The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

All Issues
FEB 2017 Issue



For David Meltzer

for Julie Rogers

i remember sitting there
among the books, how they
mean everything until you’re
dying, then they mean nothing
at all. i guess there’s all sorts
of vanity too close to see, by
which i mean in vain, all i
aspire to. i imagine i’d cling till
the bitter end, where you’re
going out like a boss, the guy
from the haymarket riots, say,
who bit a dynamite cap instead
of waiting to hang. it’s hard to
see you like this, snoring and
gasping for breath, yet death
at home is a triumph, an assertion
of personality against an impervious
world. maybe we’re in your pyramid.
maybe we’re buried with you. it’s
12:34; make a wish, he said,
if superstition becomes you.










is the name of the bar
            on the lower east side
                        where the bartender
                                    pours drinks for free
                        after i run out of cash
            & i wake the woman
                        from airbnb  at
                                    4 a.m. cuz i can’t
                                                unlock the door
                                    & make phonecalls
                        i won’t remember
                                    wheeee! que pasa new york?
                                                two nights later
                                                            much more sober
                                                fall on the pavement
                                    in brooklyn
                                                manage not
                                                            to break anything
                                                                        though it hurts
                                                            like hell in the morning
                                                (& my wrist hurts
                                                            today as i type)
                                                                        & i buy a book
                                                                                    at first & twelfth
                                                                        by d.a. levy
                                                            & i buy a book
                                                                        at mast by Meltzer
                                                                                    & i buy a book
                                                                                                at the strand
                                                                                    by nicholas Breton
                                                                        gentleman & i eat a
                                                                                    bacon, egg & cheese
                                                                        & wonder why
                                                            it can’t be done
                                                in san francisco
                                                            (a million reasons
                                                                        but that’s what makes
                                                            viable travel
                                                under late capital
                                    ism) & i miss anselm
                                                & john coletti &
                                                            alan gilbert (tho we speak)
                                                & catch picasso &
                                    lamont young
                        & the night i fall
                                    am reading poems
                                                by wieners & lima
                                    with anthony, cedar
                        & joshua &
            that’s what makes
                        that town the best











the beds in russia are worthless though the overstuffed green leather couches more than atone for this lack of comfort. wrapped in my sealskin pelisse with a beaver hat worthless in paris but much prized here, i obtain such semblance of sleep as i’m able without a cpap machine (which looks like a russian word). bring me my sickle for gouging and an uber on skis behind hairy nags and i’m good to go to the carnival to negotiate for chinese tea. the byzantine forms are the only ones available to express my feelings for an onion-domed basilica blooming against a harvest moon. if i infiltrate the kremlin disguised as a nun that’s my own business. if i eat too many herrings before the main course that’s one more elksteak for you. the whole point of coming here is to bring back shrunken customs in tiny ziploc bags or pressed between the pages of my latest book of poems. posterity will reward me for noticing those things that escape the russians themselves, like the color of the air they breathe, the odor of a vodka-fueled radiator. on the deck of a steamer to novgorod where the oka meets the volga i’ll hurl myself onto a coil of rope and get a better night’s sleep than i could in a bed at the hotel angleterre in st. petersburg. by the end of the ballet i’m sweating buckets. i retreat to my room to bathe myself in cool cigars and contemplate steel-blue twilight through the fine layer of sand sprinkled between the panes of the double window. it’s for my own protection.










for Bill Berkson & Khaled al-Assad


the union president’s dead
& they won’t let transgender

people pee in north carolina
& here i’m complaining about

climbing the mountain again
the mountain’ll always remain

if i’m lucky, to keep me from
sucking & only a king mule will

do. humbled by bill as he goes
through the business of staying

alive with dignified unconcern. i
don’t deserve him, have no zen

no dasein, just half-a-dozen self
-inflicted wounds i’m expected

to grin & bear & like robert
plant, i do. it’s like i’m in

a rembrandt or something
holding testtubes to the sun

to read my urine specimens &
—spoiler alert—i’m trigger sad

checked my email mid-poem
so of course its bad news

the ancient city is practically
gone, palmyra, palmyra

at least i still have bill
here in isis usa











remembering the sadness of my
life, not to mention his.
sometimes it snows in april in
minneapolis. our country
lurched hard right to never be
seen again. he was my only
friend. my red eyes gazed in the
dressingroom mirror; he told me
how fine i looked. my finger
hung fire by my cheek,
neglecting to smear foundation.
he thought i’d lost my way. we
hurt each other purposely. i
have ptsd from the bush
administration. he felt the same
way: if only she’d loved him
enough. we stirred flatwater
prophecies into a copper bowl,
only to blow interpretation. he
identified with me in a way
that’s productive but also a
projection of himself. he
identified with himself. i was his
mirror. he was my chef, he said,
i’ll cook for you. the accurate
understanding was well-nigh
impossible. i still believe in the
art he made then, but i don’t
believe in me. or so he said; i
don’t believe her. by the end my
vocals became syllables, mere
symbols of belief. he didn’t have
to. we were done when he
discovered my name was
walker. i pointed to film history.
in reply she noted how much
you could find online now that i
was dead. he said, you’re
kidding me! when? i said it’s
happening now.











deserves his own poem

alex chilton of boston

t.rex of triceratops

johnny thunders without the misogyny

moog masterpiece, mambo son

punk influenced by his own garage band

as old as mick jagger

what’s lost & remains

invective against gin misinterpreted

rocknroll 78, harry james, rhodes piano

dye of a lasting bleed

i attribute my feelings to him

the way you do to songwriters

dirty eddie don’t care at all

about marilyn monroe, joe dimaggio

stole taxi-stand diane from jeepster

some kinda car reference there

thankless task a boston rocker

aerosmith, the cars, j.geils

boston, til tuesday, morphine

mighty mighty bosstones

scruffy the fuckin cat

got my kicks on v66

the modern lovers, harvard square

the grolier, algiers, the brattle

a hush is holding its breath

vincent ferrini said

life is the poem

hope so






Garrett Caples

Garrett Caples is a poet and an editor for City Lights Books. His latest book of poems, Lovers of Today, will appear in the fall from Wave Books.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2017

All Issues