Four Poems from Conditions

The Idyllic Childhood

I grew up in this vulgar & expensive hotel. Rooms that look like wedding cakes. Each interior themed around a different history. This is the third reich room–a wallpapered legion of totenkopf’s. This is the English bourgeois room–my father’s side hunted foxes in here. This is the prehistory room–it’s full of awe & darkness. This is the Italian room–it contains a quarter scale statue of David with his genitals omitted. This is the shtetl room–my mother’s side fled from it. Thanksgiving dinner is served every night in the ballroom. It glistens in buffet style hotplates under pink lights. The swimming pool is infinite & temperate. The water is Mediterranean–desalinated & flown in from Tel Aviv. The coffee is luke-warm but fair-trade. The walls are built from sweating ice. The lobby is decadent & realist. There is a hierarchy to the furnishings & the concierge is highly decorated. The foundation is genocide. Of course the place was haunted–everything is.

The Human Fear

It has stopped being evening at dawn. The rain licked the ash off the leaves. Nature is so other & glamorous––a squalor of meaning that’s sensual. The earth hasn’t finished yet–my mouth is simply filling up with my own fingernails. The body is topographic. The continents are not human. The tombstones are flocked green. I have been trying to sleep with the rigor of a machine & failing. My mind is a factory–I build bad technology in there. I’m standing under a sky of overworked silver. It’s early winter. I try to apologize for my birthday–I want to acknowledge its excess. The tangle of legs that pounded the flightless pigeons into a bland pulp. The bombs scattered like confetti to celebrate our cool logic. The collection of singularities swarming to make themselves demanded. The soil accepts the weight of my biology but it does not forgive me–it can’t.

The Certain Subject

We’re all made fugitive. We’re all made orphan. Things slip out of history & no one labors to collect them. Some of these things are people–law doesn’t know what to do with its architects. It squeezes us & every book is forced to scream its title. When we try to describe what is happening the words resist–our mouths are turned inside out like pockets. We search for correspondence. We’re looking for pen pals in cemeteries–people to whom we can explain the heat waves & thunderstorms. People to whom we can confide in regarding our long years of quiet. Why we’ve choked–the vowels taste like copper. Why we can’t–the grammar offers us nothing. Why we don’t–the newspaper never describes our actions. We’re certain we’re alive though. The electrical nature of our content. The exclamation point that hovers over our heads. The dirt that fills up our hands.

The Worldly Market

Gold gilt makes a person ill if it gets in the eyes or mouth. We attended the market–it did not attend us. Its logics worked to take us apart. We migrated based on necessity. We reproduced with a passion. We woke too early. We commuted in an unconscious state. Our hair was a mass of dripping moss. Our problems were singular but our crisis was collective. We worked hard to paint a constellation of desire onto a very high ceiling. We examined the smudge of our shadows against its confectionary colors. We took tests by peeing into cups & we looked for things to steal. We recognized ourselves in things & we passed our diseases between us. A genius arrived in the last hour of our workday–he claimed everything we’d produced. We went home each day with our mortality stuck to our fingertips. There were so many laws but the world did not make any more sense because of them. When we yawned we bared our teeth. We were one body suffering from the season.

Simon Crafts

Simon Crafts is a poet and bookseller at Alley Cat Books in San Francisco. His work has appeared in New American Writing, Elderly, and Jewish Currents. He shares a birthday with Walter Benjamin.