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making sense of the universe

On the day his son was born, the astronomer screamed out the window: You! This! This thing that beats the inside of our hearts? Is a beautiful curse! Know this & fling it hard enough into the air to make new charts!
Shortly afterwards the astronomer realized his newborn son, his wife, & the birth all were but hallucinations, so he sat with a pot of tea & became a trapeze artist instead.
By Anis Mojgani

I found you inside a book of stars called
Sunday Starts at Saturday’s Dusk.
It was turned to a page marked “For when.”
I crumpled up my spine and became a mouse.
You were a planet.
I was the one prayer spoken
in the short little life
of a dust mite
trying to be a sword
hoping to become a twig
a constellation
or at least an answer
to somebody’s question.
I was born in the year of the swan.
My arms
were born in the year of the fish–
a corner of me was something truly spectacular.
My tongue felt like truth.
I had trouble swallowing it.
Names came from legends.
Or legends from names–
I forgot the order.
My mother wrote the origins of myth
on the inside of underpants.
I walked pantless to become closer to what I was.
I set the wheelbarrow on fire
climbed inside
and looked for a hill to ride down.
I was at the bottom of one.
I pushed the barrow up it.
Halfway up it rained.
Cussing doesn’t come from a lack of vocabulary–
I know all the other words.
None of them speak the same language that my fucking heart does.

***

poem beginning with a line from Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues
for Gary Close
By Jeffrey McDaniel


Ah get born, keep warm,
short pants, romance, learn to dance
circles around the jackals
in their polyester grievances,
hawking fool’s neon,
like fake watches strapped
inside a huckster’s overcoat.
Hop, on the boxcar, baby,
we’re hitting the ri-zoad,
like a bottle of martian whisky.
Last week a cop held a radar gun
to my cranium, said my thoughts
were going ninety-four miles an hour
over the speed limit. Lately
I’m seeing men with shovels
lurking behind trees, smoking cigarillos
waiting to seal me in a maple envelope
and mail me to the mud.
The giant clock on the moon
says I have 7,304 days to live. Last week
I watched the shovel men slide
a kid I grew up with, now 45,
into the ground, then start piling dirt
when the last taillight of his loved ones
flickered away. Gary, you fro-headed,
no-dancing, spiral-tossing white boy,
with a Phillies flag in your casket.
You full-moon-of-teeth smiling,
leader-of-our-stoop-hanging
22nd and Lombard crew,
with your cut-off mesh t-shirts
and ready-for-take-off tube socks
and three Mississippis in a parking lot.
You malt-liquor swilling, 8-ball sinking,
drum-stick breaking, Taney-hating,
laying all still in your silk box
in the cancerous skin that betrayed you,
the word daddy on a banner. At the gravesite,
your wife and daughters cried like birds
guarding the entrance of the underworld,
and your soul was little chunks of bread
being pried from their mouths
as the shovel men dropped you
down the chute to Hades. Keep warm
down there, skip the romance.
If you get re-born, this time
learn to dance.

***


When The Belt Breaks You Will Remember Those Faces Were Beautiful
By Dave McAlinden

I grew up on this beach full of bones

It rains every day here;
Sometimes sideways

And times in-between
Light tries to squeeze through this wet wool
Lain above us.
Sometimes, darkness, sometimes
I think god covered us with it
To put space between himself and failure

We’ll never know,
Most of us are just little atom bombs anyway
Burning those close with the blast

Some of us—just open chests filled with guns
Shooting off directionless hoping to reach someone

In this windy heat
Heat every day,
Every day
Every day is a heart attack that seems to outlast the victim

And if you are from here

You have a defibrillator
Called an asteroid belt buckled around your heart
Made of pieces breaking away from it trying to stay pure
But your gravity is too great for their weight so you wait
For those pieces to come back to beat you into who you once were

But that never happens

If you are from here

You have just as many secrets as you do dead friends
And just as many hopes as horrors that will continue to crush them
Again and again and again

And if you are from here

You might remember sunlight.
And the beautiful faces that made those days sallow in comparison;
Every bonfire lit where we snuck to love in the dune grass shadows
Where they bent towards the tide
When the night was something perfect
And you might remember who once flew
Before those you knew who failed trying to fly

Before the coming of chemical after chemical;
Chemical after chemical
Before the bullet; the bullet
The cold boot;
The burnt bulb;
The razor’s edge—is this blood or is it rust? Fuck it.
The pill dust lined like stripes symbolizing colonies,
Rails of white, white lies locked into jaws imitating the act of smiling, smiling, smiling;
Before forget, forget, forget;
Before gimme, gimme, gimme
Before “that fucker’s been talkin’ shit!” …Click!!!
Before arson,
Beach beatings,
Basement naked children,
Blind policemen,
The methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the methamphetamine
And the dark, dark inward death;
The river net raising bones from a sleepless bed
Sin coughs
Coughs
The bodies too weak to hold teeth;
Minds too bleak to hold dreams;
Arms too filled with holes to hold life at all—the wasted days whistle
through them:
Broken breath through a cracked clarinet once used to keep rhythm rhythm
rhythm for beauty
And before these wounds will not stop bleeding
Constant-constant
Crazy!
Screaming! Screaming! Screaming!
Before your life’s the death of dreaming

Remember—

You don’t have to go fast to get a rush.

Remember that bones will eventually turn to dust
And your worth is never measured by what you leave,
We all leave nothing eventually
What matters is what you believe
Remember
What you do proves what you believe
So remember what you believe

Act accordingly

And if you have
You have
And you have gone

And if you haven’t yet, son—
Go now, go on. Don’t be just another little atom bomb

Find still peaceful places to breathe right
In this temple of poison gas.

And when the question is finally asked—Can I make this better?

The answer will most definitely come; even if you don’t want it to
Even if you don’t try
Even if you won’t look back
Remember: there is always a last laugh

Or a final cry.

All those gold leaves

My piano coat unbuttoned
and all my pianos fell into the leaves.
I was picking up pianos for hours
when you walked past
your skin glowed like a loud dog.
In your smile this dog had a fence
to push his face up against.
What happiness he barked.
With pianos filling my arms
I followed through the neighborhood
and up onto the dark green porch of your home.
I stood in the doorway
and because they wouldn’t fit through the frame
I laid the pianos in piles outside.
You led me up the stairs into your room.
All our robbers were asleep
in a different part of the house.
We lay in your bed like cash bills after a heist
and listened hard
to hear if the pianos
had been playing the whole time.
This happened in the fall.

(c) Anis Mojgani

When We Were Geese

When we were geese
I followed your sweet plough over the coffee-colored earth
In Russia the people danced with masks on
We sat in the devil’s chair when he was out of the room
He chased us around his throne
I threw my bones against it to show him what real music sounded like
He chased us outside
When the world touched our backs we turned into geese
The feathers he snatched as we flew off was spit in his face
We flew south
Flew far enough south that we flew north
The devil got so lonely for us he couldn’t sleep
Just sat in the cold light all night in that tall dark chair of his
The throne room collected the hours like ghosts
He didn’t let anyone leave
Everyone in the castle stayed in their rooms
His hourglass runneth over
We flew east
Flew so far we went west
When we landed on the devil’s roof he declared a holiday
Everyone took the day off, even god showed up
God said “Look at this!” and made a rainbow
My little goose heart was clenched like a fist
I didn’t even realize this until it loosened and pennies of silver fell from its grip tumbling into the world
My skin fell from shoulders in a cascade of tears
I stepped out of it, couldn’t describe what I was made out of underneath
But you were made of the same stuff, the world too
Even the weathervanes and the paper cups
Even god and the devil
Every lake, every dark hairy beast in the woods
Every soul who was raised to be a whisper and told to never grow bigger
Such soft hair we all grew
Goddamn we was beautiful

(c) Anis Mojgani

almond milk & tilapia

What they don’t tell you about getting married is the mess.
That the gifts come early.
And you end up too busy
to stack the shambles
the house is becoming.
All week the floor has been a poor man’s library.
Today I put most of the books away.
The first editions on the top shelf.
The paperbacks just below. Steinbeck’s Penguins
spines of orange.
After that I organized the desk and moved her piano.
Moved the gold couch that traveled with me from Oregon.
Vacuumed the living room.
Sat down. Watched a moment.
It moved like a small fish.
Or a slow satellite.
I took the folded clothes from the hamper
and put them in the dresser. Finally.
Hung up her dress with the whales on it.
Made sure the hangers all turned the same direction
and left for the grocery store.
Went by way of the tall grass.
All this cement. It wishes
for something else in itself.
The super market is a temple of air conditioning.
Picked up almond milk and fish. The doors sing when they move.
Got dizzy on the walk back and drank water when I got home.
I need to visit the eye doctor.
I made a quiet sandwich for lunch.
Ate in the living room of our tiny house
before opening the world again.
It is hard work being a poet.
All this daylight one must contend with.
Right now I am sitting at the coffeeshop down the street.
Tried writing four poems. They have not been easy.
They are a rusting bicycle. I am a sleepy boxer.
In the afternoon my left is unfocused. My tea sits
untouched its ice all melted. I stare at the computer
a contest of two concrete ships racing.
I ended up in court with a Chinese drunkard.
Fell into the water from his boat
and laughed into the hole of the snowy moon.
An iceberg drifts across the sky
returning the present to me.
The air in here is heavy and hot
could grow vines inside itself.
My tongue is dry.
So is my pen. There is a well
somewhere over the hill. All the dance
is a different country from where I sit.
I want my pockets to burn
but they only buzz.
She calls
tells me she is on her way home
and will meet me here shortly.
In May I will have tiny flowers pinned to my breast
and she a peacock feather in her hair.
What glorious sounds the sun shall make.
Here my wife-to-be has just walked through the door
dancing her way into my periphery.
I think of the tilapia in the refrigerator.
When we go home we will cook it
and have bread.

(c) Anis Mojgani

Dear You,

So here I am, sitting in a trendy cafe drinking a trendy little beverage, typing this letter. Why, you might ask, am I typing this letter? Well, let’s just get down to the thin of things. You’re an asshole, a confusing human being, and a total piece of work, BUT, like the frothy pop song, I just can’t get you outta my head. Sigh.

Fuck relationships. Even now, seeing people gaze at each other in romantic affection makes me want to barf. I say this because I’ve always romanticized the idea of relationships, but when it comes down to it, and I have the chance to be in a relationship, or I have close observation of someone else’s relationship, I just feel like laughing and have no need to put myself in the emotional straitjacket that most of these couplings seem to entail. I’ve always explained, primarily to numerous pesky people who absolutely cannot fathom why I do not want to jump like prey on every single person that shows me the slighest bit of something that may or may not be romantic attention, go through the emotional aggravation, the kissy-kissy baby bullshit, the small, nitpickety arguments and the subsequent temper tantrums about small shit like screwing up plans or not responding to phone calls or ordering something for dinner that wasn’t what the person wanted, that I have no interest in participating in such a mental torture chamber. I simply love being single, having my own autonomy, not having to account for my actions and behavior and explain shit to nobody really. The majority of people, even the most attractive ones, have flaws and weird idiosyncrasies, and while this is what makes them them, I am perfectly content to just be me, with me and only me. A relationship to me is something that may happen when people realize they have stumbled into a routine of hanging out with a person, that they like each other’s personalities and find them cool, and feel that their life is more groovy (yes, i use that word. shoot me) when this person just so happens to be hanging around.

I have never felt this way about anyone really, but I realized, that when you wrote me the other day, that I missed you. I think of you frequently, and there are a bazillion things I like about you that I’ve related to you before, just as much as I’ve related what I hate about you. But that doesn’t really matter, because here I was, on a bus, seized with a need to write this letter that you will probably never read, because you’re just too damn cool for social media. My pretentious self thought it would be more “real” to type this letter on the ink and guts of my typewriter later, after a much-needed appointment with my beloved shrink, but, it is like Kafka says“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” So, to prevent a plunge into a fit of sedated neurosis that would accompany the slightly suppressed desire to type you this, I have instead taken to my handy-dandy Mac Book to eek out these worthless confessions.

And now, the gut of this whole damn thing, the reason why I am typing this, is that I fucking miss you, man. I love how we met under completely weird circumstances, insulted the hell out of each other, and lost communication for such a long time. But when we resumed it, traipsing around in random places at random hours, getting drunk and ending up in a library surrounding by several homeless men who all just so happened to look like Charles Manson, it etched itself very strongly into my memory. I long for those days, I love how you so pointed out that we were able to resume the same conversation a full year after we hung out, I love how you introduced me to weird, beautiful shit like “My Own Private Idaho” and Jan Svankmajer’s fucked-up films and just consistently showed me obscure stuff I probably would never have heard about. There’s so many things I love about you. I love how comfortable I feel discussing every little mental nuance and every potential tangent of every minor and major philosophical thought that might be floating off my mind right now. You get me. You really get me. and I get you. and I love you. How dare you write me, telling me that you love me and not be here?! It’s one year since we hung out, one beautiful year. You’re gone in New York, being the confoundingly emotional, capricious, bat-shit crazy but unfathomingly brilliant person that you are. I didn’t think you were actually going to go through with it, like you decided to move so many times before without actually doing so, but lo-and-behold you did.

I don’t know why I’m so fucking emotional today. I’ve only felt the pit of emptiness at not being around somebody anymore once. ONCE. and then you spring this “i love you” shit around me and it pains me and i hate you for it but also subsequently adore you. I was 20 once upon a time, two summers ago. you read the e-mails from my 20-year-old self a few days ago and this is when you said those three words. Even though I’m a different person now, but I haven’t changed *that* much, I know that by connecting with a younger version of myself and understanding how I was trying to open up, which was something I have hardly ever done. ever. with anyone in my lifetime, I know you’ll be able to get along with my present self. ha. I speak of “my present self” like it’s some partially attached appendage present but constantly annoying me with its existence. Dude. I miss you. Please come back into my life. Please be my Woody Allen. I feel comfortable with you weirdo. and that doesn’t happen every day.

L

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