The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

All Issues
NOV 2020 Issue

Guide for the Discouraged

I’m always taking the test—the cake
I have or the cake people recall
being the best back before
we were overtaken by remorseless now.

The sun can’t be stashed in a drawer
just so you can snooze through
its clamor. Look around
at what’s called pure
abstraction & try not to think.

I wore slippers in traffic. Then fretted
about the demand to strive; instead,
I realigned with the macrocosm.

An accordion heaves in the garden; how
awful is this allowable shirt.

Sprawling life opened before me
yet it wasn’t worth giving
up my steady turn at the faucet.

Come in the spirit of meekness;
leave anointed with blame.
Stupid squirrels. They aren’t even
funny as that guy with that hat in line
for pizza. You live bareheaded
until you reckon with your insolence.

Once aloft, the disciples forgotten.
Be careful not to drink
the hope-colored clouds.

There’s no mystery. Astronomy
makes us lazy by fixing our sight
on the exit light. Disposable as the sofa
in a dead man’s rec room, still
we fruitless scheme.

You made lists of your deceptions & set
them ablaze. Religion has mired you
in the blunder of mere intellect.

Smothered divinity: that’s quite a lot
of eschatological ideation
you’re putting out with the cat
to wail beneath the crescent
moon tonight.

Draw nigh, the thing unsays itself.

We were walking around the pond when
lumpish love we fell in.
Inclined below & then above.

Why are you doing that, was what I was
asking her when she did what she
wanted to do anyway. Self-abuse, she said,
is turning you against the common good.

Declaim aloud the exploits of one
Theseus the mouse. His h was as soft
as his tiny paws in the maze
of mechanical skin.

Was old but not tall enough. They wouldn’t
let me ride the ride
so I wept in their pitiless gaze, no Rome
in which I might hide.

Why bother, you cut-rate devil, perjurous
as you are, to pretend? Your Barcalounger
cannot beckon my smithy-made head.

You lost those scars in a cab coming
home from a rooftop party
where you drank to impress—who?

The nurse arrives with an attitude.
She’d rather be administering this shot to
a patient who isn’t reciting
the alphabet backwards.

Finality presses upon us daily; we flinch,
then wounded go.

Why am I snared in this routine & why
should I stop if it harms no one & what’s
the problem requiring my solution?
Why do birds suddenly appear?

The syndrome: trousers improperly
creased. And wrinkled cuffs.
This hurts, yet realize:
this is how consciousness portrays itself.

Small but noticeable tremors fail
to disturb the bargain hunters. At least
until the tomb cracks wide.

Natural causes—the poise with which
they introduce themselves.

The violence of inscription.
Please stop sneaking to do that.
The downstairs neighbor already owns
the empathy you seek.

No longer compelled to cling
to that childish lingo, at last
I declare, as if speaking forthrightly
into a fearsome gale: “Cantilever.”

That day human awareness permitted
untried sexual beatifications; adjectives
worthy of the scene were distributed
to those who could explain natural selection.

Your monsters are your business;
the intimate weird of your motor home.

The ghost brags about the speed
of its machine. Greasers drag combs
through the jet-black wind. A little dab will do
you when you need to be done to.

If grief is a cunning guest we should
hide the towels. Its insinuations
about the future erode my already scant
confidence in the utility of sublimation.

One glance & what had been known
was now known. From a chrysalis
of doubt, the fact they fucked
takes wing.

Photos of lakes & churches.
Albums full of such. Stale was
our daily bread.

I drew breath but it looked more
like wind. With so fast a pencil, the angle
of approach is everything.

Remember when we were actresses
who kissed men who were
ugly & wore cologne. Our whispers
wrapped around appetite.

Message on a sign above an empty
store & yes—tube socks were once
yours for a dollar ninety-nine.

Are you exempt from revision?
Maybe you walk
with the lord & his bullyboy gang.

Unsafe playground—that’s where
the climax of my novel takes place.
Conflation of identities & violent reshaping
of colloquial speech then ensues.

Ah, literature. Me lifted by thee

Luxuriant secret—consumed then
disdained. Forever after
this yearning for incision.

No more pies; no more watering holes.
Hocus pocus is done for & it’s smite time
for these dickhead prophets.

It’s a question of proximity whether
or not the disguise works. Her tears
resplendent as mountain pools
even as much around her is masked
& much else remains unwashed.

This night, its perplexing hand-grenade
of possibility. We brutes reek
of copulation & leave
behind a thread of nearly gold.

Snap fingers to turn any failure
to your best ever experience at the zoo—
to quote the set-up instructions
I received with my new grail.

Would a solitary nail would do the trick?
Turns out I needed something
stronger: the glint of spite
in dirty eyes.

Slightest glance—yet the whole
contained in part, in a particle of that part.
Freeze frame on the recent disaster,
its lush bower. Grass bends in
air articulate.

Headlong in our pursuit of occult forms
we emulate those acolytes
who signed for the early-bird deal &
complimentary skin rejuvenator.

Arousal’s your game? Go stomp the old sod,
expel that bad mojo. Only then may you
be suffused among expectant songs.

Begin with a length of rope—a thought
in readiness.
Society of dope fiends meets tonight at seven.
Helpless amid their orated absence.

Here comes the headache, the one
that weighs as much as last
week’s compost & impresses upon
spectators the seriousness
with which we undertake its mission.

Save-a-penny jar or vending
machine: in which do you deposit
your faith in the woodsy folk?

I want to dig deeper. The curve
of the beast’s horn
must mean.

At the memorial the candle’s ferocity
is obscured from those in the cheap seats.

The more you claim fraudulence
as your excuse the more pumpkin-like
you appear when asked
to endure the paradise of immensity.

Her deletions—Joycean.
Money gripped me in its maw. I lived
to swindle dry cleaners.

Look, love reclines on the couch! Remember
the pity we lost in its cushions?

The lines on her forehead were a kind
of sacred script that mocked
lucidity. Had she filched her diction
from my insincerity?

These wrong-doers lost the many loves
that once sharpened the air between
their thighs & now find themselves unversed
in the tactile lore of nervous states.

Our last judgment—when the pain lets fall
through ev’ry lived hour. Present & past,
you realize, have been no more than a tease.

Being human: the film adaptation was better.

If the concealer works the damage is hardly
noticeable. Otherwise, the evidence is plain—
you have been misunderstood. Not quite sullen
but sunken, your face: an exhumation.
The pavement is a kind of elegy.
Or perhaps not.

The gods had hammers they say.
On my street there’s a woman
who has a leaf blower.
An empyrean ruled by jerk-offs.

A bad crowd she fell in with. First the pill
popping & then she took up their critical
methodologies; so no surprise when I found her
later, alone & cursing the bathroom sink.

Regard this prince among empty men.
His robe of god’s eyes, his mastery of all things
confessional. Upon the ocean of want
his navy plies its undulant course.

Dominion over the tides? Apply within.

The ideologue played snakes & ladders
with real snakes. When the upheaval he long
schemed for arrived his joy was boundless—
his mortifications could finally be proclaimed.

Soothed by correction from on high.
By the sweat of so beaten a brow comes
outward peace & the ability to simulate adequacy.

Exhaust me with your cunning ways.
I am recognized only by you & thus by you
wish to be meticulously tweezed.

Terrible words. All night of them.

Left to wander, I followed the sublime
until I nearly drowned in the heat
of so many undesired bodies
listless across my path.

The period is too meek to end my sentence.
A swipe of a scythe nicely
does the trick.

Can I plausibly grieve for the replica?

Long ago that mighty, mighty sword.
The father knelt; the son regarded
the throne. The laggard brother dismayed:
no guest could help him find a job.

Our soul gets its chances, you hear that said.
A solemn drumroll, then we scatter,
each with our own reprieve.

Mornings arrive with birdsong, sunset
brings insects. When the moment
is ripe we will standardize our spellings.

Monotonous this crisis. Philosophy
swells with its contentions.
But summon, if you will, a blemished
love once sighed behind the Dairy Queen.

I cried out for excess so went down
to the blessing mart to imbibe
the full import of vanished worlds.

Thus my story builds to murmur.

You’re given teeth to chew
ache-heavy dreams; the doubts they leave
you swallow whole.

Last chance to pluck that phoenix
unworthy of its plumage.

Cupids huffing glue. Another season
of this & nothing newly born
will call this place home.

Unlike luxury, degradation requires
taste. What wouldn’t I give to spit
in the palace & blame the fancy martyr?

The old rigmarole. How to get free of it?
Our first fear fractioned out
over a lifetime, its sum ever gathering.

“Smorgasbord” once mispronounced—a reason
for gnawing dismay?

She likes the nightlife, her consecration there.

The bloom lingers perhaps too long;
its smell of boredom, its pillowy years.

The word was fondle.

Her divinations depend on the antenna’s
tilt, its posture within a whirl of causes.

Supply of award winners exceeds demand;
feather plucked dependencies!

You slather stars with unlovely paint
& expect applause from an audience
that only praises intentions.

Family-size portions—purgatory will be
a sweaty adventure.

Work those levers, Johnny joke-boy.
An impertinent fool is he who espouses a myth
about the faithful—their ascension despite
these sunny days of slo-mo duels.

Good hunch what’s going on with you isn’t
the same as what’s going on with me.
On a silver platter: my apology’s explanation.

This rust, these rags. Entranced
with furthermore.

Afflicted, aggrieved, we arrived at the castle
we’d dreamed of. Our pistols loose
in their holsters, our history convolute.

The genius wore out his welcome. Hand-
rolled cigarettes licked extravagantly.
He spoke shifty, side-wise
like he was practicing for prison.

Shallow pools grace the vale.
A mirage that abates the dilemma:
uninterrupted self.

Gomorrah? Maybe tomorrow.

Barechested atop the cliff, he waved his shirt
to signal how high he climbed. Most monstrous
sight—this mortal’s exultation.

A masked woman arrives in a crowded room.
How many bedtime stories are we willing
to begin with that scene? The modern
temperament goes pitter-patter.

Syllables cast among the wretched. We watch
with foreboding as they assemble
a merciful diction.

Even asleep we deplete ourselves pursuing
velvety yet elusive neutralities.
Be wary in the mirrored house;
perception multiplies there.
Turn around then turn around again,
your conjugations blur.

Rinse, then implicate.

She stumbled, once more in the grip of emotion.
Beguiled by her wreckage, we itemized
for reimbursement later.

Tool of corrupt devising: the asterisk.
Our obscenities thus annotated
for ease of comprehension.

Unkind entries fill the dictionary you consult.
Your slushy enunciation of their vowels
turns the names of our hidden parts
into accusations.

Can there be certainty if there are
certainties? Stay very still so the bruises
that accompany such cogitation can be avoided.

This beard: its history as told by.

The insolent recluse photographed when drunk;
an unearthly choir mourns.

Smoke rises from the tuneless
forest as you lose your way, footprints fading
in snowfall. Your armored fame no use
amid this churn of shadows.

Expelled from Heliopolis, your flask
of balm left in a rental car.
Each deprivation in its own way
marvelous, you persevere.

The village blasphemer, the rest stop sage:
glorious form & motion marks them,
makes them the illuminati of our tedious era.

Have we been cleaved piece by pliable piece?
Does the creator even touch our clay?

Another sad room abandoned.
Soon the whole house is left behind
& resentment replaces loss.
In the damp, discolored sheets: the pungent
whiff of fabulation.

Confounded I am by yammering beasts,
their lack of dolorous cadence.

Among wished-for perfections, their stillness
a luxurious tedium. Credit cards, the filthy
talk. Remedies abound for that skulking
snitch we call expression.

Slow dance in the high school gym—tracks
of tears, tears on a pillow.

Roll up your sleeves & narrate, punk.

Apply moisture to activate these ashes.
Face aglow with spoiled might,
the tyrant mind doth screw itself.

Simulacrum of loss before the keening
thing itself. Nights of nothing more
where, in time, we will surely be found.

A wretched stranger fell prostrate at her door.
All perils, she assured him, will be swept away.
O shining bit of breath a promise is.

Me in action—a marionette whose flailing
limbs mock my ardent ascendancies.

Arrayed beneath a sky stretched taut
the seeming dead, their faces turned
from earth to falling light.

How song is thought is vertical is emptied out
yet brimming still. How much like
unused things we be.

The stove’s blue-green flame swells
beneath the kettle; another stint
in the mild yoke, this soul more bent, etcetera.

You look and look but the mirror
remains unchanged. The mouth
is ruined by silence, the gaze will not
relinquish its obdurate pity.

My sleep-soaked theories scarcely breathe.


Albert Mobilio

Albert Mobilio’s most recent book of poems, Same Faces, is published by Black Square Editions.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2020

All Issues