L I t T e R

Back to Leafe home

Back to Litter home

John Bloomberg-Rissman

Comics Without Pictures

(homage to Kenneth Koch)

1. The Art Of The Possible

The stone spoke and said
What could be better than me?
Don't talk of eagles said the stone
Eagles build their house upon
And here it paused a moment for effect
Don't talk of umbrellas either
When it's windy
Umbrellas turn inside out
Have you ever seen a stone
Turn inside out
Just because of a little breeze?
The Form of all that lives and dies
(Another pause
This was a most dramatic stone)
Grows from me
But what of words I asked?
The stone closed its eyes
When they reopened they were sad
Let me go now said the stone
So I threw it as far as I could
And now it rests
Rocked in the chair of the sea
I stood by the side of that sea
And watched the trains of waves
Roll to the shore
To unload their foam
And I no longer understood
What death might mean

2. Different Kinds Of Life

A long time ago
I applied for a job
Sending canned goods by train
When asked
Why do you want this job?
I said because I need the money
The conductors of the interview
Led me out of the building
Past the potted plants
Shaking their heads sadly
Well can I be a brakeman?
I cried
Farewell they replied
That's why I took up the cello
And now audiences everywhere
Stand upon their chairs
To cheer me
When they can't clap loudly enough
With their hands
They pound their sides

3. The Mystery Game

Chairs broken
Chairs overturned
Coat of arms
Dangling from the wall
By a few thin wires
The victim's friends
Muttering to themselves
And adding to the almost
Unutterable horror
Eagles' songs playing softly
On the stereo
Among the friends
Were plants
That much I knew
But how tell which tears
Were real?
Under the burlap
Lay the body
Murder weapon
Still sticking from its side

4. Going To The Museum

In this famous Rousseau
A beautiful woman
Naked on a plush Victorian sofa
Dreams herself a luxuriant forest
Art and sleep sleep and art
Twin conductors to the marvelous
Like Heine's death and morphine
Poor Heine's bed became his coffin, you know
Shall we rest a moment on this bench
Like Bernhard characters
And admire Warhol's
Thousand white thermoses?
So what if some contemporary works
Have been compared to dirty sheets?
What could be more beautiful
Than the detritus of love and sleep?
Free your eyes!
See those brushstrokes?
Look at the date on the painting:
Like the tapping of telegraph keys
The true subject of this Friedrich
Is the wind
Not the blackness of the wanderer's coat
Nor the cliff at his feet
Monet painted many trains
But did he ever paint brakemen?
I'll have to investigate his attitude
To the proletariat

5. Flags Of Different Nations

We make our farewells
Amid sad potted plants
Our forms are stamped
With the unalterable name
Of our unalterable destination
Our loved ones turn away
Toward the commuter trains
That will take them back
To their now half-empty homes
We walk sadly up the ramps
And the night is sad, too
O earth! O dreams!
O night! O no one!
Pools - lakes - tears!
My suitcase is full of darkness
Like a manuscript
That can never be completed
I watch the stokers
Climb down to their furnaces
(Are those things called furnaces?)
Impassive as bulls
About to enter the ring
Burn all the chairs, stokers!
Burn all the dreams!
I am completely paralyzed
The little gray flag
Of my new country
Hangs limply by my side

6. Masked Wife Comics

I train and train
So that when death comes at last
My final words will be
O beautiful thighs!"

John Bloomberg-Rissman, 2005