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The Flea Market in Kiel
Miracles of incidental longing
fill in the blanks. The same
words all over again but in different
colors. A kiss on the mouth
goes a long way. The person
behind the cactus plant lowers
The pablum runs down the sides
of her face. It’s an honest face
with windows where
the soul is visible. It would be
importune of me to walk up
to her & ask her to dance.
My chest contracts at the thought.
Fake tears get in the way.
They claimed that the source
of his stomach problem was something
he ate. Like shellfish? I wanted to say
but held my tongue.
Even your best friends won’t tell you.
The fine print tells us nothing
we don’t already know. A floral bouquet
for someone no one remembers.
A rock carved by Michaelangelo
in the form of a snake.
It speaks to me a voice
forever clear. The clarity
is the uncertainty
like a dead skunk on the
side of the road. Lost
highway where no
one says what they
mean. Not the
troubadours, but people
living on the edge. Mountain
people encamped in a cave
in the foothills. An escapee from
your past who lights up the
page. A gong show reject.
This dream is no longer in service.
A fake house, a blue facade.
Anonymous voices whispering behind
the bedroom wall.
The animals gather at the fence
to eat from my hands.
The one who stands out & the other
who blends in.
The muse of innocence & decrepitude intertwined.
I wear special goggles
to keep the sparks from
blinding me. I cross the street
when I see you coming.
Please define your terms:
“depressed” “persevere” “opprobrium”
The higher I go the darker
it gets. The authorities
turn me back at the border.
They stare at my passport
& shake their heads.
Desire will come
when least expected.
Desire will come like an
inflammation of the jaw.
February: the sunset.
No tenants meeting
in lobby. A hailstorm
at midnight. To the child
Let it be said, in the aftermath of everything, that I was wandering
in a kind of bardo & that I returned to life, with my body
intact & my breath uncertain, & that you, who I thought
had been missing in action, was standing beside me, as always,
to point out the way
I’m sorry you don’t understand the rent is due
every month. If you don’t pay the rent the landlord
gets angry. How angry depends on who it is. He might hire
someone to let the air out of your tires or post a summons
on your door. I’m afraid you’re going to have to hire
a tenants rights lawyer.
The dog under the table
eats the scraps from my plate. The coral is the color
of sunlight on water. All I can hear is the sound of my
breathing underwater. My breath is audible only to myself.
There are stones embedded in the surface of the reef.
The surface of the reef is covered with small stones.
She has to be home early
so she can make dinner for
her brothers. The cloud of
unknowing, a luxury liner
off the southern coast.
Cemeteries that resemble whole
cities but are even more orderly.
A time of internal growth
where every breath counts
Let’s escape what was given
going in circles the same
words. A rosary, the catechism,
an amber barrette.
My dental insurance doesn’t cover my family.
But today I found out I can borrow on my retirement plan.
My heart is still beating, but I don’t know for whom.
For an encore, I’ll sing “Some Enchanted Evening”
or “Up On the Roof.”
I like the way the world folds back on itself like a hinge.
I feel a terminal disappointment, as if you had forgotten my
name on the letter & it came back unread. All the
gravel under my feet leading up to the driveway, & the house
in the distance, the ampersand between house & feet, the
sleet covered roof angling over the flower bed. I want to come
in from the rain, through the backdoor, up the steps where
the grownups are getting drunk & removing the screens
from the windows. Before night comes, I’ll repair to the corner
store for a 9-volt battery & a bag of litter. They say “the night
is young” but when you’re gone it lasts forever.
You can say “Restoration” & then you can say
“drama.” And then you can see there’s a hill to
You have to get your ass
in gear because the boss wants you to do something.
The assignment is due next week: better check
There are no ashtrays so put out your smoke
in the palm of your hand.
The last night on earth wasn’t all it was
cracked up to be. You don’t know it’s going
to be the last night while it’s happening. If it
was really the last night you’d do something
different. (Why is this night different from
“When you left me,” the song goes, but
I know the next line. It seeps out of the grooves
into someone else’s heart.
Now that I have responsibilities I’m going to
turn my life around. This could mean
a drop in blood sugar. Did you take
The music is coming
from an upstairs window. It
might be Handel
but it could be Verdi.
Perhaps rain falls like holy water
in the forest
but you didn’t hear it
the wings of the eagle, or something
something that snaps in two
when you breathe on it, mi dispiace
the lost state of bliss
the redeemed & the irredeemable
all you need is a few sentences
what you didn’t hear—a backdraft
of eternal mindfulness
directed at no one
There is no one to kiss.
We pass through a tunnel & the window blackens.
Smoke pours from the roof of some tiny cottage
in the middle of nowhere.
Boring romanticism rears its head
& smashes the butler over the head
with a pair of tongs. I close my book
& stare straight ahead.
I want to kiss you
I think, but don’t.
One of them throws a ball
in the air when no one’s looking.
My Polish landlady is watering
her flowers. It was fresh
in my mind but I interrupted
myself nonetheless. “I have
to think it over,” I said to no one.
You can’t drink from the bottle
without removing the cork. I’ve
seen the deadness in a person’s
eyes in which the language of
feeling was lost, to whom the
permission to feel anything had
never been granted. There was
never a day like this one when
the sky unfolds & the boat
on the edge of the horizon disappears
from view. We close our eyes
in disbelief, lost in the mist on top
of a mountain with the gods. Isn’t
anyone home? The sign was written
in a kind of primitive script. I sat
on an embankment staring
at my plate of alligator steak.
The juice in my glass was red.
It was almost summer.
And then Diana Ross & The Supremes were singing “Stop! In the
Name of Blub”
But as I was leaving the theater I realized I could no longer
understand the words
Because of all the people in the audience who were singing along
Or possibly we can say it was a faulty sound system
Or more to the point maybe all the words began to blur in my head
The way people look alike when you see them from a distance
So the words and the sounds never convey the same meaning
Or when I thought they meant something it was really the opposite
The glitter in Diana Ross’s hair, for instance, or her dress
Of thousands of tiny sequins (blinding, really, as she tottered onto the
Each sequin a tiny mirror reflecting the sun, the stars & the planets
That make up a galaxy where existence is a bad dream
From which you wake up in a cold sweat, hair matted
to the sides of your face
The indentation of your head on the pillow—
Diana, shut up.
Once I was a jealous husband walking down Avenue B.
And once I boarded a plane & flew to Athens.
Once I hitch-hiked on the back of a motorcycle over a mountain
on Xmas Eve.
And once I coughed & woke you up in my sleep.
I want to steal away, into the darkness, where no one else has gone.
The cold sun harbors loss at the foot of my chair.
A man with a cue card appears in the wings & everyone weeps.
It occurs to me that my audience consists of no one but you.
Now I will know myself
in the broadening vision of things that have already
happened, & steal away passed the abandoned
factories until the river melts like burning cotton on
the other side of the road, & all the buildings
of brick & tenement slide into the gully
across the bridge.
Let it be known that the bridge was built by people
you don’t know, that “all things flow” to the surface
on the edge of the sky, holding it in place
like the stars hold your face in a container
of happenstance without consequence
17 for Katt
Not the pumping
in & out
of the lungs
lest the body
sleeping at night
of the flesh
Life Soul Life
I have felt it
the genial warmth
that has made
the closed germ within me
the sweet influence
that is to cherish
its perfect flower
Lewis Warsh is the author of numerous books of poetry and works of fiction such as Agnes & Sally, A Free Man, and Money under the Table. He is editor and publisher of United Artists Books and lives in New York City.
Copyright ©2006 by Lewis Warsh
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