Homage to Mister Berryman
Danny Poems 1982-1989
Danny Among Savages 1
Danny’s Hangover 2
Danny’s Wife Says 3
What Has Danny Done? 4
Who Him? 5
Danny Dreaming 6
Danny’s Writing 7
A Bad Dream 8
Professor Danny 9
Not In This Place 10
Mr. Death Calls 11
Danny on LSD 12
Everything is Not Right 13
Always to Be Elsewhere 15
Danny Pense en Vacances 16
Danny is Still at the Beach 17
Danny in Heaven 18
Place to Place 19
Danny Observing Lovers 20
In Bill’s Lounge on Mass. Ave 21
Margaret Sleeping 22
Why Danny Cannot Write a Poem 23
So Danny Toots Cocaine 24
Verba Sentiendi 25
Danny Writes His Will 26
Spring Won’t Come 28
Danny Loves But Cannot Say 29
If Danny Were Unfaithful 30
Danny’s Depression 31
Danny is Still Depressed 32
Walking Point 33
Danny No Suicide 34
There is Always Someone 35
Danny Analysand 36
Young Danny 37
Danny Furens 38
Danny is Happy (at Mary’s Request) 39
Doggy Snatchers 40
Monster Movie 41
Bad Danny 42
Dangerous Lunatic Escapes 43
But the Truly Mad 44
It Must Be Spring 45
Everything Slightly Above Average 46
Man Trapped Three Days in Freezer 47
Lost in Transit 48
The Lost Voice 50
Homage to Mister Berryman
“Two polar bears who have become psychotic from the boredom of a lifetime in captivity are to receive psychotherapy at their zoo in Bristol, England. Micha, 20, and Nina, 30 have taken to napping long hours and to walking the same three steps forward and backward over and over again. Dr. Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist, has designed a treatment to save the bears from madness. He plans to vary their menus and to give them unbreakable toys.”
Steve Newman, “Earth Week,” 1 April 1989 The San Francisco Chronicle
Danny Among Savages
Danny thinks how got he here– oh, God!
them in suits, slithering and grinning
and evening gowns, them, like old
cicada shells, empty, miraculously
revivified to rub leg and wing
What do Danny want dug in him heels
and nether pockets? Sick of netted
legs and oiled shoulder blades.
Him dry as a guttered leaf
and everything so dark, not to tell
if he dancing or falling.
Everything too much! Not once the sun
all day! And giggling girls in street
pulpy and grating like the sound
of his errors, one by one,
reminding themselves to him in bad sleep.
It is just the smallest thing, what he is,
a little pip in vast, indifferent soil,
something not to be loved or otherwise
modified. His body is a dump-truck
thumping lost down dream-roads. His hands
are fat as sucking ticks.
Danny’s Wife Says
Danny’s wife says she thrash about bed
looking all night in her sleep for him, but him
out somewhere making fool of self,
and never there.
She says and catches her breath–
her head on her arms on her pillow
even when he is there. And he feels bad
but cannot say
how like a dirty worm he feels, and
inside him burns and burns.
What Has Danny Done?
What has Danny done? Not wrecked
car or sacked in motel, nor even
been cruel on telephone with mother.
The thing he has forgot:
where was it to be remembered?
the flowers, cards, introductions, where?
or not too late to be? or not to be staring
to scrub and scrub self till pink
and disappearing? Oh, they erase us
soon and blow it all clean!
Who is Danny to want unspoken
(he thinks: unspeakable) things?
Like that he wake up not sighing
or go to bed eyes closed?
Or simply that some fat rich send check
in mail: invisible or no: bank’s bank.
That someone IN say “Danny,
you IN! What style!”
and burning rejections mimeographed,
printed, scrawled, then Danny
pay for wanting, and other things.
Where Danny goes when sleeping, ah,
goat spread, then miles of sand
across which flying, and then
houses soft with heat in which
lovely women drift from basin to chair,
by windows, through doors,
not looking anywhere special, ah, but
staring into space where, oh no, what
he imagines sees. And disaster in dream–
roof-crack, elevator-plunge, wall-down,
despair–is wakeupable from.
Danny scratches pen only to make not seen
more so. He tries and tries to strip
what he does not want naked to see.
But no, tailor! Dan too flip,
and one costume trade for another
like he don’t know things past their unders.
And all night he, red-eyed, lonely
(with a woman in his bed!),
dip in ink and flay himself
trying to say what him, say what
he know not to want to see.
A Bad Dream
Danny has a dream and in it the rich
are being killed, trussed up in bales
of bones. And looking at his clothes
(is he raggedy enough to spare?) he wants
to run but can’t. And up close the bales
of them are flesh-flagged, bloody:
punishment too much enough for having
stylish curve on sandal heel and cut flowers.
They just want somebody to kill.
The city is burning, and even the truly poor
are running, but Danny is standing still.
Better to be master of crates, Danny thinks,
or even idly to whittle days
like elephants or birds than to face
the earnest dull countenances of them
sitting lumpish in him class. Should he
wear uniform? since parents sent them
here like service station, say
“FILL UP WITH PREMIUM, BOY!”
While driver sit checking her him nails
or shine on costly boot, attendant frantic
looking for place where tank should be.
Not in This Place
No fortune calls or notices Danny
(who showers every day!),
and shaking hands of faces
that shift their eyes away
too quickly, he wonders why here?
when other places and hands
might warmer be and dearer:
reason for his heart breaking,
reason for pain at things
too fragile, undone by the world,
reason to look, touch, speak.
Mr. Death Calls
Mr. Death calls Danny on telephone,
says: “What about beautiful thing
like your wife’s shoulders? Or
some morning suddenly snow?
Or flower cropping up blue and early
from winter debris? What about
if I touch that thing? Then what?”
Danny say nothing. Mr. Death know
him there, but not a sigh even from Danny,
who want to say, “So what, motherfucker?!”
but also want to cry: no, no, no.
Danny on LSD
Danny’s mind is altered and his eyes soft.
He is keeping an eye on things,
but things keep being something else.
Bottle labels turn to flags
and flap in his mind.
His feet cannot be looked at,
having become bright jewels.
God, this itch to love the dear things
daily touched, when no love is enough,
and things slip away and slip away
and forget us.
Everything is Not Right
Everything is not right. Danny
squints to bring things in line.
Between the would-be shapes
and them that is, his eye screams.
And even invisible, or invisible
most of all, won’t fit itself
or answer to desire. Why
does she not love him when he’s there?
Only in sleep now do they love,
wrapped in arms, solid, falling,
like a bomb to unknown target.
Drink scribbles little edges in his head
until an empty space erupts
obliterating things that must be said
or done or that have been: duck by duck.
Pain becomes then such a little thing
that the world becomes a roomy place
where lately everyone was king and had
the right to reinscribe or to erase
whole pasts and futures.
Such lotus charms a little drink can have
to tilt the world and therefore make it stop.
Always to Be Elsewhere
Always to be elsewhere, otherwise
in dream old longings reappear
disguised as prohibitions, strutting
like stagy tyrants, swagging wooden swords.
The in-between is always almost where
our hearts, escaped from others’ minds,
beat out big desires in fits and starts.
Grubby off-camera hands flip months
and days so fast they fly off-screen.
To want to move is to want everything:
everything always happens somewhere else.
Danny Pense en Vacances
Danny takes a vacation, checks
into a vacancy, and vacantly stares
out window where girl-in-robe
laughs at dog-in-surf.
Is it hers? The mind is blank
till seeing turns to wondering; then
the palimpsest of thought hides
the original questions: he’s safe.
He takes his shoes off at the ice machine,
and then he trudges through sand:
he’s got to know whose dog that is.
Danny is Still at the Beach
It was her dog, that one that was
her friend, and he intruded on a
mindless pact. The dog don’t mind
if he don’t. Her hot-sky blue robe
hangs at home on her back
and her eyes meet Danny’s eyes.
And Danny and she
see the hopeless wants of one another,
and for a moment know
how each alone another wants.
The dog barks. They walk on.
Danny in Heaven
No matter what the train carrying,
Danny overload. Too heavy for freight,
too light for ground. This trip to India
Danny take: back-and-forth, not
up-and-down. He travel anyway, and look.
In Bombay station men call “Chai! Chai!”
And Danny puts a sad stunned lip
to cup. And what is heaven
if their limbs break now? And if
their eyes are vacant in the looking?
Danny drinks his tea and Danny sighs.
Place to Place
In Africa is a place of shining lakes
where roads wet down in morning
are devil’s snuff-boxes by noon.
But feet are never curious here:
when socks are dust, what does it matter?
In afternoon the lake beside the road
shimmers with heat and glints and flashes
as if to woo ecstatic drownings.
And great birds plop down to brood,
and brooding air bears down
to help them hatch their fire.
Danny Observing Lovers
They make small sounds. To punctuate
electrical exchange, they moan
like the beginning of a cheer
or an unbelieving-grieving-wail.
Love and loss so close
that draw of face and startled hand
an ecstasy signify
or a beance.
Yet here they murmur nonsense, caress
each other’s cheeks, as if time
did not pass, nor love fail.
In Bill’s Lounge on Mass. Ave.
In Bill’s Lounge on Mass. Ave.,
temporary fortune lets dirty-boys lean
against a bar-for-a-change, and
sorrows gather, huddle
near the bumper-pool, slink up
the hallway to the loo, sit next to you
and talk. Jesus saves,
umbrellas break. The certainties
are simple here–that other glass of
whiskey, glass of beer, the next shot,
the color TV–things come clear.
Beneath the Korean picture-quilt,
pictured dreams and preservation
of everything sensible.
“Stupid shit”–she calls him from her sleep:
“up all night–you crazy”
and sensibly she closes her eyes
and sensibly rests her head
Some other hours Danny got to
watch. No one else loves her
Why Danny Cannot Write a Poem
Danny cannot write a poem because
the things that he has made
hiss and rattle in his head
like tin pie pans tied to trees.
His words are things to scare the crows away,
brittle things that glitter in the sun
(as if the crows were interested).
But look, his best heart says, the sun shines still
and sweeter birds bitch the morning long.
“Where will we put our nest today?” they sing.
Not there. Not here. Not there.
So Danny Toots Cocaine
Alone at five A.M., all sleeping,
Danny toots cocaine and thinks himself alive.
Thoughts swagger; prudence
needs a cane. Danny sneezes;
he’s on fire. Artificial space–
sneeze all you want, weep, type–
he gets it, them: adulterated,
Margaret sleeps; the sun comes up.
He had an idea–ideas cause
pain–but he forgot it.
He thought he felt a little strange
as if there were not enough
jazz, liquor, or women in the world
to make things right again.
If only things had ever been
not just one thing instead of the other
but all in their own places
feeling themselves instead of being felt.
Lights go on up in the hills, the odor
of acacia kills his head. Damn it all:
he can’t remember what it was she said.
Danny Writes His Will
Everything to his wife, and then
at her discretion, fortunes or
mementos to family and friends.
And if poor still at death, his testimony
that one moves as one is driven.
And if rich, surprise, a month or two
to writers, on condition
that they write.
And Margaret, oh, Margaret, distribute
amongst those best loved, my love!
If nothing, wishes and a book or two.
In all its vain nudgings and itches,
willful revolutions, flutters, sighs,
the flesh is at its best. But
its muscling throbs and impudent ticks
punish us in our prime.
What is flesh but a purse
stuffed stiff with the coin of desire?
See how it begs the owner’s riffling hand
but finds the robber’s agreeable too?
And what are we but wishes
rimmed with tags of flesh?
Spring Won’t Come
Spring won’t come, and Danny want.
He stamps the foot of his body,
holding breath of soul till blue,
but spring won’t come.
Between broken bottle-glass and candy
wrappers, crocuses nod up, like fingers
blossoming on battlefield.
Everybody crazy; even bums flee.
Everything to blossom, Danny wants.
Sun to set later, later, her to love
him, wind softly to blow.
Danny Loves But Cannot Say
Danny loves but cannot say
to her how small inside he would,
were she not there nor loving him, be.
He cannot, for example, to her say
how the hell of mind would burn
but for her breathing, being,
or how, when mind on her loved face alights,
he forgets the spirit’s solitaire.
And how if she were gone, the days
defeated would lie, that with all to lose,
outwit the world, for once, when she is there.
If Danny Were Unfaithful
If Danny were unfaithful, he would think
about his wife. That other presence would
her absence make pain. He would think
how dear she is and soft in sleep,
how she deafens the house
with her ablutive aubades.
And other arms would merely other arms be,
while her arms would stretch a canvas,
fold a shirt, or smooth
a wrinkle from the sheet and reach
for Danny in his mind.
Again here, like mooching acquaintance, it
settles in, shares by force his covers, wanders,
wasting hours between coffeepot
and radio, bath and correspondence.
No keys it needs, nor clothes to buy:
his suits fit just fine, and no lock
enough to lock out worst self. At night
it wraps him up in winding sheet,
sets a gnawing worm behind his eye,
undoes his voice, and makes his chest hurt
when he weeps and weeps in her arms.
Danny is Still Depressed
It knows him better than anything,
where him hurts and where him hides.
As long as heat of life he has, it traces
him, finds him, no matter how errant.
Finding him in Munich once, it stuck
till Rome; in Istanbul he shook it,
but in Budapest, it followed
him home. No matter how often
he changes address, or name, or phone
it hangs in his closet, dogs him in street,
like a thing with a thing of its own.
Whup-whup-whup: they took us all away
in pieces that an hour before were men.
From the air it looked so small–someone said,
“It really puts things in perspective, huh?”
From nowhere to nowhere somebody
had to go first. Passing through the net
in which we were already snared just meant
that we were still alive and still could die.
We still could die up here or down there
where the rigged-up dead beg us in vain
to close their eyes. Whose perspective?
Danny No Suicide
He thinks of how unkind it would,
how they there would be thinking
something it was, and he wouldn’t be
there to say it was nothing:
only nothing is enough to make being
unthinkable. Danny in-his-own-pan
frying, fat as duck but cold and slow
in-his-own-juices. Someone would blame
himself, as he blames himself,
and the thing that hates us all would simply
swallow once and blunder on.
There is Always Someone
There is always someone wanting you
to remember forgotten things,
to make a body of dust and dust.
And the first word makes you live
in your own invention, harlot ghost:
absent, thoughtless thinking. How was, who had,
have you, they ask, or why? And all words ever
collapse: not one step further! Nothing
means anything, hiss recalcitrant verbs
and impish nouns: give them Helen’s mincing
wifely steps before the world caught fire.
He knows the other’s secret tongue: they share
the coded book that once translated proves
that in this life what matters if you will
is not what you want but what wants you.
That patient other wants a tale that fits
the narrative restrictions of the hour.
While dreams of lust renounce his dreams of bliss,
redundant passions occupy his tongue
And words annihilate the things he loves,
till looking at himself so hard like this
he lies until he turns to stone.
“I don’t play much anymore,” he says;
“I mostly want to go inside.” And inside
he goes, though no bee-keeping bastard
for father, nor tight-lipped martyr for mom.
Inside he goes, and there, mermaids sing,
animated breezes tug his hair. His
parents cannot feel the terror
of the bathtub shark and eel.
Side by side, pleasure and pain–
the merthiolate tiger, the lion with cane–
more real than breast or spanking, they remain.
Note: The opening quotations are from an article on children of divorce in the New York Times Magazine, May 1983. The child’s name, coincidentally, was Danny.
No, no, no! These creatures suck
the life from this opening case that’s all
the world. Hidden in air they tube our
veins, use our secrets to ill purposes.
When we are sucked dry, the shells of us
are tossed in a clacking heap:
air in our maws, air in our eyes,
no coral or pearls to make us kings in death.
And death-in-life makes strange
the trinkets it will call its own,
and, weak, we strange become, past love.
Danny is Happy (at Mary’s Request)
Danny is happy (it won’t last long):
no reason, as for sadness–no reason.
But suddenly it seeming to him not only
possible but, without will taking place:
love of others, others’ love, more
wonder in world not perfectly flat, more
delight in errant scout and guide and self,
because our nature so, and so we are.
And suddenly seeming to him the word
speakable, the eye lookable, the world
without malice, without deceit.
How do doggy-snatchers do it?
By foot or car, flute or doggy biscuit,
cajole or command? And then
Rover or Prince, what does he think?
His master now imagines him ensnared,
sulking or planning heroic getaways,
when, in fact, he may be wagging fetch
or blissfully dreaming of chasing a cat.
Nothing smells familiar, it’s true,
in this new place that has no name.
Those whimsical humans–they’re all the same.
Ordinary life going on and then
buzz woof thud unseen in desert,
pantry, pond. More sinister than
mosquito biting sleeping man
is that thing now hulking about or
inhabiting flesh and will already.
See how they mow their yards
at first and kiss their kisses
while all the while that
trembling gob waits to change
lives past recognition or repair.
Danny is monstrous. Look-at his hands.
Them tooth-brushing or with handkerchief
up close is something else.
All the gnawing inside he turns
inside out and rages on self at other
and then tells other not self.
He pleads possession and nothing
working, and at wormiest even
he grows wings in her love:
she forgives again, and again
his hands are his own.
Dangerous Lunatic Escapes
While she sleeps, water in pot
poured in, to shower, to shave.
Water to erase the blot
of sleep, the dreams of craven
beast, all flesh dangling gums
and flailing bones. Stevie Smith’s
hailing for help, as for a lift,
and them all the time smiling (nod),
him mimicking them
till washed up, he goes to work.
But the Truly Mad
He has seen them weeping
in the doctor’s office.
Relatives have too much had till stern,
and them, they cling to wainscoting
pleading unknown case in unknown
tongue. The laboratory
has no recompense for this:
that in life some thing, even small,
all things unbearable can make,
and them to whom it happens are
committed to death without a wake.
It Must Be Spring
Downtown somewhere someone strikes up
a conversation with a homeless man
who blithely pulls a bloody human head
from a rotting burlap bag. That gets them.
Befuddled police report there are
no headless corpses in the city morgue.
Later on they catch the culprit, bag-in-hand:
the head’s a rubber joke shop mock-up,
ho-ho-ho. Three days later
a man just doing a good deed
picks up a box and it explodes.
Everything Slightly Above Average
When Danny as a kid in testing
of the raw material mind,
everything slightly above average,
nothing to make the world pause or be kind.
Oh, to be dumb, he thinks, and happy,
or just dumb and not to know
that not to be hot is to be tepid–-
all his teachers told him so.
And love was made for ordinary men
to make the measure of the world
irrelevant, for once to have wings.
Man Trapped Three Days in Freezer
Far better than the dingy deep to which
the rotting flesh resigns are upright traps
or boards where feet pace out
the private woes the world designs.
At least in clothes or closets we may dream
or simply breathe or merely be the subjects
of desire. But where we go the beds are all
too neat. To say we sleep there is a lie.
It’s no small feat to live inside a tomb
three days or, locked a lifetime in this case,
to love, to dance and sing, and still to die.
Lost in Transit
Danny pull him old self out to show,
and the dead he don’t know and the dead he
do come smiling recognition who he is:
is just nothing but what they think they know.
Shirt like lost dog on suburban corner
or sneaker highway-side, the occasional
eyeglasses, apron, longjohns, brassiere
next to those places we all pass by:
so much for the people we know, we them,
when even they lie next us night by night.
The old self-us they dream, while we in flight.
Margaret goes home to her family.
Danny stays home, no home to go to but her.
Just like her not to call when she gets there.
She’s probably telling now her daddy
how Danny irresponsible, moody,
can’t see future for his face, and Dad nods,
telling her so. She’s got the thing Danny
never had: neverending elsewhere love.
He wants to call airline–where’s my wife!–but
the thing that rhymes is so shot, he hangs up.
She can always go home. Danny’s just here.
The Lost Voice
Danny is dying, he doesn’t know how.
Something got caught in his throat, perhaps, or
something he ate settled down in his craw
to camp and procreate, while he tried to
please everybody. Look! the flaming man,
the swallowed sword, crustacean-boy, the
missing link, the living half of twins!
The half-dead of himself forgets himself
trying to remember what he forgot.
It was just that he was human once and
had a tongue like all the rest. How he sang!