Cover Your Ass – David Lohrey

New American Anthology


The march of the barbarians…
Our cities rust like Rome; some are disintegrating,
the color of rust, or is that blood?
Perhaps the most striking example of this involves a secret online group, 
its members are critics labeled the Chardonnay Mob, organized cretins.
They are said to be vicious. Take no prisoners. The more I see, 
the more I think of Jiang Qing, Lin Biao, and the Red Guards. 
Turn the tables, define the sides, change the language of discourse, 
denounce the new enemy with ever increasing intensity and hatred.

People are terrified. To calm myself, I read Russian poetry. 
I subscribe to two important publications: 
“Set for Life” and “Live Forever.” Delivered weekly. 
They answer my fears. 
This week it was announced: This is your Saint’s day. 
Who is your Saint or don’t you have one? 
You don’t have a Saint, do you? Figures.
What do you have? A favorite TV show? 
That sounds about right. 

Yeah, she’s my favorite, too. I’m really into poets of color. 
How can anyone like that shit by T. S. Eliot or Yates? 
Shakespeare? Are you kidding? Those white supremacists. 
I’m all about CYA. I just love him. He’s trans and black all over. 
He wrote “Me Oh My.” Do you know it? It’s my favorite song 
since “My Oh My” by Crying Out Loud. My favorite line, yo,
“She held my dick and cried crocodile tears.” Mile High is cool,
yeah, but what I like about Croc – that’s what I call him – 
what I like about Croc is that brand across his face,

an authentic slave brand he had seared into his flesh. 
He did that for his debut. Croc sings the shit. “Suck my wonder, 
sky blue; the universal is indifferent to me and you.” 
That’s poetry, man. “The stove of love fits her beauty.” 
Yo, fuck Rock & Roll, that Tinker Bell shit, bro, that Muzak 
compared to this. This is a direct enema, a soul fuck. “Contours
of Her Majesty, man.” And what about their new album, “Belated”? 
Fuck, yeah. Not the immaculate conception but an imminent disaster, 
the experiment gone awry, an acid suppository.

The articulate deception, the unstoppable lie. Do you remember 
when they were the wretched of the earth? It felt good. 
Now we are. We. Are. We are wretched, aren’t we? I am.
They’ve started naming streets after Osip Mandelstam. 
The end is nigh. People in American cities walk around,
bashing the old and infirm. Unthinkable
anywhere else in the world. A 22-year-old walks up 
behind an old woman and knocks her down. The men are two 
and three times bigger than their victims. It’s crazy. 

It is a true coward’s sport. This is tough guy behavior
in America today. Kicking over wheelchairs. Stealing tricycles. 
The weak are desperate. They prey on the helpless. They go 
into hospital wards and knock people out of their beds. This
is American justice. This is how numb we have become. 
But worse, no one says a thing. They cower. The police 
have been ordered inside. They no longer patrol the streets. 
It is every man for himself.  And the women sue because
they feel left out.


Virtue Signaling in Hades


Let’s see. I was expecting Elvis but look who’s here;
it’s Zeus. He’ll want me to jazz things up with Phaedra.
See if I can’t work in mention of Petropolis,
Discuss Theseus, not High Noon, work in a reference
To the Greek gods or the Jews but not to Jesus.

Validity lies in distance, if not remoteness. The poem
Is a relic in search of antecedents; perhaps irrelevance.
Speak of the forsaken, get in touch with Osiris; if not him,
Then something about the black sun or of honey, stony
Tauris, Helen, or something about the Golden fleece.

Make it unfamiliar, invoke the obscure, feature mourners,
Death, something about cycles or perhaps even the Cyclops, 
But not the Gettysburg Address; that would be historical, or 
Some might say hysterical, something too real. Better to talk
About the Black Death, King Cotton, or the Singing Muses.

Don’t write of the Great Depression, Charles Manson, or the bombing
Of the Arizona, Admiral Van Valkenburg, and the War in the Pacific.
Too recent, too true, too much. Move on to Grecian urns or the oracle 
At Delphi. There is Persephone or is it Penelope? Get in a dig about 
Women always having to wait around for men. 

See meanings, draw conclusions, cite evidence of inequality back then; 
Make the past relevant, make it meaningful. Find connections, express
Empathy, find some spilt milk to cry over. Somewhere between honeycombs
And honeysuckle, one should place one’s metaphors, throw out a few bees
If not some kisses, find the hive and catch a ride across the River Styx.

Why should Bugs Bunny matter? Was he in Troy? The Horse is on the way.
Hide. Get out the bows and arrows. Happiness can be found in the past, among 
the ancients. Study the granaries, muck out the stables, join Hercules in his 
gargantuan task of turning the tables. Keep the faith. Follow the rites and rituals. 
Cry “Aphrodite” as you gasp for breath. Continue shopping or proceed to check-out.




Beware poets who sing of mastiffs in the dark, of howling wolves, 
of butterflies, and of exile. The air, they tell us, is pestilential. I say, 
stay away from poets who praise voids. 

Not that I am not game for a little abuse. Everyone craves a good 
whipping. Press my face into the wall, kick me, bite me ‘til I bleed, 
yes? All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth knocked out. 

Tie me up, choke me, urinate down my throat. That’s it. My name
is Yosemite Sam. You must be Bugs Bunny. Take a seat. We must 
do all we can to counter righteousness porn.

We all identify with Hamlet. All of it. Chiefly the fear, the hesitation,
the magnified sense of crisis. Currents of frustration flow through us.
These are not mere fantasies of nearing catastrophe. This is it, baby.

We must fight the longing for violent dissolution. The whole country
wants to go postal, egged on by the bored. One can see those who drool.
Their mouths foam. They are jumping up and down. It’s their time.

The prospect of a purging fire is nigh. It is what many have been hoping.
It is the kids, as at Woodstock, dreaming of a universal orgy, a drug fest,
tantrum culture, smearing excrement in the parlor, vomit.

It’s either Porky Pig or Linda Lovelace, that’s all. Our artists are finished. 
Nobody wants to put in the time. We voted for it: urine in a vase, shaken.
Philosophers are mocked. People have contempt for teachers. 

It is finally here. Soon we will be picking seeds from the shit like birds.
We are getting what we wanted. Elmer Fudd is in charge. Daffy Duck is 
our master. See if he can’t be fitted with a dildo. We’ll all bend over.



Harvard’s Newest Offering


        If only the Orizaba had crashed onto a deserted isle that fateful day back in ’32. Instead of drowning, Hart Crane might have met the castaways of that very isle and fallen in love with a young sailor like Gilligan. Years later, Hart might have been rescued and taken to the Hollywood studio where Tennessee Williams sat, working on his new play, A Streetcar Named Desire. 
        Tennessee and Hart Crane might very well have met James Whale at a poolside party thrown by George Cukor, hit it off, and been offered parts in Whales’ newest production of Bride of Frankenstein. All this and more. Had he met Crane, Whale is likely not have committed suicide. Surely, he would have fallen in love with Hart or Tennessee. Who knows?
        Together, they might have adopted a little girl, the very one Joan Crawford is said to have been considering. Joan would have taken another, a little tigress, who, instead of letting herself be beaten, would have fought back by grabbing a clothes hanger and using it to strangle Mommy Dearest. 
        As a result, Joan would never have run PepsiCo but instead might have joined Coca-Cola, married its president, and taken up residence in suburban Atlanta, where she would die some day of a heart attack. Had this been so, Bette Davis might not have felt the need to rewrite Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 
        It would instead have been made into a musical comedy, starring Bette with Fred Astaire playing her brother. Kate Hepburn could have taken the role of the crippled sister who regains the use of her legs, rises from her chair to dance on the ceiling with Astaire and, while doing so, attracts the attentions of a young Elvis Presley who happens live nearby.
        Elvis, nearly half her age, elopes with Kate. She leaves Spencer Tracy. They never make that movie with Sidney Poitier, and, instead of marrying that white chick, marries sad Nina Simone whom he meets in Mississippi at a civil-rights rally outside Jackson. The story is carried by all the papers in the land, splashed across every front page. 
        Sidney also tries a pig ear sandwich while in Jackson and flips out. Spiro Agnew becomes so incensed at the sight of Sidney and Nina protesting Richard Nixon’s arrival at the Republican convention in 1968 that he pulls out a pistol and opens fire, missing both Nina Simone and Sidney Poitier but hitting a young man in the crowd named William Jefferson Clinton. Bill happens to be wearing a Robert Kennedy campaign button on his chest. The bullet ricochets off his chest, hitting another protestor, and killing her instantly. Her name was not revealed but she was reported to have been a blond Chicagoan who had traveled to Miami in the hopes of landing a rich businessman in order to extort money by having friends photograph them in flagrante.
        Agnew was taken to the same insane asylum that housed the notorious fascist poet, Ezra Pound, who at that time was being interviewed by the son of a rich coal miner named Frederick Seidel, a young poet who’d just arrived from St. Louis with a letter of introduction in his pocket from T. S. Eliot. The young heir to the family fortune had met Pound once before. At the sight of Agnew, Seidel grew depressed. He took a suite at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City and, having decided to quit writing altogether, wrote to Edith Sitwell back in England to accept her invitation to live with her and her brother Sacheverell at Renishaw Hall, their 350-year-old ancestral estate in Scarborough.
        On his way out, Seidel stopped to see famed crooner Bobby Short. Bobby happened to be rehearsing and, in a rage, kicked the piano with all his might, fell back, and cracked his skull on a marble cocktail table. He sued Seidel and the Carlyle, won a hefty settlement, and retired blissfully with his lover to an estate in Jamaica.
        Eventually, Seidel returned to St. Louis. At the airport, however, he observed a black man beating a black woman in the back seat of a pale blue Cadillac Coup de Ville. Shocked, he stormed over and, using his umbrella, beat the man silly. Ike Turner fell to the ground mortally wounded. 
        Tina, his wife, whose face was battered almost beyond recognition, fell instantly in love with the young Jewish poet whose family was worth several hundred million dollars. Seidel took over as her manager. They never married, but Frederick was said to have been very good with money. He wrote the lyrics to several of her subsequent hits. In no time, she became a superstar.
        They too headed for Jamaica, buying a grand place just across the way from Noel Coward. They joined the famous club where Ian Fleming had been made director. They tried to avoid Bobby Short but were delighted to be invited from time to time by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Wallace Simpson’s father knew Frederick Seidel’s father quite well.
        Each was heavily invested in Virginia coal mines. Tina left Frederick eventually and resettled on Lake Zurich. Ezra Pound died. So did Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton ended up running a comic book store in downtown Little Rock. He grew fat. Elvis died. Sidney and Nina, as everybody knows, went into politics big time. 
        President Poitier was elected after Nixon but died shortly thereafter. His widow Nina ran and became the first female president of the United States. She served two terms. It was Nina who succeeded in granting forty acres and a mule to all African Americans, renamed Washington, the nation’s capital, after Sojourner Truth, and made Mississippi Goddamn the national anthem.