The Spirit of the Age

A tumultuous cascade

of middle fingers
     aimed at government

of sex and handshakes
     with no time limit
     with affinity for sweat
     with someone you care for
          and someone else

of genuine enthusiasm
     for green vegetables
          because you grew them, they’re there
     for opera
          because it’s not “stuffy” anymore
     for your shadow
          because it follows you like history redeemed
     for Dali
          because you can dream again

of breath
     that comes with labor you enjoy
     that blows smooth across hairs
          on your lover’s arm
     that comes deep from your diaphragm
          and feeds the greenery
     that carries your voice in songs about
          the beginning of the end

A Reflection on New York

I never saw New York till age nineteen. An Art History assignment and a teacher I crushed on brought me there with a girl who crushed on me.

The air clinging to the ground in the shade between stoop shouldered buildings was imbued with a particular cold, simultaneously dry and damp–like a laundromat.

Clubs and MDMA, concerts and alcohol, New York became part zoo, part playground.

For two years, it was home.

Then, a place to escape from.

But I never did escape, not really. And when I visit New York, if I look around at it instead of where I’m going, I tumble a little–like a wet shirt in a drier.

With Butter and Salt

By Stephen Severino

On Facebook,
she says she loves me
more than popcorn,
Thinks it’s witty and cute,
that others will buy in,
think she’s witty and cute.
My mother buys in–
Echoes the sentiment.

But I’ve seen my wife eat popcorn.

Late at night, she devours
Fiction on her Kindle,
Devours salted bursts
of white from brown.
They ride across her tongue
To be crunched happily
In open-mouthed chomps–
This piece of her day,
The peace of her day.

I’ve seen my mother eat popcorn.

On the reclining part of the couch,
She sits watching a film
Picked by my father,
Who sits on his own reclining
Part of the couch–
The bowl of popcorn
between them,
most obedient of children.

Hand and white,
Hand and white,
Husband and wife,
Husband and wife.
Munch, munching
In time;
Munch, munching
On time.

It’s okay that it isn’t true,
That husband’s and wives
Stop devouring each other,
that we eschew to chew.
But it would be better
if some nights we threw
aside the bag or bowl,
grabbed the other by the hair
with longing, and said,
“Why the fuck am I eating this,
when I should be eating you?”

For my Wife II

A park bench occupies

the flower bed

in a glass museum

above the city.


I sit there.


Everything I see is aesthetic—

is spirit—is you.


Though I know her well,
she hasn’t seen me since
October, and we don’t speak.

We pretend not to see each other.
I keep typing. She gets coffee–
sips it,
perfects it,
walks on to the elevator
cherishing the warm prayer
in her hands.

When she’s gone
(lifted to the land where everyone lives when they are not in front of me),
I feel like a feather
falling from the bird.

It’s not that I believe we won’t speak again.
I know we will.

But I know too
that the words will drip with formality,
that uncertainty will stop-start us in mid-sentence,
make us trample each other’s thoughts with the awkward eagerness of two people who just want things to be like they were.

And I know they never will be.


Midnight. Kiss of moon
falling through gypsy moth wings.
Cricket. Tree frog. Sing.


Spit it.

Thin it with endless bottles of water gulped down.

Smear it like butter on shirt and sleeve.

Curse when a sneeze punches it out of
you onto some surface for all to see.

Hide from work beneath its excuse.

Emanate its odor with every breath to the disgust of your lover.

Hoard it in the Kleenex vaults of a wastebasket bank.

Ward it off with pills whose name you wonder at the origin of.

Pray for your child’s exorcism from it.

Choke it down in a public place.

To lose a little, you must ooze a little.

A Private Revolt

Three years, I have carried him:
head on my bony shoulder,
bottom on my forearm cradle.
Sometimes chattering at the dark,
Sometimes fussing with a cold,
He fidgets with his father’s warm skin.

He sleeps no other way.
The softness of mother and pillow
incites rebellion
against unconsciousness and rest,
a discomfort at the prospect
of lost comfort,
and he dives around the bed
and into her
with delightful peals
of insomnia.

No isolated crib could isolate
us from his ceaseless cries,
from the anguish of causing him
We run to him,
prison guards become saviors.

Is it our fault?
Are we to blame?
Had we been harder sooner,
would it be less hard now?
Or would there merely be
a hardness, consistently?

He is a loving boy.
I have hated him at times–
when my body,
racked with fatigue
with illness
would not allow me
to carry him with ease.
When that chattering voice
would eviscerate
my world of private thought.
When my weakness with others
made me use strength
against him,
I have hated him.

I have hated him,
when the question came back uncertain: Can I carry him
another three?

I picture an old man
being carried by an elder,
a knobbed back protesting
against a weight
it should never have had to carry.
Nurses in a nursing home
look on,
first with an awed concern,
later with indifference
over the pages of a magazine.

Until he finds his eternal rest,
I cannot rest;
I will not leave him

And, in my commitment,
it is god that I blame.
The lord of us all
is the lord of all pain.

For my son, I indict him.

With shotgun arms,
I cast nets of hell,
I will drag him where he belongs
and never let him rise.

The Proletariat Receives the Petty Bourgeoisie

Now, live with me. See with me.
The Newest Testament
is the oldest tenement.
Bring your book, your rosary,
the sorrow of capital loss.
I will help you cast them off.
Rest now in labor’s unity,
our only true divinity.

With sweat and fervor we build the light
of all that in human kind is right
and cling to it, as the moth clings
to beat back history’s dark night.

Observation 1

The mechanic
on the PATH Train
always tucked
Capri Sun
or Grape Soda
in the mesh pocket
of his black knapsack.

One day,
it was Red Bull.

It has been
Red Bull
ever since.


Her bluetoothed smile–
cellular glow,
mobile window
to a life–not mine.

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