Published July 2005 | Centennial Press | Milwaukee, WI | 26 pages

Out of print

Crap is an interesting little book.  It’s a long poem in ten parts and, on one level, is quite literally about crapa joyous cesspool of scatology.  However, Crap also covers the figurative crap we confront in our lives:  unread books, American Idol, the TV news, Britney Spears and bestselling poetess Jewel, the overly talkative man sitting next to you at the bar, a woeful lack of adequate expletives in our language, vociferous geese, and the neighbor’s dogs.  Ultimately, Crap considers what’s divine and what’s profane, and if the distinction even matters.

Crap was originally written over a long weekend in March 2005 on an old Royal Model A typewriter (just like Hemingway, of course!), crafted as a response to A.R. Ammons’ Garbage.  Although this was the first chapbook I published, Crap is a very unusual work for me; it’s different in terms of style and subject than virtually anything else I’ve written.  In some ways, the poem is a record of its own creation, describing my friends with me that weekend and even commenting on how crappy it may be to read a poem entitled “Crap.”  It’s fun, though, and I remain proud of it.

Since Crap is now out of print, the entire poem is below.  By the end, I hope you too will agree that Crap is good shit.

* * *




the crapper in the cold other room
is complaining, saying

we don’t feed it often enough,
saying it gets mighty lonely

being a toilet when the two primary
wage-earners are gone most of the day

and the cats have been trained to use
the litterbox or else they shit

on the floor, and it wonders if it
can get just a little attention:

so i oblige it: i make outstanding
chicken fajitas that marinate

for at least an hour in lemon juice,
oil, two types of pepper, chili powder

and cumin (the fire spice, the spice
from some island you’ve never heard of,

and even if you would have heard,
you’d be afraid to go): and the food

bombs my gut so at three in the morning
when i should be dreaming about

pizzas, pastas, pastries, and pilsners,
i instead christen our lonely toilet

with a run-on crap: as an english teacher
i am appalled at how run-on this crap is,

it cannot excrete a period or interbang
but just a steady stream of thought,

thought whose sludginess is appropriate
for three in the morning, dyspeptic,

and my english teacher would never have said:
crap is an appropriate thing to write about,

but what is writing if not crap,
like the crap that clogs my typewriter keys

and fouls the ribbon such that my wife
feels obligated to put an air freshener

in the typewriter room and
occasionally laments she has no idea

what we’re going to do with all my crap:
my typewriters and trophies won

in high-school debate, which,
let’s face it, weren’t very impressive

to begin with, and my books
which rot upon my shelves

like unloved bananas, slowly attracting
moths and flies, in the same way

that flies are attracted to crap: the kind
of crap that my neighbors’ dogs

leave in generous quantities on my lawn
and squishes so unpleasantly between my toes

when i accidentally discover some individual
nugget, like a gift waiting from god,

as if it is the primordial ooze
we arose from, god took crap

and gave it life, so it lives
in the streets of new york city

where homeless men take craps
into cardboard boxes and

the gangs of detroit are shooting the crap
out of each other, but then find

it isn’t really shit so much as
honest blood, but don’t get me wrong:

this is not a political poem,
unless you consider excrement

to be an essential part of politics,
and again, let’s face it, we all do,

but can our president admit that?:
no, because he’s full of crap,

and if my toilet only received a dash
of the crap from, the nightly news, say,

perhaps it wouldn’t yearn for just one more
tender ass as if a benediction,

a baptism of our most elemental selves.



crap surely is the muse of the true poets,
they are so familiar with it,

it gives them a warm feeling that only
voiding your bowels (voiding your vowels)

onto the crap-encrusted keys can bring:
and a friend tells me in a religion

whose name i cannot immediately remember
they worship (not, as our religions

have taught us, to warship) the shit
and the piss, the rationale being

the shit and the piss are as holy
as anything else, and now we’re back

to god again (god, again?), and a true poet
would approach his subject from a new angle

and say: crap is like an overturned semi
on the expressway that has just killed

a mother and her three children, ages
three, five, and eight, or crap is

a goat from whose teat you suck
because you don’t know any better

(and you don’t know where to get any butter):
but i hate my subject, i am tired

of putting up with this crap,
and the only holiness i ever feel

is when i make fun of my wife
and call it love, because i am teaching her

the true religion: to think and look
and feel like god-almighty crap.



britney spears, the new david spade
movie, beer with caffeine in it,

the care bears revival, shaquille
o’neal who is paid millions but

cannot consistently hit a free throw:
my friends cannot believe this crap,

feel somehow they have been maligned,
have been subsumed by this crap,

and the ford escorts they pilot
mere crapships adrift on this wine-dark

ocean of crap, and they’re right—
my friends are always right—:

american idol, jewel being
a bestselling poet (who,

incidentally, did not expound
much on the virtues of crap,

but crapped out and chose
the more universally-revered subject

of her breasts: she cupped them
to the page, and let their perfume

sublimate into crappy poems,
but the trick, of course, was that

people with their popular noses
bought the book only to smell breasts,

and they did, breasts that smelled
faintly of honey, which we know

is merely the crap of bees,
and still the people didn’t smell crap,

although any of the preceding crap
is not meant to disparage jewel nor

any of that alaskan yodeling crap
that she does)—and crap:

i’ve lost where i was going with this crap.



my friend rob tells me lately
he’s written nothing but crap,

and i say: that’s good, the world
could always use some more crap

as long as you’re not out
convincing people your crap

is the shit, and i don’t know why
when we say something is good

we say it’s the shit, but when it’s
bad, we say it’s crap, just like

my friend rob says of his writing,
and i say, à la theodore sturgeon,

ninety-five percent of everything is bullshit,
so why should we be any different, think

we’re the shit, so to speak: but now
bullshit moves into the realm of a very specific

flavor of crap, the shit of a bull,
and only our lax language has prevented us

from using the shit of all creatures
to express our alternating disgust

and dismay at this crap: the shit
of birds, of rabbits, of weasels:

shit, there’s no real limit
once you start thinking about this shit,

and i sincerely live for the day,
i hope to god i live for the day

when i walk into a bar and someone declares
“fishshit!” in their incredulousness,

or menacingly insinuates: “you’re
jackalshitting me, you crappy piece

of weaselshit”: and in that bar
will be rob and chuck and

mr. josh “punchline” beam, or else
we will be at a cottage we do not own

and each at his own typewriter
among a flotilla of red candles

shining like the boatlights in venice
or the glowering eyes of a bull,

we will rip out finished pages
with a reporter’s i’ve-just-got-

the-scoop gesture, then carefully
crunch the paper in our hands

and casually toss it on the floor,
such that soon we are ankle-deep

in our own shit, we need manure boots
just to wade in this shit,

shit lapping against the shore
of this table: but rob hopes

a clean piece of paper will help
clean up some of this shit,

and i again agree: perhaps
we can defy the odds of this crappy

game of ink and curse, beer
and breath, unsayable and unsaid.



this morning i awoke with a headache
like an off-kilter metronome,

but oddly i don’t feel like crap,
and choose to honor this porcelain morning:

the snow on lake tichigan is turning
soft, the easing of one form of grace

to another: a canadian goose
with its broken bicycle horn

informs me it’s march, the highs are to be
near fifty, and it’s tired

of all of this old xenophobia:
a train is ferrying its sad cargo:

chuck overslept for church, but
i still love him for his strong faith

in something as easy as this morning:
to be awake is nothing but a major miracle

and we should all be canonized:
josh for being a smartass, the patron saint

of smartassery, and rob and i
holy confidants, we confide because

we must, like two elms who grow
so close their branches soon intertwine:

like the two elms outside, engaged
in ancient arboreal matins the botanists

have not yet described, xylem and phloem
and pulsing sap that radiates outward

like the warmth of my wife
in her blue bathrobe grading math papers

before i wake up, and who tells me that teaching
is bullshit, those little shits of hers

don’t give one shit: but she is beautiful,
we are all beautiful this holy morning.



holy crap, people say, when they wish
to confuse the divine with the profane,

and chuck says a silent prayer every time
i take the lord’s name in vain,

and that’s fine, i say, but i’ll try
from now on to be less and less vain,

as god doesn’t play dice
with the universe, einstein said (this coming

from a man who was instrumental
in the development of the most unholy

device of mankind): and god gave,
as chuck would say, canadian geese

the blessing to take lukewarm craps
while in flight, and their bones

are hollow tubes, sacred flutes perhaps,
and their fingers have elongated so easily,

the better to pray with each beat
of their wings, and i think about this

as i take a shit in the library:
and it smells like a vanilla candle

puked in there, which is to say
it smells like crap, but not real crap

but faux crap, as if that was
somehow better, a shitty scent

to cover up the scent of shit,
and among the leather-bound sages—

addled ornithologists dithering
about migration patterns, flyways,

habitats, egg colors, and nesting:
all that kind of crap—

while on the toilet, i think
about the prayers of birds, and i think:

holy crap: —holy crap.



gary is the man at the bar
who has not taken a crap in three days:

and he tells us this, it is the first thing
he tells us as we sit down,

before we can order our first drink,
before we can get our shit together,

and he asks kindly if we could take it for him,
as if his shit was a homely niece from out of town,

and we might take it in sympathy,
to the movies, perhaps, or a free concert

in summer at a tightly-packed bandshell,
and he says, therefore, we should appreciate

our shit, our ability to shit, the privilege
to let waste flow from our bodies

(he says this in the wise manner of elders,
obtained through much experience and pain):

and all along, rob, punchline, and chuck
know i am writing a long poem called “crap”

and stare agog, telegraphing with smirks
that this is good shit, this is great shit,

and i’d be shit-for-brains
if i didn’t write about this shit:

and they’re right (my friends are
always right), so here let me memorialize

gary: apostle of shit, troubadour
of turds, proclaiming the good news

of shit, you should honor thy shit,
glory be to our shit, holy shit:

and in the renaissance frescoes they’ll paint,
he’ll always be shitfaced (as he was at the bar),

encircled in a piss-yellow halo,
and in his flowing brown robes

he is preaching a shitty sermon:
laxatives, maybe, or care for your colon:

he is wide-eyed, commanding, one arm
outstretched in a powerful gesture

that says: believe in the power of shit:
and he yearns, he yearns for the miracle

of midas, and soon everything
he’ll touch will turn into shit:

and in the background are the unfaithful:
way back: chuck, josh, rob, and me,

and we don’t want to put up with his shit,
and we are tired of his crap.



when people say they’re tired
of your crap, what they actually mean

is they’re tired of you, that you
are always saying the wrong things,

like you think “the waste land”
is a crowning achievement of western thought,

or pepsi is better than coke, or
you want sex when you know you should snuggle:

see, you’re just being a shithead, you’re full
of shit, and people are tired of your crap:

they do not care for your description
of snow melting on lake tichigan,

for you should have said: if you listen
closely, you will hear water talking

to water, carrying news of the weather
and air, and the water looks and smells

like emptiness, and canadian geese
are always october death, so pick a spring bird

you piece of crap, a robin is the obvious
choice, but a white-throated sparrow

would be okay: but please, only
deliver us from the chattering crap

of your typewriter keys and the reeking
of your friends’ cigarettes, and maybe

then, maybe: we can get past all this crap,
or if not, you can eat shit and die,

and so on: this is why i don’t talk
to people very often.



ah, gentle reader, i must confess
that many of the past several sections

are crap (and yet you are still here,
and for that i heartily commend you):

and you may have suspected
that you were reading crap, but

you don’t realize how literally
the shit hit the fan here, and it spun

in sickening circles and flung
specks of shit on the page, and those specks,

when looked at in aggregate, form letters,
and those letters form words,

and those words form the crap
you are now reading: perhaps you are mildly

repulsed by the idea of shit on the page
and now you are holding the page

at arm’s length, thusly, thinking:
i’m reading crap written in actual crap,

but you’re wrong: you’re reading
a poem called “crap” which is crap

which was written in good, old-fashioned,
down-home crap, and if you think

this is just another one of those
examples of postmodern crap, well:

you’re right, i mean, we’ve got crap
in three dimensions here, crap

in sensurround, crap as seen on tv,
and you’re tired of this crap, and i’m

tired of this crap, this “crap.”



so: what have i learned from this crap,
this shit that i have forced forth,

the same way that trees will only defecate
paper if you force them, how do we

separate the wheat from the crap:
rob loves his father, chuck loves

jesus christ, josh loves last night’s
bartendress, scotch and whiskey, and

a good joke: and i love them all:
and i love crap: i love the idea that holiness

is messengered by geese, by snow,
by the smoke of clove cigarettes that almost

smells like incense, by crappy writing, by crap:
that chuck says he knows atheists

that are better christians than he is, and he
isn’t feeding me a line of crap, that josh says

men suck on bottles of reason
then piss away truth, that rob says,

simply, he married his wife because
he loves her, and my wife tolerates

this logorrhea (pathologically incoherent,
repetitious speech, thank you, webster’s,

for that craptacular definition)
and my manic-depressive crapulence, and

i love her: i love her: and all that
sentimental crap you can’t say in poems

because it’s true: that god sometimes
plays poker with our minds, shuffling them,

hoping to get things flush (pardon
the crappy pun): that with each flush

every crapper fills with holy water
that smells faintly of easter lilies.