|Collage by Jerry Sipe|
from “The Spirit of the Laws”
Only two employees left: man and dog
the man to feed the dog the dog
to keep the man away from the machines
the machines to make something
that used to look like a man and a dog
feeding one another with something
that used to look like food to keep
themselves away from animals
that look like machines that run
all the time feeding themselves.
The guy crucified on the burning cross
said he should be able to move
his inventory of SUV’s
before he had to light another cross.
Once he did, he could go back to Texas.
everyone examines their pod,
staring at its face
awaiting further directives
funny and cute
It’s staring at your face too
I’m furiously attempting an exemption
from the men in suits posing as servers:
I even joined a subculture
that didn’t exist.
I prolong my life by buying it,
returning it, buying it back
over and over and over again
Talking to stones makes them
your friends -- or familiars, anyway.
I recall Kansas to have been underwater once.
First we leave the Laundromat that’s in a cage.
When I see her again, I know that she’s a sprite,
having been tossed from a helicopter to the sea
Now, we can read the story of what is happening
around the walls as it occurs; the crowded
gesticulating comrades cannot see or hear us,
including my sister whose head recites a poem
by Jack Kerouac in the voice of Jack Nicholson
& I don’t even have a sister . . . But how
did we get into a room full of giant Afrikaaners?
Ah, we’ll all “disappear into Mexico” someday.
Turn off the lights as you back out of the cave.
formerly, Exit 58.
“MARS” for “MAPS”:
deselected terms: terms
no longer what’s desired
Prairie Center Mall’s
Quizno looks kindapocalyptic
storefront thyroid salivary and
The model McMansion tour
would begin shortly
if anyone showed
Widow-Orphan Control “On”:
a bad request – invalid hot name:
supplied argument is not
a valid MySQL-Link resource
for the code is in English, creates
other languages spontaneously --
e.g. Freeverb, Loadbang --
nothing contains its
partition the disk of metropolis:
the instruction “000006874938”
could not be “read” ergo
windows & orpheans’ bad request
make legible their desire to migrate
to another platform where supplies
arrive in the form of signs.
pictures turn animals into
words into guns
word for sword
White people in evening dresses and tuxedos,
just like the movies!
If you’re “buff,” you get a skin-tight.
Do they know they look like they know
they look commodified?
This city makes young people look young:
apparition of faces, petals & brown leaves.
The old folks blend right into the scape.
sign on computer: BE AGGRESSIVE
flag at encampment: DEBT is SLAVERY
Kid at Starbuck’s: “Would you like that in a bag?”
Me: “But . . . it’s already in a bag.”
Kid: “No, I meant did you want it in a bigger bag.”
“When he came to his
senses he became
a street sweeper.”
(a handpainted sign decries
taxes; a handpainted sign
cries up Jesus
a Coke machine turns
on as you approach,
not the people
We’re moving out into
the city - issues of
personal scale -
issues of inverted
time to buy time
buy genes buy
treat yourself to some
residual lyricism -
you think you don’t
South: “the direction of suffering”:
_____ yrs til the magic
has been tamed
“Take your eyes out
of the sky someone
is stealing your bread”
Vultures hover over the
that used to be a union hall.
Next to the Superfund site.
Wait for the country to bust
aquifers to break down bunnies
to rust. The Marcomanii on the
frontier pound out color plasma
flexible voice-activated monitors;
cameras lather over everything.
Of course everybody’s turned
fanatic, what with the end near
and all. Keep your eyes on sky,
someone is stealing your bread,
so you’ll prob’ly need redemption.
Transmitters outpace receivers:
even now somebody is saying
what nobody wants to hear.
Joseph Harrington is the author of Things Come On: an amneoir (Wesleyan Univ. Press 2011), a mixed-genre work relating the twinned narratives of the Watergate scandal and his mother's cancer; it was a Rumpus magazine Poetry Book Club selection. He is also the author of the chapbook Earth Day Suite (Beard of Bees 2010) and the critical work Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan 2002). His creative work also has appeared in Hotel Amerika, No Tell Motel, 1913, BathHouse, Otoliths, Fact-Simile, and Tarpaulin Sky, among others. He is a Professor of English at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
Asked about his influences, Mr. Harrington replied, "Influences? Hmm - there are a lot. Chief among them, perhaps, are Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's book Dictee; the works of Susan Howe; Paterson, by William Carlos Williams; The Maximus Poems of Charles Olson; The Book of Jon, by Eleni Sikelianos; My Life, by Lyn Hejinian; Book of the Dead, by Muriel Rukeyser."