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The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2021

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MARCH 2021 Issue
Poetry A Tribute to Lewis Warsh

From an ongoing untitled poem for Lewis Warsh


I started writing to be myself, now
I start by imagining someone else
don't worry about pretending I'm not
trying to be you without finding myself
all over an advance on again's plateau
the writing is in the arrangement but
it (a pronoun) was never meant to begin
sleep on the couch & the monsters tower
walking single file away from destruction
monsters in dreams may know when to leave
sleep on the couch & wake up pantsless
in Berkeley at a party to celebrate your leaving
for work go straight awake to zoom to lie
and miss the conversation that made the reading
worth attending minor flashes of disgathering
light the year may attempt to deny its own end
but it also only began because a number said to
all us non-numbers want the year to end it feels
like the last non-digression ask they year to
choose between shoe or tree in a circle of years
and leave the speaker a mouth for a map
don't sweat the fruit fly that's been landing near
you all day it's been through its own non-year
hovering near the edge of the page prior


* * * *


The only opinion I could type was hostile dithering

Buses pass speaking silently: "masks required"

This barrier to my left, not the margin, which is also a barrier, may not appreciate my handwriting or
general presence

Why would someone write something like that?

Well I'm not someone & I only write like when I'm grieving

Which is almost always, with intermittence, & inner mittens

Today's conversation on bin laden was incredibly boring

But it's 2020 & there are so many other agonistic layers to work life

I want to read Phife-Dawg's mom's memoir about Phife

Different day, different fruit fly on the other page

My brother has written a poem on all the times he's moved

When I finish this page I'll text him & tell him next to write a poem on all the times he's been moved

& then work ethics were revealed to be an extreme series of overcompensations, though we knew that
already but hadn't said so aloud

The uninteresting pier building behind the colossal You Go Girl graffiti just turned bright blood red

Turning things around has a quiet crush on last chance

Everyone digs it when you admit to writing near strangers

He emptied many little transparent plastic bags into the east river, & slapped each one on the rail when he
was done

Subways eating each other, aka passing, on the Williamsburg Bridge

You too may be eaten by someone simply passing by

Don't touch anything, don't breathe, don't be near

What appeared to be extra morning haze on Eldridge was really smoke from the west coast fires

The coasts took turns absorbing punishment this year

Like the Quis we find deliveries in our flaws


* * * *


               To withhold with
total intimacy, to flirt only with
         estrangement, to wonder secretly
into a microphone, three seconds
of rain, three smears of raindrops
                I see you in leather in stories on
a phone, the reveal makes every
thing boring, no things but in
           events, the sum of all
my trinkets, I want this
          to be something else
      so I can show it off before
burying it, I want to churn
butter on stage, well
                maybe not, maybe that's
           too much set up, I want
one more conversation with Lewis
an actual goodbye with Ted G.
another word with Bill, who made
           taking anyone seriously feel
     like the elegant thing to do


* * * *


Yup, I mean up too late again – I wonder
what it would be like to be a punchline
machine. No, I wonder what a punchline
machine feels, no like. I hate like. That's
my new position: to hate like. Like is
no longer an intermediary I'm willing to
accept. Not that like cares. I clearly care
too much, & this has always been a
problem for me, though I try not to let
people know I care too much, & that
has also become a problem. If you used
to love me but you replaced me in your
heart with Jesus, I'm cool with that.
You could even say I'm relieved, though
you might find it strange to say that yourself.
I have loved so many people secretly
I wonder if I'm not on trial somewhere
in an empty court room. If you've ever
suspected I love you, I hereby give you
permission to validate your suspicion.
Unless you think it won't help. We
may have to discuss what help means.
But we may also never get to speak in
person again, & defining or redefining help
between us is a conversation I can only
have in person. In person is a strange phrase
too. I haven't felt in person for a long time
but apparently being in person means someone
else is there too. I think that's wrong
but who cares what I think. Now
I'm stuck between is there & who
cares. Our pronoun-based phrases are
wildly inaccurate for all situations. I
wisht they had been more available when I was
a kid. Less and less obviously it all shakes
down to the mesh, an awkwardly amused
pathos conjoined to a failing ability not
to notice the house band made of special
guests from the secret police posing as
marathon champs from the mid-80s. Even
my mother thought that was Grete Waitz
living across the street. At the fake pond
our reading was disrupted by Ezekiel:
33 blasting from sudden speakers
dragged to ducks by the Sunday millers.
The swans were the first to swim away.
We read Lewis' poems a little closer to
the road, to be sermonized only faintly
if at all under lines from Alien Abduction.
The same person who said no one gives
him gifts followed by saying it's the
thought that counts, reminding us of the
simultaneous keeling over of at least
two No Standing signs the other day.
This reminds me of Adam developing
a crush on photographs of Patsy Southgate
in 1996 & wondering if she was still
available even if fifty years older than
him & all the way back east. Your
friend needs to be able to ask their own
questions. M was wearing pants a four-
legged person could have fit into, but
we wouldn't put it that way out loud.
Dinosaur-era bird with scythe-like
beak sheds light, like me, on avian
diversity. Shoe, or tree?

Contributor

Anselm Berrigan

Anselm Berrigan is the poetry editor for the Brooklyn Rail. He lives and grew up in the somewhat lower part of Manhattan.

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The Brooklyn Rail

MARCH 2021

All Issues