Matt Longabucco

 

A Place Where None Appeared

 

//

there’s a sirocco in Bushwick
loading docks caves and rage
someone twisted a plastic water bottle
almost in a knot
glaciers calve into the sea
the calves on this J platform
Julian says poetry is embarrassing
and my therapist: let’s stay in this ugly moment
you used to be fun
getting blazed on Bogart Street
sun on my follicles
do light beams last forever
a physicist’s reply to this question begins
good question!
and an ant is big
or magnified by my repulsion
the top of a pile of mystery powder
blows off in a ribbon
like a sand dune doing something
somehow too graceful to call eroding

 








 

//

those precious hours were running out
I let them go
saw Carolyn’s books
in their boxes
we’d packed up the eight or nine ourselves
along with her couch and coat-rack
and though, mourning her, we’d agreed to leave them
until we could catalog their contents properly
I slid them out from under the table
and opened them one by one
taking care to keep the books in their stacks
so I could replace in the same order
the poetry, literature, continental philosophy
feminist theory, and mysticism
one volume of which I flipped through
only to wind up sitting on the floor
reading a whole chapter
on “The Dark Night of the Soul”—
that was the name of the chapter
and it said those words on the header of every page—
all about a condition, according to the book
that afflicts saints and mystics in the period
following their ecstatic communion with God
once they’ve attained the heights of the Absolute
and from that thrilling vista observed with wonder
the great pattern of correspondences
and yet it’s precisely these seekers
who find themselves, when they least expect it
lodged waist-deep in the muck of the world
empty, impotent, dumb, diffuse, without hope of
regaining the road, loitering in what Saint John called
a place where none appeared
another saint reported she could for years
no longer so much as follow the thread of a sermon
or find the words to pray
I replaced the book, finally, between Blanchot
and Baraka, and put the boxes back
not before having taken out, of all things
her copy of that book Art & Fear, and decided
to re-read or probably read it—when I turn to
this book I know I’m screwed—and only skimmed
a little before dropping it in my backpack to jostle
slim and unassuming, among my notebooks
and papers and other books for weeks

 









//

barometer drop
I have to creep down at three
to shut the umbrella on Amy’s patio
and let out Ding Dong the cat
her white fur
going into shadows
lots of locks and light switches here
very expensive objects mixed everywhere with worthless ones
all I remember from those ten pages of Deleuze
the elegance of certain anorexics
and his insistence that speed
makes beginnings and endings effectively disappear
went to a weird show
the chanteuse in a tunic and quiver of arrows
neon eyebrows
walked home
the kind of rain you think you can dodge
ran down my neck
Home Depot’s always open
and the big public pool still empty
home unto vinyl and a weed search through their apartment
worthy of an international jewel thief
those candlesticks on the mantel remind me of
the raised arm of an actress in another time
distorted by the intervening century
now fading from the frame
alone all night
with a film compendium
that finds 2001: A Space Odyssey overblown
and calls Of Human Bondage a failure
every version, including the original novel
marred by its essential misogyny
Bette Davis lobbied six months until the studio
afraid of what the role would do to her image
finally relented and let her play Mildred
I never cared for you, not once—
it made me sick when I had to let you kiss me,
and after you kissed me I always used to
wipe my mouth
, wipe my mouth, but I made up for it,
with every kiss I had a laugh!  You know what you are?
You’re a cripple a cripple a cripple!

 

 

 






 

//

this plant breathes in moral corruption
and exhales casual exposure online
we re-pot it sitting cross-legged on the cement
you say I can’t believe that finally got done
we take a rest with our phones
wade into their black pools
like the eager suitors in Under the Skin
the more Lynch I watch the less I’m convinced
we should try to spook ourselves
on your screen
they’ve discovered a wreck
a man stands beside an urn
it’s his height
he’s a diver and a scholar
who reminds us the pots were made strong
for such adventures

 

 

 






 

//

that old hour hand
pokes you in the ass at dawn
aspires till noon
when you lean on it for a rest
only to find it dipping into the afternoon
then by eight it’s tipping drink after
drink down the hatch
past midnight you fall in slow motion
onto the bed
if you’re like me glance
in your dreams toward hell
where forgiveness is refused
though the one who holds it prisoner
knows it binds his hands too
and the circle of time
could be a sphere
awhirl with doves
mine own clickbait finds me
if you’re a shitty drunk
it’s because you’re a shitty person

 

 

 

 





 

//

declarative sentences have their limits
this is a recording, midway through I’ll fall convincingly to the floor
that tattoo in which the business-end of an anchor’s curve
has been extended into an infinity sign
was poorly executed and overthought
it’s not my day, clothes-wise
I sneezed on my own shoulder
that could have been you, on the corner, facing the street
the hair, the stature—one step when the light changed
dispelled the illusion
trucks spend the morning delivering candy
who eats it all?  I know, I’ve seen them
everyone nibbling a little sweet thing as they cross
behind me, almost summery afternoon
squeak of sneakers and clang of dribbling balls
between explosive plays and crying foul
graduating some recruits
the two guys who flop next to me start meditating
one’s bad at it, one’s good and even his iced coffee beside him
is good, doesn’t flinch when the drips run down
I sat here in March, in fucking February
my face to outer space
hey to the American Honey gang
the smack of skateboards on concrete
rhythm of her learning a trick
every once in a while the board lands right-side up
and rolls expressively away
a man asks directions to Bellevue, hastens off
he has 25 blocks to go
I’m aroused by the slapping sounds
coming from the handball courts
and tie a stitch in a thought I’d had earlier
while the repurposed takeout container in my faraway freezer cracks
and the soup bulges from the opening
shows its vein of gelly
with a g

 

 

 






 

//

when a pencil rolls from her desk my daughter
picks it up from the floor and whispers
sorry you fell and hope you didn't get hurt
she fell from the monkey bars
I biked to urgent care
looking down into the brown river
some heavenly garlic smell wafted all the way up
from Chinatown to the Manhattan Bridge
not mindful but distracted in the manner of insects
or certain nervous cats
the fruits of my alienation are several
eating a slice of cake in two or three bites
and lying about it later
re-watching Ghost World
how exquisite is your fantasy
still a good question
and is it in your body?
can you share it that way or is it locked only
and forever in objects?
when she pretends to drop the record
when he tells her it has a crack in it but still plays
when he tells her the company he works for has a racist past
and woos that woman just to please her
he doesn't care about love
he cares about communion
The alchemist, says Bachelard, projects his depth
then the dentist’s office
great, another person who doesn’t know
how to talk to kids, all forced frivolity
Malka told me about the deranged pep
of the dancers who came to work with her third-grade class
but we run into my old friend in Union Square
and he’s a natural
just steps back, looks her over
So how old are you?
Eight-and-three-quarters.
Oh yeah?  And what are you planning
for your birthday party?

this being the exact question that occupies her mind
at all free moments
poor thing, she forgot to wear the school colors on spirit day
Carley said when they realized, looking out onto a field of green t-shirts
Malka just dropped her head and murmured
I’m the only one

 









//

the orphan problem again
all the habits of animals
each with its little assignment
dig a tunnel in rotting meat
break the surface of the waves slick with sun, etc.
I’ll probably never write that essay about
those who do what's most difficult
daring to imagine another form of life
less straitened and abject than this one
the references I’d make are too disconnected
it wouldn’t hold together to write about Charity
buying a single avocado at the market
alongside the way Henry Miller describes those nights
where he’s in some out-of-the-way restaurant with a friend—
one of the regular, non-artist people he was often friends with—
having a conversation so voluble that other diners overhear
and are enthralled, until the restaurant owner
always a recent emigré
gets involved, stirred as if remembering life itself
and brings out wine and a feast of special dishes
while the patrons start up an impromptu party with speeches and songs
and to include, too, the long history of communes
that evince, after all, a utopian vision, even humbly
and also the undercommons
and The Secret History and Diane di Prima
and for some reason David Wojnarowicz cruising the docks
I started to keep a list but finally thought
what isn’t about this, what worthwhile thing doesn’t
squint with more or less hope toward a fullness so many
I know seem to gasp for lack of—
my finger’s in the index of such a volume
I look up every reference to a certain author and
this makes a little book inside the book

 

 

 






 

//

why did Coleridge award Keats the laurel?
because he “urn”ed it
Ana writes, I guess it doesn’t mattress
a line that gets so weary
it finds a way to fall into bed before it ends
I likewise have ambitions
and recognized after the fact
the surge of vitality that once overcame me
on the about-to-be-demolished Kosciuszko Bridge
sought to pass itself, through me, into future hands
though no one gives a sheets

 

 







 

//

lightning scene
in the flash
the river’s split
by an island
pushing hull-like from a wall
of rice-milk-colored rain
the devoted tend always
a special zone
bootmarks on their foreheads
the floorplans of cathedrals
days spent drying off absent-
mindedly beside motel pools
empty for decades
but the devoted swim laps
through shreds of last fall’s leaves
translucent fast food napkins
and old water bottles that trap
a liter of terran air
a million years
before it tells its tale

 

 







 

//

the new nightsticks
have a Gucci logo on the pommel, in matte gold
and the last lions—but there will always be lions
a conviction it pains me to admit
for many reasons: I’d fight for this city
will have to one day
am getting old but could run the safe house
the rebels shelter in
and at the last minute shove them into the tunnel
replace the rug
the agents storm in and shoot me in the gut
blood comes out, and a stream of chamomile tea
Heraclitus: nature loves to hide
I’ll meet you back here when we’re roaches
nocturnal and thirsty as ever

 

 

 






 

//

on my way to pick up my daughter
at the end of a day of stupid, distracting tasks
with an awkward amount of time to kill
tried to stay within the radius of her school
and wandered into the Strand to browse
one eye on my watch, barely reading the titles of the books
finally it was time to start heading over
when I walked through the exit the alarm sounded
the guard gave me a once-over and just waved me
through, I’m some white guy—outside I wondered
what happened and found, in my backpack, Art & Fear
and realized with a flash of absolute certainty and joy
that Carolyn had shoplifted it from somewhere, somehow
and it must have set off the alarm
or that was the fantasy that came to me upon that threshold
I wish it were true, and all the rest a fiction
to pass through the dark night of the soul at last
requires a passage from knowing into being
to meet existence, that elegant animal
in her habitat and her glory
instead of in the cage where she’s gawked at
starved, kicked, and zapped with a baton

 

 

 






 

//

art & fear
we can talk all day about my materials
but the fact is they’re words
whatever surface you put them on they fuck up
and burn through
you’re mouthing sorry to the past they ruin
you stuff your ears against
the roaring furnace of all particles
playing out every possibility
short of the totality
that would blot out possibility itself

 

 

 






 

//

someone’s bony shoulder joins their torso
in a line that’s not a line, of course, but shadow
glimpsed aboard the train—thank god I can draw
being such an embarrassment in music
and languages, the great poet disciplines
I’m tidy, my nightmares are of entropy
I’d like to put an orange back together
lightly lay the pith back on the flesh
like smoothing wax paper onto moist cake
then press the sections together
wrap them up again in the peel
before affixing the woody button
to complete the fruit
that only once in a lifetime can be brought back
to the naked branch
and float up from an open hand
to join it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Longabucco is the author of the chapbooks The Sober Day
(DoubleCross Press, 2016) and Everybody Suffers: The Selected
Poems of Juan García Madero
(O’Clock Press, 2014).  Other work
has appeared recently in Prelude, Haunt, and The Brooklyn Rail.  
He is a co-founder of Wendy’s Subway, an independent library and
meeting space for writers, artists, and readers.  He teaches at New
York University and Bard College, and lives in Brooklyn.