Eight Poems

by Steven Rineer 


maybe you’ll quit being such an asshole, too

today my fever broke
a bit & I went &
caught the sunlight
into my backyard
wearing nothing. the
pink, purplish wisteria
strangled my view, dry
grass scratched my feet.
I spread out my arms to see
how ridiculous i could be.
&- completely sober-
I was in a state of ecstasy!
you should remember this,
O, Steven, please, I said
aloud, as I tick by tick
had begun to forget.

On Expecting it to Write Itself

You sometimes, you know,
you sit & you look
out the window &
you hope that if you
stare hard or focus or
don’t focus at all
something will happen
like a song will appear
& you will pluck it splendidly
from the panorama &
you will give it back &
then a picture will
coalesce into beauty or
sublimity & you will
have genius for a
small increment of your
days. You just sit &
you look out of windows.

the black sheep steps up to the plate

I was glad my mother was dead. Or rather, since she was dead it was better that she didn’t see my father embarrassing himself and or our family with Alzheimer’s. Who knows- really- what was better? It might’ve been better the other way around – dad dead and my mother with Alzheimer’s, but why not be a realist: she was dead and he wasn’t & I was glad! My two siblings, both younger, were not happy when I moved in to take care of my father. My sister was a single mother with five kids; my brother, apparently ‘happily married,’ had two. I had a backpack and some furniture in storage (one child not seen in 10 years). It was very easy for me…I just moved from a girlfriend’s condo to my dad’s guest room. Steal his money? Cheaters always assume you’re gonna cheat….thieves you’re gonna steal…I just drank beer & watched TV with my dad- a stranger for the most part. Recognition, occasionally, flickered in his eyes & he’d try to attack me. His hands, so weakened by age & disease, were amazingly easy to slap down from my wonderful neck. It was all very funny. Eventually we would both laugh and watch TV, take naps. Mostly- though- we waited.

Morning Ablutions

Last words, put one upon another one-
place them with us, the soured milk of the sun;

Being flagellates, we leave blood
in all shadows.

In this age of wounds one fears
fear. I’m ashes in my mirror.

Rothko’s Chapel, Houston

Black undulations on swaddling shrouds, the sheets
breathe from the inside, pushing/ pulling purple
from the black. It bubbles, moves to no discernible beat.
No, not a particular piece – One speaks of the whole chapel.

Every text has at its centre a cipher.
Flaubert’s Emma, Eno’s Spider, Melville’s Dick,
you can’t get nothing from nothing; you shouldn’t even bother.
It’s maybe actually magic more than a cheap trick

Humans pull: The hoarding of an image-surplus.
For example, at first glance acoustic absorbers
seem speakers on the wall, silence before the noise –
they are – though – an enemy to the rhyme (and so its source).

In the explosion of color and mind nothingness reigns.
Quixote dissolves as the library that propped him up remains;
Emma’s idea of passion gleaned from novels stains her, sustains
her. The worlds that came before, like Wittgenstein’s ladder, are cast away.

What do we need? Want? A lack of ecstasy –?
No! One (me) writes drunkenly on this turbulent plain.
The hint and flash of terrifying beauty
that one tries with words, paint, hands on drums – but can’t ever explain.

We don’t stop though. Axe and sea: meet!
Head leaned back and deja vu, we walk in leather-covered feet.
Bacon’s faces are smudged, held in time on canvas
becoming nothing more than becoming always is.

Music is but one possibility in silence.
The poem is a lens upon a lens
containing images words’ve never found
and I sing songs lacking sound.

Our death comes through cracks of voice (still we sing of love)


in the dark with fear i

trace your fading

tanlines, kiss your head,
pull your hair. you are better
than braille, i wonder.


i powder, poorly, my
overripe rocks: i haven’t a
skyscraper: a stalk of celery.

you are better
than the summer.


stretched on the mattress with you,
smoking a spliff,
playing checkers, i think
we are but wardrobes of water

buckets blazed by light! King me!


i do not believe i fabricate
this humming I hear: each

pump’s squish & vision —


ink is water
is absence

one can see

imagine tones

as clay
to mold

we assay
through cold

dark we
make marks

The Slightest Apology for All the Shit I’ve Talked on Clocks

My backhand skin is my
most ag`ed. My face
isn’t doing great. Although
its never been to the moon.
Have you or yours?
I am reading a detective
novel. Is it of literary
quality? One assumes
what one reads has
tenuous threads that tangle
each line to each line,
so, probably. I can’t much
think how I think; of what mostly yes; &
why I’ve no fucking idea.
My wrinkled hand holds a
beer & later a book. For all
the shit time catches – you
just learn a little, mostly make due.
You use moisturizer & whatever, whatever
wear condoms on occasion.

Receiving an Outrageous Hospital Bill

You were basically unconscious in the ambulance
so your words won’t mean
a thing. Less than Zero. Maybe less
money. The former’s a great
song, the latter is a thing
to climb. When your girl has
a yeast infection you can’t
fuck, you can’t even say
Arcade Fire’s overrated – it’s my
opinion. What’s with all the bombast?
I’ll be gentle, I promise.
No!? Then you compare them to the
Talking Heads, my ass!, they
haven’t made an album that can
smell “More Songs About Buildings and Food”s
farts. Fuck off! I don’t remember
taking drugs. I think one of their
fans may have put something in my drink;
I mean, it is possible, &
don’t you anyway
love me?

Steven Rineer is a poet and asphalt construction worker in Southern and Central California. He earned his BA in English at San Francisco State and a MA at Loyola Marymount University. Those degrees have proven themselves pretty worthless as again- HE WORKS ASPHALT CONSTRUCTION and that, occasionally, depresses him. His work has been published in Subtext, la miscellany, Transfer, newer yorker and a few others that he forgets; he also doesn’t submit that much work as he is sometimes fearful of rejection. He is working on a novel and also earning a Yale Younger poets award but he needs to quit being lazy.

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