The Preembroidered Moment, by Jim Klein



The Armpit

If we didn’t stand upright,
we wouldn’t have jock itch.
Easier babies.
Far fewer back
and foot maladies.
The armpit is a design problem
God hasn’t solved yet.
The lizard brain continues to be
a looming disaster.
We should start over
with a blank sheet of paper.



Don’t Run!”

Through the wards
and down the stairs:
the legs of a long bug.

Often some patient
will pretend to run the place.
Don’t be friends with him.

If committed, ask
to see the Quiet Room:
demand to be locked in.

Don’t jump on the doctor
like a pack of dogs
when he does show up.

Three orderlies
shooting baskets won’t
ask me off the fire escape.

The one wearing chains
loves to play pool.
Yesterday, I beat him six straight.

Another doctor is in here too.
He needs both hands
to keep his pants up.

Student nurses visit;
each one leashes one outdoors,
enormously green.

Lock parts revolve in
the locksmith’s sinewy hands:
madness into words.



Thorazine Is Looking for a Few Good Men

Now that the walking ability
has left you,
try getting back
to your room manfully,
harshly being laughed at.

A nurse tells her boyfriend
in your bar.
He calls you Easter Bunny.

Not walking?
Do many, many hops on foot
up the long hallway,
hoping at last to lie down
on your own bed,
fat female social worker
lying on the next bed
waiting for you.



The Time I Tried to Break Into A Car

I thought I owned and was hit on the head with a baseball bat
by two young guys on neighborhood patrol which knocked me out
and took my wallet and left it on top of my neatly-folded obnoxious jacket
with the money still in it and fell into the warm hands of the police

the time I psychoanalyzed married couples working in all-night restaurants
on napkins by the agency of the numbers and letters on the juke box
and was given free food which I called “The Lasting Order”

the time I sat all day in a car showroom trying to prove mathematically
that the Datzun 280Z was the best sports car in the world

the time I ran away with a girl and she was so excited she bumped
her head inside the door frame of the car and it was serious enough
in a motel room with the ceiling besmeared with our own fast food

the time I woke up naked with my arms around the chimney yelling
like a wild Indian and my son was cheering me on and the red lights
of police cars moved in like fireflies below

the time I was rearranging furniture at the office and didn’t have time
to finish before a PTA meeting

the time I couldn’t stay in the attic because I might smoke and burn
the house down and talked to a psychologist for two hours in a secret
room at St. Mary’s, who wouldn’t admit me

the next day standing by the guard from Tennessee until I got so tired
I went into the secret room and they slammed the door shut and locked it
and I hurled my cheap watch at the wall and they put me in a strait jacket
on a stretcher frightened of me, and I didn’t want them to be

the first time, when I didn’t know what was happening, so it was the worst

the time I held my infant daughter and described sine waves with my head
in a modern chair and ate about a dozen hot dogs, knowing I was getting
better because I could eat, being laughed at

the time I threw golf bag and boots into my Pinto wagon and got lost
and asked directions at State Police headquarters who were looking for me
and ended up driving mountain roads at night asking God for directions
in German, finding more and more German inside as I drove, und so weiter.



Fortune v Klein

Maybe I was too hard on the security guard,
though he outweighed me 50 pounds
(20 years younger).
To avoid holding, if this were football,
I blocked him backwards
through the breakfasters
knocking back tables and chairs,
pushing him back blocking him
backwards keeping his leg up
so he hopped back and back
until he fell over backwards
on the stage in front of the cafeteria,
and I on top, and got up,
his Afro in my left hand,
and would have, and would have . . . .
The Counselor and the Head of Security
(holding a chair) confronted me
in the stark form power commands,
so I sat on the stage
and gave my savage speech.
Only a monster could have pushed him that far.



The Singing Contest

To recall the sound
of falling urine,
rarely heard,
which attracted her
who was soon tickled
to add her own,
the two of us
singing like twins,
the radio a farrago
of musical ineptitude.
I’d break the toilet top,
I knew; didn’t want to,
had to



The Mahavishnu Orchestra

The carving was crazy,
even the music he didn’t understand.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra played all day.
The cops were called.
Now this because everything
was hooked into the current malfeasance
and serious measures not taken
to get down to the carving
on the plywood table handmade
by his grandfather in North Dakota,
including the name or names
required to be incised
for negotiations with the Soviets.



My Separated Shoulder

Someone has erased some of the lines
of your voodoo stick drawing.
The simplest things are difficult
and painful to do: heroism is required.
I was a bird with one wing wired,
like my separated shoulder felt.
I saw the pain, the red wire.
If I fell asleep the forces of evolution
would sweep over me and I would die.
I fell asleep anyway. I found myself
running down the stairs and saying
over the phone I was a bird.
Why had I said something
like that to the little girl
who was so worried about me?
I called back and said
I wasn’t a bird.



A Woman Without a Mark
on Her Buttocks

Some day it’ll be too late
to lie down beside a woman
who’s been beaten
or abused pretty good
by someone well before me,
a woman without a mark
on her buttocks she doesn’t
say came from childhood,
who doesn’t dream
she’s being hit by books,
who wasn’t held upside
down in the bathtub
by her uncles or thrown
down the stairs
by the whole family.



The Fuck Shack

She enters loosely husked,
pauses at the bed,
extends elbows overhead,
and, magnificent
self-shucking, stands
with raiment,
a routine miracle,
never missed—

then, slightly
awkward into bed,
or a man coming over,
or ape, when proto-
femininely, she settles
down wide and deep
like a ship in a slip.



The Wood Stove

First thing every morning,
foot up, kneeling at the hearth,
thinking just then each time
of the clean, sweet movements
one hopes for but won’t that day make:
strewing the ashes on the back yard,
reloading the stove and sweeping the hearth—
the wholly adequate beautiful motions
having to be put off to a later life
still to be acquired, it looks,
or backed into by accident,
by the dull accretions of time.



Modestly Flourishing in the Twentieth Century

Being in a conversation between two who are expert
in each other, or agreeing with and applauding an action
taken in my absence (then being shown the destroyed
apartment results, feigning disbelief); discussing an internship;
sitting at a low table having my son’s brightness described,
reading the various graphs, even listening out his Mrs. Osowsky,
waiting for the perfect moment, and feeling its actual arrival
before leaning forward; in fact, any situation, even to those
in which there is only the slightest discomfort, as in having it
my own way too much, like driving my daughter to school,
two toes in an old shoe

vs. getting my son up with the pull of the light string,
Hurry now, don’t wake your brother, walking in, kissing her,
standing naked talking, tiptoeing by the diamond wood gate,
back into bed, bent legs to legs bent, close up against, left arm
above her head, forehead to her neck, warming my hand
before reaching over, sliding against her inner thing, perfect
smooth, lying loved against what’s better than lovely,
moving, the house coming alive, up against, by her leave
now, under her arm to her breasts which feel like breasts,
I’ve got to go to school now, sleepy, My back itch, and expertly
scratch along her spine, and where it cuts, twisting intermittently
to the clock on the window sill, later and later staying,
Bowman crying at his gate, sister sliding toast downstairs–
going, going, going, gone.



Lake Campbell

This row of men at the bar
reminds me of the perch,
numerous as leaves,
holding the slack line
in the sides of their mouths
in the warm, green water
of Lake Campbell.

Someone leans over
and whispers that he wants
to blow his brains out.

Beautiful woman,
you’re the poem.
Rain on the roof,
music booming below,
and you all over me
like blood in
the dirty attic bed.



Shooting Skeet

I want to take you
and a six-pack
out to the shooting range.

I don’t know if you know
who Brigitte Bardot is,
but you’ve got her smile.

Pout for me, Babe.

I don’t deserve you
until I learn to be
two places at once.

Walk on me.

Leave me on legs
like the center line
on the highway.

Pathetic me.
I’ll even write bad for you.

How bad you ask?

Let’s say you’re the tunnel;
I’m the train.

You’re the mountain.
I’m the rain.




For half a pack of cigarettes apiece,
another guy and I were scrubbing
vomit off the white tile walls
in one of the Quiet Rooms
when I saw her through
the reinforced glass in the other:
Spanish, about 21, red hair.

She was swooning.
I mimed kissing her vaingloriously.
She hardly noticed.

But in the Day Room,
she was Diane,
and she made it her own
with a fabulous dance,
parody, and obscenity parade.

She thought I was a Marine.
“A soldier and a Spanish girl.
That’s what Spanish girls are for!”

One night we ended up
in the side-by-side locked rooms,
and I heard a few of my own
yowlings join hers.



These Beans Are Mine

Blue hills darken;
light rises in parallel lines.
Three men talk to me,
go away as a monster
with three backs.
Someone new comes up,
comes up again.
Not none of the blowhead ones.
To be loved requires the steady thinking.
They are measuring by the big tree
where I do not go.
I keep my beans.
I lie down on the wet bank.
This is good enough for now.



Something Gritty

From above all vows
to anvils of fact,
something gritty.
Lord help the lonesome
who have to field these screamers.
As masks go, ignorance
is a neat little economy performer.
The best comes at a price
disproportionate to its achieved effects.
Canyons of difficulties drop open.
The sores of symmetry
expose themselves floridly.
There is perfection;
then there are flowers.
Leave me a long stem.



A Horned God

Even in me it dies hard,
preparing for the day
or setting out three cups for breakfast,
the fantasy that little animals might
be alive in our habitations somewhere
that could make a real difference,
little beasts nothing less than
embodiments of perfect interchange
to be passed in critical situations
when even language can be shucked
and the little animals proffered
and accepted chest to chest
in a moment only itself.



Far More from the Bottom Up

To strangle a puppy isn’t bad
if he grows into a mad dog.
The time to go is now.
Or now. He sits
as he’s been sitting
since the alarm went off,
his head, unreeling
memory, best ignored.

More like it is just
being able to watch
as someone stands on
a trap door and gets
about the business
of learning something
difficult, alone.

Or he is drowning,
and someone he loves
is knitting him a rowboat.
He leans forward on his knees.
He wants being far more
from the bottom up.



Bock Beer

Wide over your face.
I have no idea
what it means either,
but I mean it,
and I want to write a poem
that begins wide,
wide over your face.

Bock beer.
I also like bock beer.
You don’t like bock beer,
you like green bottles,
but I want to sit, my back to you,
drink bock beer and write
hard between us.

Rye. Wide over your rye.
$30 worth, blue grass and nitrogen.
An old man in line told me
lime sweetens the soil,
one of the most encouraging things
I’ve heard in a long time.

Just now in the back yard,
I found some of the old time
sowing motions, almost like golf.
I should tell you these things.
Lime sweetens the soil.
Every old man has a bag.
I’ve got you.



“I Didn’t Know if I Was Afoot
or on Horseback”

You can put that on my tombstone
with little fear of vagueness
or misunderstanding.
So much for so little
must seem remarkable.
What offers itself,
finally, is a surface
with all of its gradings
and erodings.
Appliances fall back.
The body is scoured into touch.
The life becomes a house;
the house, a city.
Hand and knee leave the ground.



If all this stuff
were human flesh,
it would put a finish
on everything.
So many flakes of
flesh swirling down,
being snowed in
like this, then enter
heaven from behind,
by her brown heart,
prolonging, in heaven,
staring at the fire
as daddy’s body
comes down outside.



The Throwing of Boiling Water

The stinging insult of Life
being stopped to a still photo,
slots pulled back,
and you punched out
the back of the photo,
which resumes speed as “film,”
because that’s what
incarceration feels like,
as I don’t have to tell you,
you know.

But there’s another feeling,
one almost of satisfaction,
to have done that to Life.
Whether it’s my wife
or my tricycle being ridden
by Cousin Stanley
machts nicht.
His refusal to get off,
my production of six mud pies,
whether I’m making my own
troubles here, or functioning
securely inside them,
these are things for all
of us to think about.

Being held and beaten,
you promised yourself
the paying back: the throwing
of boiling water on Uncle Leroi,
for example. Sometimes,
Life is better stopped
and punched out of.
Some Christmases,
the phone should go


My Three Degrees

Coming home from work
at the university, I am amazed to see
my three degrees striding across
my bare-cleaned, polished desk.
Until I got home, she played Zappa
and the Stones, drew clothes and read
a romance while disappointment had at
the pastries laid out on the kitchen table
for the cosmetics lady (who did not come).
Once I was home, she ate a piece
and didn’t stop until it was all gone.
I said I felt about seeing my degrees
exposed like the girl overhearing
the beauty of her breasts described:
“I am not those degrees!”
And she said, “I was so lonely.
They kept me company,
made me warm.”


George and Alice

Now I lay my family
down to sleep
beneath the Krawczks
lying down above us
in the partitioned night.
They are greenhorns
reliefed by their oddness
to be as super-intelligible to us
as the Kramdens or Flintstones.
Everything George has is for sale.
He tried to sell me a milk truck once.
I offered to buy Alice.
I never asked for anything
that wasn’t absolutely necessary.
He always did it, eventually.
I painted it once.
They raised the rent once.
I’ve been married twice,
with some bachelor
commonplaces in between,
some pots and pans thrown
through the back door window.
George and Alice never bothered.


Working in a Small Shop

What Gary and Frank really want
is A Man Who Doesn’t Use
Too Much Toilet Paper,
A Man Who Can Work
in 30 Degree Temperatures,
Who Knows What It Means
to Work in a Small Shop.
They like A Man Who Has
Something Funny About Him,
like being black, or young, or old,
or a Left-Handed, Redheaded, Puerto Rican
Jehovah’s Witness Minister like Jose,
or an alcoholic English Professor (so they think),
or even One Who Has Big Feet
so they can call him “Gunboats”
and treat him like a pair of big shoes.


The Fancy Place

This is a fancy place.
Everything is as fancy as I fancy it.

The man holding a flower,
I put him in his place right away.

He takes me to the artist.
Her paints run like twenty beautiful sewers.

I do ten living rooms full
for the nurses without a second thought.


I Answer Like Jesus in the Temple

I’m on the floor
beside a desk
in the loving arms
of a strait jacket,
surrounded by the legs
of law enforcement.
A nurse is reading
a list of questions.
“Are you an alcoholic?”
I remember taking Kenny
to get detoxed.
Kenny really needed
those drinks.
“I drink as much
as I want to,”
I answer like Jesus
in the temple.
They used it to
get me de-tenured.


The Mug Shot

When they took
my mug shot,
I burned hatred
into that huge camera,
keeping the thought
buried way back where
it wouldn’t ameliorate:
this photograph
will be wonderful
on the cover of
my book of poems.


To My Jailer

This is embarrassing to say,
but I love
your dark, dark eyes.
Your military air
serving me my
is precious to me.
You’re not afraid of me.
Cops changing shifts
yell down, “Is there a doctor
in the house?” and laughter
slams down the stairs.
A friend stands back
from my cell with
dark spots on his eyes.
The police chief
and city manager
come down to visit,
but when I reach out
to shake hands
they jump back
in a one act.
A name writ
real big
scared me.
I wrote mine
twice as large.


The Shawl of Truth

If you’re guilty, shut up.
But if you’re innocent,

talk, and keep talking,
and some day it will

make sense somehow
because no one can knit

the shawl of truth
the way truth knits itself.



Terry says, “Pull over here,
, by this liquor store.”
I bent the ignition key flat.
I ripped the rear view mirror down.
Terry tore his visor down.
Then he pulled his gloves on,
slowly opened the door—
almost stepped out, and lunged
back in swinging at me.
I buried my squealing head
in his chest and Susan flew out
of the back seat and drove
this winner of hundreds of
bar fights out of the pitching
VW back across the sidewalk
as I scrambled under the car.

When he hit her she fell
straight back and would have
hit her head on the curb if,
in the choreography of
the thing, it hadn’t landed
on my left leg just above
the knee, the only part of me
sticking out from under the car,
a leg she once examined
in an early morning light
and pronounced “perfect.”


In the Wrecked, Cold Kitchen

In the wrecked, cold kitchen,
Terry whipped Howie,
with ease, hands clasped,
embraced, talking softly
and solicitously as
they fought half speed
while Susan and I
drank tea and beauty
slipped up from
the saucers and cups.


The Back Door Window

Locked out on the back porch,
in the dark,
something compels attention
to the forefinger,
rhythmic by now,
tap tap tapping
on the backdoor window.
The first impulse
is to lengthen the strike,
but the noisy vibrations
declare this a mistake.
The window may be broken by softness.
Finger strikes softer and softer each time,
which is harder and harder, really,
but the mind hardly comprehends.
Softer . . . softer . . . softer . . .
Finger begins an internal change,
even the window begins giving a little,
almost like membrane!
Softer softer softer
There’s a buzz—almost a drowse—
a tinkling and a ringing!
A perfect circle is in the window.
Burglars could do this.
I reach inside, unlock the door
and enter my own kitchen.


My Cell

When I am mayor
of Passaic,
children will get
tutoring in these cells
but for now I can
break down these bars
with my moccasin-clad feet
rocking on the iron bed
up and down and up
like a wild horse
wielding them
wielding them
soft soft soft
like soft hammers



At such times,
I deny myself the car,
leave ID, and walk.
Early spring night bites my senses.
The stars spin fine.
I thought I was an Indian again,
as usual a Sioux.
Freddy and I went on long walks
we disagreed about.
A Cuban in a pizza joint
gave me a cold slice.
No one else could feed Freddy,
who was a beautiful dog.
I starved him back or fed him cream,
what did I know about Indians and dogs?
I kicked him down the stairs
between the upraised cellar doors.


The Haircut

She heats with her stove,
tries to make it hot like Africa.
I get interested in the cocoa butter,
smear it on my face and chest,
and sit facing the blue oven,
baking out the impurities:
lithium side effects.

I spent a lot of time in her bathroom,
combing my hair, trying to bring
another one of me forward.
It would be nice if I could look
sort of Puerto Rican or something—
actually, I just dressed bad
and looked mean—naked, big legs,
hair greased and upright.

I needed a haircut, I decided,
and did it on the blue flames
dancing on her stove

singeing it
a little off
here here
and quite a bit in back!

sound for a mirror
singeing my wet
upstanding hair.

We had a hell of a fight
yelling singeing
her wielding a knife

me yelling back



231 Summer Street

Would I walk up this driveway at night
in all these dogs neighborhood
with a girl who says she’s 20
I’ve just met playing pool
with one of the Shuler brothers
and a little sociopath
with a chrome pistol,
you bet I would,
and wait alone in the dark
while she goes back out front,
in, down, and through the house
until, at last, she lifts up
the heavy iron cellar doors,
almost like opening
the sleeping house’s labia.

On her cramped wooden pallet,
down we laid,
and in her clutching distances
she asked rhetorical question
after rhetorical question,
hand against my chest,
each one patiently answered
by a man she thought was a painter
because of a single painting,
a man with books in his house,
an older man, and,
it would be convenient,
a white man.


Dew Knees

Finally, about sunup, I found your Mustang,
and got in, and read in your notebook
a poem about us running away and leaving
them two, and I took the only thing
I had taken from home, a piece
of pipestone from Minnesota
inscribed, An Indian scalps his enemies
but the white man kills his friend

and jammed it in your radio.

No one answered the door bell.
I got impatient and tried to make phone calls,
the lady at the cleaners making me pay
and threatening to call the cops.
Anyhow, you two set me up
for a strait jacket and a short ride
as an armless king in a sedan chair.

Dew Knees, I was so in love with you
that day in the Quiet Room, with no furniture,
I kept hearing someone else’s voice as yours.
I kept yelling Dew Knees! Dew Knees!
I thought a filthy fat man asleep
on a sagging leather couch was in charge,
and tried to communicate using bird songs.

They said I froze up and got massaged,
don’t remember, I thought I was making a film
for the FBI shot out of the light.
I lay on my back and made discreet hand signs.

There were numbers and letters on my sweatshirt.
I was the perfect computer and the ultimate bomb,
and I programmed finger flash numbers into myself,
multiplying my heart acorn desire for you,
knowing full well when I exploded into mist
out of there I would be riding horses
in the mountains with you and our son,
and we would be Indians.
I went into the corner and slid my head
down the two walls and said goodbye
to everyone I loved, and to my wife and child,
I loved you so much, Dew Knees.

(Dew Knees, I’m getting another girl at a party
where I’m typing this on the floor.)

They wouldn’t let me out, and I made a key
to the screens that wouldn’t work,
and arranged E=mc2 with a Pall Mall pack,
you know whose, and tried to kick the screens in
which is why Alby Guzzo wanted to be my friend.

I showed the cigarette physics to an orderly,
Paul LaLiberte, who was really a painter,
and carried a switchblade, and threatened to kill me
with it in my own living room a month later,
sticking it in the floor repeatedly
while my wife froze in our bed.

Denise, Denise,
I pissed in a drain
I named Norman Mailer,
and that was the day
we could have made it,
and now we never will
because one of us
made a mistake the day
I loved you so much.


The Horn Player

Someone told me a horn player
was just talking dirty into his trumpet,
saying motherfucker motherfucker
fucking motherfucker, fuck you!

but it came out a brilliant horn riff.
A friend let me play his drums last night.
What a time I had, but I wanted
to get a song going so I played
motherfucker motherfucker motherfucker
and it came out a nice clean beat.
I added motherfuck, mother-fuck,
motherfucking jingle bells
and it was even better.
He came down to the basement,
and we smoked a joint.
I told him what I was doing,
and he thought it a good idea.
We went upstairs. He played guitar,
I drummed on a chair, and we fucked
and sucked everyone we could think of.
George said other people wouldn’t understand,
but I said America was teaching little kids
1234 and boring them to death when
they could learn motherfucking jingle bells
right away and be happy and that was
the way America ruined everything.




I like his taste in music now.
He borrows a dime for the phone.
We slap our hands together.
He does it out of rhythm,
but we do it.
I enclose one of his mitts
between my hands
like a fluke in a bun.
He bangs my hands
with a green tray.
Still not enough.
We must bump
our beer guts together.
It’s so much fun to be babies.
He picks me up off the floor.
“OK, Ronnie, now
I’m going to pick you up.”
Necessary to bend my knees
to get ahold of this huge man.
Surprisingly easy, I have him
way off the floor. Hold it
a second. This is a good trick.
Have to do it when girls are in here.



The Slow Reading Group

In the second grade
I was in the Slow
Reading Group so
my mother and I
read together in
my bed each night
and she hugged
me and kissed me
and really loved
me longer than

Then I get into
the Fast Reading Group.



Women Are People Who Smoke

Women are people who smoke.
My wife smokes Kools,
Susan smokes Parliaments,
someone else Tareytons,
there’s another brand
I can’t name and
when they come over
they check the ash tray.



Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

Put 50 cents in the juke box
look away
look back
and punch out
the first song
you can read

Do this four times,
write down the titles
on a napkin at the bar,
and you’ll have a song
about your troubles.
The world is a poem
if you let it.



Heavier Lines

Sometimes the drawing’s
in the paper, already.

You can make stray marks
but not as dark.

Heavier lines keep saying
this is the drawing

a man with no head
for a coiled snake

on his shoulders instead,
his own skull held

across his chest
through an eye socket

on his ringfinger
like a wedding band



Spring Afternoon

Lolling in bed
on a spring afternoon
like fat white worms,
rainwater coming down,
two minds empty out
on the yellowed bedclothes.
Ratiocination is shared plain
as the tangled sheet.
What anatomical shapes
may be discerned
in the wood grain?
Is a question more rhetorical
than a flat statement?
What is a flat statement?



The Lady from the Rape Squad

Sometimes the drawing’s
in the paper, already.

You can make stray marks
but not as dark.

Heavier lines keep saying
this is the drawing

a man with no head
for a coiled snake

on his shoulders instead,
his own skull held

across his chest
through an eye socket

on his ringfinger
like a wedding band




Cutting across the corner of a lawn,
I begin thinking murder.
I imagine a perfect punch
and life caving in like the shrug
of a condemned building.
I run across the bridge,
along the other side of the river.
Wrestling should be outlawed and boxing not
because no one ever gets killed wrestling.
Running on the icy green streets.
There’s burnt blood in my brain.
Everyone’s in poetry for the same reason
they’re in everything else.
You can’t raise children without cruelty.
Back across the river up a hard climb.
Now my feet are slapping down the steep hill.
I run into a crowded room and begin murdering
with a bucket of red paint. His clothes are ruined too.
Everyone is always amazed at normal behavior.



The Happiest Time of the Day

The happiest time of the day
was after the evening meal
when I had one cigarette
saved that was mine.
I’d get a light from an orderly
and walk down to the head
and watch the sun set through
the heavy bolted screen.
I’d haul on my cigarette
and pretend I had put in
a hard day on the farm
and truly earned my keep.



The Block of Wood

Let them take a block of wood
from the children’s corner
and open a file on it
and give it some medication.
Let them make appointments
and thicken the file.
Let things go on.
Then let them talk and talk
until somehow it is decided
to explain to this wood block
that words precede feelings,
that they haven’t got
the criticism in front of
the poem and why in hell
he can now go fuck
another block of wood
in that children’s corner.




Bezo, little black kid
with the green ring,
can’t pay back for the Kools,
a spoiled rich kid exists
who does a splendid
“Hot Rod Lincoln,”
the man who releases
his breath when I walk up
prevented the murder of
his wife and child one night
by keeping himself in bed,
the big ugly man who pitches
grand mals does it simply
out of venom, and Joe,
being frisked for matches
and laughing when he
gets caught, is right:
“They only are matches!”



The Blue Blanket

At last I had slept,
and was even relaxing in the tub,
so I had suds on my pubes
from jumping out at Pig’s behest.
He fought Fred; a door came off.
But I’m alone in the house now
and the cops are out front.
I don’t want to get shot
in the suds, I want to be found
by a good father, like I am,
so I hide where one will find me
and see I’m not dangerous,
under the blue blanket—
one set of soft steps . . .
the blanket is lifted up,
a fat red face peers in,
watery blue eyes: Sgt. Hay.
Emergency room nurse
name of Chicken.




Once I swallowed
a double handful of lithium
because my best friend asked me to.
He borrowed a fifth of vodka
from my landlord
and drank it himself.
My wife leaned on him.
I went into my daughter’s room
and laid down with her
in her narrow bed
and called her mommy.
She said Daddy in her sleep.
Her thin arm
was around my neck,
and I wondered
if all the lithium
would kill me.



Blue Ships on the Wallpaper

I’m in my friend’s car explaining
a kind of literary physics
only I know how to do
and this plainclothes individual
with his eyes dilated somehow
knocks on the car window—
Can you help me? I’m losing it—
I see it’s true, so I tell him,
Get in, take my place, put your
head down between your knees,
and then, at some point, he
and I change places and I’m
in a strait jacket, then a yellow
ambulance, and not missing
a beat I’m praising them
because it’s not red, explaining
how it should be decorated,
a little boy’s room, not
a utility room, blue ships
on the wallpaper.



Johnny Mitchell

Johnny Mitchell gigged at dogs
`cause they never take baths.

Walking out of a restaurant one day,
he threw his money away.

The guy the money struck
beat him up,

and Johnny got busted
for fighting.

Now he’s drowned
in an irrigation ditch.




You watched me
sitting up every night
with tape and Styrofoam balls.
It was six or seven meta-balls
I woke you up with,
at 4:30 a. m., for example,
knowing it was right
because you loved me.

And you were so shrewd,
watching me, listening
to me, and little by little
teaching me to stand
still without rocking,
to swing my arms
naturally, to pitch
my voice lower,
to enunciate.



Two Orderlies

Two orderlies
lead two deputies

holding hands
with a woman

and two nurses
with syringes

in a procession
to the Quiet Room.



This Roommate They Have Bedded Me By

They have closed against us softly
the darkness of this bare room.
I can hear his heavy breathing,
breathing in some purpose perhaps.
This roommate they have bedded me by
might kill me, I fear.
I send my name off into the night.
We reach out for each other.
The handshake explodes greetings in us.
He likes the sound of my ideas,
my refusal of white sheets.
They should all go make house calls
and leave us in peace.



Grape Juice

Wisconsin beat Illinois
in a football game.

Someone named Grape Juice
was the star.

It was cold.
There were six in the car.

At the hospital I asked for,
and received,

permission to draw on
my admissions form.

A patient asked me
if I was Jesus Christ

or Sherlock Holmes.
I said both.



One Night

Pinball machines
were crosses
split lengthwise,
impaled patrons
on the spars.



“Metaphwore as you like, but do keep to original for the preembroidered moment.”

–Ezra Pound, Letter to e. e. cummings


One Night 9
Grape Juice 10
This Roommate They Have Bedded Me By 11
Two Orderlies 12
Meta-Balls 13
Johnny Mitchell 14
Blue Ships on the Wallpaper 15
Daddy 16
The Blue Blanket 17
Matches 18
The Block of Wood 19
The Happiest Time of the Day 20

Murder 22
The Lady from the Rape Squad 23
Spring Afternoon 24
Heavier Lines 25
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain 26
Women Are People Who Smoke 27
The Slow Reading Group 28
Ronnie 29
The Horn Player 30
Dew Knees 31-32

231 Summer Street 34
The Haircut 35
Freddy 36
My Cell 37
The Back Door Window 38
In the Wrecked, Cold Kitchen 39
Umbriagos 40
The Shawl of Truth 41
To My Jailer 42
The Mug Shot 43
I Answer Like Jesus in the Temple 44
The Fancy Place 45

Working in a Small Shop 47
George and Alice 48
My Three Degrees 49
The Throwing of Boiling Water 50
Blizzard 51
“I Didn’t Know if I Was Afoot
or on Horseback” 52
Bock Beer 53
Far More from the Bottom Up 54
A Horned God 55
Something Gritty 56
These Beans Are Mine 57
Diane 58

Shooting Skeet 61
Lake Campbell 62
Cafeteria Poem 63
Waking Up in a Strange Place Alone 64
Modestly Flourishing in the Twentieth Century 65
The Wood Stove 66
The Fuck Shack 67
A Woman Without a Mark
on Her Buttocks 68
My Separated Shoulder 69
The Mahavishnu Orchestra 70
The Singing Contest 71
Fortune v Klein 72

The Time I Tried to Break Into a Car 74-75
Thorazine Is Looking for a Few Good Men 76
Mealtime! Walk! Don’t Run! 77
The Armpit 78

Jim Klein’s books include Blue Chevies; To  Eat Is Human, Digest Divine; and Trinis Talk Like the Birds, a chapbook. He has published more than 100 poems in literary magazines, including Mudfish, Beloit Poetry Journal, Berkeley Poetry Review, Field, Gandhabba, Onthebus, Poetry Now, Pulpsmith, Unmuzzled Ox, and the Wormwood Review, including a Special Section. He leads a weekly poetry workshop in Rutherford, and edits The Red Wheelbarrow.


The Berkeley Review:“Far More From the Bottom Up” City Lit Rag: “Dew Knees,” “The Horn Player” Court Green: “Daddy,” “Two Orderlies” Instigatorzine: “A Woman Without a Mark on Her Buttocks,”       “Waking Up in a Strange Place Alone” Joe Soap’s Canoe: “Blizzard” Mudfish: “The Happiest Time of the Day” Terminus Magazine: “Blue Ships on the Wallpaper,” “Meta-Balls,”      “This Roommate They Have Bedded Me By” The Rutherford Red Wheel Barrow: “The Back Door Window,”       “The Time I Tried to Break Into a Car” West Wind: “Grape Juice,” “The Blue Blanket” The Wormwood Review: The Block of Wood,“The Shawl of Truth,”      “Women Are People Who Smoke”

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