I am a column of light
filled with air.
infused as it is with air and light,
allows nothing to get inside.
No ego (not even my own).
No chaos whatsoever.
As a child in Sunday school,
wearing church socks and penny loafers,
innocent as a wild blueberry,
I learned that Jesus said,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
At an ashram in Brooklyn last year,
with quaffed hair and a nose ring,
wild with cosmopolitan abandon,
I learned about wave breathing
and the inevitability of death.
Now, as I walk through
the valley of invisible fire,
my wife seven months pregnant,
I will fear nothing.
No ego (not even my own).
No chaos whatsoever.
My rod (the light)
and my staff (my breath)
Martinsburg, W. Va, 2020
At ten am I read an article in the Times
about an island community in the Philippines
and its battle with the effects of climate change.
The island’s inhabitants have given up on area rugs;
they tie their food down when waters begin to rise;
and the goats, even their cats have learned to swim.
At noon I ingest exactly 1.5 grams of psilocybin
and dream the apartment is filling with water.
It seeps up from the floorboards
and soils the faux-Oriental rug.
It overturns the slate gray ottoman.
The water rises fast.
Too late to tie the food down
and what does that mean anyway?
How do you tie food down?
I suppose it’s in buckets.
Just then the smaller cat floats by
on a peasant round of 7-grain bread.
She’s being lead by the bigger cat,
who’s headed toward the front door.
He looks at me over his shoulder,
as if to say, “I got this. Follow me.”
My take on Allen Ginsberg’s poem. I kept a few original lines, indicated with italics. I don’t think Allen Ginsberg would mind.
America I did my best but got nothing in return.
America fourteen dollars and ninety-two cents (free shipping with Prime!) on
January 17, 2020.
My own mind is trying to kill me.
America when does the spiritual war begin?
Shove the stock market up your ass.
Leave me alone, I have nothing to say.
Okay fine, I know this poem won’t write itself.
America when will you be angelic?
When will you put your phone down?
When will you turn off the TV and come to bed?
When will you put your laptop to sleep for good?
America we weren’t the first ones here.
Why do the names of your favorite sports teams
mock the indigenous?
Don’t ask me who I like in the big game. I don’t know who’s playing.
Colin Kaepernick got a raw deal.
America sometimes you have to kneel down to stand up.
My high school friend Mike Simmons was shot and killed.
Who speaks for him?
I’ve been a Kansas City Chiefs fan my entire life. Do I contradict myself?
I’m not sorry.
America don’t rush me. I’m getting to the point.
(Just who’s writing this poem anyway?)
America the chickens are coming home to roost.
I haven’t read an actual newspaper for years.
Every day it’s the same sad story.
America I can’t remember my Gmail password.
America I hate who I am online.
Where’s my iPhone? Someone stole it.
Brett Hooton is in Montreal. I don’t think he’ll come back.
I don’t smoke marijuana anymore.
Now you’re telling me weed is legal?
Are you kidding me with this shit? Is this some kind of
What about your millions in jails for petty drug offenses?
America do they get to go free? Do they get to light up?
I never go into Manhattan to get drunk.
I wear white after Labor Day.
America I wouldn’t be caught dead praying in public.
I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.
America I smoked pot for the first time with Tommy Black.
We were in his Chevy Blazer listening to Legend,
Bob Marley’s greatest hits album.
We weren’t afraid of getting caught by the cops.
Tommy Black is dead now.
I’m talking to you.
Are you going to let your emotional life be run by
I’m obsessed with Facebook.
I look at it every day (read: hour).
I can’t figure out how to turn off its notifications on my phone.
I look at Facebook in the bathroom of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It’s always showing me pictures of food. People like food.
Food is a very big deal.
It occurs to me that I am America.
Do I sound paranoid?
Asia is rising against me.
We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell.
I’d better keep an eye on what’s mine.
What’s mine consists of two bottles of wine,
a dozen volumes of poetry,
600 milligrams of Lipitor from Canada,
and an ‘85 Toyota Van that only runs on one cylinder.
I say nothing about the climate nor the millions upon
millions of impoverished people who live beneath my floorboards.
I’ve given up on the forest, the desert, and all the lakes;
the mountains are the next to go.
I was baptized Catholic. I’m pretty sure this won’t interfere with my ambition to
America I’m feeling a bit Jew-y.
I wish I was Jeff Bezos. I can beat his prices but you’ll have to
come pick up your purchases.
America I paid $450 on Amazon for a small dishwasher that only holds ten dishes.
Did I get ripped off?
America free Mumia Abu-Jamal (remember him?).
America save Israel from itself.
America you were implicit in Khashoggi’s death.
America I am the Syrian refugees.
America when I was in fourth grade I had my first sexual experience.
He was a boy and his name was Jordan.
We took a bath together and then we ate Ramen Noodles.
America it was beautiful; you should’ve been there.
Just thinking about it now makes me hard.
America does this mean I’m gay?
Trump you don’t really want to go to war.
America it’s them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Jews (always them Jews).
The Russia wants to sabotage our elections. Putin is mad with power.
He wants to take our phones away.
He wants to take New York. He wants to paint the White House red.
He wants our cars. He wants to see us all on horses.
This no good. Putin give land back to the Indians. He teach Latinos read English.
He give black people reparations. He make us work nights and weekends.
America this is quite serious.
America this is the impression I get from my news feed.
America is this correct?
We’d better get down to it.
America we are all alone but we are all alone together.
Let’s all put our queer shoulders to the wheel.
(Tommy Black lives!)
Comes to me while I’m sleeping.
Whispers into my ear
a plaintive singsong:
“Moving water never grows stale.”
So I begin to kick my legs.
This wakes my partner up.
What are you doing? She asks.
Just flowing, I say.
You’re fidgeting. Be still.
Sweet Thames (East River), run softly, till I end my song.