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.
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.