Prose Poems



The fabled courtesans.  Miss Kim sports no natural shag between her sleek thighs.  Nowhere for Mr. Louse to hang his little black lantern of an egg.  And on the Buddha’s Birthday!


The Buddha and Jackie Gleason in The Hustler.  Twin rotundities: East Egg and West Egg.  A fat Buddha in gray robes tapping his pool cue on the floor.  Not cigarette smoke but smoldering joss sticks bluing the air.  One ball clacks against another.  A single sound, complete in itself.


Would you believe Yum Bum-suck is a real Korean man’s name?  Miss Kim once told me that as a child her mother often scolded her: “If you don’t behave, you’ll grow up to marry a ddong jang-gun!”  Ddong jang-gun means Shit General, a man who earns his living emptying septic tanks, a pair of wooden buckets suspended from a pole balanced along his shoulders.  They have green trucks now with suction hoses, except in the trickier parts of Pusan, where the ddong jang-gun still plies his trade, buckets suspended, dreaming of little Korean girls who must someday grow up.


People here are still unhappy in the memory of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.  During World War II, Korean women were conscripted to serve as “companions” to Japanese soldiers in the field.  Hirofumi Nakagawa, fresh from a sweet lay, blew the nuts off Sgt. Mike Corcoran of Billings, Montana, a quiet heterosexual town.  On August 6, 1945, at 8:16 AM in Hiroshima, Urugawa’s wife’s clitoris disintegrated.  United.  In a Heaven.  We believe.


Yes, I visited Ground Zero in Nagasaki.  A disappointment.  Flowers in bloom, a thick-leaved pungent green.  Manicured.  A lizard skittered by.  One head.  Four legs.  One tail.  Standard.  Right out of the manual.  A narrow tower of mangled steel.  One thinks:  WHUMPF!  KA-WHAM!  But still.  The sky a still, placid blue.  And then a speck.  A black speck.


The Buddha bade farewell to the rats last, it is said, before ascending.  At last! they cried, scrambling for the last few crumbs that had lain pressed under the Great One’s thighs.

(From Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light, Pearl Editions, Long Beach 2000)



Mine began the year I divided all female living beings on earth into two types: those that lay tiny eggs in your toothpaste, and those with better manners.  At the Taxonomy Awards Ceremony I was given a suit of children’s cheeks and babies’ butts all stitched together like a pink quilt.  But the children’s squeals and babies’ farts hadn’t been tanned out of their hides, and I made a hell of an undisciplined racket whenever I stood up and sat down or simply shifted in my seat.  Wah-wah-wah!  Poot-poot-poot!  All day long and into the night.  I smacked them as best I could, these children’s cheeks and babies’ butts, first with the palm of my hand and later with a penitent’s scourge.  But they only howled the louder, farted with greater acrimony.  Finally one weary day in the middle of my life I stopped dead still in my tracks.  And listened.  And patted my suit soothingly.  I wanted to understand.  Still they yowled and still they spat bowel wind.  But not like children or babies anymore.  Rather, geriatrically, to be precise.  My suit had grown wrinkled and threadbare from so much standing up, so much sitting down, so much smacking and scourging.  Old already!  Had I only married when I was young and had the chance — a broad-beamed maternal Brunhilda with a clothes wringer in one hand and a flatiron in the other.  Someone who really understood her way around the pink suit of innocent flesh a man must bear.

(From Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light, Pearl Editions, Long Beach 2000)



Some six weeks into my 51st full tilt around the Sun I find my solitary self plucking tiny hairs from a tuft sprouting on the blunt tip of my nose. 200,000 years of Homo sapiens evolution and I end up here tonight staring at my mug and a poised pair of tweezers in the bathroom mirror. 200,000 years of DNA exchanges, natural selections and unselections, bad luck, good luck, hunting mishaps, unhafted hand-axe murders, arthritic joints, rockfalls, snake bites, limestone sinkholes, abscessed molars and septicemia, famine, niche collapses, food-chain missing links, ice age glaciations, leaky mukluks, slick ledges along steep ravines, dried up creekbeds, meteor showers, overculled herds, species extinctions, genus extinctions, family extinctions, badly timed raids for women, bewildering nocturnal swamp phosphorescences, boar gorings, bear bile medicaments, breech births, scalp lice, pubic ticks, mastodon stampedes, fatal mushroom misidentifications, herbal abortifacients, sluggish sperm, lumpy Willendorf Venuses, yahoo in-laws, rite of passage gauntlets, hardwired lusts and loathings, treacherous shell-necklace alliances, interminable emigrations, hapless local guides, jagged stones shied and dodged, botched trepannings, sulking beta males, solar eclipse hysterias, lunatic shaman auguries, androgyne enigmas, red ocher cults, contortionist burial poses, incessant cuckoldings, wrong fucking cave, man, really big predators, really fast predators, really mean predators, really smart predators, really serendipitous predators, cretinous bickering, savagely sly dickerings, prairie oyster brunches, inexplicable fascinations with pointless oral and anal sex, mutant mountain sheep bacteria, lanced pustules and bloody fistulae, fermenting fruit rinds, binges and purges and fasts, mulish Neanderthal flower-child couplings, misplaced flints, menstrual flux, naked cartwheeling teenyboppers, oneiric visitations, microcephalic succubi, foiled ambuscades, pierced labia and festering tattoo punctures, floods-mudslides-earthquakes-brushfires, volcanic fissures, straying dumbass kids, clumsy feints and endless barking rivalry challenges by firelight—to what survival-of-the-fittest end, this tuft on the blunt tip of my nose? To render me fiercer in countenance under the moon’s glare? Not likely—this square centimeter of hypertrichosis wouldn’t scare a scavenging mesolithic mus off our tribal antelope boneheap stockpile. More comely? Beauty’s relative, sure, but come on. More endearing to the whipper-snappers and thus more deserving of their future protection and indulgence? Possibly, in some cuddly Jo-jo the Dog Boy sense, but I wouldn’t lay money on it. Wiser and most venerable in visage? Don’t waste a ponder. Nope, just one of those puzzles science will have to explain on down the line. When the evolutionary biologists get the time and inclination and grant money. Meanwhile I pluck away, fearful lest any one of my grunting 20-year-old female students find me out in my desuetude and senescence. As if a bit of late grooming might put me back in the game.

(From Fluid in Darkness, Frozen in Light, Pearl Editions, Long Beach 2000)


For “The Neoplastic Surgeon” go to:


For “Time” go to:


For “Approaching Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q.; or, On the Surrealist Origins of Contemporary Evolutionary Theory” go to:


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