Three Poems

On the Rise and Fall of the Bolivar Fuerte

If only I could dissociate value from the work
My index finger performs when I write which isn’t even
Labor but something I want to call love coz it’s useless
By which I mean it’s good the way my body won’t forget
The forces that feed it when feeding isn’t even forced
And this is just a variant of Rimbaud’s chill reminder
When he cries je n’aurai jamais ma main as if he had
Already lost his hand

to the grinder.

My Charms

When the sun shines on my poems I still feel a little
Something burning in that sweet spot btwn the tibia
& fibula I mean the one whose emptiness can’t be
Named it’s unspeakable this place it resembles a charm
– ed hole so snug around the throat like a floating blank
In logistics that lets me buy my creams on demand
But when I open my eyes these spells look like receipts
For beer or gas as their lines detach they fall like ticker
– tape in the marketplace of public secrets you know
There’s always a sweet spot btwn the words for certain
Bones where some invisible force does all the hard labor
Securing the tissue to maintain the connect as sphincters
Release they rush good feels on a world of things & all
Its circuits linking me to myself thru a hundred profiles
Of friends it’s as if I could be everywhere at once
Emanating like a conical sphere pointing to uncharted
Peripheries where real work gets done the way power
Administers its outer rings funneling cash thru the back
– wash of some Laotian village near the Plain of Jars any
– where accounts can be liquidated without touching
The bodies but there’s smthng sentimental equating
Poems w/ candied trifles gathered from rubbish piled
In a lot near Boise or screws made in Peoria circa 1964
And found on a prairie in SE Asia where the most distant
Piece of military hardware contains a piece of me
As its civilizing mission inflates

the meaning of my songs.

The Fall of Raqqa

This morning reeks of fire in the north where forest
& vineyard smolder w/ the signs of something dark
A rhinestoned nite so many flakes of leaf & pine settling
Like the body’s ashen source this dusting awakens
Rushes in yr hair a fallout of debris moving us past
The limits of poetry while stuck here inside my poem
Where I can flirt w/ you without risking my frailty
Floating freely like a limb void of my body’s weight I fall
For the ruse of yr circadian rhythm as tho these words
Were blood and this line of verse a vein leading
From yr mouth thru which we sing the difference
Btwn pain & suffering before lapsing into old stock
Metaphors of the inner life & padded portfolios stuffed
With other signs as if our catastrophe had a dulcimer
For a heart I say in my dream that patriarchy is a structure
Thru which violence expresses itself as value but this
Has no context alone stranded on an atoll speaking
To no one altho I might as well be at a fascist BBQ
Which can be like an atoll in that both share something
W/ my poem considered as an isolated incident in a sea
Of wreckage & waste a shroud of smoke hovers above
What doesn’t trigger memories of gore absent the flesh
Bobbing along in this phonemic arabesque straddling
The chasm between a wart-like mole on the periphery
Of yr bosom and the destruction of an improbable
Country whose casualties exceed the reach of my song.

Rob Halpern

Rob Halpern lives between San Francisco and Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he teaches at Eastern Michigan University and Huron Valley Women’s Prison. His most recent book of poetry, prose, essays, letters, and manifestos is Weak Link (Atelos, 2019). Other books include Common Place (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015) and Music for Porn (Nightboat Books, 2012).