Academic Fallacies – Jay Sizemore

The punchline of the joke

~after David Foster Wallace

Nothing is more important

than academia,

not God,

that infinite jester

whose real Bible

was the instruction booklet

to the first microwave oven

a meth addict used

to accidentally murder

their cat.

My PhD thesis

was a suicide note,

a detailed cryptographic duodenum

of perfunctory yet prodigious

self fellatio steeped in sadness,

but with an alcoholic heart,

like a list of philosophers’ names

tattooed on a penile shaft,

how those names may shine

when smeared in saliva!

And oh, to see my own 
among them,
just before

that final bukakke breath.

The last poem I wrote

was supposed to be the LAST POEM

but then I discovered

the truth of my body,

and the joke of time,

of attempt, of will and restraint

and pleasure and faith

that falls like a gentle curtain

of detergent-sponsored rain.

Embrace this hedonism,

embrace this epiphany,

this self-fulfilling ejaculation,

that every body

is the same body,

and every mind

is just an expression

of that body,

wanting only to be held,

like the theory of an orchid

blooming but severed

from its nourishment’s stem.


Excavating the Self

~after Philip Roth

I. Guess Who

Getting it wrong is living,
a misunderstanding
of the other, never knowing
the inner curves of the spiral
becoming the most human
of myriad human flaws,
perception itself a limitation.

An artist is a biography
of perpetual motion
capturing itself over and over
like a blood sample
squeezed beneath a slide,
lighted and dyed,
something frozen
that upon examination still moves.

An artist is a tanner at the tannery,
sewing together stretches
upon gruesome stretches
of his own harvested hide,
a patchwork of scar tissue
and faded tattoos
asking you to get warm
with the idea of sacrifice,
to feel beautiful
within something ugly,
to feel alive
within the clothing of decay.

The future is androgynous,
a crack that forms
before the cleaving,
something that was always
fractured beneath the appearance
of faces like stone,
a wink in the falsity of forever.

Time, that irascible river
that floods all houses
poised upon its banks
without the slightest of provocation,
moving the inhabitants around the board,
not like game pieces,
but granules of dirt
clinging to those pieces
while thinking themselves
irreducible to the outcome.

You wake up one morning,
and most of your friends
never knew you,
even as they’re trying to remember
your awkward mannerisms
at the reunion
before you arrive
wearing the mask that time bestowed.

Wasn’t it always like this?
A wasting of seconds and hours
playing Guess Who? with a deck
missing most of its matches.
A competitive circle jerk
where the prize
at the end of the climax
has always been a coffin?

None of us are ever as alone
as the exam table
would convince,
with its cold steel
and fragrance of antiseptic
mingled with powder and latex.

Even the doctor
must some day remove
his stethoscope
in order to hear the call
of his own heart beating slow.
But before then,
he says, Deep breath. In.

II. Surface Level

Does anyone know anyone?
Does anyone know themselves,
that beneath the layers
of somnambulance and sex
lives a monk in mid self-immolation?

You think you know your home,
the house you grew up in,
can still feel the polyester fibers
of its ugly green carpet
tickling your shins and your fingers
as you raced Hotwheels cars
along its ridges and grooves,

you can still smell it,
the sun-warmed ambience,
something like linseed oil
and vinyl, the gas flame
ticking to life in the stove,
the blanket you pulled
up over your nose
when at night, strange lights
flickered in the windows
from machinery working
its foreign and alien work.

But did you ever have cause
to look beyond its walls,
past its paneling and paint,
too see the guts, and wires,
its pressure-treated spine?
Do you know jack shit
about plumbing, electrical code,
or even how to read a level,
the different intonation
of a nail’s hammered depth?

Have you been in the musky dark
of its crawlspace,
pulling spider web
from your face and your mouth,
cursing small rocks
hidden beneath the plastic
and how they bruised your knees?

Have you wondered
who lived there before,
or who might later
scratch with their thumbnail
at the hash marks
measuring your height
that your mother carved
into a doorframe with a kitchen knife?

Have you wanted to visit that place again,
only to find nothing
but a charred foundation,
some piles of ash
and a few blackened beams,
leaving you as hollow
as an ancient barn
that used to house tobacco,
but now holds only rats and owls
while it waits to collapse,

wondering if even your memory
of what you thought you knew,
bears any resemblance
to what actually was.

III. The Inner Heart

All this positive energy
cannot remake the troubled world,
when our secret inner lives
thrive on brokenness.

The sad inventory of domesticity
sounds like a knife sharpener
dragged across a blade
until that noise eclipses

the inner monologue of regret.
Everyone thinks about fucking
someone they should not be fucking.
Maybe this is an instinctual way

of coping with the unknowable,
how to prevent the mistakes
made by our children,
how to still feel beautiful

in such a pornographic age.
Our capacity for suffering
flexes like an infant’s bones,
and adjusts within a bouquet

of blood-bloomed bruises.
Every parent is a house
slated for demolition
by the hands of the next generation,

where the art of sewing
the tight inner seams of gloves
has vanished into code,
and no one is sifting the rubble,

or willing to pay the ransom
of kisses that sealed
the pages of a scrapbook
tossed into six million flames.