in absentia

Every english teacher is a failed actor,
an english teacher once told me-

he was a failed poet,
if there is such a thing-
and recalled often nostalgically
how he held the microphone for allen ginsberg
in central park,
one summer...

he used to shuffle about the room
holding the norton anthology
like it was a scene from hamlet
overpronouncing the syllables
and making the latino girls groan
when he mispronounced lorca.

he said that poetry
was the conversation between
heart and mind
a transmission of emotion
that travelled between a world that understood
and one that never could

only the emo kids got this,
and nodded as though they understood
gripping the wrists they had tried to free
from society's manacles.

in the mornings, during homeroom,
he used to read his sonnet of the day,
except the day before christmas,
when he read My Last Duchess
and asked the class to consider the materialism
of the coming holiday season.

once a year, in the spring
he held the school's annual poetry contest
suggesting poems for those who didn't know
and listening expectingly to those who did
when they got up to read in front of the class.

he had a weak spot for cummings, blake, and berryman,
but nothing placated him like ginsberg
so it was not often surprising when a go-getter girl
read 'selections from Howl' in a manner they had practiced
with him on monday afternoons,
and thursdays
during the free period.

one november,
it came out-

he had been sleeping with some of the girls,
who had come by for help with their verses
and found him.

he was investigated, arrested and indicted
the girls were supeonead to testify against
him, and cried
as they recalled how much they loved him
and didn't blame him, and how beautiful he made the words
for those who hadn't thought of them.

he was found guilty.

one weekend, his wife came to clean the room
taking down the photograph of whitman on the wall,
the somber rendering of poe in charcoal,
the picture of ginsberg addressing the crowd at prague
having just been crowned king of the may
back to the camera, arms raised
like a literary messiah.

she took down the large definitions of poetic terms
from the sides of the chalkboards,
and brought the clumps of paper and posterboard
to the dumpster in the back,
and discarded them.

when we got back,
with a new teacher,
with rumors of the trial floating like hungry coyotes
down lockered halls,
the only thing that remained in the room
was the one thing she couldn't reach:
is the conversation between
heart and mind
a transmission of emotion
that travels between a world that understands
and one that never can'

it never came down.

even after the teacher was killed in prison,
in a fight,
and the school was condemned for asbestos
in 1995.
even then,
when the halls were gutted
the banners taken down,
the teachers and students moved
to a school across the street.

even then,
the words remained,
the words of the failed poet
the english teacher,
who said that all english teachers were failed actors

except him.


We are all
looking for love
or reasonable fascism.


What happened to your face

I was on the phone with an ex-girlfriend when a backlit man opened my door, and said my name slowly.

"Zachary," he sighed, "Zachary..."

I looked up from my bed, and tried to see who it was.

"Hello?" I asked. "Hello? Who is that?"

"Zachary there is no time." The man responded and stepped into light, "You are in great danger."

The man was horribly disfigured. His face was grotesque. It seemed that his nose had been terribly broken in some unspeakable accident. He was carrying a large metal book, which appeared to be quite heavy because he repeatedly raised and lowered the book, struggling to reset his grip.

"Jen," I said to my ex. "Jen, I think I'm gonna have to call you back..."

I hung up.

"Who the hell are you?" I asked the stranger, "And what do you want?"

He stepped further towards.

"Zachary, do you not recognize me?" He asked. "I am you!"

I recoiled in fear. Me? Surely not. It was not possible.

"I am you Zack, I have travelled back in time to give you warning. So horrible calamity is about to happen to you, if you do not avoid it."

"Me?" I asked. "You're me?"

He nodded.

"What happened to your- to my, face?" I asked.

"There's no time for that Zachary. You are in great danger. This evening, a man will approach you claiming-"

"No seriously man, that can wait." I interjected. "What the fuck happened to your face? That's what I concerned about."


"DUDE, What the FUCK happened?"

"Zachary, there is no time! Later this very evening, a man will approach you claiming that he-"

"What - Happened - To - My - Face?"

"I will tell you later..."

"Damn it man, tell me now!"





The large book came crashing down on my face. It was heavy. It was crushing. I could feel my nose compress into my face. There was no time to react.

"There!" the stranger explained, "Now you know!"


My Daemon


The poetic moment has passed
it dwindled in the shop keeps
was laid off, left, downsized
shunted, made the small, out-of the way,
a corner in the mega-bookstore
a series of collections,
left in second hand book stores
where aged hippies smoked on the porch
and gestured inside that poetry was
'in the back' by the bathroom
while even now, they remembered
Auden on the green and could recall
if asked, what it had felt like before
poetry crested and fell away- unrequited.


You Don't Comment on my Poems Anymore or the Lass that Loved a Sleeping Sailor

The poem I wrote when I was listening
to the Beatles didn't work out
the way I hoped it would.
Matt played frisbee instead
he gave in to the elliptical (perfect)
over the keys
and the pressure
the tension of writing
something he wanted to be good
or, at least, true.

Middles are the worst parts
the frisbee reminded
resurrections are only possible when
the dead can rise
but they have to die
(and dying's never fun)

I have scissors on the desk
and maybe I will cut this part if I don't like it
well, enough.

Middles, ends, they almost move the same way
progressing seemingly
to this ephemeral conclusion
an artificial construct
things don't ever just end
expect people.

And then again-
their ends are called,
not ends at all.



it was dawn or something like it
black box, light at the end, streaming
consciounsness, moving images, more than
shadows, almost corporeal,
if you could look through, into the place it was real

faces absent, absorbed,
a boy hooking up with a girl
in the upper left
in the place where society didn't really mind
and smiled because society too had lost something
of itself in the dark hall
the shadox-box projected corridor,
the dreamscape society had loved and lived to
love when society was young and naive and still

the man had been hacker once,
he was on parole and living a tough life
when the beautiful black woman
had come and tempted him back
for oral sex, cash, techno soundtracks
and the promise of eternal glory:
he hacked the gibson in the thirty seconds
with a gun to his temple, and still
made the benediction, and cracked NASA with a
smile on his face.

Houdini, some sort of victorian wet dream,
for the age of the actual and still yet the
decieved. if he fell in the river, bundled
and chained, he really did fall in the river.
and sink and struggle and emerge from the waters
no actor, a legend, amortal

but did houdini really fall into the river?

i've seen the photographs, and the posters,
i've seen houdini smile out from amusement park
rides named in his honor with cheesy senace subplots
he'd never had approved,
but still did he fall in the river?

i was somewhere across middle earth,
when I remembered what the dwarves had awoke there
and stood back in horror to observe
the master of the secret fire
do combat with that ancient evil.

i was the movies.