Legal Tender

I am interested in poetry as a means
of enacting through new shared language
a community that had not previously existed.

I am interested in a you in me
that corresponds to a you in you

or rather I should say I am interested in
we, our, with, correspondence, plurality, betweenness,
I mean between

you and me I am interested in the territories of truth
a poem makes through language, through

listening—Listen: I was
accidentally in December in the stripper room at Twist,
bass rattling the champagne flutes in their upside-down

display contraption, loose cigarettes clumped into
some highballs, the go-go boys exchanging

cock rings for underneath their underpants,
one giving an older gentleman what looked like
a very thorough deep-tissue massage, and the collaginess

of this, I thought, is really how the poem works,
how glass speaks to music, how muscle

to the touch, the lonely to the working, the work
is sometimes dancing, dancing could be
talking, talk being the exchange that happens

counter-market in a poem. I am interested
in the phrase legal tender, that tender

can be given to receive a good or service,
that goods are what comprise our commerce,
that items bear the claim of virtue.

The only currency that abides
is how we choose to spend our time.

I am interested in sex as a unit of time,
portraiture as another, as a record of the
attention reflected between subject and painter.

I sat six hours recently for a friend
who painted me, and as we spoke I felt
the furniture in the attic of my brain

go with blessing out the door, like a home
divvied peacefully of its tschotkes
by the family of the newly dead.

Every time I speak
the room more brightly empties.

I am interested in junk, its collectors
and purveyors, the idea of the life
of objects, the could have been,

the undertaken, the left out,
the disabused, the foolishness of keeping,
the should have known better, the anyway,

the regardless, the disregarded, the blighted
out, the brink, the knifeshine and the new,

the bilious, the belligerence, the backward
and the nowhere, the wherewithal, the all
but lost, the severance, the relief,

the with, the scythe, with, with,
the withering, the inflorescence,

the overgrowth, the outbreak, the pilloried,
the scourge, the dearth and what we kill for,
the oblivion and what we kill for, what the for

is at the root of killing, what the for of anything—
speech especially—could be, and why the talking
happens still, and how naming can endow

an object with an aura, with an orbit,
can make the crackle happen, can lack

and from the lacking tussle for its footing,
can embody where the body was

a cipher, can make stand the child
facedown in the street, in the sand,
in the corridors of a school, can constitute

the corridors from the veins of anti-matter,
can constitute room enough for
belongings, belonging, can dissemble

the constitution to make room
for what’s unalienable, can dissemble
who the we who hold the truth is,

I am interested in NO,
as a sound that makes a circle
I am summoning a force through,

and SO as a word that means a clause of change
is upon us, and US as a word that alchemizes
U with S into something altogether different,

I am interested in you, your magnetism,
the magnet look of U, the letter, the polarities
we write from, the places from which my parents

wrote their letters in the eighties, Virginia
and Manila, I am interested in my parents,
who in their early twilight have taken to the stars,

my father who doesn’t want to die in America,
my mother who doesn’t want to die in the Philippines,

the recognition as I grow older that home
is where you choose to spend what time is left
if you have the privilege of choice.

Which many of us do not.

I am dancing tonight at a party where the rules
are no lights, no touching, no substances,

only music and bass especially, and down
the neon corridors that happen inside
closed-eye concentration, the blue-on-fire focus

that assembles when the mind is most alive
and undisturbed by sense, I come upon

the memory of my parents stargazing side by side.
I stay until they turn to statues.
Time passes and the statues turn to sand.

Time passes and they are resurrected into glass by lightning.

The glass forms the window of a home I render freely and alone.

I look through the glass that is my parents at an ocean with no dominion.

The room more brightly empties.

I empty.

I bliss.

I kiss my parents.

There is nothing else.

Thumbnails of America

Do you wish for a heart
less like a turnstile or a mother tongue
other than a dollar?

Becoming Ghost

He says: I want it to smell / like the real thing. // The real thing / is a landscape // of work and death–– / the names of our ancestors // slack in our mouths, / just the art of loving // your family line enough / to reproduce it.