Benjamin Friedlander

Period Piece
for Dan Davidson



Construction turns back on itself.
Dogs have to be whipped.

Barrett Watten

A sentence is an imagined master piece.
A sentence is an imagined frontispiece.

Gertrude Stein

 

I

In God We Trust

inscribed on the obverse of the world:

Coprophiliac eats shit.

 

II

Opaque thinking

written in windows:

Everything we say turns into mush.

 

III

The well of loneliness

swallows a bad penny: Pollyanna

flunks her polygraph.

 

IV

Traffic cop blows whistle blower:

Unelectable elite

erased from contention.

 

V

Poets are the acknowledged

ambassadors of nothing:

Run, Spot, Run.

 

VI

A violent tautology

settles nothing: Mind poured out

through a funnel of dust.

 

VII

God is dead:

Dangling overhead,

bodies bunched like grapes.

 

VIII

Dogs chew paper

in suburban idyll:

The ideal reader bends to tie her shoe.

 

IX

Never to fuck my own ass,

or kiss the back of my head: Fingernail

drags arbitrary sign down chalk board.

 

X

Hope sinks eternal:

Black man with shovel

trudges silently through snow.

 

XI

Determined as a blunt pencil

leaving creases in a pad:

Walk-on walks off, stage left.

 

XII

Illegitimi non carborundum

engraved on a three dollar bill:

Poetry as social engineering.

 

XIII

Metaphors

we live on: A happy Midas

addled by the brightness of her gift.

 

XIV

My occupation—snail;

my progress—slow:

God helps those who help themselves.

 

XV

The slur is our magnetic north:

In a could-have-been world

all blows are bare-knuckled.

 

XVI

Fade, accomplice:

Puppet pulls string,

yanking down a president.

 

XVII

They dream

only of Canada: Jolly Green Giant

wends his way through Viet Nam.

 

XVIII

A tinker toy world

built in a frenzy by a child god:

Your tip is in the mail.

 

XIX

Ludite

spurns the advance of sex machine:

I, Sade, saw, I testify.

 

XX

Quietism rises up

and yawns the deeper answer:

Things to do on Christopher Street.

 

XXI

When the cat’s away,

the mice play hardball:

Lock and load.

 

XXII

Solution clears

a nasal passage:

Pinch a loaf.

 

XXIII

The dark allotted crystals tip

the balance of the scale:

Paradise without method equals TB.

 

XXIV

He shakes a light

torn from a book of matches:

Prof. Peabody lectures Sherman on war.

 

XXV

Spoonfed Rorschach,

make me sick: Beach Boy sings

‘‘Be True to Your School.’’

 

XXVI

In a company town

the charges stick: These foolish things

remind me of you.

 

XXVII

Drinker, teacher,

sodomist, mole: Medicinal hatred,

legal in all fifty states.

 

XXVIII

In a class war,

poetry is the shrapnel:

‘‘Fire in the hole!’’

 

XXIX

Fair weather friends

drown in the echo:

P-p-pardon my French.

 

XXX

Vanishing cab

hacks its way through traffic:

Eco-femme, meet Übermensch.

 

XXXI

Vermin pushing forty

gnaw the innards of the system:

Ratman forever.

 

XXXII

Garbage men

produce alienated labor:

Mom, if you’re there, pick up the phone.

 

XXXIII

Mind like an old eraser

casually smearing the lead:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

 

XXXIV

Marginality

out-performs the market:

One toke over the line.

 

XXXV

Who lately flipped

the pages of Time: Cow,

jump over the moon.

 

XXXVI

Bulletproof Lincoln circles the block:

Kinged across red square

in a game of global checkers.

 

XXXVII

Benefits slip away,

like strips of rubber from a semi wheel:

Letter to White House in dot matrix.

 

XXVIII

Sentence

takes shape as alibi: Ennui

is a client state of doom.

 

XXXIX

If Casper the Friendly Ghost

were Gertrude Stein the Jewess:

The Occurrence of ’Chune.

 

XL

Puffing on a periscope

to see which way the wind blows:

Man bites dog.

 

XLI

‘‘I yam what I yam,’’

shrieks Popeye:

Well blow me down.

 

XLII

Pooped on the deck

of not yet: Playing a nose flute

and pulling out the stops.

 

XLIII

The crack in a pipe

splits the limits of free speech:

A is for Anglophone.

 

XLIV

Ideology

is the devil’s work station:

There’s no place like home.

 

XLV

A pencil sharpener groans,

belaboring the point: Speaking cure

leaves hymen intact.

 

XLVI

An errant device from the future

disguised as a radio, called the alphabet:

I’ll be back.

 

XLVII

Melancholy installed,

subject to fit: My heart ticks

and a drowsy member aches.

 

XLVIII

Libido sleeps,

fouling the air and pummeling a book:

Take me to your bladder.

 

XLIX

The splat of a rat

whisked from a balcony: Therapy

as petting zoo.

 

L

Wormy apple

demonstrates gravity:

The pure product (America) goes crazy.

 

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