Quarantined Like Cats in Windows


Quarantined like a cat in a window,

Pedestrians scurry like ancient adversaries;

Rummaging through twitter feeds and litterboxes

I sit, and wait, and hope for any number of fixes.

Not the great outdoors, or some great adventure— 

Perhaps a tree to climb, to lay like larva upon a branch

And so suspend above an endless expanse of leafiness

To crunch and munch on chlorophyll until I’m full.

Quarantined like a mannequin in some boutique,

Passersby seem to love window shopping;

So outfitted I stand quite still and fit to my profession,

But even mannequins start to feel the oppression

And I’m tempted to put myself on sale, to shout—

Everything must go! —so long as I go with it.

I don’t need no Champs d’Elysees or promenade upon which to parade—

I’ll take an alleyway if you let me stay outside all day.

Quarantined like pigs in a pen [if they could fly, they surely would?] 

Quarantined like fish in a barrel [swim in circles and hope for the best?]

Quarantined like Soviet cosmonauts [finally severed from the capitalist


Quarantined like a book you wish you’d put down [better just finish it?]

Quarantined like fake news on Fox [no news is good news?] 

Quarantined like the diaries of a Madman [Октября 3. 分隔多年,消息漸闕?]

Quarantined, Quarantined, Quarantined;

Quarantined! Quarantined? Quarantined. 

Ode to the West?

The sun it rises, according to Hegel,

In that ancient Orient before the flood

Till the ships sailed toward Byzantium

And time itself came hanging over Europe.

It’s absolutely not accidental, says Hegel,

That the great Geist wind blew West—

It is and was the Occident

Where History itself would be won.


And so a cardinal direction claimed itself to be

A civilization of peerless superiority

Gathering evidence of its own supremacy

Through cosmological inquiries into its own destiny.

Dissecting and inspecting with great glee

From Descartes to Demolins they all did decree

Encomia of an all-knowing rationality

Defying and defiling any remaining mystery.


Imperial sails flew flags of progress

Adding entire continents to their shelves

And emissaries with instruments came

To put the world itself to work.

Through cogito came a cogent capitalist system

Ergo the sum of its parts was a globalized vision

Of labs like corporate pyramids—

That’s how the atomic bomb came to be

That crystallization of Western energy.


O Geist, thou breath of Adam’s being—

Winter lingers on, and Spring will never come

Until they’re all gone, the injustices that were done!

So be thou me, impetuous atom bomb,

And blow away the vast blue sea;

Billow up your messianic gales

And sing in menacing maelstroms;

Let the blaze ooze out from the abyss

Lighting every wave leaf and cloud;

Let threnodies rip and roar in every direction

Making the very earth bleed upon its thorns;

Write with me a savage decree

To blast out missiles made of enmity;

Let all wonder be burst asunder

And every repose be deposed;

Send me crying havoc in the night

And with Jupiter’s arrows smite the starlight;

So that it may all begin anew

So that we all may begin again.

The Morning is an Empty Room

Coming into consciousness cold and slow,
Shaking off bedsheets, lifting up limbs,
We exhume ourselves from the ether
In procedures that need no appointment.

Cups arrayed in stark anticipation,
Water boiling, caffeine grinding, waiting
To chase away the embers of evening,
To excise the would-be’s and were-they’s? of dreams.

So awakened, a desk full of commitments—
Analyses that need analyzing,
Texts that seem to want to need dissection—
The species-being of an academic is in making things specious.

But the room stays quiet, quiet like night
Quiet like Christmas Eve when you were eight
Quiet like the sands of the Taklamakan
Quiet like the fog of the Tianshan
Quiet like the sound of distant oceans
Quiet like all memories in motion
Quiet like the fate of precious green jade
Quiet like it once was and will be remade.

A Mantis Prayer

The days are growing longer
And I’m stuck without a clue;
My love for you grows stronger
I just don’t know what to do.

So come a little closer
Sweet mantis in the dew;
Please be my mantis lover
Please tell me what to do.

These buzzing insects bore me:
They’re crunchy, full of goo;
In youth, I found them tasty
Now old, I must eschew.

The nights they bring me sorrow
The days are all so blue;
What’s the point of more tomorrows
When all I want is you?

So come a little closer
Sweet mantis in the dew;
For me there is no other
Let’s make a love stew.

As we approach the altar
You need make no pretense;
I promise I won’t falter
When you with my head dispense.

You grab me with your pincers
And grip me tight like glue;
My heart’s all helter-skelter
Will you say the words ‘I do’?

So come a little closer
Sweet mantis in the dew;
For me there’s nothing better
Than being beheaded by you.
Oh kiss me on the neck
And bite me till I burst;
In this mantis lovenest
I know I’m not your first.

My life is almost over
Herein our grassy room;
But my soul it stays forever
Kissing as you consume.

A Lament for Georgia

Her impending death trickled in
By way of her friend through a telephone,
Bringing shock to the afternoon.
And yet at once more shocking
Is the sheer pace of transition
From lament to consolation—
From ‘does it have to be?’
To ‘it is and it will be.’

Somehow I accept its arrival as immanent.
The facticity of the thing;
The ceasing of a dear friend;
The ceasing of conversations;
Of chuckling over coffee, of—
Stop pouring the coffee.
Live on only in memory.
Converse only in hindsight.

In the place of your breath—
In the place of your footfalls
Leading into the cafe
The key into the ignition
The food you consumed for breakfast
The chair you would sit on, an antique—
Only your memory.

In the place of your breath, imagined footfalls;
Imagined keys churning inside a now second-hand automobile;
An imagined car pulling into a driveway that is no longer yours;
An imagined hot breakfast that is in fact long-since cold;
An imagined repose on a chair that has been brought somewhere else,
For some other, for a time.

My memory of you, detached from you,
Is brought to finality.
Now my memory has the last word.
Now my memory must talk to itself.
My memory of you it lives alone!
Severed from the memories of others of you,
Somehow my memory of you is accepted as enough:
It will have to do.


The Boston Tavern Club

Put on a jacket and tie
(though sometimes the tie is optional)
And enter the Club through the front door
(the navy door with the polished golden 4);
Hand your keys to the man at the desk
(it’s better if you arrived in a Bimmer)–
The one with a face that doesn’t know you
(he’s wearing a bowtie but no jacket).

Pause for a moment, then ask for your friend
(the one who’s a member, whose name they know);
It’s like they already knew you were coming
(though only in relation to your friend, his coat and tie)
As you’re ushered in to the back room
(the dim one with oil lamps and leather-bound shelves)
And led to your friend, sitting there thoughtfully
(the one whose coat they know and approve).

Now you’re upstairs, pressed against crisp white cloths
(the ones that are starchy and cover oak tables);
Only two sounds bounce off the oil paintings:
(some still-lifes and a few deceased white people)
The creaking of the stairs, as Members ascend,
(old, obviously; dulled with age, leather soles)
And references to Henry and William James
(they frequented this club– did you know?).

It’s warm there in the corner, a Crimson fire
(sweat starts to collect, soaking the oxford cloth);
And before too long the coffee is brought
(a silver pitcher pours itself into the lunar porcelain);
No bill is presented, that’s far too passé;
(just a smile and a nod, and we’re almost out the door),
Past old photographs from a more dignified age
(women weren’t always allowed into the Club, you know)
And onto the street: a normal Boston afternoon
(the light is lurid, but no coat is required).

A Dirge for My Love for You

Today’s the day I killed my love for you

Took the feeling out back and shot it

Let it fall into a ditch with its hands tied back

A ravine of corrugated granite 

And lots of little sharp things

My love for you it hit them all

And blood began to fall

Out of its tender loving corpse

The blood not meaningful in any way

Because my love for you was already dead

The impact of the bullet ricocheted 

Through that dead love’s brain

A cold artifact now struck with metal

And no blood exhumed itself

Because those wounds were so old

My love for you I come to watch it

Every now and again

I look down that ravine and stare at its corpse

Fresh drops of blood collect like beads of sweat

This dead love of mine, it’s a part of who I am

When I killed it I killed a part of me

And those drops of blood that collect like dew

Each morning when I think of you

They’re draining me of myself

In this dying death of my love for you.

The World’s Oldest Rockfish

The world’s oldest rougheye rockfish

Was caught off Alaska, in July of 2013.

You were 212, they later found out:

Your eyes were bulgy and cold,

Pupils like black pebbles in a shallow glass of milk.

He held you up, that fisherman did,

(The article said he was from Seattle)

With cheeky lips that ran up to his glasses,

As he stretched that yellow measuring tape

To consummate the whole thing.


There was probably something in the pageantry

That attracted our fish friend—

After two hundred and twelve years

Sitting at the bottom of that cold reef,

Older than all his cohabitants,

(The others had all taken the bait)

His children all grown up and doing well for themselves—

He’d spend his days sitting in leather kelp armchairs,

Watching that silent underwater world go by.


You lived longer because you were smarter,

My old rougheyed rockfish friend.

There was something exceptional about you—

Something you’d figured out in all those years

That finally made you bite that hemlock baitfish.

That’s more than we can say for that quahog clam

They scooped off the shelf of Iceland—

400 years old, it was, at the time of its death.

But that quahog clam didn’t have any choice,

And besides, being a bottom feeder is a boring business.


No; you, my fuchsia friend, decided your years were enough;

You’d seen all you needed to see with those big Homeric eyes;

Or maybe you’d felt the ocean temperatures begin to rise;

Or you’d tasted all the best sashimi—the freshest there could be—

The type they put a premium on and sell

For thousands of dollars to Le Boissonnerie in Paris.

But nobody’s going to eat you—you’re far too old for that

Your centuries of thought have toughened your hide

And made you inedible, much more than mere meat.

So we’ll drink to you, and your life, my fine fish friend,

And ponder a little (with a nice Chablis) your moment of triumph,

And how, being caught, you gained the greatest gift

mankind can bestow: momentary immortality.

wut’s Phaedrus’ #?

When Socrates talks about Memory

And how writing weighs it down,

I’m a little bit hesitant, like Phaedrus,

To concede this point to him—

Writing’s what I’ve always known;

Writing’s what I’ve been tested on;

Writing’s the measure of intellect;

What determines whom we praise.

Or is it, I suddenly concede—

What we think we know?

What we think we are tested on?

What makes us think we’re smart?

What determines who we praise?

Old Socrates never wrote anything down—

For that we can thank young Plato.

Plato with his thousand forms;

Plato with his chimaera diction;

Plato the Death Eater at Athens;

Who begot beauty and 999 false truths.

I really do love Plato, you know.

But so far I haven’t written it down

In quite so many words,

And you might have been confused.

It’s just that

I just can’t figure out what to write,

And what to merely think.

If I write something down it’s final—

A problem Socrates never had.

Oh, Socrates, wisest man in Greece,

Give me guidance in this moment—

Send that daemon as my savior!

I just received a txt

From my little sister Lucy;

It reads: wut’s Mimi’s #?

A few quick commands on the keypad,

And I’ve found Mimi’s Contact Card—

Just pushed ‘share,’ and we’re all set.

thx she says, with digital gratitude.

I used to know everyone’s number,

A big Rolodex sitting in my head—

Now my memory’s been outsourced

To ‘share’ buttons and Wikipedia instead.

But I’ll try not to forget this one message:

Socrates had Phaedrus’ digits memorized.