Americans walk into movie theaters with their 4 year old sons,
buy large popcorns, five dollar boxes of Whoopers,
then find their seats and die.
When they walk out two hours later
they are still dead
but get into Ford Explorers anyway
and turn the key.
The gas gauge reads full
but they stop at fillings station and fill up.
If they are near the supermarket
they back into the front door
and load up the trunk with red meat
and Kool Aid.
Even if they are in possession of no money,
they spend money
on large containers of beef jerky.
There’s nothing in there
even before they’ve snacked
and they go home to sit on the couch
They’re already dead.
I’ve joined them in my television set
with the ambulances on every channel.
They drone on in a hyper red light madness.
It doesn’t matter,
we’ve slowed down our death
to make it feel like living.
Some people ride their lawn mowers to the factory,
put in an honest day of work
then go home to smack the dog.
Others smash their skulls against freeway fast computers
and snarl at the blood.
Most of us sit in our cars on parkways
and spit into the Plexi-glass of our gas masks.
The wolves outside our windows have beautiful teeth
and against the din of talk radio,
they are alive like rainbows and furious thunderclaps
that rain down on Nebraska in August.
Don’t fool yourself.
Nebraskans are dead too.
And people from Florida,
the skinny ones out on Long Island,
My death is a guy I hire
to plow the driveway
when snow comes.
He’s dead too
though he wears manly boots made in America
that make him look like John Wayne.
Wayne’s the one that killed us, or maybe it was Abe
Lincoln, better yet,
Ferdinand and his witch wife, Isabel.
That’s the great accomplishment,
Jew hating Spaniards,
to a 4 year old kid with a package of Starbursts
bigger than any tree he’ll ever climb
It makes his dad obese
but he’s dead,
so what’s a couple of more Raisinets for the finalé;
a few more gun toting celluloid zombies
who stare down at us
in our sugar stained seats
and laugh and shoot
and then pee in their pants from laughing.
I have this fantasy about Mexico,
that I get down there and it’s Ireland,
I’m in Belfast,
it’s 1968 and Van Morrison has his flute out
near a cow and everyone talks Gaelic,
but it’s Mexico City
and there is marijuana and broken Coke bottles
under the lampposts
I can’t find a restaurant that serves tacos al carbon
and my girlfriend’s name is Lucia.
It’s taken me three years to get down here,
to find a quiet place near Caba San Lucas, right on the ocean,
to learn Spanish and drink milk from a conch.
That’s all I want, but everyone is Irish
and it’s kind of Boston
but it’s Sunday.
I dated Margarita for six months and we had sex once
or we had sex once
and it felt like six months.
In Mexico, I dream, the coconut trees
will make me quiet,
will make the whole world quiet
and maybe what the globe needs
is a very brown Mexican man named Juan
to pretend he’s the Bodhisattva
and silence the blistered gangs in L.A. and the glass bullets in San Antonio,
shut up the nuclear warheads in Arizona
and then stand up on the t.v. to say, I told you, I’m nothing and I love you.
Then he won’t be pretending anymore
that he’s the Bodhisattva. He’ll just disappear
in his brown-ness
and all the circuits will go dead.
The bees will come back and so will the polar bears.
They’ll come back together and have bumble bee polar bear babies.
But this is not my dream.
My dream is to speak Spanish and watch Spanish television
until four in the morning
with no underwear on
while summer nods off into the swell of dying cicada lung.
My dream is to say,
The wicked savages are all dead and the earth is perfectly blue,
in Spanish, over and over,
so it becomes a mantra, a monkish incantation of the spirit,
and then it becomes true.
THE SMELL OF IT
When you grow up you get smells.
My daughter smells like mango toothpaste.
When she’s an older woman, she’ll smell like a Columbian cigar,
the inside of a cut down redwood.
I smell like vitamins, then liver, then oleander.
When I was five I stank like borscht.
My best friend swears that when his father dies
he will smell like Nixon. I say, Nixon
in The White House or Nixon
in the grave?
The house sparrows land on his roof and smell like toxic waste plants in New Jersey.
They smell like a pizzeria owner named Enzo.
When Enzo was a kid, he smelled like figs and his sweetheart, Carmelita, smelled like olives.
They made a mean salad dressing
and all the mozzarella reeked like sunset.
When I was six
I had an odor that reminded the neighborhood of a garbage truck
that had broken down on the corner
which no city agency came to claim.
It stood there for weeks, in July, and broke the spirits of the block bully, Flipper.
We saw him weep for hours by the lamppost
after his mother died and never again
shook us down for quarters.
The first time he beat me up he smelled like a forest of pine.
When he was a baby they sprayed Lysol in his nursery and opened the blinds.
It was magic.
Magic is the thing that happens between the time your head crowns between mamma’s legs and the snip of the umbilical.
Everything smells bonanza and you haven’t get a clue.
You smell like birth. Birth doesn’t smell like anything.
The nasal passage shuts down
so you can watch your child breathe, kick and flutter.
When you realize she’s alive and that her lungs won’t stop
she begins to smell. Last night she smelled like onions
though she likes tomatoes.
I think if you wanted to write a poem about politics
and you couldn’t get anywhere
you should have a child and then,
for the rest of your life,
write about what she smells likeâ€“oranges, black beans sautéed in chili pepper, grassâ€“
and then you’d be writing poems that weren’t about politics
even though you were being political.
Tonight, I smell like chlorine
and my daughter went to The Science Museum.
She’ll be home in twenty minutes.
When I bend down to say hello, her fingers will smell like dinosaur bones,
like outer space.
LITTLE GREEN TABLE
On Chequessett Neck Road
the sea does not shut up.
That’s a way of saying, marigolds
are everywhere. Tony Hoagland lives up the street
but I can’t find him. With the windows open
there isn’t enough time to fall into yourself and discuss matters of life and tenderness,
there is just wind.
When I go to the bay beach with my daughter
she loses her mind in the wind
the way a child almost four
but not quite three
with all the expensive clothes.
The sea reminds me that there are only stars and discarded Popsicle sticks,
that I was sixteen once
and grew my hair down to the ankles
so I could escape the blue horror of my house
by climbing down the gutters
with a cape made of grass
and, always, half broken feet.
Today I run to the salt water with those same feet
and slam my face into the shellfish. The windsurfers don’t notice
and neither do the dead crabs.
All at once everything is yellow and shiny
and my daughter is up at the house
with a kite in one hand and The Rand McNally Atlas in the other.
She wants to go to Iowa, to Spain,
she wants to hitch a plane to Beijing and watch the American Olympic ping pong team
kick the crap out of the Chinese.
Won’t happen, I tell her.
We know basketball and beef jerky.
We know Spiderman and old towns like Plymouth.
Ping pong, sweetie, just ain’t in our blood.
But we play it anyway, down in the basement,
as if our lives depended on itâ€“
slamming balls off the walls, crushing them with our teeth,
resurrecting those little plastic orbs with our eyes
till not just the basement, but the whole house, the marsh, the sand,
is our little green table and we have won.