Friday, March 4, 2011


I have already posted The Camel in the side bar, but since these two poems form a single sequence of thought, I thought it would make more sense to post them one after the other as they will appear in the book I am writing with Gavin.

Both, of course, are dedicated to him.

The Camel

The love is in the writing, yes. It is
this pencil—architect of all my hopes.
I suck on my eraser, like a nipple.
The friction of the lead provides some heat.
The little squiggles which adorn my man-
uscript, swim wonderfully between the
lines, like freshly ejected sperm,
seeking, out of instinct, a nice, warm
place they can kick off their flippers,
crack a Michelob, exhausted, and unwind.
A mouth, a hand, some other place. Who knows?

Your last poem mentioned your career,
retiring from porn, continuing to appear
naked, reading poetry in California.
I was in college then, learning from my dad
sucking cock was probably something
a boy in Buffalo ought not to do.
Soon after he discovered my diary,
I found myself searching for a butt one
night along the shoulder of a road
so dark it seemed to lead into a future
paved entirely in blackness, coal.

A scattering of stars, a slice of Moon,
the prick of a pink planet, Mars, I think,
took pity on me, like the passing cars.
Those headlights allowed me to pick out
a discarded pack of Camels which
concealed one cigarette and puff of air.
How incredible that find: how Moon
and Mars, Camel and cars, kept
me company that night. But the sparks
of a tossed Marlboro let me smoke
where I was going—a dim, orange glow.

I thanked the driver as he sped away,
truck dwindling to a pair of rubies. I
had no matches in my pocket—no-
thing useful, no money, no house keys:
a Latin book in my backpack, Ovid’s
Metamorphoses, toothbrush, clothes,
socks and soiled underwear. And still
how lucky I felt—and not too cold—
now that I could smoke. The poetry
we’d write together was so far away—
farther than Mars, that truck driver, you

standing naked in L.A. And love,
while that Camel lasted, didn’t seem
a possibility all that remote.


Yes, pick me up, dust me off, fill
my mouth with testicles, goat-cheese, grapes,
change my oil, enlarge my cock, replace
my heart with something softer than the plum
stone I suspect is throbbing there. Be
Prometheus to me, be Frankenstein, but leave
the memory of that lonely road intact.
I wasn’t ready then—to hold a pen
or penis properly. Forget a hand.
There is this transformation I still have
to undergo, to be myself. I smoked

that solitary Camel to Damascus.
The butt the truck driver flung from his cab
seemed a sign—a well-meant meteor
crashing against the asphalt, splashing sparks,
rolling to a stop ten feet away,
glowing. I ran to pick it up, before
the filthy filter put the fire out! I had
no matches, maybe, but I had a chance
to put one corner of my Cosmos right,
light the lost cigarette I found—to
let my lungs fill up with poetry.

To accept the universe like this,
to welcome an old Camel as just one
of those small gifts which Providence bestows,
is harder for me now than it was then.
I’m older and less flexible. I’ve lost
some of my looks, the hair I once dyed red,
my combat boots, the 1950s trench
I pawned my silver boom box for—
all those external things I thought were me—
adorn a boy I fear is dead. His ghost

appears in steamy windows. He haunts
my eyes when I am shaving. When I fuck,
I make the love he was incapable of
making. I do this in his memory.
I regard tattoos and scars the way
he looked at certain birthdays. Something must
remain besides the pools of melting ice
cream and wax. Still pictures. Poetry.
All we carry over from the past.
Stale Camels. Cars. A butt flung from a truck
rolling to a stop somewhere. Like here.

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