Different Drum

John Yau

          “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.”
                       Delmore Schwartz

In dreams begin irresponsibilities

Elliptical plummets on wind’s back

Reels and rolls

Lost footage

Folded and torn snapshots

Exits bolted

Heat molded telephone

Rotting inside story

What will it be

Old flames

Burning postcards

Crooked black cradles

Donut’s toxic modules

Sweet parade dust

Sputtering in cooperation room

Down from where

You are a scientist

Or a druggist

Billiard idiot

Or pool shark

A head wound

With blue ascot

In cordovan and corduroy

Crunch of caravan

Pressing nose

Against earth

Cupid’s broken left arm

Slings more arrows

Than you can spit on

Grant this poet

This wheezing pariah

This purveyor of riddled language

This impecunious slug

This soiled stew pit

This chop suey commercial

Tattooed status of blue stethoscope sky

Poisonous petals growing in vats

Dotted ursine lump

Borrowed archer

Blessed be these

Bits of glassy grime

Morning coolness

Twirling butterflies

Biographical vapors

Skywriting under the trees

Special attention

Must be paid

To journeying

Along narrow paths

Between Santa and Satan

Samarkand and Sausalito

Between monastically cropped lawns

Raising their spikes in triumph

Snapped open and released

Almanacs cataloguing

Temptations salvations redemptions

Averted and advertised

Icy blue sonnets

Corseted couplets

Meticulously cut cubes of cheese

Poetry of obligatory peephole

Poetry of commonplace

Sorrow made special

Attention calling

Intricacies of divorce

Desertion disaster

Island of scholarly flocks

Pork barrel and beans

The carcass is a remnant

What fled the scene

Dragging its tongue

Across earth to no avail

Windows nailed

Shut in yellow clay

Doors burned

To their shadows

Copious ashes


Across barn

Slain brethren

Amending backyard

Barbecue pits

Determined inhabitants

Hatched in spectrum

Calculated range of

Normalized behavior

Substitute underworld arcade

Incarcerated conversation

Daughter of a cancer

Son of an egregious terror

There are many ways

To repeat yourself

This is not one of them

This is fragrance skipping amok

Amidst sacred hydrocarbons

Scintillation of metallic water

Graffiti: Poets are germ engravers

Disguised as grave diggers

Graffiti: Dawn is a seagull

Stuck on far end of plastic fork

Graffiti: Plenum of glabrous vampires

Await further distribution

Gleaming pink arrangement and camera shy

Using only long ropes and sharpened pegs

Ban the use of euphemisms

This poem will not extol

Virtues of one-room schoolhouse

Bootstrap dragging

Pulley mechanism

Grand pasha of motivating metaphors

Heated by potbellied

Police officer

Spoonfuls of coal dangled

Into mouth of glowing ghosts

Flocking at door of meaning

Trumpet clock’s composition of anxiety

Notoriously unwilling to offer

Proper burial services

Plagiarism plagued provinces

Egyptian garage complete

With gas-operated chariot

Whalebone bathtub

And muslin shawl

Do not slobber on yourself

In an attempt to be

Distracting and beautiful

Do not paraphrase

Your green fatty regions

They are lectures

On inevitability of collapse

Do not pretend

To fabricate frivolity

Just another post in worm fence

Do not dance around bride

Toiling at her daily bread

Claiming I was not myself that day

—Or anyone else for that matter—

Time travel is a popular

Vacation resort

Vacated escort

Where thinking

Becomes a form of relief

A polka dot rain cloud

Attempting to communicate

With pink mesa

Ladled blue


Pilgrims dutifully trudge across

Six-lane highway of higher education

Enter great rotunda

Each sucking a lozenge

Blessed impediment

Granted imperceptible privileges

Summer accentuates colors

Found in parking lots

Drive-through commuter carpet

Majestic mauve

Not among them

The air you breathe

Becomes iron

Free collar

Grammatical reaction

To inherited condition

Corruption engines

Steaming stacks of paper

Waiting to greet you

Beat you at end of long journey

Poem trafficking in words

Circling mountains of shoes and shirts

Dentures from another time and place

Charnel house archive

Weather conjuring

Spiral dregs

Character development

No longer

Part of the syllabus

Consigned to

Bevy of blonde-colored bleachers

Flooded with glissando pigments

This is not the right

Time to imitate nausea

Unhitch your wagon

From horses of irritability

Gallant knights

Melt in merciless sun

Daylight’s rubber eraser

Sticking more

Pink dust to your lips