Saturday, September 27, 2008

Poem: Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting

Razminovenie, or Nonmeeting

Though I dream all the time of union, cold air
aerated by air, coursing water saturated by water,
I’ll imagine never meeting you, my imaginary love.

Perhaps you are in the apartment above mine,
hooked up with my neighbor, cursing softly, and I wish
you could read, here, the entry of your voice: fuck.

Perhaps you are not so near in time and space.
On a planet dried of air or water you survive
by reciting poetry from memory, a line of verse—

you’re exerting a force equal to the earth’s—
a capsule taken, paradoxically, by spitting it out.
This is not so ridiculous as some may think,

for didn’t Tsvetaeva and Pasternak live like this,
not on one planet, but on two hurtling asteroids.
We have nothing, Marina wrote Boris, except words.

A poet’s boast, carried by neither air nor water.
But, oh, we can live for months by howling
the medial syllable of razminovenie: no.


The poem was inspired by Rachel Polonsky's book review in the TLS.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Poem: Glass Orgasm

Glass Orgasm

Dishwasher safe, the glass medical grade,
the dildo is hand blown
from the same element as brandy balloons,
milk bottles, picture tubes and silicone
implants; in other words, it’s made
of prose. The form is poetry.
It jabs as hard as Japanese harpoons
or, callipygian glide,
curves like the spine of the sperm whale,
so slick and sleek a slide.
The fired figure’s ribbed with filigree:
a tree trunk ivied by plump veins,
a caterpillar’s burrs,
carelessly rocky road or studded Braille,
or else it’s scored by ruts and flutes.
(For Puritans, the glass also comes plain;
for Quakers, terse.)
More than mouth pleasure, the lacunae gawk
at lattachino work, the twists
of lemon, gold and blue
inside, not painted on, the shoot
of fiberglass; the mists
compressed to chalk;
or the dichroic head unveiling two
blushes when viewed from different spots,
G or prostate.
Van Gogh’s The Starry Night may wet one’s thighs
but it’s too rectangular and pastethick for a shot,
unlike the borosilicate.
Stars and moon etched on its glass eye,
it probes the ocean, a mammalian fish,
foraging for supernovas.
When it finds and swallows one—O, sweet jehovah
of light and heat and life and death and wish!
It passes—the light dims—out of the ass—
the heat cools—and so decompose,
though shatterproof, though in demand,
to soda, lime and sand,
the poetry and prose,
cut glass.

First appeared in Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poem: Cold Pastoral

I wrote the first draft of this poem for the PFFA Apprentice competition. It is the first poem I published in New York City. Miriam Stanley heard it at the Pink Pony Express open-mic at Cornelia Street Cafe, and asked for it. I sent her this poem and "River Blindness," both of which appeared in her "Rogue Scholars Collective" online journal.

Cold Pastoral

I hear a man jerking off at the Met
and straightaway remember you, O, Jack.
I'm flushed with sympathy, to tell the truth,
to hear him groan in the next stall for beauty
captured in voluptuous sculptured stone.
Who is this restroom seer, lover, man?

From hog farmers of Iowa, a man
aspiring to meet his muse? Instead he met
his fate of stunning listeners into stone
at Bowery Road Café. Blind, he jacks
off Perseus, in his mind, asserting beauty
in holding forth the Gorgon’s heady truth.

Or someone more acquainted with the truth
of streets: a skinny kid, almost a man,
from Harlem, pricked by the white muscled beauty
of Ugolino and his starvelings met
briefly in school? I hear him whimper, Jack,
inside his Tower of Hunger, beat off stone.

Or seeing Andromeda chained to stone,
the monster squeezing her in coils of truth
sprung from the sea, does he forget he’s Jack
afloat, on shore leave from his merchantman,
imagine flirting chance and courage met
to petrify the beast, rescue the Beauty?

Or a priest, drawn against himself to beauty
curled in a Cupid, who rebukes the stone
in flesh, the flesh in stone and, having met
himself, confesses to himself the truth?
Or, sick of buzz-saw talk among hard men
and licked by dancing Pan, a lumberjack?

Or is he one like me (unlike you, Jack),
stirred by a torso's mutilated beauty,
an echo of the whole, sufficient man
for him to recreate the missing stone.
His moan as he comes, if you want the truth,
excites me more than any man I’ve met.

I’m telling you, Jack, it's fine to gaze on stone,
but far more beautiful, far more truthful,
is the groaning man, unseen, unmet.

First published in The Rogue Scholars Collective (October 2005).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Poem: Blowjob

Here's another poem from the book. I wrote it a year or two after meeting up with a childhood friend again, in Singapore. The encounter never quite left me, but I found the words for it only during my MFA, when the thought of his job sent me reading up on oil-rigs. The poem gave me the title for the book.


Are you a survivor who, on touching land, shine
your torch into the sea or are you a rock warning?
Like a light seen across wide waters, your cig glows
in the dark before your face appears out of the fog:

the boy, now a man, who described to me a blowjob,
what I already knew but let you go on and on
for I saw you enjoyed drawing from me the filament
of illicit thrill (your wiry dark limbs were my thrill).

The wink of your dare beckoned me whenever I heard
of you knocking about from job to job—a surf
instructor on Thai beaches, short order cook
in Hanoi, coowner of a canoe shop, part time guide,

and now a roustabout, a proper job this time,
you explain, despite its name. You raise offshore oilrigs
against seaquakes, steel the derrick and crown from which
roughnecks slam the toothed bit into the ocean bed,

pump mud into the pipe to grease the bit and prevent
cave ins and blowouts by equalizing bore pressure
with the earth’s. You master the force compressing bones
to crude trapped in the domes of the earth’s scrotum.

Months you slave at sea, then retire to your rented space:
a chair, video machine, opened tins on kitchen shelves.
The bedroom is the most done up, with kingsized bed,
vanity table, woman. Your girlfriend of three years.

Oil rigging is hard work, you flex your arms, but it pays
for this and trips to Bali, six months combing the beach.
You show me, from your window, the oil refinery glows
in the dark, with glimmering towers, balconies and spheres—

your Atlantis. I think of my sterile office with its unforgiving
light; each night I leave it and swim out into the sea
where you already have someone to traverse the girders
of your thighs, her mouth a valve to regulate your gusher.

You are not a lighthouse for passing ships. You loom,
a derrick, stapled to the ground, drilling and drawing oil
till it dries. Seen under stars, you are exerting a force equal
to the earth’s and burning its fuel for a little heat and light.

published in Mimesis, and Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Brother": Poem selected for "Best New Poets"

Chloe suggested that I post a poem from the new book to give a smidgeon of taste. So, here is "Brother," which begins the fourth section of the book. The poem was selected by Natasha Trethewey for the Best New Poets 2007 anthology, published by the University of Virginia Press.


In mother’s womb, we started as a pair of lungs,
sea slugs hanging on to a reef. We grew toe rays,
brain sponges and gonads relaxed by the liquid song.

The Doppler ultrasound echoed our submarine
and found us one. The truth was monozygotic—
we sucked each other’s nub of thumb inside the brine.

When, headfirst, we were unceremoniously expelled,
we were halved like an egg sliced with a line of hair.
A beak plucked at the cord and knotted my navel.

Mother never speaks of you although I know
you were with me at sea. How else to understand
my panic playing hide and seek, the cracked canoe,

wet dreams of touching a man, waking up, a curse
crying, not knowing why, like a turtle washed ashore,
a lacquered carapace—these shimmering absences?

First published in The Ledge Magazine, Best New Poets 2007, and Over There: Poems from Singapore and Australia.