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Twentieth Century Fire-Sale



Twentieth Century Fire-Sale

Part One


Stealthy Rain


In the dry air of my Island

where moisture is a sea-preserve,


stealing from a haze

may spit upon your marble terrace,

rattle bamboo poles all around,

arouse the drowsing thyme to reek,

and sow a harmless pox upon the ground,

until arrested by the sun.

Snow and Soot


Sebastian brought home from school a poem,

it was about the pure white snow.

He gave it to his little brother Babe,

who made out the words,

gazed out the window,

and dreamed all in whites.

Dirt was heavy on Chicago streets.

Flecks of fern,

threshed by dinosaurs,

hardened by ages, dug up in lumps,

hauled by centipedal trains,

carbonized in stoves,

passed up a million chimneys,

ascended, descended, coated the ground,

until lately perspiring southern seas

conveyed their damp to electric charge,

that passed it to northern winds

that dropped it as snow,

to be blacked by dismal dust.

So the puzzle of the Babe

was how to bring regularly down

enough snow to cover the soot.

Nature 'd charge too much for the job,

the soot would be stubborn,

insubordinate to white snow, pure will,

and much more snow would be needed.

Wun't it be fine, he opined,

if someone invented a way

to wash the snow -- to be published,

of course, in Popular Mechanics.

False Thaw


Tom's bantam cockadoodles at fleeing night,

lets grackles quarrel over his scatter of corn.

Train-lugging diesel engine

humming like a bumble bee

drags through Princeton Junction

measuring time by clanks on rails,

backing with sostenuto basses

and faraway percussions our nearby

smoggy morning sudden thaw sounds.

High-chirping sparrows, low-pitched mourning doves,

heavy-chested alsatian barking, a beagle baying back.

A car's eight cylinders tuned smoothly baritone,

the milk truck stopping and starting.

Drop by drop, water prepares globes

that sunbeams will fractionate.

Pipes sing, worms turn, twigs snap,

wood swells, old-stinking and nostalgic.

Unbendings, unfastenings, slumpings.

A world cracking on its winter cot

fore falling asleep again.

All this might be sensed early, even abed.

if you didn't stay up for the Late Show,

or the State of the Union Address.

Cocktail Peanut


Tan and nude,

with many alike

in a ceramic bowl,

the peanut.

carrying three grains of salt

and a ruddy fleck

unnoticed inter alia,

viz. its shell,its twins,

the plant,its bush,

mass plantation,

mass production,of unpeeled skin

its bagging and bowling,

its encounter with culture,

what it is to all other peanuts,

who is about to take it,

randomly sampling,

who takes the others around it,

unaffected by noise,

the faster the drinking, the sooner its choice,

the fingers injected, the pluck,

plump into jaws and maw,

taken from the many,

leaving the company of its kind,

losing its collective character,

a one-second individual,

a fleeting triumph,

the center of attraction


swallowed for communion,

or useful with a hem and haw,

held up by a word,

"What?" "Really?"


Sheepish Dog


An early Easter lily blossom

raised a stench of fearful sweat

off the woolly flock,

alarming its shepherd dog,

who raced around in a frenzy,

yet not discovering

the marauding beast, then

fretted -- panting, baffled --

for her absent master.



Untired despite a short day's sleep,

microelegant partout,

boxerlike weaving and dodging,

aggressively boring in,

not to be put off by feinting and dodging,

loud claps, flailing pudgy fists,

returns again and again,

seeking an opening,

attacking through smoke and porous cloth,

strikes without claque, fearless,

a fair match unless drugged

in violation of Department of Drug Enforcement rules.


Stoically, invite him to alight,

let his proboscis delve deep,

suck heavily of the thick blood --

"You have to take it to give it,"

came the voice of Uncle Charlie the Boxer

smiling deaf from heaven above the roof --

and though his brilliant eye see the blow coming,

his dainty bandy legs

cannot pull him up.

You smartly slap him,

and shake him down,

and wipe the blood away.

The Odd Cock

The God Geb,

the Great Cackler,

in Egypt of Old,

laid the Cosmic Egg,

from which

the World was hatched.


The cocks crowed at dawn then,

to lay the World again each day.


But here in Naxos now,

they crow any time

they feel like it, midnight, midday;

with the rest of the world

they've lost all sense

of rule and propriety.


They were right to ban

all cocks in Sybaris,

"a cock for Asclepius" indeed!

The next thing you'll know,

unpunctually greeted,

the Sun will decide

upon a new route.


And this would happen

because somebody

didn't attend to

a displaced fowl

in a new habitat,

the odd cock,

who couldn't adapt.


A playgirl, a hunter, a watchdog, but

before all else she was a mother,

such was Trudela whose real name was Gertrude,

Trumpet in Hebrew, so in Alsatian she became

Trudela, the Little Trumpet, a small black

dachshund who lived in a Strasbourg apartment

with a businesslady and studious daughter.


Trudela was kept from male company,

and never had intercourse or was pregnant.

Still the rut came upon her and with it

a sexual excitement that made one feel pity.


There followed a pregnancy of two months

during which she built a cave and nest

by collecting sweaters and slippers.


Afterwards, as if her pregnancy had terminated

and she had given birth to a litter of pups,

she would begin to lactate.

So undemanding, however, her babies,

that she needed to suck from her own teats

bring up her own milk, she was sleek as a seal.


As for her puppiers, she missed them,

convinced that she had in reality borne them,

So would frequently trot around the house

looking, checking where she thought to have left them.

The truth could not be conveyed to a dog, so

to comfort her, her mistresses gave her


the teddy bear of the child, which

Trduela accepted and guarded most carefully.

She would not leave the apartment without it,

but allowed it to be carried in the lady's

shopping bag and thus assured would walk

along contentedly with the humans.


Even so, from time to time, doubts assailed her.

She would stop dead in her tracks and not budge,

insisting upon being shown the teddy bear

from out of the bag, which, done,

she would proceed amiably for a while.


After several weeks, she would forget

about her puppy, and life would be normal.

Until the next lying-in episode, when,

again, she would meet her teddy-bear pup.

Two Snails in Love

"Nourished, warmed, cleaned, showered, the snail copulates lingeringly and delivers several grams of round pearly eggs that sell at 6,000.00 Francs the kilo." L'Express, 23 January 1987.


















away for a bit of lettuce.

Apocalyptic Easy-riders

Watch now the dance,

the specimen problems,

costumed and with masks.

Each is to step forward,

sing a song,

and prance prettily


I am the moo-cow,

a knuckled-kneed cropper-tooth,

a fart-bag,

a devourer of grains and grasses,

I take up space.


I am a crow

a croaking chomper of cereals,

you'd be surprised what I eat,

as much as a hearty child.


I am a baby,

an accident, unlicensed,

source of every disaster just

by coming on the scene.

I can use up anything and

everything and if I cannot myself,

then I’ll make others come after me

who can do a better job of it.


I am a car, millions of

misdemeanors are we all,

but I never go on trial because

it takes too long to cite my bad deeds,

direct, indirect, remorseless, of course.


I am a plastic bag, the kind that can

suffocate you if you put it

over your head;

barring that you can make enough

trillions of us to suffocate the human race

and the animal and vegetable kingdom.

Just keep making us. We'll do the rest.


I am an insecticide grenade.

I've already killed more people than all

the explosive grenades of World War II.

People who use me are killed often, too,

by accident of course, but inevitably.


I am a yacht. Sail upon me over the

bounding main, where fish are gone and

waters pale with the detergent cloud in train.

I cost a lot more than my boards and

hull, my sails, motors, furnishings.

Chandling me and handling me is more than

you can pay, but never mind, you can

watch -- see the thousand yachts in

every cove, every port; once in a while

I edge out to see the sea, but

come back shortly. My reason for

being, the point of it all, is to

waste the wealth of the world,

not to sail the sea.


I am a privately owned greed-pacifier,

call me XYZ, my number is legion,

my qualities many but the one quality I have that is

exponential is that I never pacify greed in itself.


I am a sawyer of great trees

I am a maker of gaudy packages

I am a sprayer of insecticides

I am a banker of scoundrels

I am the builder of tanks and bombs and warplanes

I excite perversions of all kinds, sexual, moral, mental, aesthetic

I am the fundamentalist

I am a hate-monger

I fish out the ocean

I corrupt politicians

I advertise anything

I sell anything

I fuck anything that moves

I invest in the worst

I make anything

I am worthless

I am criminal

I am an addict

I discourage people

I disparage good people

I am a patrimaniac

I follow astrology

I invidiously discriminate

I am hypocritical

I am a shirker. I fill a job to obstruct

I am a fanatic of my family

We are all ecological disasters.


(I"ve given you all the clues,

fill in the spaces. Then

do something about such creatures --

even if you must put a gun to your head.)

Man bites Insect

Tiny insect formless to my unmicroscopic eye,

crawling across the page of my newspaper

as I sit reading on my first night in Goa.

A Pangamese petty thing that could kill or at least

-- I am not such a fool --

is part of the paranoia against nature down to the virus,

and it, this tiny insect-- is somewhere between, and

all life that is practically invisible is enemy,

is it not?


So I turned a leaf to squash it, when

a story fixed my hand in midair --


"Vishram Gujar killed his twenty-six-day old infant.

It was revealed that Vishran

was allegedly having illicit relations

with his brother's wife, Sushama...

Towards the end of 1984,

on December 17 to be precise, Vile Parle police were told,

by a worried Shanti Vishram Gujar (25),

that her infant was missing

from where she was sleeping

with her blind mother-in-law.


The other occupants of the house

included her sister-in-law and her daughter Majalakmi (6),

in a hut about 10 by 10,

situated a stone's throw from the Vile Parle

police station, behind the Ambassador Flight Kitchen.

Her brother-in-law Sarju Gujar is in Libya employed as a cook.

"It was revealed that Vishram

was allegedly having relations

with his brother's wife Sushama.

This probably planted seeds of suspicion

in his own guilty mind

and he started suspecting his wife Shanti

of having an affair.

"The innocent child was first throttled

and strangulated to death and then buried.

Shushama pointed out the dead body of the infant

concealed in a marshy land

close to the police station.

Both Shushama and Vishram are now charged with murder..."


When I looked again, the insect had disappeared,

crawling steadily off the page,

he wasted no time on humans.

Impurity of the Species

Man's credentials are false,

written and sealed by himself.


People sport from many sorts --

thus, a tree,

or from the sea,

a long-jawed dog,

a mushrooming log.

There is wind in one,

a parch in another.

In any group is a bleak

Martian confronting a Venusian.


Try as they may to accommodate,

an ancient force interpellates

a basic question about

the authenticity of the species.


It may sound like man,

woman or child --

wear clothes, stand up,

but the leaves are shaking

against the breezes,

the sea is beating against the rocks,

shocks of interstellar space are


The fish don't notice the wolves;

among the species are interstitials,

ghostly forerunners,

niche-hungry incompatibles.


Man and man figure interspecial battle.

but a man and his dog are a species,

xenophobic vs their neighbor,

attacked by the woman

and her cat,

the down-dog-man species!


Why make so much of

"How many legs?"

"How long of tooth?"

"How furry?"

"How many years to live?"

all conventions of science,

suited, no doubt,

to its conventional goals,

and the "inability to interbreed"

is a useful distinction

of a mechanical sort,


but the true species is a context

of ecology, a self-containment

of all that fulfills one --

each person defines,

configures, constructs

his own species,

if he is wise

and can.

Half-day Sun

The sun so bright and strong

cannot climb my mountain

till half the day is done

and half my working life.


Yet across the mountain

it's the other way around.


No matter what I do

I'm only half done

in the bright warm sun.

A mountain makes a fickle sun

which makes a half-baked man.


Can you not, o sun,

live like the light bulb above,

that hangs drearily but

evenly for the duration

of my day of work?


"You miss the point d'appui,"

the sun unblinking smart would say,

"it being now post-meridian,

A.M. is the mountain's fault."


So we dug and dug a tunnel

through the mountain's base

much energy was burned of

the sun's own store of ages gone.


You can see the morning sun now

by peering though the mountain


How many Fridays have we thanked

for not being Thursdays or Mondays,

Wish we life away so.

Draw back all those weeks, dear breath,

Into the fresh lungs of youth,

And fill them with the best of life,

Screened of complications.

Humpty Dumpty, splatted where he fell,

and tra-la-la for him.

Just a dog lying in the sun.

Waters creeping up a beach.

A long walk to nowhere

An enthusiastic argument.

A book on the wide harmless world.

No shocks and jolts of rioting time,

but sweet time, soft time,

fall stilly, pass gently

around our retracements.

Drink long cool wet and stretch the cords,

from Monday to Friday,

With little gods resting,

Big gods can work.

Copyrights held by Metron Publications (Text and books) and MAB (Artwork).

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