Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Old And New Poetry by Franz Douskey

part one

Much in marriage is subliminally surreal.
for example, take my inlaws.
The less said the better. brother-in-law
on the sofa turning pages. his dutiful wife
mopping the floor, an antideluvial apparition.
Still, they are happy as a breeze of tropical
air blowing from the hairdresser's next door.

Everywhere, so many people happy. The war is
going well. A lot of the enemy and few of us dying.
Just what the president prayed for. And so many
beautiful women whose source of happiness
is blue fingernails with gold crescent moons.

And people still wanting to have babies to beat
and throw out windows. Their thug boyfriends
in handcuffs complaining with twisted mouths
that the little bastards kids just wouldn't shut up.

But me, I'm easy. I practice invisibility. Silence.
Even when I'm there, I'm either someone
or somewhere else. What do I have to add
to the conversation about homeland security?
I've had all my shots, except for distemper.

I say let's close the borders to future terrorists.
Off with their towelheads. I'm just a poet with a
crocodile smile waiting for the next terrible moment, who knows
nothing about freedom of speech, just the long, terrible
silence that follows.

part two

I'm easy. If you want to sleep, sleep. I will hold you
through the night
nothing could make me happier than your happiness.

you can come and go as you wish. no questions, no answers.

hire a housekeeper and someone not too bright to take care of the grounds,
someone whose head hums long after he's turned off the lawn mower.

don't worry about dinner. I love to cook. I have studied
with the best and have had dinners prepared for me by Emeril,
with photos to prove it,
that is, if, after all that we've meant to each other,
proof is still necessary.

and the laundry. I love the caress of effervescent suds. I
love the Latin rhythms of our washer and dryer pulsating side by side.

shopping? please. don't trouble yourself. nothing gives me
comfort as the late night vibrant, flourecent aisles
of super markets as vast as landing fields.

I love it all. come home to find you asleep. what could be better?

the bed warm. the doors locked and lights out. and I wait
for a murmer, a sign, a hint of possible passion,
a break in the sonorous deep breaths,

I lie in the dark and remember the intense propensities
that brought me to this point at the edge of endless night,
to think of all the things real and imagined in disrepair.


My son at nineteen,
tall, powerful hands like Monk,
in love again, but
only for the second time.

This is it for him,
if he finishes college,
if the music doesn't overtake him.

But it seems to me
love makes most men
into cowards.

I try to sidle up to
this fact while
we're out to dinner,
but he'll need more
than subtlety.

He looks up, says he admires me.

He says I have married
the right woman. But he
doesn't know Agrarian Jane
who got hooked on heroin

Or Molly the motorcycle queen,
or Carly in the Sleeping Giant Motel
or Kerouac's niece, or Danger
the six foot hooker, or Phaedra
and her Merry Pranksters, or....

But why ruin an imperfectly
innocent life?


She comes up to me at a party
waving her new book, now
ranked 26,347 on,
and rank is the right word.

She wants to know how
I am doing, how come I don't
publish more.

She is standing in front of me,
all tenticles and spidery arms
so I can't get by or get around.

She is effusive, praising me with
faint damns. Being here reminds me
how right I am not to come to parties,
that writing is discouraging enough
without being surrounded by successes.

the death of india blue

alone on a sunday afternoon,heading
north she crashes into trees on I 91.
Was she changing the cd, smoking
too much? leaves two sons behind.

when I held India in my arms
which was all too infrequent
I could feel life in her body,
lightning like energy passing
through her, because she had
made that huge leap, left her
husband and made a life,
photographing punk bands and
poets, the outsiders, with all
passion that her family
couldn't understand
so why try to explain.

at the funeral she didn't want,
the priest tried to convince us
that God makes allowances
for people who live outside
confessionals and conventions.

even her ex-husband couldn't
understand, so he called me.

we began to talk about India, about
his sons hating him, then he got
another call on call waiting and said
he'd call me right back.

he did. I listened to his voice on
the answering machine.


He is one of those editors
who asks you to enter a
competition that's already decided.

And it's not because I've got
a case of ethics that I didn't enter,
but there was something wrong
with the timing, me still
not in rehab or addicted to
anything. Nothing painful
to write about except the
usual presidential lies and
one nation under God and
waiting for God to get off.

And he wrote me, disappointed
I didn't submit, but it's
an old problem I've had that
no couch, no workshop or even
a fatter Writer's Market can help,
this lifelong thing, this inability,
this unwillingness, this
never wanting to submit.

NEO PHYSICS: No names, please

We were told there is
one universe, eight planets
and for every action
there is an equal
opposite reaction.

But now we know there
are universes beyond
our conprehension and
planets as plentiful as
distant trains in the night.

If there is an equal
opposite reaction to every
action, then every stupid
idea conceived by our presidetns
would have an intelligent outcome.

Here is what we are given and
what we get.

We go to war because there
are weapons of mass destruction,
but there are no
weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi people will blow kisses at
American soldiers and Iraqi oil
will pay for the war and reconstruction,

that according to Paul Wolfowitz, who
is named President of the World Bank
for being perfectly wrong so often,
only to be outdone by former CIA czar
George Tenet, who was awarded the
Medal of Freedom for screwing up 9-11.

This is known at the Second Inverse Law of
Metaphysical Politics. If you are wrong,
you smile and give out awards with great
pomp and ceremony with live coverage,
cameras humming and the imbedded
reporters mockingly reporting,
so it almost looks like success.


One day I saw Charles Mingus
carrying his bass on E 11th
double timing in summer sweat.

No time to stop and talk, on
his way to a session; too early
for a gig, but in his eyes
an urgency, like maybe he's been
evicted again, broke in a cold
world of landlords and club owners.

A man always haunted, always
in a hurry--like he knew
life is short, but he couldn't
see the end--his last days
in a wheel chair in Cuernavaca,
the city of eternal spring,
and that is where Mingus
finally got sprung. His
Body turned to ashes, then
flown to the Himalayas--
and poured into the Ganges,
to flow in eternal waters,
a certain riff, a flawless bridge,
his cool, extended, final solo.


so what if I never sip black
chicory coffee at the Cafe du Monde
smoking unfiltered Picayunes
or visit Antoine's Pink Palace
or watch the Wild Tchoupitoutas
in full feather regalia singing
in the bed of a pick up truck

or walk Canal Street with Bukowski
and Gyspy Lou as we watch
a blind dog lead a blind man

look-ka-py py, there is no grand tour,
the levee done broke and now
it's didn't he ramble and what
a friend we have in Jesus

the four winds have blown and
nothing's lawdy about miss clawdy

I hear you knocking but you
can't come in, ooh poo pah doo

Woke up this morning and
there was fyro on the bayou and
blood-shot weather was everywhere

in the prophetic words of
Clarence Frogman Henry
so many ain't got no home

I thought I hear D. A Levy Say

I thought I heard D. A. Levy say
what kind of poets have taken my place?
Starbuck juiced wonders from the
academic sweat shops where it's either
publish or perish and the former doesn't
feel that different from the latter.

I thought I heard D. A. Levy say
why are there so many ass kissers
filling the ranks where there were poets
who questioned every politico and
were starved and piled onto infernos
because of their beliefs, but now these
pathetic progeny of poets mumble from
their insular offices behind their laptops
and write polite white Wonder Bread poetry?

I thought I heard D. A. Levy say
who are these pale people who think
they own poetry? who would rather
piss on my grave and spit in my face
then enter one of those phoney poetry
contests and take second place

I thought I heard D. A. Levy say
with the glass acadamies, the pulitzer
this and the national that, this generation
of weenie poets push and shove and profess
their love for oh my gosh the beauty of the word
and no one buys their books because
they are so absurd, antediluvian homunculi

with their cold search for the perfect artificial scheme and
rhyme, they are more dead I am.


When I was twenty-eight I wrote
The first writer who brought
me to life was Kenneth Patchen.
Followed by other New Direction
writers. Which led to Henry
Miller. In whom I found the
sense of hope. That in chaos
there are untouched possibilities.

That entanglements are designed
to separate us. Political
values are not human values.
Henry Miller taught me it's all
right, at age forty, to turn
around and throw my poems, stories,
and encumbrances aside. And
just as soon as I turn forty,
that's exactly what I'm going to do.

And that's exactly what I've done.


sometimes they call to tell
me they've accepted a story
or that I've won the Peaceful
Tuna Literary Award for
a poem I can't remember

sometimes it's a young editor
who tells me how much the judges
were wowed by the poem and
they've just made their decision
and they're sitting there now
and could he or she put me on
speaker phone so they can hear
me fumble in gratitude

or sometimes it's an older editor
who has edited the magazine
since its inception to call
and tell me what an honor it is
to have me in his magazine while
I'm trying to remember when I sent
the poem out but he won't let me
think because he's so effusive
since this is the first time the
Elsie Lumbago Award has gone

to a man especially an older man
and I should be very honored

and this is where I ruin the phone
call by asking What magazine is
this going to be in? and this is usually
followed by a long silence

I speak into the phone Richard,
Richard are you there
but there is no answer

my wife who thinks the best of every
situation says Maybe he's overcome
with emotion, maybe he's crying

I tell her I'll bet he is

"Leo Gone" appeared in The New York Quarterly.

Leo Gone 1922-2001

He would call at all hours,
the lights about to be turned off,
his voice lost in the traffic from
beyond the outdoor pay phone.

Okay. He was desperate. A poet
selling typewriter ribbons when
people were buying computers.

Imagine that fear, the planet
shifting under his feet, as he
nears sixty, and his only skill
is narration and self-mockery.

He called himself "El Bardo," and
was afraid he frightened people
and what he gave was never good enough.

Sometimes he'd call and my wife
wouldn't tell me, her way of protecting
me from someone I needed to protect,
to listen to, to write out a check.

And this winter was his last, getting
his old car to start a challenge,
a car that knew the way home,
a wreck only a full-time poet would own.

But now it's summer, the earth strangely
lush after those snow-covered months.
At night the phone does not ring,
a silence so loud, the roar is deafening.


His porkpie hat is on the ground
Orpheus plays guitar, moans Stormy
Monday like there's an oblivion that
doesn't slow down for death.

His hands on automatic, his eyes
absent, Orpheus empties the blues
of everything but inedible roots,
sings to the terrified pigeons
about all the pain that cannot
change history, how stars
feel about out-of-body travel.

Someone grown sensitive in
an insensitive world, drops some change,
but all Orpheus hears is the music.


Emanuel Lardass, professor of psychology,
has fathered many misconceptions,
including a wife, two daughters and
a son who might or might not be.

He sees he is a legend, a master of imitation,
of ambivilent ambiguity, of sibliminal desire
and a wish to have more ambition, a career
far behind but not much left up front. His
house, his wife, his car, all mastectimized.

And his lectures divine, sought after from
afar, but close up there are pieces from different
puzzles in place of the pieces that are missing.
So, late at night when the house is sleeping, he guzzles.

His daughters, fair of face and of good posture,
the type who wear white gloves even when
they are not wearing them. All is proper on
the outside but good intentions are in a new
old-fashioned way a for of cerebral punishment.

They married well, men of good standing. Why care
if they weren't the loves of their lives. In all
things good and honorable, what's a little compromise???
And the son, he married Amalgamated,
merger consultants to the world, plus three week vacation,
dental and mental co-pay, plus thirty-eight cents a mile.

Emanuel Lardass, professor of psychology,
disciple of Sigmond Sigmond, not the elder Jung,
but the younger Jung, Alder, Rank, and Horney,
and has the scars to prove it, but when it came to
real life, it would have behoved him, at least in
the bedroom, to have been a bit more Dr. Ruthian.

There is wife of Emanuel Lardass, professor of
psychology. No shadow of her own, so lived in his.
A constant imposition on public display, the pasted
on smile, all teeth, and beyond that she knows what to say: "So
nice to see you. Do drop in for tea so we can talk some more
about what used to be me."

Emanuel Lardass, professor Emeritus, beloved by his mirror.
Given the final university kiss-off before they opened the door
to the intellectual scrap heap.
Thank you for your loyal service, but there is
someone younger with a greater hunger for
that which you mistakenly took for granted.

Where is the key, the door, the opening, the
path that doesn't lead into but leads away?
and the door Dear Professor Lardass that you
see ajar in freeze-frame, is not ajar but is closing.

Franz Douskey, a poet and writer, is Interim President of IMPAC University, Punta Gorda, FL. Douskey has been published in more than 150 journals and magazines including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Yankee. He teaches creative writing at Yale and communications and English at Gateway Community College. A featured guest at New Haven's Festival of Arts & Ideas, Douskey's books include "Rowing Across The Dark" and "Indecent Exposure." He is a founding board member of the IMPAC-Connecticut State University Young Writers Trust and has served as a judge every year of the competition. Douskey is also the author of the forthcoming biography, "The Unknown Sinatra."


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