Red-Letter Day

In the audiologist’s waiting room,
I read an article about a “detectorist,”
a Welsh school custodian whose metal detector
signaled a Viking treasure hoard:

Mercian hacksilver, decorative sword fittings,
a gold arm bangle shaped like the ouroboros
& hundreds & hundreds of brittle silver coins
worth millions, what I’d call a real

red-letter day! Later, I got to tell that joke
about my second-favorite organ (pointing
to my brain) & the audiologist laughed!
She laughed & I, I squirmed with infantile joy!

Report from the Mother Ship

Imagine your teeth
from an alien’s point of view.
Weapons-grade collagen?
A tiny race’s graveyard?

Its word-horde inadequate,
the alien googles poems
about teeth:

Basho: “Teeth sensitive to the sand
in salad greens—
I’m getting old.”

Shakespeare: “Blow, thou winter wind…
Thy tooth is not so keen.”

Herrick: “White as Zenobia’s teeth,…which the girls
Of Rome did wear for their most precious pearls.”

Strapped to a gurney,
you watch the alien log off,
its shadow crossing
the brushed steel mirrors.

Imagine your mouth
from its point of view.
Your tongue, a pulpy lure.

Havana, 1953

The eve of the Revolution,
I’m hanging with some bros

at an outdoor table, fellow Americans,
frat boys & small-time drug dealers,

the hills alive with the sound
of gunfire, which we disregard

as we recommend the best cigars,
the best brothels, the best procedure

for expressing our glands
without visiting a veterinarian.

Sleep Aid

Instead of counting sheep
when I can’t sleep, I count
the women I’ve had sex with
(or with whom I’ve had sex).

One rule: if I can’t remember
her name, she doesn’t count.
Chronologically, I can get to 50.
After that, I need memory aids

like place or pleasure & sometimes
pain. Once, I had to count 75
names before I could fall asleep.
Please, believe me—I’m not bragging.

Allen Ginsberg at the Bisbee Poetry Festival (1982)

The poets believe they’re sanctifying
this old church, de-sanctified
three decades ago. Ginsberg fidgets
on his metal folding chair, paying the penalty
for fame, a two-hour open mic. My voice

shakes as I begin to recite. Ginsberg
once asked “Who killed the pork chops?”
My first poem ends, “Who killed Saint Sebastian?”
What’s the sound of no hands clapping?
I imagine arrows showering down toward me
from the readers waiting their turn.

My next poem (I’ve got a minute left)
recounts an evening years ago, car camping
with a male friend, our bedrolls in the back
leaning together like an old couple.
Ginsberg perks up. He looks right at me,
staring hard as I return to my seat.

I sit there on the metal chair, sweating,
hearing again the sound of no hands
clapping until someone passes me a note,
an origami swan, which, when I unfold it,
is initialed “A.G.” & asks “Are you my angel?
Copper Queen Hotel, Room 144. 10 tonite.”