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Avatar 19 Released - Robert Bohm Featured Poet


Easter Sunday 2016 - Basquiat

I live in the U.S., think about the U.S., try to comprehend the U.S., make poetry, prose and sometimes graffitti posters about the U.S. and its relations to the rest of the world. Sometimes I feel disgusted, sometimes hopeful, sometimes I'm brain-dead and just trudge forward, sometimes I'm amazed by the gifts that others have given to the world. I've been thinking about Jean-Michael Basquiat a lot recently. I made this/wrote this piece because I feel that I, like everyone one else who has been moved by his work and spirit, owes him something. He's dead almost 30 years now .

Because sometimes the mix of words and images in a graffitti work makes it difficult to read the words on-screen, text for the attached work is also given below.

At the top of the page to your left are 2 blocks of text, one beginning "On Easter Sunday 2016", the other beginning "His Tongue . . ."

These 2 blocks of text serve as the title to the poem immediately beneath them.

The poem's text is as follows:


Your little cutout boy is dead.
For your sins I died in dread.
Stare at the syringe plunged in my eyeball
here on the cross in Golgotha's hall of mirrors.
Tell me, you Normal Ones who know no horror,
you kings & queens, you Houdinis so self-righteous,
how do you stay unconscious
while on your big tvs the scenario is bombs and flames
and multitudes dying in your name?
All you crave is brainless days & lbs. of cheese spread.
You rant at those who show you piles of dead.
I came to you an outsider, the nation’s freak,
my life was gargantuan, I made paintings, I took leaks.
As a man I was still a little boy.
I wanted to be playful, to  draw joy
but in the end I OD'd
so you could feed on me, be rid of me, gulp blood from me.
Later in the tomb, someone shouted, “He is Jesus,”
then painted my skin white, fell to his knees
& yelled a lot of hocus-pocus!



To the right as you look at the page are the following statements, etc., from top to bottom.

Inside the fish head at the top is this text: “Capitalism's nightmare / eat you up”

From Basquiat's left shoulder to bicep is an Anasazi snake-like symbol with 2 big eyes. Above the figure are the words "Anasazi sign:" and below the figure is the phrase "emergence & migration."

The white sign hanging from Basquiat’s hand says: “I am not a product / I am not a mannequin / I am HUMAN”

 ------- Peace & solidarity and reverence to the various lands we live on, R


Through the window

Windblown leaves in bright light
tumble and plunge

in air, scrape
along the street.  Another scraping's

in my head.  I heard it, an unknown
sound, while reading in bed

when I was a kid.  A rat gnawing an electrical wire
in the wall.  Suddenly

a pop!  The lights went out.  Days later
the electrocuted rodent's stink started

oozing through the plaster.  With a hammer
my dad bashed a basketball-sized hole

in the wall, then scooped up what was left
of the rat in a dustpan and dumped it, like a woman

after a secret abortion
getting rid of the evidence, in  

the alley garbage can .  Goodbye, reek.  But nothing
else changed. The leaves

still fell, the trees grew scrawnier, barely
able to stand upright, like the Jews

my uncle saw in the camps when the war
with the Nazis ended, and how

they leaked diarrhea in their pants
as they tried to keep their balance.  This afternoon, too,

the trees, losing the only thing they own, their leaves, grow
nakeder and skinnier by the minute

as do I, with my
cancer cells and foul mouth and also, in spite

of sinking lower every day, my mulish
refusal to give up the ghost when told to.  Which is why

observing me
those who want me gone

stir restlessly.  Still, they say nothing, except
in code, a silent

smirk one minute, a roll
of the eyes the next.  Me, I'm not

so quiet.  Even felled
by cancer, I like my words

out in the open, unafraid
of the assassins all around.     


Dying for fruit

One by one, they move away, claiming
I'm too old to explore their depths, too diseased
to enjoy their physiques, too surly
to savor the sweetness that makes them unique. So much negativity. Yet
it's true: fruit no longer opens up

to me, divulging its pulp, reveling in
how my teeth sink in.  
Apples, mangos, kiwis, plums, they're like
some folks I know, uneasy around the new, too wedded
to tradition to study how dying means

(in certain cases)

focus, being
so alive that death can't screw with you.  

But the ones who want you dead think otherwise.  
"It's comin' fer ya," Billy's dad tells me in a dream.  
From his cigarette, smoke curls upward, dissolves.
Outside the Brass Rail Bar, we watch
a train rattle toward Massapequa.  

What I wouldn't have given
for a taste of banana, then!


Trying To Distill It

for Nitoo

The apple on the table is only that, an apple.  

And the table, not table-like, but simply table.  

Similarly, the heart's stories, frail tales
told in words of blood and oxygen,
are only what they are, clandestine explorations
of night and day and all
gradations in between.

Much later, when the apple's long gone
and so are we
and the table decays, the stories
remain.  For a while.  Although containing
neither morphine or miracles, they nonetheless
help those who hear them
to survive.
Eventually, after decades
of downpours and sleet, the stories
and their new listeners

In the end, more men and women than before
find in grimness a new kind of hope.  
Watching the crime-rate sink daily, they listen at night
to blood-curdling screams
as, one by one, the gods, hiding
in the last minds to cry out for them,
die noisily.  


Essay in Radius

My essay, "Eating Black Mucus: Notes on language, history, creativity," has been published by Radius, the literary journal.  Click this link to read it


Russian Punk Group Pussy Riot . . .a protest Music Video

Pussy's Riot's song "Like a Red Prison" protests Vladimir Putin's close relationship with the petroleum industry and its (in the words of the song) "evildoers at the oil towers." Click here to watch the vieeo and read the accompanying Rolling Stone report.

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is currently serving a two-year prison sentence  for the group's 2012 performance of its "Pink Prayer Protest" against Putin in a Moscow cathedral, was recently transferred to a hospital by prison officials for going on a hunger strike against mistreatment of prisoners on work details.  

Maria Alyokhina, another Pussy Riot member,  is also in jail. 

Yekaterina Samutsevich, their third cohort, was released on appeal last year because she was removed by police from the protest site before the performance had fully begun. 


Poem Nominated for Best of the Net Anthology

My poem "Port Washington Song," which was published in September 2012 in Radius: From the Center to the Edge, was nominated by Radius for the Best of the Net Anthology.  The poem can be read here.


Another day

If the easing-in
isn't simplicity itself, the body stops.  No hope
of squeezing between two rose petals now.

Still, the going's not about
movement, but focus.
Of the wind's many roads, choose one.  Any one.

Your destination isn't where
the meaning is.
Under your toenails is.

No trip really ends.
It merely seems to end because
we obsessively divide it into parts.

Again, two rose petals flutter in the wind.
Pass between them, body-surfing a wave of photons.
Like the struggle for justice, the ride never stops.  

Sooner or later, a biopsy report.
Walk through the door.
The doctor sits on a stool, everything's clear.  

AC fan noise.  Sky through window.
Forever or never ever. Which?
One hello, then another.  So many sounds.


Lotte Anker & Gerald Cleaver playing live