RWB Workshop Poems of the Week – January 9

Poems of the Week 01/09/2018

Desert Eagle Reads a Book

Don Zirilli

When picking out a book to hold
between your chest and a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol,
think about the pages the bullet must get through.

Your Encyclopedia could sacrifice its H,
the letter most like breath,
Hackensack hacked through,
“2000 Years of Hair Dressing” snipped away
by this metallic Hake,
“a large food fish of greedy habits,”
leaving behind a Halo of Hanging Gardens,
ending in Hysteria.

The Bible could offer a dream of creation,
a wall full of laws,
a history of disappointment,
Surrealist predictions,
and a frantic part two revision
before succumbing to Revelations.

The phone book could give up its names.

That hardcover Impressionist tome
could splatter its feverish color,
blur itself further,
refuse to focus or to clarify its aim.

When picking out a book to hold
between your chest and a Desert Eagle .50 caliber pistol,
consider the stories you’re prepared to lose,
string together memories of riven words,
read new endings with your lips moving,
walk slowly to the library,
wink at bluebirds, decoupage
another day to store away.

You’ll be tempted by stiff, heavy bricks of paper,
but check out a novel
that responds to your touch,
a tale that’s open-ended, unresolved,
that dares you to keep on going
after it’s done.



Arthur Russell

I have raised my eyes to a Midwood, Brooklyn sycamore
on the walk we’d take around my parents’ block
to smoke some pot before Thanksgiving dinner,
and I have seen the stick nest of the Quaker Parrots
jutting like a beaver lodge above the leaf-strewn lawn
of the Orthodox Jews who invaded
our assimilated neighborhood in the decades
since we siblings moved to Jersey and Connecticut,
unaware that Kings would one day rise again.

And I have heard their noisy chattered ruckus, though to me they sounded less
like Dizz and Bird at Minton’s Playhouse, popping peanuts,
than housewives calling deli orders out to countermen
in lab coats and smudged white paper side caps on a Friday
at Blue Ribbon while their cars were double parked on Avenue J.
So, when my sister touched my sleeve to pass the roach,
I pointed, as first one and then another, green as Kool Aid
or Hawaiian shirts, emerged and paused at the nest’s dark mouth,
pulsed their verdant wings, then flew away, and asked,
“Cindy, are those parrots or a figment of the weed?”

My Uncle Fred and Cindy’s boyfriend Robert watching Dallas
play the Giants in the kitchen, dipping crackers in the baked brie
before the guests arrived, when we, half-baked ourselves,
got home from our pre-Thanksgiving walk, I told my mother,
peeling carrots at the sink for crudité, there were parrots
green as Kool Aid or Hawaiian shirts living in the tree
outside the Berson’s house, and she said,
“Arthur, darling, Berson moved out years ago;
the yahmmies live there now.”

In his Clinamen Improvisation, Gregory Pardlo
sees those parrots, whose ancestors arrived from Argentina
in the hold of an airship and escaped from a crate at JFK,
as surprising avatars of love dispersed and thriving
on electric poles and street trees from Green-Wood,
where I’ve never been, to the ballfields of the college,
where I also smoked some pot back in the day.

Now, the cognoscenti give Quaker-Parrot tours to day-trip hipsters,
who are forced to sign agreements to keep nesting sites a secret,
lest the poachers catch and make the parrots into pets,
the very things that they were meant to be that distant day
their forbears came to America in crates.

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