The August Project 2012
Daniel does the first letter and David the second
August 1, 2012
Just drove back from Albany and heard
a band in the local bar. I didn’t recognize
the song at first, but it was Lou Gramm’s
Midnight Blue, which I loved back in
college. R.E.M. covered it even. This time
a woman was singing it under a beer tent
with old guys playing guitar. Montel
Williams is on TV pitching money stuff.
Michael Stipe’s on Colbert, up on a shelf.
Anyway. I haven’t thought about writing
poetry in a concentrated way in years, but
I came across a poem about this dude
who taught workshops at the Poetry Project.
He wore these oversized white collared shirts and
knew lots of famous people. He blamed
Sharon Olds for the real estate woes of
New York. Didn’t make any sense, but
the people at the first meeting all nodded, like
it was scripture. He wrote good poems, though.
Tomorrow I plan on wearing khakis to work.
I usually wear shitty clothes, but I have a meeting
with my new boss’s boss’s boss. She’s from
South Jersey, same as me, so my small talk
is taken care of. Just asked Beatrice, who is two,
what her favorite color is. She said blue. Then I
asked Miriam, who is four, the same question.
She said hers is magenta. I didn’t know that.
i wrote this poem back in 1991 when i lived in san francisco,
about the cutest, prettiest girl i'd ever seen,
she was in amoeba records,
either she was buying Foreigner's Double Vision album
or "Hot Blooded" was playing over the studio as i marveled at her
in some sorta black/white horizontal top and black skirt,
looking like krysten ritter
25 years before krysten ritter would look like krysten ritter.
i've never pictured you wearing shitty clothes,
not that i've ever pictured you wearing clothes
or not wearing clothes
i've just always pictured you as a grown-up,
born full-blown that way,
so the idea that you plan on wearing khakis,
as though there was some effort involved in the decision, surprises me.
The boog festival begins soon,
and i am trying to get some sleep,
so it all goes well,
and i remember some of it,
to stave off the mania.
I am 45. My favorite color is red,
like my hair used to be,
like the quarter of the bic medium point multicolor pen I use to copy edit.
August 2, 2012
It's 7am and our daughters are fighting over slippers.
They light up when you stamp on the ground.
Lots of writing about a dead Gore Vidal,
whose name I first heard on a Robin Williams LP.
Do you remember the bit? "Hello, Gore Vidal
for Thunderbird Wine." I didn't know who
he was but I laughed anyway, cos with each
take Gore's/Robin's voice got more drunk-sounding.
I'm surprised you think of me as grown-up.
I mean, I am now, I guess. Everything seems slightly
suspended here upstate, even after seven years.
In 1991 I was living in Camden, NJ in a castle-
like building. My roommate had two birds
that tweeted at sunrise, and I'd smoke pot
and go to work shelving books for the library,
making sure each number came after the next.
Every once in awhile I'll see old photos of Albany
poetry readings and I'll see a wild-haired boy
in cut-off jeans sitting in the corner. It's him!
I'll say to myself. It's David! He was here once!
Looking at you young makes me feel young.
i was 19 in the summer of 1986,
and me and my friend David
were dating the same Heather,
a 17-year-old beautiful blonde Jewess
we'd met at one of the parties at barry's
my best friend who'd gone from cutting lawns
to tending bar to dealing pot and coke
and sharing it a bit with his friends.
i was going on date-dates with Heather,
taking awhile to excitedly hold one of her hands while walking
to The Metropolitan Opera House
with tickets my big sister, who worked at Stagebill,
got me to one of the Robin Williams shows
that would become his Grammy Award–winning Night at the Met album,
and I'd get a kiss from Heather at the end of these nights.
Later I found out the other David's Heather dates
involved more than hand-holding and end-of-the-night kisses.
August 3, 2012
You've probably had a poetry-filled day,
in several places at once. I drove to Troy
this morning to teach a class for adults.
Differently abled, I think you're supposed to
say. They think like poets: sideways,
upside down, slow then fast, then hateful,
then prophetic, then oppressed. Such a wave
of feelings come when writing just one
sentence! We did the I Remember lists,
then wrote fake directions. One guy
gave very detailed directions on how to
invade Mars. Another on how to meet
Ringo Star. Then I had coffee with a lady
who went to Guatemala to teach writing
to little kids. When I got back to my car
my iPod was so hot it burned my hand.
Just one venue of poetry today
and i had Claire Donato and Jeff Johnson host the whole day
just bookends from me
and the occasional note with instructions to them.
i had time to get a black bean burrito with corn
and a two-liter bottle of diet coke,
time to go to the bathroom,
time to enjoy poetry.
August 4, 2012
I'm waiting for my thyroid pill to absorb for an hour,
as I do every morning these days,
before I can consume anything.
The daughters want to walk outside in their pink crocs.
They're both dressed already and
trying on different outfits and playing with blocks.
Listened to Beethoven's ninth symphony while
checking permissions for the sestina anthology,
which is finally going to happen. We sent
them out four years ago, and I forgot
how many poets signed off on it right out
of the gates. Felt good about poets,
specific poets, not all poets, which will have to do.
The lithium fucks up my thyroid
but the docs like the way it keeps my highs from being too high
my lows from being too low
so they keep giving me the lithium
and add in a thryoid pill to pitch in there.
it's a first thing in the morning pill,
a take two hours after you've last eaten pill
and then wait another hour before you eat next pill pill,
the pill i try to take on first pee pill
so i can eat once i really wake up,
after checking my blood sugar,
after injecting the victoza into my belly.
August 5, 2012
I don't have epiphanies anymore. Not sure
if I ever did. I used to make sure I had them
in my poems, right before the guitar solo,
then return to it as the notes faded out. Wondering
if that means I'm not sincere, or against
expressing myself, or I've ever had epiphanies
at all, or if the anxiety here, if it is an anxiety,
is in fact a problem at all. I make everything
a problem, something to be solved. It's never,
"oh, that's funny, I don't have epiphanies" or
"gee, I should be having an epiphany about X" or
"maybe my celexa and wellbutrin have taken away
my capacity to have epiphanic thoughts." I just
realize and worry, realize and worry. Did I
just have an epiphany just now? Please advise.
I think you're having epiphanies every minute
they're just a different kind of grand than your epiphanies of youth seemed or were,
however you want to define youth,
or you've just become grander so the moments seem smaller
or the smaller moments are pretty damn grand
these little a-ha moments that take on you all the time.
August 6, 2012
I've fallen behind, I guess. Slapping together
classes, group messages to the future,
lessons mocked up—
I like how you remain a fan of a chanteuse
from when we were young. You know
who I mean. Juliana for
you, Liz Phair for me. I don't care
if people think she sold out.
Most are other writers who
don't listen to much music anyway.
Have you ever noticed
how writers have such bad taste
in music? My theory is writers
like music they can work
along to. Quiet, safe music, or
music that has Real Importance. I wish
this wasn't the case, but how
else to explain the popularity
of those necrophiliac Johnny
Cash CDs? Or Portishead? Or
accordion music? Anyway,
I listened to Squeeze this morning
in the car with the girls. Which
kinda proves my point.
the main bands in boston's
late ’80s early ’90s condo pad scene
were the lemonheads and the blake babies,
gimme those two bands,
and all of the blakes spin-offs—
antenna, velo-deluxe, the mysteries of life,
john strohm solo, the juliana hatfield three,
and solo juliana hatfield—
and i'm good.
August 7, 2012
I wrote a poem today. Really. It was
called Thirteen Ways of Looking at
Your Mama. I took Wallace Stevens
and put it in a word-blender and thesaurus
and came up with a poem. I can't do
anything but novelty these days, David.
I don't think I've ever been good at
being sincere. I don't mean
to lay this all on you at 10:49pm, but
that's the truth. I try and I try to write
something that might fucking transform
into something else, something that might
move someone to make those noises
people make when they read or hear
something that gets them in the gut.
And all I can muster is a Your Mama Joke.
Story of my life.
Don't know what else to say.
I've always thought you more a snark king,
a witticism waiting to happen
than anything resembling a your mama joke.
that said, i could see your ability to lovingly obsess over queen as an adult,
stemming from seventh grade you
(were you a dan or a danny?
though i could have seen you a daniel at 12,
arriving full-blown into this world wearing khakis)
machine-gunning all in a series of jokes going around—
the dead baby jokes,
the dead natalie wood jokes,
the people with missing limb jokes
(what do you call a guy on your porch with no arms and no legs? matt.),
almost caring more for the completion aspect
than the jokes,
which you knew were beneath you.
August 8, 2012
I was a Danny. I was an altar boy. I was a pray-at-night-in-bed boy.
I was a janitor's helper, a brown-noser in class. I was a husky pants wearer,
I was last picked in pick-up games. I was a joker, this is true, and I was also
a Jesus stand-in at the Good Friday production. I was not beneath the sick jokes.
I was a mom joke-lover for sure. I was also a mama's boy.
I was a Danny, then a Dan, then Daniel M., then Daniel Murlin, then D. Murlin,
then Daniel, then just Nester to most. Which is fine.
Were you a Davey? A Dave? You were a "DAK," pronounced "Dack," at least
at one reading where you read about Chinese food and watching TV a lot.
That reading made me cry. I guess I'm a wussy for that. I never saw you read
before—was at the Bowery Club, now closed? Were you ever a dude, a buddy,
a captain or cap'n, a homey? Does your name really mean "Cherry Tree"?
I've always been a David,
though my father and my best friend call me Dave.
my dad was a sodaman for almost half of his life,
from his early twenties to his early sixties.
when the various soda companies he worked for
would begin to carry a new product,
he would get different gear to wear,
be it on the route or on his own,
to help get the word out.
when i was in my early teens
he started to carry Hawaiian Punch.
I proudly wore the white visor and t-shirt with their corporate character on them
and carried an AM radio in the shape of said character,
and that was that,
for a good long while that character and me had the same name,
in high school i continued to wear my bar mitzvah ring
with my initials DAK big and bold on it,
so i was dak for a while.
then my dad's company brought Perrier to america,
and i was wearing a green polo shirt,
with Perrier in white over my left breast.
Soon I was bubbles
and then bubbly dak.
there were also the nicknames i got because of my hair color,
so i was big red
or the combo nickname
stemming from all of the fights i got into in junior high,
my hair color, and a certain television character.
i was the incredible tomato.
one summer camp
I was special k,
a name my dad got years later
when he was a teacher's assistant
at a school for at-risk teenage boys
when i was interning at the village voice
i was surrounded by initial writers—
i wanted to change my byline to d.a. kirschenbaum
or d. andrew kirschenbaum.
i mentioned it in passing to my mother,
she started to get upset.
"your father and i thought long and hard
to come up with your name," she said.
"my name is david andrew.
how long and hard could you have thought?
which my father got first from his friend sandy,
and i get now, at times,
from sandy's son philip.
and the license plate on my dad's jeep cherokee is
August 9, 2012
It's raining this morning. A mist at first,
then in mini-waterfalls off the eaves.
"Eavesfalls" isn't a word, but it sounds neat.
The online dictionaries tell me “eavesdrip”
is, however, as is “antieavesdropping.”
In the other room, Miriam and Bea argue
over the use of the single hairbrush
we can find. "Do you want waterfalls?"
Maisie asks them. That's their word for
French braids. They like the way they look
but don't like how it makes their hair tangly.
End scene. They both walk over to me
and start pushing my head from one side,
over and over as I spring my head back.
I look like I'm dancing to new wave
when I wore handkerchiefs around my neck
and I couldn't bear to get my hair wet.
i gave myself a day off after the festival
before hopping onto other projects.
i'm not feeling the energy i'd like to,
the momentum that drives all of this.
perhaps it's from recovering at my parents,
not slightly starving at my place,
not being in my own hours
on my own time.
i've no instant deadlines,
just stuff to make happen by month's end.
i'm not trying to be unhumble
(i don't know what the online dictionaries have to say about that)
but i know what i'm doing,
only thing to ever worry about anymore with all of this is the overcommitting,
and i don't overcommit anymore.
August 10, 2012
You sound like your fellow David
Joni Mitchell sings about, but
instead of Paris you're in Long Island, and
instead of Stephen Stills or whoever trying to get ahead
you put poets together, stroking the star-
making machinery, the collections and pairings.
Your momentum: what is it? What drives
all of us to do this? The other David now
runs Disney or whatever. He's got Pollocks
and de Koonings and shit. I'd like to get
more paintings from poets. Got any?
Jim Behrle made a painting of me
wearing an orioles hat
like press’s namesake,
gave it to me one birthday
at trailer park lounge & grill a few years back.
and as editor used to get a bunch of original pieces of art,
the most favored being linoleum block cuts from daisy decapite,
but this digital age has gotten me too many emails
with too many jpegs i turn into tifs.
August 11, 2012
You prefer tifs? That's the craziest tidbit I’ve learned about you
I think a couple of my friends are moving
People ask me questions they already know
the answers to.
I haven't posted on the group blog I started
for four months now.
The youngest marked-up her thumb purple. She looked
like an Iraqi who just voted.
I love Gavin Newsom's hair. I just can't help it.
Two nephews left for Ronald McDonald camp. They're dressed
in all Phillies gear.
went to the bank
to deposit cash
into the account of the friend
whose charge card i use every month
to cover me until i don't need covering.
two turns away my cell rings, it's ian,
will call you back,"
I say, and proceed to the front of the drive-through,
figuring i'll park in the lot afterward and call him back.
as the young woman handled my deposit,
a car entered through the exit,
and i gave a toot with my horn.
after the car parked,
the guy got out
and motioned to me with one arm,
so i motioned back with one arm,
he motioned to me with two arms,
so i did the same,
he then thought about coming toward me,
changed his mind,
and headed into the bank's main entrance.
i finished up at the drive-through,
and decided against parking here to talk to ian,
just in case.
August 12, 2012
Can't quite assemble a joke about strangers
who enter exits and wave their arms. You know—
poopy humor. Last night we drove to Vermont,
up a mountain. The girls sat under a giant wood bear
carving. Its arms are kinda crossed or tucked
in nonexistent bear pockets. In one photo, the girls
put their hands on the bear's butt and smile.
I didn't say anything and admired my own restraint.
when i would shop with friends
and buy crunch berries
they would say,
"you can't get that, you're a diabetic."
i would pick up the nearest box of honey nut cheerios
and show them how they both had the same amount of carbohydrates,
the tell-tale thing to check for diabetics.
when i told this story to my nutritionist,
she pulled out a four-color sheet
she'd photocopied from somewhere,
with images of little boxes of cereals,
broken into categories based on carbs and fiber,
and there, in the worst category,
is crunch berries' parent, cap'n crunch,
and, nearby, honey nut cheerios.
i've been looking for a new cereal,
one in the best category,
the high fiber, low carb category,
freaking out as i review
the many varieties of fiber one.
i settled on multigrain cheerios,
after an emergency call to my nutritionist from a cvs aisle.
August 13, 2012
Went and brought more cupcakes for M's birthday party,
this time for her campmates, where the kids
seem much more barbaric than usual.
You drive these kids into the middle of
fuck-knows-where, and they get into a circle
and I guess they throw the cupcakes
into the middle. Then what?
The kids light them on fire?
Throw them at each other?
I never went to camp.
In college, one guy I lived with
talked about camp constantly.
All the fakebooked Beatles songs
on shitty acoustic guitar,
pots of oatmeal with raisins,
trips out into the tie-dyed ether.
Made me want to set my hair
on fire. Anyway, the cupcakes
at camp wabenaki,
the all boys' camp i went to as a teenager,
where a before-i-new-him anselm berrigan went one summer,
louie would sit in a windowsill in the dining hall,
acoustic guitar in hand,
"Country Roads, take me home
to the place I belong,"
and we'd all reach for
"West Virginia, mountain momma"
before he'd take us home.
August 14, 2012
A nip in the air tonight.
I went and peed outside.
Did I already tell you that?
I'd like to drink some wine,
But it goes right to my head
And I have my shrink tomorrow.
Listened to Undertones'
Teenage Kicks five times
on drive to work today, double-
clapping on the steering wheel
to surprise of an Albany cop
at red light. Tuned guitar up
but didn't play it. It's my
Brian May model, a beauty.
I'm not worthy to play it.
That's the same way I feel
about poetry, or writing
poems, or making them,
or feeling like a poet, or
an ex-poet, whatever I am.
Am I wrong to make the leap from
your mention of Queen guitarist Brian May
to the word worthy
to Wayne's World's "We're not worthy!"
to Queen's return to prominence
via the "Bohemian Rhapsody" head-bobbing lip sync scene
in the first Wayne's World movie
20 years ago?
It may be that all things you write or say
are within six degrees of the band Queen.
August 15, 2012
I taught a workshop today with some blind kids,
And we all wrote 15 "I Remembers." One girl
remembered the warmth of her grandmom's
kitchen, how it was perfect for eating her
apple pie. I almost cried when she read it
out loud. Another boy wrote a poem with mentions
of "mouse poop" a couple of times, and I
wanted to hug him. A couple had these laptops
with giant screens and they zoomed in
five-hundred percent. So I guess they were
legally blind? Anyway, the sound of Braille
typewriters, the thick yellow paper, and
the smiles, the smiles, the smiles.
In case anyone ever says to me
"That Daniel Nester,
what a so-and-so,"
and instead of so-and-so
they'd probably say
which would be misused insults
times two times two,
i'd show them your poem above,
and tell them you're pretty ok, too.
August 16, 2012
Some people do call me an S.O.B. and a bastard.
Even blind people, probably. I have
a persecution complex that takes up
whole afternoons of want and ground teeth.
My sore tongue right now, for instance,
comes from a night of worry. Unfocused
anger, I call it. What, exactly, could I
be upset about? a little version of me
says from my shoulder. He sounds a lot
like my mom. He has a raspy smoker's voice
and sometimes hugs me and then
hums his favorite Carpenters song.
i try to bunch up all of my appointments
so i don't have to leave my house as often,
but this week, no such luck,
and psychiatrist's once every six week med-talk is on tuesday at noon,
while new therapist's almost weekly is two days later at noon.
i walk half-an-hour each way each day
because it's faster than walking to the crosstown bus,
and walking from the crosstown bus,
then just walking crosstown,
plus it saves me $6.75
(i bused back on tuesday)
which goes toward caffeine free diet pepsi and
diet pepsi wild cherry two-liters,
four for $5,
i buy eight each day.
August 17, 2012
My new shrink is a couple blocks from work, but I still drive there
when I can because I like to get iced coffee and a cookie afterwards.
I always call my wife after each appointment, just to check in, to feel
re-connected to the non-therapy world. Of course we talk about the same thing
over and over with my new shrink, same as the old shrink. Dr. F.,
who worked at Beth Israel: father-grief, worry-panic, the anxiety, the writing.
I used to take long lunches to get there when I worked in midtown,
before my old boss, who was in love with her first cousin, stopped letting me,
before I moved up here and stopped seeing anyone because I thought I was cured,
before I started getting nightmares about running children over with my Honda.
now 45, i've been in and out of some form of counseling since i was 13,
from school social worker,
to non-school social worker,
bouncing back and forth between the terms.
but i may have gotten the best advice yet from you
and your post-therapy call to your wife
to reconnect you to the non-therapy world.
So sweet, simple, restorative.
I'm trying to think who my call would be to,
my mom probably,
though that could lead to another cycle of
August 18, 2012
They're talking about Whistler's mother
in this Mr. Bean movie. The girls
have fallen asleep on the couch
and if I change the channel I know
they'll wake up. The news shows are over.
If it gets to a scary part, they might scream.
Now Bean's mistaken for a doctor.
They've suited him up and stuck a scalpel
in his hand, and the youngest whispers
it's scary. So we change it to So You
Think You Can Dance? Have you ever
watched it? I mostly feel old and fat
when I watch it, but this particular
show is dedicated to one choreographer
who is so preposterously over-the-top
and loony that I kinda like it.
She works on shows for Celine Dion and Cher
and ballet boys in tights.
Bodies are just meaty vellum,
but when they're thrown around just right
it calms kids down on a couch,
Outside the Trailer Park Lounge & Grill
three hotter than the other,
all smoking and lighting
and asking for a light.
I'm trying to guess who will die first,
if the hotness will haste matters,
or will genetics and thick thighs stave off elimination.
The girl w/ the hole showing
almost all of her back
almost all of her back
because her friend was prettier.
fill up my travel suitcase,
a kinda leather duffel/crazy large gym bag on wheels,
the bottom of which, when empty at walk's beginning,
was scraping the ground,
with four 2-liter caffeine free diet pepsis
(all they had),
three diet pepsis,
and one diet pepsi wild cherry,
and some chocolate,
and some more chocolate,
and halfway home
a man walks past me
and turns around to face me.
"you know, you have something leaking from there."
and i looked,
and some diet pepsi,
maybe as many as three different varieties of diet pepsi,
were teeming through the bag
out onto the west side of 8th avenue, 25th-26th streets.
new yorker, born and bred,
i wonder if he's the first one to spot the leak.
August 19, 2012
IMing with a writer right now.
She pops up every time I go on Facebook, and
I don't know what else to say to her other than
Wassup? That's the way I spell it.
Wassup? Sometimes she asks me to say
something nice about her, and I go,
you have a very kind soul, which isn't
what I think she wants me to say. Other times
she will ask me some question about
literary magazines, and I'll just say
I'm going to sleep now, which isn't what
she wants me to say. She wants me to say
Oh, I know this person, you should send work
to him or her. Or, I will help you. Wassup?
a little over a decade ago,
while working at chemical week,
i went home sick,
early in the afternoon.
i changed into my sleepy clothes,
a pair of gym shorts and a t-shirt,
laid down on my futon,
and signed into aol instant messenger,
and started going from chat room to chat room,
hoping to go from the chat room
to some light flirting,
to some "i-hope-i-didn't-go-too-far" chatter,
to trying to get a number and have phone sex,
without a headset, unfortunately,
because it's more fun than typing with one hand.
So this day,
on my futon,
in my sleepy clothes,
signed into aol instant messenger,
going from chat room to chat room,
and i connect with someone
and we go from some light flirting
to some "i-hope-i-didn't-go-too-far" chatter,
to trying to get a number and have phone sex,
without a headset, unfortunately,
to her saying "where in the city are you?"
and then "i can be there within an hour,"
and she was.
August 20, 2012
Back in Williamsburg, I found a phone jack
just off the kitchen. I thought it was an extension
but it was for another number, maybe some neighbor
behind our unit. Anyway, I attached a phone to it
and started calling 900 sex lines whenever my roommate
was at work. One time I sat at the kitchen table
and talked to this lady with a voice
that sounded like Carol Channing.
She said she had a body like Pamela Anderson,
and when we started talking dirty to each other
I tried to forget she sounded so much like Carol Channing
as my lizard brain kicked in,
sitting there at a diner table in my underwear
and my roommate coming up the stairs.
i'm trying to boost the sound from my parents' tv
so they can hear better,
mom one hearing aid
dad needing another
and close captioning everything in the meantime.
it finally dawns on me
that i have those $1,000 bose speakers
i won in a business card drawing
at a bose press conference
during my brief career as an electronics trade journalist.
a quick talk with my almost brother-in-law
reminds me they'll need a receiver to make these work,
and he says they have one in their house,
and he's replacing it soon with one from his old apartment outside of boston,
if i don't mind that it was my first brother-in-law’s receiver.
i tell him how i finally got my parents' to toss the high-end portable coffee mugs
they had from my sister's ex,
and how i wouldn't ask them to bring that mojo into their house,
even less so now,
and what's it gonna cost for an affordable receiver.
August 21, 2012
Sam Champion is wearing a gray suit and a black tie,
smart, tailored, simple, while the Albany
weather guy wears a triple-button jacket
and a tie bar—a gold tie bar!—with a horrible knot.
As he wands his hand over southern Vermont
his left shoulder rises like a Frankenstein hump
and when he faces me again the tie bar's askew.
I used to think fashion took five years to make it
up here from the city. Now I think we make our own
fashion here along the Hudson to match the colors
of the foliage. Then Willard Scott comes on with his picnic
blanket tie and pocket square, and my thesis goes to shit.
when mike piazza starred for the mets,
was the best hitting catcher in baseball,
major league baseball history,
there was a rumor
that he was living out in the hamptons
with the local abc affiliate's weatherman,
sam not short for samantha, mind you,
it's still the first thing i think of
when either of their names pop up.
let's go mets.
August 22, 2012
The Ramones logo typeface is Franklin Gothic Bold.
The Cult's is Casablanca Antique, Whitesnake Viking
Normal, Rolling Stones is Christie, Europe's Europa.
I'm trying to make flyers for my reading series
and I don't know where to start. I inevitably end up
at websites for "rock band fonts" and before you know it
the day is over. Does anyone even make flyers anymore?
Flyering can mean fines,
plus not printing anything
and interneting everything is cheaper.
some internet designed flyers,
most do not,
just text only internet event emails.
i fell in love with you all over again
when you sent a font-laden email.
i once did a flyer for a final event in the series,
ripping off a font,
writing by hand
The Last Waltz
you should pick a different band font,
album name each week.
no queen allowed,
it would be epic.
August 23, 2012
Fuck flyers then. They're a pain in the ass
and no one's ever gone to a reading
because of a flyer. It's nice to get
writers to sign them, hang them up
in my office. But still. They have TV screens
with slide shows that nobody looks at,
announcements of ice cream socials
with clip-art smiley faces and stars.
At the one indie bookstore in Albany,
they throw my flyers away, even after
I fill out the form to put them in their foyer.
Years ago, my band did a gig at The Spiral,
one of those one-band-each-hour clubs,
and I taped flyers all along Houston Street.
The booker lady called me at work
and said I had to take them down. Each one
would be a hundred-dollar fine for me.
I worked at the Tisch Building on Broadway
and I ran downtown at lunch hour, ripped
each one down with both hands, left tape
on the lightposts. No one went to the gig.
I misspent this month,
running out of money yesterday,
with nine days left in the month,
as few as 11 days
as many as 20 until next big money.
at my folks' house
while they're away,
partially because in a few days we're seeing my
cousin richie's family, in from northern cali,
partially to see ian,
partially to see sis and brother-in-law to be,
and partially because my folks are away
and there's food to be eaten here,
and my dad saves quarters for meters.
I cash whatever I can find in and get $61.14,
enough for awhile.
Buy nine two-liter bottles of soda,
three gallon jugs of diet iced tea,
two sour creams,
chip, pretzels, and onion soup,
two bags of chocolate licorice,
store brand light mayonnaise
for when i get back to my apartment in the city.
August 24, 2012
Working on laptop at a coffee joint today and
one handsome guy looks at his fancy phone,
smiles, and walks outside. A dead-ringer
for Dr. Evil sits at the cafe table and smokes
a cigarette like one of those Nazi soldiers
interrogating prisoners. A guy with a limp
delivers pulpy juice bottles in the fridge.
I have wasted another day again, filing away
emails, answering voice mails, signing off
on packages, checking to see if the books
I ordered made it to the bookstore. I have
sat here, or a place like this place here,
for years now. It is a life without drama,
just as I want it to be. A large man without
a shirt or shoes just walked in. He's wiping
his chest with a white towel, peeks inside
the fridge where the juice guy just was,
pulls out a pink grapefruit Izzy and puts
it against his neck. He sighs. He's now
looking at me staring at him. I smile. He smiles.
He weighs about three hundred pounds easy,
a giant of a man. His feet are as brown as his arms.
I take a dainty sip of my coffee with an espresso,
put the mug down without a sound and stare
outside the window, onto Madison Avenue,
not in midtown where I proofread pharma ads,
but in Albany where students are starting to arrive.
after a breakfast at noon
(i call each meal by what number meal of the day it is,
not by the time i consume it)
of a toasted bialy with light cream cheese,
a hard—the only way i take my fruit—peach,
and some diet 7-up
i look in my two-compartment pill container,
grab the morning's pills
and put them all in my mouth at once,
but my mouth doesn't feel as full as usual,
so before a swig of soda i spit them all into my hand,
and see that i've taken the evening and before bed pills,
so i put the before bed capsule back into the compartment,
swallow the pills in my hand,
then look at my morning pills in the container,
and take the three that don't dupe with my evening pills,
my multivitamin, a chewable 81 mg aspirin, and my tricor,
so my cholesterol doesn't go back to regular person good
and remains at even lower diabetic person good.
August 25, 2012
Turned air conditioning on last night
after trying to mount an old TV
on the basement wall. I'm turning
downstairs into a retreat
for drinking and smoking bowls.
Every time I drill into a wall
I break into sweats,
or read directions with line drawings,
or go into what passes for my toolbox
and smell ground-up metal and wood.
i called my dad in the berkshires,
where my parents were timesharing as usual,
and left him a message on his cell phone,
asking what i should set the thermostat to
while i'm away at my sister's,
so the central air doesn't blow cold.
while i'm leaving the house
he calls me.
84, he says.
August 26, 2012
Organized drill bits today downstairs.
I don't usually organize my drill bits,
but I'm in one of those organizing binges.
the kind I have when I have to do something else.
in this case answering emails, planning lessons,
printing handouts, ordering office supplies.
The drill bits I can finish in one day--from 1/4
to 11/16 to 55/64.
All in a row.
Will alphabetize my 8-tracks next.
tell my big 8-track story,
the road trip to d.c. at 7-1/2 yrs old,
family all in our chevy nomad wagon,
my brother in what my dad called the danger seat,
a rear-facing seat
looking onto oncoming traffic,
like the rest of the pre-nader laws vehicle,
driving from flatbush
with the soundtrack,
Liza with a "Z," Liza Minnelli
The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler
The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand,
then I could segue to
"It's a wonder I'm not gay" bad joke,
then maybe to how a few yrs later
this would've included
Live, Barry Manilow
(and how you'd say, "Ha, ha, even gay-er,"
and then I'd tell the story of how
Barry Manilow babysat friends of mine when I was
growing up in Flatbush,
and then maybe end on a bad pop culture being gay is ok joke,
"I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that."
August 27, 2012
Ate an old chorizo wrap while tightening up my attendance policy,
looking out the bay window of my new office. I feel like a goldfish
with students looking in, phones pressed on their earringed ears.
I'm wearing a tie, because I always wear one for the first week
of classes, to show them I mean business. The theater of teaching
is alive and well in Albany in 2012. Some Asian boy dropped off
his girlfriend in front of the fire hydrant and now he can't pull out.
My seltzer is getting warm and flat. I'm saving the apple on my desk
for the first faculty meeting in an hour and a half, so I can have something
to do with my hands. Looks like I'll be teaching at night
in the spring, which means I'll miss TV nights with Maisie.
After devising exercises for years
for collaborations with other poets,
i'm using some of them tomorrow
to teach my first workshop.
i'm practicing it on my folks later,
if they're not too tired, that is.
August 28, 2012
I'm waiting for my father to die.
I'm reduced to events strung together.
How do you become a prophet?
Summer’s over. I’m off to school.
I’m reduced to this sum of events
and that feels fine. The days get shorter,
summer’s over. I’m off to school
where they got my classrooms all wrong.
That’s fine. I feel the days growing short.
Does that mean I’m a prophet?
Summer’s done. I’m off, unwillingly, to school.
I'm waiting for my father to die.
at the baldwin long island railroad station,
i took everything out of my folks' car,
loaded up the tiny handtruck
then pulled the bungee cords around it all,
the clothes, all nice and laundered,
my mac book, email freshly checked,
my bicycle messenger bag,
with a couple of sports illustrateds, just in case,
a thermal lunch bag,
with a half-gallon of cold, cold water,
and a big ass nectarine, hard,
the way i like all of my fruit,
and some much cheaper on long island groceries,
store brand light mayonnaise,
dole pineapple chunks in juice,
once it's all secure,
i leave it on the walkway next to the car,
walk to the open window on the driver's side of the car,
and my dad and i kiss each other goodbye,
before i walk around to the open passenger-side window,
and my mom and i do the same,
i take the elevator
and exit on the platform,
walk toward some empty seats,
see my folks have turned the car toward the exit we like,
i wave to them,
they wave back and pull away.
August 29, 2012
Reading negative review of a friend's book then
bought a pre-mixed salad at Price Chopper, lightly
salted almonds and a bottle of water. Twist-tied
Sigmund Freud action figure back on top of
bulletin board, above a photo of me in 1989.
New Year's Eve: I swig from a bottle next to
the Berlin Wall. It appeared in an issue
of Stars & Stripes. They mistook me and my friends
for young Germans. The caption:
"They lit sparklers and drank champagne.
They hugged one another and danced in the streets.”
Freud stands, suspended above this photo,
tacked next to Queen and Paul Rodgers
ticket stubs and a scrap juvenilia handwritten
on a PSE&G statement. An excerpt:
"My shoes are untied, I can't find my keys,
I have to go to work; something's gotta happen
something's gotta happen." Later: "Hey look,
ran outta paper, what a great fucking
The day after boog events
I like to do more nothing
Than I normally do,
Though I get yelled at by others when I say I do nothing
Because I don’t
But the day after boog events
I like to do less something
Than I normally do,
Sending myself to-do emails,
As I think of things to do
That I don’t want to to do then,
Each with one to-do in the subject line—
Pot. Bay area poetry reading for upcoming trip
Words for Boog City Occupy Issue
Poets theater queries
Each to be to-done later.
August 30, 2012
Sitting on the hopper as I write this,
browser tabs open to coverage
of the convention, comedy sites,
emails from confused students.
A whole gallery of sexy starlets
in black yoga pants and advice
from Russell Simmons to let breathing
be the soundtrack for my day.
Yesterday I mourned the state
of indie bookstores that must sell
50 Shades of Gray to pay the rent.
They put posters in the window even.
My record store would never champion
Nickelback's newest or whatever.
Anyway, time’s up on the hopper
and I've got to light up a match.
sideboob on 27th,
Just below lex,
huge arm holes,
white short shorts,
long, tone legs
Wanted to turn
and side follow
her side boob
to full nipple.
August 31, 2012
1. Early morning, belly full of cantaloupe
and weak coffee. Fired up the stereo
and played Doo Wah Diddy for the girls.
Loud. And they looked up from their blocks
like I just introduced the concept of light,
or circles, or wheels, or different genitals,
or sugar, or running barefoot, or air
conditioning, or cooked food. We danced
on the rug all crazy. And then they both left,
ran away upstairs, I shuffled in a spot
like I did at Camden Catholic dances.
2. I never wanted to stop writing poems.
It just happened. I wrote my last true New York poem
at one of those tables at the Bowery Poetry Club,
now closed. It had one decent line. Like,
'sometimes it seems like I'm running away
from just one word,' which is really Robert Frost.
I hustled as much as I could and left
and ran away from just one word.
3. Did you see Clint Eastwood talk to an empty chair?
Someone should write a poem about that.
4. The girls returned in fancy dresses,
tiaras and wands. "Earth Angel" comes on,
and the room swells up a bit. The oldest comes to me, says
she doesn't want to leave
she just wants to play with her stuffed Big Bunny all day,
she doesn't want to go to kindergarden.
School is scary, she says, and I put her on my lap
and tell her I just started school too and I was scared, too.
This doesn't make her feel much better.
I tell her about the art class and all the books and the garden
at the new school, how she liked the old school.
I straighten her tiara. I have to go now, I tell her.
5. Realized I've misspelled kindergarten in previous stanza,
Just when I stop writing poems every day.
Walk on down subway double steps,
then five, six minutes to Brooklyn Tea Party,
this loft apartment
with a stage
and recording studio.
I stop on the second floor,
hoping 303 is there,
know it won’t be
Walk one flight up,
pull out my inhaler,
two puffs for the huffs,
one of my favorite bands,
is back in New York
after moving to Kansas a few months back.
No one’s playing yet at showtime,
as their guitarist Matt Roth
is sitting on the stage
holding visitor court.
He spots me, gives a “Hey!”
extends his arms in hug position,
as I reach out with my right hand to shake his.
I do a quick tuck under his left arm
to save the hug,
A few minutes later
I walk over to Nan and her court,
get a “You’re here,”
feel the skin on her back.
She’s a girl,
so the hole in her top must be intentional.
Phoebe Kreutz plays a new song
about not wanting her friends to move away
and blocking all of the bridges and tunnels.
It was awesomer and awesomer than that description,
Prewar Yardsale’s Mike Rechner is sitting near me.
When psychiatrists ask about my drinking,
I tell them if I have two vodka gimlets in six months that’s a lot.
Mike says when they ask him he doesn’t know how to answer,
he never counts how much he drinks,
he just shows up to an event
and drinks from the time he gets there
until he leaves.
Schwervon’s drummer Nan Turner
takes off her above the ankle black leather boots
to barefoot drum.
Nan’s drum kit is at the front, stage left,
next to Matt.
They want to start while people are
up on the roof smoking,
so decide to play one throwaway song.
“How about that Neil Young one,” she says to Matt,
and I look and wonder if this is the first time I’ve seen them
since Matt cut his Neil Youngesque mane.
They skip the Neil Young,
Delve into their catalogue for a familiar refrain.
“Just like Madonna,
you’re like a prayer.”
Nan is so happy drumming,
like one of those monkeys you buy on the sidewalk
(not a real monkey,
but the metal kind),
“That song was about Coney Island,
the Cyclone,” she says.
“And the baseball team,”
yells the ubiquitous Jon Berger,
“I’m not that into baseball,” she says.
“We just played our whole new record,
(no wonder I didn’t recognize anything,
I feel better)
“and we have it for sale in CDs,
the records aren’t ready yet,
if you like the CD fashion.”
“What’s that mean?” Matt said.
“It means you’re hot” she said,
or something like that.
“OK,” he said.
One song later,
“This is the first broken string of the tour,” says Matt.
“You know what that means?”
And Nan and the crowd chorus
while Matt restrings his guitar,
and she asks the crowd to move their left arms at the same time.
“That was my choreographer’s dream,” she says.
And then Matt breaks another string,
is lent a fully strung guitar from Kung Fu Crimewave,
and they go into some Schwervon classics,
and then “Swamp Thing,”
before one more song,
A cover of Purple Organ’s
"You Can Build a Muscle with Your Heart"
Tonight they’re overnighting in Brooklyn,
then tomorrow they’re off to New Jersey, New Brunswick,
in their 2006 Suzuki Aerio Nan dubbed Waylon Jennings
10,000 miles since May,