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Jack Spicer

Laura Moriarty  

Spicer's City 


when like palms with life

lines crossed as if memory

also didn't last


you along the street seen

dripping with trees

the mind bright


We talked so long it burned my back. We never talk. My throat is bare. The sun. Never there. Day or night.

or white but not

like this stone ball

or like this record


The world in your town drenched as they say. Speaking about absence. There is a register. A blur. A child tearing though the street. Not like you either.


high afternoon haze

your day to be home

In your day


is language strangely. You ask yourself what it would take. That taken. In the same words. A boy feels along the walls as if he were blind.

they take him

they taste him

The street is torn apart. The old street hidden and changed and hidden again. The new material. We don't sing. Our steps thrown back. The pavement as white as the sky. Hell with the women these flyboys.


but you are no pilot

we sit in Gino & Carlo's

at midday


The livid tables green as the child I mean when I say "We are not alone here." The music is identical. The pipes moan. There is less water than before. There is no rain at all

like real rain

I have not forgotten

we sound

the same when we say the same things like people of a certain time. As if history were not over. This is about the neighborhood of objects we are in. Someone is here. Is not here. It can be written the same way. It can't be said.

Black fish in paper bins. Water as clear as the sea. A boy playing hide and seek. A small boy. A large ceramic tree. He seems lost without you. He feels nothing.


yet as time

pretending to be

you or I


Frankly I have come here for you. Some things are brutal. There will continue to be works about gardens but this isn't one of them. This is the real world. Or is this the world? Do I have time for a quick one before whatever passes for night around here passes?


Baker Street, San Francisco

distant bit of roof

pink and red pales

wall of gold


Chinatown finds itself open. All this silk. The old patterns imagined again burning. Torn or thrown away. Acres of it. Children dancing crazily to bells. No one tells them.


moon of iron

rock garden steps

am tired boy


oak and palms tried

Like criminals we

know too much. A deserted watering hole in the deserted West. The Polk Gulch. The Mediterranean sun divides its victims. Each searches for the other one. And I can still feel the burn. The new set of words. Obvious in its disguises. I have pictures of the empty room.


unconscious quotation

broken like bones

they were yours


Gay bones. Jay De Feo eyes. On both sides of you naked. Your face. Capable of anything. The accident of putting two things together. Any two. Any time. It's territory day in the islands. Also your fault.

gone all out


A man takes his breath in and I decide to get it back out again.


love of

Oh! Poor girl!


The scale is the same. The space between house and ancient building choked with greenery. The moist air between us. The con men play with each other. A hero is trapped in a pinball machine.


Poor taste


is never enough. My fever shakes this picture of trees. Blooming. Not everything that doesn't exist is me. I have nothing to explain. That seems shallow but goes in. Contains blood. Is round. The steaming tar like lava makes the new town.

the figure with strings


A mannequin in a window manipulates a doll. Caught in the act of being motionless. Her head turned away. Inasmuch as it is a head. He seems to fly. His arms held out. They are arms. Our arms. It follows with the logic of a false similitude left from another age. We believed in that too. Christ what innocents. Whose will go first?

Like firecrackers in the Broadway Tunnel. The continuous roar between things. He claims not to understand negative space. The soft skin. The mute discipline no one is ready for. We say nothing to each other. Day after day. The celebration is ruthless. There is a musical version of the past.


caught in the radio

is constant danger

Also I am


constant also caught. The indecipherable note pasted like a rose to the wall barely lit by the sun going down. Is clear to someone. Or like a castle under siege. Overgrown with Edenic trees. The worse for the wind raging above this solidity. Things made of stone subject only to the catastrophes we know don't change things. Or change completely but we remain unshaken. We are the objects. The people were destroyed. More than once.


we were just words

like the pear is a fruit

and is yours


and is filled with sun like the valley with the white roses pictured here. You can almost see the heat. The petals blurred as if unsure of themselves. The rain also pictured.


naked from the waist

smokes or steams

Because the heat is relentless. It never rains when it's hot here. Petals for eyes. Something new pasted over the new thing. A child holds you to its lips. A highrise where the hotel. Also of granite.

A burned out pit. Graffitied man alive at the bottom with what did you expect written in red paint. A tent made of paper. The moon is still empty. But it will never be like it was. Known not to exist. The new moon.


is midday


We lay down in the lightest possible sun. She sang while it was too hot to move. But now it's not. Kwannon ice white Chinese goddess of love. Old red flowers turning yellow. Things disappear in the fog. He referred to certain people as the neighborhood.


still here

we are gone


This is the series of stone steps that don't go on. The animals squirming.


This poem was published in the chapbook Spicer's City, in the Poetry New York / Meeting Eyes Bindery pamphlet series three. You can visit their website at
Laura Moriarty's recent books are like roads (Kelsey St. Press), Rondeaux (Roof Books), L'Archiviste (Zasterle Press) and Symmetry (Avec Books). Persia co-won The Poetry Center Book Award in 1983. Forthcoming are The Case from O Books and the short novel Cunning from Spuyten Duyvil. She received a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Award in Poetry in 1992. Recent anthologies are The Art of Practice (Potes and Poets, 1994), Primary Trouble (Talisman House,1996), An Avec Sampler (Avec Books, 1997) and Moving Borders (Talisman House,1998). She is the editor of non, a poetry and poetics Web site at She lives in Albany, California.
Photograph: Baker Street, California, copyright © John Tranter, 1999.


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