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2011, Nightboat Books
THE BOOK OF FORGOTTEN BODIES
The reader who opens the Book of Forgotten Bodies finds nothing. There are no horses galloping through deserted villages in search of the men who used to ride them. There are no children crying for their parents who were thrown out of airplanes and into the sea. There are no soldiers who had their arms sliced off for refusing to obliterate innocent bodies. There are no rich men leaning against paradise trees as the drunk bodies of poor men stumble up to their houses to kill them. There are no bodies of hopeless virgins smashes on city streets by Mercedes-Benzes cruising through the gentle drizzle of a foggy day. There are no bodies abandoned on beaches. There are no corpses floating down rivers. There are no bodies hanging in the military barracks on island XYZ off the coast of nation ABC. There are no bodies that pound rock against rock. No bodies that stand on one leg with hoods over their mouths mumbling words we don’t understand. No bodies covered in mud murmuring to the bodies that lie on top of them. There are no bodies that smell of chemicals and rest in puddles in the rain waiting for flowers to fall on their heads. No blind bodies that are painted by artists who value aesthetics over breath. No bodies that imagine their children’s bodies as ghosts and cadavers and skeletons. No bodies that fall from windows as they try to catch a glimpse of the bodies that have fallen before them. There are no bodies discovered by rabid dogs in houses abandoned before they could even be built. No bodies surrounded by barbed wire as countries die in the distance. No bodies whose skin burns in the strange machines that buzz like tropical nights. No bodies that burn in buildings that have been set on fire by bodies with no reason to live. There are no bodies that fry in the sun, that drown in the shadows, that roast on gas, that ooze algae and moss, that are covered in black rags as the lakes and the mountains die. No bodies that hunt or are hunted, that murder out of charity, that are murdered out of charity. No bodies that shutter the windows and hang themselves in libraries of their favorite books. There are no soulless bodies, no frozen bodies, no bodies gnawed to death by insects. There are no practice bodies, no transient bodies, no empty bodies, no blank bodies that twist between forgotten body and dream.
see also http://jacket2.org/commentary/talking-daniel-borzutzky
ONE SIZE FITS ALL
See that immigrant freezing beneath the bridge he needs a blanket.
See that torah scroll from the 16th century: it sprawls on the floor like a deadbeat; the Jews need to wrap it in a schmatte.
The problem, you see, is “exposure.”
Thje poet forgot to shake off his penis and pee dripped on the manuscript that he submitted to the 2007 University of Iowa Poetry prize.
The literary scholar took off his tie and lectured the class on the post-humanoid implications of the virtual cocktail.
He put a pistol on his desk and told the students he was going to kill himself if they didn’t do their homework.
Everything in his “worldview” was exposed.
The data-entry specialist imagined new forms for the senior administrator who was only a temporary carcass, an anti-poem: a budding literary movement that communed with master works by committing suicide while reading them.
The temporary carcass of the bureaucrat, dry as Vietnamese Jerky, called out for “gravy” as it “peppered” the eloquent field of syntax.
Abrupt exposure to ordinary language may result in seriously compromised intelligence, implied the carcass as he lipped the trembling lily which hid the police officer, who said: if you look at me one more time I’m going to zap you with my Taser gun.
I liked the former “Language Poet” for the speech act he attached to the back of my book, which reminded me of Charles Olson on human growth hormones.
The problem, said the critic, remains one of imagination and its insistence on the distinction between thought and action.
“I let him touch my wooden leg,” she said, “and when I unscrewed it I was stuck legless in the hay.”
Which is to say the detachable penis was and has been compatible with family values.
“He was a seriously hardworking boy with a fetish for glass eyes and wooden legs,” she said, “and I really loved him.”
The poetry era reached its nadir as the housing market plummeted, said the professor, as he repeated for the umpteenth time the anecdote about the boy who met an underwater woman as old as the hills.
“Does Poetry live here,” he asked. “Poetry lives here,” she replied, “but he will chop you up and kill you, and then he will cook you and eat you.”
My ideal reader has neither a name, a body, nor an online profile.
Which is not to say that I am not concerned with customer satisfaction.
Dear Reader, Because we value your input, please take a moment of your busy time to answer the following question, which will greatly assist us in our mission to produce cultural artifacts that will further meet your aesthetic and spiritual needs.
Which of the following statements most accurately reflects your feelings about the writing which you have just read:
a. This is a splendid poem, distinguished by the clarity of its thought, the force of its argument, and the eloquence of its expression.
b. This poem is conceptually vapid, artistically shallow, and contributes nothing to the world of letters. It is little more than a collection of bad sentences and poorly formed ideas.
c. I like this poem, but I wouldn’t spend money to read more poems like it.
d. When I read this poem, I feel frustrated and annoyed.
e. When I read this poem, I feel nothing.
It’s a postcard
It’s a mango from a sunnier land
It’s an endless avenue with a few trees
It’s a dense neighborhood
It’s a vague intensity
It’s the Chicago of Los Angeles
It’s the pop singer of the moment
It’s nothing to you
It’s nutty, sweet
It’s a booth in a corner
It’s a baby’s breath
It’s a stickler for detail
It’s a tawdry purplish bruise you can’t figure
It’s a species of fish
It’s a rudimentary conception
It’s route 66 dust in your eye
It’s a tooth in your hand
It’s my issei farmworker grandparents
It’s their whole generation, come and gone
It’s their whole world, come and gone
It’s their children, gone
It’s generations gone
It’s never coming again
It’s a marker, a note
It’s “don’t worry about it” (whatever it was about)
It’s an afternoon in Lincoln Heights
It’s a dream
It’s not raining, it’s not windy
It’s a raven looking at us
It’s a raven flying down to inspect the picnic table at Henninger flats above the San Gabriel Valley
It’s the twins—nobody & somebody
It’s who we said hello to and hugged at Gronk’s opening
It’s who we did and didn’t talk to (we didn’t go to the patio, drink wine and check our phones)
It’s 2 trees that are nothing alike except they are there, they were there
It’s two nearly identical (they appear exactly identical) manuscripts, placed side by side
for verification, but actually, this occurs in a dream (again, working assiduously in a dream)
It’s something we did, or didn’t do
It’s happy birthday to you (so what if it’s not your birthday)
today liz called mom to tell her that bob died this morning;
mom leaned against the hutch and tried not to cry—
(i guess) though she teared up. she asked liz if there was anything
we could do. i listened, because if the person on the other end
said yes, i was the one to start making arrangements.
she had just reiterated to me that bob was in hospice care
because of parkinson’s and dementia and had stopped speaking.
mary couldn’t care for him alone (she had weekly kidney dialysis).
mom’s youngest brother jim is home from the hospital
and someone comes to the house to care for him.
last november when i told mom that you had died, it was like
someone had hit her hard with a fist that was six feet tall
that fell on her from above (that same fist)
or went through her chest like a steel pole.
she leaned back in her chair as if pushed, but she didn’t cry.
she asked, “what are we going do? when are you going up there?”
she asked, “what i can do?”
i said, “mom, there’s nothing to be done. it’s over.”
yesterday i went into the backyard to look at the garden
all the trees have leafed out, the chard and kale and tomatoes
are green and full and there are plums and lemons—
the water troughs she put in have lilies and goldfish—
elizabeth called over the fence, “sesshu! sesshu!
sheldon is in the hospital. they are testing for blood in his urine.
he’s not coming home. sheldon’s not coming back home,
sesshu—i can’t care for him here.”
Elizabeth put the back of her hand to her face, weeping,
“He doesn’t understand. he wants to come home.
they have a dementia ward at the VA. i’m trying to get him in there.
he doesn’t understand. sesshu, it’s so hard.” she was weeping.
“does he recognize you, elizabeth?
the last time i talked to sheldon, he didn’t know who you were.”
“sometimes he knows. sometimes he comes back to himself.
sometimes he knows.” i didn’t know what else to do;
i took elizabeth five lemons from mom’s tree.
shoot dick cheney through the eye if i am tortured to death in a corner of bagram air force base, in abu graib, in a black site tonight
so says the ghost flickering off and on like a midnight street lamp over a mexicali school yard
shoot henry kissinger through the right eye if i am to die with my children in a field, with my children in the desert, with my children in a ditch
so says the ghost flickering off and on like a parking lot light at a midnight sunset boulevard motel
shoot donald rumsfeld and donald trump through the teeth if i am to die in the worst possible way, bones dissolved in a barrel of acid, ashes swirling away at the dump
so says the ghost flickering off and on like the little lights in the heels of the toddler’s sneakers skipping down the sidewalk