Heights of the Marvelous

A New York Anthology

Edited by Todd Colby

St. Martin's Griffin

ANSELM BERRIGAN
A short history of autumn
New York City fails to be spectacular from my teacher’s car.
And the van that booted me into Brooklyn last night, it has
my sympathy. My sympathy was parked in a strange place last
night. It hasn’t come back. Did I think of my sympathy as a dog?
A dog licking my neck all night?
Sympathy licking my neck all night kept me up all night &
the anti-depressant medication I swallowed before bed tho’
it wasn’t prescribed to me & I wasn’t depressed kept me up
all night. I thought of a man who couldn’t cry for years &
years. He couldn’t fly, so he died.
After he died he rose to a two egg breakfast that tasted
terrible. Work was terrible too, later. Before the movie—
Vertigo. San Francisco looking not too much different this summer
than it did forty years ago, in Vertigo. After the movie I
felt tired & creepy. I went to the office where I used to live.
I used to live there with a bad inflection. Every other word
out of my mouth was off. “I’m off to off work off,” etc. Life
was profoundly stupid then. I guess that wasn’t an inflection.
I visit the office sometimes late at night, to think about
what life was like then, & usually I can’t remember.
And as I don’t have much of an imagination, to go along with
a bad memory (Rrrrriiiinnnngggg!) It’s Jena. “What happened
to your rationality?” “It jumped out the window.” “Then
let’s go to Paris!” “Sure.” (hangs up phone) Where was I?
I was getting a ride from my teacher after class one night.
we were talking about how to read your head and heart at the
same time & how hard that can be. She dropped me off at the
World Trade Center. From there I walked to Union Square. On the
way I began to freak out. Everything around me looked great.
I hadn’t been that cold in three years.
I want to hear people read poems. I went to have a drink somewhere
else. I went to the office where I used to live. All in all
it wasn’t enough. Where was the life I later led? Shall my tongue
settle in its little tomb? Is this at all an improvement?
Someone is at the door. Shall I ask them in?
Mercy flight
Some people should take a break. Have you ever
met so many finished works? Doesn’t it just kill you?
Yes! & it is terrific to say yes as Lisa says & says yes.
& so I say to the different variations of taking off
one’s pants, don’t put any on. Teachers & their pants
theories & their pants, the suburban moon. The D-train
over the Manhattan bridge when I should be at my job
has pretty legs. The pretty graffiti on the girders, pink
legs with black outlines like those of the bleached blonde
boy pouring a sack of cedar mulch next to the slant
of wood he’s come to call “garage”. & it’s a pleasure
to see him seeing his future & to plant myself squarely
there through no action in particular. Black & yellow
pansies admire themselves endlessly on his lawn
where I sit admiring him. We are fabulous examples
of ourselves—strange birds invited to veer off course
so naturally we go. To call this nature would be completely
misleading, unless, of course, you think there is a course.
Bloodletting
Fifty American cheerleaders booking uphill on Rue LePic
& what I understand, I’ve been given a list of things
very valuable to me: a choo-choo train wearing a bluegrass
t-shirt, my Pollyanna ring, a lovely crater. Where do pigeons go
at night? The belltower is invisible, my brain is on the floor
I name it Flat Bear the Stuffed Animal & remember:
I don’t like delirium/I do like a melange of tom-toms
& Canadian spies parading down Lorimer St. Oh joy
why have you shut your glass doors to so many of my friends
& their neuroses that are very serious, like a tucked-in shirt
and the end-all be-all meatball parmesan? Peggy knows
the meaning of life, I have to get her my fax number at work
to be enlightened. I know it’s not philanthropy, where my fork
always seems to be on the wrong side of the plate. Maybe
a beggar’s hiss on a 105-degree July evening in Williamsburg:
Mick, Mick, is the Renaissance worthy of our attention?
Will you still love me if I don’t want to sleep with you & eat yoghurt
my whole life? Have a seat sweety. Lay your sweat on my shoulder.
Advice to a young philosopher
It should be in your nature to instantly trivialize anything
you read in italics. Everyone thinks they deserve a reward
for not dying, but there will always be someone available
to hate you. Your reward can wait, can wallow in mud;
I love mud. That it’s not quite the water & not quite the shore.
This allows you to understand purgatory. Dilemmas
cause problems, cause auto-didacts. Have you ever met
a sultry philosopher? So, thanks. If a present is to be had
have it tied with a ribbon the color of the dress of God
& Howard Hawks’ river. But the uniform you design
may still be stripped & not in some pleasant manner
by the frog of your choice. Your dilemmas will always fail
their physical, whatever roots you ingest. Waking up
is a nice way to start the day. When you think of order
think take out. It’s always hard to get a perspective
from the inside. Measure the distance between dead
people & their existing stars. And vice-versa. You may
be killed by a random shot of a cannonball.
Ode to election day
Then to admire some beached whales
lights a cold. I run an ad agency on the side
& am a true blonde, with dirt; flesh rigged
for pressure I believe you must understand
in other people’s brunch. There is an out here
slap the clever. A walking talking single-cell
grassroots activist finger fucking. The first part
was the disinclined moment. Then I wanted
to be Jane Eyre, in the third person on line
for a metrocard & chicken sandwich.
There is a stupid in my house & I’m not scared.
After many delayed probabilities we went right
for the essence of the matter. Who would
stand it? The orange wall, the green ceiling
the naked postcard coconut life saver. Xerox &
send, xerox & send! To make it easy we chose
bullfrogged detachment, no surprise, nooooooo
nothing. Verdict: robust, mellow, satisfying.
Looking up my balance
If I think you’ll think I’m brainwashed
because I think I am. It’s like having your belly
button on your big toe, & that was solace
’till I shut my eyes. Many constructors of chaos
are historically grabassy. Agitated
for lack of warmth & the answer is relax.
Off into orbit by merit of gratuitous misery
i.e., free long distance minutes inside.
Entering a mid-town diner & greeted by a sign:
Please wait for the waitress to be seated.
Logic dictates a reasonably healthy diet
but I read that one should undermine authority.
I left empty & thought about what I’ve stepped
on in the country. My brother said he called
Jesus but the outgoing message was too long.
He played Jimmie Rodgers over the phone & said
this man in this church with a chicken bone
in his hair was, like, totally no bullshit.
Sabotage
On with the jalapeño Christmas lights! It’s only the end
of July, no calls, no poems, damn this antenna. To defy
being positioned I indulge in irrelevant cosmic lunch
openings, take a handful at my will & dirty this penny-ante
heart. The hub is searching for its head, which is
a lost cause. It was a leaf on the windshield of her car
& she was handed an oeuvre. Micro-sized wormholes
dig it, Heidegger’s works are at least as manipulative
as Spielberg’s. Words spoken by a boot full of wicked
on Brooklyn’s vibrating giraffe-ride scene. If François
Villon had ever led a life as sweet as this he wouldn’t
give a damn about passing out in Philip Glass’ bed.
Whosoever shall encounter him by chance shall read to him
this poem. Who gives a damn about the bathroom door
rotting off its hinges & who gives a damn about a toehold
on a crowded ladder. Francois does not pity my delusions
nor those of the monks & black-winged demons painted
in gold & tempera onto the panels of my face.
A four minute history of getting it together
in order to be fabulous, briefly
As if having a thought makes anything, & assuming
of course that I did not mistake a different wrecked vehicle
for the one I was looking for. In Annandale. With John
Anne, Tom, Eric, the folk singer with the brown teeth, the geese
Satan, Ani, & “I like to burn my brain.” I’m still young enough
to accumulate lies. The good society must involve fucking
without conscience, right? or acknowledging someone else’s
conscience? I wanted among fireflies to fall through floorboards
inside a haunted house by the rails last night, rectilinear & light.
Everyone I know shaping up & why, they’re fine, no specifics
Aloha. But fucked. It’s passé to be twenty-four and alive.
The young are so rotgut full with cynicism & medication.
Let’s take the rest of this poem & turn it into money: Revolution!
or what don’t you understand? We’ll fix it, together. Spirit makes us
paranoid. I made it up, it’s not science. I’m just this boy.
It’s in the psycho-analysis of my health. It’s because I’m passive-
aggressive, yes, that’s right love. Tracing the trails of grace.
Shall we blame our flaws on society? Over a glass of scotch?
The various multitudes contained by the
loves of my love
& I’ve always admired fiction but I’ve never admired the fiction
that is on the swing in the warehouse kicking paint cans & I
double pumped so collapse went my young robot companion &
a polaroid snapped history into our lives & white energy escaped
through the hole in my foot which I acquired by stepping on a nail
after a great jump I got off quick but my lover was out of town
& my lover is depressed & my lover in a foreign land can’t sleep
& I am counted out of my fiction & I have no lovers though I love
my lovers & I have no lovers but I love them & they love to be happy
& they love to be sleepy & they love to be chased by their numbers
& I love to understand ones now & I love to understand zeros now
& I look forward to sleeping on mud & I love to give my blanket
which asks for nothing to my host & I love to imitate my lovers &
I love to ignore the crosses in my kitchen & I love to swing when
the ball is in the glove & I love to send messages to my love & I love
to check the voice mail for messages from my love & I love the shoulders
& the space between them that is love & love & love & I love the whatness
of the space in my love goes to hell & the it of my love goes to lunch
& my love is an object with great use of verbs & my love is an object
with great use of colors & I love to know that objects are absolutely
amazing now & the mud of the love I love is incredible love & Larry
Eigner is love & copping some love is proof of further love & here
comes love talking a lot & the last thing you can do is intentionally
walk love & love takes its pants off & lies on the lawn under a brown
& grey sunset & love sits on the couch in its underwear & love has
a package taped to its leg & inside the package is a note from my love
& I read it loving to understand that I’ve been hopelessly defeated
by love