Am I Free To Say Anything?





I do not say this to wound

--Henri Michaux



The end of pretty faces

there is a war on
O don't let me bore you
old women hold their scarves over their faces
kids dream of eating horses
we pay for our sins
by drinking the blood from steak
even the cows are dead
even the rabbits have died
even the squirrels are ripped apart

what animal is left?
they say there is a young girl
who is pregnant
and can still feel something kicking

Sharp pain in ass

while the rest of the world works
I wince
on the filthy floor
as a symbol to all those
whose begging bowls
are filled

in church
I go to the front
and am received in the back
ten shots of desire
proposed by the priest
who can wait no longer
for the fire

we are taken
we the ready
to the store
to buy shoes
for walking?
for running?
for getting the hell out of here?
shhhh...donít tell anyone

at lunch
in a small cafe
while flowers surely bloomed
I cave in
no one demands that I pay

Sitting in one place

we eat
are later married
she wears glass things
he pushes diamonds over his fingers
they meet at a cafe
her heart is failing
his mustache all wrong
her babyhood unraveling

a hobo picks a dime up
from the Russian street
how American
two white-shirted waiters come together
in the French bathroom
the audience murmurs
how demeaning

we shoot one another
from opposite sides of the room
my gun is small
yours is big
but we both
still fall

A picture of the night

in the next room
two men dance
with a brown-haired woman
whose hands are so cold
they come off and can be packed away
in a handsome valise
meant to be taken
on the best of planes
to the most generous country
where it doesnít rain

I listen
with my tin cup
up against the wall
hear them eat pudding
all from one plate
their tongues almost

this is heaven
says the maid
who has come to make my bed
her ugly brown dress
pulled sharply against her hips
I have left
almost no pity

Iím trying not to bring God into this
but itís making me blue
two cats outside in the snow
lying without feeling
in the cold

Doing the holy thing

I am too old
to dance in my socks
so donít ask me
to dance in my socks
or to taste water
or to marry

in my cell
monks carry bread to the main man
our veins are hungry
for the real thing
the only thing
our cries something hogs hear
but refuse to admit

pearls are thrown
a ladyís great dress ripped
books torn
and all of this
just to show
where we belong

although our house is big
it has no more room
for the traveling show
to stop over
to sleep
even one night
after the show

One last chance to redeem yourself and thus the world

chickens and children are dying
in the dust of the day
black-hatted husbands lean on the bar
to discuss their weekly pay
and the pages of magazines
flying fashion through the streets
all the children are eating
their bread and meat

one woman is giving a bath
to a white horse
but no one notices that
of course


not saved
not even born
not growing
that I can assure you

youíve stopped?
thatís saying a lot

in a nutshell
my heart is a feather
cramped in a jar
of ungodly yellow oil

such romantic rot
says the flower
to my face


we sink into our socks
the old woman and me
feeling the ruins of ancient cities
our cheeks red with the effort
of pure breath
she lies down
on the stone bed
in order to be loved forever
you must take a ticket
at the counter
from the freckled man
whose easy banter
leads one to sleep
and next to chatter
but we have no ticket
for this thing
we have

My neck is a table

my neck is a table
donít laugh
an old wooden slab
with knife marks and penciled words
and stains from a thousand dinners

my fingers ten crabs
who long for their ocean
my tongue a harsh bird
who wings into the wild
my arms brown stones
that heroes could sleep on
my temper a lonely god
who weeps for his momentum
my wrists his young whips
that beat the black phantoms
my back a young dog
who bares his sharp teeth...

letís go
I need you
to lead me

An epileptic moment

my tangerine turtleneck
allows the breasts to peck through
thank god for sexiness
for the sound of vacuum cleaners
cleaning up our mess

maids hold my arms
as I vomit into a yard
of clay statues
white gods with smiles
small heroes holding lanterns
hideous cement birds warning
my eyes that circles of angels
will confuse the ground with
their multicolored dresses

do angels wear clothes?
si senora
in our country they also dream
they eat
they gasp
they breathe

I have fallen
so sorry
from that Oaxaxan dust
white nose, frozen sexual organs
donít tell personal stuff

when the brown maidens
finally reach my pretty dress
Iím looking up
eyeing the one bright star

Cleaning house

the French navy
in my head
40 men with blue hats on their heads
I weep from visions of orderliness

on my knees
by their blue trousers
I wipe all the boots
how perfect this world is!
they rest their hands on their guns
licking their lips

my poor pail
is filled with sea clams
from a dirty ocean
I gathered them
30 years ago
to make flowers from

do you think she is mad?
with her scarf covering her mouth?
we canít get close enough
to hear the words
that the winter wind blows

What we do to ourselves

we eat into ourselves into a stupor
raw spaghetti coming from the mouth
juice we cannot spit out
wild onions, horses tongue, bread and jam
spoons force all of it in

you dream of a woman
who pisses in a dirty latrine
waiting for the man
to do it to her

thatís not enough
to convince me
they say
that you are completely
out of your mind

at the breakfast table
I wave to the birds
in their white storm


I am bones
that will come to the end
of the trainís line
how romantic

shot in the head
so to say
by the years
fucked up the ass
so to say
by the years
browned by the sun
so to say
by the years
wrinkled in the fingers
so to say
by the years

didnít we once sit
on a newly-painted bench
with fresh young lips
sharing a cigarette?

thatís all I remember

Finding a clock by the water

you donít know how to make anything work
your tired cage has broken bars
my dress a poor replica of lust
someoneís breast near us moves
with such heaviness
the waiter pours more cognac

my tongue is raw
from the damn sidewalk
gold dropped by long-legged whores
the clock strikes one
is there a cafe still open?

you take off your hat
in the cemetery
where all the poets died
and invite me to taste
the cool black cement
of distaste

The way the years used to smell

we came here
for the greasy picnic
tearing chicken apart
your legs spread to let the ants enter
my bosom heaving
your finger tracing
pictures of food in the dirt

we had no shame
the hot day
the bloated sun
the moon just about to come
soldiers in their tin hats
far away on a hill
bowing to the general

we ate
the flowered steaks
the tomatoes, the gin, the frozen cream
two heads in a Sunday lock
our eyes
four birds in flight

We who quietly burn

thereís something about
writing the truth
why talk of cities that are overrun
with cattle, vermin or flowers

quite frankly
this monkey on my face
is ruining my chances
for beauty
his brown hairy legs
pushing themselves into my lips
how I hate his limbs!

paws struggle to choke the breath
out of my once famous long white neck
my heart beats in fearsome steps

men watch
from across the road
so this is what happens
to beauty!


if God really wanted you to write...
says the man with the gun
to my head
I would have to laugh
donít shoot, sir
say I to his mouth
I would rather kiss your gun
or clean your cannon
or pray
than write

can you be a blue-eyed wench
who will stand on the wooden table
and mend my shoes
when the day keels over?

bang says the gun

Pretending to be real

when I am asked
straight in the face
if I feel the pain
I tend to nod twice
once for the bird I have hidden in my ear
once for the dead man whose bones I taste

I feel the voltage of chirping
the songs I cannot sing back
the blue feathers
the tiny blinking head
the black bird tongue that gags
when it pierces my hands
the bird eye that pretends blindness

for the heaviness of the dead man's legs
messing up my momentum
yes for his huge head
that continues to think
yes for his ridiculous demands
feed me
force me
test me
taste me
hate me
let me go

yes. I feel pain
if that's what you want me to feel

The girl in my head

she is so tall that it looks like I am praying
when I button her boots
we do that every morning
after burning books for God
her coffee is hotter than hell
squirrels run like mad from her yard
she has Chinese bells that break our backs
during the sweet and lovely nights

I am madder than she is
my fever hotter
my hands bigger
my shirtsleeves dirtier

she puts her cup down
just like that
do you hear that one bird chirping?
shoot it.

we go on
sometimes I wear a hat
to cover her sobs

Am I free to say anything?

pretty soon my boat will come.
a blond maiden will row.
ten men in black hats
ready for my racing pulse.
a cat to scream out my pain.
a child to adore me.
my mother with a throat full of chemicals.
my father on a holy mountain.
my brother with his finger broken.
my brother with his couch ripped.

can I go on?
when the sky rips open.
a saint for my fever.
a doctor for my back.
an employee who drinks my blood.
a ghost to pray to.
a million rats to conquer.
God in his glory.
my smiling face at the scene of the accident.

am I still talking?
two birds fallen from their nest.
a pile of ants that look bewildered.
sixteen panthers.
a black-headed girl for pity.
blond hair on my pillow.

God forgive me

Anybody listening?

beetles examine our papers in dark waiting rooms
the head conductor prays to a glass picture of a saint
the floor is a green wet
that dissolves our shoes
14 maidens weep
will there be Christmas this year?

in an outside shed
40 years of storms.

Will this ever end?

they roll in the table
a black lamb on top
it smells like the fields
where men exchange love notes
about their wives
their long arms buried
in lunch boxes brimming
with cheese and chicken and sour grapes

when the cattle are bronzed
for this afterlife
that we call hamburger
they bray not unlike
burning bees stuck in a hive
we swallow them down with rich red wine

I recite poetry for the young college kids
whose shirts are on fire
do you hear me
above the bartender's weeping?
above the rock musician's strumming
above the girls you drive crazy with your desires?
above the mothers and fathers who sit home

getting back to the farmers
I was talking about
I dream of their lips

Hard words

the bird swallowed the worm
I paid my bills
some kid was beheaded
she watered her plants
someone's pulse was racing
he got hard in his pants
a white shirt was soiled
they married

she put her hand on the table
after seven beers
his beard was torn
it didn't matter
his blue eye watered

he told his wife good-bye
the children were sleeping
tiny feet pumping
in their pink buntings
she slept outside
on a hard concrete floor
and waited
for the morning


I am darker than the picture
harder than the paint
and have killed my family

your bleeding face
reminds me of Barcelona
where I slept on the beach
had my stomach stolen
for forgetting to smile

you are the painter
paint me a swan
here in this waiting room
where neither of us belong

After the orgasm

after the orgasm
comes the opening of cities
neighbors in yards
their water hoses hanging
red doors to cars
slamming shut
big eyes with big questions
when did you do it

five minutes ago
a bum with wrong directions
enters my living room
rapes my couch
gets his loose change mixed up
with mine
and then leaves
I feel shot

we ask things
of each other
we should not
me with primitive grin
you with that next-door-neighbor
look on your face
did you did you did you
pay the light bill?
I certainly did


even though there is not an ocean
I smell the clams
moving under the thick water
I feel the fish
lord believe me
splendid in their schools
coloring the sea silver
and I see the legs
of happy women
breaking the froth
pushing through the surface
I smell the ocean!
heated to baking
lord believe me
I feel the whale
frozen in his movement toward me
one huge stain of music

Song with no end

Call in the doctor
To tell me how many
Glasses of wine
I will have to drink
To forget
How many glasses of wine
I have already drunk

Let him whisper to the night
What do I care?

One word
Forgive me

Kick-up-your-heels opera

There was a storm
Now it is over
The table is set for one


after she died
I bought books
with pictures
her life

we burned at church
because we were not Christian
but I imagined
how God would
come down
decorated and hurt

his medals would burn
my shoulders
I drank cognac
and saw the legs
of angels
who were there
when all that burning
had been done

history keeps me busy
with rights and wrongs
I see cars coming
but can't turn!

On not being able to find a book of poems by Charles Simic

I will curse
the friend
who took it!

I want my book back!
fortyish poet who is even
now leaving his three children
and wife
for Christina, firm teen
who blows poems
like bubbles
over his thighs
at night

Flowers do not cover your grave

I don't go there on Sundays
or your birthday
in a long black dress
standing over the stone

instead I have
become you

Looking down at the body of your wife

You are any man looking down at the body of your wife. Not dead. Evidence of a capful of whiskey. Drunk in the honor of the Irish. O do not refuse to get drunk! A greater mistake never made. We are talking of the kind of surrender. That aches. An aroma of the breath of your loved one. She lies there. Innocent in unconsciousness. Those are the children. The ones in no throes. Feet without shoes. Long and slender hanging. A hand on the rug. Lying there. In another world and in love. Beautiful mist that comes upon us. Then do some men weep for the future. The sturdiness all gone. The brawny evenings washed ashore. Their one and only boat. So knocked about. She who braved the rancid sea. Think about her now. With whiskey bottles all around. It's a theme. A plot of slipshod steps. A widening stamina. Deep in the valley of the gentle streams. Huge heroes are like us. Although high on a horse. O come from the Indian plains. I will remember a poem in the honor of your neck.


The last time we saw Christ he was on a large wooden dance floor. Pigalle. Kicking up a storm. People leaning over--laughing. He had a long nose--was wearing a skull cap. old men shoveling the vomit of youth nearby. Having a good time. He got down on all fours and had a long laugh at his own drunken heart. He showed us his belly. His hair stuck straight out. His eyes were popping. Veins were clearly etched; he had opium on his breath. Catholic women standing. Remember: do not kneel. Catholic women with not a rose to offer. o the new world. What will be. Nude dancing on a falling balcony. No clothes did he have on. Christ. Like you would imagine--weighted not down--not him. A great dancer who never needed lessons. I took his arm--how sweaty it was. Not so thin but there were bones sticking out. I'm celebrating the aroma of wooden floors--the knowledge of the pureness of dance halls now. There's a greatness in Pigalle. I'm telling the truth. Him and others. With blondes and redheads. Some were not men. Big deal--so what. Gods rising like so much smoke-- rainy French day with old bread and beggars mimicking lamp posts. The roofs of churches knifing the sky. Poking the unreachable. In that unbearable grayness--how his heels swirled! Walked up all night a hill. Dreaming of dancing. He spoke French. He waved no flag. He had a good time. That would end.


I owe no one nothing
not this poem
not a raincoat
not my way of laughing
I owe no one nothing
not a king not a cow
no one nothing

you look at me
from the afternoon table
where you break your bread
will I be able
to say the things
that must be said

we eat
we are satisfied
we close our eyes
and see the sexes tumble
I know it's wrong
you know it's wrong
but life must have its reasons

Church bells

the girls in their white dresses
are ready for the blood
of the great god they carry
in their tiny hearts

we walk like forsaken elephants
proud and heavy
leaving foot prints and sweat
on the lawn
the children sing
hurrah hurrah
we will be forgiven!

I ask the priest
will he see me through
this human thing
and he nods
not once but twice
you want to eat
and he wants to drink
and the bells just keep on


what comes next?
the ditch
the truth
the kick
the fall
go all red-eyed into the streets
and pick through garbage cans
for the right words?

I told myself
that I will eat
the swollen potatoes
that even the poor threw out



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