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Jeremy Radin: California Poets Part 5, Five Poems

Jeremy Radin

December 22nd, 2022

California Poets: Part V

Jeremy Radin

Five Poems

To an Upstairs Neighbor

Greetings good morning it is me your downstairs

neighbor I can hear you walking around hello.

I don’t know you at all but oh I can tell

by the patterns of your footfalls that I sure do

enjoy you. I sure hope your life is a joyous one. I hope

you have a dog who is a good stupendous dog.

I hope you keep nice plants & I hope they rise

to your silverwaterhands. I hope someone touches you

like a forgiveness machine. Neighbor in your upstairs

clothes, I could say I love you more than lunch

but I’m not trying to put the heart before the course—

I’ve only known you these few moments & what

have I already revealed? Since we’re oversharing—

in my heart BMI stands for Bowel Movement Information

which you will find in the footnotes of this book

which is my body—the primary injustice

of an unjust existence. According to Julia Kristeva

it’s supposed to make me feel terrible that stuff

inside my body one moment is outside my body

the next, that it too is my body, but it just makes me feel

Vesuvian! I shit & spit & weep until I’ve wiped

out the little village & nothing remains of me

to finish telling you what I don’t want to have to tell you.

When the Lord made the angels it was this way—

vomit, excrement, ejaculate, milk. Each took

the shape of an idea, a terrible restlessness in the flesh,

dashed themselves into each other like ships

against quivering columns of moonlight & well,

that was angels! But we’re talking about

boundaries now. Borders & serration. Where my skin

saws into the air is a boundary/border, but

I can never quite cross into that empty country. Try it—

how frustrating! All due respect to Julia, I cannot agree.

For if I truly was all of my various emissions

wouldn’t I know everything at least about the sewer

systems of the greater Los Angeles area & as well, other

sewer systems? Wouldn’t I have visions in which I abandon

myself, mammoth body entering each particle

of air like a fire made of little hallelujahs, little written-out

hallelujahs! burning a hole in the ceiling, so that I might see you,

my upstairs neighbor of the boots that go clomping

this way and that? Mightn’t I see you consulting your cookbook,

preparing to bake a tray of raspberry tarts for a party

I am not supposed to know about, because I am

the stranger, the Angel of Boundaries, anonymous

& unfortunate beast who sleeps beneath your sleep?

Failed Ode to My Penis O storm wand! O snow dragon! O seething traveler with your sack slung over your shoulder! Sack of treasures! Sack of miracles! Wrinklestretchy planetbag! It is time to try to make a praise for you. A big old praise for the little old Penis. O Penis! You go with me everywhere, like a depressed clown hanging off a cliff. If you were a musical you might not have all the production value of a Les Miserables but you would make me just as sad. Alas, my cranky Javert, it seems we shan’t find who we’re searching for. I’ll remain forever uneasy with lust, getting up for a snack when the actors start kissing, wondering if desire makes me a monster, the instrument of an organ’s gory history. Yes, I long to penetrate the mystery & am ashamed. I long for an exuberant coupling with the Name & am ashamed. My mother inquires— do I wish for a child? I attend my friend’s one-year-old’s birthday & look, everybody’s got them: toddlers & spouses, avocado stains on their blouses, stories about how they used to think they knew what being tired meant. O praise & bless & exalt. Of course I wish for a child. I play with the ones at the party & all my friends gather around to tell me what a wonderful uncle I’m going to make.

Sad It is sad to tip the kettle over the cup & discover there is no more tea in the kettle. It is sad when the diner is closed. It is sad when the hawk seizes the rat & sad when the hawk misses. It is sad when the child encounters too early. It is sad when a mother apologizes. It is sad when the aphids have chewed holes in the lacinato kale. It is sad when there is a shopping list taped to a refrigerator. It is sad in the morning, Bach or no Bach. It is sad in winter & depending on the city sadder in summer. It is sad to finish a book & sad to not finish. It is sad to make love imperfectly. It is sad when the body is ready but not the mind. It is sad when [ ] has left the group chat. It is sad when the wrong thing dies. It is sad when it is three in the morning & the wind is howling & the moon is like a burning umbrella oh god who will put up with me

Lines Written During the Monarch Migration

An outrageous fantasia of butterflies is sawing through the city

on the orange buzzsaws of its wings. It’s the most fabulous

thing I’ve ever seen, but all I can think about is the woman

I wish would drag me down to the apricot cellar & kick

my ass in the dark. Is there even such thing as an apricot

cellar? Do I even have an ass? Butterflies are like that: little

thoughts bouncing around & then becoming a tunnel

to wander through that falls apart in shards of color and

wow it’s already 5:30 PM on tax day & all my money has turned

to locusts. What asshole decided I should care for a body using

only the body I’m supposed to care for? What about mistakes?

Where shall I make my ruin? Imagine Chagall with only one

canvas but enough paint for eighty-five years. That’s a boatload

of goats & violins. Permit me to explain: I want the woman

to kick herself out of me, to make room for butterflies & prayer.

& here’s the thing about prayer: it’s an intimate grappling with

empty air. & Jacob was both Jacob & the angel. & confusion

is one of the senses—I can’t stress that enough. Divesting

the self of desire is impossible because the self is desire—

to continue selfing, continue burrowing into bewilderment

like a kaleidoscope until you’ve learned nothing but how little

beauty can finally teach you. Sometimes the only thing

you can smell is the inside of your nose. The butterflies

are gone & I never danced within them. I was too sad.

If you put apricots in a cellar—surprise—you have an apricot

cellar. If you beg a woman to come, she won’t. I’m a saint

unblessed, a bell that won’t ring. O, it’s spring, & my

life is a mess—no, it’s life, & my mess is a spring.

The Buffoons Had It Right

Smeared in lamplight, I braid my longing

into a challah & implore you to eat

my longing, or bring it to a public pond

& scatter it to the hungry ducks

that they may excrete my longing into

the scummy water. What could have been

so important? I shall tear my vision board,

pin it with a kitchen knife onto the elm,

forget what I visioned & go dancing.

No longer will I remember what I thought

I was put here to do, no longer will I sigh

or dream of tracing a collarbone. It’s only

me & the ducks, my allies, mishpocheh,

my irritating seraphim, we thrive

together in the orchard, honking orbs

out of the trees. Soon I will be like them,

stiff wings cranking me through the sky,

clown-mallard sentry patrolling the air.

Listen to me: the buffoons had it right.

I will take the vow of foolishness.

I will fill my days (forgive me Lord,

I forgot to suffer) with apricots.

Author Bio:

Jeremy Radin is a writer, actor, teacher, and extremely amateur birder. His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Ploughshares, The Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, The Journal, and elsewhere. He is the author of two collections of poetry: Slow Dance with Sasquatch (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012) and Dear Sal (Not A Cult, 2022). He is the founder and operator of Lanternist Creative Consulting, through which he coaches writers and performers. Follow him @germyradin


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