dan raphael

“You are Here”

So many crinkly membranes separating me from me, as if i’m a building
with transparent walls and ceilings, i rarely know most of them are there
occasional sounds like dry gravel walked on briskly, a flashlight
out the corner of my eye, the pressure change of a door closing behind me
down one of several halls

If i could be like a tarantula, step out of my body
and examine it from the outside, would i want to get back in, could i?
in this mirrorless world who knows what my new body is
as if i always walked this way, always an insect with six legs
no interest in weaving but still hungry for what I can no longer catch

Times i feel as quantum as the universe—no neutrons or electrons,
nothing solid just probabilities, more spin than charm, more bozo than boson,
does this scales reading include my dark matter, is every star
just another window some me is looking out of from their desk
where a keyboard could be an asteroid belt, as at absolute zero
everything is hidden and possible, as the heart of the sun is a transporter
beyond maps and identity, the last words i remember are “you are here”
as i expand with 99.8% space exploring what each of those words mean,
how those meanings could coalesce, clash, ferment or refuse to play

Reveling in these rare moments when i can get 3 or 4 channels at once,
seeing the physics of two inches as never before, the space of a deep breath
where the world I’m moving past is invisible and i could fall through,
i stretch out my hand and feel something hovering behind
the heat and garlic of my breath waiting beyond this door

Dionysus Didn’t Sleep Here

All around me random caroms zoom among these hills’ slow pulse,
melody irregular as mountain ranges, geophysical strangers
with no molecular rules in common nor able to communicate
though viral and easily absorbed, i jump to retrieve
without an address to deliver, as every breath is a percentage—
uneven distribution is all we’ve ever known, as cutting a pie
into 47 equals won’t be permitted by crust, blade, or hand

This life to time coordination, a pop-up station for a rail line
out of business before it can return cause the suns always been greenish
with herbal clouds thinning to allergies and appetites
not like soil used to taste, only make soup after rain
as we save lightning by continuing to feel it
when every bladder must let go before sunrise

The difference between potential and waiting,
tween used up and explosive, casting seeds as the villains
as giant white combines ride in from their concrete nests
sparking the steel rats and incendiary locusts to display a new starscape
to the giant vacuum hawks waiting for everything to stop moving
so they can shed their infected feathers into the furrowed ocean
and enough of us can seduce the tide to lower its shorts
and let tomorrow slide in, blue-faced and wailing,
time’s meat-skinned wind instantly ripe and savory

Segueing Erratically

               “he’s banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee”
                                                                            Dire Straits

Segueing erratically into We Layin’ the Voodoo Down
strings keep snapping, strings imagined, illegible reeds
cymbals that don’t remind me of anything—hubcaps in acid rain
bowls that sing another language, a multi-blade frisbee

Dinner served in a net, in modal patches, who knows
what’ll come out of the improvising udder
my napkin keeps unfolding til I could sleep in it
muffled moods, 1 course served in full dark
never comes all the way off, never seals completely

Nothing warps the tempo—traffic, empty tank, battery a steaming puddle
when there’s no reason to stop, no exits til night
my door jammed by a four-dimensional combination lock
with spotty memory, another pour so the numbers will writhe,
languidly, cooked pasta left overnight in the rain

Crows with pockets under their wings, flowers you smell days
before they open. most of my clothes are reversible, not always
the same size on the other side, when lines become covers,
when masks keep repeating til they monopolize the mirror

I breathe on the cold window and wait for the message
chords without vowels, major or diminished,
6 becomes 9, 8 wont be here til tomorrow

It’s all contextual, history trying to get lost in a crowd
the future comes but once a month & could keep changing
if not opened or frozen immediately, each brown paper lump
dreaming of accumulation, of lakes of mud, the rare volcano
that implodes, deflating adjacent peaks, giving the whole county
reasons to be elsewhere

I put an ear 2 inches deep into the neighborhood’s freshest scar,
my internal metronome can’t decide between caffeine or alcohol,
shoe gaze or death metal, 21st birthday or 50th

Waking up to

The smells of fire, shit, imaginary bacon
the sound of tires from out front, on the mile away freeway
as if i hear this whole quadrant in motion.
why don’t i start today with dinner, watch something
that won’t be on for hours, treat AM like PM

If enough of us taunt the sun into going backwards
get the right musics going so the stars can’t stay in bed
as the moon never sleeps only changes clothes
without a mirror big enough to get the total effect
like trying to trim hair evenly
choosing between asymmetrical or nearly bald

As no two pairs of jeans are the same
i could lie on long paper, draw the contours
of my body one week over another and soon have
a topographical map of a place i’ll never visit,
maybe contours from distant past or future.
instead i wake up repeatedly in the same place
without knowing the address or phone number
unable to afford a satellite connection

When everyone can read my barcode
pockets will be a sign of nostalgia or third-hand
no wallets or purses, doors that know whether
i can afford to come in or i’ve spent so much
there’s something non-monetary required to exit

As debt begins before breath, as it can take decades
for credit to self-sow, for the soil’s resistance
to wear down, whether gracefully or reluctant.
shadows are seldom proportional, light doesn’t care
how it’s distributed, where it pools, where it never gets


Color has nothing to do with flavor
when what’s stirred, baked, left in the wind to dry
holes so tiny not even air gets through

They’ve figured out how to make exhaust smell like roast meat
what’s a vegetarian to do, daubing eau de kale behind the ears
as food must now present narratives, the puzzle must be solved
before the first bite, i do not assume the plate or hand
are innocent bystanders

I hear chickens though everything’s paved and more than 4 stories

The friction of delaying now, fraying with memory,
as momentum limits the range and possibilities of motion
rolling the dice ‘til they come up fourteen, pick a card
and watch it rise, a thin mist of fermentation or is it digestion
when all the menus have been replaced with pictures either photo-
shopped or drawn by someone who hasn’t been outside for years

If we could eat mountains they’d be much shorter and flatter,
if we could drink the ocean boats could help the housing crisis,
fish would adapt, kelp would blossom and join the bouquet cooperative

A bite, a spoonful, a dollop getting oriented to my cupped palm
the gorges of life and love, the unwritten history of what caused
this topography, if i never washed my hands they’d be more like
eroded hills, often flooded valleys as the rivers change direction
i’m living another life in another country on a world without borders
the dna test says a great-grandfather from mercury, i’m 11% extinct
and violate several copyrights —untasted, uncloned,
too un-present to represent, no idea what I sound like
when sliced, peeled, anesthetized, marinated somewhere else

With nothing in my mouth or around me
i smell and taste a favorite i haven’t had for years

dan raphael writes: "Manything, my new book, is now out from Unlikely Books. A second book, The Closer You Get to Nowhere, should be out soon.. Now in my 3rd year of writing and recording a political poem most Wednesdays for the KBOO Evening News...
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