the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2008



George Wallace

There Is a Madness at the Edge of the World

there is a madness at the edge of the world
which likes to fill me up and call me names
like chrysanthemum of death like parking lot dragon
like lost cowboy on the face of an end run moon
a madness at the edge of the world
which likes to dress me up and push me outdoors
in a silk scarf and a bone of prayer
in a rainbow hat and a checkered flag
wearing stethoscopes and dog paws
and trotting along in the hard scrabble

a madness at the edge of the world
that i cannot pour my heart back into
nor promises of burnt offering nor poem or riddle
no death defying leap of prayer
no counterfeit tears
no snowbucket deershot nickel back beer
i am without hope or magic
i am dipstick columbus
i am an upside down canoe
i am a page torn out of the book of common prayer
a box of matches that will not light me
a brook that cannot run me too fast or too far
i am a bird with a japanese name
that likes to catch fire
in the middle of the afternoon
and i am the subtle movement of its wings

madness at the edge of the world! you will not die, you will not
die and you will not shut up and there is nothing much for me to do
until you show up and there is nothing much for me to say
until the cops come running and the crowd breaks up
and there is nobody else to explain this thing to
and i am looking around at the wet pavement
with a face like a mirror or a mudpuddle
a lake of staring back faces and a sunless sky
that i have unaccountably filled up with moronic kisses

in the airless afternoon when my body weeps
in the false teeth of love in nailguns and cement
and paddywagons and punchdrunk manufacturers
there is a madness at the edge of the world
in defective merchandise in firehouse whistles
and on the bloody pitch at wimbledon
in the red light of the glacial parade
and on certain canvases of giacometti
there is a madness and it likes to see me naked
and it likes to see me curse the moon
it likes to see me in my kitchen sink of fear
and in my sorry clamshell of dreams
it likes to see me climb out of the gravel pit
with only one of my shoes
and raise my fist up at the sky
and call it names

like a serpent of seaspray
like a lakota without a spear
like a smoke signal gone astray


A Green River Without Banks

if i open my eyes
and a river runs out of them
a green river without banks
which is a green shallow sea
sleek with many fishes
that skim and ripple
its promethean waves
and a set of tiny white sails
sailing where a sun should be
sailing where you have gone
then I am not here tonight
folding white pillowcases
by a window in a room
with a teapot boiling
with snow falling
on roof shingles
waving this flag
of heartbreak


Occasional Mudslides in the Rain

new york city in winter i was listening to
everything she was saying because
i respected her and furthermore
she had paid for dinner so i said
why don't you run that one past me
one more time but with a little less feeling
a little less feeling and a lot more
pavement, cracked pavement i said because
we were walking along and i had
cracked pavement on my mind so
she gave it to me again but with a lot more
amplification and a little more reflection
but not much cracked pavement to speak of
so i tried again because i did care about
what she was saying honestly i did care
and the urgency in her hands
and that square little quiver in her voice
so i said why don't you give it to me with
a little more rubber on the road because
anyone who has been lonely in l.a. has
experienced miles and miles of highway
endless sunshine eye-stinging smog
the precipitous canyons and
occasional mudslides in the rain
but now it was going to be
impossible i could tell it was nearly
central park and she hates central park at
night so i said why don't we make like a tree and
why don't we go back to your place and get
high but no she didn't want to go back
to her place and get high and no she didn't want
to make like a tree and she said this is where
the rubber meets the road boy
and she said goodnight she said
goodnight and she left me
alone at the corner of
east 85th street and fifth avenue
lonely in new york
wondering what it was
i said wrong



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