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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues
DEC 19-JAN 20 Issue
Poetry

AS

a.k.a. Upside Down Drink
a.k.a. The Lesser Albatross


and

I just want to hold you tight, close and long
As things fall into place we consider staying
Despite this impression that everything changes
Someone who used to mean everything to you still does
The glass once turned upside down is too
Aside from a small dent the sky is empty
There is nothing to hold onto but one another’s hands
We cling to our pasts like paths in a desert
Many hopes and doubts careen in and out of focus
I can see myself flashing on your astonished face
If I teeter on the edge of an ambiguous drop
I can easily fall over in anticipation, but
What’s it all about? Finding out what’s true
The story begins with your appearance
Somewhere within the field of vision, you are moving
Porous as I am, I have admitted you
As soon as I realize it, I’m all over you
Or else I am in the past, in another life
Looking off at the difference between distances
While everyone else is speaking at once
I talk to myself soto voce
My lips are sealed
You pause and look at me, a reminder
In the unlikely event
Something is about to end, I wonder
Whether this is coming to a beginning


and


Even though I am kind of dissociated
I feel this despite all my fatigue
I hear you in my bloodstream
As if my heart were burning holes through the map
We sense each other through the distances
Driving through the snow, declaratives become interrogatives
Any answer is good enough to inspire qualification
What is this sense of the real?
Awake as if to struggle to answer to
Love expressed through a cacophony of styles
There is nothing left but we remember everything
I am glad to be left alone here with you
We illuminate various states of self
Identity is blind. I am created by circus manners
Sandwiched between phys ed in which I race
and lunch in the cafeteria (but I can’t eat)
This is the class in which I study distances
I seem to become sick when I’m away from you
There must be better ways to say I love you
I am like a traffic sign – I’ll swear
I point this out as often as humanly possible
Arguing with myself much of the time
My behavior is barely tolerable
Shoving through the forest path past the windmill
Through the memories through the faults
I want to forget as close to you as possible


and


Though I don’t feel I want to be you
You are absorbed into my nature
As for what the person is trying to say
Anyone listening can tell
People think all sorts of things because of “common sense”
The clock is ticking as the voice is talking
Certain words keep recurring as if at random
Perhaps I am just wasting everybody’s time
Every word is confusing
Every word is covered in skin and body hair
There’s no point trying not to change the subject
I can’t stop myself from telling you everything
Was it the willing release, the bold aggression, or the clutch
That left you feeling ungrounded, apprehensive over that
Getting to know one another we realize our wisdom
Sitting with strangers, I’m attentive to their pain
You way is as good as any – better!
Answers are not what comes. I always think
It’s surprising to wake from a good night’s sleep
Emptiness is full – nothing is disappointing
Nothing was quite as I expected it
I gave it a lot of time, until I recognized it
As if after all I knew where I had come
Suddenly the room is silent
Kisses, passionate and frenetic, gentle
The cheeks, wet lines and splashes


and


The tears appearing and streaking across
Shining, glinting, glimmering wildly
Experience is thick with incidence
It’s never too much
Whether trees spray or sway in the breeze
My fate is carried in the palm of your hand
A beneficent intelligence on the verge of sleep
In a high wind, can you hear yourself calling
It’s not easy to remember how I got so
Lost in a strange city, dressed for other weather
Not knowing the language, I struggle to understand
Everything that matters serves to remind me of
Depth, resonance, joy, quiet, chaos, desire
Nothing seems to penetrate here but love
Send me a signal if there is no possible noise
Anything you want I will consider doing
It’s dark enough I have to remember being here
Here I am yodeling up a long corridor
I’ll be standing by and listening for you
Even if you rarely blow the whistle in your mouth
Directing traffic is a noisy business, isn’t it?
I’d like you to set aside some time for yourself
Although it’s true I love our give and take
I could listen to you talk to me forever
Unless understanding is a transitory state
It’s hard to be sure I really understand


and


No matter what you say
The shape of the thought is conveyed by the form of the sentence
If I’m not careful the sky may crash on my head
The words don’t always come as easily as
The feeling that I am having a thought
Now, if I can remember, I can try to say
What I might have said a minute ago
A little overwhelming how
We are bound together by this shred of understanding
I only know what I see in you, not you in me
Some people see only what they call their own needs
Who knows why people take these things so personally
Reactions are wherever the hell you find them
How much will people care about you if they don’t like you
They won’t let you join them if you can’t beat them
Anything I read might incite argument or imitation
Writing one thing makes the next mean something
Before I can change the subject it switches me
Even though I seem cautious and dizzy
I want to come down like gangbusters
Some of the harder things to say are saved for later
I love walking back and forth with you
Whether we hold hands or laugh or not
So we can both see this light in the air
Often there is so little else to say
It’s true. I keep trying to indulge myself


and


From a distance, Paradise seems like
Doing without. In my mind’s eye
Carnivorism collapses with capital. Look at
All those fallen arches. I don’t know anymore
Whether it’s important what I see when I look away
Now is the time for me to learn, wonder, study
Not the day for me to figure a lot out
Does it seem to you, as it has sometimes to me
We were expected, supposed to be here?
This may be why my right hand has been
Designed to be (or seem) just right except
In my dream someone administers
A test designed to assess precisely
Whether I can identify a sin or not
It’s embarrassing to complain
I wanted to think, and talk, but I found
Nothing on my mind until this illness started
I have executed sometimes awkwardly
Specific steps in several projects and I have
Ridiculously enormous amounts to do
I won’t kid you
Denial doesn’t serve your interests
It’s dull, facile. Don’t you
Sometimes feel guilty about contentment?
Let’s pretend to feel worse than we do
Why don’t we play with desperation, heedless


and



[07 31 2011 – 10 04 2011]









It doesn’t seem to matter whether you will like it
If you don’t want to be left out you’ll have to
Line up here and wait patiently please
There’s no choice, given the passage of time
We go ahead, you and I and her, in any case
We don’t know what we’re doing, nor what we must.
Listen to me talk to myself. It’s crowded in here.
I ask you what you’re doing here. I don’t listen!
What do I not know? Where am I? For what?
Why don’t anyone put something up to look at?
There are only two things here, walls & furniture
The scene is set for things to be about as usual
Stuff flips open, spews categories, shards and details
Textbook examples, flipping pages, scissors, diagrams
My point of view seems to move among dimensions
As I tinker with the word order hardly thinking
There’s more than one way to resolve this question
I just think and start to dialogue with myself
After years of quandary over what’s wrong with me
Once I decide what the good is, I can try to be best
I’ve been wondering whether we want to be competitive
It’s pointless to fight or act superior win too much
Because we also need to know what surrender is
Life may be a full-hearted dive into water
If you put the pieces together without plan
There’s one clue after another around here
The wandering senses may track anything
The intensely active sound of blood coursing
I will try to come back into my own body
The floor is buckling but it feels flat and still
Can you feel yourself being pushed, tilted, swiveled
It’s hard to know where to direct your attention
It’s embarrassing or sexy that anyone might see
These disturbing ideas flopping around on me
I struggle to think what I’m made of
My brittleness comes to seem gummy
Just as dense as it is porous
The world seems cakey, then flakes off in my hands
No matter what I do I feel nuts
My sense of reality is the best I can do just now
A sort of grillwork I seem to be looking through
Who are we? What made this necessary?
We are all here, dying, but when? How?
None of us knows, not us, not me
You are there, not knowing
Even as I come around the corner now
There’s an answer to my unspoken question





       (copied out from B&W pinstripe spiral: 02 07 2012 – 01 19 2012)



The words come and go, running around
and bumping into true feeling, rubbing
against it like a warm body, playing
at the edges of sense. An approximation
of reason is attempted, then abandoned
in the middle of the road, when, distracted,
one stops to exclaim over seeing an old friend
one claps on the back and hugs as the world
revolves invisibly to an insider, an individual
who as yet doesn’t know how multiple
and invisible everyone really is. Dots
and lines make enough to create images
but what makes sense? Some intuitive
knowing that constantly reformulates
its own grounds for being, necessity
and opportunity – eye contact in a mirror
placed at various odd angles to the subject,
even if she doesn’t notice
someone’s there – herself or someone else?
Answer within activity, an action, in fact
any action – I’d say it depends on tone
and rhythm. Head on even when swerving
into a crowded bus, confetti flying
in vacant swirls. National anthems rewind
the military band even tighter, but
the road emerges from a vanishing point.





05 06 2012 – 03 28 2013

Contributor

Steve Benson

Steve Benson and Suzanne Stein have collected their 36 improvised public on-line chat messaging performances in Do Your Own Damn Laundry (Gauss.pdf, 2019). Benson co-authored the Grand Piano series of autobiographical essays (Mode A, 2006- 10) with nine old friends. What This Is, three new long poems, is forthcoming from Chax Press. More at stevebensonasis.com.

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The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 19-JAN 20

All Issues