—for Frank O’Hara
This house is dark like an antique movie.
You forget there’s wood underneath
until the paint begins chipping away,
you forget how everything’s just earth.
The music drifts in from another room,
sleepy and solemn and glazed-eyed
and there is the wind, whispering at me,
something too ripe with doom to recite.
In Texas, they say no one ever whispers.
In Chicago, there’s a room waiting for me.
When a man leaves a room, it’s unkind
to enter again for a while without his
express validation. I am proof that
good hearts go rotten, that intention
is merely a postcard you write. The sky
is gray, and gray, and gray, and gray, and
even the joggers leaving neon contrails
through the rain seem obsessed with
the afternoon’s bleakness. A poem,
they tell you, is either a joy or a
new land you map, so this must not be
one of those. All I can do is remember
what a song used to do to me in the dark.
When the scent of the poison dissipates,
all you can smell in the house is the bodies
of bottle flies, hungry for nothing again.
I keep thinking of mountains, like they’re
something I’ve seen. I keep telling her she’s
a mountaintop and she looks me deep in
the eyes and says, “No.” I keep breaking
promises I only want people to think
that I’ve made.
Fall in Love with a Goddess
—for Salman Rushdie
Forget about all of your failures.
Today is today and everyone thinks
you are soulful and wise and you
look really good in that shirt.
The sky is always paying homage
to the sea, or possibly the other way
around, but at least we are sure
that something loves something
enough. Can you feel everything
buzzing with eagerness? I hope
to one day taste every rock,
to fall in love with a goddess,
but hoping and work are
practically nothing alike
unless you decide it.
Kyndra says motion
is a being of reason,
and I’m not so sure I believe it.
But I like to think of her fingers
fluttering around the neck of my
detuned guitar. Everyone
I know is all the time hiking
all over the Appalachians,
and sometimes I wonder if I
even believe in the sun.
Self-destruction is more closely linked
to improvement than any old fire,
or a half-empty beer,
than any old sad list of envies.
Nick is so sure our chances
are finite, and I’m coming around
to his side. If you give me even
one shot at your heart, I’ll
tear myself up till it’s mine.
Photo credit: sebastiansantanam8qnfs, morguefile.com
Joshua Kleinberg was born in Florida and grew up there and in Ohio. With Dana Jaye Cadman, he runs Banquet Reading Series in Brooklyn.