To the Reader It May Concern & other poems by Arthur Case

Mnemonic Mind Melt: Some Things I Learned Today

Burning Man is sometimes known as the Slut Olympics.

‘Twentysomethings’ are little more than the actualization of the dreams of past ‘twentysomethings’.

George Orwell coined the phrase ‘Cold War’ in 1945, in an essay.

Many people believe that one’s facial direction really takes off beyond one’s control around age 17, although this can sometimes occur a great deal later.

A group of people in the Czech Republic has formed an organization that sets elaborate obstacles for and unique challenges involving masturbation.

The group calls themselves Masturbation and its Discontents: ‘MAID’ for short.

At a diplomatic meeting today John Kerry refused requests to take questions in French.

There are speculations that he may have forgotten how.

The opposite of an entrepreneur is an anti-peneur. Not the kind of person we can expect to hear from very often.

The first person to gain public recognition from MAID was a man from the English chapter who successfully masturbated while reciting John Milton’s poem ‘Il Penseroso’.

He achieved climax during the line ‘While the bee with honied thigh’.

During the 1950s especially, the resort known as Acapulco has long been frequented by Hollywood movie stars, who needed to fly under the radar a while. The resort has long been considered safe from Mexican crime and corruption. Until yesterday morning.

It is better to mull over knotty problems at one’s desk than to do nothing at the beach, according to studies.

The underground cult MAID gained universal traction after a racecar driver died attempting to masturbate during a race.

Silicon Valley may be the most influential template for today’s youth, especially when it comes to the ‘youthful fortitude of their moral compass’.

It is believed that the racecar driver achieved climax moments before his death.

After the racecar incident, MAID’s group skydiving challenge was duly canceled, presumably due to the recent casualties that the organization has suffered.

Sparkleponie is the term for somebody at Burning Man who has very little to offer in the way of basic survival skills, but makes up for it by being naked pretty much all the time.

A stone beneath one’s feet is not a valid object of observation. Or is it?

Here are some books I stole today from the ‘Friends of the Library Bookstore’:

Hay Fever by Noel Coward

The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard

The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard

The Boom Boom Room by David Rabe

Laughing Wild & Two Other Plays by Christopher Durang

There may be one or two others, which I can’t remember now.**

When I went back to buy a book that I saw in the window the woman behind the counter offered to hold my bag, the one with all the other stolen books inside of it.

The word humble comes from the Latin word humilis, meaning small, low, or close to the earth.

The price tag was missing on the book I wanted, so the woman behind the counter charged me $1. It was a rare First Edition of The Lover by Marguerite Duras.***

Tomorrow I hope to return to this bookshop, allowing myself more than five minutes of shopping time.

I wonder if I am supposed to be embarrassed to be alive.

               ~June whatever, evening

*All book titles have been changed for the purposes and glibness of this poem. 

**This particular edition of The Lover by Marguerite Duras sells for upwards of $100 on Abebooks.

***No books mentioned in this poem were abused or mistreated, without their express content.

*Newsflash for the Whole Family*

A long-time listener phoned in with a new way to prevent terrorism in the United States:

We need to Ban all foul-smelling foods on American airplanes! the woman said. 

You know, foods like hummus and curry and baba ganoush.

And next week on Racist Radio:

fried chicken is moving into the neighborhood,

bean burritos are taking all the good jobs,

& matzo ball soup controls the media.

The Liar & the Fantasist

Last night I heard children scampering around beneath my window, plotting to raid the local schoolhouse. They agreed Ralphy should go for the chocolate milk, and then someone else, Joey I think, had the bright idea that they should scale the wall of my building to get my hair and use it for a wig. That’s when I knew I was dreaming. Heists don’t require other more complicated heists in order to perform them. Anyway, my hair could never pass for a child’s. No way.

[See also: Coveted Hirsutism, Oneiric Rodentry, Accidental Jew-fro]

To the Reader It May Concern

Maybe you can help me. It’s spring outside and I’ve been having a hard time naming this poem of mine. The problem is whenever I take a pen to it, all the words shift their order around underneath my pen like sand beneath a torrent of water in the middle of a squall. Which is just what my pen has become whenever I go to name this thing. Whenever this happens, whenever the metaphors cry out for help as if to tell me they did not belong there in the first place, when the adjectives beg and bend their way toward oblivion or toward the edge of the page (whichever comes first) it is almost as though my pen were a premature coffin soaked in limpid tears, or a scepter clutched by an ancient stone just waiting for the right person to come along (that’s where you come in) to loosen the grooves in its bindings, to shatter the glass with your gaze.

In order for you to name this poem you’d probably like to know first what it is about. Well, that is another trouble I’ve been having. You see, I like to believe this particular poem is not easily reducible to summary, that it resists the penury of all things permanence, and all of the other timeworn artifices having to do with plot, and character development, and an effective use of style and other rhetorical devices. This poem, you might say, and I wouldn’t disagree with you, is about nothing and about everything at the very same time; this poem has its sights set beyond the common marketplace, beyond the atmosphere, the biosphere, the galaxy, the cumulus of galaxies!  This poem is, in some very clear sense, what all poems have always been about, at least as far back as the Greeks on Olympus, the Egyptians lording over Persia, the Hittites in caves and the Sumerians with Stylus. Strictly speaking, this poem is about Fucking and it is about Being Fucked.  

You might think it easy to name a poem after these two quintessential themes of all poetry. You might think that you can get away with calling such a poem, ‘A Letter from the Government’, for instance, or else, ‘A Trip to the DMV on a Sunday Afternoon’. You might make the mistake in thinking, as I first did, that a title as broad and simple as ‘Sunday Afternoon’ could fit the bill.  And it’s true, all of these titles get to the heart of what all poetry I feel is about. What’s more, all of these titles have the added benefit of another deeply cherished philosophy of mine when it comes to poetry – and that is, the imperative to write about what you fear rather than about what you know. In fact, while I allow myself to linger on this subject for a moment, I’d like to offer you a couple of other titles, which you should almost certainly want to dismiss out of hand when it comes time for you to name this poem of mine yourself. These are: ‘The Time I fell in Love with My Neighbor for Telling Me That My Typewriter was Too Loud’, ‘The Afternoon I Made Love Twelve Times, All of Them by Myself (which explains a lot)’. Or what about merely, ‘Sunday Afternoon’?

All of this brings to mind a memory that may have even been the impetus for this poem and, now that I think of it, may provide some much-needed insight into what you’d like to do with this poem when the time comes. I am speaking of the afternoon I came home early from the DMV, because this was a Sunday and the DMV has always been closed on Sundays, two things I didn’t realize were the case until I got there. So in any case, when I came home I could see, even through the casement window beside the entrance to my apartment that my best girl was lying in bed with a strange man, the two of them rolling to my side of the bed like a couple of sweaty Twizzlers, rolling right where I usually keep my bed-time things – my industrial-strength ear muffs and my Oxford Critical Companion to Paul Gauguin, things like that – and so here I was not sure if I’d ever get these things back, or even whether I’d get to sleep in my own bed again without having to cause a scene; and I guess it’s not so much that there is one title out there more or less accurate than another title – any of the titles I’ve suggested, in fact, bear in mind my philosophy of poetry, albeit some more heavy-handedly than others. Still the fact remains that I’ve only just thought of these and here I am at the end of the page, and by now, well, I guess this is the poem, you know?

A Moth with a Keyboard, a Moth with a Keyboard Instead of a Flame

for Julio Cortazár and the Internet

I don’t have to tell you that when the girl is gone a man begins to questions himself. A man might consider, for instance, the heat floating out from the radiator as a measure of sound, the way its fluttering particles dissolve on the rim of a tea cup, how the heat, in a cup of tea, might be altered by the alignment of the stars.

A man may decide to turn the internet off a while, turn off the phones and the internet so that the neighbors gradually become the only activity of life in the world and, eventually, not even them.

A man may begin to question whether or not other people are in fact alive, for instance, begin to marvel at the science by which the moon is secured in its cycle, the sun suspended in air by its own centrifugal force, how the flinch of a shoulder can become a wrinkle of time.

A man may begin to suspect that the moth that lands across the room on his keyboard has in fact lived with him for years, devising pathetic new ways to be noticed.

Go ahead, deny up and down that the unobserved life is not worth living. But try to remember that there are thousands of ways of turning a door knob, that a man is capable of lusting after something small enough for an insect to swallow, that a man can begin to believe he feels the heart of a moth that alights on a keyboard, for instance.

Try to understand that if a man hears the neighbor’s family come home he knows very well that the sound of a young girl singing at the other end of the street is enough to shatter all the mirrors inside of him, that mirrors have always been portals to hell. Recall how Orpheus slipped through mirrors to get to the underworld and it’s no wonder he didn’t come back with anything except for a lousy lute or a lyre, in any case he didn’t come back with the girl.

Try, if you can, to remember that when a man walks from the seat of his chair to the desk at his window he is very likely staking his life.

You can deny up and down that the unobserved life is not worth living, but first consider a duck someplace that is covered with ants, the gulfs in the Straits of Magellan that no one will ever sail over, the fact that there are so many ways of learning to cry without the slightest noise.

Remember that the sound of a young girl singing in the distance is enough to change everything, that the sight of a young boy’s parents’ waiting for him at the door is enough to break a grown man’s heart.

Remember the sight of a young boy’s parents waiting for a young boy at the door. A young boy with his head hanging down, a young boy who has nothing in this world, nothing at all in this world to say.

The Monk Who Fell in Love with the Sky

There once was a young monk who had secret ambitions of becoming a writer. His central problem was that he felt ashamed to tell anyone about his dreams. Each time somebody would ask what he had been up to with his time, he held his tongue and after a few moments, he pointed toward the sky.

This was a trick his master once taught him. When you are confused, his master said, just point to the sky and nod as if you were on the brink of something profound. Like enlightenment or something.

The monk did in fact write many things. But the monk, generally speaking, was a loyal monk who always listened to his master’s advice. And so anytime someone would ask to see his writings, he would merely bow his head in shame and rather dimly point toward the sky.

Anyway, he reasoned, it didn’t make sense to tell people ‘I have been writing’ unless he was writing at that very moment. That is, unless he was writing all the time, something of course that is physically impossible to do and to talk about at the same time. Yes—thought the monk to himself without actually saying so, of course—there is such an enormous difference between the writer being and the writer doing.

And so it was that the monk gradually grew ashamed of wanting to be a writer, and he never did learn to think of himself that way. Not reasonably at least, not without his master or his master’s gods getting all upset about it and whispering quite abstractly to him in his ear, as if there were toes to be stepped on in such things.

Then one day, when his master was away on a long journey and the monk had the entire temple to himself, he decided to try and write, mostly out of boredom and a misguided need for conversation. The monk wrote so much, in fact, that very soon there was no ink left, and he absolutely refused to go to the market without having some excuse or other for which to buy something. This was another thing his master taught him: If you are really looking for good fish, claimed his master, why follow some idiot into the middle of the copper market? Why complain if you are looking to quench your spirit’s longing and have followed a rat into the desert.

His master said this without the monk ever quite understanding the lesson and too afraid to ask. And so it was the monk never wrote again, not that it changed all that much in his life necessarily. For over and over again, whenever people spoke to him he bowed his head and went on pointing to the sky. Reasonable or not, the monk had to admit that the sky was a true master.

On the Coming of Spring in Buenos Aires

after Witold Gombrowicz

It gets dark. We return home. Tea.

As always when I arrive someplace, I spread my papers out on the desk and stand before the window. I gaze outside in private devotion, as if in the courtyard below there was a palette from which I were drawing paint. I grow restless, re-arrange, pace, fidget. If there is a tree I give myself to its wispy tree breath. I listen for the rustle of the wind, the sound sent by the trees for the birds to hear. The trees across this country sometimes spread their wide branches out like flags, jutting out over the land, a little too proud of themselves. A Poplar tree, the breeze it blows, aren’t these the essential props of my life? Is it not the job of every tree, like great towering erasers, to push the words away?

Shut the window. Whatever fruit is there is there to rot for the crows to catch.

Point yourself toward the bedroom. Try to avoid the mirror mounted on the wall.

Understand that one of the major ordeals of man is to face his mirror, but the force of another kind of humiliation is enough for you now. Scuttle across the floor to the bedroom like a crab across the sea floor, one eye glancing up to the surface of the water, careful not to be spotted. Pace, fidget, re-arrange.

Somewhere in the Galapagos Islands, a tortoise is being smothered by another tortoise. Flesh is swinging on a rope.

The pendulum swings on the branch of the Poplar tree outside. The smell of rot and mud.

Shut the door. Feel the air kiss your forearms a moment, a sense of the door still warm with vibration. Hear for a moment the echo of your own blood. Listen to the trace of a voice outside from a moment ago. The smell of rot and mud. Old fruit falling to the ground for the crows to catch.


Arthur Case lives in Southern California where he writes prose and plays and sometimes wears a beard.

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2013 by in poetry.


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