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Friday Afternoon


With all this free time
I was going to write a novel
about a middle-aged man
whose idealism had gotten
infiltrated—in the same way
that Sharia law
is infiltrating
the civic body of Michigan—
by hysterical anxiety
over his kids’ safety
and a disgust
an art which
had stolen away
his youth—but why
had it locked
the savage pug in the hot car?
After many days of not having
a cigarette
I found I wanted one—
I had a trick:
this man would be much older
and “looking back” over a series
of events that hadn’t exactly
worked out,
but then on the walk
home I decided
once again
that I had no desire to write
a novel, which might take
a thousand hours
better spent
with my wife and kids
and doing
all sorts of other things, any-
thing but writing
a fucking novel no one
asked me to write, I wasn’t
crazy enough, whereas I was
crazy enough to write a poem
it’s what dogs do! as
someone said
and the short
lines are, potentially, more
to someone who hasn’t made up
her mind
about me yet , — !
because I’ve always wanted
people to not be able to get
enough of what I have to say
and though I used
to love myself
and now only tolerate my presence
I have more to say
and can write better than I used to.





If You’re Reading This


it means everything turned out OK.
Nuclear war was averted,
environmental catastrophe, too.
Light up a big joint and congratulate yourself.
Your mother and I were so worried.
But there is another possibility:

That you’re reading this at gunpoint
because the Chinese have taken back California,
that you picked this up at random
from a library
full of corpses:
you don’t understand a word you’re
reading, you’re
dead and these words are being
read over your body before
they shove your flag-draped
coffin into the Gulf—actually
these aren’t even the words being read.
But the chances are slim.

It’s much more likely
that Disaster has been locked up
in a coniferous hospital
ward, like the bogeyman,
and the unmade moonlit beds
are the headstones of our nightmares.
Everything turned out fine,
and I’m standing eye-to-eye with you
in a broad, clean public park
having escaped
at 43.





The Commodity Sings To Its Beloved


I am here
for a very particular reason:
to buy a 6-pack of beer
and berries out of season

all for you, i did it all for you

I noticed an oil spill
on my drive past the bay,
emergency broadcast on the radio
—What do you have to say?

all for you, i did it all for you

You chopped down the plant
that used to grow my pants,
resurrected it in Indonesia
like a blow-up doll with amnesia

all for you, i did it all for you

Poor people once lived here
but you flooded the valley
with psilocybin carcinogens,
and forced the kids into shooting galleries

all for you, i did it all for you

You gave poor people jobs
then you forced them to act
like robots lining up
for a real live heart attack,
made them take apart their futures
then you sold the parts back,
repurposed the sutures
to close a robocaller’s rap

all for you, i did it all for you

You got children in slums
to make things that break,
your unspoken credo—
“If it lasts, it’s fake.”

But you were there first
when we were dying of thirst,
with a pint of chilled water
each, for me, my wife and two daughters,

and even a kewpie doll
and a tiny stuffed puppy
—for my wife some paper slippers,
for me, a stuffed yuppie

—You saw every decision
that I would make first,
and you did get there first
when we were dying of thirst

every decision
i make is part yours,
every step i take,
i take on your floor

You mangled my fingers,
polluted my streams,
screamed in my face,
closed deals over my dreams

all for you, i did it all for you

(and now it fades out,

“The Commodity Sings to its Beloved” song.

They’ll say it was a good idea
done wrong
—“They should have got a bigger budget,
done it as a singalong.”)





The Musical Science


She had this trick where
she could externalize your
blood then vaporize it, so
you were quaking in a Florida

It was unlike any other out-
of-body experience
                                   out there

And she called it

                         THE MUSICAL SCIENCE


                         THE MUSICAL SCIENCE


—I wish it were better!
But what do I know about
Anaconda Cosmography
           you trip with looks alone
Cool jewel center,       beach
. . . They shed cool skin
they swallow bananas
                    in Lower Manhattan
where streets get buckled
by jackrabbits
                      Hare Krishna
walls have ears
so yeah, what do I know?

Just that I wish it were better.
If I say God doesn’t exist
He doesn’t
Let’s not nitpick
like a couple of married pickpockets
over the form—
Wind will outshine the flaming rig
And sadist gods go begging
For change before they too are thrown
By the New Love on the wheel

OK, I wrote that last part last
and lay in ambush for you
to come skipping down the
                      low road
where nothing grows
the flowers of old gunshots
to brainfuck you

I’m going to make a handbag out
                     of your brain

false note

your halo is unsustainable

this offer expires soon
learn to love it
so you can’t eat it
so what?
everything else about it is great
might switch the evening out of the evening
for shit, 
                 it’s the longlost epiphany
we’ve all been waiting to waste

but I wish it was better.
It’s not though
because it’s not the real
                       —it’s a confection.
Like a lifesize Jolly Rancher brain
sweetened by the blood of God
who, for all the stupid things I’ve
I never mistook for a friend.

Call that cynical if you want
—but I want a city to climb
like smokeless flames
and us to burn our way through
a million clear days
peace and love aren’t urban myths
the shoe leather of your tongue
shows up on boards in deep space
this isn’t Phoenix
this is Candor






Julien Poirier

JULIEN POIRIER lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and daughters. He has taught poetry in the New York and San Francisco public schools, and at San Quentin State Prison. Forthcoming books: Way Too West (Bootstrap 2015) and Out of Print (City Lights 2016).


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 14-JAN 15

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