Andrew Marvell Palimpsest (“The Grower’s Song”)

Used to be I had the world by the tail–
The lush buds fresh and sticky,
Green and kind behind the house
All of it, with me, a giant selfie
Till this babe Julie came and she
What I do to the pot, does to my head and me.

Like, for real–but somehow even while
That happened the buds grew bigger
And toking ’em, you got an even better
Buzz than before, no doubt–
Since Julie hit the scene and she
What I do to the pot, does to my head and me.

Ungrateful custies — how could you
Quit buying your dank from my stash?
And hang out smoking strange bongs
While I sit here, short on cash?
Cuz Julie came around and she
What I do to the pot, does to my head and me.

And tho we once were buds (get it?)
I’ll have my revenge — I’ll pack
Us all in a great big bowl
And light it up, smoke the whole
Damn thing — Julie’s in the house and she
What I do to the pot, does to my head and me.

And so, my plants, who’ve been
More like me than myself, I’ll go
Up in a giant puff of smoke,
Forgotten like a stale old joke,
Since Julie’s here, and she
What I do the pot, does to my head and me.

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H.D. Palimpsest (These Walls Don’t Fall)

On April 6, 2016, an Iraqi college student flying from L.A. to Oakland was removed from a Southwest Airlines flight after another passenger heard him speaking in Arabic on his cell phone.

An ‘inshallah’ here and there,
some threats sent (and retweeted)
through your (and my) feed:

terror of Muslims — no offense–
causing the wheels to halt, the passengers
to disembark from the plane

in hijabs, thawbs, prayerbeads
clicking, the prophecy scrawled
on a paper napkin:

there, as here, bombs resound
in the market, temple, mosque; then
as now, an ambiguous sin:

sudden death from below or
falling from the sky, here,
there, puffs of sand

mark an absence, an open room
where a wall was, or
a stump for a hand:

so in the devastation
a drone strikes, collateral damage haunts us
in the gloom:

unaware, the satellites zoom
in on the craft, ‘Reaper’
or ‘Predator’ we know not:

we type furiously on our devices;
fighting, arguing
in comment streams — we’ve got

too much to say, we post to our walls
where ‘likes’ proliferate,
hieroglyphs of modern affect;

Iraq has nothing to teach us,
we see ourselves in a funhouse mirror,
slow faces melting in hate,

letting the pressure build until
bile bursts from our fingers
(what people will say online!):

inside, mediated pathos,
outside, the whirl of a virtual floor
throws off our footing

and we scroll down, drunk,
searching for a door
that is not there:

the body was made for
no such long sitting without moving,
yet the eyeballs cling to the screen:

the ass? it has grown numb,
the heart sinks down, dead weight,
joints, muscles atrophied, skin gone sallow,

yet the dream holds:
we share the meme: we wonder
who made it? what for?

*

This poem originally appeared in Dispatches From the Poetry Wars.

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Shakespeare Palimpsest

Full fathom five thy old bard lies
Let’s raise a pint and ‘cheer’;
He liked to hang out with the guys
And drink his fill of beer.
He left us with a few good jokes,
Some truths about the common folks,
We celebrate him with a post:
Retweet!
Look! Now I see him–farewell, ghost.

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Pound Palimpsest

And then went down to the ship. Then
became Men’s Rights Activists,
set queer keel to breakers,
then played the $1.5 billion powerball
27 times and lost, sat down
in a daze of tickets feeling numb-
ers falling around us, then got confused
about apostrophes, divots in green
earth filling with blood, then established
domains like “Circe.com” and “Odysseus.org”
fighting for words among cybersquatters, then
voted for Donald Trump, quoting erroneously
from the Constitution, “a man of no fortune…”
“And I stepped back” “ill-starred”
“Lie quiet Divus,” “I mean”…

So that:

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John Donne Palimpsest

As virtuous men pass mildly away
And click ‘delete’ on their life’s file,
Messaging their FB friends to say
I’m checking out, but with a smile:

Let’s not freak out and make a scene
Cuz if we do, we’ll lose all cred;
Stop blubbering like a silly teen
Who’s just been told her puppy’s dead.

Like when someone pulls a fire alarm—
A dickish move, though no one died;
But a real fire does way more harm
Than making people wait outside.

We’re better than those fools who just
Want to get laid and can’t deal
With being apart, because lust
Is the only thing they really feel.

I feel you, baby; we’re secure
Enough in our love that absence
Makes the heart grow fonder, more sure
Of each other despite the distance.

So, by that logic, even though
I have to ghost, it’s like I’m here;
In fact, the farther away I go
It’s like, the closer I draw near.

Your kiss is like a tweet gone viral
That gets retweeted endlessly
Trending #love; it spirals
Around the world, and back to me.

And even though – stay with me, now—
That tweet (your kiss) is everywhere,
I’ll give it the emoji ‘Wow!’
And that, my dear, I’ll never share.

You are to me a perfect piece
Of code that nobody can hack;
Your algorithms give release
To me, but keep me looping back.

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Milton Palimpsest

When I consider how my light is spent
Playing stupid games like Mafia Wars
Shooting perps and going for high scores
In a dark and damp room in the basement
While the landlady yells at me for rent
And upstairs neighbors stomp around the floors
Making noise while doing Sunday chores;
I’m all: SIGH — Whatever — at that moment
My guy gets killed and the deep, empty black
Seems to whisper: “Chill out. It’s no big deal.
Everyone’s got to figure out their own
Path, and life goes on, insane and out of whack;
So even if this war you fight’s not real:
It’s also cool to sit and play alone.”

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Emily Dickinson Palimpsest

Because I could not stop for Death
I texted my friend Marcie
To grab him and we hooked up later
At Club Immortality.

We slow-danced — grooving
To a soft tune
That made us sway until
It jammed hard, Suddenly–

We whirled past the Pit
Where kids like to Grind
And Strobes flashed — so hot
We couldn’t tell

What was What — shivering
With sweat my dress
about to slide off — Dizzy
Death said — Let’s Chill

We paused at the Bar
Kind of a bummer — crowded
No room to sit or even
Put down your Drink–

Since then it’s been ages — but–
Just today Death texted me
And said Let’s try this
New dive called “Eternity”

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