Jonathon Yungkans

Poets biography

 The Empty Space in the Endless Contimuum

after John Ashbery

 for Denise Dumars and Nancy Ellis Taylor

 

The sun dazzles, a counterfeit blindness. My eyes, locked in a droll

coffin, mummify, its head a cavern where winds whirl and resound.

 

Blindness is seeing in the dark. Love the feel of my seersucker suit.

When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in the trash compactor.

It’s Oedipus and daddy issues: it speed-dials 1-800-U-R-FUCKED.

Life-derailing charges may apply. Tiresias snaked into womanhood.

Sunray dappled, nightmares serpentine, glower luminous in clouds.

 

A nearby brewery ferments sorrows for beer. Happy-hour patrons

stumble in; they appreciate the misnomer. The chocolate stout

has subtle notes of existential cherry.

 

Try to Avoid the Pattern That Has Been Avoided

after John Ashbery

 

I steer clear of my brother’s mania while I shop at the market.

Even if it’s the same malady, amped all the way to superhuman—

like Superman pulling me along when he leaps tall buildings, up,

 

up and away—there are times I fear to claim the disease as mine,

like my brother will manifest next to me, solid as a linebacker,

drag me to the butcher case, get tomahawk steaks to throw

 

as though they were wood and steel, not beef, just to see how well

they stick into a wall. The dread, after 20 years of not seeing him,

is an air-conditioning chill that shadows me past Spam and chili,

 

while a homeless man wheels a mark-down cart from the back,

enough bottled water inside to float any number of political agendas.

Asylum’s on sale in the breakfast aisle; buy three or I don’t qualify,

 

either for freedom or the looney-bin. Asylum’s Vincent Van Gogh,

as he painted himself, when he copied Gustave Doré’s prison yard,

blue and tan brick walls on his canvas. From the prisoners’ circle,

 

Van Gogh glares—a relentless, fierce look that crushes the viewer

like dried rosemary in a mortar. I know that grinding glower well:

asylum at full price, pay as I go, take all my pills or the bill’s steep.

 

While a checker and I watch, the mark-down cart makes another pass.

 

If Living Is a Hate Crime, So Be It

after John Ashbery

 

Now define the howl I hear when dawn cracks, the high-pitched

threnody that translates as Are you alright? that could be coyote

 

or issue from pores in my own bones, vibrate skin from beneath.

It marks me as much Turnbill Canyon’s resident as dusky hawks

 

that will soon circle on the pretense of gaining altitude, spiraling

to gain the hunt’s perspective—regular as next breath, on deception

 

that my daily recommended intake of hydrocarbons is what I want.

Which hate is this? There are several here, canned and refrigerated;

 

some wait to be brewed like coffee, dripped through a paper filter,

enough for two, but I’m drained enough to drink for a pair of me

 

after yesterday’s long drive—cactus, hellfire and the Interstate,

until the scenic point to view the mountains through the rocks.

 

If you think I’m changing lanes erratically when I should keep

my thoughts on the road, you should see traffic between my ears,

 

yet another Cali Freeway Grand Prix in progress; compared to that

demolition derby, I’m creeping and sneaking—wishing myself

 

a hawk, eyes peeled for the next squirrel on the menu. Which hate

do you have then, except to plummet in place of your next inhale?