“Two Exaggerated Self-Portraits.”

after Ulrich Berkes, 1980

1. 
I’m another poet
I share a car (a Honda), television set, washing machine
I like creamed and sugared cups of coffee
I know how to wash and detail a car with a single white rag
I’ve had 5 bicycles in my life
I meet friends at cheap bars
I write with good pens that I steal from corporations
I picked up my second girlfriend, a Danish au pair, hitchhiking in New Jersey
I think I’ve loved more than I have been loved, but many of us feel that way
I listen to music by Schubert, Queen, Prince, Joni Mitchell, and Ornette Coleman
I stopped a parolee from killing someone in a poetry class once
I keep all my old Mad and Cracked magazines in a basement box
I wanted to be a reporter, and before that a military officer
I walk only to work and to visit friends
I’m afraid of driving over a child
I live in a house with loud neighbors
I wish these neighbors would die, because I can’t write poems at home with their loud stereo and arguments
I play guitar, an electric with a lot of distortion, with headphones on
I cry uncontrollably sometimes because I can’t reconcile my childhood
I was born of gentle parents, at least they were at first
I write at a quiet desk at a nice co-operative
I was born on leap year, February 29, 1968, and have had only 8 real birthdays
I only keep a journal when I cry uncontrollably
I am 6’1” and weigh 200 lbs.
I read Williams, Olds, Juvenal, Stevens, Baraka, Whitman, Ruth Stone, O’Hara, Rilke, Lester Bangs
I still buy generic brands of cereal and canned vegetables
I shave my face with my wife’s pink razors
I have tried to write a memoir about rock music to make money
I go to movies, record stores, and watch TV all the time
I don’t remember my dreams
I think I’ve read too many novels already in my life
I am dramatic and have a persecution complex
I cook with chicken and fish, use limes and basil and garlic, black pepper
I have a Catholic’s affinity for candles
I play video games, mostly ones with hand-to-hand combat
I believe what Freddie Mercury said—“Only do half of what you want onstage”
I was once sent to classes for “slow children” because I wrote my name backwards, tracing it through a piece of paper
I am more shy than most people think
I called my pharmacist once to tell him how stupid he is
I am both attracted to crudity and aspire to be an intellectual

—Monday, January 8, 2001 

2.
I am not a poet today
I read the newspaper, vacuum, clean up cat shit, masturbate, talk to myself, take my medicine too late in the day
I live in a house that my wife bought before we were married
I live a lie, I tell myself out loud, walking up Broadway
I smoke pot now only when I visit my best friend to play the newest video games
I can’t swim
I am afraid
I wish I expected less from my friends
I play air guitar while driving
I like eating bread and drinking Coke
I may never have a book of poems published
I think I have sabotaged my life
I steal words whenever I can
I envy everyone
I have a scar on my Achilles heel when a lawnmower blade sliced my tendon when I was 19
I walk around like I’m lost
I would like to see “New Wave Hookers” again
I think most people who portray the poor in poetry, music, photography, and movies are condescending because they think being poor is somehow more noble
I could write ten poems in a day sometimes, I think
I have many secrets
I come from two families of factory workers and truck drivers
I bullshit a lot
I shouldn’t say half of what I say
I think there should be more irony and culture in poetry
I can’t tell a story straight, that’s why I write poems
I am mostly insecure about my life
I wish I would get into a fistfight sometimes
I was bored this morning, speaking with other poets
I wish I had more vinyl records, especially expensive jazz ones from the Village
I wish I wore Old Spice cologne and smoked
I am not included in the Poets & Writers authors directory
I keep going until I stop
I drive points into the ground
I walk up Third Avenue, still as hungry and wide-mouthed as six years ago
I smooth down women’s’ shoulders as I pass them in hallways
I read Mayakovsky once and cried
I wish you would love me after reading this poem, but understand if you don’t

—Friday, January 12, 2001

[Mirrored here as it was first published in the now-defunct No Slander literary magaazine, on December 30, 2001, and republished in The History of My World Tonight.]

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