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spacer.gif   Larry O. Dean
Posted by : larryodean on Friday, December 17, 2004 - 04:22 PM
Poetry:  Click On The Author's Name

Where did you get that?
I hope I’m not being too personal.
It looks great on you.
I could never wear one of those,
my butt’s too big,
pardon my French.

Oh, are you French?
Parlez vous Français?
Habla Español?
You look kinda European,
especially with that on.

When you take it off,
do you have to hang it up?
Does it wrinkle easily?
I hate to iron; come to think
of it, I don’t even own one.
An iron, I mean,
because obviously, I don’t
have one of those, although
I’ve always wanted one.

How much did it cost?
In American dollars.
I’ve been saving up
and would like to give myself
a gift, you know, something
special. Just like that.


two hundred pounds
of gazelle meat

with the purchase of
a gold-plated feeding bowl
for your favorite lion’s den.

* * *

Buy one armadillo,
get the second free!
(Offer available only
Sunday through Thursday.)

* * *

Sweaters for parakeets,
budgie vests,
crew neck t-shirts
in a variety of sizes and colors
for toucans, owls
and emus.

* * *

Spiders of all species
enjoy complimentary cocktails
with two full-price entrees.

* * *

Freshwater fish bikinis
only at our downtown store.


Dwarfing skyscraper and redwood alike,
its apparition is such that in any permutation
of weather, it is almost transparent;
moth-like, its colors change when danger
is aroused.
(Dangerous when customers
stop shopping, bells above all doors leading in
cease ringing, cash registers rust shut;

dust gathers on sensitive explosives piled
pyramidically in temperature-controlled vaults.)

Those architects who drafted it
were lauded with praise in a lavish, private ceremony,
necks draped with medals of honor by visiting dignitaries,
then beheaded at dawn following the invitation-
only opening on guillotines decorated

with sparklers. Witnesses describing it as “breathtaking,”
“terrifying,” “something to write home about”

were promptly shooed away by crew-cut clerks
in orange aprons and CIA-regulation sunglasses,
warned that “loose lips sink ships” and asked for names
and Social Security numbers, although not their own.

Frightened, they still had to admit
it was quite a show, one they’d recommend
to friends and family without hesitation.


The Indian author said,
“People in my country
don’t come home at six
and do yoga.” Shiva
would be ashamed

at all this hubbub,
America’s restless need
for pretend enlightenment.

* * *

and ohming earnestly,

today’s trend
is tomorrow’s apology.

* * *

But what a kick
watching a room full
of cross-legged practitioners,
heads swerving in unison
to the insistent honk

of a car alarm, plucked
from myopic meditation
and worried
if that’s their SUV?


He was 28, an extraordinarily advanced
age for a panda.

Unresponsive to his keepers,
nearly blind, plagued
with arthritis
and barely able to rouse himself to eat,

zookeepers gave Hsing-Hsing
a lethal injection
after deciding
that irreversible kidney disease
had made his life
too painful to endure.

His final meal
consisted of a large
blueberry muffin,
boiled yams, a bit of rice
broth, and some bamboo.

Gift from Mao to Nixon
in April 1972,
with his longtime female denmate Ling-Ling,
who died in 1992 of sudden heart failure.
The pandas mated frequently,
on their own
and with the aid of science,
but left no survivors.


What secrets will you find
inside the dead one's body?
A stilled heart,
musculature flabby, giving
blood with each incision?
Palsied liver; pancreas
thinned like walls
in a fleabag motel?

Will the riddle of life
that eludes us in life
be abruptly clear
in bones and gristle
detached from flesh;
or the flesh itself, like
a mask worn by a partygoer
unveiling the hidden face
at midnight's stroke?

As you,
coroner, jimmy apart
ribs and reach within
with your rubber fingers,
do you suppose, like a box
of Cracker Jack,
the interior holds the prize?


Funny how the workers
constructing this new
restaurant probably
couldn't afford to eat
here once it opens.


Notice the way
this peach pulls
away from its pit,
revealing purple-
red ridges that cling

with sweet fingers
to the idea
of a heart, for
what is a peach pit
after all but

heart, purely?
The core of all
that is and matters
in this fruit
and vegetable world.

See too
its fuzzy skin,
soft to the touch,
that hides the pit

at its center:
not an absence
but a completeness,

hard as stone
in its resolution,
that needs softness
for living, for itself

and for others
like it or learning
to be the same,
only different.


Unabashedly antisocial, she is
so much the wild thing
I would have loved from afar
in high school – or encountered

on beer-sticky dance floors
in ill-lit Detroit hole-in-the-wall
nightclubs – jumping and slamming
with each other in the punk

fashion that is almost sex,
almost violence, almost something.

Youth is a weapon and she
knows it: aiming herself

at the world, she fires!, listening
to hear the recoil of her shot
through a din of impatient
customer voices barking from the other

side of the vinegar-clean glass,
sweaty finger-smudges left
behind to remind the help
of their minimum-wage hunger, to put them

in their place. What does she care?
At seventeen, cigarettes and speed

had been a way of life for years.
Today, she's clean, jaded, knowledgeable

in the how-to's of survival.
She shows me her freshly pierced
navel – a silver circle against pink
bared midriff – saying

how much it hurts; then points
"here, here and here" – the spots
on her nose where rings
used to be. I wouldn't have noticed,

in that field of freckles,
especially as she laughs and takes

drags off a half-smoked butt,
her face answering to the taste
of nicotine and bad jokes.
"I'm going to be an actor," she exclaims,
combing anxious fingers through
short, blonde hair – "I won't mess up

my face again." She extinguishes
her cigarette and relights a smile,
believing somehow it will all work out,
that there is some fragile order

in a random universe. Rising then
from the table, with a wave she returns

to work – plastic-wrapping crackers
in convenient stacks of four apiece.


8 a.m. and already she is bored,
systematically perusing detective
magazines and straightening fruit
troublesomely tumbled from its opening
hour alignment ─
in regimented rows, grapes and cherries
proudly piled like pirates' booty,
and bananas laid out
yellow-green boomerangs
and returned,
waiting for a hand.

* * *
One year in a new country
and already Americanized
by the luxury of ennui,
she slumps
half in, half out the rays of early morning
sunshine, briskly thumbing past pages
of Gdansk
police procedurals, pink
plastic comb in the seat pocket
of black market-bought jeans.


Privilege angers me.
Not because I want
everyone to be equal,
or believe it is possible,

but because the privileged
don't know what it's like
to wonder
how the other half lives.

Note: Larry O. Dean was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. As a young man he worked with Academy Award-winning film maker, Michael Moore, was widely published in the alternative press and also worked as a cartoonist. He attended the University of Michigan at Flint and Ann Arbor, during which time he won three Hopwood Awards. In 2004, he was recipient of the Hands on Stanzas Gwendolyn Brooks Award.

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