Cleaving spicer


“The dead are
notoriously hard
to satisfy”
—Jack Spicer, After Lorca,
My Vocabulary Did This To Me,
The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer

My Vocabulary

in the white—endlessness
of the hospital—alone
i’ve lost it—completely
they found me—passed out
on the floor—of an elevator
with a lousy—half-eaten sandwich
without my—vocabulary
i just lie here—in bed
looking—at the leering ceiling
sterile white—endlessness
pure as—the driven snow
glazing—my sad poet eyes
no more—berkeley renaissance
no more—san francisco nights
no more—north beach bars
no more—serial verse


my shadow—is dead
in the water—of a ditch
that’s where—rimbaud threw me
after he beat me up—really bad
i really can’t—blame him
after what—i tried to do
i aimed the pistol—precisely
at his huge—chicken dick
his violet-tinged—young manhood
if i couldn’t have it—nobody would
he covered it—with his hand
the bullet—hit his wrist
my love for him—turned me
into a killer—here in a ditch

Writing Poetry

writing poetry—is the second
oldest profession—in the world
i’m reminded—of the cartoon
about the—ratty old gravestone
“here lies a poet—and gentleman”
below the caption—it reads
i wonder—how they got
buried in—the same grave?

Letter to Jack Spicer

My dear—you surprise me
asking—me to translate
a book of your—serial poetry
my poetry—has always been
so rude and tacky—compared
with your—beautiful SF verse
I’m not worth reading—like you
gay sunshine press—is kaput
gay poetry—is outdated now
the movement—mainstreamed
since you died—back in 1965
a lot of things—have changed
your poems—published now
by wesleyan press—so alive
your collected verse—a best seller
while I’m—simply white trash
an aging—stonewall poet
why channel it again—my dear
when you already—did it so well
After Lorca—such a fine book
i’m really just—a one-night stand
an aging angel of—the queenly lyre
a sullen son of—the queer muse


it wasn’t—a tower at all
it was our—fucking cellphones
once we—started schmoozing
once we—started yakity-yakking
there was—no end to it
into god’s—pristine sky above
up the staircase—to heaven
from the—bargain basement below
to the creamy—milky way above
snaky snarky shifty—human syntax
worse than a—gaggle of geese
queering everything—that moved
politicians priests—used car salesmen
things got worse—rather than better

Ardennais Chicken

it wasn’t—like a novel
nothing i read—was like it
rimbaud came—like a snake
all spaz—with his head cut-off
he wasn’t—a darling little angel
he was a cold-blooded—evil serpent
i was his helpless eve—in the garden
my cute ardennais—infernal bridegroom
in the taverns—by the seine nightly
i remember—how much he hated me
but i couldn’t help it—i loved him
then struggling—drunk back home
i beat up my no-good—whining wife


each morning—i woke up
young rimbaud—sprawled in bed
he never seemed—to have hangovers
dirty sheets stained—with primal pearls
dead cooing pigeons—moiling down
there in his—secret pubed garden
he had the cruel lips—of his mother
the iron lips—of a ditched woman
he had broken—crumpled wings
like his soldier father—skipping town
against the window—the london rain
dribbling down—illuminating despair
i watched it—running down his leg
the cruel way he—smirked at me
sullenly pouty—always exciting me
the stiff geometry of—his adolescence
that he—could just as easily turn
piccadilly square—into a prick

Imaginary God

imagine god—16 years old
an angel—with sullen wings
an apple—in eve’s ogling eyeball
plucking his—premature orgasms
imagine god—pouty put-upon kid
jane doing him—in the tree house
virgin as—bomba the jungle boy
stripped of his—leopard-skin loincloth
full of quickie—pronto egg yolk
rotten—as johnny appleseed
spawning himself—across america
spoiled rotten—euro-punk tadzio
death in venice—coming home

Bijou Matinee

a beat-up—velvet curtain
slides down—like his trousers
a fig-leaf—conceals a stage
afterwards his—uncut shadow
stalks—yesterday today tomorrow
surely doomed—before and after
i give up everything—to have him
my wife, my job—my home
what did I—get in exchange?
a sullen boy—who shouted at me
a pouty boy—who wrote poetry
a cruel boy—who turned me on
a bad boy—who haunted paris
a moody boy—who hated berkeley
a straight boy—who hated queers
a drunk boy—tied up in my attic
a kept boy—who lets me

Diamond and Pearls

a diamond—in the rough
smeared all over—his hard stomach
pearls before swine—that’s how
he treated me—my love for him
didn’t matter to him—why do all
kept boys have—such bad attitude
we placating demanding—sugar daddies
surely deserve—more than just that
suppressing his—teen boredom
nobody really knows—his ennui
there’s no exit—no escape for him
rimbaud thinks—maybe abyssinia?

Letter to Spicer

these letters are—temporary
spontaneous—like wet dreams
no time—for masturbation anymore
premature ejaculations—are out
that’s what he says—when I’m around
i ad lib my way—back into his pants
seeking my old ex-lover—again
wanting to be him—once again
puns take time—jokers aren’t easy
nothing’s worse—than gone lovers
absinthe replaces—dreams
absinthe replaces—poetry
sitting here—in the black cat tavern
my rotting mind—turning chartreuse
my gone memories—of rimbaud
forgeries—like me

Rose Wallpaper Walls

i say male beauty—but it wasn’t
it was something—completely different
beauty is really—a cocteau beast
rimbaud shrugged—his shoulders
not knowing—not caring anymore
after the honeymoon—wore off
and he got bored—with our vagabondage
the difference—between night & day
between heaven—and a season in hell
what did I know—only that I loved him
nobody bothered—to tell me the truth
his body language—got moodier
half the moon—heavy as lead
the other half—flying away
he eat—pomegranates in bed
spitting the seeds—in my face
he played solitaire—in bed
alone—with himself
knowing—I wanted it
driving me mad—going gimp
rimbaud’s way of—getting even
spastically going—through another
session—without me once again
banging his curly head—eyes closed
hard against the—moaning & groaning
fading rose wallpaper—walls


a taste i’ll—never forget
as long as—i’ll remember him
the way he slept—those humid nights
overly sweet—sticky honeysuckle
stinky rays—of a rotten moon
his prickly curls—darkly illuminated
pasted against—his sweaty forehead
magnolias wooing—in a fetid swamp
louisiana dormitory—‘60s nostalgia
next door—the huey p. long fieldhouse
an Olympic-sized—swimming pool
we’d swim at night—in the nude
stud from new orleans—my roommate
his cute girlfriend—back in Gretna
how he missed her—every moody night
calling me her name—when he lost it
tormenting me—his skuzzy taste
so skanky—his foreskin fondue
my Big Easy boyfriend—all semester
his smegma—his haunting caviar

The Vowels

young rimbaud—spoke with vowels
it broke my heart—to hear him groan
the way vowels—oozed out of him
slithering out—of his twisted lips
his vocabulary—more simple than mine
not wasting time—no time for love
each vowel—a simple snapshot
A = all that’s mine is surely mine
E = every time could be the last time
I = in the evening the swallows dive
O = overhead chartres leans down
U = unbelievable nights of despair
Y = years later in a belgian bookstore
some printed copies—in the basement
illuminations—those seasons in hell
“A=E=I=O=U”—sound familiar?

Letter to Spicer

i can’t translate—another poet
gay translationese—too zoid for me
i’ve got a trunk—of doubles anyway
there in lisbon—pessoa heteronyms
each one—like a tight leather glove
someday they’ll—pick the lock
and find out—all the heteronyms
are actually my—secret homonyms
what a portuguese—scandal my dears

A Postscript for Charles Olson

if nothing happens—so what
things always—happen anyway
human history—such a sham
full of naked apes—hardly angels
dirty angels—make good poets tho
but you’ve—got to get them quick
before they—get to be sixteen
from gloucester—to berkeley
there’s always—a moody pouty
renaissance—in the wings

Arthur Rimbaud

rimbaud’s fig leaf—such a fizzler
his root—rotten as they come
arcadian love—wasn’t his thing
he was a smart—ardennais farmboy
he was too smart—such a wise-ass
sneering at—the tree of knowledge
he was such—a snide know it all
who needed—a tree of good & evil
when young rimbaud—was around
the only way—to wipe that haughty
rotten smirk—off his petulant lips
was with a hookah—and a blowjob

The Drunken Boat

the drunken boat—his passport
as if a poem—no matter how good
somehow guaranteed—safe passage
into the sophisticated—worldly-wise
parisian literary scene—back then
i didn’t recognize—rimbaud at first
there at the—railroad station
i expected—an older gentlemen
to match—his mature versification
not until i got home—and found him
his gangly gauche—farmboy legs
coolly draped over—the front steps
waiting for me—to show up even
then not realizing—my extreme luck
and approaching—delicious demise
arthur rimbaud—entering my life
then later on—nude in my bed that
first night—after my wife graciously
suggested he sleep—lucky pierre
between us—such a beautiful pale
young innocent—country boy

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