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Section 5 from THE NEW ARCANA

John Amen & Daniel Y. Harris



The art of today

is too self-consciously tonal,

a corpse in spandex carted down the stairs

of the Language Lab on a pink stretcher

like Dorian Gray.




Think of a defective heart

pounding outside the ribcage like a beached sea lion.

That said, is there anything left to reference?

Probably not, but the scapegoats are indeed

scheduled to arrive by boat, equipped

with furrowed brows, flutes, wool socks, mismatched

leather boots, yellow-green safari pants, and a variety

of exotic masks. On their palms, tattooed in Garamond

and Onyx fonts, the secret formulas of Cartesian reversal.




The supervisor is, by necessity, flummoxed,  

as is the superintendent, addicted to chocolate energy bars

and licorice-flavored water. Well, that makes sense—

there’s no longer any salvation gushing through the collective portals.

Wait. Is that rose-colored

spindrift in the commissioner’s coffee cup?

Could be, but I’m not the best one to assess these shifting trends.

In other words, you’re saying that you distrust averages,

means, medians, even the notion of a universal mind?

Uh, I’m just too landlocked to take on such an expansive project.




The camera is my only trusted biographer,

and I’ll have you know that I’m no mere drone of extravagance.

Understand, this is just a small sample of my electronic aggression.

My mentors are burning with embarrassment.

My life is being dissected by advertising sponsors and film buffs

with nothing better to do than critique my sense of fashion.

I was always destined for the tabloids.

I am a revolution the 21st century has taken a decade to accept.




Has anyone seen my favorite identity? I’m pretty

sure I brought it with me to the pasquinade.

OK, I admit it, I’m just fishing for a compliment.

Logic does stiffen, though, doesn’t it?

And curiosities become apprehensions.

Ah, pinching my nostrils and backing away,

I’ll now confess that I blame my situation on my vertigo

and this black-purple bruise on my shinbone:

I’ve been kicked repeatedly by a midget with a skin disease.

Fine, but after much machination, I’ve found that despite

my allegiance to 12-step programs or envisioned possibilities,

le saboteur dedans doesn’t give up without a fight.

I agree: ring, ropes, canvas;

cockatrice, wyvern, griffin, sphinx.

Bones, limbs, wings, tails, and claws

fling about like a cyclone in a newsstand.

Sing oh sibyl, but your words will settle on wounded ears.

This place, you see, it’s an incubator with twelve burning cribs

hanging from a Victorian chandelier.




Bright light shining in a chef’s eyes.

Pigeons scampering through the compost. 

A lone gunman with a pasta obsession.

A man’s father drifts finally away.

The bibliophobic librarian in the empty cafeteria.

The vandal pays for a dozen violin lessons.

There are beer cans, chips of mica,

and fingernail fragments on the fire escape.

The fugitive had no time to pay the parking meter.

Once is never enough when it comes to being outrageous.
















John Amen is the author of three collections of poetry: Christening the Dancer (Uccelli Press 2003), More of Me Disappears (Cross-Cultural Communications 2005), and At the Threshold of Alchemy (Presa 2009). In addition, his work has appeared in numerous publications nationally and internationally. He has released two folk/folk rock CDs: All I’ll Never Need (Cool Midget 2004) and Ridiculous Empire (2008). He is also an artist, working primarily with acrylics on canvas. Further information is available on his website: Amen travels widely giving readings, doing musical performances, and conducting workshops. He founded and continues to edit The Pedestal Magazine (



Daniel Y. Harris is the author of Unio Mystica (Cross-Cultural Communications, 2009), Hyperlinks of Anxiety (Cervena Barva Press, 2011), and Paul Celan and the Messiah’s Broken Levered Tongue (with Adam Shechter, Cervena Barva Press, 2010). He is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Some of his poetry, experimental writing, art, and essays have been published in the Denver Quarterly, European Judaism, Exquisite Corpse, In Posse Review, The Pedestal Magazine, Poetry, and Poetry Saltsburg Review. His website is

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. - Henry David Thoreau


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