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Mitch Sisskind
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That day now lost in antiquity When I heard the Kingston Trio Sing the Ballad of Tom Dooley On the radio for the first time: So different, so new, and I saw How big this was going to be, How the girls who now strutted And slinked down Halsted Street In red or black satin club jackets Monogrammed with their initials Would soon have waist-length hair Straight and shining and how the Hard look presently in their eyes Was going to magically transform Into a furtive expression which, Done right, was softly seductive But also alluringly dangerous To those who paid close attention. This was the future coming down The tracks so the question was What to do about it. I was twelve With no talent for the guitar nor Was I much of a dancer, slow or fast, But wait, I had a sort of carelessness Or recklessness about my body And once when I ran into a tree I looked pretty bad but it didn’t Really bother me that much. All right then, this was the plan. I would become a high school football star which would be Attractive to the new breed of Dark and intense folk singing girls. What was I thinking, for Christ’s sake? Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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In the Golden Age gods walked among us Until Olympus levitated beyond sight and, Hopeless of looking up, we began looking Down into quantum realms of tiny or Even theoretical particles whose reality, So to speak, is neither here nor there. But to God there is no zero, as we learn At the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man, A film in which a guy keeps getting smaller Because of a mysterious radioactive cloud. A poignant allegory of our shared destiny Is that cloud! Plus the guy has battles with A cat and a spider but finally he’s so small That he’s okay with getting even smaller. Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Cleopatra affected history because She was beautiful. It’s that simple. Was she perfect? Was she beyond All reproach? Probably not -- but She had a power, she had a gift That the Miss Universe Pageant Which I owned for several years Was all about. Cybill Shepherd Told Oprah that her beauty was like Shaquille O’Neal being seven feet tall: “So I decided to play basketball!” Melania is also a beautiful woman But more like Michael Jordan than A Shaq or a LeBron James type. Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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“I happen to feel that it does work, torture or waterboarding or however you want to define it.” -- Donald Trump Fine! I will torture him! At his stupid ceremonies I will look very bored and Order sex toys from Amazon Delivered to the White House Because torture works and I will parade around wearing Next to nothing and tweet Dirty jokes about him in Italian And Slovenian and refer to him As Donald Duck in my texts To Putin and when I am asked About his penis size I will have An uncontrollable laughing fit. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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What boots it Melania to resist My White House invitation -- A husband’s heartfelt call To reside beside him there Or, if need it be, a President’s Sharp command: Goddamn it, You’re not in Ljubijana now, Melania! You belong in DC With me, doll, not lazing around the Tower, little lunches, spa, And of course Barron this and Barron that. Look at Ivanka. We’re close but I don’t worship Every square inch of her body. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Donald, when I thought of you In a gold bathtub I worried About losing my mind because I’ve never seen you in a bathtub But when you left me standing Lump-on-a-log-like with my gift For Michelle on Inauguration Day I thought of you in a gold bathtub, The fleece that covers you floating And your phallus also floating -- Oh God, I felt trapped thinking Of you watching a wall-mounted Television set in a gold bathtub And now I can’t stop thinking it. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Beauties married to beasts often long for experience of culture and respond powerfully to poems about themselves. To attract Melania's attention and help her realize how she's being emotionally starved to death and get her thinking that there might be a way out, I've composed five sonnets. This is the first: Melania 1 From what dull dream have you awakened, Old boy, to a morning in Barstow, Needles, Or another hot as hell desert truck stop Whose Burger Kings, Taco Bells, and Arby’s You have chosen out of mere perversity As your semi-final resting place? Semi-final Because you’ll not die here, you just thought You might and half-wanted to since the Drive into Los Angeles seemed too long. But there a better dream awaits you: Melania Trump in an old Civic pulls up Beside you on La Brea Ave and asks To borrow your Visa card and you say Yes, Melania! Here it is, here is my card! Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Polykarp Kusch (Physics Nobel Prize, 1955) She loved his brain but his body Came with it. He could morph A precise yet poetic Improvisation On waves, clouds, or the wind Into the most incredibly deep Insights on nutrition, for example, But then he would start taking His clothes off and hers too. He had this adolescent fixation On her ass upon which he would Expatiate while strutting around Scrawny chicken naked until One day she literally screamed, Tell me about Polykarp Kusch! Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Of a whorehouse in Odessa Isaac Babel wrote That sometimes groans of pleasure lifted The whole building six inches off the ground. So too it was at the Commonwealth Hotel On the corner of Pine Grove and Diversey Where as kids we caused such commotion In the coffee shop that once a bookmaker Leaned from a phone booth and exclaimed, ‘This is a place of business!’ We laughed And mocked him but in that same hour As the hotel began to levitate we sought His explanation – he was known as Mister Zah – and he described fucking As best he could but it was still a mystery. Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Everything about this album cover was so exquisitely congruent with the historical moment! I recall seeing it for the first time: the slush, the girl, her boots, and most especially the VW van. Bob as a specific identity in the picture was almost irrelevant. It could have been anybody (except me.) But the way he's looking down...the bulge...his look of pleasant surprise. Yes, he's getting a boner, or already has one. As well he might! Keep it up, Bob! "One more cup of coffee before I go....." Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Your indifference to it all, Decades-long obliviousness To everything around here: Dust motes, the microwave -- What thought have you given To them? Very little, or none. Be not surprised therefore When a picture stays blithely In its frame as your teeth Fall out and the stoical toilet Gives not a shit on that fatal Morning or blazing afternoon That Achilles predicts for us In Book XVI of Homer’s Iliad. Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Mitch the sad old poet stared into the void. He had read in Genesis 2:18 that "it was not good for the man to be alone" but the man was alone. What then was the use of it all? He thought of Billie Jean King. An accomplished woman but neither she nor any of her ilk held the slightest interest for Mitch. None -- and he was sure the feeling was mutual. Then Rachel suddenly appeared. She was a real shot in the arm. Here's a picture of a jackass with a hot young woman. The jackass is "on cloud nine." Here's a picture of Mitch and Rachel. Rachel had done some drawings over the years. Many of them were sexual in a peculiar way. Two of Mitch's favorite exclamations were "fuckbirds" and "fuck a duck." Rachel adapted these as a drawing of ducks having sexual intercourse. Rachel started doing drawings of Mitch with a penis for his nose. When Mitch was watching the world cup soccer game Rachel did a drawing that continued the nose/penis idea. Mitch was rooting for Paraguay which she misspelled in the drawing. Rachel had a fondness for word play. In another nose/penis drawing she referred to post-nasal dick. ​Fascinated and energized by Rachel, Mitch started a sort of beatnik biker look. He told Rachel they might have to live under a bridge and without batting an eyelash she said, "Let's live under a bridge then." ​ Mitch showed Rachel a picture of a rabbi with a possum which she found very inspiring. Possums started appearing in the drawings as a sexual symbol. Also Jewish stuff, ​The possum became a regular character in drawings whose meaning could be obscure. But nothing lasts forever: "Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream." Ha, ha hee, full well is me, For I am now at liberty. -- Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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"I grew up very much alone, and as far back as I recall I was frightened of anything sexual." It's a great opening sentence for a novel, don't you think? It's a lot better than "Call me Ishmael." It just makes you want to keep reading, which is the purpose of a good first sentence. We sense that change took place, or even transformation. The narrator is no longer alone, and ain't "frightened of anything sexual" no more. How did that happen? It's the opening sentence of Georges Bataille's short novel L'histoire de l'oeil. In English, The Story of the Eye. You can read a beautiful English translation using this link. http://ps28.squat.net/bataille_story_of_eye.pdf But maybe do that later. It will take less time to watch the video below: Whoops. Pay no attention to that photograph. I can't figure out how to delete it. Here's the video: If literature stays away from evil, it rapidly becomes boring." Literature has to deal with anguish, and anguish is based on something that is going the wrong way, something that will turn into evil, When you make the reader face that the characters he cares about will have an evil ending, the result is a tension that makes literature non-boring." Writing is the opposite of working You can't really understand what literature means if you don't approach it from a child's perspective. It's very important to recognize the infantile character of eroticism in general.... To feel eroticism is to be fascinated like a child who wants to take part in a forbidden game. A man fascinated by eroticism is like a child. "i think it's important for us to confront the danger that is literature. Literature makes it possible for us to percieve the worst, and to learn how to confront it. A man who plays the game finds in the game the force to overcome it. The Donkey My buff-armed love makes me talk to his blue-eyed mother. She interrupts with screams: “You should listen to him!” My kissy love rapes me every month Then washes under warm water, milky tear drops glide over red nipple. Immediately, I forgive him. He hugs me for a proper good-bye. My skull shrinks, saliva drips. I love him. I am a donkey. Heartbeat I am coming to you High-heels on Lip hair removed Thrilled when I saw you in my living room at the wine bar Talking to my husband Legs shaved Nails manicured Pussy trimmed Dripped when I felt in my busy office on my messy desk your tasty mouth Tongue brushed Highlights done Perfume sprayed Raged when I learned in your room on the third shelf about your wife Tripped when I heard they in Amsterdam by cornflower fields found your body Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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Sixth grade, a new kid came, Fat kid, terrible at sports, But a genius, played the violin, And when we got math workbooks On the first day of sixth grade He finished the workbook that night, Was supposed to take a year! So smart was he that the teachers Hated him, put the kid in front Of the class and said, ‘Do you believe In God or are you too smart to believe In God?’ The kid said he didn’t know At first but finally said he did believe In God, because he had to. Once at lunch he said the name Jascha Heifetz and we all laughed At the name and wanted him To say it again but he wouldn’t Say it because he didn’t like us Laughing at the name Jascha Heifetz That was like somebody sneezing. Then one day at a movie theater We were buying popcorn and there Was a cardboard cutout of a guy With a guitar and the kid said to me, ‘It’s Elvis Presley’ and I said, ‘Who?’ He said, ‘It’s Elvis Presley, he was on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show last Sunday.’ How strange, how unlikely it now Seems, my introduction to Elvis Presley. But we shared a destiny, the kid and I -- So years later, when I fell in love with His wife, I was all shook up: my hands Were shaky, my knees were weak, I couldn’t stand on my own two feet. Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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They live retired, and then they doze away their times in drowsinesses and brownstudies. -- Johnson’s Dictionary She was the love of my lie, The lie of my love. Oh God, I can’t think straight anymore. She was the love of my life! Convoluted or plum contradictory Are a lion’s feelings when it confronts A hippopotamus. Tell me about it! Oh God, I can’t think straight anymore. Lies, love, laughter, lucubration, Laceration, lasciviousness, lachrimosity -- Is that a word? I got news for you, pal, It is now! I can’t think straight anymore. Oh God, I can’t think straight anymore. She was the hippopotamus of my love, I was the lion in her eyes. She laughed So hard I thought she would bust a gut! Continue reading
Posted Feb 23, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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How else to keep alive the spirit Of sans souci, the flame of youth, But with sexual intercourse? That sphere of glowing delight To which, once I acceded to it, The luminous channel has never Closed to me – as all my work Is wrought there, charity obliges That I advertise its pleasures and Fairly attribute the curious vitality Derived there that each night Invents names and faces for me As if my heart were still a boy’s And my pen were the prick of one. Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
How ironic that, as intellectuals and aesthetes, those of us who live by words may underestimate the power of the words we speak or write. Just the other day I was in pleasant conversation with a talented versifier when he happened to mention the name "Lilith." Although he was referring to the radical feminist magazine that may or may not still exist, there is no doubt that the real Lilith still exists just as she has since the time of Adam. And to utter her name without quickly pretending to spit twice over one's right shoulder is asking for serious trouble. Lilith (spit, spit!) as some of you may know, was Adam's first wife. When she affronted the Creator by insisting on "unorthodox" relations with her husband, she was banished from Eden and spent the next 500 years at the bottom of the ocean. Finally she surfaced, determined to wreak as much havoc as possible in human domestic affairs. When Lilith hears a man mention her name, she surmises (quite correctly!) that a secret wish for her appearance exists in the speaker. Of course, as with any repressed wish, the poor fool may not be aware of his own desire. That's why Lilith always appears in disguise. The new temp at the office, the Fedex delivery girl, the grad student in need of help with her thesis -- any or all of these may be Lilith. But those potential incarnations are relatively easy to resist. Lilith is much more dangerous when she manifests as a man's own wife! If a woman appears and sounds like his wife, a man -- and especially a poet, naive by nature -- may assume the woman is his wife indeed: "If it looks like a duck..." etc. He may also forget that he spoke the forbidden name that morning in Starbucks. Well, he's in for a surprise -- and the worst part is, Lilith is dangerously addictive. Not only is she erotically exciting but she's also an excellent conversationalist. There are two solutions for this problem, both recommended by the ancient sages of the Talmud. First, don't speak the name in the first place! Just refer to the Bad Girl and any educated person will know who you're talking about. Second, create a secret code with your wife that only the two of you know -- an arbitrary phrase like "plate of shrimp" from the film Repo Man. If you sense anything unusual in your conjugal affairs, demand the password. If it's not forthcoming, fill a bucket with water and pour it on the demon woman. Lilith has hated water ever since her five hundred years in the ocean. The images above are just two of Lilith's infintely various disguises. On top, of course, is Veronica from Archie Comics; below is a seemingly innocous dental hygenist. Poets! Choose Betty, not Veronica -- and floss daily! Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Where were you when televisions Multiplied in American homes And pastel-colored cars had fins On which at least once a boy Chasing a ball stabbed himself and the fins, like kings, died out? I lived when Eisenhower’s golfing And mumbled press conferences Affronted the intelligentsia whose Worship of Stevenson blossomed Into the miracle of Jack Kennedy’s Televised White House cello recitals. In the doghouse was an expression Extremely common in those days. You might hear a man who forgot The anniversary of his marriage Forty years ago refer to himself As in the doghouse, for example. People said, On the warpath. They said, You’re cooking with gas. They said, Fish out of water -- Jump on the bandwagon – A fly in The ointment – The jury is still out -- He’s always blowing his own horn -- Or how about this? Eke lullaby, My loving boy, thy lusts relent -- Four hundred and fifty years ago A man wrote that poem to his penis. Can you imagine it happening today? I can. I’m a board certified urologist. Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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That day in 1965 as Julie Christie Seduced the pool cleaning man I sequestered myself behind A cactus plant for the duration. It was quickly done. Palm Springs! This was before the traffic got So horrible and lawn sprinklers Rendered the naturally dry Desert air oppressively humid. Later Julie and I shared laughs Over cocktails rehashing her Recent film “Doctor Chicago” As we hilariously re-Christied it. But wait. Do I wake or sleep? Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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No telling what time it was As he woke in darkness with The sleeping cat’s warmth, A gift from God, on the back Of his neck and, weeping, He willed himself to perfect Stillness lest the cat leave. But wait. Here was a thought, Here was another possibility: He was dead and, willfulness Be damned, could no more Stir himself than trisect an angle! Yes, that might be it -- And this was paradise! Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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A poem is like a golf ball because A poem’s meaning derives from The multifarious denotations And connotations of words Compressed within the poem As in a golf ball tightly packed Rubber bands are compressed. A poem’s meaning is revealed By unraveling the poem’s figurative Rubber bands but let us be aware Of how this can discombobulate The poem’s energy compression mechanism. The good news is Not all poems work that way. Money is like a golf ball because Although one golf ball may cost More than another they are all The same size just as money can Come in various denominations But all American paper bills are Uniform in length and width. Also, people may have a golf ball In a pocket or a purse without Anyone knowing it or they may Actually not have a golf ball while Others believe they do have one. It’s the same way with money Because you just never know. Sex combines golf ball qualities Of both poems and money because Sex can be a compressed version Of an entire relationship just as Rubber bands are compressed In a golf ball or a poem’s meaning Is compressed in its words. Also, you can’t tell about people’s Sex lives by looking at people Just as without actually looking In someone’s pocket or purse You can’t tell whether they have A golf ball, or some money, Or much money, or no money. Death is like a golf ball because Just as a golf ball goes into a hole In the grass so most people go Into graves in cemeteries which Are like golf courses in their verdure And in the silence we are asked To maintain and also in the way Some golf balls smoothly and Easily descend into a hole while Others do not. Yet though death Is like a golf ball let us neither Weep nor grieve but take heart And look on the bright side Because life is like a golf ball too! Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Man had a big house outside Iron Mountain, his wife hot at The swimming pool, laughing As Nasko Hooten introduced Himself: 'What kind of a name 'Is that?' But not in the slightest Was he pissed off. Light shone In her eyes, he saw the woman She would have been were she Duncan Oklahoma born and bred. Man had a truck they looked at For a while – Nasko Hooten said, ‘I’d put a winch on the front ‘Of it were that truck mine.’ Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Perhaps Lydia Davis is best known as a prose writer, most recently of very short stories. But her work has also appeared in BAP anthologies, Lydia's new book of stories is called Can't and Won't. There's also a profile of Lydia in this week's New Yorker magazine. The link is below. One little problem (maybe.) To read the New Yorker online you have to be a subscriber. So if you're not a subscriber, you can subscribe. Or if you're not a subscriber, and you don't want to subscribe, there's a link to another article about Lydia. Maybe a better one. Or maybe not. But about Lydia. And free. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/03/17/140317fa_fact_goodyear http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/2/5c1059dc-a0ea-11df-badd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2viITWHey Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Yes, rated X! But stay with it because John Milton comes up at the end! (ed note: warning, this is a frank discussion. You may not want to watch/listen if you are in a public place.-- sdh) Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Office holders and political people, Bush, Obama, Cheney, Old Man Bush, Michelle, Hilary, Bill, Condoleezza Rice, The living and dead, Nixon, Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, all had bedbugs But they neither saw nor suspected That bedbugs were biting them. At the Stanhope Hotel, at the Pierre, At the Mirage Hotel of Beverly Hills In the early morning silence bedbugs Awaken as heedless we slumber, As we bathe, as we have intercourse Bedbugs peer from their hiding places And we are oblivious of the bedbugs. A stunning woman of fashion On Fifth Avenue – for the bedbugs In her iPhone it is a simple matter Amid her chat and gab to ear-enter Her like some harebrained marketing Jingle and then deep within her The bedbugs pitch their palaces. Likewise the poor have bedbugs. Egalitarians, equal opportunity Enjoyers, true democrats are The bedbugs for whom not Solomon in all his glory enticed Like a homeless man asleep in A doorway or on a subway grate. What can be done about bedbugs? Go Google bedbug poisons or How to kill bedbugs or natural enemies Of bedbugs and you will find sprays, Ointments, and simple inexpensive Home remedies like dish soap that Annoy bedbugs but not to death. Much then can be done about bedbugs But (really) nothing can be done about Them. We slather ourselves with soap, We fumigate, we fuss and fulminate, We literally get down on our knees and Pray to God and in that same hour we Get bitten, we get dozens of bites. Still by all means let us spray and Slather, let us turn up the thermostats In our apartments because bedbugs Hate heat, let us leave no stone unturned And the end of all our slathering and Thermostating will be to know the Futility of slathering and of thermostats. Then let that knowing inspire all Humankind to a frenzied piling up Of mattresses in the world’s cities, Towns, and fields – pillows, bedclothes Piled high and burned by huge mobs Fed up with bedbugs, joyful at mattresses Burning if the bedbugs are also burning. Let a crazed energy as in the poet’s Vision of how Pandemonium was built Grip all humanity and from that energy Let bitter knowledge emerge that burning Mattresses, pillows, and bedclothes is not Enough for complete and total bedbug Extermination because everything must burn! Then onto the flaming mattresses let gold Jewelry be flung, MacBooks, Big Bird t-shirts, Watches and handbags, ATM cards, bras, You name it, let even hundred dollar Bills eagerly be flung lest bedbug eggs Adhere to the hundred dollar bills To say nothing of the twenties or tens. Shrieking women tearing off their blouses, Men – husbands, sons, lovers – flinging Accoutrements of masculinity such as Barn coats, beer cans, cowboy boots, Baseball mitts and football jerseys Into the flames to deny a refuge To even one goddamned bedbug! Yet as hand in hand the mobs dance Naked around the fires in a hurly-burly Unprecedented historically by pyramids Or potlatches... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2013 at The Best American Poetry