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                “Cold winds blowing
And life looks like some malignant disease,
Viewed from the heights of reason
Which I don’t believe in,”

                Bernadette Mayer


1,         fall

              for Coco (1990-2016)


at least that’s what they say, When the haggling’s done,
the act of opening the hand,
But if it ever truly ends, in between are phases
the experts will never recognize,
Interleaved w/ disbelief & fury, insomnia,
delirium, glossolalia,
Or the stage in which one eats too much xanax,
gummy bears, & caviar, “takes a nap,”
facedown, listening to the neighbor’s old soul records
filtered through the floorboards, 

            As for me,
I keep attempting rational sentences despite myself,
Cold comfort,
an architecture of tics in rhetoric, Like,
“It’s no good hoping for accuracy from the flowcharts
that mark grief’s progression,”
The map, “after all,” is not the swamp,
& yet, “one” longs for “an argument,” “nonetheless,”
The “In which” in which the plot is laid bare,
As in “Paradise Lost” or other
“arcane texts,”

            What comes next,

           Savoring almost nothing
before grief resurges, what remains is the tension
of the chiastic structure
& its spillage, As if it were an accident,
when delineating theodicy,
to lionize the Devil, How “Elegiac,”
rolled on the tongue
implies the beauty of others’ sorrows,
“The Devil in the details,”
or the accumulation of velleities
so many I know & love
would ascribe to God’s catastrophic hand,

           You said you felt the opposite
when I described the taxonomy of mediocre poets
possessed by evil spirits,
How Jahiz believed the Devil guides the worst poets’ pens,
Angels, the best,
I never had the chance to ask you
what you thought the difference was,
Who but you would study Hegel’s Science of Logic
as an elaborate joke, Appalled by angels
you didn’t believe in,
like me, you still knew what it meant to be brushed
by the weight of their hem,
& baffled,
A campy kind of aporea, Like,
“Every angel is terrifying, well-built,
& adorned in flame & lamé,”

           Strabismic w/ desire,

           Still longing to see what the future holds,

           How can I employ reason
to make me feel what I know to be true,
when you’re the one who animates my disbelief, lingering
like the day that’s over
but clings to your nerves a while, “Still wading
sentimentally in a year
That ended sentimentally in the middle of a season,”
is how you put it,
Like lying still on a summer’s evening
w/ the vestibular impress of
the pool’s blue sway
rippling through your equilibrium,
An intaglio of motion, It washes over you,
& you wake w/ a start,

           Lift your face from the floorboards
to return to the freezer to freshen your drink, 
& you read,
as if by instinctual misprision, “You surround me,”
to be a kind of dysphoria, As in,
“Who is this body
I’m embedded in,” it leaves you breathless,
“Who are these people,”
That old refrain, “This can’t be life,”
How it must feel to find your own words in quotes,
“the body’s body,” That feeling
as if, if you’re anything,
you’re the flattening of so many
into one being, Possessed,
not relinquished,
their spell cast & lingering in muscles’ memory,
as if drowning in,
or swaddled by them, A channel through which
grief returns refreshed,
the way the river traces the bed it carves,
on the surface unchanged,
yet deepened,

           “You surround me,”









2,        summer

           Is this what true love feels like,

           This bitter Earth,
& nonetheless yearning out of season
for saturnalian rites & over-

           A bloodbath & nonetheless the sky
& dusky hydrangeas’ sopping blues
& purples, terminally
in bloom,

           “Out from the pictures
of our bodies in the news, Before anybody dies
there’s all this pleasure,”
Then, the automatic knell irrupts the disco vesper
in this new dark age,
Like an open invitation to declare my love
for sentimentality, For,
as they say, “Reason is,” in a certain light,
“The mere sentiment of those who can afford
to believe in a rational world,”

            But what, I want to know, cuts w/o hesitation
to the quick, If you say, “Say her name,”
Say it again,

           In opal light, for instance, In liquid
crystal display light, The flimmer
of vaporizer
light or hotline bling
across the cab’s back seat
idling in the hospital’s
shadow, In the strobe of red
& blue light-
emitting-diodes, In the night
club’s magenta pulse,
In the idiorrhythmic light of the heart
rate monitor, Belying










3,        spring

           As if,
if only briefly, everything ceased being everything,
yet the record’s dark arrondissement went on
anyway, even after the needle
had lifted,

no timestamp could make this hour
feel real, 3:22 of a Thursday,
arriving at the pearly gates via perverse
kinesis, Prince has died,
& I remember when the playlist labeled “paradise”
was empty,










4,        winter

           It seems slow at this distance
& calmly fatal, A slight nova, Insignificant
diamonds & rings of irrelevant
silk, Twin blue suns turning
a deeper blue, Torqued
& twisting deeper as they slow, Each collapsing
into the vortex
of the other, Light swallowing light, & briefly
an eclipse-green
autophagy, These future far-distant blackstars
like the fluorescent cells in the cervix, ovaries, etc.
highlighted by dyes
marking our mother’s cancers’
growth, Or the ultrasound grayscale twins
growing where their sister grew before them,
in my sister’s

            In the photo-negative imaging
the tissues of their bodies look like heatwaves
flowing off of bright white masses,
What does it mean when all the colors are false,
The space-age purr
of the heavenly bodies, mere
As the end advances,
do the seasons accelerate in their systems, Spring,
& then spring again,

           You can’t simply re-apply the emulsion
crumbling from the tapes,
then listen,

           Listen again,

           Alone, reading “Dirty Poem,”
it’s clear, the body has enough to reckon w/
within itself, “Sugars
[foaming] in the pulp,” The invisible apothecary,
“brewing its own alcohols,”

           The doctor’s explanation is simple, if enigmatic,
The silver palomino, pent up & anxious,
dances as if on stilettos, nipping at her flanks
till she bleeds, “Hacking” her nervous system,
she floods her enormous body
w/ wine,









5,        fall

           What’s the saddest music in the world,

           It’s either me singing,
“Sign ‘O’ the Times” cover to cover,
or all of the times
someone like you has wondered, “But how much survives,
How much of any one of us
survives,” Seemingly granting us all permission
to hate ourselves

in your eyes,

           Drunk on blood,
Everything slowly turning
a misty blue,

           Murmuring, “Goodbye,
cruel world,” then leaving behind a vault
of silently blistering

           A sketch for a love song written in imperial time,

& a selfie in a 16th C, vanity,
Or a saint’s flayed

mosquitoes sting my knuckles
as I write this,
emulating summer, I guess, 22°
centigrade, early in the evening in early

           Go down, sip Arak on the stoop, 
A splash of cold water,
An instant pearl,
Warm enough out to read
“Neon Clouds” in a cheap silk shirt, 
like, & overlaid w/ pinwheels,

           “Everything changes,

           Privacy settings, the century,”

how did the president put it
in her now infamous State of the Union Address,
“When I look away
the next century will come, then
another one,”

           Once, leaving Tibor de Nagy
I wandered East on a night like this & puked vertiginously
at 56th & Park, Something rattles
in my skull, a lily-
of-the-valley in my jaw, Little more than floralegia
& a deathdrive, The lines
from infinite jets
scudding off across a starless, ailing ozone,
Remembering Lisa Robertson
saying something like, “Psychology oozes
from every object,”

           Or thinking of the color
“old money,” I want to know,
Who of you will invent
a new metric
that cuts, most quickly,
to the truth, Visions of “everyday justice
spoken in everyday
That which can be measured in erratic tonnage,
in moraines exposed ,

green world,” as another green world enters
& exits our orbit, At 180
grams, it decays as it spins so we only ever listen
on the equinox,
which seems just to have passed
but is, no doubt,
quickly approaching,









6,        summer 

weather patterns,

           A bloom
of mould on a spear of wheat
on a humid day, Spoors,
planets, sifting the dark, Virgo,
Gemini, Pisces, It’s
summer, It’s
spring, It’s winter,
The zodiac twists in the brassy muzz
above the city
where music bleeds
above the rooftops,
& today I watched the new neighbor’s
replace the cupid in the garden
w/ a skull,










7,        spring

           The PH levels
in the soil are on my mind, AC units
on warmish spring days
dripping dew
down onto kudzu, Black acorns
the wind’s combed out,
rotting,  A nasty soil to grow anything in,
but there’s plenty of acid
& the hydrangeas are a creamy sapphire
in that corner,
a basic purple where there’s none,

           Corymbs drifting in the air lack fixity,
But when I follow the glowing path
of the searchlight over the city, I know where it goes
when it roves in the East,
Still, I try to feel only for whatever’s outside my window,
or trapped between the glass,
Glacial nosegay, Bluebottle husks
& cigarette butts,

           The warped circle
of moons, refracted, Enmillioned
somewhere else
in the tides,








8,        winter

Mahler, in Times Square,

Cast out of the concert hall,

Twisted ventricles rushing acids to the clavichord,

Dying, his daughter, dead,

One last symphony,

Then another,











9,        fall

           “I believe the purpose of death is the release of love,”
Laurie Anderson wrote when Lou Reed died,
& we filled thermoses w/ sangria,
got wasted in the park,
Spent the day flipping “Berlin” A to B B to A,
Clicked repeat & looped
“Sunday Morning” all afternoon, repeat,
& cried in public, “There’s a sound you hear
in your head, It’s your nerves
or your blood running,”
Reed said in his last interview,
“It’s kind of amazing to hear that,
You’re in a hospital, you have an ultrasound
& they turn it up,
you hear your blood flowing,
It sounds like a Moog,”

           The drawstrings of his scrubs drawn tight,
It’s clear he’s dying, He claims he sleeps w/ his guitar,
never practiced, never was taught,
but “played from the heart,”
As if that’s all it was,
Blood-noise feeding back to blood,
His living fugue too quiet to hear, “My life
is music,” he says as the shot fades,
As if, amplifying his body’s last days’ drone
through the feedback,
the closed-circuit’s vital infinity, might preserve him,
turn him revenant
under the needle, As if you could destroy the instrument
but keep the song,








10,      summer

            Awake before I mean to be,
feeling religious when I don’t want to be,
surveying the xeroxed poems,
the books I have
but haven’t read, scraps
of handwritten “Mornings” cut out
to stuff my pockets w/,
memorize, & toss out, Notebooks
w/ Xs struck through lengthy strophes
on tics & nervy
twitching, as if I could redact the surge
of yen, compose an ode,
to the “pathetic fallacy” which defines
my life,

            To the bluster of irrational
winds, The bludgeoning
brutish light
of summer, To winters lived for magenta,
twilit eyelids,
& keyhole tans when you blink,  To spring,
& the promise of lines
as endless & recursive as scenes on toile,
sublingual, yanked
in a smooth stream from the throat,
As if spooled
where the heart belongs,
Bright bolts
inscribed w/ cupid shrines,
Scenes on bedclothes
of couples, mutely reclined,
or in medias res,
in bustles of electrical woad, dancing
a grand galop around fountainheads w/ arcs
of never-falling water, Ruffling
the air, Waiting,

           A helical furl,

           How parlando dissipates
as soon as it leaves
your lips, Slows
but cannot reverse it,

           The chinoiserie,
a funerary shroud
w/ arabesques,
you can bury me in,

           But another season wants to come
& change the contents of my blood again,
I can feel it,
like the dark oak outside my window,
its inner-creaking & the leaves that hush it,
When light fills it, it moves the way a river does,
mimicking itself, Dark leaves
& leaf-cut light, New,
yet somehow always the same,
They keep telling me,
“When you’re young, it’s like this, Resistless,
your mouth opens,
music exits, But you’ll learn, in time,
to forget such feelings,”

is one kind of breath,” I’ll say, “A note
for nothing,
god’s silence when it ceases,”

           Is there a better way to put it,

the body's body's air’s ore’s
not a luxury,

           But it rusted,









Gabe Kruis

Gabe Kruis is a poet, essayist, and playwright. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, The Atlas Review, Poor Claudia, Everyday Genius, and at Well Greased Press. He is a cofounder of Wendy’s Subway and runs the Shitluck Reading series at the Tip Top Bar & Grill.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2017

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