Mall of America

In America, even the old are expected to work.
No rest for the wicked. Even in retirement,
one goes to bed exhausted. There’s no relief.
We all are required to pump our own gas.
We used to buy our clothes off the rack.
Now we sift suits off the floor. There are no clerks.
Profits are up. They’ve figured out how to serve
the masses without a waitress.

Do-it-yourself people. I blame it all on pampers.
No one does the wash. It’s a throwaway nation.
In just a matter of time, we’ll be picking through
the garbage, as they do in Jakarta and Mexico City.
Why build shelves? There’s no point in placing
clothes on hangers. Dump it all in a pile and let
the masses go for it. Sell the merchandise by the pound,
regardless. Books, too!

Enron nation. The companies are bankrupted.
The CEOs live in mansions with basketball courts
in their living rooms. There’s a movie theatre and a
panic room. There are seventeen bedrooms and as many
toilets, but no library. America’s elite no longer reads.
They go directly from middle school to the boardroom.
They skip the 19th century education; the Latin and the
Greek are unneeded; they begin their study of criminality.

The department stores are gone. If anything, they were
places distinguished by their neatness. They were known
for order, cleanliness, and public appeal. They were an escape
from the street. Now we have warehouses, where customers do
the unpacking. The underwear can be found on the floor on Aisle 9.
Get your stuff and head for checkout. You don’t need cash
or a card. One can scan one’s own wrist. Look into the camera
and say Kraft.

The only people working in the store are floor detectives
in pressed uniforms. They’re there to discourage shoplifting
and to prevent customers from setting up meth labs. Take your
rifle and your ammo to Aisle 7 for a license, on sale this week
for $89.99. Illegals can buy an ID on Aisle 11. While
shopping today, why not get a flu shot? That’ll be at our self-
service kiosk, Aisle 3. Returning customers get a discount.
The deceased are free.

The malls—those that are not boarded up—are now filled
with homeless. They break down the doors. The atrium
was filled with plastic bird of paradise and stuffed toucan.
Marauding teens play knock-out games but the tattoo artist,
set up where Kabakoff’s Bakery once stood, refuses to get
involved. They once baked the best rye bread in town, but
sold out when their daughter failed to return from Sarah

Their son Nathan became a heroin addict and a drag queen.
He died of an overdose. When paramedics found his body,
his teeth were black. His mother, Melinda, cried because he
had stopped brushing. A society can take a lot. Look at the
Russians. Think of Cambodia. The killing fields are now
paved over. There’s a Howard Johnson’s next to the Pol Pot
Museum. You can order a chocolate shake after viewing
the torture chambers.

One can no longer find a good rye downtown, but one can
order a decent cheeseburger in Shanghai. Corporate America
reminds us of the USSR, with its long lines and empty shelves.
The plumber will be there some time next Tuesday. Americans
learn to wait. Just as well, as there’s nowhere to go. Starbucks
will send a drone with a donut and a cup of coffee. The beans
were handpicked by native virgins on the slopes of Hawaii’s last
active volcano. It’s organic. The coffee and the donut will be $39.95.

Literary Property

One doesn’t think of poets as money managers.
It must be nice to see one’s work issued by the government.
You have to give her credit for it; she made an industry
out of having had a hard time of it, even if today she lunches
with the likes of Oprah and Jessica Mitford.

Had there been enough good parts, she could have
made a fine actress. She would have made a powerful Josie
Hogan, you know, from that play by Eugene O’Neill, or that
haunting wife of Macbeth, or, better yet, Hamlet’s dear mother.
Instead, she became a bestselling poet.

Something about her reminds me of a circus, a tented
carnival with a snake-man called Scaly and a three-breasted
lady. Step right up and hear her tale of unparalleled woe.
Avoid the door on the right, or you might get her confused
with the tattooed midget in yellow tights and his aqua tunic.

Tell the tale of your miserable past: how
you were beaten and mistreated, and how
you experienced unwanted advances. Why not
explain once again what it was like to have to eat
barbecued bologna on Christmas morning?
Now there’s human suffering.

The royalties mount beyond anyone’s count.
Rake it in while it lasts. There’s the five-bedroom townhouse
in a fashionable part of Harlem, the mansion down
in swampy Carolina, a wee property along the Hudson,
and, rumor has it, a pied-á-terre in a posh section of Paris.

The newest new book is just coming out in a new
waterproof edition. The text, it is said, glows in the dark,
so it can be read underwater, or you can get one that floats.
It is scheduled to appear later this month in coordination
with her new show, Big Woe, the new Broadway Musical.

Have your say, as they say, but be sure to count your earnings.
Some might say it is too much to dare. When you wear earrings
and things from Tiffany’s, it gets harder and harder to ask for
sympathy. You might wind up like some of your devoted readers,
much too rich to notice a little girl in need of affection.

Where There’s Smoke

The old bag takes a drag. She smokes
while her young neighbor presses
buttons on her cosmic toy. What is it?
A search for a young man, a samurai
soldier who will ask for a rubdown
before he draws blood in battle? Is she
ordering some detergent or getting
that new softener advertised on TV?

They huddle in the smoking room.
Three women and two men who know
how to ignore each other. They can sit
in their smoke and not disturb the neighbors.
They don’t play with themselves either.
That, too, is well controlled in the imagination.
Perhaps the guy with a grey cap is texting
love poems.

The big one against the wall hunched over
is wearing a blue sweatshirt with a hood.
The last time he had a hard-on he was watching
baseball. He took out his bat but struck out.
Since then he practices pinball at the pachinko
parlor. After six hours, he wins eight bars of Meiji
chocolate. He takes his spiritual winnings
home to his widowed mother.

The old hag wears red lipstick to call attention
to her sex. Without the makeup she’d be mistaken
for a male truck driver. She holds the filter less than
an inch from her puckered face. She puffs away and
listens to Dionne Warwick, that American from San Jose
and a thousand years ago. The old Japanese woman
imagines herself as a sexy black chick. If so, she, too,
would sing.

The huddled men don’t know what they’re missing.
Dionne sings of love, but these poor saps know nothing
of it. The last time baseball cap came was at a bukkake
party where he unloaded on a drunken officemate, a girl
named Tomiko, who let the boys have their way with her.
She kneeled on the floor as the boys stood around slapping
her face with their stiff cocks. Her mascara ran down her face
mixed with tears of joy.

Sex here is always mixed with acts of cruelty: old men
pay to have their nipples pinched, girls wear their knickers
on their heads, boys with hairless bodies and children’s
genitals watch and giggle. They like to pee on their girlfriends.
They miss their mothers. They don’t remember their fathers.
The empire fell and then came this, the largest toy factory
in the world. They went from manufacturing poison gases
to making tiny police cars with working sirens.

They invented glow-in-the-dark dildos. They maintain
traditions, such as having girls splash cold water on naked
men as they parade through the streets. They build toilets with
hidden squirt guns aimed at one’s bottom. It doesn’t take long
to see how they defeated the British in Singapore. It’s also not
difficult to see why they laughed at the American officers
who asked the French chefs at the Tokyo Hotel to fix hot dogs
and hamburgers for them on an open fire.

Americans write to Ann Landers to ask what they can do
to make the Japanese happy. “The inscrutable Japanese can’t
really be so hard to reach.” In Beijing and Moscow, it just
takes a smile. We’re determined to believe the same thing
will make the Japanese melt. We giggle, wave, clap, and sing.
We learn, too late, that the Japanese take these gestures as signs
of mental illness or of stupidity. The Japanese only smile when
they carry out executions.

You Can’t Improve on Nature

Should we have pandas or not? Man decides.
Should I take her as a bride or not, used to be
the question. Since when did we gain this new
power to design the universe? It’s hard
enough for me to decide what to wear to bed.

Should we change the spark plugs is more my speed.
I can’t quite see what I have to do with rabbits.
Why would you ask? I’m not building another arc.
Don’t leave such matters to me and while you’re at it,
please don’t take these things upon yourself.

In other words, we should leave the fucking place exactly
as we found it. Should have nothing to do with it.
Mountains are not a matter of moral imperative. Neither
are field mice. If you care to kill one, be my guest, but
you have a lot of nerve asking me if their time has come.

Leave it alone, won’t you? You’re not happy with your sex,
fine. Turn yourself into a frog, but don’t ask Harry Potter
to make the lilies disappear. This entire enterprise is fine…
just the way it is, no room for improvement. What makes the
powerless powerful is not exterminating the vermin.

Panda bears or bats are not the problem, but this search for paradise
might be. This ever-present urge to improve the universe puts me
on edge. I’d rather go back to the pyramids, or further, back to the caves.
Back to nothing would be preferable to me, unless it would entail making
us less destructive. I’d like to sign the petition. I vote to leave it be.

Bliss by the Hour

If I were to begin licking now, I’d probably be finished
by midnight. I’d like the opportunity.
Or you could sign up for our monthly pass,
in which case, I’d drop by once a week to suck your toes.
It’s up to you. We are running a special.


It’ll cost you extra if you want me to stick my finger…


Or you could buy a lottery ticket.
We are having a drawing in which case you or a loved one
would have the chance to take advantage of my wife.
She’ll be 23 in March.
This is all I am prepared to say.
I’m terribly sorry.


Let’s get back, if we may, to our subscription package.
We are offering sexual gratification at this time
on a weekly basis, but you’ll have to sign up today.
That is correct. Someone will come by to lick your inner
thigh for eleven minutes. Guaranteed.


BLISS. That’s correct. B-L-I-S-S.
Right. It’s available on a subscription basis only.
Today, we are offering a ten percent discount
on our orgasm delight special.
We don’t like to use that word. We could be sued.
Happiness is being offered by our competition.
We prefer to say we offer bliss by the hour.


You’ve seen the ad?
That is one of our specialties. We use organic honey.
Our competitor, I might add, uses an imported product
known to contain inorganic matter as well as contaminants.
It is a concoction made by the Chinese. Ours is 100 percent
Appalachian clover. You might be interested in our orange
blossom upgrade. That is correct. We pour it into your ears.


Well, think it over. You have my number.