Be Sure To Be Caffeinated

You sent me a picture of your coffee the other day.

A phrase, I noticed, had been printed on the cup:

           Life is short, stay awake for it.

You know what gets me about these phrases printed on coffee cups? The fact that they put any two phrases together they feel like (algorithms for every feeling):

              Children are small. You should overpower them.

              Cancer is real. You might as well crush pigeons.

Then they ship them out to hundreds of thousands of people (algorithms also); and all of them are grammatically correct, the people and the phrases. Like I said, algorithms for what they feel like. But that doesn’t make it alright.


When I drive you to the airport, it is as if the world is suspended; it’s as if all the apparatuses, the processing mechanisms of perception are in suspension. You would never know this by looking at me –

I begin to construct phrases in my head according to a private algorithm:

        Life is sad, you might as well have fun.

           Life is fun, so be sure to be caffeinated.

           I am a connoisseur of despair,

                                                     you mustn’t belong to me.

When I drive you to the airport we pass a billboard for Internet dating site that says:

          life is short,                

                             get compatible.

I feel lucky that your head is down digging for something in your purse.

Three things occur to me about this phrase that I do not share with you:

i. My apparatuses of perception were probably different before the Internet and Internet dating.

ii. I am an enumerator of phrases, someone who makes up new words and phrases.

iii. The only people who create new words and phrases are the people who suffer from emotional/intellectual sterility.


At home. A flabby burrito’s on the counter that you left. I try not to look at my own reflection. All my poems are tombstones now that you’ve read them, thought about reading them,

then didn’t,

then did(?)

My bedroom is a sterile laboratory, vaulted like a church. I say the word ‘fuck’ into the room at a moderate volume. My voice resounds, shame upon shame.

I nearly catch sight of myself in the kitchen window. I turn away. Something occurs to me about this. A phrase comes back to me, another phrase I do not share with you:

I am an enumerator of phrases, 

                                     a flabby burrito is the opprobrium I deserve.

And all my poems look like hanker-chiefs that I want to blow my nose with.

All my poems look like butterflies wriggling on the wall; they don’t know that they don’t belong.


Someone Else’s Esophagus

What a Curious Pursuit:

At the next Symposium for Concerned Scientists, remind the esteemed members of the board that certain fly families possess up to 1,000 untold eyes and that this seems egregious, borderline greedy and certainly, moral evaluations aside, a misallocation of natural resources.

The crowd behind you will grow visibly uneasy, and begin to grumble when you raise your concerns to the right and honorable committee of Concerned Scientists.

Nevertheless, persist in posing to the committee whether 1,000 eyes indeed constitutes unjust distribution among so many worthy and deserving creatures of the Earth, particularly in a region like this one, in which some of us have as little as two or three eyes, and some even have no eyes at all.

At the very moment your question is raised, a haggard, unkempt man in the back of the lecture-hall will rise to his feet with a start. He will gesture madly and gargle something incomprehensible, like a man without any lungs.

And still, it is crucial that you pose this bold and noble question to the committee: Should nature be allowed to have things so easy and in such abundance? And, more to the point: Why do flies have so many eyes?

Be sure to limit yourself to just two of these questions when you address the Symposium, as traces of passion and personality can generally be misconstrued as proud or boastful before anyone of authority, but especially to scientists.

At this time, a chorus of hecklers will join the haggard man behind you. The man who stomps and raves like mad with the crowd, like an Orangutan possessed by a demon. The same man who now sticks out his enormous sweaty tongue and holds a giant pair of scissors up to its edges, threatening mutilation.

The symbolic statement made by this man is not be lost on the others in the lecture-hall, who also rise to their feet, covering up their eyes (a gesture ostensibly intended to counter and refute the query you’ve currently posed to the committee). Observe the bedlam that now ensues, the great confusion among the ranks. Watch as the crowd falls to its knees in unison, their grave doubts as to the future. The Members of the committee will scream and curse, opening their mouths wide in order to show off the enormous tongues they have, which the flies do not, and the incredible noises they can make with them.

Food Truck Etiquette

for Monsanto.

Having a crush on your best friend is
like being hungry and at the same
time really having to go to the bath-

room. If you choose not to tell your best friend, you
risk all of the private indignities that accompany a
slow and painful death by starvation (don’t forget for
a moment that hunger can be malnourished, too).

If you choose to tell your best friend,
you will merely have to go to the bath-

room even more, if only (perhaps) to cry. They say
there once lived a Spartan who allowed a fox to eat at
his own entrails rather than admit to his friends that
he stole the beast for supper; so for the pride of Sparta,

obey the truth of your own history: Muster the plaintive-
ness of a latter-day Hamlet; concoct a pose, a swagger,
an inscrutability that can only be described–
if it were ever actually observed-– as Bryon-

ic. Wait for the day she tells you she thinks
she is dying (of, say, ‘sadness’ or ‘cancer’ or ‘pining
for an ex-lover’). Tell her you think she has a flair for the drama-

tic. You won’t mean it as a compliment. But it’s generally
considered acceptable to laugh over an hors d’oeuvre.

*This was a type-writer poem composed for a stranger. The topic requested was: ‘Self-restraint’.

produce innuendo

what i first noticed about her was
the enormous military-issued package
of condoms sticking out of her day bag
(they were MAGNUMS i guess)
she must have caught me staring
(MAGNUMS are hard to miss)
because she yelled to me
from across the room:

‘want some’?
‘excuse me’? i said. ‘no, i guess
not. i guess i was just wondering if you were
trying to send me a message with those things’.

‘i was’, she said. ’that’s why i asked.
all day i’ve been trying to give these
away to a worthy, how should i say this, to a worthy–’
‘customer’? i said, and she
looked me up and down
like i’d just had a seizure –
i was standing on my toes
just then
to appear taller than i actually

‘sorry’, she said. ‘fuck shop’s
not open for business’.

all at once i dropped to
the floor at ease, although
in truth, i’m not sure
she noticed.

‘i’m looking to give these
away because i’m trying
not to have sex for a while’.
‘we’ve all been there’, i lied.
and so she walked away
and so i looked down at myself through
her eyes–
you know, the way you
look at yourself when you meet
someone you think you like
because you aren’t supposed to, and
so you need to double-check if
you have any
large vegetables
sticking out of your pockets.

*This was a type-writer poem composed for a stranger.
The topic requested was: ‘spying on strangers’.

a fairly public vow to be more monastic

I have no idea what true love is but last night
at the Cafeteria I overheard a woman order a
‘Thousand Island Ice Tea’.


Now, from where I was sitting I couldn’t see who this woman was,
but it would’ve been pretty clear to anybody that she was
first/second/third wife material, so what i did,
i sidled up close, real cozy like, and i said to her–

‘Miss, why don’t you and i make a trainwreck
of these next 15 months or so, then go
our separate ways?’

*a version of this story was published in Sparkle & Blink, and featured in a show with Quiet Lightning in SF.

A Moth with a Keyboard, a Moth with a Keyboard Instead of a Flame

for Julio Cortázar & also the internet

I don’t have to tell you that when the girl is gone a man begins to questions himself.

A man might feel the heat floating out from the radiator for the first time considers the heat as a measure of sound the way its fluttering particles dissolve on the rim of a tea cup how a cup of tea is altered by the alignment of the stars

A man might marvel at the precise way the moon is secured in its cycle, the sun suspended in air by its own centrifugal force.

A man may decide to turn the internet off a while, turn off the phones and the internet at home so that the neighbors gradually become the only activity of life in his world and eventually not even this.

A man may begin to question whether or not other people are in fact alive, for instance.

A man from that point on might have occasion to observe a dance of light and shadow on the edge of the saucer, how the flinch of a shoulder can become a wrinkle of time.

A man might begin to suspect that maybe the moth across the room that lands on his keyboard has lived with him in fact for years, devising ways to be noticed.

Try to understand that when a man is no longer there he might lust after something small enough for an insect to swallow, that a man will begin to believe he can feel the heart of a moth that reverberates across the room, or that alights on a pencil or a keyboard, for instance.

Try to remember that there are thousands of ways of turning a door knob, that when a man walks from the seat of his chair to the desk at his window he is very likely staking his life. Understand that if a man hears the neighbor’s family come home in the distance, that he knows very well that the sound of a young girl singing down the other end of the street is enough to shatter all the mirrors inside of him, that mirrors have always been portals to hell; recall how Orpheus slipped through mirrors to get to the underworld and it’s no wonder he didn’t come back with anything except for a lousy lute or a lyre, it’s no wonder in any case he didn’t come back with the girl.

Go ahead, deny up and down that the unobserved life is not worth living.

But try, just try if you can to consider a duck someplace covered with ants, the gulfs in the Straits of Magellan that no one will ever sail over, the fact that there are so many ways to learn how to cry without the slightest noise. Try to remember that the sound of a girl singing, the sight of a boy running out of his car away from his family could change everything, that the sight of a boy’s parent’s is enough to break a grown man’s heart. Just so. The sight of a boy’s parents’ waiting for him at the door, waiting for a young boy with his head hanging down, a young boy who has nothing in this world, nothing at all in this world to say.

*published in the forthcoming volume of FrankMatter, September 2013