TRIPTYCHS

TRIPTYCHS
Milton Rogovin, 1994

The artist’s aims have changed
since the first series of shots when
he couldn’t resist the desire
for transfiguration—why should he?—
by eliciting the eloquence of light
the grain in wood, each brick
of a graffitied facade, arranging
Madonna & Child couplings, offsetting
solitary rebels. Balance—Contrast—
Gentle Irony—Depth of Focus—
all help to unmask dignity
in simple passions, neglected
beauties, vitality amid ruin, Miller
High Life captioned above
the granite resolve of the poor.

A parent staggers out of a darkened
stairwell to sun on a broken
step. Velvet painted peacocks
framing a lace draped mantle
behind a doll-like tiara-ed Virgin
express the same simple optimism
& innocent trust that a small girl
does, clinging about her proud
father’s waist. A self-contained
immigrant family gazes expectantly
at the camera proclaiming, We Are Here.
A Mod Squad in turtlenecks, shades
& hooped earrings, like a scene out of Hair
steps over the color line to groove
with one another. The artist provokes
a silent language, musters a patience
to hear where there is literally nothing
to be heard, so that it is we who fumble
to speak, we who want to shout our
sympathy, our respect & solidarity, even
our admiration, for those from whom
did we actually hear their guttural voices
we might turn away in distaste.

By the third group of images
this glamour is not even attempted.
Where are the pan pipes, the bare chests
& subtle toes—a ménage à trois with dog
ready for the April morning? Where are
the tight groups & couples, the solitary
souls brave in the light, the high school
girl with pencil in her teeth, fire
in her hair? Replaced, often, by ungainly
families, elders whose dreams have
vanished, kids who look spoiling
for a fight. Simultaneity lapses
inevitably into sequence, a rhythm
of cycles, narratives of loss. Tragic
stasis unwinds in bitter folly. Distracted
by this progression, the camera loses
its eye for detail & the compositions have
given way to a chaos closer to real life.

First published: Black Robert Journal. (Feb. 2008)

These photos by Rogovin are from http://www.miltonrogovin.com/

 

 

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NOTES ON SLAM DUNKS

NOTES ON SLAM DUNKS.

Pop culture’s desire for cool’s
ironic alternative ramps up
the official unofficial,
hears in an excluded people’s
speech
not so much a desire
to be heard,
as soulful urge—
real & down,
dug, funky, gone,
groovy, heavy, & hip—
for the “ideal mass personality”
keeping dry its arsenal of
“verbal stun guns” & “dumbed down put downs”—
“celebrity words, air guitar
licks for lips,”
above the barely audible “quasi-
sexual pleasure of the click.”

First published: Timber Creek Review, John M. Freiermuth, ed. (2008)

Slam Dunks and No-Brainers: Pop Language in Your Life, the Media, and Like . . Whatever by Leslie Savan (2007)

TWO SUNS

TWO SUNS

there are two suns
laughing dazzling laughter
& clovers folded upon themselves in frost
& white ribbed edges of things

how they glitter now
like two ladies
in bright bandannas, laughing

or the mother at the payphone
replacing the receiver
repeating to her child
crooked in her other arm, “still busy.”

First published: Harvard Review 29 (Fall 2005)

RHYTHMS

RHYTHMS

The sweet spot in sleep comes
after the road up the mountain
to the temple.

Follow her up
to her little pretty place
of leaded glass & heirlooms of mahogany.

Wait as she fixes her bow
in the glass, looking out to where light
looms above the trees.

Soft hands cover the eyes in dreams.
Breathing breaks the surface
of shallow water.

Frist published in Ship of Fools, Jack Hart, ed. (2007)

ALL THESE

ALL THESE

adapted from a translation of a passage near the beginning of “Boule de suif”

Earthquake burying a whole people
beneath the ruins of their houses
the river in spate sweeping away
bodies of drowned peasants
carcasses of cattle & rafters torn from roofs
& the victorious army slaughtering
all who resist, making prisoners
of the rest, looting by right of the sword
thanking their god to the sound of cannon—
all these terrifying scourges undermine
our belief in eternal justice
& all the trust
we have been taught to place
in divine protection
& human reason.

First published: Pegasus. M. E. Hidebrand, ed. (Spring 2007)

BAGHDAD BOUND

BAGHDAD BOUND
Andy writes

Hello All! This trip gets more intriguing
as it goes. Have been “in travel status” for 18 hours
and have only advanced several hundred miles
from Kuwait City
to Camp Stryker on the edge
of Baghdad Int’l Airport.

It is astonishing the lengths
to which one must go
to traverse this modest distance safely.

We are waiting with
50 colleagues and soon-to-be close confidants
in a “Rhino convoy” of busses triple wrapped
with a day’s production of the old Lackawanna works.
They run on odd hours.

After this, I will settle into a more normal
environment in the “IZ,” where coalition troops/ embassies
contractors, the UN, and a couple of Iraqi ministries are located
a 3-square mile zone surrounded by 12′ concrete T-walls
Baghdad’s ultimate gated community.

An interesting sight as we wile the hours
(on the baking tarmac) are the partially crushed
hulks of French-built concrete bunker-hangars
hit in Gulf War One when Saddam was
(briefly) using them to invade Kuwait. If this
were regular commercial air travel
I would probably be writing a long letter
to Customer Service
not to all of you.

How can I describe the scene
here at Camp Stryker?
a truly surreal vision, a standard KOA tent city
enlarged 20-fold where I am lost
for a seeming eternity like a 7 year-old.
I pick my way down dusty rows of tents
from the Dinning FAC to the Internet Café

to the Baskin Robins trailer, the non-stop
domino/ ping-pong hall. Add in
the roar and stench of massive generators. Take away
anything quaint. Think of
the desolate squatter communities
on the sand dunes
at the southern extremes of Lima.

Put it together with many large
lethal-looking tracked and winged vehicles
parked wherever they happened to have
stopped, endless
volleyball games under floodlights.
Travelers and troops all looking dirty and weary.
Folks stay civil and seem to pull together. But it is just a
weird, weird place.

Alas, photos are either not allowed
because of security, or rendered
impractical by the dark.

First published: Court Green Magazine 4. Arielle Greenberg, et al. eds. (Spring 2007).

CITY DANCES NIGHT AWAY

CITY DANCES NIGHT AWAY

On a late autumn evening,
in the shadows of the People’s Meeting Hall
about eighty folks line up
for a beginners’ class in tango
while more than two hundred others glide gracefully
across an empty concrete parking area.
In a city of ailing industries, night-time dancing
is within everyone’s reach.

Gao Xiuying, 42 years old, waiting his turn,
points out a middle-aged woman in a red sweater:
“She’s the most skillful. If she doesn’t come
the dancing is disorganized.”

Her name translates as “Dream of the Moon”
& she comes,
usually every night.

First published: House Organ. Kenneth Warren, ed. (Jan. 2006). Print.

At the Musarium [1201 – 1300]

for Sasha

These are the king’s woods, where sons
thick with song measure delight. Daily we file
through royal hills & shoulder our honest
fate, always quietly surprised. When birds
dropped from the highest forest they told
about a tall stranger who the rain failed
to comfort. He talked of freedom, the wealth
of nations, of faces events refused to honor, July
streets, rights fully obtained, though falsely
remembered, concerning a holy surface carefully
hung to aid fingers. Anyone will choose or accept,
seek or report, bank shut the bottom, or dare
blow desired points created in advance.
Otherwise there’s the gate, & a stream to cross.

Composed: 10-22-10
First published: Indefinite Space. Winter 2012. np. Print.

SIX INCIDENTS

SIX INCIDENTS

1.
A Baynes Street woman
walking Sunday
night near Baynes Street
& West Delevan was robbed
at the point of a shotgun
duct taped around its barrel
of $300 & two credit cards
by another woman
about 17 years old
wearing a black jacket
demanding, Yo, give me
your purse.

2.
Multiple rounds
from a large caliber weapon
penetrated walls
as a small silver vehicle
ran a stop sign
at high speed.

3.
Emergency crews had to pull
a woman from her car
when it became surrounded by flood waters
after she drove around police barricades.
The woman told police
she was on her way to her bridge game
at the Fox Club.

4.
A tall, thin guy
with scruffy facial hair
robbed a HSBC Bank branch
Monday morning, holding his left hand
inside his jacket sleeve as if he had
a gun, handing the teller
a note that read, “$10,000 or Bang!”
fleeing with three stacks of singles
& a single stack of fives.

5.
A speeding car
struck & killed a bicyclist
as the cyclist leaned
over a trash bin collecting
empty beer cans for the deposit.

6.
A patron was charged
with a series of misdemeanors
after refusing to pay
a restaurant bill
for coffee
soda
& chicken fingers
totaling $12.36
& yelling vulgarities
at patrons then swearing
at police from the back
of the police cruiser
telling them to shut up.

First published: Black Robert Journal(Feb. 2008).

LATE SUMMER RACKET

I hear the pry-bars of the roofers
ripping nail from board

& old shingles tossed down–plop
that the rain’d begun to rot
& shoveled into a dumpster.

So start up your hammers men
give new skein to the old abode
safety from the weather
from glaring stars, relief.
 
Frist published:
Buffalo Vortex. William Sylvester, ed. (1 Feb 2009) [broadside].