Call It In

The Doldrum Fracture Zone

The place where sailors — though now open
to all professions — went to consider the mirage
of their own despair. Once, only sailors could
go there: the breezeless place,
the weed-choked and stinking plain
where they stalled for weeks, months. Today,
the Zone comes to us,
its great gray inertness dragged
like opaque knife wounds over each
who stands on a shore and calls it in,
dragged over him or her who believes his or her despair is
a mirage and not
a mirror. . . . That man
who still holds the handle of the mailbox open, its huge black mouth
having just swallowed
a letter that cannot be unwritten
which falls on top of a pile of other such letters
in their white dresses
in the dark — that man has called it in.
There is a sound of tiny roots being torn,
and a water spider, skating smoothly over the Zone’s flat surface, sinks.

-Thomas Lux

The Silk That Silk Wears

Understanding Al Green

When I was twelve, a wiser sixteen-
year-old told me: If you really want
to get that, homeboy, you best be bringing
Al Green’s Greatest Hits. And if you ain’t
in the mix by song five, either she’s
dyking it or you need to re-evaluate your
sexual orientation. Know what I’m saying?

With those words, I was off — borrowed Al
Green in the clutch in search of that thing.
Socks pulled up to my neck. Jeri Curl. Real
tight Hoyas jersey was nothing but regulation
and I knew I was smooth and I knew
I was going to be in the mix by song five.
The whole walk from the ball court,

the wise man’s words echoed like somebody’s
mama banging on the door: the panties
just be slippin’ off when the women hear
Al’s voice. Slippin’.
Slippin’s because Al
hits notes mellow, like the silk that silk
wears. His voice is all hardworking night time
things. Not fake breasts, but you

and your woman, squeezed onto the couch,
taking a nap while the aquarium stutters
beside you. Nodding off on drizzly days
when you should be at work. The first smoke
after a glass of fine wine you know
you can’t afford. Nobody, not woman
or man, knows how to handle Al Green.

That Girl from Ipanema would have
dug Al. Her panties, flip-flopping right
there by the sea. That sexy passing
the Pharcyde by would have stopped to say
What up? if they were Al. But they weren’t.
And neither were you, last night when
that woman at the club shut you down:

I got a man…blah, blah, blah. Hate to tell you,
player, but she’s at Al’s place right now asking
for an autograph and maybe a sumpin-
sumpin. What is sumpin-sumpin? I don’t know.
But Al knows. And I’m sure you’ve heard that old
jive about Al getting scalding grits thrown on him.
You have to recognize those lies because

he would have started singing and those grits
would have been in the mix, too. For real.
I never believed the pimp-to-preacher story,
anyway. The point is Al’s voice is like G-strings
and afro wigs and trying to be quiet when
the parents are home. The point is Al Green
hums better than most people dream.

Adrian Matejka


All Its Ketchupy Light

Cody likes Dean Young


When Dean Young vacuums he hears
not just time’s winged whatchamacallit
hurrying near but some sort of music
that isn’t the motor or the attic
or the sucked-up spider’s hosannas
or his mother pounded into a rectangle
or what’s inside him breaking
because the only thing conclusive
all those tests showed is inside him
is some sort of crow so unsure of its
crowness, it thinks it’s a stone
just as the stone thinks it’s
a dark joke in the withered fields
and has to be so opaque to keep
all its ketchupy light inside because
you never know what sonuvabitch
is hanging around, waiting for a chance
to steal your thunder. When Dean Young
has his thunder, nothing moves. Not
the dust in the hose, not the music,
not even the eye of the crow. It drives him
crazy how little effect he has. He thinks
of his friends at ballparks and feels
miserable. He thinks of women’s behinds
and feels radiant. He’s afraid how he invented
running by moving his legs very fast
will be forgotten, attributed elsewhere.
He can’t resign himself to losing the patent
on masturbation. On the other side
of the back of his head hands his face
which he puts strawberries into.
He dreads strawberries because their mouth
is bigger than his. He dreads his wife
because he loves her. His strong opinions
re: capital punishment, arts education,
the numen dissolves in water,
the universal solvent that falls from clouds,
clouds that were HIS idea.

Dean Young

The first sentence! What a wonderful meandering, convoluted sentence that comes to such a concise and punchy ending: “waiting for a chance / to steal your thunder.” What a premise for a poem — unabashed egotism combined with self-flagellation. There’s something magical in Young’s insistence on elevating the very language he uses to castrate himself.

This is the poem that begins his book, Skid.

Locus Darker

Big tree, where did you get your arms? And how does it feel to loose your leaves every year? Does it hurt, when they fall? Do next year’s feel a little different coming in? I remember the first time I lost a tooth. I thought I was dying.

Don’t Mind If I Do

Goodtime Jesus

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beautiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

James Tate