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Five poems.

Rose of Sharon

Her banal, her tomfool, her carnivalesque and don't you forget it. Her Extreme. Violet in a fever-hut. Sentient plastic cum phallic pistil. She's like, What've you got to do with living and dying? Now, she began in New England when March blew in. Began with unmitigated drives. Began with the pleasures of adulthood. Pity was the rain that fell and swelled, a pity next-door to passion. The Lord lifted up his hand and gave her a forlorn hope, and did she ever pop amid the squiggly, figgy leaves. As for me, I was bored, I was bored with the Lord. I thought she could be all to me. She of the astral kisser. Then Star-face got all victimy, then Star-face says Accept. Float. Let time pass. Then I sniffed her in the downtown playground. I looked over, under, and in that shrub but couldn't find Truth nowhere. This gaud needs love of. Love of the least. Love of the least sentimental kind.

Walked his college girlfriend faithfully to
her masturbation workshop. Factoring in death,
dumped her. The next, a Kisselbaum, read to him from
Addiction to Perfection: The Still Unravished
Bride. As a boy, had loved to tell the story
of the low-class Malzbergs hosing off their nude
three-year-old, shit-befouled from chin to ankles,
in full view of the neighborhood kids. Later
won his secondary sex traits and underwent
two separate threesomes. (Many handsome growlings,
but worried: how to give the girls equal fondlings?)
Never could fall asleep with any of them.
Developed a knack but no affection for
physics and non-Euclidean geometry.
The others demanded upscale brunches and
two-armed hugs. He never came right out
and told his uncle (financial analyst) "You've
built a philosophy of your fetishes," but
no way it didn't bother him. Became
attached to dollars, yet cherished a photo of Lake
Ontario in his desk drawer. From time to time,
thought how hassle-free must be the cemetery.
Mortality and sitcoms: his hypnagogics,
those and the slackly leaning winter sunlight.
Embarked on a series of house shares in Fairfield County.
On August nights the oldies mythicized him--
Just two kinds of people in the world.
The roommate-landlord with the mynah bird
foresaw an NPR-soundtracked 90's, declining
to phone a plumber. He fled the mildewed den.
Drove to the public beach at Sherwood Island.
There, throbbing to someone else's boombox, doodling
an explanation of the horizon, conceived
she of the neo-lyric imagination.
A Conception

Who wouldn't heave
a careless sigh?
A terror upheld
in sorrow, in rye,

invaded the heart.
The brain took a rest.
The homeopath
proffered his best.
A mystery!
It did hurt to try.
It happened then
the usual way:

I got out of bed.
A traffic light blew.
An artery flushed,
a ventride grew,

lanugo hair
invaded the bog.
The female form
became the norm.

I had to laugh.
The heather went dry.
The grandma cracked
and so did I:

What blare, what bliss
upturns me so?
Who'll cozy to
a mohair throw?

I altered the sauce,
I tasted the bay.
A style was lost
the usual way.

I toddled past
the printed page.
I counted my toes.
I did know my age.

The grasses pealed
a tiny reprieve.
I started to read
Emily D.

and waiting for
her stern reply,
the outcome loomed
and so did I.
My Dark Night

The girl in the red jumpsuit and her flabby ass moved off.
She went medieval, she went Imagist, she was on a roll.
To inscribe between the lines, to fill the gap!
Instead I spent my time staring at the bastards.

The recognition that is gradual, but the shock sudden,
is a form of consumer anxiety--
Are We Classic or Romantical This Year?
And the mutt on the pavement, a transfiguration--

The raw happened, the raw always happened
I spelled vigor with a u and gray with an e.
Toiling at the anvil of Strike-Not-the-Wrong-Note,
I studied lyrics for profundity:

Walking down the street that June I was robed Jesu.
The halibut on my plate, Lao-Tzu.
The Magic Husband

Oh, we cavort. A little less poise, please.
The shower-crud, the plangent peonies!

He chisels at the oaken escritoire
his paperwork--his toy, his dream, his art--

and hums as if to all America
a dope impromptu on the sound of schwa.

The shower-crud, the plangent peonies
translate to a grace note, key of E,

which definitely won't be what it should
have been; in fact, will pass away unheard,

but every night at ten my hardy wretch
plays air-piano at the oaken desk.

With uninvited earnestness he laughs.
He only asked for summer nights sans gnats,

a nap, and freedom from all social roles.
At summer's end he walks the yard and trolls

for squirrel-gnawed pears beneath the fraser fir,
and when he finds them, look, the guy's on fire.

He came in with the envelope in paw.
He had me read the letter then. I saw

the magic pager on his magic pants,
the wallet full of chits, the triceps tensed,

the pen and pencil set. I had a cry.
Stoop labor, baby. That I'll never try.

The venture on the Island's fallen through.
Surely the sky shouldn't be that blue.

Has never faded, my true ding an sich,
holdover, throwback, tetchy nihilist

a-muzz with love and narcotherapy.
The tenor wavered contrapuntally,

the tune bespoke a swan upon a pond.
Even his nerve endings aren't his own.

Sure, I like money. I like lots and lots.
He pitted through his business shirt. He stopped

lightly, lightly, lightly on the steps.
No boy knows just when he goes to sleep.

The kidskin briefcase trembles at his touch.
We're on a kick with Cherry 7-Up.

How flaky, toxic, wondrous, marginal,
those dulcet suds! He whistles, Hell was full,

so I came back. Next afternoon in bed,
he ordered me to spill it so I did.

KATHLEEN OSSIP is the recipient of the 2002 APR/Honickman First Book Prize for The Search Engine. She teaches at the New School University in New York.
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Article Details
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Author:Ossip, Kathleen
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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