Tag Archives: Christian Rees

Ghazal for Infinite Solitude

by Christian Rees

See the river below. Sit by me, Old Sparrow.
The winding ice and hills cipher all traces of sparrows.

You’ve renounced the walker and the cane.
Freed and dayless your voice pleads its case for sparrows.

The endless, numbered hairs of your head.
Night-milk eyes snare a day’s brace of sparrows.

Gracious to the last, stones smooth flat for resting.
Track blood-dipped hawks who erase your sparrows.

Pick an infinite bud of larkspur, pin it!
From your heart, birth our youthful chase of sparrows.

Fishermen walk hollow-boned ice, thank each dry moment.
Muddy, star chart eyes still see by the grace of sparrows.

Snow weaves night air, a chill, we hunch.
The world empties the river, all’s lace and sparrows.

Lattice solitude, dark gaps in the landscape.
Young Crow, unwilling to sleep, falls in love with each face
                                  of sparrows.


City Worship

by Christian Rees

I fall asleep to the strike of cue ball
on eight ball, eight ball to lefthand
corner pocket. I wake to the song
of the holy Koran playing softly
at my window underscored by birds
by desperate sirens by the shouts
and calls of twenty languages.

When I wake it’s to a stranger place.
When I rise I rise in Babel.
So I run to catch the morning’s service.
I am always late, sleeping leaves me
gutshot in the blankets or it tangles
my emergency chute around a dream’s
throat. I run to catch this city’s worship.
My mind composes liturgy much better
at the pulpit of endorphins with
an adrenaline choir singing praise.

I run and sing in my head
for the priests in neon orange vests
saving the city pothole by pothole.
And I sing for the weary congregation
who line Shore Boulevard
in their passenger and driver’s side pews.
Why do they come each morning
to sit by the East River? Breathe
from the censer of their coffee cups,
take communion in early cigarettes,
bagels, protein shakes? We all worship
beneath the feet of the bridge — runners,
diggers, smokers, skaters, sleepers,
dreamers, wakers — like crickets between
the toes of some giant, dozing saint.

Bread to Mop Up the City

by Christian Rees

We ate the storm.
              Pumpkin curry like a burning building,
the tar of artichoke leaves, chestnut soup
              thick East river.
Red chilies desiccated the wall. We made a meal of each minute,
the world became morsel.
Transformers blew two streets over, ears picked shouts, ripe and fresh.
Sheened in frying garlic we dined
on invasive alarms and burnt rubber insulation.

Pork spat in its pan, chicken shriveled to golden chunks.
              The projects three blocks away flooded; we drowned
                            thick brown bread in lemon-spiced aioli.
This earth an egg cracking open, spilling yolk.
We polished away dishes, our last taste of dry world:
              cart-bought tamales, earth in corn husks.
                            What’s there to care about when your belly’s full?

We devoured hours slowly, made feast of isolation.
Bloodied beet water swamped the drain, planted droplets
across my wrists and crotch. Brother shucked corn; the sky split
like chestnut skin. We stewed the storm
and come morning our remains scattered the butcher’s block,
              the scraps of the end of the world.

The Writer’s Block

by Christian Rees

                Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
                And here comes a chopper to chop off your head…

At night, I follow Charles Simic
down the darkest streets.

The shop he pauses at chose not to change
over the years. It squats

and grimaces as each other shop chooses
to empty the lane.

A neon sign strip-teases all night long,
pulling one color from another

until pink, green, and red
roll up like stockings, unroll like coy smiles.

Simic stands for a moment, writing
in the softest patch of his brain, then is off,

him and the bitter twin, his echo.
I thieve him of the window, the dim

gaudy window. Purloinment is all I am for.
I smell the shop’s interior

as I pig my nose against the glass.
My cheeks palm dull washed colors into my pocket.

For a moment I am the skinning neon.
It’s the knives I love. Dull wind-chimes,

no butcher’s breeze to shake their silver.
I raise anticipation in the ranks, they jitter.

They make case
why each is the proper stainless to stain.

Very eager. Quite lonely.

The butcher’s block I’ve wanted to chop
to pieces for years bristles and growls.

The butcher’s tried to kill it
for years.

So has Simic.
What succeeded is scarring.

They’ve pissed it off,
carved a topography of vengeful thoughts

and savage anger. And blood, always.
The chopper’s buried his cleaver before bed.

The white candle of a lamb’s spine
wicks the trash bin.

All my staring never splits a vein.
I take all color with me, to feed

my bawdy dreams, and back I skulk,
along the street, with Simic creeping after.

Tanning Process

by Christian Rees

“What about the gods?”

“They’re not very smart. They’ve got a lot to learn.
They’re not enlightened yet. But they sure have a long life.”

~Gary Snyder

Gardens are no longer wonders
but fingernails to be trimmed. And coy
ponds once dug to flash and swim
with omens, flat brass coins.

What about the gods?

Dumb beast-headed, castrated,
                            wild, terracotta, snake-spined wind.

None too smart.
Years of enlightening
ahead of them.

A stag charges a suburban plate glass, sliding door.
The stark refusal to believe this house exists
beneath limbs of ash trees at dusk.
Disbelief in blood and blinking glass.
Antlers tangled in oak floorboards.

The family hug their sheets close,
grab at
aluminum baseball bats,
                            count their earrings,
                            reassure themselves
that each bangle is in its place.

None too smart.
But the gods?
They have long life,
long enough to stomp houses flat,
tear apart family portraits, glass bookshelves,
                            diplomas and ceiling fans
with bloody tipped horns.

Long enough to learn
to exit eagerly
through the shattered door, shake off
                            this lacerated hide
and walk the evening
in the skin of a man.

Reeker’s Island

by Christian Rees

Slothful Dr. Waters, the psych, has been replaced.
Rain mushes most days
everything leaks.
It’s all broken here. Materials prefer
fray, crack, weep, slump
to more active states.
A man called Tattoo loiters
in the library. He wants to be a wolf,
asks for ritual books, pagan books.
He wants to be an owl too.
I think, More owl than wolf, a little wisdom,
fewer fangs.
One night
I’ll drive down some dust street
and recognize Tattoo
in a stringy fox
with thick, aviator framed eyeglasses
on his snout
nosing trade paperbacks
under a thorn bush.

I’ll get words
on my neck
to replace those that fur
coursed over:
His words, I’ll just borrow them
for a time.

There are more words:
a crooked heart & arrow
in pen ink
on Old Man’s bicep.
He’s dying of a rot
in his groin.
Green mouthed skulls burn
for centuries
on his forearms.
Thin lines barely hold his weight these days.

Some inmates throw books
in the trash
not this old man
he eats
them for their strength.
Holds them in two hands
like heavy melons,
goose eggs
stretching his throat
like a snake’s.

On March 17ᵗʰ, 1978
he ate steak and eggs for breakfast
at a Ramada in Seattle, Washington.
It was 8:00.
These sorts of things he remembers.
On March 22, the present year,
he ate flummoxed expressions
perplexed expressions
groin rot and popular fiction
for lunch. He can recall the smallest
Hawaiian resort road,
but not the faces of his children.

On Friday they’re rounding up
all the wrist watches
as conspirators in bomb making.
No time left after then.
No ticking confessors
wrist-length away.

But, slothful Dr. Waters, the psych, has been replaced.
He’s not even a Jew, they say about the Old Man,
pull down his pants and see! He won’t listen
and still gathers Russian books
for a man who waited for the police
after shooting his mugger dead
The police, the police, the police know
but really
‘Like force must meet like force!’
so he’s got twenty years pending.

Is everything here broken?

Officer Victory smokes Camel 100’s
in the rain.
Officer Victory watches
the flag limp circles
in the wind. He stamps
it out
untucks his fingerless friction gloves
from his back pocket
takes time fitting them to his fists.

The Grim Reaper
really does exist
but wears blue and a shield
and speaks softly, ribs
the inmates, leafs through comic books
at lunch.

Mr. M.S. is old too.
He remembers his son
in California, some great big boy,
named him strong Samuel.
Mr. M.S. suffers from cataracts
and a misprinted I.D. card.
He’ll hold onto that extra S
as a seed between his front teeth.
But, of course,
they got his I.D. number right.

Two lawyers on the bus
argue over cases
I got one of the heavies
like fish in market.
Slothful Dr. Waters
never unstuck his shoe heels
from his desktop
so they carried him out,
another piece of furniture.
And Gorilla’s wife is crazy.

There are kept things
and keepers here. Never one
and the same.
Nelson keeps a carp
on his hand and wrist,
lips between the meat
of his thumb and forefinger.
Eyes wide, clear, milk, gentle, children, full, empty, love.
Lips pursed in sage thought.
It is bearded: two prongs,
a dowsing rod
plumbing for words on shelves, on skin.
Words for him and me:
That challenge.
That statement.