the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




FOUR WORKS
BY PETER STUHLMANN

03/09/03

i'm warming to the idea of war.
i'm warming to the idea of protection.
there are enough cans
in my cupboard to seriously mess
with you if you're under
my window too long. i'm not
going to work tomorrow.
i know my rights.
i get all the love i need
from television. the world is my can
of oysters. i'll do whatever
it takes from my living room.
i take pictures of my neighbors
& send them to the FBI just in case.
i like my animals in cages.
i like my george foreman grill.
i'll vote for anyone with a gun.
i'm as american as fear itself.

================

WORD CURE

i don't even like the word poet
much prefer pot or pot-
bellied or potentate-plato
was of course right: keep
the fuckers at the gate-invite
one into your home & risk
his humping
the furniture if your wife or cat
won't oblige
(you'd be surprised how many garden
gnomes have come
to an ignoble end at the hands of one
of these bastards
undressing the world they'll claim: unacknowledged
legislators of the world
or some crap like that
their snakey eyes focused on a bit
of fly shit at the edge
of the universe (yes i stole
that from sherod santos & poetry daily
which still attracts
me like flypaper
for some ungodly reason
but then i was also the kid tempted
to stare
directly into an eclipse
through unprotected eyes
& believed jim when he told me an eclipse
is really god's asshole & if you stare really hard
you can see it twitch
with displeasure
i think jim ended up becoming a poet or
legislator
who pushed canadians
to having a poet laureate like
the americans
(can you believe even new jersey has a poet
laureate-
amiri baraka i think it is or leroy
jones or whatever-there's a joke-the armpit
of america
having a state rep in verse
(tho wasn't he axed
for being a post-911 anti-semite?
that's like arkansas having the penguin as state
bird
or toronto having armadillo crossing signs
talk
about a government make-work project
let's get the lazy pricks
off their porches & into offices! let's see them
rhyme their way
out of that!!
there's a catchy slogan if i ever heard one
by now i'm sure you've noticed
this looks a lot like a poem & maybe i'm one of them
blibbering on for miles
to stall the inevitable go out & get a real job
not true
this is part of a group therapy exercise
designed to delve into the deepest cliches of my whatever
& report back in faltering syllabics
to the rest of the turnips
well if i have to take part in the psychological equivalent
of a circle jerk
i'm going to make damn sure it's a gusher
so-what
do you think? am i cured? nevermind-i don't
really like the word cure

================

DEAR MR LEHMAN

is that it-my voice back to the void?
come on dave, for 15 years you've been compiling
your little best of collection
& i have yet to know the pleasure of my name
on one of your pages, there
in chummy proximity to the likes of baraka
bang, oppen & dare i
even say it-john
ashbery, that perennial bulb
in the mulch of american letters
can't you cut me a break? it's not easy
honing your bones in this racket (mother's starting
to question my career choices
& i'm doing what i can, you of all people
should know how hard it is to keep
mothers & bones
out of a poem-you need a fucking pitbull!
can't you see i'm improving, writing
the particulars of shovelling snow with buddha
or going back to the house
for a book (only to suffer a dislocated self
listen dave, what if i'd told you
i had to quit smoking
to afford your last avant-garde & daily
mirror? then would you have sent creeley
clicking back
into can we have our ball back
to have another, closer look-
maybe urged him to use his other, unstoppered
eye?

================

01/10/03

no mystery here
as yet, the day so realistic it could fool
anyone
i love your teeth, how you paint them
carefully as your toes
with nicotine & caffeine
who am i to comment on the pushed-aside?
i have my own burrs to comb
out
if there is a mystery, it's how we came
to sit at this window
the four of us if reflections count
staring
into the muddy O's
of our coffees
as mysteries go this isn't as interesting as the news
our lives snuffed
out in after-hours clubs, our bodies
shown to the world
dumped
from the cockpit doors of DC-10s
i love your smile
even when you cover it with an unsteady hand
to hide a partially chewed animal
mass
as it turns out, this is a mystery of perfume
gone wrong
on the way to the McLove drive-thru
window
i love the veil you've woven from your raw
nerves
i love that you hold my hand
as if it were a pistol