Carrying On Like a Raven After Charles Simic, "Carrying On Like a Crow"
Are you authorized to speak
About the warning signs on the beach:
“Caution. These birds can bite.”
Are you able to explain
What your bowie knife beak wants
With the Goth boy's high, poofy, hair?
What do you see in your flock of friends—
Oily dog-sized stalkers of tripping toddlers?
Claw-handed robbers of congealed
Moo Goo Gai Panini from an outdoor lunch cart?
Who gave you permission
To pluck the steamed pork bun
Out of a girl’s hand,
Neatly stripping it of its pink plastic baggie?
Are you able to recognize
The meaning of garbage bags?
Tell us you stole the Sun, Stars, and Moon
And released the tide into rhythm
In your hoarse croaking cries.
Carry on like a raven.
The Sunset, 1973
Bitter cold fog seeping in during the mornings,
people walking dogs with their jackets on
in Summer, beauty parlors
and hardware stores, block after
block of the same stucco
cottage-cheesy houses in timid colors.
My mother cried when she first saw
our new house on Santiago,
a white box with pink-trimmed windows
on a flat street, nothing at all
like the Victorian we rented.
She told my father she wanted
to take my sister back
and rent a one-room efficiency,
at least Chinatown was warm,
and everyone spoke our language.
We were one of the first families,
sprung from Chinatown—the smelly fish
and crabs, the sidewalk snot and urine,
the rotting garbage—to move into this desolate
neighborhood of fog and stucco.
Here, my mother started sewing for a sweatshop
that delivered piece work, collected
leftover fabric to make our clothes.
At Parkside Elementary, 25th and Ulloa,
my sister and I wore matching coats
and bellbottom jeans with elastic waistbands.
The friendly long-sleeved mothers of Parkside
used to point at us, laughing through their noses,
“How adorable. Chinese girls. Look. Twins.”
In school, their children beat us up,
dragged my sister into the bathroom
and took her clothes off in a stall
to see what a Chinese butt looked like.
I don’t know why my father moved us
to the Sunset in 1973. He must have thought
we were very strong people, making our home out in the fog.
The Bench, 1973
maybe five foot three or four
with immense forearms like Popeye
and a wire brush moustache,
was transferred to mess hall duty
in Göppingen after Vietnam.
Too kill-crazy, he was always
looking for enemies
On a training maneuver
in one of those freezing German woods,
tired as hell, trying to eat lunch
in pouring rain, Brooks shoots
the shit with his mess team.
After a firefight you get hungry,
(the thousand-yard stare
in his eyes) I couldn’t find no dry place to sit down and eat my lunch. All around me rice paddies. So I started gathering up bodies,putting them in a pile until it was large enough so I could sit on top and eat my "C" rations with my feet out of the water.
King of Beasts
For Roky Erickson of 13th Floor Elevators
The “King of Beasts” sucked
on teeth, white as blasted noise
from stereos and television.
Mother made him fishy-bright
out of sea water, thoughts blown
apart inward like eyelash.
Reality separated fractions
into mathematics like layers
of earlobe, buckets of eyeballs
rattled from horse sweat,
the same glass of iced tea forever
and pure as a swimming pool.
His second return spilled out
raw and urgent as Mama
scissored the air and carpet
in leotard and tights.
Shocks in the green room—
nasturtiums, kiva, freesia
stapled and laminated—
storied onto giant cardboard.
Long ago, he cracked dawn Real good! with flute made of ginger
and a bowl of Hungarian Goulash.
Truth be known, after he stuck
sulfur up his Fairy Father tower,
he crossed off God and Christ
and put Lucifer into song.
Life played to him
a police surveillance
tape ablaze with beasts and ghouls
he had seen ten times over.
Don't Oedipus your eyes.