dan raphael

An Apple a

Putting one day in front of another:
half an apple, last month’s bread
dough without nut, a hole without walls
as if in a river of memories, where i don’t need glasses
                                                             a unison vision

Not enough people are asleep yet

The shortest distance is usually through

All around unwrapped & unlabeled

Even getting close enough to smell i hesitate
lozenges, cool but still-flowing lava

Stripes across my eyes i learn to not see
where notes pop like paper cups in a flash flood
                                                           of too bright water

Ever since i had the gps implanted in my navel
i want to grow up to be a satellite, in synch with my planet

                                                               If the clouds are pawns,
a mono-colored board with mono-colored pieces
i didn’t know my choice of shirt color would alter my future

Not holes in the clouds but places of focused burning
rain rough as 3 days unshaved
rubbing so intently something must melt

                               Never Meant to

“Never meant to cause you any sorrow. never meant to cause you any pain.”
not my words, i never meant to cause, to you or anyone
things just happen—you go to college, you get a job, have a good life
when the US was at its peak, something we'll never see again, so many things
we’ll never see again even if i was still here to see them, still able to see,
focus slipping each year.

                                                        The part of the brain that hallucinates,
the part that brings up the complete lyrics of Tangled up in Blue
i’d never thought of before,“you looked like the silent type,” more possum
than killdeer, as chameleon as 6 foot 6, 220 can be, that inner stillness,
to stay below the treeline, avoid short tense drunks who want to take on
the biggest guy around—bottle shard to chin, fist jamming glass into windpipe,
cause i wasn’t who i thought i was, cause my home town became a foreign country,
west side story starring john wayne and aretha franklin, too white to be a temptation.

“Don’t know where you learned to dance, but i know it wasn’t here.”
body memory/spasms, like a weathervane stuck in the ground, lightning rod for an antenna.
tom waits growling “welcome to raphael’s silver cloud lounge.” inside that cloud
a 24 hour city, where the sun refuse to shine, why’s the rain black,
why am i the only one without extra holes, things tied and jangling.
when i don’t trigger the metal detector the uniformed ex-lineman puffs up
and steps toward me, i cast a worrysome shadow even when the light’s from all directions.

My spirit animals are hummingbird and otter, my favorite month is the second wettest,
any song can be improved with a fluid, keening guitar solo, an extra half beat,
just shy of a fifth, a line as thick as my pinky, the wind through my hair
sounds like a low helicopter reporting on the insect traffic, the progress
of invasive plants, no indication that 82nd street will hatch anytime soon.

I’m dyslexic about danger and always run toward it, a buddhist-physicist,
drinker of malt liquor and barrel-aged micro-brews, following To the Lighthouse
with Dune Messiah—give it a spin, ease off the clutch, every 2 gears
have another gear between them another gear between them
who made the road, who painted the sky, why most guitars have one more string
than a hand has fingers, those few who don’t need electricity to be amplified.

Get down, get over it, get out of here. not a question of being invited,
dressed like i’m working the door, tending bar in rhinestone shades—
when youre looking at nothing no ones looking back,
i smell like paper and sometimes get asked how many pages,
no sequel, no trilogy. working on the map inside my chest skin,
my back cover blurbed with microorganisms from refugee camps,
this body’s still a single continent but india may break loose soon

Entering’s the easy part—under someone’s shoe, flat against a back,
folded like a pizza box, some buildings so large “inside”s not the right word,
like a biodome disguised as a walmart, my citys reduced to the parts i’ve been to,
when i'm next to a door just as someones fleeing out, four more doors
open in what i thought a wall, i’m chasing where everyone was,
swirling and sniffing bottles, carefully refolding the empty deli paper
so a sandwich can grow back.

Dancing to loud music in a crowded room where everyone’s too mesmerized to collide
can cure anything for a while, so much that only exists when i think about it.
i couldnt close my eyes in time to keep those two cars from crashing,
wouldnt have used the street as a trampoline if i’d known anyone was walking on it

When i’m no longer able to go fast enough to hurt myself.
when what i thought a chair is someones mercedes in a neighborhood
i don’t meet the dress code, my moneys not good enough here.
i don’t have perfect pitch but can still hurl a decent sidewinder—
before you know which way it’s breaking i’m heading for the fence.
“whiskey bottle, brand new car, oak tree youre in my way.”
“when i woke up this morning, this morning was judgment day.”

                               Beast Tears

When i’m sneezing out mud & breathing in the resistance of meat
backing over a horizon, mirror & telescope combined—how many concentric hands,
how many ways out, interest paid, commissions waived, demands never met
nor intended as more than navigation, pounds all around to magnify the imagination
& possibilities, make the odds more familiar, curious,
lithe as a dachshund, supple as snow, as honest as a head on collision

In is coming to me, soaking in, turning blood into a medium,
a scent so true no one believes it, taking me apart at the joists,
amazed we stayed together as the world spun 180 degrees beneath me,
a different 180 within me.
                                                  like our bodies the world is not round, symmetrical
or how we envision it, those moments when more than our usual satellites
get through, a fearful but cleansing symmetry, surfaces too smooth to remember
whats put on them need to be roughed by time, chemistry, usefulness:
didn’t fit like it did in the store; the factory smell never went away

One with the show, out the wave, in the have not,
by narrowing the pipe you increase the pressure:
more than ticking, more than gears, more than a wide variety of inputs,
tentacles from my ventricles, from the vortex my heart appears to contain
as if clouds contain the sky, as if something could dissolve so completely
the water knows nothing about it, involving me to spew from
the earths magnetic poles though i’m so minutely ferrous, more feral,
febrile, easy to effervesce and fabricate whether an audience or not

We don’t notice our constant evolution cause everything is evolving, reacting,
squeezing between two buildings to find a boulevard, jogging across acres of rocks
as eyes and ear-gyros keep the data flow—
                                                                                 how can the wind not follow me,
what windows endow, how stillness broadens the eyes, a wall so thin and stinging
keeping what in, what out, offending how many
                                                                                            i’m together in this
i’m both sides of my coin unable to make its own change, fluid denomination and value,
this barcode defines me, would allow selling shares and margins i’ve always been outside.
whoever touches my passport smiles and wishes me a great visit, has no idea what i look like,
raw material with wings, i’ll keep eating til i find something that wont let me go anywhere else.
how powerful must vultures be causing others to die to feed themselves

                              Want Cheese on That?

“In the Time of Bone . . . when, on the far side of the moon, I lay like a cheese,
blue-veined and with a loop of blue wire for a brain”

                                                                                           M. John Harrison

cheese comes from milk and infection
or a blossoming of something already there—
who let it in, as if i’m part of the spontaneous generation,
oily rags erupt into a swarm of locusts
                                                                         summer isn’t cheese time
though cheese melted slow by the sun is so much more flavorful
than microwaved or grilled, like the quantum leap from 12 minutes
of sex to 3 hours, places i didn’t know were on me, a new generation
of reaction and possibility, music without instruments, dances without light,
instant metamorphosis
                                              by the light of my white ass seen through an industrial sky,
as if light bounced 93 million miles would be unchanged,
as if space isn’t full of uncountable hitchhiking flavors and energies,
the charm of her spin, how cheese could be a subatomic particle when there are
no subatomic particles, particles of speech, of clothing, auto particles

you have to move quickly to get whole milk—it’s easier to start at zero
and know exactly how much you put in, count the key strokes,
diapers instead of bathroom breaks. this vat could be cheddar, swiss, muenster,
anything but blue, only what doesn’t mind months in a clear plastic slice prison

a small cube of cheese in a meatball wrapped in cheese inside a burger
bunned in melting cheese instead of a bun, cheese with a layer of meat inside it
so thin it could be blood—how thin can meat get—blood pudding, blood cheese,
the color of hemorrhaging, when the moon shivs the sun, what’s that smell

why nipples aren’t in armpits; if what came from mom was more like soy milk,
almond milk, if cows had never showed and we’d learned how to milk trees,
how to train squirrels like retrievers and border collies, effervescent with all the work
given them, more nuts in one fall than all the sheep ever

could a liberated muscle fly using its tendons like wings;
can cheese absorb carbon dioxide,
can coral reefs learn from cheese

water you cant see through cause of how it got here—cow clouds
like the constant chewing in the middle of the earth, the third stomach of synthesis,
following the grass that follows the sun cause of our earth’s crop rotation
without winter to clear the fields, without summer to scramble seeds and eggs

cheese you cant refrigerate, cheese that perspires in sunlight
addictive cheese, cosmic ray cheese, a zero gravity swiss
knowing more about the galaxy’s pathways than any dna genius cocktail
we’d thought to bring along
                                                     “in a time of such boiling algorithms
anything can appear to be alive,” quantum cheese, cheese from millions of years ago
we cant unwrap, cheese that’s the eater,    conversion,     paraclete—
the father, the sun & the holy processed: heat wont melt it but physics might.

in centuries the moon becomes a precision lens and parks right in front of the sun,
a mix of magnifying glass    eclipse     and glaucoma
learning to grow in that light of dusty cheese, in the resurrected spectrum
of sea bottom before sea and yeast, when green was just a color

who opened the door to the moon’s curdled refugees: no quarantine,
no passports, who questions folks coming out of a restroom
i only melt when no one’s looking, when the heat’s as accidental
as rush hour friction, striving for a transparent cheese,
cheese only made from voluntary milk, metal only from captured lava
or the occasional meteor after it stops screaming stretched into a wire
long and math enough to slice a star, as if the arms of our spiral galaxy
are udders stretching so far from the hot summer center
you know what’s coming out the end’s not milk

In 7 months last year dan raphael gave 17 readings from his new book Everyone in This Movie Gets Paid. He starts this year as the new prose editor of Unlikely Stories.
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