No Longer See

Jason Koo

                                     for TS

                                                                           Who hasn’t asked
                                                                           oneself, am I a monster
                                                                           or is this what it means to
                                                                           be a person?
                                                                           —Clarice Lispector

Somehow it’s 2:43 PM and already I’ve frittered away most of my day.
            How are you? Banal question for a banal, as usual,
Day. Every day for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of starting
            this letter, and every day, duhhhhh, I’ve been trying
To write poems, or clearing time, at least in my head, to write poems,
            and writing this letter meant writing prose, which
Would get in the way of those, but I also thought of writing you in lines,
            if you can call these that, like I did many years ago
In that letter poem to James Schuyler, which as you know ballooned
            to 17 pages and pretty much for that reason remains
Unpublished, though I thought this was my best poem, had the most
            me in it, whatever that is (or was), and I kept trying
To recreate the ease and spontaneity I felt while writing it, reading it
            back, the effortlessness of expression, something
I’m still looking for, though I don’t value that as much as I once did.
            Now things like intensity and precision and silence
Mean much more to me, the weight you can create on the page, like the
            Jack Gilbert I’ve been rereading, each poem a slab
Of something chiseled away, final, monumental, a quiet poem, he says,
            to establish the fact of me. What is the fact
Of me? Well, this fact’s now eating a gooey Peter Luger cheese steak,
            which just arrived from Montague St Bagels down
The street, courtesy of, which wasn’t around back in 2001
            when I began writing to Schuyler in grad school
In Houston where we met, which you left suddenly at the end of your first
            year because of your mother’s cancer diagnosis.
I think I found that out on the phone, or perhaps by letter, perhaps 
            the first of our letters back and forth over 
The years following, when I moved to Missouri for greater misery
            but better poems, and you went to Maryland
So you could stay close to your mom while she underwent treatment
            and eventually died. That “eventually died”
Sounds too pat. Sorry about that. And sorry for the incidental rhyme, also
            pat. A patting of the dirt is the image in my head,
Which reminds me of tamping coffee grinds each morning to make
            my cappuccino. I’m now stuffed, having absorbed
Both halves of Monsieur Luger into my digestive system, making me
            momentarily, perhaps, more Luger than Koo. would’ve been useful back in 2001, when I struggled mightily
            with lunch, not knowing what to do with it,
How to get through that part of the day, how to put something semi-
            nutritious but cheap into my stomach. For a while
I tried Hot Pockets, though that didn’t go so well, basically my shitter
            was the jury, anything I shat out in under an hour
Meant that I probably shouldn’t be eating it for lunch on the regular.
            I tried ramen, failed, grilled cheese, failed, hot dogs,
Failed, later when I moved to Missouri I tried tuna salad sandwiches,
            which I even made myself, learning from Faith,
And that worked pretty well for a while, I even wrote a poem about them,
            but of course I haven’t eaten one now in 8 years,
The taste dying in my mouth after the 167th sandwich: try anything
            too long and eventually it will die: there it is again,
Eventually. Sorry, again, about that. Even Lucky Burger, which saved me
            on so many of those unbearable Houston afternoons,
I just found out has closed, leaving many area poets, I’m sure, bereft
            of a locus amoenus to wait out the hours from morning
Until night. I used to get their burger & fried rice special. Yeah. I loved
            the Chinese guys that ran the place. We watched
So many episodes of General Hospital together on their TV while I ate.
            The dramas of Sonny became a big part of my life
Every afternoon there, though now I couldn’t describe what they were
            about, only the look of Mediterranean consternation
On his face. I also watched General Hospital with my mom when I was
            young, I remember how much I (and she) liked
Robert (the Aussie) and Holly, how Robert once got into a karate fight
            with another dude in a cable car, chopping at him
With his hands, and later they were like, No biggie, let’s be friends.
            Surely I’m misremembering this, but a karate fight
In a cable car is too good not to be true, at least in my imagination.
            Now it’s Friday and somehow I’ve frittered away
Thursday and most of my Friday as well, I can’t remember what
            I did yesterday save for patiently waiting for a girl
To leave in the morning not so I could do something important
            but so I could post videos of poetry readings
On FB for Brooklyn Poets and photos from our retreat on Instagram
            and do several other nonessential essential things.
How much of that is simply part of the routine of me now. I barely
            notice how much it takes out of me, or perhaps
I should say prevents the addition of me, or to me, like today, I am
            rereading the poems of Bianca Stone, Nick Twemlow
And Matthea Harvey for our reading tonight at Dumbo Sky and enjoying
            this but also conscious that I cannot read as slowly
As I would like: I’m reading for a purpose, to extract funny lines
            I might use for their intros, this gives me about 17%
Of the poetry, I would say, and I wonder sometimes why I am even
            having them read, what reasons led me to bring these
Particular poets together: I like their work of course but when it comes
            time for the event they’ve become a social animal
I am gestating and finding ways to make breathe, I am thinking of the whole
            cosmos of the event, how it will be shaped
From beginning to end, how the parts will interlock, all the things
            I need to put into a list then check off my list.
Amazing I’m even here writing these lines to you today as I didn’t
            plan on it, I opened up my computer to work on 
The intros and this popped open when I clicked on Word, so I read
            what I wrote the previous day and liked it okay
And here I am. Hi. I miss you. I wonder what you’re doing, where you are.
            I never seem to know where you are. I think you’re
In Philly but turns out you’re in Italy somewhere translating Italian poetry
            and meditating on desire. I am so sorry about
Your father. I always liked him, his kind, wise face, his architectural cool.
            I liked walking around with you and him in Philly,
Looking at the old buildings, noting the street art: I wanted to visit him
            in Buenos Aires to tango but now that won’t
Happen and I think you were telling me in your letter that you’re selling
            his house? 4:18 on a Monday. I’m sad and bored.
Actually I wrote this in my notebook at 2:33 PM and am just now
            putting it into the poem. Curiously I wrote 2:33 AM.
Though none of this, really, is curious, it’s all pretty boring, hence me =
            sad and bored. Got another event coming up 
At 6 tonight, which means I need to hop in the shower in 10 minutes
            and leave this poem or whatever you want to call it
For another day. So many lost days these days, as I wake up at 10:30
            or after and miss those crucial morning hours when 
I can actually read and think and write without worrying about anything
            else. How many poems lost because of oversleeping?
I remember that line from Don DeLillo, I think from Mao II, how after
            writing a great sentence there is a sense of danger
Because these words almost did not make it to the page. That always stuck
            with me, though I’m guessing I’m misremembering
What he wrote. I’ve been doing a lot of fucking lately instead of reading,
            writing and thinking, but at least that feels productive
Unlike sitting at my computer social networking for five fucking hours.
            (Or not fucking.) Two different women in my bed
This past weekend. Is that the fact of me now? How far have I come
            from when we first met, when I loitered in the aisles
Of a bookstore for hours trying to work up the courage to ask a girl
            (Adriana?) for her number. These days I barely
Bother with a number, just move straight ahead to setting up a meet
            and seeing if I can seduce the woman into my bed.
Bear with me as I try to put this new fact of me into writing, this self
            I first did not have then tried to hide (out of guilt
Or shame or both) but now am trying to own, or at least own up to:
            a curious phrase. (And phase.) I still need to find
That quote by James Salter about A Sport and a Pastime, I believe from 
            a preface he wrote for the book in a different edition
Than the one I own, how he wanted every page of that book to seduce.
            I’d never heard any writer say that before. Hadn’t
Even occurred to me that one could attempt to do that in literature.
            But once I read that it made me think how
Small and boyish my writing was, how much simpler, more pubescent,
            less powerful it was to try to charm or amuse,
Or in general to please, than to seduce: to weaken the reader’s knees
            despite any initial feelings of resistance.
You give in to something larger despite not wanting to. And isn’t this
            what we always want from poetry, to make us
Give in to it despite our resistance? We poets like to think or say
            we like poetry, but most of the time like
Everyone else we stop a line or two into a poem because we’re resisting:
            we don’t have the time or don’t like it
Or feel competitive with the writer or just hate the motherfucker.
            But if something is good, it doesn’t matter what
We’re doing or how much we loathe the writer, we stop right there
            and gulp it down, just as when we’re writing
Something good it doesn’t matter how many papers there are to grade
            or errands to run, we’re going to find the time
To squeeze that poem in. Not quite sure I’m feeling that compulsion
            to write this down, but at least I am returning to it
Every day (more or less), and every time it gets quiet in my house
            and quieter inside of me, I start thinking
Of opening the poem up and putting more into it: now when I write
            in my notebook I immediately want to put the lines
In here, or perhaps the better way to say this is they have the sound 
            of poemness in them, so much so that they feel
Wasted on the space of the notebook page: today I wrote (and yes now
            I’m quoting myself), “Was outside for a bit,
Where I got bitten by mosquitoes. On my toes.” Bit, bitten, mosquitoes,
            toes. Then I read some more Jack Gilbert
In the dark of the apartment, a seductive cool without the annoyance
            of mosquitoed toes. The muffled sweet moans
Changed as she changed from what she was not into the more she was.
            Amazing sentence. The original enjambs after sweet
Then not. You have to read that sentence again to catch all the nifty nuances 
            I’ve put in there, as I’ve added my own enjambment
To complicate things, things sweet then not, becoming a sweet knot.
            The more she was. I am seeing this out of Sam,
The 23-year-old I’ve been “seeing,” by which we mean fucking with all
            the appropriate cultural interludes, though she is
Seeing me, I can feel her taking in 100% of me as she becomes the more
            she was but was not when she lived upstate
And worked for Target. Yikes. She told me Sunday about the hours
            she worked on Saturdays, from 10 AM to midnight,
An immigrant from Hong Kong, all alone in this country since the age
            of eleven. Working in a place called Target
Obviously not her target. Then walking through Queens with me
            after we took the ferry up from Brooklyn,
On an arbitrary adventure to retrieve the $300 Prada sunglasses she left
            at her friend’s apartment in Long Island City,
A 30-minute walk through an industrial landscape not yet packaged
            for Brooklynification, nothing beautiful about it
But seeing beauty everywhere, just being there with me in New York City, 
            an incredible place, so happy to be living the life
She wanted, to be the more she was but never knew about until now.
            She keeps saying, “It’s so beautiful” in a slight
Accent that makes her sound young and naïve, but there is wisdom
            in her wide receptivity to the hugeness of what’s
There, which you’d think you’d encounter more in poets but rarely do
            and pretty much never find in “regular” people.
And somehow she sees great beauty in me: I almost feel corny
            under her gaze. Wednesday now, 3:42 PM,
And if I have to write “frittered” again I’m going to fritter myself
            like the hash browns in my oven. Woke up today
At 10:51 AM, inexcusable, I did wake up at 6:53 but that was because
            I had to piss, then I crawled back in bed thinking
I would sleep for another hour or so but slept for motherfucking four.
            I keep wanting to write about the feel of the room
Around me when I wake these days, a total emptiness, though “total”
            already feels false to the feeling, a dissipation,
Something left there: I wrote about this once in a poem in my first book,
            “Self-Reproduction with Scream Pillow,” but that
Was more intense, what I’m talking about now is lacking in intensity,
            it’s maybe the same feeling I was trying to describe
In that poem aged by nine years, so if it was left then now it’s, what,
            luft? That sounds German, which is not what I want,
Again too intense, like something Wagner would turn into an opera,
            and what I’m describing—or failing to describe—
Is the opposite of Wagner, it feels like the 21st century, post-post-post-
            postmodern, not waiting anymore, not beyond
The wait, not still here, not not here, more not not here, a variation
            on Stein’s There is no there, there, the title of another
One of my poems, as you know, how not not here this poem is by virtue of
            me referencing my own poems. What the fuck am I
Talking about? I woke up late, opened up my MacBook Air, which was
            sitting on top of my MacBook Pro on my nightstand,
Yes I had two laptops stacked next to my bed because I wanted to watch
            porn before I went to sleep and prefer the Air
For that purpose, but the battery was running low so I brought the Pro
            with me as well in case I needed to switch, luckily
The Air lasted through an almost hour-long Breanne Benson massage scene,
            which I only skipped ahead through a couple
Times. If there is such a thing as transcendent porn this was it: something
            that makes you weak watching it, not in a moral way
But breathtakingly weak, you actually start uttering the pornstar’s name
            as she writhes there ungodly beautiful, you can’t
Believe she’s fucking for you on screen, what did you do to deserve this?
            All free. Perhaps the Internet is heaven, or hell,
Or both. Anyway the scene was so good that when I woke up and saw
            it was late I thought, Fuck it, and opened up the Air
To watch it again: when she’s lying on her back with her perfect breasts
            upswelled and oiled, chin uptilted, eyes closed,
She looks like what you imagine Helen of Troy must have looked like
            to Paris, the kind of beauty that could engender
Agamemnon dead: what would Yeats have done with this kind of beauty
            available on the Internet? Would he have still
Fussed around with automatic writing and mysticism or bothered with
            Maud Gonne’s shenanigans? Breanne Benson
Shows you a new world order, any traditional conception of poetic beauty
            must take it into account, in fact, the whole HD porn
Industry makes our conception of beauty in poetry mostly laughable,
            when I hear poets describe something as beautiful
I test it against a beauty like Breanne Benson’s: does it make me weak
            like she can? Jack Gilbert, at least, understands
This kind of beauty, he was always writing about it, his is a poetry
            that could incorporate the new conception
Of beauty rising into view, somehow he was seeing this back in 1960.
            So easy to write him off as white, male, privileged,
But he writes a kind of poetry that is everywhere conscious of fucking,
            and that is something that most poetry pretends
Does not exist, even the so-called “erotic” poems I read are too tame,
            they seem written by teenagers back in the 1980s.
It’s 4:17 now and somewhat dark in my apartment and I am wondering
            where I am going. I hear a helicopter outside,
Wonder where it is going. I was supposed to see a new apartment in Bed-
            Stuy today at 5 but the agent just texted me
To say someone put a deposit on it already. Saved me the trip and gave me
            more time to write, an unexpected boon. Yesterday
I looked at a couple of shitty apartments in Bed-Stuy on Putnam St, when
            I arrived there I immediately knew I wouldn’t like
Anything the guy showed me and yet we went through with the farce,
            it’s funny how you never know the reality of a living
Situation from the pictures, you’d think in this digital Breanne Benson–age
            the pictures of an apartment would tell you enough
But they don’t tell you anything about the music blasting from the cars
            on the blocks surrounding it, or the people
Hanging out on the stoops in front of it eyeing you with valid suspicion,
            or how no businesses surround it other than
The laundromat across the street which the realtor tries to pitch to you
            as an amenity. You also don’t know about the drive
To and from the city, on the map it looks not that far but in actuality
            the drive on Atlantic just makes you want to die.
And then you realize, again, that if anything looks too good to be true
            in this city it usually is, like parking spots that seem
To be up ahead but turn out to be spaces left for fire hydrants or No
            Standing zones. What the hell does No Standing
Mean anyway? We never describe cars as “standing.” I don’t know where
            that came from. Just as I don’t know why I must pay
For parking in this city when I am already paying so much in taxes, I get
            at least one ticket a month simply because I don’t
Understand the parking rules of a particular street or forget to move
            my car for street cleaning: it’s not like I’m trying
To break the law, in fact I actually like to obey the law and very much
            like my money, New York City, so maybe you could
Cut me some slack. Where does all the money go that we pour into
            your parking meters and your parking tickets
And all your E-ZPass tolls? Must be millions you and the state rake in
            every day, yet still we have to fork over both
City and state taxes and still the roads suck, if you can even call the BQE
            a “road,” especially the potholed stretch over
The Kosciuszko Bridge, which recently blew out one of the massive tires
            on my Ford Fusion 2013, the blowout so bad
That the car was literally hopping as I tried to ease it off the freeway.
            Driving that car is like deliberately deleting
Money, $453 a month in lease payments, $141 a month in insurance, $55–110
            a month in tolls, $150–200 a month in gas, $65
Or so a month in that inevitable ticket, and yet somehow I still like having it,
            especially at night when I go to the city to drink
Or eat dinner with a new woman, or when I’m going to Williamsburg
            or Bushwick, two impossible-as-fuck places to get to
From other parts of Brooklyn if you have to take the train: without a car
            you usually have to go to Manhattan first. 
Absurd, how far away everything is in this city if you have to take the train
            when in “reality” everything is within a few miles.
People at Quinnipiac always ask me how my commute is going, they can’t
            believe I’m commuting to CT from Brooklyn,
But my drive is on average an hour and thirty-five minutes, and when I took
            the D train to Lehman in the Bronx from Sunset Park
My total travel time including walking and waiting was about the same.
            Could this possibly be of interest to anyone, especially 
You who are probably in Italy and writing to me about how utterly alone
            you are? These days I’ll overhear myself talking
Sometimes and think how incredible it is that I’m going on and on about
            money or business matters or social networking issues.
But this is how culture invades us. You are alone, I am alone, but I am sure
            the aloneness you feel is much deeper than mine.
I am vague is how I feel, not alone. I felt lonely for a time after Anna left.
            I should say left for good, because when we broke up
Last fall it wasn’t really over, we were still texting each other and seeing
            each other (though not fucking, or really seeing
Each other), I didn’t realize how it wasn’t really over until a few months ago
            I felt finally I wanted her back after fucking so many
Other women, I found myself thinking of Anna more and more, how much
            more she was than all these other women put together,
And then I told her this and we seemed to be moving back to a place
            where we could be together until one night
She said over dinner that she was seeing someone new so whatever I thought
            was happening wasn’t going to happen. Then I felt,
Finally, like she was gone. And out came the poems, for four or five days
            I wrote about nothing but her, everything I had lost,
Emailing the poems to her but to no avail, and when she finally agreed
            to meet with me to talk about it and assured me, again,
That she didn’t have the same feelings for me anymore, I wrote one more
            poem about going into her closet after she left to see
And smell what was left of her, and crying, and then after that I was done.
            Actually I did write a few more poems after that,
But my heart wasn’t in them, they felt pointless if they weren’t going
            to make a difference in how she felt about me.
You asked me what I know of grief, and first I thought about what I felt
            when I knew, finally, that she was gone. A sudden
Interior sinking. Sitting down among her things in her closet and sobbing.
            Trying to hug everything together into her, all her
Shoes and tops and bras, all the boxes and scraps of paper she’d left there,
            so messy she was, constitutionally unable to stay
Organized, to keep her clothes off the floor, something that always annoyed
            me, being so preternaturally organized as I am.
But have I ever known grief? I don’t know. I don’t think I have felt it like
            you have, losing first your mom and now your dad.
I see you in this endlessness of untethering. The only thing I can compare
            that to is sitting on a couch at the Artisan in MO
Staring at the wall in front of me for two hours after Neesha left for her
            abusive ex-boyfriend, I thought for good,
I couldn’t understand how she could go back to a shithead like that
            if she loved me, which she did, the happiness
I felt with her prior to that was unlike anything I’d ever known, everything
            was lift, but now she was trading that in for torture.
No logic explained it. This was before I understood how little logic
            has to do with love, especially this sort of love,
Or just how much psychological damage domestic abuse can inflict.
            I will never be on that couch again. Now I see
The world differently, though I’m pretty sure some of my actions caused
            Anna to be on that couch, as she couldn’t understand
How I could desire other women if I loved her, which she knew I did,
            I imagine that first happiness she felt with me was like
What I felt with Neesha, and Neesha back then was in the place I am in now
            and was at the beginning with Anna, because she’d
Already loved like that and been ruined and knew the world differently.
            We are all passing the pain on one to another, it is 
Our immortality, as Nietzsche once said of how we passed through
            the minds of others after we died, in a good way.
At least I believe he said this, again I can’t remember the quote or where
            it’s from. Thursday, 12:54 PM, I woke up late again
Today but it was better because I had a conscious evening, meaning I
            read a book with dinner then went to see a movie
Then came back and looked at this poem again before going to sleep,
            something I very rarely do these days so as not to 
Fuck with my process, but I was inside my mind in that way that I like
            but freely abandon every day for no reason, I knew
It wouldn’t matter what time I woke up today because I’d feel good and want
            to read and write, wouldn’t feel the temptation
To get online before doing so. Last night was cleared because the Indians
            played during the day (and lost) and I had no other
Plans, so I went to Mooburger in Cobble Hill with the second volume
            of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle, I was trying
To put off starting this book until I finished rereading Gilbert and got back
            to Lydia Davis’s Collected, but I started feeling the need
For it, could feel that voice itching inside me, how it would feed this poem,
            give me some perspective on what I am doing,
And when I hit the first page at Mooburger in a table next to the window
            with a delicious IPA from Michigan moving down
My throat, I was off and running, the book moved, as I expected, right
            into me, no obstruction whatsoever. He shows
How easy, in a sense, literature is, or can be, how you simply need to write
            your life, taking all of it seriously and not too so,
But of course first you need to have a life to write and be conscious
            that what you have is one, which can take years
To get to. I can feel that happening in my own life now, I used to think
            my life in Houston didn’t matter, who cared about
Houston? Even when I wrote that 17-page poem it didn’t seem important.
            And looking back at how it began, with the date
Set in 2001, I thought it was dated, there was no way I could ever publish it
            because of that: who cared about little old me
In Houston in 2001? But now it seems interesting, at least to me, what’s
            happened over the last thirteen years, how much
The world has changed, not just me, in fact you could argue the world
            has changed more over the last thirteen years
Than over the fifty or so years before that, though how do I really know.
            I read the poem over last night at 2:30 AM, surprised
At how much like myself I sounded despite the difference in age (both
            mine and the era), though I wonder how different
The voices in this poem and that will sound to people who don’t know me.
            Will I ever publish these two poems together?
That is what I am contemplating doing, in fact, hell, why not throw in
            a third letter, maybe put that off for another
Thirteen years, then it would be a “trilogy” like every poet seems to want
            to write, that shit is so annoying, I bet it even annoyed
Dante’s contemporaries when he told them he was working on a trilogy.
            Capturing time, though, an interesting project,
Always, perhaps, the most important one, hence my interest in Proust
            and Ashbery and Schuyler and Knausgaard,
Though I wonder (and I seem to have written that phrase at least five times
            in the last five minutes) how interested people
Will be in my time, notice all those writers above are white, and the time
            of white people is far more interesting in its
Quotidianness than that of other people, if I’m writing about my time
            I have to write about my racial reflections, etc,
Or people wonder what is the point, they have no way of gauging me
            for consumption. People are such incredible idiots
In the way they read, they think they
re liberal but they do nothing but
            read white people, I know because I used to do this
Myself, thinking I wasn’t interested in Asian writing not because I was
            a self-hating Asian but simply because, oh,
The writing wasn’t interesting, that was bullshit, it was simply because
            I hadn’t read enough Asian writing, hadn’t
Encountered anything other than The Joy Luck Club or “No Name Woman,”
            which mostly embarrassed me. You think people
Will read you as a “poet,” or a “human being,” but they read you
            as your color if you’re not white, I can have
The same project as James Schuyler or Karl Ove Knausgaard but it will not
            be read in the same way, I won’t be thought of
As “in the tradition of” Schuyler or Knausgaard, or worse, people 
            will think I am just doing a poor imitation
Of them or trying to assimilate, not writing in my “own” tradition.
            I know Schuyler and Ashbery inside and out
But young white Brooklyn poets I know would never suspect that,
            wouldn’t think of comparing my work to theirs,
Wouldn’t take me seriously if I started to talk about them in conversation,
            I see the stuff they write about these writers
Online or hear them namedrop them in conversation and they have
            a freshman’s knowledge, they haven’t carried
Three Poems or Flow Chart or “The Morning of the Poem” around with them
            for years, they haven’t reread and reread
These poems like I have, I can tell, it’s obvious, I can tell within minutes
            of talking to a poet just how deep the reading goes.
And most of the time it is not that deep, oh you’ve read Dorothea Lasky
            and Eileen Myles and Maggie Nelson and CAConrad,
How wonderful for you, all those authors are published by Wave, a trendy
            press publishing mostly white writers, you call that
Taste? Try reading a writer of color, try reading something before 2000,
            try reading something in meter, motherfucker,
Try reading a 3300-page book. Try rereading that book, try rereading
            anything. I don’t know how I got on this subject
But it’s obviously something that has been bothering me for a while.
            I remember thinking even when I was writing
The Schuyler poem how different he was than me, how if he were alive
            and I met him how weird he would seem, how weird
I would seem to him, we moved in, let’s say, very different circles, and yet
            on the page how close I felt to him, how like
I was sitting there with him reading in Fairfield Porter’s house in Maine,
            how I wanted that life, to hang out with him and JA
And talk about poetry, but now I’m living my life in New York City
            and have resigned myself to never knowing
Ashbery, I could probably make that happen if I wanted to, but don’t
            care, I recognize that we’re of different worlds.
The great man will probably die soon and maybe then I will regret it,
            never meeting him for real and talking about
How much his poetry has meant to me, how it basically formed me
            as a poet and as a person in college, never
Letting him know who I am, how I existed, how I was made by him.
            It’s quiet in my house. So many years in me.
My coffee is cold. 1:36 PM and I’m pleasantly ignoring the few
            business things I have to do, like mailing
People money. I’m thinking of reading Schuyler in college, fairly confident
            I was the only person on campus carrying around
His Collected Poems, how we were having a private conversation for a good
            2–3 months, how Ashbery sometimes hung out
With us, I liked all the stories Jimmy’d tell about Ashbery, who was my hero.
            Sunlight constantly warming Schuyler’s poems,
The days, weather, people, conversation, music, I couldn’t tell back then
            how sad he was, how full of sexual desire
And frustration, I remember talking about him with Sandy McClatchy
            who told me how sad he was, and I was like,
Hunh? I thought of Schuyler as a friend, not a person, he certainly wasn’t
            an adult. Back then I’d go to sleep with movies on,
Usually Taxi Driver or Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Raging Bull, yeah, very different
            movies, somehow this comforted me. I spent
my junior year living alone in the Timothy Dwight annex, listening to jazz
            more seriously, watching these movies, reading
And reading and reading, I could tell I was getting weirder by how people
            didn’t seem to like talking to me anymore.
John Hollander owned my life back then. McClatchy opened the door
            and Hollander slammed it shut, showing me
All the work I had to do first to get through that door, not just anybody
            could enter. How strange that time was, I was
Receiving 100% of Hollander every time he spoke, the way perhaps
            Sam receives me (who knows why), I thought
Everyone in the class was doing this but when I talked to other students
            they just thought he was an asshole or at best
A curmudgeon. I felt like Ralph Fiennes about Kristin Scott Thomas
            toward the end of The English Patient when he says,
How can you act as if your life hadn’t CAPSIZED? Hollander opened up
            an abyss, showing me everything I didn’t know,
Even the things I thought I knew I didn’t know, in fact I probably knew
            those things less because I thought I knew them.
So I had to learn everything over, from the ground up, I had to read
            people like Tennyson and Browning and Jonson,
Poets I was led to ignore by Ashbery, I had to learn to write in meter
            and rhyme, at least for a while, I had to prove
To myself I could do this. I didn’t write many poems for the two years
            following Hollander’s class. When I moved
To Astoria after college, I’d prop my laptop up on the kitchen counter
            and try to write and just fail and fail, I’d get two
Or three stanzas in and stall. That year—do you remember? did I ever
            show you this?—I wrote a double sestina
In blank verse after Philip Sidney, I’d been reading Astrophil and Stella    
            because I was in love with Stella at Borders
On 57th and Park, then I read his double-sestina eclogue and thought
            why not write my own double sestina spoken
By Astrophil and Stella, I’ll even write it in blank verse, maybe one day
            I can show it to Stella. Yeah, that’s the way
My mind worked back then, somehow this seemed like a good idea.
            I carried that poem around with me for months,
Writing lines on napkins and showing them to my paralegal coworkers,
            who to their credit seemed genuinely interested.
Eventually the poem stalled about two incredibly painful stanzas
            from the end. I didn’t “finish” it until the next
Year, after I’d moved to Houston and started writing poems again
            under the guidance of Ed Hirsch, who freed me
From the formalism of Hollander, Ed was as interested in form
            but in a freer way, more workman-like, more
Practical, and I knew this would be true from reading his poems
            so it was cool when in reality this was true, too.
I remember when I met him in the middle of one of his workshops:
            a student guide brought me into the classroom
And he stood up to shake my hand and said, “I really enjoyed your poems!”
            He sounded totally genuine, and I didn’t realize
Until I got to Houston a year later how jealous that made everyone else
            in the class, they all remembered that about me
When I got there. That was maybe the happiest moment of my life,
            Ed standing up to say that. I wonder if he
Remembers it now. He works at the Guggenheim and I could see him
            a lot but never do, save for that one time
We had a drink after my first book came out and he told me how
            he once had an affair with Deborah Digges
And I was like, TMI, dude. But I think he was sort of feeling me out,
            trying to bring me into an adult friendship
After our teacher-student mentorship. But I will never see Ed
            as a sexual creature, just as I’ve never seen
Any of my other teachers as such, almost all of whom have been much older
            than me. I came to this poem today thinking
I would write about the repetition of days and here I am writing about
            Ed’s sex life. Or not writing about it. Last night
After reading Knausgaard and eating my Southern Fried Chicken
            sandwich, which was delicious, and spilling half
Of my second Michigan IPA onto my table, some of it cascading
            over the front cover of my notebook, which 
Now smells vaguely like beer, I went to the Court Street theater
            to watch Edge of Tomorrow in 3D at 11 PM.
And I was thinking this morning of how awful it would be to repeat
            a day over and over again, in the movie
They don’t go through all the downtime, of course, they just skip ahead
            to the important parts of the newly repeated day,
How Cruise and Blunt get a little further in their quest to find the omega,
            but I was thinking what a pain to start that day
All over again knowing everything you had to get through just to get
            to the new part, not even knowing if you were
Going to succeed once you got to the new part in getting any further
            toward other new parts, even though you were
Getting “better” at the repeated day every time, honing all your skills
            and response time and finding the best path,
It didn’t mean anything anymore, there was nothing new about it,
            nothing unpredictable, and then once you got
To the new part, what a rush of reality, what a store of surprises, but then
            something killed you and you had to go to Point A
Again. Friday now, 2:46 PM, and I’ve been rereading what I wrote
            yesterday for about half an hour. Before that
I Instagrammed pictures from last Friday’s reading for something like
            three hours. I’m not kidding. For me it should be
Deliberagram, how much time I spend editing these photos, and for
            what? This morning it was pouring rain when I 
Woke. I like those kinds of enjambments ending on a single word.
            I could hear the volume of the rain, almost
Surprised that the water wasn’t leaking in through my windows.
            How many consecutive days of rain have we
Had after a weekend of perfect sunlight? After the rain killed my morning
            time outside, now of course it’s sunny
In the afternoon, so I’m disgruntledly at my patio table in the garden
            with Knausgaard and cold coffee and you.
Had to wipe the table down first with a paper towel to clear the moisture.
            Amazing how something that looks clear
Like this table when cleaned turns the paper towel completely black.
            There’s a parable in there somewhere.
I’m going to see Sam in Connecticut tonight, which is why I wanted 
            to get through all that Instagramming first.
She’s been staying at a hotel in Norwalk all week for work called
            Zero Degrees. Presumably we will warm
This place up when I get there. Something so hot about fucking
            in a king-size hotel bed, she’s been thinking
About it all week, texting and calling me drunk, I can’t imagine what’s
            going to happen to me when I finally arrive.
The World Cup has started, which I’m trying to give two fucks about,
            if only the world were as insane about baseball
As it is about fútbol, I wouldn’t feel so crazy and alone in this world
            every summer. The Indians played like crap
Again last night, after getting hot and pulling to within two of the Tigers
            they’ve lost three in a row and are strangely back
In fourth place in the Central, as all the teams are within a few games
            of each other. I got into an annoying tweeting
Conversation with two Ryan’s I didn’t know last night after I complained
            that Lonnie Chisenhall should’ve been in the lineup
As he’s hitting .388. This seemed like a no-brainer to me, I thought
            all Tribe fans wanted him to play more and were
Annoyed that Terry Francona didn’t quite trust him yet against lefties,
            but these two Ryan’s chime in and say Chisenhall
Deserves the night off. Why? For hitting .388? Obviously what he deserves
            is to play. The kid is 25 and wasn’t sure he had
A starting job this year and still hasn’t played all that much, I’m pretty
            fucking sure if you asked him he’d say he wants
To play every day. We are talking about playing here, not work, people.
            To play baseball every day, what a life. Ryan #1
Said I wonder how you’d feel if you played baseball every day
            for two weeks, you’d probably get really tired,
And I thought this was possibly the stupidest motherfucking thing
            I’d ever heard, if I played baseball every day
For two weeks in the Major Motherfucking Leagues I’d be overjoyed,
            especially if I were doing it for a gazillion $$$.
Instead I’m writing this poem every day and Instagramming for 3 hrs
            and eating Lucky Charms in the morning
And making less-than-spectacular cappuccinos because I can’t
            afford a better grinder, or haven’t gotten
Around to splurging irresponsibly on a better grinder, instead I’m
            clapping my hands together out here trying
To kill these motherfucking mosquitoes, instead I’m looking at crap
            apartments in Bed-Stuy because I can’t afford
A better place even though what I can afford is already $1400/mo,
            it is crazy how much money is pouring into
This city every day that I do not touch, it is crazy how much these
            baseball players are making, even Chisenhall
Who’s making “minimum wage” is already a millionaire due to his #1 pick
            signing bonus, even bench players on the Indians
Are millionaires, can you imagine being mediocre at what you do
            professionally and making a million dollars?
Well, ha, maybe you can, unless you’re a poet or professor or both.
            Just clapped again and missed and said
Out loud, I’m going to kill one of these motherfucking bugs if it kills me.
            Ladies and gentlemen, America’s Favorite Poet.
Haven’t sent you my new book yet, though I’m realizing now that if
            you’re reading this that means you’ve gotten
The letter and hence the book with it, so in that case I have sent you
            the book, you’re welcome. I wonder how
Many people are reading it or have read it, 10–20? 20–30? 30–40? 40–50?
            I’ve sold 150 of my own copies—I know
Because I’ve made an Excel sheet tracking sales—and given away
            52 and traded 11, so that’s 213 of these puppies
Out in the world, along with whatever C&R has sold on Amazon,
            which is at least a few, since I know people
Who’ve ordered them, some of whom have even verified this by posting
            pictures of the newly arrived book on Facebook,
So maybe, what, 225-230 out in the world, is that good for three months?
            The first book sold over 1200 copies, I believe,
Making me C&R’s bestseller, which is pretty sad for a press that publishes
            fiction and nonfiction as well, which is maybe why
Chad (the C) hardly ever responds to my emails now that the new book
            is out, he seems depressed about how the press
Is doing, which is incredibly fucking annoying, because if he put more work
            into promoting the books they’d sell more, his
Business model seems to be: make book, make money from author
            purchasing book preorder, give two fucks
After that and expect to make millions being mediocre professionally.
            I live in Brooklyn and run Brooklyn Poets 
And cannot get either of my books into a single Brooklyn bookstore.
            This has been the case now for five years.
Not that a book in a bookstore means sales, but you want to be represented
            alongside your peers, especially when you spend
So much of your time promoting those peers and paying them to do things.
            If you’re not represented, you feel like the help.
I know a lot of poets in this city still look at me that way, unconsciously
            or consciously. I see handmade chapbooks
Printed in maybe 100 copies sold at Berl’s in DUMBO by some white poet
            I’ve never heard of, but my books, which together
Have sold over 1400 copies and won me $25,000 in NEA grant money
            and gotten me readings at universities across
The country, are not there. I’d accept this if I thought the books couldn’t
            sell. But as a businessman, I know they could,
So I know the people that run the bookstores are not just racially slighting
            me or at best overlooking me but doing
Bad business, and that offends me, you know, professionally as well as
            personally. It is really not that hard, so far
As I can tell, to run a good business, even a poetry-oriented business.
            You have to work hard, you have to know
What you’re doing, you have to have taste and ideas and imagination, you
            have to be flexible but also structured, consistent,
You have to be professional, i.e. dependable, accountable, of your word,
            maybe most importantly you have to believe
Completely in the idea of your business, it should inspire you with ideas
            for growth, you should be willing to work for it
For free, because the work, ultimately, is fun to you, despite all the hours
            you spend on seemingly trivial things like Instagram.
Monday, 4:57 PM, and I’ve spent a couple more hours on Instagram today
            after our B.I.G. Go Bay Ridge meet yesterday.
B.I.G. stands for “Brooklyn Instagram” with an obvious reference
            to Biggie Smalls, one of the cute little ideas
I’ve come up with to give our “brand” cohesiveness, like calling our T-shirts
            swag and our monthly workshop/open mic
The Yawp. We met yesterday at 4 in John Paul Jones Park, a short walk
            from the mighty Verrazano Bridge, which turns
50 this year. By “we” I mean Shun and me and another dude named Chad
            whom we both met for the first time, apparently
He’s a huge fan of Shun’s Instagram pics and wants to interview him
            on his radio show for photography tips. Shun
Has something like 24,000 followers on Instagram, ridiculous, I cannot
            even fathom that number. When we first met,
Instagram had just started and he only had a hundred or so followers,
            I found him by searching for #brooklyn photos
So I could find like-minded people who might be interested in following
            Brooklyn Poets. Everything was new back then,
It felt oddly through Instagram like a lot of people and I were discovering
            or rediscovering photography, what you could
Do with it, and through that, discovering the world, what was
            out there to be seen, I loved how your iPhone
Allowed you to take pictures anywhere, you didn’t have to think first
            to bring your camera with you when you went out
Into the day, you always had your phone with you, so if you turned a corner
            and saw the Brooklyn Bridge in extraordinary light
You could take a picture and a pretty good one if you had some basic
            compositional skills and a still hand, then the filters
Would allow you to do some pretty remarkable things with that shot,
            but the best part in the beginning was sharing
The photo and tagging it and through that discovering all the people 
            who were looking at the same things, the more
Specific the better: such as when I took a picture of my shadow once
            and hashtagged it #shadowportrait and found
Thousands of people across the world who’d taken pictures of their own
            shadows on various surfaces, or when I found
The hashtag #abandonedchairs, or #peoplewalkingpastwalls, things
            you didn’t know were interesting until you
Saw them, or my favorite (until it got taken over by selfies), #empty,
            seeing all the places in the world that people felt
Were “empty.” I knew this wouldn’t last, I knew after a while people
            would become cynical about Instagram
(Which didn’t take long) and that self-interest would take the place
            of fascination with the world, but for a time
The dawning of Instagram was like the redawning of that world, you saw it
            in all its multiplicity and strangeness and wonder,
Simple shots of light and shadow taken with an iPhone by an amateur
            could hit you as hard as something by Van Gogh,
It became clear again how light was everything, how essentially photography
            was about being in the right place at the right time
To capture the best light, subject matter, composition, technical equipment
            did not matter as much as the light: though 
Those things were important, the light was the thing, there was something
            wonderfully pure and simple about that, you
Simply had to capture it, which of course wasn’t as simple as that sounds
            except that it was, you had to be in the right place
At the right time meaning that you had to be in places to begin with, you
            had to go out into the world and back and forth
In it, you had to be in that world at different times during the day, you
            had to do this repeatedly, so you could catch
Fluctuations in the light but also so you could practice, if you didn’t
            get enough practice capturing the light it wouldn’t
Matter if you came across a great one, you’d miss it, and this after a while
            started to feel to me like poetry: I wondered why
I liked Instagram so much, why I was taking so many pictures instead
            of writing poems and getting such a great response,
More of a response probably than my poems have ever gotten, and I
            realized it was because the process seemed similar
To writing poems, you had to go at this daily not because you were always
            going to capture something great but because
You had to put yourself in position to do so, there were the “good” photos
            that could be taken in subpar light without much
Inspiration but made effective through sensibility, compositional skills
            and editing, and then there were the “great” photos
That seemed to take themselves, they seemed almost too easy, like they
            had nothing to do with you, they were simply
The world, what was out there, and the light, all you had to do was point
            your camera at it and press a button, in a sense
All you had to do was get out of the way, not overthink the shot too much,
            take it in rhythm, but of course what made that kind
Of getting out of the way possible, what made the great shot seem so easy,
            was all the daily work you’d put in before that, how
You’d learned to compose shots and what light looked best and what kind
            of shot had been taken before by other people,
You avoided wasting your time with other shots by the work you’d put in
            and the selectivity it had introduced into sensibility,
You knew what kind of shots worked best with your camera and what
            was out of its range, you knew that taking shots
In broad rich sunlight that looked great to the eye and felt great on the skin
            would lead to mediocrity, whereas shots of light
Beginning or ending could lead to incredible wonders, the greatest shots
            usually happened when you least expected them,
In the half hour between finishing work and walking home, but sometimes
            being deliberate about shots, consciously going out
To take them, even planning an event around that with other people,
            led to great work as well. As even now, after
Going to Heights Café down the street to watch the US play Ghana
            in its first World Cup match, I reinsert myself
Into the flow of the poem deliberately, out of the original rhythm
            of the meditation-inspiration, which beginner
Photographers and poets might think leads to something unnatural,
            lacking the freshness of the moment, but what
You learn after much practice is that oftentimes the first shot or two
            that feels “in the moment,” in the improvisatory
Swing of things, is not the best shot, so what you should do at the very least
            is take a few shots after that, overextend yourself
A little just in case: perhaps the composition and the shifting of the light
            and shadow the moment after the original moment
Will align more perfectly, though it doesn’t feel that way because now
            you are conscious of it, perhaps this will be true
Many moments after the original moment when you feel nothing
            is possible because of all the self-consciousness
Now riddling the process, perhaps in one of these later shots something
            unexpected will happen: a little kid being
Held up by his dad will point his finger to the sky matching the pinnacle
            of the Freedom Tower: or a guy leaning
Against the railing at the end of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
            will prop one foot against it, lifting his thigh
Inadvertently over the setting sun: or you’ll find a hammer standing
            balanced on its head in the Tobacco Warehouse
That becomes the perfect little random foreground object to set off 
            the Brooklyn Bridge overwhelming overhead
Otherwise so difficult to capture: you felt the first moment of inspiration
            was the best, but when you look through
The work later you see that the later, more conscious moments 
            were better: this reminds me of the way
The San Antonio Spurs play offense, always looking for the better shot,
            every man taught to pass what might be
A “good” shot to a teammate with a “great” shot, trusting in
            relentless repetitions of system and process
Over “natural,” improvisational rhythm and flow, and boy what a display
            they put on against the greater natural athleticism
Of the Heat, absolutely decimating them over the last three games
            of the Finals. Went out, got some ramen
And cat food, a quart of whole milk, this being my dinner and Django’s
            dinner (and subsequent meals) and part
Of my breakfast (milk for my Lucky Charms and cappuccino): freedom
            feels sometimes like it sits most in moments
Like these, going out for random items from the supermarket at 10:30 PM
            on a summer night, no bag strapped over
Your shoulder, no coat weighing you down, arms free and easy, feet
            unsocked in soft, rubber-soled shoes,
A light breeze blowing, no more crowds of people suffocating the blocks,
            you pull out your credit card and pay
Easily, no worry about how much money you have in what account,
            debit or credit, you’re asked, you say
Credit, it feels good to say credit, you get points, some corporation
            takes a fee, some smaller person or company
Gets screwed, but there’s Brooklyn before you, the Bossert Hotel
            in its majesty, a building beautiful enough
Never to go into, housing all these people (Jehovah’s Witnesses) you assume
            you’d have no idea how to talk to, there’s
The Heights Café with its iconic corner sign and the clear windows
            you can see through to the bar inside, the glow
From whatever games are lighting up the flat screen TVs, both your teams
            won tonight, the Indians against the Angels
And the Americans against the Ghanaians, debit or credit, two credits,
            there’s an Asian girl on the corner holding up
Her iPhone to take a picture of the Heights Café across the street with
            the tall, historic trees behind it, she’s there
When you walk to Key Food and still there when you come back out,
            perhaps she’s been extending herself a bit, taking
And retaking what seems like the same shot but is not, caring not a jot
            for whoever’s passing her or looking at her
Judgmentally from the Heights Café sidewalk tables, going after a little bit
            of immortality she can hold in her hand.
Just yesterday I was walking down the sidewalk sidestepping people
            left and right and thinking of all of them
As obstructions to my freedom, so many people out on Sundays now
            in the sunlight going down to Piers 5 and 6
Of Brooklyn Bridge Park, all I had to do was get from my apartment
            to my car on Atlantic Avenue four blocks away
To get my bag (and Sam’s) and also my USB cord so I could charge
            my phone before the B.I.G. meet, but this
Altogether took about an hour, first I had to linger a bit with Sam
            to say bye on the corner of Henry & Atlantic
Where she planned to hail a cab back to Ridgewood, as I turned to walk away
            I saw a guacamole cab and pointed and turned
To look at her and saw her raising her hand and smiling, then looked back
            a few more times after that to watch the cabbie
Get out to put her big roller bag in the trunk, he must have been excited
            to pick her up because she is bonafide beautiful,
It pleased me to think another man was merely helping her with her bag
            whereas I had been fucking her just an hour before,
Fucking and filming her the morning before that in our Norwalk hotel,
            something neither of us had ever done before
But which felt surprisingly easy and natural to do, enjoying a breezy brunch
            after that at a fairly chichi barbecue place
Near the Maritime Aquarium where she told me about how and why
            she hated her biological mother, how many
Lies she told and made her tell as well, all of this taking me more deeply
            into her life but further away from this poem,
Which I didn’t work on (i.e. add to) at all this weekend, so I was thinking
            about this as I walked back from my car, wondering
How I could use the hour or so I had before I had to leave for Bay Ridge,
            should I try to write some more lines in this poem
Or just turn on the Indians–Red Sox game or both, I’d never written
            a poem before while watching an Indians game
But it seemed possible to do so while writing this particular poem, that was
            the virtue of it, that it could include anything,
Even real-time baseball, the way Byron’s Don Juan seemed to swallow up
            everything in his life’s path, or many paths, here I was
Comparing myself to Byron in my head on the sidewalks of my hood,
            perhaps at least the comparison wasn’t as crazy
As it would have been in 2001, after all I had just been fucking and filming
            a beautiful girl in a Norwalk CT hotel then walking
Back to my Brooklyn Heights apartment thinking of working on a poem
            and hating all the pedestrians in my path, I was thinking
Something about time on this path that I can’t quite remember, thinking
            how I would put it into the poem when I got back
To the apartment, something pedestrian about walking past pedestrians,
            the congestion of time versus the free and easy
Of time, but when I got back to the apartment I turned on the game
            and went to charge my phone and realized
I’d forgotten to get the USB cable, which was still hooked up to the car,
            not in my messenger bag, and so I’d have to
Go back out into the thwarting throb of pedestrians, which would cost me
            another 20–25 minutes, suddenly my time
Before having to go to Bay Ridge was shrinking, and then the Indians
            started a rally I had to stay and watch, which
Of course yielded no runs, and then I stayed to watch another half inning
            because I wanted to rest a little before going back
Out, it was absurd to go right back outside to retread the same path
            after just completing it, I had to put some distance
Between myself and that former journey, anyway long story short
            I eventually went back out and retrieved
The USB cable and came back to my apartment and charged my phone
            while I again watched the game, notice how
I’m speeding forward through time now as I get bored with the material,
            all I wanted to say was that I didn’t end up 
Writing anything in this poem yesterday and I wonder how that’s changed
            the material as I write about it today, how it’s changed
The poem which now has lines in it remembering what happened yesterday
            or how I failed to write about what happened yesterday
Rather than lines yesterday thinking about what was happening yesterday.
            And now it’s tomorrow, or two days from the yesterday 
I was describing yesterday, which was really already tomorrow, or today,
            as I was finishing the writing at 1 AM. The sun is out
Again, perfect light blue sky, a light breeze, Brooklyn Heights at this time
            of year is unparalleled, you can’t imagine a finer paradise
On earth. Just ordered a corned beef Reuben from along with
            an orange Fanta to meet the $10 minimum for delivery,
Crafty little device for companies to make more money out of these online
            services, if I called to place the order as I did before
I wouldn’t be ordering that orange Fanta: though truth be told I’ve never
            not been able to find a use for an orange Fanta.
I’ve just reread your letter, i.e. email, in which you set the new rules
            for our letter-writing, which I’ve already broken,
That at the outset of the letter we have to ask the other four questions
            that will be answered at the beginning of the reply.
So I’ve failed to ask you four questions at the beginning of this letter
            and also to answer your four questions, though
I did answer one of them (the one about grief) somewhere in the middle,
            though who knows how long this will go, that
Middle might end up seeming more like the “beginning” eventually,
            in any case you said both the questions & answers
Had to come up at the beginning so I’m wondering which you wanted
            first? Seems perhaps a better rule to put the answers
At the beginning and then ask the four new questions at the end of the letter.
            I’ll just break your rules and come up with my own
Like the fuckwad I am. If I’d reread your email before beginning this poem,
            i.e. letter, I may have never begun it in the form
I did, I may have been swayed by your form into writing something
            in list form, which I’ve already done and yeah
Let’s not talk about how much I hate everybody’s motherfucking lists
            these days, especially the ones involving Best
Or Most Important or Hot or Asian American Poets that I am not on.
            In addition to grief, you asked about Anna, what
Happened, why and how, did it surprise me, which is actually a four-part
            question you cutely clarified as a “single question,”
My favorite kind of weather and why, asking also for a story about me
            in that weather, and a book. I feel in some ways
Now that I think about it that I’ve already answered this last question, 
            as I’ve told you so far about Knausgaard’s My Struggle
(I’m now 90 pages into volume 2), Gilbert’s Collected Poems, Lydia Davis’s
            Collected Stories (I suppose I only mentioned that),
Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime, DeLillo’s Mao II or whatever book it was
            that I quoted or misquoted from, and probably
Some other books I’m not remembering. And probably more books
            will come up in the natural flow of this letter,
I.e. poem, so let’s just assume question #4 has been answered and/or
            will be answered. So that leaves questions 2 and 3,
And once again I feel as if I’ve somewhat answered question #2 already
            in my answer to question #1, though there is 
Certainly more to say and, lucky you, this poem’s form staunchly supports
            more of more of more of more of more.
Let me stop first to eat my Reuben and drink my Fanta, which just arrived.
            Done, tasty. To the quick: this is my favorite kind
Of weather: mid-70s, clear blue sky, light breeze. That’s boring, perhaps,
            but there’s an endlessness to it for me, especially
Here in my backyard garden in Brooklyn Heights, which sadly you
            may never see before I move out on July 15.
Things are so quiet back here, even when there’s grinding going on
            somewhere in the neighborhood, as there almost
Always is with all the brownstone bears renovating their historic houses.
            The trees above me are always dropping little
Flowery thingamabobs around me, which collect on the other patio chairs
            and on the ground. It’s cooler back here,
As the Bossert shields the garden from the morning sun to the east
            and a couple of tall co-op buildings shield it
From the evening sun to the west, plus I’ve got my patio umbrella
            to ward off whatever remaining rays the trees
Don’t catch. At most my left forearm and left leg will get some sun
            around noon, and that feels obviously good.
Sometimes I’m surprised when I go out the front door into my day
            how much hotter it is on the sidewalk than it was
Back in my garden. My landlady almost never comes down here except
            to ask me a question or tell me about an appointment
Or remind me to pay my rent, and my neighbors almost never come out
            into their gardens, except for a random barbecue
Here and there or to hose down some plants, in fact my neighbor
            to the west seems so loath to step foot outside
Or be seen or both that she hoses down her plants from just outside
            her back door, so all I see and hear is a big jet
Of water rather than her. I call this a library quiet, and I am motherfucking
            lucky to have it, sometimes I can scarcely believe
I live here, it was only possible because I moved in with Anna and we split 
            the $2750 rent, which was so “low” because
The rents were down in 2011 and this is technically a 1 BR, though
            the bedroom is long enough to be divided
Artfully with a room divider into both bedroom and study, the study area
            even coming equipped with built-in bookshelves,
Which of course I loved, and the living room has a little nook that works
            as a dining area, and there’s this beautiful garden,
Like a whole other room in the spring, summer and fall, ironically I paid
            less per month for rent while living with Anna
Than I did for my 1-BR apt back in Sunset Park, which was half a block
            from the Gowanus Expressway rather than
A block from the Promenade, as this apartment is and two doors down from
            Mailer’s apartment when he was writing
The Naked and the Dead, half a block down from the studio he rented
            for $5/week to write it, around the corner
From Thomas Wolfe’s apartment in 1933–35 and Auden’s apartment
            in 1939–40, his first apartment in Brooklyn,
Which he moved into after writing “September 1, 1939,” you can find
            this out on my literary walking tour of the Heights
If you ever come visit, a block and a half in the other direction from where
            Henry Miller lived in 1924 with June, from which
They were evicted when they couldn’t pay their rent, and so on and so
            forth, it’s crazy that I’m living here but what
A blessing and an inspiration, I doubt I would’ve started Brooklyn Poets
            otherwise. It’s the next day now, 9:22 AM,
June 18, as I wasn’t able to get to my answer to your question yesterday
            before hitting the showers (I like how they say
This about pitchers taken out of a game, the shower strangely plural)
            and driving to my yoga class, which I wasn’t
Even able to get to, as I left a little late and what chance I had to get there
            was killed when I got to the Brooklyn Bridge
And saw a line of policemen blocking the entrance, the officers were
            oddly standing in a line across the street
Rather than simply blocking the entrance with one of their cars.
            I felt released again into the free and easy
Of time and thought about how I would use this newfound freedom,
            first stopping at home to change out of my yoga
Pants into my jeans and boat shoes, then driving down to DUMBO
            to get my favorite margarita at Gran Eléctrica,
But everyone and their mom was out in my part of Brooklyn enjoying
            my aforementioned favorite weather, I thought
To myself there must be a lot of moms out here today when I overheard
            myself using that expression one too many times
In my head, maybe all those moms could hit the showers, wouldn’t that
            be nice, but they didn’t and were taking up
All the parking spots so I had to shift gears and go to the Columbia St
            Waterfront District instead, where I could
Probably find parking, and lo and behold there was a spot right across
            the street from the Whiskey Soda Lounge, one
Of my spots, where you can get spicy fish-sauce Pok Pok wings and wash
            those down with a jelly Singha beer, i.e. a beer
They somehow turn into a slushie through a mysterious process I don’t
            understand, so this seemed like the inevitable plan
And I got out and walked easily across the sunny street, went inside
            and parked myself on one of the corner bar stools
To the left of an Asian girl I could tell, just from the way she was sitting
            and where (spaced in between two couples
To the left and right), might be available, but when I finally looked up
            after placing my keys, iPhone and sunglasses
In front of me in a tidy squadron on the bar and ordering the wings
            and jelly beer, I saw she was studying her phone
And texting, or perhaps she was using Tinder, in any case she didn’t look up
            once, which told me she was most likely meeting
Someone, who showed up ten minutes later, a slim white dude with red hair,
            a nice-enough-looking guy for a nice-enough-
Looking girl, they chitchatted a bit through the initial awkwardness,
            it seemed fairly likely this was a Tinder date,
Which by the way is how I met Sam, though our first meeting I’m sure
            had none of this initial awkwardness, just suave
Sexuality, I’m joking of course but I never would’ve met a girl on a first date
            at Whiskey Soda Lounge, it’s a cool spot
But not a sexy one, you can’t eat spicy fish-sauce wings and expect to be sexy,
            the bar wasn’t dark enough, I met Sam
At the Mermaid in the West Village for their $1-oyster happy hour
            s, yes plural as there are three of them, thank god,
Oysters and Prosecco, sexy, increasingly sexy the more oysters you get,
            and we ordered two and a half dozen, every now
And then I touched Sam on the small of her back or sometimes
            her bare thigh, how are you supposed to do that
If you’re eating wings? Eventually we walked slightly drunk to Zinc Bar
            a few blocks away for a Sunday-night tango lesson
And milonga to live music, the lesson was for her as she’d only danced
            Argentine tango a few times (she dances ballroom),
I thought this might be awkward and might kill the attraction if she was
            difficult to lead, but she picked things up quickly
And while she couldn’t do much we actually danced tango when the milonga
            started, meaning she followed my lead in time
To the music and we felt a connection, though in open embrace, and she
            was having a great time, she actually said in the middle
Of the milonga, This is a really fun date, and I knew after that we’d soon
            be kissing, that’s a wonderful knowledge, we left
And held hands (crazy) and when we were comfortably in my car I leaned
            over and kissed her, not the best place to do this
But I knew she didn’t want to do this in public and I wasn’t going to wait
            until we got back to my place. Long digression.
This Asian girl and red-headed boy, I couldn’t imagine them having sex
            except in a very nice way, the guy had started out
All wrong by asking her to meet him at this bar, and then of all things
            he ordered a whiskey sour, a college girl’s drink,
Which he ordered with confidence, like this is what he usually ordered,
            he made it worse by first accidentally ordering
A whiskey soda and then having to stop and clarify, Sorry, I meant a whiskey
            sour, I could just feel the girl deciding internally
She would never sleep with him, and of course the whole time they sat
            and talked he sat with his hands politely in his lap
And smiled at her and laughed obligingly, no forward leaning or innuendo
            at all, what was the point of this? If we’re going to live
In this life, let us be sexy, let’s let the squirrels and mosquitoes and flowery
            thingamabobs be unsexy: what’s funny about all
Those examples is they are probably far sexier than this red-headed dude,
            the squirrel I saw yesterday in the garden furiously
Fucking with a nut, the mosquitoes of course everywhere attacking me
            for my blood, the flowery thingamabobs coming
Down in showers of seed everywhere. Sorry, this has taken me far from 
            my answer to your questions, I’m getting to that
Now, first I had to work up to it, I felt the weight of the task ahead of me
            yesterday as I started, but now I’m feeling free
And easy, I’ve just put Bach’s first cello suite on, Mstislav Rostropovich,
            the sun is out in the garden, another day of favorite
Weather in store, though I am not outside: with Anna what happened
            was that things became unsexy, or first became
Too sexy, if that makes any sense, when we first got together I couldn’t
            believe my luck, the wealth of her body in my bed,
I’d built up so much sexual attraction for her taking her yoga classes
            for two months, this was a ridiculous fantasy,
Fucking your hot yoga teacher, but here it was actually fucking happening,
            and she wasn’t just a fantasy, she was real,
Sorry if that sounds banal, she was an amazing person I wanted to talk to
            all the time, not to mention an incredible kisser,
You’ve read that kissing poem I wrote, I couldn’t have written that for just
            anybody, we’d make out on my couch in the afternoon
And I couldn’t imagine being any happier, just kissing her seemed to be
            enough, and then we had sex and her body was
More of more of more of more of more, I couldn’t get enough of it,
            until I did, I’d never had so much so I started
Wanting more unconsciously, I think, started thinking I could get more:
            you asked me if what happened surprised me
And yes, the first time I felt attracted to another girl after falling in love
            with Anna surprised me, I didn’t think that was
Possible, or didn’t want it to be possible, but there it was, I met an Indian
            girl at a tango práctica and liked her, could feel her
Liking me, though we didn’t dance all that well together, at the end
            of the night I asked for her number even though
She told me she lived in San Diego and was just visiting some friends,
            she used to live in the city: I couldn’t believe
I was asking for her number, I wasn’t that attracted to her but didn’t want
            to miss the opportunity, it felt available to me
And I was so confident because of Anna that I went ahead and took it,
            though of course nothing happened after that
And I never told Anna about it, just managed my new knowledge
            of this shift in desire internally, things with Anna
Went on being amazing, every morning when she went to work absurdly
            early I’d get up and make coffee for both of us
And sit with her at the dining table having breakfast and talking, I felt
            I could do this with her forever, which is saying
A lot, I’ve never wanted to sit down and talk to someone over breakfast
            every day, even Neesha, this was unprecedented,
And I’d look across at Anna and see her looking back at me and looking
            like she understood how we’d broken through to
A new reality, this was it, as they say, but then it wasn’t, I went to California
            for a couple of poetry readings and then Thanksgiving
At my older sister’s and after the first reading I hung out with the friend
            I read with, a poet I’d slept with a couple of times
The summer before I met Anna, and I met her flirtatious friend, somehow
            when we were all at the bar after the reading
I knew I could have sex with this girl, this kind of knowledge just dawns
            on me now, sometimes I think that’s what seduction
Basically boils down to, being able to recognize your sexual opportunity
            when it arises, and my friend, I think, sensed this
Too, when we were about to leave the bar she got up to go to the bathroom
            leaving me alone with her friend but then she
Returned very quickly, too quickly to have actually gone to the bathroom,
            I think she decided against it so she could prevent
Whatever was going to happen from happening, and luckily she did
            because I was untethered at this point, in the car
On the way back to my sister’s place I sat beside my friend in the front
            with her friend in the back and somehow managed
To extend my arm to the floor of the back seat, where my hand played
            with her foot, and at first she just accepted it
But then, right before I got dropped off, she reached down and clasped
            my hand with hers, I think I was talking to my friend
About the three of us having a threesome, just joking around but seeing
            what was there, and her friend was up for it
But my friend was not having any of it, I could tell she was mad at me,
            I don’t know if she saw what I was doing
With my hand but she could sense I was more attracted to her friend
            than I was to her, and that was annoying her
Obviously but I think also she was mad because I’d told her about Anna
            and she felt betrayed by my sense of love,
Which she loved after reading my first book, and some part of me
            felt betrayed by this too, what was I doing
Playing with this girl’s foot when I had Anna back at home? This girl
            wasn’t a tenth of what Anna was, if we’re speaking
Numerically, which is stupid, but I felt the attraction and was going
            with it and then I knew I didn’t know myself
As well as I thought I did. To my “credit” I didn’t do anything with this
            girl after that, though I could have, I was in town
For a few more days and she was close enough, in fact she was a massage
            therapist and offered to give me a massage
At her place, another ridiculous fantasy which I turned down, not so much
            out of a sense of devotion and morality
But because I wasn’t that physically attracted to her, when I looked at her
            Facebook page later I thought, I was playing
With this girl’s foot? If it had been Breanne Benson offering me that massage
            you can be sure I would’ve gone over there.
About a month later I met a woman in Robin’s tango class who was pretty
            much my physical ideal and really into dance,
I thought at first she was a professional when I met her because of how
            she held herself and how she dressed, she had
A professional dancer’s posture and presence, and she didn’t speak to me
            much the first time we danced together in class,
Just did the moves with me as if tolerating my skill level, the side of her abs
            cutting like a knife under my hand as we practiced
Forward ochos: I said to her, Nice abs, jokingly, and she didn’t say anything,
            just pretended not to hear, this kind of dancer’s
Hauteur I was used to in New York City, I didn’t think she was a threat
            to my relationship because she would never talk
To me, but the next class we danced together again and this time I struck up
            a conversation and when I told her I was a writer
And teacher she became really interested, she was a teaching artist herself
            and looking for teaching jobs, she was also looking
For writers to contribute pieces to an art book she was making about her
            father, responses to old wartime photographs of him
She’d found, and she asked me if I could write a poem in response to one
            of these photographs and gave me her email
And phone number and then I knew I was in trouble, I couldn’t believe
            she was actually nice as well as being an artist
And a teacher and dancer, could it be possibly that she was a better match
            for me than Anna? Well, I found out pretty quickly
On Facebook that she had a serious boyfriend, but that didn’t stop me
            from seeing where this was going, we emailed
A few times and talked together in class and met up once to dance at RoKo,
            Robin’s Sunday-night milonga, and I wrote
That poem, “The Continuing Struggle of the Philistines Jr.,” aptly titled,
            I kept feeling her out, seeing if she was looking
To stray, but to her credit she never took things past a certain point,
            she’d say we should get drinks before or after
Class but then wouldn’t go through with it, and I’d be a little relieved,
            she’d open up to me talking after class about
The problems she was having finding teaching work, but she wouldn’t stay
            to dance with me at the práctica, had she stayed
We probably would’ve developed a better connection, what perhaps
            saved me was that I never felt a good connection
Dancing with her, she felt surprisingly stiff in my arms, not all that skilled,
            Anna after just a couple months of lessons
Was better than her. It’s 11:39 AM and I’m outside now in the garden,
            Bach is perhaps still on inside though I can’t
Hear him: I’ve been fighting off mosquitoes as usual and the flowery
            thingamabobs are coming down in showers,
Today I’m meeting Tiffany at the Mermaid for happy hours oysters,
            she’s just broken up with Lucas, Tiffany btw
Is a good friend of mine, not a date, thought I should clarify that, though
            I probably would’ve dated her at some point
If she’d been interested. Now I’m happy that never happened because
            I really value her friendship, just as I value yours,
Friendship with a woman not confused by sexuality is a wonderful thing.
            I started writing about this woman in my notebook
After I met her, in fact I think I said something like Her body would cut
            you like a knife if you ever had sex with her,
Hence the silly simile above, I can still see her clearly now though I am not
            filled with desire for her anymore, it’s amazing
How that just passes, something so strong that you’re writing about it
            in your notebook, she got engaged and moved
To California of all places with her fiancé and now they are married
            and she’s had a kid, her pregnancy pictures
On Facebook look positively athletic, not an ounce of extra fat on her
            besides what was strictly needed for her belly.
One night Anna was acting strange, not coming out to meet me
            and some friends for dinner though she said
She was going to, and when I got home she was already in bed sleeping
            with music on beside her, she seemed a little sad
Though how could I know since she was asleep, and the next day
            things seemed okay though she was a little quiet,
But then the next time we had sex, on the couch, she stopped halfway
            through and went to the bathroom and came back
Looking sad, and I asked her what was wrong and she said, Do you really
            want to be with me? I didn’t know where this
Question was coming from but felt guilty, of course I wanted to be
            with her but I had been asking a girl for her
Number and playing with a girl’s foot and writing about another girl
            in my notebook, I acted surprised, laughing
At the question, reassuring her, but that didn’t help much, she seemed
            to know something, not just sense something
Was off, like she said, but know something, like she’d been reading 
            my notebook, which was the only thing I thought
Could have given her this certainty, but that seemed crazy, I didn’t ask
            if she’d done that. Well, she did do that.
I only found this out months later after coming back from a trip
            to North Carolina for another reading, where
I danced with some old salsa friends afterward and recognized someone
            I didn’t know who came over and introduced
Herself, saying she was one of the students I’d met after the reading,
            Oh, of course, that’s why I recognized you,
I said, I’d been staring at her ass all night, which seemed impossibly good,
            almost popping out of her short white dress,
And then they started playing bachata and I asked her to dance
            and felt an ungodly connection, pretty soon
My hand was creeping down her lower back toward the curve of her ass
            and she moved her left hand from my shoulder
To my neck, brushing my hair a little as she did so, it was one of the most
            erotic dances of my life, I was heaving
For breath a little afterwards astounded by what I felt, I could’ve had
            sex with her afterwards in the room next door,
I’m convinced, there was that kind of immediate electricity, but she
            had to drive her friend home and the next day
Was Easter morning of all things and apparently her family was deeply
            religious, or at least her father was, so there was
No chance of anything happening, as I had to fly home the next morning,
            but that night I friended her on Facebook and then
We started chatting and pretty soon we were having something like
            Facebook sex, this is the ridiculous world we live in,
Or I should say I live in, I hope nobody out there is living this way but
            of course I know that is not true, there are far
More ridiculous things happening, some of which I’ve made happen
            recently, we are all fucked in our fucking
In 21st-century America. This girl gave me her number at the end
            of our Facefucking but I felt guilty about it
And didn’t text her when I got back to Brooklyn and saw Anna again,
            whom I loved, if it’s possible for you to believe
That: I didn’t know what to do with this sexual explosiveness I felt
            for this other girl whom I’d just met, was I
Going to find a way to act on it? At least she lived in another state, that
            was my saving grace, I can’t even believe I’m
Typing those words, but then one day I saw some more dancing pictures
            of her on Facebook and just went crazy
With desire, I started texting her some nasty messages about her ass
            and she started texting back and there we were
Again, then I took a shower and went about as if nothing had happened, I
            didn’t think about her again, thinking nothing
Would come of it, but later that night Anna and I were sitting on the couch
            watching TV and feeling bored and I said let’s
Make cookies and she agreed and said we needed brown sugar though,
            so I had to go out and get it, and when I did
I accidentally left my phone behind and she promptly read all my sext
            messages with this girl. I have never felt
More guilty and ashamed in my life than when I came back and found out
            she’d seen these awful messages. The irony
Was not lost on me either, how I’d been going out for brown sugar
            and this girl was Haitian, I was thinking
About this as I tried to figure out what would possess Anna to check
            my phone, was she that attuned to me?
I felt more than ever like we were destined to be together because she had
            this sixth sense about me, I couldn’t hide anything
From her, if I simply thought about another girl she seemed to know,
            and here I’d gone and done this terrible thing
And she immediately knew, but better she find it out now, before anything
            had really happened, than later, I thought
She was saving me, preserving my better person. Turns out she knew
            because she’d been reading my notebook
All along, and from that point forward things were never the same again,
            she couldn’t get that kind of inner knowledge
Out of her head, and then she read those sext messages, another kind
            of knowledge you can never get out of your head,
She walked into my subconscious, which is never a place you want to be,
            I thought this was unfair because my subconscious
Was obviously my private place and now she’d seen the worst of me,
            which wasn’t really me, just part of me, just as there
Was part of me which was good, in love with her, I’d been writing about
            tango woman in my notebook to manage my desires,
I messaged this other girl instead of physically acting on my desires
            because I was trying to manage them, spew them
Out, it was a kind of linguistic masturbation, if that doesn’t sound too
            ridiculous, I ended up writing a poem about this
Riffing off the word ridiculous that ended up being the first poem
            in my new book. What’s the point of being
Ridiculous? I heard Rick Manning say this once about no-doubles defense
            at the end of an Indians’ game, how that made
Sense to a point but not if the outfielders were stationed a few feet
            from the warning track, that was ridiculous,
Then little pop flies that should’ve been outs turned into singles, perhaps
            doubles themselves, and I heard this as a question
About my whole American life, especially when sitting there sending
            sext messages to this girl I’d just met when I had
A perfectly beautiful perfect girl I was in love with in love with me at home.
            Self-imperialism, I started to call this, how
We extend the empire of ourselves everywhere, how simply looking
            at Internet porn and masturbating is a kind
Of imperialism, searching for more and more of what’s out there, what’s
            available to you as pleasure, then having it 
So easily, at the click of a button, free, then clicking Clear History
            after it’s done so you can wipe away the guilt
And the shame, which is exactly what America has done over the centuries.
            Well now I am trying to dig up what’s been
Deleted, as you can painfully see, all of this bad is in here and more,
            there are terrible things I’ve done which I will
Spare you the details of, simply because if I kept going I would probably
            never stop, and that is not all of me, there is good
In me too, plenty of it, and what I hate about most confessional poetry
            is that it pretends the human interior is all bad,
That that’s the “real” person, when it’s no more real than every other
            part of that person, the bad doesn’t define you
Anymore than the good does, but Anna could never accept this, she
            never got over seeing the bad part of me, which
She never suspected was there, which I never suspected was there,
            the guy who wrote that letter poem to Schuyler
Never would’ve been writing sext messages to some girl he’d just met,
            he was in love with Katie and thought he wanted
Only one girl, I thought I always wanted only one girl, until I met Anna
            and discovered after I had her that I wanted
More, it’s not the bad part of me Anna saw so much as the unknown,
            the part that was evolving, or devolving, depending
On how you look at it, for better or worse that was me she saw, the unquiet
            fact of me, and she didn’t like it, of course,
Though knowledge of my inner desires wouldn’t have shaken her so much
            if she’d incorporated that into her knowledge of me
From the beginning, if I’d simply been that way already, as Sam relates
            to me in a totally different way, already
Acknowledging how she knows I love women and will probably not
            be with her forever and that she’s okay with that,
Her words, already talking to me about having threesomes, once remarking
            on how attractive our waitress at Colonie was,
Whose breasts I’d been eyeing, somehow Sam knew this, preempting
            my desire by encouraging it, that’s the weird
Way with desire, isn’t it, which you are perhaps meditating on yourself
            in Italy, I don’t know what’s going on with you
And Z but it doesn’t sound good, you telling me how you tried to get
            back in touch with the Italian man you used to love
And probably still do, you telling me about having an anniversary dinner
            or love-each-other-again dinner, you telling me
About going to Argentina with your son and babysitter but not Z.
            I would say stay with him if you can because
He is good, your family is good, every day I miss Anna, especially when I
            wake up and go to bed, even when with Sam
Or some other woman, in fact at those times it is probably worse,
            when I talk to Django or rub his belly, calling him
Djoozlebean, or Bean, for short, as she did, I think of her, she is still in me
            and probably always will be, for almost three years
Together we were effectively married, and if she had taken me back as I tried
            to get her to a couple of months ago I’d probably
Be in the process of finding an engagement ring and planning how to
            propose, i.e. cementing my life as I’d formed it
Up to that point, instead I am getting my bearings on my life in this poem
            as I break through into a new one, the one
I started to suspect was there while with Anna, something darker, scarier
            but possibly truer to the fact of me, something
Like what Tony Leung’s Chow becomes in 2046 after the lessons learned
            in In the Mood for Love: “a lot of one-night stands,”
He says toward the beginning of that film, which the first time I watched it
            though I was completely rapt and felt it taking
Hold of me and changing me, one of the greatest aesthetic experiences
            of my life, felt foreign to me, I never thought
A life like that was possible for me, though perhaps a small part of me
            longed for it secretly, I was more in touch
With Chow’s longing for the past, his saying, at the beginning, I once fell
            in love with someone. After a while, she wasn’t there.
Lines which just killed me, I knew I had the start of a major poem there,
            everything I felt for Neesha and with her, about
Her, was in those lines. We see a life that is possible and then we become
            that life, that is what my life has taught me
Up to this point, the power of imagination and how we can, in fact,
            turn what we imagine into a reality, if we have
The will and the passion and a little luck and some means, but most of all
            patience, if any of the guys I saw at my 20th
High school reunion could see the kinds of women I’m dating now
            they wouldn’t believe this was the same guy
Who’d never even kissed a girl in high school, I remember when I used
            to masturbate back then I had trouble even
Picturing myself in the fantasy, how could the guy I looked like then
            be having sex with the girls I was imagining
Having sex with? This got even worse when I developed acne my junior year,
            I’d have to imagine a version of myself
With nicer skin. And that is the version of myself I am inhabiting now.
            I’m a poet, a reality I didn’t think was possible
When I started getting serious about poetry in college, I didn’t know how
            one did that, my parents as you know raised me
To be a doctor and then at the very least a lawyer when they saw how
            obsessively serious I was about literature in college
And how I was getting better grades in my English classes than Chemistry.
            I couldn’t see the trajectory from where I was
Writing terrible poems for John Hollander to making a life out of writing
            poetry, if someone had told me what the steps
Were aside from reading every book in Bloom’s Western canon I would’ve
            followed them, but there were no steps, just
An endless uncertainty that was of course a vital part of the creative process,
            and then there was my mom, who was endlessly
Worried about my new passion and continually pressuring me to go
            to law school, which at least made sense,
Unlike poetry, which made no sense at all, I’d only been reading and writing
            it for four years, what kind of talent could I have,
What did I have to write about? These were all legitimate points she brought
            up that I couldn’t disagree with, which
Is why after college I worked as a paralegal in New York City, thinking
            maybe I would discover I liked it but at the same
Time thinking this was my way to financial independence, if I paid my own
            rent I could call my own shots, then one day
I went to Borders and picked a book by Ed Hirsch off the shelf, I was still
            dismissive about contemporary poetry back then,
Thinking it was silly, that there was no way I’d go to an MFA program
            (which is why the steps to a poet’s life seemed
So doomed), but I’d read a review of On Love, the book I picked off the shelf,
            in the New York Review of Books, which of course
I was reading religiously at the time, thinking that kind of thing mattered,
            and it said something about how Hirsch was trying
To become a major poet, which I thought was so odd, how did one
            try to do that, isn’t that just something one was?
So I picked up the book and opened up a poem about Hart Crane,
            which I liked, and then I bought the book
And liked it pretty well and started reading his other ones, starting with
            For the Sleepwalkers, a book I loved, especially
The title poem, and then it occurred to me that this guy was actually alive
            and teaching at the University of Houston, I simply
Had to get into this program and I could study with him: Robert Pinsky
            was also hugely important to me at the time
Because he was poet laureate and McClatchy had anthologized some
            of his poems in the light green Vintage anthology
Of contemporary poetry he made us all buy, i.e. because he’d edited it,
            and I liked them, there was a muscularity
And an Americanness to the language that I liked, Americanness
            was also a quality I identified in Ed’s idiom
And subject matter though I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was,
            it was something in the sound of the words,
The crisp choice of them, what the poet was looking at, his sensibility,
            and this was the Americanness I wanted myself,
It was a white America, to be sure, but this is what I wanted to feel
            as part of me at the time, hence all the jazz
I was listening to and all the old films I was watching, hundreds of films
            that first year in New York, practically the whole
Hitchcock corpus when the MoMA did their centennial celebration
            of his work: I was trying, I felt, to have a second
Childhood, the kind of childhood that would teach me how to become
            a great American poet, I didn’t have books
Around me much when I was young aside from what I had to read
            for school, my parents never read poetry
To me as a kid or encouraged me to read it, they certainly never read
            the King James Bible to me, which Hollander
Made me feel was some sort of prerequisite for writing literature,
            I never listened to jazz, never watched classic
Films, all of these things I thought I then had to do to form the kind
            of cultural and intellectual backbone I needed
To write great poems, if I didn’t absorb their influence when I was still
            young I would never absorb them, and then
I’d be hopeless as a poet, I wouldn’t have a past behind me, just a
            suburban vacuum of a past, when I used
To go to bed dreaming of a future as a doctor with a nice red sports car
            and a blonde wife, incredibly that was the extent 
Of my imagination back then. That first year in New York, discovering
            Ed Hirsch and Robert Pinsky and Hitchcock
And Truffaut and Tom Waits and Stan Getz and Dominique Sanda
            and Robert Bresson, my god what Bresson
Did to me, and Ellington and Jim Jarmusch, carrying around Flow Chart
            for weeks on the subway, reading about five pages
A day, and The Decameron for godsakes (why was I reading that?), and
            Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels and
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and a new biography of Truffaut that appeared,
            which I often sat down to read in a McDonald’s
Around the corner from the Film Forum, where I was watching every film
            in his oeuvre during their lucky, well-timed
Retrospective, I’d just read his book on Hitchcock during the MoMA
            retrospective and didn’t know anything
About Truffaut but now I had this new retrospective to guide me,
            that year was like my first year of grad school,
The city itself was a school, there were all these courses available to you
            if you could put together the syllabus, how else
Explain the lucky chance of arriving at a Truffaut retrospective after just
            finishing his book on Hitchcock? How else
Explain how one day, after I grabbed one of the last two seats in the theater    
            for Stolen Kisses, which became my favorite,
The woman who sat next to me turned out to be Rachel Wetzsteon,
            this poet who’d studied with Hollander
Then went to grad school and published two books, proving it was possible
            not to be crippled by his influence but to grow
Stronger from it, the second of which I’d read and was astounded by,
            mainly because she’d written poems in meter
That I desperately wanted to master but could not, and she did so effortlessly,
            or seemed to, no wonder why Hollander liked her,
He recommended I get in touch with her when I asked him about MFAs
            and she wrote back saying she’d love to meet
But was really busy (she was getting her PhD at Columbia at the time),
            so we had trouble nailing down a date to have 
Coffee, and then suddenly she materialized right next to me at this screening
            of Stolen Kisses, I was sure it was her from her 
Author photo, and when I leaned over to ask if she was Rachel Wetzsteon
            she said yes, and smiled, as if it were the most
Natural thing in the world for us to be running into each other like that,
            actually I think I’d mentioned in an email
That I was watching these Truffaut films and she said she was a big fan,
            but I never imagined I’d run into her there,
In six total years now of living in this city I have never run into anyone else
            I know at a movie theater, let alone in the seat
Right next to me. Sadly, that was the last time I saw her. After the film,
            talking in the lobby, we still couldn’t agree
On a date to meet, mainly because I was absurdly inflexible with my schedule
            and she actually had real things to do, I think
She probably thought I was a little crazy and worried what coffee with me
            would be like, would she be able to bear it,
And then I went to UH to study with Ed the next year, and I looked back
            at that year in New York hoping that one day
It would become the foundation for my new past, a past with an actual
            life in it, I looked forward to this time back
In New York City fifteen years removed from that time when I had grown
            into a life that could legitimately look back
At that time as the past, one that felt organically a part of me rather than
            something I was self-consciously trying to
Construct, and that’s what happened, I look back at that time now and see
            a younger self, a person, not a construction,
I see DVDs of Truffaut and Hitchcock films on my shelves, racks
            of CDs by Ellington and Stan Getz, books by
Ed and Pinsky and they’re a distant part of me, a past I’ve grown out of,
            I can’t feel how important to me they are anymore
In the way that I once could. Rachel Wetzsteon, I found out a few years ago,
            died. At first that was all I knew, which alone
Was a complete shock, then I found out one night over dinner at AWP
            with Sharon Dolin, whom I was only dining with
Because I was hanging out with Simone, that Rachel had killed herself
over a man. I knew from her many love poems
This seemed possible, but still it didn’t seem possible, she was only a few
            years older than me and so talented, and what
Did it mean that the two young poets I’d met in the world who’d studied
            with Hollander and went on to publish books
I liked, first Craig Arnold and now Rachel Wetzsteon, both died young?
            What kind of strange coincidence was this? 
I needed them out in the world ahead of me, showing me a life in poetry
            was possible, because they’d gone through
A similar path and emerged not only not buried (as I thought I might be
            by Hollander) but flourishing. Rachel sent me
A couple of nice postcards in the mail while I was in school, first at Houston
            then at Missouri, after reading a poem of mine
In a journal, this was just about the nicest thing an older poet could’ve
            done for me other than Ed standing up
To shake my hand. It proved to me I existed, which is perhaps the first thing
            you’re trying to establish for yourself as a poet.
No chance of me forgetting that now, as I have all the accoutrements
            of my existence solidly around me, in fact
I've even splurged on that grinder I said I couldn’t afford about 30 pages ago,
            buying one on Amazon yesterday after hours
Of research and my new credit card cycle began, pretty soon I’ll be making
            superior coffee and who knows what kind
Of asshole I’ll be then. This I, adrift, a sea of me, impossible wobble
            to contain in one poem, so much I’m trying
To swim through, I no longer see the shore on either side, just waves
            in endless weather, this perfect, blue weather.
You wrote in your email that you saw my corpse in a dream. Wow. I read this
            on my phone while waiting for Anna to arrive
For our second-to-last dinner together, the one before the one when
            she told me it was over. Perhaps a premonition.
Some days I wake up and there’s not much there, there, I blink my eyes
            at the wall, there, the shuttered windows, there,
The rumpled comforters, I see just them, it’s an average day like any other,
            me, small and shuttered and rumpled, no real
Reason to get up except the same old reasons, there, coffee, a little reading,
            work, other kinds of bullshit to do, but no love
In my day, no excitement and transformation, even this, I can’t say
            there is love driving this, it’s just a way for me
To occupy my time more productively than by social networking, I’m
            at least learning through this, stretching myself
Out, seeing what’s there, one would think a poem like this would be easy,
            something anybody could do, as people
Like to say about a Jackson Pollock, but one has to be compelled to do it,
            the compulsion, for whatever reason, is
The rare thing, it has to occur to one to do it, as Frost would say, how
            many things have to happen before something
Occurs to you? Apparently a lot of things, I wrote a poem like this 13 years
            ago but stopped 17 pages in and haven’t felt
The need to write another one like it until now, and all that’s happened
            in the intervening years, all that I’ve learned
And loved and lost and lived through, has come streaming into the poem,
            delighted to be welcomed, the content feels easy
But only because I’ve built up a life full of content, the content currently
            outweighs the form, there is more of it than even
This beast of a poem can contain, if I’d tried writing this poem even one
            year ago it wouldn’t have worked, I could’ve put
Words in lines but they would’ve felt like an exercise, an exercise, in fact,
            I just gave my students at the Brooklyn Poets retreat
But couldn’t do myself as I sat there while they wrote, exercises not driving
            me anymore, and one, Tommy Pico, just wrote
To thank me for the inspiration as he’s started on his own long poem
            that’s 30 pages and counting, I wonder which 
One of our poems will end up being longer, another student wrote
            to say she’d started writing a poem called
The Afternoon of the Poem, which she blamed me for jokingly, but I’m willing
            to bet their poems won’t read the same as mine
Because they haven’t been inside this process for the past 17 years, as I have,
            going back all the way to the first time I read
James Schuyler, a form is an expression of your traveling, your arrival
            out of that voyage, this is why, nitwits, if you
Tried to do your own Pollock it would be terrible, because even if you were
            able to copy every last fleck of his paint splatter
Exactly, you wouldn’t have lived the life that led to it, you wouldn’t have
            arrived at it as he had, the energy of his paintings
Hurling out of that arrival, emerging with him out of his long dark voyage
            through the unknown. And thus I have come
Out of the unknown, all these years building up in me in which I tried,
            relentlessly, to make things known, in which I
Thought I knew myself, put polish on this or that feature, knowing
            what kind of pants I liked, which changed
From khakis to cargo to baggy jeans to bootcut jeans to straight leg
            to straight leg raw denim to tapered, knowing 
My shirt size, which changed from XL to L to M as shirt sizes themselves
            changed in America as people grew more obese,
Knowing how I liked my coffee, with cream and lots of sugar, killing
            the coffee, then just with milk, then cappuccinos,
Making it myself, first with a steam machine, not knowing the difference
            between that and a pump machine, then knowing
The difference and buying a pump machine, not knowing a good machine
            meant nothing without a good grinder, wondering
Why coffee from my pump machine arguably tasted worse than from
            the steam machine, then knowing, buying a good
Grinder, knowing I should store my coffee beans in a refrigerator, as an ex
            once taught me, doing this religiously for years,
Until I read recently that I should stick them in the freezer, until I read
            today that I shouldn’t store them in a refrigerator
Or freezer at all, was I crazy, that killed the flavor, now knowing to store
            the beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry place,
Knowing my style of suit, which took years of not knowing and knowing
            and not knowing and knowing, still something I
Am adjusting, recently shortening my suit jackets about an inch, hemming
            the slacks more than that and tapering the legs
Drastically, how was I wearing slacks with such slack before, I remember
            getting my first custom suit from Joe Hemrajani
And thinking the slacks were perfect, he was a genius, somehow hiding
            my bow legs and making them elegant, who was
The guy looking in that mirror in Sunset Park and thinking those slacks
            were perfect? What cultural conception was ruling
His thinking, his taste? And who is this guy now who’s spent several hours
            over the last few weeks, first with Joe at the Hilton
Then in front of his own mirror at home, measuring and reconsidering
            the length and taper of the slacks, trying to adjust
Them into the new version of himself he’s convinced he knows and wants
            others to know? The guy cutting all the slack
Out of his silhouette yet putting all this large, loose baggy slack back
            into his poetry? You asked for four questions
And let me start with the one you said you took away from your dream:
            how can you be sure this is me? That the guy(s)
Talking here for 55 pages now is not already a corpse by the time you read
            what he’s said? Yes, it is difficult to identify this
Body. This, questo in Italian, as your son says playing, identifying
            what’s in front of him, questo questo questo, not
Knowing how his certainty about these things will change over time,
            that the finger doing the pointing, the mouth
Uttering the word, also need someone strong to identify them: questo.
            Questo, by which we mean question, by which
We mean quest. What question in your quest? What quest in your question?
            There’s a two-sided question for question #2.
Question #3: when you saw your father's body in the funeral home
            where your mother’s body had been, how
Does that sentence end? Who was the you doing the seeing, and how
            had that you changed from your mother’s body
To your father’s? Who is the you, now, alone? What does it mean to be
            alone? That’s about 100 questions, sorry.
Lastly, what have we lost, not writing to each other as we used to, all
            these years? Are you surprised by what you’ve
Read here? Shocked? Filled with revulsion? What have you done lately
            that might shock me? Can we still say we know
Each other, could we ever really say that? Why have we not been writing?
            What about our time keeps us from doing so,
Why did I write to you in the form of a poem I could publish and not
            in ordinary prose? Is it that I think letter writing,
Now, is a waste of time, me who wastes so much time, who has written
            so many letters? Where did the me of all those
Letters go. Me in all those shreds, in drawers, in boxes, closets and cabinets,
            in garbage bags and fire, ash and air.