Jeffrey Joe Nelson


The Arsenal Reading
                                                For Cedar Sigo

Lean into them
Instantaneously & burst
Into new form
The forbidden is not forbidden
Hidden away in the midst
Of yr being – biography hewing
To imaginary apparatus 


In the instant of peeling
The lily-colored banner
You tore yr dress
Stolen from the girl
Everyone thought was yr girlfriend

It wasn’t that you couldn’t bear the truth
The pink neon light created a halo effect around everyone that night
& so you just lay there insouciantly
On a blanket lazed with topaz fringe

& when you awoke
Everyone had left & suddenly, there you were
Wobbly on yr heels like the old black n white movie stars
You always list in yr pomes

Did I mention that the heels were stolen
Right from someone’s romantic notion
Of what it’s like to live on the streets
Sleeping with men made of marble

I can hear the jokes right now
Or that one about the woman with the prosthetic vulva
There’s something hard about Clark Kent too
& not just when he rebuffs Lex Luthor’s advances

Forgive me, in that space known as memory
I forsake all tact, taking to the ramparts of the mosque
Once a church & now a club for stray teens
On the run from the shopping mall

The fate that befell their parents
As they waited to be smashed by a stray asteroid
Unlocking & locking their massive wooden doors
Originally constructed to keep the barbarians out, the pomes

You worked on nite after nite, the constant stoning
Turning yr eyes a malachite red & every morning like a piece of a collage
Covering the walls of Cocteau’s bathroom you read over what you typed
The pages disappearing like toilet paper till only the best were left

As a Marlboro man
Steps from the chipped brick wall
He’s carrying what looks like a pistol
But turns out to be his erection as red as the packaging

Of the cigarettes he’s hawking
To all the adherents of Islam
In the post-America-the-beautiful
Hall of dead Hollywood dames 

Other than love
What are pomes about?
Movie stars only move me so much.
Taxes & lawyers give me a headache.

Death is too much to live for – there’s
Got to be something else to write about?
How I am no longer a stranger
To either sex. Or how easily it is

To confuse pronouns, cigarettes & drugs
The gold in yr teeth that flash when you laugh
New relationships can be exhausting, but the burst of the new
Usually far outweighs any residual boredom

It shouldn’t surprise you that I crawled out of the pool like a troglodyte.
I didn’t, after all, expect to be recognized, let alone cheered
The reason passed me by like a chiming bell
Signaling an obscure change of clothes.

The Romans got paid too.
Paid for an empire of exotic ideas
Beginning in common murder
& ending in mass corruption

But that’s not how I want this pome to end
What originally started out as sketches about a reading
Cedar gave on the roof of the Central Park Arsenal building.
It rained immediately after he read – really, as if on cue

& even tho, most of the poets there who’d come to hear Cedar read
Wanted to leave right then & there (as did Cedar) we all
Filed down a flight of stairs & into a large hall
Where we respectfully listened to the last two poets

One of whom was absolutely spectacular
& the other, whom was doomsday boring, practically killing us
Off one by one as we swayed unsteadily on our feet
Like immobile targets at a sideshow down South

Where everyone knows one another, even the geek is just a kid
Who lives outside of town & who’s parents never took him to the dentist   
& he gets a hard-on too, only he gets off on anyone wearing gingham
just like I get high listening to Cedar’s pauses in between

His pomes & his short explanations, the way the pomes
Live with us once they escape from his lips
& tho, I’ll use a word or two of his to color this pome
It’s not the feeling of his reading

I’m capturing, it’s the breeze,
My trembling thigh
The instant the clouds burst
& my ring, which I’ll soon lose
Someone else’s magic like a torch 


Beneath the Arch

Lay under the arch last night thousands of plates of rectangular stainless steel glimmering in inky blackness the lights of Gateway Memorial Park & various river stations illuminating the parabolic flank of this truly modern American marvel rising far above in grandiosity & scope, this silver triangulated ribbon, rising above the darkness of America only to curve back in upon itself

The Lost Art of Diner Conversation

I was psyched about the chandelier
But confused about the egg timer

What happens to a sentence that sticks out
Like a beautiful lost island from the sea
Of prose that surrounds it?

Kissing your lover before a large crowd
& then hearing everyone clap, reminds me
of being trapped in a stadium watching the jumbo-tron

When I made my first trip to Boston
All I could think about was where are
The fucking cows? – but I never saw any cows

He stripped the copper
From the air-conditioning unit
Of every house in Dog Town

Nomenclature is one thing
Self-entitlement absolutely another

I had the uncontrollable urge to climb the arch

I have an app on my phone which helps me dream

As far as I can tell
He volunteered to teach poetry
In the prisons

If it isn’t luck, it’s fortune

Damn it, I don’t want cute, I want sexy

So you were living in a former slave state
Somalia is not just a place in my imagination.