Eating Cheap Chinese, Sunday at the Lenox Mall Food Court

(Photo Credit: Flickr / VL77)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / VL77)

It is quick, it is cheap, it is unabashed
about its over-the-top everything,
and it makes you happy
knowing that real Chinese food would never thrive
in a place as fake as an American shopping center.

When you take your overflowing Styrofoam box
from the counter, slyly siding the slippery lo mein noodle
back into its greasy, toxic chamber, you can’t contain
your smile – you’re about to do this to yourself,
and you know you’ll like it. You tell yourself that
there is no need for subtlety.

You walk towards the tables at the center,
grab one of the sort-of-close-but-not-too-far seats
from the next nearby person, but not the ones
who were just in line with you at the Wok Dragon.
You don’t want your oral pleasure to make them awkward.

You eat your food in your own silence,
letting the voices surrounding you
tell you everything you need to know.
They already have all the answers,
sitting beside their weekend friends,
slurping on the same or similar food
that will kill us all. But they don’t seem to care,
so why do you care?

You are within with them
and without, without them.
You are separate but same,
shared, but solitary.

They will not notice you.
They will not notice you
when you are gone.

They will only hear the scrape
of chair being pushed back in
amongst the clatter of crowd.
And the person whom next takes
your seat will only see
an empty Styrofoam clamshell container,
whiff the faint smell of cheap Chinese food
that he never wanted to eat.

The Neutrality Word Wars

Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.
Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.

In Washington, promising Americans
open content seemed to concur
with the president’s principles
on neutrality.

Praise the idea of an even playing field,
but same words don’t mean the same thing
when $500-an-hour lawyers are battling over the future.
The stakes are high, the rhetoric confusing.
Let’s try to sort out the mess.

Neutral shouldn’t be allowed,
companies and activists should not collect
fees for faster squeeze.
Block or slow the big producers –
each consumes more
near back-end connections
with deep-pocketed giants.

All avoid controversy until
proposed rules ban authority to
oppose the lawmakers
gum up the free
dominate a handful
and access only one choice
on both sides of the battle.

[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Whose Internet Is It?,” as written by Haley Sweetland Edwards about net neutrality and the political and corporate wars over it.]

My Skin Aches Rusty

(Photo Credit: Flickr / Macy Has Left The Building)
(Photo Credit: Flickr / Macy Has Left The Building)

My skin aches rusty,
enormous beneath language of body.
Say, can you see
meat crying?
Do tears run like honey,
rainwater, or blood?

We rose
drunk from being.

You ran his arm bare,
raw pounds drug across chest,
fingers trudging as if
red smear was only dream.

The hot juice repulsive
will wake the storm,
wax a thousand screams –
a sordid symphony milk moon
demanding black worship.

Solid, Blame a Phenomenon

Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.
Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.

I left, on record,
continuing a long string of change.
But don’t tell people –
shattering the city’s all-time record low
won’t be going away anytime soon.
Thank a stationary pressure sitting America.
It warps the stream, bending it unseasonably;
the rest of the country seeps in.
Block the unusual when it arrives,
resemble last year, freeze:
edicting recurrent bouts of old and now.

[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Frozen Solid,” as written by Bryan Walsh about a weather phenomenon called an ‘omega block.’]

Detroit, It’s Hard to Believe You Went Belly Up

Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.
Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.

On any given day,
you’ll see hordes handmade in Motown,
blocks of decay, burned out buildings
in the shadows of roofs fallen in,
graffiti scrawled Destroy What Destroys You
to keep lights on, streets safe.

It’s inconceivable that onetime heart
of American power should fall further.
The grand bargain residents got creative,
took bet on town’s future.

(Grab cash before fleeing.)

If people were going to accept this kind of pain,
they had to feel,
a rare thing in American civic life these days.

Compromise has been bittersweet –
birthplace to symbolize the decline of us.

[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Detroit’s Turnup,” as written by Rana Foroohar about an unlikely deal to lift Motown out of bankruptcy.]

When Writers Retire

Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.
Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.

Last novel, he finally announced
the end of the line,
that critical spur most public
figures walk away from.

Fame, the question of what comes next,
is less a job one can leave
than proof that one sees the world
a certain way, something illogical
declaring metaphor.

Each year, deliver with death
summer, inspiration, story;
act as missionary to the struggle to survive

Having told
of human mortality through the lens
of ultimate death, there is nothing left
to write that he will like.

[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Full Stop,” as written by Daniel D’Addario about readers feeling the void when great writers decide to retire.]

Cartoons of Calamity: Keith Haring’s Conscience Focus

Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.
Original text, with subtraction via Sharpie.

Covered in black paper to hide,
he abruptly sprouted a manic universe
of everyman figures as bouncy as cheerleaders
but as faceless as paper dolls.

Anonymous, urban art in the dark –
laying down fast lines in minutes
after ticket and arrest.

Riding the subway was like touring
a museum on spray paint. Their letters
weren’t homages to self, they were witty notes
of apprehension and apocalyptic
executed in imagery,
distilled into enigmatic language of sign.

His doodleverse would produce hundreds
to point the finger and give it
the epidemic that would claim his life –
a nicely radioactive haul of work.

In death, Haring has become merchandise,
the T-shirts and mugs and such a reminder
that he could be tougher and more credible
than king of refrigerator magnets.

For high art could never deny their origins,
their family resemblance to street art –
hieroglyphs to channel external
anxieties about featureless brute
clubbing featureless victim.

So typical was trampling a hapless crowd
against a backdrop of ominous calligraphy,
an echo of ambiguous resistance,
a retinal charge that announces itself
only when you’re standing face to face.

He unframed canvases, hitched hectic
into every corner, and the eye bumps and slaloms
from one to the next pulsing field.

How enduring his nostalgia,
passed among artists who never arrived
at anything like imaginative bandwidth
and emotional nuance.

Maybe he didn’t have time to doodle places
you would not have thought to go.

[NOTE: Found/blackout poem crafted from a TIME article titled “Cartoons of Calamity,” as written by Richard Lacaye about visual artist Keith Haring’s posthumous exhibit in San Francisco.]

"How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." — Henry David Thoreau


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 766 other followers

%d bloggers like this: