Three Poems by Alex Lemon

This First Proof contains the poems “Skin On Skin Off Skin On Skin Off” and selections from Halleluhjah Blackout.

BOMB 101 Fall 2007
101 Fall 2007

Home of the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Company


Skin Off Skin On Skin Off Skin On

Because the rain did not stop humming
Our last words no one went out to disarticulate
The spine whipping from the clothesline.

It was a snake-eyed-night and we were doomed
To swallow our hammered hands.
Just as that mole sits—a burned pearl

In the pinch of your eye or zigs are carved
In the crying girl’s wrist—we must now chug
As much moonshine as we can, slapping

Our cheeks to passout or blush. How it gives us
The sustenance and amnesia of bees.

Flash lighting. Bleached teeth. Savage animals
Mouthing oh-oh in sleep, we crumble on the floor,

Dreaming our blackjack as parades
Of man-hole covers wobble
Down the alleys of our chests.

For weeks we’ll sit in a bathtub
In the front yard, make-up clowny,
Banging our pots and pans

Like thoroughbreds. Damn it—
Our undertaking should be so much greater
Than a hummingbird bagged and cracked

With a boot. We’ve got everything you want
In the matchbook of our heads.

Oh, gutterglow—mutter it, mutter it again.
Make us savor the last word you speak.

 

from Hallelujah Blackout

At noon when they boxcar the powerlines—alphabets shimmering
Their throats as they blacken the sky with swoops

In this minor-godded place

Their braided choir devoted to afflictions

No matter how I scream for the leach
Blooded shadows to fly away                              They return

Glassy-eyed & delicate black
In this darker fallen place

 

from Hallelujah Blackout

After all this life staring
There is no will

& I cannot help but wish
& wish as morning lugs

Crenellated clouds across this city
Crumbling lovely

With pavement & shine         A plover

Bursts the salmonberries
While I wander

Waiting opened-handed for bodies
To fall
Seamless from heaven to failed heaven

                      * * *

In heavy aches & today’s slathering rain

A throat scarlets its ill possessions

How strange to be in this injustice of twilights
Smacking this city’s neon scissored storefronts

Gallowlight rocks mouths                        Sallows the eyes

                      * * *

& asunder               Go evening shadows              Under the ripened clouds
Quiet now               Quiet                         Puppets of dust                       Whirl
Against the glass     As I sip black         Vibrant & under                      Smiling

                      * * *

A swallowing of strangeness beneath the streetlight
I cannot help but hold a dead whippoorwill to my mouth

In the rain to wash the body’s thorned geography
Lacquer the softrotted seams with taws of lightning

For the stranger tendering a hand over

Her neck                   Clutching                    Her breath at the window

The immaculate      The blessed & the broken

I tear open my shirt & point as the buttons spin
I look up & no one’s there

                      * * *

That after crescent
Of clearing near-night sky
That indigo burgeoning

                  & how I kiss
Forearms beaten

                      * * *

Because the wrapper still tastes
Sugary                      Rough with crumbs
& more     It is my hungry way

& I pull vein-necked plucking pearls
From the flycatcher’s skull   Silhouettes

Of the others lining the gutters before they lift
To shit                     In the alley’s rushing light

                      * * *

So pleasing it is to wander the city’s backstreets

Wicked commandments      In the doorways         Nails

Breathe     &bask                    Maybe     Maybe        Sweet

Alex Lemon’s first collection of poems is Mosquito (Tin House Books). Hallelujah Blackout will be published in Spring 2008 by Milkweed Editions. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such magazines as Kenyon Review, Tin House, Denver Quarterly, AGNI, Gulf Coast, and Pleiades. He is a frequent contributor to The Bloomsbury Review, and co-editor of LUNA. Among his awards are a 2005 Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2006 Minnesota Arts Board Grant. A memoir is forthcoming from Scribner

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Originally published in

BOMB 101, Fall 2007

Featuring interviews with Marine Hugonnier and Manon De Boer, Peter Doig and Chris Ofili, Richard Pare, David Malouf, Junot Diaz, Isaac Julien, R. Stevie Moore, Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar, and Winter Miller.

Read the issue
101 Fall 2007