flowed
when love was easy
and you were about to become another and better person
but never did
you have this hunch though, that one day
one day…
sometimes this is all that keeps you going

you know there must be a better way

or this will all end badly

you throw open the curtains
it’s night

Rise and Fall of the One-Man Empire

I unsolved a few mysteries
(a good night’s work)
then strutted the morning streets
with a candle in my head,
half-believing that everyone was
watching me pass,
admiring my
lofty
burning
transcendental

eyes.

That lordly stride!
Those mystical lips!

The sky rolled its eye up over the avenue,

the city shuffled its deck of people,

and I blessed a park bench
with my presence,
slid my gaze around
and waited for a miracle,
a disaster,
anything.

Honey sunlight drizzled in waves.

A sunken woman drinking beer solo
stole looks at me.

Some decayed rockers argued about chemicals in vodka.

Planes left trails of white droppings.

A tragic teenage couple embraced.

And the sunken woman began to sob
so loud it echoed across the park
and she swung into her bottles
and they came clattering smashing down
and the pigeons launched and wheeled,
but her crying was louder and harder,
and the sobs slammed into bricks,
shattered laughter,
broke bank windows,
boomed over river boats,
bounced over factories and parliaments,
splashed hissing into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It took me a while to find my body again
but there it was, slumped on a bench:
balding,
box glasses,
a squint,

not much more.

I smoked weed
and wandered around in music,
a sleepless weirdo
timing my steps to eerie beats,
side-eying the sadder women,
the black-lidded and serious women.
They looked at me
and saw only the city.

The Chief Managing Director Has a Few Requests

1

I want a dirtier sunset

with tar and molten waste!

Got it?

Give me sewer pipes that spew
and rusty black scaffolding
dewed with distillate of pollution!

You like that?

I want streets that crush
and lives that kill,
steel that never starves
and glass cages for the shills
so that they may swelter in luxury!

Give me enslaved and huddled masses
yearning to be me! ME!

Ahahaha!

So… I know you’re all wondering…
just what is it that I want most
of all the things my big, big money could buy?
I want… I want you to drive two hours to work!
Yes! And two hours back!
Every! Fucking! Day!
I want you to believe there is no other way.
I want you to forget…
Forget what?
Listen buddy,
Today’s surplus population
may be tomorrow’s source of oil,
but that wasn’t my decision!
Although I do play tennis with the guy,
don’t try to make me feel guilty!
Maybe if you want to live,
you should try working a little harder—
otherwise what use are you to us?

So give me rotting things!
Give me executions!
Give me things I threw out windows
and give me things I ruined!
I want things I… stepped on…
Give me…

Aw, christ…
Take it away!
I’m hungover, I…

Shut! It! Down!

DOWN!

Goodbye!

2

Give me…
Give me brunch!

I want a lamb’s skinned raw head ringed by citrus discs of stained glass!

I want two soft warm fat bread-rolls with crusty nipples smeared in bloody beef gravy, the cow’s memories coming through in an exquisitely brownish taste!

Which reminds me, darling,
It’s time for your behind that could feed a family for a week
but which satisfies me for only three minutes…

Thanks, baby… say, do you do you?
You do do you, don’t you?

And just a little shot of…
Wow! WOWOWOWOOOOOW! Yeaaaaah!
And back to work!

3

Towers collapse!

Nerve gas fries minds!

Bullets burst through baby eyes!

Drones vomit napalm on beings of shit!

Victims of my victims blow loud crowds clean!

Tanks pulp peaceniks into puddles shuddering with final rain!

High-rise rat-hives scream with flame fusing mother and child into coal!

Spears of grey light fall into bombed-out churches and impale the slaves groveling in snow!

Trucks hurl the walking trash flapping their shattered arms through a blizzard of broken glass!

Black fullmoons explode above your fecal ghettoes and rinse the human filth from the smoking rock!

Heart-split stars flare and x-ray millions of human skulls and ribcages with blue fish-hearts palpitating in shriveling membranes!

Skin crawls from muscles shrinking back over bone charring down to the brain seared to dust sucked up into the holy and the perfect white!

And then: Nothing.

Nothing…

And shh, baby, it’s no use
Kill me and I would only return
in new and splendid forms—
History ends with me!
MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Bwa-hah!
And I get everything that I want!