Extract: American Pop, Vol. 2 — The South

A paperback edition of American Pop is now available on Amazon


There is a story of how this book came to be, which to some extent is the book itself. American Pop is a document of myself in a journey across the United States or a document of myself creating that document, and so that story is told already in a certain way. What is missing is the decision, the choice to make this book the book that it is, instead of a different book. And the choice was simple, I wanted to write a book of haiku. These are poems meant to capture an image or a scene, and so there was the need for subjects to capture, but the book is not about these subjects and is not about America, but is simply a collection of poems. Poetry can be forgiven the need to be about something if it remains simply a poem, but even then the best subject for a poem is a thing that can only be found interesting in that poem. I thought I might find these subjects if I kept moving. In a home everything takes on the sort of mundane importance that is anathema to good poetry. Of course anything can become a poem but useful things do not lend themselves to the purpose. Moving there is only one subject that remains and it is the self, which already holds interest only through the self, or through the poet, or through the poem. And the new things and the changing things are not yet known and therefore only interesting in the beholding, in subjectivity, in the poem. There is a progression. The journey is for the subjects, the subjects are for the poems, and this is how the book came to be.

Birmingham, AL

In parking there comes
A certain uncertainty
A lack of balance

Through apartment windows
She watches
The flower pots of other people's lives


The bristles of his
Chin, a finger picking
Listlessly at a pimple

Sixteen individual eyeballs
I picture them
Lying unattended at the bar

In the corner booth
A bisected head
I watch it chewing from the nose up

Sky blue wall
Chipping off to cloud
White underneath

A face (the shadow of a face)
Stretching and distorting
On the cafe wall

Spring is a hotness
And a sweltering
And a sudden shuddering coldness

Athens, GA

And perhaps
Maybe after all it is only
The ugliness of a dying winter

But here in the
Loudness of the bar
I am made small

It is a declarative
Laugh, as if to say only
I am laughing, hear me laugh

Charlie the dog is still waiting
For a table, but has his spot
In the shade and a bowl of water

The problem is always
Not to order two items
From the breakfast menu

A man with an accordion stands checking his phone. He is what can only be described as forlorn. As you walk away you hear a few bars of music and then there is silence again. On campus there are flowers and the songs of birds but they are the first of spring in the last of winter, are false. A boy and a girl lie wrapped around each other in the new grass, the bell rings. It is an older man who rings the bell, later you do not see who it is but the bell rings again. There are leaves again on the trees and they are dancing in the wind, swaying hand in hand to the song of Spring. The boy's fingers play at the hem of her shirt, inching it up over her stomach and the small of her back. You leave them behind. Spring is only ever a hard memory. Holding her hand on a bright day in April and the way she looked at you. An interrupting bee. Spring is a memory you wake up to after a winter of forgetfulness, but it is only a memory. You remember them now, tracing the curves of each other's bodies softly and silently. Spring is a symphony of gentle but furtive movements, but there hangs over today something of the stillness of winter. From across the street you hear again the accordion, but it is faint and overcome by the sound of traffic.

Charleston, SC

The First Clam

The first clam
Is the plunge, open mouthed
Into the icy Atlantic

The Second Clam

I have not had
A second clam
And do not believe in them

The Third Clam

A third clam
Is a possibility
An induction

The Fourth Clam

Here there is tearing
There can be a new experience
Because there has been experience

The Fifth Clam

A morning kiss
You had been sleeping
You had fallen asleep

The Sixth Clam

Now there is a smaller fork
I have already forgotten you

Asheville, NC

In the bookstore
There is the desire only
To be a bookseller

A bookstore is
The remembering of a bookstore
A rediscovery

Until just now
When you said it
I did not realize
How much I hated
The phrase
Magical Realism

Desiccated leaf
Perched like a sleeping dove
On the barren branch

We have cast off
Our bedclothes and lie undressed
In the heat of a still Spring night

I curl into myself
Skin against skin
Swaddled in the thickness of the night

There is never
The memory of
Falling asleep

Short ascending
Scale, the percussion
Of a falling ice cube

Charlottesville, VA

The doughnut
Soft with heat
Fresh from the bubbling oil

T h   e   pow  d e re d
S      u g   a   r
I s    m e l  t  i   n  g

Yes, but
There remains a question
Of eating these

I am an interruption
However brief
In an empty museum

The protest
Is a polaroid
An image of all protests

In as much as it is clean
In as much as it is kept

Charleston, WV

No one knows
What happened, the
Night they boarded up the church

There's maybe five
Quarters left in the register
But I can give you some ones

You'd think they'd
Go out west
Follow the setting sun

But this is not a town
It is the harassed of winter
Huddled around a solitary flame

We can forgive them
Their petty penury
But not, perhaps, their grace

Louisville, KY

The Spring sun
Peeks out again
After a sudden flurry

Even the red breast
Of the robin is dimmed and dull
In the gray of this insistent winter

But it is at least the kind
Of beer, that, in being difficult
To drink, draws out an evening

Is there a
Splinter in
My thumb?

We cannot start over again
Spring is begun or beginning
And all the guests have already arrived

Nashville, TN

In the coffee shop
A boy in white dances
To the music of Ella Fitzgerald

His shoulders spread
To the far corners of the ceiling
An architectural installation of a man

An old woman, with only
A withered and arthritic
Hold on her own womanhood

In dark down jackets
Twin boys of five or six
Sipping identical frappucinos

The coffee and (oh) the donut
Are evidently meant to be
A secret, but as things stand

He forgot these
Here he is now
He has remembered them

And here they are
Now at the end of things
And you are not them
And we are not them
But they are themselves
And that is enough