Probation Poem 1-8-18

I arrive early. I want the best seat.

Front row for the front line

of shadows meted out as justice.

I whip out Walt (he’d of loved that phrase!)

and begin to read from “Song of Myself,” section 32,

the section Walt wrote with Bonnie and Clyde in mind:

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,

I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,

They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,

Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,

They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.

“How do you spell ‘application?’”

the young man asks me.

I close Walt.

I stop thinking about the tokens

of myself the dogs bring me.

This book is about those tokens.

He’s in the brown hoodie again,


always greasy,

he asks me

without looking up from his phone.

I presume he’s filling out a job application,

or reapplying to become a human being again,

but then why do you need to spell ‘application?’

I spell it. Three times.

We talk. He mostly talks.

Talks about his darkening


into the dark unknown,

already past the black border

on one of the ancient maps

when the earth was flat

and sea serpents

gobbled up the explorers.

Walt was an explorer,

an explorer of the marginalized,

their poet, too,

their greatest poet,

but Walt is dead to them now,

and I use pick and shovel

to entomb him for them,


In fact, the young man

is applying for a job,

a job processing crabs,

the ones about to arrive

in Astoria, the only job

allowed him (and me).

But we get to wield

the best knives,

sharp ones pulled

from the Internet.

There are no crabs in the restaurants without us.

I wish Walt could sing about that.

He’d know what to sing. I don’t.

The meeting convenes.

Bursts of advice. Almost in song.

A man praises his ankle revoke.

A man loves his new A.I.P (approved intimate partner).

(I didn’t make up A.I.P. The State did. There is a form.)

A man loves the old fishermen stories in AA.

A man is going to sea.

A man cut his friends like bait.

Some salty language for familiarity.

Like from the old salts in the hold.

A crew we almost are,

backslapping, drinking our stories.

Don’t call me Ishmael, though.

He’s the only one who survived.

I want all of us to make it,

and return one day

and harpoon our Ahab,

even though his soul

is already dead.

Let him eat crab.

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