POEM: by any other name

by any other name

the grass was southern, green in the way
the grass gets when it’s always hot and humid
green like the promise of huckleberry and locusts
we sat on the bank of a slow-moving stream
the baby’s stroller a few feet away
the baby himself on the blanket between us
cooing and playing with first your fingers, then mine
you used to wear lipstick sometimes
along with your funky retro glasses
you’d just cut your hair short, too
I was into sandals by this time, having
discovered them in the desert a few years before
did we bring snacks? probably not
I don’t remember ever thinking of things
lasting long enough for either of us to get hungry
for anything but one another
even though we had hours and hours when
nobody was wondering where we were
still, we approached every meeting like a secret mission
one from which return was unlikely, and for which
no continuation seemed possible
this message will self-destruct in five seconds
sometimes we barely touched, maybe
brushing fingers on the stroller handle
or bumping shoulders in that way people do
when they’re watching something else
but thinking only of one another
I’m not sure why I’m remembering this now
this week you’ve been on my mind
today I opened the English version
of a popular French novel to discover
the translator has your name
you’re on your fourth last name
between us we’ve had seven
which is, I think anyone would agree, quite a few
how tragic that in all those renamings
we never managed to settle on the same one

/ / /

Jason Crane
22 January 2015
Oak Street

POEM: second chances

second chances

She’s been with him for eight years.
It’s been sixteen since we were…
whatever it was we were.
Nearly five since “please forget me.”
Tonight I found a photo of her face;
a recent photo, not from our era.
She looks happy and beautiful.
The sight of her. Jesus.
Today someone told me
I fall in love too easily, with anyone.
Maybe. But I also stay in love.
I guess I’m a fool.

/ / /

Jason Crane
21 January 2015
State College

POEM: I cannot threaten death (an erasure poem based on MLK’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech)

I cannot threaten death

(Original Text: “Beyond Vietnam”
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
4 April 1967)

this magnificent conscience
leaves us in full accord
these words call us in time of war
of dreadful conflict
we must move
the silence of the night is limited
but the darkness seems so close
I called for the heart of the King
Aren’t you hurting?
I trust
I believe
I come not to the ambiguity
nor to the resolution
they are never resolved
I wish to speak
I am shining as if
I would never see an enemy
eight thousands liberties die
in brutal silent cruel manipulation
awareness would change our nation
the violence in the boys
we chose
O America America America!
now America destroys
I cannot threaten death
God is helpless and outcast
bound by human hands
madness within the people
hear their broken cries
we refused them
poisoned the land
we were reckless, tragic
the peasants watched
as we read promises of peace
where they know our bombs
they watch their children beg
our tortures are
their most cherished bitterness
to speak of liberation as aggression
is the right question
we are bombs, armies
we do not negotiate
they moved the truth
claimed that bombing, shelling, aggression
are the process of the sophisticated
I calculate the image of violence
I begin
we must make
we must provide
we must continue
we must be
we must protest
the struggle is a reality
and a dozen other names calling God
we have seen helicopters napalm
the peaceful
incapable of justice
the Good Samaritan beaten and robbed
capitalists with no concern
burning human veins
year after year
the United States of poverty
insecurity and injustice
shirtless and barefoot in darkness
our only hope
in the final analysis
is in the ultimate reality of love
we can afford the oceans
we are fierce, naked, adamant
we must move
let us tell of hope
of solidarity, of history
as every nation comes in truth
each goes by truth and behind the shadow
we will make our world beautiful

/ / /

Jason Crane

NOTE: You can hear this poem and see it in context here.

POEM: The Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion


The Max Headroom Broadcast Signal Intrusion

back when we used to watch the same three channels
& a pirate could take over the nine o’clock news
now a m-m-m-maniac in sunglasses and a latex mask
is shouting the names of his friends and enemies
looking like a crazed Ronald Reagan (yes, all Ronald
Reagans look crazed) & we’re glued to the set
like Oprah was giving away free cars but of course
she hadn’t started doing that yet in 1987; she had only
just displaced Phil Donahue (that ancient wizard) as
the number one talk show host on the block but we digress
Pseudo Max Headroom is on our TV screens in place
of “The Horror Of Fang Rock” & who is Chuck Swirsky?
[screams and moans] “Your love is fading!” & at the end
a woman dressed like Heidi smacks his ass with a fly swatter
& we can’t help but wonder if this was the only
two minutes of honesty on WTTW that entire day

/ / /

Jason Crane
18 January 2014
Oak Street

/ / /

Here’s a video of the incident referred to in this poem:

POEM: the sound of Irish poet Paul Muldoon saying “now”

the sound of Irish poet Paul Muldoon saying “now”

It comes out with a vowel sound
unknown in American English;
close to “nye” (as in Bill)
but with a bit of the “w” left in at the end.

To Muldoon it’s just the way he says “now.”
Still I get the feeling he’s sparing with it,
throwing it in like the last spice in a soup:
not overmuch, but without it something’s missing.

So I listen, waiting for that syllable like it was
one of Coltrane’s high notes. Paul does not disappoint.
He sprinkles in a “now” here and there; bright
dandelions not yet gone to seed in an autumn field.

/ / /

Jason Crane
14 January 2015
Oak Street