Long-Sleeve White Collared Shirt

Self Portrait

To Ginsberg

Don’t read into this, Allen. I just want to talk.

I’m listening to Vietnam protest songs,

meditating through my anxiety and my need for approval
from executives and peers.

I’m conflicted.

No one drinks beer on Tuesday afternoons anymore.
But I keep hearing your voice

reading to yawning 1980’s audiences, desensitized by television

and repetitive sex.

Apathy is spreading, Allen; I pick at mine
like a bleeding mole.

My home is too comfortable. My neighbors
don’t look at me
on the way out to their cars in the morning.
The convenience is overwhelming. No one stops long enough
to see themselves reflected
in office windows or flat-screen TV’s.

I’m one of them.

I wait all year for three-day-weekends and W-2’s. Weeks
roll over me like waves of nausea.

Now I’m going to Las Vegas. I’ve given up

trying to get away from it all.

Why are you so quiet?

My shoes are gaping at the soles. I won’t replace them.

Everyone comments when I walk up the stairs
in my business casual attire. They ask repeatedly

why I don’t just buy a new pair.

Here, Allen, is my protest, my unbuyable expression of outrage.

Why aren’t you with me?

“Self Portrait, To Ginsberg” previously appeared inThird Wednesday.

During Sleep

During sleep, I make promises
I am not obliged
to keep. Desire reveals her pale and smooth thigh

as sunflowers watch
like the black outline of prophets
above the headboard.

Her eyes and fingers crawl across my skin
like the tones of a harpsichord,
and the moon reveals reflections of eastern women

leaping into lakes
at the prospect of wine.

My lover’s face is no longer her own,

and my intentions are no longer innocent.

It’s easy to pull the trigger when my weapon

is pointed at the back of her head,

and the painting keeps changing from roses
to blood spatter
to roses.

Lady Liberty

She’s reading the taboo literature

of the dead, stroking punk rock,

refusing to drone, inserting psychosis

into the office. Frank O’Hara’s poems

vibrate between her legs.

Forget the condom! Release the breasts

of America!

Scribbling

No one goes to the asylum for scribbling
in journals or masturbating
anymore.
After all, what harm can come
from scribbling?

Self Portrait

For Kerouac

In 1947, Jack stepped across the Colorado border
to the flash of a camera.
He stood erect, the shadows of dirt and knuckles
darkening his eyes.

As if the hand of Moses were in Lowell, sun
parted down-pouring clouds in 2004. On my way home
from a job interview in Boston, I stopped
at his grave. I was in a long-sleeve white-collared shirt, and Jack

was in the ground, probably

wearing the same thing. I didn’t take off my tie.

It dragged in the mud as I dried his stone
to make a charcoal rubbing that now fades in a drawer.

I stood in the rain, the grass and water
darkening the knees of my suit pants, and wrote a poem
on a small square of paper. I dropped it in the grass
next to the empty whiskey bottles left in his honor.

Now, whenever I pull my dry-cleaned clothes from the closet,
I think of Jack waiting for a ride into Utah. I recall kneeling
at his grave, and I remember leaving my ink
to bleed into the ground.

Dedication

To Weldon Kees

For Ann, the lover
of the tortured and the retriever
of the abandoned.

For Ann, the sinuous
bather and the hopeful embracer,
dripping salt water.

For Ann, the singer
of quiet jazz, extending her hand
and her sanity.

For Ann, the beloved mourner,
the finder of secret poems,
the owner of the intimate.

For Weldon, the tortured,
the waiting, the unquiet writer
of secrets. For Weldon,

the naked.

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About Martin Elwell

Martin Elwell is a poet and editor living on the New Hampshire seacoast. He is author of the chapbook Dreaming Again. His poems have appeared in various literary journals. He co-edited of Bearers of Distance, an anthology of poems by runners from Eastern Point Press, and is News & Resources Editor for the Found Poetry Review. Follow him on Twitter @MartyElwell, read other poems at http://martinelwell.wordpress.com or follow his travels at http://wordspergallon.com.

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