The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2022

All Issues
MAY 2022 Issue



I discern, distinguish, enumerate decades between lyrics
can gleam everything I ignore
worry needlessly about what I would take
if I had to go
all the objects I care about and paid for
rendered null and moot in a shift, a flick, a blink
This sweet soul of mine stinks a little
under scar tissue
the era always one of backlash
I can’t describe it
with this scratchy finished pen
I swear they make them with less ink these days
but won’t concede I’m a paranoid curmudgeon
Just because I never saw Soylent Green
doesn’t mean I can’t put it in a poem
or doesn’t mean I don’t know
the history of my doughy skin
ancient parts of the globe
peasants suffering for centuries
pulling tubers from the earth
As 2021 draws to a close
here I am rich and full
with anticipation of all the content
I can’t wait to consume
I’ll tell you about it on the other side
of my cluttered email
after I dust and boil eggs
and change the mattress topper
For a long time it seemed
my nose was always running
Was it years? months?
And then somehow, I realize now
it stopped some time ago, I don’t know when
I hear the sirens of ghost traffic
The pandemic echoes
an ugly, crass, utilitarian word
I’d like to find someone
behind rows of chairs
and munch licorice
and drink blueberry Mash
which I’ve said before
It seems we’ve been talking about
looking back on this time
for years and years
like we’re trapped in Westworld
compressed looped scenes
over and over and again
asking is this now?

In memoriam

On the last day of the year I did laundry and Betty White died.
I found my psychedelic childhood sheets on eBay
and the small, similar valise.
My corner of the metropolis was tinsel-lit.
My spirit had a liverish glow.
I was alienated from real world conditions
but not in a bad way.
I wanted health but didn’t have the discipline to achieve it.
What I tended to do was scan my surroundings
and would change something if something pricked.
Our attempts at risk calculation are a delusion, I thought,
drowsy in Omicron’s cacophony
and the book I was reading required small, pleasurable sips.
Its cerebral imaginary elevated my consciousness for a little bit.
I also read about “body envelope violations”
and thought I saw real anguish concealed in an animal print.
The animals are strapped to machines, I knew, across the country
and a week later would learn, from Stephen Colbert, more of this horror:
virtual reality goggles on caged milk cows to make them happier
believing they are on grass and under sky, their Matrix.
But then my day was a series of trivial dilemmas
such as questions about when and if a next coffee
and I napped in a list of Holzer truisms I never bothered to read.
I was here and not here when the year ended,
the one during which Texas froze and people died in Washington State’s extreme heat
and we abandoned a nation leaving millions to face certain famine,
the year like so many years my screens screamed and screamed
and they even announced a sequel to Scream.
That day I thought about the separation of what matters from matter,
improved my life with a new shoe rack, organizer cart and hamper.
On the last day of the year I ordered meatball sliders
and watched Andy Cohen get drunk, and toast, of course,
to Betty White.

My Popular Culture

Pigeons are the noise of sinuses
Beings, both real and imagined, android or raw,
Find consciousness through suffering
And obviously vice a versa
This is why “true art” is not to be found
In the dustbins and leftovers of burlesque or civic parades
No matter how frighteningly warm it gets this or any February
One day I heard about a torso found in a shopping cart
And the startling realism of contemporary animation
Laying back down in bed I ask myself
How can there be causation without representation?
And think that every one of us is our own kind of Pangea
Although I can’t explain what that means
Why does my own congestion feel like the mere performance of anti-fascism?
Why is the criminology of android drama so hard to decipher?
Meanwhile a sink burps and gurgles from its complex ominous depths
A coda to the ends of autoethnography
Reminding me that no one at work can laugh that real good hearty laugh
I dream I survived an electric blue zombie herd
Wake so disoriented I forget the geography of daily ablutions
Forget that once I hoped to find a treatise on who exactly is at risk
And what we can do to attend this risk
I discovered too much too late in life
Never ate the perfect fried pickle
Did not watch that really important show
The one where character is finally disclosed
And catastrophe averted in spite of the profit stream
Never have I ever touched the precarious transmitter
Reached in and torn it down

Self-Portrait, Seated

I stopped worrying long ago about seduction theory
and post-war simulations, breakthrough expressionisms.
Years bifurcate into fixed semesters, solemn as statues
and a premonition of sleet, bare trees, the nuances of taupe,
a world where currents charge the neighborhoods
with the red simplicity of excess,
bloated pathologies in hearts whose solitude smells like neon signs.
Entertainment is a repugnant habit,
the graphic abuse of televised dystopic fantasies
in poems about binge-y obsessions and banana nut bread,
where nail polish is an identity,
yellow polka dots a chaotic state of grace,
my leisure just a sonnet suspended in a barcode
where the disembodied collide, packaged in a post-moral cloud,
and 700 years of punishment fits on 21 PowerPoint slides.
“It is far too easy to delete each other,”
I scribble on the paper bag that holds my mask.
Deluged with near calamities I Google Maps for higher ground.
I find no comfort here, but I find comfort here.


So I can’t say fuck off to someone I can’t tolerate
This is the head space so far up where we talk
About abundant marigolds heavy as a school marm
Pretending one has a full-time job is a bickering business
There might be an exterminator, a plumber, an electrician
In this iteration of the mode of production
Also, I said we had a bee in our bonnet about ten times fast
The intellectual and the anti-intellectual sitting in a tree
Passing skittles on a doily like a non-ethereal Windex streak
Full of sass and spice, I am nothing more than a fly-swatter
In a cell-phone game trying to tell you repeatedly
About the rat-tat-tat of the pile of leaves and cicada skins
The odd and crazy aged hands in the corner of my cornea
And the winter melon ‘capades-ness pumping
Into the right-here-ness of my honest to God heart
I’m too sad to finalize my lemonade stand
It’s my TV show that I’m so afraid of right now
No surprises here in the Gemeinschaft and the Gesellschaft
Or the Devil in literature from Milton to The Exorcist
I forgot how bad I needed the reckless century
Maybe I bucked convention in my mid-layer fleece
Or more likely I bageled into the language disposal
Whispering fuck off down the stairs into a bit of world
Careening right into my list of words
Wondering why no one gets drunk anymore

The September Issue

for whatever reason
a fraction of a fraction of a second
a hover moment, a Ouija thingy
I think of elephants
why not?

once I rode the subway and there was a panic
a woman hit the deck and I was embarrassed by life
I walked with the frantic crowd too cool for school
no idea what was happening

how to stop being the worst person
when your nose itches, I wonder
as the pandemic billows around us an unending sheet

later I find a pulse between my Vogue
and The Clarion
I fathom and I fart and I know I am alive
this is the life!
my ancient name curls around my finger
I draw lullabies in the margins of my rooms
in the future I’ll scout lunch tables for my kindred few

when words don’t look like words
and the letters stand alone
in their strangeness
the goddess said
make strange, make strange
reach for culture to make sense of the day
believe earnestly in an idea mixed in the mosh
a silver hair on a linen shirt
a pellet bead white amid the pink seeds
this flat ass so humble on its route to the shower


Diana Rickard

Diana Rickard is a poet and sociologist, and an Associate Professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY. Her poems have recently appeared in a number of journals and magazines, and her book on documentaries about wrongful conviction is forthcoming from New York University Press.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2022

All Issues