Six Degrees Of Like Button, an ekphrastic poem


(inspired in part by a preview performance
of the play White Noise, by Suzan Lori-Parks)

OK, I get it. New York is gray.
I miss the California air, with its whiff of euphoria,
the hint of the holy.
In Los Angeles, you don’t die at night from exposure
to the bonebiting wind,
if you pass out on a bench by the beach.
In Brooklyn the February moonrise means time to get inside
and secure yourself in pepperoni slices, you daft tourist.
(The moon and pizza, long aligned in the song about love.)
Just going outside is a production-slash-situation.
Plus I don’t know what I look like,

I might be that scary dude,
usually I’m invisible,
it’s not a great palette of looks;

I wish I could wear my Like Button,
which is well-clicked, vetted, confirmed.

Do you remember the moment you fell asleep?
Of course not.
Then how would you know if you’ve slept?

Violent Envy
Outside is where you brush up on people:
“Let’s agree to aggress.
Let’s try to win.”
We both fear, and defend,
and disagree on the sex part.
We egress, with glee.
There’s no better feeling than
getting out of a thing.
But I digress.
Some people:
The loner walking behind you.
The white noise of the subscribed audience.
The punk with his boys calling me chink names at the chicken place.
The woman at the register just wants to go home.
People on their phones.
But I get it,
I get you. I even got you, Guido,
I get it on both sides: migrant snowflake,
pro-cop coprophage. I even get the president,
because I speak some Ambien-ese myself.
(Ambien-ese is a lot like actual English,
except you say things you shouldn’t
with a kind of careless savagery,
like a kid learning to curse.)

I don’t mean to say you should throw away your smartphone — who would do such a thing? They’re so insanely useful. I ask, however, for you to consider how you have become less useful for having it. That the resource costs for making the thing cancel out most every good you’ve attempted. That self-deprecation is still a valuable art, because one must be humble before that which has fully depreciated human life. That whenever you share a meme affirming some iteration of “I love myself,” please, in the name of truth, add the asterisk: “*but I love my phone more.” Or you could throw away your smartphone.

A few woman friends have said aloud,
“I can’t tell if anyone actually likes me.”
I take that to mean, there’s liking driven by desire,
and then there’s just like, I like you.
The difficulty in knowing the difference
is plausible cause for the constant state of confusion.
Who knows what “like” is?
As the news anchor talks sweet to you,
as you get addicted to her or his eye contact,
the sommelier tries to sell you on this one,
and you drink more and it seems better,
and then there’s this guy who hates what he likes,
and says so.
It is maddening, I gotcha,
and it’s all of the time.

@the CVS drugstore
The CVS greeter
might be free from time.
Automation replaced her job.
Her greetings won’t make for historical study
and she may forget she ever held
the position of saying “Welcome.”
She’ll do better, she looks like she has a plan
for later.
If you could let go of time,
your life’d be just fine.
This moment will pass, this one won’t,
you choose.
These are the people,
the CVS greeter,
the dude with good manners,
the superhero with the haunted look,
the slept-on gems.

As Prince sang for the BATMAN movie:
If a man is considered guilty 4 what goes on in his mind
Give me the electric chair 4 all my future crimes
That’s all that keeps us out of jail,
is bad thought versus bad action.
A truly good person might masturbate to thoughts of butterflies
and never hurt no one.
Good thought versus good action,
I dunno; it’s getting late,
in Oakland it’s midnight.
I put myself to bed with a bowl
of crisped rice and Rice Dream,
I don’t really fuck with milk.

-March 2019.

Leave a Reply