Under the Influence of a Watch with Black Hands
“My voice lags, even now as I write ‘behind the painter’s hand.’”
That’s how you wished me to speak, like a postmodernist consumer,
another tri-lateral reality based on you and me, and them:
the books by Michael Palmer, back ordered on line from Amazon.com,
the significant (to you) Codes Appearing, that took you away.
Each postmodernist poem a speck of grit in your boot-sole eyes.
But you were the diva cheered by the crowd at the KGB Bar,
who’d arrived, direly mournful, gaunt as Kafka’s hunger artist,
your thrift store turtleneck a shroud of black wool, ragged at the sleeves.
And as you read, I feared your heart’s monstrous metamorphosis,
hoped against hope that you’d grin or fart, tell a riddle.
Or for God’s sake, jump headlong into a ridiculous limerick.
“Look,” you told me, still high from your reading, seeming
a stranger to me: “my mind’s a watch with black hands now.
Maybe we should rethink our whole paradigm together.”
Waiting for the train in the white white white noise
of barreling subway anticipation, I pondered your watch-with-black-hands line,
heard the jar & squeal, the thunder of our lives braking to a halt,
the passengers, checking their schedules, never suspecting.
I’d showed up bearing vanilla beans in a plastic baggie for laughs once–
a 60’s acid avatar, a prop comic with insane jokes to match.
So you countered by quoting Ashbery’s joke about Oslo, France, to me,
which needed no explication, even to me, your adoring clown-prince.
Didn’t you realize: puns conducted me across the sterile Hudson
& back into heartbroken Hoboken: the jealous pun of ashes for ashbery,
we all fall down; and Oslo Bridge is falling down etc., night after night.
Ashbery, I’m sure, appreciates a trite, laughable figure of speech,
but my puns were the puns of a clown undressing for you,
unbuttoning, unzipping, stripping myself of my many layers.
Could poetry have done this to us? Was it the rubber vomit in your bed
that poisoned your love for me? I still love you. But the laughs
are getting more difficult to sustain. The other day I caught sight of you
navigating through traffic on Lennox Ave., a book in your hand. I had to smile.
But I swear I’m not stalking you or even thinking of reconciliation.
I guess I’ll send you some dead flowers in the mail on Valentine’s Day
and hope you don’t call up your lawyer or shop for a pistol.