Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Don't Feel Anything Today, My Country - Men and Women, I'm Numbed by 21 Liters of Novacain


Thomas Lux

Tottering and elastic, middle name of Groan,   
ramfeezled after a hard night
at the corpse-polishing plant, slope-
shouldered, a half loaf
of bread, even his hair tired, famished,   
fingering the diminished beans
in his pocket—you meet him.
On a thousand street corners you meet him,   
emerging from the subway, emerging   
from your own chest—this sight’s shrill,   
metallic vapors pass into you.
His fear is of being broken,
of becoming too dexterous in stripping   
the last few shoelaces of meat
from a chicken’s carcass, of being moved by nothing   
short of the Fall of Rome, of being stooped   
in the cranium over some loss he’s forgotten   
the anniversary of.... You meet him,   
know his defeat, though proper
and inevitable, is not yours, although yours also   
is proper and inevitable: so many defeats   
queer and insignificant (as illustration:   
the first time you lay awake all night
waiting for dawn—and were disappointed), so many   
no-hope exhaustions hidden,
their gaze dully glazed inward.—And yet we all   
fix our binoculars on the horizon’s hazy fear-heaps   
and cruise toward them, fat sails
forward.... You meet him on the corners,   
in bus stations, on the blind avenues
leading neither in
nor out of hell, you meet him
and with him you walk.


Thomas Lux

the word for the inability to find the right word,
leads me to self-diagnose: onomatomaniac. It's not
the 20 volume OED I need
not Dr. Roget's book, which offers
equals only, never discovery.
I accept the fallibility of language,
its spastic elasticity,
its jake-leg, as well as prima ballerina, dances.
I accept that language
can be manipulated towards deceit
(ex.: The Mahatmapropaganda, i.e., Goebbels);
I accept, and mourn, though not a lot,
he loss of the dash/semi-colon pair.
It's the sound of a pause unlike no other pause.
And when the words are tedious
and tedious also their order - sew me up
in a rug and toss me in the sea!
Language is dying, the novel is dying, poetry
is a corpse colder than the Ice man,
they've all been dying for thousands of years,
yet people still write, people still read,
and everyone knows that nothing is really real
until it is written.
Until it is written!
Even those who cannot read
know that.


Thomas Lux

After a few whiffs of another world
he decided to stay with the stench
of the present: dumpster lids everywhere
rising like cakes, garbage scows
moving in long orderly lines
across the harbor.... The olfactory - he loves it
even when it wafts, wracking all points
of the compass. It's always invisible
and takes its direction according to the whimsy
of wind, or fans, or the waves
of a hand. Cave dwellers knew it,
and dogs. The bare smell
of dirt on cabbage, the snow-
on-your-arm smell. Even
in the abstract: fear-smell, like spit
on a knife blade. And
what the worms inhale, and then
the smell of dew on barbed wire, the sweet,
thick smell of sex, slick,
our lungs giddy and pink with it....
It's not the world which is good or bad
and so we run our noses over everything.
Even the dumb have this sense.


Thomas Lux

You go to school to learn to
read and add, to someday
make some money. It - money - makes
sense: you need
a better tractor, an addition
to the gameroom, you prefer
to buy your beancurd by the barrel.
There's no other way to get the goods
you need. Besides, it keeps people busy
working - for it.
It's sensible and, therefore, you go
to school to learn (and the teacher,
having learned, gets paid to teach you) how
to get it. Fine. But:
you're taught away from poetry
or, say, dancing (That's nice, dear,
but there's no dough in it
). No poem
ever bought a hamburger, or not too many. It's true,
and so, every morning - it's still dark! -
you see them, the children, like angels
being marched off to execution,
or banks. Their bodies luminous
in headlights. Going to school.


Thomas Lux

I don't feel anything today, my country-
men and - women, I'm numbed by 21 liters
of Novacain, I feel nothing
from my cowlick to the final ridge of my big toe's nail; my tear
ducts dry-walled, not a sob
or the sigh of an ant left in me this autumn,
another autumn
in which the world hates itself so much.
Man ties the severed head of another man
to the tail of a dog.
One frog eats a smaller frog.
Wisdom teeth, instead of being yanked,
evolve to wisdom fangs.
All day: arid hairsplitting, cheese-paring.
One bank buys another bank
and the little rubber thimble
on the teller's thumb - that stays the same.
Certainly my god
can rip the heart from your god's chest
and will, god willing, with my help.
A trillion-milligram hammer,
the arc of its swing
wide as a ring
of Saturn, hits us first
on the right temple,
then on the left. Good night, good night,
lights out!
bark the stars.


  1. this morning spouse and self are driving down midcounty highway and the guys on WTOP news radio say "senate report says CIA guys lie" and "CIA guys say senate report lies' - i say to missus charley, 'how do you know who to believe?'

    1. The CIA has always lied. And the rest of us always par for it.

      Remember, Iran had a secular democracy, once upon a time. I wonder what would have happened in that corner of the world if 'our' CIA didn't overthrow it for oil corporation profits?