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Everything Is About to Be Better Than It Has Ever Been

The head’s never-ending nonsense will end
with the body’s finite pleasure

I suppose aphorism
retains a erotomanic nostalgia
akin to vocabulary
thefted from essays by degraded thinkers

Where we get what we get
does not have to correlate with necessity
as the urge to suffocate
always has at least partly a private source

Masturbation needs no imagery

Emma Goldman walked a long dock once
and her thoughts did not cause the universe to spin

We can abide in resistance
or even in indulgence in such conventional possibilities
that in brief moments cosmos-tize us with zealots

Sometimes I have danced with zealots of unzealotry
I have gouged out the eyes of Maloch as he ate my face
My dreams have never taken me as far as the writings of Marxists
At the shrunken lip above
where dream-blackened subatomic mathematics
writhe in serpentry
Marx himself relieves my masturbatory itch

I belong in a zoo really
but no one has written adroitly enough
to accomplish the radical freedom
of the emerging poet in the failing imperialist state
as community-funded oddity in the public slammer
flinging poo
howling Stravinsky

Instead we have coffee shops
funny hats in winter

I have always always hated Townes van Zandt
and continue to emerge in my funny hatreds

I will not talk to anyone in this place
The blister of my silence will not immolate







Not Parable

One says to her do the math.

Another places her fork on the table and a billion registers clink out a warning shot that the one who said do the math experiences as a flick to the temple, only now she knows it’s a bullet, which doesn’t surprise her given the escalating local conflict (she knows the assailant) but the cracking and the spatter still in the air shock her, though that hot rain will settle on her face, on her white blouse, on her eggs, and in her water glass.

Blood in water will squid dance then spread itself sleepily into a haze too dissipated to resemble wine, though we long for that image.

The situation has been taken from our instincts.  The language on this page, especially, disturbs our chance at believing in the reality of this event in a place above actual ground, in a room with boards that need scrubbing.

The language of this poem is not local to the event.  None have her mind.  Some will try where I have failed, to feel her body as she actually felt it, as the first shock ended, as her body settled into its weight, pulled down against the air that tried to detain her and hang her, slightly, in her unnatural position.






Sweetness and Milk

Practice breaks the body into
pieces by owning only owing
the places where a broken
body lands on the sidewalk

splashed map of organs in the stars’ habit

Every spilled glass lets out
motion parallel to daylight’s
viscera blasted across the parking lot

To die remembering a failure
seems more appropriate than brilliance

Apparitions belong behind the glass
or better behind a translucent plastic sidewall
that blurs the leaves

I raised myself, mostly, I’ve been told

My mother taught me sliced bananas with sugar and milk in a bowl

So I practiced taking the bowl from the cabinet

I practiced quiet in the kitchen

Summer evenings I crossed my parents’ lawn
and walked into the street barefoot and practiced
every nerve detecting every particle

and I practiced projecting them against the sky
so the air felt cooler and the clouds’ motions
seemed less against me

I knew people would ruin me for a new car

Before I learned sex, whiskey, and debt
I knew the two hungers

One licks the sugar
The other holds the bowl






Kaveh’s Window

The song is tired, friend
in the aftermath of polyphonic fuck ups
on a Thursday night when the wind was out and the stars were down
like dead pigeons near a smashed vodka bottle in the berm

When you come back, let’s watch a movie
Hungarians dancing after closing time
The darkest choose mad disaster over terminal sorrow

I have come to believe the only good people are poor
In my stubborn religion I deny all contrary evidence

I tried believing nothing and it got me nothing
but I woke up after ten minutes’ sleep
in the apartment you gave me for two weeks

Only a friend would not ask me to describe
the trees out your window in winter light
orange and blue and white light in the ice

because you have been there, Kaveh
because you have slept in that bed and lived to tell about it

I saw the squirrel this morning
on the roof below your window
and for a moment I wanted to say something
to anyone, and I suppose that

is where religion begins
The house we must enter
when we close the final door

There is no world until all our friends arrive there






Early Hymns in the First World without a God

I lived in flat ovals of light on walls

And did not mind what words

Between the epidemic of pushing
And the trauma
That followed my eyes when staring
And listening grayed
And I wanted to touch and be told to wait

I walked as a frank gangster into an arcade
Populated with murderous teenage girls
And answered my past with a nod and amnesia

I walked into the sinkhole effects
Of flat city blocks that extended too far to outpace
And the trains came in shifts
Expensive in their promise

While my gangster swagger
Put me to work cultivating rice on a rooftop
Fenced-in with barbed wire

But in those darks (I worked until evening and always snuck gin)
I found the star sheen still burned behind the factory

I mean what I say is only real on television
As I turn it off




Matthew Henriksen

Matthew Henriksen is the author of Ordinary Sun (Black Ocean 2011) and co-editor of the online poetry journal Typo. He lives in the Arkansas Ozarks, where he organizes The Burning Chair Readings and works at the Dickson Street Bookshop.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2014

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