Poem Composed for Jackson Mac Low’s Seventy-fifth Birthday on Broadway and Ninety-Second Street as the Traffic Is Percolating and the Coffee Shops Are Bursting with a Mad Mosaic of Jostling Jabbers Jawing in their Singular Ways about the Fate of Democracy
Charles Bernstein

They could drive a two-ton truck right through
your conception of reality and there’d still be
room for the Army-Navy band playing
“Rally Round the Flag” in twelve-tone
transposition. I could plug a leak with a
whooping cough and still dance the Da Nang
Waltz in triple time on the surface of a Bic
pen, were it not that I got platinum
. “What are you looking at,
you old huckey puck (hockey pock, lucky
muck)?” Il Donc: The Donkey Is Ill. As in
an ill pill blows bitter in the morning and then
kind of drowsy or hazy, cascading up in billowing
dioramas of diaphanous derivations – dead
ahead to macaronic torque. O! the beauteous
schmutzing of the burnished begonias,
showboating to no cheese in particular, a charade
(parade) of inter-intentionality.
Take off my socks
                              my shirt
                   my pants
                                  my shoes
                 my bracelets
            my rings
                                                   my hands
                       my arms
    Take off my legs
Take off my lips
                          my mouth
                  my skin
                       Take off my industry
                       Take off my guile
                       Take off my imagination
                       Take off my felicity
                       Take off my fear
                       Take off my idealizations
                       Take off my eloquence
                       Take off my assurance
                       Take off my mourning
Com(op)posing in the gelatinous shmues
of indelible deliberations and lurking
mesmerizations. Counting, then
countering the counts. To blotter away /
Total dismay. By way of reticulated
moorings, absent prognostication, elated
soybean futurities. The pan bets the spatula
that the ink’s in the spool. Don’t school me
and I won’t tintinabulate your nanojective fuzz
machine! Fudge slide on the orange fedora
calls for redemption as barrel of mambos,
Latin Quarter, 1962. As if logic could preclude
moxie. Nothing times two / One thing
imbued. Cleating the gushes with pink-jet
intensifications: Discretionary panache
of the pasha of mint julep. Like totally
inadvertent – jerking motions, flouncing, delayed
flutter arrestation. That’s BIgelow 9-8300.
“But the fight has just begun / Stand behind us
everyone / Your $$$s make our dreams come
true.” Deftly doubting (doubling) the efficacy
of the lotion (potion, notion). Busted or just burst
            Bright lily pads waving above
            Time to circle the wagon masters
Hitting a nerve with half beats and preemptory
perforation. As in ‘innocent guilt’, the quill
hammers its daydream patently (patiently) dug out of
mortification. “Robert Hall this season / Will
show you the reason …”
                         Low overhead
                         Low overhead


Reprinted from With Strings (University of Chicago Press, 2001), with the permission of the author. This poem also appeared in the premier issue of Crayon Magazine.