RAD POETRY THANKS MATT BELL
YOUR FOREVER SHAKE AND YOU
for Matt Bell
There's something wrong with a voice.
How any word is just your air massaged,
whether you compliment a new scarf
or read a son's name off a telegram.
How we borrowed the command for quiet
from wind, so when people say shhhh,
what they want is for you to feel cold.
How, when caught by light, we shut up.
What any voice is out to say is wait,
over here. And once they can see you,
who cares to make sure they heard right?
Still, you turn up the jar boy's wail.
You shout goddammit to the white
out on the freeway. The phatic function
of language changes like taste in rhythm,
so the parents go If, gee, say, a zebra
and my girlfriend says It's all like, like
calumniation of original intent and shit.
She's right. Praise is no more than a
pinfeather and prayer has no color but
a space for color. All enough to make you
feel silly ordering people to feel better
and too self-conscious for long distance sex.
But you talk. Ta-talk. Hock up phlegm just for
enough room to spit out no, that's not what I
meant. And then you talk about headless
girls naked and asleep in a fleece of pine sap,
or the price of Milk Duds, how you made out
with a cottonmouth bite, precious instructions
to barbers and pepper wielders, all your opinions
on all of the sky's insurmountable whims.
You plead and cavort and joke and affirm
and lecture and mewl and bray and slip in
and warn and cheer and clarify and say
good night which means I want to be alive
more and I want part of that life to be with
you. You look out over the crowd and say
Thank you, it's really great to be here!
which really means it's great to say
what you've made to say, like to say
The sentence is a house of language
that wants to be such a good home
no word ever leaves. But everything
lives, if it can. You scream a name and
creekbeds answer. You learn to go
hum down the sidewalk just for you.
Whatever you do, you don't interrupt the
phonebooth band. In parkas and shoeless,
the members hunch all over town with strings
of digits, and they whisper come on now.
They listen for someone to hear them.
Most of what they do is tap on things.