Poems by JOE E. WEIL from
My Universe There Is No Hope (A Poem Of Joy) |
Joe E. Weil's poetry touches the heart with sardonic humor. He is a poet trying to "laugh louder than the dark" often making us smile to keep us, and himself, from crying. Weil is embued with Irish wit and charming "Blarny." His mixture of passionate joy and sorrow makes his poetry appealing and accessible on a very human level. He has published in magazines and periodicals, among them: The Journal of New Jersey Poets to The Red Brick Review, Lips, The Paterson Poetry Review and The New York Times. He is co-director of Poets' Wednesdays at the Barron Art Center in Woodbridge. A native of Elizabeth, NJ, his poems often speak of the working man's plight and the common peoples' beauty. He has been editor of Black Swan, a literary magazine and Anti-lawn, an environmentally conscious poetry magazine both of which he founded. He's read his poetry with Allen Ginsberg at the Camden Center for the Arts. Weil has pleased audiences all over the state and in New York City where he won a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Cafe. The following six poems come from his book: In Praise We Enter: © 1998 by the poet. [Rain Bucket Press: Cranford, NJ.
In My Universe There Is No Hope (A Poem Of Joy)
In my universe there is no hope,
only an old, blue grey cat,
who suddenly kittenlike,
knocks over a vase full of chrysanthemums.
There's a good song playing on the radio,
in the dead eye of a long winter's drive,
the song reminding me of a ranch coat I had,
and of a girl who buried her face in it,
who left a trace of scented powder in the fur,
a smart girl, who knew how to be remembered.
I pull over, step out along the road.
The night sky is
It ain't me. The hope's all gone--
a great weight lifted from my body.
No hope, just lots of love.
"Just lots of love!"
I shout up at the stars.
I know I'm lying.
I've always had a knack
for being genuinely amused
by my own futility.
My words curl up, a breath
like Claude Rains escaping,
"The Invisible Man."
I stretch my so stiff legs,
let the cold air bite.
Regret keeps re-arranging the furniture,
escape routes I didn't know I had
until I stopped having them.
I remember being shit-faced drunk
on a beach at Sandy Hook,
pissing into the pitch dark boom
of unseen ocean,
when my friend Eric, behind me, Whispered:
"Hey, Joe, suppose a striped bass swims up,
and bites off your thing?"
We laughed louder than the waves.
In my universe, there is no hope,
only an old blue grey cat,
who dreams his version
of valhalla: birds swift, but not overly so,
familiar well marked laps,
the scent-of cat-nip
wafting every breeze.
Soon, I'll be nearing an exit I always miss.
I try to remember a poem by Mathew Arnold,
the one with the ignorant armies,
the love he advises to be true.
Why not? It's good advice.
I once had the whole thing memorized.
Even the title's gone.
I always recited it
with such a pretentious voice.
In lieu of Arnold,
I pull out my cold prick,
take aim at a copse of dead weeds.
I let forth, remembering Eric's joke,
thinking up a variation--
"Hey, Joe, suppose this big black bear..."
and laugh louder than the dark,
deeper than regret,
as if by love compelled,
that rules the sun in heaven
and all the stars.
Elegy For Lady Clairol
Lady Clairol has lost
her will to live.
We all saw it coming:
the stolid gaze,
the strained look
of cheap allegory
around the eyes.
She gathers her bravery now
into one last bright bouquet
as the sun sets over
a ruined postcard shop.
Ah lady, who could revive one hour,
save one flower
from the arc of its decay?
Your breasts sag
and your teeth drop out:
like rose petals they fall.
And all around you--
T shirts and lepers.
The perfume of
Men never Understood you,
mistress of Proteus as you were,
your hair changing hue,
changing shade in infinite flight
from astounded hands.
Now, may the earth grow blonde
in your memory.
May its roots weep black
and refuse to be comforted.
"After I Had Worked All Day At What I Make My Living"
Walt, this foreman's out to screw me,
calls me a smart ass, says I won't shut my mouth.
He suspects me of calling 0. S. H. A.,
swears I tipped them off:
asbestos in the lead hammer room.
Walt, I go to poetry readings,
my whole life schizoid,
get fifteen bucks for feature,
lose a hundred missing work.
Walt, they talked of poetry,
here, in this college bar,
Neruda's collected works
plump and glossy on the barstool
next to a blonde in black.
Walt, they mention you.
Someone asks how Whitman's beloved workers
became such mindless, soulless, overweight
I walk away too tired to defend.
Outside the moon has risen.
Winter has shined the shoes of heaven black,
black and clean,
stars clear and stainless blue.
I stand under the weight of your poems, Walt,
and feel betrayed.
PAINTING THE CHRISTMAS TREES
In my odyssey of dead end jobs,
cursed by whatever gods
do not console,
I end up
at a place that makes
fake Christmas trees:
some pink, some blue,
one that revolves ever so slowly
to the strains of Silent Night.
Sometimes, out of sheer despair,
I rev up its Rpms
and send it spinning
wildly through space--
disguised as a Balsam fir.
I run a machine
that spits paint
onto wire boughs,
each length of bough a different shade--
color coded-- so that America will know
which end fits where.
This is spray paint of which I speak--
no ventilation, no saftey masks,
lots of poor folk speaking various broken toungues,
a guy from Poland with a ruptured disk
lifting fifty pound boxes of
so damaged by police "interrogation"
he flinches when you
raise your arm too suddenly near,
and all of us hating the job,
knowing it's meaningless,
yet singing, cursing, telling jokes,
unentitled to anything but joy,
the lurid, unreasonable joy
that sometimes overwhelms you even in a hole like this.
it's a joy rulers
mistake for proof of "The Human Spirit."
I tell you it is Kali,
the great destroyer,
her voice singing amidst butchery and hate.
It is Rachel the inconsolable
weeping for her children.
It goes both over and under
"The Human spirit."
It is my father
crying in his sleep
because he works
twelve hour shifts six days a week
and can't make rent.
It is one hundred and ten degrees
in the land of fake Christmas trees.
It is Blanca Ramirez keeling over pregnant
sans green card.
It is a nation that has
not knowing how many lost
to the greater good of retail. It is Marta the packer
rubbing her crippled hands with
Lourdes water and hot chilies.
It is bad pay and worse diet and
the minds of our children
turned on the wheel of sorrow--
no langauge to leech it from the blood,
no words to draw it out--
a fake Christmas tree spinning wildly in the brain,
and who can stop it, who '
unless grief grows a hand
and writes the poem?
FISTS (FOR MY FATHER)
It was the sense that your fists were worlds
and mine were not that caused me to worship you;
all those thick rope veins, and the deep inlaid grime of your life,
the permanent filth of your labors.
I wanted your history.
My own smoothness appalled me.
I wanted that hardness
I'd pry your fingers loose,
using both my hands,
find stones, a robin's egg uncrushed
in the thick meat of your palms.
Between thumb and forefinger,
your flesh smelled of creosote and lye,
three packs of Chesterfield Kings.
You told me stories about heros,
David with his sling,
Samson with his jaw bone of an ass,
Christ with his word forgive.
Tonight, I read about Cuchulain
contending with the sea,
how he killed his son in battle,
a son he'd never known,
and, mad with his grief,
fought the waves
for three nights and as many days,
until, at last, he came ashore,
and fell asleep holding his dead child's hands.
When he woke, it was morning, and the hands of his son
had become two Black Swans.
They flew West where all suffering ends.
I read this story
and I remember you.
Hold me clenched until I am those birds.
until your fists can open.
FROM MY ELIZABETH
It's praise we enter--
gruel of stars out,
above the Chinese take
or the leaf rot
smell of cold night's air--
what all begins
my journey into things:
dogs, front yards, trees,
the rain sodden acrecorn
a hundred f eet
to ring the hood of a van.
A kid drags a stick
along a broken chain-link fence,
loving the top hat sound of steel mesh
enough to wager his life against six lanes of traffic.
It's winter and twenty eight years ago.
I walk past
Moy's candy store and Bartone's bakery,
affecting my wounded soldier limp.
ice crystals form
in the clear ooze of my nose.
A block away, there's the hard pecking
of a basketball
against the uneven sidewalk,
this girl in Raider's ski cap,
who, spinning the world on her finger,
rolling it shoulder to elbow,
dishes a perfect chest pass
and says: "Hi."
Copyright © 1998 by Joe Weil from his book In Praise We Enter. All rights reserved by the author.
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