Sunday, July 31, 2016

Aaron Poochigian: Derelicts

Aaron Poochigian

Aaron Poochigian earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota in 2006 and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University in 2016. His book of translations from Sappho, Stung With Love, was published by Penguin Classics in 2009, and his translation of Apollonius’ Jason and the Argonauts was released October 2014. For his work in translation he was awarded a 2010-2011 Grant by the National Endowment for the Arts. His first book of original poetry, The Cosmic Purr (Able Muse Press) was published in 2012, and several of the poems in it collectively won the New England Poetry Club’s Daniel Varoujan Prize. His work has appeared in such journals as The Guardian, Poems Out Loud and POETRY.   

These poems previously appeared in


I heard the harmless maniac
who camps in front of my bodega
roar from his carton on the stoop:
“I am the Alpha and Omega,
the kick in the smack, the massive attack,
the zoom bah bah, zoom bah; whoop, whoop, whoop!”

Polychrome Christmas lights were blinking.
A white dove—well, alright, a pigeon—
posed on the guy’s cardboard façade.
I don’t go in much for religion
but, trust me, I could not help thinking,
“Lo, another son of God.”

I love you, vagrant, with my own self-love

because I see myself there sleeping rough
on rubbish under a construction scaffold.
Because I hear my future in your cough,

my voice among your five defiant voices,
I love you, vagrant, with my own self-love.
What crisis crazed you? Was it chance or choices?

Come summer, if my doom does not improve,
your landmark madness will be me unraveled.
So here’s a buck—a fiver? That’s enough:

I love you, vagrant, with my own self-love."

Ah, where the wind is ruffling
trash bags, and moonlight snags
on cracked façades: that shuffling
nebulous humanoid
who glooms through shreds and drags
a shadow like a void.

The beards of the Unemployed
dissolve in the rags
and shag of night.

Mott Street, each time I walk it,
parades this mental case.
Last week he dredged his pocket,
flashed me a watch—no band,
just a smashed, digital face.
The time: Please Understand.

A whirlpool demand 
from backward space; 
a black-hole wound.

He always gives me this funny
feeling, a pity akin
to rage: should I toss money
into a bottomless bum?
Indulge my nagging twin?
Feed what I could become? 

Here’s something, Mr. Mum,
but keep your grin—
I don’t want none.

It’s late and lost in tunnels that I find him— 
Mr. Mirror Shades (the mufflered one),
his past the tentacles of pipes behind him,
his stature like a hunched harp made of bone.

A tarot card, a king of prophecy
enthroned on coats and rubbish, he sometimes
rattles his wicked little cup my way
and conjures up a mishegoss of rhymes:

One wave of poison, two of disease,
and a pulse will roast your phones and freeze
your engines.
Rats, then, will rise through the sewer grates
as executors for the Fiend or Fates
and gnaw with a vengeance.

Sirens will sing the Apocalypse Blues
and, morning, noon and night, the news
will be static.
Why bother dialing nine-one-one?
Why dash for the drawer and get out the gun?
Why hide in the attic?

No one will be surviving this,
so go out and find somebody to kiss,
or religion.
A blood tide creeping up our shores,
it’s time to get down with the dinosaurs
and passenger pigeon.

So he intones, out of his nose, his skull.
Chuckling, then, he scrunches for a bow,
and I give something to the oracle

for briefly making Armageddon now.

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