Joe W. Tatum


Disjunction of heaven on earth and earth on hell
without the equal signs
challenges the natural presence of a black mountain
through which a gateway was constructed
by people who use terms like
“savant” and “modern.”
I heard today that we long for
nothing offered by heightened language, but in contrast
some procedural methods as an application of a process,
especially the concepts of language games
accentuated by the fact that affiliations no one knows
don’t tell universities about the grand self-regard bordering on neuroses
stress their own ambiguities not the least of which
is the so-called preoccupation with nihilistic aneurisms
caused by representations of a distinct set of concerns
among them symbolic events from the period of the late 1970s into the 80s
when different sequences of avant-guardians traced histories of
the notions of existence which indeed the most immediate and truest
of which focused primarily on expanding aesthetic forms.
So it was said.


You try on clothes like a fashion brigade heiress
And walk toward me
and it makes me blush.
The purity of the scene —
With the pure intention
With the gusto
With the milk moustache of
“Do you like it?”
Yes.  I like it.
And the it is everything I can’t name nor ever could.
And, yes.  I want it this way.
But the moon is silent tonight
as I stay up later and consider endings;
Softened up from time and achings,
I look ahead to
a future when I won’t see
you, but you’ll still try on new clothes.

A Gift

In this packet

are daisy seeds.

Plant by June’s end,

 at ½ inch depth, in full

or partial sun.

Car Trouble

“…where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright mind essence, innumerable lotuslands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven”

I don’t know about radiancies or holiness or magic.

And I don’t know about uncreated emptiness or bright mind essence,
but I do know this:

When I was driving home today the temperature gauge on my car
suddenly shot up to 220° and then dropped to 180°
and then again rose fast
up to 240° when I idled.
I kept watching that needle,
Because I also know a car’s temperature
shouldn’t do that.
Something was wrong.
I almost pulled over
and stopped.

Who would come rescue me?
How long can I leave my car on the side of this road?
What would become of it?

Instead I kept driving half-expecting the car to die.
But I made it home.

So I did my bounden home duty and recklessly plow-mowed the .13 acres of my lawn.
And in the process pushed my way into
a swarm of butterflies.

(and by this, I mean,  at least 7 butterflies flying frantic from tree leaf to sky and then into one another and attaching and detaching themselves, alighting, landing on the tips of bush branches, where they would push off with impossible Herculean strength to effortlessly skyrocket and make an instant upward cork screw to nip the wings of one another in the dying sun of my backyard)

I wondered if they were fighting
or mating
while secretly hoping
they were just skylark playing
when one landed on my belly.
I’d forgotten about the car.

Left to My Own Devices

Drawers hang open like some dumb tongues
Hanging out of mute wooden mouths,
Lights are left on – I don’t mean to do this, but I do,
Music’s weirder and louder too,
Dust can be seen (my friend says it’s dead skin piling up),
The bed’s not right,
Don’t always lock the front door at night,
More beer cans, in general,
And the shower’s dirtier and so is dinner.

I know.  She makes this so much brighter.

On a Sunday

What was it
when I was sitting in the booth
across from the two state police cops
dressed in metal and blue?
Their shining faces were
glowing too hard as they ate flesh and blood.
They talked low and close with suspicious
glances at the strip mall bar patrons
who gulped cigarettes and liquors
while stumbling for words to help
one another through the day,
cow-eyed, listless, innocent,
but waiting for something
better to happen.

On a Sunday, the cruel TV flickers as cops sit
and eat and stare and so do we
and then we all drive home to
a screaming empty house filled
with jagged plastic toys,
and we all stop looking at each other for a while,
but never quite comfortable from the memory.

The Fires We Build

A flicker of happiness
is sometimes found

in the fires we build
to make temporary light,

or when we pretend for one another.

Even as we stagger through dull days,
with the numb dumbness
of the muddy ruts we make,
when we tense at awful traffic,
or shine hate from hearts
to others in our way.

So, together we puncture these staggering
doldrums with a collective breath,
this pregnant stasis that threatens at all instances
to overspill our thirst
and drown our false terror.

Breathe out pure air.

Here we are.
Never before, and never after.

Like Placid

Start the poem with a word.

Like placid.

Or two words.  Conjure loss.

Instead plow ahead with the fingers
in the underglow of the computer screen light
so they look much grainier.

Coming in obvious tangible forms like this
see the skin that betrays
the hands that have stayed for so long
they look leathery and pocked now and
not from being worked too hard
or from being unused and dormant
but from sitting still too long during winter’s hard heart
and lulling softly in July’s dampness.

As the head falls hushing down,
slow, into thick,
torpid black,
inside, eye,
of fast,
up, gone,
that were gone, but now pulse alive.


like a broken praying mantis
we lay still,
but with one limb twitching.
Our screams are silent.

Centro Storico

The story is told in wavering pitches.
The pale lanterns
spill pallid light
the color of milk.
We carefully step
in dank, velvet
middle of the night…
but the air’s so rich,
this tastes like tomorrow will be blue skies.

And we sit here with the smoldering campfires in our hearts.