You Know Nothing

Shoulder to a wooden post,
I watch my soul brothers in the cold,
Dying from a passed-around joke,
Rum in veins, dock men at work,
Struggle well with oak barrels of dry food
at the honking Bouchet Marina,
While lesser men offer libation now at neon bars,
Tiny straws, too much ice,
A little umbrella.
Busy day,
They say one to another,
Busy day.
They know nothing.

I used to be one too,
a longshoreman,
Open for business 6:45 till whistle.
Now a constant story cooks in my stomach,
An idler man smoking a cig finely in the wind,
While better men draw swords in dreams,
Or dream of fortune and fish,
I carry about,
cursed to scripting painful fictions
In the dead of night,
Of buried islands and exhumed dictators,
Dragging around the headaches of gone champions,
You fools,
You have made this living so deadly,
I compose many such dead-night drivels for you,
We laugh about me,
We laugh at me,
Light of day, they will never see,
Let this be our only thing,
Secrets you cannot now reject,
You know too much as is,
Let this stench sip into your sleeping bones,
You owe me,
And they know nothing.

Being a library-man isn’t a raging dream,
That fine poison of a desk job,
You befriend butchers on account,
I know one too many,
Hacking with blunt bestsellers.
Librarians make rotten writers too,
And toxic small-talk,
Too many masters claim a single mind,
It stifles any advantage,
We talk ourselves into a dark secret on occasion.
But it is up to scratch.

There is earnest grace here that kills gently,
Good hours,
Honest books,
Moping book-lovers,
A fool you can tell,
by the way he holds a book,
Muses come and go.
Metal detectors go off on occasion,
Then the fun begins.
Old stone calluses on my fingers bite,
Reminding as brown simple pages flip fast,
Leaving no side-effects.
It is a life with little to fight with.

This time of evening,
The Marina brands a striking portrait
Of dreamless men bent and breaking self to earn,
The American dream is used up.
The smallest man in the center is Baptiste,
He’s been here 12 years,
Two cardiac arrests, and three wives.
There’s Casanova too,
Dying from the weight of his own head.
Smoking women with long legs wait in the cold stoops,
In the dark behind light posts,
To flare our nights,
They are the gold-dusts of humanity,
Open for business even now,
A little something for charity,
And there’s Butterfly among them,
She left Ukraine with a red shoe,
Never looked back since,
She has a thing,
A passion for my poetry,
On the back of toilet papers.

Baptiste waves,
The tally begins,
Now each man will know joy for his pain.
I light a stick,
Arrange plots in my head,
To become a hopeless read to better spirits,
A little something for Butterfly.
“Shoulder to a wooden post”
I open terribly,
It is my blood that leaks now from a severed artery,
The taste of metal in my gullet.
Such lines in writing recite like an off-color joke.
Rhymes too,
they make us vile and smell of death.
If you’re reading this, I apologize.
I know nothing.


That Fine Frown

There is the factory man and woman,
The American woman and the Chinese man,
She is large, he is nothing special.
They stay on the pavement in the cold,
One, with bad eyes,
The other pushes a dead ear nearer,
Bad English between them,
So they settle for nods,
A few good nods,
Never any smiles.

Winter. Summer. Spring, Autumn.
Shaking in falling coats,
Smoking, daring god and special things.
Usually, death comes to you,
In your sleep,
On your way to the dry-cleaners,
At a Yoruba wedding,
In a Mexican place.
Yet they are deep in sinking thought,
Dead ashes flutter to their boots.
I admire them,
Biding my own time.
Secrets in the breeze,
You can tell it’s a party,
But I frown past them,
Cos I take my fight with me.

There is honesty among the dying,
Hey man, spot me a stick?
Hey sugar, got any light?

At 11:30 sharp,
I frown and come around too,
I light a Camel,
They frown well,
The woman and the man,
Kicking moths and pebbles,
The perforator machine screams nearby,
It is all but lovely,
Beautiful enough a day to smoke in rambling chaos.

Other people with frowns come and go,
They talk of missing dogs, and union dues and missing gods,
And of the white bum who shot up a tiny black church,
Then they leave us – in peace,
It is a fine episode,
A singular intention,
The delicate intercourse of brown-tooth smokers,
Rituals in cold spaces,
In alleys, and wet corners,
We will make a damn good picture.

Frowning people walk to their oily lunch,
I know they think of us:
Life is a constant orgy and a cake, for these animals, they think.
Look, there is the nothing man, the tall woman, and the other one.
The tall American woman, the short Chinese man,
And the very black African man
She is large, he is nothing, and he is very black.

An ashtray altar sizzles,
Tributes paid early, ten percent of a stub,
To a vengeful Joe,
If death came in fired little sticks,
Then I fear, I would never die in time.

In the end, when I pay mine,
Finish an honest life,
Making the best of a bad deal,
I will perhaps wear it too,
That fine frown,
And this time, I’d wear it for life.

Socrates et Dreadful

I am on the 10:15,
Dying in the cold,
Or pretending to be alive too,
Like on a special quest,
Mr Somebody pulls himself up,
By the steel post, he finds the door,
Strokes his moustache, once, twice,
The doors hiss open,
He looks around for his coming prestige,
For evil ashes on his coat shoulders,
He jumps off the bus, into his world.

And I have no intention of chasing the sun,
The man, with his leftover newspaper
Rolled up neatly like an omen.
So I glance the WSJ arts section for daily bread,
Licking my fingers,
Tasting the pages,
Hungry for some widowed brother coming upon the wisdom of
Betrayal by untimely death, or the folly of absentee love.
Some editor-in-chief igniting the damp fire-hating minds of faraway thinkers and critics,
Some frozen artist dying for warm bread,
Writing with broken fingers,
His sweet sweet pain onto our regular pain.

But there I find a Socrates homage,
Dreadfully simple,
There is no pomp or festivity with him near,
He claws and scratches his way,
As is often the case with the good ones,
To breathe, to attend.
Rubbing elbows with a large ad
Preaching the gospel of a diabetes miracle pill,
Killing the general energy,
I bend to read his olden gumption,
Alas breakfast is served, I think.

When I am done,
I am torn to utter pieces, belly and lips shining,
Tears roll down my face,
I see we own common enemies Mr Socrates,
Poets are the dogs from hell you know,
Writers too.

It may perhaps do you something mighty Dear Reader,
to feast your vain eyes too,
For you were already ruined in history,
To have never pilfered this mind
One early morning,
On the 10:15:

“I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.

From poets, I moved to artists. No one was more ignorant about the arts than I; no one was more convinced that artists possessed really beautiful secrets. However, I noticed that their condition was no better than that of the poets and that both of them have the same misconceptions. Because the most skillful among them excel in their specialty, they look upon themselves as the wisest of men. In my eyes, this presumption completely tarnished their knowledge. As a result, putting myself in the place of the oracle and asking myself what I would prefer to be — what I was or what they were, to know what they have learned or to know that I know nothing — I replied to myself and to the god: I wish to remain who I am.

We do not know — neither the sophists, nor the orators, nor the artists, nor I— what the True, the Good, and the Beautiful are. But there is this difference between us: although these people know nothing, they all believe they know something; whereas, I, if I know nothing, at least have no doubts about it. As a result, all this superiority in wisdom which the oracle has attributed to me reduces itself to the single point that I am strongly convinced that I am ignorant of what I do not know.”

― Socrates