About the (dys)functional poet:
Guiseppe Getto is a Zen Buddhist, poet, and Ph.D. student in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University. He enjoys reading and writing poetry in many modes and genres, from the folksy lines of Philip Levine to the more languagey poetry of James Galvin to shooting and editing digital video. He is still trying to figure out where his own style fits within the increasingly divergent conversation that is contemporary American poetry.
The Borderlines I Have Known
First there was me, of course. A dark sun. Squatting in the corner of the house I grew up in. In the front room lit only by a single red-brown bulb entwined within an adjustable sconce connected to a lamp stem that went to the ceiling. Maybe that was all the sky I saw for some time. My mother took pictures of me in the mint leaves out back. Maybe I split first like a rhizome or a zygote. Tripling in density hour by hour, breath by breath. My mother used to lay newspapers down all around the house for me to shit on. I was four. The same year I declared I wasn’t going to get any older because I didn’t want to become my father, or at least this is the story I told myself until I forgot the real one. The midway point before I learned that the brain records everything, especially when it is told every morning to forget every night.
Granite scars, given enough pressure. Enough time. And then the only way to trace its history is by following lines that go back farther than blood. Into black. A scientist once removed every part of a cat’s brain except the basic drive motors. The second borderline had the black hair and eyes of the Hmong and wore black often. And red. In the summer her skin was the color of blown brown glass. Back when I learned that fucking eventually produces a kind of suture between two bodies. A web of raw intensities. I still remember the jagged footsteps she was taking when I found her wandering aimlessly in a blue blanket in what passed for a cold winter in California. From my gray pickup with the black flames she looked so white and small framed against all that night. Before I learned that rainy seasons replayed year after year can leave an impression on the senses, a kind of fungal growth. Like fatigue, only bitter. The year I left I learned that pollution from the central valley was overflowing the hills that rimmed all the surrounding national parks.
Maybe the third point of contact was mountains clearly visible. Smog only a kind of picture-window distortion. Bodies moving under the blur of snow pack receding year by year. Very little rainfall. Mountain shadow. Maybe where you couldn’t step in the alkali skims, the pockets of liquid that looked so dirt-like, was where I could’ve found my center of gravity. Maybe had I run in circles fast enough in a trailer park where I should’ve ended up, I could’ve developed a fascination with the ground sufficient enough to keep me off thin ice. I used to dream about a man like the riptide of a black hole, who came out from the house into the backyard where I was at night and I rebounded from him like his field of vision was the wrong polarity. One night my mother woke to me in full seizure in the bed we shared, the one my father left empty for me, and she tried to pry my jaws apart with two fingers, which you must never do to someone that conductive. One day I fell slowly on the playground, sure I’d been clotheslined by one of my classmates, and woke to the static of white gravel in that awful sun and then it never happened again.
The Zen of Death and Dying
Out past etched white salt flats
in the open ranges the dead brush
grids moonlight, the spotlight
less than secondhand in what’s left.
Wind strays in after registered
movement. Tracking without
prospect. I unwind like the impossible
trajectory of sunlight from under
a wool blanket in the bed
of the pickup to find the cold
distance gleaming back. Stars.
When I tell him I don’t want to do it
because the sky is watching my first
cousin’s mullet-haired boy friend
will look at me hard from whooping
to say beautiful.
Years later on my way back to the ranch
I see one on the highway in its
dark red life and go back to check.
Not static enough. Thunderheads that night
bring down the power lines across from
the front pasture and by morning magpies
descend like heliotropic snowflakes.
Christmas Eve falls on no trace
of the last c(h)ord connecting
stimulus to stimulus, or nights swept
blue with footprints. Before any of that
I’ll lean close to the long, still ears
in case they still conduct somewhere
and whisper doesn’t that feel good?
Snow has already begun to fall.
Noon is gray. The clouds, hanging,
snuff out everything.
Snow falling within the beam
of a streetlight as pixie dust.
The river is intransitive.
Black. Boolean. Midwestern.
Its facets are moving at the same rate
as that which would overtake you.
The thing you lost. Young.
There was a river then, too.
And ice still chunked and waiting.
It’s the same song playin’
Everywhere I go.
How many hands laid end over end
make a horse? Floes of frost like
sequins in the coat. Dry flakes.
Polyester. Curry comb. Moonlight.
No one knows where you are
right now. You remember the story
of the father from a school paperback
who fell through the ice drunk
alongside bare branches. Must’ve
been these. Yours is undetectable
because you’re out ninja-ing
in the sharp intake of corrals again.
This story means something different
every telling. Brakelights turn
from the first stackyard, flash twice,
go silent. There is no creaking
of springs. No soft white thud.
That’s your imagination working.
Snow crunches in the creak of rubber.
Working. The herd still standing
in its steaming mess.
The bowels obstruct nothing yet.
Nowhere to go but the horizon
Where then will I call my home?
CD changers aren’t hatched yet.
Neither is freeway, hatchback,
humid, doctorate, instant replay,
teenaged rubbers scratched out
of the cement ground for their
scent by coyotes.
The past is a homunculus that bends
its knees and breathes a whisper.