The Killer Instinct
No one can quite
get over it. It is summer and Revenge
lies sweetly in the fields
with her legs open,
her Bo Peep
petticoats in ribbons.
far away, alternate worlds
to be auditioned,
despairingly among themselves,
but nobody’s called back. Revenge,
our wretched darling, shakes the straw
out of her hair
and shines herself
into the reddest apple
on the highest bough.
through hundreds of such afternoons,
worried into life
by lightning’s play
on elemental soup, her stalwart heart
will rise again, slough off
like a firecracker,
and pack more melodies than Mozart.
Love, revenge, remaindering . . .
is this the end?
- The world pumps on,
with all its gently pitiless muzak.
The Death of Checkers
Grant that the old Adam in this Child may be so buried, that the new man may be raised up in him.
— The Book of Common Prayer
This is the new socialist brain. This is the statue
of Dzerzhinsky falling over. This is my wife Pat.
This is an ode to the Bratsk Hydroelectric Project.
And I just want to say [abort, retry, fail . . .]
the kids, like all kids, love the little dog.
This/is/your/brain/speaking . . . . So I want you all
to stonewall it. Because gentlemen, this is my last
dance contest, last waltz with Leonid
around the Winter Palace. This is the Kommissar
of Moonbeams, this is the Soviet of Working People’s
Reveries. This is the new man born out of Adam.
These are the new world order mysteries — oh,
Republican cloth coat. Oh gallery of Trotskyist
apostasies. Tricia and Julie do not weep for me -
I live and flourish in the smooth newt’s tiny eyes,
my new brain fizzing with implanted memories.
You Will Enter History
But not as you imagined it,
sweet pea. Forget
the temple rumbling, the verboten
statues lurching off their pedestals,
the corny punkoid soundtrack
cranked up to its predictable crescendo.
And is that you, boy god, all golden
in a beam of light? Nah, not really.
that it’s any normal day.
You’ve shaved your own head
in a touching but unnecessary
fit of loyalty.
Now it’s up to me
to slip you out of full Nazi regalia
and into something chic
but spiritually comfortable,
like a lit candle
and the wild fear in your eye.
You will enter history
as a line of black-cowled monks
enters a monastery,
without a word, my sweet, without
a backwards kiss goodbye.
Blues for the Evil Empire
with a line by Unamuno
Consider the late Eurasian entity, how it lumbered
into the groggy arms of history where it was
buried. Which is more than you can say
for Lenin’s body, chilly like a mammoth
in an ice floe, if less hairy. An old man in the square
asks ‘Who is laughing at us?’ then drifts unevenly
away. The czar’s nephew comes alive
in Finland like some cyborg, sent into the future
with a mission to annoy; there are the plagues:
evangelists, economists, and experts
of all kinds, Americans who read the future
in a glass of tea, and analyze ‘the Slavic mind.’
At home, cold warriors, like dying jellyfish,
grow dim. Why no joy in Washington, no dancing
in the streets — we ‘won,’ but sleep uneasy
in our victory. The evil empire, vanquished, seeks
a plusher berth within — a red and rising sun?
A few blocks from the White House, my city twists
and keens, and someone’s child is bought and sold.
— We do not die of darkness, but of the cold.
Headline from a Photograph by Richard Avedon
New York World-Telegram, November 22, 1963
Epstein to give up on Tuesday,
Slocum to succumb on Wednesday.
Snavely: smithereens by Thursday;
Pottle buys the farm on Friday.
Saturday, Hadley-Smith eats dust.
Sunday’s child is not discussed,
Pixley: the world will end in one day,
Not unlike this coming Monday.
Drabble’s set his cap for doomsday;
Epstein to give up on Tuesday.
The dead puppies turn us back on love.
— John Ashbery
A terrible beauty
is bored, like
Cruella de Ville
plotting on her red
bedside telephone, but you know
eons ago, and nobody
in all puppydom can claim
I swept around in such a coat, or
held the negotiables
luxury. No, instead
there was the brain saying
as though attention
could be called up like a standing
army, and used to move
a room, say
the right foot after the left, or is
it rehearsed the other way.
Bride of Tricky D.
YORBA LINDA, California . . . Plans are afoot to exhume [Checkers], who died in 1964, and rebury him near the former president on the grounds of the Nixon presidential library.
And the rest is taps, or reveille. Maybe
he lies with dog & god
beneath the Yorba Linda pines, adrift
in history. There is no way
he’s rumbling on about the next
campaign, how crack advance men
break & enter paradise while blasé
press fly back to Washington.
Somebody’s shroud is in a twist
but it’s so deadly smug out on the new
world order battlements. ‘Let’s
slip the Constitution, Richard,
cut red ribbon on the virgin
century. Teach me tonight . . . .’ I find
his fierce beard lovely and the shadows
long. Asleep with Pat & Checkers
by his side . . . . ‘We could do it,’
he’ll say, ‘but it would be wrong.’
My Test Market
Let’s fly off to Finland, far
from the long arm of Olestra. There
in bog, arctic fen, and sand
are others who may understand
our epic innocence. Oh, how many
names for snow! and none
with growing market share. Where
are the snows that make no sense
so early in the morning, when the snow
is blue and blowing on the steppes?
Where is the qanisqineq,
the ’snow floating on water’?
We may ask Vigdís Finnbogadóttir,
who’s not a Finn. She may not know,
but she may point us toward
the northern lights. Her aim is true,
her snowshoes always full of snow.
We won’t come back. You come too.