Graves Stones, draft of Book1, by Scott Zieher










The writer must direct his sentence as carefully and leisurely as the marksman his rifle.




Let us send our thoughts to God,

Tell them to inquire

How much longer it is fated

Hangmen rule this world!










War now, like before—

The room smells


Like sandalwood and vetiver

And amber wood and vetiver.


We’re contemplating a fire

Because it’s cold, it’s always cold.


The gloaming is gone—

It’s just plain night.


In honor, having cabbage.

Might we drive an ambulance


Like dishonest Ernest? No.

Faulkner faked it, too.


Both went to war poets

And came out not.


Both less

Than half this, our age—


Warped and harried

On the dirty page—



Saw fire.


Neither got stained across the face

With smoke and wax and mud.


We never went to war

And yet can’t remember a moment without.




Fellow I knew long ago, Jersey boy

Called his crew cut The Chicago Box.


His name was Phil but he went by Kevin

Like everybody in securities.


Kyiv is the size of Chicago.

The aggressor has overplayed 


His hand— a hand

Like old, dirty propaganda ape’s


Covered with smoke 

And wax and mud.


The dogs of my friends 

In Texas don’t hurt—


Covered with smoke

And wax and mud.


Crime is alive and well in America

And war is well the world over.




Now, I’m no Ezra Pound

But call me Ezra Pound.


No direct penalty on the stock market

No direct penalty on the vers libre market.


In the church of my heart

The choir is on fire.


See also Osip Mandelstam’s beans.

See also Emil Cioran’s beets.


Go now, and get your gun

And if you haven’t any, we’ll give you one.


All the blackboards



Instead we light a meager fire

Kindled by LIFE magazines—


We’re not starving

Yet, we say, grayly.


But I know an army ranger.

And I know a green beret.


I remember Vietnam.

Beirut. Both storms—


I think I even

Remember Afghanistan—


Though it’s cloudy

With chance of torrents.


It makes a difference

How we’re innocent—


How we couch our horror of power.

How we dolphin our sonnets—


Widening our tablets

Sharpening our diamond chisels.


My arms are lean.

I might be a coward.




$100 barrel.

$5 gas in Oregon.


Save candle sallow.

Save glass jars and dirty rags.


Gasoline donations accepted.

The battle of wits at Bulgaria


The battle of snits at Mongolia.

Name your interstitial township— 


Small men gambling

With greasy playing cards.


The big one drops a diamond

And the puny one’s knees buckle—


A spade.


The little guy’s always in charge.

His big ape never cares.



I said ape. Because he’s big and ugly.



He is dumb as your average loose animal.




Troops in unison.

Boots shuffling slowly.


President unsanctioned—

Commercial free. All our red


Lights blinking in unison

Like the boots of troops slowly shuffling.


From here to New Zealand.

From here to the almighty ruble in free fall.


We talk in trillions, anyhow.

We smoke yet nervous more.


But there were no carpet bombs

On children’s schools.


Falsehood flies and the truth

Comes limping after (with a knife


In his grin—

And blood on his chin)


Root and terminus

At once.


Like we kill

For pork belly.


All ye hoarders

Expecting potted meat


And collective pots of chili

While the jet age revives— as the nyet age.


How we learn greed

Is always suspicious.


I deserve this—

The thief says


And the present owner

Does not.


Our press corpse 

Just can’t get enough saying Molotov Cocktail.


Our man in Moscow

Joseph Brodsky learned English


In order to translate W.H. Auden.

See September 1939, which is easy enough—


Right in our faces. See Poland

Of all the unlucky neighbors.


Beer bottles full of gasoline.

Unto horses versus tanks.


No more beer.

Only bombs.


How many wars?

Cries the white dog


Chewing a paw off

To free it of shackle.


Let’s watch the white dog

Try to chew his neck off.


Them Russians

And them Russians.


What say you Bronson Alcott?

What say you Orestes Brownson?


Just as expected— 

Sour notes on the bombardier’s dulcimer.


Tin cymbals.

Cellophane snare.


We clog rivers for unfree floating

Toward the ocean in transcendental ecstasy.


I’m attuned to the melting wax

Technique of hollowing sculpture.


An embarrassment of bitches—

My wrist hurts, my knife exposed.


Broke my tailbone

And drove to Chattanooga one Tuesday.


Was yesterday

Our 1939?


Is this trembling memory

My ten-year-old mother’s memory?


Or my twelve-year-old father’s? My own at ten—

People hanging off helicopters.


All three entirely flummoxed

Being first generation Germanospherics.


We are all here

In the exact same place.


I ate from a jar of purple cabbages

And two kinds of pickle for dinner.


I am ambassador

Of nothing.


Ask me for heavy breathing

And I’m out of my league.


No fly—

But my blade spins.


Sharpening an alarming

Ticonderoga Soft rate.


Right arm sore to the shoulder.

Wheat futures at Paris Euronext.


Official correction—

Two yellow-eyed dogs in the junkyard


Covered in mud

Covered in blood


Like polar bears

In the middle of a swamp.


Higher prices 

At the unholy pulpit of the pump.


Still the road beckons

Still the road bellows


For the return of our four 

Feet across the tarmac


The macadam, the paving

Stones from Plano’s pine cones


To the falling of Menomonee Falls—

What quietly, smugly apalls


Because we never even knew

About the water element.


Our bluebird’s perch—

A young mother could run to the hospital.


No soldier tells us what to do.

We’ll never flee to Poland.


Your editor is an idiot.

His digits are three years outdated.


I wanna

Ride my llama.


I’ve plumb run out

Of snake oil.


I could use a sharp object—

Help me lance this boil.


Please tell us pork futures

Are still secure.


And with them, dill pickles—

Pork rind futures? How fare these?


I can see the hospital

From here.


We are not armed

And never will be.


We’ll never see Poland now.

Retool your punch-list soldier.


It’s their war

But it’s still our bunker.


One bright light

Drowns out all the other light.


At least it finally stopped raining.

The palimpsesting of a soldier’s notebook


Requires humectant air

To be moist effective.


Exhausts the Fanta©

Brand can of red cream soda armaments.


Now back to our man in Gdansk.

Expecting orchards—


Put your children to sleep

Gently this night and all hence.


Rhyme for them.

Proceed with patience.




Let’s go find the dead man’s films.

Let go play High Castle, like clouds in trousers.


It should be fun.

No it shouldn’t.


Let’s to Beloit 

And find farmers.


Let’s to mocking

Their mouthpieces.


It’s disturbingly quiet

Until the heavy mortar bursts.


Small arms.

Like Fanta© brand canned whimperings


Like our unsharp’d spikes

For the mile on gravel—


Kicking up cinders

Nearing four minutes—


Spilling beer in your lap

On the bus to march in Washington—


  1. What else was there to do

Having lived through George 





Bologna is just a very thick hot dog.

Give me a Braunschweig on pumper


Nickle, slab of Limberger, sharp mustard

And eleven vinegar pickles.


Give me a tall glass

Of Fanta© brand on balls of ice.


Here’s how! Paltry radio news from 

Moscow, one big palimpsest.


Military poetry anymore!

It makes no sense!


All wagons and orbits—

This town has one red light


And no Dollar General.

It ain’t urban, mumbles


The Governor, chewing

His eraser—


Nobody listens.

Least of all soldiers.


Soldiers without wagons.

Soldiers without orbits.


Soldiers without ink.

Soldiers without onionskin.





Soldiers for Hesios.

Soldiers for smoke.


History professor

Eating hot nuts, one at a time.


Drama professor

Gobbling balls of golden cheese.


Chemistry professor

On their knees.


Chinese Jesus

Buddha HooDoo


Allah frees us

And the Communist sneezes.


Ham hollers.

Vodka comes from potato.


So they never freeze or starve—

Not slowly or otherwise.


Both bunks bulging in a kind

Of misnamed lime green industrial.


Trojan route

Through town.


Trojan rout—

The sound of calm confusion


In sixteen hour segments

Chopped like chives.


Every helmsman’s helmet

Bent from nape to pate.


Like Muslim pickle cans

From Old Milwaukee.


Half darkness

Quarter darkness


Sixteen darkness

Such is dawn.


Everybody has a table 

To blame, else


A handful of wax, protecting

The graves, protecting the stones.




They ripped the general down

In January—


Yanked from the heels

Of his horse—


Most civic architecture 

Is poorly made.


All civic sculpture

Is ugly.



Was both.


Your deliverables

In half a hollow bottle


With notes on knife sharpening.

Sleep like a chariot.


Monty Hall got nothing

On Door #2.




Docket Gold Tops Yellow Legal Pads—

For the court stenographer in all of us.




Play the piano

Or we’ll cut your hands off.




I found a handmade boomerang

In Venice on the ground.



Was around.


That’s a lonely 

Shirt, if ever.




Latter Day Saints sounds

From the radio—



With the Utah Bee Gees—


All the way

From Minnesota.


It’s all 

Minnesota’s fault.


Strike while the rotten

Iron’s hot.


It’s always cold

As hell.


Sharp, sharp

Fragment wonk of schrapnel.


I’d have made a  lousy medic

But give me a clipboard!


The drum 

Is our blood.


Notes on short pencils.

Notes on hobo snow.




Dented helmet

Bent helmet


In headlands?

Head inland.




All soldier poets hereby

Requested memorize


Late William Bronk

And the short verse


Of Louis Zukofsky. 1000

Word sentence on both.


Next week— corn

Cob pipes and their carving—


Like scrimshaw

Last semester.


Other topics—

Arthritis and the soldier poet—


A cautionary fail.

Federal Supply Service poets


Now teaching survivalism—

For 200 years and running.


So it goes—

The state flows


And your February

Is not frozen.


Your nub is sharp

But it’s still a nub.




Forth we trod

Hopping headstones


In our bent 

And dented helmets


Gov’t issue

Unlike these $40 boots.


So warm, so

Soft we laugh.


How fast can they

Get you there should


Be the motto

Of every foot soldier’s boot choice.


I’m proud not to be born a Wineapple

Or Lightfoot—


A Sackville or Berghandler

A Bixby or Degrandgagnage.


How regal—

To be running their fingers through the dirt


Slapping the back 

Of someone else’s plowman.


Instead, our fingers

Are soft as breakfast biscuits.


Drawers full

Of orphaned items


Three dollars

And a dirty baseball—


All five passports

Up to date.


Jesus is an ocean.

Let’s go swimming.


You can’t practice wrestling

All alone.


Goodness is a wall

Of words.


Some of them are Aramaic.

Even if my name was Duyckink—


The old man at the pulpit and his others

Named Wineapple and Lightfoot


Sackville, Berghandler, Bixby

And good old Degrandgagnage—


They don’t talk Aramaic either.

Don’t even talk Spanish


Like their servants 

Or their neighbors


And wouldn’t bother

Even if they were panlingual.


If my name was Duykinck

I’d change it.




The gray sky sags

As it grays ever more.


That’s a $75 sunset



That’s a Transcendental

Crepescule Extraordinaire.


That’s a tortoise

And you’re the hare.


A winter hare—

Skinny and demure.


Easy for the big birds to spot

Even without any snow.



To the wet hares of February.


Wet hares

On the eastern flank.


Cold middle Europe—

You soldiers


Drinking hot milk

With a heaping spoonful of salt


By mistake.

Three inches of rain a day—


Here’s salt 

In your milk.


Here, we call it

The Buffalo River.


In old Urkaina all the rivers

Are named Bug River.


Even the Danube.

No gas for you filthy pinkos!


(They call across 

The Bug River.)


Our real problem

Is everybody else’s problems.




Strobes across the harbor.

Blinking fluorescents all over


Overnight American

Strip mall interstices.


Your generous donations support

Bigger Bulgarian guns.

Bulgaria trembles not.

Bulgaria whimpers not.


The mountains are cold—

Let’s drink them.


In fact, tonight

We drink not unindustriously


But for all 

The flags on coffins.


Consider a further

Contribution by way of envelope


In the pew 

In front of you


And if you’re not in a church

Check the seat pouch in your face.


Every river

In the wide, wide world—







And smells like old man

Eating onion


In honor 

Of our hungrier brothers


All we who smell

Like relish and anchovies.


Some days

A fellow just melts


In the old





Large world growing smaller

By the millisecond.


Taller mountain, won’t even

Try to drink it.




Eastern flank.

Green candle burning bright.


Ungirdle your unholy holster—

Draw instead your pusillanimous blue stencils


And yellow pencils.

No red here.


On this day

You lost your lousy memory.


Ten minutes of early

Onset? War trauma?


Snap the fuck

Out of it.


Could these new pickled memories

Be held against recent forty years of transgressions?


Yes. No.

Maybe so?


It feels 

Like war


In Toledo

In Minsk


Broken jaw

Radio wave


Two big, white dogs

Rolling in the muddy winter yard—



Of candles


Emphasizing the machine

If you know what we mean.




Haunted, jaundiced

Just like the dying day.


Cincinnati is the sister city.

Hundreds have been gray—


Begin a poem for a soldier

And the godforsaken world goes to war.


1912 wax cylinders of Fisk University

Found. World on the verge of war then, too.


History doesn’t repeat

It rhymes. Like a squirrel.


Radio feed foretelling

All these couplet weeks.


Forty-five million new Russians?

Not a chance.


Dry goods and little jars

Of chipped beef.


Bone Jesus 

Carved in a nut house.


Bone Buddha

Carved in a canoe.


Bone Allah

Carved in smoke.


Candles brightly

In each fist.


Minced onions

On the menu.


Luscious purple cabbage

From the jar.


Other pickling

Other creams.


A recalcitrant truth

Against the public brick.




If my fingers ache

Am I having a heart attack?





Molotov cocktail

On the library shelf.


Dusk mounts day

Like a rapist.




Helpless as a pile

Of rotten pumpkins.




Old, bald Vlad

Puts James Dean to shame—


Blood all down

His pristine, medium-starched shirt front.


Such is propaganda.

Such is soldier poetry.




Stop yourself

If you’ve heard this one before—


Everybody smoking

Around a pile of potato soup—


Young people don’t watch



I teach a class

On this.




These muscles are tensile.

These arms are children.


Calumny Calumny Calumny

Calling Jews Nazis.


How stupid the world

Keeps proving itself!


Capitol in the cross hairs—

Our man in Kryvy Rih—


Reporting from Zaporizhhya—

Minute by Rachmaninoff minute—


Babies dreaming—

Each one a Black Sea.




Red ink

And sharper swords.


Mustard seed

In the pudding.




Glory unto Brovary.

Glory unto Stayki by the River.


It is dawn

And their eggs are bloody.


Wonderful peace

Unto you on the green canals of cream.


The war we love.

Press corpse in your sneeze pocket.


All handkerchiefs—

Welcome to hell.


We are burning, staring

At our safety—


Unto puddles of sorrow—

Unstable as ever—


Our flinty resolve



Stupid American cows.

Stupid Russian sheep.


We’re here to mumble Liberty.

She’s here to turn on the fan.


Air out

This shit storm—


This pursuit

Of happiness—


Greed, for when power

Is not quite enough.


War is subtractive.

Devoted to undoing.


Nowhere does it win.

Nativism and extremism


Never win.

Tip your hat to the enemy like days gone.


Or maybe



Or probably 



Ach most certainly



We hate

As humans


As well

As we fear—


Our co-morbidities

Pure as the driven shrapnel shit storm.


Here we are fierce

Even at rest.


Still we are stunned

Now Ukraine feels as close as Newfoundland


Compared to the axis

Of devils.


All the Discoteque Magazines

Raving about Poland.


Electronica loves

An Eastern beat.


It’s minimalism—

That drum noise—


Sustained small arms

Tin cups full of potted meat.

Cans of conservas.

Crates of Blue Bird pears.


All around us flood.

All around us blizzard.


We are romantics.

Our weather is war.


Such is the weakness

Of this unsoldiered soul.


Odessa under siege.

Sea of Azov floats with inky dead—


Floats dark like frozen squid.

Air. Land. Sea. No more mantic rants


Like romantic wars of old.

The placid sky absorbs you.


There was never

Romantic war.


Only Romantic

Poetry. Romantic pants.


Horizons waft scorches of hair.

The burning is determined—


A slum of sun

Before the storm.


Ukraine is the second

Largest country in Europe.



Her aggressor.)


Covered in bomb horns

And angry confetti.


Even in black and white

Roars Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi—

Our grisaille of the homeland

A Winterreise all of woe.


Zwiek we drank 

In Brooklyn, close enough—


For a dollar a bottle.

Big bottles to boot.


We loved that food

Which will never go away.




Measuring time to target

Final attack heading


Helicopter drops another

Liver on the hospital roof—


Never boring, a window—

Not even in the rain.







The isthmus sending smoke signals

From a crooked candle all out of wax.





Get me to the train 

On time, we dream—


And the dream

Is a very long line


And we play

The congas with rapid indignity—


Bang ‘em 

If you got ‘em


Says the man

In the dark blue uniform of death.



We smile


Because it’s a dream

For once.


And bombs you

Back to 1939.




Glory unto Minsk Massif—

A silent jet plane’s slow ascent


Hot black

Against a neutral gray.


Trembling like an elephant

Pumping gas.





Smells of cigar


Though never

Was one blown here—


And evening bleeds

Into the sea


As the church bells

Peel and battle rages at the zoo.


The actual comedian a better leader 

Than the lifelong logo for despotism.


Strobes flow.

Put the cart before the dog.


Even the clouds

Are skittish.




We remind ourselves—

This is not (actually) our war yet.


How long it took 83 years ago?

24 months to join.


291,557 USA dead then.

27,000,000 Russians dead then (conservatively)—


(They apparently

Never tell the truth).


Flabbergasting numbers melting ice.

600 billions in funds.


The union flinches—

Helmet necessary.


This, too, a radio war.

Your heap, soon asleep.


20 hours to Hungary.

There are no men.





First thought

Only thought.




Our man in Smiloa—

Tweeds and balaclava.


Purple pliers

And a blood-red wrench.


Certain hours

Are longer than their mothers.


Another stubbing 

In the ashcan-tray of our man in Ribnita.


Only gods

Know this darkness.


Gods, what smote

This puny little snot.


Another homeland

You’ll never know for war.


Effacement of war.

Helicopter from the long, cold north.


Across blue hands—

A yellow thread.


Dog drips

Onto his dinner.


The mud is dust.

The dust is ash.


The ash is burning

Bodies obliterated.


Our man in Demidovo

Outlined in chalk.


What happens in Demidovo

Could never leave


Because nobody

Could possibly know.




The bend in a river

Unrendered. Our cartographer is dead.


His crooked hut

Stark against the brittle sky.


Possibly bathers

Eating grapes in warmer times.


Times more nude

And less rude.




Clam diggers of Odessa!

Plumbers at Chornomorsk!


Take arms!

Unite on porches


Form on platforms

Aim upon porches


Scorch them back

All ye men 18-60


Hell bent

And leather necked


We hear you here

In your angriest hour!


We grow bones

And heaven groans—


Four pillows bent

To make a body.


I don’t know 

What you men mean.


Just like pitch drop—

Only slower.


Even still—

Never will—


How certain gas is natural

And other isn’t.


Science is what we forget

Right after history.


The kind of focus

Fear needs.


Have you bundled?

How’s your cyber?


Jesus murder me instead.

Brain matter hanging from the rafters.


The sun gives us vitamins

Like a bend in the unrendered river


Without bathers

Eating naked grapes—


Just the musicology

Of theology


Without 600 year old songs.

Our man in Pomona, 1928.


Three smokes on a match

Kills three Russian sailors.


Land. Sea. Air.

Full of smoke.


The morals of war?

No the morsels of war.


Big crumb they call it

Else long pig.


It is 5:01AM in Kyiv.

Dnieper covered in bright red stars.


Not everybody dead—

Just almost.


Four Greeks dead.

Four Koreans freed.


Try to describe the smell of welding

Without the words of metal.


Try to describe the smell of smoke

Without the words of death.


Turn the spigot

Hot and high.


Some thoughts aren’t

Worth forgetting.


The membrane of memory.

The tensile strength of memory.


Cincinnati weeping into chili cheese dogs.

Weeping into golden Hudepohls.


Well done, please—

Extra gravy—


Like a good Depression era

Norwegian immigrant.


Only way to eat 

That hockey puck.





The luxury

In our laps.


Get your chew

Screwed on.


5340 miles away

As the crow sways.


How I would know

I don’t.


Draped like a flag

On a coffin.


Ukranian conflict.

Hungarian coffin.


Lobe of bones

Something humming—


The rarified form of a fog

Horn on a clear, cold night.


Like eating toffee

With a toothache.


The heat smells

Like taco meat.


Here’s a pile of paper.

Make a thousand drawings.


Make every one



The stamina of the comedian.

He sleeps in his sweater


Says our man in Klin—

Crossroads to nowhere.


So far away you couldn’t know.

Hospital’s dark against the sharp dark city.


We find ellipses cumbersome eyesores.

Preferring closure



To be reactivated)—

Other governments

Are also stupid—


Just a bunch of ugly goats

Eating out of the gutter


As the gray sky breaks 

Like a rancid egg.


Weapons for diplomacy—

Statecraft is warcraft


Which has far bigger profit

Margins than chickens.


Let’s turn the barn

Into a think tank.




What we see now unfolding here

Is no Paduan one-horse-hair brush


Or painting gilded with whiskers

On a prince in platinum armor—


Not even a wilting lily

Wincing through the rockpile.


No brace of lances

Poised for disemboweling.


Nothing shines, save

The explosions.


Salvations, they call

The sporadic salvos—


They inch into the second largest city.

The footage is shaken and gritty.


Hey dead man—

You’re lucky.




After urgency

A quietude.


Languishing alone

At last, sun prince


Piercing the milk

Of a cloud in trousers.


Local color.

Local poet.


Leftover breakfast—

At play in the fields of the word.


Borage oil and willow bark

Rub it on your fallow face.


What have we

To fear?




Now 360,000

Refugees in four days.


Eighteen chorister’s bosoms heave

In unison.


Finland? Sweden?

Tectonic quakes.


Who learns (none)?

What lesson (none)?


Now sirens howling, heading

Downtown from the university.


We will rub them out

In the crapper.


My daughter sleeps well

Under Chinese cotton.


Toes warmed by Chinese booties.

Lamp offering Chinese light—


I can hear

Her soft and happy snoring.


We lose our marbles—

Filling big, green bottles with gasoline.


Gay Ukranian cartoonist

Can’t go to war. Temperamentally unmilitary.






To kill.


Hanker for the first cold war

When the impossible remained impossible.




Can’t stop digging.

As we dig, we bury.


We offer this bowl of fruit—

Oblate for our prayer to prevent misfortune


To a tiger.

Our robes are red.


It is cold in the middle of the night

In Timphu, in talks, on hold


Through a tower 

At Yakutsk.


But still

The tiger dies.


Where once 

Were snow lions—


Now only in books

And prayer anymore.


Hard to happen upon.

Harden to stumble after.


How long we knew this tiger

Was hungry!


How hard it is—

To kill a tiger!


So then he got his sliver of tiger brain

Back to the laboratory


And this tyger 

Wasn’t even dead.


It was alive 

And kicking


In the crevasse

Of a mule hoof


Slowly pulling a fertilizer buggy

Full, not of grain, but of green bottles.


Zwiek full of gasoline.

Lvivske full of gasoline.


Obolon Oksamytove deep velvet

Full of gasoline corked by dirty rags.


Clink Clank Clunk 

Goes the wheel of our old fangled wagon.


It’s a long road

To Uzhhrod.


Even the birds

Are tired.

Even the trees

Mired in worry.



As a can of tuba. 


In the wind.

In the winter.


At night.

In the rain.





Surprised it’s only 392 pages.)


(I’m in contact with Destiny.

She’s calling me back.)


Keep upright!

These times are fiberglass.


Cries the big box

Of durable good.


We prefer our drones

In music from Spain


Sung in French

By Africans.


Bright and oily.

Like a Refusenik—


I haven’t changed

My sweater in a month.


Like a can of High Power

Tamales in sauce.


Always ask for chili

With beans or chili


With no beans—

It’s matchless—


Delicious spicy taste

Out of Memphis


Most naturally

On a pack of matches.


I like a good laugh on the beach 

Like your average Eastern European.


Gaunt over gravy

Sausages like stones


Over biscuits hard

As rock without gravy.


We don’t wonder why.

We’re not French.




Russian and Ukrainian arguments—

What can’t be won.


Much has changed in the last twenty-five









He speaks 

Only to his bodyguards.


Gas was 27¢ a gallon in 1949.

$5.25 in Los Angeles today.


Now there is a time tax on the poor—

Filling out paperwork!


Smoking menthols.

Eating tater tots.




Iron and steel near 8 billions.

Animal fats near 6 billions.


Ore, slag and ash near 4 ½ billions.

Other stuffs at 30 billions.


Throats cut and bleeding out

At Black Sea. We are not sanguine.


We sample the hammer’s appetite.

Hungry hammer. Thirsty sickle.


The barge bullying through

The landscape at large.


Long bone sticking a candle.

Gas can lacking a handle.


Shake this confetti—

Booty for freedom.


This roller goes coast to coast

Like your local incinerator—


Books burn just like

Bloodless bodies.


We tally the tarmac with tears

Like patriots before that was filthy.


We called menthol cigarettes Larries in the day. 

Larry’d played chess with Bobby Fischer.


Killed a man.

Suffered many fools.


Always had 

Two packs.


Live free or die.

Don’t tread on me.


Two things we thought

We understood—


We never did

And never could.


Power, like a totem, stood

And we took it, dumb as wood


To the hand 

Of its retarded carver.


Rocks like solids.

Rolls like fluid.


Yes, I said retarded

Because his carving was backward-thinking.


Smoking in the airy corridors

Disbelieving war is the eternal


Infernal fact—

Now as always is and was.


Peace is a freak of nature.

She feeds on fear.


Even before 

Jesus was war.


Even before

Grief and greed


Was war—

What never languished.


Whose stamp was never not wet.

Whose marker was never not sharp.


If this was prison

We’d be singing—

News of war bringing

News of famine


News of small arms

New in billions.


News of refugees

Who cannot flee.


Friend not far from Plovdiv—

How he fares?


What beers he drinks

And from what bottles?


How can Mina Minov edit his films

In this climate? Exploring northern reaches—


What grim hell?

What shoulder against what boulder?




Train station

Full of cans


Buda— never been.

Pest— all awash.


Remember the love

Of that neck of the woods.


Give them rootsy noodles.

Give them plenty pilsner.


Give them cabbage and coffee.

Give them cream.


Give them smells from the center of the soul—

An empty earth we hope not to erase.


We dance like dogs

On bobsleds.


We scratch 

Without fathoming our skulls.


We can still breathe.

We can still scream.


We can still seethe.

We can still dream.


Might we awake

Uncle halo?


(Like the sad sea

Gives a shit about our stupidity.)


Woe unto these of extra sauce

On their too-much Jesus for lunch.


Too much molasses

Weighing down their carcasses.


Dnipro on fire.

Kyiv a final pyre.


Ears are strange machines.

Uncork one, let’s have a snort.


Pasternak backflipping, immolated.

Mayakovsky in a puddle of his own weeping.


His tears tamp these fires.

His tall ears note the shrieking


Big onion boulders of Moscow.

You should be in smolders


Your ghosts here saunter—

Gaunter hosts


Of the disease

Of political belief.


We’re all either

Chinese or African.


Hermitage lachrymose— balling

Its fool head off in actual fact—


Withersoever we gargle

Our badgering alarums—


How in hell 

Does this doldrum end?


Our festal pennons flapping

Cyril and Methodius, doubly wobbly


Just 1000 versts to the capitol—

Mayhap lacking the requisite cobalt


Needed for the strong knees needed

To crawl to death.


Zaphorshian Sich in shock.

Zvenihorod shrinks not.


Szlachte in tatters.

Why did not the wind remove you


To the steppe as dust

As dust, as dust?


Tombs upon the meadows.

Once there was evil dancing.


Are they ashes?

The sun they censure.


Life’s no cabin.

Keep on waiting.


Get away, you blockheads.

You have never been in fetters!





What a noble peahen you are!

You are only a pickled cabbage!


Sinop is spasms.

Trapezont ablaze.


Tis hard to bear the yoke— though

Freedom, truth be told, was never there.


Orsk foetal, curled.

Kos-Aral still ashamed.


Nizhni Novgorod rings in the hard tin.

Nizhni Novgorod dirty fingernailed.


Tiberias full of tears.

While the wise grandsir is dreaming


We’ll stop

And write a mighty epic


And stream it well above the earth

And weave hexameters for it


And take it to the attic

As breakfast for the mice!


Pochinky on one knee, bleeding.

Arzamas with a faraway look.


Lukoyanov sick as a beaver

With a fever.


Khabarovsk, Saratov, Leningrad, Gorky

Yautorovsk covered in blood!


Sad river Rudnya’s yellow waters

Run with poison iron, flushing.


It’s blushing—

Turning orange.


Old Yassy!

Dead Rzhev!


Recognizing all lack of national

Identity, saluting anyhow.


Not worth bleeding for—

Much less dying (somewhere worse).


Bialystok, the butt.

Bor’bists never forget!


Still only half dead.

We find these knees our own way.


Tumbling thrum of thunder—

At Mariupol in turgid rage.


Dark old density, the mall

In rubble, girders like limbs





This is not war.

This is salvation.


You are not even

A nation.




Body count on Ukrainian civilians— 638.

Helpless as a pile of wheat to the plumber.


Or a mess of bolts

To the farm boy sowing seed.


Worker means nothing anymore.

Make money and you matter.


More money?

More money.


Two candles balance the dead

Dog’s wooden ash box.


Have a can of Spanish fish.

Have some pickles, guilty.


It’s nowhere safe.

Of this theme seems a dizzying dream


Such, they say to me

Is how war, why war, what war



Untold. So tell—


Five generals dead in first three weeks.

Unconfirmed, each three-star Russians.


Impatient— hell.

We want nothing but liberty.


Take a deep, a Capella breath

(Or maybe you mean falsetto?)—


Is there a delta

In Eurasia?


How do their older (Bug) rivers flow?

Slow as chanson mule carts


Over mountains?


Big wood logs well-carved over sea


And unto sand—

The sand of discovery?


The sand

Of Empire.


For we do so love to pretend to remember

A place before the wrong money got wind of it.


Soviet jazz—

Simple, tinny, and mostly wrong.


Ah cripes. Drink your beer, comrade. Drink.

We are here to stay, don’t you think?


We’re banning all the wrong books.

Plundering plucky, earthy songs


Undotted by the flame of war.

Some of our favorite poets are Russian—


Though we know now (in short order)

How we don’t know what Russia even means.


Our pencils arthritic stubs—

Our trombones soaking in salty tubs—


Our weary joints.

Our widowed speeches, without drills


Or filters—

We smoke it straight.


Like the old days

Whenever everybody was more stupider.


Before they changed the date again

We dreamt of a universal day—


When everybody on earth

Is silent and still for ten minutes—


The wrought iron wings

Screech-owling to a halt.


Kansas butterfly my ass—

The globe would explode—


At last

And fast.




We don’t know nothing.

We know everything.


Each fist a cola, bait and switch

The flick of a wrist (the world over)—


Everybody loves a good potboiler in wartime

So pour us a snifter of soupy liqueur


Give us our chippy of trumpet—

A coal mine full of dead canaries.


Ludwig’s ink all over

The Urals in snow.


Which one pulls the plow

And which one lolls in clover?




Can of fish, egg, another coffee.

Radio from under the high sky, crisply


And the children are safe—

Holy Holy Holy.


Strong doesn’t mean big.

The skies bring death.


Bad news for the rock bottom—

Harder to borrow.


So bends the barrel-head’s meniscus—

Bulging all the swampy day.


Bulges all the thousand spears

The thousand more horses.


Thank you for the horses—

But we need napalm.


Spike in prices, obviate.

Spike in crime, obviate.


Lithuania and Latvia

In the ice-cold rain.


Obviate, waiting.

Obviate, hating.


No delicacy. All fire.

How quench the tallow’s taper?


No poet ever knows. 

Goes down to the river alone.


The China river.

The Persia river.


The muddy river.

The tonic river.


The Delaware river.

The Dnieper River.


Dizzy rivers—

Full of helmets—


Bullish with bayonets

Roaring with poison.


The desert river.

The mountain river.


Every river



Old bridges made of trees and rope.

Old churches of wrought-iron full of straw and hay.


Wheat mating

With chaff.


Bold of brain.

Shorn of dignity.


Have we left no shred?





Hell’s dented receptacle—

Corridors open.


Dog licks face

Of dead man.


Gray skies

Offer their deadpan


Like a wound on the small of the back—

The only place a body can’t see—


A wound, in fact

You will never examine.


Tiny pebble in the big

Sea, thrown.




Our water

Is the matter—


Violins made of horse.

Who’s mining all that wheat?


Who’s deveining the core

And all that ore


For more bandwidth

In the band-shell bomb shelter?


Homeland is a barking dog

In the freezing rain


Shivering and all alone

Right before the sun goes down.


Watching the miracle melt

Despite all this cold water.


Strop your sharps

I tell myself, having neither.


Be still or many

Pulmonary dreams


Like the one where you wander

The old, familiar, unknown corridors


Of childhood—

Choking on smoke.


But dream schematics

Have no bearing on war tactics.


Nothing matters.

That’s nothing new.


Like stirrups or spats.

Like foreheads for pates.


Like immigrants

When we mean ex-pats.


Like double-breasted pinstripes

Or tardy for late.


Special meatballs with nutmeg sauce.

Carrots will keep a body swell.


And we slowly drift away

From the smoke.


Sickly blue and green

In the near mist and middle distance.


We practice by copying the masters

Into our skin. The candle gutters again.


Urine-soaked rag against the mouth

Is antidote for chlorine gas.


But it’s always too late

To react. Smell it and you’re dead.




Clay tablet.

Play tablet.


Randy as a coil of colts.

Four posts painted the color of pine wood.


Mother Nature is a misnomer—

Just like Father Time.


Mother Nature is a nuisance—

Just like Father Time.





Darker, we grow.

These pedants!


Daughter of the wrong revolution.

Sons of the stricken dumb.


Donate your leftie news-rags

To the local arkiv.


Let them sort

The seeds from the bud.


We’ll have a frankfurter with the girls

Down around Dead Horse Bay


Like the good old days

When it wasn’t raining.


Chest compressed—

It’s always raining.


Seeks music 

Without vocals.


Seeks a lighter lung way—

The bassoon of certain birds.


Life’s no zoo.

Life’s not even a cabin.


It’s a broom closet in plague time—

Bookended by beaches—


Like Nabokov’s thin shaft of velvet light

Betwixt two impenetrable blocks of darkness.


Coins made of porphyry.

Coins made of gun metal.


Coins made of walrus bone.

Coins made of helicopter blades.


Coins made from the quarter milligram 

Of gold off 305 trillion mother boards.


Only so many brilliant decisions

Can be made around the board room







Daubs the palette olive drab—

Green despite the mostly cement.


Fellow named Kevin could paint this war—

Good fellow, Kevin.


Most artists go by Kevin anymore.

Because he rhymes with heaven


And he’s a very good dancer

Once he finishes his brewery shift.


Just shaking.

Just shimmying


And the big clouds open up above the eastern 

Front like a good old Florida gully washer—


Laving this heinous, old, pasty


And Kevin paints the birth of war babies

Without the color red.




Day 29’s correlation to Stalingrad.

Russians encircled, 10,000 dead.


We see

From afar—


China making back-up hay.

London counting the bales.


Old America, old flabby, empurpled

America— all the ways


We’ve been wrong—

North Atlantic Treaty Orck.


Eastern flank without lanthorns.

Nothingness is money in abstraction.


Abstractly delicious

To the greedy—


Or a dictionary for the poetic kleptomaniac—

The salvage yard pickers of history—


Every pile of garbage a manifesto—

Every lime green shirt a parade of tears.


We’re out of purple paint

And she needs more violet.


White is impossible—

We’ll never run out of black either.


British radio forecasts American forces 

Taking Moscow.


Jackboots jackboots jackboots

Like the wind from a Texas tornado.


Another long report from London—

None watch the ram if both bears are bothered.


No diplomacy

For birds of prey.


No margins, all swim here.

Do not abide the Right belief.


Wise men fish.

Silly men share fish stories.




Ukraine is free and sure

Crystal clear amid the mud—


A barrel of wine

Long remembered—


Borscht hot

Borscht cold—


Sour cream 

In dollops like golf balls


For pierogi

And a swell of beers.


And then the arteries

Of memory harden.




China buys Russia.

China eats Russia.




1943 Red Army aims at Kyiv—

Losing 700,000 soldiers.


Current count of Rus troops 900,000.

Conscripts don’t know how to conquer.

Can Rus nukes (1000) reach Canton, Ohio?

Cooperstown? Springfield by the cement sea?


Can their missiles reach

Any of our halls of fame?



Please us—


Tell us



Protect the sky, hovering

Directly above America as always.


Protect the sky over Ukraine

While you’re at it, please.


Protect this wooden bridge

Bending at it’s hemp edges—


The town is important

For the Bug River.


You can see her whereabouts.

See here, her whereabouts.


See now—

Her death by breath



By guns.




Friendly as a kite.

Friendly as a Canadian.


Friendly as a helicopter

With the transplanted heart


Of a poisoned



His kinfolk simpering, simple

With half a can of dead grandparent.


Homely, hammered hours without sleep 

Through the stomach of midnight.


Old tin lamps making lambent

The pinker inks, the sadder blues.


Halve the loaf—

Drink the milk and sleep.


We are stupid with death—

A braying horse 


Under heavy duress—

God bless us


And let us not forget

The fear that got us here.




25 March 2022