Earl Gray Fugue from Issue 96
I fear I do not drink tea.
I fear I do not party.
I fear, but that’s nothing new.
I fear the crazies. I fear
You: Yes, you, America.
I don’t dress up in Indian
Feathers—I am Indian,
I fear. If my untucked tee
Says Death to America
Can I come to your party?
I love this country, I fear,
But these days I’m feeling new
Fears. The cowboy has a noose
Waiting for the Indian:
Sure, call it a baseless fear,
But someone’s base likes tea,
And the life of that party’s
The death of America.
Unless they are America,
Which I fear will be the news
Tomorrow, should this party
Of Cowboys and Indians
Turn out to suit us to a T.
By “us,” I mean those I fear.
I think they like being feared,
And being “America,”
And making of the Boston Tea
Party a thing Franklin knew
Nothing of. Honest Injun,
I am quite sick of party
This, party that. The party’s
Parti pris is fear, I fear
As I drive through Indiana
Deeper into America.
This is not the land I knew.
Earl’s gone gray and batty,
His gnashed teeth futile and fierce,
Hot with indignant purity
In this new old America.
Grooming from Issue 95
I shaved my face, and they called me doctor.
I showed up scruffy the next day, and they called me terrorist.
I grew out my beard, and they called me maharishi.
I left a goatee, and they called me Rushdie.
I cleaned it up into a mustache, and they called me fresh off the boat.
I got rid of the mustache, and they called me doctor again.
So tell me, I said, what brings you in today?
What is bothering you?
What keeps you up at night?
Among The Believers from Issue 86
If only he had been my age and dating three, or say he had three female
roommates in his loft, I could have said, You dog you, and it wouldn’t have
been an insult. I could have broached the subject—Give a brother details—
with no religious double meaning to that brother. A grin could coax a grin.
The fact that they were all so married, and that I could only see the eyes
of bodies that he had the use of nightly (they shifted in and out of being
in the far room, apparitions bearing trays of rose sherbet), any question,
because it referred to something lawful, was impermissible. Was he obliged
to rotate them, or could he mix and match? How much did he have to save
up before he could fill out his quota? If all of them crowded onto the bed,
did one or the other sulk if he showed a preference? Or bicker sullenly with
the others the next morning at breakfast? Surely they all had personalities
under there, personalities and rivalries and cupless bras. Could they be
played off one another, slyly motivated into competition—vocals,
flexibility, willingness? I was a guest in his house, and such a man-to-man
was as impermissible as a BLT and beer. The one with crow’s feet around
her green eyes had been the first, married to him for sixteen years while he
got tenure and wrote those first brilliant papers on preictal changes in
pyramidal cell chloride accumulation—he unbearded, she unveiled, he a
lapsed this and she a reform that. And now she lived with two sixteenyear-
olds who huddled around a phone giggling and called shotgun and
took forty-five-minute showers. At some point, he must have sat her
down, perhaps on this very couch, and explained he wasn’t kidding
around, he wanted the whole lifestyle, all the perks. Confidence must be
everything when laying out the way things have to be for one’s
subordinate. He must have used the same low voice with which he is
commenting on my data, suggesting I smooth out this graph by plotting
cell proliferation versus time logorithmically, making this messy data fit a
nice clean line, a simple conversion really.