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Six Poems by JOE E. WEIL from
IN PRAISE WE ENTER

In My Universe There Is No Hope (A Poem Of Joy) |
Elegy For Lady Clairol |
"After I Had Worked All Day At What I Make My Living" |
PAINTING THE CHRISTMAS TREES |
FISTS (FOR MY FATHER) | FROM MY ELIZABETH

Joe E. WeilJoe 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

Dante, Whitman,

Hank Willia

ms.

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

of smoke

like Claude Rains escaping,

"The Invisible Man."

I stretch my so stiff legs,

let the cold air bite.

Regret keeps re-arranging the furniture,

providing options,

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.

Thank God.

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

Boredom.

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,

featured reader,

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

redneck shits.

 

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:

thousands!

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--

Dorothy Hammill

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

defective parts,

A Haitian

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

spiritualized shopping,

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

of fists.

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.

Sleep now,

until your fists can open.

FROM MY ELIZABETH

 

It's praise we enter--

this thin

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

that drops

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,

and then

this girl

dribbles up,

 

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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