How Much Can It Hurt?

by heytherewildflower

By Philip Levine

The woman at the checkstand
Who wishes you cancer

The fat man who hates his mother
The doctor who forgets

The soup bubbling on the back of the stove
The stone staring into the sun

The girl who kisses her own arms
The girl who fries her hair

The egg turning brown under the spoon
The lemon laughing all night long

My brother in his uniform over Dresden
The single thrill of fire going for the bed

The kindergarten blowing its windows out
Chalk burning the little fingers

The newspaper waiting all weekend
Dozing in rain with the deaths smeared on its lips

The oiling and loading and springing
THe bullets sucking quietly in their cradles

How much can it hurt in the wood
In the long nerve of lead, in the fattened head

How much can it hurt
In each ration of meat hooked and hanging

In the unfinished letter, the dried opened socket
The veil of skin flapping, the star falling

My face punctured with glass
The teeth eating themselves in dreams

Our blood refusing to breathe, refusing to sleep
Asking the wounded moon

Asking the pillow, asking, asking
How much can it hurt?

This is pretty much one of the few contemporary “war-poems” of this particular medium-to-long length that succeeds, and is not heavy handed, and is not melodramatic, does not drag through a pond of cold blood and pile of mulching body parts and guilt and then stops righteously short with the wayward conviction that it has done it’s job, as though the job is righteous unto itself, and damn the readers if they don’t absorb every merry evil and wicked condescension and then LOOK SAD and somber in the last ignoramus breath of the fucking thing. UNDERGRAD BOY POETS, IM TALKING TO YOU. IM TALKING RIGHT AT YOU, BUT I WOULD NEVER EXPECT YOU TO LISTEN! EVER! Anyway, the point being, a war-poem of this length is hard because it’s nearly impossible not to be heavy handed or to present image after image or vignette after vignette of intense fuckery, and often,  limpid samples of cliche,  without, AS THE EPIC POEM DOES SO DRAMATICALLY, justifying the difficulty of itself by by dispatching the necessary historical or journalistic portraiture/psycholOGICAL exploration (Same difference, really.)

short war-poems are easier. they’re a flash, like a punch to the gut! are STILL DIFFICULT TO DO, don’t get me wrong, but easier than a poem the length of the poem above. epic war poems are different, of course. whothe fuck is attracted to the epic war poem these days, anyway? usually if you are, it’s because you are a fool. young shit head with ROmantic ideas about the wrong end of Romanticism’s ass hole. the other end of romanticism still secretes a lot of bullshit, by that driveling pie hole is a different topic. A topic you may be familiar with if you know me at all, and you probably do, because only people who love me a lot would want to read this blog. that is both a compliment to you, who love me, and a compliment to me, one loony cancerian moonchild with a lot of sparkly and wonderful satellites.

To be fair to myself and pretty much 2/3rds of the world of artists, somebody stuck on love is not so bad, just rather silly.  loony is more of a good thing, and not an abrasive or condescending thing, love is less annoying. It is well intentioned. Although, to add a side note to this rant, which is essentially  a spit bubble of speech containing nothing only, loving and loving being the object of love is a fucking awful and basic immature narcissism.  I’ll let that dog sleep for now and refrain from bubbling another parenthetical confusing fuck to the face via blog ranting.

ANYWAY, the point being! IN FACT THE POINT IS,  Mr. Levine’s handling of the delicate and creeping and crazy and body and bodies and city and cities in bodies and fluid running through all, swelling up like a rip tide, AND POW!

and sleep.

Philip Levine, you are the mother fucking POET LAUREATE, bitch. and the honor is worn on you not like a badge, but like a dark sparkle in your seedy eye.


speaking of cliches, here is the pretty pretty perty little slip from The Pretty Parlor worn Courtney Love style. all I did was add a flannel and a skull candle and BAM I am seattle grunge ready, Kurt Cobaine was a mouth breather also– so perhaps  I drew influence from the both of them.

ONWARD MARCH! happy horrible monday. HOW MUCH DOES IT HURT?

a. fucking. lot.