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On the New Poetry / Kalamazoo

By Greg Purcell


Published:

On the New Poetry

 for Blossom Dearie

 

It must be stupid.
It must benefit our friends and benefactors in the least offensive way.
It must close ranks on the unknown.
It must switch to merely geologic time, which may be too much.
It must know that to be attentive is to kill.
It must know that a gimmick is as fine as any shape.
It must know that the videogame Panzer Dragoon Orta is better, because it is lurid
and can be judged by its mechanics.
It must know that the animals will die with us.
It must know good wine like Clayton Eshelman not at all.
It must know that ineffectual anger follows the times.
It must use heightened poetic diction even among mixed company, for heightened diction
displays that idiocy which connects us to the common animal life.
For the animals know their heightened diction and are the stupidest on earth.
It must always be humorous except when inappropriate.
For if money is a form of poetry so is Detroit.
It must cause a ruckus at dinner not at all.
It must be critical only for the amusement of the party, or else violently active.
For now we must live in geologic time and it bores us.
For money in geologic time is not abstract.
It must be both more and less boring than geologic time.
It must know that this is impossible.
For to be boring is a kindness.
For to be exciting is ethical.
For impossibility fumigates manful intelligence.
For the elderly avant-garde are the smartest.
For the elderly avant-garde are the great exemplars of capitalism.
For the elderly avant-garde pose in contradistinctive suits, yet the great contradistinction
is to be naked and elderly and avant-garde, which is a fact counter to learning, and
grotesque as any poem.
For if an old dog is nice we protect it with our lives.
For if an old dog is mean we put it down without sentiment.
For stripes are basic and should be worn.
It must sing songs and master suicide.
It must be ashamed to teach.
It must know the lyrics.
It must know Bob Dylan’s lyrics not at all.
For “the larger post-structuralist critique of authorship and the humanist subject,”
frightens no one and is not a lyric.
For it must know Donald Fagan’s lyrics, and the lyrics of Bo Diddley.
For it must know the lyrics of MC Lyte and Apolloinaire.
For it must know that Patti Smith’s best work was with Blue Oyster Cult.
For Blossom Dearie was a great poet.


Kalamazoo

 

Black Sabbath maimed us
And Hollywood put us outdoors
Our blast-off faces glowed
Above street corners

We’d staple our books
And because no one read them
We’d roll them up
To stuff down tailpipes
And kill the drivers

So we said we tumbled out
Into the mean suburban night
or we said
You’ve probably heard about this:
We were nearly always sleeping
But that’s all right
We still had legs to work

Strip clubs and boomboxes
Nightlights and babies
The Mermaid Lounge shining
Beneath hatchetlights of neon
Just past the sign that says
“Welcome Distinguished Mr. President”
I heard El Gato goes there
He’s asleep in Bronson Park right now
Among a forest of cops

So we said the rumor mills are churning
About Video Hits Plus
Where you’ll find bloodstains on the carpet
But never the killers
Don’t stick your hand in the fryer I dare you
Or some kid got raped
or it’s drugs
Above the Friday night parking lots
Fragile dimwits
Constellations in the night sky
Years of blue puffing with our dicks in our hands
As if we were trying to inflate

And bump out over the supermarkets
Girls too high up to rough up
Or just too high, like us

And we were too ugly
yet lean
So lean we were invisible
We slipped through bricks
Into Meijer’s Thrifty Acres
To steal the diapers and the bulk foods
We stole bug-sick bags of crullers
From the back of Sweetwater’s Doughnuts
And snuck behind the gravestones
To whip them at cars
and when the cops came
We assumed the graven names
Of the dead
And the mild habits of those who named them

So we said we would steal helicopters
And drive them into the Gilmore building
And its G would stand for Greg or Gargantuan or Goldmine
All in red
Then there was Harvey

Harvey used to shake a lot
And get locked up for it
he jumped
from the fourth floor of the Rickman House
onto the trampoline roof of Sarkozy’s Bakery
And into a full body cast
When Jim asked him why
Harvey said
They had too much mental health

Look up! Michigan
hand of God
Leather spikes made of polyurethane
The metallic paint flowering
Into breathable shards
I broke it playing HORSE
And crushed it under foot
I didn’t know it was fake

And bought my first nickelbag
From some Vicksburgian spectre
He leaned from his car like a rumor bursting
And we dropped our money handing it over
And stood beneath The Munchie Mart
Waiting for the guy to come back
His Camaro headlights
Floating halfway above the street
His middle finger a stop sign
Rolling toward the horizon

So we said we would kill him
With our minds for never coming back

And then work on the world
And there will be fucking
And peace for three seconds
And we will quit our jobs
And the Chicken Coop’ll be fucked
And we’ll get our fifteen dollars back
And work in the ruins of the Checker Cab company

O Checker Cab Company
Upjohn burping into the Kalamazoo river
O squat Fischer body plant parked down from the Denny’s
O Denny’s with your angular roofs and terrific sandwiches
O paper mills lined up like skulls on Portage Road
O Gibson Guitars, makers of the Les Paul
Come back and give us work again
O all things named and nameable
And you namers who never named me

My connections are absolutely straight now
And I can totally trust my dealer
He works over at the Rex-All
All I have to do is find it

And you future Whitmans
Dying to get in on the good shit
Dying to beat the depressed
In your teeming megalopolises
Whose skylines shudder and rise
Like the bars of a stereo equalizer
On a smoking sound system
Playing Physical Graffiti
Like mine
You who stumble on this poem in a museum
Or downloaded from the brain of some illegal librarian
You who swim through vac-pumped rivers
In your teeming megalopolises
Where bombs fall daily on the brightest things

Look up
listen
There was once a place
Where the sky hit the earth
Like a ragged hem
And stayed that way almost forever
You will have never heard of this
Quiet place
Where death was a personal matter
And nicklebags came
Just a dime and a half

 


Greg Purcell’s poetry has appeared in Fence, The Brooklyn Rail, The Agriculture Reader, Open City and New American Writing, and has been anthologized in A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years. With Joel Craig, he founded The Danny’s Reading Series in Chicago. In New York he founded St. Mark’s Bookshop Reading Series. He currently lives in Amherst, MA, where he records The No Slander Podcast with his partner, Ish Klein.

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