Once there was a mountain here
then a glacier came and when
the glacier melted, the ground looked
like brains so some critics came along
to decide who was avant garde enough.
Those that werent attacked Russia
where some structuralists were saying
everything was a structure even your mother.
Like deaf mutes in airports selling cards
saying theyre deaf mutes, the avant garde
sold poems saying they were poets
Or everyones a poet. Or whats a poem?
Or die whities die. Or representation =
kapitalisms whore. Meanwhile someone
messes up a bunch of packing instructions
and thats pretty avant garde. Someone else
writes about smacking a deer with his car,
feeling kinda bad and thats not avant garde
so off to Russia, heres your carbine.
But then a whole class of poets
gets out of going to Russia through connections
and bands together to form the Academy of American Poets
to protest high dry-cleaning costs.
Then someone comes up with a book
thats not even in words, publishes
20 copies on butcher paper and burns them
and thats so bleeping avant garde,
the sea floor rises 10,000 feet
and becomes a desert, perfect
for a school where the poet slash
critic slash professor says, Take off your clothes,
and when the students take off their clothes,
shouts, Too late! Wreck subjectivity!
Too late! The blood of Walt Disney
is on your hands! Explode syntax
allude to the renaissance metaphor
is fascism memory is a lie.
Too late too late too late.
Roses are blue, the quality of mercy
is chow mein, first thought butt-shake.
See this shoe? Its a text.
Hard not to miss attacking Russia
even with only a frozen rat to eat,
powder burns, constant concussion
so you cant even think. Hard
not to miss trying to slip a potent
image by the censors, some sort
of uplift in the end, a talking
rose or a kiss made of mist.
Dean Young teaches at the Iowa Writers Workshop for a semester each year and otherwise lives in Berkeley. His new book of poems, Skid, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in the spring of 2002.