Header image  
    Table of Contents
Chuck Calabreze


Wank.  Wank.  Testing one two.  The night, the organism.  The rented trucks, the wired-up and
jump-started, the microbuses.  The highway clogged with what’s happenings, with bongs and where
the hormones tick tick tick.  So we drove the vee dub into the ditch, leaped the fence, and hit drives
with putters from the miniature golf course.  He’s house artist now at a local rock ‘n’ roll club.  She
had some skills, but the technology changes so fast.  For a while, when the guitars filled the air with
messages, when the giggling Viet Nam vet forgot he was driving and crunched Juicy Plantman’s U-
Haul, a voice told a dark story.  He was backing up.  Someone rolled off the roof, landed on his feet. 
Everyone cheered.  America, freedom.  A war somewhere. When he came home from Nam he tried
to kill his brother who turned him on to acid and now he was driving into trees and trucks.   Happy,
he said, happy happy in this unexpected America.




As a teenager, I was featured
on all three “majors,” danced to the jostle
of Fox network’s hand-held cam. 
I turned and turned
to face you, where you slouched
on your couches, on your La-Z-boys,
rummaging your loud hands
in the cellophane.  I sang
of my adventures, stalking the street’s
black tongue, a word no one could bring
himself to speak, and you--
you squirmed and placed
your hands upon the stolid
virtues of your wife and sank
among your remotes, your processors
and cels, while I took
the burden of your angst
and strapped it on my back
like an AK-47, and I
took the burden of your pulselessness,
pierced one nipple with it,
and hung the star there of a brand
new Bethlehem, and I
took the burden of your sexlessness
and drove it through the walls of fire
at the ends of all your driveways.
It bores me, your despair--so like
a blinking caution light
at three a.m. when all the drunks
have hauled themselves
up from their murky prisons
to witness the inevitable
decline of morning, sunlight
sabotaging each heartfelt illusion,
the manager of the All Night
Food Emporium standing in the aisle
of condiments saying What?
to the assembled relishes and dressings. 
It is true my friends--
as the shadows form across your walls
an electrocardiogram
of your virtue, I am engaged
in a kind of exorcism:  I die
again.  This time for your sinlessness. 
This time for the pastel rooms
where you sing your pains to sleep. This time
for the blindfolded angels perched
hunched and shivering behind your ribs




Because the flatulent professors
remain deadlocked.  Because
they are plagued by memories
and unremediated squalor.
Because in each cubicle
hangs a photograph of the insipid
paying homage to the inane.  Because
the Encyclopedia of Unstable Referents
has been consulted.  Because the armature
is spinning without effect
or noticeable profit.  Because
the students have lost their purchase
on the cambered slopes of laissez faire.
Because the night sky has been instructed
and authorized.  Because we have been
unable to assess.  Because someone sang C
when we pointed to D.  Because the overhead
transparencies, the computer printouts.
Because these numbers, when plotted
against the national average, do not exemplify
the enhanced outcomes we’d predicted
during our previous visit.  Because
these brush strokes
fall outside the parameters.  Because
the message is unmeasurable and is plagued
by interference.  Because
the signifiers seem randomly placed.
Because such phrases as
“April is the cruelest month”
present undecidable propositions.
Because your students’ works escape
the tools we’ve designed to capture our data
and, therefore, do not, strictly speaking,
exist.  Because we are not authorized
to modify the apparatus.  Because our studies
clearly demonstrate an accuracy
plus or minus three percent.
Because we are dedicated
to indexing measurable
arts-related activities,
we regret to inform you
that we can no longer validate
your institutional outcomes.     



It has been brought to my attention
that faculty have been slouching
at department meetings.  They have been
yawning and stretching, scratching
at importune moments.  That
they have been publishing excessively
will be taken up at our weekly
planning session.  That they seem
unable or unwilling to control
their rampant imaginings will be addressed
by the counseling staff.  We can only
do so much.  Our purview
is limited.  Their fragrant goose-stepping 

is perhaps beyond our control. 

Their dank, mildewed offices
will be addressed by Facilities.
Their frequent bellowing and moaning
we expect to subside.  Their coiffures
and vestments are, alas, irremediable.
About their slouching I am open to suggestions.
I will remind you that we have tried
public humiliation.  Brow-beating
has failed.  For years, we have had to endure
their inability to sit erect, their flaccid
salutes, their planning for the infinite,
their unprincipled devotion to principles.




1.2.4  This Policy Manual is subject to immediate revision at any time.  The President’s revisions shall
be communicated by the Minister of Personnel via hand gestures from the top of the tower recently
erected in her honor.  All powers not specifically reserved by the Creator shall, for the purposes of this manual, be
deemed to fall within the President’s purview.

2.1.3  Any attempts to discuss the contents of this manual shall be construed as a failure to operate
within the parameters of this manual.  

2.5  Employees’ dreams, while not specifically encompassed by this policy manual, should not be
contrary to the goals and intentions of the President.

3.1.2  When positions are being reduced, the President may terminate any employee who has
disagreed, seemed to disagree, or has given indications that he or she might disagree with her in the
future, regardless of that individual’s qualifications and job performance.  

3.1.3  Employees not currently being terminated may be required to furnish musical
accompaniment–in the form of traditional singing and/or klezmer music–during the termination

4.1.2  Any employee found walking, talking, doodling, writing, gazing absently, breathing with
excessive force, or otherwise showing evidence of a private, internal life over which the Institute has
no apparent jurisdiction and which, if unchecked, might lead to critical, creative, and/or contrary
thoughts about the Institute and its President shall be subject to disciplinary action including, but not
limited to, death by electrocution, hanging, and/or lethal injection.  

5.1  What is known as the “Employee Manual” is not the Employee Manual.  The True Employee Manual
exists in the mind of the President.  

5.2  All employees are responsible to the True Employee Manual.   




That they have legitimate concerns
is not the primary issue.  That the dorms
are substandard and have always been so. 
That retention rates are falling.  That
their entrance exams were found
to contain high levels of radon.
That the food service’s mulligan stew
was without a single mulligan.
That the professors misunderstood
their job descriptions.  That small arms fire
occasionally erupted outside the classroom.
That the FBI agents were poorly disguised.
That the president began all of her
on campus addresses, “If only
we had foreseen.”  That the president
began her public speeches, “This
is the dawn of a new era.”  That
the new clock tower wore dark clouds
like a sombrero.  That the open meeting
was closed to the public.  That communications
were expedited by gossiping behind
the toxic materials shed.  That
the student body was barely breathing.
That periodic and unannounced strip searches.
That mail was rerouted and sliced open.
That they have legitimate concerns is a
matter for future discussions.  That
we are here to listen.  That the door
is always open.  Be assured:  All of these
inconveniences will be addressed
in due time, as set forth in document
226, section 12, paragraph 3.




We have spotted them sulking
in the arroyos, interfacing
with the returning units.
We have watched them cribbing
answers in the featureless void.
That they have eroded the trust.
That they have brandished the facts.
Varnished the facts.  Embellished
fruitfully in the congealed
classroom of our corporate hearts.
That the lexicon is exhausted
is not a discussion point
for this distinguished committee.
Be advised:  The tools for banishment
have been assembled on the outskirts.
That we will use them to lever
the recalcitrant agitators
from their untenable philosophies.
That our resolve be communicated.
That the truth is no obstacle.


                          Letter of Recommendation for Dave Jonas

                                                                Never pay a poet by the hour.  
--Milton Swift

Although I do not know Mr. Jonas well, I have seen him lying awake at night, his griefs and regrets
upon him like spiders.  I have seen the web they spin, the way he tears at it with the very hands that
shaped the past into an irrevocable chaos that even now looks like the absence of light at the bottom
of a bottomless lake.  And yet I recommend him highly to your program with its rotting railroad ties
and slapdash, though often critically praised, settlements in the heretofore uninhabited zones.  Mr.
Jonas might be a welcome addition, carrying, as he often does, a faggot of pickaxes, spades, and
shovels on his back.  Unlike many of my colleagues, Mr. Jonas has not settled into a comfortable
mediocrity—his mediocrity has been hard won.  He had to tear himself from the grasp of a brilliant
future, lock himself away, stuff every gap with old, worn T-shirts, avert his eyes to avoid the descent
into genius.   But avoid it he has, with the assistance of a panoply of bad habits and misprisions.  His
work is consistently late and often incomplete.  His signature is a searing genius boggled by
vicissitude and ambivalence.  And just when one might expect some extraordinary insight, one is met
with a tepid image, a trailing off, a frustrating incompleteness, an image, say, of a mouse nibbling a
cracker quietly in a midnight kitchen, or of a toaster oven, not cleaned for months, bursting suddenly
into flame.  The trepidation with which I tender this letter can be traced to this:  Were Mr. Jonas to
depart, the performance of those remaining might be held to a higher, more universal standard that
would place all of us in jeopardy.  If I can be of further assistance in your evaluation of Mr. Jonas,
please let me know soon:  What little I believe I know of him is under constant threat of revision. 




I started from fish-shaped Paumanok
I went from Staten to Manhattan and I made you rock
I’m the man I’m the poet no sucker MC
Truth and beauty came naturally
I listened to the mocker and the mountain hawk
Now I rhyme everytime I talk
I sing of this life and the life beyond
I’m like Hank T. from Walden Pond  

Melville Emerson Hawthorne Poe
Those sucker MCs can’t touch my show
I rock ‘em in the East I rock ‘em in the West
I rock ‘em like a he-bird on his nest  

I rhyme about Pittsburgh New Orleans
‘bout Baltimore and Abilene
I rhyme about cities and the folks inside ‘em
I rhyme and I rhyme ad infinitum
I sing the rivers and I sing the trees
I’d sing about the critics but they’re down on me
But all their buggin’ don’t worry me
‘Cause I’ll be fresh in the Twenty First Century  

Melville Emerson Hawthorne Poe
Those sucker MCs can’t touch my show
I rock ‘em in the East I rock ‘em in the West
I rock ‘em like a he-bird on his nest  

I drive folks crazy with my vulgar rhymes
They burn my books ‘cause I’m ahead of my time
The people cover their ears they squirm and blush
And when I open my mouth I gush gush gush
To the bearded toughs I yawp my tunes
I like nothing better than to dress their wounds
Yo, America!  You’ve got nothing to fear
Though your ship’s not in your Brooklyn ferry’s here