VALLEY AS A NEGATIVE
We hocked the books for gas money and spent the gas on nothing.
Walking the bankrupt drive-in lots at midnight,
the big screens around us pearling
in the collapsed light.
I don't doubt that love could be something like that.
I don't doubt that there is another side of desire, beyond the want of it,
empty and without limit.
In the weeded plot past the fence the spine
of a phone directory finally gives.
And yes the screens suggest anything.
It's just that there's a spate of land before them, a run
of steel poles sunk in the ground, speakers slumped on the wire
and even though most people believe in one sort of rapture or another, pressing
the ear to that tinny box they'd settle for anything.
A little crackle.
just the margins of a transmission in the night.
You want me to talk about the movies.
I'm talking about the small ethic in not imagining them.
WORKING AT WAL-MART
The checkout girls don't give it up so easy anymore
and seem to be growing in their sense that this place,
despite its efforts, is not sequestered and free of consequence.
I stand only to lose from such revelations,
but going to the indoor McDonald's still counts
as going somewhere else and I get the sense that Ginny,
the greeter, thinks I'm one of her dozen grandchildren.
I wouldn't tell her otherwise.
I've tried every delight offered and have boxes to show for it.
My floating walks have become aimless. Yesterday I saw a man
lying prostrate in Electronics before a bank of TV screens
on which the populace yearns to be singers.
In these moments it's hard not to feel good about what we offer people,
an unbroken chain of indistinguishable days and nights.
An unassuming totalness of things. The easing of the sense that out there
America means having your heart broken by your heart...
Someone has gotten control of the loudspeaker and it squeals.
The thin filament of music is gone.
A baby left for a moment in the center aisle
cries like small animal alone in the pale floodlight.
In the pall of that hunger forbidden language
I feel again the soft husk of my body.
And everyone is kind of looking around,
half surprised by shadow.
"Working at Wal-Mart": It occurred to me that it might be fun to do a sort of retelling of Don Juan set in a Wal-Mart store and I wrote this poem, which is to say the idea fell apart immediately.