by John Ashbery
Do you know where you live? Probably.
Abner is getting too old to drive but won’t admit it.
The other day he got in his car to go buy some cough drops
of a kind they don’t make anymore. And the drugstore
has been incorporated into a mall about seven miles away
with only about half the stores rented. There are three
other malls within a four-mile area. All the houses
are owned by the same guy, who’s been renting
them out to college students for years, so they are virtually uninhabitable.
A smell of vitriol and socks pervades the area
like an open sewer in a souk. Anyway the cough drops
(a new brand) tasted pretty good-like catnip
or an orange slice that has lain on a girl’s behind.
That’s the electrician calling now
nobody else would call before 7 A.M. Now we’ll have some
electricity in the place. I’ll start by plugging in
the Christmas tree lights. They were what made the whole thing
go up in sparks the last time. Next, the light
by the dictionary stand, so I can look some words up.
Then probably the toaster. A nice slice
of toast would really hit the spot now. I’m afraid it’s all over
between us, though. Make nice, like you really cared,
I’ll change my chemise, and we can dance around the room
like demented dogs, eager for a handout or they don’t
know what. Gradually, everything will return to normal, I
promise you that. There’ll be things for you to write about
in your diary, a fur coat for me, a lavish shoe tree for that other.
Make that two slices. I can see you only through a vegetal murk
not unlike coral, if it were semi-liquid, or a transparent milkshake.
I have adjusted the lamp;
morning’s at seven,
the tarnish has fallen from the metallic embroidery, the walls have fallen,
the country’s pulse is racing. Parents are weeping,
the schools have closed.
All the fuss has put me in a good mood,
O great sun.
by Megan Green
ranting, pathetic insecurities, overwhelm the Christmas tree, and you promise
me a utopia, a sort of subsequential America,
where we’ll fuck & eat & play the craps, Las
Vegas is the only place it’ll happen, &
yet the nameless, intrude like a swarm of fucking locusts
feasting upon the Satin drape of my finest
face, I believe your chest most of all, that’s where
the dragon begins, & the sigh
spills from my eyes. Dead petals favour the corners. Gathering
like they have plans.
Making the Best of the Holidays
by James Tate
Justine called on Christmas day to say she
was thinking of killing herself. I said, “We’re
in the middle of opening presents, Justine. Could
you possibly call back later, that is, if you’re
still alive.” She was furious with me and called
me all sorts of names which I refuse to dignify
by repeating them. I hung up on her and returned
to the joyful task of opening presents. Everyone
seemed delighted with what they got, and that
definitely included me. I placed a few more logs
on the fire, and then the phone rang again. This
time it was Hugh and he had just taken all of his
pills and washed them down with a quart of gin.
“Sleep it off, Hugh,” I said, “I can barely under-
stand you, you’re slurring so badly. Call me
tomorrow, Hugh, and Merry Christmas.” The roast
in the oven smelled delicious. The kids were playing
with their new toys. Loni was giving me a big
Christmas kiss when the phone rang again. It was
Debbie. “I hate you,” she said. “You’re the most
disgusting human being on the planet.” “You’re
absolutely right,” I said, “and I’ve always been
aware of this. Nonetheless, Merry Christmas, Debbie.”
Halfway through dinner the phone rang again, but
this time Loni answered it. When she came back
to the table she looked pale. “Who was it?” I
asked. “It was my mother,” she said. “And what
did she say?” I asked. “She said she wasn’t my
mother,” she said.
by Edwin Denby
Three old sheepherders so filthy in their ways
Whores wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole
Saw once the Christmas star which in a blaze
Pierced like delight into the secret soul.
They later also stood with their same faces
Around a baby male and there were shown
The heart caressing with millennial graces
A beauty which in love is all its own.
These three were the first according to the story
But unbaptized they never will reach heaven
In an eternal hell tortured and gory
They can recall the joy that they were given,
This savage torture by the law of love
Of Christmas shepherds I like thinking of.
I’ll Be Me and You Be Goethe
by Heather Christie
I want it to be winter and I want to change
the color of this room This room should be
a blue room and it should be freezing
but ventilated and I in my medium snowsuit
irresistible I know because everything I do
I do to get more beautiful so you will want
to love me in the cold and indoor morning
What I’d Like For Christmas, 1970
by Ted Berrigan
Black brothers to get happy
The Puerto Ricans to say hello
The old folks to take it easy &
as it comes
The United States to get straight
Power to butt out
Money to fuck off
Business with honor
by Rae Armantrout
In front of the craft shop,
a small nativity,
mother, baby, sheep
made of white
and blue balloons.
Pick out the one
that doesn’t belong.
close to nothing
everything has come.
Look at My Head, It’s a Pumpkin with a Candle in It
by Keegan Crawford
What is on your bed right now?
I laid there for fifteen minutes with my face down into the pillow.
I imagined how I looked from another person’s point of view
and I looked dead, in a humorous way.
What is your favorite holiday?
The tree was fake and everyone was acting like the tree.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
The drop was five stories, so I didn’t look down. I just looked forward.
Have you ever been camping?
I don’t know why people are scared of wolves. ‘Blood thirsty killing machine’ is a false phrase. They are not robots and they drink water.
What was the last thing you ate?
I am not a blood thirsty killing machine. I just wanted to clarify that.
Do you have any regrets?
Flowers die 100% percent of the time. I still like flowers, though.
by Ron Padgett
The holidays are said
to give one a chance
to get in touch with others
but what held back that chance
the rest of the year?
What it means is
that the holidays are a time
when we should behave
like other people, as if
in junior high school,
jury duty, or the Army,
whereas what Philip Whalen
wanted was to take a holiday
from holidays, and then
he wavered, beautifully.
Kage’s First Xmas
by Ben Mirov
I am thinking of him and her having sex. I am thinking of them having really great sex, probably in front of a mirror. I am alone in the house. The TV is on, but everyone is asleep. I am about to turn twenty-one. When I turn twenty-one I am going to put on snowshoes. I am going to put on snowshoes and walk as far as I can into the snow. Once I am out in the snow I am going to sit down. I will probably sit in the snow for a long time. I’ll bring a sandwich and some juice. When I return to the house it will be Xmas morning. I will take off my snowshoes and I will tell my family my new name. I will say, On advent of my twenty-first birthday I have taken a new name. Henceforth I shall be called Kage. Kage with a K and not a C. From now on I will only answer to the name Kage. Thank you very much, and then I will walk out of the room. Then I will probably take a shower because I will be cold from sitting in the snow. I will walk into the bathroom and take off all my clothes and look at my body in the mirror. I will probably flex a little. Kage likes his new body. Then I will take a long shower. I will wash every part of my body, including my asshole and my ears and toes. Every part of my body will be clean. Then I will get out of the shower and go have Xmas. I will open my presents and say, Kage does not want this. Kage has no use for a Playstation. Kage does wear sweaters.
by Megan Boyle
everything i touch is going to be a fossil some day my dad still hasn’t taken down his christmas decorations
i walked to his refrigerator and immediately unwrapped and ate a square of american cheese
if i drop a toothpick i’m pretty sure it will remain where it fell for three days
not sure what happens after that.
Xmas Poem: Bolinas
by Robert Creeley
we’ll get high
and go find it.
by Louise Glück
There is always something to be made of pain.
Your mother knits.
She turns out scarves in every shade of red.
They were for Christmas, and they kept you warm
while she married over and over, taking you
along. How could it work,
when all those years she stored her widowed heart
as though the dead come back.
No wonder you are the way you are,
afraid of blood, your women
like one brick wall after another.
All the Lovers
by Kevin Killian
Outside the Disney Concert Hall,
Kylie has summoned a clutch of cold models in white underwear,
They clamber on white boxes pitching for the sky
Somehow she appears in a dream sequence,
Boys and girls kiss and poke and struggle for love
In California, where the major candidates for governor and senator
live the lavish lives of Roman emperors,
Carly Fiorina, like Nero, bought a violin
for everyone on her Christmas list, from Cremona,
her wood golden and thin as hair,
81 per cent of voters don’t care how wealthy a
You have to be rich to flourish
What came first, the wifebeater or the social system
that allowed ever and ever more flourish
In the face of a liverish social despair
all the lovers who have gone before
they don’t compare to you
i am a big dumbass bear on christmas morning
holy shit a house
im gonna look inside the fucking window
who the fuck is this dumbass family in this house
if i wanted to i could bust in there and eat every one of these fuckers
look at this little fucker opening a present
oh look its a fire truck big deal ass monkey
when are these shit hats gonna fucking notice the bear at their window
hey bitch you forgot to look in your stocking
there you go
lol bubba wubba and chocolate give her a fucking toothbrush mom and dad
when are they gonna see me and chase me away
damn thats a lot of wrapping paper
lol that kitten is playing in it what a retard
oh shit they see me
“im not gonna hurt you or eat you”
but it sounds like “roar roar roar” to them cause im a big dumbass fucking bear
dad thats a big ass gun
dont shoot me think of all the fun times
like when watched your lovely family open presents on christmas
oh shit he took a warning shot im gonna run away
there is no presents under any of the trees of the woods of the world for me
why arent i hibernating
in a string of christmas lights that is blinking all year long
by Diana Salier
for christmas i get a new magic set and a big plastic stealth bomber that opens up and holds fifty little metal stealth bombers. i wear footie pajamas that zip all the way to my neck. the big plastic stealth bomber has a runway to practice takeoffs and landings. i sit on the carpet in my onesie and make the grey and green stealth bombers crash into each other so that all the pilots inside will die. i can’t finish card tricks or make the red balls disappear so i wear my black felt magician’s hat and walk around pulling rabbits out of things. i drive to my first girlfriend’s house. we drink wine and leave the bottles in the door of her parents’ car. on the way back to my house i text her all i want for christmas is you. at home a string of christmas lights blinks erratically. i fall asleep clearing the rubble off the runway.
by James Schuyler
The giant Norway spruce from Podunk, its lower branches bound,
this morning was reared into place at Rockefeller Center.
I thought I saw a cold blue dusty light sough in its boughs
the way other years the wind thrashing at the giant ornaments
recalled other years and Christmas trees more homey.
Each December! I always think I hate “the over-commercialized event”
and then bells ring, or tiny light bulbs wink above the entrance
to Bonwit Teller or Katherine going on five wants to look at all
the empty sample gift-wrapped boxes up Fifth Avenue in swank shops
and how can I help falling in love? A calm secret exultation
of the spirit that tastes like Sealtest eggnog, made from milk solids,
Vanillin, artificial rum flavoring; a milky impulse to kiss and be friends
It’s like what George and I were talking about, the East West
Coast divide: Californians need to do a thing to enjoy it.
A smile in the street may be loads! you don’t have to undress everybody.
“You didn’t visit the Alps?”
“No, but I saw from the train they were black
and streaked with snow.”
Having and giving but also catching glimpses
hints that are revelations: to have been so happy is a promise
and if it isn’t kept that doesn’t matter. It may snow
falling softly on lashes of eyes you love and a cold cheek
grow warm next to your own in hushed dark familial December.
That night with the green sky
by Tao Lin
It was snowing and you were kind of beautiful
We were in the city and every time I looked up
Someone was leaning out a window, staring at me
I could tell you liked me a lot or maybe even loved me
But you kept walking at this strange speed
You kept going in angles and it was confusing me
I think maybe you were thinking that you’d make me disappear
By walking at strange speeds and in a strange, curvy way
But how would that cause me to vanish from the planet Earth?
And that hurts
Why did you want me gone?
I don’t know
Some things can’t be explained, I guess
The sky, for example, was green that night
by Eileen Myles
I don’t think
I can’t afford the time to not sit right down &
write a poem about the heavy lidded
white rose I hold in my hand
I think of snow
a winter night in Boston, drunken waitress
stumble on a bus that careens through
Somerville the end of the line
where I was born, an old man
shaking me. He could’ve been my dad
You need a ride? Wait, he said.
This flower is so heavy in my hand.
He drove me home in his old blue
Dodge, a thermos next to me
cigarette packs on the dash
so quiet like Boston is quiet
Boston in the snow. It’s New York
plates are clattering on St. Mark’s
Place. Should I call you?
Can I go home now
& work with this undelivered
message in my fingertips
I love you.
I’m surrounded by snow.
by Frank O’Hara
If I rest for a moment near The Equestrian
pausing for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe,
that angel seems to be leading the horse into Bergdorf’s
and I am naked as a table cloth, my nerves humming.
Close to the fear of war and the stars which have disappeared.
I have in my hands only 35¢, it’s so meaningless to eat!
and gusts of water spray over the basins of leaves
like the hammers of a glass pianoforte. If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It’s like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter’s
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they’re putting, up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.
on sunday we took the train to the city and we each went home for one night and i saw my parents and my bedroom and my cat and you saw your ex boyfriend and his parents and his bedroom and his dog and when i called you i heard you ask me to go back to sleep and i said is everything okay and you told me to please go back to sleep
by Spencer Madsen
not sure if you
ever told me how
you felt about
i said i’d wrap them around our room
and put popcorn in your mouth
a few weeks ago i
walked onto a street
and sat prepared
sleep like two hands
in each other’s fingers
lets be demonstrative
of that image
in an earnest way
lets forget i wrote it down
or else it won’t feel genuine
yesterday i googled:
Is This a Poem For the Year 2219?
by Mike Young
Yes, this is a poem for the year 2219
about the fact my bathroom is above
my neighbors’ bedroom, and I sing
Roy Orbison songs at immaculate volumes
during my routines, which is partly my love
of song and partly my obsession with the idea
of audience. Dear 2219, a bathroom is a private
chlorinated water repository filled with hair gel
and other methods of impression insurance,
like sleeping pills. Neighbors are people who
lock the downstairs door just because some
random bro started fingerpainting their door-
bell Sunday night. Oops, he said. You’re not my
parents. Neighbors leave notes asking you to park
considerately and curbside boxes of giveaway bins
to judge them by. In bedrooms, 2219, what you do is
sniff a cowboy shirt you’ve plucked off the floor to see
if it’s okay to wear for teaching the kids I guess you call
First Moroccan Restauranteer in Space and Single Season
Small Needle Home Run Record Holder. You leave the mandarin
peels on your bed after having awesome sex with your girlfriend
but throw them away when she leaves for work. In 2219, you may
instead want to rub the peels all over your chest. If so, history
repeats itself. Golly. Singing is a method of generating inside
you a logging road, dawn-ish, swards of sugar beets, after driving
all night, knowing it’s about to rain but it’s not raining yet, thanks
sky! Singing may also be catalogued as Christmas underwater
and hiking slowly along the railroad ties with the best candy bar
but no home. For the sub-category of song known as Roy Orbison,
ditch your footnotes, 2219! 1936-1988, popular for soaring R&B;
and indoor sunglasses: that’s not Roy Orbison! Roy Orbison is a
naked knee so lovely you’d cry if you weren’t afraid of the knee
getting wet. Other things you need to know, 2219: I am afraid of
everything. We would rake the stars into piles to say what’s after
us. Happiness without certain phone calls is impossible. Your father
will die. Last Christmas, I ran into my friend Reggie at the cineplex.
His kid was cute. Me and my other friend were making fun of the movie
Reggie wanted to see. Reggie and I cussed together for the first time I can
remember, but I think we’re made of different smoke. 2219, I might be
above you or something. But I’m probably just below you. I take so many
multivitamins. Sometimes I try to make sure the best songs in my iTunes
have the most plays, but I don’t know why. Carolyn’s a better singer than
I am, and Dorothy told me that when I sing Bridge Over Troubled Water
it sounds like I’m falling apart. Is that a good thing? Wouldn’t it be more
considerate to just spend my time recycling cartons of apple cider for
you, 2219? Instead I carry a pillowcase full of laundry to the laundromat
and try to memorize my life enough to remember my life. I walk streets
named after people too dead to meet and try to sing loud enough to get
stuck in strangers’ heads. Carolyn and I go down on each other to hear the
other make their sounds. One time I saw my downstairs neighbor in a
line, and she smiled, waved at me. I couldn’t remember who she was.
She left her place to come talk. Then I remembered. 2219, they just
found water on the moon. Your love will only count before it’s gone.
by Bill Berkson
for Vincent Warren
Behind the black water tower
under the grey
of the sky that feeds it
smoke speeds to where a pigeon
spreads its wings
This is no great feat
Cold pushes out its lust
We walk we drink we cast
our giggling insults
Would you please
leave the $2.50 you owe me
I would rather not talk about it
just now Money bores me I would like
to visit someone who will stay
in bed all day A forest is rising
imperceptibly in my head
not a civilized park
I think it would be nice this “new
moral odor” no it would not mean
“everything marching to its tomb”
The water tower
watches over us Is there someone
you would like to invite no one.
from I Remember
by Joe Brainard
I remember Christmas tree lights reflected on the ceiling.
I remember Christmas cards arriving from people my parents forgot to send cards to.
I remember mistletoe.
I remember Christmas carols. And car lots.
I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.
A Severe Lack of Holiday Spirit
by Amy Gerstler
I dread the icy white concussion
of winter. Each snowfall demands
panic, like a kidnapper’s hand
clapped over my chapped mouth.
Ice noms everywhere, a plague
of glass. Christmas ornaments’
sickly tinkle makes my molars ache.
One pities the anemic sun
come January. Trees go skeletal.
Children born in the chilly months
are apt to stammer. People hit
the sauce in a big way all winter.
Amidst blizzards they wrestle
unsuccessfully with the dark comedy
of their lives, laughter trapped
in their frigid gizzards. Meanwhile,
the mercury just plummets,
like a migrating duck blasted
out of the sky by some hunter
in a cap with fur earflaps.
p.s. Hey. ** Omar, Hi. Huh, I just did a quick search, and I couldn’t find a way to RSVP or buy tickets either. I’m actually rehearsing with Gisele this morning, and I will ask her about that as soon as I see her. The performance is definitely happening as scheduled. Perhaps it’s just not on sale yet, which is odd, but not impossible. I’ll find out. If you want to just say hi in the comments today, I can respond with whatever information I get. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Oh, well, then I want to watch (rewatch? I can’t remember) ‘Reaction of the Audience’ too. Maybe it’s online, I’ll check. Thanks! ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Me too. We’ll see, or our intermediary will see. I sure don’t miss the days when I couldn’t do anything without my parents’ approval. What a racket. Yes, I really do think your mom’s ceramics are very special. And I think it’s so cool that you have an artist as a mom. That’s always a dream of those of us whose parents’ aren’t or weren’t, I guess. Things got hectic yesterday, so I’m seeing the location photos today ‘cos Zac and I are both going to attend the long day dance rehearsals. Two birds with one occasion. I just worked on stuff solo and fitfully yesterday and did the grunt work needed to start setting up my French bank account so I can rent my new apartment. Nothing very exciting, but it was okay. Nothing nearly as enticing as decorating Christmas cookies. How’s your today? Mine will be spent in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, which is where the dance rehearsals are happening. ** Alistair, Hi, A! Thanks a lot about the ‘LCTG’ stuff. Yeah, I’m really happy with how it has gone for the film. It’s more alive now a year-plus after it premiered than it even was before. I hope you like it, obviously. I don’t know offhand if Soukaz and Guibert knew one another, I mean, it seems likely. I’ll see if there’s a way to find out. I know someone who knows Soukaz a little, so maybe he’ll know. You must be heading way off to Australia any moment now, no? Safest of flights if you catch one before I get to talk with you next. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks for the tip, Ben. I’ll check there. ‘Secret Santa’, I’ve heard of that ritual. The name is cool, kind of sexy or something. Result! ** Steevee, Hi. Congrats on the slimming down. Yeah, a vegan diet, even a modified one, can really remove weight almost in magic way. I haven’t gone vegan in quite a while, but I used to once every year or two, and I would get so skinny that people worried I was dying. Thanks about the me + mystery idea. I’ve definitely studied that form and other genre forms, but I’m not so good at sticking to the requirements. And I think because Robbe-Grillet so nailed and reinvented the detective novel in his work, I’ve always felt like avant-garde meets detective/mystery genre has been done. Not that that’s true, of course. It’s a different sort of thing, but in ‘God Jr’ I’m working carefully and disruptively with the conventions of the adventure video game genre. ** Mark Gluth, Hi, Mark! I’m going to try to invent a kind of high-five offshoot that I can give Zac when I see him this morning that will contain all the particularity that a high five was invented to transmit but without the … I don’t know, hm, corny or masculinity-acquiesing or something quality that makes people like you and me hesitate to perform it. If it works, I’ll draw a diagram or something. I’m curious now about how my ‘HB’ experiment went too. It must in the Fales collection. I think, yes, I was working with a detective trajectory within the systems of ‘Frisk’. I do remember studying the form, yeah. Interesting. Really good to to talk with you, man. ** Jamie, Ha ha, pretty good, pretty good. I’m not going to try any name twisting this AM because I’m doing this with less coffee than I need to be fully awake due to my needing to catch an RER train to the outskirts of Paris at this ungodly hour. Yes, thank you so much, about the guy you know. If you send me his email, I’ll write to him straight away and see what happens. Thanks, man. The acting teachers feels like she’ll be able to persuade the boy’s dad. I don’t know her well, so I don’t know if her confidence is reliable or not, but we sure hope so. No, the film work we needed to do got delayed to today since we’ll both be at the dance rhearsals from moments from now until night, and there is a ton of downtime during the rehearsals. Three course lunch! Stylin’! My lunch yesterday consisted of two flour tortillas rolled up and then dipped, one by one, into a jar of unheated spaghetti sauce. Hence the work ‘stylin’ and its accompanying exclamation mark. I tried to stay away from the Surrender Dorothy thing, I guess to leave the post as unmoored as I could or something? I’m not sure. Today is: watching dancers dance, giving suggestions as to how they can both dance and enunciate their assigned characters at the same time, refining their characters when that isn’t working well, and talking with Zac about film stuff. And eating candy bars and so on from machines since there’s no other food where I’m going. Sound fun? I hope your day offered fun on a very silver platter. Love, me. ** Right. Please enjoy some festive poetry today to help get you in the Xmas spirit without having to compromise your intelligence and taste. Or something. See you tomorrow.