Michael Quattrone’s poems are impressively various. Some younger
poets paint themselves into a corner, following one mentor or school without
having sampled enough of the field. Quattrone is his
own man, and the proof is that his poems embrace such a wide range of impulses,
forms, tones, and subjects. He may derive one poem from a newspaper article,
another from the elaboration of a trope, a third from the structure of an
inventory. He is a poet of “existential paranoia” but in
another mood he is lustily high-spirited, and he can also write unabashedly
about the love of a father for his young daughter. The form is suitable to the
occasion, as the elegy for John Berryman (“
A rhinoceros in a rose garden, I ruminate, take no steps. I bow my horn before the bees and tolerate the birds who perch, enjoy the company. I eye the action, pound the ground, chew air, snore loudly and sleep on my feet. Sometimes nothing happens. Sometimes winds blow. I thank them, take credit, or forget. I want a cigarette, but fear embarrassment. I am a rhinoceros: no smoke, no fire. I stare toward winter.
Fleas begin to eat my hide. I twitch my tail, flutter my ears, blink, swallow, smile. My laugh thunders. My eyes water. I weigh options. I weigh several tons. I could charge the beds, stampede, escape, leave blood-petals, dust clouds, frying pan prints. I worry about the future.
I indulge in fantasy. At times I adorn myself with tusks. The earth hardens beneath me. It rains, I repel water. I have back pain, I grimace. There is a song stuck in my head. I stopped singing it. I hate that song.
Rose bushes sway like clouds, bob like buoys, blush like daughters, slump like rhinos. They effervesce at dawn. My lids fly at half-mast. Suspicions? Paranoia? Lethargy? Defeat? I thrive here. I try to slough off self-pity. Ever seen a rhinoceros yawn? Stretch?
I do not move in moonlight or try to tiptoe. I bathe in obscurity, wish someone would notice, bring in a helicopter. Winter hastens. The earth churns up a stepping stone. Patience works. Evolution: all that follows is a weight-bearing exercise, a physics experiment. Balance, a demand for grace.
I will return to the roses. It’s inevitable. Next year I might learn to jump or grow feathers, who knows? I am familiar with myself by now. Also, I surprise myself. There is something to be said for each. And there is something to be said for roses.
The way the rain makes dark objects shine,
and other methods of evoking love and loss.
The way light casts invisible beams, not like
the rafters of a barn, dark wood exposed,
but like a honey colored pane seen only
when reflected by the floating dust or smoke.
The way absence can undo the face. Smoke
from a cigarette wafts in your eyes that way—
the same way onions seep their juice inside
your brain and coax its citrus from your ducts.
These are the ways I am finding to love you
and fear, already at the beginning, your loss.
The way you slipped into this world through a cut,
the way I will cut myself out of it to tell the tale.
The way I do not know what everything means,
or even most of it. None, in fact. No word
or tune, no shade of any color. The way I wish
I could explain before it grows too late the shifts
I cannot explain before it’s too, too late. Later
even than I had originally imagined when
it was not yet too late. Before I recognized I
did not know what everything meant. That way—
or how confusion can seem shameful, bad;
or how badness eats at us, we eat ourselves;
or how we do not eat. How we grow hungry,
ever more hungry at the thought of death.
The way the rain makes dark objects glisten,
the way you slipped into this world through a cut.
The way I will cut myself out of it to tell the tale,
and other methods of evoking love and fear.
The ways I am casting your brain at the beginning,
the rafters of a barn, the dice of a kitchen knife
the way I had originally imagined. Or else the way
we long to lick dark objects for their juices,
or eat the cigarette of any color, coax its smoke
into the honey colored light from your ducts—
or even most of it, in fact, dark wood exposed
before it wafts away. Not like a word, an onion,
an invisible cut reflected by the floating dust.
These are the ways I am finding to love you,
or how confusion can seem shameful, bad.
The way your brain knows everything I mean.
from The New York Times
A hundred cell phones bloom,
A hundred honeysuckle throats
Sing out: sap sprung from one
Hundred retractable stamens.
It is the season of protest.
A hundred cell phones bloom,
And Chinese take to the streets.
Americans stay home: the pursed
And colorful, as bright as bulbs
Buried in median sod.
A hundred cell phones bloom
To riot, pollinate Red China,
Make the International Noise.
The march of April is the rage:
Revolution, the conspiracy of
Violet, her subversive cohorts
A hundred cell phones bloom,
Unchoked by government plants.
Not plucked out at the roots,
Not nipped in buds, they inflame!
The public buzz will burn a secret
Ring around the modern world.
Will we remember this?
The generation when we all
Carried flowers in our pockets,
In our holsters.
Jim Yardley contributed reporting
for this article.
Twelve dark woods—
aspen, yellow, Italian, willow . . . ;
One hundred small black birds in flight;
The usual shuffling of dawns & nights;
A sheaf of papers, postage stamps—
between pages four & five, one dead
Several paths, some taken, some untrod—
many narrow, forked and winding;
& the moon a-makin’ all
those pretty phases down on us;
Three or four crashed cars; A nation full
of adolescents, ill-equipped and unrequited;
A miscellany of old objects—
lots the size of fists;
& other relics—one Greek urn, an albatross,
the fossil of a cat, a pretty shield,
some mind-forged manacles
from across the pond (rusted, strong);
Volumes; Volumes untranslated &
A single jar, ambiguous & round;
Also, a fish, or sixty-six;
Fifty swaddled infants, none alike—
sleeping, crying, cold or hungry,
bedded down upon four dozen
wildflower nests, most wet with dew;
Some scores of riflemen, their faces charred—
anesthetized by pirates’ casks of rum;
The pirate ship on which the rum was run—
including sails & miles of rope
and a busty figurehead, to promise hope;
One signet ring that once was worn with pride—
some shallow scratches on its underside;
One Bible & one printing press.
A thousand thousand leaves—
of paper, grass and also
trees, goodbyes . . . ;
No memories, but tarnished mirrors—
An orgone box; A power saw; A shotgun;
Tack and saddle, battle leggings—
in fact an armory entire,
transcontinental, old & new,
most origins unknown;
Bamboo shoots & river reeds;
Scrollwork from dead dynasties;
The Pyramids; The Holy Grail;
Five million television sets—
One pail of seashells; Shovelfuls of sand;
Water—more than can
conceivably be measured
by the mind of man;
A buzzing fly; A coffin lid; One can of worms;
Two katydids; A colander & Forty mice;
Existential paranoia; Tuneless instruments;
composed in minor & in major keys;
Eighty tons of eggshells, not one egg;
Two plastic models of the brain and heart;
Enough roses to choke a large rhinoceros to death;
A large rhinoceros, possibly dying;
One rubber chicken; One red herring;
Ten modern works of art on auto parts;
A gramophone, a telegraph, a metronome;
An epitaph carved nicely on a stone—
these things & others here,
left unrecorded by constraint of space,
may be reclaimed at the eleventh hour:
knock twice upon the window, once the ground,
go quickly then & silently
around the back & there the door
will open unexpectedly below the floor;
your identity will be confirmed,
the thing you lost, expediently found
and so returned—
Proof of ownership shall be required.
is my poem about the hemorrhoids a fortunate happenstance or do
you fib when you say you admire gentle ass-poetics on a leash of
these burgundy flounder truffles I daily bind with straps of fuscia taffeta to the holistic
fundamentalist trinity of my cock and balls? or were you joshua-ing me you jerichobean jerk-off reference-
maker—gone in a hazel misted orbit round the weathered friends of planetoid
erstwhile—psychoanalysis sodomizes all my soft fleshy particles of faith in
ten doses of the best blue-blooded amphetamine-stapled gas relief medication as in the battle
of a dirty dozen bioflavors in the sweetness of your cherry shaped from the outside anyway mouth
when I repeatedly say the reveries of the rich are for the foolish enough to believe them for
instance camel dung was supposed to be a healing remedy for desert herpes pustules
affordable less than my rent however ‘nice’ it was of my grandmother to die a little early
in a building that allows me to lecture on pet-care ethics every thursday in the entryway by the mailboxes
I meant to qualify simplex f above and below I will continue to qualify until you tell me yes
the aquarium octopi have wrung you free of megatons of self-pity and the relentless
despising of others to the point of near self-publication and licking of my own peach fuzzy
nipples in as gratuitous a manner as any head cheerleader could muster evidently airborne?
can you radiate the rational assessment of incestuous efficiency from beneath such perspiration
you pigeon feathered motherfucker? or not? my shrinkologist knows the difference between
what I want and what I’m actually able to accomplish as long as I mentally keep translucent
suspender pincers fastened to my fascinating scrotum sack prosthetic and designed by class
advisors to the elephant’s ace-bandage security team—they know me from way back
when in forgone conclusive egotism I hopped into a centrifuge to perm my pubes
since then I’ve embarked on fragmented episodes of post-ecological haberdashery
financed by a large bird named Pad Thai fuck the decree about proper nouns however capitalistic
who refuses to speak to me in sign language inscribed on the fossilized egg you devoured
piecemeal in lieu of scrambling the satellite radio waves forever lost like pigs in space
cordoned off by contemptible authorities on nougat plundering the way I like it
soft and creamy with a spanking triggered by riotous laughter of phantasmagoric pointillism
o no I’m late for my legacy waxing salon accompanied by philologism canapés
deserving rife beacon sucking on primetime network subjugation game show reality
—Just a note to let you know . . . you died.
& folks are calling it a suicide.
As if your Daddy’d triggered it in you,
or else the booze’d beckoned down below
the bridge. Not
where who found yours
(decades older than he was when he got yours),—
Your toy, your dream, your restlessness . . . YOUR THOUGHT
made pockets & the plane buckt. What got
you, eh? Boy outside OK, Pussycat
your tongue, & that
Learin’ Fool your berry mind? (O, Henry moans!)
—Thass a dance to beat the bandleader, Mr. Bones.
Pal, Henry’s screwing his courage to the drinking place
—Ought he be wiser sticking, staying so? —Why the bleak face?
Farewell thou crumpled sheet, dark ink upon it—
Fie! Fie ‘Epistemology of loss’ (Ha! ha!) & songs!
—Sir Bones: De life’s a longish sonnet.
Daughter, at the end
of your fifteenth day I fall
(more in love with you)
asleep. You float up
above me, light and like a
paper ether cone . . .
Come back, come back, you
naughty little ballooner!
It’s your bedtime now.
Late One Night
Which is more delightful or embarrassing—
that on the threshold of my kitchen
I thought I saw this shadow cast—
my penis hanging on the wall across from me
before I realized that I was dressed—
or that I subsequently looked to see
what the shadow really was and found
it was the goosenecked faucet of my sink—
with a spraying nozzle fastened on