Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Your Whole World

This is your daily newspaper--
your whole world is here.
Here are the places in the world
where you can't go because
they are dangerous. Here are the
people who hate you because
you are an American. Here are
the things that will run out or cost
too much for you to have in the
near future (the distant future
has already run out, and you
can't have it). Here are the things
you can get in trouble for. Here
are all the things going wrong
with the world that you can't do
anything about. Probably no one
can do anything about them. Experts
and reliable sources agree that
there are no simple solutions and that
only time will tell. In any case,
it's certain that you
can't do anything about these matters,
but nonetheless, beyond the call
of duty, we keep you well-informed.
("We are now dropping the cyanide
into your cell....") Meanwhile,
if you can afford to drive
your car, there's a good chance
you too will be killed, maimed or sued,
but there's a good chance of it
even if you walk. That's the
sort of world you live in, but
fortunately for you, your friend,
the daily news, is looking out
for you--on the inside pages
our columnists tell you how
to deal with stress (per expert
shrinks with CIA contracts)
and our funny pages bring out
the humorous aspects of the Decline
And Fall of Practically Everything.
We present all reliably authorized
sides of every issue from our
Viewpoint. We let you get a very inside
look at what goes on all over the
world. When you are done reading
the papers, you can extrovert
by inspecting your breasts or rectum
for cancerous growths.

by Dean Blehert

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lost and Found

You stand there in the spring woods,
admiring (as one would say politely
to the hostess, "Delicious!") a loveliness
that once tore you out of yourself,
left the empty shell of you vibrating
with a music that hummed long after
your return. You walked home that day,
ignoring the glad tears that gave you away,
knowing yourself too transparent
to be noted.

Now, admiring, you are solid.
You try to feel by looking harder,
spotting details, stilling the voices
in your head. For a moment you think
something is about to happen,
because you feel teary, but no tears flow--
the source is muddied. And the sting
is not of gladness. For several moments
you stand there trying to put something
back where it belongs, not knowing what,
while the dog trots and sniffs
farther and farther afield. You move on,
thinking, "I've lost it", hoping someday
it will turn up.

Nothing has been lost.
It is what has been added that thickens
the day. It is always with you, a clenched
headache you won't know has held you
until it vanishes. Then you will know
the mass of it--and the masquerade:

That when you strained to see,
the strain was not yours; when you thought:
"I've lost it", the thought belonged
to your burden; when you cried:
"There is no freedom!",
it was your shackles crying.

by Dean Blehert

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saving Face

I catch at eyes on the street
and they dart away, except once I held
too long the eyes of a dapper man,
who smiled too winningly.

Counselling people, I can look at them
without being expected to make a pass.
With my wife, often, it is permitted
just to look. With friends across restaurant tables
looking at each other is not strictly forbidden,
though always after an acceptable instant
one must ask (meaning "Is something wrong?"),

Why is it better to let two sets of eyes wander
in intricately interlaced choreography
from table to food to napkins, mine sweeping
(mine-sweeping indeed) past the face
three feet away only when it faces
elsewhere, catching eyes only a casual second,
as if eyes were slippery to the touch
of eyes? Why is it better, when eyes meet,
that inner gaze be elsewhere?

Even the dog knows that when I am giving orders
I am head of the pack and must not be faced.
People who look right at you
are about to lie to you, on the make, eerie
(Rasputins, pod people, zombies)--Oh
there is no good reason ever for eyes
to fix upon eyes. Movies dote on closeups,
pornographically huge luminous eyes
harmlessly sating our cravings.

Not that we are our eyes,
but they are where, craving raw light,
we've let ourselves be located--what could be
more dangerous? They've become our signature,
identity badges in the swarming lobbies
of the Humanoid Convention--the eyes
or other cherished features:
a mustache, "striking" cheekbones, the migraine
that somehow justifies all failures,

not much to be, but better than a billfold
crammed with credit cards, a sex organ,
a gun, a compendium of opinions
and all the other things we become
when we've lost, even, face.

by Dean Blehert

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In a Hurry

Two days ago I drove past a young man
writhing on the sidewalk while three men
lifted his motorcycle out of a puddle
of oil by the curb.

I was going somewhere and decided
I didn't have time to stop.

No doubt he'd felt the same way
until the crumpled rear end of that car
persuaded him otherwise--

though he may still be in a big hurry,
answering petulantly his pain's questions
so that pain must ask them over and over,
haggling, wringing from him each detail--
very time-consuming.

I, too, have found since then
more time than I thought I had
for answering questions--not posed
by any pain of mine,

but by the tiny gap torn
in where I thought I was going to
by my maybe passing right by--
in my hurry to get there--
part of it.

Today another accident: The front of his tiny car
nearly cut off by a left-turning truck,
he's slouched in the front seat, bleeding
from his face (nose? mouth?)
onto his once-white shirt, dazed.

I park and bring over a box of Kleenex
to catch blood and to make amends
for driving past the broken motorcyclist.

I feel okay about it now if you do, Lord,
so you can stop damaging people
and machines for me.

by Dean Blehert