“If Your Life Is Burning Well, Poetry Is Just the Ash”
after Leonard Cohen
The largess of the doomed
is sitting on our hands:
our tongues are banging tra la-la
to fill the lines, our bellies, and our lives.
But evil is banal, we know.
When I see leaves sun-shot in breeze, I feel
as if what Emily
so militantly wrote
about the head’s explosion
is the truth.
We call it poetry, but beauty—
in Montana, in the laundromat, in class—
it lifts us like I once was lifted
by young Anne Sofia Mutter
playing Pärt’s Tabula Rasa
in electric blue.
Night holds off—
why? Our faces, deft hands shine
with torchlight that we pass
like cups of wine.
Wings Nailed On
The night drapes velvet, wet: our bellies rub
against an ocean oiled by our molt,
the stars fly by, linguini in a pot
of brine that boils as hard as Whitman’s brain
OD’d on Emerson. These dreams we slub
and scuff to grunge up/down, a day-glo bolt
of cloth that tweaks our nakedness, too hot
to bleed with post-post-irony, to stain
my kisses on your breasts. Your free hand’s tight
around my cock. Let’s take a thousand you’s,
and multiply by I’s, then add a pinch
of weirdness we’ve cultivated: right
amount of spice. Let’s love these delta blues.
Let’s find the empyrean inch by inch.
The Water Rising
The water rising over reason, neighbors
dressed like animals, dog barfing on
their sidewalk: better taste than I. We must
be patient. Something’s coming closer, ghostly.
Let it. Be. Each syllable a cry,
a curse, an incantation. Long-haired boy
who keeps a cat inside his jumper: do
you love him, sister? Gargoyles perched on eaves,
our selves on shelves. The way you play
that violin sometimes, dear Jascha, makes
me want to cry. A man who choked up only
when he spoke of beauty. That’s an epitaph.
My business is on Earth, with vibrant colors,
mostly grays. Jeweled window: raining still.
A second scotch bears wingbeats and the clop
of hooves: Parisian sewers, nimbus clean
as brother Theo’s brushes. Wheels and chop-
shop dreams, soft cogs and machinations, sheen
of sealed interiors that oxygen
will eat. You lie, a pharaoh disinterred:
your love, a doppelgänger Saracen,
transcribes a Bach sonata. Rise! Be heard!
Your banshee grips a bare, forked figurine:
And I am not the man I am / I am
an aim, an anima, an iamb! Keen
as knives, the syllables keep slicing spam
poetics, spiced and canned art brut that lasts
past Armageddon, starves iconoclasts.
One Eye a Button, One Eye a Stone
The button eye undresses you,
it rolls its wheel too fast around your breasts,
then slows a little in the grass.
The stone eye’s in
a lone crow’s mouth.
Hot, clamped and wet, it flies in darkness.
I use it for the other sex act, art.
No vile gel in either eye,
just passing clouds.
There is no evil except cruelty.
The cats we loved are dead,
the orange one, the white-and-black.
They’re like the colors of my eyes
that you can’t see:
the fire, the ice, the shattered night
at the imagined,
and sometimes unbearably delayed,
Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits two literary magazines at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His chapbook In Stereo: Thirteen Sonnets and Some Fire Music appeared from The Camel Saloon Books on Blog in 2012. Tom’s website: http://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/