dan raphael

Giraffes are more devious than you might think [a found poem]

“The Humr tribe of the Baggara Arabs, living in southwest Kurdofan, Sudan,
is devoted to hunting elephants and, above all, giraffes. After having killed a giraffe, they prepare a visionary beverage known as umm nyolokh, employing both the liver and the bone marrow of the animal. It seems the aim of their hunting is precisely the preparation of this beverage and not to procure food.

Drinking the beverage is supposed to cause a true obsession with giraffes.
Its effects are characterized by drunkenness and the induction of dreams
in which giraffes explain where more real giraffes might be found and hunted
for a new preparation of the same beverage, in order to give more hallucinations with the same content.

Thus those who drink umm nyolokh just once spend the rest of their lives hunting giraffes.”

                                             don’t ask me

she said
where’d you learn to dance, coz i know it wasn’t here
some bright room full of strangers
not the attic back home,      on the old edge,      w/ temptations, bitches & grace.
could barely reach my ankles, could never do more than three steps twice.
i couldn’t slouch enough to not stand out, slouching more made me a question
people’d need an answer to

the way i walk, long fluid strides
the constant threat of a sudden invisible edge
weaving through the ½ speed downtown crowds w/ a simple bass riff
urging me to the end of the buzz, driving me back to recharge.
how a tenth of a ton could move so quiet

i cant not hear the micro-transmitters in everyone i meet
see we are threads laid across but not woven, ambiguous relationships,
colors hidden by other colors and shadows
i don’t go in there anymore cause I never found the light switch.
i feel my rib cage opened the way a peach can be but don’t know whose thumbs
or what the released pit will do — sprouting wings or vines, detonating,
sending a signal only dogs or people like me can hear
as buildings cacophonic with all that happened there and never left
so they pull away from each other, from the light of so many makings,
city skyline so tensored with proximity, height, same poles repelling

when did you learn to dance
and how did you get here
looking for a place to hide
since i cant improve my looks i become invisible
big coat & big hat, my own shadows and insulation
keep the salt to myself,
yearn for a star that wont keep pointing cosmic fingers at me
“any world that i’m welcome to
is better than the one i come from”
worlds of our own unmaking
a process of extrusion, burning off, tempering —
by the time i got there it was time to leave


                                                             i drive with puppets on my eyes
i drive a sphere touching the ground in one never stopping point of contact and examination:
                                             the hand cant stop       the hand cant taste       the hand doesn’t know
when im tuned into the flow of time through all the orifices in my body
its like each of my fingers has a hand of its own
massaging me like bread dough yeasted with day old news

                                                                            the first couple bites are almost too spicy
surrendering my taste buds to the second shift, draining my glass,
trading bones with the chair but the table is not my style of shirt.

i was born with lines on my face as if a hot spider web had melted there,
my eyes are flies — stunned and wrapped — but the spider had unexpected plans.
ive evolved for omni-directional gravity, diluting distance and potential,
                                                             the thousands of acupuncture points in the universes skin
                                                                                                in a pond stimulating space time
                               the school yard across the street is the ocean tonight
                                                                                            a dogs voice from above like a recycled blimp
a cloud as big as a loaf of bread with thousands of aromas,
some from things that no longer exist, processes that were banned or forgotten

we’re not walking, sitting, sleeping or driving
                                                                                               we’re flying, every second we’re awake.
                               “coz in a world full of people
                               only some want to fly —
                               isn’t that crazy

i can see behind me cause the back of my skull is gone.       a panorama of green hills
with only a few visible houses, more already sleeping like bears
with a world of bees inside them,
                                                                           a world of fish remembering how salt gets into the sky

i resign to move.       i humble til the clock opens:
                the moments inside are clean,    dry,    and ready to put away.
                               cabinets embarrass me
i want their contents exposed to the searing light of neglect & redistribution
i own 16 cups but use just one. some days my only plate is my hand,
         some days my hand is my refrigerator

                Space House
                                                             “there is no possibility of change
                                                             because all the true fragments are here”

                                                                                                                         (john ashbery)

there is so much space in this house in any direction i look my back less than 3 feet from a wall
its a long way to the door with the furniture gone
a life without appliances: everything i need is somewhere else
since i lost my plumbing, since my circuitry demands a lot of exercise.
wearing a ping pong ball on a string on a wire drilled into my head so im orbited like a sun
so aware of the mass it keeps burning and vomiting, tantrumming and splitting apart—
i divorce my thighs, i am separated from my saddle bags,
whatever doesnt fit in this mirror must be someone else
when the children left they took their rooms; when my wife dies i’ll take all the plants from the yard and lock them in her shed with what remains:
                                                                                           i cant contain the birds or the smell of the compost
that learned seven languages and a way to sing the neighbors keep mistaking for combat.
a house should have pockets, a house should have style, not require ironing.
after a while stairs are more nuisance than utility. the second floor with many holes in it
so my robot arms can reach up to grab what I need; and magnets just inside the roof to pull
unused things into the attic awaiting a reversal of taste, a yen for something old & incomplete;
i didnt need that closet til I woke up in this body.

the year i was hungry all the time my house had a dozen kitchens, most not bigger than a foot,
                                                                                           some solar,       some cold as neglect.
the sound below the floor is rain that wont surrender to the earth or downstream.
on the roof are tools I never learned to use—soldering irons, crow bars, vacuum soilers,
flexible rods to recreate the bodys contours when the light bulb closes its other eye
so the filament can speak freely across spectrums of noise and resistance —
sometimes all this stress makes me pull the space in around me like an earthquake
puckering from some conflict held back so long a house is more an appetizer than a question.
like a river that went out for cigarettes 20 years ago and since we thought it would never come back we put the secret accoutrements of process in that empty space,
as if pipes and wires never got tired, never decided their shift must be over, even by the geologic clock. which is how I feel some days when every eight hours another blanket is laid above me
by the neighborhoods hungers — im so still they think im abandoned, metal detectors
searching for a heartbeat, adjacent houses leaning toward the perceived void
as trees lean where the wind winds down

                                                                     im always inhaling and forgetting to let go,
hoarding carbon dioxide and nitrogen in crinkly fibers left by time travelers
who knew their haircuts would give them away.
                                                             don’t try to take this star from the palm of my hand —
wait til it gets too hot to hold and lunge before it falls through the floor
to become another engine on the freeway our houses invented to fuel their escape
into the recycled labyrinth of clouds: the walls want first hand experience,
not what the windows allow,       not ventilations thrice beaten breaths.

live a day in my house. in every cupboards something you either owned or wanted.
the bathtub is your size, not mine.
but if you leave while im awake the door will act as if it never met you.
wasn’t that a great party. i was too wasted to get home so home came here, leaving a ghost
at my old address, a number you couldn’t arrive at by simple addition and multiplication.

                                                               you turn and im there.
you thought you were home but its not even the right city.
these flowers mean its either six months earlier or the southern hemisphere.
I flush the toilet and cant stop laughing, like the first time I heard a kangaroo talk.

take me now.         home me stranger.          loose boards in my left shoulder.
some rooms have been painted three times but nothing will stick to my knees.
slither in;         soar out.         make me an offer.
                                              let me live in the stairwell of windows i cant depend on
                                         let me live in the middle til the middles not there

dan raphael isn't sure what to make of 2008, still reading around the Northwest, hosting readings but at new venues, getting out to the ocean when possible. current poems appear in Skidrow Penthouse, Stringtown, Refined Savage, Impossibilist and Knock Journal

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